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Neighbor

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Summary

Zed Hurst dedicated his life to the dead. As a forensic pathologist, his work has distanced him from his family and isolated him from his peers. The work is lonely, but he is fulfilled in bringing families closure and victims justice. Mavis Buckley moves into town, the charming new neighbor and morgue tech, who shares Hurst's devotion to digging through bodies. Working by his side, she has never felt so alive. With the bodies piling up and a serial killer quickly becoming the talk of the town, one of them believes that they make a perfect duo - in more ways than one.

Genre:
Mystery / Thriller
Author:
Bo Writes
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
11
Rating:
4.7 1 review
Age Rating:
18+

Chapter 1

POV: Zed

Zed moved to McPherson with the understanding that his clientele, for the most part, were not murdered. After all, this was a town where, outside of damage to property, nothing ever really bad happened.

Sure, there were break-ins, but violent crime was relatively low. He moved into the suburbs and started his quiet life. Zed was surprised by a call to come into town. People crowded as close as they were allowed to gawk at the scene.

This was the most action they’d seen probably in a long time, something to shake up their mundane lives with a little morbid gossip about the man that had hit the pavement from the highest story of a hotel.

The note attached to him: Short trip, long fall.

“Passive pattern, it’s clear as that open window there,” he said.

Zed pointed to the window above the pavement with the curtains billowing untouched since yesterday evening. The white chalk on the pavement outlined a victim with their arms stretched out above their head, and legs straight together.

They looked like a diver taking off from their board.

Everyone had been evacuated from the hotel early in the morning. Four shadows loomed over the outline of the body. Collins was a coroner. He knew him for the longest, the first one to greet him when Zed walked into the office for the first time.

His hair was mostly gray with sparse ashen brown peppered throughout. His skin was like crinkled paper. Collins stood a few solid inches under him, but his dark brown eyes were clinical and, when he needed to be at times, intimidating.

“Think it was suicide?” Collins asked.

Zed avoided giving him a look that said are-you-serious, then shrugged. He didn’t know how to react, seldom called outside of the confines of the coroner’s office and crime lab to be so involved in an investigation.

Nothing replicated in the safety of a classroom could hold a candle to standing there, taking in the dried blood spatter on the brick wall. For one, corn syrup and red food dye didn’t turn brown, not without cocoa powder.

Detective Stewart wrote something on his pad. Zed didn’t speak to him much. The detective didn’t speak much at all. He said a polite hello when he arrived, then filled in the silence with the scrawling of his pen.

Stewart was a rotund man with tan skin, warm brown eyes, and brunette hair. Once Zed overheard him mumble something to Cheif Martinez about moving back to California to take care of his mother who lived in the mountains, so it was a wonder if he would even be here long enough to become familiar.

Zed took note of those who were a bit less bold as to openly stare, taking surreptitious glances as they crossed the street, avoiding them of course. It was too surreal for him, but he would be back into his routine soon enough without all of the unwanted attention.

One woman stared right into his eyes with an astonished expression. His gaze fixed on her for a moment before turning back to the case.

“The coroner will provide an informed opinion after the autopsy,” Zed answered.

After they were done with the brief assessment, he excused himself from the sectioned-off area.

“Call us, Hurst,” Chief Martinez said.

She was hard to know, with an unreadable expression at nearly all times, much how he was. They were both tall, ashen blond with stormy blue eyes and beak-like noses. They had been mistaken for siblings on more than one occasion.

Zed gave a nod, then walked back to his car. He pulled out of the lot and soon his brain went into autopilot as his car took him down the road.

His occupation, so crude, was something that so few people would ever be willing to do: digging through corpses to see what had gone wrong with these unfortunate people, their lives abruptly cut short.

Zed didn’t need to open them up half of the time to estimate what had been their undoing. People were usually wheeled in because their bodies gave out from something cumulative and entirely avoidable. Unhealthy lives, drug overdoses both accidental and intentional, or some combination of things leading to nowhere good.

The technical aspect of slicing through a client and parsing out what had gotten into them was one thing. It was the events leading up to why they were laid out on his table that were his job to figure out. Actually, that was up to the coroner.

The coroner’s office was at the forensics center, so he often ran into the workers there.

Zed zoomed past the entrance to his small suburban neighborhood, a little offshoot within the town, rows of average houses that seemed to harbor ghosts, for all that he saw of their inhabitants.

His neighbors could say the same about him. Zed doubted that anyone acknowledged he existed outside of his immediate family and, of course, the detectives and coroners who relied on him for his skill.

The commute was usually about an hour, but the lack of traffic on that particular day generously shaved off some time. He scrubbed down, put on his gloves, mask, scrubs, and lab coat, and prepared to go to work when the phone in the office rang.

“Hello, you’ve reached the Corvin County Regional Forensic Science Center. I am Dr. Hurst, pathology division. How may I be of service?”

Someone was there, but they didn’t answer. Zed supposed it was a butt call and hung up, then headed for the lab. His schooling and his time as an assistant in his formative years should have prepared him for this moment.

His mundane routine was shattered by his client.

His eyes were gouged and his torso appeared as though it had been mauled by a wild animal. The bruises were incomprehensible, so deep all down the legs and arms. The detectives would be blind as this man, to rule his death as a suicide.

The whole scene played out before his own eyes. Someone had beaten him, cut him up deep, gouged his eyes, and then thrown him out the window. Perhaps, the man had fallen down rather than thrown, but there was no way he could have done the rest to himself.

He never saw anyone mangled so cruelly.

The phone rang once again. Zed repeated his welcome call.

“Hey Hurst, it’s Collins. I got a call from your assistant. She said that she will be in soon.”

“Alright.”

The man sounded like he was rushing to get somewhere.

“Oh, and a new coroner has been assigned to you in the current case. She called before but she got caught up with something. She told me to tell you that she’ll be there tomorrow.”

“Cool.”

“That’s all! I’ll see you later.”

“Alright, goodbye for now.”

He waited for him to hang up. Zed put the phone down and curled a lip. This did not sit right with him. He was never a fan of surprises. Not only was this case unusual, Zed now had to meet up with a kid. The responsibility felt, perhaps irrationally, weighed on his shoulders if she mishandled things.

Sometime later his assistant showed up.

“I’m happy you made it in,” he said.

Reeves, or as Zed was informally allowed, Erica, stood by with a camera she had wheeled in with her other supplies. She was a stout woman with wavy ashen brown hair, how Collins’ locks might have looked 20 years ago, wide square glasses, and a small button nose.

Erica had been a good friend to him. She was quite a conversationalist, while he was relatively quiet and to the point. Zed felt a sense of equilibrium when they worked together. They made an efficient team.

“Speaking and present,” Erica said.

They fell into their comfortable routine, as normal as it gets. She didn’t comment on the state that their client was in. Erica simply took photos before preparing for the evisceration.

Mild amusement played on his lips.

“I know you are not humming Jeepers Creepers right now,” he said.

She turned a little red, the tune immediately falling away. Erica weighed the organs while he gathered samples. Hours passed. They wiped the sweat from their brows. After it all, it was time to send their client on his way to be cleaned up and dressed in a shroud.

The coroner would make it look so that this man was truly at rest, not the victim of what had likely been a brutal murder, as if he hadn’t been laid out on their steel altar, to dissect the truth from inside of him.

“We’re done here?” she asked.

Zed gave a nod. They took off their gloves and disposed of them, then walked out of the lab.

“You up for tacos?” Erica asked.

He shook his head.

“I have to write a report, then I’m going to be making a few calls about a new coroner who was assigned to help our case.”

“Huh, I didn’t hear about anyone new.”

Zed crossed his arms.

“Yeah, Collins told me about it. Said she’ll show tomorrow.”

She seemed troubled by the case, he could tell despite her effort to hide it. Zed knew her humor was an attempt to assuage herself during the uncomfortable task, but now it poured out in her expression like a storm rolling in.

“What do you think happened to him?”

“It’s too early to say.”

Erica shivered.

“I heard them say that it was suicide. Do you think so?”

He chewed on his lip. His eyes locked on her steadily as Zed gave his response.

“Not in my opinion.”

“How does anyone do that to themselves?” she blurted.

His shoulders opened and he looked skyward.

This was why Zed was here.

As a child, he became obsessed with every police procedural that aired. It took him in a whirlwind and soon he took notes on cases both fictional and real, citing discrepancies in the TV shows and reality. His friends, much later when a few kids actually wanted to befriend the strange boy in high school, found it amusing at best.

Zed was praised in his Criminal Justice class for replicating real-life crime scenes, covering himself with dyed corn syrup, and sitting down for a test covered in the sticky stuff until he could race to shower it off in the gym.

His friends would become annoyed with him for commenting too much when they played games, about what the developers got right and wrong when one of them would level their gun at the other, and the blood spatter looked like it was caused by a hammer and not a bullet.

Later Zed saved up for a police scanner radio and listened to 911 emergency calls. He took notes on these conversations as well. Zed was not sure why he did these things, until one day the answer came in the form of a pamphlet from St. Louis University.

Zed knew immediately that it was a sign from above. His interests shifted subtly over the years from the police procedural shows, zeroing in on the particular subject of forensic pathology. He drove from Kansas City, already decided before his feet hit the campus ground.

His parents begged him not to pursue this when it became clear that their son was serious, citing their reasons; the imagery alone was the stuff of nightmares, and Zed would never sleep again. They had more than enough money so he could sit and spend the rest of his life in leisure and never work a day.

His friends from high school distanced themselves throughout University, to study what made them comfortable and relatively happy, while Zed could not be convinced to shake his choice of career. He excelled in school despite becoming incredibly isolated.

Zed knew the subject of death freaked a lot of people out, but he was shocked and saddened when it was enough to reject the living. Zed became stony and silent. Slowly, everyone inched away as though he had lost his humanity.

Zed sacrificed drinking and parties and friends. No one wanted anything to do with the creepy morgue guy. Somewhere deep down in his core, through the thickest, heaviest shadows of doubt, he knew this was his reason for being.

Zed dedicated his life to bringing these people justice.

“I’m out,” Erica said.

She threw a peace sign up, already at the glass double doors.

He waved.

Zed stared through the glass for a brief moment, then turned around. Time to make a few calls.

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