Jackson got out of his unmarked vehicle, shoved the hem of his shirt down the front of his trousers and ran his fingers through his dark wavy hair. The sun was coming up and his night shift should have been over an hour ago. But when he heard the call on the radio, he couldn't resist coming to check things out. Plus, he knew Clare would be there working the scene. He made his way past the police tape, flashing his badge and moved through the sand towards the body that had washed up to shore. A quick glance at the victim told him she was probably in her mid- twenties. Lying on her back, the victim's scuffed designer shoes hung onto her feet by ankle straps. Her matching dress was torn, exposing the top half of her body. As he got closer the smell of decay aggressed his nose and the sight of flies collecting around the victim's neck, eyes and nose made his jaw tighten and his stomach lurch. He never could get used to this part of the job.
"So, what do we have this time?" he said to the expert in the lab coat, crouching next to the victim.
Clare pushed her glasses back on her nose and looked up. "Jackson, shouldn't you be in bed by now?"
"Nice to see you too. I was in the area when the call came through, thought I'd come check it out."
"Well, don't come any closer or you'll contaminate my crime scene."
"Your crime scene?"
"Yes. It's mine until I've collected the specimens and information I need." She turned to a second white coat. "Jeffery, there's enough light now to start taking pictures. Make sure you use the grid technique I showed you and switch off the flash. I don't want you scaring the maggots."
Jackson's mouth twisted. Clare was professional, uptight, and a knockout. But he never understood her fascination with these bugs. At times she seemed more enamored by them than with her own species. Jackson cleared his throat. "Who's the instar?"
Clare cracked a smile, a rare event. "Wow, a bug joke. The job must be wearing on you."
"Must be," replied Jackson, sliding his hands in his pockets. "So can you estimate the
Clare took a thermometer and plunged it into the rippling maggot mass in a wound at the base of the victims throat. Jackson turned his eyes away. Clare took a moment to record her readings before reengaging in the conversation. "Well, I still have to get the body back to the lab for more tests, but seeing how I've got second and third instar fly larvae, and an average internal temp of..." her voice trailed off, her eyes focusing on the victims face. "Jeffery, come here and take a picture of this." She pointed to the victims mouth at a slender tube sticking out from the corner. Jackson looked on with intrigue and after a few shots, Clare pull out a foreign object with surgical tweezers.
"Is that a roach?" Jackson asked, taking a step closer.
"No," Clare said, looking closely at the object, visibly perplexed. "It's a nepid."
"A what? I don't speak bug-anese," Jackson grumbled.
"It's a waterscorpion."
"A freshwater aquatic insect," Clare huffed. "There is no way a nepid could get inside the body if it died here on the beach or at sea."
"So what are you saying?"
"I'm saying the victim died in a freshwater marsh or pond close by and was later moved." Clare stood up and placed the specimen in a collecting jar. "This changes everything," she said, looking back to Jackson who was now jotting down his own notes. "I have to get her back to the lab."
"What ever you need, just keep me posted," Jackson said, slipping his notepad back in his jacket. "And I was hoping this was going to be a simple bag and tag job."
"I've never seen this before Jackson. I have a bad feeling about this one," Clara said softly.
Jackson took an uneasy breath. Clare was never wrong about these things.
Flash Fiction for N post of the 2012 A-Z Challenge