The Coroners

Rin parked the car a few yards from the neon yellow police tape. She stepped out and glanced at Kagura, just catching the CORONER emblazoned in bold letters on the back of her jumpsuit. Rin’s outfit mirrored the redhead’s. She had hoped the scene would be abandoned, but a man in the dark blue police uniform guarded the door.

Kagura marched straight up to the man without hesitation. She pulled a badge from her side and flashed it in the officer’s face. “Becca Evans, this is Kayako Nakamura. We’re with the coroner’s office. Need to take another look at the crime scene.”

The man looked at the pocket where Kagura had replaced the badge for a second longer than was necessary. “Coroners? Why are you back here?”

Kagura rolled her eyes, the gum in her mouth smacking annoyingly. “Because we’re trying to identify discrepancies in Emily Jacobs’s body, obviously.”

His brow furrowed. “Wouldn’t CSI normally–?”

“No,” Kagura snapped, “and I don’t have time to explain the logistics to you if you don’t already know. I’ve got half a dozen bodies to attend to the second I get back and I need to get this over with. Call the office if you like, I don’t care, but I don’t have the time to wait for you.”

And with that, she pushed right past him, through the tape, and into the dead woman’s house. The officer looked a bit dumbfounded, but pulled out his cell phone to begin making the call.

As Rin passed, she murmured, “Just so you know, the mothers of a car pile-up have banded together and our phones have been ringing off the hook. It may take you a while to get through, but I’m sure you will eventually.”

The cop brushed off her statement with a little skepticism and started dialing. Rin shut the door behind her and growled, “Now.”

She heard the distinct sound of a keyboard. “Got it,” said a voice in her ear. “The signal’s blocked.”

Kagura bit her lower lip and purred to her own earpiece, “You’re a lifesaver, Hyoue!”

Rin could hear the smile in Hyoue’s voice as he spoke. “My pleasure, Princess. It’s the least I could do since I wasn’t able to come visit.”

Kagura might as well have had hearts in her eyes.

“Let’s move Kags,” Rin urged irritably. Apart, Kagura and Hyoue were annoying. Together, they were insufferable.

“Well, the article in the paper said she was found in the bathroom,” Kagura said. “I’ll start there.”

“Search thoroughly. She easily could’ve been moved there.”

“I know, I know…”

“So enlighten me about the evil deed I’m helping you commit here?” Hyoue said. “Don’t worry, the line is secure.”

Rin scoffed. “So is your file sharing system.”

“It just needs a little updating, that’s all!”

“Kagura faked me – very poorly – and it let her in.”

“Maybe it wasn’t so poor of an imitation…”

“HAHAHA! TOLD YOU, RIN!”

“Shut up, Kagura,” Rin growled. “This line had better be secure or you’re fired.”

Hyoue laughed. “You can’t fire someone who doesn’t work for you. I’m a true freelancer. You two are just dogs of the organization.”

“Hey!” Kagura pouted.

“Well, Rin’s the dog,” Hyoue amended. “She’s a scary, mean Rottweiler! You’re more of a super cute Labrador puppy.”

“That’s better.”

“We were scouting our target at a meeting,” Rin said, ignoring the slight against her as she surveyed the work desk in front of her. “He had lunch with an unidentified woman. Kags recognized her picture in the paper when she was found dead. Law enforcement is quick to believe it’s a suicide, but based on their meeting, we’re inclined to think otherwise.”

“Then why are you going through the trouble of sneaking onto the crime scene? I could’ve just hacked the official reports for you.”

“Well, one, people lie.” Rin emptied out the trashcan, searching for anything out of the ordinary. “They omit things for an infinite number of reasons. Two, I have a feeling that since they’re so ready to close this case, they didn’t look as thoroughly as they should have.”

Kagura re-entered the room, an oddly serious expression displayed across her features. Rin paused her movements; it was only when Kagura was like this that she gave the girl her full attention.

“We’re right, Rin. There are no signs of suicide here. Suicide is almost always deeply pre-meditated, and there are always signs. Emily’s made a lunch date with her attorney on Friday. There’s a receipt on the table for a gym membership purchased four days ago. A note to take a suit to the dry cleaners. This is not the mindset of a depressed woman edging toward suicide.”

“Then the question of the day is,” Hyoue said seriously, “who wanted to off her?”

“I think it will be harder to determine who didn’t want to kill her,” Rin said, returning to sifting through the trash. “She wasn’t particularly likeable.”

“You don’t like anyone.”

Kagura grinned as she began opening up drawers and fingering though their contents. “No, Hyoue, she really wasn’t likeable.”

“Oh, okay.”

Rin scowled. “Of course it’s only true if Kagura says it,” she said with evident sarcasm.

“Yes,” Kagura and Hyoue agreed at the same time. The redhead grinned, and Rin was sure Hyoue was doing the same. Sickening.

Rin wandered over to the bookcases, slightly surprised the woman had any. It didn’t completely fit her profile – the stuck up snob who considered everyone else beneath her even though she herself was classless. Rin suspected they were her ex-husband’s, who by all indications was a dedicated workaholic, before she even noticed the layer of dust that had accumulated on the covers and the shelves. She glanced at the titles for confirmation – all law books. Definitely the ex’s.

Yet one had recently been moved. Rin paused. That could’ve been the work of CSI, but it didn’t seem likely. Emily could’ve been looking up a regulation or procedure since she was in the middle of a divorce, but wouldn’t she just get her lawyer to look into it? Rin doubled back and pulled out the novel – another law book – and began flipping through pages. It easily opened up to a spot about three-quarters of the way through where a couple of 4×6 photos had been stuffed carefully inside. Rin tilted her head to see them properly.

“Kagura.”

“Mmmmhmmmmmmmmmm?”

“It’s Carl Davis.”

Kagura dropped the folder in her hands, her body tensing, and Rin could see a million things racing through her mind. “Here?”

“No,” Rin said, holding up the book in her arms. Kagura relaxed; she returned the folder to its proper place and joined Rin. “In these photos. They’re the same ones Hyoue sent to us.”

“The same ones?” Hyoue said over the earpiece. “But those were from your target’s computer in a highly crypted file. How can it be the same ones?”

“She could’ve had the originals,” Kagura said, green orbs processing the photos. “But judging by their placement in a book, her trying to hide them, and the fact that Davis and his mistress appear to be on dates, I’d say it’s more likely she hired an investigator to find them.”

“You think it could’ve been another freelancer?” Hyoue said warily.

“I doubt it,” Kagura said, shaking her head. “She’s lost her primary source of income – her husband. Unless she had a secret stash of cash somewhere, she couldn’t afford a freelancer. Plus I don’t see how she could even have the connections to find one. More likely it was someone she found in the phone book.”

“Someone who has some skill then.” Hyoue mulled this over, intrigued.

Rin met Kagura’s eyes. “Will Davis know someone else is in on this?”

Kagura considered that for a moment. “Yes. He knows Emily well enough to know that she doesn’t do anything for herself. He will have realized that someone else found these for her.”

“Then they’re in danger as well,” Hyoue said.

“Possibly,” Rin said, “but I don’t think that’s likely. He’ll have no way of knowing who she hired. He doesn’t have access to her phone records or financial information. And he wouldn’t want to risk hiring the same investigator when he’s looking for that investigator. His only option is to hire one of us.”

“But the organization won’t take the job while he’s the target of an assignment they’ve already accepted, right?” Kagura said, glancing at Rin.

“That’s their policy,” Rin said, although she wouldn’t be surprised if they had bent this rule more often than not. It was, after all, a business, and businesses were all about the money. “The only flaw in this is if he finds a freelancer like Hyoue, someone not tied to the organization. Then everything changes.”

Kagura’s brow furrowed. “That would be bad. Our job is hard enough as it is – doing the same thing with an opposing freelancer around?”

Rin nodded. “There’s a good chance we would be seen, especially if they’ve had formal training. There would be a confrontation. Likely they would alert our target, our covers would be blown, and they would kill us.”

There was a dense silence following these words.

Hyoue broke it moments later. “I’ll come right no—”

“Don’t be absurd,” Rin snapped. “This is a hazard of the craft. Kagura and I can handle ourselves.”

“Speak for yourself,” Kagura muttered, “Miss Formal Training.”

“You’re the one—” Rin started.

“Hey, you need to get out of there now,” Hyoue said over her, his voice urgent. “Your cop just tried to dial another number than the coroner’s office. He may realize his signal is being blocked.”

“Got it,” Rin said, swiftly recovering from her irritation. She snatched the photos from the book and stuffed them inside her jumpsuit. She led the way to the door and proceed out just as the cop was about to open it.

“Oh—” he said, surprised by her sudden exit. His stance shifted from being caught off guard – he had looked authoritative for a moment, like he was onto them, but then lost his edge.

Kagura followed Rin in stride, and she began chewing her gum annoyingly loud again. “Waste of time… you! Did you call the office?”

“C-couldn’t get through,” he stammered. He had seemed very resolved a moment ago, but in the face of Kagura’s overwhelming dominance, backed off substantially.

“Ahh, those damn parents,” she snapped. “Can’t let us do our jobs, oh no, we have to play therapists too!”

Rin was already in the car; she turned the key and the engine roared. Kagura opened up the passenger side door and gave a sharp wave to the cop before lowering herself inside. Not a moment later, Rin put the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway, then sped forward down the street. Kagura sighed next to her and leaned her head back on the headrest, closing her eyes.

“Make sure to hold that blocked signal for another couple of hours,” Rin instructed Hyoue. “He’ll be immediately suspicious of us if his phone starts working the moment we leave.”

There were a few taps on the keyboard. “Got it.”

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