The sound of millions of gallons of fresh water rushing through the network of mile-high transfer tubes made it difficult to communicate, so Deputy Valancik offered a thumbs up as Gabby limped past the tree of a man. Standing six foot six and weighing over three hundred pounds, Valancik was her largest deputy by a full body. At fifty-two he was also the oldest, if seniority counted for anything among her dregs, which the Security Chief doubted. Deputy Valancik was slow to speak, slower to action, but unsurpassed when it came to blocking doorways, hallways, and even smaller roadways. Not much of a conversationalist, but the man was hell on an egress. Today Deputy Valncik had done his duty and Gabby gave him a quick nod to let him know it. He returned the nod, being careful not to look directly at her face, a long-time habit for the dim giant, but Gabby noticed that the man’s normal ruddy coloring had turned ashen. The giant looked like he might puke at any moment and it wasn’t because of her. Gabby entered room four, expecting the worst. The blood appeared an inky black under the neon-blue lighting, congealing in a large puddle around the ruined body. All four limbs were bent in unnatural angles, bone-deep lacerations criss-crossed the head and torso, and the face had been mashed nearly beyond recognition, having been struck repeatedly by a large, blunt object.
“Told you – barf bag,” said Jenkins, putting away his codebook as if he had been studying per Gabby’s recent orders.
She wasn’t fooled, but didn’t press him. “Grizzly scene, for sure.”
Gabby crouched down to steady her knee, not wanting to appear weak in front of her deputy. She groaned as the prosthetic jabbed her skin, but Jenkins didn’t hear it, and even if he had, it was better than fainting. Her closer angle yielded an unexpected break in the investigation.
“Sweet Baby Foster, I know who this is.”
Jenkins wrinkled up his nose, “Really?”
Gabby would have assumed the soupy mess was the result of an industrial accident had she not recognized the Beaver-weave haircut still perfectly coiffed atop what was once the man’s head. Only one person in Zone 4 donned such a proudly tasteless hairstyle: Mike Mallory, a full-time drunk well known among the degenerate-set at The Bull’s Balls Tavern. Mike worked as the in-house janitor for booze and table scraps, padding that measly income by performing any and all of the ornate dares conjured up by the other regulars. Happy to cash in on the petty sadism of his fellow drunks, Mike Mallory weathered countless torments, a range of severity spanning fraternity hazing to semi-professional torture. Once, Mallory had eaten a half a pound of salt in one sitting, another time he had absorbed two hundred punches to the stomach before coughing up blood, once chugged a full pint of spittle collected from the happy hour crowd, swallowed a handful of broken glass, etcetera, etcetera. Until now he had passed every challenge, to the consternation of more than few hardcore gamblers. It was not unusual for Mallory to end the night as the wealthiest patron in the Bull. Such exuberant self-destruction had earned him a minor celebrity across the compound, a side effect he reveled in and the Bull’s Balls had become a sanctuary he rarely ventured far from. Of all the gruesome deaths likely for Mike Mallory, industrial mishap was low on the list. The most dangerous machines he faced on the daily were the ringer on his mop bucket and a keg tap. Yet here he was, so much ground beef.
“Looks like he fell through a shell masher,” Jenkins observed.
“It does. So why did you call in a homicide?”
“Come on, ma’am. How could he fall through a shell masher and wind up all the hell way over here?”
Gabby gave her deputy a straight look in the eye, her signal that he was about to get a lesson in hold, hard logic. “Masher operators get docked a full month of wages if more than three people die in a quarter. If Mike Malloy got drunk and fell into one of their machines, the operators might have panicked and stashed him in here. I mean, heck, Mike Mallory doesn’t even work a crew. A civilian getting ground up like that, drunk or not – that’s hell to pay for somebody. That would make it wrongful death, obstruction, a bunch of other infractions, not to mention a few sins…but it wouldn’t be homicide.”
“You really think that?” Jenkins, proud of his original assessment, bristled at this alternate explanation.
“It’s worth checking out. You head over go get the masher’s security footage, meet me back at the office.”
“What if they don’t want to cough up the footage? Like you say, those mashers aren’t too co-operative with us.”
“Take Valancik with you. One look at at him and I bet they'll put on a funny hat and do a dance if we ask 'em.”
Part 1 is here! https://steemit.com/story/@senderos/god-s-only-mistake-part-1
Copyright 2016, Daniel Capuzzi