Winters always hated the smell: formaldehyde, alcohol and the insipid stench of death, the morgue, so antiseptic and otherworldly. He hated his partner at this moment even more, as two hours before, just as he and his wife began waking in the right way, spooning her he had begun lightly kissing the nape of her neck, something that drove her crazy, the phone began bleating. Forced to reach across her to get the phone, he felt an all too uncomfortable twinge and knew that any amorous adventures would have to keep until later on that night. Brown, as usual, had ruined the moment. His wife chuckled and slapped his ass as he made his way to the bathroom. They were wanted at the coroner’s office for the autopsy report.

The two of them sat in metal folding chairs accompanied by Mosely, as the surgeon went about his business. Winters cast his eye around the laboratory: metal tables holding four of the burnt out corpses, boxes of vinyl gloves, the SEM, several microscopes, and titration setups. Brown fidgeted beside him, as uncomfortable with procession as he. The doctor had just finished and was preparing his notes, when Mosely began the questioning.

“What exactly do you mean by strange abnormalities between the two?’

“The first three bodies that were brought in,” the doctor took off and cleaned his glasses, “showed a significant heat that appeared to engulf the victims. Note the pitting of the garments and the chain around the neck, they suggest an outside influence.”

“So, you’re saying these were doused?” Brown drew out a cigarette, one look from Mosely told him to decide against it.

“I don’t venture any conclusions,” the man looked haughty, “just observations. Now this body…”

“The one that burned the girl?” Mosely took back command of the proceedings.

“Yes, the most recent,” the doctor looked put out, as if explaining to children, “the heat from this body came from within. Almost as if the body was burnt from the inside out. Notice the chest cavity and the juxtaposition of the searing of the flesh.” Nobody got up to look.

“So, the other three bodies don’t match up with this one?” Winters conjectured.

“That is correct,” the doctor looked triumphant, a challenging puzzle in his monotonous work. “You may also note that on these two bodies there are lesions upon the ankles suggesting the victims were incapacitated in some way. I would venture to guess a shackle of some kind. The first one we looked at was so decomposed that we could not determine what had happened, but these two are fresher and it is my opinion that these two were tortured in some way, burnt then disposed of; whereas, the newest burn victim actually has symptoms that I would associate with spontaneous combustion.”

“So in plain English,” Mosely loved his role, “the first three were tortured then burnt up and deposited in the city. This one could have died of natural causes.”

“If you call self-igniting natural, yes, I would concur.”

“Could the others have been some form of an experiment?” Winters began to see a connection. “Would there be a way of telling whether the victims were tortured or if there was a specific procedure that they went through?”

“And what experiment would you suggest?”

“Look, I’m just reaching here,” Winters steepled his fingers.

“Could the first bodies have been hit with a flamethrower?” Brown piped up.

“A flamethrower?” the doctor speculated, “I guess a flamethrower could have been used, although I would lean to a more subtle combustion such as a microwave might produce. We have no specific tests that would determine the type of weapon.” He glanced Winter’s way, “or determine if it was torture or an experiment. We could do tests to determine the precision of tools used, granted that there are bone lacerations, but it is expensive and our budget doesn’t generally allow for that.”

“It does now,” Mosely began to rise, “spare no expense. This is an election year and the mayor is adamant about finding the perps of this little weenie roast. The Diamonds are one of his biggest contributors and I am sure that every stone should be overturned to satisfy them.”

“Yes, of course,” the doctor straightened in his body, “the young girl who was burned.” He raised an eyebrow, “In case you were wondering, the hospital sent tissue samples right away and it appears she was just unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”