Xenocide, Episode 4
“What brings you here?” he asked. “If it’s that thing Tenesha and Ali brought in day before yesterday, the Feds took everything. Bastards even took the instruments I used for the autopsy. You think they’ll compensate the county?”
“Probably not. But I’m here about the Jones case.” He gave me a puzzled look and I winked. “I’ve got something to show you concerning it.” I led him out back.
“What is this about?” Dix glared at me — he was pushing sixty, if it wasn’t pushing back already, and he was starting to get a little grumpy in his old age.
“A precaution. We’ve found listening devices in our offices and patrol cars, and it’s likely the Feds bugged your office too.”
He swelled up. “Bastards! What right—”
“They’ll just deny it was them if you confront ‘em. Best thing to do is let ‘em think we’re letting them handle it all on their lonesome.”
“Hm. Underhanded, I say. I didn’t vote for your boss, by the way. He’s sneaky.”
“Personally, I like working for him. But I didn’t come to talk local politics.”
“I suppose. Well, like I said, they took everything. Everything but my memories.”
“That’s really why I’m here. Do you remember a bag coming in with the body?”
“Ah. Didn’t you inspect it?” Doc Dix gave me a mocking look.
“No, the smell got to me. Funny thing for a cop to say, I know —”
“No shame there. It nearly overwhelmed me as well, and I’ve dealt with bodies in every state of decay.”
“I’m sure. So you inspected the bag?”
“Of course. But I couldn’t tell you what the contents were with any certainty. Food and technology is about the best I could tell you.”
“What about the breathing mask?”
“Ah. Now that was interesting. It resembled a portable oxygen concentrator, but it was concentrating methane.”
“If I’m not mistaken, and I’m quite sure I’m not. There was a canister of methane attached to the apparatus, perhaps as an emergency supply. I speculate that the creature naturally inhaled a methane-oxygen mix and exhaled good old CO2.”
“Huh. Any chance the breather was failing?”
“None whatsoever. I’ve never examined an alien lifeform before, but I’m confident in my diagnosis. Cause of death was blood — loss of whatever vital fluids it had — and organ damage from multiple double-ought buckshot wounds. I’d further speculate that the creature was lurking in the vicinity of livestock, where abundant excrement would provide sufficient methane for its needs.”
“Sounds plausible. Did you tell the Fibs all that?”
“Of course not. However, I’d made notes and they did carry those off as well.”
“What about time of death? Any thoughts there?”
“Hard to say, given the nature of the victim. Certainly no more than a day or two prior to discovery, though.”
“Thanks, Doc. I knew you’d be a big help.”
“I always try to be.”
“You always have been. If we need to phone each other about this, we can call it the ‘Jones case’ again. But details outside the office or vehicles, got it?”
“Understood. Sneaky, like your boss. But warranted, in this situation.”
I drove away, chewing on the implications. It made sense: Farmer John Doe lets fly at a perceived threat to his herd, panics over the thought of creating an interstellar incident, figures to ditch the evidence up in the mountains. The smell gets to him and his — son? hired hand? — before they can get that far, and they unload it the first place they can find.
“Could have been a sewage plant,” I almost said aloud. I didn’t know of any sewage plants that felt their security needed 12-gauge shotguns, though.