Allen, a graduate student, and Sam, a cop, are unlikely lovers in the small college town of Hollenbeck. When a serial killer stalks young men in the town, Sam investigates, and the clues lead back to the genetically engineered dogs in Allen's lab. Danger mounts as the killer closes his grip on the city.
"Hey, Cliff. What do you have?"
Cliff's eyes locked onto Sam, and his fingers twitched although his voice was rock solid. "It's some kid, Sam. A boy, from the clothes, but it's hard to tell. The decomp is pretty advanced."
Sam frowned. Cliff wasn't a rookie, but DBs weren't exactly routine in Hollenbeck. He sounded steady enough, though. "It's been here long enough to decompose? In the middle of town? And no one reported it?"
Cliff shrugged. "Ain't like anybody comes here to work no more. This part of town's been pretty much abandoned since the Crash. I stopped because I thought I saw a light inside the building. Weren't nothing, but when I got out, I caught a whiff. Decomp's hard to miss, once you've smelled it."
"So, can you show me the scene?"
"Sure. Ain't much to see." Cliff led Sam deeper into the alley. "It smells pretty bad."
"Be patient and try to breathe normal, through your nose. It'll numb your olfactory glands in a few minutes, and then it won't be near so bad." Sam braced himself. Advanced decomp was always bad.
Uncollected trash piled high against the brick walls on each side of them, and the stench was unmistakable. A pathetic heap of bloated, decaying flesh and tattered clothing lay under the loading dock at the end of the alley. Cliff illuminated the scene with his flashlight, while Sam circled the body snapping pictures with his cell phone. Flies buzzed around the corpse, and beetles scuttled away from the light.
“You move anything?" Sam asked.
Cliff shook his head. "No, sir. I know better."
"Good man." He knelt next to the body and examined his jacket. "This looks like a letter jacket. Orange and black. That tell you anything?"
"Them's the colors of OSU, over in Corvalis."
"I was thinking more of a local school." He turned his attention to the victim's legs. The blue jeans were torn and something had ripped them open at mid-thigh. He peered closer. It looked like there was a bite missing out of the kid's leg muscle. What would do that?
Cliff shuffled his feet. "Halsted uses those colors, too." He named a small town about twenty miles away.
"Well then, if he doesn't have an ID, that might help identify him."
Footfalls sounded from the street, and both men whirled to face the sound.
A heavy baritone called out. "Anybody there?"
"Detective Sergeant Sam Sondergard. Who are you?"
"Doctor Forrest Twilling. The ME." A tall, spare man with a halo of thinning white hair coalesced from the shadows, backlit by the strobe of the red lights on the cruiser. He clutched at his sport coat and pinched his features into a greeting. "Damned cold out here. Stinks to high heaven, too. The Chief seemed to think this wash...was...important enough to call me away from my poker game at the club."
Sam let him approach. Sure enough, he reeked of alcohol. This just kept getting better and better. "We've got a dead body, male, late teens or early twenties. From the state of decomp, it looks like he's been here a few weeks." Twilling waved a hand under his nose. "Phew. They could have warned me about the stench." He held a handkerchief over his face. "Can't tell much. Probably some homeless kid who ODed on drugs."
Sam controlled his annoyance. "Maybe. Maybe not." He pointed to the leg injury. "What's that?"
Twilling scowled at him, but then peered at the body. "I'm not sure." He knelt, pulled out a ball-point pen from his jacket pocket, and probed. "It looks like an animal got to the body. Those are bite marks on the bone."