In Monterrey City Morgue, Medical Examiner, Sally Griffin, leaned over Howard Lowe’s body, a brass mini-telescope over her right eye. Sally was sixty-four and slender, with olive skin and raven hair. Her assistant, Judy Lei, a petite, twenty-five-year-old Asian woman stood next to her with a quill pen, notepad, a jar of cotton tipped probes and three stopped test tubes.
Constable Station 33, had three floors and was the largest station in the city. So it doubled as the city morgue. The apothecary was located in the basement and three oil lamps lit the dank room.
Copper shelves, for holding the deceased, lined the left wall. The right wall was shelved with stacks of cloth and books. At the back of the room were two ornately-carved wooden desks topped with brass, copper and wooden inkwells, and feathered quills for writing.
Judy was experienced enough to run the morgue herself. If she’d been White, she would have been a shoe-in to replace Sally when she retired. But the way things stood, Judy was lucky to have a job at all. It was 1978, and racism still lingered like a bad smell.
“This is the autopsy log of Herman Lowe, former occupation: District Attorney; Monterrey, New America, age at the time of death: Forty-five.” Sally swabbed the inside of the corpse’s mouth with a cotton-tipped probe and passed it to Judy who placed it in a glass tube, and handed her another probe. “I’m testing for toxicants. The time is 10:05 AM.”
A twinkle from Lowe’s gaping mouth caught Judy’s eye. She peered over her boss’s shoulder. “What’s that?” Judy pointed at a metal object she spotted wedged between Lowe’s bottom teeth.
Sally put her probe down and leaned closer, stretching Lowe’s mouth further open with a gloved hand. “It looks like a key. . .It is a key.”
Probing with her fingertips, she managed to pry the object from between Lowe’s teeth. It was indeed a golden key, one inch in length. “How did I miss—?”
Sally stopped in mid-sentence, her blue eyes frozen, her hand tightening into a fist around the key.
“Sally, what’s wrong?”
Judy’s voice seemed to come from a distance. The laboratory waved before her eyes. She tried to answer, but her tongue was frozen, wool clogged her throat. Sally gurgled trying— and failing— to catch her balance on the table, and fell to the floor.
“Sally. . .!”
Light from a single gas streetlamp pooled upon the empty street, paved by cobblestones. Footfalls echoed behind her, unhurried, yet unrelenting in their step.
Sally turned and fled down the nameless street, her breath coming fast and hot— running until she thought her heart would burst, until her legs burned.
He was behind her.
And he was close.
Her legs pumped in slow motion through the endless, surreal streets, as she
fled. . .
She felt his hot breath on her neck and whirled to face him, intending to plead for her life. For an old instinct told her this was what he sought. That her body would not soothe his twisted lust.
Only her blood.
The words died on her lips.
His big, tattooed frame was silhouetted by the dim light. He was a swarthy man with dimpled cheeks and full lips, handsome, except for his glistening gray eyes and his smile. . . It was the smile of a sadist. A murderer.
Now she recognized him from his pictures in her criminal history class. Henry Speck. The serial killer executed 20 years ago. Speck’s murders had been committed with a butcher knife. He’d killed women— always women. Hiding in alleyways, lurking on dark street corners. Waiting for his victims. Two of them had been prostitutes, three students.
He rushed to her, arm raised. Light glinted upon the butcher knife held in his hirsute hand. “You’re dead ! This has to be a dream! Please God—!”