The LT hit the button and a shapely butt filled the screen, red lace stretched tight but not hiding the little tent at the bottom. The lights were down and there wasn't even a snigger as the lieutenant swiftly clicked through the images. Typical webcam stuff; by three shots in the panties were off and by ten he was exploring his internal anatomy. At fifteen a strange hand and knife entered the screen. Sixteen through sixty were bloody, and one of the interns wandered off to be sick. By eighty-nine you could glimpse bits of hip bones, and a couple of the detectives had left the room too. By one hundred and fifteen, the images looked like an alien landscape, all traces of the human form erased except for a mashed cauldron of blood and shit and shredded meat.
"Jack, I want you to take this one." The LT said.
"Any ID on the victim?"
"No," she frowned, "total John Doe. Not even a face on the images, no missing persons match what little we can see. We got this off the internet, some sick fucks passing it around reddit. Curtis found it before it made the news; you know how Vice likes the weird shit."
Detective Jack Bastard nodded, red light bouncing off the screen and giving his face a Satanic glow.
"Okay," he said, "I know somebody."
Maria Velhellena was a forensic proctologist. She could be, as far as Jack knew, the only forensic proctologist in the world. They'd met during another murder investigation, one where she had been the suspect, at least for a short time. Jack didn't like to think about that case either, but "the Impaler" had made his reputation, and Maria owed Jack her life...but not much else.
He was surprised to find her walking, albeit with the aid of crutches.
"Jack!" she brightened up, clicking across the floor, legs almost dragging behind her. He stooped down to give her a carefully-balanced hug; it felt like he was being squeezed by a gorilla. "It's been so long! What brings you here?"
"A bad one, Em," he said, as they made their way over to her desk; instead of a chair she had a kind of cradle to lay down in, "worst one in a while. I need to identify a John Doe."
The images were in the cloud, hosted behind a police firewall; he had to plug in a little reader and scan the microchip in his badge so she could read it. The slideshow played, and her eyes went from bemused to detached professionalism in seconds. Jack let it play through, without interruptions.
"It's too bad," she said, short fingernails scratching just above her knee, "he had a nice ass."
Jack's phone woke him from a nightmare, uncomfortably hard and hoping that was autonomic; the details were fleeting, but he distinctly remembered it being a bit like shitting Excalibur only backwards. One drowsy hand, acting on automatic, grabbed the glowing screen and brought it near his face.
"Jack? I have something." Maria said.
Gentle snores came from across the hall. John rolled out of bed, and tiptoed to his bedroom door and closed it as quietly as he could.
"I did a three-dimensional reconstruction of his anus, but it isn't in the database." Jack reached instinctively for the flask of emergency whiskey that was no longer on his bedside table. He hadn't known there was a database, or who kept it. He remembered his last visit to the proctologist - they'd offered him a drone-probe, but somehow that was worse than a human touch - and wondered if pictures of his own ring-piece were stored somewhere for medical students and perverts to check for polyps. "However, there are characteristic scars of prolapse correction surgery."
"Prolapse," Jack said. "So he's been around a bit, maybe a pro?"
"I can't comment," she said, and by the tone of her voice Jack knew he'd done something wrong. He wondered what you gave to a forensic pathologist by way of apology for a social fuckup. Visions of chocolate cream-filled dildos filled his head, and Jack knew it was way too early in the AM to be thinking of that shit. "What I can tell you is that there is only one licensed physician in the city for performing such procedures."
He asked for the name, and she gave it. Jack swallowed and thanked her, then hung up. He didn't go back to sleep.
Doctor Friendly had no criminal record; his few run-ins with the police had been related to his patients, and he had been polite and helpful and kept his lawyer in the room at all times. He had a private practice, and took any insurance; he was one of the few docs that treated the city's prostitutes, of any gender, and did it without judgment, insisting everyone had the right to basic dignity and fair medical treatment.
Jack ambushed him as he came in to work. Friendly didn't even blink; he had his lawyer on speed dial, and pressed the button even as he politely asked if he were under arrest. Jack knew the rest was a dance, familiar from a million cop shows and courtroom dramas. Subpoenas for patient records, interviews with nurses and patients, the dry rigmarole of building a case, and he didn't even have a body yet. He hoped to hell he was wrong; he liked Friendly. Half the whores in this city owed him money and favors that he'd never call in.
The detective cued up slide 8 on his phone and flashed it at him.
"Doctor, do you recognize this ass?"
Something like shock went through Friendly's face. His eye twitched. His lawyer's Cadillac zoomed into the parking lot.
"Yes, detective," he said, voice cracking, "that's my son. Have they found him yet?"
The case got weirder. Jack's cases tended to. The boy had been on and off the street since his teens, came back when he was too hurt or too strung out to sell himself; his dad would patch him up and get him clean and all would be fine for a few weeks and he'd start staying out late at night, then abruptly disappear again. Friendly's eyes were sad when he talked about it, and Jack felt there was more there than needed to be in a police report.
Word spread among the workers; Jack nearly tripped over himself following the leads. They all liked Friendly. More than a few knew the boy, looked after him, but he was part of a bad crowd. Movie types with too much money and a hankering for underwear models and PCP. Vice started following Jack like hound dogs, arresting his suspects until the LT threatened very specific parts of their anatomy.
The end of the mystery wasn't terribly weird, though. It was just sad and squalid and human, an obsessive customer that thought he was a boyfriend. Lust mistaken for love, gone over into madness. Jack had been half afraid he'd find the bastard pants-down, bent over the ruined shell of a corpse, but when they broke down the door they found him on the couch, overdosed on sleeping pills.
Jack stood back as the technicians did their thing with the scene, knowing he wasn't the only one who wished they could just burn the apartment down and forget it. The LT gave him the nod that meant the case was closed, save the paperwork. Friendly would get what was left of his boy; Jack still needed to find a way to make it up to Maria for whatever he'd said.
His phone rang; he brought it to his face.