Cause of Death Unnatural - By Eliza Ford

Cause of Death: Unnatural

By Eliza Ford

The Cause of Death Series – Book 1

Em's head had been killing her all day. The three bodies lying on the ground in front of her weren't making it any better.

There was an itch at the back of her head, in a corner of her mind actually. A niggling, digging mental whine that had been growing in intensity all day. She knew what it was, she knew what it meant, and she sighed at the thought of what had to be done about it. But she couldn't deal with it now. These bodies needed sorting out first. It was nearly sunrise.

“Em!” Robert barked. “Get yourself over here.”

Em rolled her eyes. Robert was trying to be stern today.

Robert was head of pathology, a man who had worked with dead bodies for most of his career. Late nights in the chill of the morgue prising bodies apart for their secrets was all part of the job for Robert. He was an expert forensic pathologist with an insight that bordered on brilliance - and he was a sensitive soul. Em liked him. His fine taste in wine, the vintage cuff links in his shirts, the champagne they drank when he took her to the symphony, the dog-eared copy of War and Peace he kept by his bedside - all these things pointed to a man who knew who he was and what he liked. It was rare, Em thought, to find a man in this business who had managed to find the balance between the violence and ugliness of his work, and his own ideals. She admired that.

And she wasn't at all surprised to see that Robert had taken a step away from the bodies and had turned his back to them. He was talking to the cop who'd called it in, who was looking a bit green too. Even the most experienced crime scene technician would find this scene confronting. Perhaps that accounted for the sternness in Robert's tone - this had shocked him, and he was trying to find refuge in some officious rank-pulling. She nodded and decided to respect his little charade. The gore here was horrific.

Robert put his hand on the shoulder of the cop as the man finished his report and turned away. “Sit down for while,” Robert said to him, as Em stood at his side.

Robert looked at her with his eyebrows raised. It was a silent question that asked her if she was okay with all this. It was his only admission that what had happened here had upset him and he wanted to show his concern for Em without stepping over the professional line he respected so much. She loved him for it. He was such a gentleman. If only he knew... Em gave him a tight little smile.

“What do you think?” Robert asked her.

This was the question she hated. She turned back to look at the bodies again. It was a way of avoiding his glance. What did she think? Well, she knew it wasn't human, of course. Whoever, or whatever, made this mess it wasn't a gang, or a drug killing, it wasn't some prank gone wrong, it wasn't even some serial psychopath having a bit of fun. Nothing human had killed those boys. The perpetrator was more likely to have come from Em's realm, and probably had something to do with the whining noise still going on in the back of her head. But how could she tell Robert that?

Generally she had a standard answer to this question - for those cases where the victim had plainly been killed by a vampire or a wolf. She hated lying to him, but she was good at her job, and what he didn't know...

“I don't know what to think,” she said eventually. That sounded innocuous enough, didn't it? Surely this case was so violent that even with people like Robert turning away a comment like that wouldn't seem out of place. “I've never seen anything like it.”

That much, she thought, was true.

“Are we nearly done?” asked Robert. “It would be good to get them inside before daylight.”

“Yes,” said Em. “Poll has a few more photos and samples to do, but we're good. It would have been much quicker if Nick had been here,” she added.

Robert let out an explosive breath, more like a snort, and threw a hand up in the air in disgust. “Where the hell is he?” he said. “Did you call him?” Em stayed silent. This was