Shadow Unit

Case Files

Teasers & Deleted Scenes

Ashton, Virginia, August 2008

Special Agent Lau kept her promise.

This amazes Henry Clark. Reyes knows because Henry tells him so, every time Reyes comes to "visit."

Henry Clark isn't his real name. Or, rather, it isn't the name he was born with. It's the name on his dogtags. Or, rather, not his dogtags, since CLARK HENRY J died in Vietnam and is buried in a cemetery in Florida along with at least three generations of his ancestors. Todd checked that, and double-checked it, and nearly (he claims) got brained by an angry old lady with a shotgun for daring to suggest that she might have buried the wrong body. "Open casket funeral," he says gloomily on his return. "She says she doesn't know what happened to his dogtags. Says maybe her daughter took them, but she hasn't talked to her daughter since the Summer of Love and doesn't have the least idea where she might be." Beat. But Reyes is waiting for it, because Reyes knows Todd. "Also, the Henry J. Clark who died in Vietnam--the J stands for Jericho, by the way, because I know you were wondering--was African-American."

The Henry Clark in Idlewood is not. He's fair-skinned, blue-eyed. He's probably older than Henry J. Clark would be, although that's another thing they can't tell for sure. Henry doesn't know, any more than he knows what his name was before it was Henry Clark.

He lost a lot of things to the ice, he tells Reyes.

His file lists some of them: three toes, part of his right ear, patches of skin on hands and feet that are scar-shiny and insensate. The cognitive impairment may be the result of hypothermia, or it may be the result of something else. Likewise the fissures and failures in his memory, long-term and short-term both. He can name most of the presidents, but has no idea where he was born. If he ever had a family, he doesn't know who they are, and Reyes can't find any evidence that they're looking for him.

How he ended up in Minnesota is anybody's guess.

Idlewood is the best thing that's ever happened to Henry Clark. His room is comfortable, the food is good, the nurses are nice to him. "And they let me have two blankets," he says to Reyes, blue eyes wide. "They say I can have three if I need them, and I don't want to be greedy, but sometimes I do."

"It's all right, Henry," Reyes always says. "There are plenty of blankets for everyone."

Even in Idlewood, even in the summer, it's hard for Henry Clark to stay warm. He wears sweatshirts over flannel shirts over turtlenecks, long underwear and flannel lined jeans, two pairs of socks and enormous fleece-lined moccasins. He has a wool hat, and the nurses say he sleeps in it, but he won't wear it in front of Reyes; he says it's rude to wear a hat indoors.

The therapists have taught him to knit, and Henry nearly bursts with pride when he tells Reyes he's knitted himself a scarf. Reyes admires it. It's purple and magenta and wildly uneven, and it's already unraveling in places, but it's something Henry made to keep himself warm, and that makes it beautiful.

Next month on Shadow Unit...

These were familiar; morgue photographs. Bodies laid out, false-looking and still, on careful metal tables. Skin drained of something; clinically it was probably the blush of blood moving from cell to cell, but Esther Falkner always thought of it as the soul. There were no marks; no contusions. In the headshot, the blonde was thin and pale as Sleeping Beauty.

And then click, the full-body shot.

Under the pale green sheet Cecily Marshall's ribs were enumerated, sharp as starfish. Her hipbones splayed from discoloured skin like growths. The legs tapered down like stick-figure limbs, ridiculously long and gangly without their flesh. The curve of her jawbone, the skull was clearly visible under what had once been grinning red cheeks.

She looked like a famine victim. She looked like-

--naked protruding ribs, his spidery arms, his hair, the jeans that sagged on his jutting hipbones, his bare feet--

There was a little scrape as the wheel of Villette's chair locked, snagged on its own awkward joints, and tugged at the carpet. Don't, Falkner thought, even as her head already turned to glance over. Everyone else in the room was looking at him too. They all looked away just as quickly. Clockwork.

He didn't react. He stared at the picture of the dead girl so hard he might well be memorizing it. He sat so still he trembled.

Charles Villette knew all the ways to die of starvation.


"Local PD is investigating the family for Munchausen-by-proxy or abuse," Lau said. "They're holding the second body for autopsy. There's a detective there who kicked this up for assistance. He's read about suicide clusters and seems to feel out of his league. Good thing he did. It tripped the flags and came down to us."

"And the first body?" Falkner pressed. Get through this, through the next minute and they could be back on topic again. They could be a team around a table doing their jobs.

"Would have to be exhumed," Lau said.

Someone had to ask the question. Esther Falkner counted a slow five beats down, silent. She hadn't hit two before Daniel Brady leaned back and said "So why's this on our desk?"She let out a breath. It was good, the supervisory part of her noted, to have people around who weren't so terribly invested in looking like they already knew.

Lau slid the file shut so gently it didn't even rustle. "Cecily Marshall was sixteen years old and died of a massive heart attack. They weighed the body in at eighty-nine pounds." A pause; maybe presentational, maybe genuine disgust and grief. "At her last physical in May she weighed one hundred and forty five."

"Oh," Hafidha Gates said, muffled and involuntary, and hunched over herself like a wound.

"Either we have someone sucking the weight off teenage girls," Worth began.

It hung in the air for a moment. Esther Falkner took aim and shot it down.

"Or we have a plague of gammas," she said.

-- from "Sugar," by Leah Bobet