Shadow Unit

Case Files

Teasers & Deleted Scenes

Omaha, NE, June, 2007

Todd's voice ran measured and clear in Hafidha's phone headset, like a post-grad lecturer. Reyes was probably having flashbacks in the driver's seat. "Anecdotally, schizophrenics may abruptly drop a lot of weight, in part because they may not eat, and in part because--"

"An amped-up brain burns through glucose like whoa," Hafidha said, taking a bite out of a Ring Ding. Hafidha 'the human tapeworm' Gates. If I ever get tired of cop work, I can go into hot dog eating contests. "Maybe he's trying to turn them into jammers?"


"Anomaloids," she explained, reluctantly, sliding the ridiculous word out long and droopy. "Gammas."

She had said it flippantly, but the implications settled in slowly, drawn on Todd's thoughtful silence. "Think you could?" he said, when she'd had plenty of time to frown at the other half of the Ring Ding and set it back on the wrapper with its doomed twin.

"Make a gamma? It makes me queasy to think about it. How much does a gamma brain scan look like a schizophrenic one?"

Reyes grunted noncommittally, which Hafidha took to mean, Some.

Mercifully, Todd changed the subject, because Todd did things like that. Unless he was conducting an interview, in which case, he only changed the subject to come back at you from a different angle. "What have you got on the school records and police blotter, Hafs?"

That finger rolled the mouse wheel again. "Nothing conclusive. Nothing coming up colors. If there's a sixth vic, I'm not finding them, and it's not like college students, even freshmen, have daily homework assignments we could track. I placed a couple of calls and emails to professors, though, and it does seem that each victim's class attendance dropped off for a week or so before he or she cracked. That's--what was your word, Duke?--anecdotal, though."

"Right," Reyes said. "So what do college freshmen do?"

"Try to find a community," Todd answered, promptly. "Look for mentors and friends. Find places to hang out."

"Join clubs," Hafidha said, and felt the click. "Don't even say it, I'm on it already. The thing is, if they'd each just joined some club before It happened to them, they might not be in the computerized membership lists."

"Legwork, Hafs? My heart bleeds."

"Hah," she answered. "Look, I'm going to call Lau and tell her to ask about social groups and extracurricular activities, okay?"

"Okay," Todd said. "I think we're here, anyway."

"Hafidha!" Reyes' voice stopped her, finger hovering over the disconnect.

"Last time I checked."

"Send the brain scans to Doctor Frost."

Oh yes. That would be the logical next step, and if Hafidha didn't tend to class Madeline Frost with the Boogeyman and the Grinch, she would have thought of it herself. She said, "In ša' Allāh, sahib," and hit the disconnect.

And then, after a moment to compose herself, during which she put the wounded Ring Ding out of its misery, she bit her thumb in the general direction of Johns Hopkins and hit 666 on her speed dial.

-- from "Knock on Coffins"