Warren Murphy: Brain Drain

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    Brain Drain
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Artists, composers, and writers are being mutilated and destroyed in the bloodiest murders in police history. This maniac is taking one thing - their brains! The chief of CURE nearly ends up as the next corpse . . . Remo and Chiun are acting fast, and discovering the killer's an old enemy, stockpiling brains to extract the creativity he's lacking . . . They are tracking him to Hollywood - top brain center - where work can be fun! A sexy agent wants Remo for a new career . . . Chiun meets his soap opera idol . . . and there's a great spectacle coming: irresistible force, Sinanju, meeting indestructible object, Mr. Gordons.

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* Title : #022 : BRAIN DRAIN *

* Series : The Destroyer *

* Author(s) : Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir *

* Location : Gillian Archives *



Just outside the door, a rookie patrolman let go of his coffee and cigarette breakfast, all over his blue uniform, then retched up solids from the day before. He could not enter the basement room in Greenwich Village. A New York City detective sergeant helped him back up the iron steps to street level.

Inside the room, a city coroner slipped on the blood and half-flipped onto his back. Getting up, he skidded in the oozing red that had washed over what might once have been a robin's-egg-blue rug. The back of his checkered coat was soaked dark where he had landed. His knees, where he had leaned, were red pads. His hands were red, and he couldn't use his notebooks. The room smelled like the inside of a cow's belly. Excrement and intestines.

Manhattan's chief of homicide detectives, Jake Waldman, saw the young patrolman outside, dry-heaving over a fire hydrant, with one of his detectives holding him steady.

"Too much for the kid?" asked Inspector Waldman.

"Too much for anyone," said the detective.

"A stiff's a stiff. Only the living hurt you," said Inspector Waldman to the rookie, who nodded respectfully between heaves. The detective nodded, too.

He had once seen Waldman talking away in a room with a month-old stiff that would have made a rhinoceros gag, the cigar bouncing around his lips, while other men left because they had to get a breath of breatheable air or go insane. Waldman had a stomach of boilerplate iron. He would eat pastrami sandwiches, dripping with delicatessen cole slaw, in the city morgue and wonder why other people thought this peculiar.

When Willie "Grapes" Eiggi got it with two Bren guns all over his face at Gigliotti's Clam House on Mulberry Street, a coroner found a trace of potato salad and mustard in what was left of the eye socket and commented that Waldman must have seen the body already. He had.

"Tomato juice and pickles, kid. It'll fix you right up," said Inspector Waldman, his thick square face nodding with fatherly concern, his cigar bobbing up and down for emphasis.

At this, the rookie cop flailed wildly in another dry heave.

"What'd I say?" asked Waldman. People were always reacting strangely.

He was glad the press wasn't here yet. Television had its own crazy rules. He had been a detective when TV news was first coming in, and one day he'd seen a departmental directive ordering that "such detectives and other police personnel shall not, repeat NOT, consume candy bars or any other sweets, nourishments, condiments, or beverages at homicide scenes, since television reportage of the above-said masticatory acts tends to promote an image of departmental insensitivity toward the deceased."

"What's that supposed to mean?" young Waldman had asked a full detective sergeant. He knew that good police writing could be measured by how many times a person had to use a dictionary to decipher it. It would be years before he could write like that, let alone speak to reporters like that.

"It means, Waldy, that you shouldn't have eaten that potato knish over that mutilated nun's body in front of the television cameras yesterday."

Waldman had shrugged. He never had understood Catholicism too well. Now, years later, watching the rookie struggle for air over the hydrant, he was glad the television cameras hadn't arrived yet. He had just bought a fresh, salted pretzel and he didn't want it to get cold in his pocket.

Waldman saw the coroner stumble up the steps leading from the basement, his hands and knees bloodied, his eyes wide in shock.

"Hey, get a doctor," yelled Waldman to the detective helping the rookie.

"Doctors have been here and left," the detective yelled back. "They're all dead inside."

"We've got a hurt man here. The coroner," said Waldman.

"It's not my blood," said the coroner.

"Oh," said Waldman. He saw a press car weave behind the police barricade down the street and quickly finished his pretzel, stuffing the last chunk into an already-full mouth. He just wouldn't talk for a minute, that was all.

Going down the iron steps, he saw the coroner had left bloody footprints. The little cement well before the door smelled of fresh urine, despite the cold March rain of the day before. The small drain in the center of the well was clogged with the soot that collected in all open water in the city. The coroner had left bloody prints on the door. What was the matter with these people? This was a murder scene and you weren't supposed to go touching things. Everyone was acting like rookies. Waldman poked the green, paint-chipped wooden door open, using the rubber end of a pencil. A large grain of salt from the pretzel caught in a lower right tooth. It hurt. It would disappear when he could get his mouth empty enough to suck it out.

The door creaked open and Waldman stepped gingerly inside, looking to avoid the blood pools and chewing rapidly. There were no dry islands. The floor rippled with human blood, a small wall-to-wall lake, slippery red. A white 150-watt bulb suspended from the ceiling was reflected in the red slick. To his right, a head looked dumbly up at him from a couch pillow, its right ear just a dark hole near a bloody temple. A pile of bloody pants seemed entangled under a small wrought-iron table at the far end of the room. Waldman looked closer. There was no body attached to them. Closer. It was three legs. Different shoes. Three different shoes. At least three deaths.

The room smelled of released body smells, with an overtone of sticky-sweet hashish. But it was not the smell that did it.

Waldman stopped chewing and spat the pretzel out of his mouth.

"Oh," he said. "Oh. Wow. Oh."

He had seen the walls. Cement block covered with random psychedelic posters. A kid's pad, or an artist's. But no pad in Greenwich Village ever had walls like this, walls that dripped small lines of blood. Walls with holes that human arms stuck out from, right near the ceiling. It looked as if the walls had arms. A pinky was contracted on an arm that had only ceiling molding for an armpit.

Death was death, and raw death was raw death, but this stepped beyond. Not in his years of picking floaters out of the East River or even bodies from garbage dumps where rats gnawed their way inside to feast had he seen something like this. Death was death. But this? And above the doorway in the plaster ceiling, were embedded the blood-drained trunks of four bodies. Three male. One female.

The room darkened, and Waldman felt himself becoming light, but he kept his balance and made his way out the door again, where he breathed deep the blessed stench of natural city air. Years of training and using his common sense took over. He got the police photographers in and out quickly, warning them beforehand that they had a horror ahead of them and that they should do their job as quickly, and especially as mechanically, as they could.

The photographs would place the parts of bodies where they had been in the room. He personally tagged limb and head and random organs on a large chart of the room. He placed a limp eyeball in a clear plyofilm bag and labeled it. He got two detectives to question people in the building, another to track down the landlord. He had interns from nearby St. Vincent's Hospital help detectives to un-wedge the remnants of people from the walls and ceiling.

The butchered pieces were brought to the morgue. It was when they tried to reassemble the bodies for identification, which he knew by sight would be impossible-only fingerprints and dental work could identify these leavings-that he discovered the other beyond-reason element in a slaughter he had already stamped in his mind as beyond reason. The chief coroner was the first to point it out.

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