Traces of Life

It was long and cylindrical, and tapered to a cap. The bronze-tinted, translucent surface of it reeked of poison. And darker, firmer, was the drying blood of a woman upon its bottom edge.

Latex clad digits removed the metal cap that had been jammed back around the tip of the object. It rolled to a stop with decelerating rhythm of tapping.

White. Pure. Clean. Soft. The swab came down and entered. It left with the remaining saliva, in hopes of gleaning a long linear polymer of nucleotides, a double-helix of identity.

In the next room, a computer whirred away, running algorithms for a fingerprint match. For those that knew how to look, the drinker's fingerprints could be found with clarity on the bottle.

Abruptly, the images of various prints and faces stopped flashing across the screen. The computer beeped, a specific and dissonant beep.

"Not in the system," someone said.

"Put them in the system," came a reply. "We'll get the bastard on something, sooner or later. Has Cynthia checked the cameras?"

"She pulled the plates of three black SUVs."

"Any of 'em got prior offenses?"

A shake of the head.

"Justin Kerne was one of the finest officers I ever knew. His widow and my wife go way back. Give this case some priority, but keep it low-key, got it?"

"There's something else, sir."

"What is it? Hasn't this damn bottle told us everything it can? Or did you find a way to rub it so that a genie comes out?"

"The results came in from her physical."

"Why'd they come in to us?"

"Because they effect the charges."

"What do you mean? Surely the man didn't drive back and rape her!"

"Of course not, sir. And we don't even know whether the driver was a man or not. Not for certain. We can't trust Miss Pivette's memory. But... she's pregnant, or was. Four months."

Obscenities fell from the detective's gaping mouth.

The End

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