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“I’m fairly certain it was a tourniquet. It matches the ligature marks on his neck. His collar contained trace elements common in various popular tourniquet brands.

“What about the legs?” Cassie asked.

Underwood whipped off the rest of the sheet to expose Shapiro’s body in full. Laura looked away, but Cassie couldn’t take her eyes off his injuries. He’d been cleaned and taken care of as much as possible, but he was still a mess. Bones stuck up through his skin from his knees to his ankles.

The happiness in Underwood’s voice indicated—not for the first time—how much he loved his job. “Did you know our bodies replenish our cells every seven to ten years? Some of them faster than others. Our bones take about a decade to be completely replaced.”

“I did not know that.” Cassie finally met his eyes. “So, we have a new skeleton every ten years or so?”

Underwood shrugged. “Guess you could say that.”


“Yeah.” Underwood’s eyes lit up for a moment, and then he returned his gaze to the body between them. “Someone took a sledgehammer to his legs.”

That caught Cassie’s attention. “Really?”

“The points of impact show as much. It was something heavy and swung with force. I’m fairly certain based on the shape of the bruising and the way the bone shattered.”

“You keep saying fairly certain.” Laura’s voice sounded small in the large room. “How certain is fairly certain?”

“Ninety-nine percent.”

Cassie didn’t miss the defensiveness of his tone. “He’s not supposed to say he knows for a fact, but Dr. Underwood is a brilliant medical examiner. When he says fairly certain, you can basically take it as gospel.”

Laura nodded but said nothing else. She was looking a little green.

“And there was heroin in his bloodstream?” Cassie asked.

“I’d say more than adequate to kill him twice over. But the strangulation did him in.”

“You’re aware this mirrors a case from over twenty years ago?”

Underwood nodded and grabbed a folder off a nearby table. “The detective sent what he had of the original autopsies on the seven bodies found. Three pulled in from the ocean, four dug up in the woods.”

“How would you compare their wounds to Shapiro’s wounds?”

“Nearly identical.”

“And when you say nearly—” Laura began.

“I mean identical.” Underwood’s voice was gruff. “There’s only so much we can tell from the four victims buried in the woods because their bodies weren’t found for some time. But, since their broken bones match the broken bones of the first three victims, we can assume the same method of murder.”

“Plus, the four victims from the woods were also addicts recently released from prison, so they’re definitely from the same victim pool.”

“Correct.” Underwood’s mustache twitched as he calmed down. “We now have eight victims in total. All found with complex fractures of the tibia and fibula. Each patella was shattered, but the femurs were intact.”

“Do you know why that would be?” Cassie asked.

“The femur is the strongest bone in the body. It’s not impossible to break, but it’s much easier to take out someone’s knees and shatter the bones in their lower legs. Once you do that, the objective is complete.”

“Objective?” Laura asked.

“Immobilize the victims. It’d be extremely painful to walk on injuries such as these.”

Cassie started pacing to help keep all this information straight in her head. The movement also helped combat the chilly air. “Eight victims total, each with nearly identical leg injuries. The three that washed up on shore were also strangled. I’m guessing those marks were—”

“Nearly identical.” Underwood flipped a page in the folder he was holding. “My predecessor also assumed the weapon of choice was a tourniquet.”

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