Lidia Davis is a forensic pathologist living and working in Boston. In the midst of her crumbling personal life she finds herself having to choose between aiding the fugitive vigilantes who's methods she secretly condones, or playing it safe and preserving not only her job but her life.

Chapter 1

I am an excellent bull-shitter. But sadly, I wasn't born with that ability. Like any other skill it had to be honed. I did most of my "honing" in my senior year of high school. My father had died of a genetic degenerative lung disease that January. I had waited for him to die for six hellish years, and when I finally buried his frail body that spring when the ground had thawed enough to dig up my, "honing" was already in full swing.

The sense of regained freedom I felt was altogether morbid and overwhelming. I spent the majority of my free time, those last few months of that year, bar-hopping with a gaggle of skanks I affectingly called my new found friends, and then spent almost every Monday morning projectile vomiting and sleeping off a hangover. Needless to say my mother was less than enthused about my new hobby, but that did nothing to hinder it. I just got good at lying.

I would stumble in the house on any given night, and face my mother's irate bout of endless questioning flawlessly. She would have no choice but purse her lips and narrow her eyes in frustration. I knew she thought she'd outsmart me someday, I figured she would eventually, but she never managed to catch me in a single lie.

By the time I had gotten into college my night-life had calmed down quite a bit. In fact it was virtually nonexistent. I had had my fill of partying away my grief.

I had always thought of my exceptional ability to lie believably as superfluous. That was until I took my first college level English class.

Out of all the useless classes they ever forced me to take in college, I hated English the most. I loathed it. Being fluent in bullshit I recognized how much bullshit the class entailed, and let me tell you, it was quite a bit. We read book after book of useless and highly depressing subject matter. I also came to realize all the bullshit concepts authors like to throw into the monstrosities they called their works of literary fiction. For example the literary concept of the cleansing nature of fire, being that if the protagonist's house burns to the ground in an electrical fire it actually means that the protagonist is being freed from the monotony of his premeditated life and thrust him into a world of endless opportunities, rather than simply leaving him homeless.

With my experience with fire, it's anything but cleansing. The first time I examined a severely burned cadaver was the only time I vomited during a class. I get maybe two to four fire deaths a month. Thankfully the bodies are rarely burned like the scorched man whose smell made me excuse myself with a frenzied wave of my hand as the professor asked me if I was going to be alright. Most deaths resulting from a fire are caused by the prolonged inhalation of toxic gasses.

But sometimes, even as an expert bull-shitter, I struggle to force the lies out believably. Sometimes the situation is so ridiculous it takes all I have to keep my composure as I feel my lips forming around the lies. But sometimes you just have to spit it out, to say things like "What the author means here is that the fire that destroyed the protagonist's earthly positions actually liberated him from a life of, insert mindless regurgitated babble here." Or "I'm so sorry for your loss Mrs.Yakavetta. What befell your son in that court room was monumentally tragic."

Deborah leaned against the door frame of my office, flipping through a manila folder.

"Jesus, took em' long enough to send these eh?" She mumbled, still flipping through the carbon copies of shot records and prescription paper-work.

"Look at this; back in 96 our little friend got prescribed some good-ole Oxycontin."

Deborah worked here some five years before I showed up. She was a pathologists assistant when I came along, assisting the former pathologist Dr. Murray. And I'll admit, she's better at this job than I am. Maybe it's because she'd been doing this longer than I have, but that's probably wishful thinking.

"Why would our beloved Mr. Yakavetta be in need of narcotic pain relievers?" I said with sarcastic interest.

"Your guess is as good as mine. I mean, he was only a worthless murderous peice of shit." Deb answered with an amused smirk.

I pushed my chair away from my desk and my small mountain of neglected paperwork. The wheels under my chair squeaked as they rolled over the lime-green linoleum.

"Well, you've successfully distracted me." I sighed.

"If you're as excited to go over these as I am, why don't we give Dr. Kevorkian a call. Maybe set up an appointment?"

"I wonder if he takes walk-in's." I added with a chuckle.

"But honestly, we'll be here all night. There set to bury him tomorrow you know." She said with a sobering note in her voice that extinguished my amusement.

"Closed casket by the looks of him" she added with a grin.

I pursed my lips, but tried not to let her see my annoyance. She caught on.

"Ohh that's right, I forgot you take yourself too seriously." She huffed with mock anger.

I glared up at her as I pushed my squeaky chair back toward my desk and reluctantly prepared to do battle once again with the paperwork monster. Her grin only widened in mischievous glee. She turned on her heal and strode out of my office.

"Enjoy your paperwork. Call me when you're ready to kill yourself." She called over her shoulder.

"Will do." I called back.

I didn't mean to be sensitive about what we do. Deb meant no harm in her teasing, and with what we see on a daily basis I think we owed it to ourselves to be insensitive about it every now and again or we'd go insane. And it's not that I had any respect for Yakavetta, I had no illusions about him or any of the horrible things he had done. Truth be told, I think he really got what was coming to him, but I would have never admitted that outwardly, at least not then. I suppose it all stemmed from the things I had drilled into me in college.

The second cadaver I dissected was an averagely built man of about 70 years of age. My lab group consisted of three other students. We each took turns on different systems of the body. I was assigned the Cardio-Pulmonary area, and so I went first. I examined the heart and the lungs, weighed them and made my external observations of them. The next student was assigned the endocrine system, but when he removed the liver he raised it over his head and proclaimed to his friend apparently named Dave who was busy sawing the breast plate off his cadaver "Hey, go long."

My professor dragged that student out of the room by his lab coat. I never forgot what he said when he returned.

"These people have given you a gift. If you can't respect that than you don't deserve to be here."

I don't think the people who get rolled into this place gave me a gift, least of all Yakavetta, but I made it a practice to treat them with respect. I know it sounds cheesy.

But that doesn't mean that I don't hate him. But there's nothing left in that mangled corpse to hate.

I glanced at the clock, again. They weren't that late, but I was anxious, I always hated this end of things.

I flipped through my manila folder filled with a copy of my final report and the paper work I needed Mr. Yakavetta's grieving mother to sign. I'd flipped through the same papers a dozen times, futilely trying to pacify my racing head.

I heard the hallow sound of Deborah's heals on the linoleum. She leaned on my doorframe once again her mischievous grin was replaced with a sympathetic, understanding smile.

"Paul's here." She said.

I sighed

"All right, show them in."

I'd forgotten that Paul was accompanying them, and although the thought of having a friend present as I went about the whole sad affair once again was comforting, it did little to improve my wounded mood. I would still have to lie my sympathies believably.

I straightened my jacket, tightened my grip on the manila folder in hand, and stepped out.

How bad could this really be?

The short silver haired old women buried her wrinkled head into the slightly taller mans chest, which did something to muffle her panicked sobs but not much. They still echoed off the cold metallic walls of the examining room with irritating precision. I wanted more than anything to share an annoyed look with Paul who stood stoically next to the other man, presumably Yakavetta's younger brother, but feared being spotted.

The oldest brother being preoccupied with consoling his hysterical mother did not so much as glance at the corpse of his brother, but the younger boy had no such distraction. His attention was focused undividedly on the marred body.

There was no point in trying to cover what was left Joseph Yakavetta's face. The gore of his head bled through the thin starchy white fabric of the medical sheets we would otherwise use to conceal the deceased's features when they weren't being scrutinized in identification or in external examination. But seeing the twin pools of coagulated blood and liquefied brain matter soak visibly through the sheet was just as disturbing. Yakavetta's head was propped into position with small steal block that had been adjusted to accommodate it. The ruin of his head was pointed directly upward, facing the buzzing industrial lights above us. His eyes and the crown of his nose had been blow out leaving gaping holes that were almost impossible to tell apart.

The old woman's howling grew shriller. I shot a glance at Deb, mentally pleading with her to end our now pointless session with the corpse. She pursed her lips but nodded reluctantly. Deb painted her sympathetic mask of sincerity flawlessly on her face; she was a much better actress than I was. She raised her hand and meekly placed it on the woman's heaving shoulder. Without saying a word she steered the inconsolable woman and the surviving son she furiously clung to toward the door. They clumsily stumbled their way to it as Yakavett's mother kept her head firmly buried in her son's broad chest, sobbing and sputtering in broken and heavily accented English.

The younger man lingered, examining his brother's corpse with wide and weary eyes. It seemed he couldn't bear to look at his ruined face for his eyes wandered desperately across his brother's cold flesh. I felt a pang of genuine sorrow for him. Without the production his mother was making to distract me, I could see that he was no older than nineteen. Brown eyed and attractive, he was averagely tall and hadn't seemed to have inherited his brothers' bulldoggish musculature. His brown eyes lingered at his brother's collapsed diaphragm and welled with bloodshot tears. He blinked them back furiously and angled his face from the corpse.

Paul took a graceful step forward and placed his large hand over the boy's slumped shoulder.

"If you'd like some time alone…" Paul stated his voice husky with sincere concern for the young man.

"No, it's fine." The boy answered swiftly. He didn't meet Paul's gaze, but he shook his head as he said it, as if the prospect of being alone with the mangled corpse was more trauma than he took take.

"Maybe we should get some air then." Paul said, patting the boys shoulder twice.

The boy nodded in silent agreement. Without a parting glance at the body he and Smecker strode out. Sometimes I forgot how perceptive Paul could be. He knew what to say in awkward moments such as this, whereas I just stood there with my proverbial thumb up my ass. The sorrowful feeling I felt for the boy hit me again as I watched him plunge his hands into his jean pockets and stride out of the frigid examining room in silence. But a new feeling accompanied it now. Guilt flooded my heart as I thought of the other corpse lying in a dark refrigerated storage locker with the name David Della Rocco scrawled on the index card that labeled it.

I glanced down at Yakavetta's lifeless shell, at his limp hands whose nails were the same blue shade that his lips had turned. Those hands took so many lives; those lips spoke the orders that slaughtered. Yakavetta's family didn't deserve my pity. Maybe that's unfair of me, to condemn his loved ones. Surly their pain was in equal measure to those like David's family, but to me their tears seemed tainted by Yakavetta's sins.

Deb stopped in as just as I was kicking the brakes of the gurney up so I could wheel Yakavetta back into his locker.

"I'll be right in." I said when she popped her head in the door.

"Don't bother." She said with a yawn.

"She still at it?" I whispered, referring to Yakavetta's mother and her incessant wailing.

Deb nodded and exaggeratedly rolled her eyes.

"But Paul's taken over the paper work, so they'll be outta here pretty soon." Deb continued.

"Ahh, the perks of having FBI friends" I sighed. Even the prospect of not having to pour over paperwork with the sobbing mother of a murder couldn't brighten my mood.

With the paperwork signed and filed, the pseudo-sympathies said and the surveying Yakavetta family shipped off to make the final funeral arrangements, me and Deb busied ourselves with our own paperwork, preparing to turn custody of Yakavetta's corpse over to his family. Paul tagged along, following us as we buzzed about from room to room.

He didn't initiate small talk to justify his presence. I credited this to the draining amount of work he must have fallen into during the last few weeks. Certainly he must have been swamped. His uncharacteristic silence continued as he followed me to my office.

I flopped into my squeaky chair with a sigh. Paul rubbed his temples and grimaced. I recognized the painful onslaught on a headache and pulled open the second drawer of my desk. I groped the metal interior of the drawer for the worn leather of my purse. Seeing it Paul's expression changed, his sarcasm seemed to revive itself for a moment.

"Jesus Lidia, how old is that thing?" He asked with a croaky chuckle.

"I'm ashamed to say." I admitted with an uncomfortable smirk.

After fishing around in the depths of my ancient purse I finally located the small bottle of aspirin I kept. I tossed over to Paul he snatched it out of the air with a clatter of pills off the plastic interior.

He nodded his thanks and shook two pills out of the bottle. I handed him the half full bottle of water that sat on the far corner of my desk. He popped both pills in his mouth and took a swig of the water.

Grimacing he said "Yum, warm."

I smiled despite my lousy mood.

"So, how's William?" He asked, glancing at my naked ring finger.

"Good." I said flatly.

The look that flashed across Paul's face was unconvinced.

"I think he's fucking my cousin." I added.

"Which one?" He asked with a frown.

I was surprised with his level headedness at my little revelation. I was still trying to find a way to tell Deb about my crumbling relationship with my fiancé without inducing an endless bout of "OH MY GOD"s and "NO WAY"s. Paul on the other hand took the news with stoic attentiveness. It was overwhelmingly refreshing.

"Christina, my father's sister's daughter." I admitted shamefully.

"Isn't that a little…."

"Incestuous? Why yes, yes it is." I finished. The realization of how my pathetically my personal life was crumbling down around me was suddenly illuminated. I propped my elbow on my desk, shoving my miniature mountain of paper work aside, and rubbed my achy eyes. I felt the beginnings of a lump form in my throat but I fought it back.

I was jarred back from my plunge into self pity by the warmth of Paul's hand as it wrapped around mine. I felt a sudden flush of embarrassment knowing that he felt the need to console me.

"Sorry Kiddo." He said squeezing me hand as it lay limply in his.

"Let's get some lunch." He mumbled, obviously trying to dodge a bout of awkward silence we both felt coming a mile away. I nodded my agreement, not trusting voice to remain steady as the lump dissolved slowly.