It takes two years for Clive Babineaux to meet Olivia Moore. They had been face to face once before, but there hadn’t been any introductions, just shouting. Clive had felt betrayed by the woman in front of him with brunette hair and a normal skin tone. He’d thrown both words and accusations, and by the time it was over no one would have called it an introduction. Secrets are a bitch.
“Ravi.” Clive strides into the morgue looking for the medical examiner. “Tell me you have a cause of death.”
“Well, I don’t want to alarm you, but it appears the women in question is missing her brain.” Ravi makes a face that means he absolutely is trying to alarm Clive, but perhaps not seriously. “The good news is we have a new expert on missing brains.”
“Ravi, come on, man, really?” Clive observes that his friend actually appears excited. Usually any unusual deaths like this bring up unfortunate memories for the both of them; it’s not an occasion to joke. “You are the only expert on missing brains we need.”
“Be that as it may, I have a new assistant.” Ravi is almost bouncing on the balls of his feet. “She’ll be in later.”
“You think you’ll keep this one instead of driving them off?” Clive can’t imagine why Ravi would be enthused by a new assistant. In the two years since the assistant they don’t talk about, Ravi has gone through six assistants of all kinds. None of them measured up to her, and Ravi disliked them all.
“Pretty sure this is the one true assistant,” Ravi confirms.
“Ravi, you know I don’t like being compared to evil jewelry.” A new, female voice comes from behind Clive. A new voice in the conversation, but not an unfamiliar one. Clive meets Ravi’s eyes to try and convey just how much bullshit he thinks this situation is.
“Is the victim really missing her brain?” Clive asks. It’s funny how this one surprise makes him question everything Ravi is telling him. It has taken a lot of work to repair his relationship with Ravi and surprises like this make him question whether all that effort was worth it.
“Yes.” Out of the corner of his eye, Clive looks at the woman who has stepped around the table to join Ravi. Her brunette hair is braided down her back, with a white streak in it that makes her look like a comic book character. It’s definitely Olivia Moore. “But it’s not like that. We think someone’s trying to do copycat killings.”
“I’m not working with her,” Clive tells Ravi, refusing to make eye contact with or acknowledge Olivia. “I can’t believe they let you hire her again. After last time?”
“Clive, look, I’m sorry we lied to you,” Olivia starts, but he shakes his head and turns away.
“So she’s missing her brain and you think it’s a copycat?” Clive asks, looking at Ravi who is looking back and forth between him and Olivia sadly. “Send me the report. I’ll call with questions.”
Four hours later he gets Ravi’s report. It’s detailed and thorough. It comes with a side report by Olivia Moore titled “why this is not the undead”. The public thinks the murders a few years ago were a combination of the takedown of Stacy Boss and the collapse of Max Rager from illegal drug testing. However, the Seattle PD and FBI are well aware of zombies. And Olivia Moore is a known expert in the field. Both in Seattle, and really, in the country, if you had zombie questions you hoped that Ravi Chakrabarti or Liv Moore would answer them.
Clive had not handled the zombie news well. Partially it had to do with almost being eaten, but mostly it had to do with being lied to. Clive had found out Olivia was a zombie right before he was whisked away to the hospital for a week to recover from nearly being eaten by another zombie. He had refused all visitors and gone back to work, only to catch a horrifying case where the victims were seven year old children. After 24 hours awake with no leads he’d given in to the voice in his head that had been chanting Liv’s name for the last 12. Clive had gone to the morgue only to find a woman he’d never really seen before with normal skin who didn’t get visions. The human Olivia Moore. Surprise!
If there hadn’t been two seven year old children on the table with zero clues and a really terrible crime scene, he likes to think he might have been happy for Liv. But looking at an unsolved murder, and more secrets, he had lost his temper. He’d yelled for a bit, and then strode out of the morgue. He hadn’t gone back, receiving all subsequent updates on another two children electronically and through one brief phone call. When he did go back, Ravi had simply introduced him to his new assistant, David.
Clive had known Olivia wasn’t dead (really dead) and that had been the last time they’d spoken of Olivia. The rest of it they talked around while he repaired his working relationship and then his friendship with Ravi.
“So, I have to ask, if it’s not the obvious that we don’t speak of, who or what is it?”
Ravi makes a thoughtful humming noise at Clive’s question. “Liv’s talking to her contacts at the FBI,” Ravi answers. Then he rolls his eyes. “She was on speaker phone but it got insufferable.”
“The FBI?” Clive is beginning to feel like more people have been keeping secrets from him. He still exchanges e-mails with Dale and his old friend Olivia Moore has never come up. But then, maybe they’re not really old friends.
“Well, they had a zombie division for a while,” Ravi answers. “It started shutting down and Liv left. There’s some separation anxiety.”
“Liv was working with the FBI?” Clive’s trying to be surprised, but really, since he’s seen her name on a few papers that circulate among those in the know in law enforcement, he guesses he shouldn’t be. It’s just that usually law enforcement agencies don’t like to employ people who eat evidence.
“No leads from the FBI.” Olivia skips into the room. “They ‘volunteered’ the other zombie expert, but I explained that it makes people nervous when we’re together.”
“You’ve been with him for two years!” Ravi exclaims loudly. “You mean, you escaped his co-dependency in humanity, and now he’s their problem.”
“Yes,” Olivia confirms, moving easily to hand Ravi a sucker. She’s already got one in her mouth. “And there are still active warrants for his arrest in Seattle. So that leaves this case squarely in Detective Babineaux’s capable hands.”
“Major?” Clive risks the question and immediately regrets it. He knows Major is still in town.
Liv and Ravi exchange a look that two years ago Clive would have been closer to understanding, but now he doesn’t know. He wants to know.
“The FBI confirms that the last known zombie was taken into custody over two months ago.” Liv doesn’t really acknowledge the question about Major. “There’s been a zero percent rejection rate on the cure.”
“What about mixing Utopian and Max Rager?” Clive feels compelled to ask. Maybe to prove them wrong, maybe because he feels like Liv should have more answers for him.
“We know the original formula that caused zombie-ism for both products and they’ve all been changed. The task force tests random samples from drug busts all over the country. So far, no hits.” Liv is staring at him with an uncomfortable intensity. But then her eyes break away and she nudges Ravi gently with her foot. He takes up the burden of the report.
“Well, the two victims have striking similarities. They’re both about 30, dark haired, lived around Lake Washington, and were found on the shore, although on opposite sides of the lake. The whole brain is missing in both cases, although it wouldn’t have been intact given that both women were bludgeoned with a blunt instrument or a rock of some sort.”
“They don’t currently work together. Nothing implies they know each other socially.” Clive contributes what the initial check on each victim had revealed. “The first victim works at NorthPointe labs and she seemed well liked by her co-workers.”
“Where are their families?” Liv breaks in. “I mean, we ID’d the bodies through dental records and you know who they are. Yet none of the families have contacted us.”
“They’re both married,” Clive says. “I haven’t been able to reach the husbands. Thankfully the second victim's parents were already watching the kids when they went missing. The grandfather should be down later today to ID his daughter’s body.”
“Isn’t it a little convenient that the husbands go missing at the same time as two unrelated women wash up dead in Lake Washington?” Liv seems to have seized on this as a way to find her way back to steadier ground with Clive. Because he must say he does suspect the husbands.
“They are on my suspect list,” Clive tells them. “I’m following up at their residences first. I’m pretty sure the parents are in the clear, so do the standard body ID and let me know if they do anything interesting.”
Clive stands around for a moment before realizing he’s still leaving the morgue alone. How easily he’s fallen back into the idea that Liv is coming with him. Liv can’t come with him. Liv can’t help him, he reminds himself sternly, she doesn’t know anything that he doesn’t know. He’s outside of the building and taking a deep breath of air before he admits to himself that he’s not angry. He’s not going to think about what he is, because there are plenty of other things for him to be doing. He’s got a case.
“It’s not the husbands,” is what Olivia greets him with. Also the promised cup of coffee.
“How can you not suspect the husbands?” Clive demands, looking at Ravi and Liv with more than a little judgement. “It’s always the husbands. I’m right about that at least 75% of the time.”
“Always and 75% are not the same thing,” Ravi points out like he’s offended on behalf of statistics. He probably is. “Besides, two husbands going on a murder spree seems unlikely.”
“Something about this is fishy,” Liv agrees. She’s got another piece of hard candy in her mouth, which she keeps clicking against her teeth. Clive doesn’t remember her having that habit before.
“Well, right now that’s the only lead we’ve got.” Clive holds himself back from asking Liv if she has any insight into the matter, but only just. “So, I’m going to search the houses now that we’ve got an ID on both of them. Check out their jobs too.”
“Before you go, we have more valuable information.” Ravi stops Clive before he can reach the steps. “Take it away, Liv!”
“Google fu on both women confirm pretty much everything you already said about their current situation,” Liv confirms with a grin. “However, a little honest detective work told me to dig deeper. So, how about a blast from the past?”
“Please get to the point. You don’t have to dance around Google, Ms. Moore.” Clive can’t believe that makes her smile more. He has to restrain himself too. Seattle is light on staffing and he doesn’t have a partner, but now that Liv isn’t a zombie he really can’t take her into the field. He has missed it.
“Google tells me that both victims worked for Max Rager once upon a time. Say, right before the company was revealed to be participating in illegal drug testing. Social media indicates they were fired at roughly the same time,” Liv reveals as she hands over some printouts to support her research. “Sadly, social media does not reveal if they actually knew each other.”
“There is no more Max Rager,” Clive tells her, in case she’s forgotten the good news.
“There’s no more company,” Ravi agrees. “But I still see their lab staff trying to find new jobs. Maddy Larson at least had her licence revoked, but she still e-mails me all the time asking if we can talk. Both of our victims worked in the formula development field for Max Rager.”
“And my FBI contacts tell me that Vaugh Du Clark and most of the board members walked away without jail time.” Clive is surprised to see that human Olivia Moore radiates fury at the same intensity as zombie Olivia Moore. Only now she’s actually got some color on her face.
“You’re saying that instead of me investigating the husbands, who 75% of the time are responsible for dead spouses, you’d rather I hunt down the former executives of Max Rager and ask them about their dead former employees?” Clive is starting to get the sinking sensation that eating brains hadn’t been what made Olivia Moore so stubborn.
“If you don’t want to investigate him you can always come along to protect him,” Liv offers, shrugging out of her lab coat. “My shift is over and I think I’m going to visit him and give him a piece of my mind. I hear he still hates me even after he won on appeal.”
“Ms. Moore! You are not a detective,” Clive objects. He does it because Vaugh Du Clark does hate Liv. He’s been demanding to know what happened to the dead bitch every time he runs into Clive.
“I’m not investigating,” Olivia agrees. “I just think it would be beneficial to know what he’s up to.”
“Do you even know where he lives?” Clive is going to have to go with her. Vaugh Du Clark may not be in jail, but his personal circumstances are deteriorating. Instead of taking responsibility for his actions, or the actions of his company, he’s firmly blamed Liv for his downfall.
“Google is a wonderful thing,” Liv answers mysteriously. She hugs Ravi goodbye quickly and starts skipping up the stairs. Clive makes eye contact with Ravi, who looks pleading.
“You owe me another coffee tomorrow,” Clive tells him, rolling his eyes and heading towards the door. “That girl is going to be the death of me. Wait for me, Ms. Moore! He’ll probably try and shoot you for trespassing.”
“You! This is your fault!” Du Clark yells as Liv dodges his grasping arms. Du Clark doesn't seem exactly sober or rational, but Clive encourages him to stop his attempts to assault his partner-friend.
“We’re here to talk about your former employees.” Liv stands back. “What do you know about the two dead women found on the Lake Washington?”
“Nothing. Because of all the people here, I’ve never eaten a brain!” Du Clark leans against the side of his house and glares at Liv. “Why don’t we ask the former zombie here? What’s going on, Ms. Moore? Is the cure failing?”
“Who said anything about missing brains?” Clive interjects before Liv and Du Clark can get into one of their famous arguments.
“The press?” Du Clark answers. When he sees Liv and Clive exchanging a look he shakes his head again. “Maybe Larson. She stopped by a few days ago to try and see if she could salvage her research again.”
“Maddy Larson? The one who was testing all those zombies in the basement that we had to storm Max Rager to free?” Liv asks for clarification, stalking close again until Clive waves her off. He doesn’t particularly want to deal with any more physical violence today.
“How are you still stuck with her?” Du Clark asks in faux sympathy. “God, if I had to deal with her I’d need a drink.”
“I think you need to answer her questions,” Clive corrects. “So make that drink coffee.”
“She’s not coming in my house,” Du Clark hisses. “I don’t have to let her in.”
“Fine, she can stay out here,” Clive agrees. He unlocks the car. Du Clark’s house is on a nice part of Lake Washington. Not lakefront, but he has a view. Clive assumes there’s not too much trouble Liv can get into. On the other hand, this is Liv. “Ms. Moore, behave yourself.”
“You should really cuff her in the car.” Du Clark walks back into the house. “That one only knows how to find trouble.”
All in all, Du Clarke is not helpful. He’s not trying to be helpful, and he continues to take digs at the Seattle PD once again accepting advice from a tiny annoying girl. He doesn’t take the suggestion that there’s something suspicious about two dead former employees in the same week well.
“Look, as far as Olivia Moore is concerned, I’m always responsible,” Du Clark reminds him. “She’s never been right.”
Clive levels him with a flat look. However, before Clive can weigh in on that less than credible statement, there’s Liv tapping on the sliding glass door in the back of the house. She’s holding a tupperware container in one hand and waving it around. Clive’s seen enough brain to recognize it for what it is.
Du Clark turns to look at what Clive is seeing and throws his hands up. “Of course, of course she found brains. I hate her.”
There’s some chaos and screaming as Clive takes Du Clark into custody and calls for a field team to search the shed that was ‘open’ when Liv came across it while wandering around the property. She points out with some enthusiasm that Du Clark had only said she wasn’t allowed in the house. Clive has someone else transport Du Clark to the station. You couldn’t pay him enough to get in a car with Liv and Du Clark.
“I told you it wasn’t the husbands.” Liv hops a little on the way to the car. “Did you see the look on his face?”
Clive feels strangely satisfied with the way the day is ending.
“Ms. Moore, you know you can’t do that.” Clive can feel himself fighting a smile though. He remembers how desperately Liv had wanted to hold Max Rager accountable for its actions. He wonders how long she knew the truth and had to keep trying to find a way to bring it into the open.
“What? I was sending it to the FBI, not posting it on Facebook,” Liv defends herself. “Ok, and maybe Ravi.”
“Go home, Ms. Moore,” Clive urges her. “You’ve done more than I could have asked.”
“If you think you’re not recounting this interview later, you are wrong, Detective.” Olivia had seemed poised to argue, but she backs off with this concession. “If you’re not going to let me at least watch him scramble to explain how this isn’t his fault, I really need to hear about how unsuccessful it was later.”
“Let the police do police work,” Clive suggests, a little sharply. He tries to soften it by adding, “You’ll have lots of brain material to test in the morning.”
Liv looks him in the eyes silently for a few seconds before shrugging. Her phone chimes and she looks down and snorts softly.
“Alright, Detective, I’ll let you do the investigating.” Olivia waves towards the interrogation room before heading out the door. Clive makes sure she exits the building before heading in to talk to Du Clark.
“She planted those brains,” is the first thing he hears before he can even sit down with the pictures and ask a question. Du Clark continues glaring at the mirror. “You know she’s always had it in for me.”
“It turns out she had a point,” Clive answers calmly, pulling out a chair and settling down. “She’s not there, by the way. You’re glaring at my captain.”
“I’ve never had brains in my shed.” Du Clark tries speaking slowly. “If brains were found in my shed, it was because of her.”
“I can assure you that she didn’t have any tupperware when she arrived on the property,” Clive reasons with him. “You seemed to know about the brains before she mentioned it.”
“I told you Maddy came by to complain some more and she was talking about it this afternoon.” Du Clark rolls his eyes and leans back. “I think she was there for an hour going on and on. I just kept drinking.”
“Did the two victims work for Dr. Larson?” Clive thinks Du Clark is the kind of person who has never had to take responsibility for his actions ever. Du Clark should be in jail, but if Clive’s hunch is right, not for this. Clive is reasonably sure if Du Clark could, he’d kill Liv. He’s got the anger for it. However, something makes him think that Du Clark isn’t responsible for the death of these two women. “Does Maddy Larson have a reason to want the women dead?”
“She can’t get another job, you know. None of us can. I ran a successful company for years, she was doing innovative research.” Du Clark waves a hand. “But small minded people just can’t get over the ethics.”
“You created zombies,” Clive reminds him. Du Clark has always looked at the world through a huge disconnect. “So, you think if we talk to Maddy Larson she’ll know more about these deaths?”
“No, but if you’re asking where I heard about the missing brains, that was Maddy Larson,” Du Clark says, slumping forward. “I never did my own dirty work anyway.”
“You just let other people take the fall,” Clive agrees. “Glida, your assistant, she was the one trying to clean up after your lab, right?”
“If that’s what she was doing, I wouldn’t know. I was just as horrified as anyone to find out what she and Major Lillywhite were up to.” Du Clark is trying to scrape together his cool CEO persona again, but ultimately decides it’s not worth the effort. “I think I’ve had enough of your baseless accusations. I want my lawyer.”
Du Clark’s information isn’t enough to get a warrant, but it is enough to get Clive’s captain to agree that they should speak with Maddy Larson. Du Clark’s lawyers decide it’s in his best interest to chill for 24 hours. The District Attorney is ready to charge him, but the lawyers argue to wait until Ravi confirms if the tissue is related to the dead bodies.
In the morning, there’s another dead woman missing her brain.
“This was an unexpected turn,” she agrees. “I was so sure Du Clark was finally going to get what he deserved.”
“You know he’s going to blame you for this, right?” Clive asks her. She scowls and opens up another mint. “What’s with the candy?”
Liv winces, and Ravi looks away. “It’s a leftover zombie thing.”
“You never ate candy as a zombie.” Clive remembers her having strange quirks. She was almost always eating – probably brain, he realizes suddenly. Another realization hits him just as fast. “You’re hungry! You’re used to eating around dead bodies so you’re eating candy to distract yourself.”
“Yes, isn’t it interesting?” Ravi agrees. “As far as I can tell it’s one of her strongest zombie associations. Agent Bozzio confirms she didn't eat in the FBI morgue. It’s limited to her memories of this place.”
“Ok, Mr. Science,” Liv breaks in. “Back it up a bit. I, for one, am fine with learning new behaviors. Let's focus on the case. I guess this new body really changes our suspect list.”
“I got a warrant to search Maddy Larson’s house. She has a garage and/or lab on the property.” Clive waves the paper at them. “Neither of you are invited to be on site for the search, but we’d like you to be on call in case we find anything.”
“Be careful,” Liv tells him, meeting his eyes. “I talked this over last night with the FBI, and they agreed if it was Maddy Larson she’s working on making new zombies.”
“All that work we did to cure zombies, and there’s this woman who thinks she should undo it all again.” Ravi seems to take this particularly seriously since he had to make the cure by himself twice. “What a waste of science.”
Clive shakes his head and leaves them in the lab with their phones on. Once he’s at Maddy Larson’s house and sees the contents of her garage he wishes he’d gotten Liv’s phone number. Instead he calls Ravi.
“You and Liv need to come out here,” Clive sighs into the phone. The police force has found all three husbands in the garage. They were clearly experimented on, and one of them was in a really questionable condition. Debate continued quietly about if he was a zombie or not. Clive was leaning towards no as he explained briefly to Ravi. “Her science was not good science.”
“Least surprising plot twist of the case,” Ravi responds flatly. “What’s the address?”
Half an hour later Ravi and Liv arrive at the scene of the crime. The most recent victim’s husband is deeply shaken but ok. The middle victim’s husband is on the way to the hospital. The husband that’s been there the longest is in a potential zombie state, and they want Liv to confirm or deny.
“What did she do to him?” Liv demands incredulously as she steps closer. The man has been tethered with a cuff around his ankle. Since he’s been behaving so erratically and may be a zombie, none of the police have approached the man or tried to undo the cuff. Liv doesn’t go within reach but she gets closer. “He’s not a zombie, but, oh man.”
She looks upset as the man lunges forward. She doesn’t flinch back, but Clive can tell she’s uncomfortable. She starts fiddling with her phone.
“We have some indication that he did eat brains,” Clive tells her, feeling a visceral sense of discomfort. “The third victim thinks they were being given different drug cocktails. Ms. Larson refuses to talk.”
“Where’s her research?” Ravi asks. He’s poking around with gloves on at a work bench.
“She went digital, encrypted apparently.” Clive had to listen to her ranting for over ten minutes when they first got her in cuffs. “She’s been a victim of theft before.”
Liv’s body language indicates she’d like to give Maddy Larson a piece of her mind. “Definitely not a zombie. I don’t know what did happen, but it’s possible he’s just so drugged out that he ate what he was given.”
“Any ideas on how we transport him safely for treatment?” Clive starts to ask, and then just gapes as Liv darts forward and sticks a swab stick into the guy’s mouth. She dodges his next swipe and comes back out of the garage. She sticks the swab in an evidence bag and smiles charmingly at Clive and the other officers, who had all started yelling at her.
“That’s for the FBI. I’ve been assured that you can’t file reports about feelings from former zombies.” Liv waves the bag. “They usually don’t speculate, so this way you’ll have something nice and official to tell Larson that she failed.”
“We’ll leave the transport of live people to the police and paramedics.” Ravi starts ushering Liv back to the van they came in. “If there are no zombies, and no dead bodies, we have an autopsy to be getting back to. And apparently a side trip to the FBI office.”
Clive hasn’t had cause to go back to the morgue, but he’s been exchanging texts with Ravi. Ravi hadn’t expected the first case that Liv was back for to involve so many old ghosts for all of them. It had stressed her out, and she was down in San Francisco for a week, talking with the FBI again. It’s always hard to pick up emotion via text, so Clive goes to see if Ravi really thinks Liv would leave Seattle again. Clive isn’t buying it.
“It’s not that she really wants to leave Seattle,” Ravi explains from his desk where he’s filling out paperwork. “It’s just not the same though. I think it’s harder for her to watch you investigate knowing she can’t help the same way anymore.”
“What are her other options? She’s still helping,” Clive points out, while he resists mentioning that he misses it too. That he’s starting to think of her as Liv from before instead of a stranger. “They didn’t make her an agent, so she can’t stay with the FBI forever.”
“Her family really wanted her to go back to a new residency program,” Ravi explains. “Be a real doctor.”
Clive hadn’t really ever known she was going to be a living person doctor. It had never come up. “I don’t see it. Too many opinions to work with living people.”
“Half of those opinions – more than half of those opinions were from someone else’s brain,” Ravi reminds him. “I can’t say I miss the different personalities.”
“More than half doesn’t sound very statistically sound,” Clive teases. Then soberly: “I think that Liv made the best of a bad situation, and on the way found something she could actually care about. Through all those brains, Ravi, she never stopped wanting to do something.”
“So you’re not mad anymore?” Ravi asks him. “Because you didn’t react to her showing up again all that well. I thought you were over it, or I would have told you.”
“I was surprised,” Clive allows. He doesn’t elaborate. He’s close with Ravi, and he’s grateful for his friend, but he can’t articulate how much he’s had to process since meeting Liv again. He stands up from his stool. He has work to do. “I really do hope she comes back, you know.”
“Please tell me this one has a brain?” Clive asks, clapping Ravi’s shoulder once he’s next to him.
“Well, a brain is present,” Liv confirms, looking up. “But early witnesses indicated he was looking for trouble. So how much good that brain did him is another matter.”
“Witnesses?” Clive looks around hopefully. No one had mentioned witnesses in his call out.
“Liv asked around a bit before starting to do her actual job.” Ravi is probably trying to sound disapproving. Clive doesn’t have the heart to tell him that he just sounds happy. “People indicated he’s been snooping around the neighborhood lately.”
Liv packs away her samples and indicates that she’s done. “Can we take the body?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Clive waves. “So, you got anything else for me?”
“No bullet holes or stab wounds,” Ravi explains. “Cause of death when you show up to the lab. Also our opinions. Which I know you trust and value.”
“Depends on what you’re saying,” Clive shoots back. But finally as they’re rolling away: “Liv, I hope you have some ideas for me when you’re done.”
“Oh, I’m full of ideas, Detective.” Liv smiles wickedly.
Clive knows that despite the two years, despite the fact that Liv’s a living breathing person, and not a psychic, and that Ravi’s no longer a stressed scientist, they’re going to solve this. Together.