A Snake's Tail


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Scene Title A Snake's Tail
Synopsis Greek myth.: The Chimera was said to be an amalgamation of three animals: lion, goat, and serpent.
Dr. Nicolas Ahlgren provides the results of all analyses from the Ritchie crime scene.
Date June 26, 2010

Fort Hero: Ahlgren's Office

Nicolas Ahlgren's office is located not far from the lab room he normally does autopsies in. It's an unremarkable office, the desk plain light wood, the floor uncarpeted concrete, a set of shelves in the back with pathology reference books and a distinct lack of personally sentimental items. But then, he has kept his personal life very close to his chest through all the years he's been with the Company. Not secretive, just — personal.

The man in question isn't quite seated behind the desk, but has pushed his chair a little off to one side. This lets him ricochet a tennis ball back off the floor and one office wall, the yellow orb coming back to where it can be caught. Next to the monitor and peripherals of his desktop computer sit two sets of paperwork, one a mere single folder thick, the other comprised of four different folders. None of them are particularly thick.

Having looked in the lab for someone who could give her information, Veronica was redirected to Ahlgren's office by an assistant. The sound of her footfalls precede her as she comes down the hallway, her boots a dull sound on concrete rather than the sharp staccato that might be made by someone in higher heels. But she's a field agent — higher heels mean you can't run if you need to, and Veronica is a runner.

"Dr. Ahlgren?" she asks, nails tapping on the ajar door a second after speaking in a slightly pointless formality. "They said you'd completed the lab. Got a moment?"

Distracted from the ball, Ahlgren lets it roll over towards the wall. "Miss Sawyer," he greets, rising from his chair as she enters. "I do indeed. I did finish my examination of Mr. Ritchie. I also presumed and picked up the trace, tox, and DNA reports for you," he continues. Picking up the stack of multiple folders, he steps around the desk to meet her halfway; the papers are held out with a suggestion of a bow. "I can give you a short summary of my findings if you prefer, or you can of course take these to read at your leisure."

The odd formality brings a dimpled smile to Veronica's face. He already won points with her for dumping water on Allison Richards. She gives a bow of her head in response as she takes the papers. "A summary would be grand. I'm just a field agent — I might miss something with all the big words in here," she says teasingly — he didn't suggest any such thing, but it's a longstanding joke and rivalry between the research/lab employees and the field agents. Never mind that if Veronica hadn't become a field agent, she'd likely be starting a career as a neurosurgeon just about now. "Shall I?" she says, gesturing to a chair.

"Alas, my manners seem to have slipped terribly. Please, do be seated," Ahlgren replies, gesturing her towards a chair. He moves back behind the desk to sit in his own, making a minute adjustment to the file folder still lying atop it. It doesn't seem to have a label yet. "I believe the observations made at the crime scene captured the gist," he begins. "In detail, it appears the victim's arms and legs were rendered useless through a combination of fused joints and severed ligaments. His lips were fused together as well, and examination of the vocal cords showed them to be unnaturally stiff and rigid. No organ deformities were observed, nor were any bones altered other than at finger joints. He had a number of tissue abnormalities, however, particularly in musculature and motor neurons. Cause of death appears to have been ischemic stroke."

Ahlgren nods towards the folders in Vee's hands. "I confess to having glanced at the toxicology report out of professional curiosity," he admits, smiling across the desk. "They identified morphine both in the syringe and in the tissue samples I submitted. A rather heavy dose, even for a man of the victim's size."

Veronica opens the folders, flipping through but giving most of her attention to Ahlgren's words. "Is there any way to tell if the stroke was caused by the morphine or by whatever caused these abnormalities in the body?" It might be a little bit of a moot point, as dead is dead. "There was morphine in the dog's blood, too, yes? So we can probably rule out self-administration and accidental overdose on Ritchie's part. Anything in the beer bottle? Did the bottle belong to our vic or someone else?"

Ahlgren tips his head slightly. "Ah, I believe I was a little imprecise. Morphine does not cause strokes, you understand. More to the point, several key arteries in the victim's brain were closed, as if the vessels had been pinched shut." He smiles a little as Veronica continues. "Ah, I admit to being less curious in those matters. They are properly the domain of the investigating agent, in any event." Folding his hands, the pathologist raises his brows in the direction of the agent. "Is there anything else I can provide you with?"

A brief perusal of the pathology folder shows essentially what Ahlgren said but with more words and anatomical jargon. The toxicology report shows morphine and alcohol in the deceased's system, no surprise in either instance. Trace found no fingerprints and no hairs that did not belong to the victim; the former in particular lends itself to a conclusion that the perpetrator wore quality gloves. DNA off the bottle seems to have returned a hit out of the Registry — twenty-three-year-old William Benedict, ability unknown, residing at Rosewick Gardens in the Bronx.

"I didn't think it did, but I wasn't sure," Veronica nods, in regards to the morphine. "So whatever did this, this biological … morphing… for lack of a better word, it can affect ligaments, arteries, cartilage, bone, skin… wonder what the limits are, if any." She glances at the name Benedict, the age and name not a match to any of the names she has from the O Lounge's receipts. "Could just be his bottle or it could be our perp," she says. "Any height on weight on Benedict? I can check the DMV files if not." Not that she would discount DNA evidence if he turns out to be 5'8" and 130 pounds.

Ahlgren chuckles softly. "Miss Sawyer, I assume you're looking at the DNA results? I don't know anything about a 'Benedict', myself, but it seems likely they would have pulled such easily accessible data for you and put it somewhere in their report." Rising from his seat, he looks down across the desk at Vee. "I can't speculate what the limitations are, but the perpetrator does seem to have a remarkably comprehensive ability."

Rising from her seat, Veronica finds the proper paper in the file and flashes her dimples at Ahlgren. "Yep, it's here. Sorry. You know us field agents, talk talk talk, don't know how to read…" she says, illustrating the joke with her fingers meeting her thumb in a 'jabbering' gesture. "Thank you for your time, Doctor." She steps away, bending suddenly to pick up the tennis ball, then tosses it over her shoulder at him before disappearing into the hallway.

Ahlgren smiles politely back at Veronica, watching her exit the room. He makes no attempt to catch the tennis ball, letting it drop past him unhindered, bumbling to a stop against the rear wall. Sighing softly, the pathologist picks up the folder on his desk, hefting it in his hand a moment; then he fishes in his pocket for a silvery key and deposits the papers in a locked drawer.

Sitting back down, Ahlgren reclaims the tennis ball and returns to bouncing it off the floor. The third time, he fails to catch it on rebound, and does nothing more than watch, lips pressed thinly together, as it rolls out into the hall.

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