Burnt Offerings


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Scene Title Burnt Offerings
Synopsis Agents Bishop and Messer are sent to investigate the scene of a suspicious death.
Date January 16, 2020

A heavy overcast sky makes this morning feel particularly dark.

Rain streaks across the windshield of Agent Shane Bishop’s Yamagato Civis, windshield wipers occasionally flicking across the windshield to wipe away the collected drizzle falling this morning. The dull glow of the center console GPS display lights up the otherwise gloomy cab of the car, indicating the remaining distance between the vehicle’s current point and an address in Bay Ridge. Outside, the winding path of Bay Road cuts along the western coast of the New York City Safe Zone, following the Hudson River where it meets what was once simply Brooklyn.

Coming south from Red Hook, the driver’s side window shows the skyline of Bay Ridge. All of the renovated brick-faced buildings, the highrise apartments with dimly illuminated windows in the gray gloom of morning, the spacious parkland between the brick and concrete. So much work has been done to restore Bay Ridge following the war that it hardly looks like the war ever happened there. Juxtapose that with the neon glow of skyscrapers just a little bit further to the south in Yamagato Park, and that illusion becomes even more real.

But for Agent Liza Messer, her passenger side view in Shane’s car shows a different panorama. The Hudson River is dark and troubled this morning with a heavy chop that rocks the boats cluttering it. But it’s what lays behind the Hudson that puts everything into focus. All that remains of the island of Manhattan are the fire-eviscerated skeletons of glass and steel surrounded by a thirty foot high rust-streaked concrete wall. From a distance, Manhattan looks like a derelict cemetery, with vandalized headstones reaching up toward the gray skies. The broken backs of every bridge that would go to Manhattan further isolates it in Liza’s mind, frames it in the decay of infrastructure and the old America.

The car’s electric engine hums indifferently to the disparity on either side of the vehicle and the soft tick of a left-turn blinker breaks up the silence on the vehicle’s approach to the white-washed exterior of a 22-story tenement building in the distance. At street level, flashing blue lights from NYPD cruisers reflect off of the wet streets, steam rises up from sewer grates, and the fluttering lengths of police tape cordon off the sidewalk adjacent to the tenement building.

It isn’t just the rain that makes this morning feel particularly dark.

91st Street, Outside Shore Hill Apartments

Bay Ridge, NYC Safe Zone

January 16th

6:22 am

“This rain is going to destroy so much of our evidence,” Agent Bishop says with frustration, tapping his forefingers against the upper edge of the steering wheel, a slight pluck at the wrapped surface of it.

They knew they were heading into a horrible situation; rain downs crime scene evidence out, and they can only hope that the police took extensive photos before all of it washed down into that black, choppy Hudson by way of the gutters. If there was anything.

Shane pulls alongside the group of cruisers, slow and evenly, and parks amidst their row. He twists in his seat to dig out one umbrella - offering that to Liza - and then the second one. “I’d rather talk to them before we pull any gear. May not even need it,” Shane says, stepping out of the car with a ‘fwump’ of the umbrella opening.

Agent Bishop gets along with cops. He is one, and doesn’t have a powerful physical presence to intimidate anyone with. In most cases that works against him, but coming fresh to a scene, and needing to work with police? Always positive with laying groundwork. He’s wearing his identification around his neck on a shiny silver cord, and approaches the taped area, maneuvering to signal the officer in charge.

“I’m Agent Bishop, this is Agent Messer, from SESA, here to pitch in. What’ve we got?” The question is asking for witnesses, status of the body, new developments of anything found since that initial ‘There is a dead person on a street and we think SESA should be here’. It’s also an easy team play request, without any direct pressure to take over. Not yet, anyway. “I assume the deceased has been covered or moved out of the rain?”

The umbrella is taken and Elizabeth Messer exits the car with a little hop to the ground below. The umbrella is opened after she’s fully exited, ignoring the brief moment of rain on her face before she straightens herself up and moves to Bishop’s side to approach the scene. While Shane’s introducing the two of them, Liza’s gaze moves fully on the scene around her. Looking, but also watching.

It didn’t need to be said that it was going to be a very unique and also important case, and she certainly didn’t want to not be vigilant just because she was a little confused as to their actual presence for this particular case. For now, she just lets Shane do the talking while she does the watching.

The NYPD officer that greets Shane at the curb offers a look down to his identification lanyard, but doesn’t scrutinize it much more than that. He was expected. “We’ve got a tent up over the remains,” he explains as he walks Shane and Liza off the street and onto the curb, past the tape line. A few yellow placards are erected on the street, numbered in sharp contrast. Whatever it was they were marking isn’t on the sidewalk any longer. “Fortunately the rain didn’t really start until about twenty minutes ago, so the scene’s clear.”

On approach, Shane can see the aforementioned tent, a white nylon structure with a pop-up metal frame and drop-down sides. That the NYPD chose to erect this rather than move the body speaks to the deceased’s unseen condition. The officer offers out a pair of elastic-sealed plastic sheathes for both agents shoes as a tall brunette woman in a leather jacket emerges from the tent. “Ah, that’s Detective Gordon, NYPD-SCOUT, she’s— coming this way, okay.”

The aforementioned detective meets Shane and Liza outside of the tent, squinting at the drizzling rain. Her badge hangs on a chain around her neck in its leather folio. “Detective Gordon,” the officer says to her, “this is Agents Bishop and Messer with SESA.” Detective Gordon offers a nod to the two agents, then jerks her head toward the open flap of the tent, leading them on inside while the officer on duty stays out in the rain.

“Bishop, Messer,” the detective says as she ducks into the tent, where a body lays illuminated by four electric lamps hanging from the metal cross beams of the tent, “here’s what we have.”

The corpse in the tent at first blush looks like it could’ve been the victim of a suicide attempt, having leapt from the roof of the tenement building. His body is bent and broken from the impact, skull fractured, limbs twisted as he landed on them and bounced. But its the condition of the corpse’s flesh that is more distressing. He looks boiled; skin red and puffy, peeling with white layers of dead epidermis, his eyes are a cooked milky white and portions of his face are separating from his cheekbones like a slow-cooked pot roast.

“Identification on the body was for Yoshihide Kaneda,” Detective Gordon explains, given that he may not be recognizable on a facial identification, “Executive Vice President of Yamagato Industries telecommunications division. He was found by a jogger at 5:10 this morning right here. Residents didn’t hear or see anything as far as we’ve been able to tell.”

“Detective,” Shane Bishop greets evenly, with a curt nod. There’s no pleasantries for the moment, that will need to wait. Entering the tent, Shane pivots outward to close his umbrella and stack it to one side in the tent, keeping the water well away from the body.

“Has Mr. Kaneda been moved substantially? I’d like to see the photos prior to him being checked by medical,” Shane asks, his attention clearly on Mr. Kaneda’s body, moving over to look around him, and squat down near one of his limbs.

“We’re going to need the medical examiner to tell us if these burns were pre or post mortem, and exact cause of death; this may be a way to cover up a different method, or make it appear to be an Expressive that did it; I don’t want to make any assumptions here,” Shane says aloud. “It could also be an Icarus; this could be self inflicted.” He pulls his device out, flips to an audio recording app, and begins to quietly dictate a few notes while he asks questions. He pulls plastic blue latex gloves from a back pocket, taking just one, and covers his right hand with it. He moves forward to lift back one of the victim’s sleeves, checking to see if the flesh under the sleeve is also boiled, or if the clothes affected it. He also gently moves to check the back of the victim’s body, to see if the boiling is only on his front.

Remarkably, it’s an even bake through the clothing. Portions of the victim’s flesh are fused to the cloth where fluids soaked into the fabric and then dried. Most interestingly is that, as Shane suspected, the victim’s body isn’t evenly cooked on his backside. His head is burned all the way around, but pulling up the back of his shirt, Shane sees the small of his back is unburned.

“Yamagato industries is going to be covered in cameras, and logs of who he may have been with, if anyone,” Shane observes from his squat, looking at Liza, and finally to the detective. He isn’t pushy about it, it’s more a way to ask about the progress on where they’re at with it.

Liza doesn’t bother hiding the grossed out look on her face at the condition of the body. It isn’t the worst she’s seen, but looking at this sort of thing never ceases to make her vaguely uncomfortable. As Shane examines the body, she turns a bit to examine the building. “Is this building occupied?” She frowns as she looks at it, then back at Shane. “Ignoring his injuries, this seems a bit of a far location. I’m sure he lived in Yamagato Park, not out here. Why come out here to jump off a building?”

She slowly turns back towards the body. “I think we should see if the victim had any kind of connection to the residents. Maybe even something Yamagato may not have fully been aware of.”

“The building has 67 apartments, somewhere around 117 residents, most of whom were home when this happened. We have twelve residents not in, neighbors think they’re working night shifts. Most of the people who live here are construction and labor, Yamagato bought the building back when the Safe Zone first went up and had been using it as temporary housing for contractors from out of state, but as they moved out it’s been filling up with overflow from Settler’s Park.” Detective Gordon explains, flipping through the notes on her phone.

“Body hasn’t been touched, except a pat-down to find his ID. The moment we saw his condition we wanted SESA to get first eyes on before we did anything,” Gordon continues, walking in a slow circle around the body. “Hit hit the ground so hard some of his teeth dislodged, we’ve picked those up, markers are out there on the sidewalk where we found them.” Detective Gordon looks down to the body, then up to Liza. “You’re welcome to talk to the residents, we’ve got officers in there right now getting statements.”

Finishing her circuit of the body, Detective Gordon looks to Liza, then Shane. “We’ve got the jogger who found the body held too, if you want to talk to him. Other than that I can forward you details on Kaneda’s residence, but I don’t know how cooperative Yamagato will be. They’ve always, frankly, been a pain in the ass with this. They’ll probably want to handle anything inside the Park themselves. We’re running Kaneda’s name to see if he had any other residences in the area, outside of the Park.”

“What else do we have on Kaneda? Is he here on a work visa? Do we know if he’s SLC-Expressive, and if so, what he’s classified with?” Shane rattles off, with an efficiency of someone that is experienced with this particular line of query, and is just going down his mental list.

Shane glances up when the comment about his ID is mentioned. “A Yamagato employee, let alone a telecommunications VP, without a phone?” Shane asks, beginning to check more thoroughly, using his gloved hand. If the cops have done their jobs properly, they’ve taken a million photos of the situation when they were bagging the evidence from where the little yellow markers are now positioned, including the body. “We need that phone, wherever it is. Priority one.” There’s flat urgency there.

“I also don’t want to automatically trust this ID. That the teeth and hands are in this shape is going to make him harder to identify for certain. If he’s from out of town, we’ll have trouble with medical and dental records too,” Shane observes with a huff of breath. He isn’t upset, the tone is more that the agent is batting around items in his head, and isn’t jumping to conclusions.

“With that many residents I wouldn’t really have a good place to start,” Liza murmurs, folding her arms across her chest as she looks around. “Mnf. Yamagato’s not always so great to work with, but at least we can ask about some things. I’m thinking he either left his phone behind so that Yamagato wouldn’t track it, or someone who likely did this,” she gestures to the disfigured body, “just went ahead and took it. In which case, if we’re lucky, Yama will do some tracking and maybe let us know. I doubt they’ll want us looking at his phone at all. Corporate secrets or something.”

She looks around. “Do any of the buildings around here have cameras or is this a conveniently blind spot?”

“There’s cameras, but they were out when the incident occurred,” Detective Gordon explains, motioning to the building. “Bay Ridge experiences its rolling blackout between 2am and 5am, but we’ve got someone inside with the property manager looking to see if there’s anything on the footage. If we get anything we’ll pass it along to you.” Detective Gordon takes a knee by the body. “But you’re right, no phone. This is a solid reception area too, especially with the Ghost Net drones operating. No reason for him not to have it, so… like you said,” she says with as shrug.

“What weirds me out is,” the detective says, pointing to the body with the end of her pen, “he’s cooked, but his clothes are fine except the buttons on his shirt and jacket,” she motions to one molten and slightly singed button. “His ID was cooked too, same with his credit cards. They were stuck together like fucking cheese or something. We’ll get the medical examiner to pull whatever he can. His wallet didn’t have any National Japanese Registry cards in there, so we’ll have to run him through an SLC test to see if he was expressive or not. Maybe this was just another fucked up manifestation like that kid on the highway last summer?”

But the detective isn’t willing to commit to something like that. As she rises up from the crouch, swiping her fingers over the touchscreen of her phone for a moment. “I’ve sent you the contact information for Eizen Erizawa, he’s the chief of security in Yamagato Park, the corp’s insisted all law enforcement communications go through Eizen’s office. They’ll be the most likely ones to be able to track his phone, if nothing comes up on our end.”

“Right. During the blackout,” Shane says, thoughtfully. “We need the medical examiner to do a cursory; get at least a first estimate on time of death - but cause is even more important. Was he boiled before or after he died. Did the fall kill him, or was he just left here for us.”

Shane tips his finger to the back of the victim, “Looks like he was targeted from the front, possibly specifically the head. Potentially grabbed here; maybe the examiner can tell us if he’s got deep bruising on his face or throat.”

Shane briefly checks the body’s hands for obvious defensive wounds or anything under the nails - assuming the man still has nails and didn’t lose them like he did the teeth. There’s not any disgust to Shane’s examination; he’s in business mode.

Hands are burned, palms moreso than the backs, which in and of itself might be a defensive wound. Nothing else catches Shane’s eye though, no cuts or abrasions. Nails are clean enough that forensics would probably need to do a full review to be sure.

He stands up, and refers to his device, looking at the neighboring areas. Perhaps there will be a bank, hospital, or another building that will run surveillance on battery. He can query that while considering his next preferred move.

“Does he have a car registered? Is it around? Where’s the parking for the building?” Shane asks. “I’ll pass on the jogger for now, I trust your people,” Shane says to the detective. “For the building residents, I still want to know who lives on this side right here, was awake, and didn’t hear or see anything. Could narrow our timetable.” He looks to Liza. “What do you think? I don’t feel a need to double up on the interviews if the police have that covered; so long as they make sure to note on each resident what times they went to bed or were awake: though if anyone ends up awake and in the area during the time when we determine the death, I think we should get a chat in at that point.”

“Well, pretty sure the convenient timing of the blackout means we aren’t dealing with an accident,” Liza muses, though she’s sure it didn’t need to be said. She just thinks better out loud. She nods her agreement with what Shane says. “I’d really like to get some results on the body. It tells a whole different story if he didn’t fight back at all. Not sure if it’s a scarier one.”

She takes a step back, looking all the way to the top of the building. “It would be good to note what the residents on the top floor heard. If there was indeed a scuffle, I’m willing to bet it would have been on the roof. Pretty sure something happened up there.” She looks back to Shane. “Once we’ve got more data, I’d say it warrants a little chat.”

“No car found yet, but we’re still checking the area. Parking is in an adjacent garage. If he has something registered or if we find it on site we’ll forward the info to you,” Detective Gordon confirms. “Shouldn't take too long. We’ll try and get that info to you as fast as we can, we're all stretched a little thin lately.”

The detective crosses her arms and shifts her weight to one foot, looking at Liza and Shane both. “Anything else, agents?”

"Not for now, thank you, Detective," Shane says, though he passes a look across to Liza: if she has something, by all means she should say it before the detective goes. "I'd like to sit with the body a little bit longer, wait for the medical examiner; I'd like to look under him," Shane voices, returning to his device to make some more notes.

"Shall we split up, Messer? Take the upper floor?" Shane suggests to her. He's automatically falling into something of a senior role, though he isn't pushy about it. He may or may not be intentionally driving the investigation. Then again, this is what Shane Bishop was brought in for, very specifically: Expressive oriented Crime.

“Keep up the good work, Detective, thank you,” Liza says, glancing back to Shane. She’s good. With a peek between the location of the body and Agent Bishop, she nods. “Sure,” comes the agreement as she glances towards the building. “Let me know if you find anything interesting, Bishop. I’ll do the same.” She doesn’t have any qualms about splitting up—right now, she’s fairly certain they have a lot of ground to cover anyway.

One Hour Later

91st Street, Outside Shore Hill Apartments

Interviews with the residents from the top floor of Shore Hill Apartments were largely fruitless. Most people didn’t hear anything or see anything of note and given the building was a relatively new construction the soundproofing between the apartments and the roof may have had something to do with that. One tenant, however, Kenneth Basker, described seeing a glow outside of his living room window around the presumed time of the incident. He described it as a soft, amber-colored glow coming from the roof. Notably, Kenneth’s apartment was on the opposite side of the building from where the victim’s body was discovered, and residents on that side claimed to have seen nothing or weren’t awake when the incident occurred.

That led to a re-examination of the apartment complex’s roof.

“We aren’t really sure what to make of this.”

Two NYPD officers who previously searched the roof for evidence of a struggle stand squinting against the drizzling rain, humbled by a new discovery. The pair of officers stand by an HVAC intake, nearby to which portions of the tarpaper roofing material has blistered and split under extreme heat. “We missed it the time,” one officer says, motioning to the fact that it’s on the complete opposite side of the building and tucked away beside the HVAC unit.

A crime scene photographer is taking imaging of the burn mark while the officers talk. The mark is roughly conical in shape and deep enough to burn the roof below the tarpaper. It’s the only other piece of evidence Agents Messer and Bishop were able to find, but it ties the victim’s injuries to this location. What it doesn’t do is explain how they came to be any better than before. The cone of burn-marks is narrowest toward the far edge of the roof and widest toward the direction in which the victim’s body was found. While it doesn’t paint a clear picture of events, it does allow the mind some room to wander, to make conjecture, to build scenarios.

“We’ll have this sent straight to SESA’s forensics lab,” one of the officers says, though with the rain and this detail having been missed, some of its value may have already washed away.

"All right. I want samples of the roof sent after full pictures, and some more taken of the area, in case some kind of accelerant was used. There may still be traces of it here; similarly, check all the drainage off this building, in case any evidence was washed away from up here by this rainstorm," Shane requests. It's been a weird, long period of interviews, but Agent Bishop is showing no signs of wear, at least not yet.

"I'm going to go stand over medical's shoulder and see what they've turned up," Shane mentions to Agent Messer, in a way of asking what she wants to do without directly asking.

“Medical’s a good idea,” Liza agrees, clearly lost in thought for a moment before looking back over to Agent Bishop. “I think I’m going to poke around and see what types of abilities we’ve got on record that might be able to do something like this, just to get a feel for what we might be working with… and perhaps who we might be on the lookout for if circumstances crop up.” She gives him a smile.

“Let me know what you find, ‘kay?” It’s a given, but she’s offering it up anyway.

From up here, it’s hard to create a full picture of what it is that’s happened. Burn marks on a roof, a Yamagato Industries executive taking a face-first leap onto the street below after being cooked. There’s answers for the forensics team to find, answers for the NYPD to hand over, answers that will take days to generate in a lab. Even as Shane and Liza begin fanning out over the roof in the drizzling rain, they’re left with more questions than answers and the growing understanding that the case they’ve been assigned to won’t be one easily closed.

Yoshihide Kaneda’s corpse wouldn’t give up its secrets immediately, but beyond this stretch of the Safe Zone, beyond the chain link fence dividing one nation and a corporate empire, there were answers waiting to be found.

If Yamagato Industries was willing to part with them.

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