"Detective Miller, I'm special agent Blanc, this is Dr. Cohen." The seasoned detective looked around to what he couldn't quite pin down as either a military installation or laboratory facility of some kind. The ceilings were so tall he gathered they could easily accommodate three to four commercial airliners stacked on top of one another. It was hard for him to imagine that this was only the first of six levels of basement under the federal building -- at least according to the buttons on the elevator he took down.
"Thank you Mr. Blanc. Please don't get me wrong, I know the stereotypes about cops, and the NYPD in particular. I'm not here to throw any kind of fit, but I have to admit that when the feds get involved, it's usually clearer why a matter is outside our jurisdiction." Dr. Cohen looked away, not knowing just how much agent Blanc would let the detective in on, but knowing that that information had no job coming out of his mouth.
Agent Blanc smiled and gave the detective a friendly pat on the shoulder as his hand remained there, "Call me Eric. There's really no need for all this pretentious role-play formality bullshit."
"I appreciate that. You can call me John," he said as he moved a bit forward until Eric's hand was off his shoulder. John had no problem showing some token friendliness, but he wasn't here to make friends. "Where is the girl?" John asked. Eric let out a subtle sigh under his breath as John began to brace himself for what he expected to be a pre-recorded message Eric was about to parrot to him.
"She's under observation. Dr. Cohen is her treating physician, and he can tell you that she's doing much better now."
John was short-lived confusion was quickly overshadowed by his suspicions. After spending eight years in homicide, he had a keen sense for bullshit. "Look, Eric, she's a suspect. Right now, she's our only suspect in an ongoing murder investigation. As far as I know, the responding officers didn't say anything about her having any kind of medical issue or even being in any kind of emotional distress. So, unless you tell me she's some kind of terrorist or threat to national security, or there's something else here that I'm not seeing, you guys have no reason to be holding her."
Eric recognized that look in John's eyes; it was the look of someone serious about his job and simultaneously pissed off about being lied to. Eric knew his next reaction was a split-second speed round of chess. One wrong move and nothing was stopping John from waking up a judge in the middle of the night asking for an emergency habeus corpus petition, or worse, getting the press involved.
Dr. Cohen stepped forward, "I think detective Miller is anxious about the clock ticking." John respected Dr. Cohen's understanding of homicide cases. The first 48 hours were absolutely critical to any homicide investigation. After that time, the chances of closing a case dropped by more than half. "Thank you Dr. Cohen. Exactly! So, unless you have some good reason to hold my only suspect in captivity while my clock keeps ticking, I'm going to have to ask you to turn her back over to us."
Eric knew his game of mental chess with John was going poorly. He found himself in quite a difficult position. Letting John know what was really going on had now become inevitable; the best Eric could do now was to have John agree to keep what he would find out private. "Dr. Cohen, why don't you explain?" Eric sighed in defeat as he gave license for the good doctor to speak.
Dr. Cohen clicked on a remote he had inside the pocket of his long white lab coat. What initially appeared as a white padded wall began to retract upwards, exposing a thick plexi-glass cell. As the wall retracted further, John noticed the young girl sitting on a cheap sterile white chair -- her arms and long smooth black hair covering her face as it faced down onto the stainless steel table.
"If you think you feel upset over all this, I can assure you that your colleagues over at forensics were almost at arms when we took her husband's body away. The girl may look normal, or ordinary, but after determining her husband's cause of death, it became clear pretty quickly that this wasn't just another homicide case."
John's confusion remained in place this time as his mind searched frantically throughout his eight years of experience to make some sense of what Dr. Cohen was telling him. Maybe, he thought, the good doctor was approaching his case as a medical doctor, and not as a homicide investigator. "A cardinal rule of any investigative work is to never speculate and look for answers first. You have to keep an open mind, exhaust all possibilities, and only then can you put the puzzle pieces together to arrive at whatever conclusion they support. There's still a lot we need to do in this investigation, it's way too early to be coming to any kind of conclusions."
Dr. Cohen let out a comforting and understanding smile as he looked down to a manila folder filled with neatly organized papers. "Unfortunately detective, with the kind of work we do here, we don't have the luxury of letting investigations drag on forever. Don't misunderstand me. That doesn't mean we do a shoddy job. That just means we do better work in NASCAR time."
Dr. Cohen began flipping through several pages until he firmly secured any remaining loose pages back. "Lola Sorrenti, 18 years old, studying psychology, works at a doctor's office, and married her high school sweetheart. Greg Sorrenti, 19 years old, no higher education, and works in construction. His phone, e-mail, and Facebook accounts all flooded with messages and pictures from other women, almost all of whom he was sexually involved with during his relationship with Lola."
"Fantastic work doctor," John said with an exaggerated sarcastic tone in his voice, "You saved us about 2 hours of waiting until a judge signed a warrant for us to go through that information. So she had motive to kill him. That still doesn't explain how he died, or if 'she' was even the one who killed him. There was no sign of blood on the scene."
Dr. Cohen smiled at the detective, admiring his zeal to get to the bottom of what he still believed to be just another routine homicide case. "All in due time detective," Dr. Cohen flipped over to the next page on his chart. "An autopsy of the victim's body showed that he was in excellent health. 5'11", 218lbs., muscular, nearly perfect cardio-vascular health, except for the huge tear through the right ventricle of his heart. The penis contained recent ejaculate inside the shaft, and traces of the victim's sperm and Mrs. Sorrenti's DNA on the outside. The consensus is that the cause of the victim's death was a massive heart-attack he suffered while having sex with his wife."
"Wait a second," John paused as he became visibly angry. He held his falling head up with one hand as he slowly paced and sighed. "After all this time, you're trying to tell me that we don't even have a homicide here? If that's the case, then why are you guys holding . . . ," Dr. Cohen politely cut John off.
"Oh no, there's no doubt in my mind that the victim was murdered. Greg's toxicology report showed three drugs in his system, neither of which he was on according to his medical records: Agenerase, Sporanox, and Viagra. Coincidentally, the doctor's office Lola worked at had free samples of each medication, which Lola had access to. Each medication alone carries the risk of bringing about a heart-attack. The drug-drug interaction of combining all three together creates a serious risk of causing a heart-attack, even in a young male with excellent cardio-vascular health."
John quickly put all the pieces of the puzzle together. "So, the victim never had a prescription for any of these medications. He also didn't need any of them, because he had excellent cardio-vascular health." "Nearly in perfect condition," Dr. Cohen added. "Yes," John continued, "So, we have motive, access to the drugs found in his system, the cause of death . . . I think based on what we know at this point, there's probable cause to put her under arrest for her husband's murder."
Eric looked at the good doctor as he shook his head up and down slowly, "It's okay, you can tell him." John looked at both Eric and the doctor wondering what else there was left to know. "Tell me what? This is open and shut. Why are you still holding her here? Let me inside that room. I'm putting her under arrest and taking her to central booking."
"I'm afraid that's not possible detective," John said as he opened his palm, using his whole hand to politely give the good doctor a chance to explain. Dr. Cohen cleared his throat. "I'm listening," John calmly said, not expecting to hear anything substantial at this point -- one step away from making a phone call back to the station.
"You see detective, even in older male patients with horrible cardio-vascular health, the ventricle of the heart doesn't rip open during a heart attack. In other words, the victim didn't die simply because he may have somehow been drugged. In fact his toxicology report supports my conclusion." Dr. Cohen flipped over a page labeled "SV-26" and exposed a more comprehensive toxicology report.
"19 year old males with the victim's build and health have around 800-1,600 ng/dl of testosterone in their body. A teenage boy, during the epitome of his puberty, might flirt with levels around 1,800 ng/dl. The victim had over 33,000 ng/dl of testosterone in his bloodstream at the time of death."
"Okay, so what?" John interjected, "He was a big guy, he was probably juicing up from one of his buddies at the gym."
Dr. Cohen shook his head from side to side, "I don't think so detective. If he was taking steroids, most of that testosterone would have started breaking down into estrogen. Further, artificially produced testosterone has a unique chemical signature, which is why athletes are able to be tested for taking illegal steroids. This was all natural testosterone, the kind produced in the human body, over 18 times that of the horniest high school boy you can imagine."
John leaned back against the padded white wall, "go on, I'm listening."
"The victim's body also contained mere trace amounts of estrogens. His entire hormone profile was practically exclusively composed of androgens. The aromatase enzymes that convert testosterone into estrogen are permanently inhibited. In other words, someone or something pumped this man up with testosterone and completely removed the estrogen from his system, and unfortunately, we're still not finished."
The detective placed his pointer finger along the side of his nose as he rested his hand on his face -- his habitual gesture when he was engaged in deep thinking.
"We also identified three non-prescription substances in the victim's body. The first, as far as we know so far, works similar to Cialis. It's a specific vasodilator, targeting the male genitals and allows blood to rush into the penis. The second, which we know even less about, crosses the blood-brain barrier. It's similar to Bremelanotide, and if you look at the male brain under an fMRI, the same areas of the brain that light up when men are aroused light up as this substance crosses into the male brain, except the areas are so active they appear white on the fMRI. The third is the most complex, it's a type of enzyme that seems to essentially break down other cells in the body and convert them into semen and seminal fluids."
John's eyebrows shrugged up as he leaned slightly forward and began to want to briefly interrupt the doctor, "I'm sorry, you had me for a moment, but then you lost me. If they're non-prescription, then how do you suggest Mrs. Sorrenti had access to these substances?"
Eric and Dr. Cohen exchanged worried glares. "Detective, what I'm about to tell you will be difficult for you to take in; it was even harder for me to take in at first. Mrs. Sorrenti didn't need to take these substances from anyone else. That's because she actually produces those substances herself."
John looked at Dr. Cohen and smiled, containing his laughter. "You know, before I worked homicide, I used to work vice. I've had my fair share of punks cooking meth in some basement. I didn't have to brace myself too hard there to hear that she made these things herself."
Eric put his hand out in front of the doctor, as if to tell him he had said enough. "John, what Dr. Cohen is trying to say is that . . . those substances are produced by her . . . inside her body." The detective's brow raised, he didn't know what to make of what agent Blanc was saying. He started to quickly reason through the situation. What reason did the feds have for lying to him? They weren't looking to let her go, and that explanation was consistent with wanting to keep her under observation. Of course, he understood that if what they were saying was true, he had to keep that information secret.
"Okay, you guys are right. That's a lot for me to take in," John laughed, unconsciously trying to mask his nervousness and confusion. "I know you're not trying to tell me that an 18 year resident of New York State is actually some kind of alien."
"Dr. Cohen, please," agent Blanc offered. "Not exactly," Dr. Cohen proceeded. "She's not unique. We have others like her on lower levels, but much older. These are ordinary women, with birth certificates, baby pictures and videos, friends and family. Our theory, so far, is that these women suffer from some kind of mutation. We don't really understand why or exactly when that happens, but we speculate that it's some kind of gland that's responsible for producing and secreting these substances. We haven't conducted autopsies yet though."
John's chest began to feel uncomfortable at what now began to seem like a never-ending flood of earth-shattering information. He felt his legs getting weaker. "Well, then it sounds like you guys have your hands full. I take it that it goes without saying that everything I learned heard here today is something I'm going to forget and never speak to with anyone about?"
"Yes, thank you, we would definitely appreciate that," said agent Blanc as his eyes tried to size up whether there was any risk the detective wouldn't actually carry through on his promise to keep the information secret.
John let out a long yawn as his hand tried to cover his open mouth and contain the last half of his social impoliteness. "You'll have to excuse me. I got the call to respond to this case about two hours into my sleep. What I am curious about, before we share our goodnights, is what exactly did happen to the victim?"
Dr. Cohen neatly put all the files and papers into the manila folder he was holding. "It's hard to say at this point. The technique we're currently using to determine how long these women have been suffering from this mutation is by tracking the hormone profile of the male victims. Mrs. Sorrenti, however, turned out to be an exception to our rule so far. We have a female in her 50s down in level 6, and her male victim had only about 5,200 ng/dl of testosterone in his system at the time of his death. Up until Mrs. Sorrenti came along, that was the highest level we found in any male victim. This is all quite new, so until we get a better understanding of what's going on, we don't want to create any kind of panic."
The detective nodded, "I understand. Look, like I said, I'm just doing my job and you saw that I walked in here looking for all of us to get along and cooperate. I have a wife and kids, is whatever they have contagious?"
"It doesn't seem that way, at least we haven't seen a single case that would suggest that," Dr. Cohen assured as he walked John back towards the elevator.
"Don't you think she would realize she was hurting the guy and stop though . . . like before he got a full blown heart-attack?" the detective asked as the lights on the elevator door started flashing.
Dr. Cohen smiled, remembering his days as an undergraduate student. "Pleasure is a powerful impulse detective Miller. The pleasure center of this particular male victim was probably lid up like the Rockefeller Christmas tree. I doubt he was even medically capable of feeling pain. I remember an experiment we saw performed on rats. They connected wires which sent electric signals to stimulate the pleasure center of their brains, but only if the rats would press a button. As you can imagine, the rats preferred pressing the button over things as basic as food or sleep."
The elevator doors opened. "Well, again, I'm sorry for taking up your time, and thank you for all the help," John said as part of his generic routine farewell. "Oh that's quite alright," the doctor smiled. "Say, what ever happened to the rats in that experiment?" John asked as the elevator door began to close. Dr. Cohen smirked, as the doors closed, "They all died."