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It was past eighty degrees in the shade of the underpass. I stood watching as Dr. Margaret Hay, a tall, slim woman of about sixty, with white hair and the leathery skin of an old farm girl. Wearing a breathing filter, rubber gloves, a lab coat over a T-shirt and jeans and sneakers, she crouched by the remains and gently brushed away sand. The victim's head, arms and legs were neatly sliced off, bones sawed away and sanded to keep us from matching the saw. They'd cut the flesh away from her midsection, revealing her ribs and internal organs, like a map of her own anatomy, and left only the skin over her breasts and pelvis. Someone was very thorough, and very neat. Hay zipped the bag and ditched the mask. "Adult female," she growled, facing the body. "Dead a few days I think, but she landed here before dawn. She's still cold." Hay turned to me. "Welcome back."

I glanced at the remains. I saw lots of victims: shot, stabbed, mutilated, sexually assaulted before death and after, the endless barrage of horrible sights and smells that follows every cop and medic home at night and keeps us company as we dream. But no one on my watch ever went to this kind of trouble. Until now. He might have tortured her on any of the body parts he cut away, but the cutting we could see was neat, methodical. A Satanist might take one or two parts. An inadequate personality might take a souvenir. This guy was organized. Kill site separate from the dump site. No face, no teeth and no fingerprints.

Once they called Hay in after a tornado. Countless livestock were picked up, gutted and tossed by the twisting wind. She had to go through mounds of rotting organs and tell the locals which were human. No one beat Hay for professional distance—she didn't cry and she didn't make grisly jokes—but today she pulled her jaw a little tighter than usual.

Hay said, "From the skin tone and body hair I'll tentatively say Caucasian. I'll know more after the examination."

"When's that?" Hay looked under her eyebrows at me. "you can follow me back to my office. If you have no plans." She liked Joey better than she liked me, a common sentiment.

On the way to the car I decided to look for the guy I saw earlier in the crowd, the one who looked like Joey. But when I got closer, he was gone.

- - -

I mounted my brown '83 Impala Narcmobile, a vehicle with a command presence as subtle as a bIue-and-white blaring its sirens in Harlem, and headed west along East Twelfth. Charlie Sector: Spanish East Austin. Low-cost housing built way east of the Interstate, the way the city planned it in 1922, so that even if segregation was outlawed, we'd never integrate. Little houses, some run-down, some painted bright colors like carnival booths. Mothers hustling kids off to school. On the side of the library, a mural of African masks and Aztec gods represented a multicultural America that exists only on the sides of libraries. Repo houses with boarded windows, bodegas advertising “WIC Vouchers Accepted,” Planned Parenthood, the black college, storefront churches and mortuaries. Liquor stores and gun shops, white-owned.

Most of the cops here requested El Barrio detail, particularly this strip of East Twelfth where the action is, where junkies go to score, where hookers proposition you, shouting "Here it is, baby!" as you pass by at thirty miles an hour, where the graft is rich.

Public radio sang the blues: "0ne in five Americans live in poverty, a twenty-nine percent increase over 1979. In Texas, ninety-two percent of the poor are African American and Latino." Texas, from the Indian Tejas, meaning 'friendly.' "Thirty-six percent—" I switched to the oldies: "... all you wanna do is ride around, Sally—" anything so long as it wasn't news. Through years of traveling Austin's daytime and night-time worlds, I'd developed an intimacy with the town, a marriage of sorts—while the news reported the cursory assessment of a first date.

When I was in college in the seventies, pipe-dreaming about my future as a gang-busting G-man, Austin was still a sleepy town—no big employers besides the university and the state government, and by law, no polluting industries and no building tall enough to hide the Capitol. In the eighties, hi-tech industries came, changed the laws and grew the town vertically. Houston yuppies broken by the oil bust rolled in, begging for jobs they weren't qualified for. A Hooverville of cars and shacks sprang up behind the offices of the daily paper. By the time the aftershock of the oil bust made its way to Austin in '86, the skyscrapers were complete, and mostly empty. Nouveau homeless from all over the state drifted into the town famous for its beauty and its social programs; they sat on the Capitol lawn and waited, just waited, their grimy clothes cooking pungent in the broiling heat of the six-month Texas summer.

My father's mob "connections" had landed us both here in 1968 when I was fifteen and on my way to a Golden Gloves boxing championship and for all I knew, the Olympics. ("Wake up, we're leaving the state. Now!") Nine years later, the same connections would keep me out of the FBI.

After high school I joined the service, two years as an MP in Frankfurt, back to Austin for college on the GI Bill. Dad drifted around the country, making friends with cab drivers, pool hustlers and other late-night entrepreneurs, so said the unsigned postcards he used to send, postmarked St. Louis, Kansas City, Vegas: "Met a guy, working on an entertainment deal." A year later: "St. Louis didn't work out. Got something you might want to get in on. Will call with details. Someone said you got married." The postcards trailed off around '83.

Spring of my senior year at UT, I warmed up to the receptionist at the local FBI and called her every few days about my application. In June she greeted me with, "Dan, I'm so sorry," and, "It's not you, it's your father." The FBI didn't trust me to help them destroy the mob that destroyed my family. I sat by the river, watched the crew practice. A college graduate with a spotless military record and as of that week, a new wife—Amy, my college sweetheart. Small and shapely, blond hair in a flip, Bambi eyes, cherub cheeks, peaches smell, everything in place. A pixie Donna Reed in a peasant blouse. She was my first "good" girl, and I'd resolved to be a good husband, whatever that was. Screw the Bureau. The police force would jump at me. I'd be in charge in no time. How hard could it be?


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