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A Shortcut to Mushrooms

Suzanne massaged the bridge of her nose. "So you're saying that the tattoo that the police are basing their opinion on isn't anything like what they say it is?"

Her informant, Dr. Jean Gorska of Wonder City University, leaned back in her chair and made a face at the photograph on her computer screen. "Well, I could see immediately that it wasn't Nordic runes of any sort, the kind one usually gets with certain breeds of white supremacists. So I, er, took the liberty of forwarding it to an acquaintance of mine."

Suzanne peered over her hand and raised her eyebrows interrogatively.

Dr. Gorska popped her email up on her screen. "Dr. Brundige tells me that she believes it was meant to represent the term for 'man of the west'. But it appears that either the subject or his tattoo artist spelled out the word in English letters, then transliterated to Dwarven...

"Dwarven?" Suzanne said, sitting straight up.

"... Dwarven runes," Dr. Gorska concluded with a quick smile over her shoulder at Suzanne. "But they appear to have spelled it incorrectly."

"You're telling me that this tattoo is from a movie?" Suzanne said.

"A book series, actually," Dr. Gorska said. "Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series. Dr. Brundige is something of a Tolkien scholar."

"So, instead of being a white supremacist," Suzanne said slowly, "Leif Heimdalssen was a... Tolkien fan?"

"Well," Dr. Gorska said slowly, "being a Tolkien fan doesn't necessarily mean that he's on the side of the angels. But if they're basing their conclusion on the tattoo alone, then they're barking up the wrong tree." She tapped her computer screen, indicating the second photo of the spreading tree tattoo from Heimdalssen's back. "The White Tree of Gondor, to be exact."

"Hmmm," Suzanne said, rubbing her forehead. "Well, this was very valuable, Dr. Gorska. I appreciate the effort you've gone to on this."

"Not a problem," Dr. Gorska said, waving dismissively. "It wasn't anything, really."

"Out of curiosity," Suzanne said, "what was the misspelling?"

"The word he probably wanted was 'DĂșnadan', which is 'man of the west,'" Dr. Gorska said. "What got written was something like 'Duinedain', which approximates as 'men of the river' or something like that."

"Huh," Suzanne said. "She's probably right. Heimdalssen was from San Diego... the west, and all. And his birth name was Robert Matkovic. I think it was the name change that suggested the supremacist link to the police."

"He was 'The Hammer', though," Dr. Gorska said. "If he used an Eastern European name, there's an alternative interpretation of the hammer."

Suzanne blinked at the professor, uprooting her thought processes from Tolkien tattoos to hammers and sickles and Communism. "Excellent point, actually," she said. "Thanks a bunch."

Outside the building, Suzanne paused to button up her coat collar and pull on her knitted hat. The Wonder City U quad was crisp and gleaming with yesterday's sleet. The 1930s flat-fronted brick buildings shadowed the walks to either side of her, with the enormously good planning typical of universities everywhere. Icicles were scattered along the edges of the roofs and through the low boxwood hedges below them. The sun was brilliant, flashing through the ice sheeting the tree branches, and reflecting off the crisp grass that crunched underfoot. It had been easy for the police to identify Heimdalssen -- he was carrying his wallet with his para registration card, et cetera. The man had been strangled with enough superstrength to overcome his Class 2 invulnerability. The physician performing the autopsy -- a drinking buddy of hers from the old days -- spotted the runic tattoo ringing his upper right arm, and the police were glad enough to run away with theories about the Hammer betraying his supremacist cell and ending up in the bushes by the river.

She stopped by the library to pick up a pile of prints another old friend had made for her of any reports of white power movements in Wonder City and other murders. She paused in her car, heater blasting, to flip through the hefty stack. The print on top announced Body Near Docks Identified As The Hammer. There were murders in South Hill all the time -- drugs and gang violence -- and she thumbed through those quickly. There was a murder-suicide -- a man killing his wife, then himself -- notable to her old specialty because the wife was para and the man was not. She paused over an article titled The Steel Man Found Dead, and skimmed through it, noting that he'd been found by the river. There were some articles about a white power group (which also seemed to be a "normal power" anti-para group) centered in Newtown that apparently thought solid middle-class suburbia was a good hideout. And then she shored up against an article with an eerily similar title to the first: Body Near Docks Identified As The Merlin.

She pulled that article from the stack, flipped back to the article about the Steel Man, and pulled the Hammer story off the top. All of them had been strangled, with evidence of super-strength. All three men were in their early- to mid-40s, and were career small-time crooks.

Suzanne set the article stack in the passenger seat and gently put the three articles on top. She eyed herself in the rear view mirror as she put the car into gear. And then she drove home, her immediate goal the scouring of the stack for similar stories.

---

From the Author:
Sorry for the delay -- I was continuing holiday visiting and transit yesterday.

Again: I'm posting twice weekly during the month of December as a [fill in holiday here] gift for you all. If you like getting WCS twice weekly, then please comment on anything. :) If I get 50 comments over the course of December, I will post twice weekly all through January as well. If I get 75 comments, I'll post twice weekly through February. If, by the amazing work of you wonderful folks, I get more comments than that, I will come up with some even better reward.


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Ooo...

Date: 2010-12-29 08:26 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Cluster crimes can get interesting.

*giggle* I love the mangled tattoo.

Re: Ooo...

Date: 2012-01-28 04:03 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
And of course it's going to turn out to be men of the river after all! :D

Tattoo?

Date: 2010-12-30 03:32 am (UTC)
tsotate: Tom managing to not die from my too-high sudori (Default)
From: [personal profile] tsotate
I'm fascinated by the idea of a para tattoo artist, or extra-strong tattoo gun that can overcome his Class 2 invulnerability. Important tip for tattoo artists: do not use your tattoo gun for Invulnerable customers on non-paras who you want as repeat customers.

Re: Tattoo?

Date: 2012-01-28 04:04 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Amen to that.

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