CHAPTER THIRTEEN

DETECTIVE JOHN LINCOLN LOOKED AT THE SHEET COVERING THE VICTIM AND TRIED TO RECONCILE ITS CONTOURS WITH WHAT HE KNEW ABOUT THE HUMAN BODY.   IT WAS DIFFICULT. SOMETHING WAS AMISS.  THERE WERE INDENTATIONS WHERE THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN SOLID MASS.   WITH A SKEPTICAL GLANCE AT DETECTIVE GAIL COOK, HE REVERENTLY LIFTED THE SHEET WITH TWO FINGERS.

And immediately wished that he hadn’t.

“Holy shit,” he exclaimed as he recoiled from the sight. “They weren’t kidding.”

Going by memory of what they had just seen, it was clear that nothing human could have done that damage to the victim.

“I went to Africa. Years ago. My honeymoon,” began Gail. “I saw a lion maul a cape buffalo. It… didn’t look as horrible as this.”

“If it were a lion, it would have finished her off,” said a surprisingly upbeat Park Ranger standing beside them. “Right down to the gristle,” he added helpfully.

Both detectives were happy for the distraction from the grisly sight they knew lie under the sheet. The Park Ranger, who was in his late 50s, lived for moments like this when his expertise might be needed.

“You checked all the cages, no doubt?” asked Lincoln.

“We prefer the expression ‘communal habitat’,” corrected the Park Ranger. He waited a moment for Lincoln to correct himself.   But nothing. Every bear, lion and snake – even our avian friends of a predatory nature – present and accounted for, Detective.”

Lincoln looked around. “What about the gorillas?”

The Park Ranger admitted, “We haven’t had one here since ’09.”

“How is that ‘under construction’?”

“The directors would rather visitors think they just missed seeing the majestic gorilla a week too late or a week too early.”

“So you don’t think an animal did this?” asked Gail.

“I didn’t say that,” corrected the Park Ranger. “Just that it was not one of ours. I can tell you that most animals only kill in order to eat. That’s not what happened here.”

“Most?”

“Yes,” said the Park Ranger. “Man is the only animal that kills for fun.”