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Cotton FBI - Episode 11

What is COTTON FBI?

Your name is Jeremiah Cotton. You are a small-time cop in the NYPD, a rookie that no one takes seriously. But you want more. You have a score to settle with the world. And anyone who calls you “Jerry” will be sorry.

A new time. A new hero. A new mission. Experience the birth of a digital cult-series: Cotton FBI is the remake of JERRY COTTON, the most successful series of German novels with more than one billion copies sold, and it tells an entirely new story in e-book form.

Cotton FBI is published twice a month, with each episode a self-contained story.

The Author

Alexander Lohmann was born in 1968 in Munich. He studied computer science, German philology, and history, and has worked as a magazine editor. Reading The Lord of the Rings early on awoke his love of fantasy, which he has employed in several different novels. His penchant for tension-filled conflict led him to COTTON RELOADED. Alexander Lohmann is a freelance author, editor, and translator based in Leichlingen.

1

A motor scooter rattled past the manicured yards and wooden façades of the flat-roofed bungalows in the suburban housing development in Richmond, Virginia. The last glimmer of evening sun lingered on the horizon, already outshone by the lights in the windows and the yellow glow of the streetlamps.

The pizza deliveryman parked his scooter in front of a house whose yard was somewhat more overgrown than those of its neighbors, with sloppily trimmed bushes sprawling over an unkempt lawn. He took a thermal delivery case from the scooter’s rack, placed a bright red bag on top of it, and walked up to the house, balancing the pile in his arms. It was evidently a large order, and the scrawny man had a hard time carrying it.

He propped up the packages between his body and the doorframe so that he wouldn’t have to put them down to ring the bell. There was no movement inside. He rang again.

Finally, a light came on behind the small window beside the entrance. A gaunt man opened the door. He was unshaven and was wearing a T-shirt and dark-blue sweatpants. He stared at the deliveryman, whose face was obscured by a red helmet and vintage aviator goggles. It was such a bizarre sight that the man was a little taken aback.

“Your pizza!” the pizza man beamed, holding out the order.

The man looked him over. “I didn’t order anything.” He began to close the door. The deliveryman’s smile faded. He balanced the heavy case on a raised knee and used his free hand to grope around in the brightly colored bag.

“Just a minute!” he cried. “Are you Mr. Jason Clegg?”

Clegg paused. “Yes,” he said. “But I didn’t order anything.”

The pizza man pulled something out of the bag. It looked like a pistol but was in fact a much more modern invention, almost as dangerous. A taser.

Without hesitation, he fired. The needles of the electrodes ripped through Clegg’s baggy shirt and into his chest. The device crackled. Clegg convulsed. For a moment, he went stiff as a board.

The deliveryman stepped through the door, pushing Clegg backward with the thermal case. Clegg fell hard onto his back. The impact drove the air out of his lungs. In one smooth movement, the pizza man set the box down on the floor next to Clegg, turned around, and pushed the door shut. Then he attended to his victim.

The pizza man opened the thermal case and pulled out a drill, a small electric saw, a number of bags and boxes, and a leather pouch. He took an alcohol-soaked rag from one of the bags and opened one of the smaller boxes. Inside there was a prepared syringe and a glass plunger.

Clegg struggled to control his twitching muscles. He sat up halfway. “What …?” he managed to gasp.

The pizza man pushed Clegg’s chin back with his left hand and ran a disinfectant wipe across his victim’s neck, carelessly dropping it on the floor. With one finger, he flicked the protective cap off of the needle; he then plunged it directly into Clegg’s carotid artery, holding him against the floor with one hand. Clegg struggled feebly, but it was only a matter of seconds before he lay limp and powerless on the floor with a blank stare on his face.

The pizza man hummed to himself as he unpacked the contents of his delivery case. He pulled something odd over his victim’s head — a hood made of wire mesh that snapped into place. Making small incisions in Clegg’s scalp, he exposed his skull in the exact locations where the fine tubes attached to the hood pushed up against his head.

He hummed louder as his drill carved into bone.

2

Things were quiet at G-Team headquarters. Outside, the streets of New York were bathed in the light and warmth of an early summer day. The windowless underground headquarters, in contrast, was always lit by the same dim glow emanating from the monitors and fluorescent lights. The air-conditioning required to keep the electronic equipment from overheating made the air cool and stuffy. There wasn’t much noise in the large room, except for the hum of the computers and the occasional whispered conversations of agents at work.

Special Agent Jeremiah Cotton sat in front of his computer, whistling Roy Orbison’s “You Got It” and loudly pecking away at his keyboard.

Decker walked up and leaned against his desk. “So cheerful, Cotton? While writing reports? I thought you’d be climbing the walls with boredom.”

Cotton looked up. “It’s nice when there isn’t much going on. At five sharp, the workday’ll be over — a pleasure I haven’t experienced for a long time. And you know what, Decker? I even reeled in a date for the evening.”

“Oo-la-la,” Decker teased him. “A real date? Had enough of your casual flings? What’s the name of the lucky lady?”

“Maria,” Cotton answered.

Decker raised her eyebrows.

“She just moved here from Arizona,” Cotton said. “I helped her out when she got lost on the subway. One thing led to another …” He shrugged. “You know, Decker, this could be something serious. If it goes well, I’ll introduce her to Sarah. She’d certainly like that.”

Sarah Granger had taken care of Cotton after he had lost his parents in the attack on the World Trade Center. Both of them had just barely survived the terrorist attack. Sarah had taken Cotton in after the catastrophe and was a sort of surrogate mother to him.

Decker grinned. “Well, then, I wish you lots of luck with your private life.”

“Fortune favors the bold.” With a decisive keystroke, Cotton sent off his report into the depths of the server, then jumped up and grabbed his jacket. “So, now I’ll get out of here before anything comes up that could get in my way. Bye, Decker.”

He began to walk away between the rows of workstations that stretched all the way to the exit. The ringing of the phone on his desk summoned him back. It was John D. High, the head of the G-Team.

“Come to my office, Cotton. And bring Decker with you. I want to brief you on your next case.”

“Uh … it’s ten to five, sir.”

“Yes,” Mr. High said. “I can see that on the clock in my office.”

He hung up. Cotton paused indecisively. He looked at Decker. “Mr. High wants to talk to us. Just before quitting time. Who knows how long this will take.”

Decker was still grinning. “I heard. Come on, Cotton. You know that crime never takes a day off.”

Cotton just stood there for a moment, grumpily watching Decker’s blond hair bob over the collar of her expensive suit as she made her way toward Mr. High’s office. He hated it when she quoted his own favorite sayings back to him.

*

“This is Mr. Jason Clegg.” High had projected a photo onto the wall showing a man in a hospital bed whose face was obscured by tubes. “The night before last, he was attacked by a stranger in his house. A little while later, he was admitted to the hospital with severe head injuries. He’s in a coma — if he’s still alive. Our most recent information is two hours old. At that point, the doctors believed that he might become brain dead at any moment.”

High hesitated a moment and then added, “Strictly speaking, the doctors weren’t even fully in agreement that brain death hadn’t already occurred. The type of injuries he incurred didn’t make that easy to determine.”

“How is that possible?” Cotton asked. “I thought that measuring brainwaves was the most accurate method of determining death.”

“The attacker deliberately went after his brain, completely disabling parts of it. There is measurable brain activity, but it is largely limited to keeping Clegg’s body alive.”

Cotton’s eyes wandered, reflexively looking for a nonexistent window to the outside. “Was it a burglar, or just random violence?” he asked. “I don’t see why the FBI is taking on the case.”

“He fell into a coma …” Decker said pensively. “That sounds familiar. This isn’t the first case, is it?”

John D. High shook his head. “That’s why it was flagged by the FBI’s analysts. Over the last six months, we’ve seen four patients admitted to hospitals with similar injuries who died shortly thereafter. Each time, an anonymous caller alerted 9-1-1 — and there are indications that the attacker was the caller every time.”

“A serial … offender?” Cotton had been about to say serial killer, but technically speaking, the victims hadn’t exactly been murdered.

“That’s what we’re going to find out.” High pushed the case files over to the two agents. “The circumstances are unsettling. It’s possible that there are even more victims out there; in one case, the head injuries were only discovered by chance. The doctors had first suspected a stroke. The analysts are looking into similar patients. You should go talk to Ms. Hunter regarding the medical details.”

Cotton looked at the clock. He was supposed to meet Maria at seven. If they quickly visited Sarah Hunter, the G-Team’s forensic scientist, and then he hurriedly changed his clothes, and if Maria were a little understanding about his tardiness, then maybe he could still salvage their date.

“I’ve also booked you both on a flight to Richmond,” Mr. High continued. “Tonight at nine from Newark. That way, you’ll be able to examine Clegg’s surroundings and look for a common factor that might tie the cases together.”

*

Early the next morning, Cotton and Decker arrived at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond. Just before their flight, they had found out that Jason Clegg had died. They had come to the hospital to interview Dr. Mulheimer, who had been in charge of his treatment, and to find out whether Clegg had any relatives in the area.

The lanky blond doctor shrugged. “The man had no visitors. We couldn’t locate any next of kin.”

“Can you prepare the body for transport?” Cotton asked. “We’d like to conduct our own autopsy.”

“We can have the body transferred,” the doctor said, “but an autopsy has already been conducted.”

“What was the hurry?” Decker asked.

“The man had an organ donor card,” Mulheimer answered, “and a very rare phenotype. There are many desperate patients waiting for donor organs.”

“He had a donor card?” Cotton asked. “I thought that was marked on your driver’s license.”

The doctor shrugged. “Some people change their minds. Getting a card to keep in your wallet is easier than applying for a new license. It’s not common, but it proves that the patient made an independent decision on the issue. And we didn’t want to reject Mr. Clegg’s donation, despite the sad circumstances surrounding his death.”

“So you disassembled him and sent all the parts off in different directions?” Cotton said dramatically, venting his anger. “That could’ve been evidence!”

Mulheimer snorted. “Don’t worry. Of course we knew that a crime had been committed. We took every imaginable precaution while performing the autopsy, the same as in the previous cases. I think that Clegg will be the most thoroughly scrutinized corpse you’ve ever come across.”

Cotton was not convinced.

“How do you know that you’ve gathered all the information that’s important to us?” he asked. “We’ve only just begun to investigate the circumstances of his death.”

“The circumstances of his death were highly unusual, I can tell you that much already. With each of these examinations, several experts have been involved, and we’ve discussed every possibility in depth. As for the person responsible for the injuries that led to Clegg’s death … I’m afraid he may represent a problem for you.”

Decker’s ears pricked up. “How do you know that? What can you tell us about the attacker?”

“Very little, except that he knew exactly what he was doing. He must have precise knowledge of human anatomy, particularly in terms of how the brain is structured — a rare specialization.”

“You mean he’s a brain surgeon?”

“I don’t want to speculate,” Mulheimer responded. “In any case, the culprit was somehow able to acquire extensive theoretical knowledge prior to the crimes, and he’s had the opportunity to perfect that knowledge through practical application.

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