Raymund Eich

The Everpink Slaughter


GMO = SIN? Or is something else the motive?


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One bitterly cold Iowa night, an assailant slits the throats of twenty genetically modified pigs. Pressured by a giant biotechnology company and the county’s power brokers, Deputy Matt Schaffer must untangle a web of clues to find the assailant–and bring justice to a desperate small town.

Sample of “The Everpink Slaughter”

The Everpink Slaughter

The farmer’s dogs trotted alongside as the sheriff department cruiser rolled down the asphalt driveway between the house and the barn. When the car slowed and stopped, the dogs barked sporadically, watching one another from the corners of their eyes. After the gasoline engine chuttered to silence, their barking was the only sound for what seemed to be miles of the cold morning.

Deputy Matt Schaffer climbed out. “Hush,” he told the dogs. His breath steamed in the dry air. The dogs grew quieter. Matt held out the back of his gloved hand to the nearest one, a neutered yellow mutt. The dog leaned forward, eyes wide, nostrils snuffling, until something near the barn caught his attention and he trotted toward it.

“Morning, Matt. Thanks for coming out so soon after I called.”

Matt remembered Jake Helland from high school. The intervening fifteen years had worn his face with Iowa winters and the financial stresses of farming life, and what had those same years done to Matt? “Good to see you, Jake, though I wish it wasn’t like this.”

Jake nodded, face impassive. Whatever he felt only leaked out with a few blinks.

“They’re in the barn?” Matt added. “Could you show me the way?”

Not that Matt needed a guide, but having a task might keep Jake from feeling overwhelmed by his emotions. Against the red, corrugated steel walls stood out a large sign with pink letters against a white background:

Everpink Transgenic Pigs

and at the bottom, in smaller red letters flanked by icons of a pig and the Earth:

Fresher Ham, Less Waste, Better for All

The line of Jake’s jaw hardened as he started that way. Grass crackled under his steps. Matt and the dogs followed him, but the dogs soon whimpered and held back from the barn. The two men approached a plain white door with a single small window at eye level. The window had fogged over.

Jake reached a gloved hand toward the doorknob, then drew in a breath. “This will be the second time I’ve touched the knob this morning. Gloves both times. Is that a problem?”

The perpetrator would have worn gloves, if he’d come through that same door during the frigid night, so the knob probably lacked useful evidence. “No. But leave the door slightly open and don’t touch the knob again until I lift prints.”

Jake opened the door, then gripped its edge. The door trembled slightly. “Do you need me to go in?”

“Go back into the house. Get warm. I’ll talk to you when I’m done here.”

Though he nodded, Jake didn’t move. “It isn’t right. The Everpink people offered us a big discount for buying their piglets, on top of the price premium we can get for them at market. We were just trying to get ahead, the American way, following the rules.” His voice faltered. “Twenty head….”

Part of Matt’s job was to listen. “Insurance?”

Jake shook his head. “Costs are high and money’s tight. The animal rights nutjobs don’t want to leave their lattes in Minneapolis to come out to the country and ruin a man’s livelihood.” Moisture glistened in his eyes. “I told the missus that and she believed me.”

Matt winced in sympathy. “Livestock abuse is two years per count. We’ll talk to the DA, maybe he can string the jail time out consecutively. The perp might be looking at forty years.” Small condolence—justice wouldn’t help Jake’s financial situation—but the only one Matt could offer.

Without another word, Jake walked toward his house. Matt went into the barn.

The stench hit him right away. The musty smell of grain pellets, and a whiff of pig shit from a manure treatment bioreactor, a tall tank at one end of the barn. But with those smells came one he’d encountered a few times during his decade on the police force in Des Moines. The thick odor of blood.

Triangular windows where the end walls met the peaked ceiling let in gray light. The barn held a large pen defined by a concrete slab and tubular steel fencing. The side nearest the door held food and water troughs. The slab sloped slightly away, toward sewage drains at the far side of the pen.

Matt climbed over the tubular steel fence and into the pen. Dead pigs lay around him, with pallid skin and glassy eyes. The perpetrator had slashed the side of each pig’s neck. Blood had poured down the slope and clung to the covers of the sewage drains.

Most of the pigs lay near the troughs. Three had made it a few steps downslope. Otherwise, Matt saw no sign of struggle. A result of the Everpink transgene, he assumed. A protein in their muscles bound oxygen so tightly their muscles as a whole were starved for it. The pigs could barely move before they got winded. Somehow that led to cured ham that stayed fresh longer.

Matt pulled his phone from an inner pocket of his jacket and methodically photographed the dead pigs. He gritted his teeth as he worked. The pigs had been domesticated to serve man’s will, with lives that shouldn’t matter save for the financial losses inflicted on their owner; but creatures too, capable of suffering, with enough in common with man to elicit pity. He set the thoughts aside and refocused on his work. The only sound was the atavistic shutter effect from his phone’s speaker, fluttering off the barn’s corrugated steel walls.

Once he finished, he straightened up. More evidence showed in red spray paint on the wall next to the door. It explained Jake’s comment about animal rights terrorists. GMO = SIN, spelled out in narrow, splotchy letters and punctuated with streaks of running paint. Matt took more photos. From the height and line quality of the tops of the letters, the graffiti artist was six feet even or a little taller.

He spent an hour hunting for physical evidence. The perpetrator had been careful. No fingerprints on the doorknob, no knife or spray paint can in the trash, no footprints in pig blood.

Outside was no different. Matt walked around the barn. The ground was too cold to show footprints. One of the dogs, the neutered yellow mutt,


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Raymund Eich


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