Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
“No, I…uh…must have missed it during my initial examination,” the coroner hurriedly explained.
Winslow noted that the man had barely released his grip on Reggie’s waist and he was once again questioning the professionalism of the crime scene detectives. Not that it was his place to judge considering one of the key witnesses in the case was currently asleep in his bed. Whatever was happening between Reilly and Reggie was not the pure feelings that Winslow felt with James, and he would not be giving them the same pass.
At least the detective had the dignity to go into the back room before starting his more thorough search.
“It looks like some sort of rope burn on Sean’s neck. And the marks are new and old.”
The detective pulled his hand away from the victim’s collarbone, holding the shirt up so that the coroner could see the markings that he was talking about. Reilly leaned over the body and puddles of blood, running his own gloved hand up Sean’s neck. Winslow saw him stop for a moment and slide his hand back down the butler’s chest, reaching for a pair of scissors to cut open the white nightshirt.
“What is it, Doctor?”
“There’s something here under the skin that’s poking out of his chest.”
Winslow watched as the coroner took a scalpel, another pair of scissors and an evidence bag to collect a piece of metal and then a piece of ceramic from Sean’s chest. He couldn’t make out what the pieces belong to but was sure the boys down at the lab would be able to come up with some answer. The detective had to look away as the coroner continued to dig around in the seated corpse’s chest - he had a strong stomach but the entire room was starting to smell with the hot air collecting in the room.
As if reading Winslow’s mind about the object in question, Reilly explained, “It’s most likely shrapnel from a previous incident that became apparent with the mass loss of blood, but we can never be sure until testing.”
“You mean our very limited testing capabilities and backwards police laboratory procedures?” said a crime scene detective leaning out of the doorway. Winslow tried to place the man’s faced but assumed that he had to be someone new. Especially with all of the critique the technician was handing out about how the department operated.
“And who are you?” Winslow asked in his commanding voice.
“Doctor Palm,” the man said as he stuck out his gloved hand, and then when looking down at the blood he quickly tucked his hand back behind his back. “I’m the new assistant coroner.”
The detective stood up as he said, “I wasn’t aware that we had a new assistant coroner. When were you going to tell me about this new development, Reilly?”
“Well Dr. Palm is a very recent member of our team and the right timing to introduce you two has not yet arisen.”
Winslow looked back to study the man in the door way once more. His examination revealed that Doctor Palm was a nervous sort of fellow - one that was not accustomed to the climate in Alabama and a man who was most certainly a Yankee. If the accent, the clothes and the hair didn’t give it away, the alma matter pin on his coat beneath the lab coat certainly did. The detective did not know a single person from the South who went to Harvard over going to one of their many fine establishments for medical school. The farthest north any one from the South went was to the universities in Maryland and even that state was stretching its nobility as being Confederates.
In his most hushed whisper, Winslow asked Reilly, “Doctor Palm was not the assistant coroner yesterday so how is he the assistant coroner today?”
Reilly didn’t answer the detective. The coroner simply motioned to the adjoining guest room as he continued to examine Sean’s collar. They both slowly made their way into the guest room, closing the door under the guise of searching for evidence on the other side. Once they saw the feet in the bathroom move on back to the bedroom the coroner finally spoke.
“Winslow, there is something very wrong happening in my department. My assistant, Dr. Glass, has been missing since a few hours after we were called to the Johnson House and then Doctor Palm magically showed up as a replacement.”
“Is it possible that the city government just sent for him as temporary replacement?”
“It would have been possible if my request order had been on the secretary’s desk for more than two hours.”
The coroner ran his fingers through his ever thinning hair and then moved to toy with his beard. In the eyes of Winslow, this motion began to remind him of the ponderings of a mad scientist - something he had jokingly accused Reilly of being on more than one occasion. The detective had also thought of it in his own head as an answer to Reilly’s sometimes peculiar nature and habits.
“Well, Winslow, what do you think of Doctor Palm?”
“Well…” the detective trailed off as he pulled himself away from the mad scientist theory to remember his examination of Dr. Palm. “Well there’s definitely something queer about him but that might be the only thing off in this situation. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for his arrival at your office and I’m sure your previous assistant will show up safe and sound.”
He could see the doubt in Reilly’s eyes about the legitimacy of both statements. They both knew that when a detective or an officer mysteriously disappeared after a crime scene that something was definitely afoot. There was only the slightest amount of hope telling Winslow that the assistant, Dr. Glass, was alive - and he was hoping it was not for nefarious reasons.
“Can I go ahead and file a missing persons report for my assistant?” Reilly asked as he nervously shook against the wall.