The man introduced himself as Dr. Edison Larringer, Eddie for short, a pathology resident at NYU. He spoke in the rushed, hurried speech of a man that needed to be somewhere, everywhere, anywhere but here.
“How can I help you, Eddie?” Drake asked, sweeping the scotch and empty glasses back into the drawer. Business had been tough to come by, and he wasn’t about to turn down his second whale of the day.
And that said nothing of the other niggling fact, his gut reaction that this man had something important to show him.
Eddie didn’t answer. Instead, he swallowed hard and placed the folder on the table and spun it around. Drake picked it up and opened it. The first thing he saw was an 8 x 10 photograph depicting a man half on and half off a bed, his neck bent awkwardly beneath him, his face masked in shadows. There was a second photograph beneath the first, and without thinking, Drake held them side by side.
They looked to be copies.
Drake took his time looking at them, his eyes moving from one to another, trying to ascertain what was so important that the young doctor felt the need to burst into his office at half-past six on a Friday evening.
When nothing came to him, and he doubted that nothing would no matter how long he stared, Drake looked at the man across from him, an eyebrow raised.
“I’m not sure—” he began, but Eddie cut him off.
“They’re both dead,” he said quickly.
“Yes, I can see—”
“But they aren’t the same; they’re actually different. Look at the clock, it’s a different time, and the sweater isn’t exactly the same, the first has like this cross stitch pattern while the other has—”
Now it was Drake’s turn to interrupt.
“Woah, slow down there partner. Take a deep breath. Go slow. It’s late and I’m old.”
Eddie’s eyes bulged and his mouth twisted as if to say, How dare you tell me to slow down with something as important as this? Don’t you get it? Don’t you understand?
But in the end, the young man did as asked.
When Eddie spoke again, his words came out more slowly. Still fast by any measure, but slower on a relative scale.
“On the left is a photograph from the NYU forensic pathology course exam, the one with the clock that reads 3:41. The one on the right is a copy, but it’s a copy, if you catch my drift. See the clock? It reads 3:42 am.”
Drake turned his attention back to the photographs, and noted that what Eddie was saying was true. And yet he still didn’t see the significance.
“I see that, but what does it mean? The pictures were taken a minute apart. So what?”
The man took another deep breath.
“Okay, so the one on the left is from the test—we are given the photograph and then supposed to determine possible causes of death, differentials, if you will—and it’s a real photograph from a crime scene. I don’t from know when, but judging by the decor, it’s at least a decade old, maybe even more. It’s the same image used every year in the course.”
“It’s suppose to be a trick; see how the bedspread is all messed up? The first inclination is that there is foul play involved, that there was a fight, an altercation of some sort that caused his death. At least that’s what the professor expects your final diagnosis to be. But the real cause of death is much more… ordinary. This man just got very drunk and fell out of bed. He was so drunk that he never woke up when his windpipe was closed off—positional asphyxia, it’s called.”
Drake looked at the photograph, tilting his head off to one side as he squinted. He had never heard of positional asphyxia, but it looked like a very unpleasant way to go.
He would much rather go out with his fists raised.
Drake shook his head and held out the second photograph, the one with the clock reading 3:42.
“And this one?”
“That one is different; it’s not the same person, not the same crime. It’s been staged.”
Drake’s eyes narrowed.
“How do you know?”
“It’s been made to look like the first one, like the photo from the test, but it isn’t the exact same.”
Drake felt himself nodding.
“And where did you get this one from?” he asked, shaking the photograph in his right hand.
Eddie suddenly leaned back in his chair, and Drake thought he saw sweat begin to bead on his forehead. For the first time since barging into Triple D, the man seemed to be at a loss for words.
Drake waited and eventually Eddie lowered his eyes.
“I stole it,” he said quietly.
It wasn’t the revelation he had expected, but it was something.
Again, Eddie hesitated. When he finally answered, his voice was barely audible.
“I stole it from the professor of the course—I stole it from Dr. Beckett Campbell. And I know one thing for certain: that man, the one in the photograph with the clock reading 3:42? He didn’t die from positional asphyxia. He was murdered.”