Dr. Edison ‘Eddie’ Larringer left Triple D Investigations with a single thought echoing inside his head.
This was a mistake—this was all a mistake.
He was sweating, he was tired, but most of all he was confused. It dawned on him that everything he had told Drake, everything that had been consuming all of his thoughts for the past six days, had been a fabrication.
It wasn’t unthinkable; in fact, it was even plausible given how exhausted he was. Beckett’s forensic pathology final exam was on Monday, and he was struggling just to stay afloat. If anything, Eddie was a realist; and if he was being honest with himself, he knew that he wasn’t going to pass. And one more fail meant that his entire career as a physician was in jeopardy. Which is why he had, after much moral anguish, broken into Dr. Campbell’s office.
He didn’t have to take the folder with the photographs that lay on Beckett’s desk, which at first had looked like hard copies of the final exam. After all, he didn’t need them—the USB key he had taken had digital versions embedded within the Powerpoint presentation. That was enough, more than enough, for Eddie to pass.
He didn’t need the folder.
In fact, he wasn’t entirely sure why he had taken it. He just had.
And now Eddie was beginning to think that this had been the biggest mistake of his life.
If only I hadn’t looked at the photographs. Things would be different if I had just burned the entire folder.
But he hadn’t. And once he looked, it was impossible for him to unlook.
At first blush, the digital and printed images looked nearly identical.
But they weren’t; they were just a little off. And when Eddie searched the Internet for accidental deaths over the last six months, he found the description of one that perfectly matched the image in the folder.
Only that image also matched the one from the course, which, considering the grainy texture of the photo in the Powerpoint, must have been taken years ago.
It wasn’t exemplary, it was nearly exactly the same. Textbook, in a way that defied logic.
Eddie just couldn’t believe that it was a coincidence.
Someone had taken a photograph of a recent crime scene staged to look exactly like the one used in the test.
And the only reason that someone would do this, in his opinion, was to cover up a murder.
Eddie quickly made his way across the parking lot to his worn Cavalier, and fumbled with his keys to open the door. It was already dark out, a fact that further added to his anxiety.
Once inside, he sat behind the wheel for several moments before starting the car.
Should I go to the police as Drake suggested? He wondered.
That, too, would lead to him failing his exam, of that Eddie was certain. After all, stealing a test from his professor’s desk would amount to more than just him staying behind to repeat a year of forensic pathology. NYU took plagiarism, theft, and cheating very, very seriously.
And so did the police.
If he went to the cops and admitted what he had done, it would mean that they would take away his medical license.
Eddie had thought about the bind he had gotten himself into for several sleepless nights. But when the young and pretty Suzan Cuthbert started to audit the class, it looked to him like a solution to his problem had fallen into his lap. After all, everyone knew what happened to Suzan’s father, and a little research on his part revealed information about his partner, about Damien Drake.
Surely, the man would help him out, would take him seriously, given that he knew Suzan. What he hadn’t planned for was the man’s temper.
Eddie eyes lifted to the rearview, and he was shocked to realize that he barely recognizing his own gaunt features.
“A mistake, this was all a big mistake,” he said in a dry croak. “A mistake.”
But try as he might, there was no way he could put the image of the man in the sweater, his body hunched over his own neck, out of his mind.
He couldn’t unsee.
It’s no coincidence. It can’t be.
Eddie reached for his keys and was about to put them in the ignition when a flash of movement in the mirror caught his eye.
But Dr. Edison Larringer didn’t even get a chance to finish his sentence. A dark figure rose from the back seat, and a thick piece of rope was wrapped around his throat.
He gasped, and reached for the ligature, but it was yanked tight, forcing the back of his head against the headrest. Eddie clawed desperately at the rope, trying to force his fingertips between the twine and the soft tissue of his neck, but it was no use.
It was just too tight.
As he gasped and desperately tried to fill his lungs with fresh air, he saw the door to Triple D Investigations swing open and the man himself step out into the parking lot.
Help me! Eddie tried to scream. Help me, Damien! Help me!
But no words came out.
And yet despite this, Drake seemed to pause for a moment, his face a sickly yellow in the streetlights, his eyes scanning the parking lot and street beyond.
Please, help me!
Eddie’s heart sunk when Damien shook his head and made his way to his own car.
Only seconds later, Dr. Edison Larringer’s entire world went dark.