The blood had long dried. A widow was somewhere in the dark crying for her loss; the man was wearing a black striped shirt and work trousers. The silver buttons were stained red; thank God his eyes were closed.
I stood, feeling my knees crack in warning. Jesus, I was getting old. The detective’s face was grave, but, then again, aren't they always?
He smelled like stale cigars.
“What do you mean?” I clicked my pen and stuffed it back into my front pocket.
“What do you mean, what do I mean? You come here from DC, I have to wait a fucking hour because my boss is hard up for anything female, then you spend three seconds with our guy and all you gotta say is ‘six hours’? 'Give me a break, Lady Doc,” he said as he chewed the inside of his cheek.
I inhaled. The worst part of my job was coming. I was so tired of telling people, “I’m not a doctor. I’m just an analyst.” It reminded me of Dr. McCoy always telling Captain Kirk, “Damn it, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a botanist.”
“What’s the difference?” Detective Johnson shifted the bulk of his weight to the other foot while one of my crew snapped a photo of the poor dead guy. Did I really have to explain it again?
“I didn't go to med school, and I don’t have a doctorate. You called me to find out how long the guy’s been dead. That’s what I did. Six hours.” I tucked a strand of black hair behind my ear.
Detective Johnson’s gaze left mine to fasten on the poor sap. “He’s been missin’ for eighteen.”
I shrugged. “Not my jurisdiction.”
A smile pulled at the fat man’s mouth. “I think I might like you after all, Lady Doc.”
I didn't need him to like me. After another sigh, I was stalking toward the medical van to discard my gloves. But as I passed my colleague, he stopped taking photos and lowered the camera.
“Did I miss something?” I asked.
“He... he blinked...”
The guy was a newbie. I should have known he would get a bit loopy on me. My gaze roamed over the dead man once more.
“Cameras are flashin’, kid. Your mind’s playing tricks on you.” I clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry about it.”
I started to walk back toward the medical van. For a moment, I stopped to chuckle to myself. He blinked. Really? Come on. He’d been stabbed seventeen times, his heart wasn't beating, he wasn't breathing, and he’d lost a gallon of blood. He didn't blink.
Still, something wasn't right. The police cruisers still had their lights flashing, but the sound of whirring cameras had dissipated. It was too still; too silent. Great, the kid got so scared, that he stopped taking pictures. I was going to have to save this one again.
I whirled around. But as soon as I took in the scene and each piece clicked into place in my brain, I knew this was no ordinary case.
In front of me, the man who had been lying dead in a pool of dried blood for six hours was sitting up. His eyes were so wide, I could see the whites. Everyone else was frozen solid. My crewman had gone and pissed himself, he was so scared.
The man blinked. Once. Twice. Then, he looked down at himself and fingered the torn holes in his shirt. A smile broke across his face. His shoulders shook. He began laughing maniacally, cackling into the night.
“Somebody call an ambulance!”
I hadn't realized I’d spoken the words until I was running toward the detective. When I was at his side, I clawed the rough material of his tan trench coat.
“Call a Goddamn ambulance! Why are you just standing there!?” Finally, once I’d startled him into next Sunday, he fumbled in his coat for a cell phone. While he was dialing 911, he put a finger in his other ear to block out the insane laugh of the dead man.
I’ll never forget the guy’s words as they hauled him away, either. They chilled me to the very core. Sometimes I even dream about them.
“It worked! It worked!”