“Well… I haven’t found anything unusual, as far as murder victims go. White male, approximately 30 years of age, with multiple head contusions and a knife wound in his back leading straight to the heart. Also some contusions on the left shoulder, just below the neckline. Looks like somebody was holding on pretty tight.”
“So was the guy dead before or after he got stabbed?”
“His heart was still beating. The head trauma wasn’t post-mortem, but I can’t tell if it occurred before or after the stabbing. It doesn’t look severe enough to have been fatal, but that’s all probably moot since he would have died of the knife wound one way or the other.”
Wall thought it over a moment. “So, Doc, do you think it’s possible that the victim was stabbed, then started making noise, so the perp knocked him out to shut him up?”
“The perp? Quaint lingo, Detective.”
“Gimme a break, Doc, okay? Was the guy screamin’ or not?”
“Well, someone with a blade that size in his heart wouldn’t be screaming very loud,” Maxwell answered with a chuckle. “In fact, I doubt he would be talking at all.”
“Could there have been a struggle?”
“I did find some skin scrapings and blood on the heel of the victim’s shoe.”
“Damn, Doc, why didn’t you say so? We could have the killer right there.” Wall was both perturbed and elated. A clue like that could be huge. What’s with this knucklehead, leaving out a detail like that?
“Sorry, Wall. I was just waiting until the right moment.”
Now they sounded like lifelong friends again.
“So you think the victim was attacked from behind, then gave the guy a shoe-heel to the shin?” Wall asked.
“We’ve seen it many times, and I wouldn’t be surprised in this case.”
Wall thought quietly for a moment. “So maybe the perp was wearing shorts. Hell, these days, it might have been a skirt.”
“By ‘skirt,’ do you mean a woman?” asked Maxwell.
“All I said was it could have been a skirt.” Wall laughed lightly, as did his friend. “Anything else?”
“That’s it, Wall. Unless you want my opinion on global thermonuclear war.”
Wall set down his pen and leaned back in his desk chair. The springs creaked. “If you’ll have a beer with me tonight, I’ll let you give me your opinion then.”
“Deal. Smitty’s?” Maxwell asked.
“I was thinking our house, maybe. I’ve been a real jerk to my family lately. Bring Dana and we’ll just make it a party. Seven thirty good?”
“I’ll check with Dana. If you don’t hear different from us, plan on seeing us there.”
“Okay, Max.” Wall hung up, and hoped he had done the right thing. With the situation between Wendy and him, he wasn’t sure what her reaction might be. She had come to know Rob and Dana Maxwell as good friends, but often when Wall and Rob got together they became oblivious to everyone around them, leaving the women to wend their way through a series of awkward silences.
Wall was two years older than Rob, but after high school they kept track of each other with letters and phone calls. Their families stayed near central Arkansas, so even while attending colleges a thousand miles apart the two saw each other on major holidays. Hoping to make lots of money while making a difference, one chose to be a doctor while the other wanted to practice law.
Like Wall, Rob veered from his course. His original calling, he felt, was surgery. As a surgeon he would make the most money, and it would be easy to see whether or not he had helped the patient improve. Sometimes he would even hold a patient’s life in his hands.
That last point was what scared him out of it.
Rob searched the medical field for something else he would like to do. Because he wanted something that made as much money as a surgeon, he quickly ran out of options. He decided that maybe money shouldn’t be his motivation, and while talking to Wall one night on the phone, he asked him what he thought. Without hesitation, Wall said, “Forensic medicine. You’d love it, Max.”
“You mean cutting on dead people?”
“If you want to call it that. I’ve been studying about it a lot at the Academy. They do other things, too. Sometimes they’re right in the middle of the action. Hell, one coroner in Little Rock used to go around talking to gangs and try to get them to quit killing each other.”
“I remember that guy. I always thought he was nuts, but I guess it was a way for him to keep those kids from becoming next week’s cases,” Max said.
“Plus, remember how you used to shoot birds and then dissect them to see exactly what the bullet did? Imagine doing that on a grander scale, and without people thinking you’re a freak.”
“Thanks, Wall, so now I know everybody thought I was the freak bird mutilator.”
“Only your closest friends.”
(continue to Part 4)