Legalese

15 Oct

This original story based upon the show-within-a-show “Inspector Spacetime” as it appears on the NBC sitcom “Community” is presented solely for entertainment purposes and no copyright infringement is intended. The title “Inspector Spacetime,” the character of “the Inspector” and the concept behind it are wholly owned by Sony Pictures Studios.

If you wish to repost parts or all of any post from this novella, please included the author’s name, as the plot, characters other than “the Inspector” are copyright 2012 to Ric Walter, the original writer of this story.

Inspiration for this story came from sources such as TV Tropes and various Inspector Spacetime fans posting online in blogs or forums. Again, no copyright infringement is intended and any use of character created by others is used solely for entertainment purposes. Some characters names have been altered to preserve copyrights. Personalities and props otherwise not seen in other online postings are of the author’s creation and are thereby copyright.

 

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Front cover

15 Oct

Title page

15 Oct

Inspector Spacetime:

the Movie

by Ric Walter

an original Inspector Spacetime adventure

based on “Inspector Spacetime

as seen on NBC’s “Community,”

created by Dan Harmon

Chapter 1

15 Oct

Chapter 1

The trip to Zeta Lambda Alpha Tau Alpha had been uneventful.

The Inspector, outfitted in his dashing tweed sport coat, mauve tie and medium-blue slacks, had set the DARSIT on course to return to Kayaclasch from Zeta Lambda Alpha Tau Alpha (or ZLATA for short), where he had been sent by the Infinity Knight High Council to observe the trial of his friend-turned-archenemy, the Sergeant.

The ZLATA Territorial Council had changed the Sergeant with high crimes and misdemeanors, bureaucratic shorthand for: “He tried to subvert ZLATA’s progress as a world of the galaxy, attempted to overthrow the government and endeavored to install himself as Lord High Governor, all of which goes against our beliefs.”

Given the number of ZLATAns who disappeared before a rogue Circuit Chap had arrived and upset the carefully laid plans that the Sergeant had in place, death was the only sentence that the ZLATA Territorial Council would accept. The trial was grand, with the Lord High Governor himself leading the prosecution and interrupting every attempt the Sergeant’s attorney made to prevent damning evidence from being introduced.

Although the Inspector had once been the best of friends with the man, the Sergeant had become the worst of enemies. The fact that the Sergeant had specifically informed the Infinity Knight High Council of his desire that the Inspector not be present spoke of the animosity between them. But, the Inspector agreed with his superiors that his presence was all the more necessary, given what the two Infinity Knights had been through together whether on the same side or opposing each another.

While his planet’s High Council had asked that the Sergeant be returned to Kayaclasch, the ZLATAn government’s punishment left nothing for him to bring back. He felt a bit of regret, given that they had been friends once upon a time, and had hoped to place the fellow Infinity Knight’s remains on their home soil.

The Inspector had settled down in the Observation Deck of the DARSIT. He sat back in his favorite arm chair, looking out the observation window once before picking up his well-worn copy of “The Merrie Wives of Windsor” by William Shakespeare. It was an early copy from one of the first printing presses in England and reading it reminded him of his visit to late-16th-century London, where he had seen the Bard himself perform on the Globe Theatre’s stage.

His reverie was broken when the ship bucked unexpectedly, knocking his teacup off the sideboard next to his chair and causing it to shatter in a pool of brown liquid upon the spic-and-span white-linoleum floor. The Inspector’s eyes flew wide open, stared in shock and clutched at his chest. It was more than the surprise of the DARSIT suddenly bucking like that; he actually felt a jolt through his body.

It took a moment for him to recover from the shock, then he bolted out of the arm chair and dashed to the console a dozen paces or so in front of him.

“What is it, DARSy?” the Inspector asked imploringly as he punched buttons and turned knobs. “What’s happening?”

The viewscreen over the console flickered, making it appear that the timeship were slowing down. The Infinity Knight flipped a couple of switches and pulled another knob, but nothing seemed to change.

“What I wouldn’t do for a sonic crowbar!” the Inspector lamented to no one.

He was alone in the DARSIT for the first time in nearly five years. Usually, Theodora “Dynamo” McRae would be there with a handy riposte to his comment. Alas, he had decided that it was time for her to return to her own time and go back to school … or whatever it was that people in Scotland attended to prepare for careers. Or, Jeffrey Wells would be there to hit the wrong button and make things worse. Poor Jeffrey. The Inspector continued to lament his Associate’s unfortunate encounter with the Blorgons, but there had been nothing he could do to prevent it.

The Inspector sighed loudly, the sound echoing slightly in the otherwise-empty Observation Deck. “What’s a matter, old girl?” he muttered to the ship, which would have read his thoughts before he even spoke.

Finally, the timeship decided to spit up some information and the Inspector frowned immediately upon seeing it. There was a major power drain. He would have to shut the ship down to examine the power cells and figure out what had happened. The only problem was, he couldn’t just shut the DARSIT down in the middle of the time stream.

He pondered his quandary, then activated the ship’s scanner to locate the nearest planet that it would be safe to set down on for a while. He input the coordinates of Meridian IV and activated the ship’s engine.

As he stood there in front of the console, the timeship jerked to the left without warning, sending the Infinity Knight tumbling to the floor. He landed hard on his hands and chest. After a few seconds, he raised his hands, grabbed hold of the console and pulled himself up, only for the DARSIT to jerk to the right and send him sprawling on his back.

“What the bloody heck is
going on?” the Inspector blurted, annoyed, as he got back on his feet.

He approached the console and found that the coordinates for Meridian IV were no long displayed as the destination. Outside the DARSIT, stars rushed past at a dizzying speed. Unconsciously, the Inspector grasped the edge of the console, expecting that at any moment, something bad would happen. It was rare that an Infinity Knight timeship went off course, so he had to be prepared for anything.

A long, agonizing moment later, the ship slowed and a familiar blue-white orb appeared in the viewscreen.

“Earth,” the Inspector said in a bemused tone. “Like a second home.”

The viewscreen blazed reddish-orange as the DARSIT plunged into the planet’s atmosphere, then gave way to deep-blue air of night. A deep blackness loomed below. Another couple of minutes passed before masses of brightness appeared to one side of the darkness; signs of development along the coast of an ocean.

He watched as the mass of lights the DARSIT was approaching resolved beneath them. One of the world’s major cities, with tons of half-lit buildings and more headlights and taillights than he could imagine — and, he’d seen traffic and congestion worlds over.

The time ship slowed significantly as it approached a large white rectangle. The snowy expanse with a large frozen lake in the middle expanded across the viewscreen and finally, there was a jolt as the DARSIT came to a stop.

The Inspector looked across the console just as the lights blinked out. He sighed to himself and watched as the viewscreen went black.

“Blimey,” he muttered under his breath. “Rather literally.”

As the rest of the lights in the ship fizzled out, he opened a small panel in the wall and retrieved a flashlight, which he turned on. It would be a long, dark walk to reach the power cells, but what had to be done had to be done.

* * *

The Infinity Knight fished the laser spanner out of his pocket and zapped the handle on the power cell’s housing to open it, then scanned the cabinet while shining the flashlight across the eerily dark section of the Engine Room.

The flashlight tumbled out of his left hand when a sudden pain bolted up his arm and he gasped for breath.

“Bloody heck! What’s happening to me?” he gasped.

The tingling feeling passed quickly enough and he returned to the task at hand, fishing the flashlight from where it had fallen inside the cabinet. The laser spanner squealed as he passed it across the power cells, large spherical balls that glittered gold in the flashlight’s beam. The Inspector pushed his upper body further into the cabinet’s confining space and focused the light on the spheres. Somewhere in the glittering reflections of the beam, he spotted the problem, micro-fractures on the exterior of the power cells, which could only mean that there were larger cracks inside them.

“Mercy me,” he moaned. “What am I going to do? Poor DARSy! No wonder you bolted like that. I suppose I’ll just have to find new beryllium spheres so I can get you up and running again.”

As he withdrew from the cabinet, he felt a bolt of pain in his back, as if he’d collided with the door to the cabinet. But, he hadn’t. Something was going wrong and he worried it was more than just a matter of fixing his ship, that he himself might need some fixing.

But, the best way of solving his physical problems was to fix his ship. Definitely a major quandary! The ship could scan him and provide appropriate remedies, if only it were working properly.

He sighed again, then rose to his feet. The side of his neck twitched suddenly, but only for a fraction of a second. He ignored that as well. Unfortunately, as he strode urgently toward the main level of the timeship, it dawned on him what was happening. His psychic link to the DARSIT was fraying, as if the ship were trying to disconnect itself from him. And, that wouldn’t be good for him, either!

He hurried as quickly as he could. Once he reached the exterior door, he fiddled briefly with the latch and pushed open the red-framed, transparent-aluminum panel. He stumbled out of the red phone-booth-shaped vessel and onto a patch of snow, a dozen feet from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir which sat near the center of Central Park, New York City.

The Inspector dusted the snow from his hands, slacks and tweed jacket, then straightened himself up as best he could. There were dozens of people skating carefree on the ice of the great pond and a handful of people walked briskly down the path on the other side of the DARSIT. His outfit clearly was out of place in the cold climate of New York City in the winter. He considered returning to get a heavier jacket to better fit in with the locals, but he wasn’t able to make that decision, as the pain that had raced up his arm suddenly shocked his whole body, causing him to collapse in the snow.

While he moaned from the pain, a couple of young people raced over to his side.

“Hey, man. You OK?” a young man dressed in a ratty brown winter jacket.

The Inspector’s eyelids fluttered, but he wasn’t able to focus. He tried to speak, but the grunts that came out were slurred. His body convulsed again.

The young woman, dressed in a bright-pink jacket that seemed to have been wrapped tightly around her and sporting a multicolored scarf coiled around her neck with a matching knit hat on her head, looked worriedly between the fallen man and her boyfriend. “What should we do? He doesn’t look good, Len.”

Len knelt in the snow next to the Inspector’s head, waving a hand in front of the Infinity Knight’s face while holding his head with the other hand. “Dude? Can you hear me?” he asked urgently.

There was no response. The young man looked up at his girlfriend. “Jen, this doesn’t look good. Call 9-1-1.”

Jen dug a gloved hand into an oversized purse dangling from her left arm, pulling out a small cellular phone. She punched three buttons, then one more and put the device to her ear.

“Yeah, we’re in Central Park, near the Reservoir. This guy just collapsed in the snow,” she said quickly. “He doesn’t look good and he’s not responding to anything we say.”

She paused. “Hang on, I’ll check.” She held her gloved hand over the phone. “Can you smell alcohol?”

Len put his bare hands onto the Inspector’s mouth and parted his lips. He sniffed tentatively, then shook his head. “Nope.”

As Jen relayed the information, Len noticed something else that didn’t seem right. Despite the man’s mouth now stuck open and it was below freezing out, there was no mist forming around the man’s mouth.

“I don’t think he’s breathing!” he called suddenly, then reached for the man’s chest, which wasn’t moving. He put his fingers on the left side of the man’s neck. Nothing moved.

“There’s no pulse,” he blurted, suddenly standing bolt upright and staggered backwards away from the body. “He’s … he’s dead!” He stared in shock, then felt the need to repeat himself. “Jen, he’s dead!”

Jen looked down at the body and stepped back. Into the phone she said, “You’d better get the cops here. He’s dead.”

 

Chapter 2

15 Oct

Chapter 2

Three police squad cars converged on them and the incongruous British phone booth that sat near the frozen Reservoir’s edge. Dozens upon dozens of people gathered as the policemen pushed back to form a perimeter around the scene.

Len and Jen stood at the edge of the cordon, talking numbly to a police officer. There was little that they knew.

“You come this way often?” the mustachioed officer asked pointblank, his New York accent drawling out the words.

Jen and Len exchanged looks before looking back at the cop.

“Yeah,” Jen offered.

“We walk through here between work and our apartment building,” Len added.

“Where’s work?”

“Pennington Solutions, North 10th Avenue,” the young man said quickly.

“And, where you live?” the cop demanded.

“East 94th Street,” Jen said nervously.

“So, you walk through here frequently, then?” the policeman asked.

“Uh, yeah,” Len blurted, somewhat annoyed by being asked the same question twice.

The cop frowned at him. “Listen, buddy, I don’t need the attitude. You may be able to get away with that at the coffee shop, but this here is serious business here. Want me to haul you downtown?”

Len appeared sheepish. “No, sir.”

The policeman didn’t seem to buy it, but decided not to press the issue. “So, you two was walking along here and came upon this phone box? Ever seen that before?”

“No,” Len and Jen answered in unison.

“So, it was just here?” the officer said incredulously.

The couple looked each other in the eyes before turning back to their interrogator. “Yeah,” Len said, then pointed at the booth. “If it was here before, why doesn’t it have any snow on it?”

The officer was taken aback and turned around to look the box over, but quickly turned back, his eyes burning. “Listen, buddy, I’ll ask the questions here. Got it?”

“Uh, yeah,” Len muttered quietly, abashed by the bluntness of the statement.

The cop eyed him long and hard, then relented to resume his interrogation. “So, the two of you was just walking when this box appeared and that man came outta it?”

Jen shrugged her shoulders. “We didn’t see the box appear; we saw the guy stumble and came over to help him.”

“So, he stumbles and you rush over to him, then what?”

“He fell to the ground,” Len said blankly. “He was on the ground, dead.”

“He was dead?” the policeman repeated.

“Yeah,” Len said numbly. “He was just … I dunno, dead.”

“Did he say anything before he fell down?”

Jen piped up. “We weren’t that close, but I thought I heard something.”

“What was it?”

“I don’t know,” the young woman said irritably. “It wasn’t clear. I don’t know, maybe he was speaking Russian or something.”

“Russian, huh?” the officer scribbled a note into his pad. “And, you’re sure you never seen him before?”

“Yeah,” Jen replied, reaching out to take hold of Len’s arm. He seemed to have gone quiet suddenly. “Anything else?”

The cop looked across the open space his fellow officers had cleared and nodded at one of them before looking back at the young woman. “Don’t go nowhere. We might have more questions.”

Jen nodded defeatedly. “It’s awfully cold out. Can’t we go somewhere warm?”

“We’ll put you in one of the squads,” the cop said idly. “Might be a while anyhow.”

* * *

The ambulance arrived and the paramedics, coordinating with the police, let them take photographs of the body before lifting it onto a gurney and wheeling it back to the emergency vehicle, its lights flashing red and white back and forth across the snow-covered scene. After the paramedics slid the gurney into the back of the ambulance, they slammed the doors shut, got inside the cab and activated its siren. Slowly, the flashing lights retreated with the vehicle.

The ambulance crawled down the pedestrian path until it got to 85th Street, then took off at a rapid clip, hurtling eastbound around dozens of cars and setting off a chorus of car horns.

After turning south on Park Avenue, the ambulance turned at East 77th Street and pulled into a driveway along the towering gray-concrete building, Lenox Hill Hospital. The driver pulled the vehicle into the receiving bay, where a nurse had appeared. The driver and fellow paramedic got out of the ambulance, the driver opening both doors on the vehicle’s rear.

The statuesque brunette clutched a clipboard with both hands as she approached the ambulance. “The stiff from Central Park?”

“Yeah,” the driver replied with a come-hither look toward her. “Lucky bastard.”

“Louie!” she scolded him. “I’ve told you before, I have a boyfriend.”

The driver made kissing noises in her direction. “’Course you do. You get plenty of stiffies, don’t you?”

Chastity Galloway playfully punched him in the shoulder and Louie mock-cringed, holding his shoulder as if he were actually hurt.

“Hey, honey,” he said in a mocking tone.

“Don’t ‘hey, honey’ me, Louie,” Chastity replied. “Does you wife know you do this?”

“Know about it? She encourages it!” Louie scoffed. “Best broad I ever nailed. Glad I hooked her.”

“Really, Louie? ‘Broad’?” Chastity said in mock-reproach. “She must not know what she’s missing.”

Louie laughed a little louder than necessary. “I keep tellin’ ’er that, but she don’t seem to believe it.”

The driver helped his fellow paramedic lift the gurney out of the back of the ambulance. “You’re new boyfriend, honey?” he mocked as they rolled the sheet-covered body into the building.

“Just leave him there,” Chastity directed, pointing toward the wall opposite the doors that slid apart upon their approach.

“’Kay, boss,” Louie said with mock respect.

Chastity waited until the two men had pushed the gurney up against the corridor wall. “Okay, you two! Now, get outta here!”

“Plenty more where that came from,” Louie said offhandedly.

“I know,” she replied. “It’s New Year’s Eve, after all. Never a shortage of bodies on nights like this!”

Louie made kissing noise in her direction again. “You keep it up, Sweet-Tits!”

Chastity reflexively pulled the clipboard up across her chest, trying to hide her overly large breasts and only managing to squeeze them so that they spilled out over the sides of the clipboard. “Louie!” she groaned as the glass doors swished open and the two men left.

She blushed nonetheless, then shook her head in wonder. He did that all the time and she wondered whether he actually expected that routine to work on her. Or any woman for that matter. She forced the thought aside as she came to a halt next to the gurney that they’d just brought in. She’d simply written “Doe, John” on the top of the form, since the cops hadn’t found any identification on the body before they allowed Louie and Jorge to remove it from the scene.

Chastity lifted the sheet and looked down upon the handsome, slightly bloated face. There were a few streaks of gray in his hair, but it didn’t diminish the beauty she saw there. She smiled sadly and replaced the sheet. It was the worst part of her job, seeing people who seemed to be otherwise healthy, struck down in midlife.

She strode down the hall and around the corner, down another hallway and turned to an open door, which she knocked on.

A youngish middle-aged man with a mop of black hair, an angular nose and intense brown eyes beneath bushy black eyebrows turned to face her, from across the room. He stood at a stainless-steel laboratory table.

“Yes, Chastity!” he said brightly. “How may I be of service, m’lady?”

She smiled slyly at him. “Another case, Dan.”

Another case?” he replied a little forlornly. “Did you just give me a case like an hour ago?”

Chastity schooled her face to look prim and proper, then nodded solemnly.

The mortician sidled over to her side and she tipped the clipboard forward, showing off her ample breasts. “Very important, I see!” he said lightly.

“The most important,” she flirted.

Dan pulled the clipboard from her hands, while staring at her chest, but then looked up, appearing quite serious. “Anyhow, Nurse Galloway,” he preambled, “it would be more appropriate if you addressed me as ‘Doctor’ while we’re at work.”

Chastity fluttered her eyelashes at him. “Anything you say, Doctor Duffy,” she replied smoothly.

He looked her over once more, then looked at the clipboard.

“John Doe?” he asked as he walked toward the door. “Don’t we have a better name for people like this? Something like, ‘Dead Fred’ or something?”

Galloway followed her boss — and boyfriend — out the door and into the corridor.

“Let’s get him onto the table and set up for the autopsy,” Duffy ordered.

“Yes, Doctor,” Chastity replied evenly, masking her amusement at his insistence at using his title, even though everyone in the department knew about them.

Their paths diverged, Chastity returning to get the gurney and Duffy off into the autopsy room. Moments later, Chastity rolled the gurney into the room and helped Dan, now having donned a surgical mask, move the body onto the cold metal tabletop. Once the body was settled into its proper place, the nurse excused herself and the mortician busied himself gathering tools. He piled one too many into his arms and a bone saw tumbled to the floor. After carefully depositing the other tools, Duffy returned to pick up the bone saw. With his back turned, he couldn’t see the movement on the table behind him.

It was slight. A fidget of a finger, but it was enough to see that the body had moved. When Dan turned back, he casually placed the bone saw on the Inspector’s abdomen, reaching across to put the saw’s plug into the outlet, then reached up for the microphone. He pressed the button on its side.

“This is Doctor Dan Duffy, doing the autopsy on a …” He riffled through the pages on the clipboard. “John Doe, deceased. Time is …” He spun around to look at the clock. “22:19 on the 31st of December 1999.”

Duffy did a quick examination of the body, feeling nothing but cold skin.

“No external signs of injury,” he said aloud. “I’ll have to open him up to determine cause of death.”

The doctor activated the bone saw with a grating whir. “Starting with a cut to the sternum,” he said to the microphone.

The doctor lowered the saw into place, beginning to cut through the skin, when the Inspector’s eyes flew open. Duffy yelped in surprise, throwing the bone saw into the air. It crashed to the floor on the other side of the table, while he slipped and fell to the ground with a grunt.

It took him a moment to recover, then got to his knees and peered slowly over the edge of the table. The Inspector’s head turned and his gray eyes looked upon the mortician. Dan Duffy fell back and scuttled away from the apparently not-dead body. “What the —?” he blurted.

It took another long moment, but he got to his feet and approached the table. The man’s head moved to follow him.

“You’re not dead!” Duffy said accusingly.

The Inspector worked his mouth, jaw and finally his vocal cords. “Not yet,” he said, his English accent obvious.

“You’re … you’re not from around here,” Duffy said, pulling his surgical mask away from his face.

The Inspector looked up at him, incredulous. “No, I’m not.”

Duffy looked at him in confusion. “But, I checked you. No pulse, no breath. You were dead.”

The Inspector’s lips turned up slightly in amusement. “I have no heart and don’t need to breathe.”

Dan stared, shocked.

“I know, a little much to handle,” the Infinity Knight said knowingly. “Especially since you thought I was dead.”

Duffy nodded nervously, but his mind was whirling with questions. “No heart? No lungs?” he asked, disoriented.

“No, no, I have lungs, I just don’t have to breath,” the man on the table responded. “Well, I do when I need to regulate my body temperature. Speaking of which, I’m cold!”

The Inspector’s body suddenly spasmed and he groaned in pain. Duffy jumped back, scared. The Infinity Knight settled down and gulped large breaths of air. He was clearly in agony.

Not used to working on live patients, Duffy stood at a distance, waiting to see what was going to happen next.

The Inspector grimaced at him. “I’m dying!” he blurted tersely.

Dan looked wide-eyed at him. “I can see that,” he said dumbly.

“Help … me!”

Duffy was still staring anxiously at the dying man. “How?” he demanded.

“Must …” the Inspector muttered between gritted teeth, “get … back.”

The mortician seemed to overcome his fear and stepped back to the table. “Get back? Back where?”

“DARSy,” the Inspector whispered, then went slack, falling back onto the table.

* * *

At that exact same moment, in snow-covered Central Park, a light came to life inside the DARSIT. At first, just a slight glow, it rapidly grew into an intensely blazing light that made it impossible to look at the ship. The light grew and grew, first enveloping the area around the Reservoir, then the entire park, turning everything into pure white light. The light blazed so brightly, it blotted out all other lights in the New York City metropolitan area as seen from space.

In an instant, the light disappeared, leaving the city in near darkness, the streetlights having shut off because of the intense light. And, the DARSIT sat there, darker than it had been before, a silent monument that would be ignored.

* * *

Chastity rushed into the room, harried. “What’s going on, Dan? What’s all the commotion?”

Duffy looked from the now-inert body to the nurse, appearing unnerved. “I … uh …” He paused and ran a hand through his hair. “He wasn’t quite dead. Now he is.”

Galloway looked uncomprehendingly at him. “He … what?”

Dan wiped his now moist hands on his surgical scrubs, then flung his hands out wildly. “He … he just died … again.”

Chastity frowned, not quite getting it. “But, he was dead when they brought him in.”

“Apparently not,” Duffy replied flatly. “Anyhow, he’s dead, done, gone.”

It was apparent that he was still ruffled by the incident, but tried to make it look like everything was fine. “Look, I have to get this autopsy done. I’ll call you if I need anything else,” he said earnestly.

The nurse gave him a reproving look, but he just turned his back on her and stepped back to the table. She opened her mouth to ask something, but decided against it as he replaced his surgical mask and picked up the bone saw, activating it again.  She stood there for just a moment longer, then left.

Duffy turned off the saw and set it down. He wanted to make sure that the man on the table was, in fact, dead, before he tried cutting into him again. He lifted the arms and let them drop to the tabletop, then turned the man’s head. Finally, he carefully parted each set of eyelids. The gray eyes looked dead to him. He still felt wary, considering what had happened, but he decided to get on with the job anyhow.

“Okay, resuming cutting into the sternum,” he said absent-mindedly as he picked up the bone saw.

Before he could turn the tool back on, the Inspector’s eyes fluttered open again and a hand reached out and grabbed the mortician’s nearest wrist. Duffy’s immediate reaction was to pull his arm away, but the grip was too strong.

The doctor dropped the saw and used his other hand to pull at the hand that held him tight. Suddenly, there was an eerie red glow where the hand met his wrist and he felt his strength leaving him. He lowered himself to the floor, not realizing that both the man he was supposed to be autopsying and he himself were transforming. The Infinity Knight’s face rippled with red energy. Duffy’s body began to flesh out while the other man’s body shrunk. The old man’s grayish-brown hair thickened and turned black, while the mortician’s turned gray. The other man’s strong chin narrowed while his expanded.

The only thing he was aware of was the sapping of his energy and a gradual increase in pain. His irises paled to gray and he released a breath he wasn’t aware he was holding. He looked up and saw the face he was accustomed to seeing in the mirror, but it wasn’t a reflection, it was his own body, then he collapsed onto the tiled floor.

After a moment, the Inspector sat up on the metal table, cocked his head to one side, then the other to stretch his new neck. Then, he stretched his arms above his head and took a deep breath. Satisfied, he looked around the room, then down below the table on which he was situated. The body he had been so used to lay in a heap below him, the surgical scrubs on it stretched to the point of breaking. Something had gone wrong with the reincarnation.

He tried to recall what was happening, when he sensed something that he had never sensed before: a thumping in his chest. He placed his new, younger hands upon the left side of his chest. Thump-thump. There was a pause and it repeated. Thump-thump. He waited for it another time, just to confirm. After he felt it again, he smiled lopsidedly. He had a heart. It was an odd feeling, but somehow it felt right.

After a moment, he became aware of his voluminous clothing and hurriedly got the ill-fitting clothes off his old body and slipped into them. After rushing to re-dress his old body, he struggled to get it back onto the table before the nurse reappeared.

“Doctor?” Chastity asked uncertainly.

“Huh?” the Inspector said in a nasally voice with an American accent, spinning around to face her.

“Is something wrong?”

The Infinity Knight was suddenly flustered, but did his best to cover it up. “No! Why would you think that, Nurse?”

Galloway stepped further inside the room and looked appraisingly at him, a little disturbed by his sudden formality, despite their earlier talk. “You seem a little disheveled. What were you doing?”

“Oh, you know,” the Inspector replied aimlessly, desperately trying to straighten his scrubs. “Just doing … my job.”

Chastity looked dubious, then looked past the Inspector and saw that the body was in a much different position than it had been before. Fearing the worst, she bluntly asked, “Dan, exactly what were you doing with that body?”

The Infinity Knight quickly looked at his old body and back to Galloway, then decided if he had any chance of getting out of the situation, he’d have to divulge the truth. Hopefully, she would trust him enough to believe him. He walked right up to her, stopping less than a foot away.

He bent his head down so he could whisper directly into her ear. “Listen, something happened shouldn’t have …”

She pulled back, appalled. “I thought I knew you!” she said accusingly.

“No, no!” he said defensively. “It’s not what you think.” He paused, then it dawned on him what she thought he meant. “Oh, no! It’s not like that!” He pointed urgently at the body. “I didn’t … I mean …”

Chastity narrowed her eyes at him and slapped him. “You disgust me! To think that I was sleeping with a necrophiliac! And a gay one at that!”

The Inspector rubbed the cheek she’d slapped. “No, it isn’t like that,” he said desperately. “And, I’m not who you think I am.”

“Darned straight, you aren’t!” she rebutted, then turned to storm out.

He grabbed her arm and stopped her. She tried to fight him, then gave up and looked back at him. “What’s happened to you, Dan? What’s going on?”

The Inspector looked sheepishly toward her and released her arm. “I’m the Inspector,” he said earnestly. “I’m from the planet Kayaclasch. My ship, the DARSIT, landed here on Earth because of damage it suffered to its beryllium spheres. I’m just trying to find replacements, so I can go on about my life.”

Chastity looked at him blankly for a moment, then burst out laughing, quickly covering her mouth with her right hand. Once the laughing fit had passed, she looked at him, trying to appraise him. Finally, she shook her head.

“That is the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard!” she declared pompously.

The Inspector’s face fell and she saw it happen.

“You’re serious?” she asked disbelievingly.

He shrugged and nodded awkwardly. “Yeah.”

“But, if you’re this … this ‘Inspector,’ what happened to Dan?” she demanded.

The Infinity Knight turned his head toward the body on the table. “Something happened when I took hold of his arm. I became him; he became me. It shouldn’t happen that way.”

Chastity was still unable to comprehend it. She shook her head again. “No,” she declared. “This is all just one of your jokes, Dan. People don’t just turn into other people. That’s science fiction!”

The Inspector looked saddened by the statement. If only she knew. If only he could tell her the truth. Or, better yet, show her. But, he knew he couldn’t. Besides, he had a mission to accomplish: getting new beryllium spheres.

Suddenly, he threw his head back and laughed loudly and awkwardly. Chastity, still uneasy about what she had just witnessed, stared at him in surprise.

“Okay, you got me,” he said, once the moment ended, and he stared at her. “It was all a joke. None of that is true. You know me, I’m always joking around!” He spread his arms out, hands up as if he were carrying a giant, invisible globe in them.

“What’s really going on?” she demanded suddenly.

The Inspector shrugged his shoulders and let his arms drop to his sides. “I tell you what,” he said with confidence he didn’t really feel. “Why don’t we talk it over later … say, over breakfast?”

Their eyes met again. She suddenly forgot what was bothering her and smiled. “Sure,” she said meekly.

“Seven o’clock?”

“Yeah,” she said agreeably.

“Okay, see you at seven!” the Inspector said eagerly.

“Seven,” she repeated, smiling and backing out of the room.

Once she’d left the room, the Inspector straightened up his old body, now occupied by the late Doctor Dan Duffy. He glanced, a little disturbed, at the mountain of tools that the man had planned to use on him. He simply grabbed the white sheet that lay on the gurney and covered the body, ignoring the fact that the microphone was still recording.

He sneaked to the door, looked around the corner, not seeing anyone. So, he walked quickly down the hall to his right. He came to an intersection and turned left, hurrying. Without warning, a young black woman in a nurse’s uniform appeared from a doorway.

“Doctor Duffy? Is something wrong?” she asked.

The Inspector grinned easily at her. “No, just going for a spot of tea,” he said as he continued past her. “Carry on!”

The woman watched him, surprised by his breeziness, but decided that people could change and headed back down the hallway from which he came.

 

Chapter 3

15 Oct

Chapter 3

The Inspector had made enough wrong turns trying to find a way out of the building that he was certain he’d seen the entire first floor of the hospital. He’d had to duck out of the way of various nurses, doctors and orderlies, as well as a few patients, and their friends and family, that were in the facility so late at night.

Somehow, something in the back of his mind led him along one hallway that ended in a locked door with a small box with a tiny red light that was all the more brighter because of the darkness. At first, he tried for force his way out, but the door didn’t budge. After a moment, he realized that there was a plastic card clipped to the front of his scrubs. He pulled at the card, but it was firmly attached to the shirt, and it snapped back against his chest when he released it.

“Ow-oh!” he yelped in reaction. “What the heck is wrong with this thing?”

He fussed around with the card, examining the clip and realizing that all he had to do was depress one end of the clip and the card came off. He placed the card in the slot and left it there and the light remained red, but he tried twisting the knob and pushing at the same time, managing to bang his head against the door instead of opening it.

“OW!” he cried.

He immediately wished he had his sonic crowbar again, or even his laser spanner. His most-recent choice of tools had been in his jacket pocket before he collapsed outside the DARSIT. He knew it wasn’t on him in his current outfit.

“Doctor?” came a female voice behind him.

The Infinity Knight stood bolt upright, shocked by his discovery.

“Doctor, is something the matter?” the woman asked, getting closer.

He was still facing the door and decided to place his hand on his head near where he’d hit it on the door. Just as the dark-skinned nurse came to a stop behind him, he spun around too quickly, causing the woman to jump back and fall to the floor. The Inspector’s eyes widened in surprise, seeing that he’d caused her to fall. He moved to help her to her feet, but stumbled over his own feet and collapsed on top of her.

“Sorry, sorry,” he muttered, embarrassed, as he rolled to one side off of her.

The nurse herself seemed embarrassed by the situation, rolling to the other side before sitting up and looking at him. He had turned to face her, as well.

“I’m sorry …?” he offered awkwardly.

“Diana,” she said sheepishly.

“Diana,” he repeated, nodding his head.

After looking at each other for a moment too long, Diana looked away and reached for the wall to get to her feet. The Inspector pushed himself up to his knees and then got to his feet as well. “Sorry for scaring you like that,” he said limply.

Diana straightened her uniform before looking at him again. “I was … coming to see what was wrong. I heard you shout out,” she said demurely.

The Infinity Knight looked at her, then at the door, finally to the plastic card that balanced delicately in the card reader. “Uh … I was … trying to go outside,” he said without conviction and paused. “Fresh air! I needed some fresh air!” he said, suddenly triumphant.

“Fresh air,” the nurse agreed.

“I was — I was having some trouble with the door. I put my card in and it didn’t unlock,” he babbled.

Diana narrowed her eyes. Doctor Duffy had been with the hospital since before she started ten years ago. This security system was there then, too. But, at the same time, being in charge of autopsies sometimes got to people’s heads in strange ways, she knew. Maybe he’d snapped and somehow forgot how to use the security card. “Did you make sure the magnetic strip was facing down?” she asked innocently.

Only then did she see the card sticking out of the reader. That wasn’t right. Doctors knew better than to leave their cards like that. She walked over a picked it up, holding it in his direction.

“Are you sure you all right, Doctor?”

The Inspector quickly put his hand up to his head. “Sorry, bumped my head.”

“Maybe you outta go to the ER, let Doctor Daniels take a look at you?” she suggested.

He snatched the card from her. “No need. I’m fine. Better than I’ve been in centuries.” He stopped talking when the nurse frown weirdly at him. “Years … I meant, better than I’ve been in years.”

“Doctor Duffy, I think you might want to visit the Psych Ward before you go anywhere else,” she said, crossing her arms across her narrow chest.

“Why would I want to visit the Psych Ward?” he wondered aloud, eying her. “I work in the Mortuary.”

Diana continued looking directly at him.

“Oh,” he said, laughing slightly. “You think I’m daft, don’t you? Loony? I swear to you, nothing could be further from the truth. Just need to get a good breath of fresh air to clear my head and I’ll be fine.”

Diana’s frown deepened. “I could report you to Doctor Warren,” she said seriously.

Realizing that he would have little choice, the Inspector shrugged and acquiesced. “Okay, okay, I’ll go.”

They stood there longer than Diana thought was appropriate. “North Wing, Twelfth Floor?”

“What?” he said, startled.

“Psych Ward’s in the North Wing, on the Twelfth Floor, in case you’ve forgotten,” she said flatly.

The Infinity Knight’s mouth dropped open slightly. Once he’d realized that that had happened, he closed his mouth before speaking. “I know where the Psych Ward is,” he said glumly.

“Then, what you standing here for?” Diana inquired.

The Inspector lowered his head. “No reason,” he muttered quietly and walked up the hall in the direction from which Diana had come.

She coughed politely; he turned around. “North Wing,” she repeated, pointing in the direction perpendicular to the hall in which she stood.

“Oh, that North Wing,” he said as if he’d just discovered which direction he’d been headed in was wrong. He strode back up to her, looked her in the eyes and spun around, walking down that hallway instead. He’d crossed half the hall when he decided to look back. She was still standing there, arms across her chest and a reproaching look on her face. “Going!” he informed her, throwing his hands up in the air, and continued walking.

After walking pass a waiting room where a large television screen showed the festivities surrounding the start of the New Year, he reached a point where the hall T-ed off in two directions. He turned right and disappeared around the corner. He came to a stop several feet down the hallway and waited for a minute. Once he’d crept back to the corner and peered around, he found the hallway empty again. He waited another moment before returning to the door that he’d been trying to exit.

The Inspector looked closely at the plastic card, found a wide, black line on one side. The nurse, Diana, had said something about it being face-down, so he made sure to put that side down and stuck it into the card reader again. He grabbed the door handle again, but it didn’t turn. He reached out to bang his open palm against the door, but suddenly realized the noise would draw attention, which he didn’t want. He pulled the card out, put it in again, but nothing happened. The red light was still there, steadily staring back at him.

“What are you supposed to do anyhow?” the Inspector murmured quietly to the machine.

A thought struck him and his eyes lit up. He decided to push the card laterally through the slot and to his surprise, the red light went out and a green light lit up and there was a click at the door. He turned the knob and the door opened for him.

He walked out, smiling dumbly at his sudden stroke of genius. Although he didn’t realize it, the security card tumbled to the snow pack along the sidewalk.

As soon as he was out the door, the intense cold attacked him. He quickly pulled his arms against his chest and shivered. The wind cut through the thin layer of clothing on his body, which shocked and surprised him, since he’d never been affected by the cold … or the heat, for that matter.

He hurriedly shuffled back to the door and yanked on the door handle, only for it to hold solidly to the building. He, on the other hand, tumbled into the snow, only making matters worse because he was now both cold and wet. He jumped to his feet, walking hurriedly in a circle, trying to figure out what to do. He clearly wouldn’t survive long in these conditions.

Once he stopped and looked at the door, then along the door frame and spotted a small black box with a tiny red light on its top staring at him. He frisked himself, thinking the card was still on his scrubs. It wasn’t. He harriedly scoured the area around the door. Finally, a black line stood out among the snow and cigarette butts. He seized the ice-cold plastic card along with a handful of snow, which he quickly shook away and shook his hand, thinking it would dry out and warm up.

The Infinity Knight fumbled with the card, trying to get it through the reader, which didn’t respond the first time he forced the card through. The second time, the green light appeared and he hauled open the door as quickly as he could and burst inside the hospital, panting to get warm air inside his lungs.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, one of Dan Duffy’s memory stirred. A memory of a room where the hospital employees stored their street clothes and he found himself walking down the corridor toward the loading dock. Across the hall, he opened another door with his card and peered around the door. It was empty, so he shuffled inside and quickly pulled off his wet clothing, unceremoniously dumping them on the floor as he walked.

The Inspector rapidly opened a number of lockers and sifted through the clothing they contained. He settled on a nicely pressed white dress shirt, tan khakis and an argyle sweater-vest, then grabbed a puffy, midnight-blue winter jacket and shrugged into it. Doctor Duffy’s wingtips already fit him, so he didn’t bother looking for new footwear.

He heard a click near the door and ran through a archway nearby, from where he watched a security officer step inside, holding the door open while he scanned the room. The mess the Inspector had left drew the man’s attention. He let the door close behind him.

“Someone there?” the dark-skinned guard called out.

The Infinity Knight pulled out of sight and tried to remove the jacket silently, so he could move about more quietly. Unfortunately for him, the jacket didn’t allow him. First, the zipper made a louder-than-expected noise when he undid it, then the jacket itself rustled loudly.

He was sitting on the floor inside the alcove when the security guard rounded the doorway and pointed a gun at him. The man’s face betrayed his surprise upon seeing what he saw.

“Doctor Duffy?” the guard uttered. “What are you doing …?”

His words stopped as he fully took in the scene. The mortician, on the floor, with a large, blue-nearly-black puffy jacket partially hanging on him. The ill-fitting argyle sweater the man wore. The loose-fitting tan slacks on his legs.

“What’s going on? Isn’t that Doctor Chase’s sweater? Doctor Norris’ jacket? And, Doctor Wei’s pants?” the guard listed the clothing he recognized. “What are you doing, Doctor Duffy?”

The Inspector could only look up in fear. He had no way of explaining why he was wearing other people’s clothing. “I seem to have forgotten my clothing at home,” he offered with a knowing look.

The guard, who wore a name tag that bore the name “Jerome Wallace,” frowned down at him. “Don’t go anywhere, Doc.”

The security officer walked out of the alcove and the Infinity Knight fought with the jacket, which still didn’t want to come off. While he battled the jacket, there was a clink and the sound of a hinge moving from the main part of the locker room. The Infinity Knight jumped to his feet and ran into the main room, coming to a sudden stop and nearly toppling over himself.

Wallace stood there, next to one of the lockers the Inspector had not opened. Inside it was a medium-blue dress shirt, black khakis, a fish-themed novelty tie and a black-leather jacket. The man’s dark-brown eyes bored into the Inspector’s.

“Forgot all this at home, Doc?”

The Infinity Knight stared in sudden horror. He’d been caught in the lie. But, how was he supposed to know which locker was his? Well, which was the late Doctor Duffy’s?

“You are a sick, sick man, Doctor Duffy,” Jerome said dogmatically. “Putting on other people’s clothing when they’re at work. How long’s this been going on?”

The Inspector tried laughing to break the tension, but Wallace was having none of it. Seeing that the man only frowned harder, he stopped. “First time,” the Infinity Knight mumbled awkwardly. “Never done this before. I swear!”

But, even in his own ears, the words sounded hollow.

“Never, huh?” Jerome replied dubiously.

“Never!” the Inspector blurted out, hoping it sounded innocent.

Just then, the radio attached to his shoulder squawked and a tinny male voice issued from it. “Wallace?”

He stared the Inspector down before saying, “This time, don’t move a muscle, okay?”

The Infinity Knight nodded vigorously. “Not a problem, not a problem at all,” he said quickly.

Jerome doubted him, but took a step back and turned to one side before pressing a button on the microphone. “This is Wallace. Go ahead.”

“Just got a call from the nursing station on One,” the tinny voice explained. “Nurse Bowman said she’d ordered Doctor Duffy to the Psych Ward, called up there and they said he hadn’t shown.”

Wallace hesitated for only a second. “I got him down here on One, in the physicians’ locker room,” he replied. “Found him wearing clothes that belong to other staff members.”

Upon hearing this, the Inspector looked all around him. He had to do something, otherwise he was likely to end up in custody somewhere and never be able to get the beryllium spheres, take them back to the DARSIT and repair his ship.

“Take him into custody and bring him up here,” the voice from the radio ordered.

“Right,” Jerome replied. “Wallace out.”

As he turned to face the man he knew as Doctor Duffy, he threw out his arms and surprise registered on his face as the Infinity Knight lunged at him. The Inspector got his hands around the guard’s neck and squeezed as hard as he could, thinking it would disable the man.

But, Wallace wasn’t affected by the attack. He grabbed the other man’s arms and pushed him back.

What are you doing?” Jerome demanded.

Surprised that his surprise attack had been stopped, the Inspector looked wide-eyed at the guard. “Just … trying to … pinch the nerve in your neck,” he offered lamely.

Jerome narrowed his eyes. “Like Mister Spock and his Vulcan nerve pinch?” He shook his head. “That’s all science fiction, Doc! That doesn’t actually do anything to anyone.”

Defeated, the Infinity Knight relaxed his muscles. “Okay,” he muttered glumly.

“Davis wants to see you top-side, so are you going to cooperate with me now?” the guard demanded.

“Yeah,” the Inspector said defeatedly. “No more fighting. I give up.”

“They’re probably have your job for this, Duffy,” the guard said nonchalantly.

It was at that moment, that he realized that Wallace’s holstered his gun was close enough to grab. He pushed himself against the guard and reached down toward the belt.

Stop what you doing!” Jerome demanded, trying to push the mortician away from him.

The Inspector’s hands scrabbled around the other man’s hip, finally reaching the holster. Wallace wasn’t exactly thinking about the gun while the mortician’s hands were feeling around his pants. Finally, the gun was within reach, only as soon as his fingers wrapped around it, Wallace pushed him again, hard. The Inspector’s finger was on the trigger, causing the gun to discharge and both men to jump away from each other. With the motion, the gun bounced to the floor between them.

Wallace and the Inspector both looked at the gun at the same time, then looked each other in the eye. It was going to be, whoever could reach the gun first. Even though Wallace seemed well-muscled and the Inspector’s new body lean, the Infinity Knight thought he could move faster.

Both men lunged for the weapon and their hands collided.

“Sorry, sorry,” the Inspector bleated.

The guard seemed to have the upper hand. Only, the Inspector’s hand ended up between Wallace’s hand and the gun. A struggled ensued, but the Infinity Knight managed to pull away with the weapon, which he smiled delightedly at. After a moment of celebration, he remembered why he’d been after the gun in the first place, pointing it at the guard.

“Well, well, well,” the Infinity Knight uttered, sounding holier-than-thou. “Now that I’ve got the gun, the shoe’s on the other foot, isn’t it?”

“Doc,” Wallace pleaded. “There’s no need for this. I won’t say anything. I promise.”

“Just turn around,” the mortician’s voice said.

“What, you just gonna shoot me and think you can get away with it?” Jerome suddenly demanded.

“No, I don’t,” the Inspector said softly, then his voice hardened. “I said, turn around!

Reluctantly, the guard did as he was asked. The Inspector looked down at the gun and decided on a better use for it, flipping the weapon over in his hand so that he held it by the barrel. He quickly swiped his arm out, the grip of the gun connecting solidly with the guard’s head and Wallace collapsed into a heap.

“Why do guards at a hospital have guns, anyhow?” the Inspector wondered aloud, discarding the weapon across the locker room; it rattled a distance away before all was quiet. He zipped the puffy winter jacket up.

“Time to move on,” he decided.

He open the door a crack and looked out, not seeing anyone, he sneaked out of the locker room and rushed to the door out of which he’d gone earlier. He pulled Duffy’s security card from his pants pocket and slid it through quickly. The door unlocked and he disappeared into the night outside the hospital.

 

Chapter 4

15 Oct

Chapter 4

A short while later, Chastity walked down the hall toward the nursing station. To her surprise, there were two New York City police officers standing in front of the counter, one with a notepad and pen asking questions. The other man stood a few steps back, watching as his partner questioned a dark-skinned woman in a nurse’s uniform.

“So, he was trying to exit the building using his security card, but didn’t know how to work the card reader, is that right?” the mustachioed middle-aged man who seemed to have had one too many doughnuts in his life.

“Yeah,” Diana Bowman agreed. “It was like he’d just forgot how to use it.”

“And, he banged his head against the door when he tried to open it?”

“Yep,” the nurse said, nodding her head. “There was definitely something wrong with him.”

“What did you do with him?”

Diana looked pensive for a brief second. “I asked him if he was all right, then told him to go to the Psych Ward up on Twelve in the North Wing.”

“Did he go?”

“I watched him go to the North Wing, but I had to get back to my rounds,” Diana said earnestly.

“But your security chief said he was found in a locker room not far from the door he’d tried to exit earlier. How do you explain that?”

Bowman shrugged her shoulders exaggeratedly. “I guess he didn’t get on the elevator like I thought he did.”

Chastity strode right up to them, interrupting the interview. “What’s going on, Diana?”

The cops looked at her, slightly annoyed. The one conducting the interview cut off the other nurse before she could start. “You know Dan Duffy?”

Chastity balked. “Well, yes, I work closely with him.”

“And you are?”

“Nurse Chastity Galloway,” she replied evenly.

“Nurse Galloway,” the policeman started, looking down on her ample chest, “were you working with Doctor Duffy tonight?”

Chastity had to fight against blushing. “Yes.”

“Notice anything unusual about him or his behavior tonight?”

Galloway had to think back, but she didn’t have any distinct impressions about what had happened earlier, other than Dan asking her to breakfast, not all that unusual an event for them. “No.”

“How long have you worked with Doctor Duffy?”

“About four years,” Chastity said blandly.

“In all that time, has he ever acted … how shall I put this … inappropriately toward you?”

The cop wasn’t looking her in the eyes and she knew what he meant. “Not at all!” she blurted, suddenly pulling the clipboard in her hands across her chest, which only pushed her breasts out over the sides of the clipboard.

“Okay,” the police officer said offhandedly. “Know of him to have any problems with any of your co-workers?”

She paused. “Dan got along pretty well with most of the staff. But, being a mortician makes him a little odd, so many people just avoid him.”

“Odd? Odd how?” This from the slim officer who had been standing at a distance up to this point.

“You know, strange sense of humor, jokes that are a little sideways. He’s just a character,” Galloway said.

“Never been violent towards anyone, as far as you know?” the older cop asked flatly.

Chastity shook her head slowly, not understanding where this line of questioning was coming from. “No, not at all. He’s not a violent man, sir,” she replied with faltering conviction.

The two officers exchanged glances, apparently communicating without words. The senior officer nodded and turned to face both nurses. “Listen, don’t go nowhere. We’ll probably need to ask you two more questions later. Right now, we’ve gotta talk with that security officer.”

Bowman nodded once and looked down at the counter. “He’s in the ER.”

“Thanks, ladies,” the mustachioed policeman said, turning swiftly away and walking up the hallway toward the Emergency Room, his partner in tow.

Galloway waited a moment for the men to move far enough away that she could whisper to her fellow nurse without alerting the cops.

“What’s going on, Diana? Why are they asking about Dan?”

Bowman shrugged nonchalantly. “They say he attacked Jerome from Security, blow to the back of the head. Now, he’s gone, disappeared.”

“Disappeared?” Chastity repeated in disbelief.

Diana nodded for a moment. “Don’t know where. He’s nowhere to be found.”

That was the moment when something Duffy had said came back to her, his voice echoing in her head: “I’m from the planet Kayaclasch. My ship, the DARSIT, landed here on Earth because of damage it suffered to its beryllium spheres. I’m just trying to find replacements, so I can go on about my life.”

“Nooo!” Chastity uttered softly in complete disbelief.

Diana, not noticing that her co-worker had turned introspective, responded, “That’s what they told me.” She paused, then looked Galloway seriously in the eye. “He’s snapped, Chastity. Cracked, plain and simple. Happens all the time. That’s why morticians don’t last long.”

Galloway looked at Diana levelly. “I don’t think that’s what happened. I don’t know what happened, but that doesn’t seem like what happened.”

Bowman looked sadly at her. “Chastity, I know how you feel about Duffy, but he’s seriously lost it.”

Galloway shook her head, holding back the mixed emotions that were roiling inside her head. “Believe what you will,” she replied, then paused a beat. “Don’t you have something to do?”

Diana looked up at the clock on the wall behind her. “Yeah, I should be on rounds. The cops showed up and interrupted that.”

“Well, I guess I’ll be relieving you,” Chastity offered brightly.

Bowman looked slightly doubtful. “Are you okay?”

“Sure, why not?”

“I mean, the cops were just here asking about Duffy and all, and he’s disappeared. Sure you’re all right?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Diana,” Chastity remarked. “We both have our jobs to do. If one of our co-workers has disappeared, I’m sure the police will do what they can to find him.”

Bowman stood there a moment, not quite buying the act. Finally, she relented. “Okay, keep an eye on the phone. I’ll be back in fifteen.”

“Got it!” Chastity said urgently.

Diana gave her one last appraising look, then picked up her clipboard and rounded the counter, heading up the hallway the same direction as the policemen had. Galloway quickly got behind the counter and glanced over the various paperwork and clipboards. Not finding what she was after, she slipped down the hall and into the Mortuary, where the heavyset man’s body still lay, undisturbed. The clipboard she’d given Duffy lay nearby. She picked it up and scanned the report. After reading a few lines, she came upon the portion of the form that indicated where the ambulance had been sent: “The Reservoir, off 85th Avenue.”

Despite her promise to her co-worker, Galloway hurried out of the Mortuary, into the locker room and grabbed her winter jacket, then left out the back door.

 

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