The morgue is a magical place. I was in there when it first opened up—the new one, at least. Slabs as far as the eye could see, each with its own water basin, lights, and plastic-sheathed computer station. Above lurked the sprinklers, ready to deliver acid, fire retardant, disinfectant—whatever was required. It wasn't like that now, of course. Movable metal partitions segmented everything, even creating negative pressure zones, if necessary. Grids and rat-mazes of ever-shifting cubes…you need transponders to effectively navigate it. Or a guide.
Just a month ago, in fact, a physician dropped their transponder into the sink. He wandered around, lost, for hours, no string in sight, until finally choosing an occupied room and taking the place of the corpse. As he said later, at least that way he knew someone would find him. It was a fairly big story, around the Foundation; whispers say that they're even going to (grudgingly) put a few signs in the place.
Getting in is usually as easy as you'd expect; I don't know how Caldmann did it. Papers for both of us. He hands them to the receptionist out front, and we're escorted in. Our guide knows where she's going, thankfully, and we get there without much incidence. We're led in, handed an extra transponder, and she closes the divider behind us. I expected them to move with a hideous squeal of metal, but no, they're hushed and quiet.
"Hello," the doctor in charge says, putting on gloves.
"Hello," Caldmann says. "I'm James Caldmann—"
"—and I'm Jessica Immelman," I say, cutting him off. He looks sideways at me.
"I'm Doctor Harris," he says. "I'd shake your hands, but…well…," he wiggles his gloved hands. "Are you two the people from Archival?"
"You were expecting someone else?" Caldmann asks.
"Oh, people are going to be in and out all day," Harris says. "But…shall we get started? The full autopsy's on the table over there." He indicates a wheeled table in a corner of the room. Caldmann gets the report.
Harris pulls back the sheet from the corpse's head and steps back. Caldmann opens up the report and shows the picture at the top to me. Yup, that's the poor deceased Barry Beanbaum. Same small beard, same tiny, squashed nose, same short crew-cropped hair (the kind of hair that indicates that its owner can't be assed to deal with it), and, though I know it's been removed, I can't help but feel that if the sheet was peeled back a little further, I'd see that goddamn little pocket protector, all three red pens in a row.
"Yup, that's him," Caldmann says, sounding a little green. I have to suppress a little laughter.
"DNA and dental confirmed it," Harris says. "Not to mention fingerprints."
"Cause of death?" I ask.
"Slit carotid artery," Harris says. "Not very pretty. Blood must've been everywhere."
"It was," Caldmann says, sounding even worse.
"Did he fight back?" I ask.
Harris shrugs. "Hard to tell," he says. "Probably not; there wasn't any real visible damage. Which makes sense; not much to do when you're losing that much blood that fast."
"Any…evidence on him?" I say, trying to phrase the question in a way that isn't completely stupid.
"No, no; nothing like that," he says. "No smoking gun. You'll have to be done the old fashioned way, it seems."
"So it seems," I agree. "Um…is there anything else important? Any clues or anything?"
Harris shakes his head. "Unfortunately not," he says. "Sorry." He really does look sorry too.
"It's alright," I say. I grab Caldmann, still staring queasily at the body, and steer him as firmly as I dare towards the metal wall we came from. "Thank you for your time!"
We're back in Caldmann's office, now. I got one of the curtains open, which revealed a view of…a rainforest? I thought it was a TV screen or something until he muttered that it was a garden. I have no idea how it got there, and he wasn't much up to the task of speaking.
"Alright," he says when most of the color has returned to his face. "Thanks for that."
"No problem," I say. "Have we ruled out suicide entirely? Cutting an artery is nasty, but it's certainly a possible suicide route."
"Look at the autopsy report again," Caldmann says. I check it. There's a photo of the way the scene was found; it's awfully similar to the scene we'd found earlier. Beanbaum was laying slumped in the chair, bracketed by blood splatters, facing the camera…
"Oh," I say. "I see."
Caldmann grunts. "We should probably focus on his personal life. I haven't seen a more boring professional one in years. Could it be a crime of passion? Maybe? Should we check out all the women he could've interacted with?"
"Men," I say.
"How do you figure that?" Caldmann asks.
"The pens," I say. "Look at his staff picture. More specifically, the pens." Caldmann does. He looks up at me.
"Flower codes?" he asks.
"More or less," I say. "Dating back from the days when being out wasn't exactly encouraged."
"Of course," Caldmann murmurs. "Three red pens for gay?"
"Yup," I say. "Plain as day." Pause. "Ha ha."
"I see," Caldmann says. "The men, then." Pause again. "You know, I think you're right. That was tremendously entertaining. We do need a Watson."
"What did I tell you? Do you have any candidates in mind?"
"We should probably check the security cameras first."
"There's camera footage? Why is there a mystery, then? Just find out who was in the office!"
"Well, that's the question, isn't it? Security has access to it; why haven't they wrapped up the case yet?"
"How are you going to get access to them, though? They're not actually the kind of things you can just get access to, even for you."
"I have a source."
"Oh god, it's you," I say.
well no need to get all worked up—
"You're working with it?"
Caldmann shrugged. "It's not bad, if—"
"I'm surprised to see it at all!"
it tends to get boring—
"I bet! So you just show up—"
—caldmann asked, and i thought it would be polite to—
"—help me out," Caldmann finishes. "It has access to all the footage, and it's here now, so it would be a bit churlish to turn it down, wouldn't it?"
"Fine," I say, scooting my chair around to view the monitor. "Access away."
what would you like to see?
"Footage of Doctor Beanbaum's office shortly before his murder," Caldmann says.
Caldmann repeats himself.
what are you talking about. beanbaum is still alive.
"WHAT?!" I scream. Caldmann physically recoils from the screen.
he is not dead. here; i will bring up the video feed right now.
And boom, there it is. On the screen, plain as day, Beanbaum, beard, hair and all, sitting at a desk identical to the one in his office, typing away. Like all was right in the world.