[Disclaimer: The story that is about to unfold is completely fictional – any resemblance to actual or existing fictional people, places and/or events is purely coincidental.]
Writing Prompt #9: Death
“Doctor, what have we got?”
“At first glance it looks to be a straightforward case of asphyxiation,” Doctor Malcolm Van Hestlin glanced up to acknowledge the arriving inspector. “No signs of a struggle, although given the state of the room, I wouldn’t be surprised.” Wine bottles and beer cans littered the tiny apartment where the deceased was found sprawled face down upon the sofa. “The contusions sustained are consistent with the sort of clumsiness gained from excessive drinking, but…”
Inspector John Reinhardt surveyed the room and its contents before viewing the body – despite his years in the Force, he still felt queasy around the recently deceased. The room was cluttered with musty old books and newspapers, dust accumulating upon the shelves. He counted seven bottles of (expensive) wine, six bottles of (cheap) vodka and a dozen cans of (imported) beer, all strewn in close proximity of the deceased. “Is there something amiss, Mal?” he inquired, fixing his gaze at the zigzag crack in the wall directly above the sofa.
With an inelegant groan, Malcolm rose to his full height. “The victim’s skin is abnormally pale – I won’t be able to ascertain my suspicions without the post-mortem, but it looks like most of the victim’s blood has been drained. While there are several indications of bruising around on the left arm and the right shin…” the medical examiner heaved an exaggerated sigh at John’s reluctance to follow directions. “You know you’ll never become a great detective if you’re not willing to look into the eyes of the dead. You’ll be stuck behind a desk, doing paperwork and other boring tasks that are unbecoming of your natural talents. So just get over whatever it is that is preventing you from doing your job and do your damn job.”
“Spare me the lecture, Mal. I know how to do my job.” With much reluctance, John finally looked upon the dead man. “The deceased was a young man, probably with a low tolerance for alcohol, passed out face first after excessive drinking, which impaired to the point where he suffocated upon the sofa cushion. He probably stumbled about the apartment before landing on the sofa, which explains the bruising but there’s nothing to suggest…” John tilted his head as he examined the victim’s right arm dangling over the side of the sofa. “The skin is remarkably pale and tiny punctures on the forearm. Odd how the right arm is turned upward and not downward – no one falls on their stomach with their arms flailing that way, which suggests…”
“Which suggests that the body was arranged in this position post-mortem,” concluded Malcolm, accustomed to the detective’s rambling deductions. “As I was saying, there should be some discoloration around the bruises, yet the skin remains pale. The fact that the remaining visible skin is equally pale leads me to tentatively conclude that the victim’s blood has been siphoned off.”
John raised his eyebrows, “Siphoned off? Aside from the tiny punctures, no doubt from extensive drug use, I don’t see how…”
“As I said, I can’t be more precise until the post-mortem, but those are my initial findings,” Malcolm interjected pointedly. “Before you ask, body temperature is ice-cold, rigor mortis complete. Time of death estimated to have occurred sometime between midnight and three AM.”
“Who found the body?” John turned away from the body, glancing over the cluttered desk. No doubt he’d need to sort through the papers for anything substantial.
“Eva Russell, the landlady, found the body,” replied Sergeant Kevin Hunter, entering the room. “However, she is unable to identify the body, as she claims the victim is not her tenant. Her reason for entering the room was to demand the rent – seems he owed three months’ worth, and her patience ran out.”
Perplexed, John turned to face his colleague. “In that case, if this isn’t…” John flipped through the pile of unopened mail to find a credit card invoice. “Alexander Fenshaw, then whose body is this and how it did end up here?”