Thursday, 9 August 2012

The James Street Morgue

James Street Morgue was the last thing I wanted to see on the police report.  I checked I'd not misread it, and then I turned back to the front page of the report to see who'd written this one.  Who I was about to shout at until I turned purple and lost my voice, in truth.  The name on the front was Wolfgang Herbst, and my nascent shout died in my throat, turning into a strangled little cough by way of consolation.
My problems here, in order then, were:

  1. James Street Morgue was known to have an occasional issue with necromancers.  To be exact, every time the police delivered a body there that was evidence in a case, the body would get back up again and walk off, and usually refuse to help the police any further with their enquiries.  This meant that we had neither the body nor a witness, and usually ended in us having to bury the paperwork in the unsolved crimes files.
  2. Wolfgang Herbst was the youngest son of the Police Commissioner and was being well protected either by his father, or by the sycophants who surrounded his father and praised his policies.  These policies hadn't seen an improvement in the rates of crime or the solving of crimes in the last three years, but still the papers lauded the photogenic Commissioner who was regularly seen in the Society pages providing pithy little quotes about how well policing was progessing in the city.
  3. This one was a purely personal problem: I had an informant who swore blind that Wolfgang Herbst was a necromancer.
Herbst the necromancer delivering a body to his buddies at the James Street Morgue didn't seem at all far-fetched to me, although I did wonder if he was really bright enough to appear to be making the effort to solve crimes he was involved in committing, and then sabotaging them before the investigation could start getting anywhere.  I'd spoken to the lad a few times, and I'd come away with the impression that he was a couple of bones short of a burial.  I'd also come away with the impression that he was as stubborn as an ox in heat and about as pleasant to spend any time with as said ox.  A couple of discreet inquiries later led me to learn that no-one went out drinking with him after work, and that officer piss-ups were usually arranged without his knowledge.  If he was that unpopular amongst his colleagues, my impressions of his attitude and personality couldn't be too far from the mark.
I tapped my pen on the desk a few times, annoying myself with the noise but unable to stop until I'll completed the little tune, and turned over the pages of the report again.  Was there anything I'd missed? Something that my eyes had drifted past because no-one filled these damn things in right first time?  I forced myself to read every line, including the printed text that described what was supposed to be filled in.  A little over half-way through, my eyeballs started itching, and I knew that I'd read something that was important.  I went back a page and read through it again.
There it was.  That itch again, just as I read the time that the body was delivered to the Morgue.  What was wrong with that?  I looked at it, but it seemed perfectly fine: delivered to the Morgue in person, time of delivery was 20:37.  It looked fine, so I checked for the Morgue receipt to see if that said a different time.  No, the receipt agreed with the report, in fact it looked rather like Wolfgang had copied parts of the receipt in with the spelling errors as well.
I closed the report again, deciding to leave the report for now, and there it was, staring me in the face.  The time of submission of the report, auto-date-stamped when Wolfgang dropped it into my inbox, was 20:52.  If the body had been delivered to the Morgue when he claimed, he couldn't possible have gotten back to the office and written the report in fifteen minutes.  The Morgue was twenty minutes away from the office by fast car with the sirens on.
I looked at the Morgue receipt again, holding up to the light and twisting the paper this way and that.  There were no signs of tampering with it, so it seemed genuine.  Why lie about the time of delivery to the Morgue, and get the Morgue to support the lie?  I rubbed my temples, a headache starting.  Finally I'd got something on Wolfgang, only to have it look suspiciously like there was something much bigger hiding behind the scenes.

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