Beta Reader: wdoherty5
Wildcard Request: Season one offers several post episode opportunities, if that's something you'd like to explore. “I LOVE canon filled stories and stories that could easily slip into the series. The friendship between Nick, Natalie, and Schanke also makes me very, very happy.”
Length: 4500 words
Warnings: None – The story is Team and Mystery and fits right into cannon ;>
Nat walked into the morgue, knowing the load was going to be heavy tonight. It was the end of the month and it usually was. She also knew she was getting a new intern. That was both good and bad. The extra hands were nice, the having to teach while the bodies stacked up like cordwood, not so much.
Ah well, she thought to herself, it was what it was. Let’s just hope the new intern was one of the sharper ones.
“Dr. Lambert?” She heard Grace say. Hmm, must be putting on a show for the new kid, Grace was never that formal.
“I’ve got your new intern, Tom Grant here. He tells me,” she looked over at Tom, “that he’s ready for work.” Grace smiled and stepped back, leaving Tom with Nat.
Natalie smiled and turned soft gray-green eyes on the young man, “Welcome Tom. Hope you’re ready for the deep end!” she handed him a pair of latex gloves.
He nodded, “I sure am, Dr. Lambert. I’ve never been in a morgue before, but I’m ready. I’ve spent three years studying for this internship!”
She looked over at Grace’s receding figure, “I’ll catch up with *you* later!” Tom was certainly eager if nothing else.
The night was, as she expected, busy. Tom didn’t fair too badly. He tossed his dinner on the first opened chest and turned a bit gray around the gills on his first brain, and Natalie found reason to encourage him, “All in all, Tom, a decent first night.”
“Really, Dr. Lambert? Do most people have this much trouble?” Tom still looked just a little gray at the edges, “Sure they do Tom. Heck, half of them faint the first time I crack open a chest.”
He laughed, if a little delicately. “I’ll see you tonight, right Tom?” He’d get through. This one had promise. “Thanks, Dr. Lambert. I’ll see you tonight.” Nat pulled off her apron, pulled on her coat and headed out into the day. It was morning for the rest of the world, but for her it was time to grab some groceries on the way home to sleep. With the hours she was keeping, trying to work with Nick, she was living his lifestyle, if not his condition. She wondered how much difference there was between the two.
Nick woke just as the sun was setting, as was his usual pattern. Well, at least that meant the Captain and Schanke hadn’t worked up anything too big during the day. He got up, dressed, walked downstairs and opened the refrigerator. Try as Natalie might, it was still filled with cow’s blood in wine bottles. And likely would be, for the foreseeable future. He wasn’t sure how much difference she could really make, though he was thankful for her interest in trying.
Nick headed out to work, knowing he’d get to see his golden haired M.E. before the night was over. He almost always did.
The call came in, “81 Kilo, 81 Kilo. There’s been a report of a murder over on Spring Road by Dear Pen, just inside High Park.”
Nick looked over at Schanke as he picked up the mic, “81, Kilo, We copy, dispatch. We’re on our way.”
“Oh good, just what we need, a murder in High Park. That’ll get everyone’s knickers in a twist.”
“Why’s that, Schanke?” Nick always loved his partner’s theories. Sometimes they were doozies and they didn’t always pan out, but they were always fun to hear.
“Are you kidding me, Nick? It’s the biggest park in the downtown area and with all the stuff going on there, a murder is going to cause all kinds of ruckus!”
Nick had to laugh, “You’re probably right, Schanke. Let’s see if we can reduce the ruckus, eh?”
Schanke nodded his head, “Sure, partner. Whatever you say…” Clearly not believing they could avert the disaster that loomed in his mind.
Nick and Schanke drove into the park and pulled into the lot where Dear Pen Road ended. Less than 75 meters down Spring Road, behind a bush, they saw Natalie and the rest of the team. He noticed a young man with Natalie he hadn’t seen before.
They hurried on over. Nick stopped while Natalie finished what she was doing, “Nat?” As she stood, she turned around into the face of her favorite cop. “Good thing this place is well lit at night, eh?” She gave him a lopsided grin. “Most likely heart attack, I’ll know more back at the morgue Nick.” The young man stood next to Natalie, making notes. Perhaps a new assistant?
Nick looked at her questioningly.
“There are no marks on him, no indication of any external violence. So either he just dropped dead or he was poisoned. While he certainly could have been poisoned, statistically, this is more likely a heart attack and no interest of homicide’s.” She grinned, “Looks like you get off easy this time, eh?”
Nick shook his head, the gallows humour his human friends engaged in always amused him. “Looks like, Nat. Mind if we check in later?”
“I never mind Toronto’s finest dropping by for a visit,” she said as she winked and directed the body toward the morgue van.
Nick and Schanke got back to the station a couple of hours later, Schanke dropped off at his desk to take care of something and Nick went over to the morgue. “So, Natalie,” he began as he walked into the room. He stopped because the only person in the room when he entered was a young, thin tow-headed man making notes in a file. “Pardon, is Dr. Lambert about?” Nick asked. This was the young man from the park. Clearly a new part of Natalie’s staff.
Tom looked up and smiled, “She’s in the back room getting something. I’m her new intern, Tom. She should be back any minute now.”
Nick nodded, “Thanks, Tom. Mind if I wait?”
Tom shook his head, “No, sir, not at all.” He went back to making notes while Nick wandered around, touching things, generally making himself a nuisance. Tom hardly noticed, but it was the sort of puttering that usually got Natalie to tell him it was time to go back to the streets or his desk. He smiled at that. Nat was a good friend and he cherished that. He didn’t have a lot of those beyond Janette and she was rather a special case.
Nat walked back into the exam room from storage, “Nick, come to check on your heart attack?” She walked over to the exam table and picked up her clipboard.
“Yep. So, is it?” He leaned in to look over her shoulder. She was wearing a lovely perfume this evening. He’d remark, but it might make her young intern uncomfortable.
“Actually… no.” She turned to speak to Nick to find him rather closer than usual. He backed up slightly, giving her a little breathing room. As it were. “This one is odd. His heart seems just fine, but he has a couple of substances in his system that I wouldn’t expect to find together. It looks like he’s taken Pilocarpine Hydrochloride at some point today and he’s got a cholinesterase inhibitor in him as well. It’s an odd combination and both contra-indicate the other. Not surprisingly, he died of respiratory failure.”
Nick looked at her like she’d spoken in one of the few languages left on earth he didn’t know. Nat shook her head, “Sorry, Nick. I forget there are some sciences you’re not up on. Um, he took something for dry mouth and then something that’s usually used to treat early or mid-stage Alzheimer’s; which given that he’s about thirty, would be an odd combination to take.”
Nick nodded, “OK, Nat – is there anything else in his stomach?”
“Yep, there’s a good meal, some tea and some booze, I’d say probably whiskey rather than wine by its chemical make up.”
Nick looked past Nat, “Isn’t that also odd? Liquor and those meds?”
“The man wins a kewpie doll! Yep, that’s odd. Anyone taking drugs of that nature would have been warned away from alcohol. Not that everyone does what the doctor tells them, mind you,” she glared up at Nick as she said this, with a half-grin on her face.
He nodded, returning the half-grin, “I’ve heard that.”
“It often results in all sorts of things going awry,” Nat said smiling.
“I’ll just bet.” Nick responded, backing away while grinning.
Tom watched, as the two very clearly good friends playfully teased each other. He wondered if he’d ever be that comfortable with a woman some day.
Nick waved, “All right, thanks Nat. That gives us a little to work with.” He nodded, “Good to meet you, Tom.” And headed back upstairs.
Natalie finished up this autopsy, took off the apron, and grabbed her wallet. She was going to go grab something out of the vending machine to pass for lunch. There weren’t a lot of choices at 2:30 in the morning and she’d forgotten to bring anything.
“I’m headed up to the vending machine, Tom. Want anything?”
Tom looked up, “Oh, Dr. Lambert, I brought sandwiches for both of us tonight! I noticed you didn’t last night and it just seemed polite to bring one to share.” He reached for his lunch bag, one of those picnic coolers, and pulled out a wrapped sandwich for her. With turkey and mustard and lettuce, just the way she liked it. Odd, she didn’t remember saying anything.
“Um, thanks Tom.” She started to unwrap the sandwich, “How’d you know what I like?”
“You were talking about it with Grace yesterday and I just happened to overhear. I figured looking good in front of the boss is never a bad thing, right?”
“No, right. Of course.” That made sense. She sat down at the desk and ate her lunch with Tom. They ate in companionable silence, with him asking a question every now and then. The kid was alright.
It had been two days since the first death. Nick and Schanke were at another call, this time at Neil McLellen Park – between Beresford and Runnymede. Same oddity in that there were no marks, only it was a young woman this time.
Nick walked into the morgue, “So, Nat, what is it this time?”
“This one is, if anything, weirder than the first. First you should know this woman wasn’t diabetic. Yet I find both glyburide, used for diabetes control and insulin in her system. As if she took one with dinner and the other as a chaser. “
Nick looked at her, “Who takes diabetic drugs when they’re not diabetic?”
“Exactly, Nick. No one. Nick, it’s less than a mile away and the pattern is weirdly similar. Two medications no one should ever mix, not far from Bloor St. Do we have a problem here?”
Nick stood and thought a moment. “We might have. Let Schanke and me look into it, Nat. We’ll get back to you when we know something.”
Nick left, and Tom looked up, “He’s a good cop, right Dr. Lambert?”
What an odd question…”Yes, Tom, he’s one of the best. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know, it’s an odd bunch of things happening and it looks like it might take someone really smart to figure it all out.”
She nodded, “If anyone can, it’ll be Nick.” She smiled.
Tom looked at her and wondered if any woman would ever smile like that thinking about him.
Two nights later, Natalie walked into work to find the lab spotless. She looked around, wondering who had paid the janitorial staff what bribe to pull that off. She shrugged out of her coat, hung it up, and reached for an apron, figuring that Friday night was likely to be a little busy.
“Good evening, Dr. Lambert.”
Natalie about jumped out of her skin. “Tom, I didn’t realize you were here yet.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you!”
“That’s alright; I was just trying to puzzle out who our benefactor might be.”
“What d’ya mean, ma’am?”
Ow. Ma’am and not even thirty. “Um, I meant the sparking clean lab, Tom. And really, you don’t need to call me ma’am.”
Tom all but shuffled his foot and said ‘aw, shucks’, “Oh, I cleaned up a little Dr. Lambert. I heard you talking about the place needing a good once over and thought I’d take care of it for you.” He looked very proud of himself.
“Why thank you, Tom! You really didn’t need to do that; we do have a janitorial service, but thanks.” She’d better watch what he overheard her say, at this rate. First the sandwich, then the lab. No telling what damage she could cause if she weren’t careful.
The police radio squawked and she heard dispatch, “81 Kilo, 81 Kilo proceed to Sunnnyside Park, between the bathrooms and the Palais, someone’s reporting a young man who appears to be dead.” She heard Schanke respond, “81 Kilo, on our way Dispatch. Out.” She turned to Tom, “Saddle up, we’re off to Sunnyside.”
Nick and Schanke beat her to the site, but it looked suspiciously like it might be another of the same pattern. The young man was down, near a tree, but no marks on him. “Tom, get him back to the lab, I’ll meet you there.”
She turned to Nick, “Nick, this is less than a mile from the first one. If the pattern holds up…”
“I know, Nat, if the pattern holds up we may have a serial on our hands. It’s unlikely three young apparently otherwise healthy people would fall dead of an odd drug interaction within two miles of each other every two days for a week.”
Nat nodded, “I’ll meet you back at the morgue in a couple of hours.” She got in her car and headed out.
Nick looked over at Schanke, “So? What do you think?”
Schanke shook his head, “It doesn’t make any sense, Nick. Who takes a lethal drug cocktail by accident? And three times in the same week? Man oh man I hope this one’s a normal old heart attack.”
Nick nodded, “It’s one time when I really agree with you, Schank.”
They stayed, collected what evidence they could from the surrounding area and got back in the caddie. They headed back to the station, figuring they could do paperwork until Natalie had an answer for them.
Nick walked down into the morgue, and walked in on a rather odd tableau. Nat was sitting at her desk, writing up her notes, and Tom was standing off in the corner, just staring at her. Staring at her like…
Professor Nicholas Girard looked out over the class. This would be a good year. It had only been a week, but already he sensed this group of grads were sharp and would challenge any normal Professor of archaeology. Today he would find out just how much of a diversion this group could offer him. “So, class, today we discuss how archaeology can help inform police work. Anyone?”
A hand shot up in the front row, it was young Allison’s, a frequent sight in the first week of class.
He nodded. She spoke up, “We can certainly help identify bones when found and even date them, right?”
“Yes, Allison. But what more?”
She thought for a moment, “We can help with older cases where we can assist in identifying dates from clothing and jewelry and the like.” She smiled, certain she’d done well.
He smiled back at her, in the way that professors do with eager students, though she imagined she saw something more in that smile.
That smile. Allison lived for it. Professor Girard was relatively new to the University, still fresh from his native Wales with a lovely lilt to his accent. He was tall and blond and strong and had a smile that would light the day. Most of all, he was unmarried and rumors about *that* kept her up late at nights, even if she did pretend it was the studying.
“– of death, Allison.”
She flushed, she’d been daydreaming and missed the first part of his answer, “Pardon, Professor Girard?” She loved even saying his name.
He shook his head, kids with their heads in the clouds he thought, “I said, we can also help determine the *cause* of death. Whether a blunt instrument to the skull or sharp knife to the soft tissue that might leave a mark on the skeleton even after the flesh has gone to dust. We can sometimes even know if a poison was used – for instance, arsenic will leave its mark even on the skeleton if it was ingested over time. “
The class were furiously taking notes. All but Allison, who was staring at Professor Girard, as if he hung the moon.
Staring at her like Allison had at him, back at University in Chicago when he taught there. He might want to warn Nat, that one took on a life of its own. He cleared his throat and both of them jumped.
“Nick, I didn’t hear you!” Natalie smiled, “Not that that’s unusual when I get my head in my notes.” She gave him that lopsided smile again. Tom was standing in his corner by the door to the storage room, from where he’d been watching Natalie.
Nick looked over, “Tom, how’s it going? Dr. Lambert’s not working you too hard, is she?” He could have sworn he saw a fleeting look of… something… at him, but it was replaced by a pleasant demeanor.
“Ah, no, Detective Knight. I was just about to go back into storage and do some inventory.” He pulled open the door to storage, when Nat’s voice stopped him.
“Tom, I want you to stay for this, you might have something to add.” And he’d certainly learn something either way. “So, Nick, You’re going to love this one. It’s not quite the drug mix we’ve been seeing, but it I think it still follows the pattern.”
“What is it Nat?”
“There’s both Phenelzine and Shrimp paste in his stomach. And he stroked. I expect his blood pressure went through the ceiling and the stroke that followed killed him.”
“What made you look further than the stroke, Nat?”
Natalie looked over at Tom, “What do you think made me look beyond the stroke, Tom?”
He thought for a moment, “It’s the third healthy young person with no marks of violence on them in a week? Also in a park in the same part of town?”
“Good, Tom. I saw the stroke when I did my initial check,” she looked at Nick, “Then I wondered if he might be part of our pattern, so I checked for meds with fatal drug-interaction side effects. MAO Inhibitors were at the top of that list, though they have more trouble with foods than drugs. When I found the Phenelzine, I looked at his stomach contents. He would have known not to eat aged cheeses and meats, if he was on the drug by prescription – as opposed to having it slipped into his food at some point. But he might not have known that the meat rolls he was eating had shrimp paste in them, Nick.”
“Or he might have been fed both in the same meal without knowing about either, right Nat?”
Nat looked at Nick under heavily lidded eyes, “Given the amount of wine in his stomach? I’d say that was a very strong possibility.”
“Nat, none of these things would kill a person individually. They all had to be mixed with some very key ingredient to make them lethal. Have we a chemist gone berserk? If the pattern holds, we’ll only have another two days before he strikes again.”
Natalie nodded, “All of them seem to have been in the same area, near food places and all three had food usually associated with dinner.”
Nick nodded, “All between Bloor St. and the water, near busy areas where they wouldn’t be noticed if they were disoriented or wandering about ill.”
Schanke walked in, “So we have a serial foodie?” Schanke laughed at his own joke. He often did. Nick and Nat just groaned. Schanke went on, “Look, All three of them have had dinner and booze in their gut, right Natalie?”
“So maybe this guy works at a restaurant? Or a Bar?” Schanke smiled knowingly.
Nick shook his head, “And what, he’s picking his vics by random? Schank, it doesn’t follow. We’ve been able to find nothing that ties the first two at all and nothing looks connected to this third so far. These killings are involved and take some serious understanding of drug interactions. Access to a restaurant or a bar maybe, but that’s not his or her first profession.” He heard something. Coming from the storage room. He listened, as only Nick could. He heard what the speaker might think was muttering, but he might as well have been shouting for all Nick could hear.
“He thinks he’s so smart.” “I’ll show them!” “She’ll notice me if it’s the last thing I do!”
Nick knew he’d seen this pattern before. Hero worship, doing things to prove her worth…
Allison knew she’d not performed well enough to make Professor Girard think her worthy. She had to do better. She went to the library to find more books on Archaeological digs. She was looking through books of digs from the 1800’s and found a fascinating picture. An old tintype of what must have been Professor Girard’s great-grandfather. She began to think about the picture and the Professor. This Professor was one of those progressives who treated his grad students like real people, yet she never once saw him out for lunch with them. Or dinner. What was it about him that so demanded her devotion?
Professor Girard invited her to his office after class. “Allison, I wanted to be the first to congratulate you! Your piece on archaeological digs in Egypt was published!” He held up the journal it was in.
Allison knew it was rare for students to be published and even more so for female students. “Your reference must have done wonders, Professor.” She’d finally done something he could be proud of. Something to make herself worthy. Nothing mattered beyond his smile, all for her.
Professor Girard reached behind him and brought out a bottle of brandy with two glasses. “It’s worth a small celebration, don’t you think?” He poured a small measure for each of them and offered her a glass.
His hand brushed hers and she could feel the tingle all the way down to her toes. He must feel it too. He must. She thought about what she could offer in return – and remembered she had a bag of homemade cookies from her mother in her back pack. She reached in and pulled them out. “Would you like one? My mother made them.” She looked up at him with eyes full of worship.
Nick looked back into those eyes, and realized he might have a small problem on his hands. “Um, thank you Allison. I’ll save it for after dinner.” He smiled, took the cookie and put it on his desk. Odd, she thought, still I’ve never seen him eat or drink anything but this brandy.
“I’ve got another paper I want to submit, if you’ll look it over, Professor?” He was clearly more interested in her work than food. This would be a coup if she could publish twice as a grad student. And tell her more about the Professor by his reaction. She was beginning to suspect, but she had to be certain!
Nick smiled, “Certainly, Allison. What’s this one on?”
“Religious Iconography in European history. I’ve got an appendix here, in back, see?” She flipped the papers back to the appendix, with pictures of crosses 'in situ' at dig sites. As the Professor’s hand had been reaching for the paper, it surprised her when he jumped back like he’d been given an electric shock. “Professor?” She looked confused.
“Sorry, I tripped.” He pointed back at the carpet as if to show what he’d tripped on.
But he hadn’t stepped forward when she offered the paper, he couldn’t have tripped. Allison was almost sure now. One more thing. “Here you go, Professor.” She handed him the paper, closed now to the first page. He took it, she thought rather gingerly, and laid it on his desk, “I’ll take a look through it this evening, Allison.” She smiled, “Thanks so much!” She stood up, as if to leave, turned her back as if to pick up her books and purse, unlatched her bracelet, slipped it in her palm , turned around and reached out to shake his hand goodbye.
Nick reached back to shake her hand, “I look forward to – Aaah!” He cried out and recoiled, dropping whatever had been in her grasp when she reached out to shake his hand. It was a charm bracelet, with a crucifix on it. He knew if he looked at his hand it would have that shape burned into it. He couldn’t let her see that. “Oh good heavens,” he said with irritation in his voice, “How clumsy of me. I think I broke your bracelet! I’m so sorry, let me have it fixed for you.” He was making no move to pick it up, but he had to distract her.
She leaned over to pick it up herself and slipped it in her purse, sure now what she’d found. Sure she could be the only woman in his life. Sure she could make him see that. “Oh no problem, Professor. That old thing falls off at least once a week. I’ll have it fixed in no time.” She smiled and smoothed her hair with her hand, “A few of us are having a pizza party tonight, can we entice you?”
He shook his head, “Sadly, not this time Allison. Deadlines,” he said vaguely and pointed at his desk. “I’ll just have to get by on your mother’s cookies.” He smiled and started to steer her out the door before something else went wrong. “I’ll see you tomorrow in class, yes?”
She nodded and left. Sure now that she could make him see how perfect she was for him. She was worthy…
Worthy. If that was what Tom felt he needed to be for Nat… “Nat, stop by on the way out, eh?”
She nodded, a slightly odd request, but he must want to tell her something without an audience, “Sure, Nick.”
Nick smiled grabbed Schanke shoulder and steered him out of the morgue. Nat should be fine with Tom for now. He was all about making himself worthy, not hurting her.
As they got near their desks, Schanke looked over at Nick, “Hey, it’s past the witching hour, can I leave you alone and get home before Myra kills me?”
Nick laughed, “Sure thing, Schank. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Nick sat down at his desk to puzzle out the pieces while Schanke headed toward the door.
“Don’t take any wooden nickels, Knight!” Nick grinned again. His partner was certainly colorful.
Nat continued with the autopsy, building the picture for the detectives to work with. She reached for a drink and found a bottled ice tea sitting behind her. That was odd, she didn’t remember buying one. “Tom, thanks for the ice tea!” she called out. Had to be him, Grace didn’t tend to do things like that except on holidays or birthdays. She took a couple of swigs and returned to the autopsy.
From the storage room, Tom could see her drink the tea through the window. He smiled. He was going to prove he was worthy if it was the last thing he did.
It was coming up on five in the morning, and sunrise was about six this time of year. Time to shut down and go see Nick. “Tom, I’m headed out. Can you clean up?” Tom leaned out of storage, “Sure can, ma’- I mean, Dr. Lambert.”
She smiled, at least he was trying. “I’ll see you tonight.”
“Will do, Dr. Lambert.”
Natalie arrived at Nick’s desk just in time. He was getting ready to head out. “Nick?”
He turned and grinned, “Hi Nat. Walk you to your car?”
They walked outside, Nat still drinking her ice tea, Nick putting on his coat. “What’d you want to tell me, Nick?”
“I think your intern is rather more infatuated with you then you might realize,” Nick began with a bit of a rueful half-smile.
“Tom? Oh don’t be ridiculous, Nick!” He was just being over-protective.
“Really? Think about it, Nat.”
She thought for a moment. The constant need for approval; the spotless lab at the behest of one careless overheard comment; the ice tea. Maybe Nick was right. “I’ll keep an eye on it, Nick. If the worst thing that happens to me this week is that an overly besotted young intern thinks I hung the moon, I think I’ll be just fine.”
Nick looked at, “Just be careful Nat. I’ve run into that sort of thing before. The escalation from ‘enamored’ to 'possessed' is a short and fast ride in my experience.” Short. Fast. Yea…
It was after nine in the evening. Nick was looking over papers, working on one of his own, drinking a glass of very old wine. The room had just the one desk lamp on. Not that Nick needed more than that. He heard a noise at the door and looked up. He never locked his door, no real need, even in the heart of Chicago, for him. He waited to see if it was just the janitor checking in, he often did. The door opened and it wasn’t the janitor.
“Professor Girard? I’ll only be a moment. I knew you’d be here late and we just finished out pizza party, I wanted to bring you some so you didn’t starve yourself!”
Nick sighed inwardly. He was going to have to set boundaries for this particular student. He hated to do so, but it was beginning to get out of hand. “Allison…”
“Just a couple of pieces then I have to meet my friends outside. They’re waiting for me. We have an all night study party to get started!” She walked over, set the pizza box on the desk and opened it.
GARLIC. Good lord, he’d never smelled that much garlic. He recoiled at the stench.
She smiled. “I thought so.” She walked back and closed the door. Then turned to Nick, “Professor Girard, I know you’ve been just helping an eager student and you’ve not seen all I can be for you.” She started walking toward his desk while he was standing up and moving near the window behind it, “Assistant,” another step, “Confidant,” another step, “Protector,” another step. This time she picked up the box and removed it to the chair he had out for students and pushed it away from the desk. “See? I know what harms you. I can keep you safe from the daylight.”
Nick looked at her, had she completely lost her mind? “Allison, I don’t know what you think you’ve figured out, but really, this is inappropriate, don’t you think?” Stick with the standard Professorial reaction to an infatuated student. That was his best approach.
“Oh, Professor Girard; Nicholas. May I call you Nicholas? I’ve figured it all out, Nicholas. You never eat, you recoil from crosses, from garlic. I’ve never seen you out of this building during the day. Even your image in an old tintype photo I found in the library. We have so much to give one another.”
It was clear she’d been building to this for some time. He wasn’t going to be able to dissuade her by logic. She didn’t even know that he traveled from the Bachelor Professor’s Quarters to this building by the steam tunnels, allowing him to teach day classes. He had thought that enough to remove suspicion. Under normal circumstances, perhaps. But with a young woman smitten? She would dig up all sorts of facts, many of them by accident while looking for more about her obsession. He hated to play with memory, but sometimes it was necessary. “Allison,” he stopped moving away from her and beckoned her over, “You’re right. I was silly not to see it before.” He needed to get her a little closer so he could *make* her listen.
Allison walked around the desk and toward the beckoning Nicholas. She’d finally proved herself worthy. She would be his for all eternity!
“Allison, you do not love me. You are not smitten with me. You are an excellent student who loves archaeology. I’m a favorite professor, but not the only one. I helped you get your first publication, but you won’t remember anything about me other than that. Forget about the crosses and the garlic and the food and the daylight. Forget about your obsession. Forget about the photo. Go to your friends and have your all night study party and go on with your life as it was meant to be.” He would have to get that book out of the library. Hard evidence always interfered with this sort of memory adjustment.
“Of course, Professor. I just stopped by to give you the updated version of my new paper for publication. I’ll go to my study party now.”
“Nick? Where’d you go?”
“Ah, just remembering a time when that ride got rather bumpy, Nat. Be careful, OK?”
She nodded. She’d love to know which memory that brought up. Maybe another day.
She got to work just after sunset. Walked into the morgue and hung up her coat just in time for Tom to arrive. “Evening Tom!”
“Evening, Dr. Lambert.” He hung up his coat. “What do you want me to do first tonight?”
She thought for a moment, “I have to finish up this autopsy from the day shift, after that, want to assist with the next autopsy on the list?”
“I’d love to!” he was finally getting to help do the real work. It had only taken a week, but it felt like forever.
“Alright then, I should be ready in about an hour.”
Tom nodded and went to clean the equipment the day shift left. They never respected Dr. Lambert. They always left a mess.
Nat finished the first autopsy. It had been particularly messy so she took off the apron, dropped it in laundry and the gloves in bio-waste and went into storage to get the next body. It was about time Tom got his hands at least a little bit dirty. “Tom, I’m ready!” Natalie turned her back on her desk as she put on a fresh apron and gloves. She walked over to the body bag and unzipped it. It looked fairly routine, a gunshot wound to the head. Angle was the issue here, as it was going to support a cop’s “good shoot” story. She started, with Tom next to her handing her the next tool. He was good enough to know what the next tool was without being told. She reached back for her customary cup of water on the desk and her hand hit a bottle. She picked it up and realized it was another ice tea, like the night before. “Tom, you really don’t need to bring me an ice tea every night. I mean, it’s lovely, but it’s not necessary.”
She didn’t say appreciated, she said “lovely.” Why didn’t she appreciate all he was doing for her? She’d get a really good paper out of it, probably an invitation to a conference to present it. Lots of good press. Why didn’t she appreciate him?
“Um, sure. Just figured it was a fair trade for all you’re teaching me.”
“Thanks, but again, not necessary.” She returned to the work. He continued to assist, but his mind was focused more on how to make her understand how much he could learn from her, how much he was growing just by being near her. He handed her the wrong tool, “Um, Tom? I need a light not a knife.”
“Oh, sorry. I grabbed the wrong tool. Here…” he picked up the small penlight and handed it to her. She did all the looking she needed to, made some notes and put down her tape recorder.
“OK, it’s apparent we need to go clear our heads, Tom. Let’s go take a food break.”
Tom nodded, it was the first time she offered to share a meal with him. Good thing he’d brought food to share.
Nat was removing her apron and tossing the gloves when she heard Tom open the refrigerator. Odd. Maybe he had a lunch in there?
“Dr. Lambert, I brought some food to share. My mom’s recipe. This’ll make a great break!” He pulled out a casserole dish covered with plastic wrap. She could see what looked like a seven-layer dip for nachos in there. Ok, heavier than her usual, but no need to make the kid feel bad. She wondered for a moment if this was the sort of thing Nick was talking about, but shook it off. Nick was over-reacting. He had to be.
They sat down at her desk and he pulled out a bag of tortilla chips and a couple of plates along with a serving spoon. She put a scoop on her plate and started dipping. He produced another ice tea for himself. ‘Matched set, see?’ he thought to himself.
“Mmm, your mom’s recipe is great. There’s a couple of extra spices I don’t quite recognize.”
“Um, she made me promise not to tell, Dr. Lambert.”
“No problem, Tom. I was just curious. It’s really good.”
He smiled. She would understand how good he was soon enough. She would think him worthy.
Nick and Schanke walked into the morgue while they were having their impromptu Mexican dinner and Nick stopped cold. Nat didn’t tend to bring homemade food to work, which meant this was likely Tom’s. This was too eerily familiar.
Nat looked up from her meal and smiled. “Nick, Schanke come join us. Tom’s made a fabulous seven-layer-dip. His mother’s recipe.”
Every alarm in Nick’s memory went off. That coupled with what he’d discovered this evening so far, made him reach for the next chip she’d loaded, “Sure Nat, Schanke’ll try it. He’s the real nachos aficionado!” He handed the loaded chip to Schanke, knowing he was fine if he ate only the one thing. This was all about poison’s administered in two distinct parts. Neither one a poison if the other wasn’t mixed in. Before Natalie could load another chip, he noticed she’d broken out in a sweat. “You look a little warm, Nat?”
She stopped with just a chip in her hand, “Why do you say that Nick?”
Tom was glaring at Schanke who was now helping himself to more of the dip.
“Because you appear to need a bit of a cloth to the forehead.” One really couldn’t tell a lady she was sweating, but he had to make her understand. If he was right, she was already be poisoned.
Nat raised her hand to her forehead, it was damp. She reached for a towel that was sitting on the edge of her desk and wiped it off. “It appears you’re right Nick. Must be my reaction to the spicy dip Tom’s mother created.”
“So, you come down for any particular reason, gentlemen?”
“Uh, yea, Nat. We’ve been checking out the restaurants nearest where each body was found and found the one where each victim was eating. Each restaurant in question also had ads for a McKenzie’s High Park, a local hot spot. We’re headed over there now to see what they might know. We wanted to stop by and let you know.
“Thanks Nick, but we’re just snacking and taking bodies apart.” She took a swig of her ice tea. Her breathing sounded off to Nick. He didn’t want to destroy the kid’s career if he was innocent, but he didn’t want Natalie in harm’s way if his instincts were right either.
Tom looked really irritated at Schanke as he took a third chip and loaded it up. “I’m not sure there’s enough for three, detective,” he said through a clenched jaw.
“Oh don’t worry Tom, I don’t eat that much. There’s enough for Detective Schanke!” She sounded almost drunk in her delivery. She…
Suddenly Natalie was having real repertory distress. “Nick, I’m… I can’t breathe…” she was breathing, but it was labored. He hit the panic button, setting off an audible alarm and a flashing red light while Schanke dialed 911 on the desk phone and Tom jumped up, backing out of the way.
“Natalie, you’re going to be ok, stay with me, Nat. I’ll help you breath if I have to. Schanke, cuff that man!” Nick hollered that last part will pointing toward Tom who was headed for the door. Schanke pulled his gun, “Stop right there, Tom.” Schanke walked over to Tom, now not moving, and cuffed him.
Tom glared at Schanke, “You have no idea. I was proving myself worthy. I knew if Dr. Lambert saw how good my mind was, how sharp, how facile - she’d have to come to me. As the restaurants' new delivery man, I was not only able to deliver the first part of the poison in the food but I could also put the second part in the bar's water gun; plus I delivered the ads for the McKenzie too! I knew I could show how ingenious I was by creating a two part poison. She had to love me then!”
Schanke rolled his eyes, “Shut up you, Natalie’s in real danger because of you!”
Nick sat Natalie up and massaged her ribcage to keep the air flowing in and out of her lungs. She was having real trouble breathing. He’d have to start rescue breathing if the medics didn’t… And he didn’t process a lot of oxygen, this could be a problem…
Nick had ridden the ambulance to the hospital while Schanke drove the caddie. “Me, drive the caddie? This *must* be a big deal, Nick!” He remembered Schanke saying as he jumped into the ambulance.
Big deal. Yea, something like that.
Natalie was coming around. They’d pumped her stomach and let her sleep it off. He’d been watching her breathing for an hour now, terrified it would stop again. “Nat?”
Natalie opened her eyes and looked at Nick, groggily. “Hi there,” she said weakly.
“You really gave us a scare, Nat.” Schanke was over at the door, he’d appeared just as Natalie had woken.
“Comes of eating homemade recipes I guess.” She smiled, if tenuously.
Nick squeezed her hand and looked into her eyes. He wasn’t losing her to some stupid kid’s misguided infatuation.
Nick nodded. Schanke spoke up, “We showed his picture with the vics at the bar. Nick had a hunch. Seems the bartender had seen Tom; ID’d him as the new afternoon delivery guy. We showed his picture up and down Bloor at likely other businesses just in case and found a little pharmacy where he’d picked up the drugs, claiming they were “replacements for city stores.” He flashed his badge and picked up whatever he needed. Twisted kid.”
Natalie nodded, “That explains how he managed to deliver the first part of the poison to everyone at the bar. What about the restaurants?”
“Once we got him ID’d at the bar, we went back to the restaurants. That’s what I was doing while Nick came back to make sure you were OK. All of the restaurant’s confirmed they’d seen him as the afternoon delivery man in the same week.”
“And putting the ads for McKenzie’s at all three restaurants made sure everyone had reason to go to that bar. Our problem was trying to connect the victims. He didn’t care who died, only that they died of his particular poison combination. He made sure basic ingredients at the restaurants were contaminated with the first drug and then made sure the bar’s water gun was contaminated with the second part. The shrimp paste almost threw us off entirely, because the Phenelzine was the only drug in the victim’s system. “
Nat shook her head, “But why me?”
Nick shook his head, “Something about proving himself worthy. I guess he thought he could save you at the last minute, showing you how very brave he was as well.”
“Great. How about next time, I get a sane intern. Just for kicks, eh?”
All three of them broke out laughing. Natalie was going to be alright. Nick could breath easy again.
Forever Knight and its characters were created by Barney Cohen and James D. Parriott and are copyright to Sony/Tristar. None of the characters in this story belongs to me. I'm just borrowing them temporarily. No infringement intended. No profit is being made.
Special thanks go to wdoherty5 for beta-reading, to abby82 for the lovely prompt that inspired this story and to the moderators of fkficfest (brightknightie and amilyn) for creating the opportunity to write this story.