Home > Dirty Martini (J.J. Graves Mystery #10)(6)

Dirty Martini (J.J. Graves Mystery #10)(6)
Author: Liliana Hart

Behind Sheldon was my new intern. I’d had about ten minutes to talk with him before I’d been called to the crime scene, and I was still undecided on Blake Steed. I’d had to check his paperwork twice to make sure that was his real name. He looked like a young Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall, and with a name like Blake Steed I wondered how he’d ended up in forensic pathology instead of the porn industry. But I guess we could be grateful for small favors.

“That’s the new intern?” Jack asked, looking at me and raising his brows.

“That’s what they tell me,” I said. “Wait until you hear his name.”

“Where are you getting your interns from?” Jack asked. “A casting agency?”

“It’s starting to feel that way,” I said. “I thought Lily was an anomaly, but maybe U of V has a pathology school for beautiful people. I’m not sure it matters. I don’t know if it’s going to work out with the new guy.”

“Why?” Jack asked, surprised. “I thought you needed someone.”

“I do,” I said. “But if he doesn’t stop hitting on me, he’s going to end up on my embalming table.”

“Who wouldn’t want to hit on you with that kind of sweet talk.”

I laughed out loud and watched as Sheldon and Blake collapsed the gurney so they could lift it up the stairs and into the ring. Sweat dotted Sheldon’s hairless upper lip and he turned an odd shade of green. He dropped his end of the gurney and pulled his shirt over his nose, his hot breath making his glasses fog up.

“Breathe slow and through your mouth,” I told him, afraid he might throw up on my crime scene.

“He gonna be okay?” Slack asked.

“Oh, sure,” I said. “He’s not all the way used to the smells yet. This isn’t nearly as bad as the lady who’d been eaten by her cats.”

Slack rocked back on his heels again as he watched Sheldon pace back and forth like a caged tiger while he tried to get himself under control.

“I’m okay,” Sheldon said, letting go of his shirt and taking off his glasses so he could wipe away the fog. “I’m good. Breathe through the mouth. Nice and slow and steady. I miss Lily. She always reminded me to breathe.”

“I’m sure Blake can help you out with that,” I said.

“Maybe,” Sheldon said, not sounding convinced. “Maybe not. Did you know fewer than seventy thousand people in the United States are named Blake?” He said it as if the small number somehow made Blake less able to perform the task of reminding a person to breathe.

“Nope,” I said. “Didn’t know that one. And I’m not sure why you do.”

“I looked it up after you introduced us,” Sheldon explained. “I’ve never known a Blake before.”

I wasn’t sure Blake had even realized that his name had just been said several times and that we were talking about him as if he weren’t standing right there. He wasn’t quite the same shade of green Sheldon had been a couple of minutes ago, but his tan didn’t look quite as healthy as when he’d first stepped into the ring.

“Whoa,” Blake said, his eyes widening as he stared at the victim. “This is, like…definitely not the same as the cadavers in class. I put Vicks in my nose though so I’m not going to throw up or anything.”

“That’s always a plus,” I said. It was an old body farm trick to put Vicks inside your nostrils to disguise the smell of decomposition or other postmortem odors.

I noticed Sheldon hadn’t taken his eyes off the victim once he’d gotten himself under control.

“Everything okay, Sheldon?” I asked.

“It’s…it’s Kaal Dracarian,” Sheldon said, his voice higher pitched than usual. He patted his front pant pocket and then dug inside, coming out with an inhaler. He took a couple of huffs and then shoved the inhaler back in his pocket.

“Also known as Kevin Schwartzman,” Jack said. “Our victim.”

“Right,” Sheldon said. “It’s just…he looks so authentic. Look at the stitching on that cape. Fit for a king.” Sheldon placed his fist over his heart.

“He’s trippin’,” Blake said, looking at Sheldon like he was from another planet.

“Let’s get him bagged and back to the lab,” I said before Sheldon could go into a full tribute for his fallen hero. “Go ahead and put him in the cooler. It’s going to be a couple of hours before I get back. You can show Blake the protocols for transporting the body.”

“I’m a fast learner, Doc,” Blake said, giving me a blindingly white smile and a wink. “I’m number two in my class. I was hoping to get to shadow you so I could get a better feel for the full scope of the job. Maybe you and I can grab a cup of coffee later and I can show you some of my autopsy techniques.”

Jack leaned his head toward me and said, “Is that today’s version of showing someone your etchings?”

I pressed my lips together to keep from laughing and was really at a loss. I didn’t want to crush the kid’s ego, but I didn’t have the time or inclination to deal with him.

“I’ll get plenty of chances to see your techniques while you’re interning,” I said. “We’re going to be very busy until we close this case. No one has a lot of time for coffee breaks when there’s a body on the table.”

Sheldon looked at me, confused. “You drink coffee all the time,” he said. “Especially when you’ve got bodies on the tables. Emmy Lu got you that fancy new espresso machine for Christmas so you can work late at night.” Then he turned to Blake and said, “She really drinks too much of the stuff. I don’t think those levels of caffeine are healthy for anyone. Did you know that Americans drink a hundred and forty-six billion cups of coffee per year?”

“Really?” Blake asked, and Sheldon nodded like an eager puppy.

It was rare anyone showed interest when Sheldon spouted the endless facts stored in his brain, and I could tell he was about to start a long-winded conversation about all things coffee.

“Coffee talk later,” I said and looked directly at Blake. “Sheriff Lawson and I have time for coffee breaks because it’s what will keep us awake for the next forty-eight hours while we work this thing. Emmy Lu will show you where the coffeepot is back at the funeral home. Feel free to grab a cup during your break.”

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