Two—yes, two—posts in the same day. When I first joined the Friday Flash Fics group, I’d just missed the previous Friday photo prompt. But, it still got me thinking, so I went ahead and wrote a a flash fiction response.
I mean, how could I not?
(This is inspired in part by the flash piece ’Nathan wrote in response. You should go read his, too.)
Fair warning ahead of time: I know next to nothing about medical examiners and autopsies. Yes, I need to do that research. No, I didn’t have time before I wrote this. However, Malcolm may appear in a book I’m working on that draws together characters from at least three other things I’ve written. Trust me, I’ll be doing the research before that.
Right. Without further ado…
Malcolm set the scalpel down after he pulled aside the sheet. On the table in front of him was Mr. August.
He resisted the urge to glance at the wall behind him, where the Men of St. Louis calendar hung over the desk. He’d flipped through it when Allison hung it up, each of them wondering how many were really doctors, firefighters, and construction workers, rather than models hired to get half-dressed in the appropriate uniforms, all arranged strategically to look as if they might slip at any moment.
Mr. August looked like the real deal, even with the pencil clenched ridiculously between his teeth. (Who ever held a pencil like that?) The one difference that set him apart from the others was a pale, hairless scar running diagonally along his left forearm. Malcolm could have reached out and touched that scar right now. Instead, he glanced toward the clock over the doorway—Allison wouldn’t get in for another forty-five minutes. He had time.
Malcolm placed his hand on Mr. August’s chest and exhaled. Closing his eyes, he followed that breath down his arm and into his fingertips. With a tingle that almost itched, it led into Mr. August’s chest, along blood vessels that were quiet, cold, until he reached the heart—
Gasping, Mr. August sat up.
It almost always happened like this. Malcolm had to decide, in the initial disorientation, whether to tell them they were dead, and that this would only last a short while.
In this case, being on a table in the morgue kind of took care of that.
“Whoa.” Mr. August looked down at himself, then around the room. “That really happened, didn’t it?”
Malcolm nodded. “Who did this?”
Mr. August pointed over Malcolm’s shoulder at the calendar. “Mr. February,” he said, “that backstabbing son of a bitch.” He was speaking somewhat literally. There were three knife wounds in his back. He returned his gaze to Malcolm. “How long does this last?” Malcolm’s hesitation apparently said all he needed to. “That’s what I figured.”
“Were you really a carpenter?” Malcolm asked. Mr. August flinched a little.
“Were. I guess I’m glad I don’t have to get used to hearing about myself in the past tense. But yeah, mostly furniture. Some custom jobs. People thought I was crazy for doing the calendar, but I figured it might help business. And I might meet someone. Guess I did, but not in the good way.” He stared hard at Malcolm. “What’s your name?”
Mr. August held out his hand. “Drake Coleman. But you probably already know that. I need a couple favors.”
“First, make sure Mr. February doesn’t get away with this.”
“I’ll tell the police.” He was used to delivering anonymous tips. “What else?”
Drake grabbed Malcolm’s lab coat and drew him closer. “I’m kind of scared right now.”
Malcolm hadn’t ever been kissed by one of the people he’d revived. In the moment, he couldn’t say that he minded.
Once their lips parted, Drake got a faraway look in his eyes, as if he were seeing something just on the other side of Malcolm’s face.
“I think I should lie back down now,” he said.
Malcolm eased him back, and he was gone again before the back of his head rested on the table.