The Halfback by Night (PG-13)

“What are you reviewing?” Wally asked, still hedging a mild suspicion.

“Just the morgue itself, an overview of your equipment and practices.”

Kolchak took the ball, “Sanitary conditions, sterile instru­ments, proper, uh, refrigeration. Quality control.”

“Exactly right,” Rockford never missed a beat, “My associate Dave here and I just take a look around, ask a couple of questions, and we’re out of your, eh, hair.”

Rockford’s involuntary comment escaped Wally’s notice as the orderly kept right on raking his Afro, finally rising from his chair, and indicating they follow him through the morgue’s doors.

“Whatever,” he said flatly, “You’re not gonna find anything out of whack in there.”

“That’s what we like to hear,” Kolchak assured as he and Rockford entered the library-like quiet of the huge room of fluores­cent light and shiny stainless steel.

Wally had propped himself against the wall, arms crossed, “Well, let me put it this way, we don’t get a lot of complaints.”

Rockford grinned, it was a better opening than any he could’ve asked for. He turned to Wally and confronted him with the photo of Clayton Shoemaker Valerie had given him. “That’s not exactly true, Wally. Recognize him?”

“Him? Yeah,” Wally answered, looking unsure again, “That’s Stacker. He came through here last week.”

“Were you here when they brought him in?” Kolchak asked.

“Not right then, no, but my shift started while they were still doing the autopsy.”

“And it was him exactly?” Rockford pressed, “This exact person in the photo here? No doubt in your mind?”

Wally was growing more confused and uneasy, “Yeah, man, yeah. Clay Shoemaker of the Rams. I had a poli-sci class with him two years ago.”

Rockford’s eyes squinted slightly as he came in closer to the orderly, “Look, I’m gonna be perfectly honest with you, Wally. The Bureau got called in to investigate this specific case. Seems the family of the deceased was less than pleased with the handling of his body.”

Kolchak aided in the unnerving of their previously apathetic host by quickly snapping a shot of Wally as his mouth opened word­lessly for a second, “I – ‘Handling’? Nobody was handling his- I mean, they had him on the table, but-!”

“Right, right, about that,” Kolchak said, “would you say it was a typical autopsy?”

“What?” said Wally, hopelessly lost and outnumbered by this point. Rockford himself wasn’t exactly sure where Kolchak was headed but he appreciated the reporter’s enthusiastic involvement in the “interrogation.”

“The autopsy on Clayton Shoemaker, would you say it was a textbook, seen-one-seen ’em-all, no surprises procedure?”

Wally shot a quick glance towards the hospital phone affixed to the wall just a few feet away, unfortunately on the other side of the inspector calling himself “Pete Thompson” who might as well have been Mt. Everest to the 5’2” (with fro) morgue attendant. “I don’t know, sure. It’s not like I was in the room. I heard some stuff later-”

“Stuff?” asked a puzzled Rockford.

Kolchak pounced, “Elaborate please on said ‘stuff.’”

There was no use, Wally’s shoulders dropped and he finally gave in to the two-pronged inquisition. He sighed.

“Supposedly the wounds didn’t match up with the story the cops were selling. Stacker’s throat wasn’t slashed, it was more like…chewed on, or something.”

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