February 29th was an unusually busy day for the medical examiner’s office. A half dozen bodies were brought in for examination; all had expired from car accidents, terminal medical conditions or natural causes. The strange visitor from the previous day was not among the dead but both men were too occupied with their respective duties to notice. At the end of the day, Eric stepped back into the examination room to bid farewell to the doctor.
“So… I guess his um, ‘ultra rare-death prophesy’ didn’t pan out, eh?”; Eric noted.
The doctor looked up from his scrub sink and raised his eyebrow in bemusement. “You didn’t really expect to see him here, did you?”
“Well I… uh, no… but from the way you describe him, he was so sure of the whole thing! It’s a lot like buying a lottery ticket. The chances of it coming true are minuscule but it ‘could’ happen. There was a little part of me that thought.. what if….”
Doctor Reeves chuckled at Eric’s analogy and nodded in agreement. It was an astute observation. Delusions and superstitious fears could be very contagious under certain favorable circumstances. Although he never wanted to see anyone on his autopsy table, he was also a little curious to see if the unlikely event would transpire. Both of them were relieved that the ‘premature patient’ didn’t actually come in on a gurney. The doctor said goodnight to Eric and closed up the office for the evening.
The next day was a lot quieter at the Medical Examiner’s office. Only one body was brought in. Doctor Reeves conducted the elderly lady’s autopsy and listed her cause of death on the certificate as routine, natural causes.
A few minutes before closing time, the phone rang and the doctor took the call on his office extension. Eric wondered if it was related to a last minute ‘drop off’ that occasionally occurred late on Friday evening. The hospital didn’t want to store deceased victims over the weekend, or when foul play was suspected by the authorities. The investigators would typically request expedited results to determine if a ‘suspicious death investigation’ was warranted. Time was of the essence while potential evidence was still fresh and could be compiled.
Just as Eric suspected, when he hung up, the doctor informed him that County General was dropping off a suspicious ‘John Doe’. The authorities needed them to stay over and examine the body as soon as possible.
The ambulance driver backed up to the receiving doors and the pulled out the gurney. He stoically handed Eric a clip board to sign for the corpse transfer. Without so much as a word of acknowledgment, he closed the doors and drove away. The entire transaction only took two minutes.
Eric could have went home at his regular time but he didn’t mind staying over a little while. It allowed him to get a jump on all his paperwork. Doctor Reeves also seemed to appreciate his company on the late nights.
When the coroner pulled back the sheet, he turned uncharacteristically pale. Under normal circumstances, it would have been a very odd reaction for such a routine action. He was a veteran of thousands of post-mortem examinations but this one was destined to be different. After an awkward moment of silence, he sat down at his desk to collect his senses. Once he regained his composure, he informed Eric that he wasn’t needed and could go on home.
Sensing the obvious, Eric asked: “Is it him?”
The doctor nodded silently. “We already know his name and date of birth. Judging from the advanced state of rigor and the peaceful smile on his face, we can also surmise that he achieved his morbid goal. He died yesterday, the 29th of February.”