A Story of Three Friends

Forensics for Dummies
Forensics for Dummies
by B.T. Kidney and G. Grissom

I used to have an old friend, who was a reputable doctor. Nobody would have asked him about their symptoms or small complaints though, because with him, you would never know where such questions could lead you.

You should not think he was a dangerous doctor or a charlatan though. He was not at risk to be struck off the medical register, although his career was punctuated with a lot of death: my friend was an expert in forensics. He was even a leading expert in his field, among the best in the world.

A specialist in difficult diagnoses, death in suspicious circumstances, questionable suicides and unequivocal murders, he would find the diagnosis that explained the inexplicable. He was able to turn the irrational into the rational, and bring mysterious death back to normality.

You will not be surprised then that he was often asked for a diagnosis about victims from all over the globe. He was always between two planes, always in a hurry. A globe-trotting doctor, although he did not have the look. Several years older than me, he was a very unobtrusive person, with a quiet elegance and temperate language. He looked like a man of law, a solicitor, a judge, rather than a doctor.

For that matter, his area of specialisation required frequent contacts with men of law because his offices would often come to settlement of complex inheritance issues, sometimes in a way quite unexpected by the heirs of the dear departed, when coveted legacies turned into sentences of life imprisonment.


I had another very dear friend, who was quite different. About ten years younger than me, she was a very beautiful woman and a talented nude dancer at a famous Parisian cabaret.

I had followed her career and supported her for long. We were very hopeful she would become the first dancer soon.

My two friends met for the first time at a reception I gave on the occasion of my birthday. Between them, it was love at first sight. A few months later, my old friend divorced his wife, and mother of three grown-up children, and married her.

Yet aging persons are possessive sometimes. He made her interrupt her career. The young bride suffered a great deal, I can tell you. Her husband thanked her with long travels abroad rather than tokens of his affection. Soon, she only thought of keeping boredom at bay, and succeeded in this purpose in the most pleasant and Parisian way... I can surely tell you too.

Murder is always a mistake — one should never do anything one cannot talk about after dinner.
Oscar Wilde

My friend died shortly after their third anniversary. Nobody found the cause of his death, despite two autopsies: the first one performed at the request of his children, the other one by letters rogatory demanded by his insurance company, obviously reluctant to pay his young widow a premium that amounted to three million euros.

"No one will ever know why my poor husband died", she used to moan. "He was the only one who could find it out, but he cannot do it any more. He was the only one who knew how to kill your fellow man so that nobody can prove it." She would burst into tears then, and I comforted her in her grief the best I could.

She wanted to publish his fascinating last book, that was almost finished when he passed on. When he was away from home, we both used to read the manuscript during our long evenings alone together. She deemed it her duty towards the deceased to publish the book — a last way to show him how grateful she was.

The book was truly of utmost scientific importance: in particular, it revealed the formula of a new toxic substance, unknown to the most eminent of specialists, that anyone could easily extract from the stamens of a common wild flower, thanks to a clever and innovative process.

If the book was to be published, no doubt that the plant poison would be called by my friend's name, giving him post-mortem fame, and immortality,  sort of.

Anyway, at the end, my old friend's widow bowed to my reasons. Hardly silencing her scruples, with a lot of tears in her eyes, she burned the manuscript in the bonfire we lit in our home's hearth, the very day we received the check from the insurance company.

[BbN #3]

I first published this short story a couple of years ago in a previous blog, now deleted. My friend Vanessa was kind enough at the time to read it and point out several English errors. Thank you again, Vanessa.

2 comment(s):

    Great short story, Billy! (I look forward to seeing how far you can go with your numbers constraint.)


    Thank you Lynn. Although I wrote it a few years ago, this short story appeared appropriate to illustrate number 3. I first thought of writing something new about a 'ménage à trois' rather, but laziness won!


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