“Sorry guys. I, um, have low blood sugar and I ran out of the house without eating. It was dumb and I know better but I feel better now.”
Color burned on Seth’s cheeks. He wondered whether they’d truly bought his story but he had to say something. Pull yourself together, man! They’re looking at you like you’re losing it.
“No need to apologize,” Kim insisted. “I’m sure I’ve got a pack of crackers or a candy bar in my desk. Wait here and I’ll get you something to eat.”
“That’s okay, you really don’t have…Okay, I guess she’s not listening, huh?”
Angela and Bill laughed as they watched Kim disappear inside the building and return seconds later with an assortment of snacks: a pack of peanut butter crackers, an apple, at bottle of water, a banana, and a candy bar.
“Here, eat however much you need. No one is allowed to pass out in my morgue!”
Under threat of being force fed, Seth munched on the crackers between sips of water. In spite of his insistence that he felt much better, both ladies made him polish off the candy bar also.
“Okay, I ate it all-gone now, Mom. Can I go play now?”
Seth’s words dripped with sarcasm but the girls laughed anyway and agreed they could all go back inside. Once everyone was gowned and ready, it was time to get back to business.
“So, before Seth almost did a crash and burn into the dead guy,” Angela teased. “Bill, you said you could explain why tongue-less Trevor didn’t spit out the blood. What were you talking about?”
“Well, I noticed a few things when I was looking over the body and, now that we have more information, it all makes sense. For example, see right here on his cheeks? Something was gouging into them on both sides. I think it was a bite block with a cheek retractor…they use them in the dental offices sometimes but usually the dentist doesn’t clamp it on so tight that it digs into the flesh.”
“So our murderer is a dentist?”
“No, not necessarily. Anyone can buy that stuff on Amazon or Ebay nowadays so it could be anybody. What’s interesting is how there is also a small puncture wound, right here.”
Using an instrument, Bill pointed to a spot right along the recently deceased’s hairline. The others leaned in to see exactly where he was pointing.
“I might be wrong but I think our killer rigged up some kind of harness to keep the victim’s head up and back. Think about it. If you were strapped down and your mouth was forced open so you couldn’t close it; meanwhile, your lips and cheeks were forcibly retracted, it is already going to be difficult to swallow. Now, the tongue has pincer marks so it is safe to assume that the killer used some sort of tongs or maybe even a pair of pliers to pull that sucker out as far as he could before getting in there with a knife and hacking it off. Unlike all of the other pieces that were removed, the killer didn’t heat the implement to cauterize the flesh as he cut. He…or she... wanted, Mr. Burbridge to drown in his own blood. I can’t prove it but I’d be willing to bet money that ole tongue-less Trevor, as you so charmingly nicknamed him, had something blocking his nose too. It could have been something as simple as a clothes pin but with the inability to breathe through his nose, he’d have been forced to breathe through his mouth. When panic or pain sets in, what is one of the first physical responses we have?”
“Rapid respiration,” Seth interjected.
“Exactly! So, our victim was inhaling at an accelerated rate when a tidal wave of blood poured down his throat. He couldn’t put his head down to let the blood flow out of his mouth so... the only thing he could try was coughing hard enough to expel the blood but you need air in your lungs to cough. With that much fluid pouring down his throat, it wouldn’t take long for him to die. This was mostly a superficial amputation of the tongue so it was more about the symbolism since he didn’t eat it.”
“What do you mean, eat it?”
“What do you mean, eat it?”