The facts were these...
In the city of New York, a 235 year old medical examiner by the name of Doctor Henry Morgan was about to die. Again. He tried not to make a habit of it, but it is very hard for a man that age to survive a car accident like that at such a high speed. Doctor Morgan was 235 years, six months, nine hours and twenty-seven seconds old when he died.
For most people, a hit and run attack late one Thursday night would be the end, as they passed on to wherever people go after death, but there are occasional outliers out there, people like Doctor Morgan who had, for over 200 years, cheated death by returning in water, never aging a day. Never dying for anything longer than four minutes.
By a strange and altogether entirely improbable set of coincidences, another man was walking down the street who also understood death was not the end. His name was Ned, and he was the Piemaker, who could touch dead things bringing them back to life. He had no idea of the chain of events he was about to set off when he knelt down beside a dying man on that quiet, lonely evening.
Henry hated dying at the best of times, but lying in the gutter with a stranger leaning over him and talking with the same kind of awkward, inane babble as Lucas, now that was something he would really have preferred to avoid. Bad enough that there would be a witness to - well, the unfortunate thing that happened whenever he died - he just had to prattle on about ridiculous nonsense for the entire time, eyebrows jumping all over the place like dark, terrified caterpillars, voice growing fainter as Henry felt himself slipping away into silence. He prepared himself for the usual irksome swim back to the city, completely naked, freezing very sensitive areas of his body off, followed by Abe’s mocking and mothering for the next few hours.
That was how it always went. It was inevitable.
Instead, he felt a surge of something, a bizarre sort of energy rushing through his blood and giving him life. He breathed. His eyes opened to the dark street, man with the caterpillar eyebrows and Lucas’ patterns of speech leaning over him.
“Hey uh we just met a moment ago. My name’s Ned, in case you know, death made you forget that. We’ve only got about a minute so do you have any final requests, anyone you’d like to say goodbye to?”
Ned was looking at his watch nervously, which made absolutely no sense. None of this made sense, it defied rational explanation. It was probably a hallucination, concocted by lack of oxygen to the brain causing his final - well, not so much final as transitional - moments to be a figment of his imagination. It wouldn’t have been the first time. Nor the most surreal, for that matter. The only thing stopping him from accepting this hypothesis was the fact he knew what death felt like. He had felt it. He had died. By rights, he should be emerging from the river in a couple of minutes, stark naked and inconvenienced beyond measure.
Confused, he tried to right himself, failing, mostly because it is very hard to sit up when every bone in your body is broken and by rights you should be dead, but partly because one of his arms he was trying to prop himself up on was lying about a foot or so away from the rest of his body. Of course. Perfect. It just had to happen, didn’t it? Absolutely bloody typical.
“No. No last requests.” Henry replied, staring up at a patch of deep blue sky visible overhead.
“Okay so do you have any idea who killed you? Anyone who might want you dead?” Ned rattled off the questions as if he had asked them before. Like this was a routine day in his life. Definitely a hallucination.
The question lingered in Henry’s mind until - of course! - the answer came to him. Adam. That bloody psychopath just has to keep proving he can get to me at any time. Struggling for breath, Henry nodded. How he managed this, he had no idea. If Ned was telling the truth, and he only had a minute left; less now; there wasn’t enough time for his excessively long life story. There never was anyway, regardless of circumstances.
“It doesn’t matter…” he murmured, trailing off.
“Yes it does,” Ned insisted hurriedly, seemingly conscious of time constraints. “Everybody matters. What’s your name?”
It couldn’t hurt to tell him. Wasn’t as if he could track him down from first name alone. “Henry.”
“Who killed you?” Ned, who looked nothing like Lucas really but was somehow so similar Henry wanted to trust him, was glancing at his watch even more frequently. A minute, he had said. That minute was almost up.
Henry shook his head as best as he could. “I couldn’t possibly know where to even begin.” The stranger looked at his watch more anxiously now, and Henry decided to simply lie back and wait for whatever was about to happen to get on with it, for his most bizarre death in a long while to come to its inevitable conclusion. He expected to drift off into unconsciousness, to wake in the river, hallucinations long forgotten. He did not expect Ned to reach out and touch him, for that touch to drain the energy he had felt, draw it out in an instant, so sudden, the physical contact could only have caused it. What the hell was going on? The thought didn’t bother him for long because the next thing he knew, he was in the river, ready to embark on the arduous trip back to shore. He’d actually drowned once, a long time ago; died, come back, got dragged under and died again. It was absolutely typical sometimes. Really it was…
That stranger’s face stuck in his mind, so vividly it could not have been a dream. Ned. Mulling over the details, he recalled seeing flour on the man’s trousers. A baker? Or...and he wasn’t sure what gave him this particular idea, as it was certainly not a logical conclusion - a piemaker.
He would have to talk to Abe and see if there was a way to use, what was it called, ‘the Google’ to track this ‘Ned’ down.
Meanwhile, back on the street where Doctor Morgan had met his most recent demise, a rather confused Piemaker was staring at the place that a body used to be. A body that had disappeared, leaving only a pocket-watch behind. The Piemaker knew that what he had seen was impossible, but then again, wasn’t touching dead things and bringing them back to life just as, if not more, unlikely?
He resolved to ask Emerson Cod, private detective and his sort-of-business partner, what he thought about the matter. And also to find out who the man in the street had been. And to find his killer.
Who was he?
And more importantly, where was his corpse?