by Hy Conrad
Dr. Bromley was overseeing the admission of his patient to Mt. Cedar Clinic. “It’s a broken tibia,” he told the administrator, showing her a series of X-rays. “I put Kurt McCoy in an inflatable leg cast. He can’t walk and will need at least a day’s rest and observation.” Dr. Bromley looked a bit embarrassed. “To be honest, the fracture was a result of a fight between Mr. McCoy and his cousin. Until things cool down between the McCoys, I just think it better for Kurt if he stays here.”
The McCoy cousins had been battling for years. After Kurt and Emil McCoy inherited the family garment business, their relationship deteriorated. The latest incident was a slugfest during which Emil swore that he would kill Kurt and then proceeded to smash his leg with a baseball bat. Kurt needed someplace safe to stay while he recovered from the trauma and worked out a lawsuit against his cousin. Hence Mt. Cedar.
Dr. Bromley wheeled Kurt into a private room and made sure the window was securely locked. It was eight p.m. The clinic ordered a security guard to monitor the hall and made a note on the chart not to disturb Mr. McCoy until morning.
At around two a.m. a nurse ignored that notation and peeked her head into room 507. She saw no trace of her patient but did notice an open window. A deflated leg cast on the sill prompted her to peer out. She saw nothing on the fire escape. But just below it, in the deserted alley, lay the body of Kurt McCoy face down on a pile of garbage bags. The police initially assumed that Kurt had removed his cast and was trying to maneuver his way down the fire escape when he lost his balance. But that was before they saw the bullet hole. A .38 slug had penetrated the victim’s chest and was proved to be the cause of death.
The first officer arrived in the alley at 2:14 a.m. and found the victim face down on the garbage bags. He was cold to the touch and totally naked except for a wrist band identifying him and his room number. An hour later, when the body was finally moved, the police noted very little blood on the bags, less than might be imagined given the nature of the gunshot wound. Under the body were several broken pieces of glass.
Emil McCoy was interviewed the next day at his office, a 15-minute drive from the clinic. He showed no grief at the news. “Kurt was going to sue me, you know. Some stupid suit about me breaking his leg.”
Emil was asked to account for his whereabouts at the time of his cousin’s death, which the coroner estimated at sometime between nine p.m. and midnight. “I was right here in the office,” he replied. “We were having trouble with our Hong Kong suppliers. I was calling them or they were calling me all night. I picked up my car at about one a.m. Feel free to check with the phone company and the garage man.”
The police took him up on it. The Hong Kong suppliers confirmed the calls. A phone company technician determined that they had indeed been made to and from the office instrument. No cellular phone had been used, nor had any call-forwarding feature. The longest time between calls was approximately 20 minutes. The office garage records confirmed the rest of Emil’s story. He had taken out his car at a few minutes before one a.m.
Stymied by this seemingly solid alibi, the police refocus their attention on Dr. Bromley and discover an interesting fact. According to the guard in the hall, Dr. Bromley visited his patient’s room at 12:30 a.m., well after McCoy was dead. On leaving the room several minutes later, Bromley made a chart notation. “12:33. Resting peacefully.” Dr. Bromley had no explanation for this oddity except to say that the coroner must be wrong about the time of death.
A homicide sergeant reviewed the case and scratched his head. “It doesn’t add up. At the time the patient was admitted, he had a broken leg and was supposedly in fear for his life. The window was locked and the hall guarded. From eight until the nurse’s discovery of the body at two a.m., no one but Bromley had access to the room. No one in this crowded clinic heard a gunshot or any sign of struggle. Our only suspect with a motive has an iron-clad alibi. And, to top it off, the doctor swears his patient was in that room resting peacefully at 12:33, half an hour after the latest possible time of his death.”