“Why would you want an autopsy?” I ask, mainly to see detective Branch’s response.
“Ever seen a bedbug, Dr. Marshall?” The question is quite unexpected.
“No.” I answer truthfully. I’ve never seen a bedbug, and hope to never see one, although we did have a problem with them in the dorms not long ago.
“His place was crawling with bedbugs, Dr. Marshall.” Leonard Branch is staring at me, almost as if I were a bedbug myself. “We looked on Google. They suck your blood. We’re suspicious that Dr. Renner might have died from some disease.” He’s serious, still staring at me. “There’s always the possibility of an epidemic on campus.”
“Now that would be a problem, wouldn’t it?” I’m sympathetic, sort of. Maybe instead of Google, later today I’ll check the real scientific literature on bedbugs, just to see if there’s any evidence that they transmit dread diseases—HIV, Ebola virus, or something else that will turn your insides into a hemorrhaging pulp.
“Did anyone ever say anything to him about bedbugs?” Another strange question from detective Branch.
“Why would anyone in a geology department say anything to anyone about bedbugs?” I pause, looking straight at Branch. “In fact, why would anyone in a geology department even know anything about bedbugs?”
“I don’t know,” replies Branch; “I really don’t know. But someone must have said something to him.” It’s his turn to pause. “You can get bedbugs anywhere. We found that out on Google.”
“Really? Why do you think somebody might have talked to him about bedbugs?” An image flashes through my mind: three officers over in Campus Security, between rounds looking for expired parking meters, hunched over their computers, deeply engaged in Facebook, Twitter, and Google, supposedly learning about bedbugs but actually learning whatever somebody somewhere in the world wants to put up on the Internet about bedbugs, disease, deadly viruses, blood pouring out of all your bodily orifices, or anything else that the average person believes might be creepy.
“Because we found this in his house.” Branch reaches into his briefcase and pulls out a thick file. I notice dark splotches on the paper, splotches I now know are dried bedbug feces containing blood. Had I known that at the time, I would never have handled it. But I laid the file on my desk and opened it. Page after page of information on bedbugs. Renner had been doing research, if you can call it that, on bedbugs, ostensibly in an effort to get rid of them without anyone knowing his place was infested.
BE CAREFUL, DR. RENNER is available as an e-book. Send me an e-mail if you'd like to do a review and I'll try to get you a copy.