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The Time Machine – The Peter Wheller Series

Chapter 1

Peter Wheller, PhD in physics and chemistry, had, much like every other morning, driven to the university in his old Volvo. He wore, much to his wife Ashley’s dismay, one of his white shirts and a pair of corduroys. Since it was nearing the end of September and cooling down quite a bit, he had put on his favourite jacket, the one with the leather inserts on the elbows, added due to how worn out the sleeves were. His 43 years of age was showing through the grey shade his hair had begun taking, although his body was in good shape thanks to the sport he did. He had already signed up for next year’s Boston marathon a few weeks ago. He hadn’t been able to participate this year due to a conference, but he wanted to be there again in 2024.

 It was 10:30 in the morning, and he was holding a lecture in applied physics for a few of his students. He was about to touch on the topic of light refraction when the door to the study hall opened, and Francis Knight, a leader at the uni, entered with a worried face. The two of them were friends.

“Peter, could you step out for a second?”

“What is it?”, Peter replied, a little irritated, he hated being interrupted while he was in the middle of a lecture.

Francis, on the other hand, had the habit of just dropping by whenever he wanted to ask him something, since he trusted Peter’s knowledge more than Google or Wikipedia.

“It’s really important, and I need you to step out,” he followed up.

So he followed him outside. Waiting in the hall were two men in suits. Their clothes were off-the-peg, which Peter didn’t particularly mind, it just meant that they were most likely policemen. And, as expected, one of the two men showed his badge and started talking: “Hello, my name is Chester Doyle, detective for the Boston Police Department, are you Dr Peter Wheller?”

“Yes,” he answered politely.

The second officer didn’t speak at all, just stared off into nothingness. He was younger and obviously still in training. Peter simply thought: “If he remains this passive, then he’ll never be able to hold a successful conversation”.

At the same time, he was worried about what they even wanted from him. And just as he thought this, detective Doyle laid it out flat: “Dr Wheller, I am sorry to inform you that about an hour ago your wife suffered a fatal car accident on Alster Street.”

Peter couldn’t believe his ears. Ashley was dead?

“No, that’s not possible. That can’t be right, I won’t believe it!” Peter exclaimed loudly.

“I am sorry, but it’s the truth, Dr Wheller, we are almost a hundred percent certain, but we do need you to come with us to identify the body,” Doyle answered.

“I’ll take care of the students, you go with them,” Francis said, as Peter trailed after the two officers, moving like he was in a trance.

Chapter 2

Detective Doyle led Peter down a long corridor with neon lights. The floor was a horrible grey linoleum covering. After having parked in the underground parking lot of the Boston Police Department and taken the elevator to the basement, they were now making their way to a door at the end of the corridor. Peter was already getting a murky feeling, not only because of how to the cold everything seemed due to the neon lights, but because everything reeked of antiseptic. Doyle and his colleague, on the other hand, seemed used to this.

After they had gone through a large door that had ‘Forensic medicine’ written over it, they made it to a room that looked like it’d been dragged right out of a crime story that you see on the television. There were rectangular metal doors on the back wall, behind which the dead would be held in refrigerated containers. There were three stainless-steel tables, used for autopsies. Two of the tables had a body each on them, both covered with white blankets. Other than those two, everything looked clean and orderly, with a strong antiseptic odour permeating the air. No smell of decay or anything of the sorts. There were steel boxes in which the autopsy tools were kept. To the right of the door they had come through, Peter noticed three large sinks. Peter didn’t care to capture any more details beyond that. It seemed that the coroner had not yet begun with the autopsy and had been waiting on them.

The coroner introduced himself as Dr Fracer and led them to the first body. After asking Peter if he was ready, a question which Peter deemed useless since you could never be ready in such a situation but in response to which he still nodded, the white blanket was lifted and the face of the body became visible.

Peter felt a sharp pain in his heart when he saw Ashley lying there. The small wrinkles around her mouth because she loved laughing, the freckles on the left side of her neck shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head, were all the proof he needed to recognize her, even if her face was swollen and cut up. There was no doubt, that was Ashley. The first tear started rolling down his right cheek. Dr Fracer hadn’t started cleaning her yet, and so her usually lush shoulder-length black hair was now bloodied and sticking together.

Suddenly, Doyle’s voice cut through the fog: “Dr Wheller, is this your wife?”.

“Ye…s,” his voice was breaking. “Can I be alone with my wife for a moment?” he asked, and Doyle and the coroner nodded, leaving the room with the detective in training following them.

Now that he was alone with Ashley, he started remembering all sorts of moments they shared. The first time he had met her on the campus of the University of California in San Francisco. He had meant to catch the Frisbee that his study partner had thrown, but instead ran right into Ashley as she was walking through the field to get to her room in the dorms, lost in thought. After that, he’d invited her to get some coffee together, and it had clicked instantly between them.

Then, back to Harvard he’d gone, as he’d only attended a few exchange seminars in San Francisco. He remembered how happy he was whenever he’d gotten a letter from her. Their wedding in the San Francisco Fairmont-Hotel too instantly crossed his mind, organised by Ashley’s family. Neither of them had liked it, too showy. Shortly after, Peter got his first employment at Harvard as an assistant, so they moved to Boston. Ashley opened her practice in gynaecology. And so they spent a lot of time in a 25 square metre apartment and saved up where they could to pay off their debts. But it had been a good time, nonetheless. Peter thought about just how often they had gone for a Sunday walk along the shore of Quinzy Bay, just the two of them, their coffee, and the seagulls that Ashley had so much fun chasing.

The door opened and Peter was brought back to reality, as detective Doyle walked back in, followed by another policeman and said: “Excuse me, Dr Wheller, this is inspector Krout. He will take you home when you’re ready.”

“I am ready,” Peter replied, then he walked towards the door.

Chapter 3

Peter spent the next three days organising his wife’s funeral and trying to wrap his mind around her death. 

At the end of the week, detective Doyle came to visit, and to explain that they some things surrounding the accident or the death of his wife didn’t add up. A witness that had heard the collision and looked out of the window only saw her fly out of the front windscreen. What he didn’t see were a driver or other passengers, even though the position from which Ashley was thrown out of her car indicates that she was sitting in the passenger seat. Furthermore, the car, an old Volkswagen Beetle 1961, was so crushed by the collision that the doors were impossible to open, meaning that no one could have gotten out. And the way through the wind shield was blocked by Ashley’s body. The car had no airbags because of how old it was. It was gifted to her by her grandfather after she had passed her driving test when she was 16. It all pointed to her being alone in the vehicle, even though the position of the body on the hood of the car suggested otherwise. The detective asked Peter if she’d planned on meeting anyone that morning, anyone that could have been in the car with her. But Peter could only refute, as Ashley wasn’t even planning on leaving the house that morning. Her personal trainer was supposed to come at around 10:30. But she had left again after being greeted by a locked door, ringing the doorbell multiple times and trying to reach his wife’s phone to no avail, which he only found out from her the day after. Another question was if she was maybe suffering from depression and had committed suicide. The reasoning behind that theory was that the car had hit the tree at almost 70 km/h without even attempting to stop. At first, this question angered Peter, but Doyle had to ask these questions. He could only disagree with the theory, it wasn’t the case, that very morning she was singing and dancing along to ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA playing on the radio, so she’d been in a good mood. All of this together, as well as no further investigations leading to new leads, eventually led to Doyle closing all investigations after a week.

Francis suggested Peter take a break from teaching. Which he did, using that free time to read through the documents pertaining to his wife’s accident. At first, they didn’t want to hand him the autopsy data and photos. But Karl Fressen, a judge from the court of Boston he was friends with, gave the police and the forensics department the court order to give him everything that had to do with his wife’s accident.

First, Peter read through the reports, but he was unable to find anything new.  Though the police report did mention that circumstances surrounding the accident left many unanswered questions which could not be answered logically, the case was still closed. Dr Fracer’s autopsy report added that the cause of death was cerebral swelling caused by internal bleeding. Then Peter began looking at the attached photos. Those taken at the site of the accident only showed the state the car was in from different angles. Nothing that could have indicated why the accident had happened.

So he instead started looking at the photos of his wife’s body. At first, he didn’t notice anything new, until something on the right side of her neck caught his eye: a small bump. He was in his studio and began looking for a magnifying glass in his drawer, although he knew that he didn’t have one. He shook his head and instead placed the photo on the scanner that he kept on an extra table. Since he always kept his computer on, the photo appeared on it shortly after. After finally finding the zoom option, he set it to 300%.  Since the screen now only showed a part of the image, he had to manually scroll back to where he found the bump. It was still really difficult to see anything of importance, and so he increased the zoom to 600%, thanks to which he saw what seemed to be a small hole in the bump, but since this level of zoom made the photo really grainy, he couldn’t really be sure. At around midnight, Peter decided to call it a night, but decided that the next morning he would head to a friend of his at the university who he knew had software that could sharpen the photo.

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Why the book Exclusive on Amazon? There are two reasons. Firstly, if you want to become known as an author, Amazon’s KDP program is very useful for this. This means that the novel is available on Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading. One requirement for my novel to take part in the KDP program is that it is offered exclusively on Amazon. Secondly, selling a paperback on other book platforms brings almost no royalties and has too long printing times, up to three weeks. For those who don’t have a Kindle, you can buy the book as a paperback or hardcover on Amazon. The delivery time there is only three or four days.

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