The smell is the first thing that hits you.
It’s not the usual hospital smell.
This is more specific.
You feel like it is coating the inside of your nasal cavities.
The digital clock in the morgue said I was right on time.
Not my usual form.
Doctor Death didn’t glance at the time, which pissed me off. I would have copped an earful if I’d been late.
She was hunched over some poor soul while talking into a portable recorder — probably digital.
The lab assistants looked up, saw it was me, nodded, and returned to what they were doing. I guess word had gotten out that I was working with a young officer, and they were prepared with all the usual gallows humour. I noticed the wastepaper basket sitting in the corner. When the kid arrived, someone would hand it to him, and he would ask what it was for.
“You’ll find out.”
Doctor Death disapproved of such ‘goings on’, but she turned a blind eye as long as it didn’t upset the smooth flow of her department.
She is of average height for a woman. Shoulder length brown hair pulled back into a kind of ponytail, although she wouldn’t call it that. Sensible shoes that would give way to expensive ones at the end of the day. No jewellery at work. Sparkling blue eyes that stared into mine when she tried to kiss me — I told you about that.
I knew she was drunk, but those eyes said, ‘I’m fully aware of what I’m doing and you can take me right now, in that cupboard, if you want to. Don’t worry about you being younger than me, I don’t mind if you don’t.’
I had to move my hips as you do when you hug a female, and you don’t want her to think that you are coming on to her.
I held that erection for quite some time.
I’d asked around about her — her sudden reappearance.
The information was sketchy, but apparently, her marriage hit a bad patch while living in London.
“I’m going to be a lady of leisure,” she’d said, waving an expensive half-empty bottle of bubbly. “I’m going to be kept in the manner to which I’m soon to be accustomed,” she said, promptly dropping the bottle.
“You deserve it DD. Give those Poms some hell for me,” I said.
“Won’t have time. Too busy being pampered by my amazing husband.” She pointed her now empty hand in the direction of a tallish handsome man who I instantly disliked. Looked like a wanker to my trained eye, but what did it matter what I thought? She was happy, and that was all that mattered.
A lovely female PC who worked in the records office told me that someone had said to her that Mr Doctor Death turned out to be a ‘bit of a bounder’ as the Poms like to say. He needed a high profile wife, a reverse ‘handbag’ if you will, to keep up appearances. He preferred men in bed, something to do with a boarding school upbringing. She found out after a couple of years.
A couple of years!
This is a brilliant woman, and it takes her a couple of years to work out that this bloke prefers men?
What the actual fuck!
And you are sitting there wondering why people kill each other?
Someone famous (at least I think he was famous) said that love doth make fools of us all. It’s the ‘doth’ that makes it real.
Being a practical bloke, I consoled myself with the thought that she would have made a bundle out of the divorce.
Sex and money. Love and money.
Money doesn’t quite cut it when compared to love.
Egg arrived on time, and the wastepaper ritual played out. He put it by his feet, and I rubbed a smidgeon of Vicks Vapor rub under my nose. I didn’t offer him any, and I noticed him noticing my ritual.
Dr Death began her autopsy by listing everyone present, which would come in handy if one of us decided to kill or maim someone else while the autopsy was being performed. Or if there was a sudden outbreak of a deadly virus. My head goes to strange places at times of tension.
Egg lasted until a few minutes after Dr Death made her first incision. It wasn’t a record, but it put him in the top ten and cost the younger lab assistant ten dollars.
I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice to say that a lack of a significant amount of river water in the lungs meant that we probably had an actual murder on our well-worn hands.
“I’ll have the tox-screen by late tomorrow. No obvious signs of violence other than the minor contusions, probably post mortem, that she might have received from bobbing around in the river.”
“Bobbing around? Is that different to floating about and lazing around?” I said, and Dr Death did not rise to the occasion.
The autopsy was over, and that was that. It felt like all the air had gone out of the room.
I found Egg in the corridor.
“Don’t worry about it, you lasted longer than most and you made an old lab assistant ten dollars. So, all in all, a good morning’s work. Breakfast?”
“Yes,” said Egg, still clutching the basket. I expected him to add to the contents, but he is tougher than I thought.
“Just leave that there. The loser will be out to collect it later — all part of the bet.”
We walked past two cafes, and Egg looked at me inquiringly.
“Nothing but Kale on wholemeal with a side something that used to be attached to a tree in the Amazon.”
We found a decent cafe and had a hearty meal of stuff that would eventually stop both of our hearts long after we had retired.
The cafe still had the peeled remnants of a gold leaf sign on the window. It must have been there for decades — no one does gold leaf anymore. I was impressed by the apostrophe. Also notable is that the window hadn’t been broken over those many years. The window in question could have used a good clean by someone who knew what they were doing.
The smoky window probably hadn’t been cleaned since you were allowed to smoke in cafes. Watching the world go by was an experience not unlike an old movie where Vaseline had been smeared on the lens to make an ageing star look younger.
The bloke who served us wasn’t named Cassell, and neither was the cook. I asked, but no one seemed to know who the original Cassell was.
“Too expensive to change the sign,” said the current owner. I liked his practical sense. I doubt that the health department had visited recently, but I didn’t care at that moment.
“She’d recently had sex, but Dr Death said she couldn’t definitely say if it was forced or not. She hadn’t been having intercourse for very long according to the Doc and I wasn’t going to ask how she knew that — took her word for it,” I said.
“Blood stream?” said Egg.
“Find out tomorrow. My back teeth are telling me that she will have something predictable in her blood.”
It’s common sense for a homicide policeman to not get emotionally involved in a case he is working on. Common sense, yes, practical — not always possible.
Office workers taking an early lunch walked purposefully past the window of the tiny cafe. I watched the young women and thought that any one of them could be our dead Debra. They weren’t, of course, and that’s how life goes — it goes on. These girls are oblivious to the death of our young woman. Maybe they will read about it or hear about it on radio or television, and then their life will go on. Debra is forever frozen in time. Her clock stopped when someone decided that she was expendable.
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