“You missed your true calling, Stephanie.”
“Maybe, but I think I like this work better.”
“Dr. Carlson spent a few moments admiring the finesse of Stephanie’s hands as she sewed up the woman they just finished examining.”
“Why did you decide to not be a surgeon?”
“When I was in school, I worked in the hospital to help with expenses. I ended up in the emergency department, where I observed the daily destruction of drugs, crime and ignorance. I realized I didn’t have much respect for many of the people that came into the hospital and had some soul searching moments to decide what I would do. After I worked a shift in the morgue, I realized I was fascinated by forensic pathology. “
“Well, the medical profession lost a potential great surgeon, but I gained a valuable assistant. “
“Thank you, doctor.”
“After you’re through, I need you to make slides of the liver and the kidneys. “
“It looked like she had a rough life.”
“I’ve seen this before. With her, I’d say she did something that irritated her pimp. Somewhere in her past, she was beaten severely, which is the reason for the healed facial fractures.”
“Are you leaning towards a drug overdose?”
“I can’t say for sure. The results from the toxicological test will determine if my suspicions are correct. “
Dr. Carlson thought about the autopsy. The woman was young, although her physical condition betrayed years of drug abuse and neglect. Her identification stated she was 29, but she was well on the way to the physical demise that led her to the morgue. Her liver, and kidneys were abnormal, which indicated her body was past the point of healing; it was inevitable she would die early, although he felt there was more that only further testing would reveal.
“What was the significance of the tattoo?”
The doctor really didn’t know. The number “32” didn’t have any significance, as far as he knew, but he felt there was more to the number than an individual whim.
“I really don’t know, but, maybe, time will reveal more than we know at this time.”
“What about next of kin?”
“I don’t think anyone will ever claim our victim. The police will try to find someone, but I doubt anyone will come forward. Desperation would have led someone from the life she led. I have the feeling she has nobody, or anyone that cared gave up on her a long time ago.”
“Someone did call this morning, although they didn’t leave a name, or number.”
“That was probably someone she worked with, or is verifying her demise. If this was an accident, someone will be trying to settle their thoughts. If not, then someone is satisfying their curiosity. A dead prostitute can be a powerful tool for control.”
Stephanie was quiet after the comment. As she continued with her work, she thought of the circumstances in life that would lead someone to where they died, without family to remember, or mourn. Then again, maybe her family mourned years ago. The thought left her sad.
Dr. Carlson thought of the young woman; only a few years older than her assistant, but the contrast was remarkable. Stephanie was well on the way to a successful, satisfying career; the young woman now refrigerated in his morgue had lived a life of desperation that ended with what appeared as a terrible death. The circumstances of life seemed unfair, but the doctor knew that there was always much more than appeared. People choose, whether they knew their choices, or not.
“Dr Carlson, I have a powerful urge for a Starbucks.”
The doctor was amused. His assistant didn’t care much for his coffee. He didn’t either, but it was easily available and provided by the city.
“Why don’t you go get us one, I’m buying.”
Reaching for his wallet, the doctor handed his assistant a ten dollar bill. While he was shocked there wasn’t enough change to consider, he knew the cost was priceless in keeping his assistant in a good mood. Besides, he liked the coffee, even though it was expensive; it was worth the cost.
“I’ll be back in a half hour.”
The doctor watched is assistant leave and then returned to his work. He had a lot on his mind; including the report that Nick was still missing. Nick was not only a good detective, he was a friend. They started their careers nearly together. They had seen much more than many; their bond was that society can harden, but not change the basic goodness of people.
A few minutes later, the door opened to the morgue. The doctor never looked up. He thought it was either Stephanie, or someone who would bother him with some new unnecessary paperwork. Neither, in his mind, was worth allowing the distraction.
The doctor looked up to find a man that appeared to be in his early forties. He didn’t know him, but there was something about his face that made the doctor uneasy. Maybe it was the total lack of expression, or his eyes, which appeared as lifeless and cold.
“How can I help you?”
“You can help by giving me the locket.”
For a moment, the doctor was confused; then he realized the stranger was asking about the locket that Nick left the night before.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
Pulling a silenced automatic from his coat, the stranger stated: “I’m in no mood for games. Give me the locket and your death will be painless.”
A few thoughts raced through the doctor’s mind, but more than anything else, he wondered how this man knew he had the locket. The ramifications were sobering; few would know the fact Nick was missing. With this man threatening his life, the doctor didn’t feel Nick was missing by choice.
“It’s in the filing cabinet.”
The man stared for a few moments, then said: “Then you need to get it for me. Move slowly.”
The doctor rose and slowly walked to the filing cabinets adjacent to his desk. As he moved towards the filing cabinets, he thought of escape routes, whether he should fight, or resign his fate. Although he feared few things, he found he was more fearful than ever felt since childhood.
Carefully opening the drawer, the doctor slowly reached into the filing cabinet, grasped the object and suddenly turned. Instantly, he fired the taser he kept for protection. The two barbs imbedded in the chest of his assailant within seconds. The startled man fired one shot, which grazed the doctor’s arm. The man fell to the floor and started convulsing.
The doctor held the trigger until he felt his assailant was immobilized and released the trigger. Releasing the trigger didn’t stop the pulsing of electricity, which he could hear. The pulsating snapping noise continued without his control.
The assailant was now groaning and trying to escape, but was trapped by the uncontrolled spasms caused by the taser. As he struggled, the doctor saw something he hadn’t seen since for years. A bluish glow surrounded the man, much like the Saint Elmo’s fire he’d seen while sailing as a youth. As he watched, the glow expanded, until it almost filled the room. The man was now almost immobile from the electricity, although he still violently trembled.
A bright flash blinded the doctor. At the same instant, a shock of wave of expanded, heated air threw the doctor against the wall of the morgue. Tentacles of electricity flashed, and danced, about the assailant. The doctor slumped to the floor; he could hear the continued release of electricity and felt his hair singeing. The discharge lasted a few moments more, and ended as abruptly as it started.
The doctor, now disoriented, and in pain, slowly lost consciousness. Before he faded away, he looked to where his assailant had been. There was little left, except for smoldering flesh and the rising smoke from the burned body.