Sleeping Pretty – Part 1
Central Coast, New South Wales
Doctor Hewen was going through drawers of old files in an unused area of the hospital. He looked aimlessly at the names; he didn’t know who they were and didn’t really care. He had a reason for coming here straight after lunch. A lunch in which he spoke rarely to the other pathologists and nurses in the lunchroom. He was hiding.
He looked at his watch – 1:30pm. How long could he hide away? What about tomorrow you fool? He kept on flicking through the pages, and then would pick up another when done so he could drown out the questions that pounded away in his head.
Then his pager went off. He knew exactly why someone would be looking for him. A new body had come in.
‘Shit.’ He ignored it.
It went off again a few minutes later. His hands were sweating as his heart burned inside him. There were footsteps coming closer. A part of him wanted to hide but another told him to finally face his demons. Maybe today would be different? It has to end but you know how it has to end. Confess or die. It was too late to hide now anyway.
The door opened and Nurse Baxter looked in and found him straight away. He pretended to look through the pages but felt her come closer.
‘Dr Hewen, what’cha doing down here?’
‘Ah, yes,’ he faked surprise.
‘We’ve been paging you.’
‘Oh sorry. Sorry I was coming but got distracted. What is it?’
‘We’ve got a body come in, female, early twenties, possible OD.’
‘She’s in the middle of those two murder victims from yesterday.’
‘Alright give me a minute and I’ll be up there.’
‘Okay.’ The nurse turned around and went back out of the door.
He took his time making his way to the ward. His hands were still sweating and there were patches on his body of wetness that made his shirt stick to his skin.
How am I going to get out of this? Shit! What can I say? What can I do? How the hell am I going to get out of this?
Finally he got an idea. He made a phone call to another pathologist whose name jumped out from all the dozens he knew. All the while he purposely ignored the body wrapped in the blue plastic bag on the operating table just beyond the glass. Each dial tone seemed forever as he waited for it to be answered.
‘Hey Jerry, it’s Brian. What are you doing now? You want to help me with this cut up?’
Jerry’s reply was not the one he wanted.
‘Okay, I didn’t realise you were on the Gold Coast. Alright, no problem I’ll see you when you get back. Bye.’
He tried to sound upbeat but his whole heart had sunk.
He replaced the phone slowly as it dawned on him he might be alone to do this one. No witnesses to help him fight his demons, to confirm or deny what he was hearing.
Slowly he made his way into the operating ward. He saw his reflection in a mirror. His back was stooped and his balding grey hair was unusually wet looking. He had slowly put on his apron, mask and gloves; the last one took awhile as his bloody hands were still wet. That was good – it wasted time.
Baxter had prepared all the equipment and laid it on a table close to the bed but she wasn’t in the room with him. Where is she? I have to have her here. She could be my witness!
She suddenly appeared from a back office. She smiled and he was glad to have her there but then he realised she was not dressed for surgery.
‘You’re not assisting?’
‘No. I got the afternoon off. Got to see my son play footy at three. I told you yesterday, remember?’
‘Oh yes I forgot,’ he did remember her telling him. ‘I’m disappointed; I’d love you to stay.’
‘Well cutting up a body sounds like fun but my son will kill me if I don’t go and the hospital aren’t going to pay OT are they?’
‘Alright,’ he smiled but was bitterly disappointed that it was final. There would be no witnesses to confirm his sanity or madness.
‘I’ll see you tomorrow okay?’ she said as she walked out.
‘Bye,’ he didn’t look up but fiddled with the instruments, all of them cold despite his latex gloves.
She was gone now and he was all alone with the dead girl still in her blue bag. There was a photo attached to the zipper, Adrienne Keith. She was blonde, attractive, in her twenties as far as he could tell by the photo of her dead body. He remembered when he was twenty-two and at university where there was unending partying, screwing and drinking. Great times back then but not now.
He took in a deep breath. His hands were shaking as he cut the yellow body tag chord the police put on when sealing the bag and unzipped it. Immediately there was the smell of death. In all his twenty-nine years as a doctor he had never come across the same smell in the real world, nothing could compare to the unique stale tang of rotting human flesh. Thankfully she was reasonably fresh, three days according to the P79 form filled out by the police. Some would come in that were weeks old and they made your stomach churn.
Well there she was. He pulled away the bag and saw she only had shorts and a shirt on. Her limbs were red like a rash but he knew that’s where the blood had settled when she died lying on her back. Her face had stains of blood coming out of the nose and mouth along with saliva and mucus. When you died all your fluids ran out of your body.
His tape recorder was running and he begun his external examination of her body, stating her name, gender, sex and any visible injuries. Then he cut the clothes from her body, stating again that there appeared to be no signs of any sexual assault or immediate cause of death. Again he fiddled with his instruments. It was quiet but for the hum of the air conditioner and his breathing.
To be continued tomorrow …
Bio: Kristian calls this piece: a selected nightmare from his forthcoming collection of short stories.