Welcome (back)! Christmas is fast approaching and originally I thought about writing a Christmas-related short story. But with all the raining outside, I’m not really in the mood, so instead I went for fantasy and horror. Business as usual then. This short story was inspired by a prompt on the Dragon Writing Prompts blog: “Homicide victims rarely talk to police”. But why are the dead silent? Let’s find out – or maybe not, as this story is by no means complete.
We Don’t Talk Anymore
“What’s the best place to be a cop?” My new boss ogled me from behind his overly large glasses.
“Of course it’s New York, sir.” I thought that was what he wanted to hear. I was wrong.
“Bullshit. The best place to be a cop is a city where cops are respected and talked to. So it’s definitely not NYC.” He crossed his arms. “Especially recently…”
“You mean the bodies who refuse to talk? Don’t worry, I’ll handle that.” Yeah sure, because I totally knew what I was going to do to get them to talk. Not.
My boss stared at my file that was lying on his desk, still closed. “You come with the highest praise.” He looked up, directly into my eyes. “Anything I need to know about you?”
I gulped and hoped it didn’t show. Of course there was a reason I had “left” my previous unit. But that was nothing he needed to know. “Only that I take my job seriously and that I will do whatever is necessary to solve every case we get.” I wasn’t convinced, and neither was my boss, but it did the trick for now.
The morgue reminded me of one of my old school mates. She had been heavily into Gothic rock and punk and had decorated her whole room with red velvet wallpapers and thick velvet drapes. Poor Caroline, hadn’t made it to graduation. Like 90% of our class. Never trust a werewolf, that’s the most important lesson I learned in school.
“Excuse me, this is for police officers only.” A thin man with greenish skin walked into the morgue. “If you would like to see a deceased family member, you will have to apply—“ He stopped when he recognized the badge I was holding into his face. “Oh, sorry.”
“Never mind. I’m Fitch. And you are?”
“Robert Stiles. Rost, as they call me round here.” He smiled an awkward smile and stretched out his hand. I took it, but only for a brief second as the cold went straight to my heart. Definitely not a guy I could trust.
“So the dead don’t talk to you anymore. Was that a sudden thing or…?”
Rost looked disappointed. Obviously he had expected some light chit-chat about pizza and coffee. But I wasn’t here for idleness. “Well… Yeah, pretty much. You know, normally they start talking as soon as you open their drawers ‘Oh God where am I, what is that stench, it was fucking cold in there, where’s my mobile phone…’”
I stared at him and he stopped his never-ending quote of useless cries.
“And then it suddenly stopped. Like a month ago, I was doing an autopsy on a murder victim and I found two gunshot wounds and wasn’t sure which one had come first. And normally, the victim would start talking and tell me what went on. But that woman – she just said nothing. She didn’t even flinch when I pinched her. At first I thought that she was probably deaf, but by the end of the day I realized that none of the victims I had had on my table had said a word.” He sat down on a revolving chair that looked like it could barely hold his weight.
“You remember the date?”
He thought for a moment. “Twenty-third, I think. Yeah, twenty-third, the day they aired the season finale of Lovingly Together. Man, I love that show, Linda Harris is just so amazing as counselor Higgins and—“
“Anything else about that day that you found – strange? Apart from TV shows nobody watches anymore.” I hated Linda Harris, ever since she had posted that nasty comment about gnomes and dwarfs on Twitter. Rost told me so much about himself without noticing, it was kind of ridiculous.
“No, I don’t think so. Oh wait, right, there was that VIP visitor that day, erh, that Deputy Mayor dude, Alan, no, Adam, Abraham…”
I rolled my eyes at the stupidity sitting in front of me. “Abenor McCaulish, Deputy Mayor for the Elderly and Deceased. Great. Just what I needed.”
“You know him?”
That would be an understatement. Everybody knew Abenor “Let’s rent out our graveyards to private corporations” McCaulish. Well, in my circles at least. I eyed Rost with suspicion. “I’m surprised you don’t.”
“I’m not really into politics these days…” Rost carefully unwrapped something that looked like a two-month-old donut and took a small bite off it. I saw the white, fluffy mold on the icing and suddenly knew what Rost was.
“I always thought vegetarian zombies were a bad joke.”
He shrugged. “It was, but actually this is a much more hassle free lifestyle than the old ‘brains, brains, brains’ thing. I can go shopping and live a perfectly normal life without ever having to bother anybody around me.” He took another bite off his meal and chewed. “I should really do something about my skin color, right?”
I shrugged. I didn’t care for zombies. In fact, I had shot at least ten of them on my way here.
Rost tilted his head so much it was almost touching his shoulder. “So what are you, then? Not a normal human being, I suppose?”
“I need a body I can talk to.” I didn’t want to discuss private matters with the mold-eating thing in front of me and changed topics. “Need to make sure you’re not just too deaf to hear them talk.”
Before Rost could be offended, the morgue’s swinging doors opened and in came a muscular hairy assistant wheeling a tray with a body covered with a white sheet of linen. “Morning, everyone. Female, pretty old, found dead in the city dumps an hour ago. No idea who she is, what she did there or what killed her.” He handed me a sheet to sign and was out of the room before I could ask any further questions.
“All right, let’s see what we got here.” I carefully pulled back the linen and within a second wished I hadn’t done so. I saw a bloated face, the color of which was closer to blue than to white. The eyes were staring at me from beneath eyelids infested with hundreds of warts. The lips had bite marks all over them and must have been blood red when she was still among the living. Her long, yellow fingernails were a heaven for tiny insects and dirt and the same went for the clothes – or rather, strips of cloth covering her body. Only after taking in the mess I noticed the nasty smell enveloping her and I had to resist the urge to puke all over her. Rost however seemed delighted.
I closed my eyes, stretched my fingers and reminded myself of why I was here. Then I took a chair and sat down next to Jane Doe. Ignoring my disgust, I put my right hand on her forehead, took her left hand with my left and looked her straight into the eyes. “Ma’am? Can you hear me? I’m sorry to disturb you. My name is Fitch, I’m working for the police and we need to find out who did this to you.”
No, more than just silence. Just plain – nothing.
I tried it again. “Ma’am? I know this is a terrible situation for you and that you are afraid, but I want to help you.”
The nothing continued. I gave up.
“Not so deaf, am I?” In talking, Rost spat little pieces of rotten donut into my ear. I already hated my new job.
(To be continued. Maybe)