Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Jigsaw puzzles

The overflow morgue smells clinical; the air is cold and tastes slightly of formaldehyde, but there’s a rancid note like off-butter underneath it all.  I kind of like it, but that might just be familiarisation, given how much I come here to think.  The trolleys are hard, cold steel, but that’s pleasant when your body’s as abused and damaged as mine: I don’t have to support anything, and the chill numbs the aches and pains of a life lived long.  I exhaled and let Death hug me just a little closer.
The sheep thing bugged me still.  Why had someone gone to the trouble of dragging one up all those flights of stairs to slaughter it?  And where was Boy Blue at the time?  Did he open his door and have a sheep bleat at him, probably angry and panicked by that point?  I knew Blue a little, and I expect he would have panicked too, probably backing up into the room while the sheep was goaded forwards.  There was so little in his room – even I have more in mine, though most of it belongs to my room-mate and probably wouldn’t fit me – that he’d reach the mattress before he knocked anything over.  Then he’d end up sitting down on the bed while the sheep bleated and pawed the ground, its eyes rolling madly in its triangular head, while behind it some shadowy figure made threats.
No, that just didn’t work.  How did Blue get out in that case, and why kill the sheep?
I adjusted my position on the trolley slightly and felt my shoulders go numb, which was a blessed relief.  Let’s try again.
Could Blue jump out of the window?  Not and stand up again, and certainly not run away.  Too many floors to fall.  Could there have been something below the window when he jumped that he could land on?  Seemed unlikely, but I hadn’t checked when I was there.  That would be lucky for him (I presumed), and stranger things did happen.  People thought that odd coincidences only happened in stories but that was because they didn’t do the numbers: with as many people in the world as there are, a one-in-a-million chance should be happening to a few hundred people on any given day.  Maybe yesterday had been Blue’s day?  He probably thought he was overdue one, most people did.
But was there an easier answer?  What if Blue wasn’t there when the sheep-killer arrived; could the murder of the sheep be a warning message?  Well, then the sheep had to be important and either Blue had been angering French farmers or… well, Belle Peep had already shown up in my investigation hadn’t she?  Her father, Bo Peep, had run a small inner-city farm before his death about ten years ago, and rumour had it that Belle kept the farm going but that the tours were for much more select groups with special interests.  Could Belle have a quarrel with Blue?  Or did Belle just supply the sheep for someone else who had a quarrel with Blue?
Something tickled at my foot, and I kicked out.  There was a soft outrushing of breath and a second, sharper, intake of breath so I opened my eyes.  Two medical students, easily identifiable by the looks of terror on their faces and the textbooks they were clutching were backing away from my trolley.  One was doubled over, as though he’d just been kicked in the pit of his stomach and the other was making the sign of the cross repeatedly across his chest.
“I’m not dead,” I said slowly.  It seems like that’s the one thing that should be easy to grasp about this situation, but in my experience it’s the bit people have most trouble with.  I blame all these zombie movies, and the occasional zombie outbreak.  “I’m having a think.”
“In the morgue?” said the self-crossing student lowering his arm.  His other hand, holding a heavy textbook, remained ready to swat at me in case I decided his brains were enough for a meal, which I rather doubted.
“It’s quiet, and I don’t often get disturbed,” I said.  “What are you doing here?”
“Homework,” wheezed the other student, slowly coming upright again.  “We’re a bit behind in class, so we got the keys–“
“Permission!” injected the second student quickly
“– and the keys to come down here and catch up a bit,” continued the first.  “We weren’t going to use your body, we were just wondering how badly advanced your state of decomposition was.”
“Still living,” I said with a snarl.  “You want the room next door; all the bodies in here are missing limbs that need to be put back with them before they can be autopsied.”
“Right,” said the first student starting to leave, but then stopped as the second looked at me quizzically.
“How do you know?” he asked.
“I’m supposed to be here,” I said.  “Night watchman.”
“Oh.”  He didn’t look convinced, but I didn’t care.  They wandered off, whispering to each other and looking nervous, and I slipped off the trolley.  I was going to go and check out Blue’s place again and see what I’d missed when Monkeybutt turned up, and then I was going to go and find out if Belle Peep really did still have her daddy’s farm.

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