I thought the worst part of going to work for the Coroner’s office would be the emulsified bodies, the stink of rot hanging in my clothes, an air of finality about my demeanor, decay of the soul and spirit, moral jaundice, an urge to buy new shoes every other week, and wondering at the end of each shift what the hell that was beneath my fingernails. Perhaps the worst part would be the backseat drivers.
That’s a joke.
Turns out it was the groupies. The groupies of the dead.
Every van driver had at least one. A woman who would listen to the scanner and be there when the body came out. Discreet, usually wearing sunglasses, hanging out a couple of doors down from the removal. Mine turned out to be Lilly, an anorexic redhead allergic to direct sunlight and green beans and who carried a hammerless .32 Colt revolver in an ankle holster.
I wheeled out a natural death from a house near the Norfolk Southern railyard and there she stood, behind the van. I thought she might be family, but she took one side of the stretcher with the skill of an EMT and helped me shove it into the back. I looked at her. She eyed the body.
“Old lady. Died in bed.”
We met for drinks a few nights later, then she began riding with me. She slept a lot, curled up against the passenger door like a child. Began dressing in dark blue, like my uniform, and interfacing with the police and families. I was in love for awhile, then discovered she owned a key to the morgue, a place where even I was forbidden.
How did she get it?
Where did my baby go at night?