After donning some protective gear Kim handed Seth a surgical mask. Before he put it on, Angela tossed him a bag from the nearest pharmacy. Inside, he found an unopened, trial-sized jar of a mentholated vapor rub.
“A little dab of that stuff under each nostril can help combat the stench. If you’ve never been up close and personal with a corpse before it can be an all-out assault on the senses.”
“Especially if they’ve been sitting for a while. One lady I had last week was festering in the trunk of an abandoned car. Lucky for you, today’s specimen came straight from the hospital...there was a perforation in her intestines and the bowel resection surgery went wrong.”
Oh great, Seth thought. Bet that smells just like a rose garden. He applied a liberal smear of menthol-gel all across his upper lip and added some to the inside of the mask. It didn’t help. He felt the acidic burn of espresso creeping up his esophagus but continued to project an image of cool composure on the outside. The mask also helped to hide his grimace.
“In this case, we have a general idea as to the cause of death. Other times, I have to find it. In the case of a murder scene, my findings are vital in assisting the police and District Attorney in their case. Anything from DNA or finger prints or skin cells under the victim’s fingernails to traces of poison or needle tracks can all aid the authorities in determining a cause of death.”
Having information to write in his notebook helped Seth distance himself from the vile smells hovering in the air. He focused on Kim and Angela’s words instead of the body being cut open on the table. On occasion, his eyes would dart over to the table but the lifeless corpse with skim-milk-gray colored flesh was well cared for by the professionals; Seth’s presence was to learn, not to gawk. Every now and then, he’d hear the click of Angela’s camera while Kim explained what she was doing and why. Likewise, Angela would interject with insight about film exposure or different lenses. After a few hours, his hand cramped, leaving it feeling like a disfigured claw but still his pen scratched away at the page. Maybe I should bring my laptop next time. I haven’t handwritten this much since….high school? Still, the valuable information he’d gained had helped to fuel the first three chapters of his book. Like a stenographer, he wrote each word verbatim until he looked down at his pad and realized he’d written, “it’s lunchtime, are you coming with us?” Laughing, he stripped away the protective garb and gather up his things before trotting off behind his new teachers. They talked and laughed over their meal and Seth finally felt comfortable enough to admit that initially his espresso threatened revolt.
“But I managed to get past the woozy feeling and ignore the smell after a few minutes.”
“Does that mean you’re coming back to the morgue after lunch?” Kim asked.
Both Angela and Kim sat with baited breath, waiting for his reply. When he said “yes”, Kim groaned and handed a twenty dollar bill to Angela. Seth’s brow furrowed and his head cocked to one side.
“She bet me twenty bucks you’d bail by lunch.”
Angela’s smile lit up the room and she giggled gleefully. Seth merely sighed and shook his head. His initial instincts were correct; they were going to have fun for the next few days.
He willingly paid for all three meals and then it was back to the morgue. At least my hand got a little rest but I’m definitely bringing the laptop from now on. Back inside the cool room, he slathered more mentholated gel under his nose because the smell really hadn’t dissipated as much as he hoped it would.
“I don’t suppose either of you have some perfume in your purses, do you? My wife carries it but, then again, she carries everything. Between the menthol and some perfume I might survive until quitting time.”
“Won’t your wife be upset if you come home smelling like another woman’s perfume?”
“Not when I tell her why…besides, she knows I’d never cheat on her. We said ‘til death do us part and I know that means she’d flat out kill me.”
Seth laughed so the ladies joined him. Writing as fast as his cramped hand could manage, he decided he’d bring a handheld digital recorder and some cologne with him in the future. Can’t wait to tell Melanie about all this. She won’t believe it!
***Please return Monday, August 11th for the next installment of SERIAL***