Soaked to the bone in stagnant water from the sprinkler system, the three women sloshed across the room, arms outstretched, looking for the shut off valve and the light switch. Without their candlelight, blackness swallowed the room and everything in it. They tripped over table legs and stubbed toes on corners as their fingertips caressed the walls in search of the elusive switches.
“Shit!” Kenj shouted as she and a tray of autopsy tools fell to the floor with a crash. “Oh God … this isn’t good. Um, anyone make it to the door yet? I really need some light over here.”
“I’m working on it,” Marie replied. My fingers are so cold I’m losing feeling. We’re gonna catch pneumonia at this rate.”
“Jilly? What about you?” Kenj called.
For several seconds there was silence except for the sound of water pouring down on them. Kenj wondered if the icy shivers up her spine came from the cold water, her injury, or worry.
“Marie,” Gillian replied though her voice trembled. “You found me. You can take your hands off my shoulders.”
“Um, I’m over here. I’m not touching you; I swear.”
Before fear could send an icy dagger through their hearts, the lights flicked on, leaving them momentarily blinded. All three let loose a scream that reverberated off the walls. When Marie opened her eyes, three firefighters were standing in the doorway. One still had his hand hovering over the light switch. Another raced off, seeking the shut off valve for the sprinkler system.
“Are you ladies okay?”
It was then that they noticed Kenj on the floor with a scalpel sticking out of her thigh and more than half the length of a Hagadorn Needle embedded in her hand. Beneath her, the pool of stinking water was tinged red. Both firemen sprang into action, gingerly lifting her as if she weighed nothing and whisking her outside to the waiting EMTs.
Gillian shivered, both from cold and shock. Thinking quickly, Marie grabbed her bag and placed the board inside before anyone from the fire department returned. She didn’t want anyone to see what they’d been doing. Even though she was willing to do whatever it took to catch the killers, if word got out it would damage her reputation in the force. Gillian rushed to her side, soggy candles in her hands. Once the room was clear, they went in search of Kenj.
“Oh God, are you okay, Kenj?” Marie gasped.
“Don’t worry, Detective.” She answered. “I’m fine. It was my own clumsiness. I was just telling the guys how we were discussing the latest case when the power cut out. They think maybe the power surge set off the sprinklers because, obviously, there wasn’t any fire.”
The deliberate tone of Kenj’s voice said more than the words she’d carefully chosen. Marie gave her a kind smile and sat down beside the injured MDI that had effectively thrown herself on a live grenade to protect what they’d been doing inside the morgue. Despite her protests, the EMTs insisted on taking Kenj to the hospital.
“I’ll follow behind the ambulance,” Marie offered. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
“I don’t see any reason why Rodriguez here can’t just stitch me up here,” said Kenj. “C’mon, we both know there’s no reason to waste anyone’s time, especially mine, at the E.R.”
“I’ve got two words for you,” one of the EMTs responded. He held up two pudgy fingers in front of his devilish grin to demonstrate “Mor— phine. They’ll gave you a little and you’ll sleep like a baby instead of the agony you’ll suffer through if you let any of us sew you back up.” The EMT gave her a wink and attached the gurney straps around her.
Sensing she was outvoted, Kenj sighed in defeat. “Hey, Gillian, you should head home so you can get out of those wet clothes. I’ll give you a call in the morning. Thanks for your help tonight.”
Gillian hauled herself to her car and cranked up the heat. Warm, dry, air washed over her, chasing the chill away. As she rode across town to Kim’s home, she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching her. Shadows cast from the streetlights above seemed to take on ominous shapes that shifted to rear their ugly heads. Even when she pulled into Kim’s driveway, a dark form dashed across the rearview mirror. I need a hot shower and a good night’s sleep, her inner voice insisted.
Inside, the house was well lit and cheerful, leaving Gillian to wonder if stress had made her jumpy. Kim and Angela were waiting at the door to welcome her.
“Oh my God! Are you okay? You look … wait, why are you all wet?” Kim asked.
Gillian shook her head and raked her hand through her still-damp hair. Before she could reply, the phone rang.
“Billy! Hey, how are you? Please tell me you have some news for us.”
***By now, you know the drill. Unless the zombies rise up, I'll be here next Tuesday for another installment of Specter of Death***