TOP TEN BEN
ROOM FOR RENT
There were a lot more bodies than usual; however, only one was breathing, and at a pace just sharp enough to suggest that it was pissed off.
Carol crept around the morgue, trailed by an exhaled ghost as she wove between occupied carts. On busy nights like tonight, Carol would have to take apart and tweak the thermostat to be able to counteract all the opening doors. An update to the system would fix the problem, but just like in any police department, the living were far more apt to be allocated a budget.
Curse laden mumbles joined Carol’s ghost as she began undressing and documenting everything on the cadavers. She was working alone tonight, which made the uptick in corpses an even bigger pain in the ass. It was going to be a long one, no matter what.
The room was darker than usual. All the extra black body bags muted any chance at tackling the vignette, which was only made worse by the addition of another.
“Sorry, Carol…busy night.” The cop said as he wheeled in another.
“Yeah, well there’s more than one cop.” Carol replied dejectedly as she took the cart and wheeled it to a corner to join the others. “These all unrelated?”
The cop was finishing up some paperwork. “I mean, that’s kinda your job now.”
“You know what I mean. None of these people were together? None of the obvious stuff?” Carol responded.
“Nah, nothing we picked up on. Just seems like a lot of people, uh…died tonight…” the cop said.
“And all of these seemed suspicious enough to land them down here? Carol prodded further.
“Don’t look at me, I’m no detective. I can’t even tell if you think there’s a serial killer or a grand plot to waste your time. The cop said half-laughing.
“Both. Now hurry the fuck up because I’d like to get out of here someday too.” Carol said as she headed back to her current corpse.
Check the pockets.
Document and bag.
Peel back the layers.
Rinse and repeat.
A clean body would take about thirty minutes, but these bodies weren’t here because they were clean. Each one offered up part of a story that needed to be exposed. Each one was going to take some time.
“Fuck.” Carol exhaled.
“What?” the cop asked, leaning against a wall and staring at his phone.
Carol looked over in his direction, surprised he was still there. “What the fuck are you still doing down here?”
“Fiiiine.” The cop said as he trailed off, putting his phone in his pocket. The clack from the door echoed a little bit in the now silent room. Carol looked around, sighed, and got back to work.
The first two bodies were fast to process. Gunshot victims were always easy enough to fully document and book, and neither had anything on their person.
The third body was of a pale man. He was in his mid thirties, and wore a sour look in his death that was fortunately new to his wardrobe. He didn’t move much as Carol undressed him, rigor mortis had begun to set in hours ago.
Carol peeled back his layers at a methodical pace until she noticed something in the back right pocket of his jeans. Carol reached her hand in and found an old quarter in her retraction. Carol held it tails side up in her palm.
“Surely a sixty-five.” She said to herself as she flipped it over. There was no shine as Carol squinted at the roughly worn year. It read 1964. “Well fuck me.”
Carol looked around. The morgue was still devoid of any living souls, same with video cameras. Carol went to her desk and pulled a fingerprint kit from it. After a quick once over, the coin revealed no potential clues. Carol swabbed the coin for any possible DNA, and bagged the swab for processing.
Next, Carol took a quarter from her purse and roughly cleaned it with alcohol. With an evidence free quarter in hand, she then placed it in a small bag as well, documenting it along with the rest of the cadaver’s clothes and effects. Carol then pocketed the sixty-four, now ever-so-slightly richer.
Carol went back to work on the next cadaver, the silver in her pocket tagging along for the ride. A barely clothed prostitute lay motionless in the light. Overdose, easy. Quick processing when they don’t wear much. If only they were all prostitutes.
Carol stored the body upon finish, and moved to the next. Six or seven bodies remained on their carts along the edge of the room.
There was no shortage of variety tonight. Men, women. Young and old. Carol’s next victim was an older woman. The process started off the same, as it always does, until Carol felt something in the back right pocket of the woman’s pants. Carol paused as she reached her hand in, feeling the contents, a lone quarter. Carol pulled it out to find yet another quarter. From 1964.
“Shit.” Carol said, immediately stepping back from the corpse. She stared down at the quarter, this time devoid of the jubilance that the previous quarter had brought. Carol’s gaze shifted from the quarter to the other bodies.
“No. No way.” she said as she reached the cluster of cadavers. Carol reached her hand into one of their back pockets. Nothing.
Six more bags. Six more bodies. Six more pockets. Maybe it was all just a coincidence. Carol stuck her hand in the next body’s back pocket. Some lottery ticket stubs, but no silver quarters.
Next an older man. Carol stuck her hand into the back pocket of some dirty khakis and pulled out yet another silver quarter.
“Fuck.” Carol whispered as she went through the last remaining bodies, yielding one more quarter. Carol knew what was happening. These odds were beyond reasonable. Carol went to her desk and immediately dusted the coins for prints, and swabbed for DNA once more.
Carol then placed all four quarters in separately labeled bags, making sure to replace the normal quarter that she planned on passing off into evidence. Losing a few bucks was nothing in comparison to discovering what she just had. A link to 4 different deaths in one night.
Carol’s heart was pounding as she picked up the phone to call down one of the detectives. Dialing the numbers proved tricky, but eventually the call went through, only to reach a voicemail.
“Worthless, and on a night like tonight, no less.” Carol said as she grabbed the quarters, and her keys. Carol swiftly headed to the exit of the morgue to go find someone. Anyone.
With the doors locked and the bodies safe behind her. Carol echoed down the dark empty tile hallway. The clacks from her shoes hitting off every tile in a gathering storm.
Carol was lost in thought as she rounded a corner, crashing into an officer. The two collected themselves after the run-in. Carol hadn’t seen this cop before, but that wasn’t unusual.
“Sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going.” He said politely.
Carol picked up her keys that fell in the collision and met the officers eyes for the first time. He was exactly her height. Carol found it to be an odd sensation as he looked at her. “It’s quite fine, pardon me.” Carol sidestepped the officer and began to head around the corner.
“Vendings down here right?” The officer asked.
“Yeah, just down there to the right.” Carol pointed.
“Excellent, thanks.” He said, turning in the direction that Carol pointed before pausing in his step. “Oh, I forgot to ask. You don’t by any chance have change for a dollar, do you?”
The officer smiled, but just barely.
Conventions wore Charlie out, mostly because they were fucking boring. Luckily there was a decent dive within walking distance that had strong beer and no music. During the lunch hour, Charlie could hop out down an alley and have a couple actual beers before the second seminar started.
Charlie walked in to avail. It was slow today, only a couple patrons. One sat at the end of the bar, the other in a dim booth with a full glass.
Charlie wondered if he might actually be able to squeeze three in today. He would have to sit at the bar for that, even though he was fond of booths. Less walking for the bartender.
Charlie climbed into one of the middle seats. He would have preferred the other end of the bar, but didn’t want to seem the both socially, and physically distant from the fellow already sitting there. Charlie nodded at the fellow, who returned it without hesitation.
Above, a small tube television quietly crackled some local news.
“What would ya like?” the bartender asked.
“Beer Engine Amber, please. Charlie said.
The bartender walked off to fill up a glass, and returned not long after.
“Thanks, keep it open for a couple more.”
“You got it.” The bartender said and wandered off to pour himself a drink.
The news kept on as Charlie drank. He got through the first beer fast, flagged down the bartender, and ordered another offering from The Beer Engine, stronger this time. This one went down a little slower, but Charlie was still making good time on his imaginary and unnecessary challenge.
“You want one more?” The bartender snuck in.
The bartender returned once more, and left a full glass. Not long after, a phone rang in the back. The bartender meandered back to go and answer it. Charlie noticed the man at the end of the bar looking around. He had been quiet the whole time, until he spoke.
“The problem with suicide is that you leave a mess for someone else.” He said.
Charlie wasn’t sure if the man was talking to him, or perhaps just the air. Charlie took a large gulp and looked up at the television to see if the news anchors were talking about a suicide case. They weren’t.
The man spoke up again.
“Let’s say you pick a nice and clean way to do it, pills or something. You’re still going to be found in a puddle of your own piss and shit. I mean, okay, maybe you take it so far that you completely evacuate your bowels before you commit. If so, good on you, but you still leave behind a damn body. Someone finds you. People have to move you. Someone has to bury you. You don’t make any of those decisions, either. People make them for you, you become a burden on them.”
Partially intimidated by the tone of the conversation, Charlie found himself halfway done with his beer already. Unfortunately for Charlie, the fellow seemed to take this uptick in drinking speed as a challenge to get his ideas out before Charlie left.
“See. What would be great, is if you had your grave ready. Spring loaded, or something. Maybe. Then you could stand at the edge of your plot, earth wide open, put a gun to your head, pull the trigger, and fall into your new home which then snaps shut. Get some pneumatic stuff goin’. Yeah, and dirt rolls in from the sides, a tasteful tombstone pops up, and then you’re done.
Maybe you send out a mass email or make a post about it and tell everyone when the funeral is and just…let everybody arrive and say what the fuck.”
Charlie felt obligated to respond.
“Do…uhh…you think about suicide a lot?” Charlie asked.
“Doesn’t everyone?” The fellow said, cocking his head.
“I…don’t think so?” Charlie offered.
“Weird.” The man said, now more interested in a photograph on the wall nearest him.
Charlie took another sip. There wasn’t much beer left. The fellow looked at the ceiling next.
“I think you’re wrong. Well, you’re right, technically. Obviously everyone doesn’t think about it a lot, but I think the majority of people do. They just don’t talk about it. I think that’s a problem.”
Charlie was confused by the fellow’s response, but that wasn’t out of the ordinary. “Are you going to kill yourself?” Charlie asked quietly.
“Who, me?” The fellow asked, somehow genuine.
Charlie finished his beer, even more confused. “Yes. You.”
“Oh. Shit I don’t know. Maybe?” The fellow said.
“Maybe?” Charlie echoed, happy that he had cash for once to pay the tab.
“Perhaps. If so, not now, or soon, or anything. Maybe not ever. But if I did, or do, I’d have to figure out how to build that spring loaded burial. And that would probably take five or so years to really get it right…and you don’t wanna get that kind of thing wrong. You’d look dumb for eternity and no one wants that. Hell, the whole purpose of the machine is to get rid of that problem.”
The bartender still wasn’t back with a tab. Charlie pulled what he knew to be more than enough cash from his wallet and left it on the bar, hoping the extra big tip would translate to some positive karma down the road.
“Good luck.” He said, nodding to the fellow.
“Oh, I’ve got plenty of time.”
Charlie stared for a second, then walked towards the door. As he walked he could feel the weight of the beer sloshing in his belly. Perhaps he should have had just the two. He breached the door and stepped outside to head back to the convention. It was a lot brighter outside than he remembered.