Without further ado...
Route 4: Part Two
My jaw was gaping as John Doe looked around. He seemed more curious than frightened. My heart was pounding in my chest. His gaze settled on me, eyes grayish and waxy. “Is this the morgue?”
Unsure what to say or do, I simply nodded. Was there protocol for when the dead sat up and started talking to you? If there was I must have missed that seminar at the last convention. This was a first for me. I was very much a deer caught in the headlights.
“So I’m dead…” He lifted his hands looking at them closely. “It would explain why I feel no heartbeat in my chest.”
“I suppose it would.” My voice was quiet, filled with disbelief. It was one thing to work with the dead all night. It’s not like I haven’t talked to a dead body before. Most often was something was eluding me to how they died. They had never spoken back before. It was a little unnerving that John Doe was.
He adjusted the sheet to cover him more comfortable and then rested his hands on the cold, metal table. It was a bit late for modesty. I had already performed an autopsy on him. His chest and belly were sewed up in the stand ‘Y’ shape. My eyes and hands had scoured every inch of his body searching for anything that would not only help the police find his killer, but maybe help identify John Doe as well.
“How did I…?”
I pointed to his forehead. “You were um…” Shot in the head? Had your brains blown out? Murdered? For some reason it seemed rude to say it in any of those ways. Where ever the spirits went after death, it was the greeter’s job on that side to tell them what happened if they didn’t remember. At least I would assume. My job was figuring out the last message they left behind.
He reached his hand up, fingers grazing over the bullet hole. He opened his mouth slightly as realization hit. “Oh dear, this is quiet embarrassing.”
I shrugged. “Not really. I’ve seen deaths a lot less dignified than yours.”
He raised a bushy eyebrow. “Really? Anyone you can think of in particular?”
Realization hit that I was having a conversation with a dead man. Since he wasn’t overly scary and apparently hadn’t risen as a flesh eating zombie, I started to feel the same annoyance I got when around the living. I hated chatty Kathy’s and gossip mongers.
“Look, I’ve still got work to do.” I tried to keep my voice as neutral as possible. “So maybe you can help me out by telling me your name?”
“I didn’t come here to tell you that.” He suddenly looked confused. “Not sure how I know that.” His gray eyes settled on me again. “This is an odd predicament isn’t it?”
I held my thumb and index finger about an inch apart. “Little bit, yeah.” I shrugged. “I’ve spent a lot of time speaking for the dead, but this is the first time the dead actually verbally spoke back. I gotta tell you pal, it’s a unnerving.”
“Pal.” It rolled over his tongue. He seemed to ponder the word for a moment before nodding. “Yes, Pal will do. You may call me Pal if you wish.”
My eyes widened ever so slightly. “Right.” I lengthened the word. It was slow, drawn out. A soft word of sarcasm and surprise. “Somehow I don’t think the name Pal is going to help the police find your next of kin.”
Pal gave a small smile. “Ahh yes, that’s why I’m here. I remember now.” Reaching up he absently scratched the bullet hole. Admittedly it was a little bit sickening to watch.
Said the medical examiner talking to the dead guy.
I was beginning to think I was losing my mind. I was, after all, sitting here having a conversation.
Pal had been sitting in silence for a few moments. He had trailed off and was now staring at the morgue body coolers. “Oh my, I’m a bit claustrophobic. I won’t be put in one of those drawers will I?”
Usually by the time the dead were put in there they didn’t care. Pal would be the first to even have an opinion on the subject. Somehow though, I didn’t think that’s why he was here. I snapped my fingers to draw his attention back.
“Hey, concentrate. What are you here for?”
He blinked and brought his gaze back to me. “Forgive my rudeness.” Pal nodded. “I’m here because you are indeed a friend to the dead. You often say for us what we can no longer say ourselves.”
I supposed some people could see what I do as noble. In reality, the dead were a lot easier to get along with than the living. I shrugged. “It’s my job.”
“So it is, but what you do is still a favor towards those no longer living.” He held up a pale finger. “Thus the dead wish to return the favor.”
My eyebrows rose. “You’re here to kill me?
He scoffed. “Goodness me no.” He almost looked offended by the notion. “However would you be able to continue helping the dead if you died yourself?” He waved the thought away. “No my dear girl, I am here to warn you.”
“If you say I’m going to be visited by three ghosts I’m going to check myself into the psych ward.”
He smiled then. “No ghosts. Just me.” He adjusted the sheet again.
“Well then could cut to the chase, Pal? I’ve got work to do.” Leaning back in my chair, I crossed my arms over my chest. Maybe I had come off as rude, but I wasn’t a people person. Not even a talking dead people person. Besides I was still debating on whether or not I’d fallen asleep at my desk or knocked my head on my something. This could also be one very intense, very vivid hallucination.
“Very well,” Pal said. “If you insist.”
“No need to get your knickers in a twist.”
I cringed. “You’re dead. Please don’t think about my knickers. It’s really creepy.”
“Just a phrase my dear, just a phrase.”
“Can we get on with this?”
Pal made a movement that very much made me think he wanted to sigh. Then he straightened and looked at me with those dead, gray eyes.
“Your normal route. The one you drive every day to and from work?”
I raised a brow again when he phrased it as more of a question. “What about it?”
“Take a detour.” Pal’s gaze was piercing into me. “We don’t wish you among the dead so soon.”
A chill slithered down my spine. Pal had been vague, but his point came across crystal clear.
Something was going to happen my way home. It obviously wasn’t anything good. In fact it would most likely result in my death. Then again I still wasn’t sure this was actually happening.
“If I avoid my usual route, will it stop whatever it is that’s going to happen? Or will someone else take my place?”
Pal raised and dropped one shoulder. A half hearted shrug. “It isn’t for me to say. Only for you to decide.”
He smiled. “Life is not easy, nor is death. Every decision has consequences.” Pal looked off into the distance as if seeing something that I couldn’t. Something that was only meant for the eyes of the dead.