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Short story extract

An extract from 'Old Mother Hubbard' - a short story in the anthology 'Killing Nan and Other Crime Short Stories' by Keith Wright.

The entrance to the mortuary heralded an assault on all of the senses. First, there was the wrestling match with the cumbersome, thick lengths of plastic sheeting that hung in the outer doorway, a rematch followed a couple of steps later at the inner doorway. Then, once beyond this physical obstacle came the stench of death furiously competing with chemicals so strong they filtered down the nostrils and collated at the back of the throat, where it would congeal, causing a curious metallic taste. It was then that your eyes blinked in the forbidding, godforsaken environment. If you were lucky all the bodies were tucked away in the huge drawers set flush in the fabric of the wall; more often than not, however, there would be one or two cadavers left out on trolleys either having come out or going back in the drawers of doom. Drawers that all of us will one day frequent; naked, bloating, smelling, seeping methane and fluids, decaying and grotesque. Sleep well.
One could usually mentally prepare for the body of the person for whom you were attending because you tended to know the circumstances of the death and so be able to construct it in your mind's eye, but the random ones left out on display could take you by surprise. It might be the contorted frame of a dead child hit by a lorry, confusing by its abhorrent and incongruous appearance. Or maybe a baby, or a body part from a train wreck. This was the jeopardy of attending the mortuary even for the most experienced detective. And as your heart rate increased, your ears were bombarded with mysterious clunks and clanks and distant conversations, wrapped around a constant dripping of water trickling from taps on the large porcelain slabs used to dissect our loved ones. It was not a place for the faint-hearted.
DCI Frank Hubbard breathed a sigh of relief as there were no 'surprise' bodies on view, just the cadaver of a young woman on a porcelain slab with three people standing around it, one of whom was Frank's new bestie; the pathologist, Jacob Melba dressed in green starched operating garb and bizarrely small wellingtons with cartoon characters on them. He was clutching a dictaphone but paused when he saw his visitor arrive.
  'Ah, Frank, just in time. This is Detective Chief Inspector Frank Hubbard, everyone.'
  'Afternoon, Mr Melba.' Frank said and nodded to the others assembled around the cadaver. 'Afternoon.'
Frank preferred to stand on ceremony in a professional environment, especially in front of others, so 'Mr Melba' it was. He had walked over with the best smile he could muster, but it fell away quickly. Frank coughed up a clump of chemical-infused phlegm which, as all eyes fell on him, he promptly swallowed and winced at the vileness of the taste.

'Killing Nan and Other Crime Short Stories' is available now on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Paperback. Follow the link:

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