THE MAN FROM THE MORGUE

His biggest shock was when they phoned to say they were offering him the job. But first he had to do something to prove himself...

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After 9/11 there’d been a flurry of reassessments, and by the time of the London bombings, these meetings had become nothing less than frantic.

Questions centered on whether he had changed his religious ideas recently.

Had he visited any mosques during the past five years? Or a temple? Or any other non-traditional meeting or spiritual institutions?

Had he made any new friends? Had he had any new sexual liaisons? With women? With men?

His daily routine was so boring that he found these interviews quite stimulating.

He wondered when they’d get around to asking about skin colour or, ‘Do any of your friends wear turbans?’ But they didn’t.

*

The man from the morgue said they’d found the body early on Sunday morning. The army of cleaners find a few every night, he added. It was lying in a dingy ally on the edge of the docklands.

The man who’d phoned showed no emotion. His voice had an expressionless tone. He said it looked like death had resulted from a robbery that had gone wrong for the victim. He intimated that perhaps the unfortunate person had put up some kind of resistance, and the thieves had resorted to violence. The autopsy, he said, revealed that the deceased had been stabbed several times and then shot in the head. His shoes and some of his clothing had been stolen. And, the man said, if the deceased had had any valuables, such a watch, a ring, or whatever, these too had been removed.

Identification, he said with just a hint of reproach, had been difficult. But he quickly managed to regain control and his voice lapsed back into his official monotone. Someone at the autopsy had spotted a small implant. But that had only given them the name and some kind of code.

It had taken time, he said, but the police had eventually pieced together the man’s personal contact details. This had not been easy as it was obvious that a considerable effort had gone into an attempt to keep the man’s particulars off the public record. Again, a mild trace of rebuke was apparent. His wallet was found later, but both his Visa card and his driver’s license were bogus.

‘But eventually we worked it out, and that’s why I am talking to you now. With my deepest condolences, Mrs Sheraton, I have to report to you that we believe the deceased is your son, Mr Paul Lynton Sheraton.’

It was the first news she’d had about her son for twenty-four years.

Mrs Sheraton listened carefully to what the man had to say. She asked a question. The man said he had nothing to add. He’d told her everything.

Finally she said simply, ‘Thank you very much for contacting me.’

She listened attentively for a moment, and then replied, ‘Yes, yes, thank you for reminding me. I do understand my obligations. I will arrange to have the body collected later today.’

***

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