most part are exposed.
Her face and eyes have gone, just dregs of dried-up skin and flesh and scalp hanging onto her skull. Her teeth look too large with nothing to hide them. Her hair is swept out fanlike beneath her body; it is long and dark brown and I imagine it was once well kept, that she liked to run her fingers through it, that it smelled of shampoos and conditioners, and it would brush against her
lover’s face as they held each other as one day became another.
Her fingers are only bone; one rests across her chest, the other by her side. Resting between her palm and her thigh is a small diamond ring that in the light of the morgue refuses to sparkle. I figure it came loose when her fingers rotted away, and got shaken free when she fell off the back of the stolen truck.
Her clothes don’t seem to line up right; her short dress is
twisted and the buttons on her blouse are out of line, as if she dressed in a hurry or somebody else dressed her after she was
dead. I dig my hand into my pocket and start playing with my
car keys, wrapping them into my handkerchief over and over as
my mind races.
Tracey looks up at me. ‘Jesus, are you okay? You look like
you’ve seen a ghost.’
I can feel sweat starting to slide down the side of my body. It has to be near freezing in here and I’m sweating.
‘There were other people in the water, Tracey,’ I say, and the words are hard to form. ‘Maybe that means other girls, and if
there are … Jesus, I fucked up.’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘Two years ago. I should have dug Henry Martins up two
years ago and we would have found this girl then. We would
have known we were looking for a killer. We might have got him before he killed others.’
Tracey looks at me but doesn’t know what to say. She can’t
tell me the world doesn’t work that way, because we both know
that it does. She doesn’t say anybody could have made that
same mistake. She doesn’t try to tell me it isn’t my fault. All that happens is that her shoulders sag a little and she looks
away, unable to maintain eye contact with me.
‘Shit,’ she whispers, still looking at the floor. ‘You need to leave now, Theo.’
‘Come on, Tracey, there’s got —’
‘I’m serious,’ she says, looking up. ‘You wanted to know if
Martins was inside — well, now you know. That was the deal.
You can’t look at this woman and think it’s become your case. All you can do by being here now is compromise the investigation.’
‘You don’t get it, do you?’
‘What? That you could have made a difference two years
ago? I know the case, and you’re right. It could well be that you messed up and other girls have paid for it, but how many are still out there because you have taken bad people off the streets?’
‘This isn’t about checks and balances.’
‘I know that. Do you? And I know that you have to leave.’
‘You think that’s what she’d want?’ I ask, nodding towards
the dead girl. ‘Or do you think she’d want as many people as she could get trying to find who did this to her?’
‘Come on, Theo, it’s time to go. I’ll let you know if one of the bodies that turns up is Martins’.’
‘Yeah. Okay, do that,’ I say as she walks me to the corridor.
The moment we step into it, her cellphone rings. She shakes
it open and starts talking. I pat down my pockets, then turn
them inside out. I mouth the word ‘keys’ to her and point back towards the morgue.
‘Make it quick,’ she says, lowering the phone so the person on the other end can’t hear.
I walk back into the morgue. I stare at the dead girl and I
wonder what she looked like before Death crammed her into
this coffin, taking everything away from her in one brutal insult.
Looking at this cheap imitation of her makes me feel ill.
Tracey is finishing up her phone call when I rejoin her in the corridor.
“They’ve found the one that sank again, and another one,’ she
says, slipping the