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A Pathological Dilemma
By Desirée Lee
Monday, July 16, 2007
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
This is a short story that I wrote last year. The main character, Jason Kerrith, is one of the inhabitants of Eventide from my WIP series The Annals of Eventide.
“What do we have today?” Jason asked the secretary as he walked in, striding past her desk. “Anything exciting?”
“MVA and an AMI, Doc,” she replied without looking up from her computer monitor.
Jason swore under his breath. He hated the AMI cases. They were senseless, careless deaths in his opinion; even more so than the motor vehicle accidents, homicides and suicides.
He swiped his passkey in front of the sensor and waited for the tell-tale beep and the green light to flash signaling that the door was now unlocked for all of about 10 seconds, then opened the door to walk in to the autopsy area. The technician had the bodies prepped and ready for him.
Dr. Jason Kerrith was the newest pathologist on staff at the Eventide Medical Examiner’s office. He had interned there while he was still in school, starting off as a forensic autopsy technician and working through the various aspects of the job. The experience he had gained was priceless and now that he had his M.D. in hand, he was given a permanent job and a hefty paycheck; a much better paycheck than any job he’d ever worked at before, that was for certain. He had assisted in numerous autopsies and by now could perform them almost by rote. Every one was slightly different though. Every body that ended up on the table to be cut was a new chance at a mystery, a challenge. That is what Jason hoped each day when he went to work. Often he was disappointed.
He donned protective gear over his faded blue scrubs and mentally prepared himself for the task at hand. He finished the autopsy on the motor vehicle accident victim and mid-way through the second autopsy, someone else entered the room. Jason glanced over and saw his boss, Dr. Dale Ross walking in. Great, just great. Jason thought as he resisted the urge to sigh in dismay. Just when I was about to make things interesting… The technician moved out of the room to let the doctors confer.
“Jason,” Ross said in a low tone as he approached the younger doctor. “I know how you feel about the AMI cases. I’ll take this one.”
“No, it’s ok. I’ll be alright. After all, I am going to have to get used to them sometime, right?”
“It’s your objectivity that I am concerned about. I know your ability is there but we can’t let these get under our skin. You know how it goes.”
“I know how it goes but…” Jason took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I’ll be fine.”
“So you’re going to call it an AMI then,” Ross said, more as a statement than a question.
“Yeah Boss. It’s an AMI. No doubt about it. The 250 gram heart has a normal configuration with minimal epicardial fat. The myocardium shows no fibrosis or focal lesions and is not hypertrophied. The endocardium and valves have no fibrosis. Atrial and ventricular septae are intact. The aorta and coronary arteries show no atherosclerosis. The central vascular tree and cardiac chambers are devoid of blood. No matter that he’s completely exsanguinated without a wound, has no apparent external lividity, by golly it’s an Acute Myocardial Infarction.” Jason tried to keep the disdain out of his tone to no avail.
“Good job,” Ross nodded, ignoring the thinly veiled sarcasm. “I know you don’t like these cases but you know the score. This city plays by their rules.” He put emphasis on the word their. “Either step up to the plate or you forfeit. I don’t think I need to tell you what you forfeit. Harsh lesson, Sport, but they really aren’t that bad to work for if you stick to the story.”
“Stick to the story, yeah. I know that. I don’t have to like it but I know it. Just once though, I’d like to really delve in to one of these cases, you know? There has to be more to a vampire victim than covering it up and calling it an AMI.”
“Jason I’ll tell you something and I hope like hell you heed my words.” Ross turned to look him straight in the eye. “You’re right. There is more to it than that. You know this, you aren’t stupid, but this is a door you do not want to open. You tread a dangerous path here. If you keep digging like you want to then you’re going to attract attention and that spells disaster. This city is run lock, stock and barrel by the vampires. If you cross them then you end up as the next Ami. Hate to say it like that but it’s the reality here. People like you and I, those who know of their presence, are vital to keeping the coexistence peaceful. This is not a new thing. This,” he gestured to the lifeless form on the table before them, “has been happening for centuries before us and will happen for centuries to come after we’re nothing but dust.” Ross paused a moment then softened his tone. “I know how you feel though.”
“Plus you don’t want Rod calling down here about creating the latest PR nightmare,” Jason intoned. He remembered when he was still an intern and news of one of the vampire victims somehow got out. Police Chief Walter “Rod” Roderick was severe in his criticism and did not relent until the Medical Examiner’s office had quashed the “unfounded rumors.”
“Right. You know what to do Jason.” Ross gave him another stern look then turned to leave the autopsy suite.
Jason just gave a half nod and went back to the autopsy. He knew what Dr. Ross had meant. He knew Ross had a respect and perhaps an admiration for his determination and desire to get to the truth. The word pathology is derived from the Greek word pathologia, meaning a study of emotions. Emotions are part of the core of what makes us human and Jason didn’t think that people ceased to be emotional beings once they died. He felt that each body had its own story to tell and even though it no longer had a voice, it still had a message.
What Jason didn’t talk about was how Ross truly did not know how Jason felt. When Ross warned that prying too much might lead Jason in to the AMI category, Jason knew all too well that he was almost there already once before. He performed the final part of the autopsy that he needed to and the tech returned to stitch the body back up.
Jason took off his bloody gloves and gear, washed his hands off and went in to his office, plopping down in his chair unceremoniously. His fingers almost unconsciously went up to his neck, feeling the scar through the fabric of his turtleneck shirt. He is almost never without a turtleneck, even wearing it under his scrubs. He remembered the vampire who gave the scar to him: Michelle. She was a cute red-head; not gorgeous but not homely either. Some of the memories of her were fond. They had a few months of dynamic dates, though she always passed on going to dinner with him. The sex had been phenomenal too. The memories of his hospital stay afterward were not so fond. She hadn’t fed enough and the sex one night put her in to a blood frenzy. She took too much, got too rough. He had always thought her biting was just a fetish and didn’t mind it before. He never realized she was drawing blood because she had the power to heal his wound afterward, leaving no trace. Not that time. She left him open, raw and bleeding. He almost died. She was caught and punished by the vampire community for almost exposing their kind. Her punishment was death. At the time Jason wasn’t sorry to see her go but as the months passed, he let go of his anger. Some days he missed her. Usually he didn’t.
In fact Michelle was far from his thoughts nowadays. His current girlfriend, Angel, lived up to her name in his opinion. Jason knew she was curious about where his scars came from but he always told her it was an accident. He knew he couldn’t share the truth about vampires with her, not yet at least. He thought it was better to leave her blissfully unaware rather than burden her with the task of keeping the secret.
Jason shook his head and then turned on his computer to begin typing up the autopsy report. “Acute Myocardial Infarction,” he murmured as he typed the cause of death. He surmised that it was true enough if you want to get technical. After all, your heart does stop when you die, right?
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