Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Autopsy

The medical examiner had experienced rather large productions over autopsy results before. When the waiting room was filled with detectives on a high profile homicide there’d been quite a lot of pressure to get the results quickly. Or when the mayor’s daughter died suddenly and his advisors were eager to pin it on a political rival. Or when a somewhat famous soap opera star was found face down in his Jacuzzi in the mountains nearby while on vacation. So having to do a detailed autopsy in a pinch was something he was used to.
But in all his years Dr. Stroud had never seen anything quite like the scene waiting for him now. The room was literally bursting with people, all desperately eager to get the results of Mrs. Moyer’s autopsy. What was unusual about her death wasn’t the fact that it had been caused (or so everyone feared) by the sudden reappearance of her late husband while she and the rest of the family were burying him. No, post mortem mobility had become common place for reasons his better paid colleagues were still trying to uncover. What was strange about Mrs. Moyer’s case was the fact that there had been so many precautions against exactly the thing that had happened.
First, there was the undertaker who had charged for the “safe service” wherein the brain is removed so that motor reflexes are cut off at the source. An earlier autopsy of Mr. Moyer’s body had revealed that the undertaker had missed this critical step. In some ways he was already screwed, but would be much more so if Mrs. Moyer’s autopsy revealed that the undertaker’s careless mistake had lead to her untimely death.
Next there were the inventors of the “Rest in Peace” coffin which was designed to destroy the brain-body connection via removal of the head through a special mechanism inside designed to go off upon closure of the lid. Why open casket viewings were still so popular he would never understand, especially with the risk of the dearly deceased climbing out in the middle or services. But it wasn’t his money. At any rate, Mr. Moyer had appeared in the examining room with head and brain intact, thus it would seem the patent-pending system might still have a few kinks to work out.
Last were the family members of Mr. and Mrs. Moyer who, although appearing genuinely distressed, would have the most to gain from the findings that Mr. Moyer’s rise had directly lead to Mrs. Moyer’s death. They had made the biggest scene when he’d poked his head in earlier, especially the one daughter who insisted on caterwauling throughout the ordeal. He couldn’t help but notice that she quieted significantly when he saw her alone in the hallway during his water break and he suspected that her waterworks were less genuine than staged.
All in all, there was a lot riding on this case and Dr. Stroud was working quickly to reach a conclusion. In spite of the obvious- the fact that seeing one’s late husband bursting out of their coffin in the middle of the funeral and shambling over towards you could make just about anyone’s heart stop from sheer terror- there was much more to be considered. And it was important to be absolutely, 100% sure when the results would almost definitely be used in several legal cases.
So in addition to fully examining the organs Dr. Stroud had also insisted on doing a toxicology screening of the old woman, even though everyone in the family had said that would needlessly delay the results. But it was partially their desire to be done with everything so quickly that had convinced him that this step should not be skipped. So the family, the inventors and the poor, desperately tired looking undertaker had sat in the waiting room for what was now going on 20 hours and waited.
When he had the report in his hand he raised an eyebrow at the findings. Even he had to admit he hadn’t seen it coming, although it did explain the abnormal deterioration of the woman’s heart. He stood up from his desk, took a deep breath, and made his way to the waiting mass.
When he pushed through the double doors a quiet fell over the entire crowd. The obnoxious daughter stopped her crying instantly and looked on with wide eyes. The tired undertaker looked as though he was holding his breath. The inventor and his wife sat there wringing their hands. And the t.v. in the corner blared on it’s endless advertisements, taking no notice of the proceedings. He picked up the remote nearby and switched it off.
“Eh- ehm,” he made a sound clearing his throat. “I have the toxicology report here and it has validated my findings from the physical examination.”
“Well, what does it say?” this from the daughter who seemed to be spilling out of her seat with anticipation.
“Well, the ultimate cause of death was heart failure which-“
“See? See, it was fear!” the daughter interrupted him. “Fright killed my mother, that’s right! You hear that, you bastards? You’re going to pay for making such shoddy merchandise and for having such horrible service!”
“Excuse me, ma’am- I wasn’t finished,” he interjected.
“Oh, oh- I’m so sorry. Please continue,” she said in an obviously fake sweet tone.
“As I was saying, the ultimate cause was heart failure but what seemed unusual about the case since the moment I opened the body cavity was the fact that her heart was in such bad condition.”
“Why is that surprising? She was 87,” came a small voice which belonged to one of the elder grandchildren.
“Well, her heart was in bad condition for an 87 year-old. Actually, her heart was in bad condition for any year-old. It’s rather miraculous she hadn’t had heart problems earlier. At any rate, the toxicology report exclaimed this abnormal deterioration.”
“How?” this from the undertaker who had turned whiter than the walls he stood in front of.
“It returned with large amounts of methamphetamine,” he said and then was still, waiting for it to sink in.
“Wait, you mean speed?” came a question from the inventor.
“Uh, yes- speed, crank, however it’s referred to nowadays.”
“Well, what does that mean? I mean did that cause her to get so frightened that when she saw my father get up she died?” the daughter asked. There was a confused, yet hopeful tone in her voice.
“Uh, no. Actually it means that the drug- not the fear- caused her heart to stop.”
“Wait, so the zom- er, post mortem mobility wasn’t the cause?” again, the inventor.
“Not directly, no.”
Silence fell over the room as the point sank in on each face. The youngest grandchild was the first to break the quiet.
“Huh. Who knew granny was a meth head?”

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