I shot up, awoken from a nightmare that was already beginning to fade. The only part I could remember was Emma’s face. As I sat there trying to shake the vision of her face staring down on me, I shivered. Strange my bedroom was usually a lot warmer than this. My arse was freezing. I looked around. Where was I? I was lying on a metal gurney and the room was in a half light. There were metal benches and sinks surrounding the room and another metal gurney with a blanket covering something next to me.
I couldn’t remember anything, I didn’t know what I was doing in this strange room. What had happened?
The lights flickered and then lit up the room with a bank of thousand watt bulbs. The double doors swung wide and in walked a man in a suit and a woman in a lab coat.
‘Finally. Can you tell me what I’m doing here?’ I said
‘So Miss Smithson are you starting the autopsy now?’ The guy asked
‘Hello, hello. Can you tell me what I am doing here?’ I raised my voice slightly.
‘Yes. I just need to fill out the paperwork and then we can start,’ the lady said as she walked passed me and opened a folder lying on one of the metal benches.
‘I said, what am I doing here?’ I shouted. They still didn’t turn. I swung my legs over the side of the gurney and jumped down. I strode over to the lady in the lab coat and tapped her on the shoulder. Only I didn’t. My hand went straight through her shoulder. What the …?
I turned and started to walk towards the guy in the suit when I noticed there was something lying on the gurney I had just left. I walked over and stared. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was me.
‘Right here we go,’ the woman pressed a button on a machine sitting on one of the benches and clipped a microphone onto her lapel. ‘Dr Karen Smithson is carrying out the autopsy of John Reginald Herod. DI Michael Johnston is observing.’
The policeman moved towards the gurney and shivered as he walked through me. I moved, still in shock, to the side of the room. I watched the autopsy with amazement. Is this what everyone went through? Or was it because I had been murdered. Yes that’s right murdered. They had worked out I had been poisoned and it had been in the meal I had eaten the night before. I needed to find Emma, to try and somehow make contact with her. I needed to find out what had happened. There was a reason I was still here and the only thing I could think of was to find my murderer.
I had no idea how a ghost, for that was what I was, would travel around so I sat on the gurney and thought about mine and Emma’s little flat. It was above the Chinese take away in the high street. It wasn’t perfect, but it was ours and we loved it. We had lived with her mum and dad when we first got married, but that had soon got a little cramped, if you know what I mean, so as soon as the flat came up we moved in. It was ideal as it was near the train station for my commute and only ten minutes walk from the nursing home where Emma worked. When I opened my eyes I couldn’t believe it. I was in the living room of the flat. Wow that was easy.
The table was still set up in the middle of the lounge, all the plates and glasses had been removed and when I checked the kitchen they weren’t there. Both the lounge and kitchen had splodges of black powder around the room. It must have been finger print powder. The weird thing was that there was no sign of Emma. Where was she going to be? Work?
I arrived at the nursing home to find two of the care assistant in the staff room. One was crying and the other was sat with consoling her.
‘Come on now Mary there no need to be so upset.’
‘But it’s Mr Rathbone. He was such a sweet old man and now he’s gone.’ Mary wiped her nose on her sleeve.
‘You should be used to it by now Mary. This is the third death we’ve had this month and you’ve never been this upset before. You should be getting used to it.’
‘But Jane, Mr Rathbone didn’t have anyone else. Who’s going to be at the funeral to remember him?’
‘Oh I see,’ nodded Jane. ‘You were hoping for a little retainer in his will and it’s all gone to Emma. That’s what’s upset you isn’t it?’
‘Not at all.’ She wiped her eyes and look Jane straight in the face. ‘I don’t understand how Emma got it all though. We all looked after him the same. And she can’t even be arsed to turn up to work today. Typical. She’s only been here a few months. Then she hits the jackpot and leaves the rest of us to cope.’
I had heard enough. So Emma had come into some money. That explained the meal. When we had first moved out of her parents house everything had been rosy. But gradually the realisation of living together had set in. Emma nagged all the time about wet towels on the bed and clothes on the floor. Apparently they didn’t pick themselves up. Well they did when we lived with her mum. I was supposed to help with the cooking too. It didn’t matter that she worked part time and I had a two hour commute each day, as well as working a ten hour shift. I never realised she couldn’t cook and beans on toast wasn’t enough to keep me sustained. Her mum was an amazing cook but she hadn’t passed the skills down to her daughter.
I needed time to think so I headed back to the flat. Why was there still no sign of Emma? I sat down and slowly the events of the night before began to clear.
I had arrived home to the smells of home cooking, but not those I was used to from Emma’s cooking. These actually smelt nice. The table was set up in the middle of the dining room and there were candles in the centre. I sat down and Emma brought me a glass of red wine.
‘Dinner will be ready in five minutes darling,’ she said as she kissed me and wandered back into the kitchen. ‘It’s your favourite. Steak and chips followed by trifle.’
‘Wow this is a pleasant surprise. Did Mr Rathbone come through?’
‘Mr Rathbone. Who’s Mr Rathbone?’
‘The old guy you’ve been buttering up at the nursing home. I assume he have given you a little gift. I noticed the new shoes in the hallway as I came in. They look like those Jimmy Choo’s you showed me in the magazine last week.’
‘I don’t know what you mean.’ Emma walked into the lounge a massive smile on her face and placed a beautifully cooked steak in front of me.
‘Come on now. I know you have been up to something. Three deaths at the nursing home and after each one you have some new shoes or a dress that I know you can’t afford.’
‘Hold on, I’ve forgotten the salt.’ Emma rushed back into the kitchen and returned with the salt cellar.
I liberally sprinkled salt over my steak. ‘Stop it now Emma. It’s only fair that you share some of this windfall. Or is this my share? This steak?’
‘You think you deserve some of my money?’ she spat at me. ‘I work hard all day pretending to care about what these old guys have to say, and then you expect me to come home and do the same for you. Well this time it’s different.’ She took a sip of her wine. ‘This time I hit the big one and you aren’t getting any of it.’
‘Oh I think I am. I can go to the police and let them know about you. Then where would you be?’ I continued eating my steak. It was the best meal she had ever cooked for me.
‘I don’t think you will. You see all the salt you always pour all over your meals. That will kill you one day. And that day is today. There might have been something a little more powerful than salt in the cellar today.’
I could remember Emma closing the door behind her as she left me lying on the lounge floor. The last thing I remembered was a loud thud just after she closed the door.
So here I am back in the mortuary. Why am I here? Surely I need to find Emma?
‘Right so that’s Mr Herod’s autopsy finished,’ said Dr Smithson. ‘Time for the next one. Apparently they think she broke her neck falling down the stairs. New pair of Jimmy Choo’s seem to be the killer but we still need to check.’
Dr Smithson moved to the next gurney and as she pulled back the sheet, I finally found my Emma.
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