a cold mausoleum
The morgue was a cold mausoleum smelling of formaldehyde, ammonia, and death. Inspector Bronson and my footsteps echoed in the unholy silence.
Bronson continued his rant: “And, to trample all over the scene. Drape the body with a blanket someone gave them. To move the body. I have tried to drill into those thick heads that an expert, such as yourself, can be a sibyl, especially if things are left as they are.”
Bronson never used a sex for the dead. It was “the body,” until a name could be placed with the departed.
I took one last breath of the foul air, and passed into the mortuary. The once animated person, live with feelings and desires, lay stretched out on the slab. Bronson couldn’t say he or she. I couldn’t consider the body a cadaver, instead saw her as a wax figure from Madame Tussaud’s.
She was like the last ones, even thought having been moved. Her shiny ebony hair was perfectly quaffed. The lace about her neck unruffled. A fine gold chain hung down to her bosom and pearl bobbles adorned her ears. She still had the scent of an expensive perfume to match the manner of her hair and dress. Her clothes undisturbed, stylishly covering her arms and legs. Her face with modest makeup, her fingernails manicured and clean. Even a sweet, half smile seemed to be on her dead lips.
No outward signs of trauma. No blood, bruising, torn clothing. I asked the gentlemen present (Bronson and the impatiently tapping his feet Coroner), so I might examine her more closely.
After they left, I slowly unbuttoned the bodice of her dress. I explained each action, reassuring her it was to solve her death. Under her clothes was no disfigurement, not even a childhood scar on her knee. No signs that someone had invaded her person.
I dressed her again, knowing that soon the Coroner would invade her privacy. I had examined each garment. Read her body like a map. I was no Sibyl. All I could discern, Bronson could have done so himself.
She was an upper-class woman in her late twenties. No indication of engagement or wedding ring being placed on her finger. She was expensively dressed from the combs in her head to the leather shoes on her feet. There was nothing on her body to suggest anything else. No detritus from the storefront where she was found, no crumb, piece of thread, none of the usual bits and pieces found even on the most meticulous of people.
As Bronson escorted me home through the shadows created by the gaslights, we discussed visiting the site tomorrow. I only wanted slim details so I could first form my own opinion. As the scene had been disturbed, my interviews of those involved would have to be more probing. Let’s hope the “dunderheads” had better memories about what they saw than about police procedure upon discovering these bodies. The deaths were linked, and quite likely murders.
She was found by the constable on patrol, tilted against the front of a sandstone building occupied by exclusive women’s and gentlemen’s stores One of the number of things so far linking these women.
We reached the house where I rented rooms. Bronson doffed his derby, “Good night Miss Holmes, I’ll be around early tomorrow to fetch you.”