Two Blind Men and a Fool
by Sherman Smith
|Table of Contents|
Earl Crier wakes screaming from nightmares in which his ship sinks in the Arctic in World War II. He has survived but is now blind. He takes refuge in music and in the kindness of Stella. Meanwhile, other veterans return, and their most serious wounds are not always visible.
Chapter 30: An Inconvenient Passing
Officer Sam Newman was uncertain if he had a 10-8: Possible Dead Body, or a 10-8-1: Person Down. Either way, it felt good to get out of the car and stretch his legs. There were times when a routine call was better than a jelly donut.
The hospital was quiet, the main entry empty, no patients waiting to check in, no nurses, orderlies, or medical staff visibly present. Still, this wasn’t San Francisco General, whose atmosphere almost always screamed of chaos and human urgency.
Come to think of it, the Veterans’ Hospital didn’t have an emergency room. If critical care was needed, the patient was usually rushed to S.F. General. At least, the General had a decent cafeteria and something that passed for a cup of coffee.
He had found the elevator and pushed the button to call down the lift when a petite nurse came out of one of the wards.
“Can I help you, officer?” Her name tag read Irene.
He pulled out his notebook. “Someone called in a report about a body?” Hospitals have bodies, nothing unusual, he thought. “A patient...?”
“Oh yes,” she replied with a tired smile, “although I don’t know why anyone bothered to call it in. An orderly — at least he used to be, overdosed. Dr. Garrity has already signed the death certificate: suicide.”
Suicide, that meant he had to see the body. “Name?” He took a pencil out of his pocket, and licked the lead point out of habit.
“No, miss, I mean the victim’s name.”
“Elroy. I think his last name was Hawks. I’m not really sure. We didn’t talk much. He was a vulgar, rude man, none of the staff took kindly to him. If you ask me... Never mind, one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, it’s not polite.”
He wrote down the name. “I’ll need to see the doctor,” he asked. This nurse has about as much personality as a librarian.
“I’m sorry, the doctor has left for the day.”
He scratched off what he was about to write with a slight edge of frustration.
“Mr. Hawk’s body, where can I find it? You have a morgue?”
A male orderly came down the hall.
“Simon,” she called, “would you please escort the officer down to the morgue. He’s here to make a report on Elroy.”
“Sure thing, officer,” Simon said, motioning towards a stairwell. “Good old Elroy, can’t say anyone around here will miss him.” He led the officer down three flights of stairs
“Elroy Hawks. Hawks was his last name?”
The orderly grunted in affirmation.
“He work here long?”
“The late Mr. Hawks.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Simon said as they walked down a poorly lit hallway.
“So you weren’t a friend of his?” No one seems to know or care much about this guy, he thought. No small wonder if he committed suicide. ‘If’ is the operative word.
He was led to a gurney just inside the morgue. A foot, big toe tied with a toe tag, poked out from beneath a white sheet. He looked at the toe tag, confirming the name Elroy Hawks and the time of death. He never liked this part of the job, but went ahead and drew back the sheet as far down as the cadaver’s midsection.
In life the man had been a giant, tall and muscular. In death he had a kind face. Officer Newman wrote in his notebook that the former Mr. Hawks was missing one arm and several fingers from his remaining hand. Poor guy, no wonder he committed suicide.
“Will there be anything else, officer?” the orderly asked as he pulled back the sheet.
He wrote down Simon’s name. “No, that will about do it,” Officer Newman said, satisfied with the cause of death. “Send the death certificate to me soon as possible. Here’s my card. Thanks.”
Copyright © 2013 by Sherman Smith