The next day, the Rookie meets the Coroner. Down in the morgue hidden behind stark-white corridors that wind labyrinthine, the Rookie meets a man with eyes like stars and a smile that could rival the sun, surrounded by the slowly decaying husks of those who used to be human. An astral entity standing among the remainders of humanity, the Rookie thinks. He doesn’t shake the Rookie’s hand, owing to being elbow-deep in a dead man’s guts, but he offers him and the Detective a friendly nod when he sees them entering the morgue. His face brightens when he spots the paper bag the Detective carries.
“For me?” he asks.
The Detective frowns. “It was going to be, until I saw your hands.”
The Rookie watches in mildly squeamish awe as the Coroner sews up the corpse’s torso and then cleans himself up before returning the body into one of the many refrigerators that line the wall. He’s efficient and quick with his hands. One of the best coroners in the county, or so they say. The Coroner takes the paper bag the Detective offers him and pulls out a sandwich.
As he eats, the Coroner relays his findings about their latest murder victim to them – the time and causes of death (early yesterday evening, strangulation and then blood loss from a slit throat), a preliminary toxicology report (an empty stomach save for copious amounts of alcohol), and a few interesting tidbits about the body (faded needle marks, a scarring behind the victim’s left ear, possible early onset of cataracts). The Detective listens attentively while the Rookie scribbles in his notebook, anxious not to miss out a single observation.
“Have you identified the victim?” the Coroner asks.
The Detective shakes his head. “No identification found on his person. We found his body dumped behind an alleyway.”
“Rough part of the city?”
The Coroner hums. He finishes the remainder of his sandwich before crumpling the cling wrap and tossing it into the bin beside his desk. “Try talking to the guys in the financial district. Odds are your victim here used to work in an investment bank.”
The Rookie startles despite himself, drawing the attention of the two older men. He flushes. “Why do you say that?” he forces out, embarrassed.
The Coroner motions to the body in the refrigerator. “His hands were clean and uncalloused, indicating an office job. His clothing was expensive and professional. A history of drug use suggests his job was highly stressful, and the early onset of cataracts seemed to be a result of extreme myopia, as evidenced by his glasses. His glasses have blue light filters on the lenses, so he primarily worked in front of a computer screen. High-paying office job that’s incredibly stressful, all in all it suggests a banker of some sort.” He shrugs. “But hey, that’s just me guessing.”
The Detective snorts. “Just guessing, he says, when he’s right almost all the time.” He rouses himself from the desk he’s been leaning against for the past half-hour and makes for the door. “Let’s go, kid.”
“Wait a minute.” The Coroner rummages in the paper bag and presses a sandwich into the Detective’s hands. “I know you haven’t eaten yet, so take this.”
The Detective looks unamused. “I bought this for you.”
“Yeah. It’s mine now, and I’m doing what I want with it. I’m giving it to you.” The Coroner fixes him with something akin to a stern glare. “Eat, for Christ’s sake.”
The Detective scoffs, but he takes the sandwich anyway. He pushes the door open and leaves, a slight jerk of his head motioning the Rookie to follow. The Rookie, flustered, thanks the Coroner for his time.
“Don’t thank me, this is my job,” the Coroner answers cheerfully. His countenance takes a more somber turn. “Hey kid.”
“Make sure he eats, alright? He loses himself in his job too easily, and when he goes too far it takes a lot to bring him back. I’m counting on you.”
The Rookie nods. What else can he do, when the sun himself asks you for a favour? He turns and leaves the morgue, leaving the sun in all its splendour, surrounded by death and frozen decay and stark-white labyrinths.