A short taster from Not Reported Missing.
The pathologist’s table was clinically clean and the ghost watched dispassionately as she began her work. She spoke into a microphone.
“Male, approximately sixty years old, well nourished. Scars to chest and leg denoting a heart bypass operation at some time.”
He was unmoved as she sliced open his torso with her scalpel and began to remove his internal organs. One by one they were thoroughly examined, all of those vital components of his body that had kept him alive for so many years but what he had no need of now.
“Stomach contents, some vegetable matter, some alcohol but doesn’t seem to be excessive.”
Alcohol. Yes he’d been drinking. Why? He’d been alone, always alone. He had a daughter he remembered but it was so long since he’d seen her.
Well nourished was he? He must have fed himself then. What had he eaten? What had been his last meal? Would he have known it was his last meal? Why couldn’t he remember? Had he been suffering from dementia in life? If only he could remember his name. A thread of a memory about the bypass operation penetrated but didn’t take root.
The pathologist continued her work, taking blood samples for toxicology. Another ribbon of memory weaved out. He’d enjoyed watching those programmes on TV, Autopsy, where causes of death were investigated. Perhaps that was why his spirit was lingering now, or was it because it couldn’t rest until he knew who he was?
Why had no-one come to meet him? He’d always thought that when your spirit passed over that a loved one was waiting for you in a white light but there was nothing. He’d experienced none of that, his spirit was earthbound for some reason unknown to him and he hoped he wasn’t going to remain in this kind of limbo state. He felt it all hinged on finding out who he was. Once he knew that maybe he’d be able to move on.
The pathologist had done what she had to and his body with its anonymous tag on his toe was wheeled back to the storage cabinet. Strange how it was shut in there yet he felt nothing. He was just floating free around the room and wherever he liked.
Theo Stanyer was in the police station in the town of Hartford, the closest town to the village of Willow’s Dip, waiting to make a statement. He’d seen the news item on the previous evening’s programme about the body discovered on the common and thought he might have something worth reporting.
“We are appealing for anyone with any information that might be relevant within the last week to come forward,” said Detective Inspector Wilson, a broad, grey haired man. “All that was found on the body was a wallet containing a few pounds, a key and a photograph. It doesn’t appear that robbery was a motive and at this time we are not looking for anyone else in connection with the death. No-one of this description has been reported missing and if anyone has any information that will help identify the people in the photograph we would urge them to come forward. Thank you.”
A photograph of a smiling dark haired young woman with a child was shown on the screen. It was difficult to tell if the child was a boy or a girl. It had its mother’s dark hair, shoulder length, and was wearing blue dungarees and a white T shirt. It looked to be about four years old. The photograph looked old, Theo estimated around 1980s but he couldn’t have been sure. The same photograph also came round in the local newspaper’s Facebook post when he checked later and also that of the police. Surely someone would know who these people were from that?
“Mr Stanyer?” A young policewoman called his name and he followed her through to an office where D.I Wilson rose from behind a desk to shake his hand.
“You have something you think might help us?”
“Well I don’t know,” Theo replied, “but I thought I’d better come in and tell you in case it did.”
“Take a seat.”
Theo sat opposite the desk to him and began his story. “It was Thursday last week. I was driving home from my girlfriend’s house and I noticed a man in the headlights weaving all over the road as if he was drunk.”
“Where was this?”
“Mill Lane, Willow’s Dip. Heading towards the common.”
“It would have been between 10.30 and 11 p.m.”
“Did you stop?”
“No. You never know who you’re dealing with. If someone’s drunk or drugged they’re unpredictable or aggressive and I didn’t want to get involved. I just gave him a wide berth to avoid hitting him. I just wanted to get home.”
“Could you describe him?”
“It was difficult in the dark and it was drizzling, the wipers were on and the windscreen was spattered with raindrops but dark clothing, hard to see, nothing reflective, all I saw was a flash of grey hair.”
“Not that I can think.”
“I’ll just take your details in case we need to contact you.”
Theo gave his address and phone number. D.I Wilson looked at it quizzically. “Your address is Handwell.”
“Yes that’s right.”
“Mill Lane is the opposite direction. Why were you driving that way?”