War And Insanity
Unknown author: One way to be born, a hundred to die.
*Flashback: World War I, Early September 1917, London*
Doctor Henry Morgan ran inside a half-collapsed warehouse that had just been bombed by German aeroplanes. Being a student of medicine, he had a duty to seek out any survivors and treat them; if there was going to be any people still alive. There was a slight probability since the bomb landed next to the building and not right on top of it. However, it was still in a very close proximity to the blast area. People could perhaps survive, unless they were squashed under many tons of fallen debris. But, the percentage of survival was lower than twenty percent.
With his old black leather medical bag, the immortal searched through the narrow pathways, trying to see and hear any movements or sounds. He saw blood leaking from under a large steel beam. He could only see a severed hand next to it that had been chopped off accidently. Whoever was stuck under it was positively deceased. Henry wore a pained visage; the hand was small, that of a child. Why did children have to suffer the consequence of an adult war?
He/she wouldn't get to live through life. Children were too sincere and modest. For the Londoner, those getting killed made him want to live less and less. Like a part of his soul withered away inside him piece by piece, shrivelling into dust. Little kids were never supposed to have a life of fear and death. They needed to be protected and cared for, but the never-ending depressing and dangerous war was bending the rules immoderately. Henry couldn't wait for the war to be over, hoping not to have another one for at least a century.
This year, the civilians had been accustomed to numerous air raids from the Germans, already killing over one hundred people and injuring many more. The hospitals were getting packed and running out of staff. Even he was receiving too many sick people to treat. Thinking of children, he remembered the terrible bombing in June, in Upper North Street School, killing over sixteen kids. The Londoners were outraged, anger along with fear swelling up in their hearts towards the Germans. If vengeance stayed with the population, the war would never come to an end, only more bloodshed and loss. All Henry knew was that war represented a failure of diplomacy, greed taking its throne.
He came across more mutilated and mangled bodies, too gruesome to look at, but Henry was half used to it since nobody could be fully unaffected by seeing blood covered corpses touched by death’s hand. The victim's wore ghostly pale open eyed masks, fear seared into their expressions. Like a shadow of themselves stayed forever imprinted on their faces.
The warehouse was a small printing factory that had minimised its workers since they were needed to build military weapons or subscribe into the army. A few corpses lay on the ground, pierced by ragged pieces of metal deriving from a few of the printing machines that had been torn to pieces from the blast. They were mostly all women. Replacing the men, their husbands, who were forced to serve their country.
Right before thinking that all hope was lost; that no one came through alive, Henry heard a plea for help. It was faint but audible. It was defiantly the voice of a grown man, and groaning meant he was in pain. A doctor was needed, and Henry was just the right person for the task at hand. All he had to do was figure out where the cry was emanating from, before another body was deprived of its living soul.
Henry searched frantically, praying he would find the man in time, his bag ready to open and use. He heard the sound again, coming from the main work section. Then Henry saw a leg, which moved and right afterwards, the rest of the body. The scruffy looking middle-aged man looked fine...except his left arm being held under a large block of fallen concrete, hanging on the rest of his body by a hair. No wonder the man was pleading for help, he was surly in abundant agonizing pain.
"Sir, I'm a doctor and I will get you free. For now, I recommend you not to move." Henry said, rushing up next to the man and settling his medical bag on the ground.
"Does liberty mean the loss of my arm?" The man gasped for air, trying to hold his pain inwardly.
"Unfortunately...yes. I won't tell you that it won't hurt since I have no drugs or alcohol to ease the pain." Henry confessed, taking out a medical saw and a wooden stick. "Here put this in your mouth, and clench down. I assure you, it will help." He went to input the stick in the man's mouth, but he didn't accept it since he wanted to say something.
"There is a flask of whiskey in my coat pocket. You know, it was to put the edge off this meaningless war." The man joked, trying not think about the blunt saw in Henry's hands.
Carefully and with a swift hand movement, Henry took out the silver flask gently out of the blood soaked inward pocket. Whilst he opened the lid, the man spoke up again.
"Take a few swigs mate, it looks like you also need some. Then I'll drink the rest to ease my pain and for what is to come." He pushed.
Henry was greatly perplexed. The man didn't seem to mind taking his time. It was like he didn't have a care in the world, which was odd since he was losing blood and his whole arm was about to be completely severed. He'd rather his doctor have the whiskey first, and him second. It was severely illogical and idiotic. Perhaps the blood loss was the cause.
Henry didn't think twice about declining the offer, his patients always came first before his own well-being. It made perfect sense since his life could never be in danger; he could not die. Although, he never wanted others finding out his secret. That was something he feared much more than his curse.
"I decline tremendously. You need it. I am perfectly fine without any alcohol in my system." Henry responded, shaking his head, but the man wouldn't listen and kept persisting, getting quite intense. Henry wasn't sure why.
"Come―on, I won't take it before you do. I don't want your hands shaking while you're chopping my arm off." He commented stubbornly with a hint of persuasion. After a minute of pushing, Henry had no choice but to give in. He needed to amputate, if not, the man would perish from the lack of blood circulating in his system.
"Alright, but please I need you to drink the rest right after. There is no time to chat." Henry said hurriedly, taking two swigs of strong (cheap) whiskey, and then put the flask up to the patient's lips, letting him imbibe as well.
Henry wanted to start the amputation, but the man objected, not letting him. It was like the man wanted to die. He then started speaking, disillusioned. It was during that moment that Henry figured out the man was not in his right mind, nor his left. "We're going to die you know. If I hadn't done something about it, the war would have killed us off soon enough." He continued, getting angry, raising his voice. "I was a soldier, but they threw me out! Said that I had gone mad! I am not MAD! Just the same as everyone else!" He sneered, then sounded sad, groaning. "So many deaths. I am going to save you...from seeing more deaths." The last part he whispered, like he thought they were being watched. Derangement was illuminated on his face, especially in the eyes. Unfortunately, that was what war did to too many souls; insanity. It was therapeutically called posttraumatic stress disorder.
"What do you mean save me?" Henry became instantaneously nervous, knowing something bad was bound to happen, like always. Then he felt it; the pain and vertigo. He could see the man feeling it also, but with a pleasant smile drawn on his face. "What did you do? *urg!*" A splitting headache and nausea appeared. The man was in no condition to answer Henry's question, since he had the same diagnosis than the immortal; cyanide poisoning.
Henry knew he could do nothing. He collapsed on the ground, vomiting and seizing. His skin colour had changed drastically; pink to cherry red. Only suffering passed through his brain, it hurt too much to think. In the meantime the cyanide (that was attaching itself to the hemoglobin in his blood) started shutting down his oxygen supply. His chest burned, he was being asphyxiated. He then fell unconscious, eyes shutting.
His heart muscles began to die...then his heart stopped beating. He died, disappearing. The other man was dead―he never knew his name―his body growing cold. At least his secret was still safe...but at what cost? Henry knew he needed to go back to the place he died, he left his medical bag on the floor. He couldn't have any evidence linking him there...
*The Present: 2015, New York City*
"Doc? Earth to Doctor Morgan?" The voice of his assistant pulled Henry out from his flashback. The talk of cyanide poisoning brought back a memory, along with a dreadful experience. He didn't drink another man's cheap whiskey ever again. Not that he possessed any cheap whiskey himself.
Henry snapped back to the present, sitting on his chair in his office. He had phoned Jo, telling her that he had completed the autopsy and was waiting for her, until he took a stroll down memory lane. His eyes sped to Lucas, who was leaning on the door frame to his office, calling for his attention.
"Pardon me, what were you saying?" Henry asked, finally focusing on the assistant calling his name.
"Detective Martinez is here about the findings from the poisoned victim. Said you called her." Lucas remarked, pointing over to where Jo was standing (next to the stainless steel table that accommodated Allison Dale's covered body).
"Indeed, thank you Lucas." Henry clasped his hands together, heading towards Jo. He had some medical explaining to do.
"Hello again Jo." Henry greeted, positioning himself on the other end of the table.
"I just spoke with the grieving husband with an alibi. Of what he told me, she couldn't have killed herself since she had a good life and she couldn't have been murdered since everybody loved her." Jo sighed.
"Yes, but murder is the answer. Her toxicology screen came back positive for cyanide, and quite a high concentration of it." Henry said, picking up the autopsy report. "The killer sure wanted her dead."
"Have you speculated at what time the vic died?" Jo asked, listening intensively.
"I have. She died between nine and eleven in the evening." Henry responded. "How come the husband didn't find her until early in the morning?" Henry added, wanting to know what the husband had said.
"He implied that he was with a friend until the wee hours of the day." Jo responded, sounding like she believed the husband was keeping something important to himself.
"Does friend mean a female?" Henry insinuated, raising an eyebrow.
"Actually no. He was hanging out with his best guy friend. Probably chugging down a few beers, playing poker, discussing sports. Whatever grown men do." She told him, laughing.
Henry feigned hurt. "Is that what you think all men do with each other? Drink alcohol and argue about sports?"
"Most of them, but there are a few exceptions. Like you." Jo smirked. She then added, converting back to her police self. "So, is there anything else you found? Like any DNA from the killer on the body?"
"No. The killer cleaned up after him, wore gloves, or didn't actually touch her." Henry explained. "But, I did find skin particles under her nails, but they were from her husband. Maybe she scratched him, but it might have been accidental. Apart from that, I found nothing else of importance and the DNA found in Allison's house haven't been tested yet."
"I guess we'll have to go question the husband again. But first, I want to see Johnny, the only person who can back up his alibi." Jo remarked, heading towards the exit, leaving Henry standing alone.
"Coming?" She asked, turning around.
"Right behind you detective." Henry answered, taking his white lab coat off. "Where does this Johnny live?"
"He's presently at work, I found out he owns an expensive Italian pizza joint." Jo answered.
"Well detective, let's find out if he has any secrets he is willing to share with us."
Jo opened the restaurant's door, getting a whiff of fresh oven-baked pizza. A cheery hostess walked up to them, thinking they were customers. "Welcome to Milano's, how are we today? Table for two?" She said, picking up two menus.
"I need to speak with the owner, NYPD" Jo flashed her badge.
With wide eyes the woman glanced at Henry. "Are you a cop too?"
"No only the medical examiner."
That's when the woman started to panic. "Did someone die? Is there a murderer on the loose?"
"Calm down, it's nothing that involves you. Now, we need to speak with your boss." Jo tried to say gently, not wanting to be the center of attention. Homicides were best to keep on a down low. If not, it created unneeded havoc and fear.
"Sure. He...He's in his private office, in the back." The lady pointed to a door, close to the pizza furnaces.
"Thank you." Henry responded, giving her one of his gracious smiles.
Jo knocked on the door, waiting for a response.
"I told you not to interrupt me when I am in my office!" A muffled loud gruff voice was heard through the door.
"Mr. Milano. This is Detective Martinez I need to talk to you about Anthony's dead wife." Jo pounded on the door again.
They heard a chair scrape on the ground and the shuffling of feet coming closer and closer. Then the lock on the door unlatched and a stout pudgy man opened up, with a look of discontent upon his face.
"Come in, come in. It's terrible of what happened to Allison. Tony is crushed." He waved the couple in, letting them sit down as he sat awkwardly on his own chair. "Is there anything I can do for you?" He crossed his arms, palms open.
"We need you to confirm Mr. Dale's alibi. Was he really with you all night?" Jo asked, leaning forward.
"Of course, plus we had a good time. I now feel guilty since Alli was dead while we drank bear and played cards." Johnny sighed, twiddling with the golden ring on his right pinky finger.
Jo quickly glanced at Henry with a hint of smugness. She didn't to say I told you so. He already knew.
"So you called him at around...what? Eight thirty?" The detective guessed, awaiting his approval.
"What are you talking about?" The man asked, confused. "He called me around nine, saying he had a row with his wife and needed a place to stay and cool down. It didn't seem that bad, but bad enough for him to stay at my place." Johnny responded, getting the facts straight.
"Wait? He called you? Then, what time did he come to your house?" Henry inquired, interest filled his eyes.
"Around nine twenty."
"Well, thank you. I have other ends to tie up." Jo said, sitting up, followed by Henry.
"No problem." The restaurant owner sat up, shaking hands with both people in front of him.
"One more thing, why aren't you consoling your best friend? His wife has just been murdered." Henry asked, pushing a little too hard since the owner got angry. He had the same temperamental attitude as his friend.
"I have a restaurant to run! More importantly, don't judge me of not being a good friend! It's none of your business!" He poked at Henry's chest.
"I apologise for my partner, he can say things he doesn't mean sometimes." Jo apologised, giving Henry an annoyed look.
As the duo walked out the restaurant Jo said, "I guess we are going to need to talk to husband again. He seemed to have lied to me. And because of that he will be questioned at the precinct." She then took out her phone.
"Who are you calling?" Henry asked.
"Hanson, I am going to ask him to go pick Mr. Dale up. He doesn't like me that much. He'll probably come easier with Hanson." She explained, dialing the number. "Hey, I need favour. How would you like to help me with a murder case?”