The 5 Stages of Grief

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Chapter 8

The waiting was the hardest part. Not the first few hours, they’d been easy – between the adrenaline surging through his body like a fast plunged speed-ball, the ecstasy of the last couple of day’s planning and finally the execution – they’d slipped by all but unnoticed. Of course, back then he could actually move, even if only a silent muscle-stretch to break the mold and get the blood running. Back then all he noticed was the excitement, the anticipation of impending release – like a junkie loading his fix or an orgasm long awaited, one that you’d been nurturing, holding off until you couldn’t deny it any longer. Maybe even the first five or six hours had been like that as there were so many details to run over, nuances to reminisce. No, the waiting didn’t bother him much at all back then, but now, it was unbearable.

The cramps! No, cramp was not the right word. It did not do justice to the pain arching through his body, the pulsing, searing, throb of it becoming his singular focus, vying for every thought. He tried to imagine himself as Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke, or Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, when the villainous guys – the Germans, the Screws – threw them in ‘the box’. Later, he switched to Dustin Hoffman in Papillon, then any other hero of unfortunate circumstance he could think of, each an attempt to split the load, the mind-bending pain he was experiencing. It seemed to work for the first while, although reality would inevitably set in and his mind would be dragged, kicking and screaming, back to the present, the pain, the cramps. And I’ve only been like this a few hours. How long had Luke been in? Or Steve?

Knowing Dr. Reichmann was safely asleep gave him a feeling of comfort, enabling him to stay quiet, motionless, sit through the pain. After all, there was no need to involve him. He was far too honorable a man to get messed up in the likes of this.

He finally – after straining his senses far beyond their capacity, trying to see or feel through the walls with his mind – peeked his head out from under the table where he’d been sitting since the lights went out. He knew they would never notice him missing from his room, yet made all the necessary arrangements anyway, just in case they took a moment to glance through the tiny door window. They wouldn’t, he was certain – but better to play it safe, to keep the Doctor protected.

He was surprised to find people down here this time of night and had spent hours and hours waiting for all the action to fade. Guards, custodians – hell, even the coroner chose to work late – just his damn luck too.

When he was sure the coast was free and clear. He slowly, silently, stood up, taking his time to work out the kinks and pains which shoot through his body like electrical pulses as they sped to his mind only to shatter into millions of tiny glass-like shards as each arrived. He felt his eyes all but roll backward into his head as they threatened to black him out and fought to remain conscious, pushed back against the debilitating pain. One, two, three, slow your breathing, four, five, six, seven, relax your muscles, eight, nine…, Dr. Reichmann would be so proud of me, ten.

One last deep breath and he was ready to move forward. He placed each step without as much as a squeak of his sole. One after the other, painstakingly slow, though not a problem. If there was one thing he had it was patience. After all, how long had it been? How long had he lay waiting?

He was in the morgue now, crossing the room to the cold-locker. Even though he was so close, almost touching close, he tempered himself. He took each and every painstaking step with the same deliberate slowness of his first.

Step… one, two, three, listen, four, five, six, be certain, seven, eight, nine, ten…. Step.

There was only a single body down here, which was one more than usual of course, but it did make things easier. He wouldn’t have to search to find which of the three lockers held the right one, he would only have to open the door and feel. Whichever one had the corpse is the one he would pull out.

John had been a royal pain in Dr. Reichmann’s ass since the first week of Fred’s arrival. He too was in for murder but unlike the good Doctor, he remembered every little detail. Indeed, he relished in them, replayed them over and over, aloud and to whoever would listen. Even if you didn’t want to, he would make you listen by following you around, reciting his gruesome tales of horror just loud enough that you could hear but soft enough that the staff could not. It drove Dr. Reichmann mad but he was too kind a man to complain, he never said a word.

“Well, payback’s a bitch, John,” Marcus whispered just loud enough for it to be audible. After all, phrases like that sounded best when spoken aloud, outside of your head.

John had accidentally overdosed – at least that’s what they told the patients. How he managed to obtain the drugs or why he did it in the first place – well, they were still looking into that. Marcus had only smiled while they made their announcement. He was sure the patients wouldn’t miss their prescriptions, not just the one dose anyway.

He pulled the long tray out of the opened door with care. As luck would have it, he happened upon the right one his first try. He didn’t need to pull it the full length – about a third would be more than enough.

The others wanted to come along, but he had stifled that nonsense, quickly. This was a stealth job, no need having the whole gang of misfits along.

He pulled the sliver of metal he’d palmed a few months ago from his shirt pocket. The top ridge was carefully taped so he wouldn’t cut his fingers, the bottom edge sharpened to a razor over the many months he’d been preparing, now scalpel keen. The edge of the crisp cotton pinched between his thumb and forefinger, he began pulling the cold sheet back, the dead body of John Barber slowly revealed. Then, with precision, with painstaking care, he flayed a strip of skin from the dead man’s body. Nothing too large, only about three-quarters of an inch by a few long – nothing that would be detected as they’d done most or all of what they needed to do to the body all ready. After all, deep down in the center of his core where the Doctor lay sleeping, he knew these things.

He wrapped his treasure in a small piece of wax paper that he’d nabbed from lunch a few days past and put it in his pocket. After all, he’d need a memento to show the Doctor later.

Not right away of course. I’ll have to give him some time to get settled, re-adjust.

THE END

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