Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Constantine the Coroner

John Constantine was finishing his final autopsy of the day.  All in all, it was a fairly typical Sunday of work after the usual late night and early morning shootings and drunk driving accidents.  He was annoyed that his days off earlier in the week had been rainy, and he had to work on this beautiful Sunday, but all the coroners took turns covering the weekend-blowout shift, and it was his turn.

He peeled back the sheet and began examining another Great Falls drowning victim.  It was a young man who looked healthy and strong enough to swim, but Constantine knew by now that a lot of people died in the Potomac's tricky tides and currents.  The young man's friends had told his parents they were sure they saw something capsize his kayak and drag him under, so the parents had requested an investigation for foul play.

Constantine's boss popped into the room.  "You can write two reports, if you want--one for the public and one for my private file."  He looked at the young man for a moment.  "You probably won't see it, but sometimes...."  He didn't finish his thought, knowing that Constantine was well aware of his boss's belief that an evil demon lived in the river.  "But you can call me at home if you want to," he concluded, then left.

"OK, buddy," Constantine said.  "If you want to tell me who or what killed you, I'm all ears."  He stared at the corpse for a few moments, but got nothing.  "I don't know why people believe in ghosts," he muttered.  "There would be no unsolved murders if ghosts really existed!"

The corpse's ghost howled in frustration, but, like most new ghosts, he was too angry and frustrated to listen to his elders' advice on how to communicate to the living.  "Ardua!" he kept noiselessly yelling.  "Ardua of the Potomac!"

Over at Southwest Plaza, Glenn Michael Beckmann (who had sent a few people to the D.C. coroner's office) was taking an afternoon nap, unaware that the Ghost CIA had invaded his apartment to inspect the Charles Wu spy drone he had shot down a few hours earlier.  "No!" he moaned, having a nightmare about wallpaper patterns.  "Stop it!"  (His fake lifestyle blog and front business, Beckmann's Floral Cushions, were taking a toll on him.)  "No!"

"What is wrong with him?!" exclaimed Ghost Henry's deputy.

The ghost of Henry Samuelson shrugged.  "Bad dream--just ignore it."

Beckmann was getting very agitated.  He kept walking into new dream rooms where the wallpaper was different, and then then the floral cushion in his hand would change pattern to match the wallpaper.  "Stop it!  I worked hard on these flowers!"  (Ghost Henry shook his head in disgust.)  Finally, he jumped up screaming, then started screaming even louder because he had taken off the knee braces protecting his shattered knee caps.  He sank back onto the bed, now howling from conscious pain rather than unconscious demons.

"Hard to believe the Heurich Society wanted to hire this clown," said Ghost Henry's deputy.

"Well, he did get Charles Wu's drone!" replied Ghost Henry.

"I wish John Doe had arrived to pick it up for us before Beckmann woke up," said the deputy, who had been struggling for 20 minutes just to get the hallway door unlocked for Doe.  "Now, what are we gonna do?"

"We'll just have to wait and signal Doe when Beckmann is in the bathroom," said Ghost Henry.

"How do you know he'll use the bathroom?"

"He ate three chili dogs and drank a fifth of scotch before his nap," said Ghost Henry.  "He'll be in the bathroom as soon as he can hobble over there!"

Back at the coroner's office, John Constantine was finishing his two reports--the official one, which said that the young man died from water in his lungs and cardiac arrest, and the unofficial one, which added:  "Slimy, viscous liquid under fingernails, which could be consistent with digging fingers into an unknown marine life form.  Other signs of struggle include four broken ribs and eyes locked in open position."  Constantine sighed.  There's no point in telling his family this, right?  What are they gonna do?  Ask the police to search for a suspect in the river?  Constantine returned the body to the cooler.  He shivered.  Eyes wide open.  Drowning victims always have their eyes shut, don't they?

Over in Georgetown, Angela de la Paz was having a backyard picnic dinner with Golden Fawn, Marcos Vazquez, and Joey Bent Oak.  The family had turned the key on their new house a couple hours earlier, and were not entirely surprised to find that Angela had been camping out there for weeks.

"So there's nothing you can do?" asked Golden Fawn, smoothing out the blanket over the wild plant growth beneath them.

"Not yet," said Angela.  "I need more time.  I can't just destroy them, like demons."  She looked at young Joey, who was not eating his cherry pie as enthusiastically as one might expect.  "But I can keep you safe."

"Are you absolutely sure?" asked Vazquez.

"Yes," she said.  "These are definitely the angriest ghosts I've ever seen, but I can block them from hurting you.  I think eventually they'll get frustrated and leave."

"Will they go haunt a different house, then?" asked Joey.

"There's only one place they can go--Purgatory."

"And then Heaven?" asked Joey.

"After their penance," said Angela.

"Because they were bad?" asked Joey.

Angela was not going to tell any of them--least of all little Joey--that the ghosts had been responsible for more murders and suicides than the realtor had disclosed to them prior to their bargain-priced purchase from the bank.  "Yes," Angela said.  "They were bad.  They were treated very cruelly as slaves in this house, worked to death, and then sought revenge--except they treat every new owner in this house badly, not just their own.  They need to learn that's wrong."

Golden Fawn pulled Joey into her lap.  "Maybe we should take a little vacation--give Angela more time?"

"No!" exclaimed Joey.  "I'm not afraid!  I'm not afraid of those ghosts!  They should be afraid of me!"

Angela smiled:  the ghosts were just starting to be afraid of her.

A few miles to the east, John Constantine was sipping absinthe alone at the Black Squirrel, waiting for his dinner to come.  He usually preferred quieter places after a busy day, but tonight he was hoping the din of the crowd would drown out the thoughts in his own head.  Constantine came from a long line of coroners, and had been taught early on not to fear death, but he was seeing things in this city that gave him the creeps.  He sighed, half wishing that his girlfriend was back from her Greek vacation, half glad she wasn't.  He had very little in common with her, and come October, it would be a year--time to fish or cut bait.  He sighed again.  She had all kinds of kooky (pagan?) habits herself, but whenever he tried to bring up anything weird weighing on his mind, she strenuously resisted.  Ann Bishis did not want to be sidetracked by anything outside her comfort zone, and their relationship was stuck in a dull and shallow pattern.  And yet.  He smiled at the arrival of his dinner, and nodded to accept the waiter's offer of another absinthe.  A little voice inside his head kept telling him, push this woman to another level.  He just didn't know why or how.

A few miles to the south, the ghosts of Regina and Ferguson were very excited to have the Obama family back at the White House.  Bridge looked up at them on the roof, using the solar panels as slides.  "Reggie!  Fergie!  You come down from there!"

"Why?" the twin preschoolers shouted in unison.

And then Bridge realized he had no reason to give them--he was just instinctively telling them everything they did was wrong.  I guess there's no harm in that sliding, he thought, absent-mindedly swatting away a late-summer bee.  But why won't they move on?

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COMING UP!  The (espionage) adventures of Prickly and The Third!

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