Randy’s scowl deepened, but there was a flicker of shame in his eyes. “I thought you knew him,” he muttered. He was lying. He’d known perfectly well that I’d had no idea who the guy was.
I wrapped my hands around my mug. “I think you need to go, Randy,” I said, rather amazed at how calmly I was able to get the words out.
His brow creased in puzzlement. “Angel . . . ?”
I spoke quietly, but with the entire force of my will behind it. “Let me rephrase it: Go fuck yourself.” This was the closure that I’d been wanting and then some. “I’m not going to steal drugs for you or anyone else, and if you try to start a rumor that says I am, I will Fuck. You. Up.”
He drew back. Maybe he could see in my eyes that I had no fear of him in any way and that I meant every word. Hell, I was dead already. I ate brains, for god’s sake.
“You’re fucking crazy,” he mumbled, but there was no heat in his words.
I allowed myself a small smile. “No. It’s much worse than that. Now please, go fuck yourself. I don’t ever want to see you again.”
It was obvious he wanted to say something else—some sort of stinging retort that would make me reconsider, cause me to doubt myself. But he didn’t. Maybe he knew he’d be wasting his breath.
Slamming up from the table, he settled for storming out of the diner. I didn’t turn to watch him leave. I could hear his muttered cursing as he walked away. A couple of seconds later I heard the ringing of the bell over the front door.
I picked up my fork and continued to eat my pancakes as more and more pieces of memory fell into place. By the time I finished breakfast I knew where to start looking for the rest.
After checking the styrofoam cooler to be sure everything was still pretty frozen, I headed to the hospital. The volunteer at the front desk was a hundred years old and gave the worst directions ever, but after a number of wrong turns and the interrogation of a cute orderly I finally found the medical records department. I had to pay a copying fee, but ten minutes later I had a stack of papers that comprised all of the records and charts and reports from my visit to the ER two months ago.
Returning to my car, I cranked it to get the AC going, pushed my seat back and started flipping through the papers. There weren’t too many surprises, which was a bit of a disappointment. I wanted to find some sort of confirmation that my memories weren’t completely off the deep end, or that the theory nagging at me was wrong, but the gist of the report was that I’d been brought in suffering from an apparent overdose. No injuries had been noted.
I leaned back in the seat, catching sight of myself in the rear view mirror. I barely recognized myself—but in a kinda good way. My usually frizzy hair was combed and fairly neat. I had no makeup on but instead of looking like death warmed over, I looked . . . fresh. I experimented with a smile and felt an odd pleasure at the resulting look. Sure, I was topped off with brains right now, but even beyond that I looked all right. Pretty good in fact. Cripes, when was the last time I looked in the mirror and was proud of what I saw?
Still smiling, I continued flipping through the papers, stopping when I came to the lab reports. Most of it was in terms I couldn’t understand, but the tox screen had drug names that I recognized. I sighed as I read through the list. It was a wonder I’d never overdosed before. Of course I hadn’t really given a shit about surviving back then. I wasn’t the sort to ever take the step of committing suicide, but I’d sure been trying to do it in a passive way. Story of my life. Or rather, it was the story of my life.
Flunitrazepam. That was a drug I didn’t recognize, but I vaguely remembered Dr. Leblanc muttering something about it when looking through tox reports on autopsies. I frowned. I’d smoked some pot—that was the cannabinoids—and I’d taken a Lortab. And then, of course, I’d been drinking. I’d scored a Percocet from the bartender, but I hadn’t taken anything else except for a Xanax the night before. I was sure of it.
Puzzled, I drove back to the morgue, parked my car in the shade, headed inside and went straight to the investigator’s office. Derrel wasn’t in, but Monica was, her fingers flying across the keyboard in absurd contrast to the painstaking hunt-and-peck technique that I utilized.
I tapped lightly on the doorframe. “Hey, Monica, ya gotta sec?”
She glanced up and gave me a brisk nod. “Sure. What brings you in on your day off?
I settled into the chair in front of her desk, suddenly unsure how to ask what I wanted to know. “Well, I’ve been doing some reading and stuff. Y’know, trying to learn more about this business and all.”
A smile lit her face. “That’s cool. You’re a smart chick. You don’t want to be a van driver forever, I’m sure. Heck, you’d do great as a paramedic or nurse.”
That shocked me out of my train of thought and it took me a second to respond. “Me?” I laughed and shook my head. “Monica, I don’t even have my GED.”
“Pffthh. So what? You could get that in nothing flat. Hell, you could probably pass it right now without even studying. And then you could go train to be an EMT Basic. You could get through that in just a few months.”
“Really? But you’re a paramedic, right?”
“Yep. That’s a two year program, though sometimes there are accelerated programs where you can get it in under a year.”
“Do death investigators have to have medical backgrounds?” I asked, suddenly intrigued at the thought of having an actual career.
She shook her head. “This particular office likes for us to have medical background since it makes it easier to understand stuff and work with the pathologist, but it’s not a requirement.”
I sat back, thoughts whirling. I didn’t want to be a van driver forever. I was tied to the morgue because of the access to brains, but what if I went to school for other stuff so that I could be an investigator? That would be more money, I’d still be where I could get to the brains, and—
“So, did you have a question for me?” Monica asked, yanking me back to reality.
“Oh, yeah, sorry.” With difficulty I wrenched my train of thought back onto its tracks, filing away the thought of becoming an investigator for another time. “How hard is it to overdose on alcohol and painkillers like, say, Percocet or Lortab?”
She spread her hands and grimaced. “Wow, that depends on a lot of factors. Weight, health, medical history, you name it.”
“But say someone healthy and normal had a couple of beers, and just had one Perc and one Lortab, that wouldn’t be dangerous, right?”
She pursed her lips. “Without repeating my earlier bit about all the other factors, I think it’s unlikely that someone in good health could OD on that alone.”
I pulled the slip of paper out of my pocket. “Okay, next question. What’s flunitrazepam?”
An expression of distaste twisted her mouth. “That’s Rohypnol. The date rape drug,” she explained.
I stared at her, shock and horror undoubtedly stamped across my face. A sudden understanding flared in her eyes, and I realized she knew exactly why I was asking.
“That one is easy to overdose on,” she said in a tone so gentle that I knew she knew. “Especially if someone had been taking other drugs prior.”
I could feel a flush of humiliation climbing up my neck. I’d suspected that there were more than a few people at the coroner’s office who were aware of my background and what had happened to me. There were privacy regs all over the place, but people still gossiped.
“Yeah, I know all about your history,” Monica said with a dismissive wave. “Big fucking deal. That’s exactly what it is—history. In the past.” She looked angry, and it was with a shock that I realized she wasn’t angry at me, but for me.
I fumbled for something to say but apparently she wasn’t finished. “It’s none of my business, and you can tell me to fuck off if you want,” she said, tone suddenly clipped and harder than usual, “and I don’t know if it’ll make you feel any better,” her mouth tightened into a thin line, “but the asshole who did that to you won’t be doing it to anyone else.”
“What?” I couldn’t manage anything beyond that.
Her eyes grew hard. “I worked a scene that night. An MVA. Only the one occupant. It was a messy accident. Ejection and decapitation. But he had a bottle of pills in his pocket. No markings on the bottle.” She abruptly stood, started shuffling papers. I got the impression she wasn’t looking for anything, simply wanted to do something with her hands. “Anyway, the victim’s tox screen came back clean, other than some alcohol—and not much of that. But I sent the pills off for testing and they came back as flunitrazepam.” She gave her head a sharp shake. “Only one reason why he’d have them. But I didn’t think about it much until . . . now.”
I could only stare, stunned into silence. Monica took a deep breath, released it, then gave me a more normal smile. “Y’know, if you’re really interested in becoming an investigator you should go into some of the old case files and see how they were written up. You can pull reports up by date, if you want.” The look she gave me was strangely penetrating. “I need to go run an errand. Feel free to use my computer. Log out when you’re done, okay?”
She was almost out the door before I could manage a response. “Monica, wait,” I croaked.
She stopped in the doorway, slowly turned back.
“I . . . why do you . . . ?” Shit. I couldn’t say what I knew I wanted to say. Why are you angry for my sake when this was something I did to myself? Why are you pissed on my behalf when I was the moron who got drunk and got into the car with him? Why don’t you hate me as much as I hate myself?
Monica’s expression softened though her mouth stayed hard. “Nobody deserves rape. Nobody.”
“But . . . but I wasn’t raped,” I blurted.