Then There Were Three (part 10 of 25)
Then There Were Three (part 10 of 25) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2
ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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There was a chorus of sniffing before one of the patrolmen identified the smell.
“Kerosene.”

Then There Were Three (part 10 of 25)

There was a chorus of sniffing before one of the patrolmen identified the smell.

"Kerosene."

Finny had edged forward.

"It's here." She said, pointing to a fire cupboard alongside where once a large hose reel had hung. Before anyone could stop her, Finny had opened the cupboard.

She pulled out a large, well-polished hurricane lamp and held it up. "There a can of fuel too, and matches."

They examined the lamp under the torches, and that's when Dr Ducas noticed the words engraved across the bell-like top of the powerful oil lamp.

'Donated to The New Flagstaff Orphanage

For Waifs and Strays.

By the Kind Efforts of the Members of Your Neighbours

The N.F.P.D'

"There's one of these in the dining hall," Finny said. "And in our dorm. We hafta polish it up when we do jankers."

"And in the boys' too," Casper added.

Onetooth joined in.

"An' by the front door... An' the back door... An' on the back stairs... An'..."

Tuki put her hand on his head.

"So, safe to assume then that Worms took this one from the orphanage."

While the explanation for the hurricane lamp's origin was being laid out, Joe was checking the fuel level in the reservoir. Satisfied, he took out his own matches and fired the lamp up.

It took a few seconds for the filament to reach full brilliance, but when it did, the torches became dim in comparison to the amount of light the hurricane lamp put out.

Joe passed his torch to one of the patrolmen and held the lamp high.

"There we go. Much better."

The passageway was now revealed in full detail for half of its length. The rest was various shades of darkness.

"I'll lead the way, eh?" Not waiting for the permission he didn't need, Joe set off slowly to where they knew the hole the kids had been looking into was located.

When they found it, it was an interesting disappointment. The 'window' was high up on the wall, near the ceiling.

Under it, the concrete floor was covered in the bones of small animals, some the size of dogs and some of them very old indeed. The interesting part was the wall under the window.

Its painted plaster gouged and scored and, in places, stained with dried blood.

Generations of animals that had investigated the opening just a step too far, had fallen in and spent their last hours trying to reach the little square of freedom.

Then, their strength spent, they had presumably laid down and died of thirst.

The party of curious adults and excited children moved on down the passage. They stopped when Joe, who had again gone ahead, turned and called a halt. He had found a doorway.

Joe returned and didn't waste any words with an explanation. Instead, he pulled two of the remaining patrolmen to him.

"You two. Take the young 'uns back to the entrance." The immediate piping chorus of 'awwww's turned his attention to the three orphans. "Can that caterwauling." There was silence.

"You're going back, and that's that." He pointed at Finny. "And no tricks or trying to wheedle your way back in. You stay outside. Move."

The reluctant trio slouched a few steps back the way they had come, looking back all the time and hoping Joe would change his mind. Joe, however, wasn't about to do that.

Instead, he turned back to the two patrolmen.

"Don't take any bullshit from any off them. I don't care if you have to drag them by their heels, they're going back. And tell your mate at the door to make sure they stay out. Got it?"

The patrolmen looked to the Union doctor. Dr Ducas nodded. The patrolmen set off behind the children, shepherding them with outstretched arms.

When he considered them to be out of earshot, Dr Ducas turned to Joe.

"What have you found?"

Joe looked at Tuki. His expression set and serious.

"Come and see."

What Joe had found was a small room, little more than a storage closet really.

The door had been broken down and remained attached only by its bottom hinge and now hung drunkenly at a crazy angle and was only stopped from falling over by the strength of the hinge screws.

In the light of the hurricane lamp, the contents of the room took on an eerie green glow.

"Good grief." The Union doctor murmured.

Tukiko just stared.

The remaining patrolman swallowed back what had come up his gullet.

When Finny had had her ninth birthday, Onetooth and Worms had clubbed together and bought their leader an enormous amount of candy. So much that they had needed something to put it in.

Fortunately, Worms knew where he could get hold of a 'big posh jar'.

It was apparent, now, that this is the place he had gotten it from. The storeroom was lined, floor to ceiling with stout shelves and on these shelves were dozens of sealed glass jars.

From the smallest, barely the size of a jam jar, to the largest which must have held several gallons, all of them contained human anatomical specimens from before The Fall.

A lot were unidentifiable at first glance. But those that were included limbs, arms, hands, feet... and in several instances, whole or partial heads.

Dr Ducas, unable to take his eyes off the spectacle, said. "This must be a hospital."

By his side, however, Tuki was looking around her surroundings with a new eye. Putting two and two together, she gave a more experienced explanation.

"We're in the basement, though. So this is likely the mortuary."

The four of them shared the same uneasy stare. In the end, Joe made the decision.

"Come on. Let's keep going."

Up ahead, the creeping light of the hurricane lamp revealed that the passageway opened up on the left.

As they moved slowly closer to the corner, their ears picked up the buzzing of flies and their noses wrinkled at a new smell.

Closer still, the moving field of light began to pick up things very familiar to the two doctors. Little glass-topped trolleys, shelves of instruments all in a row.

Then, at the rear wall, the unmistakable shape of the numbered doors of the cold lockers where bodies were stored.

They reached the corner, and the full room, including the autopsy table - and what lay on it - was revealed.

The patrolman vomited this time.

Dr Ducas reached out for the wall to steady himself.

Even Tukiko gasped.

"Fuck." Said Joe.

The five of them slowly moved to form a single line along one side of the autopsy table.

"Jesus H Christ." Joe sighed.

On the table before them was a small corpse. Tukiko stepped forward, clearing her throat.

In a quiet voice, she started to deliver a monologue similar to what she would have recorded during an actual autopsy.

"Infant child, two to three years, difficult to be more accurate because of the extent of the damage to the body and the large maggot infestation."

Joe and the Union patrolman turned away and moved to the far side of the room. Both men had seen death and corpses many times, but this was something different.

Neither of them had ever come across a body that had been treated like this. Leaning with one hand against the wall, Joe took deep breaths to keep his stomach contents in place.

At the table, even the medicos were struggling. Doctor Troy turned to the pathology technician.

"See if you can find any menthol, would you?"

The technician went to the glass-doored medical cupboard in the corner of the room and began to rummage. Tukiko returned to her task.

"The subject is female." The young technician returned with an opened jar. All of them dipped their fingers into the white paste and smeared a generous amount below their nostrils.

Tukiko blinked a few times. "Phew, that's better, thank you."

She cleared her throat as the strong menthol filled her nose and airways.

"Ahem. So, wow, where were we? No obvious signs of any sexual interference, but again, hard to be sure because of the general discolouration of the body.

" She stopped to take a few breaths and to swipe at the flies that buzzed around her head.

"The corpse has been eviscerated. The lower organs removed, crudely, and placed around the body.

An attempt has been made to saw through the sternum, presumably to gain better access to the lungs and heart. The body cavity is heavily infested with maggots, as is the mouth, the nose...

and the eye sockets..."

Tukiko trailed off. It was a mess.

Dr Ducas cleared his throat.

"We, er... Thank you, Doctor Troy. We, er, I need to get a team down here.

" He looked around to where Joe and the patrolman were silently leaning against the far wall, determinedly not looking in their direction. Raising his voice slightly, Dr Ducas continued.

"Nobody touches anything. This is now a crime scene."

Tukiko nudged the pathology tech's arm and indicated for him to come away from the table. Then went to join Joe and the patrolman while Dr Ducas got busy on his radio.

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