The Morning before the Night After

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Mandy looked in the mirror and winced.  A pale skinned, red eyed creature gazed back at her.  But it was nothing a bit of make-up couldn’t fix.  Quick smear of black eyeliner and blusher and she was ready to go.

************************************

‘Morning Mandy!  Good night was it?’  Peter laughed to himself.  Looking at Mandy with her smudged black eyes and artificially pink complexion made him think of a corpse walking into the morgue of its own accord, and it never failed to amuse him.

The file in front of him could have been the permanently hungover young Coroner herself.  Maybe he should copy her in on the treatment plan.

Catherine Webster.  26 years old.  Six day stay with acute pancreatitis.  Blood tests show elevated levels of both ALT and AST indicative of chronic liver damage.  Alcohol consumption approximately 24 units per week – binge drinking.  Cathy fails to see issue – “alcoholics drink every day, I’m a social drinker”.  Low self-esteem – “drinking gives me confidence”.  Referral to psych?

************************************

When Mandy stepped into the morgue the white walls made her eyes hurt and the air chilled her to the bone.  First thing in a morning was the part of the job that made her social nature difficult.  The faint odour of butcher shop underlying the chemicals made her gag.

She looked down at the young man on her table.  22 years old and fresh faced he looked like he was sleeping.  A small mirror among his personal effects was dusted with remnants of white powder.  The nurse who broke the news to his mother could still hear the screams echoing in her head.

‘Oh Daniel, what did you do?’  Talking to her patients made her feel better.  In her profession she didn’t save people so she liked to think that they could hear a friendly voice once more.  She sank to her chair as another wave of nausea hit.

She felt so ill.  Despite the arctic temperature, a fine film of sweat was coating her skin.  She gulped and realised tears were streaming down her face.  Cases like this always brought her down.  She might enjoy the occasional drink but self-abuse of this level was truly tragic.

Daniel Summers.  22 years old.  Blood tests showed high levels of cocaine.  Dehydration.  Receding gums indicative of habitual oral consumption of cocaine.  Cause of death: cardiac arrest as a result of drug overdose.

************************************

The caffeine was no longer cutting it.  Peter was going to fall asleep before long.

He was a doctor and knew what he was doing.  There was no harm in a little pick me up.  After all, Mandy was blatantly an alcoholic and no-one did anything.

The speed brought the world back into focus and Peter gazed at himself in the gents’ bathroom mirror.  Attractive from birth his clear blue eyes and blonde hair had earned him a reputation as a healing angel.  He straightened his pure silk tie and went to explain to Ms Webster the dangers of binge drinking.

‘Good morning Cathy.  I’m Dr Williamson.  How are you feeling today?’

‘Good.  Much better, thanks.’  Cathy’s mumbling and downcast eyes were typical behaviours.  If the stay in hospital hadn’t scared her into changing, Mandy might end up knowing all about this one after all.

‘OK.  You know we took some blood when we discharged you?’  Cathy nodded but still didn’t look at him.  ‘I’m afraid the tests have shown a serious decline in your liver function.’

Cathy rolled her eyes.  She’d heard it all before and didn’t need to hear it again, especially from this guy with darting eyes and greasy hair.  He was still talking but she was no longer listening.  He handed her the usual leaflet: Young People and AA.

It disappeared into the bottom of her bag and she disappeared out the door.  As Peter watched the young woman leave, checking her make-up in a compact mirror and probably heading to the nearest pub, a new idea occurred to him.  He hadn’t had sex for three months and Mandy was fit and obviously well up for anything.  A couple of glasses of house wine and she’d drop her knickers.  One little lick of speed for the nerves, and he walked down towards the morgue.

************************************

Dr Peter Williamson.  29 years old.  Three times over the drink-driving limit.  Blood tests showed high levels of amphetamines.

Dr Amanda Sullivan.  28 years old.  Five times over the drink-driving limit.  Physical examination showed signs of recent sexual activity.

The nurse who broke the news to their parents could still hear the screams echoing in her head.

Both were thrown from the car on impact; the police didn’t even care who was driving.

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