Archive for the ‘Post 9.6’ Category

Saturday, March 31, 10:08 a.m.

I meet the coroner at a Starbucks equidistant between our homes. It’s crammed into a small storefront in a nondescript strip mall just off the freeway. It looks like every Starbucks I’ve ever been in, which renders this rendezvous a little less remarkable.

He’s waiting for me at a small table by the bay window looking out on the parking lot. When I see him, I remember him from the Lake Washington crime scene nine days ago. He looks older without his dark blue King County Coroner’s Office windbreaker.

The coroner and I have such a chat. He tells me more than I ever wanted to know about Jack O’Lies. He begins nearly every sentence with, “I’m not sure if I should share this, but…”

These sentences end, in chronological order, thusly:

“…Jack’s an alcoholic.”

“…I think Jack’s in the middle of a sort of prolonged nervous breakdown that started with his wife’s murder twelve years ago.”

“…Jack’s wife died horribly. I had nightmares about that crime scene for months.”

“…Jack read my report on his wife’s autopsy. Cover to cover. I would never have released the medical records to him, but he went all Freedom of Information act on me, got a court order. He was so unhinged after she was killed. Sometimes I can’t believe he’s still alive.”

“…Jack’s never going to get over her death. He loved her, but he might have gotten over her, know what I mean? If it had been a car accident or cancer or something, he could have eventually moved on. But he’s going to blame himself for what happened to her till the day he dies.”

“…I’m not sure if Jack can emotionally connect with anyone ever again. On a functional, relationship level, I mean.”

Finally, I interrupt the coroner.

“Why exactly are you telling me all this?” I say.

He looks at me steadily. He’s got great eye contact for a guy who works with dead people.

“I’m worried about him,” he says. “Hell, I’m scared to death. I think he’s finally skidding off the rails for real. But when he met you, I thought maybe…”

He trails off into the weird silence that marked our introductory cell phone conversation.

“You thought what, exactly?” I say.

Coroner Harry Dekins holds up his palms placatingly. I must sound mighy hostile.

“Look, I don’t want to overstep here,” he says. “But there hasn’t been a woman in Jack’s life since his wife died. So…”

“Oh good God!” I cry. “I’m married! I barely know him! I got his name off the internet. I met him, like, a week ago after I set up an interview through his editor. You’re as bad as his daughter. Why—what did he tell you? What exactly did he say about me?”

Right now, I’m a conflicted amalgam of grossed out and flattered. I’m married…but I’m not dead. Still, the thought of Jack talking about me with his friends and family in romantic terms makes my skin crawl. However…I like the idea that I’ve still got it after all these years. And without even trying.

Coroner Dekins watches me with neutral eyes that clearly indicate he’s able to track each and every thought as it registers on my face. One of these days, I’ve got to learn to hide my emotions.

“I’m not saying anything, here. It’s none of my business,” he says. “It just seems like he came around a corner or something when he met you.”

I freeze.

“He came around the corner,” Jack said. “The man in the green suit.”

“You okay?” Coroner Dekins says. “Katherine?”

I’m shaking and I can’t seem to stop.

I’ll bet that’s something the coroner never sees the stiffs in the morgue do.