A Mother's Despair
The smell of disinfectant and microwaved pumpkin, peas and potatoes filled Detective Michael Hawkins’ nostrils as he strolled passed each hospital room looking for room 79. When Eleanor Claremont first barged into his office with tears streaming down her face, he assumed it was another mother in denial that her child was depressed. But when she laid out the facts to him he had a feeling there was a lot more to this story that only a man like himself could figure out. The room smelt a little too clean for Hawkins’ liking. The floors looked like they had been freshly mopped, and the sheets had already been changed. He scanned the room once more trying to pick up on anything suspicious, but the cleaners had polished it so well that any potential evidence had been tarnished.
‘I need to speak with the doctor.’ He said, walking towards the reception.
A nurse looked at him cautiously as he approached. She wore a lanyard that indicated her name was Sue.
‘Hello Sue,’ he said.
She cleared her throat and looked him up and down, ‘can I help you?’
He sensed her apprehension and it only deepened his argument. She knew something. Hawkins could read body language better than Shakespeare could read literature and he wanted to break Sue – all the way down to her core – to figure out what she was hiding.
‘I would like to know who cleaned Irene Claremont’s room after it was part of an investigation. You do know that’s a felon and whoever was in charge could spend many years behind bars for trespassing and tampering with evidence, right?’
Her face remained stern but she couldn’t keep her gaze away from him.
‘I do apologise,’ she finally said, ‘the cleaners must have packed it up, they’re foreigners, they wouldn’t have understood that it was a crime scene.’
Her response sounded rehearsed, but Hawkins ignored it. Eleanor on the other hand began screaming in her face. He had seen this type of behaviour before – and he normally blocked it out – but this time he pulled her away as the sound of her screams reminded him of his mother each time she yelled at his father for drinking a bottle of wine to himself. He didn’t remember much of his dad, he was eight when his mother finally decided to leave.
He pulled Eleanor into an empty room a couple doors down from room 79. She was shaking and crying, a lot like his mother at three in the morning on the Saturday his father forgot to come home.
‘I know that you are highly invested in this, and I completely understand how you are feeling, but you cannot act this way in front of them it will only make matters worse.’
He gave her a glass of water and she settled down, inhaling and exhaling slowly so she could catch her breath.
‘Trust me,’ he continued, ‘I believe you. Something suspicious is definitely going on, but I can’t pinpoint what exactly. I have been in this situation before, and it was done with a motive for money. Whoever did this to your daughter had a motive, but what could that motive be?’
He studied her face, her cheeks flustered, her eyes swollen and dark, her body frail.
‘Why don’t you go home?’ He suggested.
Her eyes widened as though this sounded like the most absurd idea he had come up with all morning.
‘Trust me,’ he said, ‘I will stay here until I have an answer. You go home and rest.’
It took some convincing, but she finally managed to drag herself towards the exit. He watched as she entered the lift, making sure she was okay, and nodded one last time before the doors closed.
As soon as she left, he looked at his watch and noted that he had only been granted ten hours by the state police to investigate the crime. If he had no outcome by the eleventh hour they would close the case and mark it as a suicide. Hawkins began by scanning the hospital for any clues he may have missed. The room was pointless to look at as any potential clues had been washed away by the apparent cleaners’ ignorance. Sue said they cleaned the room and threw out the rubbish, which meant the bins outside should be full. He thought.
The lift was busy, with nurses and staff members and impatient visitors trying to find out answers to their loved one’s diagnoses. Hawkins stood in the back corner and observed the people around him. Ironically, they were all like him, on their way to figure out the answers to an unsolved mystery. He noticed a cleaner holding two large garbage bags squashed in the front corner. As they reached each level the lift emptied until it was him, a visitor, and the cleaner remaining. He followed the cleaner to the car park.
The underground car park had thirty-seven bins scattered around it and Hawkins quickly realised this was going to be a lot more difficult than he had imagined. He began opening the ones on his left, revealing the unpleasant smell of mouldy hospital food and faeces. He looked at the time; he had seven and a half hours to go. He searched through twenty-four bins before he was exhausted. He looked at the time; it had been two hours since he first began his search. A truck had pulled up as he was taking a quick break to regather his thoughts and he noticed two men jumping out and heading towards one particular bin directly opposite him.
‘They told us it was urgent!’ Hawkins overheard one man call out.
Hawkins had a feeling that the arrival of these men was hardly coincidental. He picked himself up and hurried across the car park.
‘Hello gentleman, I am a doctor here at the hospital,’ he lied, ‘how come you’re emptying the bins so early when it’s not bin day?’
The truth was, he had no idea when bin day was or how the procedure followed, but he thought it was worth his chances; had they told him the correct day he would have just pretended like he was new and didn’t know.
‘We got a call to empty this specific bin a lot earlier. Not sure why, but we got paid a shit load so was worth it hey?’ The man laughed.
Hawkins looked at the bin they were going to empty and noticed it said Rooms 70-80 on it. He instantly picked up his badge and told the men to step away. Hawkins hated doing this and used it only as a last resort, he hated making people feel like he had power of them. The men instantly felt intimidated, lifting their arms up and stepping away.
‘Don’t be alarmed, I just have to look through the bags please.’
‘Go for it sir.’
He noticed how quickly their attitude towards him changed. Amongst numerous food wraps and pieces of paper he found the sheets that Irene Claremont had passed away in. He noticed they were extremely saturated. He picked them up and studied a wet patch then held the cloth next to his nose, sniffing in the stench of extreme body odour and a distinctive male cologne. He noticed something sharp prick his shoe and he fiddled all the way to the bottom of the bin until he noticed a buckle attached to a leather belt. His eyes lit up. Another clue.
‘You won’t have to empty these ones gentleman.’
The men looked confused, but Hawkins continued to place the sheets and the belt inside his bag when he spotted a lady staring at him from afar. She looked suspicious but turned the other way the moment Hawkins saw her. He looked at the time; he had five and a half hours to go. He slowly followed her through the basement, down some stairs and into the morgue. The basement was cold and eerie, he wasn’t afraid though, Hawkins was used to being surrounded by dead bodies. He overheard yells coming from the end of the hallway, so he hid behind a trolley and slowly rolled it closer to the room.
‘The police agreed they have only given him around ten hours to figure it out. We have another five or so to keep hiding. He won’t catch us.’ He heard a man say.
Hawkins listened carefully until he heard footsteps. Their voices came closer and he quickly crawled into a dark room, ignoring the body behind him awaiting an autopsy. A lady and a gentleman walked straight passed him without realising that he was there. Hawkins caught a sniff of that same distinctive male cologne that was found on Irene’s sheets and noticed the man’s pants were a little loose around the waist. It’s all making sense, he thought, or is it? He looked at his watch and didn’t even realise another hour had passed. He had exactly four and a half hours to go.
Hawkins ran out of the morgue and went back onto the street, lighting a cigarette on the way. It was a sunny day and he was sweating profusely, but he remained focused on the mystery he needed to solve. He was certain that this man was the killer, but he couldn’t work out the mens rea. He finished his cigarette and threw it in the bin. This man was a doctor, that was all he could tell from his outfit and lanyard, but he couldn’t figure out why a doctor would do such a thing. He pulled out his note pad and started memorising the facts.
- Terminally ill patient had just found out she was getting a transplant.
2. Her mother left her after they celebrated.
3. Mother came back and found daughter dead.
4. Doctors claimed it was suicide.
What parts of the story was he missing? He repeated the conversation he originally had with Eleanor over and over in his head. She had a rare blood type! He remembered, wondering whether that had something to do with it. But the doctor seemed healthy, who would have needed the transplant?
After he finished his coffee, Hawkins walked back inside the hospital and noticed he only had three hours to go. A celebration in the reception made him walk towards there to see what all the fuss was about.
Hawkins walked closer to the crowd and heard a shout come from the inner circle.
‘Shut this down, now!’ A man yelled, the same familiar voice he had heard an hour or two earlier inside the morgue.
‘Why sir? We are celebrating the great news!’ A sweet voice responded.
The sound of balloons being pulled from the ceiling and popped into pieces echoed throughout the hospital walls and soon enough a large crowd gathered around to witness the chaos this man was creating.
‘Shame he can’t even celebrate his son’s transplant.’ A nurse turned to Hawkins and said, assuming he was a doctor.
‘Excuse me?’ Hawkins responded.
‘Didn’t you hear?’ The lady said again, ‘Noah had been so sick they really thought he had no hope. Surprisingly, the miracle arrived this afternoon and he’s been edgy ever since. You’d think a father would celebrate a lot more after they’ve just found out their child with the rarest blood type is going to survive.’
‘Not a father who is trying to keep a low profile.’ Hawkins whispered to himself.
He looked at the picture of the boy on the wall when it all finally started to make sense. Noah, a young child with a breathing tube attached to his nose who never would have imagined that his transplant costed him the life of young Irene. He thought of Eleanor and the struggles she would face dealing with a court case. How would she cope with the aftermath? How many people were involved? How much backlash would she receive? She was an unfortunate lady who had to suffer the consequences of someone else’s desperate plea to save their child. He thought of his mother and all the sacrifices she made to keep him alive. Was this the same? Were this man’s actions justified based on the love he had for his son? Would his mother have killed someone in order to keep him alive?
When the last hour came around, Hawkins delivered three letters. The first, was a letter to the state investigation unit advising them of the outcome of the case, including all evidence he had encountered along the way. The second, was a letter to Eleanor advising her of the outcome and including a cheque of ten-thousand dollars to help her through the court proceedings. He warned her that she would face backlash but gave her the strength to fight against it. The third, the most difficult one to write – informing a man of his fate – was directed to the doctor. One’s loss should never be another’s gain. He knew justice needed to be served, even if it meant costing the man a life sentence in prison. He wrote about his disappointment but in a sympathetic way. He told him about the evidence and told him he was reporting it tomorrow morning, giving the man one last night with his son and wife. He sealed the envelopes and delivered them to each recipient, walked outside the hospital and lit another cigarette, praying for the sanity of both Eleanor Claremont, and young Noah.