Black Jade – Chapter 3
When we reached the relative safety of our Town Sedan, Dai brought out a laced fan to cool her face while Prince Razor licked her neck and nuzzled her shoulder. “I’m all right, Prince. Just too many people. The smells and sounds were a little overwhelming. You wouldn’t have liked it at all.”
Of that, I was sure. ‘Razor’ would have appeared and ankles and legs felt the bite of his sharp canines at every turn. That was the main reason we had left him behind.
Motoring through part of downtown and Deep Ellum to Junius Street, we reached Baylor Hospital in short order. A white, stately building in the form of an E, it was one of Dallas’ progressive leaps regarding health care for the masses. We left the windows open and a small dish of food and water on the floorboards for Prince Razor, who remained in the car—a condition he protested until she gestured for him to be silent.
After carefully taking charge of our packages, I led Dai into the facility to search for Dr. Campbell. While the constable had been effortlessly overwhelmed, I wasn’t sure Dai would achieve the same with the pathologist.
A query at reception sent us off to the hospital’s laboratory area. Though small, the amount of equipment was impressive. It made Dai’s homemade lab in the dark basement of the laundry look like the workings of a child playing pretend. I was glad she couldn’t see it.
“Excuse me. We’re looking for Dr. Campbell?”
Two of the three technicians working there ignored our presence. The third waved us down the hall without ever taking his attention from his microscope. “Basement. The morgue entry is in Room B301.”
Dai took a deep breath as we walked away. “The smells coming from that lab are fascinating, Jacques. We must come back another time. Spend a while there.”
Only she would find such a thing interesting. I’d preferred not to take the risk of catching whatever illnesses they might study there.
“Pathology started as the study of diseases, but it’s been branching out to encompass a lot more. Since they examine organs, tissue samples, and cells, their objectives have extended to doing autopsies to determine the cause of death. It would be an enthralling line of research.”
Dai could do an abundance of things, but even she wouldn’t be able to manage either pathological work or performing autopsies, no matter how much she might want to. Not that she ever admitted to having limits.
The basement’s hallways were spacious, allowing for multiple people to wheel through at a time. From the signs hanging over several doors, this level appeared to house equipment like x-ray machines or devices used for rehabilitation, and even some operating theaters. I wondered how many patients had been brought here, not realizing they were sharing the floor with the dead.
We entered Room B301 through an innocuous enough door. The tiny office area had a desk and several clipboards on hooks on the wall. Beyond was a set of double doors with small windows. A bit of mist escaped from the bottom of the new entryway. It swirled away as the escaping cooler air met the warmer, more humid atmosphere of the living. The office was empty, so we bravely walked forward into the realm of the recently deceased.
The room beyond was broad. White glared from the walls and the tiled floor at our feet. Metal tables and a wall of refrigerator-type doors with holders for small index cards sat in the back. The odors of strong cleanser and decay tainted the air. Dai removed a lace handkerchief from her clutch to place over her nose. If even I found the odors unpleasant, Dai’s enhanced sense of smell would make them altogether repulsive.
Harsh lighting brought everything into sharp relief, including the fellow standing over the exposed body of an older woman. I averted my gaze even as I continued to describe what I saw to Dai.
“He’s short, blocky, with a rugged face. Close-cropped brown hair.” I dared another look, avoiding the cadaver on the table. “He’s now frowning at me.”
“A man, you say? Curious…” It wasn’t a word she used often.
“Who are you? You shouldn’t be in here.” The person I assumed to be Dr. Campbell grabbed the folded sheet at one end of the autopsy table and threw it over the woman’s corpse, hiding it from view. Campbell’s frown deepened as he moved in front of the table as if to shield the body from us. I couldn’t help but wonder what he thought we’d want it for.
“I’m sure you’ve heard that often, Dr. Campbell,” Dai said. “Even in these modern times, so many are still prejudiced without substance.”
The doctor’s frown deepened even more, this time peppered with a flicker of confusion. “What do you mean?”
Dai tilted her head. “Oh, I think you know.”
The fellow’s scowl turned into a glare. “You need to leave. This area is for authorized medical personnel only.”
“So, you’d allow a murderer to go free?” Dai’s tone was that of an innocent babe’s.
“Explain yourselves, or I will throw you out. Bodily, if I have to.”
Unasked, I stepped forward and set the packages I’d brought on the nearest metal table. Once I’d unwrapped the gown and the burned bowl, I moved back to Dai’s side, leaving the items for Campbell’s inspection.
“I’ve been told you assist the justice of the peace with autopsies on unexplained deaths,” Dai said. “After finding that dress and performing a Marsh test on it, it’s my conclusion that it was recently used to murder someone by arsenic poisoning.”
“The Marsh test… you?” The doctor glanced at the dress and the bowl but had yet to make a move toward them.
“Surely you, of all people, wouldn’t form presumptions based purely on appearances.”
Aiden Campbell’s rugged face grew hard. “You’re blind, so I’m basing my statements on facts.”
Dai laughed with clear pleasure. “Blunt and to the point. I like that!” Then her expression turned serious. “I knew there was arsenic on that dress the same way I know you’re a woman.”
A loud gasp echoed through the room. A moment later, my neck grew hot as I realized the sound had come from me.