The Surgeon and the Social Worker

“Some days, I want to stick a needle in a vein just for fun.” He breathed, hand feather soft on her shoulder, “No drugs, no vials, nothing. Just let the blood drip out onto my skin. I like the feel of blood on my skin.”

“That why you’re a surgeon?” She asked, looking up at him, “Because of that?”

He shook his head, slowly, like there was something he wanted her to find out, “That’s not why I’m a surgeon.”

She leaned forward, naked breasts tempting him, “Then why?”

He smiled as he wrapped his hand around her neck and twisted it, “Because it’s a way to get rid of the body.” He said as she went lifeless in his arms.

She was light in his arms as he carried her down the steps. He’d matured in that respect after one day having to convert his bedroom into his surgery. After Mathilda, they’d all been smaller than him. Less adipose to dispose of, anyway, when he did his dissections. He’d gone to medical school thinking that it would help with the urges, help him want to heal, not kill, but it turned out that it did just the opposite. The things they taught him, the fragility of the human body, it made him the perfect killer. He knew just how much pressure it took to break a neck, to dissect the vertebral artery every time. He picked his victims with care, too. The chiropracter they’d visited always went down for their death. Never murder, just malpractice.

He turned around to enter the surgical theater, the lights coming on as the doors opened around him. The familiar rush ran through his body as he saw the gleam of the instruments that his tech had laid out for him, not knowing exactly why she did so a few times a week. She was a good woman, if a little slow. He laid the body of the woman down on his table, turning on his stereo as he went past. Like many, he enjoyed operating to classical music.

The opening bars of a Wagner opera filled the room as he turned on the other lights. He lighted to do it in stages, to see the table there, alone, the chrome of his instruments flashing in the shadows. Then their light, followed by the one over his anesthesia setup. You never knew when you’d need anesthesia. The light over his scrub sink was last, this one the darkest, for it was the one that marked the end of things. When he was finally done with his masterpiece, he’d shut off all the lights but that one, and wash his hands one final time.

But that day was not today. He had a fresh body on the table, and that needed to be addressed. With practiced efficiency, he started to scrub. Ten strokes on each of the four sides of each finger, ten on the palm and ten on the dorsum. Ten on each of the four sides of the arm. Rinsing the arms, letting the water run down his elbows and naked chest. The water shut off automatically as he stepped away, reaching for the blue towel the tech had left hanging on a plastic covered steel arm. Just like he liked it. He slid his bare feet into the clogs that he left beneath the sink and padded towards his table. He gowned and gloved like he had every day for 10 years now–first the left arm in, then the right. Flip the right glove on and use it to pull the left up. Back up 5 steps to the contraption he’d created to tie the back of his gown, all those years ago. Spin to close it. Suppress the erection that threatened every time he tied the knot on the left side of his surgical gown. It didn’t do for a surgeon to have a hardon.

Stepping forward once more, he raised both hands in a silent prayer to the gods of surgery. This wasn’t a life to save, but it didn’t mean he wanted unsteady hands on his journey. He left her undraped, uncovered as he slid a needle into her arm, already connected to tubing under the table. He watched the blood drain, aided by gravity. Blood he would bathe in later, when this was done.

She was white and pale when he made his first cut, clean and sharp down her flat abdomen. He’d chosen her for her shape, the way he could see her intestines under her skin. Skinny enough that he could call her anorexic. But perfect to display the gut. No fat around the colon, very little obscuring the view of the mesenteric veins. This one was almost too easy. He realized that he was starting to miss Mathilda as he laid the colon out around her head like a halo. There was nothing for him to do, nothing for him to clean, just label the vessels and be done with it. His hands sped up as he tied on the tiny sutures to the vessels, practice making it something he could have done in his sleep. He’d gotten lazy with picking his victims, he realized as he slid her into the cooler and looked up at the clock on the wall. Only two operas for her. They’d spent more time in bed together than she had on his table.

The door to the cooler clanged shut as he made notes on the tiny card that slid into the holder on the door. Her body would be cooled to -40 in a bath of chemicals, slowly, to preserve the structures until he had the rest of the project complete. A series of dissections, each a microcosm of vessels and fascia and nerves, that, when viewed together, provided a perfect teaching tool–or the perfect piece of art. They’d find her body, eventually, insides replaced with those of another woman, leaving a coroner puzzled as to what had happened, how she’d ended up so far from home. But not for a long while yet. It didn’t matter to her. No one would be worried.

He slid the card, covered in tiny letters, into the sleeve, and padded over to the trashcan. His surgical gown went in there, followed by his mask and cap. He left the clogs under the sink as he rinsed his hands, the lights behind him going off as he turned on the tap.

There was a time when she enjoyed seeing them in her office. Those were the days when she could get them a hot lunch and a shave. But those days were long gone. Now, she might point them to one of them in the direction of a fleeting bed in a halfway house, but that was about all she could do. It was heartbreaking in a town like this, when so many of them came to make their fortunes and ended up on the street. 

She used to think that she could do something to change things by handing out sandwiches and hygiene kits at the shelter at night, paying for them out of her meager salary, but the men told her different. 

“It’s nothing against you, ma’am.” They’d say respectfully, “We appreciate what you’re doing for us, but we don’t need food. We need a place to sleep at night where can feel safe.” 

She couldn’t argue with that. Feeling safe was important while you sleep. 

So she gave them somewhere safe to sleep.

She bought a old car, a old house, got herself a new life in a place where no one would moniter her comings or going. She didn’t have family to worry about her, so living a life on the streets wasn’t something that they’d question. She spent her nights at home, sure, but during the day, she pulled on a cap and pushed her shopping cart, talking to the same people she’d tried to help–but this time as an equal. She found out who was sick and who was getting better, and made a note of it in her files–she kept the files she’d made as a social worker, kept her access by working on Saturdays and drawing her pension. Every now and then, she’d hear a name–someone who was ready to give up, but the man wouldn’t let do so. EMS kept picking him up when he was passed out on the sidewalks, thinking that night would be his last. They’d take him to the hospital and they’d pump him full of meds and food and fluids and send him out to try again. 

Well, with her help, they didn’t have to try again. 
She did her research. Found out ways that you could poison someone so that no questions would be asked. And a street person? No one would care if you chopped them up with a chainsaw and left the parts around the city. Only that would be cruel. 

She made friends on the street. Handed them a sandwich and a warm blanket, sat besides them as they ate and the poison took hold of their body. Held their hand as they drifted off into sleep, and kept passersby from calling 911 until she was sure they were dead. Then she vanished into the darkness and let the police take care of things. It was kinder this way.

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