Her arrival took the pathologists by surprise. They tended to be introverted at the best of times, and didn't like her sudden appearance at the morgue.
"Mel isn't it?"
"What can I do you for?" He was still holding the scalpel like instrument above a greenish cadaver. There's never a good moment to interrupt a pathologist.
"It's regarding a female that passed through here about three weeks ago."
"U-huh." He placed the scalpel in a tray and began to laboriously remove the soiled gloves. "You were hoping to, er, see the body? I'm afraid you're about two weeks too late."
"No please don't stop because of me. I just wondered if you kept a file of names."
He wiped his brow and gave a forced smile. "Well I'm about ready for a little break anyhow. Sorry, I'm Petr. Nice to meet you. I'd shake your hand but I'd better, um."
He waved bloody greyish fingertips at her.
"Wash your hands. Yeah. No problem."
"Can I ask why you want to see this?"
"Oh, a newbie started on the archives. You know how it is. He got the right name-tag but the wrong date. Some of the chips got mixed up."
"So you're hoping to match the body with the chip."
"If it's not too much trouble. Just to get the date and time of the operation."
"Okay, well. You'll need my help with the list. There's two main sections. Accidental death and post-download euthanasia. Do you know which one the lady was?"
"I believe her to be post-download. That's the department I work in. Her data was - is - going to be used for artificial luma fabrication."
"A unique gene type."
"Yes her lumadata produced some, frankly startling results."
"Follow me." He pressed basement level on the elevator.
The lift opened into darkness. As her eyes adjusted Mel made out broken plastic chairs. The sort you found in tedious after-work meetings. These ones were hidden under tarpaulin to protect their dignity. But Mel knew the chewing gum was still there. Clinging to the filthy plastic underside like tiny amoebas. She dragged her gaze away from the shadows to where Petr was indicating. There was a door. Petr managed to locate the light switch. It came on mean and feeble, just enough to illuminate the brass plaque: Post-download eutha - . The remaining letters had rubbed off. She didn't need the rest to guess she'd come to the right place.
"Do you have the name of the deceased?" He gaped at her over his spectacles, evidently relishing the opportunity to delve into these rarely seen files.
"Greta Kosman. With a K."
"And the date of the euthanasia?"
"Please be as precise as you can."
"Okay let's see. The intern mixed the memechips between the 24th and the 25th." Her throat felt dry. "And we've already checked the 25th.."
"So it must be the 24th." She coughed the dryness away, where was her composure?. "Yes, the 24th of March three weeks ago."
"Excellent. Great. Bear with me a moment." He traced his fingers over the names, finally coming to 'K'. "Aaah here we are."
A baited pause.
"What do you mean?"
"The name you requested isn't there."
"It has to be."
"I'm afraid not."
"Can there be a mistake-"
"Our administrative team is highly thorough. If the body of Greta Kosman had passed through this department, it would be registered. Right here."He showed the page to Mel, tapping at the gap where the names skipped from 'Knutson' to 'Langdon.' Already she was beginning to dislike Petr the pathologist.