Excerpt of Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill
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Mr. Geung had a form of Down syndrome that made
him very efficient at repetitive tasks and very thorough in
those duties hed been taught. Anything out of the ordinary,
however, caused him to become flustered. He didnt
trust strange people or equipment that disturbed the
norm in his domain. The auditors had been such an
intrusion and he continued to mutter his displeasure to
himself. But there had been one other annoyance that
week. The morgues perfectly good French refrigeration
unit had been replaced with a Soviet behemoth twice its
size. Neither the hospital engineer who installed it nor
Mr. Geung, who was responsible for turning it off and on,
had any idea how it worked. Dtui could read Russian but
none of the dials seemed to perform the functions they
promised. So Mr. Geung had been particularly distraught
to discover that after only two hours in the unit the army
captain was deep frozen.
Madame Daeng, the coroners fiancée, had arrived
just then to discover Dtui comforting a teary Geung, and
a large ice pole of a corpse on the tray. It was made all the
worse by the fact that an unknown surgeon would be
coming to conduct the autopsy that afternoon in the
company of Mr. Suk, the hospital director. The body had
to be thawed out somehow before their arrival. They
agreed that wrapping him in blankets would only have the
effect of preserving the frozen state. It was a comparatively
cool early December day and there was no heater.
Madame Daeng, always calm in a crisis, suggested they
wheel the soldier into the sunlight that filtered through
the louvered window and sit close to the body so their own
body heat might warm him up. The only other heat producer
they could find was the Romanian water-boiling element.
They plugged it in, placed the water pot at the
end of the stainless-steel dolly, and watched it bubble.
As there was water on the boil and margarine peanut
biscuits in the tin, why not, they thought, have a cup of
tea or two? For modestys sake, and to catch the crumbs,
a white cloth was draped over the captains nether regions.
And there they sat, discussing the latest items to have disappeared
from the shops.
"Hows he doing?" Daeng asked.
Dtui poked the skin with her spoon. "Another hour
and he should be ready."
"And whos performing the autopsy? I thought Siri was
the only one in the country qualified."
"Well" - Dtui leaned back in her chair - "technically,
Dr. Siri isnt all that qualified either. I mean, hes good,
but he doesnt have any formal training as a coroner. Our
politburo didnt seem to think that fact was terribly
important; surgeon - coroner, same difference. Luckily
for them, Siris a bit of a genius in a number of ways." As
Dtui wasnt sure how much Daeng knew about the doctors
spirit connections, she kept her praise vague.
"So, today . . . ?"
"Is some young hotshot surgeon who just got back
from East Germany. He went over there as a medic six
years ago. Amazing what they can achieve in the Eastern
Bloc. Must be some type of fast track. But the new boy
isnt qualified to perform autopsies either. If our friend
here hadnt been a soldier theyd probably have kept him
on ice till Siri got back. But the military are really curious
to find out what killed their officer. The boys who
brought him in said he hasnt even been identified yet.
Excerpted from The Curse of the Pogo Stick
by Colin Cotterill Copyright © 2008 by Colin Cotterill . Excerpted by
permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.