As a young Air Force cop, I was working hospital security one night when I got called to the emergency room to help two male nursing techs take a body down to the morgue. A man had been in a car accident and gone through the windshield. The body was covered up, of course, but the blood from the facial wounds came right through the sheet. They told me the man had hit the pavement so hard, his jaw had disconnected and he didn’t really have a nose left.
All we had to do was take the stretcher down to the basement, open the morgue, put the body in the cooler, and sign a report for the pathologist. I had been to the morgue before, in fact, the pathologist had let me watch a partial autopsy there. But this was a bit different; it was three o’clock in the morning, there was nobody around, and all three of us were only about nineteen years old.
There were also some things we didn’t know about bodies, such as the fact that they can make noise when gas starts moving around inside. This one kept making grunting sounds every time we went over a little bump. I am convinced to this day that the elevator had a wicked sense of humor, because it waited until after the doors had closed and we couldn’t possibly get out. Then it gave a huge lurch, the body sat up on the gurney, and the sheet fell off its face. The broken jaw dropped almost to its bellybutton, the eyes popped open and stared at us, and it emitted this horrible groan.
We totally lost it, of course. When we figured out we couldn’t break the door down, the guys started screaming at me, “You’re the cop, shoot it!” And I screamed back, “You’re the medical people and you’re stronger than I am! Hit it! Hit it!”
Fortunately, it laid down by itself and the door opened, because I don’t like to think what we would have done if it hadn’t. We tumbled out of that elevator, and stood gasping for breath in the hallway, trying not to lose our dinners. It was a good thing the elevator had an automatic door stop, because at that point, we would have let that sucker go to whichever floor it wanted to go.
We seriously debated going back to the emergency room, (by a different route) and getting somebody else to put it in the cooler, but we all knew we’d never be able to live it down if we did. So, we covered the body back up and strapped the chest down with a gurney belt, (something that should have been done before we left.)
Then I pulled out my billy club, unlocked the morgue door and reached inside to turn on the light. As long as I kept telling myself that I had a gun, and that I was responsible for the safety of the entire hospital, I was okay, and the boys seemed to gather their bravery from listening to me.
So, one of them opened the cooler door while I stood by ready to club any stray zombies who might be lurking inside, the other one pushed the gurney inside, then we all ran like hell and got halfway down the hallway before one of us shouted, “Wait, we gotta lock the door and somebody has to sign the certificate!”
I told them, “I unlocked the door and had to turn on the light! You get in there and sign that paper!” They tried to tell me, “You’re the cop, you have the gun, and you’re supposed to be protecting us!” “Don’t you give me crap about protecting you! We’re not talking about an armed criminal here!”
Finally I said, “Okay, okay. Wait a minute. We will all go back, we’ll all sign the paper, and we will all lock the door, agreed?” “Agreed.” So we walked back in a tight pack, like something out of the Three Stooges, did what we had to do, then ran all the way back to the emergency room, using the stairs.
I know we forgot to turn the lights off, because the pathologist bawled me out for leaving them on all weekend when he saw me in the cafeteria on Monday. He must be a pretty old man by now, and my bet is; he’s still laughing about that story.