Polished and gleaming – there must be some kind of oil on it to make it slide so easily, he thinks – the sound resembles what he imagines to be the grating metal tooth on the scaffold, the one that bit Marie Antoinette and countless others back in the seventeen hundreds or whenever that was.
It isn’t about the cake. It never really was, anyway. Wasn’t it Victor Hugo who said the guillotine was the Law made concrete, the Avenger…something like that? This irony is gorgeous to him and he stifles a weird kind of chuckle and turns it into a cough. The Law.
The coroner looks up at him and the light catches her glasses and there are lines on his vision when she says, softly, "You don’t have to do this, you know. " She brushes a lock of hair from her face and he can see now that her eyes are bright with the beginnings of tears and he wonders whether she likes her hair. long hair would be a nuisance it would be dead weight on my neck sweaty ropes in the summer and brittle stalks of ice in the winter it would stab into my ears and then I’d go deaf maybe that would be a relief
He doesn’t say anything but he clicks off his radio and she reaches toward the black bag stretched out before them and he sees a swollen bizarre cocoon there’s a giant butterfly in there and it’s almost ready cocoons are like microwaves they ding when they’re done except this one makes shiny sounds like the Avenger and this butterfly’s bloody as hell but careful don’t brush the blood off it’s the powder on the wings plus it’s evidence after all and we ought not to mess with evidence we have to find the killer and he giggles a little at this and she looks up at him again, suddenly, her hand on the little zipper right at the head.
“Pull it down, Grace. What are you waiting for? I’ve gotta do this. Trust me.” His voice, he notes, performs well, with nary a tremor. nary a tremor nary what a stupid word how many stupid words are there as many as stupid people I suppose nary nary
Grace tugs at the zipper and it complies immediately with a little grunt like a little fart and he remembers how the newly dead void their bowels but he doesn’t laugh because he wants to see the butterfly. She tugs and tugs and the cocoon relaxes apart and he makes a slight hissing sound through his teeth and he notices a drop of sweat tracing down Grace’s neck which has stretched just so and he sees a hickey just poking above the white collar. He wants to think about it but he knows he needs to be completely focused for the next few hours. No slip ups it’s a little late for that wouldn’t you say buddy
He looks down at the body and he makes his eyes widen slightly, then narrow in anger and hurt, and he tugs the zipper on his mouth so that he can grimace properly while Grace says, cottonmouthed, “I’m so sorry. We’ll get him. I know we will.” He nods because he doesn’t think he should risk speaking should I try to cry maybe that’s too much do I usually cry at things that make me upset I don’t remember where did I first see butterflies coming out of cocoons it must have been some movie day in elementary school or something although I slept through most of those and he studies the body closely as if looking for clues. He hopes this is not overdoing it. He has to appear invested, yet still horrified.
eat your heart out George Clooney eat it out of your chest with your perfect white teeth the tooth that bit Marie Antoinette the teeth and the sucking on Grace’s neck the Law made concrete
“Grace, we had the date set and everything.” He traces the jaw gently with his fingertips, remembering the way she would jut it forward when she was angry. Now her face is calm. He wonders whether death is the most potent relaxant. He figures it must be.
you’re dead and I’m alive and you’re relaxed and I’ve never been harder Grace come over here feel how hard I am I’m like steel “She bought the dress, we went to the flower people and the caterers and all that. It was gonna happen, you know what I mean? For the first time in my life, it was gonna happen.”
Grace sighs and he wonders whether she really cares about any of the bodies she shows to people, or whether she ever gets scared of her work, whether she has nightmares that grasp her mind with fingers like wispy butterfly’s wings choking her with dusty flight, whether she tastes death on the back of her throat when she gets home and makes love to the Hickey Giver the Love made Corporeal.
“We’ll find the bastard who did this, Jim.” But her voice is distant and he relishes hugely that she knows and she doesn’t care and then he sees himself with his mouth on her neck stretched just so and he remembers afterward how he told her he was getting cold feet and then she grinned and told him how they could make her have cold feet too and he said yes and he thought maybe they were both crazy.
“Grace, you’re as dead as she is,” he whispers this because it is frightening and because Grace is a butterfly so anything he says will be a thousand times louder to her. And his feet ache with the cold.
“Let them eat cake.” She abruptly zips up the bag and shoves the cocoon back into the silver with a bang that shatters his resolve and his laughter reverberates through the room, the pure laughter of innocence – and he believes in miracles in that moment.
He clicks on his radio and thinks about teeth and making love to Grace. She leads the way out and he thinks about cold feet and her ass. His hand drifts to his gun, polished, and he thinks about the Law made Lead and her long dead hair, gleaming in the fluorescent light.
This is too many words, I know, but I still wanted to give credit to the prompt from Graphic Scratch.