Chapter 1: Prologue
Light. Dizzyingly bright lights. Pain. She found it hard to believe her eyes were open, staring out at the world but seeing nothing but the sharp white light. Was this what it felt like to be blind, Molly wondered? Science could only tell us so many direct answers so we knew what happened to the eyes when someone was permanently or temporarily blind, but it couldn’t convey such an intimate feeling as personally being blind did. She blinked, and slowly the world returned in shapes and blurs of colours, exceedingly fast. Wonderful, Molly thought, how fast the brain adjusted, how the pupils tightened and widened according to the amount of light in the room and the amount needed to see.
She sat up. After seeing such a bright light overhead and the room come into view, Molly decided she must’ve passed out on the floor of the morgue. Funny, she internally giggled, she wasn’t one to normally be squeamish. I work with corpses all day, of people I know, of people I don’t know… What could’ve possibly appeared in her morgue that sent her collapsing onto the floor?
Odd, Molly continued her train of thought. If she had passed out, why was she… why was she higher than floor-level? More specifically, why was she lying on one of the examination tables and why didn’t it feel cold – so cold it was almost biting and burning – like it was supposed to normally? And if she fell, having passed out, she logically knew that there should be a pounding in her head where it made contact with the floor. Happily, she was surprised that there wasn’t a pounding in her head and maybe she had gotten used to the temperature of the ice-slab worktop she called home.
It was when the white sheet that was covering her work clothes fell off of her that she noticed something was wrong. No one else was working in the lab at the morgue today. It was two in the morning when she was working and the other known being in the world who would ever come into St. Bart’s morgue that early without being deceased was Sherlock Holmes.
And… well… while technically he was alive, the whole world thought otherwise.
Why was there a sheet on her? And why had she fallen onto the table? Physically speaking, it was impossible for her to have fallen onto the table without having previously stood on something very high. And even so, she had been arranged in a perfect sleeping position, hands at her side, sheet pulled just up to her chin but folded neatly beneath.
Voices. She pushed herself off of the tabletop and raced towards the door. Everything felt surreal; like she had been on heavy doses of medication that left her brain addled and confused, blurring everything she thought she knew for certain. Molly pulled herself through the doorway, mouth open and gaping, closing and shutting and letting ‘the flies in and out’.
It was Dr. Macintosh. He was to take on Molly’s shift after 2:00 am.
She glanced at her watch, brows furrowing in confusion. It was half past seven. Impossible. Seven am? She tapped a blue, glossy fingernail against the top of her watch face. The watch was no longer ticking. The battery must’ve run out which would explain why she was so confused as to why the time did not match up with her internal clock settings, right?
Right. Molly nodded, and satisfied, began to think about all that needed to be done before Dr. Macintosh’s shift actually started. But as the portly man with a bristly moustache moved centre into Molly’s vision, she could see there were slight sparkles of moisture in the corners of his eyes and when he sighed and shook his head, staring at Molly but almost as though she weren’t entirely there…
Words formed, but they didn’t verbalize themselves. In a state of panic, Molly glanced down at herself. She was solid, as far as she could tell and besides – there were no such things as ghosts! At least. Well. That she knew. Well, there was always that little bit of doubt that permeated her thoughts, like that one time after her dad passed away (the same one, you know, that reminded her of Sherlock when he thought no one was looking) she swore she saw him everywhere, or felt him anyway. In otherwise meaningless things… like her cup of coffee, or the corridor in her flat.
No. No, Molly Hooper found herself most certainly solid. But not wearing her lab coat, which was funny because she swore she came home –
Came home… with it… on… Odd. Suddenly, she remembered going home to her flat after her shift ended, crossing the London streets to get to her new flat she relocated to after she kept receiving strange calls and messages from Jim from IT’s old mobile number and messenger. The new flat was a little bit smaller than her and her tabby cat Toby were used to, but it suited their needs, and in a rush it was all Molly could get – and anyway, the flat was closer to St. Bart’s but she still needed to cross a large intersection and she swore she remembered starting to cross it –
White, blinding light pierced through Molly’s thoughts, punching a hole in the fabric of her consciousness and sending her mind spinning ever so briefly. Her body shuddered. An impact. There was an impact, damage to the ribs and lungs but impossible an impact the force of what she was feeling now, the feeling that made her want to get to her knees, drop everything and sob uncontrollably and sleep for eternity (though all she could do was grasp her middle and double over in agony)… it would’ve killed her.
Dr. Macintosh seemed oblivious to Molly’s sudden pain, crouched over at one end of the examination table, far from the freezer lockers that kept other recent specimens awaiting autopsy, examination, or preparation. She pulled her hands from her abdomen, looking for traces of blood, and quickly she pulled up the hem of her cardigan to find no bruising, no lesions, nothing.
She managed to stand up, and attempted to speak with Dr. Macintosh but the man was always very distant. Working in a morgue could cause people to fall away from live human beings, and you begin to live with the dead, day after day. But he could not hear her. Or see her. Or … anything…
Impossible. Molly placed a hand to her mouth as irresistible, hysterical giggles exploded and the sharp intense pain and white light increased and flooded her vision when Molly looked down at the examination table…
…only to see that her body was still there.
“I’ll be back later this morning, Cate.”
“You working late again? You shouldn’t work so much, Molly – you’ll tire yourself out in a heartbeat!” A receptionist in the front of St. Bart’s named Cate had an overlapping shift with Molly’s at the morgue, so it was always pleasant to see a familiar face when leaving to back home in the wee hours of the morning. Cate was always looking after Molly’s health, and even a few times the girls had gone out for a few drinks, which usually ended in Molly proclaiming that she had had far too much and would spill every feeling she had ever had about anyone she ever met.
Most of the time it was Jim, though she was over him – she was very proud of herself for breaking it off without too much sadness on either end – and Sherlock.
Molly shouldered her bag and nodded, a brief tired smile warming her face ever so slightly. “No one else wants to come in, and Dave – ”
Cate stopped her. “Dr Macintosh?”
“Yes,” Molly corrected herself and a blush tinged her cheeks, “Dr Macintosh and I have a body to examine before a court ruling next week and the funeral shortly after. Fascinating, he was stabbed in the ba – ”
“Absolutely intriguing,” Cate cut her off quickly, her face almost blanching immediately. Cate, though working in a hospital and seeing gruesome things happen nearly ever day, did not like to hear of what happened on Molly’s end of the hospital in too much detail. “Go home, dear. Get some rest before you come back, settle down with a cuppa and go to bed.”
Touched by Cate’s concern again and again, Molly nodded, pushed open the swinging door and set off into the 2:00 am streets of London. Of course, the streets were never too dark. You could see easily without a torch on the main roads, and the back alleys were dodgy in daylight so Molly knew to easily avoid those. Walking home was easier to the new flat than it was to the old one.
One big street crossing and then she was homeward bound.
The problem was the street, once Molly reached it, was always needlessly busy except for the wee hours of the morning. Thankfully, those very hours were the hours Molly got off of her shift. It was more or less getting to work on time trying to cross the street that was the primary issue.
No cars on the road tonight. It had been raining earlier that day and though the closeness of the buildings in London drew in heat and sapped up some moisture from the roads, they were still very wet and damp. With a sudden chill running down her back, she knew no more as headlights careened down the road, wheels squelching to a frantic stop, and the impact of her body thrown against and nearly underneath the large truck maneuvering its way through the streets.
When Molly opened her eyes after the lucid flashback (was flashback the right word? Molly wondered), Dr Macintosh was gone. The sheet had been pulled over the body lying on the examination table (my body, Molly kindly reminded herself) and the little identification tag was neatly tucked underneath a bulge that was the hand, neatly concealed by the bright starchy white sheet.
Cautiously, dots of light spotting her vision, Molly reached out and let her hand hover ever so carefully over the identification card. It was face up, if she could just maneuver the body ever so slightly… she found herself wondering if she could touch other objects. She had decided that if she was dead, she was dead. That’s the end of it. She had to accept death every day when she was living, even with people she loved (like her dad, and Sherlock’s faked death) on occasion, so she might as well continue that tradition her own afterlife.
Was this afterlife? Molly held a hand against her pounding head and with the other shakingly reached out to gently nudge the body over.
It worked. Her cold dead body scooted over slightly and the identification card was revealed to speak what Molly had been thinking the entire time.
Dr Molly Jean Hooper, age 32, Female, Caucasian, Traffic Victim.
Traffic victim. The words were unyielding. Familiar, but also unfamiliar. She was a traffic victim. She really, and truly, was dead.
Chapter 2: Chapter I
Two lives collide in the most mundane of circumstances.
“Rhymes for evil.”
“Oh! Good one. Erm…”
“Any minute now, Martin.”
“Give me a second here, oh! What’s his name! The daredevil… Kn…Knievil, was it?”
“Evil Knievil? That’s halfway cheating…” A disappointed groan came from the flight deck. “Alright, fine. I’ll give it to you.” If anyone so happened to look inside, they’d find a slight smirk on the freckled face of Captain Martin Crieff as he prepared to not only begin the next round of rhyming games, but prepare GERTI, a small sixteen passenger jet, for landing back home in Fitton. “Rhymes for orange?”
“Douglas, you know that’s not fair – ”
“Just thought I’d check!” insisted Douglas. “Keep your wits about you…”
Martin harrumphed and crossed his arms against his chest, briefly checking his watch as the cabin door swung open to reveal a slightly more than over-emphatic flight attendant. Arthur Shappey, adorned with a ridiculous paper hat and trays full of coffee mugs balanced on either arm, entered excitedly. “ ‘ello chaps!” The coffee wiggled and wobbled as Arthur made his way into the flight deck, maneuvering not-so-swiftly behind the Captain’s chair. Martin immediately reached out to steady Arthur as he teetered haphazardly towards the controls and relieved his load by one cup.
“Coffee on this arm, Skip,” Arthur nodded his head to his left. “And tea on this arm!”
Douglas raised a quizzical brow and hesitantly reached for a cup of coffee, evening out Arthur’s load once more. There were at least fifteen more cups on the poor young man’s tray laden arms. “So which is it, Arthur? Do we have a football team on board or do you plan to serve the entire RAF?”
Martin’s cheeks would’ve been extremely bright if he were in Arthur’s position; another moment that he thanked his lucky stars he was sitting in the captain’s seat and that Arthur had the ability to gleefully ignore Douglas’ sarcasm (or take his statements as truths) and explain in the best way Arthur knew how.
“Well, Mum got a new coffee maker. Thing. I think. And, well it only came with a really big pot, so I filled it up, like normal, except – not like normal because it’s bigger, really.And.So I filled it up, put the same amount of coffee mix in – ”
Douglas, just having taken a sip of his coffee, spat it out immediately into the cup. It was horrid! A watered down mess of … brown liquid.
“And I pressed go! And well. The last machine we had made enough for two cups, because, that’s what we had and would fit on the counter in the galley – ”
“I think, we get the idea Arthur,” chimed Martin, examining his tea and setting it carefully on the floor.
Arthur shifted under the weight of the teas and coffees, struggling to stay balanced. He bit his lower lip in a half smile and attempted to keep the coffees from absentmindedly sliding off the end of the tray. “Well, chaps. You know what I’ve said before – once I’ve made it, I’ve made it. So. If you need anymore!”
The first officer, with a scowl on his face, attempted to gulp the poor attempt at a caffeinated life-saver, and nodded. “I think we know who to call, Arthur thank you,” finished Martin, and with that Arthur was out the door, looking like a cross between a poor tight-rope walker and a comical waiter.
“This tastes like piss.”
“Take it easy, Douglas. He tried – ”
The usual flight deck banter was suddenly silenced when terrible screeching sound, followed by the shaking of poor GERTI set off dozens of alarms; the lights glittering on the console could’ve outshone a Christmas tree for miles.
Immediately, Martin felt his face drain of colour. Every breath hitched in his throat and caused panic. He turned in his chair, knocking the cup of tea over (which would leave a nasty stain on the carpeting that’s for sure – Carolyn would not be happy if GERTI made it through this disaster) and fumbling with controls. Who knows if Tower could help, if Tower could hear!
Douglaswas flipping switches, relaying his actions to Martin. The captain, shaking to the core, could do nothing but cause the control panel to beep incessantly as the plane quickly started to lose altitude.
All the beeps, warning bells, and lights merged into one; he could no longer keep all the warnings straight! They were losing altitude, approaching the ground far too fast, with no engines, the throttle slipping…
Beep! Beep! Beep!
“We’re losing altitude, Captain!”
“I know, I …. I know I know I know!”
Beep! Beep! Beep!
“Would you like me to land?”Douglas was far too calm for this. Landing without any engines functioning? Hell in a handbasket!
“No! No. No, no! No! Why? No!”
“…Are you sur – ”
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beeeeeeeep!
“Oh for God’s sake,” Martin heard his voice crying, breaking… screaming! “Land the plane!”
The beeps stopped. Rolled up in his sheets dowsed with sweat, Martin rolled over in bed. The covers were twisted around his ankles as he frantically sat up, brow dripping and hair plastered to his head and hit the alarm clock that was flashing an angry 5:17 am.
The flashbacks from what happened with GERTI two mere months ago were still painful and ripe. He had tried to convince Douglas he could land, that he could do well and that he was in control; however, it took a very skilled pilot to prove that he could land even just a small 16-passenger jet with no engines. And land Martin did! Though his memory wiped clean the moment when he, as safely as he possibly could with what panic was racing through his mind and all of the problems in his hands, landed in a field some 15 miles outside Fitton.
Nobody was entirely sure what had happened to GERTI. She had just barely passed inspection the previous month and Carolyn was insistent that this last cargo flight would bring in enough money for her to fix what needed to be fixed to allow the plane to function as closely to normal as possible. Unfortunately for MJN, the money did not come through; the cargo was mostly broken (precious English-paste porcelain from a private collection from a Scot living in Portugal that had been relocated after its estate owner passed away), and GERTI sadly was not to be fixed.
MJN was permanently on stand-by.
Martin, naturally, had placed all the blame on himself. Despite the fact that Carolyn’s self-earning CEO position and her precious company was now essentially, eliminated (as well as all of their jobs, actually), she was rather fond of the fact that Martin had kept everyone alive and rather unharmed. At least, for the most part, physically unharmed. It was still, in his mind, all his fault. The face of Arthur, stunned as he got his arm bandaged from a slight bump against the galley counter as they came to the roughest landing any of them had ever experienced, disappointed and close to crying was burned in Martin’s eyes. He chose to neglect the part where Arthur had seen everyone else was still alive and unhurt and his eyes glittered with happiness instead of tears.
The former Captain pulled himself out of bed, throwing his gangly legs over the edge of the poor excuse of a mattress. A shake of his head detached the hair from sticking to his forehead. He then cradled his head in his hands. Two months. It had been two months relying on the dull day to day feet-dragging of being just another man with a van. Two months of solitude because he was unable to bring himself to face Carolyn, Douglas and Arthur. Two months without flying.
Douglas, of course, had breathlessly applauded him (in the Douglas-type of way: with a solid pat on the back and snarky comment followed by ‘Thank you, sir’) for landing without getting them all killed but it didn’t matter. He couldn’t fly. Ever. Again. No one else would hire him.
So what was the point?
At least there was enough time in the week to make enough money with van jobs to keep up another month’s worth of living with some extra to pinch and save. But it was far from keeping his spirits up.
This particular morning, as cold sweat ran down his back, was another van job. They were starting to dwindle, as winter was coming and no one needed nor wanted anything moved and was saving for the Christmas holiday. He was to be at the far end ofLondon this afternoon, to move a nice lady’s flat from one end, to the other. He had never met her before, but at least she sounded friendly.
Driving toLondonwas a pain. Because of the cold, the van didn’t start properly and he had to rope in some help from the agricultural students that eventually woke up to the sounds of his screeching engine pleading for release. Eventually, he got on the road. The radio was finicky and needed repairing, but it would fade in and out and was more than enough entertainment to keep his mind busy when it did work.
Finally, he reached the doorstep of a Miss Molly Hooper; Dr. Molly Hooper, actually, as he soon found out.
“Hi – I’m sorry, who…who are you?” She looked sweet, the kind of girl who would make friends with anyone in secondary school, and emanated warmth. She draped herself with several sweaters.
Martin awkwardly turned his feet in; his confidence that he strived to achieve when Captain disappeared despite the fact that he was, essentially, running his own company. And that surely was something to be proud of! “Oh, I’m… I-I’m Capt -…Martin Crieff. Of Icarus Removals?”
Immediately, her face lit up with a smile, slightly embarrassed that she had forgotten, and beckoned him into the warmth of her first floor flat. “Right! Right! I’m so sorry, it’s been… well… rather crazy around here recently.” She clasped her hands together, hidden beneath the overly large sleeves of her jumper, and glanced around the room. Clearly, she saw memories in the corners of her flat that no one but her (and perhaps the person she may have shared them with – certainly she had someone, what with how sweet she was, Martin thought) could see.
She cleared her throat. “Oh! Right! Sorry. Would you… would you like any tea?” She motioned to the tea kettle sitting empty on the stove-top and Martin shook his head.
“Oh, n-no thank… thank you. That’s very kind. Erm. What would you like me to – ”
The young woman’s cheeks burned. “Oh! Right! You’re … of course. Well. The furniture can stay. You see it’s not mine, really. Came furnished it did. But – most of my things are in labeled boxes,” she gestured to the flat which was filled with slightly chaotic stacks of brown cardboard boxes, labeled with their contents sealed safely inside. “Those can go first!”
Just then, a presence made itself known at Martin’s feet, purring loudly and brushing across his legs, arching its back. A brown tabby looked up at him with curiously large green eyes.
“Oh!” exclaimed the woman, “That’s Toby. He doesn’t go in the van!” she giggled off-handedly. “Of course, that was a silly thing to say – uhm, I’m… I’m Molly, by the way. Molly Hooper.” Molly stretched out a hand, and Martin, retracting his hands from his pockets, took it with a smile. She was nice, then. Even nicer than he had imagined from the mobile contact. What a pleasant change.
In a few hours, the job was done, smoothly and swiftly. All of the boxes were packed, and Molly offered to ride with him to show him the way. Despite their jovial, good-natured conversation while loading the van, their conversation was sparse while driving, both appearing rather awkward, and hesitant to say anything that might make things become unfriendly.
“So is this – is this what you do then? Not that it’s bad job… it’s – ” Molly’s attempt filled the front seats of the van with awkwardness, and Martin, carefully making a sharp right turn, tried to alleviate it as much as he could. The pride that he once held at being a pilot, a Captain, swelled in his chest.
“No, no it’s not. I mean. It’s not what I love, of course. I… It pays the bills,” he answered sadly.
Molly glanced over at him quickly, pulling the sleeves of her jumper over her hands and fidgeting before responding. “So what do you love?” her quiet voice asked; she seemed genuinely intrigued and it compelled Martin even more to answer her.
“Flying. I was a… I was a pilot. Not too long ago. A Captain, actually.” The pride wavered but he focused on the road; now was not the time to have a flashback to what had happened that fateful day with MJN air. Nor would there be tears in his eyes. So he settled for gulping down his pain, and gripping the steering wheel exceedingly hard. He didn’t notice Molly’s brimming smile before she settled her chin in her hand and glanced out the window, watching the city roll past.
Settling down with a cup of (mostly hot water) tea that night, Martin stared at the ceiling, a sigh nearly ripping his soul in half. Maybe people like him weren’t meant to be happy like Molly. Sure, the happiness one would acquire, such as that from being near such a wonderful person, would linger momentarily. But within a few hours, a day or so, the happiness would fade and it became increasingly hard to stay proud of one’s accomplishments.
Martin kicked off his shoes and crawled into bed that night, tea cup empty and head full of visions of Miss Molly Hooper’s smile. “Expect the payment in your post box soon, I promise!” She called. For once, Martin didn’t mind not getting paid up front. He trusted her immediately, something that was odd and new to him. They tentatively shook hands and while Martin’s back had turned, Molly timidly shut the door, watching his retreating back stealthily from the front window.
A mere few weeks later, the payment arrived. It was larger than he was promised, but he supposed it was her clever thinking to mail it and avoid his bashful modesty and refusal to take such an offer that settled the matter and made it impossible to return. A rent payment was due soon and just after a trip to the bank was a trip to the garage he could finally afford. His poor ramshackle hand-me-down van needed the breaks changed. While sitting in the unforgivable plastic waiting chairs, twiddling his thumbs, his mind jolted back to the girl – what was her name – oh yes, Molly… Her eyes and her smile had warmed his… what was it? His heart. What had Molly truly done? Been a kind soul to him? Offered friendship and likable, albeit awkward conversation? He shook her out of his thoughts. She was a client, she paid, and it was over with. It wasn’t worth burdening his thoughts with things that could not be, even if they did have the slightest chance of existing. And while Martin remembered nearly every stop he’d made as a man with a van, he doubted he’d ever get to see her face again.
Unless she decided to move once more. I doubt that, thought Martin, picking up a newspaper by his side. It was a rather nice flat.
But he does see her face again. There in black and white in the London newspaper (Fitton is too small to have a successful newspaper itself). Martin thumbed through the newspaper and reached the obituaries, stopping suddenly. It was out of habit that he tended to ignore this section. It made him sadder than usual – and today was without question. Molly Jean Hooper. 32. Stunned and in disbelief, Martin’s eyes made their way to the end of Molly’s column – what he was expecting he wasn’t sure. Just joking? Pulled your leg? Actually she received some sort of award? Anything but dead…Miss Hooper’s family requests that in lieu of flowers, all donations be made to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital; West Smithfield, City of London, EC1A 7BE.
Martin wasn’t sure if there had been tears in his eyes as he left the garage with the van keys back in his hands; he can’t remember. His mind had chosen to wipe the memory from existence. All Martin remembered was a smiling picture of the girl, the girl who made the job-from-hell a little brighter, in the newspapers with one solitary fact echoing in his mind as he drove home.
All good things must come to an end.