Chapter Fourteen

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Four-and-a-Half Years Ago

“Natural causes?” Scott yelled out in such a loud voice that he even startled himself. “This is bullshit!”

The coroner, Dr. Mikhail Charuk, sat propped on a little round stool across from Scott and didn’t even blink at the harshly delivered words. They were in a small room, the same room that a patient would consult with a doctor in. And Charuk, a Sudbury coroner, ran this service out of the same office he ran his medical practice.

After years of seeing Coroners portrayed on television cop shows, Scott was a bit perturbed to find the Coroner assigned to his father’s death was not some eccentric weirdo clutching a ham sandwich in one hand while poking at the edge of a nasty raised edge of flesh on the end of a bloody wound, cracking off-color jokes and spewing out observations that both confused and turned the stomach at the same time, but rather a doctor who looked pretty much like every other doctor Scott had ever encountered.

The Coroner’s office was called in because in all cases where a patient dies in either a surgery or a recovery room, an autopsy and investigation has to be completed as part of the due diligence required by the hospital insurance board.

Charuk had just relayed his findings on the investigation into Lionel Desmond’s death. He was obviously used to delivering bad news and dealing with upset clients, because the next words he spoke were as calmly and meticulously delivered as all of his previous statements had been.

“Because treating cancer was the underlying reason for your father’s surgery,” Charuk said, “the findings have to reflect that. Under the circumstances, that is the closest, most logical of the reasons.”

“If we didn’t treat my father, if he hadn’t had the surgery, and if the cancer was allowed to grow and eventually killed him, that would be natural causes. I get that.

“But we didn’t do that. We sought treatment. He met with medical professionals. They operated on him, removed a kidney, and sewed him back up. Then, less than an hour later, while he was in the recovery room the clips on his renal artery came off.  Whether it was from a defect in the clips or the doctor’s incompetence, the clips came off. There’s nothing natural about that.”

“Under the circumstances…” Charuk began in that calm voice.

“I’m talking about the fucking circumstances!” Scott yelled, standing up and slamming the folder on the examining table beside him. “The fucking clips came off! He bled to death! Tell me what’s fucking natural about that!”

Charuk paused for a few beats and took a deep breath before he continued. “I understand that you’re upset, Mr. Desmond. But in a situation like this, the investigation had to lead back to the root cause, the reason why your father was in surgery in the first place.”

“This is utter fucking bullshit!” Scott yelled.  “If you’re not willing to admit this is either an accident or homicide, then you could at least have offered undetermined as the category for his death.” Scott had, of course, looked into the situation enough to understand the coroner’s role and the five questions they were expected to answer, including the final, most important one, the means by which they died.  The categories for that result were: natural causes, accident, homicide, suicide, or undetermined.

“I can see how you might feel this way.” Charuk said, his calm poker face unwavering – while that demeanor was likely meant to keep an angry or upset patient or family member stabilized, providing a consistent and comforting platform that they could come back to once their anger, tears or whatever high emotion they were running on had played itself out, all it did was further piss off Scott. “But the reason follows the chain back to the underlying reason why the patient was in the surgery.”

“The patient is my fucking father. And he is fucking dead. Thanks either to a quack who should be fucking sued and have his license taken away, or because of a defect in the clips that were used in his surgery.

“THAT is what you were supposed to be determining!  THAT is what I was expecting to hear. Not this goddamn fucking bullshit you’re spewing!”

“I am sorry you feel this way, Mr. Desmond. And, as I stated, I am truly sorry for your father’s loss. But the methodology for determining a death in these circumstances…”

“You can stick your methodology up your ass!” Scott screamed, picking the folder up off of the examining table and opening the door. “Thanks for wasting my time and doing sweet fuck all to look into this!”

“Mr. Desmond…” Charuk said, this time in a partially pleading voice, as if he were talking to an insane person. Scott had to admit that the anger flowing through him, the complete incredulous feeling about what was happening did make him feel insane – insane with rage, insane with disbelief, insane with anger over this situation.

“Go fuck yourself!” Scott said, slamming the door behind him and storming down the hall and out the waiting room past the stares and the fearful looks on the faces of the other patients who had obviously heard most of the exchange – or, at least, Scott’s side of the exchange, since he had been the only one yelling.

Leaving through the front door of the office, Scott felt the rage begin to subside, replaced by the tears of rage. He managed to get to his car, unlock the front door, slip inside and close the door behind him before the tears came out full blast.

“Dammit!” he said, pounding his hands on the dashboard and the steering wheel. “This is complete bullshit.  They’re hiding something, dammit. They’re covering something up, and I want to know what it is! Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!”

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