Author: Roger Ley
He was enjoying his day off, after a hectic week starting a new job in a new city. The taxi drew up next to him as he was walking downtown. An old, pale looking man leaned out, he seemed familiar, perhaps he’d been on the interview panel a month ago.
“We have an emergency Dr. Munroe, they need you back at the hospital, it’s urgent, a difficult birth.”
Munroe climbed into the taxi, the older man described the case, he was obviously another obstetrician. Minutes later they drew up at the hospital, it looked Victorian, not the modern steel and glass structure where he’d been interviewed.
“Where is this?” he asked.
“This is the old building,” said his companion.
“I thought they’d turned it into apartments,” he said, but the other hurried him through the entrance doors and on down the main corridor. They entered the changing rooms, scrubbed up and walked through into the operating theatre. Its equipment struck Munroe as old-fashioned, out of date by thirty years at least, the members of the team looked up. They were all masked, gowned, capped, only their eyes were visible. The patient was prepped for a Caesarean, conscious but screened from the operation and himself.
“I’ll assist.” said the older man, “I prefer younger hands to do the cutting these days.”
The anaesthesiologist nodded and Munroe set to work. Thirty minutes later the old surgeon reached in and lifted the infant out. He smiled as he held it up.
“Thank goodness,” he said.
Munroe took the patient’s notes from the end of the bed.
“How funny,” he said, “she has the same name as my mother.”
The old man handed the baby to a nurse, almost snatched the notes from him, and rehung them.
“We need to hurry,” he said. “I hope you don’t mind if we make a slight detour on our way back, I have to attend a funeral, a close relative of mine, but it won’t take long.”
They changed back into their street clothes, the taxi rattled off once again and ten minutes later they turned into the municipal cemetery. The mourners stood at the graveside, the women wore veils, the men coats, hats, and scarves. Munroe and the old surgeon were at the back of the group. The vicar did the “dust and ashes” speech and, as the pallbearers lowered the coffin into the grave, Munroe glimpsed the name engraved on the brass plate on the top.
The two doctors walked back to the taxi and Munroe noticed the company logo stenciled on the side, “Styx Taxis.”
“What an unbelievable coincidence, the deceased had the same name as me, ‘Peter Munroe.’ ” They were sitting in the back of the taxi by this time.
“Yes, rather disconcerting for you, but personally I’m glad to have seen the old boy on his way.” He coughed delicately into a handkerchief and dabbed at his mouth missing the small streak of blood on his chin. He leaned forward, tapped on the glass and called to the driver “Take us back to the hospital please, intensive care.” He slumped back in his seat and coughed weakly, “I’m very tired.” He closed his eyes, his breathing slowed and seemed to stop. Alarmed, Munroe reached for his wrist and felt the weak, thready pulse.
The driver half turned towards the older man’s side of the taxi. “Nearly there Dr. Munroe,” he called.
Munroe held the old man’s hand as his pulse slowed and finally stopped.