Marta didn’t date English men. She found them a little coarse, at least the English men she had met through her brother, who was a site foreman. She was sharing her room in Acton with three other girls so it was always going to be hard to bring anybody home.
That changed when Marta had met Charlie at her job. She was the manager/barista at a tiny coffee concession at the Royal Fulham hospital. The light and echoey atrium at the hospital was not busy and Marta exploited this to do her homework. She was studying Swedish at night school. The reality of living in England hadn’t lived up to the one in her imagination. The London that she dreamt of from her childhood in suburban Warsaw didn’t have an overcrowded subway system, rude people and rents so punitive that the four friends had to share a pokey room in a tired terraced house. Yes, Stockholm was expensive but she’d spent a month there last year, really doing her research and getting a feel for the place before deciding to ditch London.
Charlie in black-rimmed spectacles and a white orderly’s uniform at the hospital was softly spoken, polite and quite handsome, although perhaps too thin to be healthy.
He blushed when Marta had offered him a Chocolate Kiss, a promotion the coffee company were offering around Valentine’s Day, and this she took as a good sign. She did wonder if he was gay, to begin with, what with him being so quietly spoken, but it became apparent he wasn’t. As Marta was finishing her shift Charlie would come onto his. They’d stroll around a little, sit and talk at the nearby cemetery where there was an avenue of broad cedar trees and a row of benches. They’d met for lunch for three weekends in a row and Marta was worried she was falling in love with him. She broke it off and it was painful. She didn’t want to be stuck in London for the sake of a man she hardly knew.
Charlie avoided the main atrium and elected to walk through Accident and Emergency these days so he wouldn’t have to see Marta.
When Marta had seen Charlie again, three months had passed and Autumn was approaching. He was paler than she had remembered. He can’t have been seeing any daylight, she thought. now that the days were getting shorter.
They went back to his flat, which she thought was a strange place. Yes, it was a clean and functional flat but it lacked any kind of personal touches. No picture frames, just a few boxes on the floor with his things in and a TV and a few some pots and pans. A single mug stood in the kitchenette and a small jar of instant coffee. There was a pizza box in the fridge. Nothing else. They had gotten a little tipsy on the bottle of Vodka Martha had brought along with a bottle of diet cola and had lain down on the mattress in Charlie’s bedroom. She had asked to turn off the harsh light of the bedroom that was just a bare bulb and, being that there were no curtains, she didn’t want the outside world looking in. He had asked her to take all her clothes and lay face down on the bed. His soft hands caressed her body and he quickly and silently came to orgasm after entering her from behind.
Two days later she went to the doctor’s surgery after she felt an itching down below. The female doctor had examined her vagina and then had stepped out of the room. When the doctor came back in she asked Marta about her recent sexual history and Marta told her. The doctor then asked her to wait in the waiting room.
Marta did so for a couple of hours before being called back into the consulting room.
Inside were two police officers, both male. Marta’s world caved in when the officers explained why they were there. What the doctor had spotted in her vagina and in her pubic hair were the eggs and larvae of corpse flies that she must have picked up from Charlie.
When the police turned up at her shared flat in Acton three days later the other girls wanted to know what was going on. Marta had not gone back to her job at the coffee bar and neither had “Charlie” turned up for work either.
It turned out that there was no “Charlie” who worked at the hospital. There was evidence that the mortuary had not been run as it should and that cadavers had been interfered with.
The police asked Marta to wait in the car outside another central London hospital where there were two other police cars in the car park.
Charlie was led out of a side door with his hands cuffed. He shot a glance at Marta who confirmed his identification.
Marta agreed to be a witness at the trial of Mark Whitfield, who had been dubbed “the mortuary ghoul” by the tabloids. He had a selection of different uniforms and identifications that he used to gain access to patients alive and dead.
Marta gave evidence via video link from her apartment in Stockholm.