Dial A for Anthrax

Yeah, yeah, we all know revenge is a dish best served cold,

but what we forget is how far you have to travel for the right ingredients.

Dial A for Anthrax by Greg Leader Cramer

After I threatened to tell Grace everything, Tommy put his hands round my throat, eyes bulging. As he squeezed, he said, “This isn’t me.” I kneed him in the bollocks and he stopped squeezing and let me go.

I sat on the floor, fireworks exploding inside my eyeballs. Bertie, thinking we were playing, licked my face until I shoved him away. 

“Help me up, you bastard.”

He pulled me to my feet. “Sorry Debs.”

“For what? Nearly murdering me or dumping me?”

Tommy was a six foot three ex-pro rugby player with a serious body image issue. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes. “You can’t dump someone if you’re not in a relationship with them.” He lit one with a shaky hand. “Are you going to … you know …”

“Call it in?” I snatched the pack out of his hand and held it up to my ear. “This is DS Roberts. Yeah, I need to report an assault. I screwed my brother-in-law and then he tried to strangle me.” I threw the packet at him. “What do you think, Tommy?”

He put on his solemn face. “I care about you.” He flicked his ash into the kitchen sink. “You won’t say anything to Grace, right?”

“Oh fuck off you …” I fumbled for the right insult. “… you pencil-dicked ROIDHEAD.” 

He knew I wouldn’t say anything. My sister would probably die of a broken heart, but not before she’d taken me out first. How could she be with someone like that? A steroid freak with a Pekingese dog called Bertie, for god’s sake. Someone that would fuck his own sister-in-law. Grace deserved better.
I arrived at the mortuary just as the pathologist was beginning his internal exam of yet another homeless junkie. Simon waved a bloody hello with one gloved hand, and with the other, he pulled a large flap of skin off the torso and laid it over the face. He pointed to my feet. “You forgot your shoe covers.”

I glanced down to where my Manolo Blahniks peeped out from below my scrubs and gave him the finger. “Found anything?”

Simon was a big, jovial ball of fat and muscle with a silvery beard and naughty habits. Don’t ask me how I found out. Let’s just say he owed me a favor.

“Every body has its secrets.” Simon picked up a pair of shears and got to work detaching the ribcage. “Now, I’m not the detective here …” Simon, head down, waved in the direction of the workbench. “… but you might want to take a look at that.”

Bagged up on the bench was a small rectangular cellophane packet with a telltale brown tinge. “That was stuffed up her rectum.” There was a crack as Simon lifted up the chest plate, ribs and all. An earthy, muddy aroma permeated the room, mingling with the harsher chemical odors.

“And look at this.” Simon directed my gaze with his scalpel towards a nasty black abscess on the purple and swollen inner thigh. Its surface was encrusted with tiny bubbles. “Where she injected it. We’ll have to wait for the tests but you know what they’re going to say. Fifth one this month.”

There was a soft squelching sound as Simon lifted out the engorged heart and placed it onto a tray. “It comes from goats, apparently.”


“Goats. There was an outbreak three years ago, in Glasgow. They traced it back to an infected goat skin from Turkey.” Simon lifted something that wobbled like a small brown blancmange out of the chest cavity. “The heroin was wrapped inside the skins. They stank so bad customs refused to inspect them.”

“Is it safe? To handle, I mean. I could drop it off on my way past the lab.”

“Sure, thanks.” Simon had pulled out the stomach and was holding it up to the light. “Just don’t breathe in.” He was still chuckling as I left.

I had an hour, maybe two, before Tommy and Grace got home. Stopping off at a nurse’s station to pilfer some supplies, I bypassed the lab and walked out of the hospital. If anybody asked, I would say I was following up a lead. The department didn’t really give a shit when it was just a bunch of lowlife junkies OD’ing. People start dying of anthrax poisoning? Then they take notice.

I let myself in to Grace’s terraced house with my spare key and eased the door shut behind me. A yapping started up from the kitchen. Fuck. Not wanting to advertise my presence, I let Bertie out of the kitchen and spent the next minute shaking off his desperate licks.

With the dog still under my feet, I found the spare bedroom-cum-office where Tommy stored his stuff. I had searched enough shitholes to know where he was likely to hide his steroids. The neatly stacked books were obviously out of place. Nestling inside a hollowed out copy of “Red Machine: Liverpool FC in the '80s” was a battered old tin filled with the assorted works of a steroid abuser. Bingo.

 I cleared a space on the desk, assembled what I needed and put on my mask and gloves. A spoonful of contaminated heroin went into a beaker and mixed with a little water until it dissolved. I took a syringe and drew in 0.5ml of the liquid, then pushed the pin through the rubber stopper on a little brown glass bottle with a hand-written label: ‘D-Bol: 50mg/day’. I pushed the plunger in and let out a long exhale, not realizing I had been holding my breath the entire time.

Total concentration was still required to cover my tracks and Bertie whining and licking my Blahniks under the desk was not what I needed. “Do you have any idea …” I dabbed a couple of fingers into the heroin and proffered them to the dog. “… how much those shoes cost me?” Bertie licked my fingers clean and wagged his tail for more. 

Greg Leader Cramer is a sceptic and a realist with a taste for writing about the dark side. He recently took a course with Chuck Palahniuk, one of his literary heroes. Other influences include Denis Johnson, Irvine Welsh and Junot Diaz. He is a Londoner in exile in Mallorca, Spain.