(I haven’t been writing lately. Life was just too busy for it. However, I made myself sit and write today. This piece isn’t anywhere near finished, but since I have been silent lately, I thought I would share what I am working on.)
He was stone cold by the time we got to his body. Rigor mortis had already set it, making his joints stiff and hard to move. That was a problem considering the victim was curled into the fetal position on his right side. We’d be destroying possible evidence if we forced his body straight to take a liver temp.
“Rigor means he’s been out here at least four hours. By the time we get him to County to unfold him, body temp will be useless.”
“We have no fucking clue when Grizzly Adams here bit the big one.”
I glared up at my partner, Steve Parsons with a look that would have cut a sane man to his knees. Instead the infuriating man smiled down at me. His jaws worked at a piece of gum. I could almost smell the mint from where I was crouched on the sidewalk. The sickening sweet smell mixed with the port-o-potty smell coming from the victim sent my stomach into a series of impressive back flips. The only thing more impressive was my ability not to vomit on the corpse.
“Show a little consideration, Steve. It’s a human being, not the blow up doll you popped last night.”
He gave me an Oscar-worthy look of sheer grief and clutched his hands to his chest. The bastard even managed to squeeze out a couple tears. I looked around to make sure he hadn’t drawn any more attention to us. Thankfully everyone was still buzzing around collecting evidence. No one wanted to stay with the body longer than they had to. I didn’t blame them.
“Knock off the waterworks, god damnit and lets get this over with.” I growled at him before shifting my weight and bringing one leg up to kick him hard in the shin.
“Ow, shit! Come on, Em. Let me have my fun. We all can’t be as serious as you are all the fucking time. A normal human would go stark raving mad staring at bodies all day. You seem to thrive on it.” He shook his head and knelt down on the opposite side of the body. “I don’t get you sometimes.”
“And you never will if you keep being a world-class jerk. Help me roll him.”
We both reached our latex incased hands under the body and with a lot of grunting and cursing managed to flip him onto his left side. He had to have weighted over two hundred pounds. My back would hate me tomorrow for moving that much weight.
Blissfully the victim’s shaggy hair fell over his face. That face would be scratched into my memory for a long time. He was blue. Not just the gray blue some bodies get after sitting outside for a while, but he was honest to god blue, like his skin had been dropped in a vat of blue food coloring. My first guess was that he had been strangled. But when I pulled down the collar of his dirty flannel shirt I couldn’t find any ligature marks. The skin on his neck was just as blue as his face, but there were no bruises, no burns from rope or fabric that had been used to choke him.
I moved aside the long, wavy mass of hair covering the left side of his neck. The dark brown strands wrapped around my hand like they had a mind of their own. I was forced to pull out a couple pieces just to get my hand free. Latex and hair simply do not mix sometimes.
“Now I know why you don’t date guys with long hair.” Steve said loud enough for a passing uniform to give us a quick glance.
“Shut up and look at this.” I pointed down to the body.
The only sign of anything and so far our only real piece of evidence was a single round bruise right on his jugular. A little blood had welled up out of a small puncture wound in the middle of the bruise. I looked up at the sea of uniforms and crime scene techs and spoke out enough for my voice to carry down the wide alley they were searching.
“Look for a needle or something that could make a very small puncture wound.”
“At least we finally got something. Can I have them come move him now?” Steve seemed almost relieved that we were done with the body.
I reached into the pocket of the victim’s faded camouflage pants and pulled out a worn leather wallet. Carefully I peeled the leather apart and searched for an ID. There wasn’t much in the wallet. A blood donor card, an old library card, and a condom so past its use by date that the latex in the foil crumbled as I moved it aside. Finally I found his ID and pulled it free.
“Nikolas Paradiso. From Georgia.”
“What the fuck was he doing in sunny California? That’s a long way from home to drop dead.” He reached across the body with a clear evidence bag and I dropped the wallet and ID in. “I’ll run him and see if he’s got any family we can contact.”
“I’m going to follow him to the morgue. I’ve gotta know what the hell they shot him up with.”
“Its your nightmares, Em. Spare me the juicy details. I’ll stick to the boring police stuff.” Steve said, a note of sadness in his voice.
I looked up and met his concerned gaze. Since we had been partners for the past two years, we had got close. Not close in the way that some seem to think, but more like brother and sister close. Steve was worried that one day a case would come along and swallow me up completely. He just couldn’t understand how or why I can deal with the dead bodies while he spent his time trying to avoid them.
“I’ll be fine. Give me a call if you find the family, OK?” I gave him a smile that was meant to reassure him. Instead he frowned deeper and walked away.
“Yeah, bye to you too.” I muttered at his retreating back.
A fresh-faced young man wheeled a gurney up behind me. A shiny black body bag was folded up and slung over his thin arm. I almost wanted to laugh. If he thought he was going to move that body on his own, he was more ambitious than I ever was. Luckily another young man, in nearly identical coveralls walked up and took the body bag from the other.
“You done?” The first one asked. His voice was so small, so quite that I almost had to lean in to hear him. I was betting this was his first, maybe second crime scene. The kid was lucky that they didn’t have to scrape this one off the pavement. My first scene had been a hit and run. There wasn’t enough left of the woman to pour into a gallon bag.
“Yeah, but let me know when you are leaving. I’m following you back to County.”
“Yes, M’am.” Replied the kid.
I stood and left them to wrestle the body into the bag. It wasn’t my job, even though I felt uneasy having two kids fresh out of whatever college they had gone to handling the body. So what if I felt possessive? I took personal responsibility for every body I investigate. That way I have no one but myself to blame when I fail to find who did it.