Thursday, June 30, 2005


Me and this annoying kid named Tyler at the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center. Posted by Hello

My rental car. Posted by Hello

Puerto Rican jungle city. Posted by Hello

6/30/05a

8:19 a.m. Yesterday afternoon I headed back to my hotel in San Juan. I decide that I'll bring my swimsuit tomorrow and stay the afternoon on the west (oeste) side of the island. The beaches here are less crowded and the sun setting over the water promises to be spectacular. I'll get pics.

I pass an old pick-up truck loaded with freshly picked bananas. They are in huge bunches of probably a hundred bananas, still on the stalks. The stalks themselves are green and about the diameter of a baseball.

I almost fall asleep at the wheel a couple of times. The lack of sleep is catching up with me. Amazingly, I make my way back to the hotel alive and immediately fall into bed. I am out for three hours. When I wake up I decide to go out in the streets and take in some of the local color. (or colores, as we say in Pwerrto Reeco!) I put on a sundress and flip flops and walk down the 10 flights of stairs to the lobby. On the way down I decided that I hate this hotel and everybody associated with it.

I walk to the front desk and ask the clerk when the elevator will be fixed. I am greeted with a blank, slightly panicked smile. "Soon." he says with a friendly smile. I am powerless to that smile. The front desk clerk is adorable. He is bit young for me, but there's no law against looking. I smile back and head for the door, my foul mood suddenly lifting.

Outside it is not the sunny paradise I was anticipating. It is drizzly and overcaste, though still very warm. I walk a little ways down the street and am almost immediately approached by a mangy-looking homeless guy. He is emaciated and looks at me with hollow eyes asking for "un dolor or un quarter". I hand him my loose change. Usually I don't give money to the homeless, but this guy is obviously starving and I can't help but have compassion for him. I go to a few shops and decide that I could easily spend all my expense money on clothes.

As I leave a clothing store and walk down the street further I notice that the women here wear very tight, colorful clothes. And it doesn't matter how old or how big they are. I smile. Everyone is hurrying along with newspapers over their heads and umbrellas open. I am getting soaked but I don't care. It's warm and refreshing.

I stop for some fries at a barbecue place. There is a woman cutting potatoes by the counter and I call to her. "Lo siento," (that's how I start every sentence..by apologizing.. for my spotty Spanish, for being a stupid gringa...for staying in a fancy hotel down the street while she spends hours standing in front of a deep frier) "Lo siento, senorita, tengo las papas, por favor?" She turns her head and looks at me. I am a little taken aback. The right side of her face is covered in tumors that drag her mouth down into a macabre frown. The bone under her flesh is also affected and has distorted her mandible into a discordant asymmetry with the other, more delicate side. I've seen this before. Her tumors have probably been growning for a few years and will continue to do so for the rest of her life. Her prognosis isn't good. She can choose to go through painful surgeries to sheer off the extra bone growth and cut out the skin tumors, but they will only grow back over time.

I get my fries and eat them slowly while I stand under an awning. I watch pigeons picking through garbage across the street. I am thinking about how lucky I am.

6/30/05

6:59 a.m. I ate deer brains for dinner last night. And they were pretty good, too. I'm not sure what possessed me to order deer brains other than the fact that I was in a very fancy French restaurant and wanted to try something I'd never eaten before. I am glad I got dressed up when I walk down from my room. I knew it would be posh, but I am still a little surprised. This restaurant is supposed to be the best on the island.

The servers are in crisp black suits and bow ties. I am seated at a table overlooking the pool in the center of the room. Very nice. There are several groups of people around me dressed to the nines in suits and sparkly dresses. I smooth down my dress. I am wearing a black and white knee length Asian style dress with black heels. My hair is up in a French Twist.

I cross my legs and sit back in my chair. I am an observer. It is my job. So I enjoy watching the interactions of the buisness people and couples surrounding me. After a few minutes, I pick up the menu. I decide on the deer brain appetizer, a halibut entre with a lovely white sauce that reminds me of lobster bisque, and a chocolate souffle with orange sauce for dessert. The food is fantastic and I savor every bite. Um.. except I can't finish my brains. It's not that the flavor is bad. They are rather neutral, actually, and seem to take on the flavors they are mixed with. I think it's the texture that bothers me. They have the consistency of a stiff pudding or cooked eggs. I slice off a cross section and look closer. The little anatomist in my mind notes the lack of gray matter. Deer aren't very bright. Still, I am a slightly disturbed to be eating another animal's brain. Can you get Mad Cow Disease from a deer? Mad Deer Disease?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I just realized I'm set up in the municipal police parking lot. Posted by Hello

6/29/05a

8:16 a.m. Well, I'm on surveillance. Somewhere. The streets aren't marked and neither are the houses. Until it's later in the day and I can call, I won't know for sure where Subject's residence is. I go to the Gonzalez Bakery just up the street and ask the cashier where Calle de Caliente is. She speaks pretty good English and tells me (generally) where to find it. I THINK I'm on the right steet, anyway.

I go to the Burger King before I start surveillance this morning. (I have to use the little damas' room.) When I get back to my car a short man in a white wife-beater tank top has his face pressed against my passenger side window with his hands cupped at the corners of his eyes. He is checking out my equipment. I raise my right hand in the air and yell across the parking lot. "Hey!" The man, who looks about 20-years-old, smiles and waves at me before walking off. That was weird. Probably best if I put my stuff in the trunk when I leave the car from now on. I am not used to a vehicle without super dark tint on the windows.

Oh! I think I've got my Subject. Or at least somebody that will pass as him. An old man is out on the patio of his house. He's moving slow and seems pretty frail.

There are three palm trees in the yard. One has coconuts on it. Hmmm. I've always had this fantasy about climbing a palm tree and dropping a coconut on the unsuspecting head of somebody below. Maybe I just watched too many Tom and Jerry cartoons when I was a kid.

The people live in such poverty here. The roads are cracked and full of potholes. Most of the houses are tiny beat-up shacks with tin roofs. Strings of laundry hang on the sides of houses or over balcony railings. Almost every residence is surrounded by a white painted caste iron or chain link fence.

I watch as a small rooster wanders along the fence of a house. Two stray dogs stand at a street corner while another one crosses to them from the other side. They take turns sniffing each other before the lot of them go loping off through a yard, tongues hanging out of their mouths.

It's already very hot and it's only 8:30am.

Check out Condom World Guy's hat. Posted by Hello

The view. Posted by Hello
4:45 a.m. Being an eternal optimist, I will entitle this post: At Least I Got The Toilet To Work. I am writing from a gas station somewhere in Puerto Rico. Here are a few things that have happened so far since I arrived.

It takes four hours to get from the airport to the car rental place and then to my hotel. When I finally get the bag that they made me check, I drag it outside and as soon as I leave the air conditioning almost pass out from the humidity. Dang. It's hot here. I feel like I'm wilting. I hear you get used to it, but I can't imagine ever feeling comfortable in this.

So I spend a couple of hours at the car rental place and am now stuck on the freeway. Traffic is stopped. I figured out the mystery of why PR highways are always so jammed up, though. It is because Puerto Ricans need better cars. There were three stalled vehicles abandoned right in the middle of the road during afternoon rush hour.

So, I get to the hotel and they give me a room on the 10th floor. I can even see the water from up here. Nice. I run a bath of tepid water, which is as hot as I can get it. The French Restaurant in the lobby doesn't open for an hour yet, but I am famished. I haven't eaten since the bag of peanuts on my flight. I look in the phone book for delivery. Papa John's!!!! Just like home. I call and it takes me at least 20 minutes to make my order. I DID attempt to speak Spanish, but the lady just seemed more confused than ever so I abandoned that tactic and just started speaking loudly into the receiver. That always works. Eventually.

I was disappointed in the Puerto Rican sausage, by the way. They don't have very flavorful cow parts here.

So, I discovered that the toilet doesn't flush. Huh. A quandry. I take the lid off the tank and look around inside. I will not be sticking my hand in there, uh uh. Green algae goop is all over. Yuck! Looks like something those crazy Califorians would drink because they think it's good for them. That's five servings of vegetables right there!

I move on to other things. My computer is not working very well. It's connecting but it's VERY slow. I set the alarm and crash. I got an hour of sleep last night.

I am awakened by loud voices in the room next to mine. The walls are paper thin. A couple. They are giggling and happy. Shut up, happy people. They woke me up a few times, but I made up for it with my loud alarm clock at 4am. I hear somebody over there groan. Take that, happy couple!

I walk into the bathroom and have an epiphany. I pull UP on the toilet handle. It worked! Things are starting to look up. I get dressed and pull my hair back. I call down to the front desk and ask them to bring my car around. I gather up my equipment and head to the bank of elevators. I hit the button. And wait. And wait. 5 minutes. I hit the button for the fourth time and realize the elevator is not stopping at my floor. Great. I gather my bags and head to the stairwell. Five minutes later I am huffing and puffing as I enter the lobby. The doorman is there waiting for me with a big smile on his face.
"I....the... elevator isn't working." I huff. He smiles and says, "Yes. Not on the 10th floor." Huh. Thanks for that update. When I have more time I'll be moving to a different room on a different floor with a flushing toilet and everything.

I get in my car and take a left onto the street. (or calle, as we say here in Pwerrto Reeco!) I drive for a little while and pass a van. It blinks its brights at me. Damn. Is that a cop? I can't tell. I pull over and a van full of strapping young police officers pulls up next to me. He rolls down his window, so I do the same. I smile my most charming American Gringa smile and say, "Can I help you?" The guy nods knowingly when he hears me speak and says, "You are driving the wrong way." Oh. He continues, "This is a one way street, but I will let you go this time. If you are going to the freeway, take a left at the next light." I thank him and continue driving the wrong way on a one way street. This is not a good start. I am anticipating several traffic related mishaps.

Stay tuned....

38th time I've tried to send this crappy picture of me... Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

6/28/05b

What is this crap?? It's raining. I want my money back...

6/28/05a

It's Saturday night, almost midnight. The next shift will be starting in 45 minutes. I sigh. You've put it off long enough, Polly. I kick my work boots off the table and sit up. I dog-ear the page in my book and set it aside as I stand. Stretch. Take a sip of warm Diet Coke.

The fluorescent lights in the investigative section, with their all-encompassing brightness, salve my growing discomfort. I walk to a drawer and pull out a gunshot residue kit (GSR). As I do so, I peer out the threshold of the office into the shadows of the outer corridor. Dark. Blind. Alone. The tenuous comfort the light offered just a moment ago shatters like a lie.

I take a deep breath and look around. The room is suddenly too bright and too sterile and the falseness of my little cocoon is further revealed in the inky blackness beyond the windows. I pick up my keys and head down the dark hallway. The rubber soles of my shoes squeak on the chalk white tiles as I move. I wonder to myself why all the d├ęcor is white. The answer comes to me almost immediately. Everything in this place is designed to look clean and innocuous. Another lie.

This building, or more accurately this complex of three buildings, is a state-of-the-art facility. Carefully planned for its unsavory purpose of processing bodies. The first building houses the office's reception area, and conference rooms. That is where I am now. I exit Building One and walk across an outdoor breezeway. A floodlight mounted on the wall teams with flying insects attracted to the brilliantly glowing globe. I stop at a heavy steel door, unlock it and pull. It is pitch dark inside and I grope for the light. As soon as I flick the switch I hear a stuttering electric buzz and a cascade of light works its way down the corridor before me.

The second building has two floors, the entire top level being a high-tech forensic toxicology lab and the bottom level housing the body receiving area, cooler, autopsy suite, and the offices of the autopsy technicians.

There is a third building. Smaller. It has a separate ventilation system, an autopsy station, a boiler for removing flesh from bone, and a cooler. This building is for decomp cases. I don't go in there much. It is infested with blowflies that constantly swarm visitors. When I do go in it is to gather bloody, wet clothing that has been laid out to dry on a specially ventilated rack. Dried blood and liquefied fat leave these clothes stiff, as if they've been starched. They are carefully folded over a white sheet so that no trace is lost in transferring them to an evidence bag.

I walk down the hallway in Building Two and take a left into the autopsy suite. Banks of stainless steel sinks and bleached white cutting boards line the north and south walls. To the east there is a series of cabinets and to the west there is a large set of metal double doors leading to the cooler. I walk to the doors, pulling on latex gloves as I go. I turn the latch and there is a loud click. The door resists for a moment and then swings open. I wait as a fine mist rolls out and then dissipates before I walk in.

One of my greatest fears is being trapped in the cooler. And even though I know that it cannot lock from the inside, fear boils up from the very core of me when I hear the latch click softly at my back. The room fairly vibrates as the cooling system hisses along the low ceiling. I hate being in here. I hate it more tonight than ever.

Metal trays with bodies wrapped in heavy clear plastic fill the space. I wade through the macabre scene, looking for a particular body. A young woman, we still don't know her name, stabbed, beaten and repeatedly run over by a car. So mutilated is she that it's hard to tell that she's been shot. A routine x-ray revealed the bullet lodged in the thick bone of her jaw. I am just about to pull the tray out from its place against the wall when my cell phone rings. I yelp despite myself and put my hand to breast. My heart trips a staccato beat. I let it ring a few more times so I can compose myself. Then I pull off a glove and hit talk. “Hello?” My voice sounds weirdly muted in the cooler. You would expect it to echo with all the metal and concrete.

It's dispatch. There's been a homicide at the Greenville Motel near the beach. The detectives have requested the ME.

Sorry guys. I hate to leave you hanging, but my battery is about to die.

More later....

6/28/05

8:27 a.m. I just had the nice girl next to me take my picture as I blog-Right this very minute-LIVE!. Unfortunately, I can't upload it because my USB is in my body bag and the jerks made me check it at the gate. It was only maybe a little bit big. (Okay, it took up the whole bin.) But I fly with it all the time and I've never had to check it before.

If my camera is broken DELTA Airline heads will roll. I will kick some DELTA Airline butt. DELTA Airlines will be cryin' for it's mamma. (I'm testing to see if the CEO of Delta comes to my site like the CEO of Ferrero Rocher did when I was talking about Nutella the other day.)

Oh, good. We're boarding.

Hasta luego, mis amigos! I'll post the murder/suicide story this afternoon.

Monday, June 27, 2005

6/27/05c

10:19 p.m. I plan to write a blog entry on the plane tomorrow about a murder suicide. It will give me something constructive to do en route to Puerto Rico. (Note: Everytime I write "Puerto Rico", what I really mean is... "Pwwwerrrto Rrreeeco!")

My flight will get in at 2pm, so I will spend the afternoon getting my bearings. After I check into my hotel I might just drive out to my first case since I don't relish the thought of getting lost in the middle of Puerto Rico (Pwwwerrto Rrreeeco!) at 4am. Of course, it might be worse getting lost in Puerto Rico (Pwwwerrto Rrreeeco!) at night.

Anyway, I don't plan on spending much time in my room while I'm there. I will be taking in the sights. Going to the beaches. Taking a tour of the rain forest (the only one in the U.S., folks. At least that's what I read. What about Hawaii?). Maybe I'll even learn how to scuba dive. And though I doubt very much that my wireless will be up, I still intend to take plenty of pix and post them daily along with updates on my cases.

Speaking of cases, I DO have to work at least a little while I'm there. I've been mapping out directions to my three surveillance locations. They are all on the other side of the island from San Juan in VERY remote areas. So remote, in fact, that there are no maps to the houses I'm looking for...just vague references to crossroads "near by". I am thinking I'll end up doing my surveillance in the middle of a marijuana field somewhere.

6/27/05b

3:32 p.m. I figured out why Hummer gets picked up so much. He looks like a scary stalker/child molester. Very heavy. Comb-over hairdo. Dressed in a dirty t-shirt, knit shorts, and calf-high white gym socks with sandals. Think of Dom Deluise only not funny and creepier.

The first thing Hummer says to me is, "Wow! You look just like I imagined you would from your voice. Can I take a few pictures for my wife?" For your wife? It's a strange request for having known me in person for a mere 15 seconds, but I'm always happy to mug for the camera. "Uh...sure."

We chat for 20 minutes or so and Hummer offers to take me to dinner but I have to decline (phew) because I still have to get ready for my trip tomorrow.

I went to the lawyer lady's office. But first I call and set up an appointment for a divorce consult tomorrow at 10am. Note: She's totally crooked. She charges $250 an hour and works out of an amazing high rise building and still has the gall to commit insurance fraud?

It is tough getting in the building, but I am determined. I take film outside and then pack my camera back in my spy purse. The security desk is in front of me and the bathrooms are to the right. I am supposed to sign in as soon as I show up, but there are a few people already in line so I make a right toward the bathrooms, hoping that the stairwell will be open. I look over toward the security desk. He's distracted. I turn the doorknob. No dice. Locked. I notice there is a food court down an open flight of stairs, though, and I go down there hoping for another way up. Yes! A bank of elevators. I ride up to the 10th floor and get off. Another security desk. The second I walk out the guard asks me where I'm headed. Damn. I feign lost and glance around as best I can before being directed back downstairs. I ask if I can use the restroom and I am told that there is one in the lobby. Double Damn. I hit play on the camera remote and at least get a shot of the nameplate on Subject's door.

I stop in the lobby bathroom and take off the hated pantyhose, shove them in my purse, and head home to pack.

6/27/05a

8:54 a.m. I forgot Hummer is working a case in Chicago today. Since I'm about 15 minutes from his case, I am going to swing over there after I'm finished snooping around the law firm and we'll meet face-to-face for the first time.

6/27/05

6:47 a.m. I am hating life right now. I stand in the bathroom stall at the BP station trying to adjust the pantyhose I just bought. Almost...there. I do a plie that a prima ballerina would envy. Squat. Kick. And repeat. For some reason I think of Ms. Grant from Fame. You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start payin'. Amen, sister.

I put my pumps back on and buy a liter bottle of Diet Coke and a V8 juice. When I walk outside I am immediately hit by crushing heat and humidity. Within seconds I am sweating. I unbutton my suit jacket and drape it over the back of my seat before entering the truck. The leather seats are blistering hot on the back of my thighs. And it's not even 8am yet. My mood could not get worse.

The phone rings. It's Stinky Jimmy. "Hello?" Stinky Jimmy is very upset about Hummer getting picked up on Friday and not calling it in. As I'd predicted, he wants Hummer's head on a platter. I spend 10 minutes trying to calm him down and finally convince him to give Hummer one more chance...at least until I can get a replacement for him.

I must confess that over the months I have begun to feel a slight sense of maternal responsiblity for Hummer. He doesn't mean to be bad. And anyway, how would he make it out there in the big world all alone? He'd be eaten alive. It would be like throwing a puppy into a pool of sharks.

I am doing a little extra work on the lawyer case today. I will take photographs of her office, enter the building. Talk to her on the phone. I was originally intending to do it on Friday, but the client said they would prefer a Monday, instead. I did a little digging yesterday and found that this lawyer caters to the Chinese-American population. I am something like 1/16 or 1/32 Chinese. I adjust the rearview mirror so I can study my face. Hmmm... I look about as Chinese as Kim Cattrall did in Big Trouble In Little China. (That would be not very.)

More later...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

6/26/05

10:23 a.m. Anybody been to Puerto Rico? I've been reading THIS BLOG and so far I have obtained the following advice:


1) Don't speak Spanish to the natives or they will think you're a gringo.

2) Don't speak English to the natives or they will think you're a gringo.

3) Don't wear shorts around the natives or they will think you're a gringo.

4) Being a gringo is bad.

5) Don't drive or you will be hit by a car.

6) Don't walk or you will be hit by a car.

7) Watch out for hurricanes.

Okay, tell the truth... Does this swimsuit make me look fat? (Last one, I swear...) Posted by Hello

Mmmmm...Nutella. Hazelnut and chocolatey goodness. You can find it by the peanut butter. Posted by Hello

Now all I need is David Hasselhoff and I'm ready for Puerto Rico! Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 25, 2005

6/25/05

7:56 a.m. Right now I am eating Nutella straight from the jar. It's been one of those mornings. Last night, around 6pm, I got a call from Sugar, the supervisor out east. Sugar and Hummer are friends and Sugar is the one that got him the job with my company. "Did Hummer call you?" she asks. I can hear Sugar chewing on something. Gum? Pork rinds? "Uh, no." I sit down. "What's going on?"

According to Sugar, she and Hummer had been talking on the phone yesterday...just shooting the breeze...and Hummer happened to mention he thought he might have gotten picked up by his Subject. Might have? Sugar tells me that Hummer had been following the Subject all day and when he passed her house after she'd returned home she pointed at his vehicle while talking on a cell phone. Hummer decided to go a few blocks away and lay low for a while. A few minutes later, a cop pulls up behind him. It appears that the Subject had noticed him several times that day and was concerned she was being followed. The cop let him go after he found out Hummer wasn't a stalker or a serial killer.

But do you think Hummer broke off and called corporate? Of course you don't.

I am royally pissed off for a number of reasons, one of which being I had to get a call from another supervisor telling me what happened. I can't believe what I am hearing and after thanking Sugar, I hang up and call Hummer.

Hummer greets me cheerfully when I call and I almost feel bad for what is about to happen. "Hummer, I just got a call from Sugar." He becomes very quiet on the other end. I continue. "I hear that you were picked up today." Hummer stutters and says, "Well, I wasn't sure if I was picked up or not." I struggle not to ask him if he is really that dumb or if it's just an act. "Hummer...she pointed at you and called the cops on you." Silence.

"Hummer, did you call corporate?" I know full well he didn't but sometimes you need to rub a bad puppy's nose in the mess he made. "No," he says, "I didn't think I had to call unless she identified me as an investigator." This is such a rediculous statement that I laugh. "And how is she supposed to do that, Hummer? Yell after your car asking if your a private investigator?"

I interviewed enough liars when I was a federal agent that I know all I have to do is keep asking questions and he will eventually get caught in his own web. "Hummer, you've been working for this company for three years. You've been picked up before. You've called corporate before when you knew it was appropriate. Don't try and tell me you didn't know if you were picked up. She called the COPS on you, for Pete's sake!" More silence.

"I want you to call corporate immediately." (It's 8pm there and I'm fully aware nobody will answer). "Then I want you to send me an email explaining exactly what happened and why you didn't contact the office immediately when you knew you were picked up. You will explain in that email why you didn't break off the surveillance and instead chose to stay on for two more hours and further jeopardize the integrity of the investigation." I want you to write me a two page essay entitled, 'Common Sense And Why I Lack It'.

I hang up with Hummer and decide to have another slice of pizza. If I was a drinking woman, now would be the perfect time. I walk outside in my bare feet. The sun has gone down and the neighborhood is quiet. The sidewalk is still warm from being baked by the hot sun all day. As always, I head to the rocks and find my happy place with the seagulls and the pounding surf.

This morning I am awakened at 6:30am by a ringing cell phone. It's Hummer. He is appropriately contrite and tries to explain that he didn't want to disappoint me and that was why he didn't report being picked up. He admits that he screwed up and promises it will never, ever, ever happen again. An image of a submissive dog exposing its belly flashes into my mind and I am embarrassed for Hummer. He either really is that submissive or he's desperate to keep this job and will go to any length to do so. We have a more calm and rational discussion about what happened. I tell him that it's going to be rough and Stinky Jimmy will want to fire him but that I will handle it. (Cuz I'm the good cop.)

After I get off the phone I turn on a little Ella Fitzgerald. Someday. When I'm awfully low...when the world is cold...I will feel a glow just thinking of you. And the way you look tonight. I sit back in my Lazyboy and listen as a sweet ache fills my heart. With each word your tenderness grows...tearing my fear apart. And that laugh that wrinkles your nose...touches my foolish heart. Images of love lost and happier days flash behind my closed eyes. It hurts and I embrace it. Welcome it. I let it wash through me like a cleansing rain. Charming. Never, never change. Keep that breathless charm. Won't you please arrange it? Cause I love you. Just the way you look tonight.

Friday, June 24, 2005


CHEER UP!!  Posted by Hello

6/24/05 WARNING: GRAPHIC/DISTURBING

7:34 a.m. I'm at home today. At least for a while. The lawyer I've been surveilling didn't do much over the past few days. Now I get to snoop around her law offices and do some real detective work. She is a divorce lawyer, so I am going to physically enter her office today under pretext of seeking a divorce.

I still haven't heard back from Corporate about postponing the case I had on Monday with the house for sale. I will request to rent a car if they are going to insist that I spend the weekend on this case. I'm sure the husband would recognize my truck, otherwise.

Well, here is Part II of my first cases. Be aware that there is some graphic description here. (Put down the sausage biscuit.)

I walk out of the autopsy suite and am greeted by Mullet, who is heading in. He tells me that we've got another case and I'd better stick around. The Chief ME is just finishing sectioning what is left of the mother's liver. Mullet tells him there is a call out on the military base. A pedestrian hit by a truck. We load into the Explorer once more and I call Dwight.

Cases on military bases are tricky. There are several levels of law enforcement fighting for jurisdiction. When we arrive, NCIS, military police, and the sheriff's office are all there comparing notes. "Who's the lead on this?", Mullet asks. Two people answer. Oh, dear. A tall, handsome man in a black suit hands me a bag of personal belongings that he'd taken off the body. Mullet is furious and asks the NCIS agent, Agent Mulder, what makes him think he can touch a body before the ME arrives. Mulder becomes indignant and huffs that we are on a military base and the procudures of the surrounding community do not apply. I roll my eyes and step out of testosterone range.

I put on a pair of latex gloves and open the bag of belongings. A wedding ring. A watch. A wallet. I take out the wallet and set the bag on the hood of the Explorer. Inside there are several hundred dollar bills. A few credit cards. A driver's license. I examine the license. He was an older man, maybe late 50's. Against my better judgement, I begin flipping through the pictures. Grandchildren. Ugh. He and his wife on some recent vacation. I close the wallet and take a deep breath.

The vic was a construction worker. He was from the south of Florida and came up here on contract to work a job with a friend. They were supposed to be widening a narrow bridge that handled a lot of base traffic. This afternoon he was directing cars over the bridge because the flatbed of an 18-wheeler was blocking one lane. A car wanted to pass and it would be a tight squeeze, so the vic stepped between the wheel-wells of the flatbed. He motioned the car across the bridge, but the driver of the flatbed, his best friend, thought he was signalling him to pull forward. The man was run over pretty much from toe to head.

I pull back the sheet that had been place over the body and almost wretch. He'd fallen on his back. His left leg and hip were crushed, the foot twisted in an unnatural angle. I open his shirt to examine his torso and am not surprised to find that every rib in his chest is broken, a few jagged edges tearing through the flesh.

His head, well, it had collapsed under the pressure of the tire. Pinkish gray brain matter spilled out of the left eye socket and the top of the skull where it had broken open. A large pool of blood surrounded the head and, in the hot summer heat, was separating into its serum and proteinous parts. His face has morphed into a grotesque, deformed mask. I have to look away.

I never speak to the best friend. He was too distraught and had been taken to the base hospital to be sedated. The foreman of the construction crew isn't a whole lot better. He stands back several paces from the action, his face full of shadows and anxiety. After the body has been loaded and we are about to leave, he pulls me aside and says, "How can you do this kind of work? I would hate your job. Doesn't it get to you?" Yes.

I take him over the to a bench under a pavillion and we discuss what happened. He wipes tears from his eyes when he explains that he has to call the vic's wife to tell her. I offer to have local law enforcement make the announcment, but he insists that he would rather do it than have a stranger come knocking at her door.

When I get home from work that night I drop my bags by the door and kick off my shoes. I take off my jacket and grab a cold drink out of the fridge. Out on the back porch I can hear the bullfrogs croaking in the swamp several hundred feet away. I sit in a lawn chair and stare out into the night. I am doing okay until my dog comes up and puts his head on my knee. He licks my hand and looks up at me mournfully. I start to cry.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

6/23/05b

10:25 a.m. The detectives and the ME investigator arrive on scene and find the victim lying on the sidewalk in a pool of blood. Her husband, obviously distraught, is sitting in the back of a cruiser. According to Detective Flap, they went out looking for the assailant soon after getting a physical description from the husband. That was when they ran across young Brenton Butler who, when questioned, said he was on his way to the library. The detectives thought this sounded fishy. A young black man going to the library on a Sunday morning? Despite the fact that he's younger and shorter than the man in the physical description, they take him back to the scene and present him to the victim's husband. The husband looks at Brenton for a moment and says, "Yes. That's him. I recognize his shoes." His shoes. That part never got on the witness stand because prosecuting attorneys obviously knew how flimsy it sounded.

Brenton was taken into custody. The victim's purse and a murder weapon were nowhere to be found. There was no evidence of the blood spatter splash-back on his hands and clothes that would very likely have been present had he shot a woman at point blank range only hours before. I'm sure a gunshot residue kit (GSR) was run on him and came back negative. Still, they had an eye witness. Open and shut. Detective Flap is adamant when he says, "He's as guilty as hell. I know he did it." I glance at Carl, who is looking down at a spot on the floor.

There are more people present at murder autopsies than during most others. As a general rule, the homicide detective must be present to witness the medical examiner's findings firsthand. Detective Flap walks into the autopsy suite and looks down at the victim. Her face is shredded and broken to the point that her own mother wouldn't recognize her. "I think it was a heart attack," he jokes.

You have to understand that people who are surrounded by death all day are not irreverent because they're jerks. It's a coping mechanism. How else do you handle walking into, for example, a scene where you are faced with a black, bloated body teaming with maggots and oozing decomp fluid through the floorboards? How else can you deal with a smell so bad it makes your eyes water? It's about that time that somebody says, "I'm thinking fried rice for lunch today, how about you?" And you laugh. And you are grateful to that person for reminding you that you can laugh.

Anyway, another detective was involved in this case. He happened to be the sheriff's son and the only black detective in homicide. Apparently, he was recruited to befriend Brenton in order to get a confession out of him. When Brenton refused to confess, however, the detective took him out in the woods and worked him over. Brenton was then subject to hours of interrogation without the benefit of an attorney or his parents. He was only 15-years-old and his mother and father were frantic with worry. The authorities didn't bother calling to inform them that their son was in custody until late in the evening. By that time, Brenton had confessed.

At the trial the detectives were torn apart by the public defender assigned to Brenton's case. While being questioned, Detective Flap was asked why he wrote Brenton Butler's confession instead of Brenton writing it himself. Flap smiled smugly and said something like, "Because I didn't know if he could write."

Detective Carl was visibly nervous on the stand and couldn't answer basic questions. The attorney made him look like a bumbling idiot, which is unfortunate. Carl's big mistake through all this was not having the confidence to stand up to Flap. He had it in him and just never did it.

The sheriff's son should never have been a homicide detective in the first place, in my opinion. He was friendly and always had a kind word for me, but he coasted along and didn't really care about his cases. He let other people do the work. On the stand he flat out denied physically coercing Brenton, despite photographs later taken of fresh bruises on the young man's face.

Given my perspective, it's hard for me to resolve the corruption surrounding this case and the men that I knew. All three detectives were demoted or fired. And for good reason. I would like to think that sort of thing won't happen anymore, but I am a realist. Detectives are trained to play serious mind games when they interrogate a suspect. But there is the danger that laying it on too thick will cause a man to confess to crimes he may not have committed.

Several months after Brenton Butler was acquited, a young black man confessed to the murder while in prison on another offense. He was later tried and convicted.

We had the victim's body for several months after she was killed. For some reason her husband wouldn't claim her despite the many calls we made imploring him to get a funeral home to pick up the body. Eventually he stopped taking our calls and we ended up assigning her a pauper's grave in the county cemetary.

6/23/05a

9:04 a.m. Well, my Subject went to the corner gas station to buy milk and came back home. She was moving without restriction and I got about 2 minutes of film on her.

Back to my story...

I show up to the MEO at noon on Monday with a couple dozen cookies and a mug of coffee. I'm working till 9pm tonight. It's an overlapping shift with the 4pm to midnight guy. I prefer these to working graveyard (haha) shifts alone.

I drop off the food in the break room and proceed to the investigator section. I hear laughing as I approach the office and am not surprised to see two homicide detectives kicking back in our circa 1970 office chairs. I smile. I really like it when the detectives come visit us.

"Well, if it isn't Polly! How ya doin' darlin'?" Detective Flap asks. "Nice skirt." And what follows is some good clean sexual harrassment on the job. We all joke around for a while before I ask what's going on. "Here for an autopsy," Detective Carl answers. Carl is quieter and kinder than Flap. I liked him instantly when I first met him. I have watched him on cases and know that he is careful and concise. He keeps his mind open and his ego doesn't get in the way of his work. Unfortunately, he's partnered with Flap. Flap is dominating, big-mouthed and impetuous. He jumps to a conclusion on a case and he sees no other possibilities. Detectives like him frighten me because they don't seem to care that one misjudgement on their part could send an innocent man to jail or set a guilty one free. It's all about closing the case for guys like him.

I pick up the pile of investigative reports from the weekend. I sit down and bite into a cookie while I read. At 9pm last night we had a gunshot suicide case from the south side of town. The vic left a note telling his ex-wife that he'll see her in hell. That's nice.

Then there's an unexplained death of a 40-year-old man. He hadn't been to a doctor in years. He also weighed 390 pounds. I look at the scene photographs. His ankles are red and swollen. Congestive heart failure. You get that big and your heart can't pump the blood sufficiently. The heart is a muscle just like any other. And just like a bicep, it will grow if it's exercised hard enough. The heart gets big enough and there's not enough room to pump.

I move on to yesterday morning's case. This is the homicide that Flap and Carl are here for. Apparently, an older couple from Georgia left their hotel room yesterday morning to get some breakfast. On the way to their car, a young black man held them up, demanding the woman's purse. She refused to give it to him so he shot her in the face right in front of her husband. The assailant took the purse and ran.

More later...

6/23/05

7:20 a.m. I was really hungry when I left my surveillance yesterday afternoon. So, with as much dignity as one can muster when wearing velvety red pajamas with little silver stars all over them, I walk into Panera to buy a bagel...or 12. "Those aren't all for me," I tell the cashier. Liar. "I'm having a party. A pajama party." Stop talking, Polly. Less is more.

I get home at about 5pm and change into shorts. I make myself a mug of tea and go out on the rocks by the lake. There are young couples sitting on the hoods of their cars watching the surf and holding hands. I hear Blink 182 drifting out of a window and blending with the sounds of waves crashing and little kids squealing on the beach below. "...don't waste your time on me, you're already the voice inside my head. Miss you. Miss you." Good song.

There is a second half to the story I told about my first cases. That was only one scene. But judging from the response, I feel like kind of a jerk bringing you all down again. So I will tell another story.

This case was actually documented by a French film maker for HBO in 2001 and won Best Feature Documentary in 2002. It was called, Murder on a Sunday Morning. It's about a young black man who was wrongly accused of a crime he didn't commit. It follows the whole story from the murder to the trial. I worked with the detectives involved in this case and was present at the autopsy of the homicide victim.

Gotta cut this short. More later. My Subject is finally active...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I think my gynecologist has one of THESE...

6/22/05a

8:16 a.m. Well, speak of the devil. I just received a call from the CEO. Apparently, he was calling to see how things are going. He told me to have a few drinks on him when I'm in Puerto Rico. Huh. A few drinks? What an odd reason to call me.

I sit back and consider this new twist. CEO has only called me once and that was for a conference call about a rape investigation I was assigned. He's either trying to keep me quiet about the email or he's hitting on me.

6/22/05

6:48 a.m. Today I almost brushed my teeth with triple antibiotic ointment. And I just noticed that I am still wearing my velvety red pajamas with the silver stars all over them. No wonder the lady at the gas station was looking at me funny.

I had no Subject activity yesterday. My girl was home when I made a pretext call, but she never left the house. Which is kind of a good thing since I was being bombarded with telephone calls and emails from corporate. Apparently, there is a high priority case here in Chicago that MUST be worked on June 28. My best investigator is on vacation and I *snicker* am flying into Puerto Rico that day. All my other investigators are on cases. Stinky Jimmy informed me that I am supposed to move the earth and stars in order to make this thing happen. So, I will have to pull Hummer off of two jobs in Michigan and bring him out here. I hate to do this to you, Chicago, but it can't be helped.

In other news, the CEO of the company is being so NICE to me ever since he sent me porn! For example, last week I had a case I wanted to send an investigator on in southwestern Minnesota but he rejected the travel expense. Miraculously, the request was re-evaluated and accepted yesterday. Coincidence?

I take a swig of Mylanta. Shouldn't have had that ranchero breakfast wrap.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Now that I brought down the blog...Call 1-800-ASH WIPE...giggle. Posted by Hello

6/21/05a

7:47 a.m. I am outside of my Subject's building. They are high-end condos. I enter the building and find her name on the mailbox. Not surprisingly, the door is key-entry and secured. There are two parking garages on the north and south sides of the building. I decide to set up across the street so I can keep an eye on both exits. She shouldn't be hard to spot. She drives a Jaguar convertible.

Today I'll talk about my first forensics case...or cases. There were two of them back to back. A baptism by fire. I'm afraid this isn't an uplifting story, but it is the reality of working as a death investigator. In truth, I paid a price to some degree for every case I went out on.

I have been working here for two days now and still haven't had a case on my shift. But the night guys have been swamped, so at least I've been able to watch a few more autopsies.

The telephone rings and I answer it, "Investigations, Polly." It is dispatch. They are reporting a fatal car accident on I-95 only a few exits down from the medical examiner's office. The dispatcher only knows that it involved both the north and southbound lanes and traffic has been completely blocked off in either direction. Finally! I get to go out on a case. I note the time on a pad of paper and ask the name of the officer in charge. It's Florida Highway Patrol this time. Officer Hugh.

The investigator who is mentoring me is a big, slow, southern guy. He's got a mustache and dark hair. It's hard for me to believe he's about my age. He looks at least 40. Maybe it's the hairdo. I'll call him "Mullet". Mullet instructs me to grab a set of latex gloves and the camera. He takes a clipboard and a pen and we walk out to the Explorer.

I call Dwight, our transport guy, after we are on the road. Ever since one of the investigators ended up on disability from lifting bodies for 15 years, the local government has taken to hiring contract workers to transport to the MEO. And that's okay by me. I can think of a hundred things I'd rather do than lift a 400 pound man onto a flimsy stretcher. More than once we would have a body so large that the fire department had to be called to break the door frame so we could get it out.

I am eager to learn and ask a lot of questions en route. I tend to talk a lot when I'm nervous, but Mullet doesn't seem to mind. He sits quietly and I can almost see the gears turning in his mind. He is going over what needs to be done once we arrive on scene. He is experienced enough to know that this will be a bad one.

Mullet turns on the cherries and we speed up an off ramp onto the now empty freeway. Weird. Never thought I'd be driving south in the northbound lane of an interstate. On the other side of the median, traffic is backed up as far as the eye can see. It is 8:30am and this accident hit right in the middle of morning rush hour.

As we approach the scene, Mullet slows and pulls onto the left shoulder. I see several FHP officers scattered about. Two are taking measurements of skid marks. One is taking photographs. Another is standing off to the side interviewing a witness.

I see an 18-wheeler on it's side in the ditch. I see a smashed white Lincoln sedan. The hood has been crushed like an accordion. The top is no longer there so that it looks like a makeshift convertible. I see the driver's side door torn off and lying in the dirt several feet away. I wonder how much of that damage was done by the Jaws of Life and how much was from the accident. I peek inside the car and see blood everywhere...smears on the dash and pools on the leather seats. And there in the back seat, I see a backpack broken open with schoolbooks strewn across floor. I begin to shake.

Mullet ushers me over to Officer Hugh. The officer is wearing a sand brown uniform and is standing near a white sheet on the ground. He is sketching the scene. I see a woman's pale hand and pink shoe sticking out from beneath the sheet. I see a few small patches of red blood slowly staining their way through the white.

Mullet greets Officer Hugh and asks him for the details. I half listen as Officer Hugh explains that the Lincoln was heading southbound with two passengers when a red pick-up truck rear-ended it. The pick-up took off. Meanwhile, the Lincoln spun out of control into the grassy median. It crossed into oncoming traffic, where it was hit head-on by the 18-wheeler.

Just a mother on her way to drop off her son at school. Like she'd probably done a hundred times before. The boy, 14-years-old, was transported via helicopter to the hospital, but Officer Hugh said his neck was broken and he was already dead before the copter landed.

I want to cry but I can't. I just watch as Mullet draws back the sheet. I see a woman in her late 30's. Her skin is pale and beautiful and her long hair is splayed out around her lovely face. She looks peaceful. Like an angel. I see no external injuries but for a few scrapes and an ankle twisted and broken so severely that it likely would have been amputated had she survived.

Mullet examines the body. He takes photographs. Then he goes through her pockets. Takes off her rings and jewlery. He puts all of her valuables in an evidence bag, seals it, and logs it.

Dwight shows up in his Econovan. He draws a gurney from the back along with a sheet and plastic to wrap the body in. I watch as he and an assistant turn the vic on her side and tuck the plastic in around her. Then they lift her onto the gurney, strap her in, and load her into the truck. "See you back at the office in 20 minutes," he says, "I have to stop by the hospital and pick up the kid."

Several minutes later, we are finally ready to leave. As we pull away, I watch in the rearview mirror as a tow truck loads what is left of the Lincoln onto a platform. I stare out the window. Mullet tries to be cheerful. "So! What did you think of your first scene?" He asks. "It sucked," I say back. He seems to get the hint and remains silent the rest of the trip back.

Later on, I have to go down to the autopsy suite to fingerprint a gunshot murder victim. Mother and son are being autopsied side by side at the station across from me. I listen to the investigator who went to the hospital for the boy. He tells of how the kid's shirt had been cut off in the emergency room before he was declared. Later, the ER staff let the father come in and see his son before he was transported to the MEO. "It's so cold in here. You must be cold, son." The father wept as he took off his own shirt and draped it over his boy.

I look down. The fingerprint card blurs as my eyes fill with tears. I wipe my face on my sleeve before they can fall.

I have to write the rest of this later.

6/21/05

5:07 a.m. I climb out of bed and grab the first clothes I see. Pink workout pants and a pink tank. I look like a pastel nightmare. And I don't care. I throw a suit and some heels left over from my days as a federal agent into a bag and gather my equipment. Today I'm heading down to Chicago on another lawyer case. Sigh. What is it with me and lawyers? I'm like fly paper for them.

I look at my watch. No time for tea this morning. I'm late.

I grab my purse, briefcase, camera, cell phone, computer, digital camera, various plugs and wires, and shove a doughnut in my mouth before heading to the truck. It occurs to me that if I did squats with all of this equipment in my hands I would have buns of steal. Which would be nice because right now I've got buns of...I dunno...puddin'.

Then it's off to the Kwik Trip. I get gas and some caffiene and it's time to face Chicago traffic.

Along my route, I pass a sign for a business establishment called "Ash Wipe Chimney Sweeps." No kidding. I giggle. I can't pass that sign without cracking up. I've driven by three hundred times and I still can't help it. "...and another thing, Hummer, you need to write your expense sheet in 12 point font and...hee hee hee... What?... No, I wasn't laughing. That was the sound of me crying in frustration."

I resolve to get a picture of the sign on the way home today.

More later...

Monday, June 20, 2005

6/20/05b

2:29 p.m. I believe it was K that asked if I'd ever been picked up by a Subject and what I did about it.

Well, today just happened to be one of those days.

I just pull into my driveway when I get a call back from Subject about seeing her house for sale. I set up a time for this afternoon and call her en route asking for directions. I say that I am having a hard time finding the place again. This is all part of my pretext and helps add another layer of legitimacy to my story.

I show up with my video camera in hand. Subject is a large white female...definitely not 75-years-old, as the DOB on my intake sheet says. She looks closer to 45. Must have been a typo. I ask her name again just to confirm I've got the right person. She is wearing her aircast. I turn around and begin taking video of the front yard. I pretend to turn the camera off after a second and we start chatting. I can tell almost immediately that she is legit. She is limping around and apologizing for not being able to take me around the whole property.

I get some good film of her, in any case. You have to remember, I'm not trying to get dirt on all my Subjects. I'm just documenting the truth.

Sometimes I surprise myself at how well I lie. I'm like a savant or something. I am asking about sump pumps and schools and asbestos... I discuss my husband who is in the military on temporary duty and how he can't be here, which is why I'm videotaping. I even ask to keep the ugly purple curtains. It is truly masterful.

Except for when we walk into the kitchen and her husband asks me to turn off the camera. He then asks me if I'd been following them when they were driving in town gulp and if I was around there house at 10am that morning. I give him a puzzled look and say, "Well, yeah, I probably was. I was looking at houses all morning."

He seems to buy it because he becomes very friendly after that. I don't dare risk taking anymore video, though. I say goodbye and indicate that I might come back later this week with my three imaginary girls. I wonder if anybody has a few girls I can borrow...

In any case, I believe that I'm going to recommend to corporate that we postpone conducting the rest of this surveillance for two full weeks...until after I'm back from Puerto Rico. It's just too risky with the husband being suspicious and all.

I call Stinky Jimmy to let him know what happened. He says, "Why do you go so far to get Subject video, Polly?" I dunno. Cuz I can? He sighs and tells me to be careful. Yeah. Yeah. I hang up the phone and think, It's really easy to like Stinky Jimmy. Especially since the miracle of the telephone allows me to appreciate his personality without actually smelling his breath.

6/20/05a

9:36 a.m. My Subject left the house this morning around 8:30. She ended up at a funeral. Needless to say, I broke off for the day. But not before calling and making an appointment to see the house later on.

More interestingly, the CEO of my company accidentally sent me porn over my work email this morning.

*considers*

Now just WHAT shall I do with this information???

6/20/05

6:42 a.m. Well, today I am outside of a Mobile station in small-town Wisconsin. I can't set up in front of my Subject's home because it's on a busy state road. On cases like this I would usually conduct a rolling surveillance all day long and likely wouldn't get any good footage. In this case, however, I got a break. The house is for sale and the client is allowing physical contact.

Looks like I'm going house hunting today, folks.

I will need to change clothes and develop an alias. I will need to come up with a list of questions that count. My Subject is an older lady who is supposed to wear an aircast boot and use crutches at all times.

Oh! I just thought of something! I can bring my camera in without her suspecting anything! She'll just think that I'm documenting the residence for my house hunting. This is going to be fantastic!

More later...

Mad Scientist tries to get her ball back... Posted by Hello

Polly playing Mad's version of golf Posted by Hello

Polly (not) golfing. Posted by Hello

Sunday, June 19, 2005

6/19/05

7:42 a.m. I'm flying back to Chicago this afternoon. I have yet to pack my bags and I imagine I'll procrastinate for another hour or two. It's such a nice day that I think I'll take a walk.

I met up with several old and new friends yesterday. I went miniature golfing with Mad Scientist and Mike Weasel. It was very fun, but after a couple of hours in the sun I now have a tan line on my shoulder shaped pretty much like Florida. I hate it when I miss with the sunscreen.

Mad and I...well...our talents don't extend to anything that involves hitting, kicking, or bouncing a ball. Mad can experiment the hell out of something. And I suppose I can investigate the hell out of something. But let me tell you, we were so pathetically bad at miniature golf that toward the end of the course we took to sitting on the bench in front of every hole and throwing the golf ball down the green. Mad even stopped aiming for the hole entirely and created new games called, "Throw The Ball In The Dragon's Mouth" or "Attempt To Get The Ball Stuck At The Top Of The Eiffel Tower". It's a good thing I don't live here because I'm not sure that we will be allowed to return to Happy Putt Putt Land...

And then later I went to dinner with Jane Keeler and the Shaggies. Jane and Shaggy went to the academy with me when I was a federal agent. We laughed and had a good time and it was hard to believe that two years had passed since we were together last.

I haven't really talked about being a special agent much. Mostly because I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement before I left the government. But being that my job was to conduct background investigations for security clearances, you can rest assured that there weren't very many moments of great interest, anyway. At the academy, we used to joke that we were the asthmatic mouth-breathers of the special agent world.

The only thing I really miss is the badge. That badge got me out of several speeding tickets. It let me skip through security at the airport. If I was interviewing somebody and I knew they were lying to me all I had to do was flash the badge and threaten a polygraph and the Subject would wet their pants and start telling me about the time when they were six-years-old and they stole a candy bar from 7-Eleven.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

6/18/05

9:51 a.m. I am on the couch again. I have a window open and am listening to the traffic outside. I slept for an unprecedented ten hours straight. I guess the lack of sleep and the time change all caught up with me.

I finished my Hollywood case yesterday. And none too soon. I know I've been here too long when I am browsing in the Whole Foods Market on 3rd Street and a woman walks by me wearing a Juicy Catour sweatsuit. I wrinkle my nose and think to myself, "That is SO last year!"

I start my surveillance at noon. My Subject is inactive until about 2pm, at which time she limps out of the house wearing casual clothes. Funny, she wasn't limping at all lastnight. She is talking on a cell phone and holding a set of keys in the other hand. I film her as she walks around the corner and then I scramble to get my camera situated in my spy purse. I jump out of the car and take several steps before I remember, Oh yeah. Shoes would be good.

I slip on some flip flops, slam the car door, and run. I get to the corner and look to the left. Nothing. She's wearing a white blouse and has very distinctive blond curls so I wouldn't miss her if she was around. I look to the right and across the street. Not there either. I begin cursing under my breath. How can I lose somebody on foot pursuit who has a bad leg??? If I were my boss I'd fire me.

I decide to head to the right on the theory that unless the light was working in her favor, she would still be standing here waiting. I check inside of every restaurant, spa, and specialty shop for a full block. I turn off the cam and run back down the other side of the street doing the same thing. Eventually, I've checked every store within a block on either side of the cross street. There is no sign of her.

I am frustrated.

Okay. Time to think, here.

I sit down on a bench and consider. She left at 2:00pm. Those are restaurant hours. And if she's waiting tables in this neighborhood she might be making enough to supplement her lifestyle.

This case has been worked for two weeks by several other investigators. From what I've read in previous reports, she has tended to leave the house earlier than this.

Still, I think as I get up, this is the best lead I have. I walk up and down the blocks again writing down the names of each restaurant. Then I go back to my car and start making phone calls. Some of the restaurants only have answering machines that instruct you to leave a message if you want a reservation. For those that actually do answer, I ask for Subject and get a lot of confused responses. At least Subject's name is very unique and there's no chance she can be mistaken for somebody else...

I call a French restaurant only a 100 feet or so south of the intersection. A woman answers and I ask for Subject. "Hold on just a minute, she's right here," she says. I smile. Gotcha! Thirty seconds later she's back on the line telling me that Subject isn't there today but can she take a message. I say no and hang up. Hmmmm. That was weird. First she's there and now she isn't? I suppose she might have bill collectors after her or she might just be paranoid with all of the strange people calling her and knocking on her doors and following her around for the past two weeks.

Only one way to find out. I load up my spy purse again and head up the street. I enter the restaurant and think to myself, Corporate better pay me back for this fabulous meal I'm about to have. It is the early afternoon still so the place is mostly deserted. The wait staff, wearing all black with white aprons, looks bored. I am seated in the back near the kitchen. I look down at my flip flops and my casual shorts and tank. I shrug. Hide the riff raff, huh? That's fine. Just gives me a better opportunity to snoop.

I order a fruit and cheese platter and a cup of herbal tea. Then I ask the waitress where the bathroom is. She points down a hallway. I turn on the cam and head toward the hall, but instead of going left, I turn right and into the kitchen. The cook staff looks up. I scan the faces and don't recognize any of them. "Oops! Wrong door." I am rewarded with a scowl from a short man with curly dark hair.

In the bathroom, I turn off the cam and sit on a vanity chair. She's not here. I'm not that surprised, really. She was wearing very casual clothes when she left the house and that doesn't fit. Maybe she was picking up a check. That would explain the clothes and the hostess mistakenly saying she's here.

I go back to my table and enjoy my lunch. I call Subject's house and get an answering machine. Still not home.

As I stroll back to my car, there is no doubt I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to reconnect with Subject. But I figured out where she works, at least. That was mostly what the client wanted to know.

Friday, June 17, 2005

6/17/05

5:51 a.m. I am sitting on the couch wondering why I'm awake when I didn't get in from my surveillance until midnight. I take a sip of my Diet Dew and wrap a blanket around me.

Yesterday was a very interesting experience for this midwestern girl. People in Beverly Hills are all beautiful, drive expensive cars and dress in rediculously uncomfortable looking clothes. I see a lady come out of her apartment across from were I set up. She is wearing $300 sunglasses and a sparkly sequined top. She's got gold high heels on and tight jeans. I watch her walk her dog to the corner where it relieves itself. She bends over with a little baggy and scoops up the mess. Then she walks back into her apartment. That was bizarre. She wore heels to take her dog poopy.

After more observation, I come to realize that I am the oddity here. I look down at my tank and workout pants. Maybe tomorrow I'll wear my fabulous powder blue pants. And my pink heels. And my white scoop-neck blouse. Nah. Too uncomfortable and too pastel. I'd feel like an Easter Egg.

Mad shows up and we have a good time making fun of people. We were going to pose as Jahovah's Witnesses as a pretext, but Mad isn't sure she can keep a straight face. I load up my camera in my new spy purse and walk to Subject's screen door. She's inside reading the paper and seems startled when I knock. I ask her if this is Sharon Johnson's residence and she says it isn't. Well, at least I know she's there.

I walk back to the surveillance vehicle and get in. A few minutes later, I point out the window. "Hey, Mad! Look! It's Matthew McConaughey driving by in a Ford Escort!" Mad is skeptical of my sighting, however. Throughout the day I am also certain I see Bob Barker driving a Lincoln and Rita Moreno spitting on the sidewalk at an intersection.

I am having such a good time that I almost miss Subject exiting her apartment. (Ahem...thanks Mad.) I scramble into the back seat... which is not as easy in a 2-door sports car as it is in my truck. I get some video of Subject weaving her way down the sidewalk in her pajamas before turning around and heading back. She seems drunk or stoned or both. She bends over and gives the camera a nice view of the junk in her trunk. Mad quietly provides as little background musak, "Boom-chika-boom. Bow-chika-bow-wow." I giggle.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

6/16/05b

The wild life in Beverly Hills is fascinating. So is PollyPI. Hello from Hollywood!
-The Mad Scientist

6/16/05

5:50 a.m. I am heading up to Hollywood today to run a surveillance. This Subject is a young woman who is living high but is supposed to be on a meager disability paycheck. The client wants to know where she's getting all her money. I think she might just have a sugar daddy.

This is one of those rare cases where the client gave me free reign as far as pretexts and ways to possibly gain information. I didn't bring much as far as costumes. I've got a suit. I've got my standard tank and workout pants. I've got a pink sundress with pink heels. That's it, folks. Still, I have a pretty good imagination.

This is going to be fun...

Mad Scientist will be joining me on surveillance this afternoon, by the way. We'll be blogging live from the field. I wonder if she's up for helping me out with a pretext? Maybe we can pretend we're Jahovah's Witnesses.

Nah. That's a bad idea. Then Subject for sure won't talk to us.

More later...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Polly and her sisters at Thanksgiving. Posted by Hello

Double Rainbow outside Polly's house. Posted by Hello

6/14/05

6:34 a.m. Subject's vehicle hasn't moved at all since yesterday. There was a lot of activity outside of his home with wife going to work (her license plates expired last year, btw) and son coming home at 7am from who knows where... Unfortunately, none of that activity included my Subject. I really hope he at least shows his face. I hate leaving a case without even getting video.

I am set up in a great spot today. Subject just happens to have apartments across the street from his house with off-street parking. So it doesn't look suspicious at all to have me sitting here 50 feet from his front door.

His house is to my left. I put a black pillow case up across the right side window. Perfect. That and the dark tint makes it completely impossible to see inside. He could be two inches from my window and he'd never know I was taping him.

I settle down with my tea, put on some good music, and think about the day ahead. It's going to be crazy busy. I sigh. I will need to check-in online for my flight. And it is essential that I get home as soon as possible to pack, do a little laundry, shave... I make a mental list of everything I need. It makes me tired just to think about it.

If I'm lucky, I'll have time to sit on the rock breakwall across the street and take a minute to enjoy the water and the seagulls and my lighthouse.

I've lived in my home for over two years now and I can honestly say that I've never taken for granted how amazing it is to look out the window and watch the sun rise over Lake Michigan. Those few minutes to stop and reflect are truly a healing time for me.

((HACK!)) Sorry. I even made myself gag there. But once I start it's hard to stop, so..... Has anybody heard of Lithium Sunset by Sting? It's one of my very favorite songs.


LITHIUM SUNSET

Heal my soul,
Oh, lithium sunset.
Take this lonesome burden,
Of worry from my mind.

Take this heartache,
Of obsidian darkness.
And fold my darkness,
Inside your yellow light.

I've been scattered.
I've been shattered.
I've been knocked out of the race,
But I'll get better.
I see your light upon my face.

Oh, heal my soul,
Lithium sunset.
And I'll ride the turnin' world,
Into another night.


Any then of course, there is this classic verse that my father taught to me when I was a little girl.



If wishes were fishes
We'd all have a fry.
If horse turds were biscuits
We'd eat till we die.


Thanks for that one, Dad. Brings tears to your eyes, doesn't it? Anybody else have a favorite poem/song/saying they'd like to share?

I plan to write a forensics post this evening when I'm flying. It will be about an unidentified case I solved that was 22 years old. This case was featured on Forensics Files or New Detectives...one of those. (Do you remember, Bob?)

Anyway, one thing that I will readily admit about myself is that I seem to have been blessed with an abundance of dumb luck. This was a good example of the answer just falling into my lap through no apparent knowledge or skill of my own.

Monday, June 13, 2005

6/13/05

6:32 a.m. I am in line at a Thornton's gas station. I have my 64 oz mug of tea and a blueberry muffin. This is a small town in central Illinois. Small, but not so small that the people look inbred.

There is a female sheriff's deputy standing behind me. Her red hair is pulled back severely and flattened on her head. Her skin is pale and she is wearing no make-up so that her eyes sort of merge into the rest of her face. She's got really lovely bone structure, though, and rosebud lips. I have a sudden urge to play makeover. Just a little color on your cheeks and some mascara, darling... If I were a cop, I'd at least try to be a cute cop. I smile to myself. When I was a little girl I hung out with the boys in the neighborhood. I just couldn't understand the girls with their Cabbage Patch doll obsession. I would much preferred climbing trees, riding a BMX bike, and trespassing on construction sites. Only I'd wear a pretty dress while I did it, thank you very much.

I pay for my breakfast and climb into my truck. I've got 10 minutes to get to my surveillance. I did an initial drive-by when I got in yesterday evening. There were two cars in the driveway. When I arrive this morning one from the day before is gone and there is a third vehicle there. I write down the plate number, make, and model. I take my morning master shot and set up my work station in the back.

As soon as I log in I find an email from a fellow supervisor, we'll call her Sugar, who runs cases down in the southeast. Sugar is over the top. If Dpty Fife is understated, Sugar is a peacock in neon lights. She is 50ish, 5'2", 170lbs, and has white blonde hair that has been so processed it practically floats. Sugar wears only bright secondary colors. Pink, green, turquoise blue. Her skin is wrinkled and leathery from too much sun. And I've never seen her in anything but tight pants and low-cut shirts chosen to emphasize her ample bosom. Sugar calls me... you guessed it... "Sugar". I actually adore her. She makes me feel like dancing. Except for today. Today she is fortunate she lives 1000 miles from me.

Sugar is hopelessly behind on her cases and I recently lended her two of my investigators to help lighten her load a bit. Now she seems to think me and my people work for her. She sent me an email that pretty much said, "Here's a case near Investigator Smith, assign it and CC me." What? No please?

In addition to her enormous hair and bosom, it appears Sugar's also got enormous balls.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

6/12/06

6:56 a.m. There is a black Cadillac parked in Pastor Jackson's driveway this morning that wasn't there before. An outside light is on. It's raining like crazy. I stick around for an hour and a half with no action.

I decide to go to the Holiday Inn that another investigator said may be the temporary digs for the church. This investigator went inside and filmed a woman preaching. He didn't provide a name for the church or any details that might lead one to believe it was Pastor Jackson's sect. The thunder and lightening are terrible and I am drenched to the skin when I walk inside the hotel. My shoes make a smooshing sound evertime I take step. I look around. There are several people dressed in Sunday best. I look down at myself. Wet t-shirt and shorts. Sandals. Hair plastered to my head. I shrug and squish my way up to the front desk. I read the attenant's nametag and ask Abimi if Subject's sect worships there. He tells me that there are three churches meeting in their conference rooms today. I ask him for a list and he gives it freely. I examine the list. Nope. None of them even look close. Well, back to the drawing board.

I decide to drive by the "church". No cars in the lot. Doors are locked.

I drive back to Pastor Jackson's house and wait.

9:36 a.m. Pastor Jackson walks out in a sharp gray suit. A younger man, maybe his son?, gets in the driver's seat. I begin mobile pursuit and we end up at the church. Well, what do you know. There are only 4 cars in the parking lot. This is going to make it hard to get inside if there are only 20 parishoners. I park and put my cam in my spy purse. I don't even bother with Sunday clothes. That would only look suspicious. Better to pretend I'm lost.

11:22 a.m. I walk through the front door and hear loud preaching and a lot of "Praise the LORD!'s". The way to the sanctuary is a long hallway, so I can't just peak around the corner and sneak out. I take a deep breath and begin the long walk. Dead girl walkin'. At the end of the hall I turn on the cam and point the purse in the direction of the voice. I get some good film but only risk sticking around for 15 or 20 seconds. Believe me, that seems like ages when you're exposed and waiting for somebody to turn and notice you there.

I walk back out into the rain and get in my vehicle. Time to get back to the hotel and check out. My flight leaves in 2 hours.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

WHAT'S YOUR MALFUNCTION??

Message for the blogosphere...

My email is down and will remain so for the next 4 days. Please continue to write me at dmean(at)sbcglobal.net and I'll respond when my mail is back up.

6/11/05

9:52 a.m. I am eating left-over Chinese and watching the Cartoon Network. Oh, that Billy and Mandy. Cracks me up. I chase every few bites of spicy beef curry with a swig of Mylanta.

I will tell you the rest of the Lawyer Boy story. A month or so after the statement fiasco, I got an assignment to surveil Lawyer Boy for two days. I voiced my concern that he knew my face, my voice, and the make and model of my vehicle. The client was unconcerned, though, supposing that he would never recognize me. Okay. That's fine. I will just have to be very careful to disguise myself.

5:54 a.m. I arrive at Lawyer Boy's house and set up down the street. There is construction on the house next to his. Or deconstruction, more accurately. The neighborhood he lives in is so exclusive that people have taken to buying the modest homes that were built in the sixties and demolishing them in favor of mansions that completely suffocate any lawn that might have been there before. I watch as a bulldozer plows down a picket fence lined with climbing roses and hydrangeas. Across the street, there is a pair of deer feeding on the hostas that line a flower bed. It is so odd to see deer in such an urban setting that I start filming. I smile as I imagine what the video techs will say when they see this Mutual of Omaha moment. I consider providing a running commentary. "Jim approaches the pregnant female with tranquilizer gun in hand. Careful, Jim! Caaaarrrrful!"

I am so busy amusing myself that I almost miss the garage door shutting at Lawyer Boy's house. Aack! I re-fix the camera on the back end of his black Mercedes sedan as it heads south down the street. I drop the camera and begin mobile pursuit. He takes a left toward the village's downtown. I am surprised at this. I expected him to head toward Chicago, toward his office. I remembered him mentioning that he went to physical therapy in the mornings and presume that is where he's going.

Lawyer Boy drives into the Metra Rail parking lot. Oh! He's taking the train in. I should have known. He parks in a 4 hour limit parking spot near the station building. I park across from him and scramble into the back of my truck to take film of him walking onto the platform. His face carries a sour expression that I am beginning to suspect is typical for him.

I note that Lawyer Boy is not carrying a cane. This is important because in our interview he said he walked with a cane outside of the house. I don't see a limp or an awkward gate. I shake my head. That won't look good. I can't help but feel for him. His claim IS legit. I got my hands on some x-rays and I could see degenerative changes taking place up and down his back. The disease he has will slowly fuse his vertebral column and send sharp bone spurs growing into his spinal cord unless he continues to undergo surgeries every year or so. He's just such a jerk and so unwilling to provide asked-for information that it is easy for me to understand how the insurance company would be suspicious and want to nail him to the wall. He ACTS like a crook.

I don't have much time. I put the camera in my spy purse and change out of my tank top/workout pants ensemble. I put on some black suit pants, heels, and a matching black suit jacket. I slick my hair back into a ponytail, put on lipstick, and finish off the look with my school marm glasses. I consider myself in the mirror. It looks like my IQ just went up 30 points. Not bad.

I throw my wallet and cell phone in the purse with my cam (it's a big purse) and run to the counter to purchase a ticket. The train shows up just as I finish up. I kick off my shoes, grab them, and run.

I barely make it as the doors close behind me. I put my shoes back on and look around. Way to avoid drawing attention to yourself, Polly. I pat my hair down and settle into a spot across from Lawyer Boy. Fortunately, he is busy scowling at the business section of the newspaper and doesn't seem to care what is going on around him. I position the camera, reach in my pocket, and hit "play" on the remote.

Like everybody else, I stare at the advertisements on the side of the car. No eye contact. No smiles. If you smile at people in the subway they think you're either retarded or crazy.

Finally, Lawyer Boy stands up as we pull into a downtown station. I follow. He exits and heads to the street. His office, it turns out, is in one of the most expensive and prominent business districts in Chicago. I knew he was doing well for himself, but I hadn't realized he was doing THIS well. No wonder the insurance company didn't want to pay out. It would cost them a fortune to provide even a portion of his previous income in disability.

I pass by as he enters his building. I will walk to the corner of the block and wait a few minutes before coming back. If I am right, there is no way I will get up to his offices. The security will be too tight. I imagine myself in a cat burglar suit sneaking into the building through the garbage shoot. I would then make my way through the air vents to his office, where I would record him doing back flips and hand stands. I start humming the Mission Impossible theme song.

Sure enough. When I go inside, I see a rent-a-cop behind a security desk and a turnstile blocking off access to a bank of elevators. I walk back out. Okay. Well, maybe there is another entrance. I walk around the side where the parking garage is. A security guard is standing outside the sliding metal door and there is a code-activated keypad. Ugh.

Okay. So I go into a restaurant down the block and order the most delicious french toast breakfast I've ever had. I call his office and ask to speak with him. The secretary says he's in court all day. Really? He told me he hasn't been to court for months. Of course, that could be what he has his secretary tell everybody when he isn't taking calls. Makes him sound busy and important.

I spend the rest of the day spinning my wheels. I run the license plate of the vehicle he drove to the train station and find it is registered to his firm. After 10 hours, I head back to the train. I must have missed him somehow as he was leaving the building. When I get back to his stop, I walk up the stairs from the platform. Still there. His car is still sitting in the 4 hour limit parking spot. What do you know. So much for cutting his hours back.

The next day, I see him safely on the train, again. No point in following him. I simply call his office an hour later and confirm that he's there. I take off and run a few errands, checking his vehicle every couple of hours to see if he's returned. Nope. Finally, at 8pm, I break off for the day and close the case.

I'm sure Lawyer Boy's wife, who told me he was driving her crazy being home all the time, is quite happy about now.

Friday, June 10, 2005

6/10/05b

12:31 p.m. I walk into the building with my video camera. I am ready with my pretext. There is an internet company to the left and a construction company to the right. And right in front of me is a sign with 8 inch lettering proclaiming my Subject to be the reverend of the church. Fantastic. I take some film.

I follow the arrow to the sanctuary and find a gutted series of rooms. Insulation and ceiling tiles litter the biggest room. I walk through, figuring that at this point I'd tell them I have to use the bathroom. I am so trespassing. I take more film of the remodeling. I walk through a maze of hallways and classrooms and find a floorplan on the wall outlining the future placement of all the church offices. I take more film. Pastor Jackson, you are a naughty boy. Defrauding the insurance company isn't a very Christian thing to do.

There is nobody around. Maybe they're out to lunch. I decide to take off before I get caught and thrown in jail. I will run by the good pastor's house and see if I can secure some video.

As I'm on my way out, a woman walks in. I try to look confused. (Not hard.) She asks me if she can help me with something. I tell her I have to use the bathroom and she leads me through a side door into the main offices of the internet company. I mention the church and ask what it's like running a business next to them. She says they don't see the church people much. I ask her if she knows the pastor. She looks at me funny and says no. Okay. No more questions. She's getting suspicious. I get back into my car and spend the next 15 minutes writing down license plate numbers that I will run later.

I'm off to Pastor Jackson's house.

6/10/05a

10:17 a.m. I am sitting outside of the "church". It's in a strip mall in a run down part of town and has a hand-painted sign up front. I am about to get out and take a look inside when I get a call from Stinky Jimmy, my boss. He tells me that Corporate has approved my travel request and I'm going to Puerto Rico in a couple of weeks. Hot dog! Palm trees and white sandy beaches. Tropical sunsets. I hope to bring home a souvenir or two. Maybe a shell necklace or a Cabana Boy.

I pick up a bag of pork rinds from the gas station. People in Texas eat pork rinds, so I figure I will explore the local cuisine. I take a bite. Hmm. Tastes like deep fried bacon flavored styrofoam. I like it! But then I look at the ingredients, which consist of pig skins and salt. Pig skins. I look at my pork rind. I envision pig skin, which I am pretty sure doesn't resemble this spongy little thing I'm holding in my hand.

Having a good imagination is sometimes a bad thing. I think of a vat full of boiling water and pig skins. I think of the "rendered" gunk that floats to the top of the vat. I think of some guy skimming it off the top with a swimming pool skimmer. I think if him slapping it on a conveyor belt that takes it to a vat of boiling oil. Rendered pig skin gunk is then deep fried and skimmed off the oil. It is slapped back on a conveyor belt where it is salted and dumped into bags.

I decide that pork rinds are the stuff of horror flicks. Horror flicks for pigs, that is. I spit out the one I'm eating and decide that I will stick to Ding Dongs and Cheetos.

6/10/05

7:49 a.m. Howdy, y'all! Well, here I am in Texas...home of all my ex's. Or at least one of them.

Nice hotel, too. They obviously know how to feed a growing PI. I got eggs, sausage, donuts and biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Yum. I rub my tummy. Stuffed. That was a lot better than the pathetic bagel they gave me in Boston.

There is an antique car show in town and so the hotel lots are full of Model T's. Last night when I arrived I noticed a small group of men sitting outside on a cooler and lawn chairs. They were drinking beer and discussing whatever manly things you guys discuss when you're sitting in a parking lot drinking beer. Probably their last hunting foray. Or football. Or curtains for the master bedroom.

They say hello and wave. I wave back and walk inside. I wonder to myself why you never see groups of women sitting out on lawn chairs in parking lots drinking beer. Huh. I decide that when I get home the girls and I will haul my couch out to the street and see what all the fuss is about. Except we might need a table for snacks. And instead of beer we'll have tea.

I walk over to the window of my suite and look down at the pool. I debate taking a dip before I start "working". I think I'll go for a run first and work off some energy, swim, shower, and head out.

Today I'll do an initial drive-by of the church before noon. I might go inside right away and begin my inquiries. We'll see how it feels. Otherwise, I'll ask around the area and see what people can tell me about the sect.

More later...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

HERMENEUTICS! PAEDOBAPTISM! TRANSUBSTANTIATION!

I'll just throw around a few $10 words from this THEOLOGICAL TERMINOLOGY DICTIONARY when I go undercover tomorrow.

P.S. I think that I once ate an egg salad sandwich that was hermeneutically sealed in plastic.

6/9/05

6:45 a.m. I am irritated with myself for waking up at 6am when I could have slept in. I kick my way out of the blankets on my bed and trip over a pile of laundry. Not a good start. I walk to the kitchen and put a pot of water on the stove.

Today I will be traveling down to Texas so I can infiltrate that church I'd mentioned in an earlier post. I sit down to the computer and dig around for a bit of information. A few minutes later, I click on some photographs from their official website. I think I figured out why this case has been worked 5 times without results. Judging from the pictures, I believe 99% of the parishoners are black. Don't ask me what the other 1% are. Probably Italians.

Sigh. It can't ever be easy.

Well, it would probably look suspicious if I went in there saying I'm intending to join. I change my strategy. I think I will pose as a graduate student in theology doing research on different sects.

I might even be able to videotape the service openly if he thinks I'm doing it for my doctoral thesis... hmmmm.

BUT CAN IT MAKE ME SOUND LIKE...

KATHLEEN TURNER before she turned into a man??

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

6/8/05

9:39 a.m. I am writing to you from the shores of Lake Michigan outside of my home. What a great day. Warm and sunny. The sand is already starting to get a bit hot, but I can always jump in the 45 degree water to take care of that. When I get cold and numb enough and my teeth begin to chatter, I run back to my blanket and bake for a while. Ah. I smile. It makes me remember that there is life outside of my truck.

I have debated up to this point whether to include any of my work in forensics on this blog. I am not sure why I wanted to keep that to myself other than maybe
this blog has been something of a journal on my current pursuits. Anyway, I decided that didn't make much sense.

Back a few years ago I was working as a death investigator in Florida. This story is a bones case.

Digression:
I love bones. In fact, I went to a Dave Barry book signing last year and had him signed a horse ulna from my collection. Yes, my collection. I also have a couple of dogs, a ferret, cat, horse, cow, and the jaw from a 9-foot long shark that ate a police diver. (A story for later.) I got my degree in physical anthropology, (the study of human skeletal remains), with an emphysis on forensics. I did a lot of gunshot wound analysis and curated a skeletal collection in college. I was fortunate to be mentored by two amazing and brilliant professors who have remained great friends to this day.

11:22 a.m. I was called out on a case in a forest perserve on the east side of the county. Apparently, an anonymous caller left a tip with the cops that a skeleton was lying out by the railroad tracks. We had several prostitute murders over the past year or so, so I wasn't shocked to get the call. In fact, as an interesting aside, I read a while ago in the paper that after 5 years they finally found the serial killer who was responsible. The final death count attributed to him was in the upper teens or twenties, if I remember correctly.

I get the call from dispatch giving me directions to the scene and the telephone number of the lead homicide detective. I smile. Carl is a good one. He might be slightly out of his depth, but he is an honest cop and he tries to get it right. I grab a couple of extra pairs of latex gloves and shove them in my field investigation kit. I pick up the keys to the Explorer and head out.

The medical examiner's office is located in the worst possible part of town. Often, when I worked the night shift, I would hear gunshots from the surrounding neighborhoods. I could feel my pulse begin to race and the muscles in my neck tighten with tension. I'd look down at the body I was fingerprinting and think to myself, I feel safer with the corpses than I do out there. I was well aware that I was just a flimsy chain-link fence from the real danger of a gang-filled southern ghetto.

I back the Explorer out of it's spot and wait for the gate to open. It occurs to me how ironic it is that Explorers were being blamed for fatal roll-overs all over the country and look at what they give me to drive? I buckle my seatbelt.

I arrive on scene 20 minutes later. The uniforms are manning the police line and as soon as I approach one says to me, "Ma'am, media is not allowed beyond this point." I get that a lot. I pull out my badge and tell him I'm a forensic investigator from the ME's office. He apologizes and lifts the tape for me to duck under. "You look like a reporter." He says with a shy smile. He's kinda cute and I smile back, tell him, "No problem", and walk over to the waiting detective. Carl is tall and bald and dresses well. He's wearing a China blue dress shirt with a gray tie that perfectly matches his slacks. I can see sweat stains the size of Texas spreading under his arms. And no wonder. It's 98 degrees out and as humid as it can get without raining. Par for the course in Florida. Carl is busy writing information down on a notepad and when he sees me he lifts a hand in greeting.

"I've been waiting for you for an hour." I shrug and ask him what we've got. In Florida, nobody is to touch the body before the ME arrives and does an investigation. Consequently, detectives can get rather antsy if they have to wait for us. Carl directs me to an open patch of ground under a thicket of tall scrub pines. The area is sandy and right off the railroad tracks. I see skeletal remains spread over a 10 foot square area. There has been some scavenging by wild animals but it appears that most everything is still present. I peer closely at a femur. "That one has been moved. Do you see how there is no muddy splash back from the rain we had this morning?" Carl confirms that the person who called said he'd picked up a bone and then replaced it before leaving.

The forehead is rounded and the features are gracile. The muscle attachments are weak and she has a pointed jaw at the midline. I begin talking to myself. "A female. She was small. Very small. Maybe 4'10" or so." I am doing my preliminary skeletal analysis from behind the police tape because the helicopter needs to take aerial shots before we disturb the bones.

Hmmmm. Bones are fused and the wisdom teeth are present, so she is an adult. Her skeleton is young, though. No artheretic changes. No lipping on the vertebral surfaces. No remodeling of the facial bones. But her teeth. They are horrible. Several were missing prior to her death. A couple have fallen out since then, but they are easy to distinguish because the sockets show no signs of resorption. A lot of untreated cavities and few fillings. "She was young, but it takes time to get teeth that bad. I would say she's between 25 and 30 years old."

Her jaw is somewhat squared and her midface is neutral. There is also a hair mass a few feet from the skull. Red. "Caucasian." I say.

"I can't see any obvious trauma at this point. No gunshot wounds. No broken bones. Maybe she was strangled or something."

I don't see much flesh left. Just a few sinewy strands of muscle tissue attached to fairly clean bones. This is a surface scene. Nothing has been buried. "I am estimating she's been here for between 3 weeks and a month."

I walk back to my vehicle and wait in the blessed air conditioning for the helicopter to finish taking pics. I decide to call in the anthropology department from a local university to do a proper dig. It will be good experience for the students.

A few minutes later, Carl walks up to my window and knocks. "I got a match on the profile you gave." He says. My eyes widen. He tells me that a prostitute has been missing for a month and her mother called in a report on her two weeks ago. She was a white girl, 4'11", 28 years, red hair. Mother of two. Drug addict. I sigh and hope that my profile was accurate (seeing as I never got a chance to even pick up a bone.)

I got her dental records the next day. Turns out it was her.