Friday, June 24, 2005


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.


kibby f5 said...

How is it that dogs know what we need?

MOTW said...

Thank goodness for dogs and cats who know how to comfort us. (P.S. Thank you for putting the warning at the top of the thread.)

Higgy said...

Let me just echo MOTW - thanks for the warning...

And don't think this stuff is bringing us down - we're still here reading it!

mad Scientist said...

Sounds like one hell of a day.

Jeff Meyerson said...

There are jobs that you can only do for a finite amount of time before it just gets to be too much and you either move on or burn out. I'm guessing this was one of those.

My cousin made 7 years as an ADA in the Bronx before she had to quit. She became a ski instructor in Utah for a while after that.

Eleanor said...

It's OK, Polly - :)

MOTW said...

I'm sure this has been asked/answered before, but how long were you an ME, Polly?

mike weasel said...

Wow. Yay for dogs!

Kaf said...

The more I read your blog, the more I admire you, Polly. It takes incredible fortitude to face that and keep going back. You're an incredible person.