Wednesday, August 31, 2005



7:19 a.m. On the way to the scene, Dickie gives me the details. A small-time dealer on the lower rung of a big-time drug operation was caught skimming profits and sampling a bit too much of the merchandise. He was too unstable to stay in the organization and he knew too much to be allowed to live.

When we arrive on scene it looks like some sick carnival. People are swarming everywhere. The DA is giving an impromptu interview to the media. Several reporters are crowded around him with tape recorders, lights, and cameras trained his way. A reporter approaches me and asks for information. I tell her that I have no comment at this time and she should contact the ME's office later.

I scan the area as I cross the police line. This is probably one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. At least half of the houses along the block have been condemned...including the one I'm about to enter. I put booties on over my pumps and curse a rediculously impractical dress code that requires women to wear professional attire to crime scenes. I've ruined two of my favorite pairs of shoes already.

Inside it resembles a landfill. Stinking masses of filth are piled everywhere. The "living area" is sparcely furnished with a broken sofa and a canary yellow Lazy Boy. There may be a coffee table, but it is too hard to tell with all the trash cluttering the room. I pass through and move into a bedroom. Three mattresses are on the floor. Dickie is right behind me and says, "This isn't just a crack house. Looks like we've got ourselves a den of ill repute, as well." I think to myself that it will be near impossible to get any solid evidence here with all the human traffic that moves through this place. Evidence techs (ET's) are going to be here until dawn pulling prints and marking items to go into custody. Dickie heads out into the backyard to inspect the body while I poke around a bit more.

I am in the living room when Detective Blue walks through the front door. Two ET are just in the process of moving the Lazy Boy to make room for Dwight's stretcher. As they push the chair aside, a crack pipe falls out from between the seat cushions onto the floor. It rolls toward Det. Blue and stops when it hits his black leather shoe. Det. Blue looks up at the ET's and then at me and says, "I didn't see anything? Did you?" A second later I hear a loud crunch as the glass pipe is pulverized under his foot. Detective Blue doesn't want the added hassle and paperwork that would be involved if he were to report evidence of drug use in the home.

Blue looks at me defiantly and I inform him that I won't be doctoring MY report for his sake. I see a flash in his eyes and start to wonder if the drug dealer that's currently hog-tied in the backyard won't be the only "homocide" victim today. Dickie walks in and sees us glaring at each other. He looks at Blue and then back at me. "What's going on, people?" Blue continues to stare me down and says, "Nothing," before finally breaking eye contact and walking back out the front door. Dickie looks at me and I shrug. "You got me."

We walk out to the backyard and I see the body lying in the grass about 10 feet from a concrete porch. It's a young black man, maybe 19 years old. His wrists, ankles, and mouth are wrapped in duct tape. He has sustained a single gunshot wound right between his eyes. Judging from the wound size, I am fairly certain the weapon was a .22 caliber handgun. I check the area for blowback and for blood pooling. Nothing. The body was moved here from another location. "Do we know where the murder took place?" Dickie shakes his head. "A few uniforms are canvassing the area and we'll see if anybody saw the perps or can at least give a description of a vehicle. Right now we've got nothing." I bag the hands and feet to preserve any trace evidence that might be there. When we get back to the MEO and his fingernails have been scraped and clipped, I will run a gunshot residue kit (GSR) on him.

As I am snapping photographs, I hear a noise and look up at the window of the abandoned house next door. People are literally hanging out the windows trying to get a better look. There must be at least ten of them. The house looks ready to collapse in on itself and I wonder at the voyerism that would possess somebody to enter a condemned building so they can get a good view of a dead guy. Dickie sees them, too. And when Blue walks into the yard, still in a less-than-pleasant mood, he yells up to the people in the house to get out or he'll have them arrested. They reluctantly leave.

After determining that we would rather not feed the media frenzy any more than it's already been fed, we decide to have Dwight drive through the side yard and load the body here. Dwight has a hard time getting the body strapped onto the gurney because of the bindings. But the tape can't be removed until later.

As Dwight slowly drives through the grass, a hysterical young woman, pretty, about 20 years old, begins to chase the truck. "I told you!" She yelled after it. "I told you this would happen and now look at you! Now look at you!" She stops running and collapses on the ground in tears.

Nobody goes to her. Nobody offers her comfort. She just sits there in the middle of the street and sobs for a few minutes before wiping her face with the back of her sleeve and standing up. I watch her melt back into the dispersing crowd as I get into the Explorer and we drive away.


11:25 p.m. I am logging in some medications from one of last night's cases when Brunhilda walks into the back office with several faxes from the Sheriff's Office. "Well, according to Det. Blue's report, there was a "homocide" yesterday. Is that like an "insecticide" or "herbicide" only for gay people?" Gina, who is, ironically, a very butch lesbian, laughs riotously from the other side of the room. She laughs at anything Brunhilda says. Brunhilda could fart and she'd think it was just the sweetest thing.

I roll my eyes. I also lose count of the Valium I've been prepping for tox. I sigh and scoop them back onto the tray again. Five...ten...fifteen... I am tempted to take a couple myself as I contemplate spending the next seven hours with these two.

Chief Dickie, our boss, walks into the office and greets us, "Well, hello there, people. What's been going on this morning?" sixty...sixty-five...seventy... Without waiting for an answer, he turns to me and says, "Polly, I just got a call from the SO and it looks like there's a homicide in one of the crack houses downtown. It's a high profile gang killing and the DA's going to be there. How about you come on along as the lead on this one?" fifty-five...eighty... Shit! I give up on counting the pills and put down the spatula.

"Yeah. That sounds good, boss. Who's the lead?" I glance over at Brunhilda and Gina as he fills me in on the case details. They are scowling at me as one. I am Dickie's favorite and he has never bothered to conceal the fact. This has made office relations rather strained lately. To say the least.

I pack up my equipment and Dickie grabs the keys to the Explorer. As we walk down the hall leading outside I hear Gina gaffaw at some, no doubt, brilliantly funny and clever Brunhilda, for instance, "I have to go to the bathroom." or "This sweater is itchy."

"You know, I've been hoping somebody would die all morning so I could get out of there. Does that make me a bad person?" I ask. "Yes," Dickie says as he gets into the driver's seat. "Damn," I mutter to myself as I walk around to the passenger side and get in.

More later...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


11:58 a.m. Wow. What a great day so far. I can't stop smiling for some reason. I am listening to Bleed To Love Her, by Fleetwood Mac. Damn, that's a good song...

And once again she steals away
Then she reaches out to kiss me
And how she takes my breath away
Pretending that she don't miss me

Oh,I will bleed to love her
Oh, bleed to love her
Oh, I will bleed to love her

And once again she calls to me
Then she vanishes in thin air
And how she takes my breath away
Pretending that she don't care

Somebody's got to see this through
All the world is laughing at you
Somebody's got to sacrifice
If this whole thing's gonna turn out right

Oh, I will bleed to love her
Oh, bleed to love her
Oh, I will bleed to love her

I'm just finishing up my surveillance without a whole lot of action. I spent much of the time learning a new song that I really like. It's coming along. Anyway, I think I'm going to stop at Panara on the way home and get some bagels. (Mmmm...bagels.)

This afternoon I'm going to write about an execution-style homicide. This one was drug/gang related.

More later...

Monday, August 29, 2005


4:24 p.m. Well, I think it went pretty well. The Chief ME is a really cool lady. Very warm and not at all full of herself like a lot of ME's are. And the Chief investigator is about my age and single, so we have a few things in common. She seemed to have a decent sense of humor.

There was an HR guy there, too. He asked me for my phone number because he is in charge of disability for the county and wants to know if my company could handle it. I'm almost tempted to go solo and contract MYSELF out to the county to do their PI work for them.

Anyway, we ended up chatting for an hour. I am hoping that's a good sign. Now I get to play the waiting game.

I need to go shopping. I don't think I have enough cookies in the house.


10:37 a.m. Please send me your good thoughts, bloglit! Today is the day. I'm going for my interview at the MEO at 2:30. I should shower. Tamara told me to wear a bra... (whatever THAT means).

Sunday, August 28, 2005


I am playing a game of "rock, paper,scissors" with Mullet. "One...two...three...GO!" I say. I close my eyes and then open them again. I'm paper. He's scissors. Damn. "How about best three out of four?" I say. "No way," Mullet answers. "You lose." I collapse back in my chair and sigh. I look over at the three identification forms lying on the desk and the three Polaroids that accompany them. Double damn.

Last night three drunk teenagers who were driving home from a party got into a fatal car crash. The car was going 80 miles per hour on a dirt country road when the driver lost control and they rolled down a ditch into a water-filled ravine. All three died at the scene. This morning I get to accompany the grieving parents as they identify their childrens' bodies.

I grab the sheets and take a look at each photograph. The first is a young man. He's got a cut lip and a moderately gashed forehead, but otherwise he looks okay. I flip to the next. A girl this time. Long blond hair. Freckles. We took a profile shot because the right side of her face was so messed up. Most of her nose had been torn off, but we placed it back as best we could for the picture. The result is something far from perfect, but a good sight less traumatic than it could be. The last photo is of another girl. She's got curly brown hair. Her skull has been crushed so that she no longer has a forehead...just a void of abraded flesh and hair. Her head has been mostly severed from the stem of her neck. Before we took her picture we had to pull the sheet up just below her left ear to cover the devastating injury from view. The photograph purposefully cuts off just above her eyebrows.

They are truly horrible pictures, but it was the best we could do.

I hate this part of the job worse than anything. I'd rather swim in a pool full of spiders. As I walk down the hall toward the front office I think about how much worse it must have been back in the days when they had the family member identify the actual body...not just a photograph. There would be no trick angles or positioning of the sheet to cushion them from absorbing the full impact of what happened to their son...daughter...wife. Old Timers tell of how curtains were torn from walls...people fainted...screamed...attacked staff members in that overwhelming moment of pain.

I walk by the receptionist/transciptionist area and ask Chloe how the parents look. She is the one that buzzed back to the investigative section a few minutes ago informing us that they were here. Chloe looks grim. "They're holding it together. They're still in shock." I nod and continue through the heavy steel door that leads into the waiting area. I hear it slam and lock behind me.

There are several sets of brown leather couches and chairs surrounding a coffee table on the far side of the room. A four-foot tall ficus tree is near the window and another plant sits in the middle of the table. The whole civilized scene takes place atop a warm copper and rust area rug that covers the stark white tile floor.

My shoes echo across the room as I approach and five sets of eyes turn in my direction. One couple is huddled together on the couch that faces me. The husband has his hand on the wife's knee. She is not crying at the moment, but her swollen eyes and red nose belie her most recent bout of tears. These two people are the exact opposite in their carriage. The husband is slumped forward, almost crouching...his broad shoulders rounded in on themselves. The wife is stick straight in her seat with her knees clamped together in a way that reminds me of Miss America for some reason. He is wilted and broken while she is wound up tighter than a coiled spring.

The other couple is older. They sit on opposite ends of the other couch with a box of tissues between them. The man is blowing his nose and the woman is staring at the pattern on her skirt.

In a chairs sits another woman. She is blond and chubby. In her mid 40's. Alone. She looks like she is going to be sick. She is fingering the tattered tissue that is lying in her lap.

I am no good at doing identifications. I already feel the hot press of unshed tears behind my eyes as I finish my approach and introduce myself. "My name is Polly." (No "good morning" or "How are you?"...It's a terrible morning and this is probably the worst day of their lives.) "Are you the families of Greg, Joan and Tammy?" They nod. I continue with my frustratingly impotent speech. "First, I want you to know that I am so very sorry this has happened. (I refuse to say, "I'm sorry for your loss." I feel like that phrase is cliche to the point of being a mockery.) "I know this is a horrible day for you and I will try to get you through the identification process as quickly as possible." (I can't promise them anything more than quick efficiency. It will be painful and I won't lie about that.) "If there is anything you want to know about the accident I will be glad to give you all the information I have, but please wait until we are in the other room."

I ask for the parents of Tammy, the curly-haired brunette, to please follow me. The blond woman stands up on shaky legs and I guide her to a small box of a room with a desk and three chairs. As I open the door I ask Mrs. Tammy if she wants some water and she shakes her head "no".

I shut the door and turn to see Mrs. Tammy sitting in the chair at the desk. Both of her hands are lying palm-down in front of her and she is staring down at the wood grain surface. It's so quiet that you can hear the clock ticking up on the wall. Suddenly, her shoulders begin to shake and she starts weeping. I stand in the corner fighting back an overwhelming sense of helplessness. I cannot comfort this woman. Nothing I could possibly do would alleviate her pain. After a moment she says, "I'm sorry. It's just that she was all I had." Mrs. Tammy is struggling to regain her composure. "Don't you be sorry," I say, my voice cracking. "Take all the time you need. Would you like me to wait outside?" I am about to leave when she says, "No, no. I'll be okay. Let's just get this done."

I take the ID form and lay it out in front of her. I instruct her to fill it out all except signing the bottom. As she's writing, I look at the picture again. Oh, God. Tammy is the one whose forehead was crushed and who was mostly decapitated. This picture is pathetic. Why didn't Mrs. Tammy have somebody else come to make the ID as I'd suggested over the phone? Why do people insist on seeing their loved ones dead?

When she finishes filling out the form I lay the picture face-down on the desk. "Mrs. Tammy, I'm going to leave the room for a few minutes. When you feel ready, go ahead and look at the picture and then sign the form. Take as much time as you need." I warn her gently of the bruising on Tammy's cheek and of the gash by her left eye before I leave the room.

I stand outside and listen as Mrs. Tammy begins to softly cry and call out her daughter's name. I glance over at the two remaining couples who are listening as well.

An hour later I walk back into the investigative section. I am drained. I am devastated. I just want to go home.

Friday, August 26, 2005

I thought this was striking, somehow. Posted by Picasa


11:37 a.m.

Hey, bloglit!

I have a question (or two) for you all. If I were to write a book what would you like it to be about? I mean, would you like it to be a compilation of some of my stories or an autobiography or a "plot" type book based on one or more of my cases?

Would you like more forensics and less PI or as bit of both?

I really appreciate any responses I get. I'm trying to figure out what will sell and what the publishers would go for.

Thank you so much!!


Thursday, August 25, 2005


7:20 a.m. I can't send this until later in the morning because there is absolutely nothing as far as cell service here.

My hotel is 20+ miles away, so I got a chance to go through a lot of “Blip-like” towns on my way here. I was driving through one particular residential area early this morning when there, looming at the corner of an intersection was...a giraffe. It was still kind of dark and I almost drove off the road before I realized it was only a statue. A life-sized statue of a the middle of a Michigan neighborhood. No plaque. No explanation. Just a random statue of a giraffe. I shrug. Okay.

My Subject is a cabinetmaker by trade. He is suspected of working when he's supposed to be totally disabled. So far there has been no movement, though.

Well, through a series of very odd coincidences, I was picked up on my last case. So, I thought I'd tell you all about how I almost got thrown in jail for abducting children. My life is never dull, you know?

I arrive at Subject's residence and note that the house is in a really nice neighborhood. And is at the end of a cul de sac. I hate cul de sacs. This means that I can't really set up without being noticed by EVERYBODY on the block. So, I decide to play it safe and do a rolling surveillance, setting up down the street at the intersection with the main drag. I'd done a preliminary drive by the night before and noted Subject's vehicle in the driveway. This afternoon it wasn't there. I will try to pick him up as he's getting home from work (or where ever he is) and then come earlier tomorrow in hopes of following him.

I've been on the case for a couple of hours now and I turn into the cul de sac to get my third master shot of the residence. I just finish taking the video when Subject's wife exits the front door and walks to the mailbox. I continue to loop around the circle, taking a quick glance at the woman as I roll by. She is staring at me with no small measure of hostility. Huh.

I set up again about two blocks away near a bank of pine trees. I am engrossed in writing a blog entry when Subject's vehicle pulls up in front of my SUV. He has blocked off my exit. Oh, fudge.

Subject gets out of his car. A scrawny little rat-faced guy. Balding. Twitchy. Wearing khakis and a button-down shirt. He reminds me of Rick Moranis in Ghost Busters, only less hair. I half-expect him to shuffle up to my window and ask me if I'm the gate keeper.

I continue to write, pretending I don't notice that he is standing there at my window glaring at me.

Finally, he knocks. I finish my sentence and look up. He motions for me to roll down my window. I crack it and say, “Can I help you with something? Are you lost?” (I love asking people that approach my vehicle if they're lost. Their faces get all confused and they don't know what to say. It's like I stole their line or something.)

Anyway, he asks me what I'm doing here. "I'm working. What are YOU doing here?" I know I shouldn't provoke him, but I'm mad that the little rat blocked my exit. That's pretty nervy considering I'm sitting two blocks from his house minding my own business. Ahem.

He tells me that there was a child abducted in the neighborhood yesterday and the person who did it had Wisconsin license plates. Great. Now I'm a suspected baby snatcher. Subject's hostility makes more sense now and I try to reassure him that child abduction is not on my agenda. The problem is that I can't tell him why I'm actually here and that makes him all the more suspicious.

He tells me that he's calling the cops and looks at me expectantly. What do you want me to do? Bolt? Cry? I sigh. “Okay,” I say. I get back to my writing. He stands there for a minute and then takes out his cell phone. I am tempted to run the jackass over, but I don't imagine that would do anything for my case.

I stop writing for a minute and call Stinky Jimmy. “Hey, Jimmy. I got picked up by the Subject. He's here accusing me of abducting children because I have Wisconsin license plates....I just thought you should know.” Jimmy uses several colorful expletives. “You took the words right out of my mouth,” I say.

Subject comes to my window and knocks again. I point to my phone to indicate that I'm talking and he's going to have to kiss my ass until I'm done. I think that I'm confusing him. He expects me to be nervous and evasive. Instead, I turn my attention back to the phone. “He's knocking on my window, Jimmy.” Jimmy swears a bit more. I am impressed with his creativity. “Don't worry,” I laugh. “I think I can take him if it comes down to it.” Jimmy asks me if I want him to talk to the cop when he arrives. I tell him “no” and that I've got it under control. He asks if I'm sure. I smile. Jimmy is under the impression that I'm a delicate flower that he must protect. I tell him again that I'm fine and I'll call back if I need anything.

I get off the phone and crack my window again. “Yes?” I say. Subject tells me that the police are on a call but will be here shortly. “Okay, thanks,” I answer. Did I just thank him for calling the cops on me? He tells me that he's sorry if I've got a legitimate reason to be here, but that one can never be too careful. I sigh again. I fervently wish I could tell him why I'm here in order to alleviate his anxiety, but company policy forbids it.

He walks to his truck and I get back to work. I look up a few minutes later to see Subject staring at me. I wave. He looks away. He doesn't seem as hostile anymore. I don't think he believes I'm a baby snatcher.

The cop finally shows up. He drives over to Subject's truck first and talks to him for quite some time. I am right in the middle of writing about my fortune teller experience but stop abruptly when the cop knocks on my window. (I don't ignore cops as a general rule. They don't like that.) I had taken out my credentials a little while ago and when I roll down the window I hand them to the officer. I smile and we chat a bit. Looks like he's a pretty cool cop. Phew.

The cop tells me that Subject's ex-wife accused him of child molestation after he got custody of the kids a year ago. She lives in Wisconsin. The kids were supposed to testify in court tomorrow regarding the allegations. Yesterday, the ex-wife showed up at one of the daughters' school and abducted her. Mother and daughter are both missing now. Ugh. No wonder they freaked when they saw my plates. It was his own kid that was abducted.

I tell the cop exactly why I'm here and I ask him to please reassure the Subject that I'm not a threat to his children..."And if you could do it in such a way that you don't blow my cover, I'd really appreciate it." He says he will. Good cop. Nice cop. Cute, too.

Anyway, after a few minutes I am told I can leave. I don't waste any time. I park up the street several blocks and knock out a quick report documenting what happened. The officer rolls up a few minutes later and asks me if I want to go out for coffee when he gets off duty in a few hours. I tell him thanks, but that I'm leaving the area as soon as I'm finished with my report. On a whim, I offer him a job with my company. He seems pretty interested. It would be good to have a guy in this part of Michigan. Somebody with LOCAL PLATES.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I "heart" Climax!

I want to live in this town so that I can say things like, "I'm going to Climax!" or "I can't talk right now, I'm in the middle of Climax." or "Boss, I am taking the day off work so I can familiarize myself with Climax."  Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


12:45 p.m. Well, when I went to the interpertive celery museum it was not open. Even though the sign said that it was. I am irritated. What are they trying to tell me? That there isn't a huge draw to experience the majesty and history of celery?

So I sulk back to my truck and drive around for a while trying to figure out what else I can do to pass the time. I am heading toward a mall when I notice off to my right a sign for Mother Paula's, Spiritualist/Advisor/Reader. Now THERE'S something I've never done before! I smile. I park in the lot next to Mother Paula's and walk up to the front door. I ring the bell and wait. The house is white and old with a sagging front porch. A neon sign in the window indicates that they are open and a cardboard sign taped to the door says that walk-ins are welcome from 9am to 9pm. I look at my watch. It's 11am. I ring the bell again.

I am just about to turn around and leave when a young man, about 24 years old with a mustache, NASCAR ball cap, and jeans answers. "Hello?" He asks. I note the screaming baby in the background. "I'm here to get a reading." I say. The young man says, "Wull, she ain't in right now. She'll be back in an hour, though." Bummer. "That's okay," I say, "I'll come back."

I walk back down the rickety stairs and wonder to myself what kind of Mickey Mouse operation this is, anyway? I drive to the mall and buy an apple spice rum cake from Marshall Field's (which I am eating right now...yum.) I try on some clothes and almost buy a few things before heading back to Mama Paula's.

By the way, don't they cook out the rum in cakes like this? I'm starting to feel a little funny. I better stop eating this. I'm on duty.

I walk up to the front door again and ring the bell. A few minutes later, NASCAR guy comes back out and invites me to sit in one of a pair of creaky wicker chairs that are next to a card table. Before I obediently sit, I notice that the cushions are so threadbare that the obnoxious floral pattern has been almost completely worn off.

NASCAR leaves the porch and shuts the door behind him. I look around. There is a picture of Elvis leaning up against the wall on the other end of the porch along with several statues of saints. A broken old set of black wood and glass furniture reminiscent of the early 80's is stacked in the corner.

Doesn't look like the fortune telling trade is doing so well these days.

I turn my attention to the table next to me. It is covered with dark blue fabric with moons and stars peppered across the surface. Tarot cards are layed out in such a way that I imagine Mama Paula got bored one day and decided to play a little solitaire. Small statues of saints are also on the table, along with many candles.

There is a small crystal ball on a wooden stand. It looks like a snow globe to me. I wonder if it is? I get closer and peer into it just as the doorknob turns.

I sit back in my chair expecting to see a woman in purple robes, heavy make-up and a turbin. Instead, I am greeted by a Hispanic woman in her early 30's. Her hair is long and blond, but is sporting about 4 inches of black roots. It is pulled back from her face in a tasteful ponytail. She is a heavy lady and is wearing a yellow shirt and black skirt. She speaks with a thick Spanish accent.

She talks about the season change and the cooler weather as she sits down in the chair across from me. We chat for a bit and then she asks me what I'd like done. I have a choice between a full spiritual/psychic reading ($85), a tarot reading ($45), and a palm reading ($45). I tell her I only brought $20. She says that the charges are flat rates and that I should have been told how much it cost when I called the phone number. "I didn't call a phone number. I just dropped in." I am about to get up and leave when Mama has a change of heart. "Well, since it is your first time, I can give you a partial palm reading." I smile. How gracious of her.

The following is Polly's palm reading: (Note that I did not help her at all. I was mostly silent and gave her vague answers when she asked me questions.)

Mama takes my hands and turns them over. She says that I will live to a ripe old age. Phew! Then she says that in my work I help people. (That's right...I help them get off their insurance fraudulant asses and get back to work.) She says I am kind. I grunt and she looks up at me with a raised eyebrow. She says that I am honest in my dealings with others but that I sometimes don't receive the same honesty in return. She says that my life is not settled right now and that it will be a couple of years before I should expect a change in that.

She says that she sees two men in my heart one with dark hair and one with light hair. She tells me that the light-haired man cares for me deeply but that when I look at him I always see the dark-haired man in the back of my mind. She says that the dark-haired man is my soulmate. She says that we are both in pain because we are supposed to be together. My heart starts to race and my hands start to shake in hers. Stupid shaking hands. Stop. This was supposed to be funny. She tells me the dark-haired man made a choice but that he is not content. She offers that the time is not right for me and the dark-haired man and that many interferences will take place before that changes. She says it is all about timing.

I am getting angry and would just like to leave. This was supposed to be funny. Mama tells me that I will not have great riches in life, but that I will be content when it comes to material things. She takes my hand again and says that she sees three children but only senses two of them. She says that they will be of good health. She says that my health is good except as it relates to stress. She tells me that my stomach and my neck are often the manifestation of stress in my life. I glance down and my purse and think about the bottle of Mylanta I have stashed there.

I get out of there pretty quickly after my reading and go back to my truck. I sit in there for a while staring out the window. I know this is all crap. Let me reiterate...I KNOW this is all crap. But I am still angry and a little surprised. I never told her ANYTHING. About me. About my love life. About my family. I feel like she's been snooping around in my underwear drawer looking for something to exploit. And the worst part of it is that I invited her to do it.

Well, she can go to hell. I start the engine to my car and head back to my hotel. What does she know? Don't give me that soulmate crap. Life's a lot more complicated than that. I think to myself that I'd rather be with a light-haired man that earns my love than a dark-haired man that doesn't appreciate it.

I pull into the parking lot, grab a box of cookies out of the back of my truck and go inside the hotel.
So I went here, instead and had my palms read. I'll write about THIS interesting experience as soon as I set up my surveillance this afternoon.  Posted by Picasa
Alas, the celery museum was not open.... Posted by Picasa


9:17 a.m.

10 calls so far this morning.

I'm off to interpret celery.

Polly: *twisting head to side* "It looks like a cell phone trying to kill a woman."
Guide: "Really? Cuz that's actually just a stalk of celery."

More later...

Monday, August 22, 2005


10:30 p.m. I am watching Outbreak and drinking a cup of lemon herb tea. I always kind of wanted to be an epidemiologist. If only I had a few more lives.

I just finished up with Minnie for the night. It only took a couple of revisions on her report before things were looking pretty good. And so after a grand total of 26 telephone calls today, I got her a cup of water and tucked her into bed. I am hopeful that with a little effort we can break a new record tomorrow. You've got to have goals.

Speaking of tomorrow, I don't have to go on surveillance until later in the afternoon, so I thought I'd do something fun in the morning.

After looking through the large quantities of entertainment opportunities and ruling out things like, The Sea Horse Show Bar, I decided that I would go to the Celery Flats Interpretive Center. That's right, folks. A celery museum. I'm not sure what exactly I'll be interpreting, but I'll be certain to take plenty of pictures.


11:45 a.m.

Just got call number 19.

It's not even noon.


I think maybe this is her way of trying to get my job by calling me to death.


9:14 a.m. I have received no less than 15 calls so far this morning from new investigator Minnie. I am not exaggerating.

"Polly, the Subject just walked out and picked up the paper! What do I do?"

"Polly, she answered the phone!"

"Polly, the license plates don't come back to her! Does that mean I leave?"

"Polly, her husband left for work. Should I follow him?"

"Polly, when I called directory assistance they said the number was private."

"Polly, sometimes I think that I would like to run off and join the circus."

This is going to be a long, long day. I'm worried Minnie is one of those people that refuses to think so as to avoid having to make a decision so as to avoid being wrong. I'm hopeful that it's just the first day jitters.


6:42 a.m. I woke up this morning at 5:15 a.m. to an incessant beeping...beeping...beeping. I kept trying to turn off my alarm clock and was about to throw it across the room when I realized that it was my cell phone. I answered it with a bleary, "Mmmph." On the other end a hesitant voice said, "Is this Polly? This is Minnie..the new investigator. You said I could call you after six. Does that mean Eastern time or Central time? Do I need to call back? I'm sorry..." I sit up and stifle a yawn. "No, no. This is fine, Minnie. How's your first day of surveillance going?" Minnie sounds like a prepubescent girl. I imagine a five-year-old in pigtails sitting on a booster seat behind the wheel of an SUV. She tells me that she has already been caught. Wow. Fifteen minutes. That's a new world record for getting picked up. I ask her what exactly happened and she tells me that an old lady next door came out with some dogs and was looking right at her. Minnie panicked and drove away. I smile. "Yeah. That'll happen. You're fine. Go on back and set up again. People will notice you, just act like you have a legitimate reason to be there. And if they ask, tell them you're conducting an investigation and if they want more details to call the cops."

We discuss her case for a while and I ask her details about the neighborhood and the house and the Subject she's surveilling. She seems pretty on the ball and I am hoping she doesn't bolt when the cops make their inevitable appearance later in the day. I will probably spend a couple of hours going over her report tonight. Sigh. I'll be in a hotel in Michigan by then so I suppose it will give me something better to do than watch TV, eat fast food, and drink Mylanta.

There's been a lot of rearranging of territories lately. I lost Ohio and gained Iowa. Hooray for Iowa! Iowa promises to be less of a pain in the ass. I've had two really busy states for a long time and Powers That Be finally decided to have mercy on me. I feel kinda bad because Sugar now has to train the two new investigators that I just hired. I don't feel REALLY bad, though, because she's been sailing by with only one state since I started.

From past patterns, it seems that the company will be splitting regions again soon. I guess we'll see what happens at the supervisor meeting in December. I am not sure if I'll take a regional supervisor job if they offer it. I guess it will depend on how much money they plan to give me and what happens with the ME Investigator job.

Today I need to pack and TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE before I leave for Michigan. I have to remember my running shoes so I can train. Just running a couple of miles is a chore right now. Serves me right for letting my workouts slide over the past several months.

Later on I plan on talking about obtaining a positive identification for the decedent. There are several ways of doing so. Visual, dental records, x-ray, fingerprint, and DNA. I've got some interesting examples from each category.

And I'm sure I'll be hearing more from Minnie.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

6:33 a.m. The onions that previously called my fridge "home". They're in a pot on my balcony. I figured if they could live through months in a dark, cold box they deserved a chance to see the sun. So far they're doing pretty well.  Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 19, 2005


12:39 p.m. I just got fantastic news! The medical examiner's office where I live is hiring a part-time investigator and just called me to ask if I'd like to apply.

It's a minimum of 22 hours a week and I'd be working nights and weekends. The office is within walking distance of my house and it wouldn't interfere with my day job.

If it works out and they offer me the position, I can continue on as a supervisor for the company I now work for but I will cut out most of the surveillance work. I will have a foot in both pies. Er. Or a finger in both pies? Mmmm...pie.

Anyway, send me your good vibes, bloglit. I should know something within the next couple of weeks.

I'm going to go do a happy dance now.

Bye, y'all!


6:36 a.m. I sat up on my balcony last night watching the lightening and rain pummeling the water. Waves crashed, sending up white spray that could be seen even in the darkness. The sound of the television drifted through the screen door warning of severe weather and a tornado warning in the area.

I am terrified of tornados. Ever since I was a little girl I've had nightmares about them from time to time when my life gets very hectic. I think it has something to do with their chaotic nature. I don't like not having control of my destiny.

Anyway, here is the rest of the story I promised.

I arrive on scene. The house is a large brick manor-type with large live oak trees dotting the acre or so of property. There is a television news crew standing at the police line talking to the lead detective, we'll call him Det. Sajak because he is as pretty and polished as a game show host.

I drive my vehicle to the police line that is threaded across the driveway and a uniform allows me through after inspecting my badge and credentials.

I enter through the front door. Cops are buzzing around like flies. Evidence technicians are already at work taking photographs and measurements and a group of detectives are chatting in a circle by the kitchen.

The decedent's body is lying on the couch, but I will get to her later. I greet the detectives and they tell me the story. Apparently, this woman was mentally ill. She had severe agoraphobia, to the point that she couldn't go outside without having a debilitating panic attack. She was also depressed and withdrawn, according to her psychiatrist. He'd given her several prescriptions for anti-depressants and muscle relaxants. The psychiatrist said that she hadn't been to see him in several months because her symptoms were becoming worse and she refused to leave the house.

The detectives told me that her husband was usually very kind and understanding of her condition, but this morning he was feeling stressed. He'd been running late for work and his mother was ill. He snapped at her before he walked out the door and it sent her into a tailspin. She wrote about 20 suicide notes to several different people. Envelopes were neatly piled on the kitchen table with names written on them. A notebook was also there. Sort of a diary of despair that she'd been keeping. It appeared that she was considering this for a while.

After she wrote her goodbyes, she went into the bathroom and tried slitting her wrists. Apparently, she didn't have the stomach for that, so she took several Valium. After that she went into the garage and pulled out a string of Christmas lights. Three hours later her husband returned from work to find her hanging from a tree in the backyard.

I walk in the bathroom and note blood droplets on the floor. Four knives are neatly lined up on the bath mat. The blades are all facing west. I inspect them and note that one has blood running along the serated edge. The empty bottle of Valium is by the sink, along with a half-empty glass of what appears to be water. I pour some in a sample jar and screw the lid on tight. I will have the lab analyze it to be sure.

I walk into the kitchen and my eyes fall on all of her goodbye notes. The side door is open and a string of Christmas lights is snaked out the door and into the side yard. I walk out. There is a bar stool under the tree and a kitchen knife that her husband had used to cut her down.

I go back through the kitchen to look at the body. She was very beautiful. Her button-down blouse is open, exposing her breasts and abdomen. Breast implants. She's thin. She's got make-up on. Her hair is blond and shoulder length, with darker roots. She was a high-maintanence girl.

White patches with small metalic buttons are affixed to her skin in two different locations. This indicates to me that the EMTs have come and gone. They checked her vitals and pronounced her dead at the scene. Her wrists have hesitation marks, indicating that she'd tried to slit her wrists before she hung herself. I inspect her clothing and skin for blood. I find none except for big fat droplets that have dried on the tops of her feet. The wrists are clean and have been rubbed with an ointment of some sort. I wonder why she didn't clean her feet?

I check lividity, the red, bruise-like pattern that is left by blood settling to the lowest point after circulation stops. It is shifting gradually. And her core temp is still elevated, though her extremities are cold. She must not have been hanging for more than a few hours. If she was there longer the lividity would have set as the blood cooled and congealed. I put on some latex gloves and open each eye. I note pricks of blood in the whites. This is known as petechial hemorrhaging and is indicative of forced and severe oxygen deprivation.

I close the woman's blouse and there are several groans from the other side of the room. "Aw, Polly! We were still investigating that!" Yeah. I bet you were. Jackass. I think back last week to when I walked down into the autopsy suite to pull some prints. There was a dead woman with an absolutely gorgeous body lying on a tray next to the wall. But her face was covered with a sheet. You see, she was older and had an unattractive face, so the guys had covered her head. I was disgusted.

I take a length of the Christmas lights so that the ME can do an impression comparison. Before I leave, I copy down the suicide note she wrote to her husband for my report. In it she said that she didn't want to burden him with her illness anymore. She said she was going to the loving arms of God where she would find comfort and have no more fears. She told her husband she would love him forever and would be waiting for him.

I listened to Full of Grace, by Sarah McLachlan on the way home from work that night and thought of the woman who'd killed herself. And I thought of how her poor husband must be suffering. To this day I can't hear that song without both of them coming to mind.

The winter here’s cold, and bitter
It’s chilled us to the bone
Haven’t seen the sun for weeks
To long too far from home

I feel just like I’m sinking
And I claw for solid ground
I’m pulled down by the undertow
I never thought I could feel so low
Oh darkness I feel like letting go

If all of the strength and all of the courage
Come and lift me from this place
I know I could love you much better than this
Full of grace
Full of grace
My love

So it’s better this way, I said
Having seen this place before
Where everything we said and did
Hurts us all the more

Its just that we stayed, too long
In the same old sickly skin
I’m pulled down by the undertow
I never thought I could feel so low
Oh darkness I feel like letting go

If all of the strength
And all of the courage
Come and lift me from this place
I know I could love you much better than this
Full of grace
Full of grace
My love

Thursday, August 18, 2005


I wrote the following poem the night I got home from working the case that I am going to write about later today. The woman who killed herself had agoraphobia.


She sits on the floor
This just won’t do

She lines up the knives on the bath mat
Five blade edges all facing west
She fills up the tub
Washes herself off
All but her feet

She puts on fresh clothes
Swallows a vial of pills
She’s got plenty more
That she didn’t take
Until now

Goes out to the garage
And wonders what to use
To take her to God

She hopes He’ll understand
One can’t be expected to live this way

She looks around
Christmas lights
And here it’s July

She goes outside
She’s not afraid this time
This last time
To leave the house

She gets the stool
It’s shady, here.
No grass grows under this tree
Just dirt

She climbs
Looks down at the lights
That circle her neck

And thinks that this is her Christmas tree
And thinks that the grass is dead
And thinks that it died because it had no light

It’s hard to see
The drugs are making her sway

She already wrote the note
The one her husband will find
After he cuts her down
With one of the knives in the bathroom

He will hold her pale body
He will rock her
And cry
And be sorry that he snapped at her that morning

Because he knew she was delicate
It’s just that mom was sick
And work was stressful
And he was running late

What a shame


8:24 a.m. I walk into the office Monday afternoon and am greeted by utter chaos. Or maybe this is how it always is and I've just been spoiled having just returned from a two week vacation.

There were eight cases yesterday and four of them went to autopsy. I pick up the files and sit down in my favorite chair to read. Two of these cases are death certificate inquiries because the doctor entered an erroneous manner or cause of death. This happens a lot. I look over the first file. Manner of death (MOD) is listed as "natural". The doc reasoned that the decedent had been bed-ridden and died of pneumonia...a natural consequence of being bed-ridden for an extended period of time, since fluid will collect in the lungs when you are horizontal too long. However, the dead guy had been in a car accident three years earlier which left him a quadrapolegic...which led to his being bed-ridden...which led to the pneumonia. So, the drunk driver that hit him that night three years earlier, in a sense, killed him yesterday. It was ruled vehicular homicide. I called the MD and explained the situation to him. He agreed to change the DC to reflect a homicide. After that I called Homicide so they could open a new investigation and determine whether additional charges were to be filed against the drunk driver.

The second DC issue was a doctor that entered "cardiac arrest" as the cause of death (COD). The Chief ME gets really pissed off about this one. Soon after I'd started working here I made the mistake of asking her what was wrong with cardiac arrest. "Cardiac arrest means that your heart stops!" she says with irritation, "Everybody's heart stops when they die! We want to know what led to the heart stopping...whether it was a heart condition or a Mack truck." Fair enough.

I moved on to two other files which turned out to be inspections. Inspections are cases where the manner and cause of death are fairly sure and the ME feels there is no need to perform an autopsy. The first was a 98-year-old woman who passed away in her sleep. She hadn't been to a doctor for years, but there was no need to believe that she had died of anything other than natural causes. The second was a 55-year-old, 400 lbs man who had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure 10 years earlier. The doctor that diagnosed him refused to sign the death certificate because he hadn't seen the decedent in so long. The man's ankles were swollen and red, a result of poor circulation. That and his gross obesity are classic symptom of CHF. The circumstances surrounding his death were not unusual or suspicious. He got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and collapsed in the hallway. No need for an autopsy in this case, either.

I was just starting to look over the four autopsies that had taken place this morning when a call came in from Homicide. A hanging suicide. 35-year-old female.

I get directions and grab my jacket, happy to leave the office for a while.

This case is not far from the MEO. And it is in a very nice neighborhood. I was there a few weeks ago when a housewife whose lawyer husband was cheating on her left her multi-million dollar mansion after sending the kids off to school, walked to the park across the street, sat on a bench and shot herself through the head with a handgun. It took evidence technicians two hours and three metal detectors to find the shell casing in the debris at the base of a live oak tree several feet away.

More later....


8:10 a.m. There is an Asian lady outside my window yelling at a pigeon. She's been having a very serious discussion with the bird for the past 20 minutes or so. I don't know what it did to piss her off, but it must have been bad. She is shaking her pointer finger at it and scowling.

I love my job.

Today I am going to write about a hanging case. This case also deals with mental illness and its role in suicide.

But first I need to move my truck. The street sweeper is coming.

More later...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


8:40 a.m. I've been filming my Subject for a half-hour. (He's on a leave of absence from work on account of him being so very ill, you see.) This is a pretty slick neighborhood...right across the street from a park. Nice brown-stone apartment buildings. Maybe a 2 on the Scary Neighborhood Scale.

Subject just slipped out of view while walking his dog around the corner. I'm debating foot pursuit or just waiting for him to come back. He's got the dog, after all. Not like he'll go too far. It took me almost an hour to find a parking spot this morning because traffic is so congested here. I feel like I won the lottery. I'm right in front of his house.

Well, I'm gonna load up the spy purse and go for walk. It's a nice day, so why not?

More later...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


7:25 a.m. A day off. I feel so spoiled. Two in one week. It's a record. Today I plan to clean out the refrigerator. (Ahem) I am also signing up for a 5K coming up later in September. It will give me a goal other than eating and chasing people with my camera.

I'm going to tell one more story from when I was a kid. It involves death. (Surprise, surprise.) I think that things I gravitated toward later in life were shaped a lot by what I experienced growing up and that is why these stories in particular stand out to me.

Vlad was a dark-eyed boy of Russian decent. He had stick-straight black hair that stuck up all over. He was always kind of strange. I could never quite put my finger on what was off about him. He was a boy that, upon meeting me as a three-year-old, immediately asked me if I wanted to go in the woods and “strip”. Strip? I asked him what that was and he informed me that we would take off all our clothes and then look at each other naked. Oh. Well, okay, then. Welcome to the neighborhood.

When Vlad was older, he used to dress up like a ninja and peak in the windows of neighborhood girls' houses until somebody’s father called the cops on him. How proud his parents must have been when they answered the door that night...

Vlad was definitely weird and perverted, but (except for the ninja getup) I suppose peaking in a girl’s window is not out of the realm of possibility for a horny teen-ager.

I think the real concern with Vlad was his homicidal tendencies. When he was a child, his parents kept him stocked with a fresh supply of gerbils because he somehow managed to kill them off every few weeks. I can only imagine how the little rodents in pet stores panicked on hearing they were going to be Vlad’s pets.

Going to his house was the kiss of death. He’d hug them to the point of suffocation or chop off their tails in Frankenstein experiments that ended badly. A couple died from apparent heart attacks when he and his big brother decided to use them as the ball in a football game.

As far as I know, I was Vlad’s only human victim of violence. (Of course, that was a long time ago.) It was late September. I was in third grade and would normally be in school on an early Tuesday afternoon. Our teachers had gone out on strike, however, so the neighborhood kids were being kept home on an indefinite sabbatical from education. And that was fine by us.

Vlad, Tina, Chris, and I sat in my driveway on the broad hood of the old family station wagon. My dad hated that car. There was always something going wrong with it. One night he was laughing in his sleep and when mom woke him up he said he’d been dreaming that the car rolled off a cliff and then a huge boulder fell on it.

The wagon's hood was big and flat and there was plenty of room for all four of us to sit on it. I was near the edge with my legs crossed, facing the center. I’m not sure how we got on the subject, but I remember saying something to Vlad in a teasing tone about his penchant for “gerbilcide”.

(I learned a valuable life-lesson here… never taunt crazy people.)

Apparently, he was a little touchy about the subject because he pushed me. I teetered, waving my arms in broad circles in an attempt to regain my balance. I just caught myself and was straightening up when he pushed me again, harder. And this time I fell backward over the edge of the car. I would have landed squarely on the top of my head, except that I put my left arm up just in time to catch my fall. And just in time to shatter my elbow joint as my entire body weight bore down on it. I heard a sickening snap next to my ear as my arm hyperextended and I tumbled back onto the pavement.

I pulled my injured arm to my body and sucked in air as I lay on my back near the wheel well of the car. The pain was exquisite. Bright lights were flashing in my vision and I imagine I was screaming...loudly. I saw Vlad, his face ashen, peer over the edge of the hood at me. I looked away from him and instead concentrated on the sky. It was such a vivid blue with puffy white clouds moving through it. And as I stared up toward heaven, I remember praying that God would let me die rather than feel such unbearable pain. I’ve always been kind of a drama queen.

Tina, always my protector, helped me up off the ground and told Vlad to get out of our yard and never come back. I’m sure Tina would have chased him down and beat him with a stick if she wasn't busy walking me into the house to see Mom.

Mom was the testament of calm. I guess after 5 kids, she was used to gashed, broken and bruised bodies. She calmly examined my arm and got me an icepack before driving me off to the doctor’s office.

A couple of hours later, I found myself on the way home in a sling and a plaster half-caste that extended from my shoulder to my wrist. It still hurt, but by then I was riding high on some top-rate painkillers and I was pleasantly buzzed and drowsy. As I stepped out of the car, I glanced next door and watched with detached amusement as Vlad, his face again white with a different kind of fear, high-tailed it out the backdoor of his house with his mother in hot pursuit, disappearing behind a thicket of trees.

Years later, when I was 13 or 14-years-old, I went out for a walk and noticed Clair, Jack and Sandy out in the front yard. They hovered above a white towel covering a small lump on the ground near their front door. An asymmetrical pool of blood oozed out from beneath it.

I asked what happened and Jack, distraught but trying valiantly not to cry, said that Muffy, their dog, had jumped off the retention wall and killed herself. Even then I found it fishy that she would bleed like that from a four-foot fall. I wanted to inspect, but Clair wouldn’t let me. In the end, I reasoned that she must have tripped and hit her head at just the right angle on the concrete.

Poor Muffy. She was an ancient wiener dog that didn’t particularly like strangers or kids. And she’d been around for as long as I could remember; since before Jack was born, even. Muffy was a spunky old girl, low to the ground and the color of cinnamon sticks. It was comical how imposing she thought she was when a mere toddler could have easily drop-kicked her across the yard.

But Muffy had a weapon far worse than her teeth. She jealously guarded her home and her people with a yippy little bark that was just the right tone to pierce ruthlessly into the soft depths of your brain. And though I have no personal knowledge as of yet, I can imagine shoving an ice pick through your ear would not be unlike experiencing a Muffy bark.

It was a sad day and despite how universally annoying she was to everybody but her owners, I felt a loss when Muffy died. In the end, she was interred in a tasteful backyard ceremony right next to the deer forelimb that my father had bagged on that hunting trip years before. May they both rest in peace.

It was years later when my dearest and oldest friend, Helena, (another victim of the Peeping Ninja) told me that Vlad had been out in his backyard tanning the day Muffy died. After listening to her bark incessantly for well nigh an hour…at squirrels, passing cars, or the wind that dared to rustle the trees in her yard…he went into his house, got his father’s handgun, and killed her.

When Clair and her kids got another dog, he killed that one, too. He was never caught or punished.

That was a lot of years ago and I wouldn’t be surprised if Vlad has since graduated into a full-blown Geoffrey Daumer-type serial killer…replete with lampshades made of human skin at this point. And I'm only half-kidding about that.

Gee, I hope he never reads this blog.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


It was mid-morning in autumn. I grabbed my jacket and stepped outside on the front porch of the house I grew up in. I stood there for a moment with my hands in my pockets. I could smell in the air the smoke of wood-burning fireplaces and the cool mustiness of rotting leaves. The fall colors had passed a few weeks back, leaving the twisted bones of maples, oaks, and ashes standing like arthritic sentinels around the neighborhood.

Yesterday afternoon, Daddy and my teen-aged brother, Tom, had returned with a young doe strapped to the back of the station wagon and many harrowing tales of their manly hunting exploits…including my brother accidentally waking a bear that was sleeping in a cave. Mom’s eyes widened at that, but Daddy was careful to add that it was groggy and did not give chase.

I stepped off the porch and walked toward the open garage door. Daddy and Tom must have been up early because they were half-way finished dressing the deer carcass that hung from the ceiling. I sat on an overturned bucket and asked Daddy several questions regarding deer anatomy while he cut off various parts and pieces and tossed them on a tarp that already heaped with intestines, organs, and a severed head.

After I'd peppered Dad with enough questions, I turned my attention to the tarp. The head was on its side near the edge of the pile. I knelt down to get a closer look. The eyes were a dull and cloudy brown with the lids half-closed. I imagined that when it was alive those eyes were clear and bright. It had such long eyelashes! The mouth was open with the pink, velvety tongue hanging out the side. I did not touch it, but moved around the other side of the tarp so I could observe the back of its head. I saw shredded skin and tissue from where the blade had sawed back and forth along the neck. The bone had not been hacked through, but disarticulated between two cervical vertebrae. I got a cold feeling inside, like something in my spirit was being assaulted, but then I looked over at Dad and Tom…who were just chatting away like this was nothing...and gave in to my curiosity.

I picked up one of the bony legs and inspected it, pressing the flesh between my fingers. There was no fat under the velvety fur. The amputation had been just above the second joint and I found, to my great amusement, that when I pulled on the exuding tab of thick iridescent tendon, the “elbow” retracted. I could make it wave!

Thrilled with my new party trick and completely forgetting my moment of reverent sadness earlier, I swiped the limb out of the pile and brought it over to Clair’s house to show Jack and Sandy. Jack answered the door. He was now eight-years-old. He and Sandy came out and inspected my prize. I showed them the wave. Hi! But to my irritation they were not as amused as I was. In fact, the little peace-lovers were sickened by the death and mutilation of one of God’s beautiful creatures. Oh, for Pete’s sake!

So, several minutes later, I found myself giving a eulogy for a deer forelimb in Jack's backyard. Part of me was tempted to fight them for it before it was interred, but then I thought better of it. I had three more where that came from, after all.

Friday, August 12, 2005


9:08 a.m. I just got a call from my client on the case I have today. I was supposed to pick up the guy as he left work this afternoon but it appears Subject's going to be leaving on vacation for Wisconsin.

Luckily my bags are still packed. I have no idea where we're going to end up. Isn't this fun??

More later...

Incidentally, I was just finishing up that last blog entry when I heard a sizzling sound outside my window. Then a pop. Then the power blipped off and on again.

Poor squirrel...


8:09 a.m. I was going to entitle this post POINTERS FOR THE BUDDING INVESTIGATOR. But, upon reflection, I think that STUPID THINGS I'VE DONE is probably more appropriate.

Like the time I called a Subject's office on pretext and hadn't figured out an alias yet. When Mira Abooboo's secretary asked me to leave a name, I freaked and said, "Sharon...Abooboo...No relation." Gulp. Amazingly, I got away with it because the person I was investigating owned and operated an Indian dress-making shop so her clientelle was primarily Indian.

Or the time that I had a certain home video I'd made that ended up going to Corp instead of the Flanders case. (Ahem.) I got an email from Jethro at the office a few days later commenting on how the camera didn't seem to add ten pounds to me at all... (See Polly's face in a mask of complete and total horror.)

Speaking of work videos... There was the time that I had, apperently, left the camera on for about 20 minutes while it lay in my lap. Corporate got a good laugh out of what they so kindly dubbed "The crotch cam".

Or when I was eating hazelnuts in my truck before going in to an interview with a Subject. I walked up to the door and a big, handsome brute of a man answered. Yum. I smiled at him and he kind of backed away. Weird. I remembered to put on deodorant. I conducted the entire interview and he just stared at the wall behind my head. Whatever. Some people are just rude. I asked to use the restroom before I left and when I looked in the mirror I could have died. Nut shells and scum were coating my teeth. I looked like I hadn't brushed... ever.

And finally... (Oh, I hate to admit this)... The time when I was in the back of my truck using my handy-dandy bucket and while I was busy taking care of business, my Subject got in his car and left. I looked up. He was gone. Now, you can imagine my report.

"Investigator inadvertantly lost Subject due to drinking a 64oz mug of tea. Efforts to re-establish surveillance were unsuccessful."

No need to sugar-coat it. Yeah. I suppose I could have worded it differently, but this was more fun. I got a call from Joe, my supervisor at the time, who told me that maybe I should leave that portion out. "But we're supposed to explain why we lost the Subject." I complain. "How else am I going to say it without making it sound like I was taking a nap?" I know I am being difficult, but, like I said, this is more fun. Joe is quiet for a minute and then says, "Well, we'll send it up and see what Corporate does with it. Just... you know..stop drinking so much tea."


A sign in the Polish/Italians neighborhood I was undercover in last night. Something tells me this might be worse than deer brains or tripe. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 11, 2005


9:14 a.m. This is the continuation of the story I started last night. I encourage you read the warning I posted there and decide for yourself if you want to read any further. It gets a lot worse.

The next morning I walk into the office and see two NCIS agents from the Navy base. The baby's father was a yeoman on a ship and NCIS was directly involved in what happened to the baby. Apparently, the father was skimming money out of the ship's coffers. NCIS got wind of it and these two agents showed up at the father's house with a warrant for his arrest.

The father let the agents into his house. He was home alone with his little boy. The mother was at work. The agents sat down on the couch and watched the baby toddling around the room while the father confessed.

After several minutes, the father picked up his son and asked the NCIS agents if he could go out on the porch for some air. They didn't see any harm in it and so let him go. But when he got outside, the father bolted.

The agents followed him in foot pursuit and called for backup. They ran several blocks down the street. The agent telling me the story, Agent Gray, looks pained. He says he could hear the little boy crying as they gave chase.

At this point, the ME walks in and tells us she's ready. We all walk over to the autopsy suite as the agents recount, again, what had happened...this time for the benefit of the doc. I see the little boy across the room. The autopsy tech had taken his blankets and his diaper off and was taking photographs.

The ME takes the IV out of the baby's arm. She cuts the bandages off his little head. More pictures. She feels the back of his skull and winces. She says she is shocked that he lived 12 hours after such a traumatic head injury. "He was a fighter," she says quietly.

As the doc works, Agent Gray continues his story. He tells us that the father stopped running when two cop cars blocked the road in front of him. He was surrounded. At this point the little boy was screaming. His father held him up above his head and told the agents not to come any closer or he'd throw the boy down on the concrete.

Agent Gray has a haunted look in his eye. "We stopped," he said. "We stopped but he still did it."

I watch the ME take out a scalpal and reflect the skin off the little boy's head. I suddenly feel nauseous and dizzy. I excuse myself and run to the lady's room down the hall. I sit on the toilet with my head between my legs. Get a grip, Polly. Do your job. I squeeze my eyes shut and will the tears away. There will be time for that later.

I return to the autopsy suite and am shocked to see the baby's skull. Hematomas and fractures all over. I am dizzy again and I have just enough time to say, "I'm going to faint." The two agents run up and grab me just as the world turns mercifully black around me.

I wake up on the cold floor. Several faces are circling above me. Brunhilda is there and makes a joke that I must have had too much to drink last night. I am mortified.

A few minutes later Brunhilda walks me over to the investigative section. I sit in a chair and put my feet up on my desk. Brunhilda brings me a cold glass of water before heading back to the other side. I take a sip and stare out the window for a long time before the telephone rings and I'm pulled back into life.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


9:37 p.m. I wasn't going to write about this case. No good feelings will come of it. It was the only time I ever fainted. It was the only time I totally lost it.

I never shared this with anybody and for good reason. There is no respite for a death investigator, you see. We are filled with stories of heartache and have no outlet except with each other. I even went to see a counselor years ago because I felt like I had to talk to somebody, but I could see in the doc's eyes that it was too much for her, so I had pity on her and stopped going... Besides, her solution was to teach me how to hypnotize myself into accepting the garbage that was coming into my heart and head without reacting emotionally. I found that patently unappealing. How can you grow from something if you don't allow yourself to feel it?

So, I'm writing these things down now mostly for the selfish reason that I have kept it inside for years and I don't want to anymore. And still, even after all that I will tell you, I assure you there are things floating around in my head so disturbing that I will never share them with anyone. Ever.

This case involves a child murder victim so if you don't feel like you can handle reading about it, I encourage you to stop right now. Remember that the images that I am about to present to you will stay with you forever. You will replay them in your mind over and over.

Consider yourself warned.

I am sitting at the computer writing an email to Olga. I am telling her about the people I work with. It's a pretty funny email. I talk about the butch lesbian who has a crush on Brunhilda. I talk about the gruff old guy who lost his front tooth two days ago and looks like a homeless vagrant. Suffice it to say, it's late at night and I am bored. I'm the only one at the morgue. And I have three hours to go before I can head home to my bed.

At around 10:45 p.m. I get a call from the hospital. The head nurse tells me that a toddler has died and we need to pick him up for autopsy. She tells me the details of the case and my hands start to shake as I write. A little boy. 18 months old. His father killed him. Head trauma.

I don't bother calling Dwight. The hospital is a few hundred feet from the MEO and babies can be transported in the Explorer.

I don't pack any gloves. I won't need them. I don't want them. Babies shouldn't be held with gloves.

I drive up to the emergency entrance and park the Explorer in the pick-up area. I go inside and a nurse points me to the morgue. A technician is there with medical records in hand. He gives them to me, asks me to sign a release form, and leaves the room.

The little boy is lying on a gurney. It is huge compared to his little body. He looks so peaceful lying there. His chubby little cheeks are pale and creamy and his head, what isn't wrapped in bandages, is full of dark brown curls. The IV is still in his hand and I get an overwhelming urge to remove it. That must hurt. But I can't. All of the puncture wounds, marks, abrasions, bruises...need to be documented thoroughly by the ME.

I brush my hand down his cold cheek. I watch his chest for movement. He's not breathing. Damn it.

I place the records in my bag and take out a white sheet. I carefully swaddle the little boy, cradling him in my arms. I carry him out of the building and as I walk toward the Explorer a woman says to me, "I thought you had a baby there for a second." I look her in the eyes, but say nothing as I open the door and slide into the front seat with my precious bundle.

I carry the little boy on my lap as I drive back to the morgue. It feels so natural. The weight of him. The way he feels in my arms. I am holding him like any mother holds her child. Except that he's dead.

There is a tray in the receiving area outside of the cooler. I place him on it. With little children we take full hand and foot prints. I prepare the ink pad and print card. As I work, I begin singing a lullaby. I know it's stupid. He can't hear me. But he will be so cold soon in the cooler.

You came from a land
Where all is light
To a world half day
And a world half night.

To guard you by day
You have my love
And to guard you by night
Your friends above

So sleep
Till the darkness ends
Guarded by your angel friends
So sleep
Till the darkness ends
Guarded by your angel friends

I wrap the sheet around him's so cold in there... and push him into the cooler. Shift will change soon. I'm so very tired. I just want to sleep. But I have to be here at 8am, so I will only get a few hours. I hate leaving him here. I know it's not rational, but I still hate it.

I walk out of the cooler and purposely leave the light on.

I will write the rest of this tomorrow. It's late.


12:45 p.m. Good news!! It is NOT a gay bar and it's in an Italian neighborhood. I LOVE Italians! I am not sure Diasy Dukes and a cowboy hat/scarf ensemble would be appropriate for this place. It's kind of a dive. I went in and looked around. The bar maid looks like she was rode hard and put away wet.


8:22 a.m. I'm outside of a Citgo gas station on the west side of Chicago today. This is a great place to set up because the Citgo has a Subway sandwich shop in it (lunch) and there is a real bathroom just a few feet away if the need should arise. The west side is a pretty good area. Maybe a five on the Scary Neighborhood Scale (SNS). The guy I'm surveilling lives in a two-story brick apartment building next door.

This should be an interesting case. Subject reportedly owns and operates a night club downtown. I'm supposed to return tomorrow night and hang out in the club pretending I'm trolling for men. It should be fun...depending on what type of club it is, I suppose. It would be just my luck if it were a gay bar. In which case I'd be trolling for women? Or I could pretend I'm a really excellent female impersonator. I'd get all the rest of the female impersonators jealous.

More later....

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

THE NEW WEIRDEST THING I'VE SEEN. The previous weirdest thing I'd seen was a guy in a Confederate uniform riding a unicycle by my truck. This grocery cart replete with dog (YES IT'S REAL) and coat-of-arms sitting outside of the post office beats that.
 Posted by Picasa


4:16 a.m. Today is my last day on this central Wisconsin case. Nothing at all happened yesterday. There was no vehicle in the drive. No lights on. Not even a dog running around. I'm wondering if the guy is on vacation, but I can't call because my client is forbidding phone and physical contact.

I take a sip of my tea and watch the sun rising through my rearview mirror. I consider how long I should hang around this morning if there is still no activity. Probably until 10am. I am very much looking forward to getting home. I really hope I remembered to take out the garbage before I left this time...

Well, I thought I'd talk about fire deaths today. There were always a lot of them in the short winter months of north Florida. People brought out old space heaters that would fall over in the night or have frayed cords from rodents chewing on them all summer. Or they would place them right next to the bed and the blankets would start on fire.

To compound the problem many of the old houses downtown had been converted from large homes to several small apartments with bars on the windows to keep criminals out. Unfortunately, those bars would also succeed in keeping people in during a house fire. And those dry wood-frame structures, after a century or more of the hot Florida sun, would go up in a fury of flames that left precious little time for those inside to get out.

The first housefire case I went on was an old mobile home that somebody had placed on a small parcel of land near a dirty little stream. There were a few neighbors who had the same idea so that a make-shift trailer park was the result. I drive down the long dirt road that leads to the site and before it even comes into view I smell the acrid tang of burnt paint and metal.

As I approach, I note that, for the most part, the roof and walls of the trailer no longer exist. Everything is soaking wet. Forensically speaking, a housefire is a very difficult case. What evidence isn't destroyed by the fire is destroyed or altered in the firefighting effort.

I step out of the Explorer, cross the police line and walk toward the house. I slosh through puddles of standing water and curse as I feel the mud sneaking in through the laces of my shoes. Smoke is still rises from beneath the remaining floorboards and I note melted insulation pooled in random blobs among the rubble. Portions of framework poke up in jagged points like broken bone, intimating the basic floorplan of the interior. A bedroom. A kitchen. Another bedroom. A family room.

I join Det. Grizzly near and the chief from the fire department. There are two vics inside. Fire appears to have started in the kitchen. The fireman shows us the v-shaped burn pattern above the stove and the scaly texture of the remaining wood that indicate the point of origin. We speculate that the owner of the trailer was cold and had no heater so he turned on the oven and left the door open. This is a popular (and extremely dangerous) way of heating a residence in north Florida, unfortunately.

Sometime in the middle of the night the fire broke out. The owner's body is still lying in the hallway, facedown. I can barely tell there's a person there. He just blends in with the rest of the black, burnt surroundings. I hope he wasn't burned alive and that he died of smoke inhalation, but I suspect that was not the case. He didn't jump out the window, so I think that he must have been trying ot get to the second victim, his brother. The brother is still in the bed of the second bedroom. Evidence suggests that this was the last area the fire reached. I wonder to myself how he could have slept through the rucus that must have been going on around him until I note the empty liter jug of vodka next to the bed.

Dwight shows up and for once, he is not expected to bring out the bodies. The structure is too dangerous and the firefighters will have to go in. The first body is brought out. It is a truly macabre sight. Fabric from his jeans is burned into the blackened flesh of his legs. Muscles have contract under the heat of the fire so that his hands are curled back into claws and his mouth is agape. His lips have been burned off so that he appears to be snarling. And his eyelids are gone so that his shriveled eyeballs stare out blankly at the sky. His ears are charred nubs and most of the skin on his head is gone except for a patch that was protected by his arm...there a tuft of brown hair and scalp still remain. The suture lines in the skull have opened somewhat as the bone shrank under the intense heat. It smells like barbecue and burned hair and I almost wretch.

As the second body is pulled from the ashes on a stretcher, I notice that a woman and her two children are standing at the fence in the next yard, watching silently. My blood boils. Why would somebody let their kids see such a horrible thing?

I direct two patrol officers to hold up a sheet to block the view while an evidence technician and I walk over to the fence. The tech is as angry as I am and she says, "Could you please take your children inside, ma'am? This is not something kids should be seeing." The woman is heavy. She's got red hair and pale, pale skin. She looks at us contemptuously and replies, "But my husband sent us outside so he could sleep." Images of abuse fill my mind and I immediately start searching her exposed skin for bruises. "Just take them away from here, please." I say more kindly.

The kids stare up at us silently. They look bored, if you can imagine. Like they'd been around the block a few times and this was just another day. The woman heads to the front of the house and yells at her children to follow her. The kids silently turn and walk away.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


I got the Anna Nalick CD before I left today. I should stop getting new CD's for my long road trips. I end up getting far too introspective. I stop at a McDonald's and sit in the parking lot listening to "In My Head" over and over again.

Under the weight of your wings
You are a god and whatever I want you to be
And I wonder if truly you are
Nearly as beautiful as I believe

In my head
Your voice
You've got all that I need
And this make-believe
Will get me through another lonely night

I don't want to be fool-hearted
Baby, I'm outnumbered in my head

Under the weight of your wings
I make believe you are all that I'll ever need
All that I need

I love this song. It gives me hope. Reminds me of what I'm waiting for...that person that won't disappoint me after the dust settles. I still believe in that, despite what I've been through. Heaven help the man that ends up with me, though. He'll have his hands full.

I sigh and shut off the stereo. I lock up the car and walk across the parking lot. It is hot and the sun is beating down on me. I'm looking forward to a strawberry milkshake. Yum. As I walk, my eyes almost immediately land on a giant statue of a chicken with a bib and a chef's hat sitting right in front of a Dairy Queen. Well, that's interesting. A hungry chicken. I smile because the Chicken Chef reminds me of a statue I saw yesterday in northern Minnesota. This one was a polar bear with its right front paw on the back of an arctic seal. It appeared to be preparing to dispatch the fuzzy little guy and eat him for lunch. Who thinks of these things? How would a parent explain that to a child? "See, Johnny? Isn't nature beautiful? See how the polar bear is getting ready to eat the cute little innocent seal?...Why are you crying, Johnny? It's the Circle of Life and all that...Remember the Lion King?....Oh, stop...You should have seen what it was like when I was a kid...MY parents made me watch baby seals being clubbed to death by Precilla Presley on Those Amazing Animals..."

I am in the McDonald's bathroom now. I prefer McDonald's bathrooms because the stalls in the ladies rooms go all the way down to the floor...nobody can reach under and swipe my purse...or worse, no curious little two-year-old will peak under the door and get an eyeful of something that will surely lead to years of psychotherapy later on.

I notice that the toilet has not been flushed. Gross. I make a face and push down the handle. Almost immediately I note that the water is rising like the Mississippi in springtime. Oh dear. I look around the side of the commode and attempt to turn the water supply off but the handle is too tight. Aack! Icky crap water begins to overflow and I scamper out of the stall in a panic. I burst out of the ladies room and make a run for it.

I am about 2 miles down the freeway before I stop to think what an idiot I am. What did I think they would do? Arrest me? Make me clean it up? And I still have to go to the bathroom...


6:42 a.m. I am back at my parents house. Just a pit stop on my way down to a job in the middle of Wisconsin. Two days there and then I'm going home. I can't wait to sleep in my own bed again.

Thief River Falls (as you will see in the pictures) was quite something. Peri and I had a great time frolicking in the fields and playing with the deer and the antelope. (Were those antelope?) Peri is a much better frolicker than I am. I was jealous of her technique. She told me she had a lot of practice in her youth as she and her friends in high school used to drink excessive amounts of alcohol and then go frolicking. Apparently, it's like riding a bike...

Anyway, I'll finish up where I left off with the good doctor. I show up to my OBGYN appointment using my favorite "Sharon Johnson" alias. The nurse hands me a New Patient Questionnaire and I can feel the devil horns extending out the top of my head. I smile and sit down. (I also swipe a copy for my own personal use.)

Now let's see...

MY PROBLEM: This is an essay question and I feel like I should elaborate, but I only write, "Routine Check-up."

Hot Flashes: Y
Breast Discharge: Y
Visual Disturbances: Depends
Poor Sense of Smell: How do you tell?
Chronic Headaches: N
Head Trauma: N
Seizures: N
Thyroid Disorder: N
Extraordinary Stress: Y
Rigorous Exercise Program: Y
Increased Facial or Body Hair: I'm Eastern European. What do you think? I just take a NAIR dip every couple of weeks.
Increased Acne: N
Special Dietary Habits: I have a mostly liquid diet.
Vomiting: Only when I've had too much liquid.
Diabetes: N
Autoimmune Disease: N
Psychiatric Treatment: ?


How many months have you been having intercourse without using any form of birth control? I'm 30 years old... so that would be...204.

How many times do you have intercourse per week? ____ times per week ___None ___Not applicable Let's see.... I'm 30 years old...204 months...4 weeks in a month...That's 816. Wait. That's not right..

Do you use lubricants (K-Y Jelly, etc...) during intercourse? (I left that one blank.)

Do you have questions you would like to discuss about your sexual life? (I left that one blank, too.)

Have you had any of the following sexually transmitted diseases or pelvic infections?
Chlamydia: Y
Gonorrhea: Y
Syphilis: Y
Herpes: Y
Genital warts/HPV: Y
Hepatitis: What's that?
Other: I've had a couple of times were things weren't right down there, but I took some left-over antibiotics and it went away.

Total number of all pregnancies: I've got 6 babies. (All the same daddy.)

I hand in my questionnaire and sit back down to wait. The nurse is reading it over an I can see her raising her eyebrows. She takes the paper and walks out of view. About 5 minutes later I get called back to see the doc. I am told to take my clothes off and get into a gown. In a stroke of genius, I tell the nurse I'm having my period and she tells me to just take my shirt off, then. There will be no pelvic exam today. Phew!

Several minutes later, the doctor comes in. She is an older lady. Very heavy. She hobbles into the room with a smile and introduces herself. She asks me why I'm here today and I tell her it's just for a check up. She says that I've got quite a history and she can't believe I've got so many children and look so fit. I tell her I exercise a lot and she says that anybody who has sexual intercourse 816 times a week should be VERY fit. I laugh. I hate it when I start to like bad guys.

Anyway, before I can leave, I get a lecture on using contraception and condoms and I am given a prescription for birth control pills. Apparently, the good doctor thinks that 6 little Sharon Johnsons running around is more than enough...

Saturday, August 06, 2005

I found Peri this morning singing "Me and Bobbi McGee", on the couch in the hotel lobby. I came just in time...they were about to bring out the tranquilizer gun. Posted by Picasa


Oh my gosh! Somebody send some bail money quick! And tell these people that Canadians are out of season and they're not allowed to tar and feather me! The last time I saw Polly she was trying to explain to security at the casino where she was getting all those aces from.

Not sure if I'm getting out alive,

Friday, August 05, 2005

As promised... Peri and Polly in bikinis. Posted by Picasa


10:22 a.m. I found out my Subject is for sure working at the local hospital. I went inside to look around but the good doc is cloistered safely behind the receptionist's desk.

So, I called and made an appointment for an OB check-up (OH THE THINGS I DO TO CRACK A CASE) at 1pm.

I better get extra pay for this...

WHY?? Posted by Picasa


6:52 a.m. It was 50 degrees when I woke up this morning. It's August. That ain't right. Luckily I have a sweatshirt in the back of my truck. I throw it on and drive away from the hotel/casino/waterpark that I am staying at. It's about 10 miles down the road from my Subject's house and as I drive, the sun peeks up over the horizon. I like it when I'm around for sunrise. It makes me feel like I didn't miss out on anything as the day goes on.

Subject's house is a modest chalet-style of those places with a roof so steep that you'd just LOVE to go sliding down it in winter. Or at least I would. There are two vehicles parked in the driveway, but the sedan is in front of the SUV so I can't run the plate.

My Subject is an OBGYN. She's claiming total disability, but the insurance company thinks that she's working at a local clinic. I've been here since 6am and still no movement. Of course, a lot of doctor's offices don't open until 9am or so. I'm wondering, if she leaves and drives to the clinic, how far I should take this thing to be sure Subject is really working. I told Peri that I might have to wire her and send her inside tomorrow for a PAP smear...

This is a pretty small town. There is a large Native American population as we are near the Red Lake Indian Reservation. The houses are older...built between 1900 and 1950. When I called the cops this morning to give them the heads up I'm here, it took 12 rings for somebody to answer. I told the officer who answered that I was a private investigator...blah, blah, blah. I don't think there's ever been a private investigator in Thief River Falls before. The officer just sat there. " Who are you investigating?" I told him I couldn't disclose that for privacy reasons. He said, "Oh...okay." Silence. I think I must have woken him up. Either that or he's not too quick on the uptake.

"Well," I say, "Do you want to know my name and my license plate number and what I drive?"

"I guess." He answers back. "Why do I need that?" Oh, for the love of Pete.

"In case a someone calls to report a strange vehicle in the neighborhood then you will know why and you won't drive out here and blow my cover."

"Okay. Yeah."

I tell him my information but I suspect he didn't bother writing anything down. I apologize for disturbing his nap and hang up.

About 20 minutes later a cop drives by. I figured that would happen. I imagine I'll have at least 3 more drive-bys before the day is out.

I am going to call around to local clinics this morning and inquire for Dr. Subject. See if maybe I get a hit.

More later...