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.


Joshkr said...

*Warning...graphic/disturbing reply*

Polly, that must have hurt so bad.

I'm having trouble knowing what to type because I can imagine that baby, and it isn't fair and he had so much ahead of him. And he can't die because it is just wrong.

I had the same kind of feelings years ago as a rape crisis worker. Spending days in court with, for example, an 11 year old girl that had been brutally raped at knifepoint. Trying to tell her what is happening, and in between her needing to be in the courtroom playing kickball and cards with her and trying to get that one little smile that shows she can still reach out to people that care.

All you can think to yourself is "why?" They never deserved it. It should not have happened. How can people be so cruel?

But she smiled at me and colored a kitten for me, reaching out to someone that cared.

And that baby, wherever he is, I know smiled at you, and colored a kitten for you. And thanked you for caring.

Medical Investigator said...

It is 4am and I found your blog by chance. As you know morgues can be quiet places at this time of the day. Glad to know there are others out there who still respect the life that once was.

I started to blog about being a death investigator, currently I am a little off topic but you are welcome to visit and pass comment.

Olga said...

You made me cry, Polly. *said in a non-accusatory tone*
That poor baby. I hope that his "dad" went to prison.
I can't think of anything else to say...

I remember those emails from you about your coworkers. They were pretty funny.

Tamara said...

As a mom... I have a feeling I would regret reading this. So scrolled down to post without reading.

But I am truly glad you are able to write about it and get feedback on it. We want you to have opportunities to heal. Love you, Poll'.


PS Surely there are counselors who specialize in the Really Really Serious stuff?? Somewhere??

Susan said...


I'm not one to cry...but I did leak a few tears reading that.

And then what song do I hear? Imagine. If I was not working, with people around, I'd really be crying.

At least that little one is safe now.

Polly P.I. said...

Once the city sent in a counselor from the Sheriff's Office to speak with us death investigators. She specialized in debriefing cops after especially traumatic cases.

After listening to a few of our horror stories, she said, "I can't help you people. I'm sorry."

Eleanor said...

Polly, at first I took your advice and skipped down to the Italian bar - but then I came back and started reading from the bottom up - soooo tragic - when I was a CDA I represented people accused of homicide, but never anyone who killed a child - I don't think I would have taken a case like that - what possible defense could there ever be? NONE.

kibby F5 said...

I was doing fairly ok until I read Joshkr's post.

Higgy said...

Kibby - same here, man...

Polly P.I. said...

That was beautiful, Josh. Bless your heart for doing something so difficult but so meaningful for that little girl.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Ditto to what Kibby & Higgy said. It was tough. Way to go, Joshie.

And of course, you too Polly.

I kept thinking of you when I saw the photos the "other p.i." ("Polly's New York Counterpart" is how I thought of him) took of the priest and his "secretary cum girlfriend" at the motel.

What a hypocrite that man is.

Blogchik said...

Wow, Josh. Good for you for doing that.

Polly, your story brought tears to my eyes. I just read both sections. Some people are just inhumanly cruel. I hope that guy went to jail for a long, long time.


There must be other counselors who specialize in post-traumatic stress...there must be SOMEBODY who knows how to help people who've dealt with that kind of stuff. I think it's good for you to write about it.


Kafaleni said...

I'd just like to clarify one point. That poor little boy didn't have a "dad". He had a sperm donor. No true Dad could ever do that to his own baby. However, in his final moments among us, he had amazing people to love him.