12:12 p.m. I got a call in to the ME's office the other day. I was just heading back from a surveillance in Madison, WI.
"Polly, it's Nancy. Boy, do I have a case for you!"
"Yeah? What's up?"
"Well, we just got a call out on a bone case. Apparently, there's a dumpster behind the country club and when the garbage man came to dump it, he noticed a bone. So he dug around a bit and found two bags full of decomposing skeletal remains."
Oh, dear. "Any idea whether they're human or not?"
"I don't know yet. I just got the call. Can you come along on this one?
I look at my watch, then back at the road. "I'm about an hour out yet."
"Okay. Well, I'll go on out to the scene and I'll give you a call once I've done my scene investigation."
Nancy and I hang up and a little while later she calls me to say that she doesn't think they are human but that she's bringing a few back to the MEO so that I can drop by and tell her what I think they are.
I meet her at the office 20 minutes later. I walk in wearing my slippers and workout pants. "Well, you didn't have to go and get all dressed up on my account," Nancy says.
I look down at myself. "Yeah. I should probably apologize for the way I look...and smell. I usually don't get gussied up for surveillance."
"That's okay," Nancy says as she leads me down the hallway toward the autopsy suite, "These bones are so ripe that even YOU can't overpower them."
I smile. She's getting better at the sarcastic banter thing.
As we pass through the security doors Nancy stops and turns to me. "Notice anything different? Missing maybe?"
I look around, puzzled. "No. Not really. Everything looks the..." I stop as my eyes land on the window. You know... That window I told you about that is at the end of the poorly planned ramp? The one that I said somebody was going to put a body through one of these days?
I start to laugh. "You did it!!!! You sent a body through the window, didn't you?" Nancy is laughing, too, now. She nods her head and we both double over.
After several minutes of this, Nancy can finally speak again. "Yeah. I thought you'd get a kick out of that."
She tells me the story of how a funeral home was coming to pick up a body and she was pulling it up the ramp behind her. Her fingers slipped, though, and she accidentally let go.
"Well, I hope it wasn't going to be an open casket!" I say as I wipe the tears from my eyes.
"Fortunately, he went feet first. We'd be up a shit creek without a paddle, otherwise. That glass was not tempered and it left some nasty marks."
After discussing for a few minutes if it would even be worth replacing the glass in the window (I vote for no...This will happen again, so why waste the money?) we move on to the bones.
"I brought in a pelvis and some other bones. They were the cleanest ones there. Really, the rest was a goopy mess. I found no cut marks. I counted four rib cages there, so suspect there were four specimens. No heads." Nancy says as she pushes the tray out of the cooler.
I put on a pair of gloves and turn to the table. Oh boy. They ARE ripe. They are coated with a greenish brown layer of slippery decomp. Ick. There are two sets of several articulated bones...meaning that the joints are all still attached.
Right away I note that there is a scapula, or shoulder blade. It is long and fan shaped, not broad and triangular, like for a human. The scapula is attached to a squat humerus, which leads to a fused ulna/radius. The end of the radius was sawed off with what appears to have been an electric blade of some sort. The other set was a femur, a tibia/fibula, and a talus that was also cut off at the distal end.
"Well, it's not a human, anyway, so you can rest your pretty little head about that." I look up at Nancy and she's scowling at me. "What?"
"Nothing. Go ahead."
"Okay," I say. "The fused forelimbs and the shape of the scapula point to an ungulate, or a hooved mammal. And you see on the hindlimb? That long bone attached to the tibia/fibula is actually a modified foot bone that has elongated to create a third joint. That is also evidence that we're looking at an ungulate. It's a smaller animal...definitely not cow or horse-sized, but bigger than a goat. The bones are fused, so it's an adult. If I had a skull I could tell you for sure, but I'm 80% certain these are deer that were butchered and then tossed."
Nancy is writing down every word I'm saying. "I have to go change my report," she says. "Are you sure there's no pelvis in there?"
I smirk. "Yeah. No pelvis. And the feet were cut off, by the way. So much for your 'no butchery' theory, there, boss-lady."
"Oh, shut up. Smartass." (That was a quote, Mom.)