Wednesday, December 07, 2005


10:33 a.m.   Now where was I?

Oh, yeah.  Straddling Dead Guy taking pictures.  

I gingerly tip toe back to the bathroom entrance, careful not to step in anything wet and oozy.  The cops are all watching me.  Officer Wink takes my hand as I balance on one foot and then hop to the safety of the bedroom carpeting.

“Okay.  I’m fairly certain this is a natural death, but we need to turn the body to be sure there isn’t a knife or a bullet hole anywhere.  Who’ll volunteer to help me?”

They all look at each other.  Huh.  No takers.  They start arguing and finally decide that it’s Officer Reflo’s turn to get dirty.  As yet he’s avoided moving a body in his 6 years on the force.  Reflo’s eyes go a little wild as he glances down at Dead Guy.  I decide to bide him a little time to prepare.

“I’m going to go in and talk to the family for a few minutes.  Then I’ll go out and get the cot.  Do any of you need some extra gloves or a mask or anything?”  They all nod.

I walk out into the other room.  The family is gathered where I left them.  I ask them again how long it’s been since anybody saw Dead Guy.  The daughter, who is on the couch being comforted by her boyfriend, answers.  “I saw him on Friday afternoon.  I spend a lot of time at my boyfriends’ house and I didn’t come home again until today.”  I feel for the girl.  She looks scared to death.  

“Well,” I say to her gently, “do you know if he picked up the mail on Saturday?”  I know full well he didn’t.  The man had been dead probably since Friday night to have turned to that extent.

The mail is sitting on the coffee table.  She tells me that it was in the box when she got here this afternoon.

I try to explain that it’s been a couple of days and that cleanup will be messy.  I give them a list of bio-hazard cleanup services in the area.

The sister speaks up from the other end of the sectional couch.  “So do you think he can have an open casket then?”  I think of the black, bloated face I’d just taken photo of.  

“No.  I’m sorry.”  My words fall like a weight on the people in the room and it’s suddenly very quiet.  “I’m sure you can smell it.”  I say quietly.  “It’s just been too long and the natural process of decomposition is already well underway.”  I shut up because now I’m not sure if I’m helping or hurting the situation.

I get the brother to fill out an identification form so that we don’t have to go through the headache of matching dentition or taking prints. (This would be an excellent opportunity to practice the gloving technique of fingerprint procurement, though).

I walk out the van and pull out a heavy-duty body bag, a homicide drop sheet, and several sets of gloves.   I pile it all on top of the cot and then drag the whole lot back to the house.  There is snow on the ground and it keeps the wheels of the cot from working.  Finally I struggle the whole mess into the garage and Officer Wink assists me in lifting it up the step and through the kitchen to the master bathroom.

We all glove up and I open the body bag.  Holy mother of pearl.  It’s enormous.  You could fit a family into this thing.  Officer Reflo and I unzip the bag and then roll it up on one side.  The goal is to roll Dead Guy from his back onto the bag.  The problem is that the room is tiny.  It’s a half bath no bigger than a linen closet.

Now, let me just stop for a moment and say that I am totally improvising here.  I have never had to transport a decomp or even move one before.  If you’ll recall, we had a transport service when I was an investigator in Florida.  So I am trying to make it seem like I am cool and calm and know what the hell I’m doing for the benefit of these poor cops.  I glance at Reflo, still standing outside the entrance to the bathroom.  He’s as skittish as a virgin in a whore house.  (Sorry Mom.)

We work the bag in and tuck up under the body as much as we can.  I am at the head and trying to maneuver the edge under the head without much success.  Dead guy is slippery and I can’t get a grip on anything.  Officer Wink is watching me and, being the big, tough cop, decides to help.  Before I can say anything, he moves into the bathroom and tries to grab a handful of Dead Guy’s hair so he can lift the head.  He pulls and I say, “No…you’re going to…”  Oops.  “…tear the scalp.”  Now even Wink is looking green.  He looks at me and says with feeling, “For as long as I live I will never be able to get that out of my mind.  I ripped his hair out.”  Poor guy.  He walks out of the room, careful not to touch anything with his dirty gloves.

“Okay,” I say, “Reflo?”  Reflo peeks back around the corner.  I look him in the eye to try and get him to focus. “We’ve got the bag situated as far below the body as we can.  Now we need to roll him over into the pouch.  You grab his legs and I’ll take the torso.  Do you think you can do that?”  He nods his head.

I get into position and grab the left arm.  Roflo has the ankles.  “Ready?  GO!”  I push the arm as hard as I can, but the body is very slippery and only succeeds in sliding across the linoleum toward the wall.  Reflo starts gagging and walks out of the room.  I am afraid he’s going to barf all over the room.  Wink is comforting him in the bedroom, telling him it’s okay and to pull it together.  He tells Reflo he’ll take over.  “Go ahead, buddy.  Take your gloves off.  It’s okay.”

I look down at the legs.  Oh.  I see why Reflo grossed out so badly.  The skin is slipping and when you grasp it, it pulls away from the body.  He removed a large portion of the skin off Dead Guy’s legs trying to roll him.  

I sit on the toilet and sigh.  This sucks.  I’m in a bathroom with a rotting person and the girls in the other room are making this take way longer than it should.  I look down at my favorite shoes and sigh again.  Ruined.  

I won’t bother you with more details.  I think that’s more than enough and you probably get the basic drift of the situation.  Suffice it to say we finally got him in the bag and out to the truck.

Officers Reflo and Wink are standing outside the truck with me.  “You’re taking him to that big back door at the ME’s office, right?” Wink asks.  “Yeah,”  I answer as I jump into the driver’s seat.  “Okay.  We’ll meet you there and help you get him inside.”  

Good cops.  Nice cops.  Helpful cops.  

They meet me there and we transfer Dead Guy to a tray.  I open the bag and take a couple more pictures.  So does Reflo since he neglected to take any when we finally turned the body.

The cops ask me if I want to go with them to their local hang out after I finish here. I thank them, but decline.  I need to go take a shower.  Or maybe three.



Jeff Meyerson said...

Polly, all I could think when reading this was: this woman is afraid of a spider?


Polly, you da man.

Polly P.I. said...

Spiders. ((shiver))

And I didn't even mention how the body was rolling around in the back of the truck (and ended up wedged between the front seats).

Or how I took off my disgusting shoes and set them outside the front door of my house only to find one missing the next morning. :-)

Some unsuspecting dog owner got a nice, smelly surprise on the doorstep this AM...

sdwulf -- South Dakota (or San Diego) talk radio show host OR sci-fi writer's pen name

cuz said...

Why is it that I can read this without blinking but you talk about harvesting organs and tissue and I can't bear to do more than skim it?


Glad to have you back blogging my dear cousin!

Tamara said...

Polly, you are a superfantasterrific story teller. :)


Kafaleni said...

wow.. that has to be one of the better opening lines for a post. *snork*

I was drinking orange juice. I think I'll stop for a while.

snlrp.. the sound your favourite shoes make when walking through someone else's bodily fluids

jane said...

always fun to start the day off with a nice gross-out. i don't know how the hell you do it. okay, time to think of a reason why i didn't do my russian homework. oh, right. because i was reading polly's blog.

Kafaleni said...

the blog ate my homework time.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Why does the term calf's foot jelly stick in my mind after reading this?

NONE said...

So thats where the smelly shoe on my front porch came from. lol

I don't know if I will ever look at taking the skin off chicken the same way again with out thinking about that poor cop lifting the legs of that man.

So what was the cause of death?

tvgirl13 said...

I don't know how you do it Polly. Skin slipping, scalps ripping and optic nerves loosening would be enough to send me running!

Loki said...

Sometimes I think the "barbarians" had the best idea.

A funeral pire seems to me more immediate closure for those being left behind, and a heck of a lot cleaner than the whole process we go through.

I wonder if you could specify a viking funeral in your will .... would they let that stand?

Of course that wouldn't help you Polly. We would still need dedicated pros like you to be sure the actual COD was determined.

bziomow - no clue

Bismuth said...

So, is it bad that I read the officers name as ROFL?