The doorbell rings and I run down the stairs with check in hand.
"Hey. You ordered Chinese, lady?"
It's the delivery boy from The Bamboo Palace. They have great curry.
I pay for my food and hurry upstairs to the kitchen. I transfer the contents of my little white box to a plate heaping with rice. Mmmm...I take a big whiff of steam and smile. I could eat a horse. Or a cat. I don't really care as long as it's in curry sauce.
I take a bite while standing over the sink and am chewing away happily when I hear a loud buzzing sound in the other room. It's dispatch paging me. Oh, fudge. I whimper a little and look down at my food. Looks like Fluffy died in vain. I shovel one more bite in my mouth and head to my bedroom.
This shift has been hectic. It all started at 7am when I was called by a funeral home to release a body from the morgue. That took me a half hour or so and I was just heading home when I saw an ambulance pull out of the station near my home. Great. Probably a DOA. Happens all the time in the morning. I was right. Ten minutes later I got the page. I went to the scene and pronounced. It was an unremarkable situation. The decedent was an 80-year-old man who lived alone. His son tried to call him yetserday and got no answer. Son then drove by the house this morning and noticed that the garage door was open. That's when he knew something was wrong. Dad never left the garage door open all night. Son walked in and found his father face down on the floor by the couch. Dad had a host of health problems and nobody was exactly surprised. This was a natural. Not an ME case. I kicked it to the family doctor and released to a funeral home.
A couple of hours later I got a call from one of the local hospital ERs. Another old guy. Another natural. I declined ME jurisdiction and didn't even have to go pronounce since the ER doctor obliged.
Then I got called by a funeral home regarding a local police officer who committed suicide on a high school football field last night. "Oh, really?" I said. "I wasn't aware." My shift didn't start until midnight, so it's possible it came in earlier and I wasn't informed.
"Yeah," Mort from Pearly Gates Funeral Home said. "I would like to know how she looks so I can tell the family whether there will be an open casket or not."
"Well, since I live five minutes from the office, why don't I head over there and check for you?"
"Would you? That would be so nice! You're such a nice girl."
Yeah. Plus I want to see the woman. The name sounds familiar. I think maybe I was out on a scene with her once.
I drive over to the MEO and notice Dr. Frank's truck out front. It's 2pm on a Saturday. That woman works all the time. It's like all she does is work. She should just relax sometimes and turn off her phone and...
So I walk in through the front door. "Hello?"
Dr. Frank greets me. She's in her office writing a lecture she's giving at a big symposium on Monday. I see a Powerpoint presentation on her computer screen and the word "Cirrhosis" emblazoned across the slide with bulleted points underneath it.
"Hey, Doc. Does Cory Shelly ring a bell to you? I got a call from a funeral home a few minutes ago asking me if she's viewable."
Dr. Frank turns in her seat and faces me. "Yeah. That was a sad case. So young. She was a local cop. Yesterday night she called into dispatch and gave them a ten code...10-45 or something like that...It's supposed to mean you're going off duty. Only she wasn't supposed to be off until the next morning. Anyway, dispatch couldn't really understand what she said and thought it was a different code...like an armed robbery or something...so they sent a whole bunch of cars and shit out there. Only it was too late. She shot herself through the side of the head."
I imagine the woman, still in uniform, sitting on the bleachers of a dark football field at night. What kind of dispair would have driven her to that?
Dr. Frank goes on, "I posted her yesterday. She should be viewable if they're good at putting craniums back together. Her face was pretty much okay. Go ahead and tell them they can pick her up."
We chat for a while longer before I call Mort back and tell him he can come get the body.
I walk down to the morgue, glove up, grab the cooler key from on top of the door frame, and pull the door open. There's a loud click and a hiss. Inside I can hear air whooshing from the ventilation system. Even so, it smells stale. I walk in and scan the toe tags for Dpty. Shelly.
I pull her out of the cooler and into the bay area where Mort will soon be arriving in his Suburban. I unzip the bag and immediately note there are loose stitches of waxed cord running up and down her arms, legs, and torso. She was harvested for tissue and organs. Her head is bagged. I tuck the white plastic up so that I can see her face. I sigh. I do recognize her. Back when I had my kidney infection and I had to run that motorcycle case. She was the rookie cop that came in with the body and almost started to cry when she was describing the scene to me. Oh, hell.
Her eyes have been harvested so her lids are closed on concave orbits. I can see tell-tale "raccoon eyes"...bruising in and around the eye sockets. Raccoon eyes are a direct result of the enormous pressure that is expelled when a bullet penetrates the brain at close range. Her skin is pale and her dark hair is tangled in around her face like a mass of seaweed.
I shake my head. I pull the bag back down on her head.
As I drive home I keep envisioning the young woman with the clear, kind eyes telling me about the motorcycle accident scene. Trying to be professional. Trying to be a cop.
More later....this was a long day...