We pull into the apartment complex and park. Cops are loitering on the sidewalk outside the building.
"Okay," I say. "Grab a couple of pairs of gloves. Those heavy duty ones. You seriously DON'T want gloves to break when you're moving a decomp. We'll bring the body bag in after I do the investigation, so don't bother with that yet."
"Don't you have HAZMAT suits or something for this?" LHM asks.
"There are paper jumpsuits in the back and booties to slip over your shoes, if you like. We've also got face shields and respirators if you think you'll need them."
"Are you using one?" LHM asks.
I smile at him. "Booties, yes, but I have yet to wear one of the jumpsuits or use a respirator in the years I've been doing this. That would have to be a hell of a messy scene. Also, I need to smell it."
"Smell the scene?" he raises an eyebrow at me.
"Yeah. Smells can provide clues, too. For example, what if the dead guy in question actually killed somebody and stuffed them in the storage unit outside the apartment before taking their own life? Being able to smell two sources of decomp would be rather important. And certain odors like 'nutty' or 'sweet' can point to a poisoning. That sort of thing."
"Yeah, well I don't think we're going to encounter anything as pleasant as 'nutty' or 'sweet' tonight." LHM mutters as he slips out the passenger side of the van.
I walk to the front door of the apartment building with LHM behind me. After a few introductions, I turn to Detective Jonas and get the jist of what they have so far. The decedent is a 40-year-old white female. She lived alone in the apartment and was a factory worker at a local mill. Nobody at work seemed to miss her when she didn't show up for a month. Her boss said that she was pretty unreliable and he figured she just quit without bothering to tell anybody. Her sister said that she'd tried calling several times but it was normal for the decedent to ignore phone calls, so she wasn't worried. "This chick was a serious health and fitness nut, too." Detective Jonas said. "The cupboards are full of herbal supplement shit and she's got huge drums of protein powder on the cabinets."
"Where did she workout?" I was hoping maybe I could interview people at her gym, but also wondered if she went to mine and I might know her.
"I don't think she had a gym. There's workout equipment in the dinette where a kitchen table should be, so I'm pretty sure she worked out at home. Also, there were UV lights in her bedroom where she grew her own organic vegetables. And this is the weirdest thing of all...she's got three or four huge fish tanks full of water but without fish in them."
"Huh," I say. "The UV lights make me think she was growing weed. Any history of drug arrests?"
"Nah. I thought that too at first but I couldn't find anything that would point to her growing pot. She was too concerned with eating clean."
"Hmm. If that's true then maybe the tanks of water were because she was planning on buying baby fish and raising them for her own consumption," I say half to myself.
"Crazy." Jonas said simply. He ran a hand over his bald head and pulled his scarf more tightly around his neck. "It's damn cold tonight."
I give him a sideways glance as I open the front door of the building. A strong smell of decomp wafts out along with warm, moist air. "You're welcome to come in here with us if you like."
LHM and I step into the hallway and walk a few paces. I look behind us at the closing door. "Yeah, I didn't think so."
I walk to the open apartment door and am hit by wave after wave of putrid air. My eyes begin to water. "Breath through your mouth," I say over my shoulder.
"Already on that," LHM mutters.
I see the blue glow of a television casting ghostly shadows over the rest of the room. A dark figure is sprawled on the couch. I flip the light switch but nothing happens. I walk in a bit further and try to turn on a floor lamp by the wall. Again. Nothing. "No lights. But there's electricity because the TV is on."
"Maybe the bulbs burned out." LHM suggested. "The lights were probably on when she died."
"Yeah. Probably." I look around as my eyes try to adjust to the light. One of the couch cushions and the television remote are on the floor. She was struggling for breath, maybe. Or thrashing with pain. I look over at LHM. His face is neutral as his eyes scan the room and light ever so briefly on the body before skimming back to the other details of the scene. It's going to take me a while to learn to read this man that I married. I decide that the best thing to do is to keep him busy.
"Honey, can you please go out to the van and get the flood light? It's in the box between the two front seats. I also need the digital camera. And can you ask Jonas to get in here? I need to ask him some questions."
"I'm sure he'll love that," LHM chuckles. "Anything else?"
I give him kiss on the cheek. "I'll let you know."
LHM walks out of the apartment and I turn back to the scene.