"So," I say, "It went pretty well except the camera kept telling me to follow the arrows to the right and then it would shut off. I finally had to use the camera on my phone." I hold out my defective camera to show Chief Investigator Deuce. "See? I couldn't get it to stop." I am standing in the cramped quarters of Deuce's office along with Chief Deputy Ethos.
Ethos reaches out and takes the camera from me. He toggles a switch on the side and hands it back. "There. You had it on movie mode."
I take the camera back and inspect it suspiciously. I look up at Ethos and shrug. "It's a gizmo. I have a thing with gizmos." He raises an eyebrow. "Contraptions? New-FANGLED contraptions?" I appeal to his old man-ness. He just purses his lips. I try again. "You see, I am a nerd. I need users manuals and clear instructions and manufacturer websites to thrive. Where's my users manual?"
Deuce pipes up from behind his desk. "Funny you should say that. I have a new camera for you. Turn in the old one. Ethos, will you please go get Polly a new camera bag while I introduce her to the users manual for the new one?" I smile and push my imaginary taped coke-bottle glasses up on my nose. Hotdog! Where's my highlighter?
A while later I am at my desk finishing the inspection report from my visit to the funeral home the day before. I consult the photographs I took and add some finishing touches to the body chart that I filled out at the time. I tried to make sure all my ducks were in a row before I got there. When I walked through the front parlor I was greeted by an old man in his mid 70's. He was the funeral director. I introduced myself and he led me back to a room off the garage. Several bodies in bags lay in the room. He walked over to one and unzipped it.
I studied the man on the tray. He had several EKG leads stuck to the skin of his chest and upper arms, testament to the failed effort to revive him in the ER yesterday. His eyes were slightly parted and the corneas were milky white. His skin looked in pretty good condition until I glanced below the waist. Scars ran up and down the inside of his thighs and ended at the stumps of two amputated legs. I looked at the information on the call sheet again. Diabetes mellitus. And no doctor. He had uncontrolled diabetes and it took his legs before taking his life. Poor guy. I pulled out my camera and spent the next several minutes looking like an idiot because I couldn't get it to work properly. Finally, I pulled out my cell phone.
I asked the funeral director to hold a card with our case number and the date under the dead man's chin so I could take a photo of the face. He did so. Then I walked to the end of the tray and took a full-body shot. I noticed a tattoo and the funeral director and I struggled to break the rigor mortis enough to turn the wrist so I could get a good picture. Finally, I asked the funeral director to turn the body on its side so I could get a picture of the back. He quietly complied. I noticed a large decubitus ulcer on the left buttock...a result of days...weeks...maybe months in bed with constant pressure on one area. I winced. It was deep and about 3 inches across. It must have been agonizing for him during those last weeks. I took my picture and the funeral director quietly rolled the body back. I removed my gloves and threw them in a red biohazard bag as he zipped the body back in.
It is only now, as I enter the case into our database that I put two and two together. The dead man's next-of-kin has the same name as the funeral director. I feel a cold chill run up my back. I check the contact phone numbers for the funeral home and the dead man's brother. The same. I feel a wave of compassion for the quiet man that helped me inspect the body yesterday. It was his brother. I sigh. I feel like a jerk for not realizing it before now. I would have at least given him my condolences...
Just then, Deuce yells from his office to nobody in particular, "There's no crying in Investigations!" I smile as Adroit yells back from his desk, "I thought that was baseball!"
Deuce replies loudly, "A good investigator never thinks!"
I giggle as Foxy, a gorgeous, curvy woman in her mid-40's pops her head out of the control room and says, "Hey, I've got a hot one! Literally." She scans the room and her eyes land on me. "You think you can take a house fire scene all by your lonesome, Polly?" I jump out of my chair and practically run across the room. Then I slow before I get to her. Be cool, Polly. Smooooth. I nod once, pointing my chin toward the call sheet. "I think I can handle it." Foxy smiles and hands me the paper. "It was an abandoned row house. Firefighters didn't even know a body was there until they stumbled upon it. They think it was a squatter that started the fire to keep warm."
I listen to her carefully trying not to bounce up and down on my toes like an excited first grader. Then I turn back toward my desk and mentally tick off the gear I'm going to need. I change into my tactical boots and bundle up. It's cold out there today in the Big City.