Smith is an eccentric genius when it comes to solving crime. Early draft.
|The drive to the morgue could only have been worse if the body rode shotgun instead of Smith. He asked if I had wanted to beg off, leaving him at the morgue while I took in a movie. I couldn’t do it, though I really wanted to. I needed to face my fears head on.
Cases did not normally affect me the way that this one had in the course of a few hours. Something about it, about that bloated body lying on display in front of a gawking crowd, left my stomach weak. I had seen savage brutality before and walked away with nothing more than sympathy for the loved ones left behind to deal with grief. The image of water-logged flesh wouldn’t leave my mind no matter what cheerful images I tried to replace it with. I just hoped it would go away as the day went on, and that I could crawl into bed and sleep without any remnants hanging around to haunt my dreams.
Instead of cowering to my fears, I drove Smith and I into town. The morgue seemed worlds away from the quiet countryside of the lake. While it wasn’t the shiny metal and glass of morgues on TV, it was far more modern than I would have expected for a central Texas small town. The functionalist building stood apart from the mix of neoclassic homes converted into visitor centers and tourism hotspots and the stark lines of skyscrapers trying to bring a sense of modernity to the growing metropolis.
I preferred the functionalism, as it seemed most appropriate for its surroundings. It also helped keep out the sterile coldness TV morgues seemed to harbor. The warmth helped play down the anxiety that accompanied our visits. I loved the inviting paint tones – the creams, wooden, earthy browns and greens and even dusty reds accenting areas.
The staff was as warm as the colors, welcoming Smith and I as we traced our familiar path to Dr. Mitiri’s office. Smith had me call ahead, so the medical examiner was waiting to lead us down to the examination rooms in the building’s first subterranean level.
Other than laying the body out and giving it a quick rinse to collect particles for examination by forensic specialists working up on the top level of the building, nothing had been done to the body. The three of us, along with a new med school graduate, who was assisting Dr. Mitiri, donned gowns, booties, caps and gloves.
Smith mirrored a teenage boy prepping for a date with a cheerleader, bounding with excitement, his grin a yard wide. He was in his element; I was miles away from mine. Autopsies only served to remind me of the brutality humans are capable of for the most horrific of reasons. I usually found myself off food and avoiding contact with others after each visit. Today would likely be no exception.
Dressed up, we gathered around the body. I drew up a stool with enough distance between myself and the body that the trio shielded it as they worked. Smith did not have a medical license or had even gone to med school, but he easily kept up with the terminology tossed about and contributed toward the autopsy with his observations.
The trio began with a visual confirmation of the trauma caused to the body. Later, they would speculate on whether the cause was decomposition, from the environment in which the body had been left or created by her killer. I let my mind wander while they worked, perking up for the random comments they made.
The autopsy lasted about five hours, and though I should have been starving after going twelve hours without food, my stomach quivered angrily. I had heard the vile conclusion and every disturbing fact that led to it. The body had been raped by a foreign object both vaginally and anally before her genitals had been hacked at by a knife. She had been tied up while being abused, as evidenced by the shackles Smith had found and the bruised, torn flesh of her wrists and ankles. Then, after playtime was over, while the woman was still alive, but I hoped unconscious, she had been tied to several cinderblocks and tossed into the lake to drown.
The savage brutality, combined with the blatant disregard for life, stole my sense of security. I didn’t hate this whole crime-solving desire my husband harbored; it just left me longing for normalcy in every other aspect of my life to counterbalance the horror. I would have to force it upon myself until my melancholic fear subsided or Smith solved the case. Sadly, we had a way to go before we reached the conclusion.
Smith thanked Dr. Mitiri, who promised to forward him a copy of the autopsy report. Finally, we were on our way home, but Smith would keep processing all that he had taken in over the day, stopping only once exhaustion overtook him. For both of us, it would probably be a very long night.