After three hours of weather and traffic, Colin McKenzie pulled in to the parking lot at City Hall in Deer Park. Anxious and concerned about the driving conditions, Ben Perrini was waiting at the front door of the building.
“Glad you could make it down. Mac.”
“ It was a crappy drive, Ben, but I made it. What’s goin on?”
“We got a body and not much else. The Medical Examiner says thinks the body’s been there at least over night, estimating time of death around midnight Monday.”
“Any clue about the cause?”
“ME says he thinks it might be a combination of too much Thunderbird plus some pills he hasn’t had time to look for.”
“He thinks he has an Indian on the slab and that’s why you called me?”
“Yeah, that and the pigtail and no facial hair. And he says that it’s not all there.”
“What else is missing?”
“A couple of fingers, the left foot and the nose. It looks like the work of an amateur surgeon and a dull knife.”
“Well, that shit is not in my area of expertise, Ben.”
“Right, I called because of the Indian thing, Mac. I guess we’re goin have to give the ME the time to do his job.”
By the time Al Rice took the job of Spokane County Medical Examiner the job description had changed a bit.
Starting in about the 14th Century, Pope Clement had ordered autopsies of victims of the Black Death. He wanted to find out what was causing the plague. In the following centuries the seriousness of the process was influenced by alcohol and the incompetence of the judge. The office evaporated along with the solemn nature of death and the fumes from the gin of the jury. Inquests were held in taverns and all sorts of public gathering places. These were simply farces played out for human consumption. The cause of death was determined by a jury influenced by a coroner’s deliberations. And needless to say the coroner was in turn influenced by money and political and personal issues.
Now, Al Rice as the County Medical Examiner is running a separate department. It’s not under the supervision of either the Police Department or the County Sheriff’s Department. Determining the cause of death is not a legal decision.
“So what does the autopsy give us?”
“I checked stomach and intestines and found nothing other than a whole lot of fortified wine. From what I can see it looks like blunt force trauma, a helluva crushing blow to the back of the skull coupled with a stab wound on the left side of the neck probably did the job. Unconscious and puncture of the aorta he would have bled out in about 15 minutes or less.” ; was Rice’s first unofficial verbal report of autopsy.
“Whataya think the weapon might be?
“Maybe whoever it was brought along a spade to bury him and then chickened out.”