Leaning back in his chair, Dr. Carlson wiped his eyes as he thought about the report he’d just signed. As a medical examiner, he’d signed many reports, but this one had been the result of some sobering events. Leaning forward, he went back to examining the group of reports he’d placed on his desk for examination.
The first victim that ended on his table was a judge. Besides being a judge, he was known for his paintings. Oil was his preferred medium. The slow drying paint allowed changes he couldn’t have with acrylics and he never felt satisfied with his effort with watercolors. So, he worked with oil and his paintings even were displayed in the local courthouse. Various criminal trials and local events were the subject. From his ringside seat, his perspective, and expert hand, the paintings were unique, and sought.
Dr. Carlson wondered what led to the unfortunate accident that claimed the Judge’s life. He was found in his studio with a blow dryer next to his side and a finished painting of a trial he’d presided over. The theory was he was trying to accelerate the drying of the paint for some unknown reason. Maybe there was a buyer, or he had somewhere to bring the newly finished painting, but the reason didn’t matter any longer. The blow dryer cord caught on the leg of a chair and the judge must have pulled the cord and bared the hot wire. When he continued to manipulate the cord, he contacted the wire and was electrocuted. Age probably was a factor. The judge died when his heart stopped. He wasn’t found until the next morning.
Dr. Carlson knew the judge. His years as examiner led him to the judge’s courtroom on numerous occasions. Although he never particularly cared for the judge, he knew his dislike paled in comparison to many of those that passed through his courtroom. He was known as being arbitrary. Some decisions seemed ruthlessly cruel and others seemed like only a slap on the wrist for crimes that required stiffer punishment. Many thought his decisions were made by greed and nothing else. This was never proven and now the point was moot.
The next victim was another local legal figure. His death started Dr. Carlson’s mind to wondering. Since he was the defense attorney in the trial the judge painted, the coincidence was remarkable. So was the tragedy that led to the death. The attorney was killed while fueling his late model Suburban. Some thought his cell phone caused the spark; others felt it was static electricity. The result was he panicked when the nozzle caught fire and he was hung in the hose as he tried to run. With gasoline pouring on the attorney as he struggled, nobody could get close and pull him away. Witnesses only could watch as the attorney burned in fire that eventually burned the entire fueling island. His wife, who stepped into the store for a soft drink, was still in the hospital. A doctor friend said she required constant sedation. Without the medication, she’d scream in horror and fight the restraints that kept her from self mutilation.
The next two victims were what finally brought Dr. Carlson to his compulsion to review every case to see if he was missing something. They were supposedly not friends, but while walking from a restaurant, they were struck by lightning. Unlike some deaths of this type, they were all burned beyond recognition. Dental records were required for identification. Since the accident was an “act by God” there was no investigation, while Dr. Carlson had feelings there might be more. One was one of the jurors from the trial and the other was a local political agitator that was a constant presence at the murder trial that resulted in a hung jury.
Dr. Carlson stopped to think about the trial. The murder victim was an elderly woman that was murdered by a burglar. He was the medical examiner and was shocked by the brutality of the murder, even after over thirty years of observing mayhem. The woman had fought ferociously, but was eventually killed by the burglar; a powerful young man known by local law enforcement for his numerous previous arrests. While they were confused by his variance from his typical crime, they assumed he was desperate for money. Maybe he’d lost his contacts for his usual strong arming and harassment. His typical crime was of violent enforcement for a local crime organization and his victims were usually those that made the unfortunate mistake of borrowing money. The evidence seemed to be unimpeachable, but when the trial was over, the young man was still not convicted. The jury couldn’t reach a unanimous decision and the prosecutor hadn’t made an effort for another trial.
Dr. Carlson remembered his testimony at the trial. He described the crime as the murder unfolded. The old woman had fought desperately, which was evident in the defensive wounds, but was eventually overcome, bound and tortured until she died. The open safe in her bedroom was empty, which led to the assumption that something of value, which was thought to be money, was removed by the murderer. Since the young man that was arrested flashed money right after the event, nobody went beyond the obvious and the trial was built on that evidence. Dr. Carlson had begun to wonder if there was more; especially after he researched the grandson of the woman. He was a local businessman that was vocal about the crime in the area.
Looking back at the last report, Dr. Carlson thought of the last person that was now refrigerated in the next room. She was the most bizarre victim. She’s died of massive blood loss. The event that led to the blood loss was what stuck in Dr. Carlson’s mind. Her left arm was gory even to the doctor. The ends of her fingers were burned away and the rest of her arm was a multitude of open wounds and tattered flesh to her shoulder. Caught in a thunderstorm, she’d raced to her car to open the door when lightning struck the car. The heat burned away the ends of her fingers and the massive electrical shock caused such violent contractions in her arm, the muscle and tendon tore from the bone and whipped through the skin. He was in the hospital signing papers when she arrived. Emergency professionals fought to save her life, but she’d lost too much blood. A conversation with one of the EMT’s that brought her in revealed she was delirious the entire trip to the hospital. She’d screamed “No!” in terror until the loss of blood made her too weak to scream. The EMT was shaken and horrified by the event.
He remembered the young woman from the trial. Since the prosecutor was pushing for the death sentence, the local opposition to this practice was present in front of the court house for the entire trial. At the end, when the grandson of the murdered woman made a brief statement, this young woman had shouted through the entire statement and shook her sign. When the businessman told her she was wrong, she spit at him and laughed. His only reaction was to say. “May you all burn in Hell.”
Finishing his thoughts, Dr. Carlson returned the reports to the files and tidied his desk. It was now dark outside, and he needed to get home while the rain had stopped. Walking to his car, he examined the sky to the west. Lightning laced the huge thunderstorms, which were forecast to move into the area overnight. Tomorrow was to be more of the same.
Driving away, Dr. Carlson wondered: “Is it over?" He doubted it and had the feeling he needed to get some rest. Tomorrow promised to be busy.