Suddenly waking, Dr. Carlson lay in the bed trying to collect his thoughts. A bright flash, and immediate loud clap of thunder, made him aware of why he awoke. A sudden blast of wind, and rain, against the window reminded the doctor of the severe weather watches he’d seen before he went to bed.
Glancing at the clock, he realized the alarm was scheduled for ten minutes from the current time. Thinking he might snooze for a few minutes, his mind started racing, so he turned the alarm off and placed his feet on the floor.
He didn’t feel rested, but knew why: he’d worked late the night before, so he only had a few hours sleep. He briefly thought of the last few days before he went to prepare for his day. He wondered what this day would bring as he prepared his breakfast. The heavy rain pounded the window as he worked.
The trip to work was a crawl due to the weather and heavy traffic. Even after he arrived, he had to navigate through an accident scene in the parking lot. Somebody backed in front of another car. There was little damage, but both drivers were in a heated discussion as he slowly passed. What little he could hear made him decide the discussion was on who was at fault and who would be the first to call their attorney. Neither looked threatening as they argued under their umbrellas.
Dr. Carlson wasn’t in his department for a few minutes when he received a call: “Hi, Doc. Sorry to bother you on such a crummy morning, but I need your help. “
The doctor responded:” I’ll get my equipment and assistant. Where do we need to go?”
The police detective gave him the location; the doctor gathered his equipment and called for his assistant to meet him in the coroner van. They left the garage in the heavy rain and slowly travelled the partially flooded street to the scene.
As they pulled to the cluster of parked patrol cars, the rain suddenly eased off. Stepping from the vehicle, the coroner warned his assistant: “Pay close attention to everything. It’s easy to miss important details.”
As they walked to the body, the doctor carefully looked at the surroundings. The location was an abandoned group of metal buildings. At one time, these were locations of small suppliers that provided equipment to the now closed food processing plant a few thousand feet away. The entire area looked like a scene from an apocalyptic movie; the loss of the plant caused an economic blight, which was glaringly apparent.
“Hey Doc. I’m sorry to get you out in this weather.”
“It’s part of my job. What do you have?”
Holding up a roll of bills and a plastic bag, the detective continued: “You can see what we found. This really caught our attention.”
The doctor didn’t say anything; instead he walked to the body and started his examination.
Rivulets of blood flowed off the body and were diluted in the puddles that were around the body. Closer examination revealed a young man; at least the clothes had the appearance; there wasn’t much face left to confirm this initial assessment.
Feces on the body were a confirmation of the doctor’s immediate suspicion. There wasn’t much skin left on the face or hands. The lower body was pinned under a large light pole. The base of the pole was still attached to the base. The aluminum base looked as though it had been melted, which caused the pole to lean and fall.
“It looks like rats had a field day”
“Yes, but it’s my job to determine the state of their meal.”
“We found this roll of money. We haven’t counted it yet, but if it’s all hundreds, like the outside bill, there’s thousands here.”
The doctor looked at the locket in the bag the detective held and asked: “What’s in the bag?”
“It’s a gold locket and has an inscription: “Sarah’s Treasures.”
“Did the victim have any identification?”
“That’s what we call him. His name is Brandon Grainger. He has a long rap sheet of petty crimes. A high dollar attorney always posts his bail and pays his fines. In the last ten years, he’s been arrested a few dozen times.”
The doctor paused for a moment. The name “Grainger” caught his attention, but he couldn’t determine why.
The doctor continued his inspection of the body. Nothing was visible to confirm any foul play. Looking at his assistant, he instructed: “Let’s bag him and get him to the morgue.”
Looking about, the doctor thought of the possibilities of what brought the man to this point and his subsequent death. If he was killed by the pole, it would have been quick and merciful. If not, the death would have taken a long time and would have been excruciating.
After a wrecker lifted the pole, and an examination under the body, the officers helped them with bagging the remains. As they loaded the body in the van, the doctor thanked the detectives for their help and quickly climbed into the van to escape the heavy rain that had started again. As they drove back to the morgue, the doctor pondered over the name of the victim. Something was familiar about the name, but he couldn’t place why.
Later that evening, Dr. Carlson worked on his report as his assistant finished cleaning the room and placing the equipment back where it belonged.
“I’ll see you tomorrow Doc.”
“You have a good evening and be careful. It doesn’t look like the weather will let up.”
After his assistant left, the doctor continued with his report. He described the nature of the injuries and known physical condition of the now confirmed man that ended on his table. Although there were indications of drug use, the final toxicology findings would take weeks. What was known was confirmed with what the doctor found with the fingernail scrapings. The hairs, and blood indicated those of a rodent; the man had fought while the rats attacked. Unable to flee, he succumbed to the onslaught and eventually bled to death. His lower legs were injured, but the injuries were not the cause of his death. Due to his isolated location, nobody heard his cries or arrived to help prevent his death.
“How did the pole fall?” plagued the doctor’s thoughts. The base was melted, but what caused it to melt? It took a tremendous amount of heat to cause such damage, but there was no evidence of the source.
The doctor was surprised by the voice. Turning, he saw the lead detective from the scene. He approached the desk and handed the doctor the bag with the locket.
“I thought you should see this. We dusted it for prints, so don’t be worried about contaminating the evidence.”
The doctor took the bag and pulled the locket for examination.
As the doctor examined the locket, he was fascinated by the elaborate scroll work on the surface. Beautiful would be an understatement of the obvious hand crafted gold locket. The chain, like the locket, was gold and the tiny links were smaller than any he’d ever seen. This caliber of jewelry was hardly the keepsake of a person like the victim. Something like this acquired during a burglary, or robbery, was soon pawned for a few dollars in cash.
“Open it, and look at the photo.”
Carefully opening the locket, the doctor examined the photograph. The young man looked familiar, but he couldn’t place the face. On the cover were words inscribed in beautiful script: “Sarah’s Treasures”
“Don’t you recognize him?”
The doctor looked closer, but still couldn’t place the face.
“Do you remember that trial you just finished?”
The doctor paused, thought of the trial and the person in the photograph became familiar. The man was much younger than the photo he’d seen in the paper, but he recognized the dead husband of the old woman that was murdered. He’d been a successful business man in his day. His grandson still ran the business he started years ago.
“What do you think, Doc?”
“I don’t know what to think. How do you think this he acquired this locket?”
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out. We’re hoping you can help. You’ve been here most of your life. Maybe you can put some pieces together. Have you determined the cause of death?”
“I won’t get the final toxicology reports for a few weeks, but I don’t think they’ll reveal much, except whether our victim was intoxicated when he died. The rats are the apparent killers.”
“That’s a tough way to go, although it couldn’t happen to a nicer person; Squeaky was bad news. We couldn’t pin a felony on him, but we knew he had something to do with local organized crime. There’s no way he could operate so long without some useful purpose”
The doctor stared at the locket. He felt there was some important fact he was missing, but couldn’t put it in place.
“Think about it Doc. If something comes to mind, give me a call.”
“Thanks Nick. If you need the locket, you know where to find it.”
The doctor watched as the detective left and turned back to his examination of the locket. He was still fascinated by the craftsmanship and obvious worth. It would hardly be a gift. This type of jewelry lasted for centuries as an heirloom. The fact a petty criminal had it in his possession was baffling.
Dr. Carlson examined the locket for a few minutes and then went back to finishing his report. After he finished, he thought of the ending of his victim. For whatever reason, some tremendous source of heat weakened the base of the pole, which allowed the heavy light fixture to fall upon the victim. Trapped, the victim was unable to escape from rats, which took advantage of his inability to escape. His attempts to survive were futile. In the end, the rats removed enough flesh to cause tremendous blood loss from their prey. Weakened, he eventually died from their feeding.
The doctor was clearing his desk when a thought entered his mind. Immediately, he started searching through his files, until he found the information he wanted. He read the pieces of paper a few times before it all became clear. He now knew why the name of the young man was familiar. Grainger was the name of one of Sarah’s survivors.
Dr. Carlson rubbed his eyes for a few moments and then dug into the bottom drawer of his desk for his hidden bottle of scotch. After pouring a few ounces in the bottom of his coffee cup, he sipped and thought of what his investigation revealed. There were pieces missing, but the fact the young man had thousands in cash, and the locket of the dead woman, couldn’t be ignored, or thought as coincidence.
A long rumble brought the doctor from his deep concentration. The thunderstorms were building again, so he needed to leave before they arrived. After locking up, he was deep in thought as he walked to his car. He had a lot on his mind: the death of the young man, the locket and the strange fact the aluminum base of the light pole was melted. A bright flash suddenly brought a thought as quick as the lightning caught his attention. “Could lightning have struck the pole?” He didn’t know. He needed to do some research.
As the doctor drove away, he never noticed his instinctive reaction of turning on the wipers, when the first drops of rain hit his windshield. He was thinking about what he wanted to do tomorrow.
The loud ring of his cell phone broke his thoughts. Answering, he was asked by the voice on the other end: “Hey Doc. This is Eric George. Have you seen Nick? He said he was going to stop by on the way home”
“About two hours ago. He stopped by the morgue to check on the Grainger case.”
“He should have been here by now. He was coming for dinner and hasn’t showed. ”
“Maybe something came up.”
“He would have called.”
Thinking of lightening the mood, Dr. Carlson replied: “Maybe he had a hot date.”
Eric became somber: “I doubt it. After his divorce last year, Nick hasn’t been dating. The only person he’s seemed interested in is my sister-in-law and she’s here. We were all supposed to eat together.”
Dr. Carlson had a feeling of foreboding. He knew enough about the detectives to realize Eric would never call unless he was really worried. Since they dealt with the worst of society, unexplained absences were cause for worry.
“Call me when you find him Eric.”
“Sure thing Doc. Bye”
Now worried, Doctor Carlson continued reviewing the last 14 hours as he drove. He felt he was missing something important, but didn’t have enough pieces to determine what that something was. Maybe tomorrow would bring more information. Maybe Nick found something and it would help put it all together.
A bright flash, and quick clap of thunder, reminded the doctor of the persistent weather system. The forecast was for the weather to remain disturbed for the next few days. He hoped it would be quiet and he could stay out of the weather. The way things were going, he was beginning to think there wasn’t much chance of this happening.