“I’ll be the judge of that!” came another voice from down the path toward the road. It was the county medical examiner and his young apprentice assistant, Jake. “Anybody got an I.D.? You’ve got the case solved and all wrapped-up, but you don’t even know the victim’s name? How were you going to fill-out line 6a of the 303 report form? Huh?”
“We were just waiting for you and the forensics team to take your photos and do all that scientific stuff you do. We protected the scene. That’s what we do.” The lieutenant retorted, jovially. “How ya doin’, Dr. Bob?” The assistant immediately began taking photos of the body and everything that could even be remotely considered evidence. He put little numbered flags where the bullet casings laid there in the sand and took more photos.
The M.E. threw some blue latex gloves at the two officers and solicited their help to roll the putrid body over on it’s side to check for a wallet in the back pockets. They extracted the wallet from the left-rear pocket and heard a metallic tinkling coming from the front of the corpse. Dr. Bob checked around the dead guy’s neck and found military-styled dog tags, but they weren’t stamped in military fashion. These were store-bought tags.
The named I.D. on the dog tags matched the Driver’s License I.D. from the wallet. The guy had a name, fourteen dollars, his Medicare card and a debit bank card. There were also the words stamped on the tags, Semper Fidelis. “The dead guy was probably a former Marine, too. I wonder if they would know anything about this guy over at the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma?”
The M.E.’s assistant, Jake chimed-in, “I’m 99.9% sure that there is nothing but water in the canteen, lieutenant, but I’ll test it for sure back in the lab.”
The lieutenant looked squarely at Officer Tabaño, .. “Got drunk and shooting at the moon .. Tabaño, you have a wild imagination. Or else you watch too many western movies on TV.”
“Either way, L-T, not much of a crime scene here. Just some poor dumb bastard whose luck ran out on some lonesome, starry night in the desert. Couldn’t get help on his cell phone, too far to walk back and risk spreading the venom quicker, then decided to ride out the rest of his snake-bit life contemplating the Cosmos and the Milky Way. You know how beautiful the night skies are around here away from city lights.”
The medical team, Dr. Bob and Jake, bagged the body by lifting the whole Army blanket. Then placed the dead snake in a separate bag, while Officer Tabaño picked up all the .22LR brass shells and put them in an evidence bag; the wallet and dog tags in another bag. The cell phone in another bag. The empty pistol with magazine removed in another bag. They would all help carry the D.B. back to the M.E.’s wagon.
The poor guy was dead. The Sheriff’s Deputies had a tentative I.D. which would have to be confirmed from latent fingerprints if they could get any and then compared to civilian or military records. There was nothing else to do at the moment, but finish the paperwork. Not the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon, when it was supposed to be a day off.
Deputy Tabaño’s radio sounded off .. “Unit Seven, Unit Seven .. Dispatch”
Tabaño grabbed the radio Mic clipped to the epaulet on his uniform shirt, “Unit Seven .. Go ahead.”
“Seven, we have a tourist-reported Signal 11, possible Signal 34-Victor east of the Owl Station ghost town. You’re the closest Deputy to that area.”
He recognized the dispatcher’s voice, “Lucy, do you know how hot it gets over there in the afternoons? There’s a reason its a ghost town, ya know.”
“Captain wants you on it, Seven.” Lucy, the dispatcher mono-droned in reply.
“10-4. On my way.”
Tabaño took a deep breath and muttered under his breath, “That’s great. There’s an abandoned vehicle, probably vandalized in an abandoned ghost town, 50 miles away in the hottest part of the desert and me with a hangover. This must be my lucky weekend day-off.”
“Did you say something, Tabaño?” asked Lt. Reyes.
“L-T, … Captain wants me to investigate an abandoned and vandalized vehicle over at Owl Station. Looks like you and the Doc got this guy in the bag all to yourself. I gotta go protect and serve … in a the ghost town.”
>>>> Chapter 3 >>