"Aw Healey, that asshole! I remember Healey. If you didn't show up for practice he'd actually call your house!"
"Call your house? Hell, he'd send out people to LOOK for you! And this is a small town so there's only three places you could be. They found me in the arcade and I was like: 'Eh, I just don't want to play baseball anymore. Sorry.'"
"No, he cooked it and served the dog to her for dinner, saying it was steak."
"That might taste good."
"Well, he's been arrested. Bail set at fifteen thousand dollars."
"Fifteen thousand?!? Seriously?! That guy who was arrested in Citrus County for murdering his ex and eating her liver was only held on ten thousand bond!"
"Yeah, well, maybe she was a bitch."
He laughed and nudged the fire medic next to him. "Look at her, she's so eager for blood!"
"Wait 'til you actually have to work at a fire station," said the other medic to me, "You don't want to put on rain gear in this mess and go out to work for hours sawing the roof off someone's car."
"What do you think it might be?" I asked the medics, "Trauma? Seizure?"
"Uh,..." the medic behind the wheel said as he turned towards me, "Have you ever been to a section 7 before?"
"It means 'dead body.'" The medic turned on the ambulance and we were on our way. No lights or sirens. Why bother?
"Okay," the deputy said to the man as he entered the house, "You don't go anywhere."
Inside the house it looked like any modest rural residence inhabited by an elderly person. There were pictures of children and grandchildren. There were books and a few magazines. A musty but not entirely unpleasant smell was in the air, the smell of a home. There was no smell of decomposition but when my preceptor lifted the blanket covering the couch he saw the tiny, naked, body of the elderly woman. "Oh yeah, she's dead," he said, "There's obvious lividity. She's been dead for at least a day."
"'Dead on Arrival,'" my preceptor said to the deputy, giggling.
"'DOA,' right," the deputy said, "Hey, give me a break! This is only my second day here." She clicked on her flashlight despite the fact that it was bright daylight outside. Still, the house had small windows and was gloomy. The deputy scanned the house. It was in complete disarray. The lamp was knocked askew. All the couch cushions were on the floor. As the deputy walked down the hallway we could see soiled underwear and wadded toilet paper. "It looks like whatever it was started in the bathroom."
"Maybe she felt pain in the bathroom and started panicking? Knocking the furniture over?"
I thought that was a valid possibility until another deputy said, "Well, then, why did she knock all the couch cushions onto the floor before lying on the couch?"
The deputy was right. All the couch cushions were on the floor. My preceptor made another point. "The Lieutenant had a heart attack last year while he was in the bathroom. He also walked out of the bathroom and passed out in his living room after calling 911... but his house wasn't messed up like this."
A third deputy sighed and flipped open his phone. "Okay, I'll get the detectives down here. Cheever's gonna be pissed about me making him come down here, but it's what he's getting fucking paid for."
The new deputy laughed at this. Meanwhile I left the house with the other medics. The area was officially a crime scene. Any dead body present made an area a crime scene, and it seemed that the deputies were far from ruling out foul play. As I climbed back onto the ambulance, I saw the skinny nervous man talking to a beefy deputy. Later, visibly shaking whilst smoking a cigarette, he walked back across the street to talk to the middle-aged woman.
There were no other calls that deal. As second shift arrived my preceptor filled them in on our lone call. "Some old lady who had been dead for at least a day."
"What was it? Heart attack?"
"Actually she was probably raped and murdered dude," my preceptor said. Judging by his tone of voice he could have been describing the score for the Redskins game. We medics are pretty callous bunch.
"Pretty much," I chimed in.
"NO! We don't know anything yet," another medic said to me with surprising heat, "She could have died of a heart attack or a stroke."
"Then why were all the couch cushions on the floor?" I asked.
"She could have thrown them off if she had been having convulsions."
Then why was she naked? I didn't ask that question yet. Obviously it was better to wait before spreading rumors.
It was pitch black by the time I left the fire station at eight o'clock that evening. There were no street lamps and the Spanish moss draped over the trees swayed in the rain. It was picturesquely eerie though not exactly the type the atmosphere through which I wanted drive the next thirty miles towards the coast.
With my gas gauge needle more comfortably above the "E," I turned towards Fort Pierce and the welcoming signs indicating the turn-offs for I-95.
Finally I saw the first signs of "Starbucks," "Chipotle's," and "Panera." The atmosphere thinned and I rolled across the border from Southern Gothic to New Yorker Vacation Town. I was back on the Coast!