A body was not the tip that comes to mind when nosing around the stables. Like most race fans, I wanted to be in the winner’s circle up to my neck in bourbon, hundred-dollar bills, and spooning against rosy cheeks. Instead I was wading my way through dawn’s truck crowd headed for Downs’ twin steeples. It was like being the last horse out of the stall. I knew the gate was open but the whip I was pushing was bucking from the home blend gas across the street from the Cardinal motel. I spent thirty minutes listening to news about a town I didn’t plan to be in for more than seventy-two hours.
Answering one call had put me out of the running for the last seat back to Florida on Flight 1542. Obliging my sponsor, I was pulling up to a deserted field which had held thousands twenty-four hours ago. This crime scene didn’t look any different from the hundreds seen before. Just about everything was being bagged, tagged, and stowed away in its proper place. The one exception was clutched in the hands of a forensic technician.
Welps was clutching the plastic evidence baggie like it could race through the stable stuck to the bottom of my hand-made loafers. I couldn’t make out its contents. What I did know seemed pretty obvious. That evidence baggie wasn’t going to any unintended destinations under that technician’s death grip. No miracle would allow that evidence baggie or my loafers to go anywhere undetected without a trail of damp barn mixture of mud and straw following close behind.
Local Uniforms surrounding me took pleasure in the sight. I had dealt with plenty of out-of- town uniforms before. This time tag, I am it. Being the out-of- towner always takes a lot more energy. Smug looks from uniforms’ eyes told me my shoes weren’t the only thing out of place. Their chilly reception also told me that reliable information would not be forth coming. These morning mud rookies were lapping up jokes at my expense. Only one forensic drone seems to be in sync with my vibe. His hand moved in and out of his pocket like an uncontrollable tic. He kept shoving a plastic bag into his crime scene fatigue front flap pocket as he approached me.
“Detective Wright, I’m Welps, the Coroner’s assistant. I’ve been expecting you. My orders are to escort you to the scene. Please follow me this way, sir.”
Our walk wasn’t long enough to give me time to resolve my immediate dilemma. I had accepted this trip for the purpose of networking. The idea of escaping Florida’s heat spells in May didn’t seem like a bad idea. Now it seemed I had traded one hot seat for another. So much for the vacations with no strings attached. Everybody knows there are always some strings attached. Good bourbon and fast women had distracted me. Every ounce of me wanted to kick the barn muck off my loafers for a quick exit. Rush hour was over. It would take no effort to point my rental back to the airport where freedom awaited me.
Welps’ eyes shifted away from any Uniforms when we walked pass. The gesture was enough to signal his separation from the group. Welps never spoke another word in earshot of other Uniforms. He guided me at a respectful pace continually pushing the baggie holding a Downs’ ticket deeper into his fatigues’ pocket. He did nothing to show me that he would treat me any different. I guess a councilman’s invitation to a crime scene doesn’t guarantee a warm reception. Our arrival to the perimeter required protocol.
“Thanks Officer. Is there a Shift Sergeant on sight?”
Our walk continued several yards without any response. Finally Welps spoke once we reached the perimeter near the body.
“Sir, I’ve been on site since last night. I’m not sure who else is on duty, any where, sir.”
Satisfied his delivery was sufficient; Welps busied himself with banter from another uniform nearby. Moving back and froth to his satchel dusting meticulously while his partner photographed everything. Both men were careful to avoid eye contact with me. Doing otherwise would put them in risk of having to interact with me. This was something neither one of them cared to do under the scrutiny of fellow Uniforms. No matter where you go local Uniforms always manage to remain strategically placed by wandering around the perimeter. This protocol keeps things in tact ensuring they could clock overtime for their response to the scene. Faces and uniforms may change when you cross a state line. That little practice remains the same everywhere. No force will pay you if you are a no show.
The wetness in the morning air had me wishing I was a no-show. The Kentucky sun left me shivering on unfamiliar ground. Last night’s Bourbon seeped through a porous sieve, my skin which refused to adjust to these Midwest mornings. The sight of the crimson haired beauty fully exposed on top of a half zipped body bag squeezed languishing juices of Mint Juleps from my stomach to my throat. Twelve hours ago I had seen the victim on the arm of a dignitary at the Governor’s Ball.
Now she was wearing nothing but dry pieces of hay scattered about her hair. It was a putrid contrast to her expensively coiffed locks. It was the kind of adornment that told me that screamed something is missing. The lack of mud around her ankles let me know whatever was missing had to be very important.