I was called to a scene early this morning. It is my first solo case. The old timers I have been working with are slowly burning out and are more than willing to let me go it alone.
When I walked into the house, it smelled like death. That’s a smell not quickly forgotten. It permeates the air and clings to you like a thick fog.
The house was neat and tidy. Everything in the living room seemed to be ordinary, except the elaborate chandelier hanging from the ceiling. A vase of nondescript dried flowers sat on the coffee table, along with a never used candle and a wooden box.
In one of the bedrooms, pictures were sitting on the floor against the furniture, having never found a place on the wall. There were antique rhinestone necklaces and bracelets carefully displayed on the dresser, along with some Egyptian perfume bottles. A handmade quilt was covering the bed that looked as though it had never been slept in.
In the next bedroom, a dress form stood in the corner and displayed a jumper made of newspaper, now yellowed with age. A collection of French Limoges were visible through the glass sides of a small cabinet and a pair of crocheted gloves and a beaded purse sat on the top. A childs’ rocking chair sat in front of the dress form and gave a resting place to three Steiff teddy bears.
The master bedroom is where she was found. She was laying curled up in the fetal position on her side. She had not been moved because they were waiting for the coroner. I looked around the room, being careful not to disturb anything that might potentially be evidence.
There was an ornate French clock on one of the bedside tables. It was one of those clocks that were right twice a day, because the batteries were as dead as she was. Another vase of dried flowers sat beside the clock and a vintage rotary telephone looking oddly out of place, still seemed perfectly at home.
When the coroner arrived, he said it was obvious that being frozen in that position and the state of decomposition, meant she had been dead for two to three days. There was no visible cause of death. There was no empty pill bottle. There was no note. There was nothing. After they took her away, I continued my investigation.
Under one of the pillows, was a loaded .38 revolver. I could tell that it hadn’t been fired and the lack of blood and tissue indicated that it was not a murder nor a suicide weapon. The reason she died would come only after the autopsy.
As I continued to look around, I opened drawers to the dresser and lingerie chest. Everything was neatly folded and put away. Unmentionables were categorized by color, which I found fascinating. When I looked in the closet, it was the same. Her clothes, her shoes and purses were also organized by color.
There seemed to be a place for everything and everything was in its place. There was nothing that would suggest that there was anybody in her life, yet her expensive wardrobe said differently.
I found a small jewelry box hidden underneath the sink in her bathroom. It had a few broken gold chains, two rings and something that was carefully wrapped in tissue paper. When I unwrapped it, I realized that I was looking at an exquisitely carved piece of scrimshaw. “How odd,” I thought. “I wonder why this wasn’t displayed.”
Since nothing seemed to be disturbed and there was no evidence of foul play, I was ready to file my report. All I needed was the coroners’ cause of death. As I was finishing up, a quick glance into a file cabinet, revealed her identity and the usual utility bills but nothing more. No credit card statements were found. No cards or letters had been filed away, but everything would later be carefully scrutinized to see if there was a will.
A few of the neighbors dropped by and I spoke briefly with them. One of them had called the police when the postal carrier mentioned that her front door was standing open. When he called to her, there had been no answer.
“She was a bit of a recluse,” one said. Another said “we didn’t even know her name. She just kind of kept to herself.” When I asked them if they knew if she was depressed or sick, the answer was the same. “We didn’t really know anything about her. She was very private.”
“Did you ever notice anybody coming into or leaving her house?” I asked. They shook their heads and said “never.”
Later that afternoon, wanting to wrap things up, I stopped by the coroners’ office. When I asked about the findings, the clerk said “let’s see. The final report’s not ready but there’s a note here about a key.”
“A key?” I asked. The clerk said “yeah, a key was found in her hand.” He winked and said “she had it in a death grip.” I gave him “the look” but appreciated his humorous pun.
When I asked what kind of key it was, the clerk said he didn’t know. “It’s not like any kind of key we can identify.”
“And COD?” I asked. “Don’t have it yet. Doc was called away for an emergency. Apparently, somebody came back to life,” he said as he giggled.
I had to appreciate his quirkiness. Dealing with death isn’t easy and we each have to deal with it in our own way.
“I’ll wait,” I said.
To be continued_____________