The Dead Bin
by Gary Clifton
Chapter 26: Fight Bite
Gold, like love, is not always found in the right places.
The three of us clustered up at Denny’s. Harper was having grease and cholesterol; me, some dry toast, and Maggs was picking at a salad. I hoped my aching stomach wouldn’t barf my toast back up.
My cellular broke up the party. “Hey, doc...? Okay: Emily, what’s up?” I was talking with Dr. Rosetti, calling from the morgue. “No I don’t like autopsies for crap. Besides, Martha isn’t exactly my — uh, our — case. How’s that? Hey, you bet, kiddo. I’m with Harper and Maggs. We’re on the way.”
“You got a very fine girlfriend, McCoy,” Maggs admonished. “That lady in the morgue has an eye on you. I’ll snitch to Janet.” She chuckled. “If you—”
“Rosetti says she struck gold and for us to get our asses over there.”
Once again, Rosetti was oddly sexy standing in a blood-splattered lab coat among naked, dead bodies on gurneys parked around the basement morgue. A second pathologist and his helper were working on a corpse at another sink.
Rosetti pointed to Saturday on a wall calendar and playfully punched me on the shoulder. Martha’s body was lying on a gurney, the standard “Y” incision gaping her chest and stomach cavities open. A stack of spare parts lay on a sink drainboard.
“Overtime, huh, Doc... er, Emily?” I asked.
“Overtime.” She smiled. “Dream on, fool. We’re just covered up. Moon must have been full last night.”
“Have a team of Homicide cops been out here already this morning?” I asked.
“Yes, and they said Martha was a whore who swindled old man Crawford and probably murdered him. Figured you parolees might be more interested.”
“Pretty smart,” I said. “Keep talking.”
She turned to Martha’s body. “Blows to the head suggest the killer is left-handed. Hit her with a pipe or other metal weapon, but also with his fist. Y’all need to look for fight bite.”
Fight bite was an infection of the hand resulting from a fist striking another person’s teeth. I’d seen it before. It could be a very serious condition if not promptly treated.
“Human teeth are the devil’s germ-playground,” Rosetti continued. “We picked minute amounts of tissue out of her teeth. Outstanding chance of the killer having a hand that will soon become a hell of a mess.”
“If they scrub the hand?” Maggs asked.
“If — and immediately, like a minute or so after contact. But this killer fled the scene and was probably wearing gloves. Chances are excellent that time lapse and cover of the glove — which tore — caused the killer to mess around for a considerable time before washing or whatever. Soap and water wouldn’t kill the bacteria after a few minutes.”
“She bit him while he was wearing gloves?” Maggs asked.
“Killer hit her in the mouth. Teeth penetrated the gloves.”
“DNA?” Maggs asked.
“In a day or so,” Rosetti smiled.
“Great work, Emily,” I said.
“But wait, here’s the jackpot.” Rosetti turned to a countertop. With tweezers, she plucked a tiny fragment of metal from a glass lab jar. She slid the fragment under a microscope and motioned for us to look.
We all three obligingly looked.
“Ring stand, extracted from Martha’s cheek,” Rosetti said. “That’s the gadget on the corner of a jeweled ring that holds the stone in place.” She dropped the remnant into a plastic bag.
“You tell the Homicide guys who were here earlier about that?”
“They were so busy moaning about having to work on Saturday that they didn’t show much interest.”
“Damn, Doc... uh, Emily,” I said. “we’re gonna promote you to the Dead Bin.”
“Not sure that’s an improvement, even over this place.” She laughed and gestured around her. “But bring me the rest of this ring and we’ll ruin somebody’s day.”
“Knowing that information and finding the ring are a world apart,” Maggs said as we walked out. “But stranger stuff happens.”
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton