Drop Dead Gorgeous Page 2

Pfft. As if he doesn’t talk to his stiffy too.

Okay, so his is a bit different, but you can’t tell me Jeff doesn’t talk to his dick every day, because I’ve heard him tell his daily breakfast donut ‘come to Daddy’ more times than I can count. And if he’s talking to food, he’s talking to Mr. Woody, and I’m not unpacking that level of crazy for all the money in the world.

Nope, I’ll just keep talking to the dead bodies, filling in their side of the conversations in my mind, and that does not make me crazy.

Weird, I’ll admit. But not crazy. I mean, fuck, at least they’ve usually still got their ears. Except for that one time . . .

Entering the kitchen, I see a guy hunched over the dining table, his breakfast plate of scrambled eggs and toast still sitting in front of him. Actually, make that under him. He’s literally nose-down in eggs. The orange juice glass has been righted, probably to keep it from rolling off the edge, but the spill of liquid is still dripping off the table into his lap, soaking his tie.

Time for ‘work brain’ to take over.

Male. Early fifties. No obvious signs of trauma or foul play. He’s just dead at the dining table, eyes staring unblinkingly and unseeingly at now-cold and congealed eggs.

And they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Okay, enough jokes. Assess, take pictures, and make notes. It’s all old hat, my hands working by habit, snapping pictures from nearly every angle I can think of. The county buys me a new memory card for every case, so I’ve got plenty of room on here for video and photo.

As I work, in my mind I’m talking to Mr. Toast-and-Eggs, just like I do with all my bodies.

“So, how’s your day been?”

“Pretty shitty, to be honest.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. I’ll do my best to get you out of here quickly and wipe that OJ off.”

“Not too worried about the OJ being cold. Don’t think shrinkage matters now, but there’s a corner of toast poking me in the cheek.”

“Oh, I can fix that in just a second.”

“No rush. Not like I’ve got anything better to do now.”

Pics and video done, I do more assessing. Toasty was dressed for work, it appears. There’s a slight bulging in his neck veins, possible indications of heart problems. I lift my head to look around for any medications or anything helpful. None, but I’ll check the bathroom cabinet later.

Through the doorway, my eyes land on a woman sitting on the couch. She looks like this could be a house party, sitting cross-legged and calm as can be while people mill around her. She’s wearing jeans and a low-cut V-neck T-shirt, so not a police officer, not one of my crew, so . . . who is she?

Her eyes tick from person to person, silent and watchful. Eventually, they land on me and we lock eyes for a moment. She takes a deep breath and begins to cry . . . instantly loud and dramatic wailing.

Jeff’s rookie sits down beside her, patting her shoulder comfortingly, but she amps up her wailing.

“My Dickie! He’s gone! Nooooo, Dickie Boo!”

I lift an eyebrow. “Dickie Boo?”

Jeff, who’s followed me in, squats down beside me and the body of the dead guy. “Yeah, DB’s name is Richard Horne. His parents must’ve hated him something fierce before he was even born. And then they made it even worse by nicknaming him Dick.” He snorts, covering it with a cough, before explaining, “Dick Horne. Toot, toot, tootle-toot.”

Out of professionalism, I don’t laugh, but I do agree that this guy’s parents weren’t winning awards for that one. Maybe some people would find it wrong or rude that we’re joking around at a scene, but a macabre sense of humor is shockingly common in our profession. I’m not sure if investigative work attracts morbid people or if our sense of humor is a coping mechanism. Probably both.

“That’s the wife, Yvette Horne,” Jeff continues, lifting his eyes toward the blubbering woman.

“Hmm.” She does seem rather upset right now, but the image of her sitting calmly and watchfully hasn’t disappeared from my mind. That didn’t seem like shock but more like a high school drama kid realizing they missed their cue and launching in full bore.

But she’s not my concern right now. The body of Richard “Dickie” Horne is.

There isn’t much else to be learned right now, so I finish my assessment, double-checking my list even though it’s an automatic habit after doing this job for so many years. I’m the coroner in the county, so literally every body comes through my morgue.

It’s a heavy responsibility, one I was taught to take seriously.

“All right, I’m done for now. Let’s transport.” Jeff nods and waves a hand at the paramedics, who’ve got a body bag and gurney waiting. If we were a full-service unit, we’d hire specialists, but out here, we all do double-duty. Paramedics sometimes hurry live ones to the hospital, and sometimes, they move my DBs to the morgue. They come close, wearing ponchos and full protective gear because you never know what’s going to happen when you move a body. Sometimes it’s clean and easy, and sometimes it's . . . not.

And that’s all I’ll say about that.

I stand up, giving them space. “Take him in. I’ll meet you there.”

The senior paramedic nods. “Sure thing, Boss.”

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