ME and the Meatsicles
Zorn pulled into the small parking lot of the forensic lab in his new, black Dodge Charger. The King’s I wish I was in the Land of Cotton surround him as he found an empty slot next to Jackie’s white BMW. He thought it complimented her personality. Classy, smart, and sexy as hell. He’d made mistake, a bad one, and he was forever regretting it. When the folk song finished, he switched off the engine and the cold air blasting out of the vents died, and the hot Texas sun immediately began the baking process.
He patted the Fedora on the passenger seat. He rarely wore the thing. Slapping a lid his blonde locks made him look too much like a character in a noir film. On the day he his senior partner, Casey Stengel, retired from the force, he slapped it on top of Zorn’s head. The only time Zorn could remember actually wearing the thing was five years ago at Casey’s funeral. But keeping it next to him was almost like having his old guru at his side. “You stay here, Stengel.”
In two broad strides, he was at the entrance. In the reflection of the glass door, he took a moment to smooth the wrinkles from his slacks. He was wearing yesterday’s clothes since he’d been rousted out of a deep slumber for the call to the docks and he was forced to skip his leisurely grooming routine. He entered the building and was welcomed by cool air wafting down from the overhead vents. The building’s layout defied logic and always galled him. What sensible architect would design an entrance door at the front of the building only to force a walk to the end of a hall to enter the forensic lab? When he arrived at the door, he peeked through the narrow panel of glass. The ME sat behind a desk inking on paperwork. He gave the handle a tug and discovered the door was locked. She remained unaware of his presence. Zorn made a fist and gently rapped his ring against the glass.
Jackie stopped working and looked up.
Zorn smiled and waved his hand.
She rose slowly and hesitantly made her way over to stare at him through the glass. Her hazel eyes were cold. The internal mechanism of the lock clicked. He pulled the door open and smiled. “Hi Jackie.”
The ME responded to his smile with a scowl.
“Easy. I just came by to take a look at the body” That was a lie. His visit was multipurpose. He had a sore subject that he wanted to discuss with Jackie, and the timing never seemed right, but he was going to make it the right time today.
She maintained her frown. As he took a step forward, she turned and was already three steps ahead before he could get through the open door.
He followed her over to the cooler.
She flicked on the light switch outside the door and opened it. Tendrils of cold fog billowed out and engulfed him. It reminded Zorn of breaking the seal on a graveyard vault in a late-night, cheesy, horror flick. Jackie led him inside to the two bodies. With garish grins on their faces they stated wide-eyed at Zorn. The toothy grins on the boy’s faces made his skin crawl. Joe was right; it was like he had found something amusing about his last moments in life.
“I’ll have to do test to find out how long they’ve been frozen.”
“Almost twenty years,” Zorn replied.
She crinkled her brow. “How would you know that?”
“I know who they are.” Zorn had a knack for remembering faces, even if he hadn’t seen the person in years, and he could usually put a name with the face as well. He nodded his head at the body. “He’s Rayland Spangler and,” he nodded at the other one, “He’s T Boy Starks.”
“How do you know them?”
“Three boys went missing shortly after I joined the police department.”
“Does he have family living close by?”
Zorn nodded. “Jack Spangler is Rayland’s father. He’s the priest at―”
“I know. I go there on occasion,” she confessed.
“T Boy is Toomey’s little brother.”
With his eyes still on the bodies, Zorn said, “I have a feeling that all hell is going to break loose after Spangler and Toomey identify the remains.” He turned to the Jackie. “Have them both sign a release for autopsies.”
“What kind of time frame are we looking at?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. I’ll have to slowly thaw the body before running any test or I’ll risk further damage.”
“And how long will that take?”
“If I really push it, about two days,” she replied.
“Well, let’s keep his identity between us until his identity is confirmed. I don’t want any speculations making headlines. You know how the media blows everything out of proportion.”
“Oh, I agree,” she said.
“You know what’s really scary about this?′ he asked.
She shook her head.
“The only person who knew the location of the bodies is dead. He was executed about six months ago.”
“Then how do you explain this?”
“I can’t. But I know someone who might.” The cold was beginning to sink into his bones. He shivered. “Let’s get out of here.”
She helped Zorn zip the bags and they left the cooler. The warmth of the room felt good, but Zorn knew the feeling would be short-lived once he returned outside to the humidity of Southeast Texas.
“I should get back to work.” She closed the door and turned off the cooler’s light.
The other reason for his visit needled him. He’d hoped that after a few months apart, she would have warmed back up to him. He searched her face for evidence that she still cared. Her hazel eyes were cool and her expression impassive. She folded her arms across her chest. He had faced down hardened criminals and murderers, but couldn’t seem to find the courage to bridge the gap with her. Would it ever be the right moment? He thought he might not live that long.
“I have reports to complete.” The tone of her voice was laced with impatience.
Despite his better judgment, he blurted out. “How about having dinner with me tonight?”
The anger radiating from her eyes, along with a condescending smile, sent an undeniable message. “Really Zorn, we’ve already been through this a dozen times. We don’t need to rehash it.”
“But you’re the one I want to be with,” he said.
“You should have thought about that before you went out with what’s her name.”
“Her name is Crystal.”
She narrowed her eyes. Her cheeks flared red.
Big mistake. He withered under her glare. “But she doesn’t mean anything to me.”
“Is that why you had a sleep over?”
“I didn’t know what I wanted, but I do now.”
“Like the song says: you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone...”
She placed both hands on his chest and gave him a light shove. “Out.”
“It was just a little fling. I said I was sorry.”
She gave Zorn another shove. “Next time you come here, stick to business.”
In his defense, he held up a finger. “Can I say one thing?”
She backed off, waiting.
“I love you.”
With his cheek still stinging, Zorn fled the building, got into his car, and drove away thinking what a stupid thing to have said.