The 5 Stages of Grief

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Chapter 15, Sgt. Whitford

As hardened as he was, nothing could have prepared him for the scene unleashed before him. Had there been anything other than the remnants of last night’s late-night drunken-stupor binge left in his stomach, Scott was sure he’d still be puking it up. He’d skipped breakfast due to his escapades and was eternally thankful. The sole reason he’d given in and got out of bed was the incessant ringing of his cell. He was number one on the Lieutenant’s speed dial and the man was determined to reach him.

That stripper, the one who greeted him this morning had looked far better last night. Vanda? Rhonda? Wanda? Fuck! How was he supposed to remember all the details? Either way, she’d almost murdered him with her breath when she woke.

“Steve, you need to drive me home.” He barely understood her words, her lip-stick smudged lips opened only enough to allow a trickle of drool to escape and string its way towards the mattress. Her eyes remained closed with most of her make-up transferred to his sheets. Not that it would make a difference as he hadn’t changed them since Lil had packed her things and left for her mother’s two or three months ago?

Scott hadn’t told the Lieutenant about Lil, yet. His fucking job was on shaky ground as it was and Sam considered Lil to have a grounding effect on Old Scotty Dog. It was true too, while it lasted – but, as they say, you can’t teach an old Dog.

“I gotta go Steve. I gotta dance this afternoon.”

Fuck, the bitch’s breath could knock a buzzard off a shit-wagon. And who the fuck is Steve? His head began spinning the moment he groaned out of bed. The light, which streamed through the bedroom window of his two-room shit-hole apartment like a laser, seared his retinas. He took two steps to the window while covering one of his critically affected eyes then rattled the blinds incompetently with his free hand while attempting to navigate the blue spots of his impaired vision and the deep bass pulse that was expanding like yeast inside his head.

“Do you have to make so much fucking noise? Jesus!” The bathroom door slammed and he realized, too late, that she’d beaten him to his destination.

The blind down at last, the cord ripped out and dangling from his shaking hand, he took two steps back to wait his turn, falling bewildered to the bed and nearly breaking his morning dick in the process. Miranda, or whatever the fuck her name was, finally emerged from the head only to find him rolling back and forth holding his swollen member.

“What the fuck? Are you some kind of kinky weirdo or something?” Her voice, like her face and peeling spray-on tan, rubbed his nerve. He looked at last night’s conquest standing nude at the end of his bed with her hands on her hips and the remnants of her night face, insta-tan and a particularly bad bleach-job in dire need of a touch up and realized the faux-fox didn’t end there. Her tits were positively fake, as there was no way the gargantuan mounds’ defying the laws of physics could possibly be real. Nevertheless, he climbed from the bed and staggered his way to the petri-dish he called a bathroom. He noticed his morning dick had transformed into a real one. “Make yourself comfortable, I’ll be right out. And don’t worry, I’ll get you to your place on time. I have to work too, remember?” He turned and closed the door, took the step to the sink and ran the cold water, splashing it upon his face to clear the fuzz out. The first order of the day, bathroom or not, was to call the Lieutenant. Something he did not want to do. “Hey, it’s me, Scott.”

The answering blast nearly ruptured his eardrum. “What the fuck Sergeant! Where the fuck have you been? I have been calling you – you fucked up bloody fuck, all fucking morning, getting nothing but a fucking answering machine. Which, by the fucking way, is not only fucking annoying – it says it’s fucking full! I haven’t heard hide nor fucking tail from you ’till fucking now! Someone had better of fucking died this morni—”

Hanging up on the Lieutenant was never a smart idea, but listening to him do a fifteen or twenty-minute rant was not going to remedy the situation either. The quicker he got himself together and over to the crime scene, the better. He would have to get the address from dispatch. No biggie, he’d just have to hustle and make it down there fast enough to cool Sam down. “You fucked up again brother,” he said to the water spat mirror before splashing more cold on his unshaved skin, longer than regulation hair.

He exited the bathroom no more than ten minutes later. Not long enough, that was for sure. He couldn’t believe Rolanda had crawled back into bed and was now snoring through her, odds are, plastic nose. “What the fuck are you doing!” He startled her from sleep.

She sprang like a crack-head at a siren. “Wha— What the— Where am I? What’s going on?” He had to laugh. The bleach-blond Amy Winehouse lying in his bed had somehow managed to find one of last night’s false eyelashes and the thing dangled precariously from her left nipple like a fluffy black caterpillar clinging to life by a thread. “What’s so funny? Do I amuse you?”

What the fuck, Scott thought, jumping back into bed, nuzzling beside her. The Lieutenant will have to wait.

“What are you doing? We have to go. I thought you had to go to work?” she asked, confused, her breath assaulting his sense of smell.

“Work can wait. Why don’t you roll over? My dick needs a warm place to heal.” He reached up to save the caterpillar from certain death. “Eyelash?”

“You found it! You’re an angel Steve. That would have cost me at least ten bucks.” She smiled. He could see through the falseness that, in this, she was genuine.

Who am I to judge, he thought, all the while trying not to cringe from her rancid-ass breath.

Gently, she took the proffered eyelash as if handling a kidney between transplants and placed it beside its twin on the cluttered nightstand, then cheerfully rolled over and snuggled her ass up close. “Is this what you want baby?” She coed and wiggled to get his attention as if it were not already got.

He paused a moment to think, something he rarely did in moments such as these. If he slipped it to her now, she would assume they were starting a relationship. It was not like last night when they had both been high, plastered out of their ever loving skulls. This morning’s romp would be in full awareness and he would more than likely have to pay the consequences of a relationship if he continued.

It was at least ten minutes – okay, more like two – before she turned her head around to look at him, puzzlement clear upon her flaking face. “Is there something the matter Steve, don’t you want to do me?” she asked, her breath melting his face. She looked genuinely hurt. The thought that he might not want to slip his dick to her had clearly upset her. It seemed to have crumbled away any self-confidence, self-worth, she might still possess. He witnessed a solitary tear trickle its way across the last visage of her make-up. It nearly broke his heart.

“Shh honey,” he placed a finger upon her trembling lips, “I was just thinking how sexy you look. There is nothing in this world that could stop me from giving it to you this morning, but we’ll have to hurry, they’re waiting for me down at the crime scene.”

Giggly as a little girl with a new pony, she turned back around and pushed her curvaceous ass towards his waiting staff. Sliding in, Sergeant Scott Whitford made himself a promise. That by the end of the day – no matter how many distractions might be thrown his way, no matter how brutal, how confusing, how stupid the morons were that arrived at the crime-scene before him, fucking it up beyond belief, that if he accomplished nothing else today beyond going through the paces – he would remember her name. That, he figured, was as good a start as any to a relationship and then maybe he could ask her to quit calling him Steve.

That was earlier, what seemed like a lifetime ago. Any remnant of coital bliss had been seared from his minds-eye by the gruesome scene that accosted his senses less than an hour before. Not that he’d looked long – Hell no! – probably less than a minute. The rest of the time he’d spent in the backyard, where he still sat, head bent, rocking back and forth, trying to gather what was left of his courage and wits. He tried to convince himself it was because of the night before, the mind crushing hangover, but even he knew that was bullshit. When he’d first made his mad-dash out here, he’d slipped in a pile of vomit nearly taking a header into the lawn. Only to realize there were countless reeking hazards to watch for and that he was not the only cop to visit what smelled like a backyard latrine.

“Here Sarge, I brought you some water. It helps a little.”

He didn’t know the constable handing him the paper cup, didn’t care. He reached for it with a shaky hand, slowly, spilling much of the precious contents on its precarious journey to his foul tasting mouth. With three gulps, he drained the remainder of the liquid then handed the cup back to the greenhorn in front of him with a nod.

“You want some more?”

He nodded to the kid again then lowered his head to wait.

“Pardon me for saying so Sir, but you don’t look so good.” After a few moments waiting for a response, realizing that he wasn’t getting one, the kid left him in peace to search out the magic elixir that would help cleanse his pallet and rehydrate him.

It hadn’t helped. He still felt like a bag of shit, but he had to go back in. He had a reputation to uphold amongst the younger guys and he’d already noticed them huddled together in small groups, talking under their breath and looking over at him when they thought he wasn’t looking.

Not that he blamed them. There were not many cops, homicide or any other, known to be as tough towards the disgusting things humanity did to one-another as Sergeant Scott Whitford. Well, today certainly blew that myth out the window. Not that Scott had bought into it – he knew better. There’s a reason a man drinks and drugs himself through every evening, every relationship. At first it was just to cope, an escape. A band-aid on the injustices of the world but that band-aid had become a noose, a reminder that he was sinking fast, that the trapdoor of life was about to swing open and he’d be sans safety net when it did.

Bracing himself, he stepped back through the door. The assault that barraged his sanity stopped him dead, mid-step. This is not right, he thought, not human. The crime-scene was surreal, the shit that movies were made from.

There wasn’t a soul in the house as it had cleared even the toughest cops. Even the coroner her bloody self was outside getting air, as Scott could see her through the front window pacing near her van. She looked shaken. How the fuck do you shock a bloody coroner? The thought brought a chuckle, likely his last of the day. Sticking his head back out the door, he yelled to the closest white-faced group. “Any of you fucking clowns want to give me a hand in here, take some notes. Maybe you’ll learn something useful, get out of that monkey suit.” Usually, a request such as this would have them running, fighting and tripping over one another to be the first to help, hold his fucking clipboard or something. At the moment, they looked to be drawing straws.

The loser came shuffling up the steps, none too happy to be the chosen one.

“You new?” Scott asked as the greenie stepped through the doorway, his hand immediately rising to his nose in an attempt to reduce the knee-buckling odor mauling his reason.

“Still a rookie,” he choked. “They didn’t even draw straws – just gave me the short one.” Nervous, a little panicked, the kid kept talking. “What the hell,” he shrugged. “They said you were the best in the business, so to speak. Maybe I’ll learn a thing or two if this smell doesn’t kill us first. Damn! What on earth is that vile stench?” They’d taken three or four small steps along the short hall, toward what appeared to be the main living area, placing each one carefully so as not to disturb any evidence. And though he did not think it possible, the disgusting odor intensified with each one.

From where he stood, he could see an L-shaped chesterfield and a rectangular coffee table, though most everything else was blocked from sight by the wall to his right, which he assumed concealed the Kitchen and most likely the Dining Room beyond it.

Scott turned his head to check on his rookie. He could see the kid struggling to hold it together. Although he hadn’t actually seen anything yet, Scott was sure the kid was shitting his pants as the stench carried with it an evil omen that couldn’t be ignored. “You okay kid?” he asked, standing still to allow the both of them time to acclimate to the situation before they proceeded any further. The young officer appeared grateful, the petrified look in his eyes receding somewhat, albeit slowly.

“Pardon?” His young eyes darted about, attempting to see through walls.

“What’s your name kid, I haven’t seen you around.” Scott had to stifle a grin. In truth, he wouldn’t recognize one of the newbies had he run over him with his car.

“Marley Sir. Police officer Marley. I have only been with the force since the spring. This is my first homicide scene, Sir.” The kid looked to be calming. Good, he didn’t need any hysterics. Why the fuck would then send in a greenie? There was going to be some ass kicking when he was done, he made a mental note to talk to the Lieutenant.

“I mean your real name kid. You know, the one your mother and father gave you.”

“Sorry Sir. It’s Brandon.” Distracting his attention was having a positive effect. The youngster appeared to have stopped shaking, his eyes settling and looking at the senior officer. “Who is your commanding officer Brandon?”

“Sergeant Roddick, Sir.”

“Call me Scott. At least for today, while no one’s around.” He winked and flashed a quick smile. “What say we go take a peek around Brandon, you write down whatever I say. Okay with you? You up to it?”

The kid paused a moment, but barely, then pen in hand and writing pad ready, he nodded his head. “Yeah, I’m good now. Thanks. Let’s go.”

Scott turned and took another step down the hall. “You understand the bragging rights that come with this don’t you, Brandon? I’m sure the boys out there figured you would have pissed yourself by now and run home to your mommy. Way to man up, kid.” He could almost feel the shit eating grin bearing down on the back of his neck. He smiled under the rag he held to his nose. The kid was going to be fine, make one hell of a cop one day too. Shit, I didn’t even handle myself this well on my first homicide. Maybe I’ll ask the Lieutenant to send the kid over to me, learn the trade so to speak, depending how well he handles the re—

All pleasant thoughts were erased, like taking an acetylene torch to a kitchen-counter stain, seared instantly from his mind. Immediately, his subconscious threw his arm back to prevent the kid from stepping into the room. Brandon would have none of it. He let his arm fall to his side.

The stench, the flies, the maggots – nothing compared to the scene before him burning itself into his mind – an acid sketch never to be undone, never to be forgotten.

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