Blood Crumbs: Chapter 8Mature

    I showed my credentials to a young security guard sitting at the front entrance of the Sandy branch of the Salt Lake County Medical Examiner’s Office. The kid gave it one disinterested glance and waved me through, clearly eager to get back to his course-work splayed haphazardly across the desk in front of him.

    I navigated the familiar halls with ease and was soon pulling on the standard protective gear for visitors. I finished with the surgical mask and moved down a barren hall towards a set of steel doors. The sweetly pungent scent of disinfectant and decaying flesh hung lightly in the air. It was an odor that no amount of high tech air circulation would ever entirely conceal. Not for lack of trying, of course.

    I pushed through the steel doors, that while large and daunting, swung silently and effortlessly inward. Dr. Canar and his assistant were standing over what I assumed was the body of Emilio Ramirez. From my angle, I could only see the dark hair on the victim’s head and the outline of his body. The flesh on his chest had been expertly maneuvered away from the sternum and the two medical professionals stared into the open cavity. Canar made a quick swipe into the opening with his scalpel then plunged his hands inside, returning them with a redish pink mass.

    “Stomach looks healthy enough.” He said and set it on a small metal scale. The results he dictated into the open air where a microphone hung, picking up all the pertinent information from the autopsy.

    Staring at the stomach splayed out on the scale I was reminded that it was nearing lunch time, and I was hungry.

    “Detective Burton, you have very good timing and no, I’m not referring to the proximity to lunch.” Canar said as if he had read my mind. He lifted the stomach from the scale and handed it to his stocky assistant. The young man had been working with Canar for about a year now and for some reason his name always escaped me. “Open it up and let’s find out what this man’s last meal was.”

    “Don’t tell me if it’s seafood.” I said, “I’m craving halibut.”

    “Why do you have to mention seafood?” Canar said with a sigh, “I was supposed to be out fishing this morning and now I’ll start craving it. We all know how hard it is to find fresh seafood around here. So expensive.”

    “Tell me about it, and with you in such destitute circumstances. I mean, I figured Salt Lake County would’ve shut this place down by now.”

    Canar looked up at me for a second, uncomprehending then let out a large laugh that sounded a lot like a bark. “That is a very cop-like attitude you have there, Burton.”

    “Well I would hope so, but for clarifications sake, what’d I say?”

    “Just because people aren’t killing one another, doesn’t mean they aren’t dying just the same.” He said with a grim smile. “I’m as busy as I ever was.”

    Dr Canar yanked off his gloves and clicked a button to turn off the recording device.

    “I finished the external examinations which are going to give you the most information for the time being.” He said as he crossed the room to me.

    “Awesome. Let’s hear it.”

    “Liver temperature and rigor both indicate that the time of death occurred sometime between midnight and one in the morning. A lot of what I have found matches up to what Jared was seeing at the crime scene.”

    I nodded for him to go on.

    “We went over the body with a fine tooth comb. Besides needle marks congruent to recreational drug use, we only found three recent signs of trauma and no signs of rape. He had no defensive wounds, but we sent nail clippings up to Jared to make sure. There was slight bruising on his wrists, some more severe bruising on his ankles, and the slash across his neck. Cause of death was definitely exsanguination.”

    “He bled to death?”

    “Correct. The wound on his neck hit the carotid artery. He would’ve been drained fairly quickly.”

    I felt the need to say something at this point, but I could only manage an “Ouch.”

    “Not exactly. Everything I have points to the victim being unconscious at the time of his demise. The bruising on his wrists is only over the wrist bones and they are in two uniform lines that would be consistent with the use of hand cuffs. The bruising on his ankles is evenly distributed, this is more consistent with a rope of some kind, but the skin isn’t raw or inflamed in a manner that would suggest that Mr. Ramirez even tried to struggle against his bonds. I found some trace fibers in his ankles which I sent up to Jared for analysis.

    “There was no trace blood on his arms, hands, or fingernails, yet there was plenty in his nasal cavity, around his eyes, and in his eyebrows and hair. This leads me to believe that he had his arms hand cuffed behind him while he was unconscious, his legs we bound and then he was hung upside-down. His hands could not fall over his head in a manner that blood would spray or drain onto them from the wound. Blood expels from the carotid artery at an incredible rate when an incision is first made unless the heart rate has been slowed first. Jared’s blood spatter analysis should be able to tell you more.”

    I nodded as I consumed all of this.

    “As for the neck wound. The incision was very clean; there was no hesitation from our killer as he dragged the blade across the neck. The wound is consistent with his attacker being behind him and sweeping across from right to left.”

    “So that would make our killer, left handed?”

    “No. Right handed. Remember that our victim was upside-down when the killing blow was dealt. Also this part is off the record, but I can tell you with a fair degree of certainty what I believe the murder weapon to be.”

    I lifted my eyebrows in surprise. “Already?”

    “Like I said, it’s nothing conclusive of course, but the neck was cut so cleanly with a thin blade.” He said walking back towards the body. “I wouldn’t be very good at my job if I couldn’t identify a murder weapon that I use on a daily basis.”

    He lifted a scalpel off the tray that currently held a variety of medical instruments and held it up for me to see.

    “The depth of the wound matches too, I’m fairly certain that further testing will show this to be the murder weapon.” He said then shook his head. “Well, not this specific scalpel, of course. A scalpel in general.”

    I smiled. “Are you sure it’s not that specific scalpel? Because if it were, you would have just made my job a lot easier.”

    He cleared his throat and gave a small guttural laugh. “Yes, well sorry to disappoint, but you’ll have to call of the dogs for now.”

    “How was he incapacitated?” I asked.

    Canar turned back to the body. “Don’t know yet and there is a chance we might not ever know.”

    “How’s that?”

    “Well, no sign of blunt force trauma, so our next best guess is that he was drugged. If that’s the case it will be like searching for a needle in a needle-stack. This guy’s system shows a long history of drug use. My guess is that when the tox-screen comes back, we’ll be looking at a grocery list of intoxicants capable of incapacitating this man. Hell, for all we know the killer might have found him already unconscious.”

    “Alright,” I said trying a different avenue. My mind was running through his stack of complaints without ever having any charges filed. “how badly were his vocal cords severed?”

    Canar tilted his head slightly to the left with a quizzical look. “Almost completely. Why?”

    “There might be some evidence this guy had a talkative nature. He might’ve been an informant.” I said with a shrug, “Maybe someone decided he’d said enough.”

    Canar nodded thoughtfully and stared at the floor for a second. Then he shook his head and looked back at me. “Doesn’t quite fit with the other information I’ve gathered though.”

    He was right. If Ramirez died because of a penchant for snitching it would’ve been done to send a message. While draining someone’s blood and severing their vocal cords is theatrical enough to get the job done there would’ve been likely more obvious signs. His mouth would’ve been sewn shut or his tongue cut out and stuffed down his throat. Plus, this didn’t feel like a revenge killing right now. You don’t drug a victim and execute them painlessly if you’re out for revenge. Our killer was precise and methodical, if he wanted Ramirez in pain, then I could almost guarantee that the death would have been excruciating.

    “That’s pretty much all I can tell you for now.  The rest will come back when we’ve done more testing.” Canar said.

    “Nothing yet on the drop of blood on his forehead?”

    “Sent it up to Jared first thing.”

    I thanked the doctor and headed out of the room, yanking off my mask as soon as I pushed back through the large steel doors. Sandy City’s forensics lab was located in the upper floors of this very building. It made it much easier to certify evidentiary chains when the two labs were in the same building. I crossed my fingers that Jared might give me something more to go on.

The End

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