Steele Resolve: Book 1 of the Jasmine Steele Mystery Series
Every human being processes things differently than another human being. Ask anyone at a car accident what happened, and you’ll get different descriptions from each one of them. A description of a car can change dramatically from gold sedan to a black truck. The directionality of the vehicles, who did what first: It’s all subjective. It all depends on their history, their experience, and their faith.
There’s one detail that never seems to change no matter who you talk to: they all think the metal crunching in on itself is the worst sound in the world.
Right after the crash, you hear moaning or other signs of life. After a few minutes, the first responders arrive on scene. Before you know it, there are dozens of people screaming commands. Police officers telling people to stand behind the safety line. Firemen ensure the vehicles are safe to be around and aren’t in danger of exploding. A different group of Firemen using the Jaws of Life to rip the metal car apart. The vehicle fighting back with these squeals and grunts, as the frame slowly yields to the unrelenting strength of the power tool.
Paramedics attending to the passengers inside, precariously hanging between life and death, screaming out questions to those trapped in the mangled mess. After a few stuttering answers, they yell back to their partners – heart rates, blood pressure, injuries. I know all the words. I’ve heard it all before. I must have said them a million times to the captain at a crash scene.
You can hear the car’s fluids pouring out of the engine onto the pavement. Sometimes a slow annoying drip like a faucet. Other times, like a rushing stream. Sometimes, if you listen closely, you can hear the blood pumping out of a person as they scream for help.
I can hear my voice there, too, asking for information from anyone who has it. I can hear the words being told to me, but they don’t ever register.
I’ve heard it. I’ve seen it. I’ve processed it much differently than you. I would love to hear the screeching metal. I would love to hear the screams. I wish I could hear the voices.
The worst sound in my world is the silence.
When I was younger, my mother used to lay on the lawn with me. Since she was a teacher, I would get long lessons about all the constellations in the night sky. Personally, I just looked up at them and made wishes. Sometimes it was for a different life; mostly it was for a dog. When I was a teenager, I would look up at them and talk to my grandparents. At my current age, it’s a skill I seem to have lost.
My father told me if the sky lights up, a person in heaven bowled a strike. That’s what I used to believe. Now, I just see light, an annoying light that accompanies thunder and drenching rain.
I sometimes wonder where my stars have gone. It’s as if the inclement weather has bankrupted my heart of its dreams. Rain is supposed to be refreshing, a cleansing of sorts. Yet, here I stand, drenched through my clothes, leaning over a corpse trying to protect what little evidence remains, knowing full well nothing will.
As I stare at the victim’s soulless eyes, I wonder what choices led her to this gruesome demise. Was the pressure of her responsibilities so great that she was taken out? Did she fail to meet expectations? I wonder why this young woman is lying dead, and I am still breathing. What did my shrink call it? Transference. That’s it. I want this woman to live and part of me wants to die.
“Detective, the bus is here.” The young, blue-eyed officer yells at me. He isn’t paid enough to sit here with me and get soaked, but it’s the job. We all do it for reasons even we can’t quantify.
Looking up the small incline, I see a black van with the unmistakable white lettings of the Coroner on the side. Two men, clad in black raincoats, open the back and pull a gurney out. The body bag somewhere on top of it, I’m sure. They begin their descent while a few other assistants slide down the side next to them. I doubt the interns signed up for late night calls in this kind of weather.
The coroner’s office tries hard to keep up with the raging flood of death around us, but they inevitably fall behind. Victor tells me over and over again that insurance fraud and undocumented bodies slow him down. How can you release a body without knowing who it is or what they have? I feel bad for him. The job eats away at you. Day by day you wilt under red tape and bullshit. That’s why he walks so slow and hunched over on occasion, like now. He’s exhausted.
“Jazz, you trying to be a human umbrella or just an idiot?” Victor stands next to me holding an umbrella over my soaked body. His assistant throws a tarp over the body and surrounding area. He commands each intern to grab a corner and lift. You can hear the slight moans of disagreement as they do it. The bright blue contrasts to the watered down red on the floor as water begins to pool, weighing it down.
“Ever the delicate flower I see, Victor. I was trying to protect what little evidence I could.” My tone is one hundred percent sarcastic. I’ve always been this way, and I doubt it will ever change. I guess it’s one of my biggest flaws. It’s a knee jerk response, easier to deliver in a pinch. Victor’s known this for years; my friends accept it as part of my charm or lack thereof.
“Considering you look like you entered a wet t-shirt contest, I’ll take it there’s little to none left,” he motions to my white, soaked-to-the-bone shirt. “You might have wanted to wear a lighter colored bra.” Looking down at my chest, I see my dark black bra shows easily through my shirt. It was clean, and it was available when I got the call. In reality, I doubt anyone would have known the difference.
“Just do what you can. Okay, Victor?” I push him gently on the right shoulder. Even sarcasm fails me sometimes since I have nothing witty to shoot back at him.
He squats down next to the body, his designer shoes sinking further into the mud. I’m sure under this police-issued plain sheet of plastic is some designer suit. Victor has never been one to shy away from expensive looks or cologne. He’s one of those slender men who are solid muscle, but not overly built. His dark hair always cut very short. The lone diamonds in his ears seem brighter against his dark skin. He sometimes complains about his credit cards being on life support, but then goes out and gets something new and shiny. Who am I to nitpick? He pays his bills on time and still manages to put some away for his retirement. In this field, you have to find something to blow off steam. He could be a gambler, alcoholic, or an abusive husband. He’s just a metrosexual.
It’s scenes like this that I’m thankful for his cologne addiction. In the office, you could smell him from a mile away. His office is probably the best smelling morgue in the tristate area. Right now though, all I smell is some high-priced, manly smell. I’ll take that over a decomposing body and an area that smells like a garbage dump threw up.
“Looks similar to the vic a few weeks ago. That’s all I can give you right now.” He glances at the time. “You’re gonna be late.” Victor’s voice pulls me out of my revere.
I glance down at my watch. It has so much water in it the numbers look like I took too much acid. I know Victor’s going to mention he told me to buy a more dependable waterproof watch. Not just for days like these, but considering I always leave my watch on in the shower, it was a smart suggestion. Just too expensive for my taste.
I wish I didn’t have to ask. “What time is it?”
He smiles up at me; he’s saying I told you so without ever actually saying it.
“Almost 4,” Victor simply says as he turns his attention back to the task at hand.
“Fuck.” I am so late; crap, I’m always late.
“You, bottom right, will you hold up the damn tarp! It’s not rocket science. You hold a piece of plastic up above your pretty little head,” Victor screams at the intern. “Where the hell did these new kids come from? I swear the pool of educated interns get dumber every year.” He mumbles to himself.
Victor never did have patience for stupidity. Looking down at my body, I get the full picture all at once. My clothes are soaked, I’m late, and there’s a dead woman at my feet. This day gets better every waking minute. At moments like this, sleep and hiding under the covers is just what the doctor would order. Sadly, adults have to do things that we wish we could avoid daily.
“You’ve got fresh clothes in the trunk,” Victor replies to my inner monologue. It’s like he can reach into my mind just by seeing my expressions, which is very creepy sometimes. “Before you ask, we made sure your back up case always has a change of clothes. I’ll try to be nicer to my interns while you’re gone, but I can’t promise anything.”
“Why?” I feel very small asking that question. Victor must hear it in my voice.
“Hadley, Frankie, and I try to keep you on your game. If you’re asking about why I can’t be nicer to the interns, blame the education system.” He says as he waves me away.
Walking backwards, stepping through more puddles, I sarcastically reply, “Ah yes, what super heroine needs one sidekick when I have three. Have you all decided on capes or just the tight leather?”
“Neither. Our wonderful main heroine is too damn cheap to buy us a drink let alone leather. Now get out of here before I send my interns to help you dress. Trust me, they’d be more useful to you than me.” He says with some finality as he turns his attention back to the body on the ground. He slides his palm over his face as his assistant struggles with the body bag.