Coroner's Journal by Louis Cataldie

Coroner's Journal by Louis Cataldie

Author:Louis Cataldie
Language: eng
Format: mobi, epub
Publisher: Penguin Group US
Published: 0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

ONE OF THEIR OWN

It was a nice day in Baton Rouge. Flowers were blooming, wispy clouds floated by against a blue sky, and a mild breeze caressed us. This type of day is one of the delights of living in this area. I stood there before the neat little townhouses that lined the street. Several police officers came over into the shade offered by three huge crape myrtle trees. The mood was especially somber, and the conversation was almost muffled. It centered around one of their own. A retired police officer had taken his life in one of the upper apartments. It felt like we were at a wake and standing outside of a funeral home.

The case belonged to the city police but the sheriff’s office had also responded. There was no jurisdictional squabbling. When a fellow officer goes down, cops take care of cops. This man was one of their own. He was a well-known and respected police officer who had fallen upon hard times.

After I had waited there a while, one of the city detectives asked me to come up. His demeanor betrayed his feelings. It would be difficult to get any distance from this death.

He briefed me in an almost flat tone. It was an attempt to be matter-of-fact, but it just didn’t come off like that to me. Maybe I was projecting my own feelings onto him. I’d sort that out later.

The deceased, whom we will call David Smith, had gone into the bathroom, gotten into the bathtub, and shot himself with what appeared to be a service revolver. He had left the apartment very organized. Everything was in place and everything was clean. I’d seen this before in suicide deaths. All of his important papers were organized on the kitchen table. He had written instructions for every discipline that he knew would ultimately show up. He even had one for me, entitled “The Coroner.” It was essentially instruction for me on whom to notify of his death.

Police officers who had worked with him held him in high esteem. Many identified with him. There was an impressive array of commendations on his walls.

His cause and manner of death were apparent.

One of the things I took away from that scene was the disconcerting remark that one of the policemen made. “I often wonder if I’ll end up like this someday.”

I still have a crystal-clear image of that moment. David Smith in the tub with a bullet hole in the right temporal area of his skull. I remember the white porcelain of the tub contrasting with the dried blood that had oozed from his head. I remember the color of the shower curtain and the rug. And most vivid is the image of that police officer. I can still see him looking down at David, and I still hear those words. It is like the whole scene is etched into my brain, in a kind of mental freeze frame.

His words alarmed me, because that level of empathy could be interpreted as his intention to follow suit.



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