The early morning phone call startled me; I wasn't used to being on call yet. I must admit the excitement of my first crime scene brought a peculiar elation to me. I quickly threw on some suitable clothes; jeans and a long shirt with a light jacket under my arm to combat the cold outside. I hopped into the truck I had just been issued a few days prior, the windowless camper shell concealing a plethora of tackle boxes and equipment few people would recognize.
A short trip through windy country roads ended in an old farm house, nothing made it stick out any different than the hundreds of other houses scattered throughout this country. Several vehicles were already here: two police cruisers, an unmarked detective vehicle, and my new partner's rig, a vehicle not unlike my own but a different color. A single officer stood outside and looked up as I stepped out of my truck, a knowing grin on his face. He joked to me about my first scene being a bad one as I approached but I didn't respond; my nervous head was already overloaded with the unknown.
Anticipation was building as I opened the door, instantly greeted by an unfamiliar smell, the smell of death. A tense energy was in the air. You couldn't tell anything had happened by looking around the living room. Family pictures in simple frames containing smiling faces and happy times lined the tables and fireplace mantle. The cleanliness only added to its seeming innocence. The furnishings suggested the residents were probably older, everything covered in an air of a time long past. Another officer was in the living room busy scribbling on a note pad, his radio crackling with unheard chatter. He glanced up and signaled towards the hallway leading to bedrooms in the back of the house.
I passed one bedroom, took a left, and was at the threshold of another bedroom. What confronted me didn't seem real. Immediately visible and covering an entire wall and ceiling was some gruesome Picasso painting. But the red was unlike any color I had ever seen, complete with small chunks of debris stuck throughout, some hanging by an unseen thread, waiting to fall and join their companions on the ground. I wondered what could possibly have created this blood and flesh painting. I never had time to formulate any emotions, my eyes were too occupied in awe. After fully entering the room I could finally see the the artist, or what was left of him.
There was nothing special about the body. It was laying on the ground sideways next to the side of a bed, dressed in jeans and a flannel top. Any semblance of humanity ended at the shoulders. What should have been a head on those shoulders was a twisted mass of flesh and bone, resembling a clay sculpture which had gone seriously wrong on a pottery wheel. The entire area where should have existed a face was gone. In fact everything that should have been behind that face was gone as well, leaving only an empty cavern of flesh. A partially coagulated pool of blood rested under this head, mixed with tints of dark and bright red. Across his lap lay a shotgun, amazingly clean for such a messy task. Already busy with their various tasks the detective and investigator informed me of the cause of death: suicide by shotgun in the mouth.
It was incredible what a shotgun at such close range could do to the human head. It wasn't the tiny shot that caused the damage but the powerful gases escaping from the end of the barrel. Brain was instantly pulverized into nothing, leaving behind only small pieces of tissue, all scattered across the wall and ceiling like swatted flies, smashed into oblivion. After asking if I was all right with this scene, I was told to begin picking up what was left of the skull. I hadn't noticed these upon first entering but now I could see them. There were several fragments of skull on the bed, floor, and even on the dresser against the wall. Each fragment varied in size and each had varying degrees of flesh and blood on them. Some were surprisingly clean of any blood or flesh. One fragment was the size of a curved dinner plate while more numerous were smaller, quarter-sized pieces. My latex-covered hands picked up each piece and placed them all into a paper bag. If I had actually thought about what I was collecting I might have had a harder time but I didn't think about it.
Usually I would have been tasked with photographing the entire scene but this chore had already been done. After everyone was satisfied no foul play was involved, it was time to move the body into the blue body bag waiting nearby. Thankfully my partner let me take the legs while the seasoned pro was at the 'head'. As we lifted the body slowly, a sound emanated from the head area that could only be described as a slurping sound. What remained of the head didn't want to leave the pool of blood easily and when it did the suction from the blood created a sound I will never forget. Blood matted hair followed reluctantly as we carried the body a few feet to the bag, now open wide and waiting. An easy zip and that was the last I saw of the body, the waiting coroner now taking over and taking the body to the hearst outside.
There was little left for us to do here since no real crime had taken place. I asked about the mess which now had transformed a bedroom into a nightmare. It was no longer our problem, left for an already traumatized family to clean up on their own. This brought the first emotion upon me. I couldn't fathom how a family already faced with such an horrendous act could face having to clean this up. I was glad the family wasn't around for me to see their emotions. I was glad to be leaving this tragedy, even if only to be waiting for the next, possibly even more horrific scene, always waiting around the next corner.