The Cop and the Coroner: Part Three
Same Day: Philippe’s Restaurant, LA. John and I walked into Phillipe’s lunch hour crowd, put in our order, and headed for a back booth. Within five minutes, Dambacher sprinted in, spotted John, and shook his outstretched hand. He turned to me, smiled with a megawatt smile asked what the hell was I doing hanging around that old fart. I said I’d just met the guy, then scooted over to make room for the dapper, bow-tied, tweed-coated coroner. I thought: These two are the best in the business. One is a crime-solving genius, and the other can figure out “cause of death” with the precision of a finicky neurosurgeon.
I waited for everyone to finish lunch before starting the interview. Finally, I turned to Danny and said, “Between the two of you, there’s enough stories to fill a library of law enforcement books. Danny, I’d love to hear a few.”
He grabbed hold of a toothpick bearing an olive and gave the martini a swirl.
“Hey John,” he said. “Remember the early 50’s and all the times you and I stood in the lobby of a fleabag joint called the Panama Hotel? It was always the same old story. Another day, another dead wino. The coroner’s seal from the last body I took out of the room was still there. I could still read my signature. Some rooms had three or four signatures on them.” He smiled a toothy smile and leaned forward. “As a mater-of-fact, I have my initials carved in one of those yellow chairs in the lobby, just so someday when I retire and have no place to go, I can always come back to the Panama Hotel and sit in my yellow chair.”
John chuckled, let the ice cubes in his drink clink against the glass, and took a long sip.
“Remember the guy we found at the bottom of the air shaft?” Danny asked John,
“That was the classic of all classics,” John said. “He was stone-flat drunk and wanted to see his ex-wife. Using the wrong side of what was left of his brain, he decided he could get into her bathroom window from the roof above the fourth floor to the third floor by shimmying down a television cable. The problem was, the cable snapped, and he dropped four stories landing spread eagle on the concrete, dead.”
I winced. Danny rolled his eyes. John wrapped his hand around his glass and said, “His ex-wife couldn’t figure out why she was getting such bad television reception. It was the second television repairman who figured out something was wrong with the cable. He went to the roof and found the cable was broken. After his eyes became adjusted to the darkness in the air shaft, he saw the body.”
“The ex-husband had been there for what, three weeks?” Danny said. “His wife began smelling something. I’ll never forget what you said when we got a look at him from the roof. Remember?”
John looked at Danny, then at me, and said, “No.”
“You said you didn’t want to get too close to the edge because you might fall. Then you’d be in the coroner’s office lying on a gurney, and all your friends would come by and make fun of your little…member.”
Danny’s laugh filled the room. I rolled my eyes. John just gave us a wicked, demonic smile.