The Coroner and the Cop: Part Four
Same day. The clatter of dishes and the clatter of patrons screened the corner table; Danny, St. John, and I huddled in quiet conversation. A waitress dressed in the Phillipe’s uniform had taken our dishes, and the gentlemen were well into their second round of drinks. I’d drunk at least a gallon of iced tea. Or so it seemed.
I turned to Danny, who by this time was in a contest for which Irishman had the best story. He agreed to tell stories until the restaurant closed.
“Here’s one for you,” he said, twirling that olive with flair and purpose, “I walked into the house of a little old lady who had everything labeled: This goes to Martha. This goes to Abigail. And laid out on the table was a written dispersal of her property, a suicide note, and her insurance policy. A gun was in her mouth, her hand was clutching the grips, and the trigger pointed to the roof of her mouth. Suicide? She’d planned it like clockwork. But something didn’t fit. I looked closer. The gun hadn’t been fired. She died of a heart attack. Never pulled the trigger. Because of that, her heirs got the face value of the insurance policy.”
St. John broke in, “Timing is everything.”
I groaned, gave Jigsaw an exasperated look, and asked Danny for another story.
“This is one of my favorites,” he said. “A priest died with five condemns in his pocket. When the monsignor saw me pull the condemns from the dead priest’s pocket, he took them and told me that they must belong to “some sinner.”
I put my hand over my eyes, shook my head, and imagined the scene as Danny told it. St. John said he had at least a hundred priest stories. I half believed him, knowing no two law enforcement officials could match the storytelling of these two Irish legends.
“In all my years working as Chief Medical Examiner, I’ve handled several celebrity cases, not just ones like I’ve mentioned,” he said with another twirl of his olive. “Marilyn Monroe, John Belushi, Janis Joplin, Bobby Kennedy,” he said. “I was there the night they brought Marilyn in and helped with the autopsy,” he gave me one of those sly grins and said, “I know her inside and out. But I helped with the investigation. The fascinating thing is how the investigation was conducted? What was learned? The day they brought her in is still vivid in my mind.”
I changed the subject for Danny from stories to background. Why the mortuary business?
“My family came over from Germany in the 1840s and settled in Sonoma, California, where great-grandpa opened up one of the first distilleries,” he said. “After I graduated from high school, I got into the service, the Korean War, and was stationed in Maine. Afterward, I went to UCLA with the idea of becoming a dental technician and got a job working in a mortuary to make money. When the owner offered me a full-time job, I took it, passed the civil service exam, and started working as a “gopher” in the coroner’s office. I learned how to embalm bodies, arrange funerals, and worked alongside the only Jewish embalmer in LA. My father taught me always do more, work harder than the next guy. And guess what? I did just that.”
John added, “I got the same from my mother, Danny. Look where it got us. Sitting here with this nice lady who won’t stop asking questions.”
I looked sideways at my sidekick, “You’re the one who taught me how to ask questions.”