This is part two of The Exhumation. Scroll down and read Part 1 first if you haven't already, or if you need a refresher. Also, if you're using IE 8 and are having trouble with the blog, I can only suggest you try Firefox, or use IE 7. There are issues with IE 8 that nobody has been able to debug, at least not that I have found.
On to The Exhumation ... Part 2
L.W. Roddenberry, or "Uncle Wayne" as he was known to his friends, arrived on the scene. After carefully placing his police hat on his head, he limped over to my car and in a friendly way asked, "What's up?"
"I can show you better than I can tell you," I said, turning and walking away fast.
As we pushed through the brush, I related the story to the boss.
When we got to the spot, I showed Wayne the makeshift grave. He agreed the situation warranted looking in to. As Wayne talked to dispatch on his walkie-talkie, I looked at the dirt. There were handprints where the dirt had been carefully packed down.
"Better step back. You might be standing on evidence," Roddenberry said. I moved closer to the sergeant.
"This might be in the county," Wayne said. "I'm having the Polk County supervisor meet me with a map."
I couldn't believe my ears. Here was a bona fide murder, and the supervisor was trying to pawn it off on another agency, letting them get all the credit. "This is our case," I whined.
"Maybe, maybe not."
What happened next was some of the finest fancy jurisdictional footwork I have ever witnessed. For nearly three hours, the two "leaders" argued. It looked like something out of the Paris Peace Talks.
"It ends at the tracks," Roddenberry said.
"Bullshit," the S.D. Boss said, "Those aren't even the right tracks."
Finally, Wayne resorted to the old standby. "We can't determine, so you guys have got to take it, in case it turns out to be the county." The county sergeant knew he was had. By now he was also very angry that this had been dumped on him. He seemed to cool off a little, when Wayne told him he would leave me there to help out. I was pretty happy too.
What happened next was truly something to behold. For two hours, a host of law enforcement gurus began to arrive. First came additional supervisors, the watch commander and some support deputies for crime scene control. Then came the detectives from homicide and their supervisor. Then came the forensic people, with their vans and trucks and the photographers with their vans and trucks. Just behind them came the news media. The television, radio and newspaper crews. It was a multi-ring circus.
As we stood on the perimeter, keeping back curious onlookers, the homicide detectives talked quietly among themselves and smoked cigarettes. They would chuckle ghoulishly from time to time.
God they were cool, I thought.
The news media stood at the edge of the yellow crime scene tape and craned their necks like vultures, looking and listening...waiting for the first bad news.
I watched intently as the crime scene technicians worked. They wore uniforms but no guns. They had surgical masks on their faces. One held a magnifying glass in one hand as the other carefully brushed away dirt with a paint brush, being careful not to destroy any key evidence. It was a tedious process.
It began to get dark. As night fell, a generator was delivered from the fire department. The huge machine was started a several flood lights were put into service so the techs could work as long as necessary.
By now, several inches of dirt had been removed from the mound. Another truck arrived with coffee and sandwiches. I had been there ten hours. I was beginning to think this wasn't fun anymore.
Around midnight, the tedious brushing and digging gave way to a certain earnestness. The crime scene techs shouted something to the homicide dicks, who walked briskly to the edge of the would-be grave. The crime scene guys were working carefully on what appeared to be a dark plastic garbage bag. I, having been in the military remarked to one of the reporters, that it looked like a "body bag." Everyone crowded in and peered into the hole. Then I heard one of the detectives say, "Hey let's get back and give em' some room."
The brushing and digging continued for another 30 minutes when one of the techs said, "Okay, let's open it."
One guy had what looked like a scalpel and began to carefully cut the bag from one end to the other. As the opening became larger, the stench of rotting flesh hit everyone's nostrils.
The reporters grinned to one another. A big scoop. In those days a murder in Polk County was still a pretty big deal. All at once, all hell seemed to break loose. One of the forensics guys was laughing hysterically and pointing.
"What the fuck?" one homicide detective said loudly enough for everyone to hear.
"Ho-lee shit," another one remarked. "Well that beats all," one of the uniform cops said.
The sheriff's lieutenant made a circular motion in the air with his index finger extended, as if to say, "Okay let's wrap it up."
"What the hell's going on?" one female newspaper reporter asked.
The LT. noticed the bewildered reporters standing at the edge of the crime scene tape and walked over with a half grin on his face. "Folks looks like we all got roped into this for nuthin'." The deputy shot me a sharp glance.
"What's that mean?" one camera guy asked. "In the hole there," he said, pointing behind himself. "It's a goddamn dog, a fuckin' K-9, as it were. Some wino gave his pooch a fond farewell."
"Shit," was pretty much the only comment from the reporters as they gathered up their cameras and lights and packed out to the next story.
I guess everybody was pretty much pissed at me and the Lakeland Police Department. It wouldn't be the first or the last time for either of us. Well, how was I to know? It could have been a human. They all knew that too, but would never have admitted it. It would sure have done that old dog some good if he'd known how much he cost a couple of government agencies that day.