Looking back , I think of it as Race Week in the Rain. Thunderboomers almost every day. Sure, it was spring. But these storms were over the top. In the end, Summer saved my life. I know. Sounds bizarre. This is what happened.
Bloated, dark clouds hung low to the ground, but so far no rain.
Lucky break. I’d spent the morning digging up a corpse.
Sound macabre? Just part of the job. I’m a forensic anthropologist. I recover and analyze the dead that present in less than pristine condition—the burned, mummified, mutilated, dismembered, decomposed, and skeletal.
OK. Today’s target wasn’t actually a corpse. I’d been searching for overlooked body parts.
Short version. Last fall a housewife vanished from her Cabarrus County home in rural North Carolina. A week ago, while I was away on a working vacation in Hawaii, a trucker admitted to strangling the woman and burying her body in a sandpit. Impatient, the local cops had sallied forth with shovels and buckets. They delivered the bones in a Mott’s applesauce carton to my employer, the Medical Examiner’s Office, in neighboring Mecklenburg County.
Yesterday, my aloha tan still glowing, I’d begun my analysis. A skeletal inventory revealed that the hyoid, the mandible, and all of the upper incisors and canines were missing.
No teeth, no dental ID. No hyoid, no evidence of strangulation. Dr. Tim Larabee, the Mecklenburg County medical examiner, asked me to have a second go at the sandpit.
Correcting screwups usually makes me cranky. Today I was feeling upbeat.
I’d quickly found the missing bits and dispatched them to the MCME facility in Charlotte. I was en route to a shower, a late lunch, and time with my cat.
It was 1:50 p.m. My sweat-soaked tee was pasted to my back. My hair was yanked into a ratty knot. Sand lined my scalp and undies. Nevertheless, I was humming. Al Yankovic, “White & Nerdy.” What can I say? I’d watched a YouTube video and the tune lodged in my head.
Wind buffeted my Mazda as I merged onto southbound I-85. Slightly uneasy, I glanced at the sky, then thumbed on NPR. Terry Gross was finishing an interview with W. S. Merwin, the U.S. poet laureate. Both were indifferent to the conditions outside my car.
Fair enough. The show was produced in Philadelphia, five hundred miles north of Dixie.
Terry launched into a teaser about an upcoming guest. I never caught the name.
Beep! Beep! Beep!
The National Weather Service has issued a severe-weather warning for parts of the North Carolina piedmont, including Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Anson, Stanly, and Union counties. Severe thunderstorms are expected to move through the area within the next hour. Rainfall of one to three inches is anticipated, creating the potential for flash flooding. Atmospheric conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes.
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