Gordon pasted on a smile as he approached the coroner's
van. Asel was already waddling toward him. Gordon's attempt
at a civil greeting was swallowed by Asel's impatient scowl.
"Where's this bone that is so important? Let's get
going. I've got places to be."
Gordon gave up on civility. "Follow me." He turned on
his heel and marched away, trying not to snicker at Asel,
who weighed a good three hundred pounds, puffing and
wheezing behind him. Scuttlebutt had it that Asel's major
qualifications for the job were experience in a funeral
parlor, from which he'd retired, and being married to a
distant cousin of the head coroner. But Gordon never cared
enough to verify the rumors. Most of what Asel did was
pronounce bodies dead and issue death certificates.
By now the sun had dipped behind the mountains,
eliminating most of the light. More than once, Gordon heard
Asel curse as he stumbled over a branch or rock. The man
had the smarts to bring a flashlight, but he waved it
around the trees like spotlights at a rock concert instead
of using it to illuminate the trail. "Don't suppose there
are any bears around, do you?"
If there are, they'll run the other way when they hear
"Don't think so. Didn't notice any tracks when we first
Asel grunted in between wheezes.
"Right up ahead," Gordon said. He shined his own
flashlight, catching reflections of the yellow tape Solomon
had strung. Solomon waved his own light in response.
"Someone's there?" Asel said. "What about contamination?"
"That would be Officer Ed Solomon," Gordon said before
Asel complained about anything else. "He's been containing
Asel clomped up to the edge of the tape and wiped his
forehead. Solomon beamed his light at the bone. Asel
stepped closer, pursing his lips in and out. He removed the
bone from its resting place. "Give me some more light."
Both Gordon and Solomon complied, trying to keep the
light on the bone as Asel moved it back and forth, up and
down, studying it from all angles. "This is the only one?"
"Yes, Sir," Solomon said. "Animal Control found a dog
Asel frowned. "Interesting." He squinted, turned the
bone, mumbled under his breath. As if someone had thrown a
switch, his demeanor switched from asshole to scholarly. He
held the bone out toward Gordon and Solomon, pointing as he
spoke. "It's been well–chewed, although I'm not sure
all these teeth marks are recent. It's the ends that tell
us the most. However, despite the damage, I have no doubt
that what we have is a human humerus."