The Camera Guy
The following is an excerpt from The Camera Guy
By Richard W. Goodship
Copywrite © 2003
"The other shape,
If shape it might be call'd, that shape had none,
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb;
Or substance might be call'd that shadow seem'd;
For each seem'd either; black it stood as night,
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as Hell,
And shook a dreadful dart; what seem'd his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on.
Satan was now at hand; and from his seat
The monster, moving onward, came as fast
With horrid strides; Hell trembled as he strode."
-- John Milton
He looked down and saw only his shadow stretching across the asphalt to her body.
He closed his eyes and images of the night sky and the cold grey of the street began pin-wheeling in his mind, again and again, his stomach clenching in anticipation as the street moved closer with each turn.
Then it stopped and he was standing over her body again. He turned his head and saw her faint, ghostly outline standing next to him, the moonlight shining through the remnants of her life illuminating only her death.
What was left stood silently waiting, her sad eyes staring at him, into him, past him into the night. He always wondered what it was they could see that he couldn’t. Was it a shining white light or a red glow like in the movies that drew her gaze through him or was it a vast nothing that waited to swallow her spirit erasing her from both life and death.
How many times had he asked them and always they remained silent leaving him to take whatever came after on faith. A faith he had tossed aside years ago and had no desire to renew. He looked down at the camera in his hands and at the body at his feet. This was the only faith he knew to be true.
And when they died it was his job to photograph their death. He had become good at it.
He would never stand alongside the likes of Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz but then they photographed the things that people wanted to see. Or admit they wanted to see. How many times had he seen horror and disgust on the faces of jurors as they viewed his works and how many times had he seen those same people reluctant to pass the photograph on. No, he would never be an Adams but people saw his work and their lives were changed just as much. And those other people, the ones who photographed the living and captured the mysteries of life would eventually pose before his lens.
He closed his eyes again and waited.
“What the hell is he doing?”
“Shhh.,” the Sergeant whispered to the young constable, irritated that he had been startled. “Wait for it.”
“Wait for what?” The young face, barely old enough to grow a half decent beard, turned to the older man next to him. “He’s just standing there!”
“He’s doing it,” the other whispered. The Sergeant looked around at the night and shivered. He wasn’t cold. It was midsummer and the night air was warm and thick with dew. If he had been anywhere but where he was, the night would have been perfect for sitting outside on his porch enjoying a cold beer. But he wasn’t somewhere else and the craving in his mouth for a cold one wasn’t from the pleasant evening. It was the man standing there in the middle of the street that caused the sudden chill to race along his skin and the saliva in his mouth to evaporate.
The constable shook his head at what he was seeing. When a couple of minutes had ticked by with nothing happening, he spoke again. “I heard the stories about this guy at the Police College.” he raised a finger to the side of his head and circled it slowly. “Loony as a tooney, they say.”
The Sergeant turned on his young charge, his eyes bristling with anger. “Who says?” He demanded.
“Everyone,” the officer answered, unaware that he had angered his mentor. “They say he talks to them, the dead people.” He grunted a laugh. “They said his brain went hamburger after an incident when he was still in his rookie year.”
The Sergeant sighed heavily. He had heard the same stories; everyone on the department had heard the stories. “Do the stories also say that he has a perfect record for solves and convictions?” He snapped back, knowing they did, but only as an afterthought. A brilliant career reduced to a footnote.
The Sergeant returned to watching the lone figure and shivered again. He had known the man since his cadet years and at one time they had been close friends but nothing stays the same and the incident the young constable so casually referred to had changed everything and the man became solitary, closed to everyone around him. And something changed inside the man. Something that spawned a hundred rumors and now, even after all these years the sight of the detective on a scene unnerved him.
“Hey, I didn’t say he was stupid, just nuts,” the officer whispered with a smirk.
The Sergeant decided he’d had his fill of the snot-nose. “Take out your notebook,” he ordered.
The officer scrambled to remove his black leather bound book from the breast pocket of his jacket. He flipped to the blank pages near the end and held it ready, pen in hand.
The Sergeant looked at the officer, then at the notebook. “How long have you been on platoon?”
“A week today.”
“And you’ve almost filled your first notebook?”
“Second!” The officer announced, a broad grin splitting his face.
“Jesus,” the Sergeant groaned. He placed a strong hand on the rookie’s shoulder. “This is important so get it down right.” He felt the other’s shoulder tense in anticipation. “Ready?”
The officer looked up at the Sergeant. “Huh?”
“You’re talking and not writing. I said, coffee, black.”
The rookie frowned and scribbled the words into his notebook.
“Very good,” the Sergeant offered. “Now go around and get everyone else’s order and make sure you get each one right.”
The officer pursed his lips, “Yes, Sergeant!” He looked across the street at the silent figure standing on the pavement. The man still hadn’t moved. The young constable took a step towards him and was suddenly yanked back by his coat collar.
“He takes cream only,” the Sergeant warned. The officer disappeared, grumbling in the other direction.
The Sergeant returned to his study of the silent figure on the roadway. Suddenly, the man moved towards a yellow plastic blanket near the gutter. The Sergeant knew what was beneath it. He had placed it over the young woman’s body himself. He waited.
The man’s hands were busy pulling on surgical gloves as he walked the motions smooth and practiced. He stopped at the edge of the blanket and squatted down, his right hand lifting the blanket at the closest edge.
The Sergeant waited patiently. He wasn’t in any rush to go over.
The man’s head turned as he scanned the body from head to foot then lifted his face to stare into space across the blanket. The Sergeant thought he could see the man’s head nod slightly as if talking to someone on the other side of the corpse. Even in the dim lighting and at his distance, he could see that no one was there. The Sergeant waited.
The man dropped the sheet and rose to his feet signaling that he was ready to talk to whoever was in charge of the scene. The Sergeant began walking towards the other who noticed him immediately and moved to close the distance.
“Tony,” the man called out as he recognized the face. His eyes dropped to the coat sleeve. “Sergeant Rowneda,” he corrected himself. “Congrats on the hooks,” he offered, pointing to the still white chevrons adorning the man’s sleeves.
“Hi Bill. Thanks. Only took eighteen years, but hey, looks good for the pension.” The Sergeant held out his hand and Bill grasped it warmly.
“I’m curious,” the Sergeant commented.
“Why you’re here. I thought they saved you for the serious stuff.” The Sergeant reddened slightly at the callousness of his words and glanced over at the blanket. “Not that this isn’t serious, I just thought you were saved for the “who dunnits”.”
“Slow night,” Bill said.
“What does the driver say?” Bill asked. He pulled his own notebook out of his pocket and began making notes.
“Not much. He’s drunk. They’ve taken him to the detachment for a breathalyzer.” The Sergeant shook his head. “My guess is, he’ll blow one fifty easy.” He looked back at the yellow sheet. “What a waste!”
“He didn’t kill her.”
The frank statement brought the Sergeant’s eyebrows up sharply. “Maybe I’m getting rusty. Should I call the paramedics back?”
A faint smile flashed across Bill’s unshaven face then faded as if the muscles had forgotten how to hold onto one; or had nothing left to really smile about. “No, she’s dead but the driver didn’t kill her.”
“I’m all ears.”
“The woman was dead long before the car struck her.” Bill motioned for Tony to follow him through the scene, narrating as he went. “There’s a long, narrow contusion leading from her left temple, down along her left cheek.” He pointed to an area of the sidewalk, “Looks like it was caused from striking the edge of the sidewalk here.” He took out a small flashlight and shined it on the area.
The Sergeant could see a darkened section of concrete at the sidewalk edge. “She died from striking that?”
Bill shook his head. He had seen the images in his mind. Images of hands around her throat slowly squeezing her life out and dressing her lifeless body afterward, dragging her through rooms and into the night air. “No, she was dead before that.” He lifted the light up the side of the building bordering the sidewalk. “You I.D. her yet?”
The Sergeant nodded. He felt another chill run along his back.
Bill shifted the flashlight and the beam illuminated a balcony four floors above them. He let the light linger a moment. “She lives there.”
Tony moved away from the man. Jesus, he thought. It hadn’t been a question, just a statement of fact. This was why there were rumors about the man. He fought down an urge to be somewhere else. “I got two men up there now talking with the husband.” He held his breath for a second. “Should I be telling them anything?”
Bill raised his hand, “Give me a minute and I’ll show you.” He went to the blanket and lifted it high enough to reveal the entire body. The Sergeant followed. “Had she been alive when the car hit her, I’d expect to see an impact injury and a lot more blood. This,” he pointed at the dark stain on the asphalt, “this is seepage.” He pointed at the woman’s legs. The nylons she had been wearing had torn in several places and across her left thigh; the Sergeant could see what looked like a tire mark. “The car ran over her, no question about it but she was already lying dead in the street.”
“What about her striking the sidewalk?” the Sergeant asked bending down to get a closer look at the wound on her face.
“See the broken skin?” Bill asked. He continued when he saw Tony nod; “Had she been alive, there would be blood from the wound both on her face and on the sidewalk. My guess is her corpse was tossed from that balcony.” He pointed his chin towards the woman’s feet. “What do you see?”
The Sergeant’s gaze moved down the body for a closer look. Brown, low-heeled shoes, nothing fancy. He bent closer trying to see what the other saw. He shook his head and stepped back. Then he saw it. “They’re on the wrong feet!”
Bill nodded. “Very good. You should have gone into forensics.”
Tony shook his head vigorously and stood up. “No. Not for me,” and the words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. “You camera guys give me the creeps.” He looked at the man wishing he had kept his mouth shut and wishing there was some way they could pretend he hadn’t said it. He took one last look at the woman, “I’ll call in a team. What about the husband?”
“Keep your boys talking to him, no statements though. Just talk. Call one of the detectives and give him what I just told you and he can put a warrant together.”
Bill lowered the blanket slowly, reverently the Sergeant thought. “I’ll get my flash and start taking pictures.” He turned and started walking toward his van. “Bill?” He stopped and turned back to the Sergeant. “Yeah?”
“Sorry about the creeps’ thing.” Tony said.
Bill shook it off. “Don’t worry about it, Tony. I give myself the creeps all the time.” He went to the van.
The woman was standing next to the side door. Bill could see her clearly. In the dim light, her skin had a pale glow to it, making it translucent. He could see the history of her life beneath the surface. Bruises upon bruises dotted and overlapped her arms, legs and face. He held her eyes for a moment. “I’ll get him,” he told her under his breath. She nodded and turned away from him and walked out into the night air, dissolving as she went.
Bill watched her go then opened the door and began preparing his equipment. “I’ll get him,” he repeated to himself.