Meth and Messages

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a short story about a police investigation of a meth related suicide. The story attempts to depict the devastating emotional toll of meth on the user, family members and police officers who deal with the aftermath.

Submitted: August 16, 2012

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Submitted: August 16, 2012

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Meth and Messages

It was 6:20 AM on a Sunday morning in late September as I trudged down to my patrol car with my equipment bag in tow. It was the Friday of my first work week back from a month of vacation. It had been relatively quiet and I was hoping I'd finish the week easing back into things. I started taking a month of vacation as soon as I had enough seniority to save that much time. A beard and long hair, which I begrudgingly gave up at the end of vacation, was my way of insulating myself from the affects of dealing with the tragedy in other peoples' lives. I was relieved to see there were no calls holding when I signed on to the car computer and hopeful I could get my cup of Dutch Bros Coffee before the calls started coming in. I got the cup of coffee but no time to take my first sip when the call came.

A south end car was dispatched to a citizen's report of a male hanging by a noose around his neck from a hand railing on McCleay Road. As dispatch provided more information, it became clear the person was dead and this would involve a time consuming death investigation. I volunteered to take the call so the south officer, who was near the end of his shift, could go home on time. Fire and police personnel were already at the scene when I arrived. The look on their faces confirmed what I had already concluded. Someone was dead.

Paramedics had placed a blanket over the hand rail to block the view of the body from the public. I began the process of the death investigation.- secure the scene, interiew the witness, examine the body, take pictures, DA/ME notification- the routine I had practiced a hundred times before. I spoke to the elderly man standing at the corner trying not to look at the body. He was obviously shaken. The man explained he was from Washington visiting a family member. He woke early to walk his dog. He saw what he thought was a mannequin hanging by its' neck from the railing. He continued to walk thinking it was a juvenile prank. He got close enough to realize someone had ended their life in a horrible way. He called the police.

My first memory of seeing a dead body was my second year of college. My brother and I were coming back from a trip to the beach when we came across a car wreck that had just happened. A farmer had pulled his farm truck onto Hwy 22 in West Salem into the path of an oncoming car. The car broadsided the truck and careened into the brush. Someone yelled that the police had been called. My brother and I went down into the brush to check on the people in the car. The brush was so thick, the only way to see inside was around the passenger door post. Inches from my face were three dead people. The deceased male and female passengers in the front seat had severe head injuries from hitting the dash board. They were still holding hands. I cried at the scene and felt sick to my stomach for days. Looking at death has become no easier for me over the years. Babies and children are the worst. I have only learned to steel my emotions at death scenes so I can do my job.

The body was that of a young male in his late teens or early twenties. He had been dead for some time. The young man had made a noose out of a braided shoe string. It was tied to the top railing with the noose around his neck. He was laying on his back with his arms resting on the pavement at his sides and his legs straight below him. Absent the noose and its' affects, he could have been one of any number of troubled youths sleeping off a Saturday night of drinking. He was dressed in the "Grunge style" of clothing the downtown skateboarders wear. There were multiple piercings and tattoos, none of which had any meaning to me. There was no identification or suicide note. A cell phone with a dead battery and a phone charger lay in plain view on the pavement by his right hand. Its placement seemed to indicate a message from beyond- a clue as to who and why. I wondered what turn of events would cause someone so young to take their own life.

The Medical Examiner came to the scene. After a phone briefing, the Deputy District Attorney decided not to respond. There was no sign of a struggle and no trauma other than that inflicted by the noose. Everything pointed to suicide. Photos were taken and the removal of the body from the scene was authorized. Mortuary personnel arrived and the body was checked one last time. An unusual tattoo in large red letters was noted on the chest before the body was placed in an body bag and transported. I was left with the cell phone and its secrets.

As I arrived at the station, dispatch sent a message about a mother inquiring if a body had been discovered that might match her son's description. He had left the night before under unexplained circumstances and was not answering his cell phone. Dispatch obtained the number to the son's cell phone and told the mother someone would contact her if any information was learned. I climbed the stairs to the department and plugged the charger into the cell phone. I called the phone number with my cell phone and his phone began to ring. His name was Anthony. He was twenty one years old. Dispatch gave me the mother's address.

She must have been watching from the living room window for her son because she was waiting for me on the porch before I ever got to the door. It was his mother, Mary. Her eyes were wide and her hand was over her mouth. "He's dead, isn't he"? I asked about her son's tattoos and her answer confirmed his identity. Her wailing "Oh my God, no" brought his nineteen year old sister to the door. I struggled to keep the tears from coming at the sight of their grief and pain. We stepped into the living room out of view of the neighbors. During interruped crying, Mary asked for details. Suicide by hanging brought renewed intense grief. Anthony's father, Patrick, had committed suicide by hanging himself. Through the tears, Mary haltingly told of a broken family and drug abuse. Patrick was a long time meth addict with stints in jail. Mary finally divorced him. He committed suicide in January of this same year. Patrick had stopped using meth but could not deal with the affects of withdrawal.

Anthony was a normal teenager until he turned eighteen and started hanging around with the wrong crowd. Mary learned Anthony had started using meth. She struggled with decisions about how to handle him and his addiction. His father's suicide started Anthony on a downward spiral Mary could not stop. The night before Anthony died, he broke up with his girlfriend. Mary overheard the heated exchange and Anthony's threat of suicide. Anthony was coming down off of meth and could not deal with what was happening to him. Mary tried to intervene but the fact she had overheard the conversation made him even more agitated. Anthony left the house vowing Mary would never see him again. He would not answer his cell phone as she tried to call him through the night. Mary checked Anthony's phone that I had returned to her. He had left a lengthy text message for his girlfriend telling her goodbye and apologizing for the hurt he had caused.

The day Patrick, Anthony's father died, Anthony received a cell phone text and photo from him. The picture showed Patrick standing in a stairway with an electrical cord noose around his neck. The text read," Im ready u have ur whole life 2 do don't be a fuck up like me love PXXXXXXXX." Anthony rushed to the house. He was too late. His father was dead hanging from the electrical cord in the stairway.

Anthony had been asleep when the text message was sent. He was asleep when his father committed suicide. Anthony's dad had threatened suicide a number of times before and they had been able to talk him out of it. If only he hadn't been asleep when the phone message came in, Anthony believed he might have been able to save his father. Anthony was identified by the tatto on his chest. The tattoo was the large red letters which spelled, "AWAKE".

I consoled Mary and her daughter as best I could. She refused my offer to call a police chaplain or a friend to help. I drove to the nearest place where I could park out of sight and cried. I cried for the senseless loss of a young man's life. I cried for the horrible tragedy in a family. And I mourned the loss of a part of my soul.


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