The coroner adjusted her glasses, then looked at the corpse lying on a cold cement floor. The stench of rotting flesh permeated the garage of a once beautiful house now burned to the ground. She was used to the smell but the detective in charge of the investigation was struggling to not puke.
“What do you think?” The detective asked.
“My best guess is that the fire spread to here rather quickly. Forest fires have a way of doing that. The residents were told to evacuate but didn’t, thinking it wouldn’t reach this far. This one counted on the asbestos siding on the garage not burning as easily as the house. What he didn’t think about was the roof. Such a pity. If he’d obeyed the directive he’d be alive even if he was homeless.”
“So. Death from exposure to noxious smoke and extreme heat? He obviously isn’t burned.”
The coroner shook her head as if undecided, then knelt and turned the dead man’s head to the side. “See that?” She asked, pointing to a puncture wound in his neck. “How did that happen?”
“Dunno. Maybe he fell on something in the scramble.”
“Something’s not right. Let’s get him in a bag and I’ll take a closer look at the morgue.”
Two weeks later, the dead man’s wife was arrested on suspicion of murder. The puncture wound had been inflicted by an ice pick and the body was placed on the garage floor after the fire. The coroner determined there was no smoke in his lungs and he showed no sign of being consumed by fire.
At the station house, the detective rolled up his sleeves and confronted the woman sitting calmly, as if unconcerned with the charges against her.
“Why’d you kill him?”
“Who says I did? Dumb ass wouldn’t evacuate so he deserves what he got.”
“I say you did. Our inquiry revealed he’d just won Megabucks and didn’t die in the fire. Did you want all the money instead of half?”
The woman’s eyes narrowed while she thought about her answer. “Wasn’t gonna get half.” She said bitterly after a pregnant pause. “Didn’t your so called inquiry reveal he filed for divorce right after he won? That he was planning on moving to Mexico with some floozy he met at a strip club?”
The detective took a drink from a bottle of water on his desk, then tried to play off the fact he didn’t know about that by saying. “So, where’s the money? I checked with lottery and the ticket was redeemed.”
The questioning went on for hours before the woman admitted to killing her husband at a motel they’d fled to when the fire threatened their home. When the ashes cooled she dumped his body where they found it. Her explanation was delivered with a sigh of resignation. Her plan didn’t work because she didn’t expect the coroner to be thorough with so many deaths caused by the fire.
“The check was bigger than I expected. I thought he won a few hundred thousand but it was millions. I couldn’t let some skank live a life of luxury after I gave him the best years of my life. You’d do the same for that much money.”
After saying that, the woman hiked up her skirt, revealing beautiful legs the detective stared at wolfishly. “You look tired,” she said. “Ever think about retiring and spending time with a rich widow?” Watching his eyes told her everything she needed to know. He was hungry and ambitious. They’d have to be cool for a while after the charges were dropped but having a new man in her life could be fun for a moment. If she dropped him later he couldn’t change his story about lack of evidence. Who knew? They might make a good couple. Only time would tell.