Excerpt of Body Brokers by Annie Cheney
(Page 4 of 4)
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"He had one of the best crematorium in southern California,"
Redmond said with a smile. In 1996, when a nearby funeral home
got in trouble for improperly storing bodies, Brown was the
man Redmond called as his expert witness. "When other guys in
the business had problems, I used to tell them to go and look at
Brown's place. That's how a crematorium ought to be run."
Brown's records were always in order; there was never a document
out of place, never a signature missing. He was constantly
mopping and sweeping.
But beneath his caring manner, Brown had little feeling for his
customers, living or dead. Later, he would say, "I don't believe
a body is worth more than garbage once you pass away."
One afternoon in February 1999, Jennifer Bittner stood in the
parking lot of Brown's crematorium. She was a pretty,
pale-skinned girl, with delicate features, blue eyes, and long
brown hair that she wore loose down her back. Bittner appeared
older than her eighteen years. Her shoulders slumped and her
face was drawn with grief.
Shading her eyes from the glaring sun, Bittner stared at the
long, low building. Made of stucco and stone, the crematorium
was like all of the other buildings in the ofﬁce park. It was
ﬂat and rectangular and resembled a warehouse. Bittner couldn't
see much through the tinted glass door. But looking up, she
could make out three small chimneys.
When Bittner appeared in Michael Brown's doorway, he jumped up,
shook her hand, and led her into a back office. Brown made an
impression on the young woman. He was about six feet tall, blond
and blue-eyed, with the muscular build of a high school football
star. Bittner admired his neatly trimmed goatee. Later, she
recalled finding him "very attractive." He was also instantly
empathetic. Brown listened and patted her arm as she explained
that her cousin had just died and her family didn't have enough
money for his funeral.
"It was gang violence," Bittner said softly. "My cousin was
Brown nodded gently and offered to arrange for a discounted
funeral. "I'll take care of everything," he promised.
After they made the funeral arrangements, Bittner asked Brown if
she could take a look around. She had always been curious about
dead bodies. In her spare time, she read Patricia Cornwell
mysteries, books like Postmortem and Cause of Death,
and she dreamed about one day investigating crime scenes.
Excerpted from Body Brokers by Annie Cheney Copyright
© 2006 by Annie Cheney. Excerpted by permission of Broadway,
a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No
part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without
permission in writing from the publisher.