"How close did you get?" I asked as Marino and Anderson caught
up with us.
"Close enough," Shaw said.
"No one went inside it?" I wanted to make sure.
"I can guarantee you that, ma'am." The stench was getting to
Marino seemed unfazed. He shook out another cigarette and mumbled around
it as he fired the lighter.
"So, Anderson," he said. "I -don't guess it could be
livestock, you know, since you didn't look. Hell, maybe a big dog that
accidentally got locked up in there. Sure would be a shame to drag the doc
here and get the media all in a lather and then find out it's just some poor
ol' wharf dog rotted in there."
He and I both knew there was no dog or pig or horse or any other animal
in there. I opened my scene case while Marino and Anderson went on carping
at each other. I dropped my car key inside and pulled on several layers of
gloves and a surgical mask. I fitted my thirty-five-millimeter Nikon with
a flash and a -twenty-eight-millimeter lens. I loaded
-four hundred speed film so the photographs wouldn't be too grainy, and
slipped sterile booties over my shoes.
"It's just like when we get bad smells coming from a - closed up
house in the middle of July. We look through the window. Break in if we have
to. Make sure what's in there's human before we call the M.E.," Marino
continued to instruct his new protégé.
I ducked under the tape and stepped inside the dark container, relieved
to find it was only half full of neatly stacked white cartons, leaving
plenty of room to move around. I followed the beam of my flashlight deeper,
sweeping it from side to side.
Near the back, it illuminated a bottom row of cartons soaked with the
reddish purge fluid that leaks from the nose and mouth of a decomposing
body. My light followed shoes and lower legs, and a bloated, bearded face
jumped out of the dark. Bulging milky eyes stared, the tongue so swollen it
protruded from the mouth as if the dead man were mocking me. My covered
shoes made sticky sounds wherever I stepped.
The body was fully clothed and propped up in the corner, the container's
metal walls bracing it from two sides. Legs were straight out, hands in the
lap beneath a carton that apparently had fallen. I moved it out of the way
and checked for defense injuries, or for abrasions and broken nails that
might suggest he had tried to claw his way out. I saw no blood on his
clothes, no sign of obvious injuries or that a struggle had taken place. I
looked for food or water, for any provisions or holes made through the
container's sides for ventilation, and found nothing.
I made my way between every row of boxes, squatting to shine oblique
light on the metal floor, looking for shoe prints. Of course, they were
everywhere. I moved an inch at a time, my knees about to give out. I found
an empty plastic wastepaper basket. Then I found two silvery coins. I bent
close to them. One was a deutsche mark. I didn't recognize the other one
and touched nothing.
Marino seemed a mile away, standing in the container's opening.
"My car key's in my case," I called out to him through the
"Yeah?" he said, peering inside.
"Could you go get the LumaLite? I need the fiber-optic
attachment and the extension cord. Maybe Mr. Shaw can help you find
somewhere to plug it in. Has to be a grounded receptacle, one fifteen VAC."
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...