I was barely out of the police academy and still on field training when I saw my first suicide, a quite memorable one at that. Kind of thing one never really puts out of their mind. Patrolman Fancher and I were given the call to go secure the scene until a detective arrived since all suicides are investigated as possible homicides until proven otherwise.
When we arrived the family were outside of the apartment complex, crying, snotting and hugging all at once, unleashing their emotional agony with a reckless abandon that I actually admired though I felt completely incapable of offering any consolation. The son also displayed significant anger and could not stay still but instead pulled free from one family member just to stomp around a little before someone else grabbed him and hugged him again. He was a grown man and not small in the least.
He had been the unlucky relative to find his father in the master bedroom, hanging from a closet door of all things. Not knowing whether he was dead yet or not the son grabbed a knife and lifted his father’s corpse up with one arm while cutting the makeshift noose with the other. A quick check made it clear that it was too late. That’s when he called 911 in tears and full of rage at what his father had done.
Officer Fancher, my field training officer, told me to secure the room and not let anyone in while she spoke with the family. When I got upstairs the guy was stiff but he appeared to be just chillin’, his body leaned back on the wall, left elbow resting on a short dresser and both feet wedged under the foot of the bed, legs locked out straight. A large ottoman was pushed off to the side. According to the son it had been positioned firmly between the bed and the closet door, supporting his father’s body just minutes ago. Now, rigor mortis was the only thing keeping the man’s body upright.
At a glance, it looked like the guy knotted a couple of neck ties together, secured one to the door knob on the inside of the closet door, slung it over the top, cinched it around his neck, then jumped up, throwing his legs out. Gravity did the rest. I imagined it was a quick break, instant and painless. I couldn’t imagine someone just laying across the ottoman slowly choking to death. But based on his face I wasn’t too sure.
The tie had cut deep enough into his neck that it was obscured, and his eyes were wide open and slightly bulging. But what really made me question the quick death theory was his tongue. It had swollen so large that it filled his open mouth, pressing just beyond the lips. Not a pretty sight. I wasn’t sure but I thought that might not have happened unless he strangled to death instead of a nice clean neck break.
I looked away, not wanting to see his face any longer than I had to. I scanned the room, scavenging around for any parting notes or indicators of why he had done it.
A man could have choked on the irony.
Lying on his bed were the following items: an AA booklet, an empty 40 oz. Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull, a Bible and a small Polaroid picture book that contained his “private moments” with one woman, maybe more. I couldn’t tell for sure. Faces weren’t really the highlighted areas.
Hell of a set of memorabilia to be reminiscing over just before you leave this world. My brain wandered as I looked around, wondering what personal demons beyond alcoholism had ridden him into hopelessness. My thoughts were derailed by a most unusual sound.
It came from behind me, where the body was. I spun around and looked. Nothing. I brushed it off and kept looking around.
About a minute later, it came again.
This time a little louder but still from the same direction. I spun around. Again, nothing unusual in sight. I started looking around in other areas to see if I could locate the source of the noise. I was looking under the bed when it came once more.
I wasn’t one to believe in “ghosts” at that time, though I was an X-Files junkie, but it was starting to wig me out a little. I turned and decided to fix my eyes on the corpse and see what, if anything, might happen.
It took about a minute or more of staring at those vacant eyes and the bulging tongue, but the sound finally came again.
Right in time with the father’s head sliding across the wall on a downward arc, albeit just an inch.
I let out an uneasy chuckle. I had experienced a palpable tension before, now I just felt plain foolish. Rigor mortis was starting to relax and with it so was his posture. He was ever so slowly, on his way down. Imperceptible increments, unless one was watching.
He kept creaking his way across the wall the rest of the time I was there, and even though I knew what it was it was still a bit disturbing, standing in a room with a dead man slowly falling down.
I was glad when the Detective got there.
–This short is pulled from Mike Duke’s personal experiences as a small town cop.
Mike Duke, Author, Stitched Smile Publications
I’m 44, married 25 years, and have a son and daughter who are both grown and out of the house (pretty much). My German Shepherd, Ziva, is my baby now.
I was a cop for 12 years (and even spent a few years on the SWAT team) before getting into the training industry. The last 10 years I’ve been teaching military, law enforcement, bodyguards and private citizens High Speed, Tactical and Off Road Driving and Hand to Hand Combatives. I also did a few bodyguard gigs.
I have been writing since high school off and on but started to tackle it with conviction in 2009. I’ve self-published two short novellas – Ashley’s Tale and Ashley’s Tale: Making Jake and one short story – The Awakening. Stitched Smile Publications will be publishing my novel Low before the end of 2016, plus I have a story in their Monsters vs Zombies anthology.