Final Words: Reflections of a Forensic Pathologist


The Canal

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“Will there be girls?” the teen asked eagerly, brushing red bangs from his forehead.

“Copy that,” crackled the radio followed by, “but it’s not at my home 20.”

Eddie huddled next to his roommate who was speaking into the handheld. He raised his eyebrows and mouthed, “What’s he mean?” Their garage was base station for this new hobby – Citizens Band radio. They could broadcast up to 15 miles communicating with truckers on the 280, over the state line to Iowa. With only a few months of practice, they were still novices with the jargon.

“You’re breaking up. I’ll holler at you in a few,” Jimmy ended the transmission and turned to Eddie, “hell, let’s go.” His face flushed with excitement obscuring his freckles.

“I don’t know,” Eddie said.

“It’s a kegger, Ed man, with chicks,” Jimmy grinned, “alcohol…and did I say chicks?” At 18, the feminine gender and underage drinking were their constant preoccupations.

Eddie wiped his sweaty palms along the sides of his jeans, “Tonight? I don’t have any cash.”

“I’ll spot you,” Jimmy said, “we’re Starsky and Hutch. You can’t separate a winning team.”

“10-4, good buddy,” Eddie relented. It was hard to say no to Jimmy’s enthusiasm.

“Roger that,” Jimmy clapped Eddie on the back and began to try to raise Satan (that was the other man’s CB nickname).


Water lapped the edges of the canal, a full moon reflecting off its surface. As the four walked along in a single file, dirt dusted around their feet on the trail. Midnight was cool in early June and Eddie wished he’d brought a jacket. He shivered involuntarily, sloshing the two warm cans of beer in his stomach.

“Hey, what’s your real name?” Jimmy asked the man leading the group as they continued through the grounds of the abandoned waterway. “I mean, I can’t keep calling you by your handle, can I, Satan?”

Eddie laughed a bit too loudly, nervous as they walked further and further from the road where they had parked their pick-ups. He saw no sign of a party, a keg, or any girls. Though the area was popular with fishermen, he saw none of them either.

Adding to his discomfort were the dark tattoos decorating Satan’s arms — a black panther, skulls and daggers, and the words “straight from hell.” The guy must be 30, he thought, what’s he doing hanging out with a bunch of kids?

“Do you have the green stamps?” Satan asked, using radio argot. The companion, who hadn’t yet spoken, was at the rear.

Jimmy knew the man meant money and reached into his jean’s pocket, pulling out a couple of twenties and waving them in the air. “Affirmative.”

They had stopped at a towering oak tree, less than 10-feet from the shore. Suddenly, the silent companion grabbed the cash and pushed Jimmy from behind, propelling the boy to his knees. Satan turned with a 22-caliber revolver in his hand. Eddie froze.

“You, too,” Satan motioned at Eddie with the gun, “kneel down next to your friend.”

“What are you doing, man? This isn’t funny. I get that you like The Damned but stop being such a…” Jimmy’s words were cut off by the pistol firing into the air. Eddie peed his pants.

“Shut up,” Satan growled, holding the weapon against the back of Jimmy’s neck. The muzzle dug into the skin.

Eddie’s ears were ringing from the shot; his heart pounding hard in his chest. Another shot rang out and Jimmy thumped to the ground, landing on his face next to Eddie. Red bubbles gurgled from his mouth. As Eddie was pushed down to his knees, he turned his head toward his friend. With another gunshot, Eddie felt like a sledgehammer was struck against his neck. He pitched forward.

Eddie held a breath; pulse beating loudly in his ears. His eyes were open and angled to Jimmy, whose own had grown dull with death. A pool of blood spilled into the earth around Jimmy. Play dead, play dead, play dead. Eddie didn’t blink; he had always been good at staring contests.

His lungs felt ready to burst, muscles cramped in an awkward position of prayer. Finally the footsteps receded and he gulped air. The wound was superficial, piercing the soft tissue of his neck. Jimmy hadn’t been so lucky, the cervical spinal cord was transected.

Standing up shakily, Eddie looked at his surroundings, noting the marker for lock 32.

A short time later, Eddie recounted all of this to the state police. They found Jimmy as described and pronounced him dead at 6 AM on June 6. The killer’s nickname, symbolic tattoos, and execution-style of murder were significant when considering Jimmy’s date and time of death 6/6 at 6. Three sixes. “And cause as many as would not worship the image…to be killed.” Revelations 13:15-18. The mark of the beast.

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