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A Typical Day

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James arrived at the scene, stepping out of his air-conditioned car to meet the muggy morning. As the first wave of heat pushed into him, he noted that Peterson was already processing, and made his way over to her slowly, dodging the surrounding vehicles.



His wife’s words rang in his head, a common occurrence; they played like a mantra through his mind. "That job is going to ruin you, James. The human mind can only take so much". Her voice echoed in his ears, though she had given up talking to him long ago when she realized that he wasn’t going to quit. She now confined her worries to her forehead, lines erupting across her brow every time he said goodbye.



As he ducked under the tape, James recited to himself the sentence that he had always used on Sarah as a defense, to counteract her qualms. You get used to it. A phrase that was hardly comforting, and yet it was the truth, and it allowed James to walk out the front door each day, to come home and laugh with his family, to make love to Sarah, to read to his children. Getting used to it was something that had to be done. But it was different every day. He walked up beside Peterson, the sun beating viciously down on his vest, glimpsed the scene, and suddenly knew that today his canned reassurances wouldn’t apply.



The first things that James noticed were the fingers, small digits that crumpled awkwardly inward against the palm like some sort of grotesque spider. The tiny nails were painted in a color that his daughter would use, a kind of neon pink that was chipped near the tips, exposing the whites underneath. For some reason, the sight of that pale hand disturbed him in a way that he had not felt in a great while, not since his first day on the job a couple years back. You get used to it.



“A damn shame, that.” Deputy Williams broke the silence, walking up behind James, eyes at the ground, shoes scuffing softly against the pavement; James could tell he was uncomfortable. Williams had only been on the job a couple of weeks, and the first scene was always the hardest, especially on a case like this. James grimaced; he could understand Williams’s repulsion. He himself had to deal with it on a daily basis. You get used to it. Except not with a case like this. Never on a case like this. When a child was involved, nobody ever got used to it.



The oppressive heat seemed to suffocate. James crouched down slowly, the heels of his work boots not quite touching the seat of his faded jeans. Unwillingly, his eyes found those of the child, the glassy orbs that stared up at him unseeingly, pools of emptiness. Bile rose in his throat and he looked away.



James had always had a strong stomach for these kinds of things, but today he felt tired, a weariness that seemed to extend all the way through to his bones, robbing him of the desire to move. He was silent in his preliminary assessment, his knees protesting against the weight of his body. He made no move to relieve them. You get used to it.



“I’ve got most of the surrounding area covered. It’s just the body we’ve got left to process.” Peterson had looked up from her camera to gaze at the little girl. Her voice clouded with bitterness. “You know, it’s times like these that I hate this job.”



James shook his head slowly, and forced himself to stand. His knees creaked with relief.



“Somebody’s got to do it.” He opened his kit, deciding to start with the hair, curly locks that lay limp and dirty against the ground. He closed his eyes as he pulled on latex gloves. You get used to it.



He would leave the fingers for last.





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