Alex Teach on the beatalex teach on the beat
Looking for a missing finger tends to result in a lot of cop humor. Maybe you had to be there.
The flashlight that I had was inadequate for the task. LED of course, but probably only three or four hundred lumen, powered by three 1.5 volt batteries instead of the custom 3-volt batteries that were a pain to come across and expectedly more expensive. It was originally designed to be mounted on the underside of the barrel of a pistol, but it was compact and the same mounting system worked well on my gun belt. That said, I couldn’t find the finger anywhere with the light it was providing.
The owner of the finger was still lying in a supine position a dozen yards north of me, holding his now uncovered hand with his remaining gloved one and baring his teeth, but otherwise maintaining all the dignity one could expect from a 67-year-old man who had just been forced into a guard rail while riding a motorcycle at high speed and dealing with the crash that followed. At this point, I had found his clutch lever and the majority of the left handlebar grip—but not the finger that had been sheared off as that same handlebar coasted down the guiding edge of the galvanized steel guard rail until it struck the next I-beam support post that conspired with physics and misfortune to clip off one of his digits, glove and all.
“Did you look under the car?” I asked my partner. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found a casing or a body part under my car. It’s embarrassing.” I was saying that for comfort, but it was also true. Few things make a rookie’s face red like having a veteran officer (much less detective) pull evidence from under his vehicle, no matter how rushed or well-intended the parking job was.
“Of course I looked,” Miller said. “What am I, an asshole? I’ve never looked for a finger before?” I opened my mouth to respond but was cut off before I could do so by Gregory asking, “How many knuckles are we talking here? One, two…three?”
I had to admit—it was a valid question. “Let’s assume one knuckle and go from there,” I shot back. The tension between Miller and me immediately evaporated, as well it should. Everything was evaporating actually, because it was hot standing on a large state highway where a major federal interstate merged into it and no one was happy to be here, our client most of all. I glanced back up at him and remembered the importance of the chore we were performing: If his index finger wasn’t ground round, it could be reattached at the trauma center just down the road.
I’d given up on the pavement, and was now trying to focus on the incredibly thick brush inside the median where I now increasingly suspected our client’s severed extremity lay. Soda bottles, blankets, a discarded toaster oven and cigarette butts galore, but no human finger, one knuckle or otherwise. It was actually kind of maddening.
“Hey, how about we call a canine?” said Gregory. “It would find that thing in a second!”
There were about 10 of us milling about, flashlights to the ground and looking in earnest, all of whom stopped in their tracks nearly simultaneously and looked at Gregory in confusion. They opened their mouths, but I beat them to it.
“A canine? Brilliant. And when Scooby finds that little tidbit just what exactly do you think that beast will do? Send you an email, or suck it up like a double-stuffed Oreo?! THEN what is this gentleman lying in the road going to do, wait an extra day? Maybe less, maybe have the dog avoid fiber for the remainder of the night to speed up the process so this guy can have a poo-finger?!”
Gregory paused, then resumed his search with the rest of us.
“What you think about this, Sarge?” said another cop down the line. The scene supervisor glanced up at him, and the cop continued, “Most of our careers, our customers are giving us the finger. Now we’re looking for one. Go figure.” Sarge allowed the corner of his mouth to curl up, the closest he usually got to a smile, before walking back towards the meat wagon and speaking to a tech who had just emerged from the back double doors. They conferred and the boss turned towards us and raised his index finger in a swirling fashion while yelling, “Mount up! If we haven’t found it, it’s too late, so let’s open the road before we have to work two or three more of these.”
I paused, genuinely not wanting to call off the search, but there had been nearly a dozen of us combing the area for nearly half an hour without success, and at some point you just have to let go. I hopped in the car and as we all began to depart one by one, the ambulance finally having left, I keyed up on the radio and let the dispatcher know I was back in service, and to thank everybody for lending a hand.
Someone thought to key up on their own radio and laugh in response.
I thought about it and blushed. Hey.