Cover

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Frontmatter

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CONTENTS

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PREFACE

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pp. vii-viii

I began spending time at the coroner’s office in the fall of 1999. Most of the events of this book occurred in the summer of 2000. Dr. Cyril Wecht and Chief Deputy Coroner Joe Dominick granted me complete access to the coroner’s office and its functions. They asked me only to respect the wishes of employees...

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ONE: TRACY’S FIRST NIGHT

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pp. 3-40

Fifteen minutes ago, Tracy McAninch saw her first dead body. Now here she is, a summer intern, riding with a death investigator to confront a second one. In the backseat of the aging red Chevy Blazer, Tracy tries to prepare for what’s coming: an old lady, dark patches on her neck . . . possibly murdered. That’s all Tracy...

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TWO: AUTOPSY

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pp. 41-67

This job has no doubt been around as long as civilization. Someone had to dispose of bodies, and someone had to scrutinize those bodies found dead in suspicious circumstances. Methods, however, have varied. In one Australian tribe, two men held a dead body on each end while a third tapped it with a green bough and...

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THREE: THE CRYING ROOM

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pp. 68-77

The investigative office is packed with people; Tracy has to squeeze in. Mary Ann, the photographer, and all three day-shift deputy coroners are hanging around, no calls right now. Tracy met everybody when she started the shift at 7:00 a.m.....

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FOUR: NEXT OF KIN

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pp. 78-94

A couple weeks earlier, halfway through a slow evening shift, Ed Strimlan had leaned against the metal filing cabinets in the investigative office and remarked how few people in Pittsburgh were dying lately. Most mornings the corpse cooler had held just one or two fresh bodies, never more than four. The last seven days were...

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FIVE: THE COURTROOM

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pp. 95-106

All week, ever since the homicide on Monday night, Tiffani has run into people on the street who said they saw her at the crime scene. They were among the restless crowd in the Addison Terrace projects, and they saw her working, wearing the badge. Tiffani knew this would happen. She knows too many people on the Hill to...

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SIX: DEATH, BE NOT PROUD

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pp. 107-123

Carey Welch holds open the heavy metal door as Tracy McAninch walks into the corpse cooler, shoving an empty gurney ahead of her. They’ve just returned from the garage,where they helped a deputy coroner sign over a body to a funeral home director. Tracy clanks the empty gurney up against the others, some bearing bodies,...

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SEVEN: THE TV TEAM

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pp. 124-140

The phone rings, and Michael DeRosa takes the call. Forty-year-old female, dead in Ben Avon. Alone in the investigative office, DeRosa goes searching for a partner. In the entrance hall, he runs into Ed Strimlan. “Want to take a ride?” DeRosa asks....

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EIGHT: THE FLOATER

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pp. 141-152

He was a short, pudgy man, forty-six years old and 190 pounds soaking wet. He lived on a houseboat on the Allegheny River near the Pittsburgh Zoo. He’d lived there since about the time he broke up with his girlfriend, several weeks ago.He went into the water sometime within the last few days, less than a week ago, more than a day. He may have been pushed, but his body bore no marks...

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NINE: PICKLES IN COURT

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pp. 153-161

The coroner’s office is bustling today, preparing for the inquest into the shooting death of the man in the Hill District. Deputy sheriffs are bringing in Pickles any minute now, and Smitty is getting slammed....

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TEN: ED’S LAST NIGHT

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pp. 162-167

This afternoon, Ed comes in twenty minutes early, beating even Mike to work. A day-shift deputy immediately corners him. “Mister Ed,” the deputy says. “County homicide is headed out to Oakdale.”...

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EPILOGUE

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pp. 168-172

Three years after Ed Strimlan and Mike Chichwak parted ways, they have found themselves working side by side once again. After working the day shift for a few months, Ed was promoted to a senior deputy coroner position and moved into the administrative offices on the second floor.Mike was promoted to an equivalent...

SOURCES

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pp. 173-177