Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category
Putrefaction is the destruction of the soft tissue caused by two things, bacteria and enzymes.
As bacteria and enzymes do their jobs, the body immediately begins to discolor and transform into liquids and gases. The odd thing about the bacteria that destroys the tissue at death is that much of it has been living in the respiratory and intestinal tracts all along. Of course, if the deceased had contracted a bacterial infection prior to death, bacteria, such as septicemia (blood poisoning), would aid in increasing the rate of decomposition.
Temperature also plays an important part in decomposition. 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal range for bacteria and enzymes to do what they do best, while lower temperatures slow the process. Therefore, and obviously, a body will decompose faster during the sweltering days of summertime.
A blood-filled circulatory system acts as a super-highway for those organisms that destroy the body after death. Without blood the process of putrefaction is slowed.
Therefore, a murder victim whose body bled out will decompose at a slower rate than someone who died of natural causes.
People who were overweight at the time of their deaths decompose faster than skinny people. People who suffered from excessive fluid build up decompose faster than those who were dehydrated. And people with massive infections and congestive heart failure will also decompose at a more rapid rate than those without those conditions.
Bodies adorned in thick, heavy clothing (the material retains heat) decompose more rapidly than the norm. Electric blankets also speed up decomposition.
A body that’s buried in warm soil may decompose faster than one that’s buried during the dead of winter.
The type of soil that surrounds the body also has an effect on the rate of decomposition. For example, the soil in North Carolina is normally a reddish type of clay. The density of that clay can greatly retard the decomposition process because it reduces the circulation of air that’s found in a less dense, more sandy-type of earth.
Adult bodies buried in a well drained soil will become skeletonized in approximately 10 years. A child’s body in about five years.
The rule of thumb for the decomposition of a body is, (if at the same temperature) 8 weeks in well-drained soil equals two weeks in the water, or one week exposed to the air.
Now, hold on to your breakfast…
The first sign of decomposition under average conditions is a greenish discoloration of the skin at the abdomen. This is apparent at 36-72 hours.
Next – Small vessels in the skin become visible (marbling).
Marbling is followed by glistening skin, skin slippage, purplish skin, blisters, distended abdomen (after one week—caused by gases), blood-stained fluid oozing from body openings (nose, mouth, etc.), swelling of tissue and the presence of foul gaseous odor, greenish-purple face, swollen eyelids and pouting lips, swollen face, protruding tongue, hair pulls out easily, fingernails come off easily, skin from hands pulls off (gloving), body swells and appears greatly obese.
Internally, the body is decomposing and breaking down. The heart has become flabby and soft. The liver has honeycombed, and the kidneys are like wet sponges. The brain is nearly liquid, and the lungs may be a bit brittle.
Hmm… Flabby hearts and liquid brains. Sounds like the internal workings of quite a few living and currently-working (well, they call it working) politicians in this country…
You do your best to make the heroes of your tall tales as cool as possible. They’re the best at everything they do. They can out-shoot, out-fight, and out-think every character who dares to enter a paragraph. Your superstars can drive a car better than Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. combined, and they’re far better lovers that those shirtless, fake-tan guys on the romance covers. Hell, even James Bond should take “suave and debonair” lessons from your protagonists.
So what’s the problem, you ask? Well, come closer. I think it’s best that I whisper so only you can hear. Don’t want to embarrass your hero, you know.
Okay, here goes, and this is between you and me. The trouble is…is…well, it’s the size of their guns and the way they carry them……..I know, shocking, isn’t it? But I think I can help, and these simple pointers should do the trick.
1. Stop having your good guy shove his handgun into his waistband at the small of his back. It’s not safe, nor is it a handy place for retrieval of the weapon. To better illustrate, please allow me to tell a brief story to help clarify my point.
It was around 3 a.m. and I and another officer were working an undercover narcotics operation. We’d made a substantial buy from a house in a very dangerous part of town and were sitting in my undercover car preparing to leave the area, when we heard a call come across the radio. “Shots fired. One man down, believed to be deceased. Shooter is running east in the alley between Dumb and Dumber streets.”
My partner and I immediately looked at each other. We were sitting at the eastern end of the alley. A second later the shooter zipped past the front of my car.
My partner jumped out to chase the asswipe while I called in our position and to say we were in foot pursuit (so much for the undercover role).
It’s tough to run while wearing a gun strapped to your ankle, but you get used to it…sort of. Anyway, I started running at full speed in the direction I last saw my partner. It was pitch-black dark. No moon. No streetlights.
After what seemed like ten minutes and a total shutdown of my lungs and heart, I heard a commotion. I’d heard the sound before and knew it to be that of humans crossing a chain-link fence. After chasing a dozen or so thugs through backyards and around snarling dogs, those type of sounds become very familiar to you. Anyway, I knew I was gaining on my partner and the bad guy.
All of a sudden I heard a very loud BANG! It was a gunshot.
Next came a couple of moans and a, “Don’t move you &%^$#$^ing &%$%##$&!!!” My partner, bless his heart, had a very firm grasp on a very colorful set of language skills and vocabulary.
I reached the fence and climbed over where I found my partner lying on the ground moaning and groaning, with a very large murderer kneeling beside him. The killer was firmly pressing a handkerchief against my partner’s right buttock.
I, totally unsure of what the hell I was seeing, pointed my gun at the bad guy and told him to get down on the ground and keep his hands where I could see them. I was certain he’d shot my partner and was trying to get his gun. However…the handkerchief?
Turns out my partner had shoved his big fat Beretta 92F into his waistband, at the small of his back, just as he started chasing the shooter. And, when he climbed over the fence the gun slipped down inside the seat of his pants and had somehow discharged. In other words, my partner shot himself in the butt.
The murderer heard the shot and thought my partner had fired a round at him, so he stopped in his tracks. However, when the bad guy realized what had happened he turned around, walked over to his pursuer, and began emergency first aid. Go figure.
So you see, the small of the back, without a proper holster, is a very bad place to carry a concealed weapon. Do your hero a big favor and write in a specially designed holster made for that area.
Two additional gun-carry no-no’s are:
1. The pants pocket. It’s far too easy for the hammer to catch on pocket material, preventing a quick draw. There’s nothing more embarrassing, or dangerous, than having to repeatedly pull and tug on your gun when you most need it. To make matters worse, the pocket material will more than likely rip and tear and come out attached to the barrel. And that, my friends, definitely makes your hero look pretty silly.
2. A woman’s pocketbook. Who knows how much stuff she’d have to paw through to even find her too big and too clunky gun, much less get a grip on it and draw. Besides, you know when the protagonist finally does manage to draw the weapon it’ll be coated with lint, two old lifesavers, two or three dry-cleaning receipts, and one of those things only carried by women. It’s not a pretty sight.
There are many purses and holsters specifically designed for concealed carry. Please buy one for the hero in your stories. They’ll be glad you did.