“Damn passwords,” the officer looked at the cell phone that he found on the body four days ago. Both it and the laptop in the trailer, if you could call it that, were locked down with passwords. He kept the phone charged and on his desk, hoping that someone who knew the poor guy would call to ask where he was.
Last one took four months before anyone noticed.
“They’ll call. They always do,” his deputy answered, “When he’s supposed to be back in spring and doesn’t show up, they’ll call.” The officer took a deep breath and placed the phone back on his desk. She was right. They always call. The guy was buried in the Palo Verde cemetery, but they hadn’t ordered the gravestone yet, even though they had his full name. Got that from the driver’s license, but not much else was in the guy’s pockets.
He had been a friendly fellow. The other campers in the Wash had spoken to him. Apparently, he had fed every single one of them at one time or another. Probably why his death was discovered and reported before the scavengers got to him.
The officer didn’t see too many teardrops in this area. Mostly because there weren’t any bathrooms on the BLM land. The guy had set up a porta-potty in a little shower tent nearby. It had been emptied recently, so he was a meticulous guy. No stink. His trailer was neat and expertly made, but was a home-brew. Probably what killed him.
The guy’s phone suddenly rang. The image of an Indian in a ranger’s uniform appeared on the screen with the name Samson Tso. Mighty weird name for an Indian. The officer hesitated answering for just a second, because now the hard part comes: telling him the poor guy’s dead. Must not be Indian. Must be Chinese or something.
“Hello?” he answered, tentatively. The voice on the other end definitely sounded Asian and he felt like a fool for thinking the guy was American Indian. “Joey?” The officer drew in a deep breath. Why was this always so hard? He could feel the sting of tears hit the inside of his nose and sniffled hard. Keep it together.
“Sorry, Samson. This isn’t Joey. This is Officer Gilbert in Quartzsite, Arizona. Joey died four days ago from carbon monoxide poisoning.” The other end of the line spewed a string of explicatives, mostly cursing propane heating systems and something about Crazy Eddie. Who was this guy? One of Joey’s friends? He couldn’t be a blood relative. That skinny blonde guy didn’t have a drop of Asian blood in him, for sure.
“I’m sorry, officer. It’s been a bad year for carbon monoxide. We lost a long-time resident here from the same thing and I’m still upset about it.” Officer Gilbert didn’t know what to say. He wanted to find out about next of kin so he could get the guy’s rig out of holding and pay off the burial. “Couldn’t call nobody ‘cause his phone is locked down with a password. You wouldn’t happen to know it, would you?” The guy replied, “It’s ‘tiny.’ I can’t remember the numbers, but they spell out ‘tiny.’ For his laptop, it’s ‘tinytears.’ God, I KNEW something was wrong when he stopped blogging. I shoulda called two days ago!”
The officer tried the password on the laptop and it released its hold. Now, he would have to try to find a next of kin. “Don’t worry yourself. You wouldn’t happen to know his family, would you?” The ranger answered, “I think his parents are dead and he was an only child, but I know he has friends all over the nation. He has been traveling for a while. I think he was from Boise originally.”
Great, a long search ahead. The guy on the other end of the phone continued, “I guess you buried him already?” The officer answered, “Yeah, it’s colder this year than it’s been for years, but not cold enough to keep a body for four days.” He could hear the ranger shuffle the phone. “We’ve got the opposite problem here. Ground’s too frozen to dig. Had to bring up jackhammers from Up North to dig Crazy Eddie’s grave.”
The officer shivered at the thought of a place so very cold. The temperatures in Quartzsite were so low that campers were having trouble with hard freezes in their water tanks. He reviled at the black water tank that had exploded under the diesel pusher in La Posa. He rubbed his nose at the memory of the stench. Why? Why did they want to live in a rolling house when they had to deal with their own excrement instead of letting it flush easily down the toilet in a real house? He would never understand it.
“I’d like to pay for a gravestone for him, if that’s possible.” The officer was snapped out of his recollection of raw sewage spewed over the desert floor. “That’d be mighty nice of you. Just let me get you a phone number for the mortuary in Blythe. We don’t got our own.” The ranger answered, “We don’t either.” The guy was quiet as Officer Gilbert recited the information.