Chapter 9: Santa Clara Coroner

From my debut novel

February 6, 2020
Payman found Bita dead in their bed on the morning of February 6, just 17 days after Bita could not go to work. Some days, she said she was feeling much better and ready to get up and go to work, but she noticed as soon as she got up she felt too weak, and would fall over.

She spiked a fever again and found herself in bed the entire day. Payman wanted her to go to the emergency department in a nearby hospital, but Bita refused because it would have cost a fortune, and they wouldn’t have been able to pay it. She told him she would be okay if she just rested.

Payman noticed that Bita had stopped coughing and waking him up constantly that night. He had a good night’s sleep for a change, without being interrupted by her movements or coughs. Now, he found her dead, not moving at all and already cold to touch.

Sheer panic set him off, and he ran around the apartment, not knowing what to do. Bita’s parents said to call the ambulance. The kids were dumbfounded and kept shaking their grandmother to get up. Payman called 911 and frantically reported that his wife was dead. The 911 dispatcher sent the ambulance within 10 minutes. The ambulance workers then called the county coroner’s office and the police department.

Soon the whole apartment perimeter became like a crime scene with yellow tape all over the place, a few neighbors gathering to see what was going on in their building, and a white truck with a huge CORONER sign parked nearby. No one could go into Payman’s unit.

Bita’s parents went outside, escaping from the sight because they couldn’t distinguish whether these police officers and other people from the coroner’s office were from the immigration office. All government agencies in uniform were a danger sign to them, and they ran as far away as possible from them.

The kids and Payman were standing outside when the investigation began, not knowing where exactly Bita’s parents were. They probably went out to the nearby park, Payman thought.

Photo by Keira Burton





One police officer asked Payman for the details of how he found his wife dead. He thought they were treating him like he was already a criminal who killed his wife. Somehow, he was stuttering like a guilty person answering the questions. The police made him come back into the bedroom where Bita was still lying in their bed. Payman worried his grandkids would run somewhere to find their grandparents while he was trying to answer what happened that morning when he found his wife dead.

The coroner workers were wearing white coverall suits and taking photos as the police officer directed. Then they moved the body and took Bita into the coroner’s truck. Payman signed the paperwork to give permission to conduct an autopsy at the county coroner’s office by the medical examiner. All these steps were new to him. He did not know why she had to get an autopsy. The police officer said all deaths occurring at home need examined by the medical examiner for possible homicide, or suicide. There was no other information given to Payman as to when he could get the body back for funeral arrangements, and he couldn’t think about asking appropriate questions. He did whatever the police and coroner’s officers asked

By the late afternoon, they were all gone. Bita was also gone. The only remaining thing was the yellow tape around his unit, and a part of his building entrance. He went out to find his grandkids and in-laws. Luckily, they were standing across the street and Payman went to them, hugging all of them, and cried. They all joined in and began to wail.

The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner was Dr. Melissa Jordan, who conducted the full autopsy on Bita, including her brain. She signed off on the cause of death on the certificate as pneumonia. Bita’s lungs were heavy and congested with serosanguinous fluid within the pleural cavities. It fit well with a flu caused by influenza, as per the patient’s history of symptoms. Influenza causing pneumonia claimed thousands of lives per year. Dr. Jordan did not see any telltale signs of murder. She sent the blood sample and pieces of lung sample from Bita to the CDC as a precaution to rule out other possible infectious etiology. Bita was only 57 years-old when she died.

Read the entire novel. All of the author’s royalties are donated to those in need. Go to https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08P7486XX

CONNECT to receive $3 discount code on my eBook – by July 30, 2021

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