lady did things
She cut from one
side of her wrists to the other and made very deep cuts.
Because of this, she
successfully cut both arteries in both wrists.
drove for about five minutes when the next call came in. We still
hadn’t been able to change our uniforms or get something to
was a dispatch to a possible suicide at a private house in an upscale
neighborhood about fifteen minutes from our present location. The
husband had called it in.
our lights and sirens response, we arrived at a grand house. Actually,
it was more like an estate. A long, horseshoe-gated drive
led to the front door with a tall portico. It was wide enough for
three cars at a time to be parked under it, side by side, at the same
time. We came to a stop at the double door, front door.
outside, patiently waiting, was a man wearing a formal evening suit
with a blue French cuff dress shirt and a gold silk tie. There was
also a huge diamond solitaire on his right-hand index finger. It was
impossible not to notice it. It was shooting out stars and ice-blue
lightning bolts. These people had money.
he was patiently waiting. It was like he was waiting for the arrival
of a friend. There was no anxiety, no sense of urgency, and no
waving us in. He was just standing there.
we pulled to a stop, he calmly approached the passenger side of the
ambulance, and we rolled down the window.
inside, upstairs in the master bath,” he said calmly. “She’s
threatened to do this many times over the years,” he continued,
“and after rushing home many times, just to find her drunk, I
finally stopped believing her. But today, when she called, something
about her voice was different. This time, something told me I should
probably come home and check on her.”
that, we grabbed our “first-out” gear while the
Firefighter first responders grabbed the gurney from the ambulance,
and we all began to run into the house.
no hurry,” he continued as he slowly followed, “I’m
sure she’s gone, and what’s that smell?”
turned around to look at him and said, “It’s been a rough
it had,” I thought. “Two calls in an hour and a half,
and both patients were dead.”
will probably be the same for this one,” I thought while I
followed the man with the gold silk tie with the Windsor knot.
climbing the curving staircase, he pointed us to the bedroom and the
master bath. There we found a naked lady lying in a bathtub filled
to the rim with red water. I reached down and touched it, and it was
warm. I remembered what he had said outside and silently agreed. She
was probably “gone.”
were long horizontal, linear lacerations on the inside surface of
each wrist. Each was done perfectly and looked more like incisions a
surgeon would make rather than self-inflected lacerations done to
commit suicide. Each one extended the whole width of the wrist from
the thumb to the baby finger. They were deep, wide open, and
are two parallel arteries in the wrist just above the hands. One is
on the thumb side, and the other is on the baby finger side. They
travel in straight lines coming from the arm into the hand. That
means they are as wide apart as the wrist is wide.
people attempting suicide by wrist cutting do it by cutting from the
middle to one side. Also, they usually don’t cut deep enough. Mostly
what I saw were cut veins, and veins bleed very slowly. That’s why we
usually arrive in time for a suicide attempt by
wrist cutting. But in this case, we did not. It appeared this lady
knew what she was doing.
few who succeed with these inefficient cuts have a long, drawn-out
dying process. They only succeed in dying because they don’t
call anyone to tell them what they have done. Or, they call too
late. Instead, after hours have passed, they die alone and are found
too late when someone comes home.
lady did things correctly. She cut from one side of her wrists to
the other and made very deep cuts. Because of this, she successfully
cut both arteries in both wrists.
think of it. The only way to do the deed was to cut one wrist at a
time. Then, change the razor blade to the hand of the just-cut wrist
with two arteries squirting blood and do the same to the other wrist.
Can you imagine the grit and determination that must have taken? Or
I believe she knew what she was doing because of the warm water. When
we first walked into the bathroom, I touched the water in the
tub. That’s how I knew it was warm. Immediately I thought she
had been determined to die. From the outset, her purpose was to kill
herself, and she did.
the inside flat edge of the tub, where the side wall meets the rear
wall and forms the corner with a flat space, there was an ashtray
with the butts of two filtered cigarettes.
had smoked them until there wasn’t anything left to smoke. Then
she had forcefully crushed them. They were still bent in half and
squashed flat. She had made sure they were out.
lighter and an almost full pack of cigarettes were next to the
ashtray, and they both had blood on them. She must have smoked at
least one cigarette after cutting one of her wrists. On the outside
edge of the tub was a chimney glass. It still had ice and a few
drops of yellow liquid at the bottom. There was also orange juice
pulp clinging to the inside. Perhaps The Razorblade Lady was
drinking a screwdriver cocktail and smoking cigarettes while making
the cuts. The outside of the glass also had blood on it.
there she was, her feet toward the faucet and drain and her head
resting on the back rim of the tub and the wall. The ashtray,
cigarettes, and lighter were on the right side of her head in the
corner, and the empty glass was on the other side, sitting on the
flat rim of the tub.
finishing her cocktail and smoking her cigarettes, she must have just
laid there in her warm bath while she fell asleep to death. The warm
water was so red it was doubtful any blood was left in her.
at least she had a kosher death,” said one of the Firefighter
first responders, who happened to be Jewish.
understand a lot of us who do this kind of work are members of an
affected group. Not all, but a high percentage are. I certainly
things are so horrible, gruesome, and ugly that we need to find a way
to deal with it at that moment. If we let it affect us, we probably
wouldn’t be much good for the patient at hand or the next one.
of the ways we do this is to use humor. But it’s not “funny,
Ha Ha” humor. What the Firefighter used was Sardonic humor. It is a
type of humor that is dry,
understated, and sort of mocking and it is known for clever remarks
that sting because they are so accurate.
Firefighter did not mean to mock this patient or her suffering. We
all knew that. Rather, he was trying to deflect the full impact of
what he was experiencing. In our ways, we all were. My partner
brought a white sheet from the ambulance and covered her
gathered our equipment while the Firefighters helped return the
gurney to the ambulance. As we began to pull away, I radioed
dispatch that we were back in service and available.
we had driven the length of the other leg of that long horseshoe
driveway and out the other gate, dispatch contacted us again.
partner and I looked at each other, and while I was turning on the
lights and siren, I said, “I hope it’s not going to be
one of those shifts.”
my hope didn’t do any good. What lay ahead was to become the
most tragic shift I had ever worked or would ever work again.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Henry's story list and biography
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher