She's hollering right now.
"There were body pieces everywhere, but at least they died quickly. You don't know about the others, how long it took for them to bleed out. I was out on a scene once and a cop held out his hand and said, `Look! An eyeball."'
She's not hollering because it's a big deal; it's just how she talks.
At least she's not laughing. When she laughs it sounds like a 1951 Ford crashing into a pyramid of empty oil barrels.
We have worked with our beloved colleague Tracy Manzer for 18 years, which is to say half our professional life. And for the last 10, we've worked next to her; the same 10 years she's been covering police, fire and, later, courts as well.
Friday is Tracy's last day at the Press-Telegram and we don't know if we can handle the silence.
It's not just the silence we're dreading; it's the abrupt lack of horror that will come with her departure.
Virtually every column we've written, and there've been thousands of them, were written with her sitting next to us chattering about such matters as a woman who raised her daughter in a cardboard shoe box or a guy who was found dead in his garage being eaten by cats.
We'll be killing ourself trying to think of a funnier way to say how big a guy's head is, and trying to tune Tracy out, and we've gotten pretty good at it, but we always catch the worst parts: "So he chopped him up and shoved the pieces into his girlfriend's mail box," or "by the time they found her, most of her body had been eaten by crabs and sea gulls."
We don't throw the term "legend" around much, unless we're talking about Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, but it applies to Tracy and her work at this newspaper. She has had zero tolerance for idiots, whether they're cops or firefighters, criminals, attorneys, editors or creeps on the street who find her fetching enough to go up to her and declare, "I ain't never had me a redhead."
Part of her legend is her language, which we enjoy immensely, but it's not to everyone's taste. People with a smattering of decency, for instance, will be taken aback by her conversational style, which is littered with more filth than a Skid Row creekbed. She uses terms regularly that make George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV" sound like the lyrics to a sweet, sweet lullaby.
Here's a sample of one of her rather long complaints about a certain person, with all the dirty, filthy language left out:
The tragic part about Tracy leaving, the part that makes us think she's not half the man she thinks she is, is the fact that she's throwing away her career to follow her husband, Keith, to Washington, D.C., where he is serving as press secretary to the newly elected congressman Alan Lowenthal.
We did what we could to keep her here. We put up lawn signs for Gary DeLong, Lowenthal's competitor in the last election. We contributed vast sums of money to DeLong's super PAC. We threw enough money at the Press-Telegram's editorial board to have it change its endorsement from Lowenthal to DeLong. We asked Lowenthal to do the right thing and fire Keith, but he didn't have the decency to do it.
So, now instead of covering crime, disaster and justice, she'll be waddling around the beltway running her little errands, doing grocery shopping, trying on housecoats, going to dinners as her husband's cute little trophy wife, having a litter of kids to swear at. It is an utter waste of a life.
It's not that we'll just miss Tracy's horrible stories and sickening language. She has been, for a decade, what we in cubicleville call our work wife. She has tarted herself up every day for our amusement, wearing stunning spike heels and, on special occasions, her "implied consent dress," which is a smart little outfit that explodes off the body like an airbag when activated.
We weren't happy when she got married to a real husband. For their wedding gift we got them a cast-iron skillet for Tracy to bean Keith with. We never thought he'd drag her off to a faraway land.
Perhaps we're revealing too much now. We do, after all, have a real wife of our own who's going to be a tad unhappy about that last paragraph (she meant nothing to me, honey; it was a silly 10-year fling), to say nothing of Keith's thoughts about all this.
Let's just say that, for a hundred reasons beyond those we've already mentioned, we'll miss Tracy. Lord knows how her absence will affect our writing, or how cops and firefighters and editors and judges and attorneys and criminals and prosecutors and defendants will manage life without her.
We just know crime, tragedy and horror just won't be fun anymore.