As I approach the house with my medic pack over my shoulder and my monitor and isolation bag in my hands, two boys, maybe fifteen or sixteen, stand on the sidewalk out front of the building, and look at me expectantly. "He's not alive? Is he? Is he still alive?" the shorter one asks.
I keep walking, up the stairs and through the front door, headed for the third floor. The fire department is there waiting for me. They let me through. The apartment, empty of furniture, looks under haphazard renovation.
The man, maybe in his sixties, dressed in a blue winter jacket and a red knit hat, is on the floor. He has rigor mortis with lividity. His limbs are stiff and his blood has pooled to the dependent parts. With the freezing temperatures outside and no heat in the apartment it is hard to tell how long he has been dead. The boys outside apparently found him while they were doing whatever it is kids do when they trespass. The building owner says the man is homeless. He last saw him a week ago down on the corner by the ranch house restaurant. He was sick. How did he die in this cruel winter? I don't know. Opioids? COVID? Hypothermia? No matter the way, he died alone. I run my six second strip of asystole, and write down the time. I hand the arriving police officer the presumption of death information, and exit.
The two boys are still outside. "Did he have a pulse?" the shorter one asks again.
I shake my head as I walk past.