When the lieutenant stepped out of the car, the soles of his shoes sizzled against the black top. It’d been over a hundred for two weeks now. The city couldn’t take much more of this heat.
The first officer on the scene was a young patrolman, he sat on a concrete planter in front of the modest shotgun house, holding a handkerchief against his mouth, vomit splattered at his feet and over his shoes.
“Another one?” Asked the lieutenant.
“Yes, sir. Elderly lady. Neighbors called in about the smell. She’s – it’s bad in there, I wouldn’t go in, wait on the morgue boys.”
“Might be a bit of a wait.” Sighed the lieutenant, he hadn’t gotten much sleep since the bodies started piling up. “They’re pullin’ some triangulation crap, saying the need the city council to authorize the overtime or they can’t keep workin’ these hours.”
“How many does this make?”
“Somewhere north of seventy, I imagine. If it keeps up at this rate, we’ll be lucky if it stops before it breaks a hundred.”
“What the hell are we supposed to do, sir? Can’t arrest the weather.”
“Do like they did in the old days, son. Pray for rain.”
During the summer of 1980, a killer stalked the streets of Memphis, taking 83 lives in less than three weeks. It was a heat wave that locked the city and most of the Midwest in hundred-plus degree temperatures. All of the victims were elderly citizens, and nearly all of those were poor minorities. While the cost in human life was staggering, it helped teach the city how to prepare and manage extreme heat, keeping future death tolls to a minimum.