Dead Horse Bay




I was working day work 7am-5pm in New York City at Gateway National Recreation Area in Brooklyn. I decided to park my police car along the Belt Parkway and walk along the beach. The beach was an area adjacent Dead Horse Bay that car thieves dumped  a lot of stolen cars. Teenagers would steal the cars, then drive them down to the beach at low tide. Their goal was to make the car unrecoverable, so they'd have bragging rights.

Dead Horse Bay was a weird place as a former home of horse rendering plants, fish oil factories, and landfills. From the 1850-1930's, animal carcasses were used to make glue, fertilizer, and other products. The chopped-up bones and any animal body parts not used were dumped into the bay. The bay was known back then for its horrific smell. I'd walked the beach before finding horse leg and rib bones among the burnt stolen vehicle hulks.  At low tide, the place had a malevolent smell to it like rotten eggs.

My two years working in New York, I'd dealt with dead bodies, body parts, and medical waste. We'd closed the beach at Riis Park after a load of twenty cadaver arms washed up on the beach. I'd seen dead bodies from shootings, car wrecks, and fires. I'd seen drowning victims, overdose victims, and blunt trauma victims. I'd responded once to the body of a union scab during a newspaper strike. The body was wired to a newspaper machine dumped in Dead Horse Bay. I remember it vividly as the dead man had one of his hands locked into a thumbs up. The EMTs left the dead guy's thumbs up hand hang out of their vehicles backdoor as a gag.

The beach was covered with the usual garbage and several stolen vehicle hulks that I'd previously documented. The sun was warm and there was  a slight breeze. The traffic on the Belt Parkway and Flatbush avenue was light as it was a Sunday morning, so I could hear the Piping Plovers chirping. Movement to my right caught my eye. It was a large plastic grocery bag moving sitting on the sand. As I walked towards the bag I could hear something rubbing against plastic making squeaking sounds.  Now, I was really curious what was in the bag. My first thought was, I hoped it was not a dead baby.

My imagination was starting to run away with me. As a cop, I'd dealt with a dead baby and a child case in the last six months. The dead child was a floater. It was a five year old boy at Canarsie Pier. The baby was also a floater. The baby was a newborn most likely flushed down a toilet. Both cases made me not want to deal with anymore dead children. Dead adults did not seem to bother me, but kids did. I was married, but we did not have children. I think it was the finality that these dead children would never see adulthood that got to me or just my Catholicism showing its roots.

I began walking on the beach towards the moving grocery bag thinking there was a baby inside it. I was thinking, who would leave a baby in a plastic grocery bag on the beach? My mind was racing with possibilities. I looked around looking to see if my co-workers were playing  a joke on me. I was wondering what kind of shape the baby be in. Would I have to perform first aid or CPR? Then, I started thinking if it was a rabid animal in the bag. I pulled my police baton off my belt and slowly opened the bag thinking something was going to jump out at me.

The bag kept making the scraping sound as something was trying to get out. Whatever was in the bag was approximately twenty inches long and twelve inches across as outlined in the plastic bag. I was sure it was a baby as I began running scenarios in my head about rendering first aid no matter what shape the ailing baby was in. I did not want the baby to die on me as I'd had adult victims expire while rendering first aid. I'd talked to a dying man stuck inside a wheel well at a ten car accident on the Marine Parkway Bridge. I knew the man was dying, but I kept telling him he was alright when he repeatedly asked how bad was it? The man was crushed into the wheel well.

I slowly began thinking about opening the bag wondering what was inside as my mind wondered over dead body incidents . I bent over and crouched down to open the bag. Inside the bag was a giant brown horseshoe crab. When I saw it was  a horseshoe crab, I fell onto the sand laughing like a man who dodged another dead baby. I was elated it was not a hurt or dying baby. I freed the horseshoe crab before walking back to my car whistling.