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Cadaver Confessions

     The table waited, a stainless steel thing almost evil in appearance, glistening wet, painfully clean and impersonal.  Tubes and hoses snaked here and there, some to the ceiling, some into graduated containers.   A tray of shiny sterile blades, butcher knives, scissors and surgical instruments would have been in the shadow of the stainless steel scale dangling above only there were no shadows in this room.  It was a harsh bright place foreign to life, a place devoid of any warmth, a place unimaginable to most and yet a place many would visit before being consigned to forever.  It was late Thursday afternoon but that didn’t matter here for the place was timeless of itself and the beginning of timeless for the uncaring clients who passed through on their way to nowhere.

Tucker was at home in here.  Broderick was at home in here.  The place had tried to make them conform, tried to make them cold and uncaring but it had certainly failed with Broderick who cared so much.  Tucker was pretty sure he had not been warped either.

     Thousands of times the two of them had performed their roles in the ritual of the suddenly dead.  With practice came deftness and it showed as they effortlessly slid a heavy body-bagged figure from the gurney to the wet table.  It showed as they removed the surrounding bag and carefully examined it lest any evidence which may have fallen from the body during transit should be lost.

If a hit and run had been involved, small flecks of paint from the offending vehicle might be found and a small fleck of paint would be enough for MacGafferty to identify the manufacturer, year and model of the offending vehicle. Pretty good information to have if you re searching for a hit and run killer. Most people didn’t know it, but it was impossible for a vehicle to strike a person hard enough to kill without leaving traces one on the other.

     But this case was not a hit and run.

     Tucker carefully removed the plastic bags that had been placed over the head and hands at the scene.  He examined them, sealed them and labeled them as evidence, signing each one separately.  Everyone who took possession of these sad fragments of a lost life would do the same and in this way an unbroken chain of evidence would be established, a necessity should the case go to trial.

     The body once known as DeLorian was still clothed exactly as found and Tucker carefully examined the clothing for any extraordinary material.  He took samples of loose hairs, a pinch of sawdust and small samples from a couple of stains which he added to the collection of exhibits.  The exact location of each was carefully recorded.

     He took scrapings from under each fingernail and separately bagged the results.  Should a struggle be suspected these could contain samples of the assailant’s hair, blood or clothing.  Nail clippings were also collected and saved because they could be evidential in case of metallic poisoning; arsenic, for example.

     He collected hair from the head and eyebrows, plucked rather than cut because the presence of some poisons can be determined by examining the root as well as the shaft of a single hair. He stuck the loose hairs on the sticky side of a piece of cellophane tape which he then stuck to a glass slide. He took no chances that his samples could be blown away or somehow lost.       The bagged slides were added to the evidence collection.

     Undressing a body was part force, part art.  The dumb thing always refused to aid in the process, seeming to resist the further humiliation in any way possible, but Tucker was practiced and the clothing came off one item at a time. 

     Had there been holes in the clothing they would have been related to concurring wounds in the body to determine the direction of knife thrust or gunshot, an exercise he had performed thousands of times on thousands of victims.  But there were no holes in DeLorian’s clothes; no knife thrust or gunshot.

     Regardless, each item was sealed in individual bags and marked as exhibits.  DeLorian had been dressed casually to say the least, but had there been a necktie or better yet a rope around his neck, the exact location of the knot would have been noted and the ligature cut through a specified distance from the knot which would have been preserved intact as evidence.  A knot could sometimes be tied differently if done by a left-handed person as opposed to one who was right-handed, something most killers apparently never thought about.

     Ultimately the monster formerly known as DeLorian lay there naked and Tucker began his examination.  Because of the head injury there was froth around the nose and mouth which he sampled and saved lest it show the presence of poisons under the ministrations of the ever vigilant MacGafferty.  Once this was accomplished he started at the top and worked his way down.

     He was careful as he examined the man’s hair because sometimes head wounds were almost completely concealed beneath a full head of hair.  This time there was no head wound. 

     He opened the eyes and looked for petechia, traumatic hemorrhages sometimes found in the conjunctiva in the eye that could be indicative of asphyxia.  Nothing extraordinary showed and, “Nothing extraordinary” were the exact words he dictated into the hanging microphone in his normal litany; his pathologists’ Mass for the dead.

     He peeled back the upper lip to look for pressure marks from the teeth which could indicate external pressure in that area, smothering with a pillow for example.  While in there he checked for a torn frenulum, the small flap of skin high inside the upper lip, which could indicate a blow to the face.

     So far “nothing extraordinary” had been repeated over and over.

     Tucker picked up his well used hand magnifying glass and went over the body carefully.

     “Four and a quarter inch scar on the anterior of the right shoulder,” went into the microphone and he placed a ruler beside the scar and snapped a picture.

     “Tattoo on the left forearm, a dagger with the words ‘Born to raise Hell’ beneath it,” was dictated and another picture taken with the ruler for scale.

     “Tattoo on right forearm of a heart pierced by an arrow with the word ‘Mother’ beneath it.”  Another picture for the file.  ‘I’ll bet she wouldn’t be too proud of you,’ was the thought that wasn’t dictated.

     Tucker had almost expected to find eyes, a nasty nose and an evil leer on the head of DeLorian’s penis, but there was nothing remarkable about the thing, nothing to show the wrong places it had been, the awful evil it had done.

     Aside from a ‘hammer toe’ which was duly noted, there was nothing else unusual on the front of the body. 

     Tucker rolled him over and started on the back.

     The man had a small scar below one shoulder blade and a lot of moles but nothing remarkable. 

     Tucker took the usual rectal swab and lifted each cheek to examine the crease beneath. Right cheek: nothing.  Left cheek: a small red dot that could have been a needle mark but probably wasn’t.

     Nothing behind the knees and nothing on the feet.

     He rolled the body once more and placed the block under DeLorian’s neck that tilted the head back to what would have been an uncomfortable angle had the man still cared.  This had the effect of thrusting the neck forward, exposing the region for what was to come.

     He always determined the amount of rigor mortis before beginning a dissection by lifting the eyelids, opening the jaw and moving the arms and legs. Rigor usually became apparent about five hours after death, although sometimes in cases of violent death it might happen a little sooner. The condition lasted for about two days before it began to disappear as autolysis destroyed the muscle proteins.  Cadaveric spasm was something else altogether; not rigor, but rather a spasmodic contraction that may or may not occur in violent deaths, the gripping of a pistol in a suicide for example.  It was not a factor in this case and the rigor was completely gone by now, duly noted.

     The X-ray examination of the body was done at this time to help locate any small fractures which would be difficult to find during the upcoming dissection.  Tucker wasn’t surprised when these showed nothing remarkable.  The man’s dead daughter had shown enough damage for both of them.

     Tucker always took a moment to look at the body before he began dissection.  It was the last time any human would see the body as a whole, as an undefiled human being, because what he was about to do would never go away, would never heal.  He couldn’t help but think of that man hanging over and brutalizing those naive little girls.  How shocked and stunned they must have been during what had to be their worst time ever as they watched that face and felt the weight of this man in the throes of his selfish self-gratification.

     Tucker took his scalpel and set to work on the bastard.  A couple of Maalox would have been a good thing.

     His normal routine was to start a cut behind the ear running down the side of the neck to the clavicle. This was done on each side of the head and the two incisions were joined with ‘Y’ shaped cut that went just above the nipples and met on the sternum.         From the center of the ‘Y’ he swiftly cut down DeLorian’s front, swung a little ‘U’ around his naval and stopped at his groin.

So much for the surgical tools.  Tucker put down the scalpel and took up a small knife.  He peeled back the neck skin and checked the hyoid bone which, if broken, almost always indicated some form of manual strangulation had taken place.  DeLorian’s hyoid bone was intact.  Another possibility put to bed.

     He traded the small knife for one that could only be called a butcher knife, although not in front of Tucker, and began to flay the skin of the chest from the point of the ‘Y’ upward in the same way a deer would be skinned.  He laid the loose flesh over the man’s face and went to work on the chest flaps which he skinned off the same way and folded off to the side exposing the ribcage and abdominal organs.

     A little water was put into the area between the ribs and skin and the underlying tissue was then nicked with a scalpel.  Any bubbles would have indicated a collapsed lung beneath but he had expected none and he was not to be surprised on this day.

     “Nothing extraordinary,” went into the microphone once more.

     Normally the ribs were cut through with a rib cutter, small shears with offset blades, but for adults Tucker preferred the big pruning shears a landscaper would use, the ones with long wooden handles. These provided more leverage which was nice since in adults the ribs have calcified and are fairly difficult to sever.  

     The small curved blades grabbed each rib and effortlessly snapped the bone as he worked his way up each side of the sternum.  He left the uppermost rib intact and used it as a hinge when he loosened the sternum plate and rotated it upwards. For the first time, DeLorian’s thoracic organs were exposed and Tucker once again spoke the words into the microphone. 

     “Nothing extraordinary.”

     He removed the lungs all floppy and glistening wet, examined them and weighed them then did the same with the heart and all the other organs.  He took samples of blood, urine, kidney and liver for toxicology.  The stomach was opened; the contents scooped out with a stainless steel ladle and sealed in a container for MacGafferty to work his miracles of identification.  DeLorian’s last meal would soon be identified and noted.  The small intestine also gave up its contents for analysis and there was no way any poison would remain undetected.

T     here were no bubbles or frothy blood in the inferior vena cava so air embolism was not a factor.  Nobody had injected air into the monster’s veins to kill him although it seemed like a good idea to Tucker.  Actually this occurred far more frequently by accident, as a result of a large vein being opened to the air, say during an automobile accident or some other major trauma.  Unfortunately it was also fairly common as a result of improper do-it-yourself abortion techniques, in particular the injection of soapy water or some other foreign substance into the uterus. This type of death had been one of Tucker’s early mistakes when he had diagnosed it as murder, not yet understanding that air ingested in that way could take several minutes to reach the heart and kill the victim.  That left them time to clean up and remove any signs of their self-inflicted operation before they suffered the inevitable consequences which was what that particular victim had done.

     Bone marrow was sampled and so was the vitreous humor, the clear fluid inside the eye, since this represented a chemical pool that remained relatively isolated from the rest of the body since death.

     Because of the head wound, he also opened the head.

     Tucker picked up a scalpel and made an incision across the top of the skull extending from ear to ear automatically keeping it rather far back for cosmetic reasons.  He separated the scalp from the skull and folded it away leaving the glistening white bone exposed.  He had a special tool, a small vibrating power saw and he buzzed his way around the skull, leaving a couple of notches so the piece could be properly realigned following the procedure. The calvaria or skull cap was removed and that evil brain was exposed.

     “Nothing extraordinary,” he reported for he could only report on the organ’s appearance, not the twisted impulses that had lived inside.  He removed the brain, noted the hemorrhage caused by the injury, a bit smaller than he had expected actually, then collected samples from various areas.  He also sampled the pituitary gland buried beneath.  He returned the brain, carefully replaced the calvaria and sutured the incision closed.

     Tucker put the other organs back more or less in place and closed the incision with large running sutures, using the understitching technique so familiar to undertakers because it prevented any leakage.

     That finished it was time to examine the body one final time for any petechia on the skin which may have become more visible once blood had drained out of surrounding tissues during the procedure. They, too, could indicate asphyxia. Besides petechia any patterns of injuries, bruises from an assailant’s fingertips for example, could also become more apparent.

     There was nothing to note.

     He stood looking down at the body, the procedure finished and waited for the normal feeling that he was done but it didn’t happen.  There was a nagging sense of something missed, some little thing not completed.