01 1.0 The Light Who Shines3Bluebell Kildare

May 27, 2022, Red Ages

I think to myself how ugly the new Medical Examiner’s building is as I eat up the sidewalk on the way in. It rises out of the mountainside as a cement and steel square oddity in discord with the rustic countryside. Hopefully it was gentle on the taxpayers’ pocketbooks because it certainly is no asset to our architecture.

By now the rain has stopped, and a steady, cooling breeze blows my hair across my face. I tuck it behind my ear as I enter the building.

Inside, the receptionist accepts my ID and gives her reluctant assent for me to proceed to the autopsy room. I gather by the way her mouth sours on sight of me that she doesn’t care for my kind. I don’t care for her kind either—the breedist kind.

Pushing past the steel door, I enter the heart of the operation. Dr. Nathan Perlman, with a two-day shadow on his chin and a clipboard in his hand, stands over a body. He seems tired and worn. He looks up, and forces his usual affable smile. “Good morning, Bluebell. I was expecting you.”

He covers the body with a white sheet and pushes the table through a cooler door while whistling. I think the whistling is for his benefit more than mine. He pulls out another table, maneuvering it toward the examining area. “This is our boy.”

“I’m afraid to ask what you’ve found.”

Nathan nods solemnly. “The only good thing is I know you’re going to find the person who did this. That thought has been my saving grace today.”

I say softly and firmly, meaning it from the bottom of my soul, “I promise, Nathan. I’ll do my very best.”

Nathan nods and pulls back the sheet. He picks up another clipboard then starts his report. “This is a summary of my preliminary findings. The cause of death appears to be due to blunt force head trauma caused by a vehicular collision.” Nathan points to an area on the front of the boy’s skull. “The frontal bone was crushed on impact, causing fracture contusions on his brain, massive hemorrhage, and immediate death. Fragments of glass were found in the wound area.”

Nathan points to the back of the boy’s skull. “The occipital bone was also fractured, causing brain contusions and additional hemorrhage. Abrasions on this injury site have fragments of asphalt embedded in the wound.”

Nathan pulls the sheet down further and points to the boy’s hip. “His left pelvis is crushed, and his right pelvis has multiple fractures. This pattern of contusions appears to be from a car’s grill.” He points to a crosshatch of bloody stripes on the boy’s skin extending from his left hip down over his left thigh.

Nathan pulls the sheet down further still and points to the lower left leg where the bone protrudes. “His left tibia and his left fibula both have complete fractures and several incomplete fractures. The tibia on his right leg has one incomplete fracture. Green paint chips were found embedded in his thigh.”

Nathan pauses and looks at me. “These injuries indicate his death was caused by impact with a passenger vehicle driving at moderate speed. It appears the car hit him at a slight angle from the left. His leg was immediately broken by the bumper, and his hip and thigh hit the grill at an angle. His forehead hit the windshield, causing instantaneous death. At that time, I believe the driver braked and the boy’s body was thrown onto the asphalt where the road impacted his skull again leaving asphalt in the back of his head. His back side is covered in contusions and embedded with asphalt.”

I feel nausea and tension building in my stomach. What Nathan has told and shown me so far isn’t too much. I’ve been doing this for a while. It’s that I know there is much more to come and it’s a lot to handle at once. I ask, “Can you give me a minute?”

Nathan nods. “Take as much time as you need.” He gently covers the boy’s body again with the sheet.

I turn my back on the table and walk away. I begin to pace briskly, but the sound of my heels clicking on the cold cement floor reverberates through the room and agitates me more. I halt, turn toward the opposite corner of the room, and close my eyes. Tension fills my body, and horror reels in the back of my mind, threatening to overcome me. I roll my neck and do some slow, deep breathing to contain it. When I finally restore some calm to my body, I return.

“Okay, Doc. I’m ready. What else do you have?”

Nathan mercifully keeps the sheet over the body and says, “During my internal examination, I found the body well hydrated, but the gall bladder is distended, and the stomach and intestines are empty. The total body weight is 112 pounds, with a height of five eleven, giving the deceased a BMI of 15.6. This information combined with his labs tells me this boy was dangerously undernourished.”

“Can you tell how long he was without food?” I ask.

Nathan replies, “He did not have food recently, but it’s unclear if his malnourishment came from having no food for a short period or inadequate food for a longer period. The amount of time a person can survive on little or no sustenance depends on their starting weight and basic metabolic rate. I can say the extent of his other injuries prior to the collision would’ve increased his energy requirements significantly.”

“Okay,” I say, taking that in. I cross my arms over my chest as if to shield myself from the information. “What else do you have?”

Nathan draws the sheet aside to reveal one hand and points at the boy’s wrist. “Both wrists are encircled in calluses about two inches wide. Bruising and contusions encircle the base of his hands.”

He points to the upper arm and shoulder. “Behind the shoulder, the teres major muscle is torn on both sides, and the ligament tissue connecting the long head of the triceps brachii muscle to the bone is torn. Both ankles show similar calluses and contusions. The injuries and bruising on both the ankles and the wrists show all stages of healing, which means the wounds were continuously inflicted over at least two weeks.”

Holding my hand up for a pause, I probe, “Is it possible he was tied with a rope or handcuffed?”

Nathan’s face turns into a deep scowl. “It wasn’t rope, there were no fibers embedded. The skin is clean as though it was metal encasing his hands and feet. But handcuffs are too narrow to provide the wide grooving and callusing I see here. These injuries are more consistent with having feet shackled and hands shackled over the head.”

Nathan moves to the end of the table and gently folds back the sheet that covers the boy’s feet and lower legs. A foul odor fills the air, making my stomach roil in protest. I reluctantly join Nathan at that side of the table.

Nathan points to the bottom of the boy’s feet, which are black, wrinkled, and covered in sores. “This boy had a condition commonly known as trench foot. This is evidenced by the wrinkled skin on the bottoms of his feet and the blisters and open sores on the bottoms and sides of his feet.”

He points to the black, rotting toe and says, “Fungal infection and gangrene had set in. This stage of trench foot lasts from two to six weeks. Additionally, I found evidence of human fecal matter and urine on his feet. Trench foot occurs when the foot is in damp and cold but not freezing conditions for an extended period of time.” Nathan steps back covering the feet again.

Nathan sighs. “I have one last area of injury to show you.” He gently rolls the boy over on his side and lifts the sheet to show his back. I see wounds and bruising extending from his waist to his neck. “First of all, he has a mark, a green circle on his lower back. I assume it’s a magic mark, but you are a better judge than I. As you observed at the scene, this boy had lacerations and bruising covering his entire back. They’re in various stages of healing. Because the wounds are deeper in this area,” Nathan explains as he points to the boy’s mid-back where the skin is stripped away and muscle is exposed, “I estimate this healing took place over the course of three to four weeks. The forensic report will take some time, but I found fibers in these wounds that appeared to be conditioned animal hide. Preliminarily, I believe these injuries were sustained from a leather whip.”

I step back, turn away, and clasp my shaking hands as I fill with insurmountable rage. The sound of my blood pulsing through my body fills my ears with a wild rushing noise as my head buzzes. I try to regain some control, but the image of the boy is vivid in my mind. I see him starving, chained, and shackled in some cold, dark place. I see him being whipped day after day until his flesh peels away like the skin of an onion. With great effort, I push the image into a corner of my mind. I need to carry on. My job is to find the monster who did this. I will find him.

With my back still turned, I ask, “Anything else?”

Nathan answers, “No. But I did check for sexual assault and am at least relieved that there are no signs he had to endure that indignity as well.”

“Thank goodness for small miracles. Our perpetrator is a real saint, isn’t he?” Spinning around to face Nathan and the body again, I inquire, “Did you send the preliminary report over to Detective Gambino?”

Nathan smiles wryly. “Yes, about an hour ago. I included images and measurements of the grill pattern.”

I tip my hat to Nathan, bowing slightly in gratitude. “Thank you so much, Nathan, for doing what needs to be done. Call me if you find anything else significant or when the pathology and forensic results come back.”

“Certainly. But can I ask you a personal question?”

I nod my assent and Nathan asks, “Why do you insist on coming here for the preliminary results rather than just accepting my report? Wouldn’t it be easier to take in writing? I see how much it affects you.”

I look Nathan directly in the eyes to divulge my logic. “There are two reasons. First, I’m a Sensitive. While I can’t feel anything from a body when the soul has left, by looking at it, and hearing and seeing what happened, I get a feel for the shape of the evilness that possessed the perpetrator. When I encounter a soul capable of that sort of evilness, I sometimes see a potential match. My sense can’t be conclusive, but it can tell me if a person could possibly be the perpetrator. I can also rule people out. The second reason is I need to feel the pain. That drives me to find the perpetrator. I’ll remember today countless times when I’m frustrated or at a loss, and because of today, I’ll keep on.”

Nathan looks at me with understanding dawning on his face, and I feel his empathy wafting toward me. “I can’t imagine what it is to feel the soul of a person who does things like this.”

I accept his empathy with a nod. Then I walk out, remarking over my shoulder, “In case you’re wondering, you have a good soul, Nathan.” He has a very good soul.

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