In the House of McDreamy

Note: For the sake of my own sanity, I’m going to apply some more code-names to some of the principal actors involved in this situation. To wit: Detective October is the police detective I (briefly) met during my first call to John Q’s House of WTF — my impression of him was of a man in his mid-to-late fifties, and an experienced crime scene investigator who was, on that night, having visible difficulty coping with what he’d seen and experienced, to the point that it took a considerable amount of effort to get salient details out of him about the scene and what had been found there. Detective Christmas is the police detective I met on — wait for it! — the Christmas Day call, who noticed the repetitive four-pattern and with whom I have been conspiring conferencing since on related issues RE this situation. She is also an experienced investigator, mid-forties if I had to guess and by her own admission has had some dealings with the local DHS Office of Special Operations in the past, for values of “dealings” that mean “having investigations hijacked out from under her by the Men In Black.”

Detective October, according to all the news reports and the official inquest findings, committed suicide by train during the morning commute on 1/14. Unlike the other deaths related to John Q’s House of WTF, this one had actual witnesses. According to their testimony to the ME (in this case, my boss Dr. Weller), Detective October joined the other people waiting on an elevated commuter train platform somewhere between 5:45 and 6:15 AM — no exact time, but the witnesses were all in general agreement about the timeframe. He engaged in some idle chit-chat with two of them. Checked his watch repeatedly. And at 6:35ish, as one of the trains that passed through the station but didn’t stop there was coming through at speed, very calmly and deliberately stepped out in front of it. Everybody was in agreement on that point. He wasn’t behaving oddly. He did not appear to be in any visible signs of distress. He actually spotted the train and watched it coming in. And then he stepped out onto the tracks.

The actual, physical cause of death was massive, nonlocalized blunt trauma to the head, neck, extremities, and trunk. Again, I’m not going to get into the gory details. They’re not particularly salient anyway. The telling detail, in this case, is the presence of the apparently self-inflicted parallel wounds on the interior forearm, identical to the definitely self-inflicted injuries on the Christmas Day victims. I did not, for reasons of being comatose in neurointensive care on the day in question, have the opportunity to examine Detective October. The autopsy report does not deal with these injuries except to describe them as superficial incidental abrasions such as are typically found on a body that has experienced blunt trauma by impact, with incidence of dragging. There were quite a number of abrasion injuries that met that criteria and I don’t have a quarrel with Dr. Weller’s decision to characterize these wounds in that fashion — there’s basically no rational reason to define them otherwise. I do not, however, doubt that they were inflicted well before Detective October’s actual death, having compared Detective October’s autopsy photos to the autopsy photos of the Christmas Day victims. The injuries are identical in length and angle. I shared this information with Detective Christmas, who accepted it with about the equanimity you’d expect, under the circumstances.

The circumstances being, of course, that a lot of people are seriously upset — which is, again, only to be expected. Detective October was a thirty-plus year veteran, more than fifteen years in Homicide, widely known and respected. His wife passed away last year after a long fight with breast cancer. He and his wife raised three good kids. McDreamy spent most of the week after his death triple-scheduled offering aid and comfort to his friends and family, a lot of whom are local. His funeral that weekend was attended by hundreds of people. Neither the family nor the police department disputed the official finding of suicide. Honestly? I don’t actually dispute the official finding, either. I don’t doubt that his death is connected to the others in this case, but unlike the others, his death was…accomplished laterally, I guess is the best way to put it. Which is pretty freaking upsetting all by itself.

Under the cover of checking to make sure the post office was forwarding my mail properly, I wrote a letter summarizing my observations up to that point and left it in my apartment’s mailbox, on the theory that it was still better to drop attempts at indirect communication there than anywhere else. Even though I distinctly remember getting a phone call the night I collapsed, there was no record of it in the recent calls log and my phone hadn’t captured the originating number, so trying to contact the helpful person who told me to stay put just as I was becoming completely incapable of doing anything else was a non-starter. I didn’t want to use McDreamy’s mailbox as a drop-point for, I admit, completely irrational reasons, considering that I was trying to figure out how to tell him about this whole situation without coming across as entirely insane and probably not someone who you want sleeping down the hall from your own unlocked bedroom, and that I didn’t doubt for one second that my contact knew exactly where I was and could reach me any time he/they wanted to do so. My lizard-brain insisted on a layer of mostly illusory disconnection/protection between my increasingly weird existence and McDreamy’s, even though I’m living under his roof, and so I gave it one.

In the meantime, I went back to work and by “went back to work” I mean “drove in with McDreamy every morning and spent the rest of the day doing transcription and assisting with the data entry and processing while waiting to be medically cleared to handle sharp objects again.” The average ME’s office produces a metric fuckton of paperwork, I assure you, as proper and thorough documentation of everything imaginable and a few things only pathologists think about regularly is a significant part of the job. Since nobody wanted to explain to anybody’s grieving loved ones that the ME conducting the autopsy had an unexplained neurological fit and accidentally sawed their  face in half, I became a temporary resident of the office copier room and got the chance to improve my word processing skills at the same time. The office staff, being a largely kindhearted bunch, tolerated my intrusion into their orderly domain with the benign condescension normally only found in pediatric nurses explaining how to properly secure a diaper around a wriggling infant. They were also, for the obvious reason, the first people who were not Dr. Weller to cop to the fact that McDreamy and I were living together — admittedly, McDreamy bringing me lunch more than once probably contributed to the discovery.

This apparently triggered quite a bit of excitement, to which I was generally completely and utterly oblivious. Look, I need to concentrate in order to type with anything resembling speed to begin with and everything you’ve ever heard about doctorate-level crappy handwriting? That is all true. It is even true for doctors who have not one damned excuse, such as the need to see six dozen patients in a four hour period, and so any vaguely legible squiggle on a prescription pad constitutes due diligence. (For the record: my father, who taught me how to write kanji and kana as well as romaji and English, is regularly appalled by my handwriting nowadays, so I’m not disclaiming any guilt on my own part here.) The upshot: I spent a lot of time harassing the other MEs and muttering under my breath about suggesting a remedial calligraphy class for the entire forensics staff.

I realized Something was Up when every single member of the non-medical office staff found the excuse to cruise by my desk at least once in a three day period to ask me some exceedingly casual questions about how I was doing and if I needed anything and was it true that I was going to be looking for a roommate? I seem to recall answering that last one in the affirmative and then innocently mentioning in passing that I was staying with McDreamy until such a time as I could get said roommate, thinking nothing else of it, but this apparently set off quite a bit of speculation. And possibly also resolved a long-running betting pool, thought I’m fairly sure that the deiner who told me about that bit was just fucking with me. Maybe. Apparently, McDreamy’s state of relationship status was a matter of passionate concern to no small portion of the staff, office, medical, and otherwise. He was apparently aware of this but by turns tolerated it or ignored it. The book on when and with whom he’d eventually hook up was apparently two feet thick, and our friendship…thing…whatever…evidently threw off a lot of calculations.

A lot of calculations, people.

My second clue of Upness I found sitting on my desk late one afternoon, after basically the entire office had gone home but I was still hanging out working on a project and poking one of the other ME’s into writing his notes in something other than purple sparkle gel ink. It was an archival file several years old, I hadn’t gotten it out, but the name on it was one I half-recognized. Accident victim — car accident, a drunk driver going somewhere north of eighty miles per hour jumped the center median, triggered a multicar collision with multiple fatalities. This one had been called at the scene, and the late Mrs. McDreamy had died of multiple traumatic injuries consistent with having her car crunched between a drunk doing eighty on the highway and a barrier, and then hit at least twice more before all was said and done. I put the file back.

I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the whole thing.

More later.

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~ by Dr. Nate Harada on February 4, 2012.

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