Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sweet Jane

I was twenty five when i first laid eyes on Jane Doe 914, a dusky brunette, multiple gunshot wounds.  Poor thing hadn't stood a chance, declared dead at 7:15 on a Saturday evening and on my table by midnight.  Not a very romantic beginning, I'll admit, but I've seen sadder stories since.  I didn't notice anything spectacular about Jane right away, though to be sure she was lovely, but that sort of admission is discouraged in my profession as macabre and disrespectful.  I took my pictures and readied my tools.

Jane Doe 914, entry wound one, upper right torso, exit wound one, lower left hip, entry wound two, right shoulder, exit wound two, lower left back, entry wound three, forehead above right eye, exit wound three, cranial base.

Subject Jane Doe 914 appears to have been either shot from above, note fire escape or high window possibility, or while laying down.

Our department had been the recent beneficiary of a 30% cut in funding and the savings had been passed to the customer, this was my tenth Jane Doe of October and we were only six days in.  I knew the detectives were backed up, they knew I was backed up, we didn't bother each other.  We worked until we were done and then we went home to drink.  That was my routine and it worked well.  We were paid to chronicle deaths, crimes, murders, robberies, rapes, not solve them.  It was all we could do to keep up with that.

It wasn't until after I'd cut into Jane Doe 914's chest that I heard what sounded like a small solar fan, the kind I'd seen fat old women dangling from cords around their necks on hot days.  The noise came between gurgles, whirr click gurgle, whirr click gurgle.  Something in this Jane Doe hadn't quite given up yet.  When I'd peeled back the skin and swabbed the congealed blood away I was met with a spectacular sight.  Jane Doe 914 had an aluminum heart, sternum, three aluminum ribs, and one large rubberized lung that filled up most of her chest.  It was from this rubber lung that the whirring came, from a hole corresponding to the bullet path from shoulder to lower back.

I lowered a hand over the hole and was taken aback by the breeze that met my damp palm, this lung was working even now to keep Jane Doe 914's body supplied with fresh oxygen.  I snapped a few pictures and did the unthinkable, I called the case detective down to the morgue.

"Hey man, my kids birthday is tomorrow, I hope you solved the case" Jacobs laughed as he sidled into the room.  Jacobs was an alright guy, we'd been out for drinks a few times after late nights, and this job was full of late nights, for both of us.  Not a go getter and not a brain, but you didn't have to be these days.  You just had to show up, and Jacobs showed up like a son of a bitch.

"Where did you pull Jane Doe 914?  She's got a few reworked organs that are like nothing I've ever seen,"  I bumped into the table on my way to the other side, jerking Jane clumsily along after me "Look at these, have you ever seen anything like this?  Even with the uptowns, this sort of work is something nobody in the city could afford, I'm not even sure this is approved yet"

Jacobs looked at me with an expression midway between exasperated and bemused.  "Am I gonna get to sleep before my kids party?  Help me out here, Fawley, I'm only allowed to see them on weekends as it is and in case you hadn't noticed, tomorrow is Sunday"

"Today is Sunday" I corrected, pulling his hand towards the whirring lung and holding it over the bullet sized hole.

"Yeah no shit asshole," Jacobs moved his hand back and forth over the small hole in the smooth rubbery lung surface, eventually lowering his eye down for a peek, coming up blinking furiously, "Look if you get me the name of a manufacturer for one of those gizmo's I'll see what I can do, ok?  I'm backed up as it is, so no promises, but I'll see if I can't get you a name for your girlfriend"  I grimaced as Jacobs laughed and mimed jerking off.

"Yeah I'll send that up when I have it, prick, tell your boy I said happy birthday and tell his mom I'll be over to blow her candles out later"

Jacobs left chuckling, I knew he wouldn't follow up if I didn't, but I was intrigued by this new woman.  Jane Doe 914 stared at the ceiling, her unblinking eyes frozen in wonder.  I'd find out shortly that their clear and clean expression was due to her shiny silver heart slowly pressing blood through her veins even now.

When something is a wonder, and that something is a someone, you get attached first to the ingenuity and then to the beauty, and if that someone is a mystery, you become attached to the ambiguity.

Each Jane and John Doe is chronicled, dated, evidence collected if there is evidence to collect, photographed, and incinerated.  Is it any wonder that I kept her parts?  And in keeping her parts, is it any wonder I kept her pictures?

There were no serial numbers, no manufacturer, no product code or key, no symbols, nothing at all marred her stunning metal heart, lung, sternum, and ribs.  Jacobs, to his credit, asked after my Jane, and I had nothing to give him.  I did, however, ask for her file.  He was more than happy to give it over to me on the grounds that I finish filling out her paperwork and hand it in.  I gladly agreed.

I couldn't find out who my Jane was, she didn't exist in any database I'd ever seen.  I shifted my focus instead to finding out how she had died, by whose hand, and hoped that by discovering her end I might discover her beginnings.

3rd and Nixon, the alley there is where her rubber lung lost pressure and caused her to expire.  Through my autopsy I had discovered that if her lung hadn't been punctured she'd still have been alive, technically, though brain dead from the bullet wound through her head.  Her metal heart had held up wonderfully, and the mechanism of her lung had kept whirring, despite the loss of pressure from twin holes.

The area is terrible.  Fully half of our Mr. and Mrs. Doe's spring from near and around 3rd and Nixon, radiating out in waves of lessening crime the further away one travels.  This was going to be tough.  I did have the bullets that had gone through my Jane, I knew they were from a 38 and had been shot at fairly close range, and could ascertain that she'd been shot from above and not while laying down crawling towards her assassin.  This last was a relief.  The bullets exhibited the distress typical of having barreled into concrete with little but the small body of a woman to slow them.  Oh sweet Jane.

I was on one of my lurking excursions through the alley, taking measurements of the fading brown stain on the asphalt and more pictures, always more pictures, as though a million photos of that sad spot of shrinking rust could make up for having none of Jane's life.  The officer caught me off guard, "There have been complaints, as you know this a high crime area, some of the neighbors are concerned"  I looked up to see a few alley curtains quickly closing under my glare.

I flashed my department badge, "Is this an active investigation?"  his quizzical expression wasn't a surprise, Jacobs had been after me for months for failing to hold up my end of our agreement.  Not a huge inconvenience, but misfiled or missing paperwork was a minor punishable offense.  I'd kept everything.

This wasn't an open case, it was a closed cold case, technically.  It was missing paperwork, lots of time off for me, and unbeknownst to the station it was missing mass as well.  I'd kept the heart, lung, and ribs, after all.  I'm not a macabre person, and I've never been given to sentiment in the past.  There is a first time for everything.

The officer let me go, for all I know he'd been sent by Jacobs himself.  I hadn't exactly been a social juggernaut before meeting Jane Doe 914, and now I was becoming a willful pariah.  People don't appreciate it when someone is more enthusiastic about a job than they are, the bare minimum precedent had been set long before I joined the force and I flew in the face of that.  And for what, a woman I didn't know.  A woman I couldn't know.  A cold closed case, no less, it was unsettling.  Jacobs hadn't asked me out for drinks in weeks, nor had anyone else in the station.  I didn't care.

I spent my days cross referencing addresses in that alley with criminal databases, checking known acquaintances and accomplices against aggressive criminals, fruitlessly searching gun registries, visiting the local pawn shop.  I researched internal prosthetics, read up on funding for new surgical techniques, studied more than I had for the duration of medical school.

In the end, the case was solved by Jacobs accidentally.  A perp was brought in and in exchange for consideration of leniency he agreed to confess to a few other murder/robberies, my Jane Doe 914 among them.  He had confessed to my Jane's murder because she knew nobody and nobody knew her, and so she was seen as less likely to cause an uproar during sentencing.  His name was Joseph Lee, a completely unremarkable criminal, and a completely unremarkable man.  Still it was a bonus for our department, and although Jacobs kindly clapped me on the shoulder and offered a wink and a smile, I was not invited out for celebratory drinks.

I bought a bottle of Jameson's and drank it alone, two fingers at a time, pictures of Jane Doe 914 scattered across my kitchen table and the dusty clockwork heart, lung, and ribs in a bowl in the center.  Her shiny sternum rested in my desk at work.  My fingers fit perfectly between the sculpted ridges and its weight was a comfort to me as I puzzled over the countless men, women, and children who made their way to my table.  Mysteries all, some simple but many never solved, and none as intriguing as my Sweet Jane.

All of this was 70yrs ago or more, and we've had some good times since then Sweet Jane.  Though I didn't solve your murder, I've solved my share.  I've had an alright life, devoted to work, even dated a little, not much, a few blind set ups from well meaning coworkers.  Jacobs has been gone these twenty years past, massive heart attack, we didn't have efficient metal hearts in time to save him, but I think he was happy.  He had remarried and was blessed with a brood of towheaded grandchildren.

I myself have never married, one woman is enough for me.

I'm dying now, and I've just seen my Jane Doe 914.  She's only a girl of ten, and she is in the room next to mine with a new heart, lung, sternum, and three shiny metal ribs.  When she's much older, she will travel back in time to be killed by a petty dime store thug for no reason at all.  Or maybe not, her future isn't certain, yet.

I've tried writing her a note.  What would you do, if you were dying and your one love lay living near by but wasn't due to meet you until after her life  had ended?  With every word I wrote, my memory grew shadier, when I told her where to look for me in the past I found my memories of her waving at me from a boat quickly drifting from shore.  Worse still, when I changed just a few words, the past didn't shift at all and left her coming to rest in that dirty alley between 3rd and Nixon again and again.  When I crumpled the note and threw it away, instead suggesting on fresh paper that she bring me forward with her through time, my memory offered me a miserable glimpse of what that could bring, a fish out of water and a clock out of time, my life out of sync for years and years, and always I'm at the end of things.  No matter what I do or have done, I'm dying in this moment.  I'm finished.

And so I'm not writing the note.  I've recorded this to relive it one last time, and even as I make the decision to do nothing I can feel my past shifting, decisions I've made reorganizing themselves.  I'm done, yes, I'm done, but what would you do if you could change what you'd done already?  Change your choice and look back at something new?  Grandchildren I've never met are crowding around my bed, children I can't remember raising are gazing at me lovingly.  I know as I crumple and pitch the last note I'll lose any recollection of the lonely road I've traveled with Jane Doe 914 locked in my pocket, my talisman and my darling.  My life as it would have been without her will emerge from the fog, clear and strong.

I can hear one door over a young girl laughing as I slip away, and I hear her being told to hush, an old man is dying in the next room.


  1. ..................... <-- Speechless, That was...intriguing, captivating, mysterious, very well written.

  2. great story love your writing style

  3. I'm just commenting here because I was threatened.

    ~ Viriato

  4. Cement Approval? What kind of Nazi blog is this?

    ~ Viriato

    1. also, in answer to your question, i've tried to figure out how to get it off comment approval but in keeping with everything else on this fucking site, that apparently is impossible for anyone without a computer science degree and seventy five google plus profiles and tubes coming out of my ass and into the laptop.

    2. You could probably pick those ass tubes up pretty cheap at walmart. I'll ask on your behalf and let you know what I find... probably don't wanna go "used" with these.

    3. thanks so much bananas, i have some garden hose but i'm concerned about chaffing

  5. Also: Cool story bro.

    ~ Viriato

  6. Wow! Great story, Hulia. I love it. Very well written. You grabbed my attention and kept it to the very end. Why are you not writing novels?

    1. thanks darlene! i'm writing a book slowly but surely lol

  7. You do have a gift, Hulia. I suggested your FB page to a couple. I'm curious as to who your inspirations and/or favorite authors were/are ?

    1. thanks, stranger! i have a lot of favorite authors, a few standouts are thomas hardy, kurt vonnegut, john irving, and douglass addams

  8. I loved the story. I had a tear in my eye at the end. So sad.

  9. this thing is a pain in the ass. i had to sign in and prove I'm not a robot just to say i liked the fuckin' story

  10. ha i knew even before i saw "mike09876" that was you from the comment