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