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On The Cross ~ A Kirke McDougal Story

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    [Incomplete] On The Cross ~ A Kirke McDougal Story

    I'm in preparation for NaNoWrimo, which some of you may recognize as National Novel Writing Month, trying to see how much I can write in fifteen to twenty minute sprints. I decided finding this forum again was the right kind of inspiration I needed to revisit a concept I've tried visiting a number of times.

    ################

    Chapter One

    It didn't surprise Terry one bit to find a murder victim in the kitchen. Face down, presumably female going on the conservative navy blue skirt and matching blouse, in the middle of a grassy lawn. Snow covered the ground surrounding the house, presumably made of powdered sugar. The body lay five inches from the meticulously crafted steps fashioned from pieces of marzipan. The open door was carved from fondant and dyed black, with a little knocker handle made from a red piece of lifesaver candy. The rest of the house, a combination of graham crackers, with windows made from Twizzlers and pretzel rods, had been made from scratch. More strips of Twizzlers made up the terracotta roof.

    “What do you think?” Terry gave her charge a thin-lipped smile as he came into the kitchen. He was wearing his good dark khakis but the blue-and-white checkered flannel shirt over his white t-shirt was not yet buttoned.

    She put her bag on one of the stools gestured to the “body” also made from fondant. A pistachio lying on the ground surrounded by little pieces of ice cream sprinkles shaped like butterflies and balls, was meant to be the bowl of candy. Candied “blood” covered a wound in the back, undoubtedly caused by the gummy hatchet in the her back. “Is this someone we know?”

    Kirke returned her look with a half-smile of his own. “Why would you think that?”

    “Only that the house is very similar to the photos Saylor saw on your Kindle,” Terry answered.

    “Saylor shouldn't be looking at my Kindle without my permission.”

    “You showed them to him.”

    “He had my permission then.” Kirke walked passed her to the kitchen closet and pulled out a box of tin foil. “And besides, if I show him the photos I can't very well be planning to do something if I know he's taking notes. You'll probably do the same, so it's especially stupid having let you see this.”

    Terry crossed her arms and decided it wasn't worth the argument. Kirke was obviously dressed for something important and making an artistic representation of murder wasn't necessarily cause for alarm. He was right though. If Greg made a note of it she would have to corroborate.

    “What are your plans for the day?” she asked, in a neutral tone.

    Kirk measured out a length of tin foil and carefully cut it from the roll. He covered the gingerbread house, pressing every inch of the foil along the edges.

    “I have to be at the morgue,” he said, without looking up. “Someone died in South Station last night. Heart attack.”

    “If it's a heart attack, why are you getting involved?”

    Kirke gave her a long stare, reminding Terry of a fourth grade teacher who considered “stupid questions” to be a great argument for bringing back the ruler. She didn't like it then and she didn't like it now and she refused to play Kirke's game and she simply met his gaze silently.

    “Because they don't think it was a heart attack.”

    Terry nodded. “That's all you had to say.”

    Kirke might have argued but he was too focused on securing the tin foil. When he was finished he sat up on the stool and rolled up his sleeve. Terry placed the thermometer under his tongue and while they were waiting, she wrapped the cuff around his arm and inflated the cuff.

    “Have you eaten breakfast?” she asked.

    “Hmm, hmm,” Kirke held up one finger and pointed at the kitchen sink. There was still half a cup's worth of whatever protein shake Saylor had made for him. Terry sighed. Full of vitamins or not, she still would have preferred solid food. But if Kirke was too busy reading the e-mails Detective Eamon sent him then getting him to drink the shake was a miracle in and of itself.

    “Have you had your BM yet?” a slight shake of the head. “Are you wet?” Nod.

    Terry made note of the blood pressure, satisfied it wasn't too high or too low. Kirke's temperature was barely a hundred but she knew he would argue that he was feeling fine and that he didn't want to waste any more time.

    “Let's just go into the bathroom real quick,” Terry insisted after disposing of the thermometer cover. Kirk got off the stool and went with her into the downstairs bathroom with minimal fuss. As she pulled on a pair of latex gloves she asked, “Do you want to try to sit on the toilet for a few minutes.”

    Kirke pointed to his watch. It was the one his foster father gave him for his fourteenth birthday and it had needed a new battery since he turned eighteen. Only those new to him would dare to suggest he get a new watch or that he at least have the nice man at the mall replace the battery. Those people rarely lasted beyond a full shift. “My appointment's at noon. I don't have time for the toilet.”

    Terry looked up out at the clock in the living room and saw that was only ten thirty. Kirke raised his hands above his head. She undid his khakis and lowered them to his ankles. He wore a gray Depend pull-up with a Prevail liner. She lowered the underpants and seeing the liner more than half soaked, decided he would feel better with a fresh one. The pull-up was dry but his skin was slightly clammy. Terry used an adult washcloth to give Kirke's diaper area a good wipe. She aimed him at the toilet bowl just in case while she unwrapped a fresh liner and placed it in the padded area of the pull-up.

    “Okay,” she said. “We're good to go.”

    Kirke buttoned his shirt up and pulled his pants up, certain that the shirt was tucked in. He looked at himself in the mirror and gave his brownish blond hair a comb-over. The flush of his clean-shaven cheeks gave him a youthful, innocent look and the hawkish gaze of his dark brown eyes told of wonderful and complex mind within. He looked at Terry and without warning, gave her a hug.

    “Thank you for your help,” he said.

    Terry returned the hug. This, more than anything, was what made the last five years worth it. “You're very welcome Kirke. Now let's go help Boston PD do their job.”

    #2
    Trigger warnings abound. If examining a dead homeless person sets you off, you may want to give this one a pass.

    ####

    Kirke placed his ID in the metal dish beneath the divider. The plastic was so twisted and deformed from years of use that the clerk had to take a real close look at it to read the name and the identification number underneath. She was new, so Kirke was patient until she asked, “What's the purpose of your visit?” he frowned.

    “To see the body?” he said in a slow, dragged out voice. “What else do you think I would be here for?”

    “I just asked you a question.” the clerk replied.

    “Not a very good one. This is the medical examiner's office so I'm not here to sell Girl Scout cookies.”

    The clerk glared as Kirke shook his head slowly.

    “May I have my ID back, please? Or do I have to tell my boss that you're delaying a murder investigation?”

    It seemed that she was about to keep it. She looked away from him and he was afraid she would walk away, or call for security. Kirke new what to say if that happened but if she simply walked away and didn't return... he clenched his fists. He looked up at the cameras mounted in the corners of the ceiling and hoped one of the security guards recognized him. He felt his heart start to race and he glanced back at the door, wondering if Terry had managed to find a good parking space and how much longer she would be. He looked back at the clerk who was reading his ID as she typed something into a computer.

    He got as close to the glass as he could and held his hand near the dish, speaking in a firm tone. “That is my identification that allows me access to the city morgue. Please call your supervisor so I can go about my day and make a complaint against you for slowing me down.”


    Before she could say anything, a familiar face came to her side.

    “Just let him in,” Callie said, in a firm but gentle tone. To Kirke she said, “I'm sorry for the mix-up, Mr. McDougal, it won't happen again.”

    The clerk reluctantly passed the ID back to Kirke. Kirke grabbed it and stuffed it into his pocket, taking a huge step back from the glass as he remembered every detail of the scowling clerk's face and clothes. As the door buzzed, he muttered a thanks to Callie and disappeared down a familiar corridor. In the locker room he pulled on a pair of scrubs and a big plastic booties. Doctor Tasha Redding came into the room and greeted him. Kirke looked at the clock on the wall and said, “Good afternoon, Tasha.”

    “How's the gingerbread house coming along?” Tasha asked.

    “It's almost finished,” Kirke said. “I decided to add something to it later, when I get home. Are you going to the silent auction at the library tomorrow?”

    Tasha smiled. “Is it okay if I bring my boyfriend?”

    Tasha had been the deputy medical examiner for twelve years. The auction was in a public library that anyone was permitted to attend, whether they placed a bid or not but she was also a very busy woman without a lot of free time. Kirke didn't mind answering a question she already should have known the answer to since she had a good reason not to remember.

    “Of course. The more the merrier, as they say,” he found a pair of goggles that weren't too scratched up and pulled on some latex gloves before following Tasha into the examining room. The body was on a table, covered in a sheet. Kirke read the information on the tag. “Hirschel Miller, Male, 53, homeless.”


    He pulled the sheet back and started with the head, moving in closely. Tasha was used to his methods and she only moved the head or opened the mouth when he asked. Miller had dark hair with the hint of a crown showing. His skin, though showing minor signs of age, showed no blemishes or scars. Apart from a few birthmarks there were no tattoos or signs of drug use or a violent life anywhere on his arms or hands. No frostbite, no burn marks, not even the smell of tobacco. Tasha pulled back more of the sheet and moved the body so Kirke could examine the back. Then he followed the hair pattern from the chest all the way down to the naval. Some much older scars appeared in different areas and there was long term damage from time spent sleeping on concrete. He looked at every inch of skin on the upper half of the body and found nothing of interest, so he replaced the sheet and uncovered the legs. The feet were far more revealing than the hands, with patches of redness to indicate a fungal infection. Cuts and marks were from wearing shoes with holes in them, socks that weren't always the ideal of cleanliness. Kirke moved up the legs, noticing more bruises and scrapes.

    “The report said he had some kind of fit,” Kirke said. “That he died in the ambulance?”

    Tasha nodded. “From what I was told it happened over the course of a few hours. He was a regular at South Station but he never bothered anyone until late last night. The bruising is most likely from when he fell against the wall and started wriggling around.”


    "Why didn't someone ask if he was okay?”

    “I don't know, Swee-, ah, Kirke. You know how it is out there, there's so many homeless that no one thinks twice about seeing someone acting a little crazy at the train station. The officers who saw him probably thought he was having a seizure and so they did what they could.”


    Kirke shook his head. “Now for the part no on ever likes”

    That was half true. Kirke learned not to tell anyone about this part as it made people uncomfortable. Then again, every aspect of his job seemed to make people uncomfortable so it was hard to know what to tell them when they asked. Gregory Saylor, the only male nurse on his team, had taught him a number of metaphors for discussing a deceased person's body, as well the appropriate times to talk about such things. Not over meals. Not at the library. Never with children. That information was only for people who needed to know and when in doubt, Kirke should always ask who did or didn't need to know. Tasha was listed in the report as people who didn't need to know but were safe to talk to.


    Tasha removed the sheet and Kirke examined the genital area. He moved on to the pelvis and found something that stood out. Not a blemish or a scar. It was a strange marking in the skin that appeared to be figures or letters located in the left buttock.

    “Where's the magnifier?”

    Tasha gave him the magnifying glass and he unfolded it. The markings were easier to read now; numbers.

    “Did you notice these when you first examined him?”


    “I did,” Tasha said. “3456. Mean anything to you?”

    “The numbers don't but the typeface is familiar. Like a credit or debit card.”

    “Maybe a gift card, like the ones Target sells.”

    “I hope not.” Kirke said. “Those would be hard to trace. It's not much but it looks like that's what I have to work with for now.”

    He checked the rest of the area thoroughly, even looking beneath the buttocks. The list of people narrowed with every part of his search but he wouldn't be able to leave the morgue without seeing everything for himself. Tasha or any other medical examiner would have noticed the numbers but might have dismissed them as being unimportant, unrelated to the death.

    “Why did they contact me then?” He asked, removing his gloves to signal he was finished. “Voices of the Lost only asks me to look in if they think something is wrong. But if the police told them it was a seizure then that means it wasn't murder.”

    Tasha replaced the cover. She led Kirke out of the morgue where they removed their coverings and placed them in the appropriate receptacles. They washed their hands thoroughly and then he followed her back to her office where she invited him to have a seat.

    “I'm actually the one who contacted your bosses.”


    Kirke rolled his eyes. He looked over his shoulder, imagining the clerk and thinking about how much stupider her question was. Should he tell Tasha what happened since she had the power to fire her?

    “Did you notice the needle marks in Hirschel's abdomen?” Tasha asked, getting his attention. He thought about it and remembered seeing something that he had falsely assumed Tasha had left as a result of her examination. They were in roughly the same area as the card numbers and he hated himself for overlooking them. Tasha seemed to know what he was thinking and she plowed through, “They would have been hard to notice if you weren't looking for them. It was one of my interns who conducted the initial examination and he missed them, too.”

    “I should have noticed them,” Kirke said.

    “Don't over think it. You have a lot on your plate right now. I only wanted to point them out because there was nothing in his system that indicated drug usage and there's no other needle marks anywhere on his body.”


    Kirke brightened up at hearing this. That was something he had also noted and Tasha confirmed it.


    “Was he diabetic?” he asked.

    “I don't know,” Tasha answered. “His medical history is spotty. He's been to a few of the clinics here and there and there's one major hospital stay at Mass General for an infection. The charity paid for his care but he didn't seem too eager to share anything with the doctors and nurses. If he had something to hide he was doing a pretty good job of it.”

    “Do you think it was murder?” Kirke asked. “That someone found him and killed him with... what?”

    “My guess is an overdose of insulin. A big one. By the time he got to the hospital his tissues would have absorbed it so that it wouldn't be traceable. Someone had to have forced the needles into his body but there's no sign of a struggle or defensive marks, so I'm guessing it happened while he was asleep.”

    “Could you stick a needle in someone and not wake them up?”

    “If you do it right the way you barely notice the prick. On the other hand, someone might have slipped him a sleep aid. I'm waiting for a second toxicology report but I wanted you to see if the body might give you any ideas.”

    Kirke nodded. He stood up and shook Tasha's hand. She smiled and wished him luck and he reminded her of the silent auction. On his way out of the morgue, the clerk stopped him.

    “I'm sorry about earlier,” she said. “I'm new here and I'm going to ask a stupid question every now and again.”

    Kirke tilted his head, looking past her and at her at the same time. Her expression seemed somber and genuine and her word choice told him that Callie had spoken to him since their encounter. With the clock ticking he decided it wasn't worth the argument.

    “Okay,” he said. “I guess the gingerbread house is fine the way it is.”


    He left her staring at his back, even more confused than when she first saw him.


    Last edited by NateSean; 10-15-2018, 11:36:49 AM.

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      #3
      I should probably get this out of the way. There will be pooping in this story. I'll try not to go overboard with the descriptions but it may turn some people off. Like myself, there are probably some people here who are on the autistic spectrum and if Kirke offends you or you're saying, "That's not like anyone in the world who has autism," then please just remember that is a big world out there with lots of people who will defy your own expectations. I've known an autistic man whose mother was able to get him into a special school which toilet trained him. If that hadn't happened, he'd still be in training pants. There are others still who will always be in diapers. Kirke's needs and behaviors may not seem realistic to you but they will seem eerily accurate to others. Thank you.

      #####

      Whatever gods ruled over Boston smiled on Terry this afternoon. She made the trip back to the house in Revere to get the rest of Kirke's breakfast drink, poured it into a travel mug, mixed in some Metamucil, and grabbed a couple of Fiber One bars from the cupboard. When she got back into Boston, it was only forty-five minutes. She received a text from Callie Martins at the medical examiner's office. Not exactly a playing member of Team Kirke but her text read, “Small crisis averted. New girl on today but managed to put out the brush fire.”

      It was nice to know that other people were watching him and that they seemed to care for him the way she did. Knowing he was all set without her gave her time to get a grinder and some coffee and enjoy them at a nearby park. When she was finished, she found Kirke waiting outside, sitting on the plant fixtures, texting or making notes on his phone. He looked like any other person just now, with no outward signs of his mental state a far cry from the teenager who stared blankly into space when he was deep in thought, wherever he happened to be. At least now he was in good company along with the hundred or so citizens of Boston who walked the streets with their eyes fixed firmly on their own screens, as if they had a second pair of eyes on the top of their heads, watching in front of them.


      She pulled up to the sidewalk and gave a short honk. He looked up and smiled. When he got into the SUV, he buckled his seat belt and opened his mouth to talk. She held up one finger, making him pause, and pointed to the cup in the holder.

      “I'll listen to what you have to say but you have to do something for me. First I want you to drink that and eat these,” she handed him the Fiber One bars. They were the mint flavored, which he seemed to enjoy. “You can tell me everything you learned about your victim and all of your suppositions when you're sitting on the toilet. Deal?”

      Kirke nodded without hesitating and wordlessly started sucking on the straw. From the raised cheeks and the bright eyes he viewed the world with, Terry guessed that he must have figured out something. He didn't protest when she started heading towards Haymarket. She took her time, giving him a chance to finish the rest of the shake. He ate the bars, slowly, taking his time as she took side roads and scenic areas. Never once did he protest or ask that she go faster and he didn't wolf his food. Whatever it was he had to tell her it was, in his mind, going to be worth the wait.

      Terry parked at TD Garden Station and they took the elevator to the street. Kirke was all smiles as they walked past a group of Bruins fans taking a photo in front of Bobby Orr. The streets were busy, even for autumn, when Boston had the fewest tourists. Kirke remained close to Terry's side, only going in front of her to let someone pass. She didn't feel the need to keep a hand on him or to keep him in her field of vision. They made it to the entrance of Boston Public Market when Terry felt his hand on her lower arm. A gentle pressure to let her know that his body was sending him signals. She looked at him once to see the slight hint of distress on his face. He didn't have a problem with soiling himself, when it was convenient, for him. She had no problem with changing him, having done so for nearly a decade but now he had incentive to hold until it was convenient for everyone.

      He kept his hand around her arm and his eyes forward as they passed the main portion of the market. Past the bakeries and organic coffee sellers, past the stalls selling fresh seafood, organic farm raised chicken and beef, wine and cheese vendors, and past shoppers and diners alike. All the way to a corridor leading to the restrooms. Terry didn't take him to one of these. Though she wore an ID on a lanyard around her neck, identifying herself as an employee of the nursing agency that signed one of her paychecks, people saw Kirke and didn't realize they were looking at an autistic young man who, while certainly brilliant in some areas, was delayed in others. Going into any public restroom with a grown man turned heads and often led to uncomfortable situations. Fortunately, the Massachusetts branch of Voices of the Lost now had it's offices in Boston Public Market. Kirke was distracted now by his thoughts and his bodily functions. Terry whispered words of encouragement and placed her hand on his back to comfort him as they found the door with the VOL poster covering the frosted glass window.

      The subjects of the poster were a homeless man and a woman, standing around a barrel fire warming their hands. Surrounding them were men, women, and children of every race, age, and creed covered by an unearthly mist. The eerie symbolism was lost on many and drew criticism from well meaning parties. It represented the living and the deceased of those people whom society tended to ignore or abuse. As homeless shelters became more like voluntary jails and their workers got colder and more distant, Voices of the Lost reached out to those people who needed someone to listen. Their main clientele were those who had been brought to Boston from other areas in New England solely for the convenience of the county that wanted them gone. It helped them find family members and friends and offered transportation to those who had a place to return to. For those who remained in Boston, Voices of the Lost helped them find services, sent doctors out to the streets, and in some cases found proper burials for the deceased. It wasn't just the homeless. The mentally ill or the developmentally disabled who didn't have a caretaker could also turn to Voices of the Lost. Many of their volunteers went to the psychiatric hospitals and mental homes to help the ones that, with a little effort, could rejoin society and have their own meaningful lives.

      One of the secretaries who sat at the desk in the main waiting area greeted Kirke and didn't mind when he didn't reply. His face turned redder with concentration as Terry entered the passkey on the security lock. She whispered a hello to the secretary and followed Kirk down a short hallway, past the meeting room, the break area and a busy office of cubicles. Only a few people who were unfamiliar with Kirke and Terry might have glanced their way but no one challenged them as they made their way to the restrooms. Terry had a special key for the larger of the two rooms. She opened the door and gently guided Kirke inside.

      The light flicked on as she locked the door and his distress grew worse.

      “Hurry,” he said with a groan.

      She guided him to the toilet and pulled his pants and pull up to his knees and gently pressed urged him to sit down. He barely made it to the seat before he started going. He held onto her as she rubbed his back, sighing with relief and rocking silently as his body expelled supper, breakfast, and the meager lunch. Terry flushed once and Kirke still went. He shuttered and made soft whining noises, eventually graduating to mumbled “thank yous,” to which she replied with, “It's okay. Let it all out.”

      When it seemed he was finished, she waited a moment. He stopped rocking and he sighed again. She pulled on some gloves and started to wipe him. His liner didn't need changing and his clothes weren't stained. When she flushed again, he stood up on his own and refastened his pants and washed his hands before Terry washed hers. When they emerged from the restroom they went into one of the offices and no one who might have seen them would have guessed how vulnerable Kirke had been.

      Kirke plugged his phone in to charge it and placed it on the end of the cashew shaped table. He offered Terry the larger, ergonomically friendly chair as he took the smaller one and waited until she was comfortable. He told her everything that happened (including the incident with the new employee, which he forgave on the basis that he had a made a mistake, too) and glossed over his examination of the body. Terry had seen bodies before but she had told Kirke in the past that if part of his investigation involved one, she'd rather not hear every detail. He still included details that were necessary to the story, such as the position of the numbers on the poor man's buttock.

      “Do you know what a merchant code is?” Kirke asked.

      “Not a clue.”

      “Whenever you use your credit card, a merchant code is assigned to your purchase. The credit card companies use this to make deductions about your financial situation. For example if you made a lot of purchases at a 5931 they would wonder if you're struggling to pay the bills, because that's the number assigned to used or second hand shops.”

      Terry nodded.

      “I had to look this up on creditcards.com because I wanted to see if it was possible to trace a credit or debit card with just four numbers. At the moment it's the only lead I have.”

      “Do the police have his belongings?” Terry asked. “Even a homeless person has a bag or a shopping cart to carry things in.”

      “Tasha only had his clothes,” Kirke said. “There's a security guard at South Station who knows Mr. Miller and I'm going to try to talk to him today. It's also going to give me a chance to look at all the crime scene and try to see if I can imagine what it was like to kill him.”

      Terry raised a brow. “You're not going to say that to anyone else, are you?”

      “No. I'm just going to quietly run through a few scenarios. I won't get in anyone's way.”

      “I'm not sure if that's any better.”

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