Two Can Keep a Secret If One of Them is Dead
We the People
Location: NCIS Medical Examiner's Lab, Norfolk, VA.
Timeline: Early AM, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017
London wasn't happy about the circumstances that were bringing she and Theresa Mallory together, but in the interest of finding silver linings in difficult circumstances, she was happy to have the opportunity to meet with one of her closest friends again. She and Theresa had stayed in touch despite being in different places in their lives, but long distance relationships whether based in friendship or romance were still not the easiest to maintain.
Ridley knew her good friend had been through difficult times in the not so distant future, and while she had done her best to provide emotional support over the phone lines, she had never quite lost the sense Mallory was holding back from her even then. Although they'd been able to exchange a quick hug and pleasantries prior to this moment, this would be the first time London could set eyes on her good friend and assess for herself whether Mallory was doing okay.
Neither woman would lose sight of what they were called to do, of course, but if anything, trying to gather evidence, medically or psychologically related to a now deceased person would only serve to underscore how short life truly was and how important it was to hold on to the most meaningful things for as long as possible.
"I brought coffee," Tessa announced as she turned a corner, giving London a smile as she headed toward the other woman. "Figured we're in for a long night." She said, glancing over her shoulder at the young man, clad in a dark suit, flanking her left side. Each woman had a detail from the Secret Service keeping tabs on them while they ran their side of the investigation. Security was tight, a given considering the circumstances.
Offering her own shadow a sidewards glance before giving Theresa a smile, London accepted the cup and offered, "Thank you. I expect you're right, though forgive me if I don't put much on my stomach right now. It's been a while since I've attended an autopsy." There was so much more Ridley wanted to say, but out of respect for her good friend's privacy, she decided a more in-depth or personal conversation would probably need to wait. She had forgotten entirely about their federal shadows, a testament to just how stealthy they could be.
"No worries," Tess grinned over at her long-time friend. "The last one I really remember doing was back when I was an intern, though I'm sure there've been one or two over the years." It couldn't have been that long, could it? "Let me know if you need a break." She said quietly over to London before giving her guard a nod over her shoulder. He then stepped forward and scanned his security badge through the slot next to the door. There was a buzz followed by a trio of beeps and the door unlocked, the guard taking the handle and opening it to allow both women to step through first.
They were led down a short hallway that opened into a small waiting room with neatly lined cushioned chairs and another room, set off the waiting area, that was separated a half wall topped with a glass partition. The room was fully set up and outfitted for an autopsy, a sheet-covered body already waiting on the exam table, the late Secretary of Defense. Everything that they needed was readily available, including lab coats to protect their clothing as well as a full scrub station so that they could properly clean up after.
"Dr. Mallory?" Tessa looked over at her guard as she slid her jacket off, setting it and her purse on a counter near the sink. "Everything needs to be on record, however, please refer to the General as the patient to keep her anonymity."
Tessa nodded, accepting a small case that contained a blank DVD which she'd need to pop into the small slot on the wall under a series of buttons. "Of course." She stated, setting her coffee down after taking a good swallow. Snapping on a pair of latex gloves, she turned to London. "Ready when you are."
Maybe it was the solemnity of the moment, or perhaps it was just London's desire to get this part of things over with this quickly as possible, but all she offered in response to Theresa's statement was a simple nod. Now that their federal shadows had made themselves more visible, it added to Ridley's overall discomfort. This was Mallory's primary domain and while it was important for London to be here to help understand the behavioral characteristics in the mental state of the killer, she would remain mostly quiet during the course of the autopsy.
The two guards stepped out of the actual exam room and back into the waiting room, each taking a seat where they were able to see the women as they worked but allowed them a little bit of privacy as they conducted the autopsy.
There was not a lot of personal chit-chat over the next few hours while Tessa and London got to work. Autopsies, in Tessa’s opinion, were just like riding a bike. Once you learned, you never really forgot how, even if you didn’t really care for them. Starting off with a full set of photographs taken over every single inch of the deceased’s body, taken with Tess’s digital camera (which had been checked, verified and approved prior to starting the exam). After which the body had been x-rayed the women then moved onto taking samples of body fluid, both eyes (which had been plucked out of their sockets by the killer at the time of the torture and death) and blood, then onto an in depth examination of the genitals and all possible orifices. Nothing was left untouched by the pair of doctors.
They took a short break after that, needing to stretch their own bodies and limbs as well as a refresh on coffee (at least in Tessa’s case. Caffeine was her livelihood.) When they returned to the task at hand, a Y-incision was made, starting a few inches below each side of the collarbone down through the chest, to the abdomen and ending just above the pubic region. The ribcage was sawed in half and removed so that they could reach the internal organs underneath its bony protection. Each of the late SoD’s organs was carefully removed, weighed and examined, checking for any abnormalities to be noted in the record. Everything they said that pertained to the autopsy and the exam itself was recorded both on video and on a small voice recorder sitting on a table nearby.
They moved past the organ exam, sliding back up to the top of her head where an incision was made and the scalp carefully peeled back and the top half of the skull removed. The brain was removed same as the other organs, examined and weighed as well before being placed in a jar of Formalin fluid to preserve and help stiffen it up. It wasn’t hard to see the damage inflicted on the poor woman and it honestly made Tess feel a little nauseated. She was no stranger to death and gruesome injuries but this had been intentional. The murderer’s actions had been chock-full of malice and violence. In fact, Tess had to call another few minute break-time just so she could feel like she wasn’t going to toss her technicolor cookies.
Once she and London had been ready to return to the table, there wasn’t much left to do beyond bagging each of the organs and nestling them back in the body cavity before Tessa had sewn the chest and abdomen back together. Another half hour was spent beyond that where Tess sat down and dictated everything from the recorder into the Secretary’s medical chart as an official record. She also gave her opinion on what had caused the woman’s death, which really hadn’t been too hard to tell going into everything. If the actual coroner agreed with her assessment, he’d sign the death certificate for the file as well.
After cleaning up their work area and scrubbing their hands about a dozen times, the ladies covered up the body with a clean sheet and turned off the lights upon leaving the room. “Thanks for your patience.” Tessa said to the guards seated in the waiting room, who both stood when they entered, each giving the women a nod. The four of them gathered up any personal gear they had, coats, purses etc and headed back out of the secured lab so that they could present their findings to the Higher-Ups.