Sunday, 9 May 2010

'All Stitched Up'

Here's my offering for Needle magazine's first flash fiction challenge. The remit was to devise a story under 1,000 to include the word 'needle' - in any of it's diverse descritions.

So, here you are:

All Stitched Up

Lions and tigers and bears – oh, my!
Like Dorothy, I’d like to click my ruby slippered heels and fly away. There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home….

But home will have to wait, even though my slippers are coloured ruby red. Well, perhaps not slippers so much as plastic-covered sneakers. And bloody gore, not so much rubies.

The human body contains, on average, 10 pints of blood and I seemed to be standing in copious amounts of Sigrid Mortensen’s vital fluids. Exactly how much blood she’d lost is a figure I’d find hard to be certain of, considering how much might have soaked into the carpet. Imagine tipping an eggcupful of water on the floor and note how great a pool it makes; well, there was considerably more than an eggcupful of Sigrid’s blood to account for. More than quite a few eggcupfuls actually.

Anyway, no amount of wishes from the Wizard of Oz could make this case wrap up quickly. It’s a strange one, alright. I mean, normally the autopsy occurs after the body’s brought to the morgue.

“What do you make of that?” Bruce had said, pointing towards Sigrid’s torso as he’d pulled back the sheet that had obscured the violation of her flesh. There were slight traces of blood on the fabric, a perfect reversed-image print which matched the impressively executed ‘Y’ incision.

I’d leaned forward for a closer inspection.

“No mistaking it,” I’d replied. “That’s definitely fine needlework. Standard ‘baseball’ stitching. Left handed, judging by the slight angle.”

That’s when something kicked in. It made me keep my further observations to myself.

Bruce and I have worked together for some time; there are few secrets we keep from each other, but now I felt the need to keep silent.

We’d continued to process the crime scene, automatically recording and examining the minutiae of the case until there was little more to be done. Then I’d despatched Bruce back to the lab to prepare for Sigrid’s arrival later.

Meanwhile, as the mortuary technicians lift her tiny-framed body into the plastic repository that will be her temporary sarcophagus, I now have to try and walk through the minefield in my head, created by that sudden realisation earlier.

The left-handed stitching. The precise, almost textbook, accuracy of the incisions, as if measured exactly. And the girl’s name – Sigrid. Or maybe, Siggy.

As I step back and collect my things together I recall a young highschool student from one of the career guidance modules we run from time to time. Thanks to the popularity of the TV shows that centre on our craft, careers in forensic medicine have a certain attraction, despite my insistence that the bulk of the work is mundane and repetitive and far from glamorous.

We’d been really busy that week. Bruce had been away on a fishing trip, so it had fallen to me to handle the school kids. I was ready for the nauseous fainting of the boys when we took them round the labs. It was always the needles that made then pass out. The girls seemed to take it in their stride.

So when a young student asked intelligent and pertinent questions about autopsies I’d decided to not hold back on the details. Thinking he’d be shocked, I’d outlined the basic procedure in fairly clinical terms. At first I’d been amazed that he understood some of the terminology, then I’d realised there was something familiar about him. It made sense he’d be aware of some of the medical vocabulary, given his background.

I hadn’t seen him for a good few years. When his parents split up his mother had gained custody. Now he’d moved schools and returned to the area.

“You’ll help me learn, won’t you?” he’d asked. “I don’t want Dad to know. Not yet. Not until I’m sure I can really make a go of it.” I’d shrugged my shoulders, loaned him textbooks; hesitantly agreed to the subterfuge. He’d even bought pig’s trotters from the butchers just so he could practice his sewing technique, saying it was the last respect we could show to the departed, treating the body with the utmost respect.

That’s when I’d noticed he was left-handed. And the last time I’d seen him I recalled his remarks about meeting up with a new girlfriend; said her name was Siggy.

Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, everything shapes up but I really don’t want to try them out, afraid they might just fit.

So, now I’m hesitating, taking my time packing up and wishing I could click my heels and be home. Because somehow, I still have to work out how I go back to the lab and tell Bruce I think his son is a killer.


  1. Bumping into the Wizard of Oz and ruby slippers at a crime scene/amateur autopsy is wonderfully unexpected. The twist is subtly foreshadowed and well presented. Enjoyed this a lot.

  2. And what a strange conversation that would be. Nicely done

  3. Working in the Wizard of Oz references was delightful and done so smoothly in this crime piece. Great twist at the end. I enjoyed this very much.