The Wall of Porcelain Dolls

Note: This is kind of the Catherine version of my fic Shades of Red...meaning, it's kind of depressing.

In her mother's house, in the small room at the end of the hall that had been hers, there was a wall filled with shelves of porcelain dolls. All of them wore pretty little dresses, with pink and lace, and they each had curly hair tied back with tiny little bows. They were so perfect and dignified, and so very still.

Just like the dead.

She wasn't the first to see such a comparison, naturally, but she had seen it more than most. When she was little, every time she had a birthday Sam Braun, the man that slept with her mother, would bring her a porcelain doll and her mother would gently set it on the shelf. When she was almost thirteen and there were too many, or when one was broken, her mother began placing some of them out of sight in drawers. She never threw them away.

Catherine had always wondered what it would be like in there, in the dark, but her mother had always laughed at her morbid thoughts, and reminded her they were nothing but dolls. She had known better, had seen something in the blank eyes, and it had always given her chills. Sometimes she could even hear them screaming.

When she left home she didn't take them with her. Her mother had wanted her too, her mother who thought anything Sam Braun touched was gold, but she'd never touched those dolls and even at seventeen, she couldn't bring herself to. She had forgotten about them for years, because under spotlights and twisted around poles, childhood memories had no place.

Then later, standing over her first d.b., she had remembered them.

A little girl with pink ribbons in her hair, lying on the pavement in the middle of a street, looking just as if she'd sat down and fallen asleep. Her eyes were open, unseeing as glass, and Catherine only got through the day by pretending she wasn't real.

It didn't always work, it had barely worked that time, and sometimes she still faltered--became attached to people that were already dead, invested too much and lost it all again once they'd been slid into a wall of silver drawers, tagged and numbered like merchandise.

The silence left after the drawer clicked closed was always deafening, and even the breathing of Doc Robbins beside her could never fill it. She never heard them screaming, never allowed herself to wonder what it was like left there alone in the dark. It was just silent, cold, empty until the next time, when it started all again.

When she couldn't handle the job anymore, she would think about Robbins, and how much worse he had it. Dead bodies all day, not just most of it--surrounded by them. Dead eyes watching his every move, like those plastic eyes of those stupid dolls in her old bedroom that had followed her.

An autopsy room is no place to say goodbye, he had once told her, but the truth was there was no way to really say goodbye to a corpse, no matter where you were. They stared past you, they couldn't hear anything you said to them, all of those things you should have said sooner. They were nothing but shells, left behind for her to puzzle over.

She kept doing it, kept at it for the puzzles, the pleasure of figuring them out. She kept doing it because someone had to, someone needed to know what happened so it wouldn't happen again, or at the least, so whoever had caused it that particular time couldn't do it again. She wanted to give up sometimes, especially when she saw little girls in the middle of streets and she could so easily see Lindsay lying there instead, but she never did.

She kept going to the dead bodies when she was paged, letting the ghosts speak to her with the pieces left behind, and following them back to the morgue time after time. And they were placed gently on cold drawers and pushed in, one on top of another, and side by side, all across the wall, like broken porcelain dolls.

The End.