My silent partner and I have been at it again, so to speak. SP is truly remarkable at assisting with Maura, I must say. I'm going to be putting this one up in chapters, but it should all go up today.

Of course, none of the characters and such are ours. We just get a kick out of borrowing them.

Please feed us our crack.

It had been a long day, beginning with a homicide call at four o'clock in the morning and progressing towards an investigation that spanned no more than two hours, but which was followed by paperwork for this and other cases. The rush from hunting down a killer, besting him, and bringing him to justice more than made up for the difficulty. What made aches in the 'muscles' of one's soul was the grind that followed. Even stakeouts weren't so bad, because one could always remember that one was taking an active part in that same heady hunt, building the case against the killer and clearing the innocent of blame. Filling out forms, writing documentation to demonstrate the entire process of investigation, discovery, and procedure so that no lawyer could weasel their way into acquittal or dropped charges, that was the hard part for any detective.

It was really no different for herself, reflected the medical examiner. She had completed the autopsy in a mere six hours, but would have paperwork all the next day to explain her findings to the other medical authorities while leaving the information accessible to those who needed it the most, the detectives charged with finding the truth. They needed her years of medical training, distilled to short words, put together in short sentences, in order to understand that it was (or wasn't) murder, and that the deed was done in this way (or that way), by someone who understood (or didn't) how to accomplish it most effectively.

Maura Isles stepped back from the table on which lay her latest patient, sewn so neatly back together that, once he was dressed again, his relatives would be able to convince themselves that he looked perfectly natural. They would never see the Y-incision, and unless they too were medical experts, would probably fail to notice the purpling under the fingernails which announced the presence of poison in the man's body. Just as she was congratulating herself on a job neatly done, she heard a retching sound behind her.

"Sink, sink, sink," she chanted until Detective Barry Frost obeyed, depositing his lunch into the stainless steel receptacle against the wall and running the water to wash away the evidence of his sensitivity. The doctor turned to face him, eyes evaluating not just his medical condition but also the emotional cues in the man's dark, beautiful face. Shame? Yes, shame, she decided, and once diagnosed, she knew what to say. Or at least, she hoped she knew. One could never be really certain. "I have some crackers and ginger ale in the smaller refrigerator if you'd like to settle your stomach."

Frost began to stammer about bad sushi. Maura just smiled as she patted the sink right beside the man's hand, where he leaned to support himself. "I hope you're not embarrassed," she told him, "about feeling the wrongness of death that wasn't allowed to happen in a natural way on its own, Barry. I think it's a positive character trait."