Family Secrets
by Judith Freudenthal
2001

Natalie was out walking towards her favorite restaurant for a quick bite before her shift started. She liked to walk when the weather was nice as it was a good form of exercise. And she enjoyed being out in the fresh air.

When she hears a male voice call out, she's startled "Dr. Natalie Lambert?"

She turns around to face him. "Who wants to know?"

"Brian Lambert. I'm your dad's brother. You might not remember me."

"I do remember you. I haven't seen you since I was maybe eight or nine." Natalie knew that her name had been in the paper numerous times and her picture a few times. Natalie remembered her parents having very little to do with Brian. She remembered he was her father's older brother, three years older.

"How about dinner?" Brian Lambert asked. "How many years has it been since we've seen each other? Twenty? Twenty-five?"

"Probably twenty-five years," Natalie said. "I have time for a quick dinner before work."

"Anywhere you recommend?" Brian asked.

"Depends on what you're in the mood for and what you want to spend."

"Something good."

"Okay. There's a good oriental restaurant a couple blocks from here, if you're up to the walk."

"That's no problem for me."

They walked to the restaurant talking about general things. Natalie was a little uneasy but didn't know why. She guessed he was somewhere between fifty-eight to sixty-two. He had a hundred pounds and about six inches on her. His hair was salt and pepper color, but his face didn't look old. His body seemed fit and trim.

Upon entering the restaurant they were shown to a table. After a quick look at the menu, they placed their orders. While waiting for their food they talked a little about family. Natalie learned something about the man she was with. He had a couple of drinks with dinner as he didn't have to work the night shift. Natalie stuck to non-alcoholic drinks because she did have to work that night. Their food arrived and they ate, while continuing to talk.

Brian was surprised by Natalie's career choice. He was a financial analyst. He picked up the check.

"Allow me to escort you to your office," Brian said.

"Thank you. It's several blocks."

"No problem."

They headed out and started towards the Coroner's Office. They talked as they walked.

As they neared her office he asked. "Can't you call in sick?"

"No. I have a lot of work to do tonight. Sorry."

"How about being a little late?"

"Sorry."

"We haven't seen each other since you were a little girl and you can't spare some time to see me? I'm your uncle."

"I know. I'm sorry the timing didn't work out better. I can't just abandon my work." Something about him made her more uneasy. It was almost as if a memory was trying to surface.

"Okay. You must get a meal break sometime?"

"Yeah. I generally get one somewhere between midnight and two am."

"I'll see you then."

"Okay." Natalie turned and walked into the building.

A few hours later her phone rang. She answered it.

"Lambert."

"Brian Lambert says he has an appointment with you," one of the security officers says.

"He does. Tell him I'll be there in a few minutes." She hung up and looked at the clock.

She didn't realize it was that late. She finished the document she had been filling out and grabbed her purse and coat before heading out.

She met her uncle outside the security area. "Sorry I'm late. It's been a busy night. I just lost track of time."

"It's okay. If you don't have time&"

"I have the time. Where would you like to go?"

"I passed by a nice looking restaurant. What do you say we give it a try?"

"Sure. Which one?"

"Scott's. Their menu looked good."

"I haven't tried that one. Why don't you lead the way."

Brian led the way as the two of them walked to the restaurant. They entered.

They were led right to their seats. After a quick look at the menu they placed their orders.

"Would you like a glass of wine?" Brian asked.

"I'm working, I can't."

They talked while they waited for their food. Before long it was delivered and they ate. Brian had three glasses of scotch with his dinner.

After they ate, he paid and they left.

"How about taking a walk? It's a little cool, but otherwise a nice night?" Brian asked.

Natalie had a few minutes left on her break, "Okay. I can't stay away too long, but you're right. A walk does sound nice."

The headed back to Grenville Street. Natalie made sure they stayed on well lit, busy streets.

"I was hoping to check out the underground city."

"Feel free too, but I have to get back to work."

"I come into town and you don't have time for me?" Her uncle asked, his tone becoming tense.

"Sorry. I did warn you."

He grabbed her arm rather tightly just above the wrist, with his palm on the underside of her arm. He squeezed tighter. His thumb was inches from hers. "I thought we'd have some time to get to know one another."

"You're hurting me," she firmly said, a little angrily.

He squeezed tighter and she grimaced in pain. "You can't take one night off for family?" His grip increased. It passed painful. She tried to remove his hand and felt the other one backhand her across the cheek.

"Let me go RIGHT NOW!" Natalie angrily said suddenly wishing she was anywhere else.

"As you wish&" he said as he released her arm, but not before giving it one final intense squeeze, the thumb pressing down on her radius as hard as he could.

Natalie yelped in pain as she felt the radius snap. She started walking as fast as she could in the opposite direction from him.

As soon as Natalie reached the corner she crossed whichever way said walk. She headed straight for Toronto General as it was the closest hospital. She kept her arm tucked up against her, gently cradling it with her other arm. She did a quick check of her pockets and was disappointed to discover she'd left her scarf home. She felt a slight stinging in her cheek from his hand. She was glad her arm didn't hurt right now but knew it would VERY shortly. She knew that it was part of the 'fight or flight' response to danger, and as soon as the danger was over the pain would kick in.

Natalie looked in store windows to see if he was following her, checked behind her and on the other side of the street. So far, so good.

About the time her arm began to really hurt she reached the hospital. She allowed the automatic doors of the ambulance bay to open for her as she walked into the emergency room. She headed straight for the nurse's desk.

"I'm pretty sure I have a distal radial fracture," Natalie said. When the nurse just looked at her, Natalie continued. "I'm an MD."

"How did this happen and how long ago?"

"An acquaintance grabbed my arm, squeezing it harder and harder until he broke it. I heard a bone snap, and am pretty sure it was the radius. It happened twenty to thirty minutes ago."

"Would you like to talk to a cop?"

"I'll wait until I get back to work." Off the nurse's expression she continued. "I'm a forensic pathologist for the Coroner's Office."

The nurse handed Natalie a clipboard full of forms to fill out making Natalie VERY happy it was NOT her writing arm she broke. She took a seat and filled out the paperwork before bringing it back up to the nurse's desk.

The nurse saw the steadily increasing pain written all over Natalie's face, especially in her eyes and took her back to an examination room.

"Have a seat and the doctor will be in to see you shortly." The nurse said as she helped Natalie out of her coat and her suit jacket. Natalie unbuttoned the left sleeve of her blouse. The nurse gave Natalie a pillow to prop her injured arm on and a couple of ice packs, one for each side of her arm, to help keep the swelling down.

Natalie sat on the examination table and waited for the doctor. Boredom very quickly set in and she studied the room around her, trying to get her mind off of the pain. When she had almost memorized everything in the room and identified every piece of equipment she started looking outside the room.

Natalie scanned the hallway and near the end of her search she saw a five year old little girl with a woman that most likely wasn't her mother because they looked nothing alike and the usual mother and daughter chemistry was missing. Natalie saw the way the little girl's arm was supported on a pillow and knew they both had the same problem. The little girl's wavy brown hair, broken arm, and her own broken arm brought back unpleasant memories.

Natalie's mind flashed back to when she was about five years old. She had spent an afternoon in the emergency room with a broken arm. Nana had broken it when she'd been disciplining Natalie. Natalie remembered Nana telling her that it was what happened to bad little girls. Natalie didn't remember doing anything bad. She'd knocked over her milk glass by accident. This had made Nana mad. Nana had yanked her out of her chair and forced her to the floor to clean up the milk.

Afterwards she'd been yanked back to her feet. That was when her little arm bone snapped. Her grandmother had not believed her at first. It was only after it started swelling and the bruising started that Nana realized Natalie had not been lying. Natalie remembered how Nana had made her tell everyone, including her parents that she and Richie had been fooling around in the backyard. She'd fallen and broken her arm. They'd both be in BIG trouble if anyone found out what had really happened.

Natalie remembered how Nana had taken her to the ER and told her that big girls don't cry only babies did. Big girls don't ask for their mommies. She remembered how all she wanted was her parents there with her. She remembered how much it hurt as they took the x- rays and set the bone. Then they put on that heavy plaster cast she had to wear for what seemed forever to a five-year-old. She'd hated not being able to move her wrist or even her elbow. And it had hurt to move her arm when the cast finally came off six weeks after her arm had been broken.

It was something she was not looking forward to this time. She was VERY grateful they used the lighter fiberglass casting material now instead of the heavy plaster.

Natalie remembered how all her friends had been eager to sign her cast the first day she'd been back in school, but she hadn't let them for a week or so because it hurt too much. She remembered how she had started to use her arm as much as possible the week or two before the cast came off. And once the pain had lessened she'd started more actively playing with her friends, doing as much as she could.

She kept repeating the lie whenever she'd been asked how she broke her arm. She hated that she could not tell the truth. When she had to go back to Nana's, she was very careful. She didn't want to get hurt again. Nana yelled at her but did not physically hurt her the entire time the cast was on her arm. It seemed that she messed up a lot while her arm was healing, especially as she was getting used to the large cast.

Any further thoughts of the past were temporarily put on hold as she heard someone calling her name.

"Dr. Lambert."

"Sorry. What?" Natalie answered. She was a little embarrassed she'd been caught lost in thought.

"It's time to take you down for x-rays. You can leave your jacket here. Take your purse though."

Natalie nodded, set the now warm icepacks on the table next to her along with the pillow and hopped down off the table being careful to jar her arm as little as possible. The more it was jarred the more shooting pains there were. She grabbed her purse and followed the nurse.

She followed the nurse to the x-ray room. From there the technician took over. Natalie hoped she had only broken one bone. That would make the healing process much easier and faster.

"Why don't you have a seat in this chair and rest your injured arm on this," the technician said as she readied the first film. "Is there any chance you could be pregnant?"

"No."

The technician draped a heavy lead apron across Natalie's front that came down almost to her knees. Then she set about positioning Natalie's arm in the proper position for the first picture. The technician knew it hurt her patient and was as gentle as she could be.

"Hold it just a moment. I know it hurts."

The technician stepped behind her shield and snapped the first picture. She moved the film and took another picture.

After that was done the technician took a third picture. Then she removed the lead shield from Natalie and led her back to her examination room.

Natalie saw the little girl again and recognized her expression. Someone the little girl knew she had broken her arm. Natalie knew the little girl had probably been sworn to secrecy just as she had.

Natalie was again left in the examination room with two more ice packs for her arm. She set her purse back on the counter. She wished they'd give her a painkiller as the injured area throbbed. Again Natalie's mind wandered back to that afternoon. Her grandmother had taken her back to her house where they stayed until her parents came to pick her up at the end of the workday. They had been stunned to see their baby injured.

"Why didn't you call us?" Natalie's father, Robert, asked.

"I knew you had surgeries lined up and that Amanda had just as busy a day. I was perfectly capable of taking care of things. She's okay."

"What happened?" Amanda asked, wanting to know how her daughter was injured.

"She and Richie were goofing off in the backyard. She fell and broke her arm. They say she'll be good as new in six weeks." Nana handed Robert the paperwork from the ER, which included information on the injury, cast care, warning signs, and her next appointment with the doctor. Her father told his wife that Natalie had suffered a distal radial fracture. That she would be fine and could do as much activity as she felt like doing. Since it wasn't her writing hand she'd be okay in school, and could go back tomorrow.

Someone calling her name interrupted Natalies trip to the past.

"Dr. Lambert," the doctor said as he shoved the x-rays into the light box.

"Sorry."

"It's okay. I'm Dr. Richmond. It looks like your diagnosis was right on the money. You have a distal radial fracture." He pointed out the fracture to her. "It was a clean break and should be good as new in about six weeks. It looks as if the icepacks did a good job keeping the swelling down. Can you wiggle your fingers for me?"

Natalie was able to move each of her fingers, and her thumb without a problem. She noticed the doctor briefly press on each fingernail, and the thumbnail then watch as the color quickly returned. She knew he was checking for any hidden damage to her hand.

"Everything looks good. You need to see your regular doctor in about A week for a checkup and probable recasting. I'm going to send you down to the casting room and then you're free to go."

The doctor left and the nurse entered.

"Any way I can get a painkiller?" Natalie asked.

"Sure," the nurse said as she left. She had not been able to give one before in case Natalie required surgery.

A moment later the nurse returned with two small paper cups. She handed Natalie the one containing the painkillers first, and when Natalie had popped the pills into her mouth the nurse took that cup and handed Natalie the one filled with water. Natalie took the cup and washed down the painkillers and couldn't wait till they started working.

"Thanks."

The nurse draped Natalie's suit jacket and coat over Natalie's uninjured arm and handed her her purse. She then escorted Natalie down to the casting room. Once there, Natalie saw the little girl being escorted in. Natalie set her purse and the two outer wear items down on the table, out of the way.

The little girl looked over at Natalie and saw that she too was hurt. Natalie smiled at the little girl. The youngster wasn't sure what to do. She nervously smiled back at Natalie.

The cast technician entered and saw two patients waiting for him. "Who's first?"

"Do her first," Natalie said.

"Okay."

"Thank you," said the woman with the little girl.

Natalie had pretty much figured out she was from Child Protective Services.

"What would you like for your cast? We have all sorts of colors. We have teddy bears, tie-dye, Snoopy, Scooby Doo, Pokeman, Power Puff Girls, Mickey Mouse, and he continued to name a few more patterns. We even have one that glows in the dark."

"Teddy bears," the little girl said.

The technician carefully applied the fiberglass long arm cast to the little girl's broken arm. She seemed to like the teddy bear print her arm was now encased in a lot.

"Did you know I broke my arm when I was about your age? We didn't have all these neat designs. You know that plaster stuff you use to make things with in school?"

The little girl looked at her social worker who nodded it was okay to talk to the stranger.

The little girl nodded.

"That's what my cast was made of. It was very heavy. You had to be very careful not to get it wet, or it was ruined. It took two days to dry. I bet yours is already dry."

"Was your cast just like mine?"

"Yes. Only it was white and plaster. It made it really hard to move because of the weight."

"How did you break your arm?"

"My grandmother broke it yanking me up off the floor. I'd spilled my milk and she made me clean it up."

The little girl was surprised. Someone else had been hurt by someone they loved. She looked at Natalie, then her cast, then the floor, her social worker, then back at her cast and then back at Natalie. "My daddy broke mine. He got mad at me for dropping a meatball onto the new kitchen chair."

The social worker mouthed a silent 'thank you' to Natalie for getting the little girl to open up, something she hadn't been able to do.

"Did she hurt you this time?" The girl asked.

"No. She died when I was a teenager. I hadn't seen my uncle since I was about your age. We ran into each other. We went out to lunch and then dinner together. It was when I tried to leave to return to work that he grabbed my arm really hard and broke it," Natalie said. She knew her honesty was helping the little girl realize that she wasn't the only one hurt by those she loved. "That's a really cool cast you have."

"Thanks. What color are you going to pick?"

"I think I'll pick the tie-dye," Natalie said with a small grin. She could feel the painkillers starting to work and was grateful.

"Can we wait and see how it looks?" the little girl asked her social worker.

"Sure." She was glad to see her young charge talking again. She'd been too quiet since she'd been removed from the house right after the incident.

"My name's Natalie."

"I'm Amy," the little girl said.

"I'm Erica Heyes. Im Sorry to hear about your uncle. I hope you're pressing charges."

"I am. As soon as I get out of here."

"What does pressing charges mean?" Amy asked.

"It means I'm telling the police who hurt me. And if I knew why, I'd tell them that too. The more the police know the better job they can do protecting me."

"Would they believe me? Could they protect me?" Amy asked.

"Yes and yes. As long as you tell the truth," Natalie said. "If no one believed you, you wouldn't be here with Erica."

Amy thought about that a moment. She didn't want to get her daddy in trouble but he hurt her. "Did your parents or Nana get mad at you for what happened?"

Natalie knew what Amy was trying to work out, having been in the same situation herself. She wanted to help Amy as much as she could. She knew that Amy would listen to her and believe her because she'd been there and truly knew what it was like.

The technician knew how important this was and tried to give them some time and space.

"My Nana was at first, but only because she had not realized what she'd done was wrong. Once she did, she felt bad for what she did. She loved me and didn't want to hurt me, but she did. I was mad at her for hurting me. She had no right to do that. I was just a little kid. I made a mistake. Mom and Dad explained to me that she was the one who was bad, not me. I did nothing wrong. Little kids make mistakes. It's how kids learn. Even grown ups make mistakes and learn from them."

"Did you love your Nana?"

"Yes. But at the same time I hated her for hurting me. My mom and dad told me that it was okay to feel that way. I could love her because she was my grandmother and still hate her for hurting me."

"How did you tell your parents what really happened?"

Natalie told Amy what happened.

When the serious conversation seemed to be over, the technician turned his attention to Natalie. "What color cast would you like? I hope you heard the list. It's been a very busy shift."

"Tie-dye."

"Great choice."

"Thanks. It was a hard choice between the more business like royal blue or the tie-dye. It just seems like a fun pattern." Natalie was NOT happy at the thought of spending weeks in the long arm cast. She knew exactly how limiting it would be. Her only cheery thought was that it was not her writing arm.

The tech applied the stockinette, then wrapped the padding around her arm, and then the fiberglass casting tape. As soon as he had the hand and wrist parts done, Natalie knew she'd picked the right pattern. Before long the whole cast was done.

"Neat," said Amy. "That's almost cooler than the teddy bears."

"You can pick this one next week," the ortho tech said.

"Cool," Amy said. "Natalie, what are you going to pick for your next one?"

"I might stick with this one. It is pretty cool."

The tech turned his attention back to Amy. "Does the cast rub anywhere? Wiggle your fingers and thumb for me."

Amy ran her other hand over the cast, and wiggled her fingers and thumb. "It doesn't rub."

"Great," he said as he helped her arm into a sling.

"Amy, we have to go now. Say goodbye."

"Bye Natalie, bye cast guy."

"Bye." Both Natalie and the tech said.

The social worker led Amy out of the room, holding onto her good hand.

The tech guy asked. "Do you want your suit jacket on before the sling or after?

"Before."

He helped Natalie into her suit jacket before helping her into the navy cotton sling with the white strap and cording. He showed her how to adjust the sling with the large strip of Velcro on the strap. "That was nice of you to help her like that."

"I remember how hard it was for me and didn't want her to go through any more pain than she had to."

"Do you want the coat under the sling?"

"No, it'll be too bulky. I'll just pull it around me."

"Good choice. Have a nice night," He said as he helped Natalie into her coat.

"Thanks. You too."

Natalie needed the cool night air to clear her head before she had to make her police report. She kept a look out for her uncle, hoping she did NOT run into him again. Since the left side of her jacket was just hanging on her shoulder, she pulled it closer to her chest but didn't button it. She wasnt in the mood to attempt that right now.

She realized it was too late and too chilly for her to walk to the precinct. Not to mention it was too far. She briefly considered returning to the Coroner's Office first, which was only about three blocks away, but knew she needed to make her report first, while all the details were still fresh in her mind.

She headed for the nearest streetcar stop and dug out her pass. She was pleased to see she hadn't missed the latest streetcar, which arrived moments later. When she entered the streetcar, she showed her pass before slipping it back into her pocket. She noticed all the seats were taken and wasn't in the mood to stand. She was grateful when someone noticed her injury and offered her their seat.

"Thank you," she said as she sat down. She could clearly feel the effects of the painkiller and was grateful they were working.

She was glad she didn't have to dig out the $2.25 fare. A part of her knew it was silly to have a monthly pass when she had a car, but the other part of her knew it was sometimes easier to take the subway than to fight the traffic and then find a parking spot at a crime scene with no available parking, or nothing within a two block radius. And since she and her uncle had walked, she didn't have her car with her. The subway was the best way back to work that night.

Before long it was her stop and she got off. She headed for the front door of the precinct, climbed the stairs and entered.

She knew Nick would have a fit when he found out. Nick wasn't too surprised when she went to see one of the other officers first. But he was surprised when she sat down in the chair next to the officers desk and the officer seemed to be taking a report. He listened in.

Anger rose in him as he heard her story. He forced himself to remain calm, at least on the outside and wait for her to approach him.

When Natalie was finished dictating her statement to the officer she signed her statement and headed over to see Nick.

"Nat, what happened?" He asked concerned, seeing the cast and sling.

"Got a broken arm," she said trying to lighten the mood.

"Nat, what brings you by?" Schanke said as he approached. A moment later he saw the cast. "Nice cast. How high does it go? What happened?"

Natalie motioned midway up her upper arm.

"Oh man," Schanke said.

"My thoughts basically."

Natalie sat on the edge of Nick's desk and told them the whole story. She saw the anger rise in both her friends faces, Nick's especially. "I'm fine guys."

"Grace has been looking for you. I think she wants to hear all about how lunch went. Wait until she sees that," Schanke said.

"She'll get more of a story than she expected," Natalie said.

"Looks like you'll be on desk duty for a while," Schanke said.

Natalie groaned. They knew she liked paperwork about as much as they did.

"I'd best be getting back to work. Nick, could you give me a lift?"

"Sure. And Schanke's right. That is a pretty cast."

"Thanks guys. I wanted something different. I figured why not have a little fun with it. I'll be in it a while. I'll see you later."

Nick and Natalie headed out of the precinct and towards the Caddy. Nick held the door for her as she got in and then shut it behind her. He quickly went around the front and climbed into the driver's seat.

"Nick, I don't want you doing anything to my uncle. At least I now know why my father had as little to do with him as he did."

"I won't hurt him, as much as I'd like to. Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I would like to hurt him, but I know it's not all his fault. I think Nana probably abused him worse&"

"Nat?" Nick realized what she'd stopped herself from saying. "If you need someone to talk to&"

"Thanks, Nick. I might take you up on that later."

They reached the Coroner's office. Natalie tugged on her coat to make sure it was securely in place and covered up as much of the cast and sling as possible.

"Thanks for the lift," Natalie said.

Natalie climbed out of the car and entered the Coroner's Office.

She ran into Grace in the hallway.

"I was worried. You've been gone too long."

"Sorry. Things didn't go as planned. I know I should've called."

Grace noticed the cast. "Oh my God! Natalie. What happened?"

They walked into Natalie's office as Nat told her friend the whole story, knowing that it would probably become office gossip before long. Grace helped Natalie out of her coat and hung it up for her.

"That's a pretty cast. Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeah. I'm fine. I thought since I'd be in it a couple weeks I'd have a little fun with it. I felt like doing something different. I hate the thought of desk duty while it heals."

"I'm glad you pressed charges." Grace said.

"Thanks. Anyone waiting to be sliced and diced?"

"Nope," Grace said. She saw Natalie momentarily question her answer. "If you don't believe me, check for yourself." She knew Natalie suspected she might lie to keep her from overdoing it.

"I believe you," Natalie said. She knew Grace would not have told her to check if there were anything to find.

Just then the phone rang. Natalie picked it up and found it hard to balance the phone and scribble down the address with only one usable hand. As soon as Natalie hung up, she noticed Grace was holding her coat for her.

"Grace, you don't have to."

"I know. I want to. You'd do the same thing."

"You're right. Thanks," Natalie said as Grace held her coat as she slipped her uninjured arm through the sleeve.

Grace slipped the other shoulder of the coat over Nat's shoulder, and pulled it so that it was firmly seated and covered most of the cast like it had been when Natalie entered.

Terry entered. "Natalie, do you have a few minutes?"

"I'm on my way to a crime scene, but if you care to follow me, we can talk."

"That's fine," Terry said as she followed Natalie out of the office. "I was wondering if you'd have time to give a couple lectures at the college in a week?"

"I should be able to, unless we suddenly find ourselves with a heavy load."

It wasn't until Natalie went to open the front doors of the Coroner's Office that Terry realized Natalie was hurt.

"What happened?" Terry said surprised.

Natalie told her the same story she'd told everyone else already.

"How much of an effect will this have on your work?"

"I might not be able to do autopsies for the next two weeks, but other than that I should be able to handle my usual stuff."

"Two weeks?"

"Yeah, that's when I should get rid of this big cast and get a forearm one. I should be able to do autopsies then."

"Makes sense."

"If you get desperate, I'll give it a try anyway."

"By the way, that's a pretty cast."

"Thanks. I wanted something different, something fun," Natalie said as she unlocked the driver's side door.

Her boss headed back into the building, as it was quite chilly outside, especially without a coat.

Natalie found that one-handed driving took a little getting used to but it wasn't too bad.

She arrived at the crime scene and parked. She got out, grabbed her clipboard and stuck it under her arm between her body and the sling, hoping it stayed in place. If not, she'd stick it in the sling. She grabbed her black medical bag in her uninjured hand. She shut and locked her door before heading for the body.

She ran into her first problem when she tried to put the latex glove on her uninjured hand. Her cast arm hurt too much to use. One of the nearby forensic technicians saw her problem and gave her a hand.

"I've been here before. Sorry to hear about it."

"Thanks, Jerry."

Jerry went back to his duties and Natalie squatted down to examine the body. She pulled the clipboard from where she'd tucked it and balanced it on her knee with the side of her cast, the pinky side, which wasn't broken so it didn't hurt.

Natalie did her examination pretty much as usual. She was pleased to see that her injury didn't effect every area of her work. She found the clipboard a little wobbly but was able to jot down her notes well enough that she wasn't going to worry about it. She stuck the clipboard under her arm as she stood, being careful not to throw herself off balance and fall.

Nick noticed she was done with her examination of the body and approached, Schanke right beside him.

"Need a hand?" Nick asked. When he saw Natalie nod he pulled off her latex glove and handed it to her.

She shoved it into her pocket and then took hold of the clipboard again.

"TOD about an hour ago, give or take 15 minutes. Cause of death, gunshot wounds through the heart and brain. You'll have to wait for the autopsy report to know which one was the fatal shot. I won't be doing autopsies for the next two weeks, at least, unless there's a massive disaster."

"At least you can do the rest of your job," Schanke said, trying to be helpful.

"I know. And for that I'm grateful."

"We did bring in your uncle. He denies hurting you," Schanke said. "He wants to talk to you."

"I want to talk to him as well," Natalie said annoyed.

Schanke nodded. Both men knew better than to try and keep her from her uncle.

After they finished their duties at the crime scene they headed back to the precinct in their cars. Natalie didn't have to rush back to the coroner's office because she turned over her report at the scene, and was basically finished until she had to sign off on her part of it.

Nick and Schanke arrived back at the precinct a minute or two before Natalie did. When Natalie entered the precinct, she headed straight for Nick's desk.

He helped her out of her coat and they headed towards the interrogation room. Schanke followed them and stood guard outside the door to give them some privacy. Natalie debated taking off the sling and her suit jacket to give him a good look at what he claimed he did not do to her. She did remove the sling as her uncle was lead in and to his seat. Nick took the sling from her and held onto it. Nick helped her out of her suit jacket. She pushed back her sleeve until it was bunched around the top of her cast. She wanted him to get a good look at it, as he was responsible for it.

"Natalie, what happened?" The uncle asked.

"You know damn well what happened," Natalie angrily said. "When I wouldn't ditch work to show you around town, you grabbed my arm and kept squeezing it. You don't remember giving it that last squeeze? Or hearing the radius snapping?"

"I would never hurt you."

"You don't think that this happened spontaneously?" She said sarcastically as she gave him a closer look at the cast. "Everyone back at the Coroner's Office knows I was fine when I left for dinner, and the only person I was with was you. And I went straight to the ER, so there is no other rational explanation."

"Maybe you got mugged and in your confusion you thought it was me."

Nick saw the anger growing in Natalie's eyes, and did NOT want to be in her uncle's shoes if she let loose on him.

"Maybe you had more drinks than I realized. Or maybe you're just lying to save your own miserable hide. No wonder dad wouldn't have anything to do with you."

"That's not fair. That wasn't my fault. It was our mother's fault."

"You hurt me. That's your fault. No one else's," Natalie said angrily, hurt by his betrayal.

"I took a lot of abuse because I was the oldest, and I protected your dad from most of it. "

"That doesn't excuse what you did. You're still responsible for your actions," Natalie said. "There are many people who overcome worse abuse."

"Natalie, you don't understand. It isn't so easy to overcome."

"I understand more than you think," she said with rarely seen venom in her voice, and matching venom in her eyes. She was pleased by the surprise on his face. "You can't be that surprised. I am the older child."

"No one ever told me. Was it her?" He asked, suspecting it was.

Natalie nodded. "She forbade me to tell anyone. She made me believe we'd both be in trouble."

Part of Nick wasn't surprised to hear this. But it hurt to hear that she'd been abused as a child. He'd suspected it for a while now, but didn't think it was important enough to bring it up. He figured if she wanted him to know, she'd tell him.

"Everyone thought I was accident prone as I grew up," her uncle said. "But no one talked about it then, or believed that it happened in 'nice' families."

"I know. But things are different now."

"I know. Did she ever hurt you?"

Natalie nodded. "A broken arm when I was five was the most serious injury, at least physically."

"Natalie, please drop the charges. It wasn't my fault."

"Yes, it was. You're a grown man. You're bigger than I am, stronger than I. You knew damn well you were hurting me," she said her anger growing. "All you had to do was stop when I asked you to, either time. You did NOT have to do that final squeeze, to squeeze until the bone broke. And even then I had to force my arm out of your grip."

"Natalie, please."

"No," Natalie angrily said. "You have to take responsibility for your actions. I would've enjoyed getting to know you, but after this I won't. Dad was right not to have anything much to do with you. And I don't EVER want to see you in my life again." She turned and walked away from him, over to Nick.

"Natalie&" her uncle pleaded.

Nick walked over to her uncle and leaned on the table in front of him.

"Nick, no. He has to want to."

Nick turned to look at her. Her expression told him she was right.

Nick and Natalie left the room.

Schanke gave them some space. She pushed down her sleeve and then he helped her into her jacket, then the sling.

"Did he ever hurt you before?"

"No."

"I didn't think so. I just wanted to make sure."

"Thanks," Natalie said. She looked into his eyes and then at her cast, then around the room and finally back at him. "Nick, is that offer still good?"

"Always."

"Can I meet you at the loft after our shifts?"

"I'd like that. I'll even have food waiting for you."

"Thank you."

For the rest of her shift, Natalie was a little distracted. She did her best not to let it get in the way of her work. She watched the autopsy on the body she'd done the report on. She worked on her paperwork. Once again she was grateful he hadn't broken her writing arm. Grace checked in on her from time to time, bringing her friend a cup of coffee when she sensed Natalie needed one. Natalie appreciated the gesture, and showed it with a smile and thanks.

Nick stopped off at the grocery store on his way home to pick up the promised food. He picked up a nutritious meal along with plenty of Natalie's favorite comfort foods.

He arrived home and had just put away the food when he heard the elevator start. He walked over to the door and opened it when the motor stopped.

Natalie entered and allowed Nick to help her out of her coat and her suit jacket.

"Why don't you change into something more comfortable? You can borrow one of my t-shirts and sweat pants. Or you can borrow a pair of my pajamas."

"Thanks. That would be more comfortable. I'll be right back."

Natalie walked over to the stairs and climbed them. She entered Nick's bedroom and shut the door. She removed the sling and slipped out of her clothes. She found the t-shirt and sweatpants. They looked more like pajama pants. She slipped into the shirt, the cast arm first. She had forgotten how hard it was to pull up her pants one handed. She grabbed a pair of socks from his drawer before opening the bedroom door and heading back downstairs.

She sat on the couch. "That feels much better."

Nick knew she needed help with her socks. She held them out to him, too tired to try. He slipped the socks onto her feet.

"Thanks."

"You're welcome. Are you hungry?"

"Starving. And I need something to take my painkillers with."

"Where are they?"

"My jacket pocket. Thanks," Natalie said. She was curious to see what he'd picked up for her dinner.

Nick brought her the painkiller bottle and a glass of water. He set the glass down on the coffee table and opened the pill bottle. He poured two into her hand and as soon as she'd popped them into her mouth, he handed her the glass of water. She took the glass and washed the pills down, then handed him back the glass. He took it back to the kitchen and worked on dinner.

Natalie made herself comfortable on the couch and removed the sling. She knew she didn't need it right now. It was slightly irritating.

He brought her food, not pushing her to talk.

"This looks really good," Natalie says as she examined the cold shrimp and the crab cake that looked more like a scoop of lump crabmeat with just enough stuff to hold it together. Nick set her green salad with Ranch dressing on the coffee table. He set her lemonade where she could reach it easily.

"I'm glad you liked it. I wanted it to be easy to eat, nutritious and different from your usual fare."

"You succeeded on all three counts. Thank you."

She and Nick talked about general things while she ate.

"Do you want dessert now or later?"

"Later. I'll need it then."

"Okay."

"When my brother and I were little we stayed with my grandmother while mom and dad worked. I'm two years older than Richie is. He was quite a handful at three. Nana was from Russia and from the old school where you physically disciplined children. She used a combination of yelling and hitting. But the hitting was usually confined to our rear ends. She expected us to be well behaved all the time. Perfect miniature adults, even though she knew we weren't. We weren't capable of it. No little kid of three or five is." Natalie looked down at her cast.

One day I guess she hit her limit, or we were just the final straw. Richie and I had been having trouble and I helped him as best I could. I sometimes took the blame to protect him. Sometimes she singled me out because I was the older one." Natalie studied her cast. "That day I accidentally spilled my milk and she got really mad at me. She acted as if I'd done it on purpose. She yanked me out of the chair by my arm and pushed me to the floor. She made me clean it up and then yanked me back up by my arm."

"I'm sorry she was so hard on you. It was nice of you to protect your brother."

"When she yanked me up, I felt the bone snap. It hurt. She refused to believe I was hurt and sternly told me that big girls did not cry, only babies did. When I refused to use my arm, she thought I was being lazy and told me to stop it. She didn't believe I was hurt until my arm swelled up and the bruising started. She took me to the ER, Richie in tow. She told me that I had to tell them that Richie and I were goofing off, and I got hurt. If I told anyone the truth we'd both be in BIG trouble. I didn't understand. But I was afraid of being hurt again, or getting in worse trouble, I lied."

"I'm sorry to hear she did that to you." Nick put his hand on her leg to offer support.

"Thanks." Natalie again, studied her cast. "They only had plaster casts back then. They were heavy, took forever to dry and were somewhat fragile."

"I know." He loved the surprised look on her face. "I've applied a few in my time. I even had to wear one once." His last comment elicited another surprised look from her.

"Imagine what it was like for a five year old. It was this arm too," she said making a slight gesture with her fiberglass encased arm. "It made me even more accident prone and the only good thing that came out of it was that Nana didn't touch me in anger once, for the entire six weeks I was in it. I remember her wanting to a couple times when I'd spilled something, or hadn't kept Richie from making a mistake. She did yell at me something horrible. I think the broken arm hurt less than her words did."

"Did your parents ever find out the truth?"

"Yeah. I had a few nightmares. My parents told me that I called out 'Nana, no' or 'I'm sorry'. It wasn't until my arm was nearly healed that I cried out in my sleep for her not to hurt me." Natalie refused to look him in the eyes. He tilted her chin up so they were eye to eye.

"It wasn't your fault."

"I know that now. My parents weren't sure what to make of it. They knew she disciplined us with spankings. And that she considered me headstrong, willful, and needed to act more like a young lady. She felt I needed to dress more like a lady as well. I was a bit of a tomboy."

"Were you headstrong and willful?"

"My parents disagreed with her. They thought I was a normal five- year-old. I was bright and curious. They didn't have to scold me much at all. They knew that kids were growing, their coordination developing as their bodies did. they felt We were doing the best we could."

"Sounds like they were nice, loving parents. They understood you."

"They did. They encouraged us in whatever we were interested. It didn't matter if I was a tomboy or not. I dressed like a young lady when I had to." Nicks unconditional support of her was making it much easier to tell the story. "They noticed I didn't like going to Nana's anymore. I was nervous when I went there. They weren't sure what was going on, but knew something was. I wasn't quite the same happy child that I had been. My broken arm seemed to be adding to my unhappiness, especially right before or right after being at Nana's. I was fine on the days I stayed home."

Nick got up and grabbed one of the desserts he had for Natalie. He stuck a spoon into the really dark, rich chocolate mousse and brought it over to her with a glass of water. He moved the mostly empty lemonade glass out of the way.

"I thought you could use this," Nick said as he handed it to her.

"I could. Thanks." Natalie balanced it in her lap and took the first spoonful. She savored it, enjoying the excellent quality of the dark chocolate. "Mmmmmm," Natalie sighed in pleasure.

After a couple of spoonfuls she continued the story. "One afternoon mom and dad were asking me what happened. I reluctantly told them the lie I was supposed to use. I wanted to tell them the truth but was afraid of getting in trouble. Richie heard mom and dad and said, Nana hurt Nattie. He had trouble saying Natalie." She grinned a moment before it faded. "I told him to be quiet and shocked everyone by lashing out at him with my hand. I'd never been violent before."

She looked down at her cast, afraid to look at Nick. "I hit my baby brother, and I told him to shut up. My parents were stunned and scolded me. They asked Richie what he meant. He repeated himself. Then they asked me what happened, and I lied again. I was afraid of getting in more trouble. They weren't happy that they didn't have more time to question me. We had to leave for my doctor's appointment. Dad took me. He asked the doctor if he could see the x- rays. He was surprised by what he saw on them. He knew the injury most likely could not have been done the way I had said it happened. He asked for a moment alone with me. He picked me up and showed me the x-ray. He pointed to the broken spot on my radius. He asked me what really happened. He said he knew I was lying because the picture showed that I could not have broken my arm the way I said I did."

Nick moved over so he was sitting next to her on the couch and took her dish from her. He set it on the coffee table and held her uninjured hand.

"I started to cry and then stopped myself. Big girls don't cry, only babies do, I said. Dad told me that everyone cries. That crying is okay. I was terrified when the lady came at me with the saw. She ran it over her hand and daddy's hand to show me it didn't hurt. Then she asked me if I wanted to feel it and I did. It tickled. She sawed off my cast and it was replaced with a new one. I hated having to wear the sling and be careful for the two days it took it to fully dry and harden. Dad took me out for ice cream. When we got home he and Mom took me into the family room and sat on each side of me on the couch. They asked me what happened. They told me it was okay to tell the truth. I wouldn't get in trouble for it.

I couldn't tell Dad so I told Mom, not looking at Dad. They were shocked. Dad got mad. He tried to hide it, but I could see it. I told him I was sorry. He told me that I did nothing wrong. I should've come to him sooner. If I had, he would've kept me away from her."

Natalie took a break and finished off her mousse. "You have to let me know where you got this."

"Sure. I'll write it down for you later."

"I was enrolled in preschool later that week. If it wouldn't have caused a major scandal, he would've pressed charges. We were never left with Nana again, without one of our parents present. Richie stayed with a friend. She also took care of me after school on the days both my parents had to work late. They tried to keep from working as much overtime as they had, but couldn't totally avoid it. Dad pretty much cut his mother out of his life. He also blamed himself for not seeing the obvious signs that Nana hurt us. He grew up with her and felt badly that he had not realized what was going on, especially since I was the older one. He spoiled me a bit trying to make up for it. Both my parents kept reinforcing the fact that it wasn't my fault."

"It wasn't your fault. You were a kid. She knew better." Nick wrapped his arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze.

"I know. But when you're five it's hard to believe." Natalie said. "When I was fifteen Nana was dying. My parents left the decision of whether or not to visit her up to me. Dad was still mad at her for hurting me, both physically and emotionally. And he knew that I was still mad at her for the same reasons. There was a small part of me that wanted to see her, but the rest of me didn't. She still made me uneasy whenever I was around her. She died a few days later. Dad had only visited her once. Richie visited her a couple times as he didn't really remember what had happened."

"It's hard to believe even when you're an adult," Nick said.

Natalie looked at him a little surprised. It was the first time Nick had ever admitted he was abused. She had recognized some of his traits as those of someone abused by someone close to them. She knew the abuse was still going on.

"I know. It's hard to recover from, isn't it?" She asked.

"Yeah," Nick said. "Does one ever fully recover?"

"I don't know. My parents did the best they could to show me how much they loved me and tried to reassure me that they would never hurt me like Nana had. And over the next few months they noticed a slow but steady lessening of my fears. Richie was afraid of me and that scared me. I apologized to Richie and told him that I'd never hit him again. I didn't want my little brother to fear me because of what Nana had done to me. It scares me to think about what might've happened if I'd had to keep that secret for years, or for the rest of my life."

"I think you would've told someone when you were ready to. When you knew that it was the right thing to do, that you would not get in trouble. That she needed help."

"Maybe. I hope so," Natalie said. "It took Richie a week or two before he stopped being afraid of me. Mom and Dad had both talked with him about what happened in terms he could understand. When I was around him I was very careful not to do anything that would scare him. I knew he'd forgiven me when he came over to me one day about two weeks later when I was feeling badly and gave me a big hug. I hugged him back and cried. He pulled away afraid he'd hurt me and I told him I was happy he wasn't afraid of me anymore. I didn't mean to hurt him and never would again. A few years later he told me that he knew I had not meant to hurt him. He finally understood what had happened. He thanked me for protecting him all those times I did."

"What about your uncle?"

"I haven't seen him since I was eight or nine. Dad knew of his temper. Something happened that kept them apart. Brian might've resented the abuse and maybe HE hit Dad once or twice. Or maybe he tried to hurt us kids. When he first called out my name and identified himself, it seemed as if a memory was trying to come to the surface. But it never did. It might've been something I've chosen to forget. Maybe he did try to hurt us. Maybe he hurt Dad in front of us. A part of me was uneasy around him. It was weird."

"Did you remember him?"

"It took a moment, but I did. And his telling me he was dad's brother did help trigger the memory."

She grabbed her empty mousse dish and headed for the kitchen. She set it in the sink and walked over to the fridge. She opened it hoping to find another mousse in it. She smiled when she did. She grabbed it and set it on the counter while she opened Nick's silverware drawer and grabbed a spoon. She set the spoon in the mousse and started back to the couch.

She sat down. Nick set a pillow on her lap so she could prop her cast on it. She propped her arm on the pillow and stuck the glass between her index finger and thumb to hold it while she ate her mousse. Nick stuck a movie in the VCR. They both needed something lighter after their discussion. He sat in the chair next to the couch so she could stretch out when she tired.

During the movie she finished her mousse, set the dish on the coffee table and stretched out on the couch. She adjusted the pillow under her broken arm so she was as comfortable as she was going to get.

Nick watched her, knowing that she'd be lucky to stay awake long enough to see the end of the movie as it had been a long stressful night for her. Her injury and the confrontation hadn't helped with the energy drain.

As soon as the ending credits rolled, Nick saw Natalie lose the battle to stay awake. He covered her with a blanket and headed up to bed. He'd keep an ear open in case she had nightmares.

The next day Brian Lambert was arraigned on one count of assault and battery. He pleaded not guilty.

Brian Lambert was taken back to the precinct and into the interrogation room. His lawyer was there with him. Nick, Schanke, and the prosecutor Were there. Nick and Schanke stayed in the background. Natalie watched from the observation room.

"You have no case. I will be submitting papers for dismissal."

"If there was no case, there would not have been an arraignment. I have learned that this was not his first arrest for assault and battery. He has one other arrest but since it was his first he received a fine and community service. He also has one domestic abuse charge. She withdrew her charges right before the trial."

The defense lawyer pondered this. "What does that prove?"

"It proves he has a violent nature."

"He was an abused child. I can get jury sympathy with that."

"Maybe. But they might also figure he is a grown adult who should know better than to attack a woman half his size. Dr. Lambert has an excellent reputation. She is well respected and well liked by everyone on the force and at the Coroner's Office."

The lawyer knew that the more he heard the more chance of Reasonable Doubt the prosecutor could raise. And if the case came before the judge while Dr. Lambert still had her cast, it would hurt his case. It would be hard to deny that his client had not broken her arm when the jury could see the evidence for themselves, especially with the colorful pattern she'd chosen. He also knew the timing was tight enough that it would be difficult to prove that someone else had hurt her.

"What are you offering?"

"Assault and Battery. Minimum of a full year served, no early parole. Maximum of three. That's less than he'll face if this goes to trial."

"Minimum security?"

"Medium security. And he is not to come within 100 meters of her for the rest of their lives. If he does, it will be considered a violation of the restraining order, and his parole, which will land him back in prison."

"Does he have to plead guilty?"

Natalie and Nick had discussed this. She wanted a guilty plea, but knew that she most likely would not get it. That 'no contest' was as close as she was likely to get.

"If he pleads guilty I will recommend the minimum sentence. If he pleads no contest I'll leave it up to the judge's discretion. He will get a minimum of a full year in prison, possibly the maximum."

The defense lawyer knew the judge hearing the case was one who put anyone who abused a woman or child away for maximum, whenever possible. The judge had been known to reject a deal if she thought it was a miscarriage of justice.

The defense lawyer talked with his client for a moment. Brian did not want to plead guilty. He knew that a year in prison was better than three years. If the judge insisted on a trial he was told he could get even more time, possibly in a maximum-security prison.

"I'll accept your deal."

"I want you to tell us, and then the judge, exactly what happened."

Brian looked at his lawyer, who nodded his consent.

"What Natalie said is true. All of it. I lost my temper when she refused to show me around and wanted to change her mind. I figured if I squeezed hard enough, she'd give in just to stop the pain. I underestimated her. Especially after I was arrested and we talked. After I learned that she, too, had been abused by my mother. I guess it made her stronger. Probably due to her parents love for her."

Natalie looked on from the observation room, satisfied with the way things had turned out. She would've asked for counseling as part of the deal, but she knew that most abusers never changed, especially ones her uncles age.

Two days later Brian Lambert was back in front of the judge.

"Mr. Lambert, how do you plead?"

"Guilty, Your Honor."

"Before I accept your plea, I want you to tell me what happened."

He repeated the story he had told the two lawyers when he'd made the plea, leaving out the part about Natalie's abuse by his mother.

"Do you have any remorse for your actions?"

"Yes. I regret what happened. I wish I had not hurt her. And know I must take responsibility for my actions." He did not totally believe this but it was what he had to say for the plea bargain.

"I sentence you to serve one full year before you're eligible for parole. You will be sent to a medium security prison outside of Toronto. I am also issuing a permanent restraining order. If at any time you come within a hundred meters of Dr. Natalie Lambert, you will be sent back to prison for a minimum of six months for the first time, and nine months to a year for each successive time. If this happens during your parole period, you will be sent back for another full year, with no early release, for each time it happens while you are on parole. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Your Honor."

Brian was led out of the courtroom. Natalie was relieved. She did not have to fear him for the next year, and then if he came close to her he'd be sent back to prison. Nick knew he'd be keeping an eye on Lambert once he was released. Schanke had the same thoughts as his partner.

Both Nick and Schanke could see Natalie's relief that it was finally over.

"Why don't I take you both out to eat to celebrate," Natalie said.

"Sounds good to me," Schanke said.

"Nat, I'll buy. After all it is your celebration and you should not have to pay."

"He's right, Nat," Schanke said.

"Okay. Where should we go?" Natalie asked.

"It's your party, you pick."

"Okay. How about Bernardo's?"

"Nice choice," Schanke said, knowing it was a fine restaurant. Not the most expensive, but not one you'd go to every night.

A little over a week later Natalie went to see her orthopedist. He took x-rays.

"Natalie, it looks like it's healing just fine. We'll change your cast and let you go." He showed her the x-ray.

She was pleased to see it was indeed healing properly.

The tech removed the old cast and cleaned her arm quickly before reapplying the cast.

"What color will it be this time?"

"The same one. I like it."

"Okay."

Before long she had a forearm cast, which made her happy. It would be much easier to do things. She knew she had to take it easy for another couple weeks. Then as the pain eased she could start using her arm when she needed to. She knew the more she used it, the faster she'd heal and the stronger the bone would be. Her elbow was a little stiff and sore, but she knew that would pass in a day or two as it was exercised.

Natalie knew Nick and Schanke were eager to hear how her appointment had gone. They were pleased for her when she pulled up her sleeve to show them her new cast. She told them that it was healing fine, and she had to get back to work.

Natalie found Grace keeping an eye on the door as she entered. She answered all of Grace's questions and showed off her new cast. Grace was a little puzzled by the shopping bag in Natalie's good hand.

"What's that?" Grace asked.

"A chicken. I figured you might be hungry. I am."

"I am too."

Natalie entered her office, set the bag on the desk, took off her coat and hung it on the coat rack. Grace noticed the slight grimace.

"You okay?"

"Yeah. My elbow's just a little stiff and sore from not being used for the last two weeks. It'll be fine in a day or two."

"I remember that feeling. I was glad when it passed."

Natalie slipped into a pair of latex gloves, pleased when she could put one over the cast and not have the fingers be too baggy. "Don't want to get chicken juice all over it."

"Makes sense."

Natalie proceeded to perform an autopsy on the chicken. It was a little difficult but she did a good enough job that she was pretty confident she could competently perform one on a human.

While she and Grace were eating, her boss walked in.

"Natalie, have you been back to the orthopedist?"

"Yes. I went about two hours ago. I got the forearm cast and should be able to perform autopsies as usual."

"That's good news. Grace, I want you to assist her, especially for the next few days."

"No problem."

The boss left the two ladies alone to finish their meal.

No sooner had they finished, than the phone rang, calling Natalie to a crime scene. Natalie washed her hands and stripped off the latex glove. Grace helped her into her coat.

"Grace, you don't have to."

"I know."

"Thanks," Natalie said with a smile.

Natalie headed out to the crime scene.

Natalie did her examination of the body, finding it easier to hold onto the clipboard as she made her notes.

Back at the Coroner's Office, Natalie changed into her scrubs, noticing how much easier it was to pull up her pants now that both elbows bent again. Only one wrist bending did make it a little harder, but nothing like it had been. She could even tie her shoelaces with a little effort and a little pain.

When she entered her lab, Grace helped her tie the back of her gown and helped her into her latex gloves. Grace brought over the autopsy tools and left them next to the body.

Natalie made her external observations directly into her tape recorder. She took a deep breath as she picked up her scalpel and made the first incision. She only needed help when it came to cracking the rib cage and then spreading the sternum as the tool required two hands and some strength. She couldn't get the required grip on it.

The rest of the autopsy went well. This pleased both Natalie and Grace, Natalie the most.

Later during the shift her boss stopped by to see how things had gone and was pleased by Natalie's report.

Shortly, Nick and Schanke dropped by to pick up a few reports. They were pleased to hear Natalie tell them that her first attempt at an autopsy was a success.

The end.

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