Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard walked into the small changing room just off of autopsy and carefully lowered his aching body onto the wooden bench. There were some days when he felt every one of his years and this day had been one of the worse. Performing an autopsy on Caitlin Todd had very nearly done him in. His anger at her killer took him to a place he’d not been in a long time, a time when he’d shared a very special love with a very special woman. Like Caitlin, she’d been snatched from him far too soon.
Her death had scarred him in ways he didn’t think were possible. He’d struggled to keep her alive long enough for help to arrive, but his training wasn’t in medicine. While he wept and raged against an uncaring God, she died in his arms.
After the explosion, he’d gone to ground and disappeared, determined to escape from his handlers. They’d looked, leaving few stones unturned. He had secrets that countries were willing to kill for, but Donald had skills they could only dream about. Poor fools, they never had a chance once he set his mind to escape their leash.
Yet, eventually it got tiresome. Ducky ached to be busy, to be doing anything for anyone. Slowly he re-emerged, coming out a bit each day. Thankfully he still had friends and connections loyal to him. Once he decided it was truly safe, he resurfaced and went into permanent hiding right under the military’s nose. To his credit and their discredit, they never even saw him, not that they ever really saw him in the past.
Still heartsick, he decided to do something to help people. It didn’t take him long to earn a degree in forensics and even less time to become a medical examiner. He poured everything into it.
Obtaining an adequate cover story had been a bit trickier, but fate stepped in. He had a friend whose mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s. When his friend was killed in a car accident, Ducky made a proposition to her, during a more lucid moment. In exchange for taking care of the woman, he assumed the identity of her son. It was an adequate exchange for him and he reinvented himself into Donald Mallard, complete with a funny nickname. He reminded everyone of their grandfather or a doddery favorite uncle. His storytelling became legendary and people treated him the way they would a needy child, much loved if a little tedious at times. Yet he was the one he came to when they needed help, wanted advice or just a shoulder to cry on.
He came to love his coworkers as the family he never had and they embraced him in a way he’d never experienced before. That made him safeguard his dirty little secret even more. If they found him, they would drag him away and that was not going to happen.
He started to undress, but then thought better of it and got up to lock the door. More than once someone had nearly walked in on him and a lifetime of being careful had done its work. They could knock and yell as much as they wanted. They didn’t come in until Ducky let them in. As a result, the rumors were varied and colorful.
“Ducky was shy,” someone whispered. “He’s afraid of girls.” With his track record, could anyone blame him?
“Ducky gets off after performing an autopsy.” His professional credo was insulted in that anyone would think he found death titillating, but he saw how it looked to everyone. He let them whisper since they did him no harm.
“Ducky has a phobia about his body image,” someone else claimed. They didn’t know how close to the truth they really were. Perhaps he really was transparent. The thought made him smile.
He sat back down on the wooden bench and pulled his scrubs over his head, taking care not to catch his ears or nose. He wasn’t due to see Nick, his plastic surgeon friend, for another couple of weeks and he didn’t want to tear anything until then.
He tossed the shirt over into a hamper, then stood to let the pants fall to his ankles. He caught sight of himself in the mirror and smirked. His head seemed to float in mid-air and he wondered just what his colleagues and friends would say if they ever found out that their beloved and grandfatherly Dr. Mallard had a secret they could never guess. He could imagine their faces if he told him about his failed experiment, about KLAE, his wife, Kate, the KGB, and everything else. He doubted it, for people rarely believed an invisible man.