Authors: Beverly Connor
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Horror, #Suspense, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #Mystery, #Police Procedural, #Detective, #Fiction - Mystery, #Mystery & Detective - General, #Mystery & Detective - Police Procedural, #Fallon, #Women forensic anthropologists, #Georgia, #Diane (Fictitious character)
She needed to stay far enough away from him to
stay out of his hearing but near enough to know the
direction he was traveling.
‘‘I’ll make you a deal,’’ he shouted. ‘‘I give you my
word—on my father’s grave, and I respected my fa
ther. Turn on the flashlight and we’ll both get out of
here and I’ll go my separate way.’’
thought Diane. She listened as he by
passed her tunnel and kept going straight. She doubled
back, always keeping her hand on the wall, walking
as quietly as she could, trying to get behind him. Time
was passing, and Mike and Neva didn’t have much of
it. She was able to move more quickly than LaSalle.
Even her effort to move quietly was faster than his
stumbling, angry traverse through the cave.
She had formed another plan. She didn’t like it, but
she saw no other way. If she got close enough, she
could hit him hard with a rock, turn on her light and
take his gun.
She was closing the distance behind him. He stum
bled and stopped dead still. Had he heard her, smelled
her sweat? Her apple-scented shampoo? Was he just
ments. When she did breathe, it was slow and silent.
He still hadn’t moved. Was he formulating a plan? He
had sensed her somehow. It was a reckless plan she’d
come up with.
He started walking again, but now back from where
he had come. He was close now. She remained still
and breathless. She heard him fumbling and jangling.
he’d thought of, what she hadn’t thought of. A tiny
light flickered, like the tail of a lightning bug. She was
breath was hot and angry, and the look in his eyes
said he would like to cut her heart out. He put the
gun to her head.
think you can bargain your way out of this.
Let me tell you what’s going to happen. We are going
to get out of this cave. I’m going to stuff you in the
trunk of my car and drive to the museum, and when
it’s dark you are going to get my diamonds. You know
pared to what I have planned for you. You’ll lick my
they’re not dead already. That is what is going to hap
pen, and I’m going to enjoy every second.’’
held the gun barrel so hard against her temple
Oddly, all her fear had vanished. The rock wall at her
back was cold and she felt frozen to it. Her legs were
too weak to carry her weight. She wanted just to sit
down and wait.... Wait for what?
put his key light back in his pocket, grabbed the
flashlight sticking from her pocket and switched it on.
It flickered a moment, then went out.
Her body was on some automatic will of its own. It
knew what he was going to do before her brain did.
She collapsed on her shaking legs just as he rammed
his fist against the wall where her head had been. He
yelled in pain. She grabbed the chin strap on her hel
met, pulled it off her head, struck it hard against the
stood up, using the power of her legs to lift with all
her strength. As his foot came off the ground, he fell
backward, grabbing her as he went down. The gunshot
exploded loud near her ear and she felt the heat on
her cheek. She tried to scramble away, but he pulled
her legs out from under her. She felt a hand on her
throat. For all his previous grumbling, he was silent
now, and that frightened her more. Diane reached out
her hand, searching for a rock. They were all over the
place—why couldn’t her hand find one?
She grasped a sharp rock the size of a baseball and
clutched it tight, trying to resist his efforts to force her
on her back. He flipped her over and she struck with
all her strength. He cried out and dropped the gun.
She scrambled backwards walking crablike, trying to
escape, still holding the rock. He’d let go of her throat,
but he held on to her leg. He fished the key light from
his pocket and flicked it on, illuminating a tiny area
around them. She struck again hard on his temple and
grabbed at the light as he fell over.
Diane squeezed the tiny light to turn it on. He was
searching for the gun. She saw it, nose down between
two rocks. She went for it at the same time LaSalle
came around enough to realize he needed to act. He
scrambled across the rocks toward her and the gun.
Diane put out the light and grabbed the gun. LaSalle
swore at the darkness—and Diane.
hear him moving, trying to regain the advantage.
She stepped back and squeezed the tiny key light.
In the dim glow she could just make out LaSalle rising
from the rocks like an evil demon that wouldn’t die.
where he had shot MacGregor. She shot him in the
ankle where the tibia and fibula joined with the tarsal
bones and where several important tendons were bun
dled together. He screamed and collapsed. She shot
his other ankle, and his cries echoed throughout the
chamber. She stood in the darkness listening, without
‘‘Now, let me tell you what’s going to happen. You
are going to sit here in the dark and wait for the police
to come and haul you to jail. I suggest you don’t try
to crawl anywhere, but wrap yourself into a fetal posi
tion and stay until they arrive.’’
‘‘Don’t leave me here like this.’’
‘‘I have no choice. Even if I could carry you, I can’t
trust you. I’ll tell them where you are. It shouldn’t be
more than a few hours.’’
Diane retrieved her damaged helmet and picked up
came on, shining a beam of light on LaSalle.
‘‘Let that be a lesson to you.’’
She left him there calling after her and worked her
way through the passages to the mouth of the cave.
seat and punched in 911.
looked pale against the white hospital pillow.
no organ or spinal damage.
you thinking—that you could feel your way through
the cave?’’ He grinned at her. ‘‘You got guts.’’
thought I could negotiate in the dark better than
he could,’’ Diane said. ‘‘It barely worked.’’
‘‘We could hear the gunshots. Didn’t know what to
think.’’ He touched the bruise on her face left by the
flashlight. ‘‘So how about it, Doc, willing to take care
of a wounded friend?’’
Diane grabbed his hand and held it. ‘‘I think the
‘‘Mike, I’m sorry.’’
He put a finger on her lips. ‘‘Not your fault, Doc.
It’ll make a good chapter in my caving journal.’’
were immobilized in casts and his arm was bandaged. La
Salle had shot him in the metatarsal portion of both feet.
Bad enough, but they were injuries that were easier to deal
with than had he hit the closely packed tarsal bones. Diane
had expected MacGregor to be angry and never want to
see them again. Instead, he’d bonded. He sat there and
grinned at Diane, showing off the autographs on his casts.
‘‘The doctor says I’ll be in walking casts real soon.
I’ll be ready to go caving with you again in no time.’’
‘‘We’ll keep a guard at the entrance next time,’’ said
‘‘I’m going to check on Neva.’’
‘‘She was a real trouper,’’ said Mike. ‘‘Hung on to
that rope like you told her to, didn’t complain. That
had to be scary.’’
‘‘I hope it hasn’t put her off caves,’’ said Diane.
Diane was silent for a moment watching Mike. ‘‘I’m
glad you followed my instructions and stayed alive.’’
‘‘You were pretty firm about that,’’ he said.
Diane left them and walked down the hall to Neva’s
room. She was dozing. Jin and David were sitting in
chairs by her bed.
‘‘How’s Mike and that fellow?’’ asked David.
month,’’ said Diane. She gestured toward the bed.
‘‘Good,’’ said Jin. ‘‘Neva’s doing just fine.’’
would have the support needed to work in safety. Get
ting a harness around her chest was a big step. It gave
her arms a rest. One of the rescuers had to hang over
around her to free her so she could be pulled to safety.
her eyes. ‘‘Hi,’’
Mike and Dick?’’
‘‘They’re doing fine. How about you?’’
‘‘Glad to be out of that crack.’’
‘‘Think you’ll want to try caving again?’’
‘‘I have to. I bought all that equipment—hard hat,
pack.’’ Neva sobered a moment. ‘‘Jin was telling me
they didn’t find LaSalle, just a trail of blood leading
off to a wild part of the cave.’’
‘‘The police are going back in to look for him. Gar
nett said a team of federal marshals who are also cav
ers are coming down to join the search.’’
‘‘Jeez, that’s scary. What do you suppose happened
wounded. He couldn’t have stood on his feet. I think
he probably crawled somewhere and got into trouble.’’
‘‘I can’t say I have much sympathy,’’ said Neva.
‘‘No, I can’t say I do either,’’ said Diane.
museum was closing for the day. Diane stood in
the new Egyptian exhibit, taking another look before
its opening the next day. It was in a small room on
the second floor that suited the few artifacts on display
Also more personal.
walls were painted in colorful but muted tones
like the worn walls of an Egyptian tomb. The real star
and body were a 3-D reconstruction made using the
measurements gained from the CT scan.
sculpted him from clay first. The museum then
had experts from Madame Tussaud’s make a wax fig
ure. He looked so real Diane expected him to unfold
his legs, take the papyrus lying in his lap and walk off
Jonas figured him to be a royal scribe because of the
position of the hands and some of the amulets that
belonged to him.
from several angles. He had tan skin and a dark wig
styled similar to figurines and wall paintings from the
times. He wore a simple white linen loincloth, and a
reed pen and pallette hung from his neck. An auto
mated video beside the figure described his life and
the process the museum used to research the mummy.
analysis of his tissue samples revealed that he
Egypt. Release of this information garnered Diane an
other mountain of mail wanting access to the mummy.
The analysis on his kidney tumor showed it to be be
nign. When the report came in, Jonas and Andie were
mummy himself was inside the anthromorphic
cofﬁn that they still were unsure was really his. The
closed cofﬁn was inside a glass case built just for the
mummy. Diane decided to exhibit the actual mummy
only a few times a year. But there were photographs
of him on the walls. A video documented his rewrap
ping by Korey and his assistants, beginning with his
own wrappings and supplementing those with a sub
stantial amount of modern linen.
amulets were displayed under glass, each high
lighted on its own pedestal. They decided not to dis
play the Victorian pickle jar. The rest of the exhibit
Egypt. In one end of the exhibit, there was an entire
miniature Egyptian town, including a scribe’s house.
was pleased with the exhibit. From a small
number of artifacts, Jonas, Kendel and the exhibit de
signers had done a great job. The room dimmed as
nighttime lighting came on. In the shadows of the dim
light, the wax figure looked as if he might indeed come
to life. She turned and left the room.
walked out of the museum to her new SUV
and, like she now did when she left the museum, or
anywhere, she scanned the area looking for anything
out of the ordinary or dangerous.
is the author of the Diane Fallon Fo
rensic Investigation series and the Lindsay Chamber
Southeastern United States specializing in bone identi
weaves her professional experiences from archaeology
and her knowledge of the South into interlinked sto
of her titles have been translated into Dutch and are
available in countries of the European Union.