Read Dead Guilty Online

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)

Dead Guilty (33 page)

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.’’
Yeah, right,
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
resting?
She
stood
still,
holding
her
breath
for
long
mo
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.
Almost
before
it
happened,
Diane
realized
what
he’d thought of, what she hadn’t thought of. A tiny
light flickered, like the tail of a lightning bug. She was
face-to-face
with
the
most
evil
set
of
eyes
she
had
ever seen.

Chapter
46

His
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.

‘‘Don’t
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
what
happened
to
little
Kacie.
That’s
nothing
com
pared to what I have planned for you. You’ll lick my
shoes
like a
dog
and beg
me to
kill
you. Then
I’m
going
back
and
shoot
your
friends
in
the
head—if
they’re not dead already. That is what is going to hap
pen, and I’m going to enjoy every second.’’

He
held the gun barrel so hard against her temple
it
was
digging
into
her
flesh.
Diane
said
nothing.
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?

He
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.

‘‘Damn,
you
fucking
bitch.
Look
what
you’ve
done.’’
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
rocks
and
heard
the
tinkling
of
her
electric
headlamp breaking.
Diane
grabbed
the
pant
leg
of
his
left
ankle
and
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
neck,
squeezing
fingers
working
their
way
to
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
stunned,
but
still
trying
to
rise.
She
turned
around,
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.
‘‘Okay,
you
got
me,’’
he
began,
but
Diane
could
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.
She
aimed
the
gun
and
shot
once—not
in
the
foot,
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
emotion.
When
his
cries
died
down
to
curses,
she
spoke.
‘‘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
the
flashlight.
She
shook
it
and
tried
the
switch.
It
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.
She
retrieved
her
phone
from
beneath
her
driver’s
seat and punched in 911.

Mike
looked pale against the white hospital pillow.
The
bullet had
nicked
his intestines,
but luckily
did
no organ or spinal damage.

‘‘You
were
caving
in
the
dark?
God.
What
were
you thinking—that you could feel your way through
the cave?’’ He grinned at her. ‘‘You got guts.’’

‘‘I
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
hospital’s
doing
a
fine
job.’’
She
paused
a
moment.
‘‘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.’’
MacGregor
wheeled
in
in
his
wheelchair.
Both
feet
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
Diane.
MacGregor
cackled.
‘‘Take
care,’’
she
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.
‘‘We’ll
get
her
back
out
there
as
soon
as
our
wounds heal.’’
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.
‘‘Doing
well.
Mike’ll
be
back
to
work
in
about
a
month,’’ said Diane. She gestured toward the bed.
‘‘Good,’’ said Jin. ‘‘Neva’s doing just fine.’’
Neva’s
rescue
had
been
complicated.
The
rescue
team
rigged
a
rope
system
for
themselves
so
they
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
the
edge
with
Neva
and
chisel
out
the
rock
from
around her to free her so she could be pulled to safety.
Neva opened
her eyes. ‘‘Hi,’’
she said.
‘‘How are
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,
backpack.
I
had
five
backup
flashlights
in
my
back
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
to him?’’
‘‘I
can’t
imagine
he
got
far,
the
way
he
was
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.

Epilogue

The
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
and
made
it
seem
like
a
larger
exhibit
than
it
was.
Also more personal.

The
walls were painted in colorful but muted tones
like the worn walls of an Egyptian tomb. The real star
of
the
exhibit
was
Neva’s
sculpture,
sitting
crosslegged
in
the
middle
of
the
room.
The
entire
face
and body were a 3-D reconstruction made using the
measurements gained from the CT scan.

Neva
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
his
pedestal.
They
had
concluded
he
was
a
scribe.
Jonas figured him to be a royal scribe because of the
position of the hands and some of the amulets that
belonged to him.

Diane
walked
around
the
wax
figure,
viewing
it
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.

The
analysis of his tissue samples revealed that he
had
several
bacterial
infections
common
in
ancient
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
relieved,
somehow
glad
that
the
scribe
hadn’t
died
of cancer.

The
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.

The
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
included
models
based
on
life
in
twelfth-dynasty
Egypt. In one end of the exhibit, there was an entire
miniature Egyptian town, including a scribe’s house.

Diane
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
the
daytime
lighting
went
off
automatically
and
the
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.

DEAD GUILTY
387

Diane
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.
Beverly Connor
is the author of the Diane Fallon Fo
rensic Investigation series and the Lindsay Chamber
lain
Mystery
series.
Before
she
began
her
writing
career,
Beverly
worked
as
an
archaeologist
in
the
Southeastern United States specializing in bone identi
fication
and
analysis
of
stone
tool
debitage.
She
weaves her professional experiences from archaeology
and her knowledge of the South into interlinked sto
ries
of
the
past
and
present.
One
Grave
Too
Many
was
the
first
book
in
the
Diane
Fallon
series.
Five
of her titles have been translated into Dutch and are
available in countries of the European Union.

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