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)
knew what Chris and Steven were thinking. The
same thought flashed through her mind—the killer. As
the vehicle slowed to a stop, the letters
Chris and Steven. But not to Diane. She crossed in
front of the vehicle and walked to the driver’s side.
I help you?’’ she asked the woman who ap
peared as the window slid down.
with fine brown hair and eyes to match, looked Diane
up and down a moment and spotted the identiﬁcation
that hung from a cord around her neck. ‘‘What can
you tell us?’’ she asked.
‘‘Not a thing. Have you seen the sheriff?’’
‘‘The deputy said he’s at the scene. We heard it’s a
thought Diane. What a way to describe the
something like: ‘‘The authorities at the scene had no
comment when asked if this was a racially motivated
‘‘What do you mean?’’ Diane asked.
‘‘We heard that someone lynched three black men.’’
‘‘You’ve been given incorrect information. For more
than that, you need to talk to the sheriff.’’
‘‘That’s who we’re going to see.’’ She turned to her
get us to the crime scene.’’
‘‘That roadway’s part of the crime scene. You can’t
go there,’’ said Diane.
‘‘People around here want to know what’s going on.
It’s my job to tell them, and I’m going to do it.’’
‘‘Not by contaminating the crime scene, you’re not.
‘‘You can’t do that.’’
‘‘Yes, I can. If you continue on after I’ve told you
it’s a crime scene, I’ll have you arrested. You can get
the information you want, just not through here. Drive
back to the road. I’ll call the sheriff and tell him you
want to speak with him.’’
Diane took her phone and punched in the sheriff’s
number with her thumb, not taking her eyes off the
reporter. She also asked him to send one of her team
with some crime scene tape to rope off the roadway
to the scene.
‘‘Damn reporters,’’ he said. ‘‘I suppose they’ve got
ten on to this racial thing going around.’’
‘‘You told them it wasn’t, didn’t you?’’
‘‘Yes. And I also told them that all other informa
tion had to come from you.’’
‘‘You did, did you? I suppose I got to talk to them
sometime. Tell them I’ll meet them up at the road.’’
Diane relayed the message. The woman was reluc
tant. She sat in her SUV, not making a move to put
her car in gear. ‘‘I need to pull down there so I can
turn around.’’ She pointed to the forbidden path.
Diane had the impression she was planning to make
a break for it. ‘‘I’m sorry, but you can’t. As I said, it’s
part of the crime scene.’’
‘‘Not at the crime scene. If you back up several feet,
there’s a small turnaround between those trees.’’
‘‘Back up?’’ She said it as though her vehicle didn’t
have a reverse gear.
She reluctantly put her car in gear and started to
back up, then abruptly slammed on the brakes, throw
ing her passenger forward and backward. She stepped
out of the car and turned toward Steven and Chris.
trained it on the two timber cruisers.
‘‘You are the two who found the bodies, right?’’ the
reporter asked again.
‘‘We found them and called the sheriff. That’s all
there was to it,’’ Steven told her.
‘‘Tell us about the scene.’’
‘‘The sheriff told us not to talk about it,’’ said Chris.
‘‘He can’t order you not to talk.’’
‘‘And you can’t order us
talk.’’ Chris shrugged.
‘‘As soon as we saw the bodies, we left and called the
sheriff. That’s it.’’
‘‘How many bodies were there?’’
‘‘We can’t say anything about it.’’
‘‘What was it like, coming upon dead bodies?’’
The two of them glared at her a moment. ‘‘What
do you think it was like?’’ said Steven. ‘‘How many
Diane was glad to see that they were more reluctant
to talk to the reporter than they were to talk with her.
Chris and Steven, Diane saw the two deputies, Chuck
and Leon, coming up the trail from the crime scene
to tape off the vehicle path through the woods. She
walked down to meet them.
‘‘I’m glad you’re here. I fear I was going to have
a hard time keeping that reporter from crashing the
‘‘That’s Pris Halloran from that little TV station in
listening to her scanner. She’s always trying to break
fired from one of the big Atlanta stations after he was
arrested for possession of cocaine.’’
‘‘I think both of them’s hungry for some kind of big
news score,’’ said Chuck. ‘‘I see she’s giving the timber
guys a hard time.’’
From the stiff posture Chris and Steven had taken,
‘‘Would you get that damn thing out of my face?
You trying to get a view of my tonsils?’’ Chris’ voice
carried clearly down the road to where Diane and the
deputies were securing the crime scene tape.
‘‘Looks like Chris Edwards needs a little backup,’’
The three of them walked up to them at a fast pace.
‘‘Everything all right here?’’ asked Leon.
‘‘We’ve got to get back to work.’’ Steven opened
the door and slid into the driver’s seat.
‘‘You know,’’ said Diane, ‘‘if the sheriff gets up to
the road and you aren’t there, you’re not likely to get
another chance to talk with him today.’’
That got the reporter and the cameraman moving.
They jumped in their SUV and backed up to the turn
around and left before Chris and Steven could make
me in,’’ Diane said to Jin when she finally got
back to the main crime scene.
Jin handed over the sketches he and Neva had made.
cleared. ‘‘Notice anything funny?’’
Diane scrutinized the corpse in front of her, tuning
hands tied at the wrist, well on their way to becom
‘‘Well, damn,’’ she said.
The killer had cut off the fingertips, leaving an open
wound for the flies to lay their eggs and the maggots
away before the rest of the body.
‘‘I suppose the others are the same.’’
‘‘Yes. Lots of good opportunities for getting some
thing from the ropes, though. I’d
like to watch you
examine them. Been wanting to learn to do that.’’
‘‘Finding anything on the ground?’’
‘‘Lots of bugs. David’s got quite a collection. That’s
about all so far.’’
Neva stood up from the farthest grid square from
Diane. ‘‘I have something here.’’
just a rope,’’ she said, ‘‘but . . . well, there’s a
lot of rope here, and...’’
The rope had been covered in leaves and lay in a
death ropes, had no knots and showed signs of chaﬁng
in several places.
‘‘This is good,’’ said Diane. ‘‘The killer might have
dropped it. Take a picture of it, do a sketch, but let
me take it up.’’
Neva nodded. ‘‘David and Jin said you do forensic
knot analysis. I’ve never heard of that.’’
‘‘It comes in handy. It’s amazing how many you run
across in criminal investigations.’’
‘‘Can you really find out anything from knots?’’
‘‘You can make some good guesses about the per
son who tied them. How good he is at tying knots,
perhaps what kind of job or hobby he’s had.’’
‘‘I always thought a knot was a knot.’’
‘‘Oh, no, there’s a speciﬁc knot for every purpose.
Some are commonly used, and some are rare.’’
‘‘This rope doesn’t have any knots in it. Will you
be able to tell anything from it?’’
‘‘I doubt it, but you never know. There might be
bloodstains or fibers on it that’ll give us information.
If we’re lucky, we might be able to find out where it
came from. It’s a good find.’’
Neva nodded. ‘‘I was afraid it might be just trash.’’
After Neva photographed the rope, she lay a grid
Diane stepped out of the crime scene and walked
around the perimeter toward David. She noticed that
Neva occasionally cast nervous glances in her direc
tion. Neva was a friend of Janice Warrick. Warrick’s
mishandling of the Boone family crime scene had re
sulted in her demotion in the Rosewood police depart
ment, a demotion that was blamed on Diane by almost
everyone in the department.
‘‘How’s it going?’’ she asked David.
‘‘We’re ready to take them down.’’
looking like he was about to be hanged himself. Diane
understood. She hated this part—placing once living
people into body bags.
only other time Diane had been in a hot autopsy
Webber’s lab in the regional medical center was sti
fling. The smell of death weighed over the room like
went so well with the usual chill of the autopsy room
looked out of place and dreadful here. Diane wanted
to back out of the overwhelming stench and heat and
go someplace else.
a window on the opposite side of the main
lab Diane could see the isolation room designed for
the autopsy of badly decomposed and infectious bod
ies. The diener, servant to the dead, stood by a table
occupied by one of the hanging victims—extended on
a shiny metal table, neck curved around the torso so
that the head sat beside the shoulder.
was in her ofﬁce on the phone, the door open.
Her voice carried out to the autopsy room.
‘‘I asked you two days ago to come fix the air condi
tioner.’’ Pause. ‘‘I don’t care if it’s the vents, not the
unit. The temperature is too high in here. I have dead
bodies rotting on my tables. No amount of lemon juice
is ever going to get the smell out of my hair.’’
Lynn tapped a pencil on a pad of paper as she lis
tened. ‘‘I don’t care if
your ankles are sprained.
A man your age has got no business being on Roll
erblades. Let me remind you that I’m a woman who
knows how to kill and leave no evidence to show up
in the autopsy. I want this problem fixed, and I don’t
She hung up the phone and walked out into the lab.
‘‘I hate to talk to maintenance men. It’s like talking
to a blackmailer. They know they’ve got you by the
She motioned toward suits of protective gear lying
coats, face shields and gloves and entered the isola
stood a series of cabinets, metal countertops and sinks.
Everything sparkled, from the glossy blue floor to the
‘‘I was so happy to get this new containment room.
But it’s been one problem after another.’’
‘‘You’re talking about Jack the Bean Counter.’’ She
now we have to keep working and put up with it.’’
when she was a girl,’’ said the diener. ‘‘Neck all long
like a snake. She took it as a sign.’’
‘‘A sign of what?’’ asked Diane.
‘‘That she and her family should move to Atlanta.’’
‘‘Sure ’nuff, they did.’’ He started toward the door,
taking off his face shield. ‘‘I’ll be right back.’’
Diane and Lynn watched the lean young black man
walk out of the room.
gets that blank look on his face.’’ Lynn shrugged, then
shifted gears. ‘‘I’d like to start with the clothes. We’ll
have to cut the sleeves, but I’d like to inspect the body
before the hands are untied.’’
table as they worked. They were putting the clothes
in a bag when the diener came back in. He put on his
gloves and took the bag of evidence.
‘‘I’ll label. What we calling the body?’’
‘‘Blue,’’ said Diane.
name as any.’’
green cord around both cut ends of the rope so we
around the end of the rope that marked it and kept
it from unraveling.
The noose was still tight around the neck, sunk deep
into the flesh under the chin. Diane would hate for
any family member to ever see their loved one like
this. They would never be able to think of their rela
tive again without seeing this image. She stood back
painstaking external examination of the body.
Lynn talked into a hanging microphone as she de
scribed what they found. ‘‘The victim appears to be a
female at this point...’’
three of them looked up to see a man in his thirties
standing in the outer autopsy room, looking through
the window at them. He was dressed in gray trousers,
mouth and nose. Lynn flipped the intercom switch.
‘‘What’s going on in here?’’ he said. ‘‘Step out here
for a minute.’’
Jackson. What do you want?’’
Jackson bent over and gagged. ‘‘Why does it smell
so bad in here?’’
The three of them looked at Jackson with their eye
brows raised enough
to make deep furrows
‘‘We have a rotting corpse on the table,’’ said Lynn.
‘‘It would be a little better if the air-conditioning sys
tem were working, but it’s not.’’
‘‘The air conditioner is working in the rest of the
Lynn glared at him for a moment before she spoke.
‘‘Well, it’s not working in here. What brings you here
‘‘I was talking to a patron when this . . . this . . .
horriﬁc odor came into my ofﬁce.’’
‘‘The maintenance man said it’s a problem with the
vents. You’ll have to talk to him.’’
‘‘He’s home sick.’’ As Jackson spoke, he breathed
through his mouth and tried holding his nose.
‘‘Surely he’s not the only person the hospital em
ploys who can fix air conditioning.’’
‘‘He’s the only one who can look into this. We’ve
had an injudicious use of vacation time, and the other
man who does this kind of work is out of town.’’
‘‘Then you’ll have to call in someone from outside
‘‘We don’t have the money.’’
‘‘Then we’ll have to put up with the smell until Mar
lon gets back.’’
‘‘This is impossible.’’
‘‘No,’’ said Lynn. ‘‘Just difﬁcult.’’
‘‘I’ll see what I can do.’’ He hurried out of the lab.
The door slammed behind him.
‘‘Bean counter?’’ asked Diane.
‘‘That’d be best, Ma’am.’’
clothes an initial inspection before you got here,’’ said
coveralls look relatively new.’’
‘‘From Sears,’’ said Raymond.
‘‘Maybe at your lab you’ll be able to pick up some
more information,’’ said Lynn.
‘‘How’d a crime lab in a museum come about any
way?’’ Raymond asked Diane as he rolled the body
over while Lynn held the head and neck.
offer I couldn’t refuse.’’
‘‘Uh huh,’’ said Raymond.
‘‘The city and county assessed the museum’s prop
erty value so high it couldn’t pay the taxes. The mayor
and chief of detectives suggested that if we would op
museum for the city, the city would arrange for the
money from the real estate taxes paid to be returned
to the museum for services rendered.’’
‘‘Sounds to me a great deal like extortion,’’ Lynn said.
‘‘A deal with the devil,’’ Raymond said.
is the operative term.’’
about to be cut and my workload increased. Makes
me want to gag more than this smell.’’
‘‘From the mayor’s point of view, it’s a perfect solu
tion. They get a new crime lab, and we get to keep
the museum and the taxes we can’t afford to pay. As
an added bonus, they send us one of their employees.’’
‘‘That would be Neva?’’ asked Lynn.
‘‘She’s kind of caught in the middle. She’s not to
‘‘So, your forensic anthropology unit was swallowed
up by the city’s crime lab?’’
separate. Half my salary and that of my forensic staff
is paid by the city to operate their crime lab. It takes
a team of accountants to do the paperwork. The one
big downside of it is that on paper, I and a chunk of
my staff are part-time employees of the city. Some
times the mayor and the chief of police forget that it’s
only on paper.’’
‘‘Bureaucracies are certainly wonderful,’’ said Lynn.
some kind of tattoo.’’
Diane walked over and took a look at the blackened
skin with a barely visible darker design.
Want me to get the lamp?’’
‘‘I think we have enough slippage so we don’t have
to burn off the skin. Get me a damp piece of gauze.’’
film of epidermis, revealing what looked like a yellow,
blue and red butterﬂy.
‘‘Nice,’’ said Raymond.
‘‘Let’s go ahead and get a picture of this—use the
large-format camera,’’ said Lynn.
Raymond retrieved his Horseman VH Metal Field
Camera from a closet.
‘‘I want a close-up, and another that shows the en
Lynn and Diane watched Raymond remove the bulky
camera from the overhead mount and place it on a tri
pod. He put a metal ruler just under the tattoo, framed
the shot and snapped the first picture. He moved in for
a close-up. ‘‘Okay, you want some digital too?’’
Lynn nodded. ‘‘Just to play it safe.’’
‘‘Dr. Webber never expects pictures to come out.’’
‘‘It’s because I’m such a poor photographer,’’ she
Diane retrieved more blue cord and a strip of plastic
from her case while Raymond snapped photographs
of the butterﬂy tattoo, duplicated all his shots with a
digital backup, and filled out the photo log.
when I go inside.’’
‘‘Yes. If you think she may have been sexually as
‘‘How’s that?’’ asked Raymond.
‘‘A rapist’s DNA can show up in the maggots who
have ingested it.’’
Raymond laughed out loud, a deep-throated laugh
as if that was a joke played on the perp.
‘‘Diane, why don’t you go ahead and remove the
rope. I really
need to get her arms untied
so I can
‘‘Can Raymond make photographs of the process?’’
plained as Raymond set up her shots. ‘‘The noose and
another loop of rope that leads down to the hands. If
she moved around too much trying to free her hands,
she’d only choke herself.’’
‘‘Yes, and I need you to show how the ropes around
the hands and the neck are connected. You may have
to angle the camera to see down through these loops
on the hands to get a good view. It looks like the perp
used multiple knots. Have you had much experience
‘‘None,’’ said Raymond. ‘‘No, that’s not right. There
usually see the rope.’’
‘‘I need you to photograph me removing the rope.
I need to have a record showing that the knots did
not change as a result of my intervention.’’
‘‘How ’bout I use the thirty-ﬁve millimeter for that.’’
Diane began with the noose. First, tying the plastic
around the knot to stabilize it. After securing the knot,
she pulled the rope away from the skin, bringing bits
of flesh with it. She slipped one end of the cord under
the rope and tied it off. Three inches away she tied
the other end of the cord around a section of rope.
Each end of the cord had a tag that Diane labeled,
camera over and over.
She cut the noose with a sharp scalpel. She slipped
the noose off over the head. She placed the rope in a
flat box and stuffed more plastic inside to hold it still
and labeled it. She repeated the step with the second
loop around the neck.
‘‘You have to do that procedure with each loop of
the rope, don’t you?’’ said Lynn.