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 (6 page)

Chapter
7

The
conservation laboratory on the second floor was
spacious, containing six shiny metal worktables, each
with a microscope and a large swivel-mounted magni
fying
glass
and
light.
Cabinets
filled
with
chemicals
used in conserving fragile objects of wood, paper, fab
ric,
metal,
and
bone
lined
the
walls.
There
were
a
fume
hood,
sinks,
and
more
microscopes
on
the
countertops. From the ceiling hung the framework for
mounting cameras.

It
was a cool, shiny, clean room managed by Korey.
Three of his assistants were seated at tables, busy at work.
Across from the lab was the X-ray room, complete
with used endoscopy and low level X-ray equipment—
Korey’s newest babies
that he’d found at
a medical
surplus auction.
They wheeled the mummy case past the tables into
the
temperatureand
humidity-controlled
storage
vault
in
the
back
of
the
lab.
The
small
room
was
crowded with the five of them and the mummy. They
all gathered around the case of heavy wood and inlay
and lifted it onto a worktable.
‘‘We’ll
lay
the
lid
on
the
table,’’
said
Korey.
‘‘I
checked it when it came in. It’s not sealed. Okay, on
three.’’
It was heavier than Diane had suspected but man
ageable as the five of them lifted the top off and laid
it aside.
‘‘Oh, this is nice,’’ said Jonas as they looked into
the coffin.
The
mummy,
a
mixture
of
brown,
red
and
dark
gray, looked as if it had been fashioned from resin.
The face was especially well preserved. The skin ap
peared as though it were pulled tight, and the outline
of bones and ligaments could be seen under the flesh.
The brow ridge and jawline looked male.
The arms were crossed over the chest. On its legs
were piles of yellow-brown wrappings that looked like
a bundle of well-worn rags.
‘‘Other than some patches of fungi, he looks really
good,’’ said Korey.
‘‘He does, doesn’t he?’’ agreed Kendel.
‘‘It’s a
he
?’’ asked Andie.
‘‘I believe so,’’ said Diane.
‘‘A pharaoh?’’ she asked.
‘‘I doubt it,’’ said Diane.
‘‘We may never know,’’ said Kendel. ‘‘However, his
hands are crossed. That’s significant.’’
‘‘It is, indeed,’’ agreed Jonas.
‘‘How is that significant?’’ asked Andie.
‘‘It’s a royal burial position,’’ said Jonas. ‘‘Plus he
had a top-notch embalming job done on himself.’’
Andie rubbed her hands together. ‘‘I’ll bet we got
ourselves a king.’’
‘‘Arrange a CT scan at the hospital,’’ said Diane.
They all looked at one another, sharing the excite
ment, both surprised and pleased that Diane had de
cided to spring for the expense of a scan.
‘‘Korey, you’ll have to package him so he doesn’t
contaminate the hospital,’’ Diane said.
‘‘I can do that. I’ll take care of any infestations first,
then we’ll wrap him in plastic wrap on a board.’’
‘‘Plastic wrap?’’ said Andie.
‘‘Sure. He’ll be wrapped up like a mummy.’’
A groan from Andie. ‘‘Oh, please.’’
‘‘We’ll
need
tissue
samples
for
dating
and
other
analysis,’’
said
Diane.
‘‘Jonas,
I’ll
depend
on
your
knowledge
of
embalming
techniques
for
the
various
dynasties to help us narrow in on the time and place
of origin for this guy.’’
‘‘Already been collecting my references,’’ he said.
‘‘Korey, let me know when you set up the scan.’’
Diane left them excitedly discussing the mummy and
headed for her office.
She sat down behind her desk, closed her eyes and lis
tened to the water bubbling over the rocks of the fountain
decorating the side table in her office. She had designed
and constructed the fountain to remind her of the inside
of a cave. When she closed her eyes and listened, she was
in some deep dark grotto. She could almost feel the cool
of the rock around her—the perfect peace.
‘‘Damn, I’m sorry to disturb you.’’
Diane
opened
her
eyes.
Peace
was
always
shortlived. ‘‘Mike. Can I help you?’’
Mike Seger, graduate assistant to the geology cura
tor, pulled up a chair and laid a folder on her desk.
‘‘Saw your interview on TV last night,’’ Mike said
‘‘Last night? Interview?’’
‘‘About the bodies in the woods.’’
‘‘I didn’t give an interview.’’
‘‘It
looked
like
file
footage
taken
at
the
official
opening
of
the
crime
lab.
You
talked
about
justice,
the objectivity of evidence, the evil of murder—’’
‘‘Great. My mailbox will be filled with more com
plaints about the crime lab being in the museum.’’
A
handful
of
people—including
a
few
on
her
board—objected to having something as tawdry as a
crime lab in the pristine learning environment of the
museum, and they liked to E-mail her about it, having
somehow gotten her private E-mail address.
From the look of her mail, she was right. Amid Email from various members of her staff was some from
people she recognized as dissenters.
‘‘I
have
photographs
of
the
model
in
progress,’’
Mike
said.
‘‘Of
the
Journey
to
the
Center
of
the
Earth exhibit.’’
‘‘Have you shown it to Kendel?’’
‘‘Yes. But since it was your idea...’’
Mike’s light brown eyes glittered with what looked
to Diane like mischief. She processed her E-mail as
Mike laid out photographs of the model he and the
exhibit designers were constructing.
There was a message from a man who lamented that
everywhere he turned there was forensics—books, mov
ies, TV networks, learning channels, and darn it all, now
his museum. And an E-mail from a woman who insisted
Diane resign rather than serve two masters—the sublime
and the grotesque. Another one began with something
about an eye for an eye, and what did a museum director
know about evil? And several wanted her to include the
crime lab on the museum tour. She hesitated a moment,
wondering whether to forward the messages to Andie for
reply, or simply delete. She deleted all of them.
Mike was enthusiastic as he arranged the photos.
‘‘It’ll look just like they’re descending through lay
ers of the earth. It will be especially cool when they
get to the fossil layer.’’
‘‘This is what I had in mind,’’ she said. ‘‘I like it.’’
‘‘I thought perhaps we could discuss it over dinner
sometime.’’
‘‘If the exhibit designer would like to, you don’t need
my permission. You can meet anywhere you want.’’
Mike grinned broadly. For a moment she thought
his teeth actually sparkled.
He leaned forward with his forearms on her desk.
‘‘That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.’’
‘‘No?’’
‘‘I thought you and I could discuss it.’’
‘‘I haven’t the time or the inclination to microma
nage the exhibits. Most of my people know their jobs.
I like to leave them alone.’’
‘‘All right, I can handle that. How about going cav
ing?’’
He
gave
her
a
one-sided
dimpled
smile
and
pulled
a
folded
paper
from
his
shirt
pocket
and
handed her a list. ‘‘These are some good caves to start
with.
Some
of
us
from
the
Bartram
Caving
Club’s
been to all of them.’’
Diane read the list. Blowing Cave, Climax Caverns,
Glory
Hole
Caverns,
Kingston
Saltpeter
Cave
Pre
serve. She cocked an eyebrow. ‘‘You’re kidding.’’
‘‘What?’’ He took the list and studied it for several
seconds before he burst out laughing. ‘‘I didn’t name
them.’’
‘‘Which one do you suggest we start with?’’
‘‘Glory Hole Cavern’s really beautiful but not a lot
of fun for someone who hasn’t had much experience.
Didn’t
you
say
one
of
your
crime
crew
wants
to
come along?’’
‘‘Neva Hurley. She’s visited caves as a tourist, and
a
few
as
an
explorer,
but
she
doesn’t
have
much
experience.’’
‘‘Climax is a good cave. Great geology. Lots of fos
sils. The front rooms are pretty easy. It gets harder
farther in.’’
‘‘Where is it?’’
‘‘Near the Florida border.’’
‘‘Anything closer?’’
‘‘There is a cave I’ve been interested in visiting.’’
He stuffed the list back in his pocket. ‘‘It’s not easy
to get the owner to allow people in. It’s a big cave
and
not
too
hard,
I’ve
heard.
Some
of
the
deeper
rooms and tunnels are for experienced cavers. It also
has some good geology. It’s only twenty miles from
here.’’
‘‘Do you think you could get permission?’’
‘‘Yeah, I think so. A guy in my caving club is tight
with the man who manages the property. We’ll have
to take him.’’
‘‘That’s fine. Do you know if it’s been mapped?’’
‘‘Some of the tunnels, but I haven’t seen the maps.
You thinking about mapping it?’’
‘‘If it’s an interesting cave and hasn’t been mapped,
yes. That’d be fun.’’
‘‘I’ll let you know something in a couple of days.’’
Mike
stood
up
and
started
for
the
door,
hesitated,
smiled, turned again and went out the door.
Diane looked through the papers Andie had left on
her desk. Nothing that couldn’t wait. She needed to
get back to the autopsies.

Chapter
8

The
diener was placing another of Diane’s bodies on
the table when she reentered the autopsy containment
room,
suited,
masked
and
gloved,
her
hair
under
a
plastic cap. The rooms were cool now, the odors man
ageable, the way they should be.

This
victim was called Green, after the color of cord
Diane had used to secure the ends of the cut hanging
rope. Green had hung fifteen feet from Blue.

Lynn
and Raymond were chatting away about the
Braves as they cut away the clothing. The only part
of the conversation Diane understood was Raymond
saying, ‘‘Unh unh, ain’t no way.’’

Lynn
looked up and nodded as Diane approached.
‘‘This one is about the same age as Blue,’’ she said.
‘‘I’d say in his early twenties, maybe late teens.’’

‘‘Too
young to die,’’ said Raymond.
‘‘We have some insect specimens for you from Blue.’’
Lynn motioned toward the counter where several jars sat.
‘‘We collected live larvae as well as dead husks. Raymond
enjoys that sort of thing, don’t you, Raymond?’’
‘‘You going to hatch those bugs?’’ asked Raymond.
‘‘That’s the only way the entomologist can be cer
tain about the species of the larva and how long the
life cycle is. It’ll help fix the time of death.’’
‘‘They haven’t been there long. I’d say just a couple
of weeks, from the rate of decay,’’ said Lynn.
‘‘They were hanging off the ground,’’ said Diane.
‘‘Shouldn’t make that much of a difference,’’ said
Lynn.
This was the first time Diane had cause to question
Lynn’s competence. But she didn’t say anything, re
membering
had
shown
outshown.
that
earlier
on
at
the
crime
scene
Lynn
a
sensitivity
to
being
contradicted
or

However,
to be fair, it takes experience with hang
ing victims to realize that it can indeed make much of
a difference. Rate of decay is highly dependent on the
environment. Bodies decay differently in Alaska than
in
Hawaii,
or
the
Sahara,
or
Portobelo.
And
they
decay differently out in the open, or hanging, or sealed
in
an
enclosed
space,
or
buried
shallow,
or
buried
deep,
or
buried
in
a
limestone
environment.
It
also
makes a difference if they have open wounds, such as
the cutoff fingertips.

It’s
a matter of the body tissues being accessible to
the
insects and
microbes
that cause
decay. And
the
presence of chemicals or elements that interfere with
microbial
and
insect
action
by
causing
the
body
to
dehydrate or to become preserved.

There
are so many permutations and combinations
that unless you’ve had experience with them all, there
is no way to just know. Had these bodies been discov
ered at a later date and had Red, the corpse Diane
witnessed
fall, lain
on the
ground where
the insects
could get to him, he would appear to have died earlier
than the others, even though their time of death might
be the same.

Diane
thought of explaining, but it would just sound
like a lecture, it would offend Lynn’s sensitivity and
it would make Lynn look bad in front of Raymond.
She’d
simply
use
what
information
David
collected
from his reared insects and make her estimates of the
time of death.

Diane
removed the rope from Green the same way
she had from the first victim. Raymond took the pho
tographs. Green was tied in exactly the same way as
Blue—hands behind the back in a handcuff knot with
the
standing
end
of
the
rope
in
a
loop
around
the
neck
and
the
extra
rope
from
the
working
end
wrapped
four
times
around
the
wrists
with
the
end
tucked between the loops.

The
noose was tied the same way as on the first—
a bowline to make a loop to pull the rope through to
create a noose that tightens under tension. She hadn’t
expected
the
knots
to
be
any
different,
and
they
weren’t. She carefully packed and labeled the rope.

‘‘I
was
wondering
if
you
would
take
me
caving
sometime,’’
said
Lynn.
‘‘A
simple
cave
for
a
rank
beginner.’’

‘‘Neva
wants to go caving too. She’s also a beginner.
We should be able to find a good starter cave we can
go to.’’

Lynn
grinned. ‘‘I have always loved caves, under
ground
lakes,
all
those
things.
One
of
my
favorite
movies is
Journey to the Center of the Earth
. Loved
that underground lake.’’

‘‘Caving’s
not
usually
that
eventful,’’
said
Diane.

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