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 (7 page)

Both
Raymond and Lynn laughed.
‘‘You wouldn’t catch me going down a black hole,’’
said Raymond. ‘‘Heard about too many people getting
themselves stuck. You sprain your ankle and it’s hell
trying to get you out.’’
‘‘You learn to be careful,’’ Diane said. ‘‘Knowing
your ropes and knots helps too.’’
‘‘I think he’s had his appendix out,’’ said Lynn. She
rubbed the area with a damp piece of gauze. ‘‘Let’s
get
a
photograph
of
this,
Raymond.
Have
you
ever
had to be rescued?’’ she asked Diane.
‘‘No, but I have been on a rescue team. It can be
a dicey situation, for certain.’’ Diane collected several
surface specimens of insects while Lynn and Raymond
continued the external examination of the body.
Green was male. Taller than the woman, though it
would be hard to tell exactly until Diane could mea
sure
the
bones.
Now,
from
his
head
to
his
feet
his
stretch length was eight feet seven inches.
‘‘Other than the appendix scar, there are no visible
external markings. No needle marks or signs of defen
sive
wounds
that
are
visible.’’
Lynn
talked
into
the
recorder in a monotone voice, quite different from her
conversational tone.
Lynn didn’t run Diane out for the autopsy this time.
Diane stayed and continued to collect insect specimens.
At the crime scene and on the bodies a full range
of insects were present—insects that feed on flesh, and
insects that fed on the flesh-eating insects. The only
kind she didn’t see were the ground beetles that feed
on
dried flesh.
All the
dried flesh
was hanging
well
out of their reach.
Lynn made the Y incision and pulled back the flaps
of tissue, increasing the putrid smell in the room. Lynn
was petite, even looked delicate next to the autopsy
table, but she had no problem cutting away the chest
plate, gaining her access to the block of organs.
‘‘You
know,’’
said
Lynn,
‘‘I
really
prefer
fresh
bodies.’’
Diane had to agree as she watched Lynn and Ray
mond locate the subclavian and carotid arteries.
‘‘Go ahead and tie them off, Raymond—if you can.
I’m getting a lot more decay in this one than the Blue
girl. Let’s get these organs out and, Diane, you’re wel
come to any insects you can find.’’
Raymond
did
most
of
the
cutting
to
remove
the
organs and took them to the other autopsy table for
Lynn to examine. There were very few insect larva in
the chest cavity, but Diane found several good speci
mens in the lower abdomen.
‘‘Go ahead and get at the brain,’’ Lynn told Ray
mond. ‘‘I hope it’s not mush.’’
As
Lynn
examined
the
organs,
Diane
told
them
about the unexpected mummy.
‘‘So he just kind of showed up on your doorstep?’’
said Raymond. ‘‘Now, that’s cool. Dr. Lynn, I’m going
to cut the neck, if you can . . . never mind, I think I
can manage it. These long necks are a mess to deal
with, I’m telling you.’’
‘‘So
you’ll
be
opening
an
Egyptian
exhibit?’’
asked
Lynn.
‘‘At some point perhaps. We’ve got a lot of research
to do before then.’’
‘‘Oh, this fellow had a heart condition,’’ said Lynn.
Diane
looked
over
her
shoulder
at
the
darkened
heart Lynn had opened up.
‘‘See
here?’’
Lynn
pointed
her
scalpel
at
a
valve.
‘‘He
had
a
mitral
valve
prolapse.
You
know,’’
she
turned her head toward Diane, ‘‘this might show up
in his bones.’’
‘‘You
think
it
may
be
associated
with
skeletal
abnormalities?’’
‘‘It’s observed in about two-thirds of patients with
this condition.’’
‘‘Would
he
have
been
under
a
physician’s
care?’’
asked Diane.
‘‘It’s not severe, so he may have been basically
asymptomatic.
That’s
not
uncommon.
He
may
have
had
to
take
antibiotics
when
he
had
dental
work.’’
The sound of the Stryker saw was of short duration.
Raymond
was
skilled.
The
sound
of
the
calvarium
being removed didn’t have the characteristic pop of a
fresh body.
‘‘Pretty soft,’’ said Raymond. ‘‘We may be able to
fix it.’’
Out of the corner of her eye Diane saw him care
fully
remove
the
jellylike
brain
and
put
it
in
a
jar
of formalin.
Little by little they were collecting bits of informa
tion about the victims—tattoos, scars, bad heart valve.
There was a good chance that all these things would
add up to a critical mass of information leading them
to the identity of the victims.
Surely, someone was missing these people—unless
they
were
the
lost
people,
the
invisible
class
that
slips through the cracks and becomes easy prey for
killers.
It was almost 9:30
P
.
M
. by the time they finished the
third autopsy and Diane arrived at the museum with
the evidence for her crime lab. David was there, tak
ing notes and checking on his insects.
‘‘I called the weather bureau. It’s been pretty redun
dant
for
the
past
couple
months—dry
and
hot.
I’ve
duplicated the environment for my babies here.’’ He
pointed to his rearing chambers.
‘‘Here’s some more insects. Larva and bug parts.’’
She handed them over and began logging in the cloth
ing and rope she had collected from the autopsies.
‘‘Discover anything new?’’ David asked.
Diane sat down in a chair and stretched out her legs
in front of her. ‘‘Some. Right now the vics all look to
be in their twenties. Blue is a female and has a tattoo
of a butterfly on her ankle. Green’s a male. He’s had
his appendix out and has a heart condition. Not seri
ous. Red’s another female. She has a tattoo of a hum
mingbird
on
the
right
side
of
her
lower
back
and
another one of a rose on the upper part of her left
breast.’’
‘‘Good tattoos?’’
Diane
thought
a
moment.
‘‘Yeah,
they
are.
Very
intricate.’’
‘‘Expensive, then.’’
‘‘Could be.’’
David ran his hands through what was left of his
hair—a
thick
curly
fringe
around
his
head.
‘‘That’ll
help.’’
‘‘Did
you
happen
to
find
any
fingertips?’’
Diane
asked him. ‘‘None of the bodies had theirs.’’
‘‘Nope.
We
did
find
where
a
truck
was
parked.
From the cable marks on the tree branches, I’d say
he hoisted them up with a winch.’’
‘‘How’s Neva doing? Jin said you took her out for
a walk-through.’’
He wavered his hand from side to side. ‘‘She’s about
fifty-fifty.
Hasn’t
decided
if
she
likes
this
work
yet.
They just assigned her here, you know, didn’t ask her
if she wanted it. But she’s no different than any other
newbie I’ve trained.’’
‘‘How are you doing?’’ asked Diane.
‘‘You
don’t
have
to
watch
me.
I’m
not
going
to
self-destruct.’’
‘‘I’m
not
worried
about
your
sanity,
just
your
happiness.’’
David Goldstein had shown up literally on Diane’s
doorstep,
asking
for
a
job.
The
massacre
of
their
friends at the mission in South America had left him,
like her, on the edge of sanity—burnt out and with
no place to go. Diane’s loss of her daughter had so
overwhelmed
her
she
didn’t
really
see
the
grief
the
others
were
feeling
from
losing
their
friends.
David
was adrift when he arrived in Rosewood. Diane was
glad to be able to give him a job. It surprised her that
he requested to work in her new crime lab.
‘‘Are you sure you want to do that?’’ she had asked
him.
‘‘Don’t
you
want
to
get
away
from
everything
we’ve seen?’’
‘‘Don’t
you?’’
It
was
a
reasonable
question.
‘‘Diane—you
know
how
it
was.
You
stand
in
those
concrete rooms splattered with dark stains you know
are going to be blood, and you look at the shackles
and dirty rusted tables and you know that no matter
how
many
people
you
interview,
how
many
deposi
tions you get, those responsible will never be put on
trial.
Most
of
the
time,
the
best
we
could
hope
for
was to have some poor schmuck arrested who was just
guarding the place.
‘‘But
this
here...abig
percentage
of
the
time,
we’ll
bring
the
killers
to
justice.
I
need
to
do
that.
Bring killers to justice. I need to know that what I’m
doing will make a difference.’’
‘‘Our record out there was a little better than that,’’
Diane had whispered almost to herself, but she knew
what he meant. Rarely did they get to the top of the
food chain.
‘‘I’m
doing
okay,’’
he
said
finally.
‘‘What’s
nice
about the museum here is when things get tough with
the crime evidence, I can go look at rocks, or shells
or the big dinosaurs. I particularly like the shells. The
colors and the curved shapes are very soothing. Re
member
how
Gregory
paintings,
particularly
liked
to
go
look
at
beautiful
the
Vermeers,
whenever
we
were near a museum? It’s like that.’’
Gregory had been their boss at World Accord Inter
national and a mentor to Diane. Gregory even carried
postcard-sized
representations
of
famous
paintings.
The everyday scenes painted by Vermeer were his fa
vorite. He could look at them for hours.
She had adopted Gregory’s love of looking at beau
tiful art when she needed a break from the grim reali
ties of human rights violations. She understood what
David meant about the museum. It was a refuge for
her too.
‘‘What’s
that
new
medical
examiner
in
the
next
county like?’’
‘‘Dr. Lynn Webber. Nice. Hospitable.’’
‘‘And that means?’’
‘‘Just what I said. Seems pretty competent.’’
‘‘You don’t like her?’’
‘‘I didn’t say that.’’
‘‘You didn’t have to. I was listening to your ringing
endorsement.’’
‘‘I got the impression that she kind of likes to be
the star.’’ Diane hesitated a moment. ‘‘I think she’s
going to get the time of death wrong. She doesn’t have
much experience with hangings.’’
‘‘And for that you don’t like her?’’
‘‘I didn’t say I don’t like her. Just that she reminds
me a little of Leah.’’
‘‘A cherry bomb waiting to go off?’’
Diane made a face. They had worked with Leah for
a while in South America. She was a bit of a prima
donna, albeit a competent one.
‘‘I
shouldn’t
have
said
anything.
She’s
been
very
gracious. Even wants me to take her caving.’’
‘‘You going to take her?’’
‘‘I thought I’d ask Mike about some easy caves.’’
‘‘Mike?
Mike
Seger?
I
thought
you’re
dating
Frank Duncan.’’
Diane
was
taken
aback.
‘‘I’m
not
dating
Mike.
We’re
just
talking
about
going
caving.
He’s
an
employee.’’
‘‘Don’t you guys have to take your clothes off to
cross a body of water in a cave—to keep the water
clean?’’
‘‘You can leave your underwear on.’’
‘‘So, do you wear Victoria’s Secret or those cotton
jobs?’’
‘‘I think I’d better go home. See you tomorrow.’’

It
was well after ten o’clock before Diane got home.
She was tired and couldn’t wait for a shower. After
letting the water run over her for a long while, she
ran a warm bath, put a capful of lemon juice in the
water and just lay and soaked with her head resting
on
a folded
towel
on the
back of
the
tub. She
was
tempted
to
stay
the
night
there,
just
soaking
in
the
water, letting the smell of death become overwhelmed
with clean pure water. She would have stayed if her
telephone had remained quiet.

Diane
followed the directions to a small house in a
clump
of
trees
about
a
half
mile
from
the
Bartram
University campus. The house, a bungalow with white
wood siding and fieldstone columns and steps, looked
like it might have been built in the late 1920s.

She
parked
her
car
on
the
side
of
the
road
and
walked across the yard. She looked briefly up at the
second-floor gabled window and leaning rock chimney.
It looked like housing rented to students. Maintained
enough to keep the roof up, but not enough to rent
to anyone looking for a family home.

She
showed her badge to the officer guarding the
door, slipped covers over her shoes and went in.
A girl was sitting on a futon sofa in the living room,
sobbing. The room was in disarray, drawers pulled out
of a desk, their contents emptied onto the floor, couch
pillows scattered about, chairs overturned.
Douglas Garnett, chief of detectives of Rosewood,
and Whit Abercrombie, county coroner, were standing
at the entrance to a room off the living room. Whit
was Lynn Webber’s counterpart, but he wasn’t a medi
cal examiner. He was a taxidermist with a master’s in
biology. They nodded to Diane.
Chief Garnett was a large, lanky man in his midfor
ties with a full head of salt-and-pepper well-kept hair.
He
had
a
deep
crease
between
his
abundant
blackand-gray eyebrows.
‘‘In here,’’ he said.
The body was on its knees, leaning forward against
a rope around the neck and tied to the clothes rod in
the closet. The closet door stood open, and the fulllength mirror showed a side image of the gruesome
scene. Diane looked at the purple swollen face with
its dead stare and protruding tongue. Even with the
distortion of death, she recognized the face.
‘‘Oh, my God,’’ she whispered.

Chapter
9

‘‘You
know this kid?’’ Garnett asked.
‘‘I know who he is.’’ Diane shivered—not from the
gruesome
scene—the
room
was
cold.
She
tore
her
gaze
away
from
the
dead
face
and
looked
at
Chief
Garnett.
‘‘It’s Chris Edwards. He’s one of the two men—the
timber
cruisers—who
discovered
the
bodies
hanging
in the woods.’’
She looked around the bedroom, the single bed with
its sheets pulled away, the chest of drawers open with
its
contents
spilled
out
over
the
sides
and
onto
the
floor. A bloody hand weight lay in the middle of the
bed.
‘‘We need to contact the other man who was with
him.’’
Chief
Garnett
moved
to
the
living
room
and
di
rected
his
attention
to
the
woman
sobbing
on
the
couch.
‘‘Miss... Beck, Kacie Beck?’’
She
pushed
her
blond
hair
out
of
her
face
and
rubbed
her
red-rimmed
eyes
with
the
tips
of
her
fingers.
‘‘Miss Beck,’’ said Garnett, ‘‘do you know . . .’’ He
turned to Diane.
‘‘Steven Mayberry,’’ supplied Diane.
‘‘Steve?... Yes.’’
‘‘Where does he live?’’
‘‘Over on Udell. He has a trailer over there.’’
‘‘Do you have his telephone number?’’
‘‘Telephone number? No . . . Chris knows it.’’ She
started sobbing again.
Garnett
pressed
a
rapid-dial
number
on
his
cell
phone. ‘‘Steven Mayberry, did you say?’’
Diane
nodded.
She
motioned
to
Whit
as
Garnett
called for the address.
‘‘We need to get Miss Beck out of the crime scene.
She can sit in my car until Garnett questions her. I’ll
call my team to start working this. . . . And I’ll need
a warrant.’’
‘‘Garnett has one coming.’’ Whit pushed his straight
black
hair
from
his
forehead
as
he
glanced
back
at
the bedroom. ‘‘You think this is connected with your
other case?’’
‘‘I don’t know. If not, it’s an amazing coincidence.’’
Whit
was
escorting
Kacie
out
of
the
house
when
Garnett got off the phone.
‘‘Got
an
address.
I
called
for
backup
to
meet
us
there.’’
Outside,
Diane
slipped
off
the
shoe
covers
and
rang David.
‘‘Yeah?’’
David obviously had been asleep, as Diane wished
she was.
‘‘David, Diane. I need you again tonight.’’
‘‘Gee, Diane, if I’d known you’re this demanding,
I’d
have
gotten
myself
a
woman
with
less
energy.
What’s up?’’
Diane explained, and he was quiet for a moment.
‘‘Can’t be a coincidence.’’
‘‘I’ll call Jin. You’ll have to wait for a warrant be
fore you can go in.’’
‘‘Sure.’’
A
young
woman
answered
Jin’s
phone.
‘‘Just
a
minute.’’
Her voice sounded sleepy, and Diane heard the rus
tling
of
covers
as
she
waited
for
Jin
to
get
on
the
phone.
‘‘Yo?’’
‘‘Jin, this is Diane. We have another crime scene. I
need you and David to work it tonight.’’ She gave him
the address. ‘‘I’m sorry to do this to you.’’
‘‘No problem.’’ Jin sounded wide awake.
Diane turned to the chief. ‘‘I’d like to ride out to
the Mayberry house.’’
He gave her a curt nod, and she climbed into his
Lexus and buckled herself in.
‘‘These
murders
.
.
.’’
Garnett
paused
a
moment.
‘‘It’s going to be a test of our new crime scene unit.
I
don’t
need
to
tell
you
how
important
it
is
to
get
it right.’’
Several ways of answering him flitted through Diane’s
mind.
Sarcastic
was
right
up
front,
considering
that
it
was
he
and
the
mayor
who
had
virtually
blackmailed
her into housing the new crime lab and heading it up.
But when she opened her mouth, it was her good friend
Gregory’s wisdom that tempered her tongue.
‘‘It’s a good unit with good people. We’ll find all
the evidence that’s there to find.’’
That seemed to satisfy him. He said nothing for the
remainder of the trip. Instead, he tapped the steering
wheel with his fingers as he drove. Diane was glad it
wasn’t a long ride.
As they rounded a corner and turned into a drive
leading
to
the
trailer
park,
Diane
saw
a
police
car
parked out front. The single trailer was lit, revealing
silhouettes of two uniformed officers moving through
the length of it.
As Diane and the sheriff stepped out of the car, the
two uniforms emerged. One was Janice Warrick.
Good thing her eyes aren’t phasers,
thought Diane as
they came face-to-face. Warrick held her chin high and
jaw clenched and addressed the chief of detectives.
‘‘He’s not here.’’
‘‘How’s it look inside?’’
‘‘A mess,’’ said Janice Warrick. ‘‘Chairs overturned,
drawers
pulled
out
and
emptied.
We’re
looking
for
Mayberry now. Officer Wallace is calling his parents
and friends, and we have an APB out for his car.’’
‘‘Did you see any blood, drug paraphernalia...?’’
Garnett asked.
Janice shook her head. ‘‘Nothing but the mess. We
only
did
a
casual
look
through.
That’s
all
we
could
do.’’ Her eyes darted in Diane’s direction and back
to Garnett.
‘‘Stay
here
and
see
if
he
shows
up.
We
need
to
find him,’’ said Garnett. He turned to step back into
his car.
There was nothing for Diane to do but go back to
the crime scene. With three people working, perhaps
it wouldn’t take the entire night.

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