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 (8 page)

‘‘Sorry,
guys,’’ Diane said to her crew.
‘‘No problem. Who needs sleep?’’ said David.
The warrant had arrived in her absence, and Jin and

David,
clad in head and shoe coverings, had already
started. David was photographing the body, and Jin
had begun a fingerprint search, starting at the front
entryway and following a path to the bedroom. Whit
stood just outside the bedroom door watching David.
Garnett
stopped beside
the body.
Whit
wore gloves
and shoe coverings. Garnett did not.

On
the
porch,
Diane
had
donned
a
hair
cap
and
fresh
shoe
coverings.
Now
she
slipped
on
a
pair
of
gloves and examined the knots in the rope that bound
and
strangled
Chris
Edwards.
Of
particular
interest
was the knot tied in the middle of the rope between
the clothes bar and Chris Edwards.

‘‘Get
good photographs of the knots.’’
‘‘Of course,’’ said David.
‘‘What about the knots?’’ Garnett stepped up be

hind her.

Diane
wondered if he had decided to take the lead
in
the investigation.
Janice Warrick
hadn’t
yet been
replaced, and Garnett had stated to the press when he
accepted the appointment as chief that he was going to
take a hands-on approach.

She
handed him a pair of latex gloves and covers for
his shoes. He looked at them quizzically for a moment
before he slipped them on.

‘‘The
rope
and
knots
are
different
from
the
ones
used with the other victims,’’ said Diane.
‘‘That’s significant?’’
‘‘It is indeed.’’
‘‘Diane is an expert in knots,’’ offered David, snap
ping another photograph. ‘‘In that she has had to hang
from them herself on many occasions.’’
David
was
good
at
keeping
conversational
tones,
treating people like Garnett as if he was one of the
team and not an adversary—which was the way Diane
saw him.
‘‘Uh, you’ll have to explain that,’’ said Garnett. He
gave Diane a sidelong glance.
‘‘I’m
a
caver,’’
she
said.
‘‘I
work
on
rope
a
lot.’’
Diane sniffed the corpse’s hair. ‘‘Shampoo. He’d just
come out of
the shower. I take it
Miss Beck found
the body. Why so late?’’
‘‘She just got off work,’’ said Garnett.
Diane
studied
the
body.
Chris
Edwards
was
clad
only in briefs, and there were bruises on his face, ab
domen and arms. Despite the discoloration of his face
resulting from the strangulation, bruises were still evi
dent on his right temple and the right side of his jaw,
as
well
as
his
arms.
Dried
blood
was
caked
on
his
nose, down around his mouth and in his hair. He had
put up a fight.
‘‘He looks like he was kicked.’’ Garnett pointed out
the bruising on his side.
‘‘It looks like it,’’ Diane agreed. ‘‘Who’s going to
get the body?’’
‘‘Rankin. He’s our medical examiner. You thinking
maybe he should go to Webber because of the connec
tion to the other victims?’’
Yes, she wanted Webber to do it. If the cases were
related, it would be better if one examiner did them
all.
‘‘I think it would be a good idea.’’ When the words
were out of her mouth, she wondered if she sounded
too curt.
Garnett
thought
for
a
moment.
‘‘Webber
would
make
sense,
especially
if
this
turns
out
to
be
truly
connected to the others. However, we don’t need to
offend Rankin.’’
Diane could see that Garnett was going to make a
political
decision,
and
started
to
say
something,
but
Whit beat her to it.
‘‘We’ll send them to Dr. Webber.’’
Garnett looked sharply at Whit Abercrombie, as if
forgetting for a moment that it was Whit who had the
power to make that decision. Whit’s black eyes spar
kled
as
he
returned
Garnett’s
gaze,
and
his
teeth
gleamed against the border of his short black beard.
‘‘I’ll
talk
to
Rankin,’’
Whit
said.
‘‘I’m
sure
he
won’t mind.’’
Garnett nodded. ‘‘If you have everything under con
trol here, I need to see about finding Mr. Mayberry.’’
Diane was glad to see him go. He might be the lead
detective, but his presence was like a guest who ar
rived uninvited for a dinner party and you didn’t quite
know where to put him.
‘‘How
did
you
get
mixed
up
with
the
Rosewood
police?’’ Whit asked when Chief Garnett was safely
away. ‘‘Last time I heard, you weren’t on their Christ
mas card list.’’
Diane explained the complicated scenario.
‘‘So you got blackmailed into it, and Rosewood got
free space for a crime lab.’’
‘‘That’s about the size of it. I have to admit, I rather
like it. But I can’t tell the mayor or the chief of detec
tives that.’’
Whit laughed. ‘‘I understand. It’s like, ‘Please, Brer
Fox, don’t throw me in that briar patch.’ ’’
‘‘Thanks for making the call on Lynn Webber.’’
‘‘It makes sense,’’ said Whit. ‘‘Rankin won’t mind.
He’s not as political as the people around him.’’

Lynn
Webber arrived with the medical technicians
to
transport
Chris
Edwards’
body
to
the
morgue.
Diane asked the technicians to wait on the porch while
Lynn examined the body and Diane and Jin finished
processing a path to the door.
One of the technicians, a white man about twentyfive
with
brown
receding
hair
and
dark
blue
eyes,
asked
if
it
was
all
right
to
sit
down
on
one
of
the
porch chairs.

‘‘It’s
been dusted,’’ Jin yelled from the living room.
‘‘Might get powder on you.’’
The
other,
a
black
man
of
about
thirty,
told
him
he’d best remain standing. ‘‘No telling what you might
sit on at a crime scene.’’ The two of them talked to
each other about football while they waited.
Lynn twisted the neck and jaw of the corpse, and
then moved his arms as far as the rope would allow.
‘‘Whit tells me I have you to thank for this.’’
‘‘I hope you don’t mind. They may be related.’’
‘‘This
looks
different
from
those
in
the
woods,’’
said Lynn.
‘‘But this is one of the men who found the victims
in the woods.’’
Lynn
looked
up
at
Diane
sharply.
‘‘What’s
going
on?’’
‘‘I don’t know.’’
Lynn shook her head, pushed her thermometer into
Chris
Edwards’
liver
and
looked
at
her
watch.
‘‘Ninety-four
point
five.
Rigor’s
.
.
.’’
Lynn
looked
around the room. ‘‘Who’s the detective on the case?’’
‘‘Chief Garnett’s taking the lead,’’ said Diane. ‘‘This
guy’s partner, Steven Mayberry, is missing—the one
who
was
with
him
in
the
woods
when
they
found
the bodies.’’
Lynn’s frown deepened. ‘‘This just gets worse. Any
idea what this is all about?’’
‘‘Maybe
we’ll
find
out
when
Mr.
Mayberry
is
found.’’
Dr. Webber stood up. ‘‘At a one-and-a-half-degree
drop
an
hour,
it’s
possible
he
died
two
and
a
half
hours ago. He’s already into rigor. That’s a little early,
but
it
looks
like
he
put
up
a
fight
and
that
would
hasten it.’’
‘‘His girlfriend put the call in about two and a half
hours ago,’’ said Whit. He was standing back from the
body, watching Dr. Webber examine it.
‘‘I suppose Chief Garnett needs to talk with her,’’
said Dr. Webber. ‘‘I’m done here.’’
She turned to Diane. ‘‘Raymond has one skeleton
for you. Blue Doe. He’s delivering it today. He’ll have
Red and Green done shortly.’’
‘‘Good. Perhaps we can find out who they were.’’
Diane pulled out a coil of orange string to tie off the
rope for cutting.
‘‘If this keeps up,’’ said Lynn, ‘‘you’re going to run
out of colors.’’

Chapter
10

‘‘Looks
like autoerotic asphyxia,’’ said the black tech
nician when he saw the body. ‘‘I had one about six
months ago. Just a kid.’’

Jin
stopped an examination of the chest of drawers
and
walked
over.
‘‘Most
instances
of
autoerotic
as
phyxia are adolescents,’’ he said. ‘‘This doesn’t look
like it. Wouldn’t you say, Boss?’’

‘‘I think we don’t need to speculate,’’ said Diane.

‘‘His
hands
are
tied
awful
tight,’’
said
the
other
assistant.
‘‘Maybe he had help,’’ his partner suggested. ‘‘The
rope is tight around the front where he’s leaning into
it, but there’s a lot of give in the back.’’ They held
the body while Diane tied off the yellow polypropyl
ene rope with orange string and cut it.
‘‘He sure looks trussed up around the neck like that
kid. The kid’s mother moved all the porn he had in
the
room,’’
the
technician
continued.
He
looked
around the bedroom. ‘‘Friends and family will do that,
you
know.’’
The
technician
didn’t
want
to
give
up
his diagnosis.
‘‘Let’s
get
this
poor
boy
out
of
here,’’
said
Lynn
Webber. She stripped off her gloves as the technicians
placed the remains of Chris Edwards in the body bag.
‘‘Be careful of the ropes,’’ said Diane.
‘‘Will do.’’ The black man smiled at Diane. ‘‘Pete and
I always give our guest a good ride. Don’t we, Pete?’’
‘‘You bet. We’ve never had any complaints.’’ The
two of them laughed.
Lynn left, telling Diane she wouldn’t be getting to
the autopsy until the afternoon, so Diane could come
then and retrieve the ropes.
Whit stayed until the body was removed and Lynn
was gone. Diane walked him to the door.
‘‘I had a talk with his girlfriend before letting her
go
home,’’
said
Whit,
leaning
close
to
Diane
and
speaking low, though only she and her crew were in
the house.
‘‘She
said there’s
usually a
key under
the mat.
It
was
on
the
desk
when
she
got
here.
I
asked
her
if
anything was missing that she could see. She said she
thought his laptop was gone. He usually keeps it on
the desk along with a DVD player.’’
Whit pointed to a pine table against the wall flanked
by two speakers. The table was empty, but the dust
pattern showed that something had sat there.
Diane looked around the room for any other ghosts
of
missing
objects.
It
was
a
sparse
room
with
walls
painted the color of sand. The furniture consisted of
a brown futon couch and two chairs, one stuffed and
slipcovered
in
brown
corduroy,
the
other
a
canebacked
rocker.
The
coffee
table
was
a
large
roughhewn cross-section of a tree trunk with glass covering
the top. The some-assembly-required computer desk
sat against one wall.
On the wall opposite the couch, a tall bookcase held
a television and books on forestry and stacks of
Na
tional Geographic
. Beside it was the table where the
DVD player had sat. The hardwood floors were bare.
‘‘Jin took the girlfriend’s—Kacie Beck’s—fingerprints
before she left. She was very cooperative,’’ he said.
Diane nodded. Whit’s dark eyes looked sympathetic
as he took a final look toward the bedroom.
‘‘Young
guy.’’
He
shook
his
head.
‘‘I’m
not
sure
why I ran for this office. I’m thinking of bowing out
the next election.’’
‘‘Working with murder is certainly wearing on men
tal health,’’ said Diane. ‘‘Sometimes it seems like peo
ple
have
become
so
used
to
it,
they’ve
lost
their
perspective on the horror of it.’’
‘‘Dad thinks it’s movies and television, but I don’t
know what it
is.’’ He shook his head again
as if to
shake the thoughts from his mind. ‘‘Tell Frank I said
hello.’’
Frank,
thought
Diane.
He’s
due
back
from
San
Francisco.
She wondered
if
she’d ever
have time
to
see him again. She wondered if she’d ever have time
to get back to the museum again. She sighed as Whit
went out the door.
Neva came marching up the steps just as Whit drove
away. She stopped in front of Diane. Diane had seen
her drive up and waited for her on the porch.
‘‘I heard it on the scanner. Were you going to call
me?’’
‘‘No. I try not to overload new people with death
the first week on the job.’’
‘‘I can handle it.’’
‘‘It wasn’t aimed at you. It’s just my policy. How
ever,
I’m
glad
you’re
here.
It’s
going
to
be
a
long
night,
and I
fear
we may
have
another crime
scene
soon.’’
Diane assigned Neva the kitchen. ‘‘Jin’s taking fin
gerprints. David’s taking photographs, and you and I
are doing evidence searches. Start with the back door.
We
believe
he
entered
through
the
front
door.
He
may have left through the back.’’
Neva nodded. ‘‘Vic let him in?’’
‘‘Probably
got
the
key
from
under
the
mat.
The
victim may have been in the shower. He’s one of the
guys who found the hanging victims in the woods.’’
Neva’s eyes widened. ‘‘Oh, my God. What’s going
on?’’
‘‘I
don’t
know.
Hopefully,
by
the
time
we
finish,
we’ll have enough evidence to at least know if they
are connected.’’
‘‘They have to be connected, don’t they?’’
‘‘Coincidences do happen.’’
‘‘Yeah, but . . .’’ Neva glanced into the bedroom,
where
Jin
and
David
were
working.
‘‘This
is
some
coincidence.’’
Diane began a spiral search of the living room be
ginning at the tree trunk coffee table. As she worked,
the
house made
noises. Beyond
the creaking
of the
floors and the sound of wind against the windows, the
refrigerator
turned
on
and
off;
so
did
the
airconditioning.
Things
that
were
normal
now
seemed
odd, almost ghostly, with Chris Edwards dead.
Some
one should tell the house that it can rest now,
Diane
thought as the refrigerator once again came on.
Jin
came
from
the
bedroom.
‘‘I
need
to
turn
the
lights out,’’ he said. He was carrying a filter and black
light to check for fingerprints.
‘‘You’re going to like this, Boss,’’ said Jin. ‘‘I found
the infamous bloody glove in the bedroom—at least
its print. It looks like the index finger on the glove
had a tear on the surface of the leather.’’
‘‘Leather?’’ asked Diane.
‘‘Looks like it. We can ID this baby if we find it.
There’s a lot of prints on the coffee table here, but I
bet they belong to the victim and his girlfriend. You
think maybe they were involved in some kind of kinky
stuff that got out of hand? I heard what you guys said
about the time of death.’’
‘‘You think she also hit him with a hand weight?’’
‘‘I did a crime scene in New York where the victim
suffered an astounding amount of consensual abuse.
What is it that happens to a person in childhood that
wires the brain to like that kind of stuff?’’
‘‘I don’t know, and we don’t know what happened
here.’’
They
worked
all
night
and
into
the
morning—
searching, dusting, collecting. The smell of fingerprint
powders and reagents mixed with the smell of death
that always lingered.
‘‘Heard we have a mummy.’’
Despite the fact that the crime unit wasn’t techni
cally connected to the museum, David and Jin claimed
the museum
as theirs. So
did the
technicians Diane
had hired to work in the lab. Neva was the only one
who didn’t appear to feel any connection with the mu
seum yet. Diane didn’t know if that was good or bad.
‘‘We apparently inherited one while my back was
turned.’’
‘‘Know anything about it?’’ asked Jin.
‘‘Kendel said the mummy case appears to be from
the twelfth dynasty. But that doesn’t mean the occu
pant is from that time. From what Kendel and Jonas
have told us, there was a flourishing trade in mummies
in the 1800s, and European adventurers and Egyptian
entrepreneurs were eager to supply the tourist trade.
That included taking stray mummies and playing musi
cal mummy case.’’
‘‘They
also
made
new
mummies
for
customers,’’
said David. ‘‘Are you sure it’s even ancient? It could
be just a couple hundred years old.’’
‘‘Right
now,
we
don’t
know
anything
about
it.’’
Diane found a smear of blood on the metal base of
the desk lamp. ‘‘I need a photograph in here, David.
I believe it’s Jin’s bloody glove.’’
David took several shots of the smear using lighting
in various positions to enhance the pattern.
‘‘What are
you going to
do
with
the mummy?’’
said Jin, who was waiting to lift the print when David
finished
the
photographs
and
Diane
collected
the
sample.
‘‘After Korey cleans it up, it goes for a CT scan,’’
said Diane.
‘‘Cool. I’d like to see that.’’
Most of the night they worked in silence, occasion
ally
interrupted
by
small
bits
of
conversation
about
the
museum,
Jin’s
music,
and
David’s
bird
photo
graphs. Neva said very little, and Diane realized that
they didn’t know much about what she did outside of
work. They did discover that she liked to model small
animals from polymer clay.
Just before dawn the radio came on in the bedroom
and startled everyone.
‘‘That
got
the
old
heart
pumping,
didn’t
it?’’
Jin
laughed.
‘‘I think I wet my pants,’’ David said. ‘‘Must have
been set by the victim. Time to get up.’’
‘‘Won’t be getting up this time,’’ Jin said.
Diane went to the kitchen to check on Neva. She
found her in the pantry picking up and shaking cans
of food. Neva looked up sheepishly.
‘‘I, uh, just... you know how some people keep
their valuables in fake cans of soup? Whoever it was
apparently
checked
out
the
kitchen
drawers,
and
I
just thought...’’
‘‘Good idea. I wouldn’t have thought of that. Find
anything?’’
Neva looked relieved. Her whole body relaxed and
she smiled. ‘‘Nothing in the groceries. Jin found plenty
of prints, but they were in places you’d expect in a
kitchen
that’s
used
for
cooking.
He
said
they
were
probably
from
exemplars.
I’ve
collected
some
fibers
from the doorjamb. That’s one good thing about these
old houses: The door frames are apt to be splintered—
good for grabbing at clothing.’’
‘‘It looks like the perp wore gloves,’’ said Diane. ‘‘I
don’t
think
we’ll
be
getting
any
of
his
prints.’’
She
looked
out
the
kitchen
window
and
down
at
her
watch. ‘‘It’s getting to be daylight. When you finish,
I
want
you
and
David
to
work
the
outside,
around
the house.’’
Diane
and
Jin
worked
the
bathroom.
It
was
this
room that told a big chunk of the story of what hap
pened to Chris Edwards.
She stood in the middle of the bedroom, her brow
wrinkled,
recreating
in
her
mind
scenarios
of
what
might have happened. She was fairly certain it wasn’t
anything
sexual.
He’d
just
showered—his
hair
had
smelled
of
shampoo
and
the
bathroom
towels
were
damp—and put on his briefs before he was hit, appar
ently
with
the
hand
weight.
First
in
the
nose—the
blood spattered on the sink. He may have been hit
again
on
the
temple
at
that
time.
He
fell,
smearing
blood on the floor.
He was half-pulled and he half-walked out of the
bathroom—there was a bare bloody footprint on the
floor. Blood was on the soles of his feet.
His hands were tied behind him and a rope was tied
around his neck. It was possible they hadn’t meant to
kill him straightaway because, as the morgue techni
cian noticed, the
rope wasn’t tight around
his neck.
He had to lean into it for it to choke him and cut off
the blood supply to his brain.
One
thing
Diane
did
know:
Whoever
tied
these
knots wasn’t the same person who tied the ones on
the hanging victims in the woods.

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