home | login | register | DMCA | contacts | help | donate |      

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


my bookshelf | genres | recommend | rating of books | rating of authors | reviews | new | | collections | | | add



CHAPTER 7

Autopsy autopsia - seeing with ones eyes.

When Mallory was a child, she had learned her essential Latin from Chief Medical Examiner Edward Slope.

A refrigerator and sinks gave the doctors dissection room the character of a large kitchen. Long tables were laid with tools for slicing and dicing meat. A small metal platform the size of a butcher block held intestines in a shallow tray, and another body part lay in the bed of a hanging scale. Dr Slope called out the weight, then switched off his recorder. Hello, Kathy.

Mallory, she said, correcting him as she always did. She approached the steel table and looked down at the gutted remains of a woman her own age. A wide red cavity ran from the breast bone to a mound of blond pubic hair, and the smell of chlorine mingled with the reek of meat gone bad.

Hoc es corpus. This is the body.

Today she had missed these words that began every autopsy, but now she watched the process in reverse. A few organs had been set aside. The parts that would be buried with Kennedy Harper were being returned to her hollowed-out corpse. Mallory leaned down for a closer examination of small holes in the cadavers flesh. Whats this? It looks like a shotgun splatter.

Thats from the maggots exiting the dried-out skin. He picked up his magnifying glass and held it on the area above the collar bone. You see? The rims of the holes are turned out. One bloody, gloved hand pointed to ravaged skin at the cadavers throat. Now this is more interesting. The rope did lots of damage here, but the killer wasnt responsible for it. He watched her face and waited for the student to ask the master, Why not?

If she encouraged him in this old game, it would take forever to glean a few simple facts. The doctor was determined to continue her education, and he was too fond of long lessons. So she waited him out, arms folded, blinking only once before he gave in.

The damage was self-inflicted. He turned his eyes down to the work of coiling the large intestine. This woman was very cool under pressure.

That sounded like another contradiction, but she recognized an old logic trap. No, Im not going to ask.

As Dr Slope finished stitching skin to close the gaping wound, he shifted his tactics, offering Mallory a bizarre piece of candy. Youll never attend another autopsy like this one. And with this hook, he led her over to the steel counter by the refrigerator, where he wadded his bloody surgeons gown and tossed it into a barrel with his gloves.

Ive seen a lot of hanging victims, mostly suicides, but nothing like this. He sorted through a group of photographs. Normally, I find a ligature mark at the back of the neck where the knot is. He selected a picture of the victims face, taken when the rope was still caught between her teeth. But this woman was facing the knot. Now I never expect a classic hangmans noose. Its usually a slip knot.

I know. She kept her sarcasm to one syllable, a subtle reminder that she had been present when the noose was removed. This one was a double knot. Heller already

And it didnt close off the carotid artery. So Miss Harper didnt black out or succumb to euphoria.

Transient cerebral hypoxia, said Mallory.

You do pay attention. Dr Slope graced her with a half smile as he unfolded a diagram of the crime scene. Heller assisted on this part. We choreographed the last minutes of her life like a ballet. The doctor pointed to the roughly sketched countertop by the kitchen sink. This is where Hellers forensic team found footprints and partials. Note the distance to the ceiling light. His finger moved across the paper to a drawn circle. Thats where she was left hanging, playing dead. He looked up at Mallory. Miss Harper was still alive when the killer left the scene. First, she kicked off her sandals. We found them under the body. When she raised her leg, she could just barely reach the counter with one toe. So she pushed off to make her body swing away and back again.

The doctor laid out photographs of the Formica surface covered with Hellers black dust. One close-up showed a partial footprint layered over the mark of a toe. Here youve got more of the foot, said Slope. Her body swings in a wider arc each time she pushes off. Finally, she lands both feet on the countertop. Now her weight is supported at two points feet on the counter, neck in the noose. See here? He pointed to a shot of two full footprints on the Formica beside the sink. Both soles are flat. Now she has the leverage to rotate her body until shes facing the knot. That gives her an inch of air between her throat and the noose. She worked her chin under the rope. Thats when it snagged on the upper teeth. I cant tell you how long she hung there.

Patiently waiting for the cavalry to come and rescue her just like Sparrow.

She couldnt dislodge the rope or the hair in her mouth, said Slope. She couldve screamed but no intelligible sounds.

The neighbors didnt come. The cops didnt come.

Dr Slope pushed the photographs aside. I can tell you she died six days ago, but the cause of death wasnt asphyxiation. It was heart failure. He picked up a pharmacy bottle bagged and tagged as crime-scene evidence. I called the prescribing cardiologist. Miss Harper had a congenital heart defect inoperable. All her life, shes been living with a time bomb in her chest.

Good practice for a hanging, said Mallory.

It does explain a lot, doesnt it? Twisting on the end of a rope, but no panic. And she nearly escaped.

Mallory thought of the day this woman had walked into a police station with a bloody note staked to her neck. The hanging scenario worked well with that kind of poise. But now she had two victims who were accomplished at playing dead while their hearts were beating a million times a minute. What were the odds against that? She turned to the medical examiner and smiled.

You wouldnt hold out on me, would you?

The doctor would never volunteer what he could not swear to in court and back up with evidence, but if he thought this was the end of the autopsy, he was dead wrong. She glanced back at the dissected woman on the other side of the room. There was cutting and there was cutting. So Ive got a perp who cant tell the living from the dead. Thats it? Thats all you can tell me? The hangmans just another screw-up who cant find a pulse?

Dr Slope hesitated for a moment. He had always fancied himself a great poker player, born with a face of stone that gave up nothing in his hand. Yet Louis Markowitz had beaten him in every bluff, and everything that cop knew about poker and Slope he had passed along to his foster child. Even if she could not read the doctors face, she knew what he was thinking: she was an ungrateful brat, and he was going to put her in her place.

The mans voice was testy, but still in the lecture mode. You assume he believed his victim was dead. Well, J dont. After he strung her up, she was getting oxygen, but not enough to keep her conscious for long. So I know the killer left the scene immediately. Otherwise, there wouldnt have been time enough or strength enough for Kennedys aerial ballet. He didnt stay to watch her die.

Just like Sparrow a pattern.

A few minutes with this medical examiner was worth ten hours with any psychiatrist, for most witch doctors were light years removed from the carnage of murder. She turned her back on Slope and crossed the room to the steel table and the body of Kennedy Harper all sewn up with crude stitches a Frankenstein scar. Mallory was striving for the sound of boredom when she asked, What else can you tell me? Anything useful?

The doctors poker discipline was shot to hell. His face was now an easy read, waffling between surprise and indignation. He marched up to the table and confronted her across the body, firing off another contradiction. Id say your mans not the violent type. That may seem a bit odd

Odd?

All right, Kathy its insane. But he didnt go off on either of the women. He didnt beat them or

He cut off their damn hair.

But no cuts to the flesh, no fractures from a fist. And the other one, Sparrow she didnt have a single defensive bruise. Ive seen every unspeakable act a man can commit on a womans body. The doctor looked down at the corpse laid out on the table, the woman he so admired. But I dont see that kind of violence here no loss of control, no rage.

This did not square with a note staked to the neck of a living woman, and she was about to tell him that when he held up one hand to forestall any more arguments.

Im out of my depth, he said. This man didnt care if the women lived or died. Hes a walking paradox a serial killer whos not all that interested in killing.

The murder of Kennedy Harper had taken over an entire wall of the Special Crimes incident room. Mallory posted the autopsy pictures next to Hellers crime-scene diagrams. Sparrow also had a wall to herself. The throwaway whore had become a priority case.

Rows of metal folding chairs were filling up with detectives. Four men gathered around the audio equipment and listened to the Cashtip recording of the killers voice, playing again and again, unwilling to believe that it did not offer more. The volume was turned up each time they heard the ambient sound.

Pssst.

One man timed it by the second hand on his watch. Mallory used a natural clock, a quirk of the brain that told her this sound occurred every twenty seconds. It reminded her of Helen Markowitzs spray starch on ironing day.

She walked to the hangmans wall and stared at a photograph of the back of a mans head. The image, crowned with a baseball cap and encircled with dead flies, was as worthless as the lame description of T-shirt and jeans played out in the clothing pinned to the cork.

Pssst.

Janos stood beside her. So what do you think of our scarecrow?

Is that what were calling him now?

Yeah. He turned to look around the room. Hey, what happened to your partner?

Hell be back. She had kept track of all the passing minutes since Riker had slipped out of the room. After the ambush in front of Peg Bailys bar, he would not miss an opportunity for a drink today. Each up-close encounter with his ex-wife was a prelude to a binge. Her internal timepiece had moved well past his three-minute walk to a nearby watering hole.

Pssst.

Riker would down his bourbon in no time. Mallory allowed extra minutes for his return trip. He would not walk back here with the same urgent speed. She factored in another minute so he could trade insults with the desk sergeant before climbing the stairs and ambling down the hall to the incident room.

Mallory turned her face to the door, and her partner appeared.

Pssst.

She saw nothing amiss. Riker prided himself on never stumbling in the daylight hours. There were no new spills on his suit, nothing more recent than his interview with Daisy, and that splash of bourbon had dried long ago. He sat on the chair next to hers and peeled the wrapper from a roll of mints. Did I miss anything?

No. Were still waiting to hear from Tech Support.

Pssst.

The detectives around the tape player walked away from the machine, allowing the recording to play out at full volume, and still the suspects voice was subdued.

a woman has been murdered in the East Village

It was an empty monotone, lacking the bravado of a man on a quest for fame, and one more motive died.

name is Kennedy Harper

The mechanical tone almost qualified as a speech impediment, or that was the excuse offered by technicians at One Police Plaza. They had not yet fixed the suspects home state.

you can find the body at

This man, so adept at theatrical staging, was so bland in his recital of bare facts a death, a name, an address.

Pssst.

Mallory was fleshing out the portrait of a killer whose emotions were dead, not the type for a thrill kill. He was a tidy man, well organized. A man with a plan? She stared at the scarecrow on the back wall. What the hell do you want?

We got it! Janos hovered in front of a computer monitor and read the pertinent details as he scrolled down the screen, The scarecrow is from the Midwest. Theyre still trying to nail down the state. The techs say he wasnt calling from a cell phone or a pay-phone. And the ambient sound might be from an early-model humidifier or an automatic plant mister.

Jack Coffey entered the room and shut off the tape player. Listen up! All conversation stopped and every pair of eyes turned his way. Rikers witness, Miss Emelda, is worth her weight in gold. Our perp was the old ladys man in the tree the guy with a Polaroid camera.

He held up two plastic bags, each containing a small box with a Polaroid logo. These film cartons were left at both crime scenes, and they werent left by accident. He held one higher than the other. And the box we found today has a twenty-year-old expiration date. He tossed the bags on the table. Kennedy Harper died six days ago thats official. Six days and twenty years ago, another hanging victim was found.

The lieutenant turned to face Mallory. It was an anniversary kill. And now we have a solid connection to the Cold Case file. He pointed to Janos. Youre the primary on Kennedys case. And, Desoto, you got Sparrow.

Mallory watched Rikers face go gray. His eyes were all the way open now, and his head was shaking from side to side, silently saying, This cant be. How could he lose Sparrows case to another detective? He was rising from his chair when she caught his sleeve and pulled him down.

If we cant get Sparrow back, well work her case on the side.

Was he hearing her? Yes, he was nodding.

Jack Coffey had finished handing out assignments to the others, and now he stood before Mallory and Riker. You guys are working the Cold Case file. We got a copycat, and I wanna know where he got his information. The lieutenant paused, correctly reading Mallorys expression of ennui. Youre not baby-sitting Geldorf. Use that old man. Just keep him the hell out of Special Crimes.

Lars Geldorf was hoarse from explaining and explaining, then shouting in exasperation. His opponent was a small, wiry woman with dark Spanish eyes, a deeply suspicious nature and a mission to clean Manhattan. She pulled a mop from her rolling cart of cleaning supplies and said, once more, Im gonna do Mallorys office now. Nothing would stop the intrepid Mrs Ortega, certainly not this old man gun or no gun.

The retired detective informed her that this room could not be cleaned until his case was wrapped. He distrusted all civilians, and she should understand that it was nothing personal. Charles intervened, suggesting that, since it was so late in the day, Mrs Ortega could skip this room. The cleaning woman countered with Mallorys orders, not yours. And eventually, the matter was settled.

Mrs Ortega ruled.

But Geldorf was adamant that Charles remain in the room until that that woman was done. Then, with great dignity, he left the office with his relief watcher, a young detective with unnatural bright yellow hair.

After the door slammed behind them, Mrs Ortega plugged in her vacuum, then shook her head, saying, Damn, that baby cops got one bad bleach job.

Charles nodded. Its interesting, though. Perhaps hes making some kind of statement.

Yeah, like look at me, my head glows in the dark.

Exactly what I was thinking. Charles turned his attention to the cork wall. Where should the giant cockroaches go? Well, the only place for them was underneath the maggots. Where else?

The carpet was spotless when Riker strolled in. He nodded his hello to Charles, then flashed a big smile for the cleaning woman. Hey, howve you been? He was genuinely happy to see her, though she used him for verbal sniper practice each time they met.

She glared at a spot on Rikers suit, singling it out from all the other stains, then stopped her work to clean him with a bottle of solvent and a cloth, as if he were any other object in her path. Next time you drink crummy bourbon for lunch, mop it up.

Charless nose was larger, but Mrs Ortegas was truly gifted. However, she was not an olfactory savant. She had not identified the alcohol by scent, nor discerned that it was stale, not fresh, and neither had she found the bouquet a bit wanting a lesser brand. This was only a parlor trick. Cheap bourbon was Rikers habitual choice, and the spill might reek, but it was dry, suggesting a drink earlier in the day. After erasing the evidence of his on-duty imbibing, she went back to dusting the shelves and muttered, My tax dollars at work.

Mallorys on the way, Riker said to her back. You got fifteen minutes. The detective also knew her soft spots, and now Mrs Ortegas duster doubled its speed. She would not want Mallory to walk in while there was still a dust mote at large.

You never finished the story, said Charles. What happened to that Indian girl after she

The man shook his head to say, Not now, then quickly glanced at the cleaning woman. When Mrs Ortega had packed up her cart and gone home, Riker was still uneasy as he continued the unfinished tale. The Wichita Kid got away. When the next book opens, you find out the Indian girl is dead. He sagged back against the wall, and his face turned toward the open door.

Keeping an eye out for Mallory?

Yes, and he was also telegraphing the terrible importance of the books, which had nothing to do with plots and everything to do with a recent murder and a child who loved westerns.

Sheriff Peetys horse crushed the girls skull, said Riker. So he broke off the chase and carried the body back to her village. Wichita never found out that the girl died to save him. He just went on loving her for the rest of the book. The detective was about to say more when something caught his eye, a folded newspaper on the desk. His left shoe began to tap in a steady rhythm, though he was not given to nervous mannerisms.

The newspaper belonged to Charles. He had finished the detailed account of a hanged prostitute and noted the similarities to Natalie Homers murder. However, the most startling lines described the crime-scene floor awash in water from a fire hose. Given the time of night and the degree of dampness in a paperback western called Homecoming, he now knew how the book had gotten wet. It was possible that the detective had innocently dropped it in the water, but the mans uncharacteristic anxiety suggested that the truth was even more out of character than Riker telling lies and drinking on duty. Though Charles suspected the book had been stolen, all he would say to his friend was Tell me how the story ends.

Rikers eyes were on the door, and there was some strain in his voice when he said, Sheriff Peety hears about another gunfight with the Wichita Kid another man killed. He picks up the trail outside of El Paso, Texas. At the end of the book, the sheriffs riding into an ambush forty-to-one odds. He knows whats comin. He knows he cant win. But he keeps on riding.



| Crime School | c