Excerpt: 'Book of the Dead'

"I suppose we need to go through this again so you completely understand my position," Scarpetta says to Captain Poma, who now rests his chin on his hand as if he is having an intimate conversation with her over a glass of wine. "Had she been killed at two or three o'clock that afternoon, then when her body was found at approximately ¬eight-¬thirty the following morning, she would have been dead at least seventeen hours. Her livor mortis, rigor mortis, and algor mortis are inconsistent with that."

She uses a laser pointer to direct attention to the ¬three-¬dimensional muddy construction site projected on the ¬wall-¬size screen. It's as if they are standing in the middle of the scene, staring at Drew Martin's mauled, dead body and the litter and earthmoving equipment around it. The red dot of the laser moves along the left shoulder, the left buttock, the left leg and its bare foot. The right buttock is gone, as is a portion of her right thigh, as if she had been attacked by a shark.

"Her lividity . . ." Scarpetta starts to say.

"Once again I apologize. My English ¬isn't so good as yours. I'm not sure of this word," Captain Poma says.

¬"I've used it before."

"I ¬wasn't sure of it then."

Laughter. Other than the translator, Scarpetta is the only woman present. She and the translator ¬don't find the captain amusing, but the men do. Except Benton, who ¬hasn't smiled once this day.

"Do you know the Italian for this word?" Captain Poma asks Scarpetta.

"How about the language of ancient Rome?" Scarpetta says. "Latin. Since most medical terminology is rooted in Latin." She ¬doesn't say it rudely, but is ¬no-¬nonsense because she's well aware that his English becomes awkward only when it suits him.

His 3-D glasses stare at her, reminding her of Zorro. "Italian, please," he says to her. "I never was so good in Latin."

¬"I'll give you both. In Italian, 'livid' is livido, which means bruised. 'Mortis' is morte, or death. Livor mortis suggests an appearance of bruising that occurs after death." "It's helpful when you speak Italian," he says. "And you do it so well."

She ¬doesn't intend to do it here, although she speaks enough Italian to get by. She prefers English during these professional discussions because nuances are tricky, and the translator intercepts every word anyway. This difficulty with language, along with political pressure, stress, and Captain Poma's relentless and enigmatic antics, add to what already is rather much a disaster that has nothing to do with any of these things. But rather, the killer in this case defies precedents and the usual profiles. He confounds them. Even the science has become a maddening source of ¬debate—¬it seems to defy them, lie to them, forcing Scarpetta to remind herself and everyone else that science never tells untruths. It ¬doesn't make mistakes. It ¬doesn't deliberately lead them astray or taunt them.

This is lost on Captain Poma. Or perhaps he pretends. Perhaps he ¬isn't serious when he refers to Drew's dead body as uncooperative and argumentative, as if he has a relationship with it and they are squab-bling. He asserts that her postmortem changes may say one thing, and her blood alcohol and stomach contents say another, but contrary to what Scarpetta believes, food and drink should always be trusted. He is serious, at least about that.

"What Drew ate and drank is revealing of truth." He repeats what he said in his impassioned opening statement earlier today.

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