Excerpt: 'Book of the Dead'

"Revealing of a truth, yes. But not your truth," Scarpetta replies, in a tone more polite than what she says. "Your truth is a misinterpretation."

"I think ¬we've been over this," Benton says from the shadows of the front row. "I think Dr. Scarpetta has made herself perfectly clear."

Captain Poma's 3-D ¬glasses—¬and rows of other 3-D ¬glasses—¬remain fixed on her. "I regret if I bore you with my reexamination, Dr. Wesley, but we need to find sense in this. So please indulge me. April seventeenth, Drew ate very bad lasagna and drank four glasses of very bad Chianti between ¬eleven-¬thirty and ¬twelve-¬thirty at a tourist trattoria near the Spanish Steps. She paid the bill and left, then at the Piazza di Spagna parted company with her two friends, who she promised to rejoin at Piazza Navona within the hour. She never appeared. That much we know to be true. What remains a mystery is everything else." His ¬thick-¬framed glasses look at Scarpetta, then he turns in his seat and speaks to the rows behind him. "Partly because our esteemed colleague from the United States now says she's convinced Drew ¬didn't die shortly after lunch or even that same day."

¬"I've been saying this all along. Once again, ¬I'll explain why. Since it seems you are confused," Scarpetta says. "We need to move on," Benton says. But they ¬can't move on. Captain Poma is so respected by the Italians, is such a celebrity, he can do whatever he wants. In the press he is called the Sherlock Holmes of Rome, even though he is a physician, not a detective. Everyone, including the Comandante Generale of the Carabinieri, who sits in a back corner and listens more than he speaks, seems to have forgotten that.

"Under normal circumstances," Scarpetta says, "Drew's food would have been fully digested several hours after she ate lunch, and her alcohol level certainly ¬wouldn't have been as high as the ¬point-¬two determined by toxicological testing. So, yes, Captain Poma, her stomach contents and toxicology suggest she died shortly after lunch. But her livor mortis and rigor mortis ¬suggest—¬rather emphatically, let me ¬add—¬that she died possibly twelve to fifteen hours after she ate lunch at the trattoria, and these postmortem artifacts are the ones we should pay the most attention to." "So here we are. Back to lividity." He sighs. "This word I have so much trouble with. Please explain it again, since I seem to have so much trouble with what you call postmortem artifacts. As if we are archaeologists digging up ruins." Captain Poma's chin rests on his hand again.

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