Excerpt: 'Book of the Dead'

"Lividity, livor mortis, postmortem hypostasis, all the same thing. When you die, your circulation quits and the blood begins to accumulate in the small vessels due to gravity, rather much like sediment settling in a sunken ship." She feels Benton's 3-D glasses looking at her. She dares not look at him. He ¬isn't himself. "Continue, please." Captain Poma underlines something several times on his legal pad. "If the body remains in a certain position long enough after death, the blood will settle ¬accordingly—¬a postmortem artifact we call livor mortis," Scarpetta explains. "Eventually, livor mortis becomes fixed, or set, turning that area of the body ¬purplish-¬red, with patterns of blanching from surfaces pressing against it or constricting it, such as tight clothing. Can we see the autopsy photograph, please?" She checks a list on the podium. "Number ¬twenty-¬one." The wall fills with Drew's body on a steel table in the morgue at Tor Vergata University. She is facedown. Scarpetta moves the laser's red dot over the back, over the ¬purplish-¬red areas and blanching caused by lividity. The shocking wounds that look like dark red craters she has yet to address.

"Now, if ¬you'll put the scene up, please. The one that shows her being placed into the body bag," she says. The ¬three-¬dimensional photograph of the construction site fills the wall again, but this time there are investigators in white Tyvek suits, gloves, and shoe covers lifting Drew's limp, naked body into a ¬sheet-¬lined black pouch on top of a stretcher. Around them, other investigators hold up additional sheets to block the view from the curious and the paparazzi at the perimeter of the scene.

"Compare this to the photograph you just saw. By the time she was autopsied some eight hours after she was found, her lividity was almost completely set," Scarpetta says. "But here at the scene, it's apparent that lividity was in its early stages." The red dot moves over pinkish areas on Drew's back. "Rigor was in its early stages as well." "You rule out the early onset of rigor mortis due to a cadervic spasm? For example, if she strenuously exerted herself right before death? Maybe she struggled with him? Since ¬you've not mentioned this phenomenon so far?" Captain Poma underlines something on his legal pad.

"There's no reason to talk about a cadervic spasm," Scarpetta says. Why ¬don't you throw in the kitchen sink? she's tempted to ask. "Whether she strenuously exerted herself or not," she says, "she ¬wasn't fully rigorous when she was found, so she ¬didn't have a cadervic spasm. . . ." "Unless rigor came and went." "Impossible, since it became fully fixed in the morgue. Rigor ¬doesn't come and go and then come again." The translator suppresses a smile as she relays this in Italian, and several people laugh. "You can see from this"—¬Scarpetta points the laser at Drew's body being lifted onto the ¬stretcher—"her muscles certainly ¬aren't stiff. ¬They're quite flexible. I estimate ¬she'd been dead less than six hours when she was found, possibly considerably less." ¬"You're a world expert. How can you be so vague?"

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