Excerpt: 'Book of the Dead'

"Because we ¬don't know where ¬she'd been, what temperatures or conditions she was exposed to before she was left in the construction site. Body temperature, rigor mortis, livor mortis can vary greatly from case to case and individual to individual." "Based on the condition of the body, are you saying it's impossible she was murdered soon after she had lunch with her friends? Perhaps while she was walking alone to Piazza Navona to join them?" "I ¬don't believe that's what happened." "Then once again, please. How do you explain her undigested food and ¬point-¬two alcohol level? They imply she died soon after she ate lunch with her ¬friends—¬not some fifteen, sixteen hours later."

"It's possible not long after she left her friends, she resumed drinking alcohol and was so terrified and stressed, her digestion quit."

"What? Now ¬you're suggesting she spent time with her killer, possibly as much as ten, twelve, fifteen hours with ¬him—¬that she was drinking with him?" "He might have forced her to drink, to keep her impaired and easier to control. As in drugging somebody."

"So he forced her to drink alcohol, perhaps all afternoon, all night, and into the early morning, and she was so frightened her food ¬didn't digest? That's what ¬you're offering us as a plausible explanation?" ¬"I've seen it before," Scarpetta says. The animated construction site after dark. Surrounding shops, pizzerias, and ristorantes are lit up and crowded. Cars and motor scooters are parked on the sides of the streets, on the sidewalks. The rumble of traffic and the sounds of footsteps and voices fill the theater.

Suddenly, the lighted windows go dark. Then silence. The sound of a car, and the shape of it. A ¬four-¬door black Lancia parks at the corner of Via di Pasquino and Via dell'Anima. The driver's door opens and an animated man gets out. He is dressed in gray. His face has no features and, like his hands, is gray, from which everyone in the theater is to infer that the killer ¬hasn't been assigned an age, race, or any physical characteristics. For the sake of simplicity, the killer is referred to as male. The gray man opens the trunk and lifts out a body wrapped in a blue fabric with a pattern that includes the colors red, gold, and green.

"The sheet wrapped around her is based on silk fibers collected from the body and in the mud under it," Captain Poma says.

Benton Wesley says, "Fibers found all over the body. Including in the hair, on the hands, the feet. Certainly an abundance of them were adhering to her wounds. From this we can conclude she was completely wrapped from head to toe. So, yes, obviously we have to consider a large piece of colorful silk fabric. Perhaps a sheet, perhaps a curtain . . ." "What's your point?"

"I have two of them: We ¬shouldn't assume it was a sheet, because we ¬shouldn't assume anything. Also, it's possible he wrapped her in something that was indigenous to where he lives or works, or where he held her hostage." "Yes, yes." Captain Poma's glasses remain fixed on the scene filling the wall. "And we know there are carpet fibers which are also consistent with carpet fibers in the trunk of a 2005 Lancia, which is con-sistent also with what was described driving away from that area at approximately six a.m. The witness I mentioned. A woman in a nearby apartment got up to see about her cat because it ¬was—¬what is the word . . . ?" "Yowling? Meowing?" the translator says.

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