Excerpt: 'Book of the Dead'

New ¬images—¬video recordings in 3-¬D—¬fill the screen. Blue lights strobing. Police cars and a ¬midnight-¬blue Carabinieri crime scene van. More Carabinieri with machine guns guarding the perimeter of the construction site. Plainclothes investigators inside the ¬cordoned-¬off area, collecting evidence, taking photographs. The sounds of camera shutters and low voices and crowds on the streets. A police helicopter ¬thud-¬thuds overhead. The ¬professor—¬the most esteemed forensic pathologist in ¬Rome—¬is covered in white Tyvek that is muddy. Close on, his point of view: Drew's body. It's so real in the stereoscopic glasses, it's bizarre. Scarpetta feels as if she can touch Drew's flesh and her gaping dark red wounds that are smeared with mud and glistening wet from the rain. Her long blond hair is wet and clings to her face. Her eyes are tightly shut and bulging beneath the lids.

"Dr. Scarpetta," Captain Poma says. "You may examine her, please. Tell us what you see. You have, of course, studied Professor Fiorani's report, but as you look at the body itself in ¬three-¬dimension and are placed at the scene with it, please give us your own opinion. We ¬won't criticize you if you disagree with Professor Fiorani's findings." Who's considered as infallible as the Pope he embalmed several years earlier. The laser's red dot moves where Scarpetta points, and she says, "The position of the body. On the left side, hands folded under the chin, legs slightly bent. A position I believe is deliberate. Dr. Wesley?" She looks at Benton's thick glasses looking past her, at the screen. "This is a good time for you to comment." "Deliberate. The body was positioned by the killer." "As if she's praying, perhaps?" says the chief of the state police. "What was her religion?" asks the deputy director of the Criminal Police National Directorate. A peppering of questions and conjectures from the barely lit theater. "Roman Catholic." "She ¬didn't practice it, I understand." "Not much." "Perhaps some religious connection?" "Yes, I wonder that, too. The construction site is so close to Sant'Agnese in Agone." Captain Poma explains, "For those unfamiliar"—¬he looks at ¬Benton—"Saint Agnes was a martyr tortured and murdered at the age of twelve because she ¬wouldn't marry a pagan like me." Peals of laughter. A discussion about the murder having a religious significance. But Benton says no. "There's sexual degradation," he says. "She's displayed, and she's nude and dumped in plain view in the very area where she was supposed to meet her friends. The killer wanted her found, he wanted to shock people. Religion ¬isn't the overriding motive. Sexual excitement is." "Yet we found no evidence of rape." This said by the head of the Carabinieri forensic labs.

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