Excerpt: 'Book of the Dead'

He goes on to say through the translator that it appears the killer left no seminal fluid, no blood, no saliva, unless it was washed away by rain. But DNA from two different sources was collected from under her fingernails. The profiles have proved useless so far because, unfortunately, he explains, the Italian government ¬doesn't allow DNA samples to be taken from criminals, as it's considered a violation of their human rights. The only profiles that can be entered into an Italian database at this time, he says, are those obtained from evidence, not from individuals. "So there's no database to search in Italy," Captain Poma adds. "And the most we can say right now is the DNA collected from under Drew's fingernails ¬doesn't match the DNA of any individual in any database outside Italy, including the United States." "I believe ¬you've ascertained that the sources of DNA collected from under her nails are males of European ¬descent—¬in other words, Caucasian," Benton says. "Yes," the lab director says.

"Dr. Scarpetta?" Captain Poma says. "Please continue." "May I have autopsy photo number ¬twenty-¬six, please?" she says. "A posterior view during the external examination. ¬Close-¬up of the wounds." They fill the screen. Two dark red craters with jagged edges. She points the laser, and the red dot moves over the massive wound where the right buttock used to be, then to a second area of flesh that has been excised from the back of the right thigh. "Inflicted by a sharp cutting instrument, possibly with a serrated blade, that sawed through muscle and superficially cut the bone," she says. "Inflicted postmortem, based on the absence of tissue response to the injuries. In other words, the wounds are yellowish."

"Postmortem mutilation rules out torture, at least torture by cutting," Benton adds. "Then what explanation? If not torture?" Captain Poma asks him, both men staring at each other like two animals that are natural enemies. "Why else would a person inflict such sadistic, and, I would suggest, disfiguring, wounds on another human being? Tell us, Dr. Wesley, in all your experiences have you seen anything like this before, perhaps in other cases? Especially when you were such a famous profiler with the FBI?" "No," Benton says curtly, and any reference to his former career with the FBI is a calculated insult. ¬"I've seen mutilation. But ¬I've never seen anything quite like this. Especially what he did to her eyes."

He removed them and filled the sockets with sand. Afterward, he glued her eyelids shut. Scarpetta points the laser and describes this, and Benton is chilled again. Everything about this case chills him, unnerves and fascinates him. What is the symbolism? It's not that he's unfamiliar with the gouging out of eyes. But what Captain Poma suggests is ¬far-¬fetched.

"The ancient Greek combat sport pankration? Perhaps ¬you've heard of it," Captain Poma says to the theater. "In pankration, one uses any means possible to defeat his enemy. It was common to gouge out the eyes and kill the person by stabbing or strangulation. Drew's eyes were gouged out, and she was strangled." The general of the Carabinieri asks Benton, through the translator, "Then maybe there's a connection to pankration? That the killer had this in his mind when he removed her eyes and strangled her?"

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