Excerpt: 'Book of the Dead'

"I ¬don't think so," Benton says. "Then what explanation?" the general asks, and like Captain Poma, he wears a splendid uniform but with more silver and ornamentation around the cuffs and high collar. "A more interior one. A more personal one," Benton says. "From the news, perhaps," the general says. "Torture. The Death Squads in Iraq that pull out teeth and gouge out eyes."

"I can only suppose that what this killer did is a manifestation of his own psyche. In other words, I ¬don't believe what he did to her is an allusion to anything even remotely obvious. Through her wounds, we get a glimpse into his inner world," Benton says. "This is speculation," Captain Poma says. "It's a psychological insight based on many years of working violent crimes," Benton replies.

"But it's your intuition." "We ignore intuition at our peril," Benton says. "May we have the autopsy picture that shows her anteriorly during the external examination?" Scarpetta says. "A ¬close-¬up of her neck." She checks the list on the podium. "Number twenty."

A ¬three-¬dimensional image fills the screen: Drew's body on a ¬stainless-¬steel autopsy table, her skin and hair wet from washing.

"If you look here"—¬Scarpetta points the laser at the ¬neck—"you notice a horizontal ligature mark." The dot moves along the front of the neck. Before she can continue, she's interrupted by Rome's head of tourism.

"Afterwards, he removed her eyes. After death," he says. "Versus while she was alive. This is important."

"Yes," Scarpetta replies. "Reports ¬I've reviewed indicate the only premortem injuries are contusions on the ankles and contusions caused by strangulation. The photograph of her dissected neck, please? Number ¬thirty-¬eight."

She waits, and images fill the screen. On a cutting board, the larynx and soft tissue with areas of hemorrhage. The tongue.

Scarpetta points out, "Contusions to the soft tissue, the underlying muscles, and fractured hyoid due to strangulation clearly indicate damage inflicted while she was still alive." "Petechiae of her eyes?"

"We ¬don't know if there were conjunctival petechiae," Scarpetta says. "Her eyes are absent. But reports do indicate some petechiae of eyelids and face." "What he did to her eyes? ¬You're familiar with this from anything else in your experiences?"

¬"I've seen victims whose eyes were gouged out. But ¬I've never seen or heard of a killer filling eye sockets with sand and then sealing the eyelids shut ¬with—¬in this ¬instance—¬an adhesive that according to your report is a cyanoacrylate." "Superglue," Captain Poma says.

"I'm keenly interested in the sand," she says. "It ¬doesn't appear to be indigenous to the area. More important, scanning electron microscopy with EDX found traces of what appears to be gunshot residue. Lead, antimony, and barium." "Certainly it ¬isn't from the local beaches," Captain Poma says. "Unless many people shoot each other and we ¬don't know it." Laughter.

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