The bone bed, p.1
The Bone Bed, p.1Patricia Cornwell
ALSO BY PATRICIA CORNWELL
The Scarpetta Factor
Book of the Dead
The Last Precinct
Point of Origin
Cause of Death
From Potter’s Field
The Body Farm
Cruel and Unusual
All That Remains
Body of Evidence
Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed
ANDY BRAZIL SERIES
Isle of Dogs
WIN GARANO SERIES
Ruth, A Portrait: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham
Food to Die For: Secrets from Kay Scarpetta’s Kitchen
Life’s Little Fable
Scarpetta’s Winter Table
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
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Published by the Penguin Group
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Copyright © 2012 by Cornwell Entertainment, Inc.
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Published simultaneously in Canada
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Cornwell, Patricia Daniels.
The bone bed / Patricia Cornwell.
1. Scarpetta, Kay (Fictitious character). 2. Murder—Fiction. 3. Medical examiners (Law)—Fiction. 4. Forensic pathologists—Fiction. 5. Women physicians—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3553.O692B64 2012 2012026347
Title page photographs by Patricia Cornwell © 2012 by Cornwell Entertainment, Inc.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
You make it possible and fun.
also by patricia cornwell
two nights later
October 22, 2012
Where the Red Willow and Wapiti Rivers merge in the Peace Region of northwestern Alberta, dark green waters tumble and foam around fallen trees and gray sandy islets with white pebble shores.
Black spruce and aspens are thick on the hillsides, and saplings grow at steep angles on riverbanks and cliffs, the slender boughs straining toward the sun before gravity bends them and snaps them in half.
Dead wood litters the water’s edge and collects in nests of split trunks and splintered branches that rapids boil around and through, the debris moving downstream in the endless rhythm of life thriving and dying, of decay and rebirth and death.
There is no sign of human habitation, no man-made trash or pollution or a single edifice I can see, and I imagine a violent catastrophe seventy million years ago when a herd of migrating pachyrhinosauri perished at once, hundreds of them thrashing and panicking as they drowned while crossing the river during a flood.
Their massive carcasses were fed upon by carnivores, and decomposed and disarticulated. Over time, bones were pushed by landslides and currents of water, becoming glacial deposits and outcrops almost indistinguishable from granitic bedrock and loose stones.
The scenes flowing by on my computer screen could be of a pristine wilderness that has remained untouched since the Cretaceous Age, were it not for an obvious fact: The video file was made by a human being holding a recording device while skimming over shallow water, careening at precarious speeds around sandbars and semi-submerged boulders and broken trees.
No recognizable details of the jetboat’s exterior or interior or the pilot or passengers on board are shown, only the aft deck’s metal rail and the shape of someone blacked out by the sun’s glare, a sharply outlined solid shadow against bright rushing water and an open blue sky.
I CHECK MY OVERSIZED TITANIUM WATCH ON ITS RUBBER strap and reach for my coffee—black, no sweetener—as distant footsteps sound in the corridor of my bullet-shaped building on the eastern border of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus. It isn’t light out yet this third Monday of October.
Seven stories below my top-floor office, traffic is steady on Memorial Drive, rush hour in this part of Cambridge well under way before dawn no matter the season or the weather. Headlights move along the embankment like bright insect eyes, the Charles River rippling darkly, and across the Harvard Bridge the city of Boston is a glittery barrier separating the earthbound empires of business and education from the harbors and bays that become the sea.
It’s too early for staff unless it’s one of the death investigators, but I can’t think of a good reason for Toby or Sherry or whoever is on call to be on this floor.
Actually, I haven’t a clue who came on at midnight, and I try to remember what vehicles were in the lot when I got here about an hour ago. The usual white SUVs and vans and one of our mobile crime scene trucks, I dimly recall. I really didn’t notice what else, was too preoccupied with my iPhone, with alert tones and messages reminding me of conference calls and appointments and a court appearance to
I should pay more attention to what’s around me, I chastise myself, but I shouldn’t have to wonder about who’s on call, for God’s sake. This is ridiculous. Frustrated, I think of my head of investigations, Pete Marino, who can’t seem to bother updating the electronic calendar anymore. How hard is it to drag-and-drop names from one date to another so I can see who’s working? He’s not kept up with it for quite some time and has been keeping to himself. Probably what I need to do is have him over for dinner, cook something he likes, and talk about what’s going on with him. The thought of it tries my patience, and at the moment I seem to have none.
Some mentally disturbed person, or maybe evil is the word.
I listen for whoever might be prowling around but hear no one now as I search the Internet, clicking on files, pondering the same details repeatedly as I realize how defeated I feel and how angry that makes me.
You got what you wanted this once.
There really isn’t anything gory or gruesome I’ve not seen or can’t somehow handle, but I was caught off guard last night, a quiet Sunday at home with my husband, Benton, music playing, the MacBook open on the kitchen counter in case anything happened that I should know about immediately. In a mellow mood, I was preoccupied with making one of his favorite dishes, risotto con spinaci come lo fanno a sondrio, waiting for water to boil in a saucepan, drinking a Geheimrat J Riesling that made me think of our recent trip to Vienna and the poignant reason we were there.
I was lost in thoughts of people I love, preparing a fine meal and drinking a gentle wine, when the e-mail with its attached video file landed at exactly 6:30 Eastern Standard Time.
I didn’t recognize the sender: [email protected]
There was no message, just the subject heading: ATTENTION CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER KAY SCARPETTA, in a bold uppercase Eurostile font.
At first I was simply puzzled by the eighteen seconds of video with no audio, a cut-and-pasted jetboat ride in a part of the world I didn’t recognize. The film clip seemed innocent enough, and meant nothing to me as I viewed it the first time. I was sure someone had e-mailed it by mistake until the recording suddenly stopped, dissolving into a jpg, an image meant to shock.
I launch another search engine into cyberspace, unable to find much useful about the pachyrhinosaurus, a thick-nosed herbivorous dinosaur with a horned bony frill and flattened boss likely used to butt and gore other animals into submission. A uniquely strange-looking beast, somewhat like a two-ton short-legged rhino wearing a grotesque bony mask, I suppose, as I look at an artist’s rendering of one. A reptile with a face that’s hard to love, but Emma Shubert did, and now the forty-eight-year-old paleontologist is missing an ear or dead or both.
The anonymous e-mail was sent directly here to the CFC, the Cambridge Forensic Center, which I head, the point I can only assume to taunt and intimidate me, and I imagine a jetboat skimming over a river thousands of miles northwest of here in what looks like a lost part of the world. I study the overexposed ghostlike shape sitting in back, possibly on a bench seat, directly facing whoever was filming.
Who are you?
Then the steep rocky slope, what I now know is a dinosaur dig site called the Wapiti bone bed, and the image dissolves into a jpg that is violent and cruel.
THE SEVERED HUMAN EAR IS WELL DEFINED AND DELICATE, the curved cartilage devoid of hair.
A right ear. Possibly white. Fair-skinned is as definitive as I can get. Possibly a woman’s ear, for sure not an adult male’s or a young child’s ear, but I can’t rule out an older girl or boy.
The lobe is pierced once directly in the center, the bloodstained section of newspaper the ear was photographed on easily identifiable as the Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune, which would have been Emma Shubert’s local paper while she was working in northwest Canada’s Peace Region this past summer. I can’t see a date, just a portion of a story about mountain pine beetles destroying trees.
What do you want from me?
I’m affiliated with the Department of Defense, specifically with the Armed Forces Medical Examiners, or AFME, and while this expands my jurisdiction to the federal level, that certainly doesn’t include Canada. If Emma Shubert has been murdered, she won’t be my case, not unless her dead body ends up thousands of miles southeast of where she disappeared and turns up in this area.
Who sent this to me, and what is it supposed to make me think or do? Maybe what I’ve already done since six-thirty last night.
Alert law enforcement and worry and feel angry and rather useless.
A biometric lock clicks free at the forensic computer lab next door. Not Toby or some other investigator but my niece, Lucy, I realize, and I’m surprised and pleased. I thought she wasn’t coming in today. Last I heard she was heading out in her helicopter, maybe to New York, but I’m not sure. She’s been very busy of late, setting up her country home, as she calls the big spread she purchased northwest of here in Lincoln. She’s been back and forth to Texas getting certified in the new twin-engine helicopter that recently was delivered. Busy with preoccupations I can’t help her with, she says, and my niece has secrets. She always has, and I can always tell.
That U? I text her. Coffee?
Then she is in my open doorway, slender and remarkably fit in a snug black T-shirt, black silk cargo pants, and black leather trainers, the veins standing out in her strong forearms and wrists, her rose-gold highlighted hair still damp from the shower. She looks as if she’s already been to the gym and is headed to a rendezvous with someone I don’t know about, and it’s not even seven o’clock in the morning.
“Good morning.” I’m reminded of how nice it is to have her around. “I thought you were flying.”
“You’re here early.”
“I have a backlog of histology I need to put a dent in but probably won’t,” I reply. “And I’ve got court this afternoon, the Mildred Lott case, or maybe I should call it the Mildred Lott spectacle. Forcing me to testify is nothing more than a stunt.”
“It could be more than that.” Lucy’s pretty face is intensely preoccupied.
“Yes, it could be embarrassing. In fact, I fully expect it will be.” I watch her curiously.
“Make sure Marino or someone goes with you.” She has stopped midway on the gunmetal-gray carpet and is looking up at the geodesic glass dome.
“I guess it’s you I’ve heard wandering around for the past hour,” I continue to probe. “I was getting a little worried we might have an intruder.” It’s my way of asking what’s going on with her.
“It wasn’t me,” she says. “I just got here, stopped by to check on something.”
“I don’t know who else is in, who’s on call,” I add. “So if it wasn’t you I heard? Well, I’m not sure why anyone on call would be wandering around on this floor.”
“Marino, that’s who. At least this time. I’m surprised you didn’t notice his gas guzzler in the lot.”
I don’t mention that she’s one to talk. My niece won’t drive anything with less than five hundred horsepower, usually a V12, preferably Italian, although her most recent acquisition is British, I think, but I could be wrong. Supercars aren’t my area of expertise, and I don’t have her money and wouldn’t spend it on Ferraris and flying machines even if I did.
“What’s he doing here this early?” I puzzle.
“He decided to be on call last night and sent Toby home.”
“What do you mean he decided to be on call? He just got back from Florida last night. Why would he decide to be on call? He’s never on call.” It makes no sense.
“It’s just a good thing no big cases came in that required someone to go to the scene because I’m guessing Marino slept. Or maybe he was tweeting,” she says. “Which isn’t a good idea. Not after hours, when he tends to be a little less inhibited.”
“Did he tell you he’s moved an inf
“We don’t allow beds. We don’t allow people on call to sleep. Since when is he on call?” I repeat.
“Since he’s been having fights with what’s-her-name.”
“Or he’s ornamenting and doesn’t want to drive.”
I have no idea what Lucy is talking about.
“Which is rather often these days.” She looks me in the eye. “What’s-her-name he met on Twitter and had to unfollow in more ways than one. She made a real fool of him.”
“Minis he turns into ornaments. After he drinks what was in them. You didn’t hear it from me.”
I think back to July eleventh, Marino’s birthday, which has never been a happy occasion for him and is only worse the older he gets.
“You need to ask him yourself, Aunt Kay,” Lucy adds, as I recall visiting him at his new house in West Cambridge.
Wood-sided on a sliver of a lot, it has working fireplaces and genuine hardwood floors, he likes to boast, and a finished basement, where he installed a sauna, a workshop, and a speed bag he loves to show off. When I drove up with a birthday basket of homemade asparagus quiche and white chocolate sweet salami, he was on a ladder, stringing strands of lighted small glass skulls along the roofline, Crystal Head vodka minis he was ordering directly from the distillery and turning into ornaments, he volunteered before I could ask, as if to imply he’d been buying empties, hundreds of them. Getting ready for Halloween, he added boisterously, and I should have known then that he was drinking again.
“I don’t remember what you’re doing today except maybe another pig farm somewhere that you intend to put out of business,” I say to Lucy, as I push away every horrible thing Marino’s ever done when he’s been drunk.
“Southwest Pennsylvania.” She continues looking around my office as if something has changed that she should know about.
Nothing has. Not that I can think of. The juniper bonsai on my brushed-steel conference table is a new addition, but that’s all. The photographs, certificates, and degrees she’s glancing over are the same, as are the orchids, gardenias, and sago palm. My black-laminate-surface bow-shaped desk she is staring at hasn’t changed. Nor has the matching hutch or the black granite countertop behind my chair, where she’s now wandering.
The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes