All that remains, p.16
All That Remains, p.16Patricia Cornwell
"I'm not interested in antagonizing the justice Department," Dr. Sessions said.
He did not have to outline why. A substantial portion of the commissioner's departmental budget was supplied by money from federal grants, some of which trickled down to my office to subsidize the collection of data needed by various injury prevention and traffic safety agencies. The Justice Department knew how to play hardball. If antagonizing the feds did not dry up much-needed revenues, we could at least count on our lives being made miserable. The last thing the commissioner wanted was to account for every pencil and sheet of stationery purchased with grant money. I knew how it worked'. All of us would be nickel-and-dimed, papered to death.
The commissioner reached for the letter with his good arm and studied it for a moment.
He said, "Actually, the only answer may be for Mrs. Harvey to go through with her threat."
"If she gets a court order, then I will have no choice but to send her what she wants."
"I realize that. And the advantage is the FBI can't hold us accountable. The disadvantage, obviously, will be the negative publicity," he thought aloud. "Certainly, it won't shine a good light on the Department of Health and Human Services if the public knows we were forced by a judge to give Pat Harvey what she is entitled to by law. I suppose it may corroborate our friend Mr. Ring's suspicions."
The average citizen didn't even know that the Medical Examiner's Office was part of Health and Human Services. I was the one who was going to look bad. The commissioner, in good bureaucratic fashion, was setting me up to take it on the nose because he had no intention of aggravating the justice Department.
"Of course," he considered, "Pat Harvey will come across as rather heavy-handed, as using her office to throw her weight around. She may be bluffing."
"I doubt it," I said tersely.
"We'll see. " He got up from his desk and showed me to the door "I'll write Mrs. Harvey, saying you and I talked."
I'll just bet you will, I thought.
"Let me know if 1 can be of any assistance."
He smiled, avoiding my eyes.
I had just let him know I needed assistance. He might as well have had two broken arms. He wasn't going to lift a finger As soon as I got back to the office, I asked the clerks up front and Rose if a reporter from the Post had beers calling. After searching memories and digging through, old message slips, no one could come up with a Clifford J Ring. He couldn't exactly accuse me of stonewalling if, he'd never tried to reach me, I reasoned. All the same, I was perplexed.
"By the way," Rose added as I headed down the hall, "Linda's been looking for you, says she needs to see you right away."
Linda was a firearms examiner. Marino must have been by with the cartridge case, I thought. Good.
The toolmarks and firearms laboratory was on the third floor and could have passed for a used-gun shop. Revolvers, rifles, shotguns, and pistols covered virtually every inch of counter space, and evidence wrapped in brown paper was stacked chest high on the floor. I was about to decide that everyone was at lunch when I heard the muffled explosions of a gun discharging behind closed doors. Adjoining the lab was a small room used to test-fire weapons into a galvanized steel tank filled with water.
Two rounds later Linda emerged, .38 Special in one hand, spent bullets and cartridge cases in the other. She was slender and feminine, with long brown hair, good bones, and wide-spaced hazel eyes. A lab coat protected a flowing black skirt and pale yellow silk blouse with a gold circle pin at the throat. Were I sitting next to her on a plane and trying to guess 'her profession, teaching poetry or running an art gallery would have come to mind.
"Bad news, Kay," she said, setting the revolver and spent ammunition on her desk.
"I hope it doesn't pertain to the cartridge case Marino brought in," I said.
"Afraid it does. I was about to etch my initials and a lab number on it when I got a little surprise."
She moved over to the comparison microscope. "Here."
She offered me the chair. "A picture's worth a thousand words."
Seating myself, I peered into the lenses. In the field of light to my left was the stainless-steel cartridge case.
"I don't understand," I muttered, adjusting the focus. Etched inside the cartridge case's mouth were the initials "J.M."
"I thought Marino receipted this to you."
I looked up at her.
"He did. He came by about an hour ago," Linda said. "I asked him if he etched these initials, and he said he didn't. Not that I really thought he had. Marino's initials are P.M., not J.M., and he's been around long enough to know better:" Though some detectives initialed cartridge cases just as some medical examiners initialed bullets recovered from bodies, the firearms examiners discouraged the practice. Taking a stylus to metal is risky because there's always the threat one might scratch breech block, firing pin, ejector marks, or other features, such as lands and grooves, suitable for identification. Marino did know better. Like me, he always initialed the plastic bag and left the evidence inside untouched.
"Am I to believe these initials were already on this cartridge case when Marino brought it in?" I asked.
J.M. Jay Morrell, I thought, mystified. Why would a cartridge case left at the scene be marked with his initials? Linda proposed, "I'm wondering if a police officer working the scene out there had this in his pocket for some reason, and inadvertently lost it. If he had a hole in his pocket, for example?"
"I'd find that hard to believe," I said.
"Well, I've got one other theory I'll toss out. But you aren't going to like it, and I don't like it much, either. The cartridge case could have been reloaded."
"Then why would it be marked with an investigator's initials? Who on earth would reload a cartridge case marked as evidence?"
"It's happened before, Kay, and you didn't hear this from me, all right? " I just listened.
"The number of weapons and the amount of ammunition and cartridge cases collected by the police and submitted to the courts are astronomical and worth a lot of money. People get greedy, even judges. They take the stuff for themselves or sell it to gun dealers, other enthusiasts. I suppose it's remotely possible this cartridge case was collected by a police officer or submitted to the courts as evidence at some point, and ended up reloaded. It may be that whoever fired it had no idea someone's initials were etched inside it."
"We can't prove that this cartridge case belongs to the bullet I found in Deborah Harvey's lumbar spine, and won't be able to do so unless we recover the pistol," I reminded her. "We can't even say with certainty it's from a Hydra-Shok cartridge. A11 we know is it's nine-millimeter, Federal.
"True. But Federal holds the patent for Hydra-Shok ammunition, has since the late eighties. For whatever that's worth. " "Does Federal sell Hydra-Shok bullets for reloading?" I asked.
"That's the problem. No. Only the cartridges are, available on the market. But that doesn't mean someone couldn't get hold of the bullets in some other way. Steal them from the factory, have a contact who steals them from the factory. I could get them, for example, if I claimed I were working on a special project. Who knows?"
She retrieved a can of Diet Coke from her desk, adding, nothing much surprises me anymore."
"Is Marino aware of what you found?"
"I called him."
"Thank you, Linda," I said, getting up, and I was formulating my own theory, which was quite different from hers and, unfortunately, more probable. Just the thought of it made me furious. In my office I snatched up the phone and dialed Marino's pager number. He returned my call almost immediately.
"The little fuckhead," he said right off.
I asked, startled.
"Morrell, that's who. The lying son of a bitch. Just got off the phone with him. Said he didn't know what I was talking about until I accused him of stealing evidence for reloads - asked him if he was stealing guns and live ammo, too. Said I'd have
"He etched his initials in the cartridge case and left it out there deliberately, didn't he, Marino?"
"Oh, yeah. They found the goddam cartridge case last week. The real one. Then the asshole leaves this goddam plant, starts whining that he was just doing what the FBI told him to do."
"Where is the real cartridge case?"
I demanded, blood pounding in my temples.
"The FBI lab's got it. You and yours truly spent an entire afternoon in the woods, and guess what, Doc? The whole goddam time we was being watched. The place is under physical surveillance. Just a damn good thing neither one of us wandered behind a bush to take a piss, right?"
"Have you talked to Benton?"
"Hell, no. As far as I'm concerned, he can screw himself."
Marino slammed down the receiver.
There was something reassuring about the Globe and Laurel that made me feel safe. Brick, with simple lines and not a hint of ostentation, the restaurant occupied a sliver of northern Virginia real estate in Triangle, near the U.S. Marine Corps base. The narrow strip of lawn in front was always tidy, boxwoods neatly pruned, the parking lot orderly, every car within the painted bound allotted space.
Semper Fidelis was over the door, and stepping inside I was welcomed by the cream of the "always faithful" crop: police chiefs, four-star generals, secretaries of defense, directors of the FBI and CIA, the photographs so apes of its familiar to me that the men sternly smiling in them seemed a host of long-lost friends. Maj. Jim Yancey whose bronzed combat boots from Vietnam were on top of the piano across from the bar, strode across recd: Highland tartan carpet and intercepted me.
"Dr. Scarpetta," he said, grinning as he shook my hand. "I was afraid you didn't like the food when last you were here, and that's why you waited so long come back."
The major's casual attire of turtleneck sweater a corduroy trousers could not camouflage his former profession. He was as military as a campaign hat, posture proudly straight, not an ounce of fat, white hair in a buzz cut. Past retirement age, he still looked fit enough for combat, and it wasn't hard for me to imagine him bumping over rugged terrain in a Jeep or eating rations from a can in the jungle while monsoon rains hammer down.
"I've never had a bad meal here, and you know it," I said warmly.
"You're looking for Benton, and he's looking for you. The old boy's around there" - he pointed - "in his usual foxhole."
"Thank you, Jim. I know the way. And it's so good see you again."
He winked at me and returned to the bar.
It was Mark who had introduced me to Major Yancey's restaurant when I drove to Quantico two weekend every month to see him. As I walked beneath a ceiling covered with police patches and passed displays of old Corps memorabilia, recollections tugged at my heart. I could pick out the tables where Mark and I had sat, and it seemed odd to see strangers there now, engaged in their own private conversations. I had not been to the Globe in almost a year.
Leaving the main dining room, I headed for a more secluded section where Wesley was waiting for me in his "foxhole," a corner table before a window with red draperies. He was sipping a drink and did not smile as we greeted each other formally. A waiter in a black tuxedo appeared to take my drink order.
Wesley looked up at me with eyes as impenetrable as a bank vault, and I responded in kind. He had signaled the first round, and we were going to come out swinging.
"I am very concerned that we're having a problem with communication, Kay," he began.
"My sentiments exactly," I said with the iron-hard calm I had perfected on the witness stand. "I, too, am concerned by our problem with communication. Is the Bureau tapping my phone, tailing me as well? I hope whoever was hiding in the woods got good photographs of Marino and me."
Wesley said just as calmly, "You, personally, are not under surveillance. The wooded area where you and Marino were spotted yesterday afternoon is under surveillance."
"Perhaps if you had kept me informed," I said, holding in my anger, "I might have told you in advance when Marino and I had decided to go back out there."
"It never occurred to me you might."
"I routinely pay retrospective visits to scenes. You've worked with me long enough to be aware of that."
"My mistake. But now you know. And I would prefer that you not go back out there again."
"I have no plans to do so," I said testily. "But should the need arise, I will be happy to give you advance warning. Might as well, since you'll find out anyway. And I certainly don't need to waste my time picking up evidence that has been planted by your agents or the police."
"Kay," he said in a softer tone, "I'm not trying interfere with your job."
"I'm being lied to, Benton. I'm told no cartridge case was recovered from the scene, only to discover it was receipted to the Bureau's laboratory more than a week ago."
"When we decided to set up surveillance, we didn't want word of it to leak," he said. "The fewer people told about what we were up to the better."
"Obviously, you must be assuming the killer might return to the scene."
"It's a possibility."
"Did you entertain this possibility with the first four cases?"
"It's different this time."
"Because he left evidence, and he knows it."
"If he were so worried about the cartridge case, he had had plenty of time to go back and look for it last
fall." I said.
"He may not know we would figure out Deborah Harvey was shot, that a Hydra-Shok bullet would be recovered from her body."
"I don't believe the individual we're dealing wig is stupid," I said.
The waiter returned with my Scotch and soda.
Wesley went on, "The cartridge case you recovered was planted. I won't deny that. And yes, you and Marino walked into an area under physical surveillance. There were two men hiding in the woods. They saw everything the two of you did, including picking up the cartridge case. Had you not called me, I would have called you."
"I'd like to think you would have."
"I would have explained. Would have had no choice, really, because you inadvertently upset the apple cart. And you're right."
He reached for his drink. "I should have let you know in advance; then none of this would have happened and we wouldn't have been forced to call things off, or better put, postpone them."
"What have you postponed, exactly?"
"Had you and Marino not stumbled upon what we were doing, tomorrow morning's news would have carried a story targeted at the killer."
He paused. "Disinformation to draw him out, make him worry. The story will run, but not until Monday."
"And the point of it?" I asked.
"We want him to think that something turned up during the examination of the bodies. Something to make us believe he left important evidence at the scene.
Alleged this, alleged that, with plenty of denials and no comments from the police. All of it intended to imply that whatever this evidence is, we've had no luck finding it yet. The killer knows he left a cartridge case out there. If he gets sufficiently paranoid and returns to look for it we'll be waiting, watching him pick up the one we planted, get it on film, and then grab him."
"The cartridge case is worthless unless you have him and the gun. Why would he risk returning to the scene, especially if it appears that the police are busy looking around out there for this evidence?"
I wanted "He may be worried about a lot of things, because he lost control of the situation. Had to have, or it would not have been necessary to shoot Deborah in the back. It might not have been necessary to shoot her at all. It appears he murdered Cheney without using a gun. How does he know what we're really looking for, Kay? Maybe it's cartridge case. Maybe it's something else. He isn't going be certain about the exact condition of the bodies when they were found. We don't know what he did to the couple and he does
"I doubt your disinformation tactic will work," I said.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The killer evidence. We'd be foolish not to act on that."
The opening was too wide for me to resist walking through it. "And have you acted on evidence found in the first four cases, Benton? It's my understanding that a jack of hearts was recovered inside each of the vehicles.
All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes