Bones are Forever
THE BABY'S EYES STARTLED ME. SO ROUND AND WHITE AND pulsing with movement.
Like the tiny mouth and nasal openings.
Ignoring the maggot masses, I inserted gloved fingers beneath the small torso and gently lifted one shoulder. The baby rose, chin and limbs tucked tight to its chest.
Flies scattered in a whine of protest.
My mind took in details. Delicate eyebrows, almost invisible on a face barely recognizable as human. Bloated belly. Translucent skin peeling from perfect little fingers. Green-brown liquid pooled below the head and buttocks.
The baby was inside a bathroom vanity, wedged between the vanity's back wall and a rusty drainpipe looping down from above. It lay in a fetal curl, head twisted, chin jutting skyward.
It was a girl. Shiny green missiles ricocheted from her body and everything around it.
For a moment I could only stare.
The wiggly-white eyes stared back, as though puzzled by their owner's hopeless predicament.
My thoughts roamed to the baby's last moments. Had she died in the darkness of the womb, victim of some heartless double-helix twist? Struggling for life, pressed to her mother's sobbing chest? Or cold and alone, deliberately abandoned and unable to make herself heard?
How long does it take for a newborn to give up life?
A torrent of images rushed my brain. Gasping mouth. Flailing limbs. Trembling hands.
Anger and sorrow knotted my gut.
Easing the miniature corpse back into place, I drew a deep breath. My knee popped as I straightened and yanked a spiral from my pack.
Facts. Focus on facts.
The vanity top held a bar of soap, a grimy plastic cup, a badly chipped ceramic toothbrush holder, and a dead roach. The medicine cabinet yielded an aspirin bottle containing two pills, cotton swabs, nasal spray, decongestant tablets, razor blades, and a package of corn-remover adhesive pads. Not a single prescription medication.
Warm air moving through the open window fluttered the toilet paper hanging beside the commode. My eyes shifted that way. A box of tissue sat on the tank. A slimy brown oval rimmed the bowl.
I swept my gaze left.
Lank fabric draped the peeling window frame, a floral print long gone gray. The view through the dirt-crusted screen consisted of a Petro-Canada station and the backside of a dépanneur.
Since I entered the apartment, my mind had been offering up the word "yellow." The mud-spattered stucco on the building's exterior? The dreary mustard paint on the inside stairwell? The dingy maize carpet?
Whatever. The old gray cells kept harping. Yellow.
I fanned my face with my notebook. Already my hair was damp.
It was nine A.M., Monday, June 4. I'd been awakened at seven by a call from Pierre LaManche, chief of the medico-legal section at the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale in Montreal. LaManche had been roused by Jean-Claude Hubert, chief coroner of the province of Quebec. Hubert's wake-up had come from an SQ cop named Louis Bédard.
According to LaManche, Caporal Bédard had reported the following:
At approximately two-forty A.M. Sunday, June 3, a twenty-seven-year-old female named Amy Roberts presented at the Hôpital Honoré-Mercier in Saint-Hyacinthe complaining of excessive vaginal bleeding. The ER attending, Dr. Arash Kutchemeshgi, noted that Roberts seemed disoriented ....
Tempe Brennan investigating a triple-infanticide and multiple murders in the cut-throat diamond mining business. Tempe is called in to evaluate the corpses of three murdered babies in Montreal, and her long-time flame Detective Ryan is charged with pursuing the likeliest suspect, their mother, a prostitute in the past, and possibly still. But when the suspect flees to Edmonton, the investigation is jarred by a sergeant in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with whom Tempe had an ill-advised fling at Quantico over a decade earlier. Sexual tension and violence run high in this stellar new book by Reichs.