Read Devil Bones Online

Authors: Kathy Reichs

Devil Bones

Synopsis:

In a house under renovation, a plumber uncovers a celar no one knew about, and makes a rather grisly discovery — a decapitated chicken, animal bones, and cauldrons containing beads, feathers, and other relics of religious ceremonies. In the center of the shrine, there is the skul of a teenage girl. Meanwhile, on a nearby lakeshore, the headless body of a teenage boy is found by a man walking his dog.

Nothing is clear — neither when the deaths occurred, nor where. Was the skul brought to the celar or was the girl murdered there? Why is the boy’s body remarkably wel preserved? Led by a preacher turned politician, citizen vigilantes blame devil worshippers and Wiccans. They begin a witch hunt, intent on seeking revenge.

Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan — “five-five, feisty, and forty-plus” — is caled in to investigate, and a complex and gripping tale unfolds in this, Kathy Reichs’s eleventh taut, always surprising, scientificaly fascinating mystery.

With a popular series on Fox — now in its third season and in ful syndication — Kathy Reichs has established herself as the dominant talent in forensic mystery writing. Devil Bones features Reichs’s signature blend of forensic descriptions that “chil to the bone” (
Entertainment Weekly
) and the surprising plot twists that have made her books phenomenal bestselers in the United States and around the world.

DEVIL BONES

By

Kathy Reichs

Book 11 in the Temperance Brennan series

Copyright © 2008 by Temperance Brennan, L.P.

Dedicated to

Police Officer Sean Clark

November 22, 1972–April 1, 2007

and

Police Officer Jeff Shelton

September 9, 1971–April 1, 2007

And to al who have died protecting the citizens of

Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina

Sergeant Anthony Scott Futrel

July 17, 2002

Police Officer John Thomas Burnette

October 5, 1993

Police Officer Anthony A. Nobles

October 5, 1993

Patrol Officer Eugene A. Griffin

November 22, 1991

Police Officer Milus Terry Lyles

August 6, 1990

Police Officer Robert Louis Smith

January 15, 1987

Patrol Officer Timothy Wayne Whittington

July 16, 1985

Patrol Officer Ernest Coleman

July 1, 1982

Patrol Officer Edmond N. Cannon

November 23, 1981

Officer Ronnie E. McGraw

October 18, 1970

Sergeant Lewis Edward Robinson, Sr.

May 4, 1970

Police Officer Johnny Reed Annas

May 21, 1960

Detective Charlie Herbert Baker

April 12, 1941

Officer Rufus L. Biggers

February 12, 1937

Officer Charles P. Nichols

April 17, 1936

Patrol Officer Benjamin H. Frye

June 9, 1930

Detective Thomas H. Jenkins

October 21, 1929

Officer Wiliam Rogers

August 30, 1929

Detective Harvey Edgar Correl

January 22, 1929

Patrol Officer Robert M. Reid

January 1, 1927

Rural Police Officer John Franklin Fesperman
February 16, 1924

Officer John Robert Estridge

March 29, 1913

Rural Police Officer Sampson E. Cole

January 1, 1905

Officer James H. Brown

August 2, 1904

Patrol Officer James Moran

April 4, 1892

1

MY NAME IS TEMPERANCE DEASSEE BRENNAN. I’M FIVE-FIVE, feisty, and forty-plus. Multidegreed. Overworked. Underpaid.

Dying.

Slashing lines through that bit of literary inspiration, I penned another opening.

I’m a forensic anthropologist. I know death. Now it stalks me. This is my story.

Merciful God. Jack Webb and
Dragnet
reincarnate.

More slashes.

I glanced at the clock. Two thirty-five.

Abandoning the incipient autobiography, I began to doodle. Circles inside circles. The clock face. The conference room. The UNCC campus. Charlotte. North Carolina.

North America. Earth. The Milky Way.

Around me, my coleagues argued minutiae with al the passion of religious zealots. The current debate concerned wording within a subsection of the departmental self-study.

The room was stifling, the topic poke-me-in-the-eye dul. We’d been in session for over two hours, and time was not flying.

I added spiral arms to the outermost of my concentric circles. Began filing spaces with dots. Four hundred bilion stars in the galaxy. I wished I could put my chair into hyperdrive to any one of them.

Anthropology is a broad discipline, comprised of linked subspecialties. Physical. Cultural. Archaeological. Linguistic. Our department has the ful quartet. Members of each group were feeling a need to have their say.

George Petrela is a linguist who researches myth as a narrative of individual and colective identity. Occasionaly he says something I understand.

At the moment, Petrela was objecting to the wording “reducible to” four distinct fields. He was proposing substitution of the phrase “divisible into.”

Cheresa Bickham, a Southwestern archaeologist, and Jennifer Roberts, a specialist in cross-cultural belief systems, were holding firm for “reducible to.”

Tiring of my galactic pointilism, and not able to reduce or divide my ennui into any matters of interest, I switched to caligraphy.

Temperance. The trait of avoiding excess.

Double order, please. Side of restraint. Hold the ego.

Time check.

Two fifty-eight.

The verbiage flowed on.

At 3:10 a vote was taken. “Divisible into” carried the day.

Evander Doe, department chair for over a decade, was presiding. Though roughly my age, Doe looks like someone out of a Grant Wood painting. Bald. Owlish wire-rims.

Pachyderm ears.

Most who know Doe consider him dour. Not me. I’ve seen the man smile at least two or three times.

Having put “divisible into” behind him, Doe proceeded to the next burning issue. I halted my swirly lettering to listen.

Should the department’s mission statement stress historical ties to the humanities and critical theory, or should it emphasize the emerging role of the natural sciences and empirical observation?

My aborted autobiography had been smack on. I
would
die of boredom before this meeting adjourned.

Sudden mental image. The infamous sensory deprivation experiments of the 1950s. I pictured volunteers wearing opaque goggles and padded hand muffs, lying on cots in white-noise chambers.

I listed their symptoms and compared them to my present state.

Anxiety. Depression. Antisocial behavior. Hallucination.

I crossed out the fourth item. Though stressed and irritable, I wasn’t halucinating. Yet. Not that I’d mind. A vivid vision would have provided diversion.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve not grown cynical about teaching. I love being a professor. I regret that my interaction with students seems more limited each year.

Why so little classroom time? Back to the subdiscipline thing.

Ever try to see just a doctor? Forget it. Cardiologist. Dermatologist. Endocrinologist. Gastroenterologist. It’s a specialized world. My field is no different.

Anthropology: the study of the human organism. Physical anthropology: the study of the biology, variability, and evolution of the human organism. Osteology: the study of the bones of the human organism. Forensic anthropology: the study of the bones of the human organism for legal purposes.

Folow the diverging branches, and there I am. Though my training was in bioarchaeology, and I started my career excavating and analyzing ancient remains, I shifted into forensics years ago. Crossed to the dark side, my grad school buddies stil tease. Drawn by fame and fortune. Yeah, right. Wel, maybe some notoriety, but certainly no fortune.

Forensic anthropologists work with the recently dead. We’re employed by law enforcement agencies, coroners, medical examiners, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the military, human rights groups, and mass-disaster recovery teams. Drawing on our knowledge of biomechanics, genetics, and skeletal anatomy, we address questions of identification, cause of death, postmortem interval, and postmortem alteration of the corpse. We examine the burned, decomposed, mummified, mutilated, dismembered, and skeletal. Often, by the time we see remains, they’re too compromised for an autopsy to yield data of value.

As an employee of the state of North Carolina, I’m under contract to both UNC-Charlotte, and to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which has facilities in Charlotte and Chapel Hil. In addition, I consult for the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale in Montreal.

North Carolina and Quebec? Extraordinaire. More on that later.

Because of my cross-border treks and my dual responsibilities within North Carolina, I teach only one course at UNCC, an upper-level seminar in forensic anthropology. This was my biannual semester in the classroom.

And the conference room.

I look forward to the teaching. It’s the interminable meetings that I detest. And the faculty politics.

Someone moved that the mission statement be returned to committee for further study. Hands rose, mine among them. As far as I was concerned, the thing could be sent to Zimbabwe for permanent interment.

Doe introduced the next agenda item. Formation of a committee on professional ethics.

Inwardly groaning, I began a list of tasks requiring my attention.

1. Specimens to Alex.

Alex is my lab and teaching assistant. Using my selections, she would set up a bone quiz for the next seminar.

2. Report to LaManche.

Pierre LaManche is a pathologist, and chief of the medico-legal section at the LSJML. The last case I’d done before leaving Montreal the previous week was one of his, an auto-fire victim. According to my analysis, the charred corpse was that of a thirty-something white male.

Unfortunately for LaManche, the presumed driver should have been a fifty-nine-year-old Asian female. Unfortunately for the victim, someone had pumped two slugs into his left parietal. Unfortunately for me, the case was a homicide and would probably require my presence in court.

3. Report to Larabee.

Tim Larabee is the Mecklenburg County medical examiner, and director of the three-pathologist Charlotte facility. His had been the first case I’d done upon returning to North Carolina, a bloated and decomposed lower torso washed up on the shore of the Catawba River. Pelvic structure had indicated the individual was male. Skeletal development had bracketed the age between twelve and fourteen. Healed fractures of the right fourth and fifth metatarsals had suggested the possibility of an ID from antemortem hospital records and X-rays, if such could be found.

4. Phone Larabee.

Arriving on campus today, I’d found a two-word voice mail from the MCME:
Call me.
I’d been dialing when Petrela came to drag me into the meeting from hel.

When last we’d spoken, Larabee had located no missing person reports that matched the Catawba River vic’s profile. Perhaps he’d now found one. I hoped so, for the sake of the family. And the child.

I thought of the conversation Larabee would have with the parents. I’ve had those talks, delivered those life-shattering pronouncements. It’s the worst part of my job. There is no easy way to tel a mother and father that their child is dead. That his legs have been found, but his head remains missing.

5. Sorenstein recommendation.

Rudy Sorenstein was an undergraduate with hopes of continuing his studies at Harvard or Berkeley. No letter from me was going to make that happen. But Rudy tried hard.

Worked wel with others. I’d give his mediocre GPA the best spin possible.

6. Katy shopping.

Kathleen Brennan Petersons is my daughter, living in Charlotte as of this fal, employed as a researcher in the public defender’s office. Having spent the previous six years as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, Katy was desperately in need of clothes made of fabric other than denim. And of money to buy them. I’d offered to serve as fashion consultant. There’s irony. Pete, my estranged husband, was functioning as ways and means.

7. Birdie litter.

Birdie is my cat. He is fussy concerning matters of feline toilette, and expresses his displeasure in ways I try to prevent. Inconveniently, Birdie’s preferred litter brand is available only in veterinary offices.

8. Dental checkup.

The notification had been delivered with yesterday’s mail.

Sure. I’d get right on that.

9. Dry cleaning.

10. Car inspection.

11. Shower door handle.

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