“For anthropology? I knew that. Are you doing a course on Scotland?”

“No. On the evolution of man. You know, cavemen, evolution…”

Elizabeth directed a glare at the rearview mirror. “I’m not interested in tracing the family as far back as that, thank you!” she snapped.

“Well, I wish you’d consider it.” Bill grinned.

“Anything would be better than having you stewing weeds every other night.”

“Why did you pick that course?” asked Milo quickly to forestall the sibling argument in the offing.

Elizabeth thought for a moment. “I probably got the idea from my Uncle Robert.”

“Dr. Chandler?”

“Yes. He’s been writing a book on colonial medicine for as long as I can remember. It’s practically all he talks about. When I visited him, he mentioned the different herbs the pioneers used to use as medicine-like ginseng. He said that scientists today are just beginning to realize that some of them really worked. I thought it was an interesting subject, and since this course was being offered, I decided to take it. And it does not involve stewing weeds!” she finished loudly for Bill’s benefit.

“Well, it certainly-”

“Excuse me,” said Milo loudly. “Is that the goat?”

Elizabeth slowed down to get a better look at a calf-sized black billy goat nibbling bushes in a pasture beside the highway. “That’s him,” she announced. “The road I took will be the next one on the left. It’ll be blacktop for about half a mile, and then it turns to gravel.”

“Wonderful,” groaned Bill. “A nice secluded area to go searching for bodies.”

“If you’re afraid, you can wait in the car,” said Elizabeth sweetly.

To the people who lived thereabouts, the road probably had a name, but to the Virginia Highway Department it was only a three-digit number, one of thousands of back lanes, too insignificant to appear on anything besides a county map. It began at the main road, dividing unmown pastures whose barbed wire ended at red clay ditches on either side of it. One meandering driveway led off to a farmstead before the blacktop gave way to dusty gravel, at which point the road began to parallel a rocky creek whose banks formed a steep grade on the right side. Beech and oak trees arched their branches over the road until they touched, forming a green awning patched with sunlight. On a bright July afternoon the effect should have been that of a peaceful country scene; any feelings of foreboding must have been in the minds of the beholders.

Bill scowled at the trees darkening the road. “What did you expect to find down here? Hemlock and wolfbane?”

“Don’t you like it?” asked Elizabeth. “I think it’s rather pretty. Except that it seems a little more deserted than I noticed the first time.”

Milo sighed wearily. “You guys won’t be happy until you see a sign welcoming you to the “Twilight Zone,” will you? Really, you’re making too big a deal over this.”

“Oh, sure,” said Bill. “What’s one more skull, more or less? You’re used to it.”

“Okay. Okay.” Milo held up a restraining hand. “Just don’t get out your cloaks and daggers until I look at the site, okay? If it turns out to be a murder, you two can go back and-I dunno-arrest the goat!”

“Our consultant is a comedian,” said Elizabeth sourly. She pulled off the road and parked the car in a flat space between two trees. “This is where I stopped last time. I left the car here and walked up the bank there through the trees.”

Milo opened the door. “Okay,” he told her.

“Retrace your steps and we’ll follow. Let’s try to keep single file if we can, so we don’t trample any more of the site than we have to.”

“Do you want me to get the tire iron out of the trunk?” asked Bill.

“Suit yourself,” shrugged Milo, “but don’t expect to use it. Whoever did this-if anybody did it-has been long gone. Those earth stains on the skull didn’t get there overnight.”

“There wasn’t anybody around,” said Elizabeth. “I didn’t see a house or any other signs of human habitation. It’s just-woods.”

“Then how did he get here?” muttered Bill.

“Well,” said Milo, “I was going to say ‘Your guess is as good as mine,’ but it probably isn’t. Ask me again after I’ve seen where she found him. Lead the way, Elizabeth.”

For several minutes they walked in silence up the slope of a wooded hill, threading their way around underbrush and fallen tree limbs. Elizabeth had to be dissuaded from stopping once at an outgrowth of ferns and once when she wanted to investigate a prickly-looking plant she thought might be burdock. Bill and Milo vetoed any botanical detours and urged her onward.

“What else can you tell about this guy?” Bill asked Milo.

“Judging from the size of the bones and the nasal cavity, I’d say the skull is that of a male Caucasian,” Milo answered. “I could be more sure in the lab, where I could make precise measurements and compare the data to the discriminate function chart.”

“What’s that?” asked Bill.

“Joe-pye weed, I think,” said Elizabeth. “Can I pick some?”

“No!” snapped Bill. “And I wasn’t talking to you. You keep walking. You’re not lost, are you?”

“Of course not!”

“I was asking Milo about some chart or other he mentioned.”

“The discriminate function chart,” said Milo. “It’s a set of statistics on skull measurements for blacks and Caucasians. When you have to identify a skull, you measure certain points-nose width, angle of the jaw-and compare your findings with the standards on the chart. That ought to give you a pretty good idea whether the person was male or female, black or white.”

“What if it’s a big woman or a very small man?” asked Bill.

“Well, I didn’t say it was foolproof. It’s dealing with averages, after all. But Dr. Lerche says he’d rate it at ninety percent accuracy.”

Elizabeth came to a stop and looked around. The slope had leveled off to a small clearing that extended for about twenty feet to the base of a steep hill, which rose above their heads like a cliff. The clearing itself was ringed by oak and pine, and carpeted with grass and pine needles instead of underbrush.

“This is the place,” said Elizabeth softly.

Milo studied the landscape. “Uh-huh,” he nodded. “I bet it is.”

“Why did you say that?” Bill demanded. “Have you been here?”

“No,” said Milo. “It’s just a hunch. Look, why don’t you two look around in the clearing here for more evidence, and I’ll go walking around a bit farther off. Maybe to the top of that ridge there.” He nodded toward the steep embankment in front of them.

“You’re not going too far, are you?” asked Elizabeth nervously.

“No. I’ll be within earshot. If you find anything, give a yell. Look for bits of cloth on bushes or other bone fragments in the dirt. They may be pretty hard to spot, so be careful where you step.”

“And what will you be looking for?” asked Bill.

“Oh, same kind of thing,” said Milo, smiling. “Whatever I can find. I’ll be back in ten or fifteen minutes.”

“Where should we start?” asked Elizabeth.

Milo considered the question. “Start where you found the skull and gradually branch out in a circular pattern,” he advised her. “I’ll see you in a little while.”

He strolled over to the foot of the steep hill and inspected it, as if he were looking for the most solid pathway to the top. After prodding at a few small rocks, he headed off into the trees, where the ridge began to slope at a gentler angle. Bill and Elizabeth knelt in the pine straw and began to sift through it in search of bone fragments. First, Bill patted the ground with his open hands to see if he felt any bonelike projections, and Elizabeth scraped away the leaves to get a better look at the soil itself.

“Milo really knows his stuff, doesn’t he?” she remarked.

“He ought to,” said Bill sardonically, thinking of drumsticks.

“It’s pretty interesting, too. It must be neat to look at a heap of old bones and be able to tell all about the person they belonged to.”

“Ummm. Here’s something! No, sorry. Just a rock. Are you sure this is where you found it, Elizabeth?”

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