“I keep telling you: yes.”

“Well, I don’t see any other bones. Maybe the murderer dropped it here and scattered the rest of the bones all over the county.”

Elizabeth looked up. “That’s a thought,” she said, digesting the idea. She pictured a hulking figure with a motorcycle propped against a pine tree, fishing bones out of a black leather saddlebag. “Why don’t I go over to the trees and work toward you? We’ll cover the whole clearing faster that way.”

“Good idea.” Bill nodded.

“Just be sure you look very carefully. Some bones are pretty small.”

Twenty minutes later they had managed to work back together, having covered most of the clearing with nothing to show for their efforts except jeans streaked with clay from knee to ankle. Elizabeth pushed her hair away from her face with a sweaty forearm. “Whew! This isn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be,” she said. “Maybe we should start looking for the murderer’s tracks.”

Bill groaned. “Milo said five years, Elizabeth. Use your head!”

“Oh, that’s right. I forgot.”

“I wish we’d brought some beer. It’s hot out here.”

“Well, I wouldn’t mind getting hot and dirty if we’d found something,” said Elizabeth.

“Hello down there!” called Milo from the top of the ridge. “Made any great discoveries?”

“Get down here!” Bill yelled back.

Milo grinned and made a mock bow. He skittered down the steep side of the embankment, arms outstretched, shifting his footing from one small rock to another. In less than a minute he had made a final bound into the clearing and stood beside them brushing off imaginary dirt. He looked disgustingly clean and eager.

“No rusting and bloody chainsaw?” Milo asked them, beaming. “No buried Viking longboat?”

“Shut up and tell us what you found,” Bill demanded.

Milo became serious. “I think we can call the authorities now,” he said solemnly. “This man was murdered.”

Elizabeth shivered. “I knew it!” she said softly.

“And I can describe the murderer,” Milo concluded.

They stared at him. “How?” they said in unison.

Milo held up a hand for silence. He began to pace as though lecturing a class. “The killer in this case was a white male, between the ages of twenty and forty-five, probably from New York or Pennsylvania, and he was wearing a dark blue suit at the time the killing took place.” He nodded at his audience, gaping at him from a kneeling position.

“Milo, that’s incredible!” Bill burst out. “Did you get all that from a site investigation?”

Milo grinned. “In a way,” he chuckled. “It says on this guy’s tombstone that he was killed at Antietam, so the rest was easy to figure out.”

Elizabeth jumped up. “Are you telling us that this guy was killed in the Civil War?”


“I thought you said five years,” Bill reminded him.

“I also said that after something has been in the ground, age becomes very difficult to determine,” said Milo.

“But he wasn’t in the ground,” said Elizabeth. “He was just sitting there in the middle of the clearing. And there wasn’t any tombstone!”

Milo smiled. “Yes, there was,” he said, pointing to the steep hill in front of them. “It’s up there. There’s a little family cemetery on the top of that hill, and this guy was buried on the edge near the embankment. After so many years, the coffin rotted, the hill eroded some, and volia! The colonel rolls down the hill.”

“So there was no murder,” said Bill, “and all this was for nothing.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Milo replied. “I was serious about informing the authorities. I’m sure the family will be glad to have Great-Grandpa, or whoever he is to them, restored to his proper place in the family plot.”

They began to walk back down the wooded slope toward the car.

“Now can I stop and look at plants?” asked Elizabeth.

“No,” snapped Bill. “I’m hot and tired, and we haven’t had supper.”

“But I only have two plants! We were supposed to bring in three.”

“Tell them about the skull,” Milo suggested. “They can’t argue with that.”

“It is pretty interesting.” Elizabeth agreed. “Even if it wasn’t a murder case, it was fascinating to see what you could tell just from looking at bones.”

“Oh, I’m no great shakes at it,” said Milo. “You should see Dr. Lerche in action.”

“How did you get to be his assistant anyway?” Elizabeth wanted to know.

Milo grinned. “It’s a long story. I’ll fill you in on the way home.”

Milo refused to tell his story until the car windows had been rolled part of the way up so that he wouldn’t have to shout above the wind, then he waited until the car had turned off the gravel road and back onto the main highway.

“There’s the goat, Milo,” said Elizabeth. “You can start now.”

“How did I get to be Dr. Lerche’s assistant?” Milo asked thoughtfully. “Well, it was because of something that happened when he first came here to the university. I was an undergrad in anthropology in those days, and I worked as a security guard in my dorm-sort of like a night watchman. I handled the small stuff and turned the rest over to the campus cops. The hours were murder, though, since I had to get up and go to class the next day, and I wanted a lab job in the department. I had bugged everybody else in the department without success, so when Dr. Lerche arrived with his new Ph.D. to set up a forensic anthro lab, naturally I went to him straight off and asked if he needed any help.”

“And he hired you?” asked Elizabeth.

“No. He said he’d let me know. He didn’t even have his lab set up at that point; most of the equipment hadn’t even been ordered.”

“So when did he hire you?”

“The next day. Now shut up and let me tell you how it happened.” Milo leaned back against the seat and tucked his hands behind his head. “Okay. Dr. Lerche had already met the district medical examiner because the two of them would be working together on cases. You know forensic anthropologists consult for the state, right?”

They nodded.

“Well, that same day I talked to him, they had a case come in. It was a found body in a pretty bad state of decomposition, and-”

“Wait a minute,” Elizabeth interrupted. “Is this story going to get gross?”

Milo thought about it. “Not really,” he told her. “I won’t get any more graphic than I have to.”

“Okay,” said Elizabeth grudgingly. “Go ahead.”

“All right, the medical examiner brought Dr. Lerche this body and wanted a report on it right away. That meant that he had to get down to the bones quickly so he could go to work.” He glanced over at Elizabeth to see if his explanation had been delicate enough.

“Don’t pay any attention to her,” said Bill. “Go ahead. How did he do that?”

“Well, the method he uses is to boil the body until the flesh comes off-”

“Aargh!” Elizabeth made a face.

“But he didn’t have any place to do it. See, his equipment hadn’t arrived, and he didn’t want to do it in his apartment-”

“Thank God!” said Bill, grateful that precedent had been established.

“All right,” sighed Elizabeth. “What did he do?”

“He called the animal science people and asked if they had any facilities that he could use over in their building.”

“That seems reasonable,” said Elizabeth cautiously. She had been dreading a mention of the cafeteria or some other bizarre site.

“Sure, it was,” Milo agreed. “They offered him their lab facilities right away. The only problem was that the only

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