again.’ His gaze went quickly down her, to her breasts, her hips, back to her face, quicker than a blink but she saw it and was glad she had on the T-shirt.

‘Hello,’ she said. ‘You have a lovely home.’

‘It’s comfortable.’

His modesty was so false she almost laughed. Instead she said, ‘Will you join us?’

‘I can’t today. I’ve got to do some work up in my office. But you two enjoy yourselves.’

‘Claudia’s taking some time off from work,’ Ben said. ‘She’s an investigator with the Port Leo police.’

Two beats of silence. ‘Really. That must be fascinating work,’ Stoney said.

‘If you find burglaries riveting.’

‘Claudia likes to fish,’ Ben said. ‘Maybe tomorrow morning we could take the Jupiter out into the Gulf, have some fun. Why don’t you take the day off, come along? Bring one of your girlfriends. Who’s on the A list this week?’

‘None of them. I’m in the doghouse. I’ve been too busy to call. Work’s just been a bitch lately. Y’all go, though.’

‘No, do come,’ Claudia said.

‘Yeah,’ Ben agreed.

‘Sure,’ Stoney said. ‘That sounds great. Claudia, lovely to meet you. Enjoy the pool. Have fun.’

They shook hands and Claudia watched him hurry back in. She had the oddest feeling he wished her and Ben gone, out of his sight, out of his house.


Whit grabbed his forensics kit and followed the young deputy down past the manicured lawn, through the thick growths of wildflowers and the high grass. Ahead was the wide bowl of St Leo Bay; Black Jack Point occupied the northernmost stretch of the bay’s reach, with Port Leo south and at the middle of the curve. The bay breeze shuffled the hot, sticky air, and on the wind Whit heard the murmuring voices of the deputies, of the Department of Public Safety crime scene crew. For a moment, the crowd out of sight, the voices sounded ghostly, even in the eye-aching sunlight. He remembered being here as a boy, Patch telling the local kids he let fish and swim off his little dock, You know, Black Jack Point’s haunted by old Black Jack himself, and by pirates and Indians and settlers that got scalped, got their throats cut. Be sure nothin’ don’t grab your foot while you’re swimmin’. It won’t let go. They like a young soul best. Taste goooood. And the safe thrill of being scared and being fairly sure that Patch was joking. Mostly sure.

They hadn’t moved the bodies. The hole was deep, nearly six feet, the soil threaded with torn grass. He knelt at its edge while the DPS crime scene tech snapped off photos. The group was silent now, the buzz of the mosquitoes the loudest sound.

Patch Gilbert lay on his back, arms spread, dirt still covering most of him, his mouth open wide and loam pooling between broken teeth. His face was ruined, beaten into pulp, a plane of graying hair askew on his scalp, little broken tiles of bone peeking through his forehead. Thuy Linh Tran lay atop one of Patch’s arms, as though he cradled her in a comforting hug. Dirt was scattered on her bloodshot irises. A bullet hole marred her forehead.

Whit slipped plastic bags over his shoes, carefully stepped down into the grave, touched Patch’s throat, then Thuy’s. He wrote down the time on his death scene form. For the record. Suddenly the promise of tears burned at the back of his eyes and he wanted to cry for this funny, good old man and this generous woman, but he didn’t want to lose it. Not in front of this crowd. He felt David’s stare against his back.

Whit stepped back out of the grave. He began his work of detailing the scene for the inquest report and the autopsy orders, keeping his eyes on the papers. It was easier that way.

David knelt down by Whit. ‘I think the man got hit with a shovel. Hard. Repeatedly. Probably even after he was dead. Wonder why the killer shot her, though. Maybe broke the shovel on him, couldn’t use it on her.’

‘Patch would have fought hard,’ Whit said.

‘He’s an old man,’ David said.

With about ten times the heart and guts you’ll ever have, Whit thought.

‘Makes me think of a case I read,’ David said. ‘Up in Oklahoma, ’65 or ’66, old couple got killed while out walking, buried right off a hiking trail…’

Whit tuned him out. David loved to recite old police cases from true crime collections as though they held all the beauty of love sonnets. All the details and none of the context. Whit bit his lip. When David paused for breath, Whit asked one of the techs to take extra photos of their faces, of their wounds. The techs did, and measured the depth of the bodies, carefully clearing more dirt back from the corpses when one of them gave a little cry of shock.

‘What is that?’ The tech stepped back from where Thuy’s feet still lay partly buried and Whit saw two curves of brownish skull exposed.

‘Look here,’ another tech said, clearing away dirt next to Patch’s knee. A crooked brown bone of finger, bent as if to beckon. ‘Old bone. Real old.’

‘Don’t touch it,’ Whit said. ‘stop the digging.’

‘Why?’ David asked.

‘There’s other remains buried with them. I got to call the guy in San Marcos. This closes down everything.’

‘We’re not stopping. This is a serious crime scene-’ David began.

‘They talked about site analysis in JP training. You have to stop the dig.’

David took a breath of infinite patience. ‘What guy in San Marcos?’

‘Forensic anthropologist. I don’t remember his name. But he’s got to check out the site. They must’ve gotten buried in old unmarked graves.’ Whit wiped the sweat from his brow. ‘You can’t move ’em until the FA’s here with his team.’

‘Judge Mosley’s right, David,’ one of the DPS techs said quietly. ‘He’s talking about Dr Parker. He can be here in forty minutes. DPS sticks him on a chopper and rushes him down here.’

‘Fine,’ David said. His lips went thin as wire. ‘Get this guy here, then, quick.’ He turned away from Whit to confer with the DPS team.

Whit took out the notepad he used at death scenes, jotted down descriptions of the bodies, talked in a low voice with the DPS photographer while she snapped footage, told her what angles would help him at inquest. He tried not to look at Patch and Thuy’s broken faces.

Instead, he kept glancing at the old, worn bones.


The forensic anthropologist – a banty rooster of a man named Parker, a fortyish fellow with a shaved bald head and sporting a Yankees cap – arrived by DPS chopper within an hour, accompanied by a team of graduate students armed with dental picks, brushes, trowels, string and stakes.

Whit left them to their work, spoke words of comfort to Lucy and her cousin Suzanne and the Tran family, all waiting up at Patch’s house. He came back down as the afternoon began to melt into night. The Port Leo fire department set up lights so the work could continue. Parker and David talked a lot, David losing patience and getting it back. The team sifted dirt from the site, carefully, and found more bone fragments, little pebbles of teeth. When Parker got up from his digging to gulp a cup of water, Whit cornered him at the jug on the back of a DPS truck.

‘So what is this looking like, Dr Parker?'

‘Off the record, Judge?'


‘Because I don’t like to commit before all the data’s gathered.’

‘So don’t commit.’

‘We haven’t removed bones yet but there’s at least two skeletons in there, more likely three. They’re badly disarticulated – they’re not laid out as if they were buried and then not disturbed again.’

Вы читаете Black Joint Point
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату