Disclaimer: For the squeamish, this chapter contains a graphic depiction of an autopsy.
As with any unexplained death, Jake's role as a pathologist was to determine the cause and manner of death, whether accidental, natural, homicide, or undetermined. She paused before she pushed through the double doors that led into the cold, sterile room where the remains of the murdered girl lay. Casting a glance above the transom, her eyes touched the words that hung there: Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae it read. The Latin credo for pathologists was her faithful reminder that she was entering where death rejoices to teach those who live. Taking a deep, calming breath, she approached the body with solemnity and respect. She had performed more autopsies in her career than she cared to remember, but the job before her was neither a simple pathological examination of a cadaver nor a routine autopsy of a crime victim.
Jake routinely began recording her initial observations of the body. She merely nodded an acknowledgement when Kalani joined her and continued speaking into the microphone.
"The victim is a Latino female, approximately eighteen to twenty. From all appearances, the deceased has been in the desert two to three days. The body is in an advanced state of decomposition and covered with debris." She removed, bagged, and labeled several specimens for later processing while Kalani photographed the body.
"Five superficial lacerations just into the first two of layers of skin on her legs, two on the left leg and three on the right running from the heels to mid-way up her calves, ranging from one and a quarter inches up to six and a half inches in length would suggest the victim was possibly dragged backwards. All indications are she was alive during severe trauma to her body. Skin fragments beneath the fingernails and bruises on her hands and knuckles are consistent with a victim fighting an attacker. There is a large bruise on her throat odd made by something elongated and narrow. Kalani, what do you see?"
"Hmmm, a restraint of some kind?" she mused, tracing an imprint, an almost S configuration within the bruise. "I'll check it with the 3D stereoscopy equipment, get some depth perception. Maybe it will bring out the imprint better."
Jake continued the autopsy organizing in her mind the multiple types of trauma. First, she observed numerous blunt force injuries including three skull fractures. One indicated a tremendous amount of force had been applied. There was notable bruising of the brain, clearly in an outline of a rod-shaped instrument, as well as bleeding in the small vascular ventricles in the brain. The hyoid bone was broken on the left side where more force was exerted, denoting that the killer was left-handed. There was a small bruise on the back of the right shoulder with two small superficial tears or lacerations in the center of it; and the top of the shoulder blade was broken and completely displaced in the area beneath the bruise. She had bruises ranging from one to four inches in the back of her hands, in the back of her left forearm, and on the inside of both forearms, both which were broken and were textbook examples of someone trying to shield themselves from attack.
With an icy stare, she noted several fractures of the fingers, again consistent with defensive wounds. "She put up a hell of a fight, didn't she." Jake's voice threatened to expose her façade of cold detachment and professional demeanor.
As the autopsy progressed, Jake and Kalani observed, measured, and photographed the multiple wounds and lacerations. Substantial tearing and bruising of the vaginal area confirmed what Jake had suspected, the victim had been raped. Jake continued her observations as Kalani began to fingerprint the three fingers that hadn't been gnawed off by scavengers, but she didn't expect to find any prints on record that would help identify the girl. Still, there was always an outside chance.
Jake proceeded to open the body. Deft hands quickly maneuvered the scalpel, making a Y-shaped incision from the girl's shoulders to her mid-chest and downward, ending at the pubic region. Jake then reflected the soft tissue back, revealing the abdominal organs.
The second set of trauma came from the stab wounds. The girl had been stabbed twice, once below her right breast four inches to the right of the centerline, over the fifth and sixth ribs, perforating the liver. The other stab wound was about two and a half inches below the level of the chest wound in her left upper abdomen.
"These wounds would have been fatal within twenty to thirty minutes at the greatest. She was probably unconscious from the head wounds by the time she was stabbed."
The third set of trauma was the worst to fathom, canine teeth marks were present over the fleshy parts of the body, and several bones had been gnawed clean of muscle. "Note: Victim did not bleed from the stab wounds to the extent that she would have without the head wounds, too little blood in the abdominal cavity. Had she just suffered the stab wounds, she would have had much more, approximately four times that amount."
Jake determined that the girl died from a combination of the head injuries and stab wounds. And that she had most probably been dead, judging from the amount of blood surrounding the scene, when the animals got to her.
The overall condition of the body made it difficult to establish a time of death. Examination of the girl's stomach contents yielded very little as more often than not, illegal crossers were allowed little food or drink and were detained, sometimes several days, by the unscrupulous coyotes waiting for a full load, using the opportunity to extort more money. They were allowed little food or drink. Opening the entire abdominal cavity, Jake froze a moment then closed her moist eyes tightly.
"Well this puts a whole new complexion on the matter," she whispered. "Looks like we have another innocent victim here."
Concerned, Kalani moved to her side. "What did you find?"
"She was pregnantlooks around four to six weeks."
After a moment of silent prayer for the dead fetus, the two women braced their resolve and continued the somber task of recording every detail no matter how small or seemingly unimportant.
The sun had long set and was threatening its presence again when both women straightened up and stretched their aching backs.
"Time to call it a day," Jake said looking up at the faint daylight coming through the distorted glass of the transom above the door. "Or night." She peeled her gloves off and with a gentle compassionate touch, she wiped a lone tear from Kalani's cheek. "We will find the diablo who is doing this I promise."
Kalani's whispered "Yes" was barely audible above the hum of glaring, florescent lights.
Jake approached the morning in stages usually, mornings being her favorite and one of the two times of day she actually favoreddusk being the other, when shadows lengthen to embrace the fleeting memory of day. She loved mornings sitting on the porch with the day's first cup of coffee watching the sun announce itself over the Santa Rita Mountains. But not today. Having gotten home just after sun-up this morning, she had tossed and turned, finally giving in as her mind submitted to her body's need for sleep. Jake opened her eyes and turned her lithe body restlessly under white sheets of cool, Egyptian cotton. Her rapaciousness for the luxury of the cotton sheets had been well honed over the years. Jake was not one to put much stock in material itemsnot that she couldn't afford all the finest possessionsshe simply was of a mind that objects fettered a person. The less you had, the less you had to lose, was her thought on the matter. But when it came to sheets, Jake liked what she liked and she never compromised.
As the morning swayed over her, she focused her mind just beyond the open windows. A chorus of birds clamored in the mesquite, and she listened intently as the overplay of trembling cottonwood tops softened the noise. She heard the sycamore leaves, nearer to the house, rustling in a freshening breeze that sifted the clean sweetness of morning air into her adobe homealong with the dust that kicked up from the desert to invade and coat everything with a fine, reddish brown powder. She smiled thinking what effect its presence had on her mother's incessant need to dust; but Jake needed fresh air more than a dustless house.
A moment later, she shifted toward the window, letting the warmth of the sun ease her further into the day. Crisp sheets enveloped her legs. The sensation jerked her thoughts backward to a time when more than sheets caressed her, back too many years ago when and now she felt the aloneness all over again. She felt it keenly in the other time of day, dusk, when the light of the world dimmed, just before it fell into the chill of an indigo desert night. When she sat out on the spacious wraparound porch of the adobe in a worn rocker that had belonged to her grandfather, it reached out from the golden red sun and touched her just as it had every day. Then, as now, she felt that tingly emptiness in her stomach. Here in the brisk morning air, she didn't want to look at her life or the loneliness that had wrapped itself into her. She'd always done what her father had drilled into her. She could hear him as clearly now as she had all her life: "Do right, Jake, just do right." His voice ricocheted past the calm morning sounds to invade her mind.
For Jacquelyn Lee Biscayne, or Jake as she was called since her father never seemed able to forgive her for not being a boy, doing right had seen her through four years of undergraduate work. Graduating magna cum laude with a double major in psychology and criminal justice, she had even managed to excel in sports at the same time. Doing right led her to medical school and a five-year residency in anatomic and clinical pathology at Loyola University Medical School in Chicago, where she practically lived in the morgue dissecting cadavers at all hours of the night and morning until she could have done an autopsy blindfolded and probably could have discovered the cause of death just by feel. And that was followed by two years of fellowship training in New Orleans Medical Examiner's office where the hundreds of homicides per year had honed her skills to the point that she could hold a lung in her hands and guess its weight within a gram. The hard work never left Jake much time for dating or relationships.
She pushed the painful memories away, refusing to linger there this morning, or on the reason that she now lived outside Nogales, Arizona. At thirty-six, work was what she knew what she lost herself in what pacified her loneliness.
Jake wasn't just good at her job; she was one of the best forensic pathologists the FBI had. Her uncanny insight and ability to see what wasn't obviously there put her at the top of their list of profilers. She was the perfect combination of pathologist, detective, politician, and public relations liaison. As Chief of Forensics at the FBI's field office based in the U. S. Border Patrol's Tucson sector, she dealt with every faction of the US Government, from Border Patrol and Customs to the CIA and Immigration. They were all there, in the shadows of Nogales, not wearing "Men-in-Black" attire, but behind every pair of eyes was a possible operative for one agency or another. Recently she and her team were working with the BP regarding a series of inexplicable border deaths young Hispanic women, brutally murdered and discarded in the merciless desert.
Jake's thoughts returned to the night before, and the autopsy. She rubbed her nose to free it of the smells that still clung inside her nostrils. It was useless lying in bed any longer. That old restlessness was on her again. It always came when she didn't have all the answers, couldn't find that elusive strand of evidence to pinpoint all the details of a death. She rose, padded across the braided rug that spread across the tiled floor, and headed to brush her teeth and shower. She stood looking out the window, letting the unique sounds of the desert return her thoughts to the present as she absently brushed her teeth. I've missed something, she thought. "There just has to be something more you can tell me," she spoke aloud around her toothbrush. Jake settled it in her mind that she had to re-examine the body. All her autopsies were conducted meticulously, but she still felt she had overlooked something. If there's something more you have to tell me, I'll hear you this time, she contemplated.
Easing into the shower, Jake turned the spray on and rested her tired body against the cool, tile wall. She welcomed the hot water that soothed over tense muscles and the edginess that had crept into her because of her errant ramblings into the past as much as by the inconclusive autopsy she had finished only hours before. Just as she stepped onto the tiled floor, the telephone blasted into her solitude. Wrapping a towel around her naked body, she groaned as she glanced at the caller ID. It's way too early for this.
"What don't I even get a how are you, Matt? Or a good morning might be nice. Even a simple hello would do."
"Sorry, you're right, I'm sorry. It was a long night and a short morning, but I don't have to take it out on him. Jake cleared her throat. "Good morning, Matt, what's up?"
"My guess is you and all night too, it could have waited until mornin "
"Don't even go there, Matt, it's my job."
Matt sighed and launched into what he needed to tell Jake. "We have a suspect in the case. Nogales police picked up a young Mexican guy driving a truck with tires that match the tracks we found a ways up the arroyo from the murder site. Of course, we can't be sure when they were left there, but this guy and truck were seen in the area approximately around the time of the murder. He's not saying anything, I mean nothing, hasn't spoke a word since he was told what he was arrested for. And then he only asked what the girl looked like, strange huh?"
"Give me a run down on him."
Listening intently to Matt's description of the suspect, Jake commented. "That doesn't fit the profile we've been working up."
"Don't know, but what I do know is, he'll be held in custody until your preliminary is in and we can run a background check and prints. Guess we'll know for sure when you run the DNA and finish the rest of your report."
Jake sat on the edge of her bed staring at the wall, stress lines evident across her brow. "We're in the process of comparing this evidence with what we have on the other two Jane Does. With the first victim, we might get lucky. I don't hold out much hope with the second one. The evidence was just too tainted. I hate it when I get this damn feeling there's something were missing."
Matt scrubbed his face. "Yeah I know, it has me spooked too."
Jake jumped up, reaching for a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. "Okay. I'm on my way, meet me for breakfast, say in about an hour?"
Matt chuckled, "I never could understand how you or your dad could do this kind of work after eating eggs sunny side up. Ok, see ya in an hour then. Oh and Jake?"
"We have a meeting with Cara Vittore this morning. She's driving down from Tucson. Just wanted to warn you."
"Wha Vittore why?" Jake couldn't believe what she just heard. Her entire body tightened up.
"We got a call bright and early this morning from a higher authority requesting Vittore be given open access to everything we have on this case, Jake. If need be, she'll be representing the kid."
Jake was thoroughly shaken as she listened to what Matt was telling her.
"The state wants a quick resolution on this case and would prefer it not to be connected with any others and they want it pronto. This case has a lot of people nervous, Jake. Seems like neither side wants this to turn out to be a political hot potato." Matt paused a moment. "They're pushing for an arraignment as soon as yesterday."
Jake tried to concentrate on what Matt was saying. "Arraignment! I haven't even finished the damn report! All I have is preliminary. Oh! Don't tell me the ass kissing District Attorney Dan Manning. Must be an election year! And Vittore is defending, well good luck to the bastard, he'll need it!"
Matt frowned as he wondered what had Jake in such an uproar. He could almost see the sparks flashing from those hazel eyes. " Uh gotta go, meet you at Maria's," Matt said in his low, gravely voice.
Jake sat back down on the side of the bed and felt the hard edge of dread creep into her stomach. Not Cara Vittore.
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