Reichs, Kathy: Fatal Voyage

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ALSO BY KATHY REICHS

DÉJÀ DEAD

DEATH DU JOUR

DEADLY DÉCISIONS

SCRIBNER

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2001 by Temperance Brennan, L.P.

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

S CRIBNER and design are trademarks of Macmillan Library Reference USA, Inc., used under license by Simon & Schuster, the publisher of this work.

Visit us on the World Wide Web:

http://www.SimonSays.com

ISBN 0-7432-1822-1

Dedicated with button-bursting pride to:

Kerry Elisabeth Reichs, J.D., M.P.P., Duke University,

Class of 2000

Courtney Anne Reichs, B.A., University of Georgia,

Class of 2000

Brendan Christopher Reichs, B.A. ( cum laude), Wake Forest University,

Class of 2000

Yippee!!!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

As always, I owe many thanks to many people:

To Ira J. Stimson, P.E., and Captain John Gallagher (retired), for input on aircraft design and accident investigation. To Hughes Cicoine, C.F.E.I., for advice on fire and explosion investigation. Your patience was amazing.

To Paul Sledzik, M.S., National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, on the history, structure, and operation of the DMORT system; Frank A. Ciaccio, M.P.A., Office of Government, Public, and Family Affairs, United States National Transportation Safety Board, for information on DMORT, the NTSB, and the Family Assistance Plan.

To Arpad Vass, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, for a crash course on volatile fatty acids.

To Special Agent Jim Corcoran, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Charlotte Division, for outlining the workings of the FBI in North Carolina; Detective Ross Trudel (retired), Communauté Urbaine de Montréal Police, for information on explosives and their regulation; Sergent-détective Stephen Rudman (retired), Communauté Urbaine de Montréal Police, for details on police funerals.

To Janet Levy, Ph.D., University of North Carolina-Charlotte, for specifics on the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, and answers to questions archaeological; Rachel Bonney, Ph.D., University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and Barry Hipps, Cherokee Historical Association, for knowledge about the Cherokee.

To John Butts, M.D., Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina; Michael Sullivan, M.D., Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner; and Roger Thompson, Director, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Crime Laboratory.

To Marilyn Steely, M.A., for pointing me to the Hell Fire Club; Jack C. Morgan Jr., M.A.I., C.R.E., for enlightening me on property deeds, maps, and tax records; Irene Bacznsky, for help with airline names.

To Anne Fletcher, for accompanying me on our Smoky Mountain adventure.

A special thanks to the people of Bryson City, North Carolina, including Faye Bumgarner, Beverly Means, and Donna Rowland at the Bryson City library; Ruth Anne Sitton and Bess Ledford at the Swain County Tax and Land Records Office; Linda Cable, Swain County Administrator; Susan Cutshaw and Dick Schaddelee at the Swain County Chamber of Commerce; Monica Brown, Marty Martin and Misty Brooks at the Fryemont Inn; and, especially, Chief Deputy Jackie Fortner, Swain County Sheriff 's Department.

Merci to M. Yves St. Marie, Dr. André Lauzon, and to all my colleagues at the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale; Chancellor James Woodward at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Your continued support is greatly appreciated.

To Paul Reichs, for his valuable comments on the manuscript.

To my superb editors, Susanne Kirk and Lynne Drew.

And, of course, to my miracle-worker agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh.

My stories could not be what they are without the help of friends and colleagues. I thank them. As always, all mistakes are of my making.

FATAL

VOYAGE

I STARED AT THE WOMAN FLYING THROUGH THE TREES. HER HEAD was forward, chin raised, arms flung backward like the tiny chrome goddess on the hood of a Rolls-Royce. But the tree lady was naked, and her body ended at the waist. Blood-coated leaves and branches imprisoned her lifeless torso.

Lowering my eyes, I looked around. Except for the narrow gravel road on which I was parked, there was nothing but dense forest. The trees were mostly pine, the few hardwoods like wreaths marking the death of summer, their foliage every shade of red, orange, and yellow.

Though it was hot in Charlotte, at this elevation the early October weather was pleasant. But it would soon grow cool. I took a windbreaker from the backseat, stood still, and listened.

Birdsong. Wind. The scurrying of a small animal. Then, in the distance, one man calling to another. A muffled response.

Tying the jacket around my waist, I locked the car and set off toward the voices, my feet swishing through dead leaves and pine needles.

Ten yards into the woods I passed a seated figure leaning against a mossy stone, knees flexed to his chest, laptop computer at his side. He was missing both arms, and a small china pitcher protruded from his left temple.

On the computer lay a face, teeth laced with orthodontic wiring, one brow pierced by a delicate gold ring. The eyes were open, the pupils dilated, giving the face an expression of alarm. I felt a tremor beneath my tongue, and quickly moved on.

Within yards I saw a leg, the foot still bound in its hiking boot. The limb had been torn off at the hip, and I wondered if it belonged to the Rolls-Royce torso.

Beyond the leg, two men rested side by side, seat belts fastened, necks mushrooming into red blossoms. One man sat with legs crossed, as if reading a magazine.

I picked my way deeper into the forest, now and then hearing disconnected shouts, carried to me at the wind's whim. Brushing back branches and climbing over rocks and fallen logs, I continued on.

Luggage and pieces of metal lay among the trees. Most suitcases had burst, spewing their contents in random patterns. Clothing, curling irons, and electric shavers were jumbled with containers of hand lotion, shampoo, aftershave, and perfume. One small carry-on had disgorged hundreds of pilfered hotel toiletries. The smell of drugstore products and airplane fuel mingled with the scent of pine and mountain air. And from far off, a hint of smoke.

I was moving through a steep-walled gully whose thick canopy allowed only mottled sunlight to reach the ground. It was cool in the shadows, but sweat dampened my hairline and glued my clothing to my skin. I caught my foot on a backpack and went hurtling forward, tearing my sleeve on a jagged bough truncated by falling debris.

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