About the Book

Dr Temperance Brennan spends her life working amongst the decomposed and the skeletal. So the newly-dead body she is called to examine holds little to surprise her. Until she discovers it is the body of an ex-soldier apparently killed in Vietnam in 1968. So who is buried in his grave?

The case takes Tempe to the heart of the American military, where she must examine the remains of anyone with a possible connection to the drowned man.

As Tempe untangles the web of the soldiers’ lives and deaths, she realises there are some who would rather the past stayed buried.





About the Book

About the Author

Also by Kathy Reichs

Title Page



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

From the Forensic Files of Dr. Kathy Reichs

Bones of the Lost


This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

Version 1.0

Epub ISBN 9781446493113

Published by Arrow Books in 2011

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

Copyright © Temperance Brennan, L.P., 2010

Kathy Reichs has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

This is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Published by arrangement with the original publisher, Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

First published in Great Britain in 2010 by William Heinemann

First published in paperback in 2011 by
Arrow Books
The Random House Group Limited
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, SW1V 2SA

Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be found at:

The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 9780099492399

‘Until They Are Home’

The motto of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command

About the Author

Kathy Reichs is vice president of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists; a member of the RCMP National Police Services Advisory Council; forensic anthropologist to the province of Quebec; and a professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Her first book, Deja Dead, catapulted her to fame when it became a New York Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Her most recent novels are Flash and Bones and Bones Are Forever. All of her Temperance Brennan novels have been Sunday Times No. 1 bestsellers. For more information visit

Also by Kathy Reichs

Déjà Dead
Death du Jour
Deadly Decisions
Fatal Voyage
Grave Secrets
Bare Bones
Monday Mourning
Cross Bones
Break No Bones
Bones to Ashes
Devil Bones
Flash and Bones
Bones are Forever
The Virals Series
with Brendan Reichs


Spider Bones benefited greatly from the help and support of colleagues, friends, and family.

First and foremost I must thank those at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Central Identification Laboratory (CIL). Robert Mann, PhD, D-ABFA, Director, Forensic Science Academy, patiently answered thousands of questions, some by text from Southeast Asia. William R. Belcher, PhD, D-ABFA, Forensic Anthropologist/Supervisor, and Wayne Perry, Lt. Col., USAF, Director of Public Affairs, hosted me on a thorough and congenial refresher tour of the facility. Andretta Schellinger, Archivist, J-2 Section, clarified the process of record keeping. Audrey Meehan, DNA specialist, enlightened me on DNA analysis JPAC style. Thomas D. Holland, PhD, D-ABFA, Scientific Director of the CIL, was a good sport about my invasion of his turf, both professional and literary.

Equally invaluable was the help of Kanthi De Alwis, MD, former Chief Medical Examiner for the City and County of Honolulu. Pamela A. Cadiente, Investigator, provided details concerning the death investigation process in Hawaii.

Alain St-Marseille, Agent de liaison, Bureau du coroner, Module des Scènes de Crime S.Q., Division de l’Identité Judiciaire, Service de la Criminalistique; Mike Dulaney, Detective, Homicide Unit, Calgary Police Department; and Sergeant Harold (Chuck) Henson, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, helped with various policing and law enforcement queries.

Mike Warns answered some very odd questions. Frank and Julie Saul, Ken Kennedy, Tony Falsetti, and David Sweet gave input on gold inlays in teeth.

In the Belly of the Lizard, an unpublished manuscript by Miles Davis, provided insight into the United States involvement in the Vietnam war.

I appreciate the continued support of Chancellor Philip L. Dubois of the University of North Carolina–Charlotte.

I am grateful to my family for their patience and understanding. Extra credit to Paul Reichs for reading and commenting on the manuscript, and for sharing his experiences in Vietnam.

Deepest thanks to my agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, and to my virtuoso editors, Nan Graham and Susan Sandon. I also want to acknowledge all those who work so very hard on my behalf, including: Katherine Monaghan, Paul Whitlatch, Rex Bonomelli, Simon Littlewood, Gillian Holmes, Rob Waddington, Glenn O’Neill, Briton Schey, Margaret Riley, Tracy Fisher, Michelle Feehan, Cathryn Summerhayes, and Raffaella De Angelis. I am also indebted to the Canadian crew, especially to Kevin Hanson and Amy Cormier.

And, of course, I am grateful to my readers. Buckets of thanks for your e-mails, your visits to my Web site, and your presence at signings, author lunches, literary festivals, and other events. Most of all, thanks for reading my stories. I know your time is precious. I am honored that you choose to spend some of it with Tempe and me.

If I have forgotten to thank someone I am truly sorry. If this book contains errors they are my fault.


The air smelled of sun-warmed bark and apple buds raring to blossom and get on with life. Overhead, a million baby leaves danced in the breeze.

Fields spread outward from the orchard in which I stood, their newly turned soil rich and black. The Adirondacks crawled the horizon, gaudy bronze and green in the glorious sunlight.

A day made of diamonds.

The words winged at me from a war drama I’d watched on the classic-film channel. Van Johnson? No matter. The phrase was perfect for the early-May afternoon.

I’m a Carolina girl, no fan of polar climes. Jonquils in February. Azaleas, dogwoods, Easter at the beach. Though I’ve worked years in the North, after each long, dark, tedious winter the beauty of Quebec spring still takes me by surprise.

The world was sparkling like a nine-carat rock.

A relentless buzzing dragged my gaze back to the corpse at my feet. According to SQ Agent André Bandau, now maintaining as much distance as possible, the body came ashore around noon.

News telegraphs quickly. Though it was now barely three, flies crawled and swarmed in a frenzy of feeding. Or breeding. I was never sure which.

To my right, a tech was taking pictures. To my left, another was running yellow crime-scene tape around the stretch of shoreline on which the body lay. The jackets of both said Service de l’identité judiciaire, Division des scènes de crime. Quebec’s version of CSI.

Ryan sat in a squad car behind me, talking to a man in a trucker cap. Lieutenant-détective Andrew Ryan, Section des crimes contre la personne, Sûreté du Québec. Sounds fancy. It’s not.

In la Belle Province, crime is handled by local forces in major cities, by the provincial police out in the boonies. Ryan is a homicide detective with the latter, the SQ.

The body was spotted in a pond near the town of Hemmingford, forty-five miles south of Montreal. Hemmingford. Boonies. SQ. You get it.

But why Ryan, a homicide dick working out of the SQ’s Montreal unit?

Since the deceased was plastic-wrapped and wearing a rock for a flipper, the local SQ post suspected foul play. Thus the bounce to Ryan.

And to me. Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist.

Working out of the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale in Montreal, I do the decomposed, mummified, mutilated, dismembered, and skeletal for the province, helping the coroner with identification, cause of death, and postmortem interval.

Immersion leaves a corpse in less than pristine condition, so when Ryan caught the call about a floater, he enlisted me.

Through the windshield I saw Ryan’s passenger gesture with agitated hands. The man was probably fifty, with gray stubble and features that suggested a fondness for drink. Black and red letters on his cap declared I Love Canada. A maple leaf replaced the traditional heart icon.

Ryan nodded. Wrote something in what I knew was a small notebook.

Refocusing on the corpse, I continued jotting in my own spiral pad.

The body lay supine, encased in clear plastic, with only the left lower leg outside and exposed. Duct tape sealed the plastic under the chin and around the left calf.

The exposed left foot wore a heavy biker boot. Above its rim, a two-inch strip of flesh was the color of oatmeal.

A length of yellow polypropylene rope looped the boot roughly halfway up its laces. The rope’s other end was attached to a rock via an elaborate network of knots.

The victim’s head was wrapped separately, in what looked like a plastic grocery bag. A black tube protruded from one side of the bag, held in place with more duct tape. The whole arrangement was secured by tape circling the neck and the tube’s point of exit.

What the flip?

When I dropped to a squat, the whining went mongo. Shiny green missiles bounced off my face and hair.

Up close, the smell of putrefaction was unmistakable. That was wrong, given the vic’s packaging.

Waving off Diptera, I repositioned for a better view of the body’s far side.

A dark mass pulsated in what I calculated was the right-thigh region. I shooed the swarm with one gloved hand.

And felt a wave of irritation.

The right lower was visible through a fresh cut in the plastic. Flies elbowed for position on the wrist and moved upward out of sight.


Suppressing my annoyance, I shifted to the head.

Algae spread among the folds and creases of the bag covering the top and back of the skull. More slimed one side of the odd little tube.

I could discern murky features beneath the translucent shroud. A chin. The rim of an orbit. A nose, bent to one side. Bloating and discoloration suggested that visual identification would not be an option.

Rising, I swept my gaze toward the pond.

Nosed to the shore was a tiny aluminum skiff with a three-horsepower outboard engine. On the floor in back were a beer cooler, a tackle box, and a fishing rod.

Beside the skiff was a red canoe, beached and lying on its starboard side. Navigator was lettered in white below the port gunwale.

Polypropylene rope ran from a knot on the canoe’s midship thwart to a rock on the ground. I noted that the knots on the rock resembled the one securing the victim’s ankle weight.

Inside the canoe, a paddle lay lengthwise against the starboard hull. A canvas duffel was wedged below the stern seat. A knife and a roll of duct tape were snugged beside the duffel.

An engine hum joined the buzz of flies and the bustle and click of techs moving around me. I ignored it.

Five yards up the shoreline, a rusted red moped sat beneath a precociously flowering tree. The license plate was unreadable from where I stood. At least with my eyes.

Dual rearview mirrors. Kickstand. Raised trunk behind the seat. The thing reminded me of my freshman undergrad wheels. I’d loved that scooter.

Walking the area between the skiff and the moped, I saw a set of tire treads consistent with the pickup parked by the road, and one tread line consistent with the moped itself. No foot or boot prints. No cigarette butts, aluminum cans, condoms, or candy wrappers. No litter of any kind.

Moving back along the water, I continued recording observations. The engine sounds grew louder.

Mud-rimmed pond, shallow, no tides or chop. Apple trees within five feet of the bank. Ten yards to a gravel road accessing Highway 219.

Tires crunched. The engine sounds cut out. Car doors opened, slammed. Male voices spoke French.

Satisfied I’d learn nothing further from the scene, and wanting a word with the industrious Agent Bandau, I turned and walked toward the vehicles lining the road.

A black van had joined Ryan’s Jeep, the blue crime-scene truck, the fisherman’s pickup, and Bandau’s SQ cruiser. Yellow letters on the van said Bureau du coroner.

I recognized the van’s driver, an autopsy tech named Gilles Pomerleau. Riding shotgun was my new assistant, Roch Lauzon.

Exchanging bonjours, I assured Pomerleau and Lauzon the wait wouldn’t be long. They crossed to view the corpse. Ryan remained in the cruiser with the unfortunate angler.

I approached Bandau, a gangly twentysomething with a wheat blond mustache and skin that looked like it really hated sun. Though it was hidden by his agent’s cap, I envisioned pale hair going south at a rate that alarmed its young owner.

“What’s with the plastic wrap?” Bandau asked in French, looking past me toward the corpse.

“Good question.” I had no explanation.

“Male or female?”

“Yes,” I said.

Bandau’s face came around, winking my reflection off his aviator shades. My expression was not a happy one.

“I understand you were the first responder.”

Bandau nodded, eyes unreadable behind the dark lenses.

“How’d that go?”

Bandau cocked his chin toward his cruiser. “Local named Gripper found the vic. Claims he was fishing when he saw the canoe. He motored over to investigate, something snagged his propeller. Says he paddled in, saw his catch was a corpse, dialed nine-one-one on his cell. While waiting, he dragged the body ashore then retrieved the canoe.”

“Thorough guy.”

“Guess you could say that.”

“Is he believable?” I asked.

Bandau shrugged. Who knows?

“What are his creds?”

“Lives on avenue Margaret with his wife. Works maintenance at the wildlife park.”

Hemmingford is located in the Montérégie region, a hair from the Canada-U.S. border. The Montérégie is noted for apples, maple syrup, and Parc Safari, a combination drive-through nature preserve and amusement park.

When I first started commuting to Quebec, the media were following the story of a group of rhesus monkey escapees from the park. I had visions of the band belly-crawling south through the night to avoid border patrol, risking all for a green card and a better life. Twenty years later, the image still amuses me.

“Go on,” I said.

“I caught the call around noon, drove out, secured the area.”

“And printed the body.” Chilly.

Sensing my disapproval, Bandau spread his feet and thumb-hooked his belt. “I thought it might speed the ID.”

“You cut the plastic.”

“I wore gloves.” Defensive. “Look, I had the new camera, so I shot close-ups and transmitted the file electronically.”

“You compromised the scene.”

“What scene? The guy was bobbing in a pond.”

“The flies will chip in to buy you a beer. Especially the ladies. They’re ovipositing with glee as we speak.”

“I was trying to help.”

“You broke protocol.”

Bandau’s lips tightened.

“What happened with the prints?”

“I got ridge patterning on all five digits. Someone at the post sent the file to CPIC. From there it went into both NCIC and the New York state system.”

CPIC is the Canadian Police Information Centre, a computerized index of criminal justice information. NCIC is the U.S. equivalent, the FBI’s National Crime Information Center.

“Why send the prints south?”

“Being on the border, we get a lot of Americans coming through. And the scooter has a New York plate.”

Not bad, Bandau.

Hearing a car door slam, we both turned.

Ryan was walking toward us. Released for the moment, Gripper was leaning on his pickup, looking uneasy.

Ryan nodded to Bandau, spoke to me.

“What do you think?”

“Guy’s dead.”


“Based solely on size.”

“How long?”

“Tough to say. Given this week’s warm temperatures, and the shrink-wrap, I’d guess a day or two. There’s some decomp, but not much.” I cast a meaningful glance at Bandau. “That’ll change now that the bugs have been issued a gate pass.”

I told Ryan what Bandau had done.

“What kind of rookie move was that?”

Bandau’s cheeks went raspberry.

“That’s no way to make it up the chain, son.”

Ryan turned back to me.

“Twenty-four to forty-eight hours tracks with the wit’s account. Gripper says he comes out here on his days off, usually Tuesdays and Thursdays. Swears day before yesterday the pond was canoe and corpse free.”

“Algae patterning suggests the body was floating with the head just at or below the waterline,” I said.

Ryan nodded. “According to Gripper, the body was hanging head up in the water, with the booted foot attached to a rock lying on the bottom. He guesses the pond’s about eight feet deep where he found the guy.”

“Where was the canoe?”

“Beside the vic. Gripper says that’s how the rope got tangled in his outboard.”

Ryan spoke to Bandau. “Check for feedback on those prints.”

“Yes, sir.”

Ryan and I watched Bandau lope toward his cruiser.

“Probably DVR’s cop shows,” Ryan said.

“Not the right ones,” I said.

Ryan glanced toward the body, back to me.

“What do you think?”

“Weird one,” I said.

“Suicide? Accident? Murder?”

I spread my palms in a “who knows” gesture.

Ryan smiled. “That’s why I bring you along.”

“The vic probably kept the canoe at the pond and drove the moped back and forth.”

“Back and forth from where?”

“Beats me.”

“Yep. Can’t do without you.”

A wood thrush trilled overhead. Another answered. The cheerful exchange was in stark contrast to the grim conversation below.

As I glanced up, hurried footsteps startled the birds into flight.

“Got him.” Bandau’s aviators were now hanging by one bow from his pocket. “Cold hit in the States. Thirteen-point match.”

Ryan’s brows may have shot higher than mine.

“John Charles Lowery. Date of birth March twenty-first, nineteen fifty.”

“Not bad, Bandau.” This time I said it aloud.

“There’s one problem.”

Bandau’s already deep frown lines deepened.

“John Charles Lowery died in nineteen sixty-eight.”


“How’s Lowery a floater today if he clocked out four decades back?” Ryan voiced the question I’d been asking myself.

I had no answer.

We were heading north on 15. The coroner’s van was somewhere behind us. Pomerleau and Lauzon would check their soggy passenger into the morgue, where he’d wait in a cooler until I unwrapped him in the morning.

“Maybe the hit was a mistake.”

“Thirteen-point match?” My tone conveyed the skepticism I felt.

“Remember that lawyer in Oregon?”

Brandon Mayfield. The FBI linked him to the Madrid train bombing based on fingerprint evidence. Turned out the match was erroneous.

“That was a fluke,” I said. “You think printing the body on-site will cause blowback?”

“On the good agent, yeah. A bonehead move, but probably little harm done.”

“He meant well.”

Ryan shook his head in disbelief.

For several miles, silence filled the Jeep. Ryan broke it.

“You going home?”

I nodded.

Minutes later we were arcing over the Saint Lawrence on the Champlain Bridge. Below us, the river flowed cold and dark. To one side, tiny gardens and lawns winked nascent green amid the condo and apartment towers on Île-des-Soeurs.

Back in the city, traffic moved like mud through a straw. The Jeep lurched and jerked as Ryan shifted between gas and brake.

Kind, yes. Witty, affirmative. Generous, absolutely. Patient, no way. Travel with Ryan was often a trial.

I checked my watch. Five ten.

Normally Ryan would have queried my dining plans by now. Suggested a restaurant. Tonight he didn’t.

Supper with his daughter? Beers with the boys? A date?

Did I care?

I cracked my window. The smell of oily water drifted into the Jeep. Warm cement. Exhaust.

Yeah. I cared.

Would I ask?

No way. Since our breakup we’d established a bimodal new balance. Professional relations: same as always. Social relations: don’t ask, don’t tell.

My choice, really. Though Lutetia was once again history, getting dumped for Ryan’s ex still hurt.

Once burned, twice shy.

And there was Charlie Hunt.

Snapshot image. Charlie on the rooftop deck of his uptown Charlotte brownstone. Cinnamon skin. Emerald eyes. Tall as his daddy, who’d played in the NBA.

Not bad.

I slid a glance toward Ryan.

Sandy hair. Turquoise eyes. Long and lean as his daddy in Nova Scotia.

Not bad either.

Truth be told, after decades of marriage, then a rocky postseparation readjustment, followed by going steady and an undeserved boot to the scrap heap, I was grooving on the nonmonogamy thing.

Except for two teensy details. Ryan hadn’t shared my bed since the previous summer’s split. Charlie Hunt had yet to gain access.

On dual levels it had been a long, cold winter.

The sound of Ryan’s mobile broke into my musings.

I listened as he said a lot of ouis, asked a few questions. From the latter I assumed the call was about John Lowery.

Ryan spoke to me after disconnecting. “Bandau sent a query south. Turns out our boy died in combat in Vietnam.”

“Are you using the Sesame Street theme as your ringtone?”

“Keeping the clouds away,” Ryan sang.

“Got some Big Bird sheets on your bed?”

Bien sûr, madame.” Big wink. “Want to come check them out?”

“Lowery? Vietnam?”

“Ever hear of an outfit called JPAC?”

“Sure. I used to work with them. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. Used to be called CILHI until two thousand three.”

“Hallelujah. Alphabet soup.”

“Now I’ve said my ABC’s,” I sang.

“Let’s not push the metaphor, Ryan said.

“Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii. JPAC resulted from the merger of CILHI and the Joint Task Force–Full Accounting Commission. JPAC’s lab portion is now referred to as the CIL. It’s the largest forensic anthropology laboratory in the world.”

“Lowery didn’t come through JPAC, but that’s where his case has been bounced. What’s your connection with the place?”

“Every positive JPAC ID has to be approved by a zillion reviewers, some of whom are civilian and external to the CIL. I served in that capacity for many years.”

“Right. I forgot about those midwinter trips to Hawaii.”

“Travel was required twice yearly for lab oversight.”

“And a little surfing, my coconut princess?”

“I don’t surf.”

“How about I hang ten over to your place and we—”

“I rarely had time to set foot on a beach.”


“When was Lowery ID’ed?” I asked.

“Bandau didn’t say.”

“If it was back in the sixties, things were totally different.”

Ryan turned off rue Sainte-Catherine, drove half a block, and slid to the curb in front of a gray stone complex with elaborate bay windows fronting the sidewalk. Sadly, my unit is in back and derives no benefit from this architectural whimsy.

“You plan to do plastic man first thing tomorrow?”

“Yeah. Since there’s a five-hour time difference, I’ll phone the CIL tonight, see what I can learn about Lowery.”

I felt Ryan’s eyes on my back as I walked toward the door.

Quebec springs usually send a lot of work my way. Rivers and lakes thaw. The snow melts. Corpses emerge. Citizens abandon their sofas for the great outdoors. Some discover the corpses. Some join their ranks.

Because my May rotation to Montreal is usually a long one, Birdie accompanies me as a carry-on under the seat. Except during the flight, the little furball is pretty good company.

The cat was waiting inside the front door.

“Hey, Bird.” I squatted to pet him.

Birdie sniffed my jeans, neck forward, chin up, nose sucking in quick little gulps.

“Good day today?”

Birdie moved off and sat with paws primly together.

Eau de decomp not your scent?” I rose and tossed my purse onto the sideboard.

Bird raised and licked a paw.

My condo is small. L-shaped living-dining room and shotgun kitchen in front, two bedrooms and two baths in back. It’s located at ground level, in one wing of a four-story U-shaped building. French doors give onto a tiny fenced yard from the living room. Opposite, through the dining room, another set opens onto a central courtyard.

Direct access to the lawn on one side and the garden on the other are what hooked me originally. More than a decade down the road, I’m still in the place.

Appetite intact despite the olfactory affront, Birdie padded behind me to the kitchen.

The condo’s interior features earth tones and recycled furniture that I antiqued. Natural wood trim. Stone fireplace. Framed poster of a Jean Dubuffet. Vase full of shells to remind me of the Carolina shore.

My answering machine was blinking like a tripped-out turn signal.

I checked the messages.

My sister, Harry, in Houston, unhappy with her current dating arrangement.

My daughter, Katy, in Charlotte, hating her job, her social life, and the universe in general.

The Gazette, selling subscriptions.


My neighbor Sparky complaining about Birdie. Again.


Charlie Hunt. “Thinking of you.”


Deleting all, I headed for the shower.

Supper was linguini tossed with olive oil, spinach, mushrooms, and feta. Birdie licked the cheese from his pasta, then finished the crunchy brown pellets in his bowl.

After clearing the dishes, I dialed the CIL.

Five thousand miles from the tundra a phone was answered on the first ring. After identifying myself, I asked for Roger Merkel, the lab’s scientific director.

Merkel was in Washington, D.C.

“Dr. Tandler?”

“Hold, please.”

Daniel Tandler is assistant director of the CIL. Being the same age, he and I rose through the forensic ranks together, though always at different institutions. We met as undergrads, via the student association of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. We’d even enjoyed a brief carnal romp way back at the misty dawn of creation. Good fun, bad timing. Enter Pete Petersons. I married, attended grad school at Northwestern, then joined the faculty first at Northern Illinois University, then at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Danny stuck with the University of Tennessee straight through, and upon completion of his doctorate, beelined to Hawaii.

The one that got away? Maybe. But, alas, too bad. Danny Tandler is now married and out of play.

Over the years Danny and I have provided mutual support through dissertation defenses, board exams, job interviews, and promotion reviews. When the CIL needed a new external consultant, Danny proposed my name. That was back in the early nineties. I served in that capacity for almost ten years.

The wait for Tandler was a wee bit longer than the one for the initial switchboard pickup.

“Tempe, me lass. How’s it hanging?” A voice hinting of country and wide-open spaces.


“Tell me you’ve reconsidered and are coming back on board.”

“Not yet.”

“It’s eighty degrees right now. Wait, wait.” Dramatic rustling. “OK. Got my shades on. The sun off the water was blinding my vision.”

“You’re inside a building on a military base.”

“Palm fronds are gently kissing my window.”

“Save it for winter. It’s beautiful here now.”

“To what do I owe this unexpected surprise?”

I told him about the pond, the plastic, and the fingerprint identification of the victim as Lowery.

“Why the packaging?”

“No idea.”

“Bizarre. Let me see if I can pull Lowery’s file.”

It took a full ten minutes.

“Sorry. We’ve got an arrival ceremony starting in less than an hour. Most folks have already headed over to the hangar. For now I can give you the basics. Details will have to wait.”

“I understand.”

I did. An arrival ceremony is a solemn occasion honoring an unknown soldier, sailor, airman, or marine fallen far from home in the line of duty. Following recovery and transfer to U.S. soil, it is step one in the complicated path to repatriation.

I’d attended several arrival ceremonies during my tenure with JPAC. I envisioned the scene about to play out. The newly arrived aircraft. The servicemen and women standing at attention. The flag-draped transfer container. The solemn cross-base drive to the CIL lab.

“Private John Charles Lowery was an eighteen-year-old white male. Went in-country on June twenty-fourth, nineteen sixty-seven.” Danny’s tone suggested he was skimming, picking out relevant facts. “Lowery went down in a Huey near Long Binh on January twenty-third, nineteen sixty-eight.” Pause. “Body was recovered several days later, ID’ed, returned to family for burial.”

“Burial where?”

“Your neck o’ the woods. Lumberton, North Carolina.”

“You’re kidding.”

I heard a voice in the background. Danny said something. The voice responded.

“Sorry, Tempe. I’ve got to go.”

“No problem. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. I should know more once I’ve examined our guy.”

That’s not how it went.


The next day I rose at seven. Thirty minutes later I was worming my Mazda through the Ville-Marie Tunnel. Again, the weather was splendid.

The Édifice Wilfrid-Derome is a looming T-shaped thirteen-story structure in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district east of centre-ville. The Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale occupies the building’s top two floors. The Bureau du coroner is on eleven, the morgue is in the basement. The remaining acreage belongs to the SQ.

Yesiree. Ryan and I work just eight floors apart.

Though the morning staff meeting held no unpleasant surprise for the anthropologist, it had been an unusually busy Thursday. A workplace electrocution and a stabbing went to one pathologist. A suspicious crib death and a fire victim went to another. Pierre LaManche, director of the LSJML’s medico-legal section, assigned himself an apparent suicide involving a teenage boy.

LaManche also assumed responsibility for LSJML-49744, the case number assigned to John Lowery, but asked that I get the ball rolling. Since ID had been established via prints, once preliminaries were done, depending on body condition, either LaManche would perform a normal autopsy, or I would clean the bones and do a skeletal analysis.

By nine thirty I was downstairs in salle d’autopsie number 4, a unit specially outfitted for decomps, floaters, and other aromatics. I work there a lot.

Like its three counterparts, salle 4 has swinging doors leading to parallel morgue bays divided into refrigerated compartments. Small white cards mark the presence of temporary residents.

After locating the bay in which LSJML-49744 waited, I got the Nikon and checked its battery. Then I pulled the stainless steel handle.

The smell of putrefying flesh rode the whoosh of refrigerated air. Disengaging the foot brake, I pulled the gurney from its slot.

Pomerleau and Lauzon had dispensed with the usual body bag. Understandable, given Lowery’s exotic outerwear.

I was shooting wide views when a door clicked open and footsteps squeaked across tile.

Seconds later Lisa Savard appeared.

Honey blond, with a ready smile and Dolly Parton jugs, Lisa is the darling of every straight homicide cop in Quebec. She’s my favorite, too, for different reasons. The woman is the best autopsy tech in the province.

Wanting to improve her fluency, Lisa always speaks English to me.

“A strange one, yes?”


Lisa studied Lowery a moment.

“Looks like a Ken doll still in the package. Radiology?”

“Yes, please.”

While Lisa shot X-rays, I went through Lowery’s dossier. So far it held little. The police incident sheet. The morgue intake form. Bandau’s report of the NCIC hit. A fax showing an ancient fingerprint card.

I checked the source of the fax. NCIC.

Curious. If Lowery died in ’68, why was he in the system? Were prints that old typically entered?

On impulse, I called the fingerprint section of Service de l’identité judiciaire. A Sergeant Boniface told me to come on up. Grabbing the file, I climbed the back stairs to the first floor.

Forty minutes later I descended, knowing a dizzying amount about tented arches, ulnar loops, and accidental whorls. Bottom line: though Boniface was uncertain why Lowery was in the FBI database, he had no doubt the match was legit.

Lowery now lay on a floor-bolted table in the center of salle 4. Flies crawled his plastic shroud and buzzed the air above it. A police photographer shot overviews from a ladder.

LaManche and Lisa were examining X-rays popped onto wall-mounted light boxes. I joined them as they moved along the row.

On each film, the skeleton glowed white within the pale gray of the flesh. I noted nothing unusual in the skull or bones.

We were on the fifth plate when LaManche’s gnarled finger tapped an object lying by Lowery’s right foot. Radiopaque, the thing lay angled across the calcaneous.

Un couteau,” Lisa said. A knife.

Oui,” LaManche said.

I agreed.

The next prize appeared in a view of the thorax. Roughly eight centimeters long and two centimeters wide, the second object glowed as bright as the first.

Mais oui.” LaManche nodded slowly, finally understanding. “Oui.” The nodding morphed to head shaking. “Sacrebleu.”

Great. The bizarre death now made sense to the chief. I still didn’t get it.

I considered the shape on Lowery’s chest. It wasn’t another knife. Nor was it a watch, a belt buckle, or a piece of fishing paraphernalia. I hadn’t a clue.

Crossing to the body, LaManche began dictating notes.

“Victim is enclosed in what appears to be a homemade bag constructed of a large plastic sheet doubled over and secured with duct tape. The bottom and all but the top ten centimeters of one side are sealed from the outside. The neck end and top ten centimeters of the side are sealed from the inside.

“The plastic has been freshly cut, exposing the right hand. Moderate insect activity is evident in the region of the cut.”

As LaManche droned on with details, the photographer snapped away, repositioning the case identifier with each shot.

“It appears the victim entered the bag, then secured the plastic using one arm extended through the ten-centimeter side opening, which was later sealed from the inside.”

LaManche gestured to Lisa to measure the ankle rope.

“The left foot is booted and attached to a rock by a twenty-centimeter length of polypropylene rope. It appears the victim secured the rope to the rock then to his ankle, which was left exterior to the plastic.”

As Lisa ran her measuring tape, LaManche dictated dimensions. “The outer plastic envelope is one meter in width by two and a half meters in length and conforms closely to the body.”

LaManche moved to the end of the table. Flies rose with a buzz of annoyance. Behind me, tiny bodies bounced off the light box.

“The head is wrapped separately. A breathing tube extends to the exterior, duct-taped to the bag.”

Breathing tube?

I looked at the slime-covered cylinder. Was the plastic arrangement some sort of jerry-rigged diving gear?

“The bag’s lower border is taped tightly around the neck.”

On and on. Lisa measured. LaManche recorded lengths, positions, opening dimensions. Finally, he palpated the cranial setup.

“The breathing tube is displaced laterally and posteriorly from the region of the mouth.”

I’m not sure why, maybe a vision of the tube popping from Lowery’s mouth. A tube through which he intended to draw air.

Suddenly it clicked. The body wrapping. The ankle rock. The knife, meant for escape, but fallen far out of reach.

I felt like a dunce. The chief had it figured way before I did.

But underwater? I vowed to check the literature.

At that moment my mobile sounded.


Stripping off my gloves, I moved to the anteroom and clicked on.

“What’s happening?”

“We’re unwrapping Lowery.”

“You sound pretty confident that’s who it is.”

I described my session with Boniface.

“Too early for cause of death?”

“I’m pretty sure LaManche is thinking autoerotic. The guy rigged himself up to get his rocks off.”

“In a pond?” Ryan sounded skeptical.

“Anything’s possible if you follow your dream.”

“Worth sliding down for a peek?”

“Autoerotics usually are.”

“In the meantime, I thought you’d want to know. The plate on the moped traced to one Morgan Shelby of Plattsburgh, New York. He and I just finished chatting.

“Shelby says he sold the scooter to a Hemmingford man named Jean Laurier. The transaction was, shall we say, informal.”

“Cash, no paperwork, the bike goes north costing Laurier no cross-border tax.”

“Bingo. According to Shelby, the purchaser promised to deal with registration and licensing in Quebec.”

“But didn’t.”

“The sale took place only ten days ago.”

“Jean Laurier. John Lowery.”

Oui, madame.”

“What’s his story?”

“Bandau did some canvassing, found a few locals who knew the guy. One says Laurier’s lived around Hemmingford for as long as he can remember.”

“Since nineteen sixty-eight?”

“The gentleman wasn’t that specific.”

“What did Laurier do?”

“Worked as a handyman, strictly freelance.”

“Cash again?”

Oui, madame. Laurier stayed pretty much off the grid. No voter registration or tax record. No social insurance number. Bandau’s informants say the guy was a loner, weird but not threatening.”

“Did you get an LSA?” Last known address.

Oui, madame. Thought I’d toss the place tomorrow. You game?”

“I’m free.”

“It’s a date.”

“It’s not a date, Ryan.”

“Then perhaps a little après-toss toss at my place?”

“I promised Birdie I’d make him deviled eggs.”

“I also phoned the Lumberton PD.” Ryan’s vowels went longer than Dixie. “Nice friendly boys down thataway.”


“Some Lowerys still live there. Guy I talked with actually remembered John, promised to go to the library and copy the kid’s yearbook photo.”

“Why were Lowery’s prints in the system?”

“Because of some part-time job he held during high school. Nurse’s aide? Orderly in a mental facility? Something like that.”

“I’m impressed.”

“I’m a detective. I detect. I’ll be down when Lowery’s face faxes in.”

By noon, the plastic head bag and body wrap hung on drying racks in the hall. The breathing tube turned out to be a common snorkel. It had been photographed, swabbed, and sent upstairs for analysis.

So had a small piece of plastic found bow-tied around Lowery’s penis. That would also be tested for bodily fluids.

Lowery lay supine on stainless steel, face distorted, scrotum bloated, gut swollen, and going green. But, overall, the guy was in pretty good shape. A skeletal analysis would not be needed.

“White male, fifty to sixty years old,” LaManche dictated. “Black hair. Green eyes. Circumcised. No scars, piercings, or tattoos.”

I helped Lisa maneuver the measuring rod.

“Approximately one hundred and seventy-five centimeters in height.” Five foot nine.

Ryan arrived as LaManche was circling the body, checking eyes, hands, scalp, and orifices. He handed me the Lumberton fax.

The image was so small and so blurry, it could have been anyone. But a few things were evident.

The boy had dark eyes, curving brows, and regular features. His black hair was worn side-parted and short.

“Victim shows no signs of external trauma.” LaManche looked up. Nodded in greeting. “Detective.”

After explaining its source, Ryan handed the fax to LaManche. He and Lisa studied it.

“Clean him, please,” LaManche requested.

Lisa used a spray nozzle on Lowery’s head. After toweling him dry and side-combing his hair, she positioned the printed image beside his right ear.

Eight eyes ping-ponged from the fax to the face and back.

Four decades of life and two days of death separated the man on the table from the boy in the photo. Though the nose was more bulbous, the jawline more slack, the pond victim had the same dark hair and eyes, the same Al Pacino brows.

Was the Hemmingford floater an older version of the kid from Lumberton?

I couldn’t be sure.

“Think it’s him?” I asked LaManche.

The chief gave one of his inexplicable French shrugs. Who knows? Why ask me? What herb flavors the ragout you are making?

I looked at Ryan. His eyes were glued to the man on the table.

No wonder. The sight was bizarre.

John Lowery had died wearing the following: a cotton soft-cup bra, Glamorise brand, color pink, size 44B; ladies’ polyester hipster panties, Blush brand, color pink, size large; a cotton-polyester blend nurse’s cap, one size fits all, white with blue stripe; one steel-toed boot, Harley-Davidson brand, side left, color black, size 10.

And that was just the wardrobe.

Lowery had taken two tools inside the plastic with him: a proctoscope, for sport I didn’t want to envisage; a Swiss Army Knife, for escape when the party was over.

The proctoscope remained in a fabric sack suspended from his neck. The knife had ended up at his feet.

Bite marks on the snorkel’s mouthpiece suggested this wasn’t Lowery’s first attempt at making subsurface solo whoopee. But somehow, this time, things went bad. Most likely scenario: the tube slipped from his mouth; the knife dropped from his hand.

The setting was unusual, but the chief’s initial impression was most probably correct. Lowery’s death would go down as accidental asphyxia associated with autoerotic activity.

John Charles Lowery died playing naughty nurse underwater in a self-made ziplock.


Saturday morning produced another immaculate blue sky. Again meteorologists were promising eighty degrees.

Three spring beauties back-to-back. Perhaps a Montreal record.

LaManche called around nine. A courtesy, not required. I like that about him.

The chief’s autopsy findings were as I expected. Other than slight atherosclerotic disease, Lowery had no preexisting medical conditions. No traumatic lesions. Some pulmonary edema. A blood alcohol level of 132mg/100 ml.

Cause of death was asphyxia due to oxygen deprivation. Manner was accidental, in the context of autoerotic activity.

By ten Ryan and I were zipping south toward Hemmingford. His mood was upbeat. A rocking Friday night? Light traffic? Too many doughnuts? I didn’t pursue it.

I did ask the length of Laurier/Lowery’s residence at the address to which we were heading. Ryan said a very long time.

Given that, I queried Laurier/Lowery’s ability to stay off the grid. Ryan relayed a complex story of lax rental agreements and changing proprietorship. Bottom line, when the last landlord died without heirs, Laurier/Lowery simply stayed on. Instead of paying rent, he paid taxes and utilities in the deceased owner’s name. Or some such scheme.

The conversation turned to Jean Laurier/John Lowery’s unfortunate demise. How could we resist?

“So Lowery got his kink on bundling in plastic, going deep, and beating off in a pond.” Ryan’s tone was tinged with distaste.

“Dressed as a nurse.”

“Apparently he changed in the canoe. The duffel contained jeans, socks, sneakers, and a shirt.”

“Must take good balancing skills.”

“It also contained a flashlight.”

“Suggesting he went to the pond at night.”

“Wouldn’t you?” Ryan shook his head. “I don’t get it. What’s the kick?”

Having no life, I’d done research the evening before, learned that the term autoerotic refers to any solitary sexual activity in which a prop, device, or apparatus is used to enhance sexual stimulation. I knew Ryan was fully aware of this.

“Most autoerotic activity takes place in the home,” I said.

“Gee. Why would that be?”

“Death is usually due to the failure of a preestablished escape mechanism.”

“Lowery probably lost his snorkel, then panicked and dropped the knife he was using to cut himself free.”

“That’s LaManche’s take. And it’s plausible. Most autoerotic deaths are accidental. The person chokes or smothers, due to hanging, or the use of a ligature or plastic bag. Also in the mix are electrocution, foreign-body insertion, overdressing, or body wrapping.”

“Body wrapping?”

“A plastic bag over the head is fairly common, body wrapping less so. Last night I read about a sixty-year-old man found rolled in fourteen sewn blankets, his penis wrapped in a plastic bag. A forty-six-year-old man was discovered wearing seven pairs of stockings, a dress, and ladies’ undies cut to allow Mr. Happy a front-row seat. A twenty-three-year-old schoolteacher died sporting a plastic mackintosh, three cotton skirts, a raincoat, and a plastic—”

“I get the picture. But what’s the point?”

“Heightened sexual excitement.”

Two killer blues swung my way. “I can think of better routes to that end.”

Oh, could he. I felt myself blush. Hated it. Focused on what I’d learned the night before.

“Autoerotic arousal derives from a limited number of mechanisms.” I ticked points off on a hand. “One, direct stimulation of the erotic regions.” My thumb moved to middleman. “Two, stimulation of the sexual centers of the central nervous system.”

“As in strangulation or hanging.”

“Or the use of a head covering. It’s well known that cerebral hypoxia can heighten sexual pleasure.”

My thumb went to ring man.

“Three, creation of fear and distress in the context of a masochistic fantasy. Spice things up with electrocution or immersion, for example.”

“Weenie-whacking submerged can’t be all that common.”

“There’s actually a term for it. Aqua-eroticum. I found a few cases reported in the literature. One victim used an ankle rock, just like Lowery.”

Ryan turned onto Highway 219. We passed the pond, and a few minutes later pulled to the shoulder beside a mailbox with the number 572 hand-painted on one side. An SQ cruiser was already there.

Ryan and I studied the house.

Laurier/Lowery’s small bungalow was set back from the road and partially obscured by a thick stand of pine. Green frame. One story. Small storage shed attached on the right.

As we walked up the gravel drive, I noted freshly painted trim and neatly stacked wood. A large garden in back appeared recently plowed.

Catching movement through a window, I turned to Ryan. He saw it too.