Forgotten in Death (In Death #53) by J. D. Robb



She stepped back to Mackie, looked at the harness, looked down in the hole. “All right then, let’s get me suited up so I can make sure this isn’t some sick prank.”

Hope lit all over his face. “Oh, hey, like maybe it’s fake?”

“I’ll know in a minute.”

It wasn’t, but she had to make that determination even if it meant hanging by a damn cable over a bunch of broken concrete, rebar spikes, rocks, and Christ knew.

“It’ll hold ten times your weight,” he told her as she put her arms through the straps. “It’s got good padding, so it’s not going to dig into you, and that adds protection.”

He adjusted the straps, checked the safety buckles, the D rings.

“You ever use one of these?” she asked him.

“Yep. I’m not ten times your weight, but I bet I more than double it, and no problemo.”

“Good to know.”

“DeWinter’s on her way.” Like Eve, Peabody looked down in the hole. “Do you want me to go down with you?”

“No point. I’m going to get it on record, confirm we’ve got human remains, and see what I see. I need my field kit.”

“We’re going to hook it on this ring right here,” Mackie told her. “Keep your hands free.” He handed her a pair of work gloves. “And protect them. You ever do any rappelling?”

“Not if I can help it.” When he laughed, she shrugged. “Yeah, I know the drill. Check in at the other site, Peabody. Start lining up interviews. We need a full run on the victim.”

“You’re set,” Mackie told her. “We’ll take it slow. Lot of rubble down there, and where she is, between the walls? That wasn’t poured, so it’s not going to be real stable.”

“Yeah, I see it. Peabody, DeWinter needs to bring recovery equipment.”

“She knows.”

Of course she knew, Eve thought, and admitted she was stalling.

“Okay.” She ducked under the rope, took another careful look so she could mentally map her route down. Then turned her back to it as she pulled on the gloves.

She gripped the belay rope, took up the slack, leaned into it, and started the descent.

Obstacles, she thought, checking left and right behind her as she went down, feet perpendicular to the wall, keeping her pace slow but steady. She adjusted right, left to avoid rubble and rebar and busted beams.

Six feet down, she called up, “I’m moving a couple feet to the left. I can get closer. She’s right below those beams, between two walls. Say, how stable do you figure those beams are?”

“They held up so far. We got you, Lieutenant. You’re not going anywhere.”

While she didn’t want to end up somehow breaking through the ground and splatting on the rubble, she’d actually worried more about the remains.

She eased down on a broken beam, gave it a little testing bounce. “Feels solid enough.”

Kneeling, she pulled off the work gloves, then resealed her hands. And took a close look at her second and third victims of the morning.





2




Not a prank, Eve thought as she took out a flashlight.

“Human remains, one female. I can confirm that without DeWinter. DeWinter to establish approximate age, race, height, weight. Second remains, a fetus or very small infant. No more than a foot and a half in length.”

She played her light over the adult skull. “Some damage, cracks in the adult female skull, and a broken left arm—possibly from the fall. It looks like the left shoulder—if she hit the way we found her, she hit on the left side. There’s something …

“Gold ring, wedding band? Third finger, left hand. Still on there.”

She took tweezers out of her field kit, used them to slide the ring off the curled finger bone. “No engraving. Plain yellow gold ring.”

She bagged it.

“I see splintering, second and third ribs, left side.”

She leaned closer. “Heart shots. Those are going to be from bullets. Plenty of guns around thirty-five to forty years ago if that’s when she went in. We need to locate the slugs when we bring up the remains. I see something.”

She shifted her light, then used the tweezers again. “Earring.” She used a brush to carefully clean it off. “Post style, yellow gold circle with a silver or maybe white gold triangle inside. I can’t look for the second if it’s a pair or I’d disturb the remains. Recovery team needs to locate. Got a gold necklace, too, still attached, so I’m leaving it in place. Gold chain maybe ten inches long holding a what do you call it—swans, a pair of swans twined together at the neck to form a heart.