This ebook edition contains a special preview of Kathy Reichs’s upcoming novel Two Nights.
The #1 New York Times bestselling author behind the hit Fox series Bones, Kathy Reichs is renowned for chilling suspense and fascinating forensic detail. The Bone Collection presents her trademark artistry in this collection of thrilling short fiction.
In First Bones, a prequel to Reichs’s first novel, Déjà Dead, she at last reveals the tale of how Tempe became a forensic anthropologist. In this never-before-published story, Tempe recalls the case that lured her from a promising career in academia into the grim but addictive world of criminal investigation. (It all began with a visit from a pair of detectives—and a John Doe recovered from an arson scene in a trailer.) The collection is rounded out with three more stories that take Tempe from the low country of the Florida Everglades, where she makes a grisly discovery in the stomach of an eighteen-foot Burmese python, to the heights of Mount Everest, where a frozen corpse is unearthed. No matter where she goes, Tempe’s cases make for the most gripping reading.
Praise for Kathy Reichs and the Temperance Brennan series
“Nobody does forensics thrillers like Kathy Reichs. She’s the real deal.”—David Baldacci
“Kathy Reichs writes smart—no, make that brilliant—mysteries that are as realistic as nonfiction and as fast-paced as the best thrillers about Jack Reacher or Alex Cross.”—James Patterson
“Every minute in the morgue with Tempe is golden.”—The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Hometown:Charlotte, North Carolina and Montreal, Québec
Place of Birth:Chicago, Illinois
Education:B.A., American University, 1971; M.A., Ph.D., Northwestern University
Read an Excerpt
I sat with my chair drawn close to him, an icy heat hovering below my sternum. Fear.
Through the sliding glass door came muted hospital sounds. An arriving elevator. A rattling gurney or cart. A paged code or name. In the room, only the soft rhythmic pinging of sensors monitoring vital signs.
His face looked gaunt and greenish gray in the glow of machines tracking his pulse and respirations. Every now and then I glanced at a screen. Watching the lines jump their erratic zigzag patterns. Willing the pinging and jumping to continue.
Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit. So cold. So sterile. Yet a human touch: a stain shaped like Mickey’s ears on one rail of the overcomplicated bed. Funny what you notice when under stress.
A sheet covered him from the neck down, leaving only his arms exposed. A pronged tube delivered oxygen to his nostrils. A needle infused liquids into a vein in his right wrist. The arm with the IV lay tucked to his torso. The other rested on his chest, elbow flexed at an obtuse angle.
I watched his sheet-clad chest rise and fall. Somehow his body looked smaller than normal. Shrunken. Or was it an illusion created by the fish-tank illumination?
He didn’t move, didn’t blink. In the eerie light, his lids appeared translucent purple, like the thinly peeled skin of a Bermuda onion. His eyeballs had receded deep into their orbits.
Hollywood’s dramatic death scenes are a scam. A slug to the body destroys roughly two ounces of tissue, no more. A bullet doesn’t necessarily drop a man on the spot. To kill instantly, you have to shoot into the brain or high up in the spinal cord, or cause hemorrhage by hitting a main vessel or the heart. None of those things had happened to him. He’d survived until a late-night dog walker stumbled upon him, unconscious and bleeding but still showing a pulse.
The wee-hours call had roused me from a deep sleep. Adrenaline rush. Shaky clawing up of the phone. Then the heart-hammering drive across town. The argument to talk myself into the STICU. I hadn’t bothered with polite.
Death by firearm depends on multiple factors: bullet penetration deep enough to reach vital organs, permanent cavity formation along the bullet’s path, temporary cavity formation due to transfer of the bullet’s kinetic energy, bullet and bone fragmentation. All of those things had happened to him.
The surgeons had done what they could. They’d spoken gently, voices calm through the fatigue, eyes soft with compassion. The internal damage was too severe. He was dying.
How could that be? Men his age didn’t die. But they did. We all did. America was armed to the teeth and no one was safe.
I felt a tremor in my chest. Fought it down.
Uncaring death was about to punch a hole in my life. I didn’t want to consider the coming weeks. Months. We had done so much together. Fed off each other physically, emotionally. Despite the occasional aloofness, abruptness. The arguments. The unexplained retreats. The exchanges weren’t always pleasant, but they spurred the process, helped us accomplish more than either of us would have managed solo. Now the future looked bleak. Unbearable sadness wrapped me like a shroud.
He’d been a good man. Capable. Devoted to his work. Always busy, but willing to listen, to provide feedback, sometimes outrageous, sometimes sage. Forever in motion.
I thought of the hours we’d spent together. The shared challenges. The identification of issues and approaches toward solutions. The painstaking attention to detail that could knit together a comprehensible whole from fragments. The shared sense of accomplishment in uncovering answers to perplexing questions. The mutual frustration and disappointment when no solution emerged.
I’d seen so much death. Corpses whole and partial, known and unknown. Lives ended in every conceivable manner. From the very old to the very young, male and female. At times cause was apparent, at others a puzzle requiring prolonged assessment and all my acuity. He was my greatest resource.
Throughout my career I was often the bearer of heartbreaking news. The changer of lives, informing anxious next of kin that their loved ones were dead. He’d been there. Or listened to my telling. Death was a constant in my work, and now death would put an end to this cherished partnership.
I looked again at the man in the bed. All was past. There would be no future.
The door opened and a nurse entered, rubber soles noiseless on the immaculate tile. She was short and round with ebony skin that gleamed in the monitors’ reflected light. A badge on her scrubs said v. sule.
Nurse V. Sule smiled, a quick upward flick of her lips, then patted my hand.
“He is having morphine.” Accented English. Rich, lilting. “He will sleep long. You go, hon. You have a coffee.”
“I’m good,” I said.
Another pat, then Nurse V. Sule began checking fluid levels and dials and tracings. I scooched my chair to the wall and sat back down. I’d been in it for hours. Ever since he was wheeled into that room.
I watched Nurse V. Sule. Her movements were quick and efficient, but at the same time strangely graceful. I thanked her when she left.
The chair was uncommonly comfortable as hospital furnishings go, armed, padded, willing to tilt slightly if I leaned back. I wondered if seating of this type was specially selected for rooms hosting those facing vigils of long duration. For visitors helping usher in death.
I gazed at the rising and falling sheet. My vision blurred. The final breath would soon be drawn.
Exhausted, and overwhelmed by sorrow, I stretched my legs, angled my head back, and closed my eyes.
Just for a moment.