Of Blood and Bone (Page 26)

Of Blood and Bone (The Minaldi Legacy #1)(26)
Author: Courtney Cole

My breathing comes in pants and I know that something isn’t right here today.  Just like something wasn’t right twenty-two years ago when I found my little brother floating face down in the lake behind our house.

I can’t breathe and I have to force myself to move.  I take a tentative step toward the thing in the water and I’m terrified to look even though I know I have to.  Chills run down my spine and I glance around for signs that someone else might be near in case I need help with this thing.  But there is no one.  Only me.

My legs feel numb as I take another step toward it, then another.

Whatever it is has washed up onto the rocks that line the shore and it is covered in tattered fabric.  I gulp, swallow hard, and then walk the remaining twenty yards.

It’s a person, just as my instincts already knew.

I force myself to wade through the shallow water and stand over it, staring down, fighting the waves of nausea that are welling up in me.

It’s a partial person.   Something… sharks, crabs, something, has eaten half of it.  Of her.  I know it is a her because there is a butterfly tattoo still on her shoulder. Her shoulder is one of the only things that I can see that is still intact and I am suddenly so very thankful that she is face down.  She has no legs or arms left and there is seaweed matted into her short blonde hair.

And I know, beyond any doubt, that this is Annica Rossi.

Chapter Fifteen

I don’t even realize that I am screaming until Marianne is pulling at my shoulders, pulling me away from this battered corpse.  She sits me down on a piece of driftwood a short distance away, turns me in the opposite direction of the body and then pulls out her cell phone.  The polizia arrive in less than five minutes.

By the time they arrive, I have calmed myself down.  I take deep breaths and stare at the sand by my feet until I no longer feel panicky.  I am slightly ashamed that I lost it in such a way. I’m a doctor.  I shouldn’t fall apart simply because I see a dead, half-eaten body.  But to be fair, I’m a psychiatrist.  I’m not accustomed to coming into surprise contact with a mutilated corpse.  I doubt anyone is, particularly someone who lost her own brother to a drowning.

Marianne holds my hand as we wait for the lead detective to come speak with me.  As the person who found her, they have to take my statement.  That’s fine with me, although I don’t have much to tell them.  I was walking along, minding my own business and there she was.  The end.  And that’s what I’ll tell them.

There’s a team of them here now, all poking around her in a very official way, poking around the beach and then finally, the coroner comes and they remove her from the water and place her onto a stretcher, covering her up with a sheet.  I feel a sense of relief for her. She deserves some privacy, some sort of dignity. 

We wait forever.  The polizia certainly aren’t in a hurry to question me and allow me on my way.  It’s agonizingly frustrating.  I just want to leave.  My nerves and the cool evening breeze are causing me to shiver and I haven’t brought a jacket.  But still they let us sit.  They don’t even look in our direction.

Marianne and I chat and I am ever grateful to her for staying with me.  I tell her that and she waves away my gratitude.

“It’s what anyone would do,” she insists. It’s not, but I let it go.

We talk for a while longer and then she looks up and stares.

“Honey, look,” she instructs.

I look up and am startled to find Luca jogging down the beach toward us. Grendel is at his side and I don’t know why I am surprised at their presence.  I was half-expecting (half-wishing) to see them earlier and now here they are. 

Luca is clearly concerned as he stares at the scene in front of him before his gaze brushes over me.  He is surprised, I can see it.  And very curious.   He jogs up to me and stops.  Grendel stands at attention by his side.  The dog’s gold eyes appraise me sharply, but he doesn’t growl this time.  We’re apparently making progress.

“What’s going on?” Luca asks.  He’s as handsome as ever, even with the light sheen of perspiration gleaming on his brow.  His dark hair is damp as he brushes it out of his eyes. His shirt is soaked through at the top.  From the looks of it, he’s been running for awhile but he’s not even breathing hard. 

Marianne answers before I do.

“They found the third girl.  We think,” she adds.  “Eva found her.  The polizia won’t confirm it, but Eva saw a tattoo on her shoulder.  It’s the girl.”

Luca looks appalled.  “She’s dead?”

I nod.  “Very.  It looks like sharks got her.”

“Oh.  So she wasn’t murdered?” Luca is surprised now.  I shrug.

“I don’t know. They aren’t saying what they think.  She could’ve drowned, I guess, and the sharks ate her remains.  Or maybe she was murdered, then dumped into the sea.”

Luca is somber again, shaking his head. He is a handsome and polished, even here.   

“Either way, you shouldn’t be here, Evangeline.  This isn’t a place for you.”

His concern for my wellbeing makes my heart quicken.

“I have to be,” I tell him quietly.  “I found her and they want my statement.”

He stares at me for a scant moment before he turns on his heel and walks to the lead detective.  They speak for a moment in words that I can’t hear before they both return to me. The detective is wearing rumpled clothing and is distracted, but he pulls out a little notebook and pen and turns his attention to me.  

He says, in a very thick Maltese accent, “I apologize for your wait, Miss Talbot.”

“Dr. Talbot,” Luca corrects him.  The detective nods.

“Dr. Talbot,” the detective amends.  “Can you tell me how you found the body?”

“Is it Annica Rossi?” I ask.  The detective shakes his head.

“We can’t confirm that yet,” he says.  “But it is a possibility.”

I inhale shakily and then tell him how I found her.  It only takes a minute because there isn’t much to tell.  He writes down what I say and then tells me that they will get back to me if they have any further questions.  He thanks me and then leaves.  Our interaction only took five minutes, after I waited forty-five for him to get to me.