Private India City on Fire(8)
Author:James Patterson


    “I need to be present during the autopsy, as instructed by Rupesh,” replied Zafar apologetically. “Either you carry out the autopsies here or I come to your lab.”

    Mubeen thought about this. All he wanted was to get the hell out of Zafar’s ghoulish morgue. He made up his mind quickly. “Let’s get these loaded into my van. You may come with me.”

    “I would have got one of my assistants to help move the corpses if you had showed up before eight o’clock,” explained Dr. Zafar. “Unfortunately at this time it’s only me in this place.”

    Zafar discarded his scrubs and washed his hands with soap and hot water before helping Mubeen roll the gurneys back to the white van belonging to Private India. Both men loaded them inside then climbed in the front.

    Mubeen drove out of Cooper Hospital and headed toward Colaba. On reaching Private India’s office block, he drove into a parking garage at the rear of the building. The door closed behind them and lights came on automatically. He flicked a switch on his hand-held remote and the floor of the garage began slowly rising. Within two minutes the van had been transported into Mubeen’s state-of-the-art medical and forensics facility in the heart of Private India’s office complex.

    The contrast with the Cooper Hospital autopsy center could not be more apparent. Mubeen’s lab was sophisticated, modern, and spotlessly clean. Gleaming white tables illuminated by shafts of light supplied by overhead energy-efficient fixtures ran the entire length of the lab.

    It was equipped with the very latest tools, including a new machine that combined multi-slice computed tomography with magnetic resonance imaging to produce a virtual autopsy in 3D that could easily detect internal bleeding, bullet paths, and hidden fractures, hard to find with a traditional autopsy. Spectrometers for detection of explosives and illegal drug residues dotted one side of the laboratory, while equipment for the analysis of bloodstains, fingerprints, DNA, hair, fibers, and other trace evidence occupied the rest. A newly acquired device that could accurately identify specific dyes in acrylics, cotton, and other fibers occupied a table of its own.

    Having unloaded the corpses from the gurneys, Mubeen began by carefully examining the necks of both victims with a dermascope.

    “What are we looking for?” asked Zafar, as he glanced around the facilities, somewhat awed by the infrastructure available to Mubeen.

    “Inflamed edges,” replied Mubeen, continuing to scan the skin surface with his dermascope and handing over another one to Zafar so that he could work in parallel.

    “Inflammation is absent,” he said into the cordless microphone on his collar. “A clear sign that these victims were dead before being strung up.”

    Next, Mubeen and Zafar loaded each body into the MRI machine. As the neck scans of the victims showed up on the bank of high-resolution monitors, the answer became apparent.

    Once again speaking into the microphone, Mubeen said, “The neck’s hyoid bone usually breaks during strangulation but rarely during hanging. In both corpses the hyoid bones are found broken. It is my considered opinion that we are dealing with a strangler, not a hangman.”





    Chapter 15





    “HAVE WE CHECKED the cell phones that were discovered at both crime scenes?” asked Santosh, turning to Hari.

    Private India’s core investigation team was seated in the conference room for a meeting and Santosh was reviewing their progress.

    Hari cleared his throat before speaking. “Both phones were in working order. The phone belonging to Dr. Kanya Jaiyen was only used for conversations with two other numbers. On the other hand, the phone of the journalist Bhavna Choksi was used much more extensively.”

    “You say that the Thai doctor’s phone only communicated with two other numbers. Do we know whose numbers they were?” asked Santosh.

    “That was very easy to figure out,” replied Hari. “One of the numbers belonged to Bhavna Choksi.”

    “So it’s evident that our two victims knew each other,” observed Santosh. He shot Nisha a gleeful look. “There’s our connection.”

    Hari nodded. “Oh yes. Kanya Jaiyen and Bhavna Choksi had several phone conversations on the day that Jaiyen was killed,” he said. “The problem is that the other number that communicated with Kanya Jaiyen was from a prepaid SIM. The name and address provided to register the SIM are false and there is simply no way to trace the actual caller.”

    “Given the fact that there was no sign of a break-in at either crime scene, it’s highly probable that the murderer knew both victims,” said Santosh. “It’s very likely that the second SIM showing up on Kanya Jaiyen’s call logs belongs to the killer.”

    “Either that or the killer knew enough about their routine to be able to get into their living spaces,” said Nisha, looking up from her smartphone.

    “Do we know whether either woman was sexually assaulted?” asked Santosh, directing his question at Mubeen. “Any indications of rape?”

    “No sexual assault in either case …” replied Mubeen, “no traces of blood, saliva, or semen. At both crime scenes we have single strands of hair. The strands match under the microscope … They came from the same head.”

    “Any luck with DNA?” asked Santosh.

    “No roots present, hence no DNA,” said Mubeen. “I tried searching for nuclear DNA in the hair shaft but none was present.”

    “What about time of death?” asked Santosh, closing his eyes to think. “Do we now have a precise idea regarding when these women died?”

    “Kanya Jaiyen was killed between eight and ten on Sunday night,” answered Mubeen. “This can be further narrowed down by the CCTV footage, which showed the suspected killer going into her room at eight fifty-one and leaving at two minutes past nine.”

    “And Bhavna Choksi?” asked Santosh.

    “My medical estimate is between eight thirty and ten on Monday morning. Given the fact that the cleaning lady discovered the body at nine thirty, we can safely assume that time of death is between eight thirty and nine thirty.”

    There was silence. Santosh got up from the table and began to pace the conference room, an action that made everyone else rather uncomfortable. He had an annoying habit of popping up behind them unexpectedly.

    “Do you mind if I leave you for a moment?” asked Mubeen. “I was in the middle of a critical test and should have the results in a few minutes.” Santosh nodded irritably as Mubeen got up to leave the conference room.

    “Why don’t we release his picture to the press?” asked Nisha.

    “He is waiting for us to do precisely that,” said Santosh. “Look at the crime scenes and all the props around the bodies. Consider the fact that the second victim is a newspaper reporter. The strangler is hungry for publicity. Give the murders some extra column inches and you will see the body count increase. Yes, the body count will go up.”

    “You’re right,” agreed Nisha. “It may also send the city into a panic. No one knows that there have been two women strangled in similar fashion. As of now, they are simply two unrelated murders in a city that is famous for its high crime rate. Any public disclosure could make the murderer that much more careful. We would rather have a careless perpetrator.”

    “We also need to keep in mind,” said Santosh, “the possibility that the person in question may simply have been a visitor. We have no clear evidence linking them to the murder. On the whole, it’s better that we keep this under wraps.” He settled down in his chair. Within a few seconds he was up again and over behind Hari.

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