Into The Fire

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Book: Into The Fire by Manda Scott Read Free Book Online
Authors: Manda Scott
    ‘Big cranial bleed? Was he hit on the crown of the head as well as over his eye?’
    ‘Good. Go on.’
    She runs her gaze on down from there to the mandible. She takes another sip of coffee, rolls it round her mouth. Her tongue curls against the bitterness. Her body craves more.
    ‘Did you send the dental images?’
    ‘Patrice is working on them now.’
    Picaut eases out a breath. The threat of Prosecutor Ducat takes one pace back.
    She checks her watch: 09.27. She places a small bet with herself as to how long Patrice will take to ID their man. And then, because there’s clearly something else she is supposed to be seeing, she scans on down from head to clavicle to sternum, to ribs, spine, arms, hands, pelvic girdle, legs, feet.
    And back to the thorax, the cage of white, splayed ribs overlaid on the grey shadows of the heart and lungs. And in that cage, a foreign object, bright-white, with square, manufactured corners.
    ‘What’s that?’ She taps the screen with a pointer.
    ‘Good question. I’d say it’s what our American cousins call a thumb drive and the rest of us in the civilized world call a USB drive.’
    ‘What’s it doing in the middle of his chest? Is it even possible to stab someone with a USB drive? Was there an entry wound? I didn’t see one.’
    ‘Look again.’ Masson is in teaching mode. Picaut is not in the mood to be a student, but then she rarely is, and he’s taught her anyway.
    She reviews her understanding of basic anatomy. In the chest are the heart, the lungs, the trachea … and the route from the mouth to the stomach. ‘Is it in his oesophagus? Has he
    A broad smile transforms Éric Masson’s lean face; he is young again, animated. ‘Swallowed shortly before death. It got this far and no further.’ He leans back, the better to watch her. ‘He knew he was going to die. He left you the answers to your questions.’
    ‘Fuck …’ She whistles. ‘Patrice will think it’s Christmas.’
    ‘If the fire hasn’t cooked the data to illegibility.’ Masson sees the look on her face. ‘
Courage, mon brave
. Shall we find out?’
    He works swiftly, neatly, cleanly. Charred skin peels back from roasted flesh and the brown bone of the cooked sternum. The band saw whines and the smell of burning bone is the same as it was in the night.
    Picaut’s phone rings again. She checks her watch. 09.40. Patrice is two minutes inside her estimated time. Grinning, she hits the elbow switch, putting the call on to speaker. ‘You win. Who is he?’
    ‘Luc,’ he says, and the echo of his voice in the hollow room sounds as if he’s taken a mouthful of dog shit. ‘He’s here. He says he needs to see you. Actually, he says he needs you. On a different note, the dead man is a Dr Iain Holloway from Glasgow. That’s Glasgow, Scotland, not Glasgow, Kentucky.’
    ‘He’s not American?’
    ‘Doesn’t look that way. I’ll have more on him by the time you get here. Just don’t let Luc drag you down into whatever hole he’s digging for himself.’

15 June 1429
    TOMAS RUSTBEARD’S SECOND chance to kill the Maid comes three days after the first, at night, during the attack on the gatehouse protecting Meung-sur-Loire.
    It is the middle of June and the nights are as short as they’re going to get. Dusk bleeds into dawn with scarcely enough dark between to blink, although in that scarcity is enough to do what they must, or so the Maid has said and nobody contradicts her now. Since Jargeau, she is the army’s favourite: men will die for her and think themselves blessed.
    From the wave of fury that followed her injury, Tomas has learned that he dare not kill her in the open field. He may, however, assault her in the dark, with few around. Beyond that, he has long recognized that night loosens tongues which the sun holds fast, and, tonight, he is seeking answers as much as action, for on this expedition are some of the men who brought the Maid to

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