The Bone Chamber

1

Sydney Fitzpatrick pulled out a small scale model of a crime scene from the metal cabinet at the front of the classroom, then eyed the clock by the classroom door. Nine-forty. Twenty more minutes and her Friday was officially kick-starting—once the students left and she completed the final paperwork. This was the last segment of a two-week forensic art course at the FBI Academy, with twenty-five law enforcement would-be artists from around the country. “Here,” she said, setting the model on the table at the front of the class, “we have an interesting and controversial case. It dates back to the 1970s, before computers were all the rage in re-creating crime scenes, but it offers a good example of how a forensic artist can—”

She stopped when the classroom door opened. Special Agent in Charge Terrance Harcourt poked his head in the doorway. “You have a minute?”

“Sure.” She excused herself to the men and women, then stepped from the room. Harcourt, a man in his fifties, gray-haired, dress shirt unbuttoned at the collar, sleeves rolled to his forearms, stood next to a man she’d never seen. He was taller than Harcourt, was maybe her age, mid-thirties, with a dark suit, a crisp tie, and a stance that screamed federal agent of the anal sort, she thought, closing the door tightly so that their conversation wouldn’t be overheard.

“Sorry to interrupt your class,” Harcourt said. “This is Special Agent Zachary Griffin. And this, of course, is our resident forensic artist, Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick.”

“Good to meet you,” Griffin said, shaking her hand.

“A pleasure,” Sydney said. “What can I do for you?”

“I heard you were the go-to girl when it comes to recommending forensic anthropologists,” Griffin said. “I know there are a few on the East Coast, but my case is too important to draw one out of a hat. I was hoping if I gave you a wish list, you could give me a name.”

“Depends,” she said, glancing into the classroom—not that she expected her students to be throwing spit wads. Cops were, however, notorious pranksters. “What’s your wish list?”

“Fast, reliable, the best in his or her field, and experienced in working with forensic artists.”

“I know of two offhand. One in Vermont, one in D.C.”

“The D.C. area would be more convenient.”

“That would be Dr. Natasha Gilbert.”

“How well do you know her?”

“We’re good friends. I’ve worked a number of cases with her. If you want experience, she’s the one.”

“Any chance you can dig up her number?”

“You have pen and paper? I’ll write it down for you.”

He gave her a pen and small pad from his suit coat pocket. “And when might you be available for the sketch?” he asked, when she gave him the number.

No doubt Harcourt hadn’t told him her plans. Or maybe, in typical federal agent style, SA Griffin hadn’t asked her boss, just assumed she’d be available. “If you can wait until after Thanksgiving, I’m yours.”

“That’s two weeks from now. We’re on a tight schedule.”

“Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to work with Tasha, I’m tied up all day Saturday, then leaving Sunday for San Francisco to visit family for a much needed holiday vacation. If you’d like an artist sooner, my boss can hook you up,” she said, nodding toward SAC Harcourt.

“Absolutely,” Harcourt said. “We have a full list of artists available at a moment’s notice. A number of them on the East Coast.”

“If there’s nothing else,” Sydney said, her hand on the door, “I have a class to get back to.”

SA Griffin looked as though there was something else, but then he glanced into the classroom, stepped back, and said,