Home > Cut and Run(3)

Cut and Run(3)
Author: Mary Burton

Hayden had a reputation for being decisive to the point of unfeeling, but she’d known him for a few years and recognized the quieter he was, the deeper his feelings ran.

“Why do the Texas Rangers care about Jack Crow?” she asked.

“Jack Crow contacted me on Friday. He never called just to chat, so if he had a story to tell, I listened. I couldn’t get out to see him until yesterday, and when I did, I found him like this.”

“Do you have any idea what he wanted to tell you?” she asked.

“He wouldn’t say anything over the phone. He never liked them because he thought his calls were being monitored.”

“Did he suffer from paranoia?” Faith asked.

“No. At least not any more than the average hermit.”

“My death scene investigator said there was nothing in his trailer stronger than aspirin, though there was a prescription for OxyContin. There were twelve unopened bottles of beer in the refrigerator. There was nothing in writing from him that would indicate why he died this way.”

“I know. I searched every square inch of the place, but it was clear someone had gone through it before me.”

She lifted the dead man’s wrist. “I can tell you he was restrained, maybe by handcuffs, and whoever put them on made sure they were painfully tight.”

“No restraints were found at the scene, but Jack Crow was six foot two and maybe two hundred and fifty pounds. Even restrained, he wouldn’t have been easy to keep down.”

“I don’t know about that. I think he was very sick.”


“My guess is cancer. His skin is jaundiced, and his belly is bloated. I’ll know more when I get inside, but if it’s pancreatic cancer, he didn’t have long.”

Hayden was silent for a moment, as if gathering his thoughts. Shadows of pain lingered in his eyes, reminding Faith that he still hadn’t recovered from his wife’s death four years earlier.

Hayden pointed to a faded tattoo on the man’s arm and cleared his throat. “He was an Army Ranger when he was a young man. So cancer or no, he was a tough son of a bitch who wouldn’t have left this world easily.”

She ran her gloved hands over his scalp until she felt the hard lump. “There’s a large hematoma. He was hit in the back of his head. Maybe also punched or kicked in the jaw before he was restrained, judging by the discoloration on his lower jaw.”

“And then someone got to work on him,” Hayden said.

“That’s my thought.”

“These injuries would have hurt like hell, but what do you think was the cause of death?” Hayden asked.

She opened Crow’s eyelids and studied slightly dilated pupils and bloodshot, yellowed whites. “I’ll know better once I open him up.”

Faith’s death scene investigator, Nancy Ridgefield, entered the room. Nancy was a five-year veteran of the medical examiner’s office, and the pair had worked together since her arrival. Petite with black hair, Nancy was methodical and caring and had a wicked sense of humor.

“Doc, Captain.” Nancy clicked on a computer screen and pulled up the first digital x-ray images of the right and left arms and hands. All were riddled with fractures. “The breaks are fresh. They happened shortly before he died. And his right kneecap, as you both first thought, was fractured in multiple places.”

It took an incredible amount of blunt force to shatter bone. That kind of pain could have been enough to trigger heart failure.

Faith studied the victim’s thick cheekbones and pale, rough jaw covered in white stubble. No one could have accused Jack Crow of being handsome, but she would bet he’d been striking when he was younger.

“Have you found his family yet?” Faith asked.

“I interviewed a man who lives on the property, a David Ledbetter,” Hayden said. “According to Ledbetter, Crow has a son and a daughter. I haven’t yet found the son, Dirk Crow, but I located the daughter, Macy Crow, and called her yesterday. She lives in Virginia. She said she would get the first flight out this morning.”

“Leave me her contact information in case I need to call her,” Faith said.

“Already gave it to Nancy,” Hayden said.

Faith laid her hand on Crow’s shoulder, feeling a stab of empathy for the guy. Maybe he’d not been a saint, but no one deserved to suffer like this.

She drew in a breath, trying not to picture the agony that would have filled the man’s final minutes. Jack Crow had to cease to be a person for now. His body was evidence, and it had a story to tell that she would not hear if her mind was clouded with emotion.

She tugged the dangling microphone down a little closer and stated the patient’s name, height, weight, and injuries.

Beginning her external examination, Faith lifted his right arm. Though the underside of the forearm was blackened from stippling, the settling of blood after the heart stopped pumping, she saw faint tattooed lettering that read DO NO HARM. She noted this find along with the Army Ranger tattoo into the recorder and then continued to search for other markings. There was a scar on his lower abdomen, likely from an appendectomy, and an old puncture wound on his shoulder as if he’d once been shot. She checked between his toes and fingers and checked the veins in his arms and inner thighs for signs of needle marks, but found none.

She lifted one of the victim’s hands and studied the fingers, now blue at the cuticles. “Nancy, do you have paper?”

“Sure, Dr. McIntyre,” Nancy said.

Faith scraped under three intact nails, and Nancy held the sheet of clean paper under the hand. Several scrapings fell onto the paper. “Maybe we got lucky and he clawed his attacker.”

Faith rolled ink on the fingertips and pressed them to fingerprint cards. Hayden had made a visual identification, but forensic proof was also necessary.

“Ledbetter has worked with Crow for almost two years doing odd work around the salvage yard,” Hayden said.

“Did he have anything to offer about the patient’s health?” Faith asked.

“He said Crow had been slowing down the last few months, but that the old man never complained.”

Faith reached for her scalpel and made a Y-incision that began above his pectoral muscles and went straight down his abdomen. She peeled back the flesh, reached for bone cutters, and snapped the ends of the ribcage so she could lift it away. She unpacked the organs, weighed them, and set them aside.

She noticed his enlarged heart immediately, and when she removed it from the body and dissected it, she found several severely blocked arteries. The right ventricle was badly discolored, as if blood flow had suddenly been stopped. His lungs had several lesions, and by feeling around in his abdominal cavity, she discovered a hard mass behind his stomach. She removed the stomach to reveal a tumor on the pancreas that she’d bet a paycheck was cancerous. Jack Crow had been a dead man walking for some time.

“He would have been in terrible discomfort,” Faith said. “I’m surprised he didn’t get the prescription for painkillers filled.”

“Ledbetter said Crow passed out about six weeks ago, and he drove the old man to the doctor. The doctor wanted to run tests, but Crow refused.” Hayden drew in a slow, steady breath. “Crow knew time was running out, and he knew he had a conscience to clear.”

“Maybe,” Faith said.

She continued to examine and weigh the organs, and when she’d inspected them all, she repacked them into the body and sutured the Y-incision.

“His heart failed,” she said. “But clearly the torture, given his weakened state of health, triggered heart failure. I’m ruling this a homicide.” Homicide didn’t always mean murder, simply death at the hands of another human. Her ruling gave Hayden the green light to find the killer.

“Forensic technicians have pulled dozens of fingerprints from the trailer, but no telling who they belong to.” His intense gaze softened a fraction. “I appreciate you working this case into your schedule this afternoon. I’ll keep you posted.”

“Thanks. I’d like to know what happened.”

“Mr. David Ledbetter is here to view the body,” Nancy said. “He also wants to see you, Dr. McIntyre.”

“Legally there’s not a lot I can say to him about the state of the body because he’s not family, but I’ll speak with him,” Faith said. “Nancy, can you get Mr. Crow ready for a viewing?”


“Captain, would you like to join me?” Faith asked.

“I would,” he said.

“Give me a moment to clean up and change.” She glanced up at the clock, knowing she was now officially late for a fundraiser. “I’ve got to get out of these scrubs. Give me fifteen minutes.”


Faith left the autopsy room, tugging off her gloves and the gown covering her scrubs. She moved into the locker room, but when she reached for the combination lock to her locker, her hand paused and it took another attempt before she could align the tumblers. The lock clicked open, and, grabbing her towel and soap, she headed to the shower. She ducked under the hot spray, washed quickly, toweled off, and dressed in the dark slacks, white silk blouse, and heels she’d worn to work that morning. She unpinned her hair, ran a brush through it, letting the ends fall onto her shoulders, and slid on her jacket. Ten minutes later she joined Hayden in the hallway, and they walked together down to the interview room.

A slim man who looked to be in his early twenties rose as they entered. He wore dirty jeans, a faded blue T-shirt, and boots that looked almost as old as him. His hair was long and pulled back into a ponytail.

Faith extended her hand to him. “I’m Dr. Faith McIntyre.”

Ledbetter took Faith’s hand, gripping with a strength that belied long, thin fingers. “I only got a glimpse of Crow, but he looked pretty torn up.”

“I know you were rattled yesterday,” Hayden said. “Have you had a chance to think about who might have wanted to hurt Crow?”

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