Darac was thankful for his mask as he entered the exam tent. ‘Professor Bianchi here, Lami?’
‘No, she isn’t.’ The lab assistant’s smile was a transparent attempt to appear upbeat. ‘She assigned the case to Dr Barrau.’
‘Right.’ It sounded more professional than ‘shit’.
‘Careful where you’re walking there, sir. We haven’t examined that yet.’
Darac looked down. At his feet was an empty champagne bottle, lying forlornly on its side like a spent firework. ‘Many at the party?’
‘There was only one glass. That’s about all we know at the moment.’
‘It’s not a pretty sight, Captain.’
Fifteen years of shootings, stabbings, beatings and stranglings had all but immunised Darac against the grotesque but a wave of nausea broke in his stomach when he looked into the hot tub. Hideously bloated, the corpse appeared to be made of patched green rubber. The left arm had been chewed off at the shoulder, the right at the elbow. But strangely, the tongue, protruding from the maw like the end of a good boudin noir, had remained untouched. The dogs or foxes or rats of Chemin Leuze had missed a trick. Darac shook his head. Drowning and mutilation. What a coda to the evening.
‘At least she didn’t catch fire as well,’ he said, to no one in particular. Although if she had, it would at least have taken care of some of the insect life. If the sight was bad, the smell might have been worse: a sweetish, rancid stench that before the introduction of forensic overalls would have stayed on his clothes for hours. He turned to the white-suited figure bent low over the mess. ‘Barrau. Care to offer an opinion?’
The pathologist’s long, lancet-thin fingers stopped moving all at once. Maintaining an imperious silence, he waited a moment before resuming his work.
‘Thank you, Doctor.’ It sounded more professional than ‘arsehole’.
Senior crime scene analyst Raul Ormans was examining the hot tub itself. A man who usually took his time, his hands were moving like an assembly-line worker on piece rate.
‘Hot tub works.’ He handed a stack of bagged-up CDs to an assistant. ‘We’ll run further tests on it in the lab tomorrow.’ His gloves slapped the air as he pulled them off. ‘Now I’m going home.’ He marched away. ‘And I mean now.’
‘Hey, nobody wants to be here.’ Darac risked another glance at the bag of stinking green matter that was the corpse. ‘Especially her.’