No Mardi Gras for the Dead

No Mardi Gras for the Dead

by D.J. Donaldson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781941286357
Publisher: House of Stratus, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/15/2018
Series: The Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn Mysteries , #3
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 250
Sales rank: 68,234
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

D.J. “Don” Donaldson was born in 1940 and is now a retired professor of anatomy and neurobiology. He holds a PhD in human anatomy and his entire academic career was spent at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where he published dozens of papers on wound-healing, and taught microscopic anatomy to thousands of medical and dental students.
 
Donaldson lives in Memphis, Tennessee, and is the author of five medical thrillers and seven forensic mysteries, the latter featuring the hugely overweight and equally brilliant New Orleans medical examiner, Andy Broussard, and his gorgeous psychologist sidekick, Kit Franklyn. Of these, it has been said that they contain “lots of Louisiana color, pinpoint plotting and two highly likable characters,” whilst the Los Angeles Times states “the autopsies are detailed enough to make Patricia Cornwell fans move farther south for their forensic fixes . . . Splendidly eccentric local denizens, authentic New Orleans and bayou backgrounds.”
D.J. “Don” Donaldson was born in 1940 and is now a retired professor of anatomy and neurobiology. He holds a PhD in human anatomy and his entire academic career was spent at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where he published dozens of papers on wound-healing, and taught microscopic anatomy to thousands of medical and dental students.
 
Donaldson lives in Memphis, Tennessee, and is the author of five medical thrillers and seven forensic mysteries, the latter featuring the hugely overweight and equally brilliant New Orleans medical examiner, Andy Broussard, and his gorgeous psychologist sidekick, Kit Franklyn. Of these, it has been said that they contain “lots of Louisiana color, pinpoint plotting and two highly likable characters,” whilst the Los Angeles Times states “the autopsies are detailed enough to make Patricia Cornwell fans move farther south for their forensic fixes . . . Splendidly eccentric local denizens, authentic New Orleans and bayou backgrounds.”
 

Read an Excerpt

No Mardi Gras for the Dead


By D. J. Donaldson

Astor + Blue Editions

Copyright © 2014 DJ DONLADSON
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-941286-35-7


CHAPTER 1

The night air was warm and humid, but her skin was pebbly with gooseflesh. Usually talkative and outgoing, tonight she lay quietly, almost pensively, her back to the stars, her face turned to the side. A fly hummed out of the darkness and landed. It briefly explored the surface of her cloudy cornea, then began to tuck its eggs into the corner of her eye. Her respiration had ceased many hours earlier, but enzymes were still functioning, acting now without direction, turning on the organs they once served. One life had ended, but millions reaped the benefits, finding passage into previously forbidden chambers where in mindless celebration they multiplied.

She was lifted from the grass and dropped into a hole in the earth, her rigidity requiring the same fit she once demanded of her clothing. Then the dirt ... filling ... covering ... hiding ...

With the sun, life spilled into the streets and the ground warmed. Though it was cool below, her red cells eventually gave up their hemoglobin, which seeped from her vessels, staining her once-blemish-free skin with reddish brown trails. A shower brought smiles to the lips of the living, but also summoned forth delicate mycelial threads from germinating mold spores that began digesting her clothing.

Days passed into weeks and the gases came, lifting the dirt, creating pressures that rearranged ... pushed ... expelled. In life, she had been desired by many. In death, she was sought by more and they came to her, embraced her and became one with her. Then as the weeks blended into months, their ardor waned and one by one they left her, until she was very much alone.


* * *

Yikes! She had forgotten Bubba.

Kit hurried down the hall and nudged the kitchen door open. Predictably, a small black nose appeared in the crack.

She slipped her hand inside and grabbed Lucky, the owner of the nose, by the collar. "Oh yes, you little varmint, you'd like to get into the new varnish, wouldn't you?"

When she was safely into the kitchen with the door shut behind her, she let the little dog go. He responded by scampering happily about the room, his claws clacking on the linoleum like a little flop-eared flamenco dancer.

Watermelon. That's why she had come inside ... to get Bubba a piece of melon.

She washed her hands at the sink and looked out the window at Bubba Oustellette, hard at work digging the holes for the posts that would support the rose trellis in the center of her planned rose garden. Bubba was dressed as usual, in navy blue coveralls and a matching T-shirt. On his head was a dark green baseball cap bearing the logo of an ocean wave showing its teeth and carrying a football.

Poor Bubba. The posthole digger was bigger than he was and he was sweating terribly. She got the watermelon from the fridge and cut it in half. She lopped off a thick circle, put it on a dinner plate, and stuck a fork in the center, about all the culinary ability or inclination any kitchen was likely to see from her. On the way out, Lucky darted into the yard.

Bubba looked as though he'd taken a shower with his clothes on—his dark hair hanging in wet ropes from under his cap, his shirt sticking to him like a coat of blue paint. In the future, she was going to have to be more careful. She had merely asked whether he knew anyone she could hire to build a rose trellis and he had volunteered to do it for nothing. And she hadn't been able to talk him out of it. Now, here he was, giving up his Saturday and courting heatstroke, as well.

"How about a little break, Bubba?"

Bubba chunked the digger into the hole and grinned through his bushy black beard. "Ah don' need no coaxin' for dat," the little Cajun said, taking off his cap and wiping his forehead with his arm.

"Come on, sit over here in the shade and see if this melon is as good as it looks. Or, if you like, we can go inside where it's cool."

"Out here is okay."

Kit led Bubba to a pair of folding lawn chairs under a young pin oak, where Bubba didn't want to sit until she did.

"Bubba, get in that chair."

Sheepishly, he did as she ordered. "Ah think you got a little Gramma O in you," he said, taking the plate and the salt Kit held out to him.

Grandma O operated the restaurant where Kit usually ate lunch. She was Grandmother only to Bubba, but everyone called her Grandma O, mostly because that's what she called herself on the restaurant's sign and menu.

"A little of Grandma O? I'll consider that a compliment," Kit said. "Well, Ah hope you don' let it mushroom, cause Ah got all Ah can handle with da original."

Bubba sprinkled his melon with salt and stored the shaker in the chest pocket of his coveralls. He carved a large piece from the melon's seedless center, then paused. "Ain't you havin' any?"

"Maybe in a minute," Kit said, enjoying the feeling of sitting under her own oak in her own backyard. The yard was small but was given a nice sense of privacy by the unusually tall cypress fence that a previous owner had put up.

The yard itself wasn't much to look at now: a carpet of mangy Bermuda; some scraggly privet on each side of the back door in beds lined with three different shades of brick set in the ground to resemble the teeth on a saw, and, of course, those awful clothesline poles and all that cement around them.

She looked at Bubba, intending to ask his advice on methods for removel of the poles but realized he'd just want to help with that as well. What she needed was a ...

Lord. She put her hand to her eyes in disbelief. For an instant, she had imagined she needed a husband. She looked warily at the house, alert now to a danger in its purchase that hadn't occurred to her before. She didn't need a husband. She didn't need a man at all. She stood up. "Bubba, I want to dig the next hole. I'm going inside to change. Keep an eye on Lucky for me while I'm inside, will you? He likes to dig and I'm afraid he might try to go under the fence."

"He's good at it, too," Bubba said, pointing.

Looking behind her, Kit saw Lucky's front paws churning at the pile of dirt beside the hole Bubba had been working on. The little dog shoved his muzzle into the cavity he'd made and pulled out something white, which he dragged a few feet to the side. He lay down and began chewing on it.

Afraid that it might be something harmful, Kit hurried toward him. "No! Bad dog! Bad dog!"

Lucky's ears lifted and he looked at Kit with big round eyes that said, playtime.

She leaned down to take the object from him, but he snatched it up and darted off. Lucky ran with abandon, leaping over the lumber Bubba had brought and making a three-quarter circle around the yard. He dropped to his belly, with the object between his paws and watched to see whether Kit would come after him.

"Bubba, I'm going to need some help here."

Bubba put his plate under his chair and circled around behind the oak while Kit closed in from the front. Lucky's eyes darted back and forth between them as he triangulated their approach.

Having grown up around animals of all kinds and knowing them well, Bubba was aware that Lucky would not let him get much closer. So he flung himself into the air, covering the last few feet in a daring surprise maneuver.

When Bubba hit, driving the salt shaker into his sternum, Lucky was ten feet away, his legs a blur as he ran, the object firmly between his teeth.

It was far too hot to play this game and Kit was about ready to get the hose after the dog, when he dropped the object and went after a blue jay that had landed near the fence. Kit hurried to the object and bent down for a closer look. Despite the bright sun beating on her back, she went gray and cold inside.

"What is it?" Bubba said, getting to his feet.

"Part of a jawbone," Kit said.

"Somebody's buried pet?"

"If it is, it's been to the dentist."

CHAPTER 2

"Over here," Kit said, leading her boss, Andy Broussard, chief medical examiner for Orleans Parish to the fragment of jawbone that Lucky had found. Despite the heat and the fact it was the weekend, Broussard was dressed for the office: slacks, short-sleeved white shirt with a bow tie, and mesh shoes, which, as he was fond of pointing out, were the only kind that kept his feet from sweating. Though they usually did not carry shoes in such a small size, the Big Man's Shop on Canal, where Broussard bought his clothes, was more than happy to special order them for him.

"That's it," Kit said, pointing to the ground.

Emitting a sound like a tire that had just run over a nail, Broussard bent down and picked up the fragment. He tilted his head to bring the bone into line with the part of his glasses he used for close work and studied the fragment, turning it in his small hand. Surprisingly, he put it to his nose and sniffed it. "Which hole?" he asked.

"That one," Kit replied, pointing.

"Bubba, hold this." Broussard gave the fragment to Bubba, who took it without enthusiasm.

With Kit and Bubba close behind, Broussard walked over to the hole, removed the posthole digger, and used it as a support while he peered into the earth. The sun, now directly overhead, gave him all the light he needed.

"A few inches to the right and we might never have known anything was down there," he said.

"Then there's more?" Kit asked. Though part of her had known with certainty that there would be more, that this was not simply going away, she had been tending a small flame of hope that the dirt in her yard had been trucked in from some other place ... hope that the rest of the remains belonging with the fragment in Bubba's hand had already been discovered long ago ... that this was old business ... someone else's business.

"Oh, yes, there's definitely more," Broussard said.

Suddenly, Kit found the midday sun unbearable. She fanned herself with her hand, her stomach turning sour.

As uncomfortable as Kit was in the heat, she had to believe that with all the weight Broussard carried around and that beard, he had to feel worse than she did. But if he did, he didn't show it. In fact, he seemed downright cheerful.

"So what have we got?" a voice said from behind Kit.

It was Phil Gatlin, ranking detective with the violent crimes squad.

"Hello, Phillip," Broussard said. "Kit and Bubba found part of a human mandible in this hole. Show him Bubba."

Bubba held up the bone and years evaporated from Gatlin's heavily lined face.

"Male or female?" Gatlin asked.

"Can't tell. If we had the whole jaw, I could make an educated guess. But even then there'd be ..."

"The rest of it down there?"

"Looks like it."

"How old?"

"You askin' the age of the deceased?"

"No. How long's it been down there?"

"Quite a while."

"Jesus, Andy, anybody'd think you were getting paid by the question. Three months? A year?"

"Didn't have any smell, so I'd say at least a year."

Gatlin's shoulders dropped and the years that had left his face moments earlier returned. "Nuts," he said, punctuating his disappointment with a quick nod of his head. Hands on hips, he looked away and muttered to himself. "Nuts ... nuts ... nuts." He turned back to the group. "Who actually found it?"

"To be strictly accurate, I guess Lucky did," Kit said.

"Who's Lucky?"

"My dog."

"Oh no. You're not putting this off on a dog. I want human responsibility here, somebody I can get an apology from."

"For what?"

"Three months ago, a can picker found two human ears in a Styrofoam burger box in a trash bin in Jackson Square. Male ears. Now that tells me there's a body somewhere waiting to be discovered. And if there's a body, there's a murderer. I don't like murderers. But I can't do anything about this one until I find the body. So, when Andy called, I thought this was the break I was hoping for. Now, instead of helping me solve an existing problem, you've given me a new one." Gatlin shook his head, then looked at Broussard. "Did you call French?"

Broussard nodded.

"What'd she say? When will she be here?"

Broussard looked over Gatlin's shoulder. "There she is now."

Coming toward them was a woman wearing loose khakis, a long-sleeved white shirt with the tails tied at her waist, and heavy work shoes. Her blond hair was tied back in a bun.

"You got here quick," Broussard said.

"I was just sitting around the house wishing for a reason to get dirty," the woman said. "Hello, Phillip. How're things?"

"Not as good as they were earlier."

Broussard made the introductions. "Victoria, this is Kit Franklyn. Kit is my suicide investigator. She also does psychological profiling for the violent crimes squad. Kit, Victoria is our consulting forensic anthropologist."

Victoria French's handshake was firm and her skin was softer than Kit would have imagined for someone who did a lot of digging. She looked to be in her early forties. Despite her unglamorous getup, Kit could tell that French would be a knockout dressed up, the kind of mature beauty that would turn any man's head. The fact she wore no rings solidified the instant bond Kit felt with her, because in Victoria French, she saw herself in ten years, or at least what she hoped she'd be: single, no family burdens, a competent professional that could still get a man's attention when she wanted it.

"And this is Bubba Oustellette," Broussard said. "Bubba runs the NOPD vehicle impoundment station and keeps all my cars runnin'."

Though Broussard had said nothing particularly complimentary, Bubba blushed as he wiped his palm on his coveralls before taking French's offered hand.

"Bubba's got the reason we called you," Broussard said.

Bubba gave her the fragment of bone. She examined it briefly, sniffed it, and said, "Been buried at least a year. From one of those holes?"

"That one," Broussard said, pointing.

"How far down?"

"'Bout three feet." For Kit and Bubba's benefit, he added, "Rare to find a body buried any deeper. Too much work."

"Any hints as to orientation?" French asked.

Broussard shook his head.

French looked at Kit. "I'm afraid we're going to have to do some digging. We'll try to take up the grass in sections so it can be put back, but I can't promise how effective we'll be."

"This whole area is eventually going to be a rose bed," Kit said. "So it really doesn't matter."

French turned and started for the driveway. At the same time, a slightly built young man with a long, narrow face came through the gate, two cameras around his neck and a folding table in one hand.

"That's Allen, my graduate assistant," French said. "Over here, Allen."

French and Allen set up the table about fifteen feet from the hole that had produced the bone fragment. Allen put his cameras on the table and they both went back to the driveway, to reappear a few minutes later heavily laden with equipment. They put everything on the ground next to the table and began erecting an open-sided canvas tent over the area where they would be working.

While French and Allen put up the tent, Broussard went to their supplies and picked up a metal pole with a T-shaped handle. He showed it to French and said, "Mind if I go fishin'?"

"Don't hurt yourself," French said.

Broussard came back to the small group waiting. "Kit, you object to me makin' a few small holes in your yard?"

"No, why?"

"That's what I want to know," Gatlin said. "We're already going to have one set of remains to identify. Why do you want to go looking for more?"

"Guess I'm just irresponsible."

"It's going to be a while before French has anything to look at," Gatlin said. "So, I'm going to follow up a lead or two on some other cases. I'll be back later for an update. And I don't want to see her starting any more excavations. Kit, Bubba ... I'm not going to forget this."

When Gatlin was out of earshot, Kit said, "Surely he wasn't serious."

Broussard shook his head. "If I hadn't volunteered to fish the lawn, he'd be doin' it himself."

"What do you mean, 'fish the lawn'?"

"I'll push this rod into the ground and look for places where below the plow line the soil is relatively loose."

"And the plow line is ..."

"The first six to eight inches of dirt."

"Hope you don't find anything."

"Me, too."

"Mind if Ah tag along?" Bubba asked.

"Not at all."

"But if we find anything, you gotta tell Lieutenant Gatlin dat Ah had nothin' to do with it."

Watching Broussard and Bubba work their way around the yard, Kit remembered old stories in the paper of bodies by the score being discovered in somebody's basement up north. To get her mind off what Broussard was doing, she went over to where French was watching Allen remove sod.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from No Mardi Gras for the Dead by D. J. Donaldson. Copyright © 2014 DJ DONLADSON. Excerpted by permission of Astor + Blue Editions.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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