Chapter 19


    Mount Olive was an old cemetery in West Philadelphia, the final resting place of hundreds of Civil War dead as well as of some of Philadelphia's most famous and infamous citizens.

    As with other areas of the City of Brotherly Love, including the design and layout of Benjamin Franklin Parkway with its similarity to the Champs Elysees, the concept of the pastoral graveyard was based on a Parisian model.

    Framed on three sides by residential neighborhoods, Mount Olive was bordered to the northwest by Fairmount Park. Incorporated in the mid-1800s, it was a non-sectarian graveyard that at one time had been nearly four hundred acres in area. It was established at a time when older, smaller urban graveyards, located in city blocks and alongside churches, had stood in the way of Philadelphia's booming development, and over the course of many years a number of the interred had been moved to Mount Olive. But even though the cemetery was a National Historic Landmark and on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, over the years it had become the victim of vandalism, dumping, and theft. And now, with many of the families of the dead having moved away, some areas of the graveyard had fallen into a state of disrepair.

    Jessica and Byrne stood on Kingsessing Avenue. Two sector cars were already on the scene, as well as a departmental sedan and a van from the Crime Scene Unit.

    A second team had already been dispatched to the other crime scene. The location of the second body was a parking lot in Northern Liberties. Nicci Malone would be the lead investigator on that case. Jessica and Byrne would be briefed by phone by Dana Westbrook.

    David Albrecht appeared from behind a grove of trees at the northern end of the graveyard. He shouldered his camera, took shots of the mausoleum, the grounds, the arriving personnel. After a few minutes he approached Jessica and Byrne.

    'I should have asked about this before,' he said. 'Is it okay to shoot here?'

    'I don't see why not,' Jessica said. 'As long as you hang back until CSU has done its job.'

    'I don't want to disrespect the dead.'

    'I think it's okay.'

    Albrecht looked out over the grounds. He pointed to a small monument. It was a single headstone, carved in Georgia gray granite. 'That's my father's grave,' he said. He shrugged, perhaps a bit apologetically. 'I haven't been here in a while. I guess I should probably pay a visit.'

    The three of them fell silent for a moment. Finally Byrne broke the calm. 'We're going to be here for a while, David. Take your time.'

    'Okay,' Albrecht said. 'Thanks.'

    He put the camera at his side, traversed the grounds, stopped at the monument. He crossed himself, bowed his head.

    Jessica scanned the area. On the corner, talking to a man Jessica assumed worked for the cemetery, was Josh Bontrager. When the other man left, Bontrager noticed Jessica and Byrne, waved them over.

    'What do you have?' Byrne asked.

    'Female DOA,' Bontrager said, pointing over his shoulder. Jessica could see a sheet-covered form about twenty yards away. Next to the body stood a CSU officer. Because the potential crime scene was so large, a wide area had been taped off around the body, the sheet that covered it secured with stakes driven into the ground.

    'Do we know how long the body has been here?' Byrne asked.

    'Not too long.' Bontrager took out his notepad. 'There's a service here later today, and the guy who does the digging found the body about six this morning. He said he was here late yesterday afternoon and he went by the plot, didn't see anything. So the dump occurred sometime between four yesterday afternoon and six this morning.'

    Byrne looked at the fences. 'How secure is this place?'

    'Not very secure at all,' Bontrager said. He gestured toward the area bordering the two main streets. 'I walked two sides of it when I got here. Lots of places where you can get in and not be seen. Lots of tree cover.'

    'Did the man who works here move or touch anything?'

    'He says no. As you might imagine, he's not particularly disturbed by the sight of dead bodies. But a homicide victim is another story. He said he saw the body, lit a cigarette, hit the flask of tequila he's not supposed to have, and called his boss.'

    'Did he leave the area after the call?'

    'Again, he says no. I'm inclined to believe him.'

    'Is the body near a plot?' Jessica asked.

    'Right on top of one,' Bontrager said.

    'Any ID on the victim?'

    'No,' Bontrager said. 'Not yet, anyway. I haven't done a full search of the area.'

    Byrne took another look around. 'Is this our bad guy, Josh?'

    'Oh yeah. This is our bad guy,' Bontrager replied. 'No doubt about it.'

    'All right,' Byrne said. 'Let's go look at a dead body in a cemetery.'

    The three of them walked onto the grounds, down a narrow weed- grown path between headstones that dated from the mid-1800s. Every tenth site or so had been tended to some degree, with the grass trimmed around the stone, plastic flowers placed. Most of the grave sites were criminally unkempt.

    When they reached the top of the rise Jessica glanced over her shoulder. The place was beginning to teem. She noticed that there were now a half-dozen more people, including representatives from the DA's office. The fact that the DA had a presence let the detectives know what priority these killings were being given.


    The three detectives gathered around the site. Josh Bontrager looked at Jessica, then at Byrne. He crouched down next to the body. Jessica nodded. Bontrager drew back the sheet.

    'Ah, Christ,' Byrne said. He spoke for everyone.

    As with the previous victim, the middle-aged female's body was nude, shaved clean of all hair, as was her head. Jessica immediately noticed the bruises around her ankles. She had been shackled.

    Wrapped around the victim's head was a white paper band, identical to the one that they had found wrapped around Kenneth Beckman's head. There was a red wax seal. Also identical were the blood patterns. One lateral slash to the forehead. Beneath it and to the left was another splotch, in a circular pattern. The area near the right ear was marked with blood in a figure eight.

    If these were the similarities to the condition in which Kenneth Beckman had been found, there was a difference. This victim was lying on her side, behind the grave marker. One foot was resting on top of the marker. The other leg, the left leg, was bent completely back at an impossible angle. Jessica saw the bone protruding from the victim's thigh.

    'ME's been here?' Byrne asked.

    'Not yet.'

    'Pictures taken?'

    Bontrager nodded, pointed to the CSU officer who was leaning against a nearby tree and smoking a cigarette. 'Video, too.'

    Jessica looked at the headstone. The victim's right leg extended toward the grave marker, which was half covered in debris and dead grass. The foot rested directly over the center.

    'Kevin. Give me a hand here.'

    Both detectives snapped on latex gloves. They knelt on either side of the body and gently lifted the victim's right leg, moving it just a few inches, being careful not to disturb any of the area next to the grave. They lowered the victim's leg gently. Jessica looked at the grave marker. It was not nearly as old as the ones that surrounded it, looking as though it had been positioned no more than a few years earlier. A shift in the ground had lowered it a few inches so that the marker's engraving was now covered in dirt.

    Byrne motioned to the CSU officer standing nearby, who tossed away his cigarette, walked over and took a number of additional pictures. When he was finished, Byrne took out a pocket knife and began to scrape away the mud. The first thing to be revealed was a carving, one with which Jessica was not familiar. It did not appear to be a Catholic or Christian symbol - praying hands, an angel, a crucifix. As they cleared away more dirt, Jessica thought the symbol was beginning to look like a flower, a red flower with narrow petals.

    Byrne brushed away the last of the mud and revealed that it wasn't a flower at all but rather a Chinese character. Beneath it, running vertically, were three other characters, all red.

    A few minutes later they had the bottom of the headstone cleared of dirt, and saw what they were looking for. The person interred in this space had died on March 21, 2002.

    Her name was Antoinette Chan.

    Jessica looked at Byrne, a bolt of electricity passing between them.

    Across town, a man had been found murdered, his head wrapped in a band of white paper. A man named Kenneth Beckman. Here in West Philadelphia, a second body is found, its head too wrapped in white paper. This victim, still unidentified, is found on the grave of a young woman who was also murdered.

    Murdered, it is believed, by Kenneth Beckman.

    'Let's check her hands,' Byrne said.

    Byrne lifted the victim's right hand, checked it. Nothing. He circled the body, gently lifted her left hand. There, on the index finger, was a small tattoo. Instead of a lion, this time it was a rooster.

    Jessica took a few photographs, her heart starting to race. She glanced over at Byrne. He wore an expression she had come to know well over the years, one that barely contained a cold rage.

    Byrne squatted next to the body and began to undo the paper that wrapped the victim's head.

    'Kevin, the ME's office is on the way,' Jessica said. 'You should wait.'

    'Yeah, well, I should be living in Cazumel with the Corr sisters, too,' Byrne said. 'I don't see either of these things happening.'

    Byrne gently unwrapped the victim's head, carefully removing the wax seal first and dropping it into a small evidence bag. The first thing that Jessica noticed when the paper was removed was that the laceration across the forehead, and the puncture wound, were in almost the same places as they'd been with the first victim.

    The second thing Jessica noticed was that the dead woman was Sharon Beckman.

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