Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs by Patricia Cornwell Read Free Book Online

Book: Isle of Dogs by Patricia Cornwell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Patricia Cornwell
outrageous hijackings and assaults—not on speeding! Andy, I need your help with this. We’ve got to figure out what to do.”
    “There’s only one thing to do,” he said as he typed. “I’ll go to Tangier Island myself and paint a speed trap and see what the response is. Better I should do it than someone else, and I can use Trooper Truth to counter any negativity directed at you and the state police, and I’ll show the public what a bad idea VASCAR is, and maybe the governor will drop the damn program and let us work real crimes. All I need is a couple cans of reflective, fast-drying paint, a brush, a helicopter, and a little time to appropriately revise tomorrow’s essay on mummies.”
    “What the hell do mummies have to do with anything?” Hammer protested.

M UMMIES
    by Trooper Truth
     
    Like most people, I grew up watching mummies in horror films. Having done a lot of archaeological research of late, I can tell you, the reader, that these terrifying depictions of a living dead person bound in strips of cloth aren’t accurate—or fair.
    Mummies can’t hurt us unless they spread an infectious disease from antiquity, which isn’t likely, although I suspect you could suffer an adverse respiratory reaction after inhaling layers of dust in a creepy, cold place. I suppose you could injure yourself while looking for a mummy or find yourself lost deep inside a pyramid and die of thirst and starvation, or you could certainly encounter a grave robber and get into a violent altercation.
    In death investigation, the term mummy refers to a dead person whose body has been exposed to extreme cold or aridness. Instead of decomposing, the body dries out and can remain in this state of preservation for decades or hundreds of years. This type of mummy, which typically shows up in cellars or the desert, is not a true mummy, but you can rest assured that anthropologists and others will refer to dried-out bodies as mummified because the term is here to stay. I will admit that it probably sounds better for an expert witness to say a victim was mummified than to admit that the poor soulwas shriveled up and dried out and looked like a skeleton covered with shoe leather.
    The word mummy is derived from the Arabic word for bitumen, which in the original Persian form meant wax. So mummy is a substance such as bitumen, which is a type of asphalt used in Asia Minor, and a mummy is a person or animal that has been preserved by artificial means, although it would not be accurate in modern times to refer to an embalmed body as a mummy. The reason for this is simple. Bodies embalmed with formaldehyde are not necessarily well preserved. If you dig up an embalmed body a hundred years later, depending on where it was buried, you are probably going to find that the dead person isn’t as well preserved as a thousand-year-old Egyptian mummy.
    In our society, we do not fill the embalmed person’s belly with pure myrrh, cassia, and other perfumes, nor do we stuff bitumen into the limbs or steep the body in the mineral natron for seventy days before tightly binding it in strips of flaxen cloth that are then smeared with gum, which is what the Egyptians often used instead of glue. A modern embalmed body is not placed inside a human-shaped wooden case that is leaned up against a wall inside a cool, dry sepulcher.
    I’m not saying that you couldn’t preserve your dead loved one in this ancient manner, assuming you are able to find a trained scribe to mark the body for the embalming incision and then a practitioner called a ripper up to assist with a sharp Ethiopian stone before he flees because the Egyptians considered it a crime for anyone to physically violate the dead, even if the ripper up was legitimately hired to do so, according to the Greek historian Diodorus. And assuming you’re willing to pay for it, a deluxe embalming in the Egyptian fashion costs about one talent of silver, which is approximately four hundred U.S. dollars, depending

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