Digital Fortress Chapter 14

Digital Fortress Chapter 14

Becker gazed down at the cadaver. Even hours after death, the Asian’s face radiated with a pinkish glow of a recent sunburn. The rest of him was a pale yellow-all except the small area of purplish bruising directly over his heart.

Probably from the CPR, Becker mused. Too bad it didn’t work.

He went back to studying the cadaver’s hands. They were like nothing Becker had ever seen. Each hand had only three digits, and they were twisted and askew. The disfigurement, however, was not what Becker was looking at.

“Well, I’ll be.” The lieutenant grunted from across the room. “He’s Japanese, not Chinese.”

Becker looked up. The officer was thumbing through the dead man’s passport. “I’d rather you didn’t look at that,” Becker requested. Touch nothing. Read nothing.

“Ensei Tankado… born January-“

“Please,” Becker said politely. “Put it back.”

The officer stared at the passport a moment longer and then tossed it back on the pile. “This guy’s got a class-3 visa. He could have stayed here for years.”

Becker poked at the victim’s hand with a pen. “Maybe he lived here.”

“Nope. Date of entry was last week.”

“Maybe he was moving here,” Becker offered curtly.

“Yeah, maybe. Crummy first week. Sunstroke and a heart attack. Poor bastard.”

Becker ignored the officer and studied the hand. “You’re positive he wasn’t wearing any jewelry when he died?”

The officer looked up, startled. “Jewelry?”

“Yeah. Take a look at this.”

The officer crossed the room.

The skin on Tankado’s left hand showed traces of sunburn, everywhere except a narrow band of flesh around the smallest finger.

Becker pointed to the strip of pale flesh. “See how this isn’t sunburned here? Looks like he was wearing a ring.”

The officer seemed surprised. “A ring?” His voice sounded suddenly perplexed. He studied the corpse’s finger. Then he flushed sheepishly. “My God.” He chuckled. “The story was true?”

Becker had a sudden sinking feeling. “I beg your pardon?”

The officer shook his head in disbelief. “I would have mentioned it before… but I thought the guy was nuts.”

Becker was not smiling. “What guy?”

“The guy who phoned in the emergency. Some Canadian tourist. Kept talking about a ring. Babbling in the worst damn Spanish I ever heard.”

“He said Mr. Tankado was wearing a ring?”

The officer nodded. He pulled out a Ducado cigarette, eyed the no fumar sign, and lit up anyway. “Guess I should have said something, but the guy sounded totally loco.”

Becker frowned. Strathmore’s words echoed in his ears. I want everything Ensei Tankado had with him. Everything. Leave nothing. Not even a tiny scrap of paper.

“Where is the ring now?” Becker asked.

The officer took a puff. “Long story.”

Something told Becker this was not good news. “Tell me anyway.”