Sanjay Gupta, a slight man of medium height, had Bollywood good-looks that could turn a girl’s head and coax a coy smile. He had soft, liquid brown eyes with uncommonly long eyelashes, sadly, Kalinda Dharma noted, he was also stone cold, and very much dead. She looked down at the man as he lay in repose in the rich loamy earth beneath her booted feet. He looked to all as if he hadn’t a care in the world, eyes wide open, staring up at the vaulted canopy above them.
In the harsh glare of the sim-lites, however, it was clear Gupta’s once sallow brown skin was now an unhealthy shade, as stilled blood—having pooled—gave the skin a mottled purple-red discolouration. Ignoring the group that surrounded her, Kalinda squatted down on her haunches and reached out to touch the body. One, because she wanted to see if the skin, when pressed, turned white. And two, to feel how cool it was. In the absence of a either a pathologist, coroner, or medical examiner, she was it. Not only was she the de facto Chief of Police and—as a trained doctor—the only one qualified at the Colony to do autopsies.
Gupta was her first body.
Not only was he her first body, he know had the distinction of being the first person murdered on Mars. A distinction, she was sure, he would far rather have offered someone else, given the choice.
“Do you think you should be doing that?” Came the soft nasal sound of Ramaa Banerjee one of the seven who stood in a loose semi-circle contaminating the crime scene.
Kalinda didn’t look up but did a 180 at eye-level taking in the white-booted feet and the state of their surrounds. This whole section, she noticed with dismay, was trampled beyond all recognition. Footprints criss-crossed one another in a mess neither she, nor, she was sure, Raj Kapoor, her assistant, would be able to unravel and make sense of given several lifetimes let alone one.
“Of course she’s allowed to touch the body,” Geeta Mehra, a rotund woman in her late forties snapped, “she is the Cops after all.”
“Geeta—” The single word of censure came from Amit Rao, head bobbing like a dashboard toy, “We don’t say Cops, this isn’t American TV you know.” The young man wrung his hands, clearly distressed.
With a soft, audible sigh, Kalinda stood. This was going to be the longest day of her life as it was certainly Gupta’s shortest.