Mystery & Suspense
From America's #1 bestselling crime writers comes the extraordinary new Kay Scarpetta novel.
Leaving behind her private forensic pathology practice in Charleston, South Carolina, Kay Scarpetta accepts an assignment in New York City, where the NYPD has asked her to examine an injured man on Bellevue Hospital's psychiatric prison ward. The handcuffed and chained patient, Oscar Bane, has specifically asked for her, and when she literally has her gloved hands on him, he begins to talkand the story he has to tell turns out to be one of the most bizarre she has ever heard.
The injuries, he says, were sustained in the course of a murder . . . that he did not commit. Is Bane a criminally insane stalker who has fixed on Scarpetta? Or is his paranoid tale true, and it is he who is being spied on, followed and stalked by the actual killer? The one thing Scarpetta knows for certain is that a woman has been tortured and murderedand more violent deaths will follow. Gradually, an inexplicable and horrifying truth emerges: Whoever is committing the crimes knows where his prey is at all times. Is it a person, a government? And what is the connection between the victims?
In the days that follow, Scarpetta; her forensic psychologist husband, Benton Wesley; and her niece, Lucy, who has recently formed her own forensic computer investigation firm in New York, will undertake a harrowing chase through cyberspace and the all-too-real streets of the cityan odyssey that will take them at once to places they never knew, and much, much too close to home.
Throughout, Cornwell delivers shocking twists and turns, and the kind of cutting-edge technology that only she can provide. Once again, she proves her exceptional ability to entertain and enthrall.
Read the first chapter from Scarpetta (Continued...)
It was the same way he'd phrased it last night when she'd just gotten home from the ATM homicide scene and found him putting on his coat, headed to Logan to catch the shuttle. NYPD had a situation and needed him immediately.
"Jaime Berger's asking if you can get here," he added.
Hearing her name always unnerved Scarpetta, gave her a tightness in her chest that had nothing to do with the New York prosecutor personally. Berger would always be linked to a past that Scarpetta preferred to forget.
Benton said, "The sooner the better. Maybe the one-o'clock shuttle?"
The wall clock said it was almost ten. She'd have to finish her case, shower, change, and she'd want to stop by the house first. Food, she thought. Homemade mozzarella, chickpea soup, meatballs, bread. What else? The ricotta with fresh basil that Benton loved on homemade pizza. She'd prepared all that and more yesterday, having no idea she was about to spend New Year's Eve alone. There would be nothing to eat in their New York apartment. When Benton was by himself, he usually got take-out.
"Come straight to Bellevue," he said. "You can leave your bags in my office. I have your crime scene case ready and waiting."
She could barely hear over the rhythmic rasping of a knife being sharpened in long, aggressive sweeps. The buzzer from the bay blared, and on the closed-circuit video screen on the countertop, a dark-sleeved arm emerged from the driver's window of a white van as attendants from a delivery service buzzed.
"Can someone please get that?" Scarpetta said at the top of her voice.
On the prison-ward floor of the modern Bellevue Hospital Center, the thin wire of Benton's headset connected him to his wife some hundred and fifty miles away.
He explained that late last night a man was admitted to the forensic psychiatric unit, making the point, "Berger wants you to examine his injuries."
"What's he been charged with?" Scarpetta asked.
In the background, he could hear the indistinguishable voices, the noise of the morgueor what he wryly called her "deconstruction site."
"Nothing yet," he said. "There was a murder last night. An unusual one."
He tapped the down arrow on his keyboard, scrolling through what was on his computer screen.
"You mean there no court order for the examination?" Scarpetta's voice moved at the speed of sound.
"Not yet. But he needs to be looked at now."
"He should have been looked at already. The minute he was admitted. If there was any trace evidence, by now it's likely been contaminated or lost."
Benton kept tapping the down arrow, re-reading what was on the screen, wondering how he was going to approach her about it. He could tell by her tone that she didn't know, and he hoped like hell she didn't hear it from someone else first. Lucy Farinelli, her niece, had damn well better abide by his wish to let him handle it. Not that he was doing a good job so far.
Jaime Berger had seemed all business when she'd called him a few minutes earlier, and from that he inferred she wasn't aware of the trashy gossip on the Internet. Why he didn't say something to her while he'd had the chance, he wasn't sure. But he hadn't, and he should have. She should have been honest with Berger long before now. He should have explained everything to her almost half a year ago.
"His injuries are superficial," Benton said to Scarpetta. "He's in isolation, won't talk, won't cooperate unless you come. Berger doesn't want anyone coercing him into anything and decided the exam could wait until you got here. Since that's what he wants..."
"Since when is it about what the inmate wants?"
"PR, political reasons, and he's not an inmate, not that anybody on the ward's considered an inmate once they've been admitted. They're patients." Her nervous ramblings didn't sound like him as he heard himself talk. "As I've said, he's not been charged with any crime. There's no warrant. There's nothing. He's basically a civil admission. We can't make him stay the minimum seventy-two hours because he didn't sign a consent form, and as I said, he's not been charged with a crime, at least not yet. Maybe that will change after you've seen him. But at this moment, he can leave whenever he wants."
"You're expecting me to find something that will give the police probably cause to charge him with murder? And what do you mean he didn't sign...? Back up. This patient signed himself into a prison ward with the proviso he can walk out the door whenever he pleases?"
"I'll explain more when I see you. I'm not expecting you to find anything. No expectations, Kay. I'm just asking you to come because it's a very complicated situation. And Berger really wants you here."
"Even though he might be gone by the time I get there."
He detected the question she wasn't going to ask. He wasn't acting like the cool, unflappable forensic psychologist she had known for twenty years, but she wasn't going to point that out. She was in the morgue and she wasn't alone. She wasn't going to ask him what the hell was wrong with him.