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...)
Benton said, "He definitely won't leave before you get here."
"I don't understand why he's there," she was going to let that go.
"We're not entirely sure. But in a nutshell? When the cops arrived at the scene, he insisted on being transported to Bellevue..."
"Oscar Bane. He said the only person he'd allow to conduct the psychological exam was me. So I was called, and you know, I left immediately for New York. He's afraid of doctors. Gets panic attacks."
"How did he know who you are?"
"Because he knows who you are."
"He knows who I am?"
"The cop have his clothes, but he says if they want any evidence collected from him physicallyand there's no warrant, as I keep emphasizingit will have to be you who does it. We hoped he'd calm down, agree to let a local ME take care of him. Never going to happen. He's more adamant than ever. Says he's terrified of doctors. Has odynephobia, dishabiliophobia."
"He's afraid of pain and taking his clothes off?"
"And caligynephobia. Fear of beautiful women."
"I see. So that's why he'd feel safe with me."
"That part was supposed to be funny. He thinks you're beautiful, and he's definitely not afraid of you. I'm the one who should be afraid."
That was the truth of the matter. Benton didn't want her here. He didn't even want her in New York right now.
"Let me make sure I understand. Jaime Berger wants me to fly there in a snowstorm, examine a patient on a prison ward who hasn't been charged with a crime"
"If you can get out of Boston, the weather's fine here. Just cold." Benton looked out his window and saw nothing by gray.
"Let me finish up with my Army Reservist sergeant who was a casualty in Iraq but didn't know it until he got home. And I'll see you mid-afternoon," she said.
"Fly safe. I love you."
Benton hung up, started tapping the down arrow again, then the up arrow, reading and re-reading, as though if he read the anonymous gossip column often enough, it wouldn't seem to offensive, so ugly, so hateful. "Sticks and stone," Scarpetta always said. Maybe that was true in grammar school, but not in their adult lives. Words could hurt. They could hurt badly. What kind of monster would write something like this? How did the monster find out?
He reached for the phone.
Scarpetta paid scant attention to Bryce as he drove her to Logan International Airport. He'd been talking nonstop about one thing or another ever since picking her up at her house.
Mainly, he'd been complaining about Dr. Jack Fielding, reminding her yet again that returning to the past was like a dog returning to its own vomit. Or Lot's wife looking back and turning into a pillar of salt. Bryce's biblical analogies were endless and irritating and had nothing to do with his religious beliefs, assuming he had any, but were leftover pearls from a college term paper he'd done on the Bible as literature.
Her administrative assistant's point was you don't hire people from your past. Fielding was from Scarpetta's past. He'd had his problems, but then who hadn't? When she had accepted the position up here and had started looking for a deputy chief, she wondered what Fielding was doing, tracked him down, and found out he wasn't doing much.
Benton's input had been unusually toothless, maybe even patronizing, which made more sense to her now. He'd said she was looking for stability, and often people move backwards instead of forward when they are overwhelmed by change. Feeling the desire to hire someone she'd known since the early days of her career was understandable, Benton had said. But the danger in looking back was that we saw only what we wanted to see, he'd added. We saw what made us feel safe.