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...)
What Benton had chosen to avoid is why she didn't feel safe to begin with. He hadn't wanted to get within range of how she really felt about her domestic life with him, which was as chaotic and dissonant as it had ever been. Since their relationship began with an adulterous affair more than fifteen years ago, they'd never lived in the same place, didn't know the meaning of day-to-day togetherness, until last summer. Theirs had been a very simple ceremony in the garden behind her carriage house in Charleston, South Carolina, where she'd just set up a private practice that she then was forced to close.
Afterward, they'd moved to Belmont, Massachusetts to be near his psychiatric hospital, McLean, and her new headquarters in Watertown, where she'd accepted the position of chief medical examiner of the Commonwealth's Northeastern District. Because of their proximity to New York, she thought it a fine idea for them to accept John Jay College of Criminal Justice's invitation to serve as visiting lecturers there, which included offering pro bono consultation for the NYPD, the New York Medical Examiner's office, and forensic psychiatric units such as the one at Bellevue.
"...I know it's not the sort of thing you'd look at or maybe even be a big deal to you, but at the risk of pissing you off, I'm going to point it out." Bryce's voice penetrated her preoccupations.
She said, "What big deal?"
"Well, hello? Don't mind me. I was just talking to myself."
"I'm sorry. Rewind the tape."
"I didn't say anything after the staff meeting because I didn't want to distract you from all the shit going on this morning. Thought I'd wait until you were done and we could have a little heart-to-heart behind your closed door. And since nobody's said anything to me, I don't think they saw it. Which is good, right? As if Jack isn't pissy enough this morning. Of course, he's always pissy, which is why he has eczema and alopecia. And by the way, did you see the crusty lesion behind his right ear? Home for the holidays. Does wonders for the nerves."
"How much coffee have you had today?"
"Why is it always me? Kill the messenger. You zone out until what I'm trying to convey reaches critical mass, and then ka-boom, and I'm the bad guy, and bye-bye messenger. If you're going to be in New York more than a night, please let me know a-sap so I can get coverage. Should I set up some sessions with that trainer you like so much? What's his name?"
Bryce thought, touching a finger to his lips.
"Kit," he answered himself. "Maybe one of these days when you need me as your boy Friday in New York, he can have a go at me. Love handles."
He pinched his waist.
"Although I hear liposuction's the only thing that works once you turn thirty," he said. "Truth serum time?"
He glanced over at her, his hands gesturing as if they were something alive and not part of him.
"I did look him up on the Internet," he confessed. "I'm surprised Benton lets him anywhere near you. Reminds me of, of what's-his-name on Queer as Folk? The football star? Drove a Hummer and quite the homophobe until he hooked up with Emmett, who everyone says looks just like me, or the other way around, since he's the one who's famous. Well, you probably don't watch it."
Scarpetta said, "Kill the messenger because of what? And please keep at least one hand on the wheel since we're driving in a blizzard. How many shots did you get in your Starbucks this morning? I saw two Venti cups on your desk. Hopefully not both of them from this morning. Remember our talk about caffeine? That it's a drug, and therefore addictive?"
"You're the whole damn thing," Bryce went on. "Which I've never seen before. It's really weird. Usually it's not just one famous person, you know? Because whoever the columnist is, he roams around the city like some undercover asshole, and shits on a lot of celebs at once. The other week, it was Bloomberg, and, oh, what's her name? That model always getting arrested for throwing things at people? Well, this time she was what got thrownout of Elaine's for saying something lewd to Charlie Rose. No, wait a minute. Barbara Walters? No. I'm crossing over into something I saw on The View. Maybe what's-her-name the model went after that singer from American Idol. No, he was on Ellen, not in Elaine's. And not Clay Aiken or Kelly Clarkson. Who's the other one? TiVo's simply killing me. It's like the remote surfs through channels when you're not touching anything. You ever have that happen?"
Snow was like a swarm of white gnats hitting the windshield, the wipers hypnotically useless. Traffic was slow but steady, Logan just a few minutes out.
"Bryce?" Scarpetta said in the tone she used when she was warning him to shut up and answer her question. "What big deal?"
"That disgusting online gossip column. Gotham Gotcha."
She'd seen ads for it on New York City buses and taxicab tops, the anonymous columnist notoriously vicious. The guessing game of who was behind it ranged from a nobody to a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was having great fun making mean-spirited mischief and money.
"Nas-ty," Bryce said. "Now, I know it's supposed to be nasty, but this is nasty below the belt. Not that I read such tripe. But for obvious reasons, I have you as a Google alert. There's a photograph, which is the worst part. It's not flattering."
Reprinted from Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell by arrangement with G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright © 2008 by CEI Enterprises, Inc.