A frigid wind gusted in from the East River, snatching at Dr.
Kay Scarpetta’s coat as she walked quickly along 30th Street.
It was one week before Christmas without a hint of the holidays in
what she thought of as Manhattan’s Tragic Triangle, three
vertices connected by wretchedness and death. Behind her was
Memorial Park, a voluminous white tent housing the vacuum-packed
human remains still unidentified or unclaimed from Ground Zero.
Ahead on the left was the Gothic redbrick former Bellevue
Psychiatric Hospital, now a shelter for the homeless. Across from
that was the loading dock and bay for the Office of the Chief
Medical Examiner, where a gray steel garage door was open. A truck
was backing up, more pallets of plywood being unloaded. It had been
a noisy day at the morgue, a constant hammering in corridors that
carried sound like an amphitheater. The mortuary techs were busy
assembling plain pine coffins, adult-size, infant-size, hardly able
to keep up with the growing demand for city burials at
Potter’s Field. Economy-related. Everything was.
Scarpetta already regretted the cheeseburger and fries in the
cardboard box she carried. How long had they been in the warming
cabinet on the serving line of the NYU Medical School cafeteria? It
was late for lunch, almost three p.m., and she was pretty sure she
knew the answer about the palatability of the food, but there was
no time to place an order or bother with the salad bar, to eat
healthy or even eat something she might actually enjoy. So far
there had been fifteen cases today, suicides, accidents, homicides,
and indigents who died unattended by a physician or, even sadder,
She had been at work by six a.m. to get an early start,
completing her first two autopsies by nine, saving the worst for
last --- a young woman with injuries and artifacts that were time-
consuming and confounding. Scarpetta had spent more than five hours
on Toni Darien, making meticulously detailed diagrams and notes,
taking dozens of photographs, fixing the whole brain in a bucket of
formalin for further studies, collecting and preserving more than
the usual tubes of fluids and sections of organs and tissue,
holding on to and documenting everything she possibly could in a
case that was odd not because it was unusual but because it was a
The twenty-six-year-old woman’s manner and cause of death
were depressingly mundane and hadn’t required a lengthy
postmortem examination to answer the most rudimentary questions.
She was a homicide from blunt- force trauma, a single blow to the
back of her head by an object that possibly had a multicolored
painted surface. What didn’t make sense was everything else.
When her body was discovered at the edge of Central Park, some
thirty feet off East 110th Street shortly before dawn, it was
assumed she had been jogging last night in the rain when she was
sexually assaulted and murdered. Her running pants and panties were
around her ankles, her fleece and sports bra pushed above her
breasts. A Polartec scarf was tied in a double knot tightly around
her neck, and at first glance it was assumed by the police and the
OCME’s medicolegal investigators who responded to the scene
that she was strangled with an article of her own clothing.
She wasn’t. When Scarpetta examined the body in the
morgue, she found nothing to indicate the scarf had caused the
death or even contributed to it, no sign of asphyxia, no vital
reaction such as redness or bruising, only a dry abrasion on the
neck, as if the scarf had been tied around it postmortem. Certainly
it was possible the killer struck her in the head and at some point
later strangled her, perhaps not realizing she was already dead.
But if so, how much time did he spend with her? Based on the
contusion, swelling, and hemorrhage to the cerebral cortex of her
brain, she had survived for a while, possibly hours. Yet there was
very little blood at the scene. It wasn’t until the body was
turned over that the injury to the back of her head was even
noticed, a one-and-a-half-inch laceration with significant swelling
but only a slight weeping of fluid from the wound, the lack of
blood blamed on the rain.
Scarpetta seriously doubted it. The scalp laceration would have
bled heavily, and it was unlikely a rainstorm that was intermittent
and at best moderate would have washed most of the blood out of
Toni’s long, thick hair. Did her assailant fracture her
skull, then spend a long interval with her outside on a rainy
winter’s night before tying a scarf tightly around her neck
to make sure she didn’t live to tell the tale? Or was the
ligature part of a sexually violent ritual? Why were livor and
rigor mortis arguing loudly with what the crime scene seemed to
say? It appeared she had died in the park late last night, and it
appeared she had been dead for as long as thirty- six hours.
Scarpetta was baffled by the case. Maybe she was overthinking it.
Maybe she wasn’t thinking clearly, for that matter, because
she was harried and her blood sugar was low, having eaten nothing
all day, only coffee, lots of it.
She was about to be late for the three p.m. staff meeting and
needed to be home by six to go to the gym and have dinner with her
husband, Benton Wesley, before rushing over to CNN, the last thing
she felt like doing. She should never have agreed to appear on The
Crispin Report. Why for God’s sake had she agreed to go on
the air with Carley Crispin and talk about postmortem changes in
head hair and the importance of microscopy and other disciplines of
forensic science, which were misunderstood because of the very
thing Scarpetta had gotten herself involved in --- the
entertainment industry? She carried her boxed lunch through the
loading dock, piled with cartons and crates of office and morgue
supplies, and metal carts and trollies and plywood. The security
guard was busy on the phone behind Plexiglas and barely gave her a
glance as she went past.
At the top of a ramp she used the swipe card she wore on a
lanyard to open a heavy metal door and entered a catacomb of white
subway tile with teal- green accents and rails that seemed to lead
everywhere and nowhere. When she first began working here as a
part-time ME, she got lost quite a lot, ending up at the
anthropology lab instead of the neuropath lab or the cardiopath lab
or the men’s locker room instead of the women’s, or the
decomp room instead of the main autopsy room, or the wrong walk- in
refrigerator or stairwell or even on the wrong floor when she
boarded the old steel freight elevator.
Soon enough she caught on to the logic of the layout, to its
sensible circular flow, beginning with the bay. Like the loading
dock, it was behind a massive garage door. When a body was
delivered by the medical examiner transport team, the stretcher was
unloaded in the bay and passed beneath a radiation detector over
the door. If no alarm was triggered indicating the presence of a
radioactive material, such as radiopharmaceuticals used in the
treatment of some cancers, the next stop was the floor scale, where
the body was weighed and measured. Where it went after that
depended on its condition. If it was in bad shape or considered
potentially hazardous to the living, it went inside the walk-in
decomp refrigerator next to the decomp room, where the autopsy
would be performed in isolation with special ventilation and other
If the body was in good shape it was wheeled along a corridor to
the right of the bay, a journey that could at some point include
the possibility of various stops relative to the body’s stage
of deconstruction: the x-ray suite, the histology specimen storage
room, the forensic anthropology lab, two more walk-in refrigerators
for fresh bodies that hadn’t been examined yet, the lift for
those that were to be viewed and identified upstairs, evidence
lockers, the neuropath room, the cardiac path room, the main
autopsy room. After a case was completed and the body was ready for
release, it ended up full circle back at the bay inside yet another
walk-in refrigerator, which was where Toni Darien should be right
now, zipped up in a pouch on a storage rack.
But she wasn’t. She was on a gurney parked in front of the
stainless-steel refrigerator door, an ID tech arranging a blue
sheet around the neck, up to the chin.
“What are we doing?” Scarpetta said.
“We’ve had a little excitement upstairs. She’s
going to be viewed.”
“By whom and why?”
“Mother’s in the lobby and won’t leave until
she sees her. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”
The tech’s name was Rene, mid-thirties with curly black hair
and ebony eyes, and unusually gifted at handling families. If she
was having a problem with one, it wasn’t trivial. Rene could
defuse just about anything.
“I thought the father had made the ID,” Scarpetta
“He filled out the paperwork, and then I showed him the
picture you uploaded to me --- this was right before you left for
the cafeteria. A few minutes later, the mother walks in and the two
of them start arguing in the lobby, and I mean going at it, and
finally he storms out.”
“And obviously hate each other. She’s insisting on
seeing the body, won’t take no for an answer.”
Rene’s purple nitrile-gloved hands moved a strand of damp
hair off the dead woman’s brow, rearranging several more
strands behind the ears, making sure no sutures from the autopsy
showed. “I know you’ve got a staff meeting in a few
minutes. I’ll take care of this.” She looked at the
cardboard box Scarpetta was holding. “You didn’t even
eat yet. What have you had today? Probably nothing, as usual. How
much weight have you lost? You’re going to end up in the
anthro lab, mistaken for a skeleton.”
“What were they arguing about in the lobby?”
“Funeral homes. Mother wants one on Long Island. Father
wants one in New Jersey. Mother wants a burial, but the father
wants cremation. Both of them fighting over her.” Touching
the dead body again, as if it were part of the conversation.
“Then they started blaming each other for everything you can
think of. At one point Dr. Edison came out, they were causing such
He was the chief medical examiner and Scarpetta’s boss
when she worked in the city. It was still a little hard getting
used to being supervised, having been either a chief herself or the
owner of a private practice for most of her career. But she
wouldn’t want to be in charge of the New York OCME, not that
she’d been asked or likely ever would be. Running an office
of this magnitude was like being the mayor of a major
“Well, you know how it works,” Scarpetta said.
“A dispute, and the body doesn’t go anywhere.
We’ll put a hold on her release until Legal instructs us
otherwise. You showed the mother the picture, and then
“I tried, but she wouldn’t look at it. She says she
wants to see her daughter and isn’t leaving until she
“She’s in the family room?”
“That’s where I left her. I put the folder on your
desk, copies of the paperwork.”
“Thanks. I’ll look at it when I go upstairs. You get
her on the lift, and I’ll take care of things on the other
end,” Scarpetta said. “Maybe you can let Dr. Edison
know I’m going to miss the three o’clock. In fact,
it’s already started. Hopefully I’ll catch up with him
before he heads home. He and I need to talk about this
“I’ll tell him.” Rene placed her hands on the
steel gurney’s push handle. “Good luck on TV
“Tell him the scene photos have been uploaded to him, but
I won’t be able to dictate the autopsy protocol or get those
photos to him until tomorrow.”
“I saw the commercials for the show. They’re
cool.” Rene was still talking about TV. “Except I
can’t stand Carley Crispin and what’s the name of that
profiler who’s on there all the time? Dr. Agee. I’m
sick and tired of them talking about Hannah Starr. I’m
betting Carley’s going to ask you about it.”
“CNN knows I won’t discuss active cases.”
“You think she’s dead? Because I sure do.”
Rene’s voice followed Scarpetta into the elevator.
“Like what’ s- her- name in Aruba? Natalee? People
vanish for a reason --- because somebody wanted them to.”
Scarpetta had been promised. Carley Crispin wouldn’t do
that to her, wouldn’t dare. It wasn’t as if Scarpetta
was simply another expert, an outsider, an infrequent guest, a
talking head, she reasoned, as the elevator made its ascent. She
was CNN’s senior forensic analyst and had been adamant with
executive producer Alex Bachta that she could not discuss or even
allude to Hannah Starr, the beautiful financial titan who seemingly
had vanished in thin air the day before Thanksgiving, reportedly
last seen leaving a restaurant in Greenwich Village and getting
into a yellow cab. If the worst had happened, if she was dead and
her body turned up in New York City, it would be this
office’s jurisdiction, and Scarpetta could end up with the
She got off on the first floor and followed a long hallway past
the Division of Special Operations, and through another locked door
was the lobby, arranged with burgundy and blue upholstered couches
and chairs, coffee tables and racks of magazines, and a Christmas
tree and menorah in a window overlooking First Avenue. Carved in
marble above the reception desk was Taceant colloquia. Effugiat
risus. Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae. Let
conversations cease. Let laughter depart. This is the place where
death delights to help the living. Music sounded from a radio on
the floor behind the desk, the Eagles playing “Hotel
California.” Filene, one of the security guards, had decided
that an empty lobby was hers to fill with what she called her
“. . . You can check out anytime you like, but you can
never leave,” Filene softly sang along, oblivious to the
“There should be someone in the family room?”
Scarpetta stopped at the desk.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Filene reached down, turning
off the radio. “I didn’t think she could hear from in
there. But that’s all right. I can go without my tunes.
It’s just I get so bored, you know? Sitting and sitting when
nothing’s going on.”
What Filene routinely witnessed in this place was never happy,
and that rather than boredom was likely the reason she listened to
her upbeat soft rock whenever she could, whether she was working
the reception desk or downstairs in the mortuary office. Scarpetta
didn’t care, as long as there were no grieving families to
overhear music or lyrics that might be provocative or construed as
“Tell Mrs. Darien I’m on my way,” Scarpetta
said. “I need about fifteen minutes to check a few things and
look at the paperwork. Let’s hold the tunes until she’s
Off the lobby to the left was the administrative wing she shared
with Dr. Edison, two executive assistants, and the chief of staff,
who was on her honeymoon until after the New Year. In a building
half a century old with no space to spare, there was no place to
put Scarpetta on the third floor, where the full- time forensic
pathologists had their offices. When she was in the city, she
parked herself in what was formerly the chief’s conference
room on the ground level, with a view of the OCME’s
turquoise-blue brick entrance on First Avenue. She unlocked her
door and stepped inside. She hung her coat, set her boxed lunch on
her desk, and sat in front of her computer.
Opening a Web browser, she typed BioGraph into a search field.
At the top of the screen was the query Did you mean: BioGraphy. No,
she didn’t. Biograph Records. Not what she was looking for.
American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, the oldest movie company
in America, founded in 1895 by an inventor who worked for Thomas
Edison, a distant ancestor of the chief medical examiner, not sure
how many times removed. An interesting coincidence. Nothing for
BioGraph with a capital B and a capital G, the way it was stamped
on the back of the unusual watch Toni Darien was wearing on her
left wrist when her body arrived at the morgue this morning.
It was snowing hard in Stowe, Vermont, big flakes falling heavy
and wet, piled in the branches of balsam firs and Scotch pines. The
ski lifts traversing the Green Mountains were faint spidery lines,
almost invisible in the storm and at a standstill. Nobody skiing in
this stuff, nobody doing anything except staying inside.
Lucy Farinelli’s helicopter was stuck in nearby
Burlington. At least it was safely in a hangar, but she and New
York County Assistant District Attorney Jaime Berger weren’t
going anywhere for five hours, maybe longer, not before nine p.m.,
when the storm was supposed to have cleared to the south. At that
point, conditions should be VFR again, a ceiling greater than three
thousand feet, visibility five miles or more, winds gusting up to
thirty knots out of the northeast. They’d have a hell of a
tailwind heading home to New York, should get there in time for
what they needed to do, but Berger was in a mood, had been in the
other room on the phone all day, not even trying to be nice. The
way she looked at it, the weather had trapped them here longer than
planned, and since Lucy was a pilot, it was her fault. Didn’t
matter the forecasters had been wrong, that what began as two
distinct small storms combined into one over Saskatchewan, Canada,
and merged with an arctic air mass to create a bit of a
Lucy turned down the volume of the YouTube video, Mick
Fleetwood’s drum solo for “World Turning,” live
in concert in 1987.
“Can you hear me now?” she said over the phone to
her Aunt Kay. “The signal’s pretty bad here, and the
weather isn’t helping.”
“Much better. How are we doing?” Scarpetta’s
voice in Lucy’s jawbone.
“I’ve found nothing so far. Which is
Lucy had three MacBooks going, each screen split into quadrants,
displaying Aviation Weather Center updates, data streams from
neural network searches, links prompting her that they might lead
to websites of interest, Hannah Starr’s e-mail, Lucy’s
e-mail, and security camera footage of the actor Hap Judd wearing
scrubs in the Park General Hospital morgue before he was
“You sure of the name?” she asked as she scanned the
screens, her mind jumping from one preoccupation to the next.
“All I know is what’s stamped on the steel back of
it.” Scarpetta’s voice, serious and in a hurry.
“BioGraph.” She spelled it again. “And a serial
number. Maybe it’s not going to be picked up by the usual
software that searches the Internet. Like viruses. If you
don’t already know what you’re looking for, you
won’t find it.”
“It’s not like antivirus software. The search
engines I use aren’t software-driven. I do open-source
searches. I’m not finding Bio- Graph because it’s not
on the Net. Nothing published about it. Not on message boards or in
blogs or in databases, not in anything.”
“Please don’t hack,” Scarpetta said.
“I simply exploit weaknesses in operating
“Yes, and if a back door is unlocked and you walk into
somebody’s house, it’s not trespassing.”
“No mention of BioGraph or I’d find it.” Lucy
wasn’t going to get into their usual debate about the end
justifying the means.
“I don’t see how that’s possible. This is a
very sophisticated-looking watch with a USB port. You have to
charge it, likely on a docking station. I suspect it was rather
“Not finding it if I search it as a watch or a device or
anything.” Lucy watched results rolling by, her neural net
search engines sorting through an infinity of keywords, anchor
text, file types, URLs, title tags, e-mail and IP addresses.
“I’m looking and not seeing anything even close to what
“Got to be some way to know what it is.”
“It isn’t. That’s my point,” Lucy said.
“There’s no such thing as a BioGraph watch or device,
or anything that might remotely fit what Toni Darien was wearing.
Her BioGraph watch doesn’t exist.”
“I mean it doesn’t exist on the Internet, within the
communication network, or metaphorically in cyberspace. In other
words, a BioGraph watch doesn’t exist virtually,” Lucy
said. “If I physically look at whatever this thing is,
I’ll probably figure it out. Especially if you’re right
and it’s some sort of data-collecting device.”
“Can’t do that until the labs are done with
“Shit, don’t let them get out their screwdrivers and
hammers,” Lucy said.
“Being swabbed for DNA, that’s all. The police
already checked for prints. Nothing. Please tell Jaime she can call
me when it’s convenient. I hope you’re having some fun.
Sorry I don’t have time to chat right now.”
“If I see her, I’ll tell her.”
“She’s not with you?” Scarpetta probed.
“The Hannah Starr case and now this. Jaime’s a
little tied up, has a lot on her mind. You of all people know how
it is.” Lucy wasn’t interested in discussing her
“I hope she’s had a happy birthday.”
Lucy didn’t want to talk about it. “What’s the
weather like there?”
“Windy and cold. Overcast.”
“You’re going to get more rain, possibly snow north
of the city,” Lucy said. “It will be cleared out by
midnight, because the system is weakening as it heads your
“The two of you are staying put, I hope.”
“If I don’t get the chopper out, she’ll be
looking for a dogsled.”
“Call me before you leave, and please be careful,”
Scarpetta said. “I’ve got to go, got to talk to Toni
Darien’s mother. I miss you. We’ll have dinner, do
“Sure,” Lucy said.
She got off the phone and turned the sound up again on YouTube,
Mick Fleetwood still going at it on the drums. Both hands on
MacBooks as if she was in her own rock concert playing a solo on
keyboards, she clicked on another weather update, clicked on an
e-mail that had just landed in Hannah Starr’s inbox. People
were bizarre. If you know someone has disappeared and might even be
dead, why do you continue to send e-mail? Lucy wondered if Hannah
Starr’s husband, Bobby Fuller, was so stupid it didn’t
occur to him that the NYPD and the district attorney’s office
might be monitoring Hannah’s e-mail or getting a forensic
computer expert like Lucy to do it. For the past three weeks Bobby
had been sending daily messages to his missing wife. Maybe he knew
exactly what he was doing, wanted law enforcement to see what he
was writing to his bien-aimée, his chouchou, his amore mio,
the love of his life. If he’d murdered her, he wouldn’t
be writing her love notes, right?
From: Bobby Fuller
Sent: Thursday, December 18, 3:24 P.M.
Subject: Non posso vivere senza di te
My Little One,
I hope you are someplace safe and reading this. My heart
is carried by the wings of my soul and finds you wherever you are.
Don’t forget. I can’t eat or sleep. B.
Lucy checked his IP address, recognized it at a glance by now.
Bobby and Hannah’s apartment in North Miami Beach, where he
was pining away while hiding from the media in palatial
surroundings that Lucy knew all too well --- had been in that same
apartment with his lovely thief of a wife not that long ago, as a
matter of fact. Every time Lucy saw an e-mail from Bobby and tried
to get into his head, she wondered how he would really feel if he
believed Hannah was dead.
Or maybe he knew she was dead or knew she wasn’t. Maybe he
knew exactly what had happened to her because he really did have
something to do with it. Lucy had no idea, but when she tried to
put herself in Bobby’s place and care, she couldn’t.
All that mattered to her was that Hannah reaped what she sowed or
eventually did, sooner rather than later. She deserved any bad fate
she might get, had wasted Lucy’s time and money and now was
stealing something far more precious. Three weeks of Hannah.
Nothing with Berger. Even when she and Lucy were together, they
were apart. Lucy was scared. She was seething. At times she felt
she could do something terrible.
She forwarded Bobby’s latest e-mail to Berger, who was in
the other room, walking around. The sound of her feet on hardwood.
Lucy got interested in a website address that had begun to flash in
a quadrant of one of the MacBooks.
“Now what are we up to?” she said to the empty
living room of the town house she’d rented for Berger’s
surprise birthday getaway, a five- star resort with high-speed
wireless, fireplaces, feather beds, and linens with an
eight-hundred thread count. The retreat had everything except what
it was intended for --- intimacy, romance, fun --- and Lucy blamed
Hannah, she blamed Hap Judd, she blamed Bobby, blamed everyone.
Lucy felt haunted by them and unwanted by Berger.
“This is ridiculous,” Berger said as she walked in,
referring to the world beyond their windows, everything white, just
the shapes of trees and rooflines through snow coming down in
veils. “Are we ever going to get out of here?”
“Now, what is this?” Lucy muttered, clicking on a
A search by IP address had gotten a hit on a website hosted by
the University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology
“Who were you just talking to?” Berger asked.
“My aunt. Now I’m talking to myself. Got to talk to
Berger ignored the dig, wasn’t about to apologize for what
she’d say she couldn’t help. It wasn’t her fault
Hannah Starr had disappeared and Hap Judd was a pervert who might
have information, and if that hadn’t been enough of a
distraction, now a jogger had been raped and murdered in Central
Park last night. Berger would tell Lucy she needed to be more
understanding. She shouldn’t be so selfish. She needed to
grow up and stop being insecure and demanding.
“Can we do without the drums?” Berger’s
migraines were back. She was getting them often.
Lucy exited YouTube and the living room was silent, no sound but
the gas fire on the hearth, and she said, “More of the same
Berger put her glasses on and leaned close to look, and she
smelled like Amorvero bath oil, and had no makeup on and she
didn’t need it. Her short, dark hair was messy and she was
sexy as hell in a black warm-up suit, nothing under it, the jacket
unzipped, exposing plenty of cleavage, not that she meant anything
by it. Lucy wasn’t sure what Berger meant or where she was
much of the time these days, but she wasn’t present --- not
emotionally. Lucy wanted to put her arms around her, to show her
what they used to have, what it used to be like.
“He’s looking at the Body Farm’s website, and
I doubt it’s because he’s thinking of killing himself
and donating his body to science,” Lucy said.
“Who are you talking about?” Berger was reading what
was on a MacBook screen, a form with the heading:
Forensic Anthropology Center
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Body Donation Questionnaire
“Hap Judd,” Lucy said. “He’s gotten
linked by his IP address to this website because he just used a
fake name to order . . . Hold on, let’s see what the sleaze
is up to. Let’s follow the trail.” Opening Web pages.
“To this screen here. FORDISC Software Sales. An interactive
computer program that runs under Windows. Classifying and
identifying skeletal remains. The guy’s really morbid.
It’s not normal. I’m telling you, we’re onto
something with him.”
“Let’s be honest. You’re onto something
because you’re looking for something,” Berger said, as
if to imply that Lucy wasn’t honest. “You’re
trying to find evidence of what you perceive is the
“I’m finding evidence because he’s leaving
it,” Lucy said. They had been arguing about Hap Judd for
weeks. “I don’t know why you’re so reticent. Do
you think I’m making this stuff up?”
“I want to talk to him about Hannah Starr, and you want to
“You need to scare the hell out of him if you want him to
talk. Especially without a damn lawyer present. And I’ve
managed to make that happen, to get you what you want.”
“If we ever get out of here and he shows up.” Berger
moved away from the computer screen and decided, “Maybe
he’s playing an anthropologist, an archaeologist, an explorer
in his next film. Some Raiders of the Lost Ark or another
one of those mummy movies with tombs and ancient curses.”
“Right,” Lucy said. “Method acting, total
immersion in his next twisted character, writing another one of his
piss-poor screenplays. That will be his alibi when we go after him
about Park General and his unusual interests.”
“We won’t be going after him. I will. You’re
not going to do anything but show him what you’ve found in
your computer searches. Marino and I will do the
Lucy would check with Pete Marino later, when there was no
threat that Berger could overhear their conversation. He
didn’t have any respect for Hap Judd and sure as hell
wasn’t afraid of him. Marino had no qualms about
investigating someone famous or locking him up. Berger seemed
intimidated by Judd, and Lucy didn’t understand it. She had
never known Berger to be intimidated by anyone.
“Come here.” Lucy pulled her close, sat her on her
lap. “What’s going on with you?” Nuzzling her
back, sliding her hands inside the jacket of the warm-up suit.
“What’s got you so spooked? It’s going to be a
late night. We should take a nap.”
Grace Darien had long, dark hair and the same turned-up nose and
full lips as her murdered daughter. Wearing a red wool coat
buttoned up to her chin, she looked small and pitiful as she stood
before a window overlooking the black iron fence and dead
vine– covered brick of Bellevue. The sky was the color of
“Mrs. Darien? I’m Dr. Scarpetta.” She walked
into the family room and closed the door.
“It’s possible this is a mistake.” Mrs. Darien
moved away from the window, her hands shaking badly. “I keep
thinking this can’t be right. It can’t be. It’s
somebody else. How do you know for sure?” She sat down at the
small wooden table near the watercooler, her face stunned and
expressionless, a gleam of terror in her eyes.
“We’ve made a preliminary identification of your
daughter based on personal effects recovered by the police.”
Scarpetta pulled out a chair and sat across from her. “Your
former husband also looked at a photograph.”
“The one taken here.”
“Yes. Please let me tell you how sorry I am.”
“Did he get around to mentioning he only sees her once or
twice a year?”
“We will compare dental records and will do DNA if need
be,” Scarpetta said.
“I can write down her dentist’s information. She
still uses my dentist.” Grace Darien dug into her handbag,
and a lipstick and a compact clattered to the table. “The
detective I talked to finally when I got home and got the message.
I can’t remember the name, a woman. Then another detective
called. A man. Mario, Marinaro.” Her voice trembled and she
blinked back tears, pulling out a small notepad, a pen.
She scribbled something and tore out the page, her hands
fumbling, almost palsied. “I don’t know our
dentist’s number off the top of my head. Here’s his
name and address.” Sliding the piece of paper to Scarpetta.
“Marino. I believe so.”
“He’s a detective with NYPD and assigned to
Assistant District Attorney Jaime Berger’s office. Her office
will be in charge of the criminal investigation.” Scarpetta
tucked the note into the file folder Rene had left for her.
“He said they were going into Toni’s apartment to
get her hairbrush, her toothbrush. They probably already have, I
don’t know, I haven’t heard anything else,” Mrs.
Darien continued, her voice quavering and catching. “The
police talked to Larry first because I wasn’t home. I was
taking the cat to the vet. I had to put my cat to sleep, can you
imagine the timing. That’s what I was doing when they were
trying to find me. The detective from the DA’s office said
you could get her DNA from things in her apartment. I don’t
under stand how you can be sure it’s her when you
haven’t done those tests yet.”
Scarpetta had no doubt about Toni Darien’s identity. Her
driver’s license and apartment keys were in a pocket of the
fleece that came in with the body. Postmortem x- rays showed healed
fractures of the collarbone and right arm, and the old injuries
were consistent with ones sustained five years ago when Toni was
riding her bicycle and was struck by a car, according to
information from NYPD.
“I told her about jogging in the city,” Mrs. Darien
was saying. “I can’t tell you how many times, but she
never did it after dark. I don’t know why she would in the
rain. She hates running in the rain, especially when it’s
cold. I think there’s been a mistake.”
Scarpetta moved a box of tissues closer to her and said,
“I’d like to ask you a few questions, to go over a few
things before we see her. Would that be all right?” After the
viewing, Grace Darien would be in no condition to talk.
“When’s the last time you had contact with your
“Tuesday morning. I can’t tell you the exact time
but probably around ten. I called her and we chatted.”
“Two mornings ago, December sixteenth.”
“Yes.” She wiped her eyes.
“Nothing since then? No other phone calls, voicemails,
“We didn’t talk or e-mail every day, but she sent a
text message. I can show it to you.” She reached for her
pocketbook. “I should have told the detective that, I guess.
What did you say his name is?”
“He wanted to know about her e-mail, because he said
they’re going to need to look at it. I told him the address,
but of course I don’t know her password.” She rummaged
for her phone, her glasses. “I called Toni Tuesday morning,
asking if she wanted turkey or ham. For Christmas. She didn’t
want either. She said she might bring fish, and I said I’d
get whatever she wanted. It was just a normal conversation, mostly
about things like that, since her two brothers are coming home. All
of us together on Long Island.” She had her phone out and her
glasses on, was scrolling through something with shaky hands.
“That’s where I live. In Islip. I’m a nurse at
Mercy Hospital.” She gave Scarpetta the phone.
“That’s what she sent last night.” She pulled
more tissues from the box.
Scarpetta read the text message:
Still trying to get days off but Xmas so crazy. I have to get
coverage and no one wants to especially because of the hours.
Received: Wed Dec. 17. 8:07 p.m.
Scarpetta said, “And this nine-one-seven number is your
“Can you tell me what she’s referring to in this
message?” She would make sure Marino knew about it.
“She works nights and weekends and has been trying to get
someone to cover for her so she can take some time off during the
holiday,” Mrs. Darien said. “Her brothers are
“Your former husband said she worked as a waitress in
“He would say that, as if she slings hash or flips
burgers. She works in the lounge at High Roller Lanes, a very nice
place, very high-class, not your typical bowling alley. She wants
to have her own restaurant in some big hotel someday in Las Vegas
or Paris or Monte Carlo.”
“Was she working last night?”
“Not usually on Wednesdays. Mondays through Wednesdays
she’s usually off, and then she works very long hours
Thursdays through Sundays.”
“Do her brothers know what’s happened?”
Scarpetta asked. “I wouldn’t want them hearing about it
on the news.”
“Larry’s probably told them. I would have waited. It
might not be true.”
“We’ll want to be mindful of anybody who perhaps
shouldn’t find out from the news.” Scarpetta was as
gentle as she could be. “What about a boyfriend? A
“Well, I’ve wondered. I visited Toni at her
apartment in September and there were all these stuffed animals on
her bed, and a lot of perfumes and such, and she was evasive about
where they’d come from. And at Thanksgiving she was
text-messaging all the time, happy one minute, in a bad mood the
next. You know how people act when they’re infatuated. I do
know she meets a lot of people at work, a lot of very attractive
and exciting men.”
“Possible she might have confided in your former husband?
Told him about a boyfriend, for example?”
“They weren’t close. What you don’t understand
is why he’s doing this, what Larry is really up to.
It’s all to get back at me and make everybody think
he’s the dutiful father instead of a drunk, a compulsive
gambler who abandoned his family. Toni would never want to be
cremated, and if the worst has happened, I’ll use the funeral
home that took care of my mother, Levine and Sons.”
“I’m afraid until you and Mr. Darien settle your
dispute about the disposition of Toni’s remains, the OCME
can’t release her,” Scarpetta said.
“You can’t listen to him. He left Toni when she was
a baby. Why should anybody listen to him?”
“The law requires that disputes such as yours must be
resolved, if need be by the courts, before we can release the
body,” Scarpetta said. “I’m sorry. I know the
last thing you need right now is frustration and more
“What right does he have suddenly showing up after
twenty-something years, making demands, wanting her personal
things. Fighting with me about that in the lobby and telling that
girl he wanted Toni’s belongings, whatever she had on when
she came in, and it might not even be her. Saying such horrid,
heartless things! He was drunk and looked at a picture. And you
trust that? Oh, God. What am I going to see? Just tell me so I know
what to expect.”
“Your daughter’s cause of death is blunt-force
trauma that fractured her skull and injured her brain,”
“Someone hit her on the head.” Her voice shook and
she broke down and cried.
“She suffered a severe blow to the head. Yes.”
“How many? Just one?”
“Mrs. Darien, I need to caution you from the start that
anything I tell you is in confidence and it’s my duty to
exercise caution and good judgment in what you and I discuss right
now,” Scarpetta said. “It’s critical nothing is
released that might actually aid your daughter’s assailant in
getting away with this very terrible crime. I hope you understand.
Once the police investigation is complete, you can make an
appointment with me and we’ll have as detailed a discussion
as you’d like.”
“Toni was out jogging last night in the rain on the north
side of Central Park? In the first place, what was she doing over
there? Has anybody bothered asking that question?”
“All of us are asking a lot of questions, and
unfortunately have very few answers so far,” Scarpetta
replied. “But as I understand it, your daughter has an
apartment on the Upper East Side, on Second Avenue. That’s
about twenty blocks from where she was found, which isn’t
very far for an avid runner.”
“But it was in Central Park after dark. It was near Harlem
after dark. She would never go running in an area like that after
dark. And she hated the rain. She hated being cold. Did someone
come up behind her? Did she struggle with him? Oh, dear
“I’ll remind you what I said about details, about
the caution we need to exercise right now,” Scarpetta
replied. “I can tell you that I found no obvious signs of a
struggle. It appears Toni was struck on the head, causing a large
contusion, a lot of hemorrhage into her brain, which indicates a
survival time that was long enough for significant tissue
“But she wouldn’t have been conscious.”
“Her findings indicate some survival time, but no, she
wouldn’t have been conscious. She may have had no awareness
at all of what happened, of the attack. We won’t know until
certain test results come back.” Scarpetta opened the file
and removed the health history form, placing it in front of Mrs.
Darien. “Your former husband filled this out. I’d
appreciate it if you’d look.”
The paperwork shook in Mrs. Darien’s hands as she scanned
“Name, address, place of birth, parents’ names.
Please let me know if we need to correct anything,” Scarpetta
said. “Did she have high blood pressure, diabetes,
hypoglycemia, mental health issues --- was she pregnant, for
“He checked no to everything. What the hell does he
“No depression, moodiness, a change of behavior that might
have struck you as unusual.” Scarpetta was thinking about the
BioGraph watch. “Did she have problems sleeping? Anything at
all going on with her that was different from the past? You said
she might have been out of sorts of late.”
“Maybe a boyfriend problem or something at work, the
economy being what it is. Some of the girls she works with have
been laid off,” Mrs. Darien said. “She gets in moods
like everybody else. Especially this time of year. She
doesn’t like winter weather.”
“Any medications you might be aware of?”
“Just over-the-counter, as far as I know. Vitamins. She
takes very good care of herself.”
“I’m interested in who her internist might be, her
doctor or doctors. Mr. Darien didn’t fill in that
“He wouldn’t know. He’s never gotten the
bills. Toni’s been living on her own since college, and I
can’t be sure who her doctor is. She never gets sick, has
more energy than anyone I know. Always on the go.”
“Are you aware of any jewelry she might have routinely
worn? Perhaps rings, a bracelet, a necklace she rarely took
off?” Scarpetta said.
“I don’t know.”
“What about a watch?”
“I don’t think so.”
“What looks like a black plastic sports watch, digital? A
large black watch? Does that sound familiar?”
Mrs. Darien shook her head.
“I’ve seen similar watches when people are involved
in studies. In your profession, I’m sure you have, too.
Watches that are cardiac monitors or worn by people who have sleep
disorders, for example,” Scarpetta said.
A look of hope in Mrs. Darien’s eyes.
“What about when you saw Toni at Thanksgiving,”
Scarpetta said. “Might she have been wearing a watch like the
one I just described?”
“No.” Mrs. Darien shook her head.
“That’s what I mean. It might not be her. I’ve
never seen her wearing anything like that.”
Scarpetta asked her if she would like to see the body now, and
they got up from the table and walked into an adjoining room, small
and bare, just a few photographs of New York City skylines on pale-
green walls. The viewing window was approximately waist- high,
about the height of a casket on a bier, and on the other side was a
steel screen --- actually, the doors of the lift that had carried
Toni’s body up from the morgue.
“Before I open the screen, I want to explain what
you’re going to see,” Scarpetta said. “Would you
like to sit on the sofa?”
“No. No, thank you. I’ll stand. I’m
ready.” Her eyes were wide and panicked, and she was
“I’m going to push a button.” Scarpetta
indicated a panel of three buttons on the wall, two black, one red,
old elevator buttons. “And when the screen opens, the body
will be right here.”
“Yes. I understand. I’m ready.” She could
barely talk, she was so frightened, shaking as if freezing cold,
breathing hard as if she’d just exerted herself.
“The body is on a gurney inside the elevator, on the other
side of the window. Her head will be here, to the left. The rest of
her is covered.”
Scarpetta pushed the top black button, and the steel doors
parted with a loud clank. Through scratched Plexiglas Toni Darien
was shrouded in blue, her face wan, her eyes shut, her lips
colorless and dry, her long, dark hair still damp from rinsing. Her
mother pressed her hands against the window. Bracing herself, she
began to scream.
Excerpted from THE SCARPETTA FACTOR © Copyright 2011 by
Patricia Cornwell. Reprinted with permission by Berkley. All rights