Excerpt: Patricia Cornwell's 'Port Mortuary'


I don't answer him because I've heard enough. Past the business center and vending machines, we take the stairs to the second floor, and it is now that he informs me that Lucy isn't waiting with the helicopter at the Civil Air Terminal. She's in my room. She's packing my belongings, touching them, making decisions about them, emptying my closet, my drawers, disconnecting my laptop, printer, and wireless router. He's waited to tell me because he knows damn well that under ordinary circumstances, this would annoy me beyond measure—doesn't matter if it's my computer-genius, former-federal-law-enforcement niece, whom I've raised like a daughter.

Circumstances are anything but ordinary, and I'm relieved that Marino is here and Lucy is in my room, that they have come for me. I need to get home and fix everything. We follow the long hallway carpeted in deep red, past the balcony arranged with colonial reproductions and an electronic massage chair thoughtfully placed there for weary pilots. I insert my magnetic key card into the lock of my room, and I wonder who let Lucy in, and then I think of Briggs again and I think of CNN. I can't imagine appearing on TV. What if the media has gotten word of what's happened in Cambridge? I would know that by now. Marino would know it. My administrator, Bryce, would know it, and he would tell me right away. Everything is going to be fine.

Lucy is sitting on my neatly made bed, zipping up my cosmetic case, and I detect the clean citrus scent of her shampoo as I hug her and feel how much I've missed her. A black flight suit accentuates her bold green eyes and short rose-gold hair, her sharp features and leanness, and I'm reminded of how stunning she is in an unusual way, boyish but feminine, athletically chiseled but with breasts, and so intense she looks fierce. Doesn't matter if she's being playful or polite, my niece tends to intimidate and has few friends, maybe none except Marino, and her lovers never last. Not even Jaime, although I haven't voiced my suspicions. I haven't asked. But I don't buy Lucy's story that she moved from New York to Boston for financial reasons. Even if her forensic computer investigative company was in a decline, and I don't believe that, either, she was making more in Manhattan than she's now paid by the CFC, which is nothing. My niece works for me pro bono. She doesn't need money.

"What's this about the satellite radio?" I watch her carefully, trying to interpret her signals, which are always subtle and perplexing. Caplets rattle as she checks how many Advil are in a bottle, deciding not enough to bother with, and she clunks it in the trash. "We've got weather, so I'd like to get out of here." She takes the cap off a bottle of Zantac, tossing that next. "We'll talk as we fly, and I'll need your help copiloting, because it's going to be tricky dodging snow showers and freezing rain en route. We're supposed to get up to a foot at home, starting around ten."

My first thought is Norton's Woods. I need to pay a retrospective visit, but by the time I get there, it will be covered in snow. "That's unfortunate," I comment. "We may have a crime scene that was never worked as one."

"I told Cambridge PD to go back over there this morning." Marino's eyes probe and wander as if it is my quarters that need to be searched. "They didn't find anything."

"Did they ask you why you wanted them to look?" That concern again.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...