Excerpt: Patricia Cornwell's 'Port Mortuary'

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"I'm requesting you refrain from intervening, John. Right now this case is the jurisdiction of the chief medical examiner of Massachusetts. Please don't challenge me or my authority."

A long pause, then he states rather than asks, "You really want that responsibility."

"It's mine whether I want it or not."

"I'm trying to protect you. I've been trying."

"Don't." That's not what he's trying. He doesn't have confidence in me.

"I can deploy Captain Avallone to help. It's not a bad idea."

I can't believe he would suggest that, either. "That won't be necessary," I reply firmly. "The CFC is perfectly capable of han-dling this."

"I'm on the record as having offered."

On the record with whom? It occurs to me uncannily that some one else is on the line or within earshot. Briggs is still standing in front of his window. I can't tell if anyone else might be in the suite with him.

"Whatever you decide," he then says. "I'm not going to step on you. Call me as soon as you know something. Wake me up if you have to."

He doesn't say good-bye or good luck or it was nice having me here for half a year.

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