EXCERPT: 'The Scarpetta Factor'

"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 but show him what you've found in your computer searches. Marino and I will do the talking."

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 lead.

"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.

"Pete Marino?"

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.

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