EXCERPT: 'The Scarpetta Factor'

"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 understand 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 daughter?"

"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, e-mails?"

"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: From: Toni 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. XXOO CB# 917-555-1487 Received: Wed Dec. 17. 8:07 p.m.

Scarpetta said, "And this nine-one-seven number is your daughter's?"

"Her cell."

"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 coming."

"Your former husband said she worked as a waitress in Hell's Kitchen."

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