EXCERPT: 'The Scarpetta Factor'

"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 God."

"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 response."

"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 it. "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 example." "He checked no to everything. What the hell does he know?"

"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 part."

"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.

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