EXCERPT: 'The Scarpetta Factor'

Opening a Web browser, she typed BioGraph into a search field. At the top of the screen was the query Did you mean: BioGraphy. No, she didn't. Biograph Records. Not what she was looking for. American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, the oldest movie company in America, founded in 1895 by an inventor who worked for Thomas Edison, a distant ancestor of the chief medical examiner, not sure how many times removed. An interesting coincidence. Nothing for BioGraph with a capital B and a capital G, the way it was stamped on the back of the unusual watch Toni Darien was wearing on her left wrist when her body arrived at the morgue this morning.

It was snowing hard in Stowe, Vermont, big flakes falling heavy and wet, piled in the branches of balsam firs and Scotch pines. The ski lifts traversing the Green Mountains were faint spidery lines, almost invisible in the storm and at a standstill. Nobody skiing in this stuff, nobody doing anything except staying inside.

Lucy Farinelli's helicopter was stuck in nearby Burlington. At least it was safely in a hangar, but she and New York County Assistant District Attorney Jaime Berger weren't going anywhere for five hours, maybe longer, not before nine p.m., when the storm was supposed to have cleared to the south. At that point, conditions should be VFR again, a ceiling greater than three thousand feet, visibility five miles or more, winds gusting up to thirty knots out of the northeast. They'd have a hell of a tailwind heading home to New York, should get there in time for what they needed to do, but Berger was in a mood, had been in the other room on the phone all day, not even trying to be nice. The way she looked at it, the weather had trapped them here longer than planned, and since Lucy was a pilot, it was her fault. Didn't matter the forecasters had been wrong, that what began as two distinct small storms combined into one over Saskatchewan, Canada, and merged with an arctic air mass to create a bit of a monster.

Lucy turned down the volume of the YouTube video, Mick Fleetwood's drum solo for "World Turning," live in concert in 1987.

"Can you hear me now?" she said over the phone to her Aunt Kay. "The signal's pretty bad here, and the weather isn't helping."

"Much better. How are we doing?" Scarpetta's voice in Lucy's jawbone.

"I've found nothing so far. Which is weird."

Lucy had three MacBooks going, each screen split into quadrants, displaying Aviation Weather Center updates, data streams from neural network searches, links prompting her that they might lead to websites of interest, Hannah Starr's e- mail, Lucy's e-mail, and security camera footage of the actor Hap Judd wearing scrubs in the Park General Hospital morgue before he was famous.

"You sure of the name?" she asked as she scanned the screens, her mind jumping from one preoccupation to the next.

"All I know is what's stamped on the steel back of it." Scarpetta's voice, serious and in a hurry. "BioGraph." She spelled it again. "And a serial number. Maybe it's not going to be picked up by the usual software that searches the Internet. Like viruses. If you don't already know what you're looking for, you won't find it."

"It's not like antivirus software. The search engines I use aren't software-driven. I do open-source searches. I'm not finding BioGraph because it's not on the Net. Nothing published about it. Not on message boards or in blogs or in databases, not in anything."

"Please don't hack," Scarpetta said.

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