EXCERPT: 'The Scarpetta Factor'

"I simply exploit weaknesses in operating systems."

"Yes, and if a back door is unlocked and you walk into somebody's house, it's not trespassing." "No mention of BioGraph or I'd find it." Lucy wasn't going to get into their usual debate about the end justifying the means.

"I don't see how that's possible. This is a very sophisticated-looking watch with a USB port. You have to charge it, likely on a docking station. I suspect it was rather expensive."

"Not finding it if I search it as a watch or a device or anything." Lucy watched results rolling by, her neural net search engines sorting through an infinity of keywords, anchor text, file types, URLs, title tags, e-mail and IP addresses. "I'm looking and not seeing anything even close to what you've described."

"Got to be some way to know what it is."

"It isn't. That's my point," Lucy said. "There's no such thing as a BioGraph watch or device, or anything that might remotely fit what Toni Darien was wearing. Her BioGraph watch doesn't exist."

"What do you mean it doesn't?"

"I mean it doesn't exist on the Internet, within the communication network, or metaphorically in cyberspace. In other words, a BioGraph watch doesn't exist virtually," Lucy said. "If I physically look at whatever this thing is, I'll probably figure it out. Especially if you're right and it's some sort of data-collecting device."

"Can't do that until the labs are done with it."

"Shit, don't let them get out their screwdrivers and hammers," Lucy said.

"Being swabbed for DNA, that's all. The police already checked for prints. Nothing. Please tell Jaime she can call me when it's convenient. I hope you're having some fun. Sorry I don't have time to chat right now."

"If I see her, I'll tell her."

"She's not with you?" Scarpetta probed.

"The Hannah Starr case and now this. Jaime's a little tied up, has a lot on her mind. You of all people know how it is." Lucy wasn't interested in discussing her personal life.

"I hope she's had a happy birthday."

Lucy didn't want to talk about it. "What's the weather like there?"

"Windy and cold. Overcast."

"You're going to get more rain, possibly snow north of the city," Lucy said. "It will be cleared out by midnight, because the system is weakening as it heads your way."

"The two of you are staying put, I hope."

"If I don't get the chopper out, she'll be looking for a dogsled."

"Call me before you leave, and please be careful," Scarpetta said. "I've got to go, got to talk to Toni Darien's mother. I miss you. We'll have dinner, do something soon?"

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