Excerpt: 'Predator'

In this most recent book by best-selling author Patricia Cornwell, readers will follow fictional chief medical examiner, Dr. Kay Scarpetta on an investigation that takes them from the Florida heat to the chilling streets of Boston.

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Here's an excerpt from Patricia Cornwel's 'Predator':

It is Sunday afternoon and Dr. Kay Scarpetta is in her office at the National Forensic Academy in Hollywood, Florida, whereclouds are building, promising another thunderstorm. It's not supposed to be this rainy and hot in February. Gunfire pops, and voices yell things she can't make out. Simulated combat is popular on the weekends. Special Ops agents can run around in black fatigues, shooting up the place, and nobody hears them, only Scarpetta, and she barely notices. She continues reviewing an emergency certificate issued by a coroner in Louisiana, an examination of a patient, a woman who later went on to murder five people and claims to have no memory of it. The case probably isn't a candidate for the Prefrontal Determinants of Aggressive-Type Overt Responsivity research study known as PREDATOR, Scarpetta decides, vaguely aware of a motorcycle getting louder on the Academy grounds.

She writes forensic psychologist Benton Wesley an e-mail:

A woman in the study would be interesting, but wouldn't the data be irrelevant? I thought you were restricting PREDATOR to males.

The motorcycle blasts up to the building and stops right below her window. Pete Marino harassing her again, she thinks irritably as Benton sends her an Instant Message:

Louisiana probably wouldn't let us have her anyway. They like to execute people too much down there. Food's good, though.

She looks out the window as Marino kills the engine, gets off his bike, looks around in his macho way, always wondering who's watching. She is locking PREDATOR case files in her desk drawer when he walks into her office without knocking and helps himself to a chair.

"You know anything about the Johnny Swift case?" he asks, his huge, tattooed arms bulging from a sleeveless denim vest with the Harley logo on the back.

Marino is the Academy's head of investigations and a part-time death investigator at the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office.

Of late, he looks like a parody of a biker thug. He sets his helmet on her desk, a scuffed black brain bucket with bullet-hole decals all over it.

"Refresh my memory. And that thing's a hood ornament."

She indicates the helmet.

"For show, and worthless if you have an accident on that donorcycle of yours."

He tosses a file onto her desk.

"A San Francisco doctor with an office here in Miami. Had a place in Hollywood on the beach, he and his brother. Not far from the Renaissance, you know, those twin high-rise condo buildings near John Lloyd State Park? About three months ago at Thanksgiving while he was at his place down here, his brother found him on the couch, dead from a shotgun wound to the chest. By the way, he'd just had wrist surgery and it didn't go well. At a glance, a straightforward suicide."

"I wasn't at the ME's office yet," she reminds him.

She was already the Academy's director of forensic science and medicine then. But she didn't accept the position of consulting forensic pathologist at the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office until this past December when Dr. Bronson, the chief, started cutting back his hours, talking about retiring.

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