Excerpt of Point of Origin by Patricia Cornwell
(Page 2 of 3)
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His voice had more bite, his words more clipped.
Benton's eyes burned with hate as he finally lifted them to me.
"Carrie Grethen is mocking you, big chief. The FBI. Me,"
he went on.
"FIB," I muttered, and on another
occasion, I might have found this funny.
Wesley stood and draped the towel over a shoulder.
"Let's say it's her," I started in
"It is." He had no doubt.
"Okay. Then there's more to this than
"Of course. She's making sure we don't forget
that she and Lucy were lovers, something the general public doesn't
know yet," he said. "The obvious point is, Carrie Grethen
hasn't finished ruining people's lives."
I could not stand to hear her name, and it enraged
me that she was now, this moment, inside my West End home. She might
as well be sitting at my breakfast table with us, curdling the air
with her foul, evil presence. I envisioned her condescending smile
and blazing eyes and wondered what she looked like now after five
years of steel bars and socializing with the criminally insane.
Carrie was not crazy. She had never been that. She was a character
disorder, a psychopath, a violent entity with no conscience.
I looked out at wind rocking Japanese maples in my
yard and the incomplete stone wall that scarcely kept me from my
neighbors. The telephone abruptly rang and I was reluctant to answer
"Dr. Scarpetta," I said into the
receiver as I watched Benton's eyes sweep back down that red-penned
"Yo," Peter Marino's familiar voice came
over the line. "It's me."
He was a captain with the Richmond Police
Department, and I knew him well enough to recognize his tone. I
braced myself for more bad news.
"What's up?" I said to him.
"A horse farm went up in flames last night in
Warrenton. You may have heard about it on the news," he said.
"Stables, close to twenty high-dollar horses, and the house.
The whole nine yards. Everything burned to the ground."
So far, this wasn't making any sense.
"Marino, why are you calling me about a fire? In the first
place, Northern Virginia is not your turf."
"It is now," he said.
My kitchen seemed to get small and airless as I
waited for the rest. "ATF's just called out NRT," he went
"Meaning us," I said.
"Bingo. Your ass and mine. First thing in the
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms'
National Response Team, or NRT, was deployed when churches or
businesses burned, and in bombings or any other disaster in which
ATF had jurisdiction. Marino and I were not ATF, but it was not
unusual for it and other law enforcement agencies to recruit us when
the need arose. In recent years I had worked the World Trade Center
and Oklahoma City bombings and the crash of TWA Flight 800. I had
helped with the identifications of the Branch Davidians at Waco and
reviewed the disfigurement and death caused by the Unabomber. I knew
from stressful experience that ATF included me in a call-out only
when people were dead, and if Marino was recruited, too, then the
suspicion was murder.
"How many?" I reached for my clipboard
of call sheets.
"It's not how many, Doc. It's who. The owner
of the farm is media big shot Kenneth Sparkes, the one and only. And
right now it's looking like he didn't make it."
Reprinted from POINT OF ORIGIN by Patricia Cornwell by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 1998 by Cornwell Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.