Excerpt from Point of Origin by Patricia Cornwell, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Point of Origin

By Patricia Cornwell

Point of Origin
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  • Hardcover: Jun 1998,
    356 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 1999,
    416 pages.

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From Chapter One

DAY 523.6 ONE PHEASANT PLACE KIRBY WOMEN'S WARD WARDS ISLAND, NY

Hey DOC,

Tick Tock

Sawed bone and fire.

Still home alone with FIB the liar? Watch the clock BIG DOC!

Spurt dark light and fright TRAINSTRAINSTRAINS. GKSFWFY wants photos.

Visit with we. On floor three. YOU trade with we.

TICK TOC DOC! (Will Lucy talk?)

LUCY-BOO on TV. Fly through window. Come with we Under covers. Come til dawn. Laugh and sing. Same ole song. LUCY LUCY LUCY and we!

BENTON WESLEY was taking off his running shoes in my kitchen when I ran to him, my heart tripping over fear and hate and remembered horror. Carrie Grethen's letter had been mixed in a stack of mail and other paperwork, all of it put off until a moment ago when I had decided to drink cinnamon tea in the privacy of my Richmond, Virginia, home. It was Sunday afternoon, thirty-two minutes past five, June eighth.

"I'm assuming she sent this to your office," Benton said.

He did not seem disturbed as he bent over, peeling off white Nike socks.

"Rose doesn't read mail marked personal and confidential." I added a detail he already knew as my pulse ran hard.

"Maybe she should. You seem to have a lot of fans out there." His wry words cut like paper.

I watched him set pale bare feet on the floor, his elbows on his knees and head low. Sweat trickled over shoulders and arms well defined for a man his age, and my eyes drifted down knees and calves, to tapered ankles still imprinted with the weave of his socks. He ran his fingers though wet silver hair and leaned back in the chair.

"Christ," he muttered, wiping his face and neck with a towel. "I'm too old for this crap."

He took a deep breath and blew out slowly with mounting anger. The stainless steel Breitling Aerospace watch I had given to him for Christmas was on the table. He picked it up and snapped it on.

"Goddamn it. These people are worse than cancer. Let me see it," he said.

The letter was penned by hand in bizarre red block printing, and drawn at the top was a crude crest of a bird with long tail feathers. Scrawled under it was the enigmatic Latin word ergo, or therefore, which in this context meant nothing to me. I unfolded the simple sheet of white typing paper by its corners and set it in front of him on the antique French oak breakfast table. He did not touch a document that might be evidence as he carefully scanned Carrie Grethen's weird words and began running them through the violent database in his mind.

"The postmark's New York, and of course there's been publicity in New York about her trial," I said as I continued to rationalize and deny. "A sensational article just two weeks ago. So anyone could have gotten Carrie Grethen's name from that. Not to mention, my office address is public information. This letter's probably not from her at all. Probably some other cuckoo."

"It probably is from her." He continued reading.

"She could mail something like this from a forensic psychiatric hospital and nobody would check it?" I countered as fear coiled around my heart.

"Saint Elizabeth's, Bellevue, Mid-Hudson, Kirby." He did not glance up. "The Carrie Grethens, the John Hinckley Juniors, the Mark David Chapmans are patients, not inmates. They enjoy our same civil rights as they sit around in penitentiaries and forensic psychiatric centers and create pedophile bulletin boards on computers and sell serial killer tips through the mail. And write taunting letters to chief medical examiners."

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.

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