Excerpt from The Last Precinct by Patricia Cornwell, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Last Precinct

By Patricia Cornwell

The Last Precinct
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2000,
    432 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2001,
    480 pages.

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"What kind of fucking question is that?" Marino raises his voice another decibel.

"I just didn't want us walking in on anything else like body fluids or other chemicals or . . ."

"No, no." I shake my head and turn my attention to a stack of neatly folded slacks and polo shirts. "Just slides."

"Slides?"

"For histology," I vaguely explain.

"For what?"

"Calloway, you're done." Marino's words crack like a gavel as he rises from the bed.

"I just want to make sure we don't need to worry about any other hazards," she says to him, and her hot cheeks and the flash in her eyes belie her subordination. She hates Marino. A lot of people do.

"The only hazard you gotta worry about is the one you're looking at," Marino snaps at her. "How 'bout giving the Doc a little privacy, a little reprieve from dumb-ass questions?"

Calloway is an unattractive chinless woman with thick hips and narrow shoulders, her body tense with anger and embarrassment. She spins around and walks out of my bedroom, her footsteps absorbed by the Persian runner in the hallway.

"What's she think? You collect trophies or something?" Marino says to me. "You bring home souvenirs like fucking Jeffrey Dahmer? Jesus Christ."

"I can't take any more of this." I tuck perfectly folded polo shirts into the tote bag.

"You're gonna have to take it, Doc. But you don't have to take any more of it today." He wearily sits back down on the foot of my bed.

"Keep your detectives off me," I warn him. "I don't want to see another cop in my face. I'm not the one who did something wrong."

"If they got anything else, they'll run it through me. This is my investigation, even if people like Calloway ain't figured that out yet. But I also ain't the one you got to worry about. It's like take a number in the deli line, there's so many people who insist they got to talk to you."

I stack slacks on top of the polo shirts, and then reverse the order, placing the shirts on top so they don't wrinkle.

"Course, nowhere near as many people as the ones who want to talk to him." He means Chandonne. "All these profilers and forensic psychiatrists and the media and shit," Marino goes through the Who's Who list.

I stop packing. I have no intention of picking through lingerie while Marino watches. I refuse to sort through toiletries with him witness to it all. "I need a few minutes alone," I tell him.

He stares at me, his eyes red, his face flushed the deep color of wine. Even his balding head is red, and he is disheveled in his jeans and a sweatshirt, his belly nine months pregnant, his Red Wing boots huge and dirty. I can see his mind working. He doesn't want to leave me alone and seems to be weighing concerns that he will not share with me. A paranoid thought rises like dark smoke in my mind. He doesn't trust me. Maybe he thinks I am suicidal.

"Marino, please. Can you just stand outside and keep people away while I finish up in here? Go to my car and get my crime scene case out of the trunk. If I get called out on something . . . well, I need to have it. The key's in the kitchen desk drawer, the top right-where I keep all my keys. Please. And I need my car, by the way. I guess I'll just take my car and you can leave the scene case in it." Confusion eddies.

He hesitates. "You can't take your car."

"Damn it!" I blurt out. "Don't tell me they've got to go through my car, too. This is insane."

"Look. The first time your alarm went off last night, it was because someone tried to break into your garage."

"What do you mean, someone?" I retort as migraine pain sears my temples and blurs my vision. "We know exactly who. He forced my garage door open because he wanted the alarm to go off. He wanted the police to show up. So it wouldn't seem odd if the police came back a little later because a neighbor reported a prowler on my property, supposedly."

Reprinted The Last Precinct By Patricia Cornwell By Permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, A Member Of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (C) 2000 Patricia Cornwell. All Rights Reserved. This Excerpt, Or Any Parts Thereof, May Not Be Reproduced in Any Form Without Permission.

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