It was Jean-Baptiste Chandonne who came back. He impersonated the police. I still can't believe I fell for it.
"We ain't got all the answers yet," Marino replies.
"Why is it I keep getting this feeling you don't believe me?"
"You need to get to Anna's and sleep."
"He didn't touch my car," I assert. "He never got inside my garage. I don't want anyone touching my car. I want to take it tonight. Just leave the scene case inside the trunk."
Marino walks out and shuts the door behind him. I am desperate for a drink to override the electrical spikes in my central nervous system, but what do I do? Walk out to the bar and tell the cops to get the hell out of my way while I find the Scotch? Knowing that liquor probably won't help my headache doesn't have an impact. I am so miserable in my own skin, I don't care what is good or not good for me right now. In the bathroom I dig through more drawers and spill several lipsticks on the floor. They roll between the toilet and the tub. I am unsteady as I bend over to retrieve them, groping awkwardly with my right arm, all of this made more difficult because I am left-handed. I stop to ponder the perfumes neatly arranged on the vanity and gently pick up the small gold metal bottle of Hermès 24 Faubourg. It is cool in my hand. I lift the spray nozzle to my nose and the spicy, erotic scent that Benton Wesley loved fills my eyes with tears and my heart feels as if it will fatally fly out of rhythm. I have not used the perfume in more than a year, not once since Benton was murdered. Now I have been murdered, I tell him in my throbbing mind. And I am still here, Benton, I am still here. You were a psychological profiler for the FBI, an expert in dissecting the psyches of monsters and interpreting and predicting their behavior. You would have seen this coming, wouldn't you? You would have predicted it, prevented it. Why weren't you here, Benton? I would be all right if you had been here.
I realize someone is knocking on my bedroom door. "Just a minute," I call out, clearing my throat and wiping my eyes. I splash cold water on my face and tuck the Hermès perfume into the tote bag. I go to the door, expecting Marino. Instead, Jay Talley walks in wearing ATF battle dress and a day's growth of beard that turns his dark beauty sinister. He is one of the handsomest men I have ever known, his body exquisitely sculpted, sensuality exuding from his pores like musk.
"Just checking on you before you head out." His eyes burn into mine. They seem to feel and explore me the way his hands and mouth did four days ago in France.
"What can I tell you?" I let him into my bedroom and am suddenly self-conscious about the way I look. I don't want him to see me like this. "I have to leave my own house. It's almost Christmas. My arm hurts. My head hurts. Other than that, I'm fine."
"I'll drive you to Dr. Zenner's. I would like to, Kay."
It vaguely penetrates that he knows where I am staying tonight. Marino promised my whereabouts would be secret. Jay shuts the door and takes my hand, and all I can think about is that he didn't wait at the hospital for me and now he wants to drive me someplace else.
"Let me help you through this. I care about you," he says to me.
"No one seemed to care very much last night," I reply as I recall that when he drove me home from the hospital and I thanked him for waiting, for being there for me, he never once even intimated that he hadn't been there. "You and all your IRTs out there and the bastard just walks right up to my front door," I go on. "You fly all the way here from Paris to lead a goddamn International Response Team in your big-game hunt for this guy, and what a joke. What a bad movie-all these big cops with all their gear and assault rifles and the monster just strolls right up to my house."
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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Southern Gothic fantasy with a contemporary flare set in Savannah
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