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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Jay's eyes have begun wandering over areas of my anatomy as if they are rest stops he is entitled to revisit. It shocks and repulses me that he can think about my body at a time like this. In Paris I thought I was falling in love with him. As I stand here with him in my bedroom and he is openly interested in what is under my old lab coat, I realize I don't love him in the least.

"You're just upset. God, why wouldn't you be? I'm concerned about you. I'm here for you." He tries to touch me and I move away.

"We had an afternoon." I have told him this before, but now I mean it. "A few hours. An encounter, Jay."

"A mistake?" Hurt sharpens his voice. Dark anger flashes in his eyes.

"Don't try to turn an afternoon into a life, into something of permanent meaning. It isn't there. I'm sorry. For God's sake." My indignation rises. "Don't want anything from me right now." I walk away from him, gesturing with my one good arm. "What are you doing? What the hell are you doing?"

He raises a hand and hangs his head, warding off my blows, acknowledging his mistake. I am not sure if he is sincere. "I don't know what I'm doing. Being stupid, that's what," he says. "I don't mean to want anything. Stupid, I'm stupid because of how I feel about you. Don't hold it against me. Please." He casts me an intense look and opens the door. "I'm here for you, Kay. Je t'aime." I realize Jay has a way of saying good-bye that makes me feel I might never see him again. An atavistic panic thrills my deepest psyche and I resist the temptation to call after him, to apologize, to promise we will have dinner or drinks soon. I shut my eyes and rub my temples, briefly leaning against the bedpost. I tell myself I don't know what I am doing right now and should not do anything.

Marino is in the hallway, an unlit cigarette clamped in the corner of his mouth, and I can feel him trying to read me and what might have just happened while Jay was inside my bedroom with the door shut. My gaze lingers on the empty hallway, halfway hoping Jay will reappear and dreading it at the same time. Marino grabs my bags and cops fall silent as I approach. They avoid looking in my direction as they move about my great room, duty belts creaking, equipment they manipulate clicking and clacking. An investigator takes photographs of the coffee table, the flash gun popping bright white. Someone else is videotaping while a crime scene technician sets up an alternative light source called a Luma-Lite that can detect fingerprints, drugs and body fluids not visible to the unaided eye. My downtown office has a Luma-Lite I routinely use on bodies at scenes and in the morgue. To see a Luma-Lite inside my house gives me a feeling that is indescribable.

Dark dusting powder smudges furniture and walls, and the colorful Persian rug is pulled back, exposing antique French oak underneath. An endtable lamp is unplugged and on the floor. The sectional sofa has craters where cushions used to be, the air oily and acrid with the residual odor of formalin. Off the great room and near the front door is the dining room and through the open doorway I am greeted with the sight of a brown paper bag sealed with yellow evidence tape, dated, initialed and labeled clothing Scarpetta. Inside it are the slacks, sweater, socks, shoes, bra and panties I was wearing last night, clothes taken from me in the hospital. That bag and other evidence and flashlights and equipment are on top of my favorite red Jarrah Wood dining room table, as if it is a workbench. Cops have draped coats over chairs, and wet, dirty footprints are everywhere. My mouth is dry, my joints weak with shame and rage.

"Yo Marino!" a cop barks. "Righter's looking for you."

Buford Righter is the city commonwealth's attorney. I look around for Jay. He is nowhere to be seen.

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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