Authors: Patricia Cornwell
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Women Sleuths, #Mystery Fiction, #Mystery, #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Thrillers, #Fiction - Espionage, #Thriller, #Women Physicians, #Scarpetta, #Medical, #Kay (Fictitious character), #Virginia, #Forensic pathologists, #Medical examiners (Law), #Medical novels
'I know that.'
'I could have been,' Dr. Zenner went on. 'I considered it many times. Did you know?'
'No, I didn't.'
'So I will tell you why I avoided that specialty. I cannot spend so much time with monsters. It is bad enough for people like you who take care of their victims. But I think to sit in the same room with the Gaults of the world would poison my soul.' She paused. 'You see, I have a terrible confession to make.'
She turned around and looked at me.
'I don't give a damn why any of them do it,' she said, eyes flashing. 'I think they should all be hanged.'
'I won't disagree with you,' I said.
'But this does not mean I don't have an instinct about him. I would call it a woman's instinct, actually.'
'Yes. You have met my cat, Chester,' she said.
'Oh, yes. He is the fattest cat I have ever seen.'
She did not smile. 'He will go out and catch a mouse. And he will play with it to death. It is really quite sadistic. Then he finally kills it and what does he do? He brings it in the house. He carries it up on the bed and leaves it on my pillow. This is his present to me.'
'What are you suggesting, Anna?' I was chilled again.
'I believe this man has a weird significant relationship with you. As if you are mother, and he brings you what he kills.'
'That is unthinkable,' I said.
'It excites him to get your attention, it is my guess. He wants to impress you. When he murders someone, it is his gift to you. And he knows you will study it very carefully and try to discover his every stroke, almost like a mother looking at her little boy's drawings he brings home from school. You see, his evil work is his art.'
I thought of the charge made at the gallery in Shockhoe Slip. I wondered what art Gault had bought.
'He knows you will analyze and think of him all the time, Kay.'
'Anna, you're suggesting these deaths might be my fault.'
'Nonsense. If you start believing that then I need to start seeing you in my office. Regularly.'
'How much danger am I in?'
'I must be careful here.' She stopped to think. 'I know what others must say. That's why there are many police.'
'What do you say?'
'I personally do not feel you are in great physical danger from him. Not this minute. But I think everyone around you is. You see, he is making his reality yours.'
'He has no one. He would like for you to have no one.'
'He has no one because of what he does,' I said angrily.
'All I can say is every time he kills, he is more isolated. And these days, so are you. There is a pattern. Do you see it?'
She had moved next to me. She placed her hand on my forehead.
'I'm not sure.'
'You have no fever,' she said.
'Sheriff Brown hated me.'
'See, another present. Gault thought you would be pleased. He killed the mouse for you and dragged it into your morgue.'
The thought made me sick.
She withdrew a stethoscope from a jacket pocket and put it around her neck. Rearranging my gown, she listened to my heart and lungs, her face serious.
'Breathe deeply for me, please.' She moved the head of the stethoscope around my back. 'Again.'
She took my blood pressure and felt my neck. She was a rare, old-world physician. Anna Zenner treated the whole person, not just the mind.
'Your pressure's low,' she said.
'So what else is new.'
'What do they give you here?'
The cuff made a ripping sound as she removed it from my arm. 'Ativan is okay. It has no appreciable effect on the respiratory or cardiovascular systems. It is fine for you. I can write a prescription.'
'No,' I said.
'An antianxiety agent is a good idea just now, I think.'
'Anna,' I said. 'Drugs are not what I need just now.'
She patted my hand. 'You are not decompensating.'
She got up and put on her coat.
'Anna,' I said, 'I have a favor to ask. How is your house at Hilton Head?'
She smiled. 'It is still the best antianxiety agent I know. And I've told you so how many times?'
'Maybe this time I will listen,' I said. 'I may have to take a trip near there, and I would like to be as private as possible.'
Dr. Zenner dug keys from her pocketbook and took one off the ring. Next she dashed off something on a blank prescription and set it and the key on a table by my bed.
'No need to do anything,' she said simply. 'But I leave for you the key and instructions. Should you get the urge in the middle of the night, you don't even need to let me know.'
'That is so kind of you,' I said. 'I doubt I'll need it long.'
'But you should need it long. It is on the ocean in Palmetto Dunes, a small, modest house near the Hyatt. I will not be using it anytime soon and don't think you will be bothered there. In fact, you can just be Dr. Zenner.' She chuckled. 'No one knows me there anyway.'
'Dr. Zenner,' I mused dryly. 'So now I'm German.'
'Oh, you are always German.' She opened the door. 'I don't care what you have been told.'
She left and I sat up straighter, energetic and alert. I got out of bed and was in the closet when I heard my door open. I walked out, expecting Lucy. Instead, Paul Tucker was inside my room. I was too surprised to be embarrassed as I stood barefoot with nothing on but a gown that barely covered anything.
He averted his gaze as I returned to bed and pulled up the covers.
'I apologize. Captain Marino said it was all right to come in,' said Richmond's chief of police, who did not seem particularly sorry, no matter what he claimed.
'He should have told me first,' I stated, looking him straight in the eye.
'Well, we all know about Captain Marino's manners. Do you mind?' He nodded at the chair.
'Please. I'm clearly a captive audience.'
'You are a captive audience because I have half my police department looking out for you right now.' His face was hard.
I watched him carefully.
'I'm very aware of what happened in your morgue this morning.' Anger glinted in his eyes. 'You are in grave danger, Dr. Scarpetta. I'm here to plead with you. I want you to take this seriously.'
'How could you possibly assume I'm not taking this seriously?' I said with indignation.
'We'll start with this. You should not have returned to your office this afternoon. Two law enforcement officers were just murdered, one of them there while you were in the building.'
'I had no choice but to return to my office, Colonel Tucker. Just who do you think did those officers' autopsies?'
He was silent. Then he asked, 'Do you think Gault has left town?'
'I don't know why, but I don't think he has.'
'How are you feeling?'
I could tell he was fishing for something, but I could not imagine what.
'I'm feeling fine. In fact, as soon as you leave, I'm going to get dressed and then I'm going to leave,' I replied.
He started to speak but didn't.
I watched him for a moment. He was dressed in dark blue FBI National Academy sweats and high-top leather cross-training shoes. I wondered if he had been working out in the gym when someone had called him about me. It suddenly struck me that we were neighbors. He and his wife lived in Windsor Farms just a few blocks from me.
'Marino's told me to evacuate my house,' I said in an almost accusatory tone. 'Are you aware of that?'
'How much of a hand have you had in his suggestion to me?'
'Why would you think I've had anything to do with what Marino suggests to you?' he asked calmly.
'You and I are neighbors. You probably drive past my house every day.'
'I don't. But I know where you live, Kay.'
'Please don't call me Kay.'
'If I were white would you let me call you Kay?' he said with ease.
'No, I would not.'
He did not seem offended. He knew I did not trust him. He knew I was slightly afraid of him and probably of most people right now. I was getting paranoid.
'Dr. Scarpetta.' He got up. 'I've had your house under surveillance for weeks.' He paused, looking down at me.
'Why?' I asked.
'What are you talking about?' My mouth was getting dry.
'He was very involved in an intricate drug network that stretches from New York to Miami. Some of your patients were involved in it. At least eight that we know of at this time.'
He nodded, staring toward the window. 'Brown hated you.'
'That was clear. The reason was not.'
'Let's just say that you did your job too well. Several of his comrades were locked up for a very long time because of you.' He paused. 'We had reason to fear he planned to have you taken care of.'
I stared at him, stunned. 'What? What reason?'
'More than one?'
Tucker said, 'Brown had already offered money to somebody we had-to take very seriously.'
I reached for my water glass.
'This was earlier in the month. Maybe three weeks ago.' His eyes wandered around the room.
'Who did he hire?' I asked.
'Anthony Jones.' Tucker looked at me.
My astonishment grew and I was shocked by what he told me next.
'The person who was supposed to get shot Christmas Eve was not Anthony Jones but you.'
I was speechless.
'That entire scenario of going to the wrong apartment in Whitcomb Court was for the purpose of taking you out. But when the sheriff went through the kitchen and into the backyard, he and Jones got into an argument. You know what happened.'
He got up. 'Now the sheriff is dead too and, frankly, you're lucky.'
'Colonel Tucker,' I said.
He stood by my bed.
'Did you know about this before it happened?'
'Are you asking me if I'm clairvoyant?' His face was grim.
'I think you know what I'm asking.'
'We had our eye on you. But no, we did not know until after the fact that Christmas Eve was when you were supposed to be killed. Obviously, had we known, you never would have been out riding around, delivering blankets.'
He looked down at the floor, thinking, before he spoke again. 'You're sure you're ready to check out of here?'
'Where do you plan to go tonight?'
He shook his head. 'Out of the question. Nor do I recommend a local hotel.'
'Marino has agreed to stay with me.'
'Oh, now I bet that's safe,' he said wryly as he opened the door. 'Get dressed, Dr. Scarpetta. We have a meeting to attend.'
When I emerged from my hospital room not much later, I was met by stares and few words. Lucy and Janet were with Marino, and Paul Tucker was alone, a Gortex jacket on.
'Dr. Scarpetta, you ride with me.' He nodded at Marino. 'You follow with the young ladies.'
We walked along a polished white hallway toward elevators and headed down. Uniformed officers were everywhere, and when glass doors slid open outside the emergency room, three of them appeared to escort us to our cars. Marino and the chief had parked in police slots, and when I saw Tucker's personal car, I felt another spasm in my chest. He drove a black Porsche 911. It was not new, but it was in excellent condition.
Marino saw the car, too. He remained silent as he unlocked his Crown Victoria.
'Were you on 95 South last night?' I asked Tucker as soon as we were inside his car.
He pulled his shoulder harness across his chest and started the engine. 'Why would you ask me that?' He did not sound defensive, only curious.
'I was coming home from Quantico and a car similar to this one was tailgating us.'
'Who is us?'
'I was with Marino.'
'I see.' He turned right outside the parking deck, toward headquarters. 'So you were with the Grand Dragon.'
'Then it was you,' I said as wipers pushed away snow.
Streets were slick and I felt the car slip as Tucker slowed at a traffic light.
'I did see a Confederate flag bumper sticker last night,' he said. 'And I did express my lack of appreciation for it.'
'The truck it was on is Marino's.'
'I did not care whose truck it was.'
I looked over at him.
'Serves the captain right.' He laughed.
'Do you always act so aggressively?' I asked. 'Because it's a good way to get shot.'