Lucy formed small balls out of the cookie dough, which she first tasted raw, remembering when she was a kid and fat and had sneaked enough of it to make her sick. She flattened the balls just a little and placed them several inches apart on the cookie sheets.

"Someone get the Bailey's out of the bar. And glasses. Whiskey tumbler size," she directed from the doorway leading into the great room.

"You're sure your aunt doesn't mind us squatters wrecking her house?"

"We're not wrecking it," Lucy said.

"Not yet."

"When's she coming back?"

"Tomorrow, if planes can get in."

"What if we're still here?" An ATF agent, who knew all about bombs, laughed. "I mean, we might all be right here in this same spot, especially if we eat anything else."

"She won't care," Lucy said.

A second ATF agent eyed the holstered pistols and extra magazines scattered over tables.

"Wouldn't be a smart time for a burglar to show up," she matter-of-factly commented.

"OHHHH, all us women alone," Lucy said in a silly tone, as if she were ready for the fainting couch.

Normally, the cookies needed a good ten minutes in the oven, but Lucy always rescued them somewhat earlier than that, while they were still soft in the middle, because she liked them chewy and moist. With a spatula, she slid them onto a platter, eating one while it was hot.

"God," she groaned. "You're gonna die!" she called out to her friends. "They're so good they're bad!"

They dipped them into tumblers of Bailey's Irish Cream, sitting close to each other in front of the fire, the shadows of flames dancing on their faces.

8

The next morning, Marino did not serve Jimmy Simpson snow, as threatened, although he did jerk the boy around a bit by carrying a bowl of it into the house. He dribbled Mrs. Butterworth's maple syrup over it and stuck a soupspoon in the middle. Jimmy was warm with sleep and tangled in blankets on the couch when he opened his eyes and found Marino hovering over him, holding out the disgusting concoction.

"Snow cream," Marino told him.

Jimmy sat up, his dark tufts sprouting in different directions. He blinked several times, shifting into consciousness.

"Yuck," he said.

"How 'bout an omelet?" Marino asked. "Or you never had one of those, either?"

"I don't know."

Marino clicked on the TV. He opened the Venetian blinds to let the overcast morning into his cramped, slovenly living room.

"I think it's going to snow again," Jimmy said, hopefully.

"Clouds aren't low enough," said Marino, the weather expert. "When they get low like fog and you can't see the sky anywhere, that's when you know. I can feel it like rain coming. Could happen before the day's out, though."

"Will I stay here again if it does?"

"One of these days your mother might want you back," Marino said.

Marino's Southern-Style New Jersey Omelet

Marino was in a gray FBI sweat suit that did not completely cover his girth, and the feet of his white tube socks were stained orange from the insoles of his Cortex boots. He made his way into the kitchen, and soon enough had coffee brewing and was cracking eggs with one hand into a Tupperware juke container. The cast iron skillet was on the stove, and he wiped it with paper towels. He never washed the skillet with soap, and it was seasoned so well he didn't need to grease it

The bacon had been used up the night before in the chili, so Marino had to be a little more creative about breakfast meat. He decided on Hebrew Brothers kosher knockwurst, splitting two and browning them in the sillet These he put on a plate, which he covered with aluminum foil and placed in the oven on warm. He poured several dollops of half-and-half into the juice container of eggs, added salt and pepper; and vigorously shook the mixture until it was frothy. He poured it into the skillet, and instantly the eggs began to cook around the edges and bubble in the middle.

The secret was to cook slowly and wait until there was no raw egg left. Then he turned the burner down to 150 degrees. He sliced cream cheese into thick squares and placed them in the middle of the omelet, which he expertly folded. A minute later, he turned the burner off entirely, and several minutes later the cream cheese was hot, the omelet ready to serve. He divided it, but certainly not equally, and, with a nod to the South, spooned strawberry preserves on top. He added the knockwurst to each plate and carried breakfast into the living room.

"How 'bout setting up those TV trays," he said, nodding at a rack of metal folding trays parked in a corner near the window.

Jimmy opened two of them, situating one in front of the recliner, the other where he was stationed on the couch.

"You can put mustard on your knockwurst, if you want," Marino said, cutting into his omelet

"No, thank you."

"Let me know if you need more jelly."

"I like grape best," Jimmy confessed,

"Tough shit," Marino said.

9

Scarpetta arrived on US Airways flight 301 after a typical changing of planes and dashing to distant gates in the Charlotte airport, where one was certain to stop on his way to anywhere else, including the afterlife. She had left her Mercedes in long term parking at Richmond's International Airport, and she was not able to open the driver's door at first because it was frozen shut, icicles on the handle.

Nor had she worn boots, because it had not occurred to her to pack them for her trip to Miami. Snow caved in around her loafers as she slipped and tugged. Eventually the door opened with a jerk, and now she was faced with cleaning off her car. She started the engine and turned the heat on high. She swiped the snow scraper over windshield, side and rear windows, and mirrors, meticulously clearing every inch of snow and ice off glass, for she was the last person on earth to drive with an obstructed view. How many cases had she seen where the victim died because of a blind spot? She got in and buckled up, driving defensively because not everyone else on the road felt the same way she did, or cared, frankly. They peered through arches left by sluggish wipers, great clumps of snow blowing off their roofs onto the windshields of cars behind them.

Scarpetta took I-64 West to the Fifth Street exit, eventually winding around on the Downtown Expressway, passing her old building at Fourteenth and Franklin Streets. She did not miss working in the ugly four-story precast concrete building with its small windows and biological hazards, but reminders of the past brought so much to mind. She thought of stages she had passed through, of Lucy as a child, and relationships that had left their marks. Scarpetta thought of the dead, too, of those who had come under her care and once were front-page news. She could not remember every name, but she could still see her patients in her mind and recall the smallest details of what she had learned about them. The smokestacks on the roof of her old building were forlorn and cold. The crematorium had been quiet for years.

The streets of Windsor Farms were rutted and deep with slush that would turn to ice with the fading day. She moved slowly along Dover Road into the newer neighborhood, where she lived. The guard in his booth was named Roy, and he waved her through, always happy to see her because she appreciated why he was there and told him so regularly. She understood the dangers outside wrought iron fences and brick walls. More often than she liked to think, Roy had deterred the unsavory and the curious from finding her. It pleased her to see Lucy's old green Suburban and the cars of friends in the drive. Miami had been miserable, and sometimes snow made Scarpetta lonely. The thought of company lifted her mood.