Today we have an excerpt from Patricia Cornwell's new book, Chaos, courtesy of Harper Collins. Once you done reading, you can check out our review here or get Patricia's recipe for Bloody Marys.
Wednesday, September 7
BEYOND THE BRICK WALL bordering Harvard Yard, four tall chimneys and a gray slate roof with white-painted dormers peek through the branches of hardwood trees.
The Georgian building is a welcome sight no more than fifteen minutes ahead as the crow flies. But walking wasn’t smart. I was foolish to refuse a ride. Even in the shade it feels like an oven. The atmosphere is stagnant, nothing stirring in the hot humid air.
Were it not for the distant sounds of traffic, the infrequent pedestrian, the vapor trails overhead, I might believe I’m the only human left on a post-apocalyptic earth. I’ve never seen the Harvard campus this deserted except maybe during a bomb scare. But then I’ve also not been witness to such extreme weather in this part of the world, and blizzards and arctic blasts don’t count.
New Englanders are used to that but not temperatures edging past a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. The sun is molten in a bone-scrubbed sky that the heat has bleached the blue out of as I’ve heard it described. The greenhouse effect. Global warming. God’s punishment. The Devil’s in his workshop. Mercury in retrograde. El Niño. The end times.
These are some of the explanations for one of the worst heat waves in Massachusetts’s history. Business at my headquarters, the Cambridge Forensic Center, has gone through the roof, and that’s the paradox of what I do. When things are bad they’re normal. When they’re worse they’re good. It’s a gift and a curse that I have job security in this imperfect world, and as I take a shortcut through the center of the campus in the stifling heat, I tweak the talk I’m going to give at the Kennedy School of Government tomorrow night.
Cleverness, a play on words, provocative stories that are real, and maybe my sister Dorothy isn’t the hopeless tool I’ve always believed. She says that I have to be entertaining if I’m to get an auditorium full of jaded Ivy League intellectuals and policy makers to listen. Maybe they’ll even walk around in my shoes for once if I share the dark side, the underbelly, the scary basement no one wants to enter or acknowledge.
As long as I’m not expected to repeat insensitive jokes, certainly not the ones I constantly hear from the cops, rather dreadful slogans that end up on T-shirts and coffee cups. I’m not going to say our day begins when yours ends even if it’s true. Although I suppose it’s all right to quip that the more dire the straits the more necessary I am. Catastrophes are my calling. Dreadful news gets me out of bed. Tragedy is my bread and butter, and the cycle of life and death remains unbroken no matter our IQ.