The cove, p.14
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       The Cove, p.14
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         Part #1 of FBI Thriller series by Catherine Coulter

  But he didn’t give her even two more minutes. She jumped when she heard him unlock the door. No time to get into position. She stood stiffly by the window in her peach silk nightgown.

  “Good evening, my dear Sally. You’re looking chipper and really quite lovely in that nightgown. Would you like to take it off for me now?”

  “No.”

  “Ah, so you’ve got your wits together, have you? Just as well. I’d like to have a conversation with you before I send you back into the ether. Do sit down, Sally.”

  “No. I want to stay as far away from you as possible.”

  “As you wish.” He was wearing a dark-blue crew sweater and black slacks. His black hair was slicked back as if he’d just had a shower. His teeth were white, the front two top teeth overlapping.

  “Your teeth are ugly,” she said now. “Why didn’t you wear braces as a kid?”

  She’d spoken without thinking, another indication that her mind wasn’t completely clear yet.

  He looked as if he wanted to kill her. Without conscious thought, he raised his fingers to touch his teeth, then dropped his arm. There was only a thin veil of shadow separating them now, but she recognized the anger in him, knew he wanted to hurt her.

  He got control of himself. “Well, you’re a little bitch tonight, aren’t you?”

  “No,” she said, still watching him, her body tensed, knowing he wanted to attack her, hurt her badly. She didn’t know she could hate a person as much as she hated him. Other than her father. Other than her husband.

  Finally, he sat down in the single chair and crossed his legs. He removed his glasses and put them on the small circular table beside the chair. There were a carafe of water and a single glass on the table, nothing more.

  “What do you want?” The carafe was plastic—even if she struck him squarely on the head, it wouldn’t hurt him. But the table was sturdy. If only she were fast enough, she could grab it and smash him with it. But she knew she would have to be free of the drugs for at least another hour to be fast enough, strong enough, to bring him down. Could she keep him talking that long? She doubted it, but it was worth a try.

  “What do you want?” she said again. She couldn’t bring herself to take a step closer to him.

  “I’m bored,” he said. “I’m making so much money, but I’m never free to leave this place. I want to enjoy my money. What do you suggest?”

  “Let me go, and I’ll see that you get even more money.”

  “That would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?”

  “Do you mean that you have other people in here who are perfectly sane? Other people you’re holding prisoner? Other people you’re being paid to keep here?”

  “This is a very small, very private place, Sally. Not many people know about it. I gain all my patients through referrals, carefully screened referrals.

  “Just listen to me. This is the first time I’ve ever talked to you as an adult. Six months I had you with me, six whole months, and you were always as interesting as a jointless doll, except for that time you jumped through the window in my office. If anything proved to your dear mother that you were nuts, that story did. That made me sit up and take notice of you, but not for long. This is much better. If only I could trust you not to try to escape me again, I would keep you just as you are now.”

  “How do you imagine that I can escape?”

  “Unfortunately Holland is quite stupid, and he’s the one who tends you most often. I do believe Nurse Rosalee is a bit afraid of you. Isn’t that odd? As for Holland, he begged me to let him take care of you, the pathetic creature. Yes, I can imagine you waiting behind that door for him to come in.

  “What would you do, Sally? Hit him on the head with this table? That would stun him. Then you could strip off his clothes, though I doubt you’d enjoy stripping him as much as he enjoys stripping you. No, you see, I’m in a bind. And please don’t move. Remember, I’m not Holland. Stay where you are or you get a nice big shot right now.”

  “I haven’t moved an inch. Why am I here? How did you find me? Amabel had to have called to tell you where I was. But why? And who wanted me back here? My husband? Were you the one who pretended to be my father or was it Scott?”

  “You speak of your poor husband as if he’s a stranger to you. It’s that James Quinlan, isn’t it? You slept with him, you enjoyed him, and now you want to dump poor Scott. I would never have taken you for such a fickle woman, Sally. Wait until I tell Scott what you’ve done.”

  “When you speak to Scott Brainerd, tell him I fully intend to kill him when I’m free of this place. And I will be free soon, Dr. Beadermeyer.”

  “Ah, Sally, I’m sure that Scott wants me to make you more malleable. He doesn’t like women who are aggressive, all tied up in their careers. Trust me to see to it, Sally.”

  “Either you or Scott called me up in The Cove pretending to be my father. Either you or Scott came to The Cove and climbed that silly ladder to scare the hell out of me, to make me think I was crazy. There’s no one else. My father is dead.”

  “Yes, Amory is dead. I think personally that you killed him, Sally. Did you?”

  “I don’t know if you really want the truth. I have no memory of that night. It will come back, though. It has to.”

  “Don’t count on it. One of the drugs I’m giving you is excellent at suppressing memory. No one really knows yet what the long-term side effects will be. And you will be taking it forever, Sally.”

  He rose and walked to her. “Now,” he said. He was smiling. She couldn’t help herself. When he reached for her, she cracked a fist as hard as she could against his jaw. His head flew back. She hit him again, kicked him in the groin with all her strength, and ran to grab that table.

  But she stumbled, her head spinning, nausea flooding through her. Her legs collapsed beneath her. She fell to the floor.

  She heard him panting behind her. She had to get to that table. She struggled to her feet, forced one foot in front of the other. He was close behind her now, panting, panting, he was in pain, she’d hurt him. If she didn’t knock him out, he would take great pleasure in hurting her. Please, God, please, please.

  She clutched the table, lifted it, turned to face him. He was so close, his arms stretched out toward her, his fingers curved, coming toward her throat.

  “Holland!”

  “No,” she said and swung the table at him. But it was a puny effort, and he blocked it with his shoulder.

  “Holland!”

  The door flew open and Holland ran into the room.

  “Hold the little bitch, hold her!”

  “No, no.” She backed away from the men, but there was no room, just the narrow bed and the table she held as a shield in front of her.

  Dr. Beadermeyer was holding his crotch, his face still drawn in pain. Good, she’d hurt him. Anything he did to her would be worth it. She’d hurt him.

  “That’s enough, Sally.” Holland’s voice, soft and hoarse, terrifying.

  “I’ll kill you, Holland. Stay away from me.” But it was an empty threat. Her arms were trembling, her stomach roiling now. She tasted bile. She dropped the table, fell to her knees, and vomited on Dr. Beadermeyer’s Italian loafers.

  * * *

  “You either help me or you don’t, Dillon, but you don’t tell a soul about this.”

  “Damnation, Quinlan, do you know what you’re asking?” Dillon Savich leaned back in his chair, nearly tipping it over, but not quite because he knew exactly how far to go. His computer screen was bright with the photo of a man’s face, a youngish man who looked like a yuppie broker, well dressed, easy smile, well-groomed hair and clothes.

  “Yes. You’re going with me to that sanitarium and we’re going to rescue Sally. Then we’re going to clean up this mess. We’ll be heroes. You won’t be gone from your computer for more than a couple of hours. Maybe three hours if you want to be a hero. Take your laptop and the modem. You can still hook in to any system you want.”

  “Marvin wi
ll cut our balls off. You know he hates it when you try to go off on your own without talking to him.”

  “We’ll give Marvin all the credit. The FBI will shine. Marvin will be grinning from ear to ear. He’ll give the credit to his boss, Deputy Director Shruggs, so Shruggs won’t cut Marvin’s balls off. Shruggs will be happy as a loon.

  “And on and on it goes. Sally will be safe and we’ll get this damned murder solved.”

  “You still ignore the fact that she might have killed her father herself. It’s a possibility. What’s wrong with you? How can you ignore it?”

  “Yeah, I do ignore it. I have to. But we’ll find out, won’t we?”

  “You’re involved with her, aren’t you? It was only one bloody week you were with her. What is she, some sort of siren?”

  “No, she’s a skinny little blonde who’s got more grit than you can begin to imagine.”

  “I don’t believe this. No, shut up, Quinlan, I’ve got to think.” Dillon leaned forward and stared fixedly at the man’s photo on the computer screen. He said absently, “This creep is probably the one who’s killing the homeless people in Minneapolis.”

  “Leave the creep for the moment. Think, brood, whatever. You’re going to try to figure all the odds. You’re going to weigh every possible outcome with that computer brain of yours. Have you developed a program for that yet?”

  “Not yet, but I’m close. Come on, Quinlan, my brain is why you love me. I’ve saved your ass at least three times. You wouldn’t trade me for any other agent. Shut up. I’ve got to make an important decision here.”

  “You’ve got ten minutes. Not a second more. I’ve got to get to her. God knows what they’re doing to her, what they’re giving her. Jesus, she could be dead. Or they could have already moved her. If the guy who hit me bothered to check my ID, then they know I’m FBI. We haven’t got much time even if they didn’t check. I know they’ll move her, it only makes sense.”

  “Why are you so sure she’s at the sanitarium?”

  “They wouldn’t take the chance of taking her anywhere else.”

  “‘They’ who? No, you don’t know. Ten minutes, then. No, shut up, Quinlan.”

  “Thank God, you’ve already been to the gym this morning or I’d have to wait for you to lift your bloody weights. I’m getting some coffee.”

  Quinlan walked down to the small lounge at the end of the hall. It wasn’t that the fifth floor was ugly and inhospitable. It couldn’t be, since they let tourists get within a floor of them. It didn’t look all that institutional, just tired. The linoleum was still pale brown with years of grit walked deep into it.

  He poured a cup of coffee, sniffed it first, then took a cautious sip. Yep, it still made his Adam’s apple shudder, but it kept the nerves finely tuned. Without it an agent would probably just fold up and die.

  He needed Dillon. He knew that Dillon would set up an appropriate backup in case it turned out they couldn’t handle the job. He’d been tempted to go directly from Dulles to Maryland to that sanitarium, but he’d given the matter a good deal of thought. He was in this up to his neck, and he wanted to save Sally’s neck as well.

  He had no idea about the security at Beadermeyer’s sanitarium, but Dillon would find out and then they’d get over there. He couldn’t take the chance of alerting his boss, Brammer. He couldn’t take the chance that Sally could be plowed under in this damned mess.

  He drank more coffee, felt the caffeine jolt hit his brain and stomach at about the same time.

  He wandered back into Dillon’s office. “It’s been ten minutes.”

  “I’ve been waiting for you, Quinlan. Let’s go.”

  “Just like that? No more arguments? No more telling me there’s a thirteen percent chance that one of us will end up in a ditch with a knife in his throat?”

  “Nope,” Dill said cheerfully, pulled several sheets out of his printer, and rose.

  “Here’s the layout for the sanitarium. I think I’ve found exactly where it’s safest for us to go in.”

  “You made up your mind before you even kicked me out.”

  “Sure. I wanted to get a look at the plans, didn’t really know if I could get my paws on them, but I did. Come here and let me show you the best way into this place. Tell me what you think.”

  “Did you make her brush her teeth and wash her mouth out?”

  “Yes, Doctor Beadermeyer. She spit the mouthwash on me, but she did get a bit of it in her mouth.”

  “I hate the smell of vomit,” Beadermeyer said as he looked down at his shoes. He’d cleaned them as best he could. Just thinking about what she’d done made him want to hit her again, but it wouldn’t gain him any pleasure. She was unconscious.

  “She’ll be out of it for a good four hours. Then I’ll lighten the dose to keep her pleasantly sedated.”

  “I hope the dose isn’t too high.”

  “Don’t be a fool. I have no intention of killing her, at least not yet. I just don’t know yet what will happen. I’m taking her out of here tomorrow morning.”

  “Yes, before he comes to get her.”

  “Why do you say that, Holland? How the hell do you know anything?”

  “I was sitting beside her after you gave her the shot, and she was whispering that she knew he’d come here, she knew it.”

  “She’s fucking crazy. You know that, Holland.”

  “Yes, Doctor.”

  Damnation. Quinlan could find out everything he wanted to know about the sanitarium within computer minutes. He felt the wet of his own sweat in his armpits. Damn, this shouldn’t have happened. He wondered if he should get her out of here tonight, right now.

  They should have killed that damned agent while they’d had him, and because they’d been afraid to, now he would have to deal with it.

  If he was smart, if he wanted to make sure he was safe, he’d get Sally out of here now.

  Where to take her? Jesus, he was tired. He rubbed the back of his neck as he walked back to his office.

  Mrs. Willard hadn’t left any coffee for him, damn her. He sat down behind the mahogany desk that kept patients a good three and a half feet from him and leaned back in his chair.

  When would Quinlan and his FBI buddies show up? He would show up, Beadermeyer knew it. He’d followed her to The Cove. He would come here for sure. But how soon? How much time did he have? He picked up the telephone and dialed. They would have to make a decision now. There was no more time for playing games.

  The night was black as pitch. He and Dillon left the Oldsmobile sedan about twenty yards down the road from the wide gates of the Beadermeyer sanitarium. The words were scrolled in fancy script letters on top of the black iron gates.

  “Pretentious bastard.”

  “Yeah,” Dillon said. “Let me think if there’s anything more to tell you about our doctor. First of all, I don’t think many people have this information.

  “He’s brilliant and unscrupulous. Word has it that if you’re rich enough and discreet enough and you want someone under wraps badly enough, then Beadermeyer will take that person off your hands. It’s just rumors, of course, but who knows? Who did Sally piss off enough to get her sent here? Look, Quinlan, maybe she’s really sick.”

  “She isn’t sick. Who sent her here? I don’t know. She never would tell me. She never even mentioned Beadermeyer by name. But it has to be him. Keep the flashlight down, Dillon. Yeah, better. Who knows what kind of security he has?”

  “That I couldn’t find out, but hey, the fence isn’t electrified.”

  They were both wearing black, including heavily lined black gloves. The twelve-foot-high fence was no problem. They dropped lightly to the spongy grass on the other side.

  “So far, so good,” Quinlan said, keeping the flashlight low and moving it in a wide arc.

  “Let’s stay close to the tree line.”

  The two men moved quickly, hunkered down, the flashlight sending out a low beam just in front of them.

  “Oh, shit,” Dillon said.
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  “What? Oh, yeah.” Two German shepherds came galloping toward them.

  “Damn, I don’t want to kill them.”

  “You won’t have to. Just stand still, Dillon.”

  “What are you going—”

  Dillon watched Quinlan pull a plastic-wrapped package from inside his black jacket. He peeled it open to show three huge pieces of raw steak.

  The dogs were within twelve feet of them. Still Quinlan held perfectly still, waiting, waiting.

  “Just another second,” he said, then threw one piece of raw steak in one direction and a second piece in the other direction. The dogs were on the meat in an instant.

  “Let’s get moving. I’m going to save this last piece as getaway meat.”

  “Not a bad security system,” Dillon said.

  They were running now, keeping low, the flashlight off because there were a few lights on in the long, sprawling building in front of them, enough to light their way.

  “You said the patient rooms are all in the left wing.”

  “Right. Beadermeyer’s office is in the far end of the right wing. If the bastard’s still here, he’s a good distance away.”

  “There should just be a small night shift complement.”

  “I hope. I didn’t take the time to access their personnel and administration files. I don’t know how many employees work the night shift.”

  “Damned useless machine.”

  Dillon laughed. “Don’t accuse me of being married to my computer when you’re at your damned club most weekends wailing away on your sax. Whoa, Quinlan, stop.”

  They froze in an instant, pressed against the brick building, just behind two tall bushes. Someone was coming, walking briskly, a flashlight in his hand.

  He was whistling the theme from Gone with the Wind.

  “A romantic security guard,” Quinlan whispered.

  The man waved the flashlight to both sides and back again to the front. He never stopped whistling. The light flowed right over their bent heads, showing the guard only black shadows.

  “I just hope she’s here,” Quinlan said. “Beadermeyer has to know I’ll come here. If he’s the one who hit me, then he would have checked my ID. What if they’ve already taken her away?”

 
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