The cove, p.18
Part #1 of FBI Thriller series by Catherine Coulter
“We’ll see soon enough. It’s her mother’s parents who live there. Their name is Harrison. Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Oglivee Harrison.”
“I don’t suppose Mrs. Harrison has a name?”
“Nah, if the guy is rich and old, that’s the way they do it. I’ve wondered if sometimes they just make up that highbrow middle name for effect.”
“I MEANT TO tell you why Sally used a credit card and not some of your three hundred bucks.”
Dillon was driving, handling his Porsche with the same ease and skill he used with computers.
Quinlan was reading everything he had on the grandparents with a small penlight. He had to look up every few minutes so he wouldn’t throw up. “I hate reading in a car. My sister used to read novels all the time—in the back seat—never bothered her for an instant. I’d look at a picture and want to throw up. What did you say, Dillon? Oh, yeah, why Sally used the credit card. While you were getting your coat, I checked the rest of the information they gave on the credit card check. The license plate number was different. She bought a clunker, probably used about every cent of that three hundred bucks.”
Dillon grunted. “Hand me the coffee. Another hour and we’ll be there.”
“It took time for her to sell the Olds and buy the clunker. It cut down on her lead. Let’s say she’s got two hours on us. That’s not too bad.”
“Let’s hope she doesn’t realize you’re anywhere in the vicinity, like you seem to believe she did last time at her mother’s.”
“She did know. Listen to this. Mr. Franklin Oglivee Harrison is the president and CEO of the First Philadelphia Union Bank. He owns three clothing stores called the Gentleman’s Purveyor. His father owned the two largest steel mills in Pennsylvania, got out before the bottom fell out, and left his family millions. As for Mrs. Harrison, she comes from the Boston Thurmonds, who are all in public office, lots of old money from shipping. Two daughters, Amabel and Noelle, and a son, Geoffrey, who’s got Down’s syndrome and is kept at a very nice private place near Boston.”
“You want to stop at that gas station in Wilmington? We’ll be there in half an hour.”
“Let’s do it. Someone will remember the kind of car she was driving.”
“If she got something for three hundred bucks, it would really stand out.”
But the guy who’d sold her the gas had gone home. They drove straight on to Philadelphia.
Sally looked from her grandfather Franklin to her grandmother Olivia. She’d seen them two or three times a year every year of her life, except this past year.
Their downstairs maid, Cecilia, had let her in, not blinked an eye at her huge man’s coat over the too tight blouse and jeans, and calmly led her to the informal study at the back of the house. Her grandparents were watching Seinfeld on TV.
Cecilia didn’t announce her, just left her there and quietly closed the door. Sally didn’t say anything for a long time. She just stood there, listening to her grandfather give an occasional chuckle. Her grandmother had a book on her lap, but she wasn’t reading, she was watching TV as well. They were both seventy-six, in excellent health, and enjoyed the Jumby Bay private resort island off Antigua twice a year.
Sally waited for a commercial, then said, “Hello, Grandfather, Grandmother.”
Her grandmother’s head jerked around, and she cried out, “Susan!”
Her grandfather said, “Is that really you, Susan? By all that’s holy, my poor child, whatever are you doing here?”
Neither of them moved from the sofa. They seemed nailed to their seats. Her grandmother’s book slid from her lap to the beautiful Tabriz carpet.
Sally took a step toward them. “I hoped you could give me some money. There are a lot of people looking for me, and I need to hide someplace. I only have about seventeen dollars.”
Franklin Harrison rose slowly. He was wearing a smoking jacket and an ascot—she hadn’t known those things were still even made. She suddenly had an image of him wearing the same thing when she’d been a very young girl. She remembered how he’d held her and let her stroke the soft silk of the ascot. His white hair was thick and wavy, his eyes a dark blue, his cheekbones high, but his mouth was small and tight. It seemed smaller and tighter now.
Olivia Harrison rose as well, straightening the silk dress she was wearing. She held out her hand. “Susan, dear, why aren’t you with that lovely Doctor Beadermeyer? You didn’t escape again, did you? That’s not a good thing for you, dear, not good for you at all, particularly with all the scandal that your father’s death has produced.”
“He didn’t just die, Grandmother, he was murdered.”
“Yes, we know. All of us have suffered. But now we’re concerned about you, Susan. Your mother has told us how much Doctor Beadermeyer has done for you, how much better you’ve gotten. We met him once and were very impressed with him. Wasn’t that nice of him to come to Philadelphia to meet us? You are better, aren’t you, Susan? You aren’t still seeing things that aren’t there, are you? You’re not still blaming people for things they didn’t do?”
“No, Grandmother. I never did any of those things.” Strange how neither of them wanted to come close to her.
“You know, dear,” her grandmother continued in that gentle voice of hers that masked pure iron, “your grandfather and I have discussed this, and we hate to say it, but it’s possible that you’re like your uncle Geoffrey. Your illness is probably hereditary, and so it isn’t really your fault. Let me call Doctor Beadermeyer, dear.”
Sally could only stare at her grandmother. “Uncle Geoffrey was born with Down’s syndrome. It has nothing to do with mental illness.”
“Yes, but it perhaps shows that instability can be somewhat genetic, passed down from a mother or a father to the daughter. But that’s not important. What’s important is getting you back to that nice sanitarium so Doctor Beadermeyer can treat you. Before your father died, he called us every week to tell us how much better you were getting. Well, there were weeks with setbacks, but he said that in the main, you were improving with the new drug therapies.”
What could she say to that? Tell them all the truth as she remembered it and watch their faces go from disbelief to fury on her account? Not likely.
She saw the years upon years of inflexibility, the utter rigidity, in her grandmother. She remembered what Aunt Amabel had told her about when Noelle had come home, beaten by her husband, when Sally was just a baby. How they hadn’t believed Noelle.
It had always been there, of course, this rigidity, but since Sally had seen her grandmother so infrequently, she’d never had it turned on her. More clearly than ever, Sally could see now how her grandmother had treated her daughter Noelle when she’d come here begging for help. She shuddered.
“Well,” her grandfather said, all hale and hearty, so good-natured, so weak, “it’s good to see you, dear. I know you don’t have time to stay, do you? Why not let us send you back to Washington? Like your grandmother said, this Beadermeyer fellow seemed to be doing you a great deal of good.”
She looked from one to the other. Her grandfather, as tall as James, or at least he used to be, a man who had lived his life by a set of rules of his wife’s making—or perhaps his father’s—a man who didn’t mind if someone strayed from the proper course but who wouldn’t defend that person if his wife was anywhere near.
She’d always believed him so dear, so kind, but he wasn’t coming anywhere near her, either—God, she wondered what he really thought of her. She wondered why he had that tight, mean mouth. She said, “I was in The Cove. I stayed for a while with Aunt Amabel.”
“We don’t speak of her,” her grandmother said, taller now because her back had gotten stiffer. “She made her bed and now she must—”
“She’s very happy.”
“She can’t be. She disgraced herself and her family, marrying that absurd man who painted for a living, painted pictures!”
“Aunt Amabel is an excellent artist.”
She looked her grandmother right in the eye. “No, I don’t understand. Tell me why you won’t give me money.”
“Susan, dear,” her grandmother said, her voice all low and soothing, “you’re not well. We’re sorry for it and a bit stunned, since this sort of thing has never before been in the family except, of course, for your uncle Geoffrey.
“We can’t give you money because you could use it to hurt yourself even more. If you would just sit down here, even stay the night, we will call Doctor Beadermeyer and he can come and get you. Trust us, dear.”
“Yes, Susan, trust us. We’ve always loved you, always wanted the best for you.”
“You mean the way you sent your daughter, my mother, back to a man who beat her?”
“It’s true, and both of you know it. He beat the living shit out of her whenever he felt like it.”
“Don’t use that kind of word in front of your grandmother, Susan,” her grandfather said, and she saw that mouth of his go stern and tight.
She just looked at him, wondering why she’d even come here, but still, she had to try. She had to have money.
“I tried to protect Noelle for years, but I couldn’t save her because she let him do it—do you hear me?—Noelle let him beat her. She was just like all those pathetic women you hear about.”
“Don’t be stupid, Susan,” her grandmother said in a voice that could have crushed gravel. “Your grandfather and I have discussed this, and we know that battered wives are weak and stupid women. They’re dependent. They have no motivation. They have no desire to better themselves. They aren’t able to leave their situations because they’ve bred like rabbits and the men they’re married to drink and don’t have any money.”
“Your grandmother is perfectly correct, Susan. They aren’t our kind at all. They are to be pitied, certainly, but don’t ever put your dear mother in that class.”
“Amabel told me how Noelle came here once—it was early on in her marriage—and told you both what my father was doing. You didn’t want to hear about it. You insisted she go back. You turned her away. You were horrified. Did you even think she was making it up?”
Sally thought for a wild moment that this was surely the wrong way to go about getting money from them. She hadn’t realized all this resentment toward them was bottled up inside her.
“We will not speak of your mother to you, Susan,” her grandmother said. She nodded slightly to her husband, but Susan saw it. He took a step toward her. She wondered if he would try to hold her down and tie her up and call Doctor Beadermeyer. In that moment, she truly wanted him to try. She wouldn’t mind hitting that tight, mean mouth of his that masked weakness and preached platitudes.
She took a step back, her hands in front of her. “Listen, I need some money. Please, if you have any feeling for me at all, give me some money.”
“What are you wearing, Susan? That’s a man’s jacket. What have you done? You haven’t harmed some innocent person, have you? Please, what have you done?”
She’d been a fool to come here. What had she expected? They were so set in their ways that a bulldozer couldn’t budge them. They saw things one way, only one—her grandmother’s way.
“You’re not well, are you, Susan? If you were, you wouldn’t be wearing those clothes that are so distasteful. Would you like to lie down for a while and we can call Doctor Beadermeyer?”
Her grandfather was moving toward her again now, and she knew then that he would try to hold her here.
She had a trump card, and she played it. She even smiled at the two old people who perhaps had loved her once, in their way. “The FBI is after me. They’ll be here soon. You don’t want the FBI to get me, do you, Grandfather?”
He stopped cold and looked at his wife, whose face had paled.
She said, “How could they possibly know you were coming here?”
“I know one of the agents. He’s smarter than anyone has a right to be. He also has this gut instinct about things. I’ve seen him in action. Count on it. He’ll be here soon now with his partner. If they find me here, they’ll me back. Then everything will come out. I’ll tell the world how my father—that larger-than-life, very rich lawyer take—beat my mother and how you didn’t care, how you ignored it, how you pretended everything was fine, happy to bask in the additional glory that such a successful son-in-law brought you.”
“You’re not a very nice girl, Susan,” her grandmother said, two spots of bright red appearing on her very white cheeks. Anger, probably. “It’s because you’re ill, you know. You didn’t used to be this way.”
“Give me money and I’ll be out of here in a flash. Keep talking, and the FBI will be here and haul me off.”
Her grandfather didn’t look at his wife this time. He pulled out his wallet. He didn’t count the money, just took out all the bills, folded them, and thrust them toward her. He didn’t want to touch her. She wondered about that again. Was he afraid he’d go nuts if he did?
“You should immediately drive back to Doctor Beadermeyer,” he said to her, speaking slowly, as if she were an idiot. “He’ll protect you. He’ll keep you safe from the police and the FBI.”
She stuffed the bills into her jeans pocket. It was a tight fit. “Good-bye, and thank you for the money.” She paused a moment, her hand on the doorknob. “What does either of you know about Doctor Beadermeyer?”
“He came highly recommended, dear. Go back to him. Do as your grandfather says. Go back.”
“He’s a horrible man. He held me prisoner there. He did terrible things to me. But then again, so did my father. Of course, you wouldn’t believe that, would you? He’s so wonderful—rather, he was so wonderful. Doesn’t it bother you that your son-in-law was murdered? That’s rather low on the social ladder, isn’t it?”
They just stared at her.
“Good-bye.” But before she could leave the room, her grandmother called out, “Why are you saying things like this, Susan? I can’t believe that you’re doing this. Not just to us but to your poor mother as well. And what about your dear husband? You’re not telling lies about him, are you?”
“Not a one,” Sally said and slipped out of the room, closing the door behind her. She grinned briefly.
Cecilia was standing there in the hall. She said, “I didn’t call the cops. No one else is here. You don’t have to worry. But hurry, Miss Susan, hurry.”
“Do I know you?”
“No, but my mama always took care of you when your parents brought you here every year. She said you were the brightest little bean and so sweet. She told me how you could write the greatest poems for birthday cards. I still have several cards she made me that have your poems on them. Good luck, Miss Susan.”
“Thank you, Cecilia.”
“I’m Agent Quinlan and this is Agent Savich. Are Mr. and Mrs. Harrison here?”
“Yes, sir. Come with me, please.” Cecilia led them to the study, just as she’d led Sally Brainerd here thirty minutes before. She closed the door after they’d gone in. She thought the Harrisons were now watching the Home Shopping Network. Mr. Harrison liked to see how the clothes hawked there compared with his.
She smiled. She wasn’t about to tell them that Sally Brainerd now had money, although she didn’t know how much she’d gotten from that niggardly old man. Only as much as Mrs. Harrison allowed him to give her. She wished Sally good luck.
Sally stopped at an all-night convenience store and bought herself a ham sandwich and a Coke. She ate outside, well under the lights in front of the store. She waited until the last car had pulled out, then counted her money.
She laughed and laughed.
She had exactly three hundred dollars.
She was so tired she was weaving around like a drunk. The laughter was still bubbling out. She was getting hysterical.
A motel, that was what she needed, a nice, cheap motel. She needed to sleep a good eight hours, then she could go on.
She found one outside of Philadelphia—the Last Stop Motel. She paid cash and endured the look of the old man who really didn’t want to let her stay but couldn’t bring himself to turn away the money she was holding in her hand.
Tomorrow, she thought, she would have to buy some clothes. She’d do it on a credit card and only spend $49.99. Fifty dollars was the cutoff, wasn’t it?
She wondered, as she finally fell asleep on a bed that was wonderfully firm, where James was.
“Where to now, Quinlan?”
“Let me stop thinking violent thoughts. Damn them. Sally was there. Why wouldn’t they help us?”
“They love her and want to protect her?”
“Bullshit. I got cold when I got within three feet of them.”
“It was interesting what Mrs. Harrison said,” Dillon said as he turned on the ignition in the Porsche. “About Sally being ill and she hoped soon she would be back with that nice Doctor Beadermeyer.”
“I’ll bet you a week’s salary that they called the good doctor the minute Sally was out of there. Wasn’t it strange the way Mrs. Harrison tried to make Mr. Harrison look like the strong, firm one? I’d hate to go toe-to-toe with that old battle-ax. She’s the scary one in that family. I wonder if they gave her any money.”
“I hope so,” James said. “It makes my belly knot up to think of her driving a clunker around without a dime to her name.”
“She’s got your credit cards. If they didn’t give her any money, she’ll have to use them.”
“I’ll bet you Sally is dead on her rear. Let’s find a motel, and then we can take turns calling all the motels in the area.”
The Cove by Catherine Coulter / Mystery & Detective / Romance & Love / Thrillers & Crime / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes