The cove, p.21
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       The Cove, p.21

         Part #1 of FBI Thriller series by Catherine Coulter

  “When I finally told him that I knew he was having an affair and that I wanted out, he said I was imagining things. He said I was being silly, at least at first he said that. Then just days later he said I was losing it, that I was paranoid but that he wouldn’t divorce me because I was going crazy. It wouldn’t be right. No, he wouldn’t do that to me. I didn’t understand what he was talking about until about four days later.

  “He was sleeping with another woman, James, I would bet my life on it. After I was locked away in Beadermeyer’s sanitarium, I don’t know what he did. I was kind of hoping that I’d never have to see him again. And I didn’t. Just my father came. But Scott had to be in on it with my father. He was and is my husband, after all. And he had told me I was nuts.”

  Interesting, he thought. “Yes,” he said. “He was in on it, up to his little shyster’s ears. Who was he having an affair with?”

  “I don’t know. Probably someone at work, at TransCon. Scott’s big into power.”

  “I’m sorry,” he said, dipped down and kissed her ear, “but you’re going to have to see him again, at least one more time. Good thing is, I’m your hero and I’m even official, so you don’t have to worry.

  “Sally, maybe Scott killed your father. Maybe your mother is protecting him.”

  “No, Scott’s a worm. He’s a stingy, cowardly little worm. He wouldn’t have the guts to kill my father.”

  “All right.” So much pain, he thought, too much. It would all work out, it just had to.

  He leaned down and kissed her mouth this time. Her lips parted, and he wanted more than anything to go deep into her mouth, just as he wanted to go deeply inside her body, but he realized her world was spinning out of control right now. He didn’t want to add any more confusion to her life. Good Lord, he’d asked her to marry him.

  “Perhaps that would be good,” she said and pulled him down so she could kiss him.

  “What would be good?” he said in her mouth.

  “To get married. To you. You’re so normal, so big and normal. You didn’t have a screwed-up childhood, did you?”

  “No. I’ve got two older sisters and an older brother. I was the baby of the family. Everyone spoiled me rotten. My family wasn’t particularly dysfunctional. No one hit anyone. We kids beat the crap out of each other, but that’s normal enough. I was big into sports, any and every sport, but my passion was and still is football. Sundays were created for football. I always go into withdrawal after the Super Bowl. Do you like football?”

  “Yes. I had a woman gym teacher at my school who was from San Francisco. She was nuts about football and taught us the game. We got very good. The only problem was that there wasn’t another girl’s team around for us to play. I don’t like basketball or baseball.”

  “I can live with that. I’ll even play touch football with you.”

  She kissed his neck. He shuddered as he felt her opening even more beneath him. He said quickly, “My big screw-up was marrying Teresa Raglan when I was twenty-six. She was from Ohio, seemed just perfect for me.

  “She’s a lawyer, just like your husband and dear old dad. It turned out she fell in love with a guy in the Navy who was selling secrets to whoever was interested. I was the one who caught him. She defended him. She got him off, then left me and married him.”

  “That’s pretty amazing, James. What happened to her?”

  “They live in Annandale, Virginia. She’s got two kids, the guy’s some sort of lobbyist, paid really well, and they seem to be doing just great. I see them every once in a while. No, don’t romanticize it and pretend that I was a brokenhearted wreck. I wasn’t. I was shocked and furious for a while, before Dillon pointed out the absurdity of it all.

  “The good guy catches the bad guy. The good guy’s wife defends the bad guy and gets him off and then marries him. Pretty deep stuff to walk in. He was right. The whole thing was like a bad melodrama or a TV soap.”

  “James, you’re wonderful. Even in all this mess, you can laugh and make me laugh, and you weren’t angry that I poked a gun in your stomach and stole your car. I had to just ditch the car, James. Then I bought the motorcycle. I had to get away. I think if you could forget who you are and come to Bar Harbor with me, everything would be better than what it’s going to be soon. I used to love life, James, before—well, that’s not important right now.”

  “It is important. You want to know something else? Something else that will prove how great I am?”

  “What’s that?”

  “I didn’t even get pissed when you pulled my gun on me the second time.”

  “Well, that settles it then, doesn’t it?” She moved beneath him, and he thought he’d lose it for sure. He was hard against her, and his heart was pounding deep and fast against her chest.

  He hadn’t intended to let things get this out of hand, at least he hadn’t before she shifted beneath him, her legs wide now, his legs between hers.

  He kissed her, then said into her mouth. “You’re beautiful, and you can feel how much I want you. But we can’t let this happen. I don’t have any condoms. The last thing you need is to get pregnant.”

  He heard Dillon moving about in the adjoining room. “Besides, Dillon is awake and up. It’s nearly seven o’clock. We need to get back home.”

  She turned her face away from him. Her eyes were closed. He thought she must be in pain, from either her head or her shoulder. Without thinking, he reared back and pulled his undershirt over her head. She blinked up at him and made a move to cover herself.

  No, he thought, she wasn’t ready for this. “It’s all right. I want to see how badly your shoulder is hurt. Hold still.”

  He was on his knees between her legs, bending over her, his hands gentle as they lightly touched her left shoulder. She winced. “There. Okay, hold still, let me feel around just a bit more.” She looked like the Italian flag, the bruises raw and bright, slashing downward to her breasts and over her shoulder cap to her upper arm. Some of the colors were smearing into each other, green the predominant one.

  He leaned down and kissed her shoulder.

  She felt her hands clenching on his arms. “I’m sorry you got hurt.” He kissed her again, on her left breast this time. He laid his cheek against her breast and listened to her heartbeat, so clear and strong, and now it was speeding up. Why not, he thought. He raised his head and smiled at her.

  “A woman who’s lived with as much stress as you have must have release. It’s the best medicine.” He kissed her again, and eased off her onto his side. He slid his palm down her body, lightly caressing her belly, then his fingers found her. He caressed her even as he kissed her, knowing that she was scared, nervous, but he didn’t stop. His fingers went deeper, changing rhythm, even as his breath speeded up as he felt her relax, as he felt the excitement of what he was doing to her break through her embarrassment.

  He lifted his head and smiled at her dazed face. “It’s all right, sweetheart. You need this. God knows I do, too.”

  He began kissing her again, talking into her mouth, sex words that were crude and raw and exciting. When she came, he took her cries in his mouth, held her tightly against him, and wished like mad that he could come inside her. He hurt, he was pressing hard as a board against her thigh.

  But he couldn’t.

  Dillon knocked lightly on the adjoining door.

  “Quinlan, Sally, you guys awake?”

  He looked down at the bluest eyes he’d ever seen. She was just staring at him as if she couldn’t believe what had happened.

  “You okay?”

  She just stared at him, mute.

  “Hey, Quinlan, you up? Come on, you guys, we’ve got miles to go.”

  “That’s the guy who owns the Porsche,” Quinlan said. “We’ve got to hang on to him.” He kissed the tip of her nose and forced himself to leave her.


  “I LIKE YOUR apartment.”

  He grinned at the back of her head. “Easy for you to say since it’s got more chara
cter than that motel room—”

  She turned to face him, no longer dressed in the too-tight jeans, his coat that had hung halfway down her legs, and the blouse that had gaped open over her breasts.

  They’d stopped at the Macy’s in Montgomery Plaza on the way back to Washington. Dillon had bowed out, heading for the computer software store in the mall. James and Sally had enjoyed themselves immensely, arguing over everything from the color of her nightgown to the style of her shoes. She left wearing dark-brown corduroy slacks that fit her very nicely, a cream pullover wool sweater over a brown turtleneck, and neat brown leather half boots.

  He was carrying his own coat—the one she’d taken—over his arm. He doubted the dry cleaners would be able to get out the grease stains from her motorcycle accident.

  “I’ve heard that men living alone usually live in a dump—you know, empty pizza cartons all over everywhere, including the bathroom, dead plants, and horrible furniture they got from their mother’s attic.”

  “I like to live well,” he said, and realized it was true. He didn’t like mess or secondhand furniture, and he loved plants and impressionist paintings. He was lucky to have Mrs. Mulgravy live next to him. She saw to everything when he was gone, particularly his precious African violets.

  “You do very well with plants.”

  “I think the secret is that I play my sax to them. Most of them prefer blues.”

  “I don’t think I like the blues,” she said, still looking at him intently.

  “Have you ever listened to Dexter Gordon? John Coltrane? Gordon’s album Blue Notes wrings your withers.”

  “I’ve heard of Gato Barbieri.”

  “He’s great too. I learned a lot from him and Phil Woods. There’s hope yet for you, Sally. You’ll get an earful tonight. You’ve got to give the wailing and the rhythm a chance.”

  “That’s your hobby, James?”

  He looked just a bit embarrassed. “Yeah, I play the saxophone at the Bonhomie Club on Friday and Saturday nights. Except when I’m not in town, like last night.”

  “Are you playing tonight?”

  “Yes, but no, not now. You’re here.”

  “I’d love to hear you. Why can’t we go?”

  He gave her a slow smile. “You’d really like to go?”

  “I’d really like to go.”

  “Okay. The chances are nobody would even begin to recognize you, but let’s get you a wig anyway, and big dark glasses.” He knew that tomorrow he, Sally, and Dillon would leap into this mess feetfirst. He couldn’t wait to meet Scott Brainerd. He couldn’t wait to meet Dr. Beadermeyer. He hadn’t told Sally yet. He wanted to give her today with no hassles from him, from anybody. He wanted to see her smile.

  “James, do you think I could call a couple of my friends?”

  “Who are they?”

  “Women who work on the Hill. I haven’t spoken to them since more than six months ago. Well, I did call one of them just before I left Washington to go to The Cove. Her name is Jill Hughes. I asked her for a loan. She agreed, very quickly, and wanted to meet me. There was something about how she acted—I didn’t go. I’d like to call Monica Freeman. She was my very best friend. She was out of town before. I want to see how she acts, what she has to say to me. Perhaps I’m paranoid, but I just want to know who’s there for me.”

  She didn’t sound the least bit sorry for herself. Still, he felt a knife twist in his gut.

  “Yeah,” he said easily, “let’s give Monica a call and see if someone’s gotten to her as well.”

  She called Monica Freeman, a powerhouse administrator in HUD. She was embarrassed because she had to call Information for the number. She’d known it as well as her own before Scott.

  The phone rang twice, three times, then, “Hello.”

  “Monica? It’s Sally.”

  James was bent over, writing something.

  There was a long pause. “Sally? Sally Brainerd?”

  “Yes. How are you, Monica?”

  “Sally, where are you? What’s going on?”

  James slid a sheet of paper under her hand. Sally read it, nodded slowly, then said, “I’m in trouble, Monica. Can you help me? Can you loan me some money?”

  There was another long pause. “Sally, listen. Tell me where you are.”

  “No, Monica, I can’t do that.”

  “Let me call Scott. He can come and get you. Where are you, Sally?”

  “You never called him Scott before, Monica. You didn’t like him, remember? You used to call him a jerk when you knew I was listening. You wanted to protect me from him. You used to tell me he was into power and that he was trying to separate me from all my friends. Don’t you remember how you’d call after Scott and I were married and ask me first thing if Scott was gone so we could really talk? You didn’t like him, Monica. Once you told me I should kick him in the balls.”

  There was utter silence, then, “I was wrong about him. He’s been very concerned about you, Sally. He came to me hoping you would call and that I would help him.

  “Scott’s a good man, Sally. Let me call him for you. He and I can meet you someplace, we—”

  Sally very gently punched the off button on the portable phone.

  To her surprise James was grinning. “Hey, just maybe we’ve got your husband’s lover. Am I jumping too fast here? Yeah, probably, but what do you think? Maybe he’s a real stud, maybe he’s got both Jill and Monica? Could he do it, do you think?”

  She’d been thinking that hell couldn’t feel worse than she felt now, but he’d put a ridiculous twist on it, like the best of the spin doctors. “I don’t know. She’s certainly changed her tune, just like Jill. Two? I doubt it, James. He was always so busy. I think his deals were more exhilarating to him than mere sex.”

  “What kind of deals?”

  “He was in my dad’s law firm, something I didn’t know until after we were married. That sounds weird but it’s true. He didn’t want me to know, obviously, until after we were married. He was in international finance, working primarily with the oil cartel. He would come home rubbing his hands together, telling me how this deal or that deal would impress everybody, how he’d gotten the better of such and such a sheikh and had just brought in a cool half million. Deals like that.”

  “How long were you married to him?”

  “Eight months.” She blinked and fiddled with the leaves of a healthy philodendron. “Isn’t it odd? I don’t count the six months in the sanitarium.”

  “That’s not a very long time for a marriage, Sally. Even mine—a semi-unmitigated disaster—lasted two years.”

  “I realized right after we were married that my father was as much a part of the marriage as we were. I’m willing to bet he offered me up to Scott as part of a deal between the two of them.”

  She drew a deep breath. “I think my father put me in the sanitarium as revenge for all those years I protected Noelle. I’m willing to bet that another part of the revenge was to get Scott to marry me. He got to Scott, and Scott did what he was told. All revenge.

  “When I told Scott I wanted a divorce, he told me I was crazy. I told him that he could marry my father if he wanted a St. John so badly. Maybe two days after that, I was in that sanitarium—at least I think it was two days. The time still gets all scrambled up.”

  “But he had a lover. Perhaps Monica, perhaps Jill. Perhaps someone we don’t know at all. How quickly were you sure about his affair?”

  “About three months after we were married. I’d decided to try to make a go of it, but when I found a couple of love notes, unsigned, and two motel receipts, I didn’t care enough to try. Between that and my father, always in the background, I just wanted to get out.”

  “But your father didn’t let you get out.”


  “Obviously your father knew everything about your marriage. Scott must have told him immediately when you asked for a divorce for your father to take action so quickly. Who knows? Maybe it was Scott’s idea. Do you
want to call anyone else?”

  “No, that leaves just Rita. I don’t think I could take it if Rita started on me about calling Scott. This was enough—much too much, as a matter of fact.”

  “Okay, no more work today, all right?”

  “That was work?”

  “Certainly. We just filled in another piece of the puzzle.”

  “James, who knocked both of us out in The Cove and brought me back to Doctor Beadermeyer’s?”

  “Beadermeyer or a henchman. Probably not Scott. It was probably the guy who played the role of your father that night in your bedroom window. But now that you’ve got me, you don’t have to be depressed at the number of bad people in the world.”

  “They all seem to have congregated around me. Except Noelle.”

  He wanted to ask her to go over everything with him, from the day she met Scott Brainerd to now, but he didn’t. Give her the day off, make her smile. Maybe they could make love in front of the fireplace. He wanted to make love to her very much. His fingers itched remembering the feel of her, the way she moved against his fingers, the softness of her flesh. He tried to focus on his African violets.

  That evening she pulled her hair back tight, securing it with a clip at the nape of her neck. She put on a big pair of dark sunglasses. “No one would recognize you,” Quinlan said, coming up behind her and putting his hands lightly on her shoulders.

  “But let’s get a wig anyway. You know something? Your father was killed, what, three weeks ago or so? It was splashed all over TV, all over every tabloid, every newspaper. You, the missing daughter, got the same treatment. Why take the chance on someone recognizing you? I have to tell you, I like you in those sunglasses. You look mysterious. Are you really the same woman who’s agreed to marry me? The same woman who woke me up this morning lying on top of me?”

  “I’m the same woman. James, really, the other—I thought that was just a glitch on your part. You really meant it?”

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