The cove, p.23
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       The Cove, p.23
 

         Part #1 of FBI Thriller series by Catherine Coulter

  “You’re welcome,” Ms. Lilly said. She turned and shouted, “Okay, everyone back to their tables. Everything’s okay now. This will teach any of you who want to screw around with Marvin that it isn’t smart. They beat the shit out of the guys who were trying to mug Sally. It’s all over now.

  “Quinlan, get your very nice butt back up there on the stage and play me my Dexter Gordon. What do you think I pay you for anyway?”

  “My music,” James said. “Sally, I want you right next to the stage, all right?” But before he left, he picked up the needle, wrapped it in a napkin, and put it in his shirt pocket.

  “I want to know what the bastard was going to give you. We’ll take this to the FBI lab tomorrow. Come on, Sally.”

  “I’ll bring the wine,” Fuzz said.

  * * *

  He paced from one end of the living room to the other, back and forth. Dillon was sitting comfortably in a big overstuffed chair, hunched over the keyboard of his laptop, a Gateway 486SX Nomad called “MAX.”

  Sally wasn’t doing anything except watching James. “I guess I’ve had enough,” she said finally.

  Both men looked at her.

  She smiled. “I don’t want to wait until tomorrow. I want to get it over with tonight. Let’s go see my mother. She knows what happened that night my father was murdered. At least she knows a lot more than she’s told you or the police or me. I’d like to know the truth.”

  “Better yet,” Dillon said, looking back down at his computer screen, “let’s get all three of them together—your mother, your husband, and Doctor Beadermeyer. You think the time is right, Quinlan?”

  “I don’t know,” Quinlan said. “Maybe it’s too soon.” He gave Sally a worried look. “You really sure about this, Sally?”

  She looked strong, her thin shoulders back, those soft blue eyes of hers hard and steady. She looked ready to take on the bear. “I’m sure.”

  It was all he needed. Yeah, it was time to find out the truth. He nodded.

  “Maybe they’ll be tired,” Dillon said. “Hot damn. Finally I’ve found it.” He gave them a big grin. “I’m good,” he said, rubbing his hands together. “Real good.”

  “What are you talking about?” Quinlan said, striding over to Dillon. He leaned down to look at the screen.

  “Everything we ever wanted to know about Doctor Alfred Beadermeyer. His real name is Norman Lipsy and he’s Canadian. He did go to medical—McGill in Montreal.

  “My, my, he has a specialty in plastic surgery. And there’s lots more. Sorry it took me so long. I just never considered that he’d be Canadian, not with a name like Beadermeyer. I wasn’t getting into the right databases.” He rubbed his hands together. “I found him on a cosmetic surgeons roster, along with a photo. Said he graduated from McGill.”

  “This is incredible,” Quinlan said. “Excellent, Dillon.”

  “Bet your ass. Now, before we’re off, let me try just a couple more things on Scott Brainerd. Where’d he get his law degree, Sally?”

  “Harvard.”

  “Yeah, it does show him graduating Harvard in 1985 with honors. Too bad. I was hoping maybe he’d lied about that.”

  Quinlan said, “You’re still sure, Sally? You ready to see Scott? Beadermeyer? After what he tried tonight? You’re sure?”

  “Yes, I’m sure. No more. It’s crazy. It’s got to end. If I killed my father, I want to know. If Noelle or someone else did, then let’s find out. I won’t fall apart, James. I can’t stand this fuzziness anymore, this constant mess of blurred images, the voices that are all melting together.”

  Quinlan said very slowly, in that wonderful soothing voice of his, “Before we leave I want to go over some more things with you. You up to it?”

  “Oh, yes,” she said. “I’m ready. We already talked about Scott and my father.” She stopped, her fingers rubbing the pleats in her corduroy slacks.

  “What is it?”

  “It’s about my father. And my mother.” She looked down at her hands. Thin hands, skinny fingers, short fingernails. At least she hadn’t bitten them since she’d met James.

  “What is it, Sally? Come now, no more secrets.”

  “He beat my mother, viciously. I caught him doing it when I was just sixteen. That was when I moved back from the girls’ school in Virginia. I tried to protect her—”

  Dillon’s head came up. “You’re saying your father, the senior legal counsel of TransCon International, was a wife beater?”

  “Why am I not surprised?” Quinlan said. He sat beside her and took one of her hands and waited, saying nothing more, just holding her hand. She’d lived through that?

  “My mother—Noelle—she wouldn’t do anything about it. She just took it. I guess since he was so well known and respected and rich, and she was part of it, she couldn’t bear the humiliation or losing all she had.

  “I remember I always looked forward to parties, diplomatic gatherings—he was invited to all of them—those lavish lobbyist banquets, intimate little power lunches where wives were trotted out to show off, magazine interviews, things like that, because I knew he wouldn’t dare hit Noelle then—there’d be photos taken of the two of them together. He knew that I knew, and that made him hate me even more.

  “When I didn’t leave the District to go to college, I thought he would kill me. He’d really counted on my leaving. He hadn’t dreamed that I’d still be at home, watching him. He actually raised his hand, but then he lowered it, very slowly.

  “I’ll never forget the hatred in his eyes. He was very handsome, you know, thick, dark hair with white threaded through, dark-blue eyes, tall and slender. High cheekbones, sculpted elegantly to make him look like an aristocrat.

  “Actually, he’s just an older version of Scott. Isn’t that strange that I thought I fell in love with a man who looked like my father?”

  “Yeah,” Dillon said. “I’d say that’s plain not good. It’s a good thing that Quinlan here doesn’t look like anybody except himself.”

  “I came home at random times. He knew I would. Once when I’d been visiting Noelle, after I left to go back to my apartment, I realized I’d forgotten my sweater. I went back into the house and there he was, kicking my mother. I went to the phone to dial 911. As far as I was concerned, it was the last straw. I just didn’t care anymore. He was going to pay. You won’t believe it, but my mother crawled to me, grabbed my leg, and begged me not to call the cops. My father stood there in the library doorway and dared me to do it. He dared me, all the while watching my mother sobbing and pleading, on her knees, her nails digging into my jeans. Jesus, it was horrible. I put down the phone and left. I never went back. I just couldn’t. Nothing I did mattered, not really. If I was there for a while, he just waited until I left. Then he probably beat her more viciously than if I’d never been there at all. I remember I wondered if he’d broken her ribs that time, but I never asked. What good would it have done?”

  “But he didn’t take his revenge until six months ago,” Dillon said. “He waited—what?—some five years before he went after you.”

  “That’s not quite true. He started his revenge with Scott. I’m convinced of that now. Yes, he was behind my marriage to Scott. There weren’t any men in my life before that. I worked for Senator Bainbridge right out of college. I was happy. I never saw my parents. I had friends. I’d see my father every once in a while, by accident, and I could tell that he still hated my guts.

  “I remember once at a party, I ran into my mother in the women’s room. She was combing her hair and her long sleeve had fallen away. There was a horrible purple bruise on her arm. I remember just looking at it and saying, ‘What kind of monster in you allows you to let that bastard beat you?’

  “She slapped me. I guess I deserved it. I didn’t see her again until that night I went to her for money when I was running away from you.”

  “You do remember actually going to your parents’ house the night your father was killed?”

  “Yes, but nothing els
e is clear. How was I sure my father was dead? I don’t know. But I did know, and I guess I must have believed that Noelle finally couldn’t stand the beatings any more. Yes, that’s what I must have thought, although all that isn’t particularly clear.”

  She began to rub her temples with the palms of her hands. “No, I don’t know, James. I think I remember screams, I think I can see a gun, but nothing else, just these images. And maybe blood. I remember blood. But my father? Dead? Was Noelle there? I just can’t swear to anything. I’m sorry. I’m no help at all.”

  But Quinlan wasn’t worried. He looked over at Dillon whose fingers were tap-dancing on his laptop, nary a furrow of worry on his brow. He knew that Dillon was hearing everything they said. He also knew that Dillon wasn’t worried either.

  Quinlan had pulled this off before. They had lots to work with. Sally was ready.

  He said slowly, more to himself really, so she would get calm again, “So your father bided his time.”

  “Yes. It wasn’t until after we were married that I found out my father was Scott’s boss. He’d never told me what firm he was with. He was vague and I didn’t really pay attention. It was all downhill from there, once I found out.”

  Quinlan paced his living room, not nervous pacing, just rhythmic strides. Dillon worked MAX’s keyboard. Sally rubbed the dust off the small rubber tree that sat in a beautiful oriental pot next to the sofa.

  Quinlan stopped. He smiled at Sally. “I think it’s time you made some phone calls, Sally. I think it’s time we get the gang together and do some rattling. We’ll see what falls out.” He handed her the phone.

  “Mom, then Scott, then Beadermeyer.”

  22

  “YOU WANT TO know what’s driving me crazy?” Dillon said, looking up from the keyboard and stretching his muscles. “I want to know why Beadermeyer is still after you. It was your father who had you put away there. He’s dead. Why the hell would Beadermeyer care anymore? Who’s following in your old man’s footsteps? You said Scott had to be in on it? But why would he care now? Wouldn’t he just want that divorce so he could get on with his life? You sure you’re up for this, Sally?”

  “Yes, I’m up for it. In fact, I can’t wait. I want to spit in Beadermeyer’s face. As for why they took me again, I’ve thought and thought, but I can’t think of a decent reason. Now let me make those calls.”

  She took the phone and dialed. There wasn’t any wait at all. “Mom? It’s me, Sally. I wondered if I could come over. I need to talk to you, Mom. Yes, right now. Is that all right?”

  Slowly, she pressed the off button. She started to dial Scott’s number. Quinlan lightly touched his hand to hers and shook his head. “No, I think your mom just might get the other players there.”

  “He’s right,” Dillon said. “If she doesn’t, then we’ll talk to her alone. We need to anyway. We need to know exactly where she stands in all of this mess.”

  “James is right,” Sally said and swallowed hard. “The others will be there. But know this—she was protecting me. I’d bet my life on it.”

  He wanted to hug her, but he didn’t. He watched her blink back the tears and swallow until she had control again. Sally had guts. She also had him.

  He said, “Okay. Let me make some phone calls, then we’ll get this show on the road.”

  Thirty minutes later James tapped the griffin-head knocker of the St. John home.

  Noelle St. John answered the door herself. She was wearing a silk dress in a pale blue. Her hair, blonder than Sally’s, was twisted up in a neat chignon. She looked elegant, tense, and very pale. She hesitated a moment, then held out her arms to her daughter. Sally didn’t move. Noelle St. John looked as if she was ready to burst into tears. She lowered her arms to her sides.

  She said quickly, her words running together as if she couldn’t get them out fast enough, “Oh, Sally, you’ve come. I’ve been so worried. When your grandparents called me I didn’t know what to do. Come in, love, come in. We’ll get this all straightened out.” Then she saw Quinlan in the shadows.

  “You.”

  “Yes, ma’am. May I come in as well?”

  “No, you may not. Sally, what’s going on here?”

  “Sorry—no me, then no Sally.”

  She looked from Sally to Quinlan, shaking her head. She looked confused.

  “Noelle, it’s all right. Let us in.”

  She was shaking her head, back and forth. “But he’s FBI, Sally. I don’t want him here. He was here before with another man, and they searched the house looking for you. Why would you want him with you? It doesn’t make sense. The last person you want around you is a cop. He’s lied to you. He’s manipulating you. He’s just making you more confused.”

  “No, Noelle, I’m not confused at all about this.”

  “But Sally, when your grandparents called me, they told me he was right behind you and you claimed you knew he would be. You said he was smart. But they said you wanted to escape and go into hiding. You said the same thing to me. Why are you with him? Why do you want to be with him?”

  “He caught me. I’m an amateur and he’s not. And trust me, you want him with me, too.” Sally took a small step forward and lightly laid her fingertips on her mother’s arm.

  “That’s me, ma’am, real smart. Special Agent James Quinlan. I’m pleased you remember me.”

  “I wish I didn’t remember, sir,” Noelle said. She looked back over her shoulder. James smiled, knowing now that there was someone else in the living room. Scott Brainerd? Dr. Beadermeyer? Or both of them? He sure as hell hoped both of them were. “Both of us or neither of us,” he said. “It’s chilly out here. Make up your mind, ma’am.”

  “All right, but I don’t know why you’re with her. You’ve no right, none at all. Sally’s my daughter, she’s ill, the FBI can’t hold her since she’s mentally unstable, nor can the police. She’s my responsibility, I’m her guardian, and I say she’s going back to the sanitarium. It’s the only way she can be protected.”

  “All that?” James said, looking amazed. Noelle looked at him as if she’d like to smack his face. “She doesn’t look unstable to me. I’ll bet she could withstand being beaten with rubber hoses, even having her fingernails yanked out. There’s not an unstable cell in Sally’s brain.”

  “She’s been very ill for the past six months,” Noelle said, as she stood back.

  They walked past her into the foyer. There were fresh flowers on the beautiful antique table with the large gilded mirror hanging over it. There had always been fresh flowers in that hideous oriental vase, Sally thought, usually white and yellow chrysanthemums.

  “Come along into your father’s study, Sally. Let’s get this over with. Then I’ll make certain you’re safe again.”

  “Safe again?” Sally whispered. “Is she nuts?”

  Quinlan hugged her quickly against him, and when she looked up at him, he winked at her. “Don’t worry.”

  “Well, well, what a surprise,” he said when he saw Dr. Beadermeyer standing by the fireplace. He’d studied the man’s photo so many times he felt as if he’d interviewed him, even though they’d never met in the flesh before. Was he the bastard who’d struck him on the head at The Cove? He’d find out soon enough.

  He turned to the other man. “And this, I take it, is your husband, Sally? That famous deal-maker, Scott Brainerd? Who worked for your father? Who probably married you because your father ordered him to?”

  “Her name’s Susan,” the man said. “‘Sally’ is a little girl’s name. I never liked it. I call her Susan.” He took a step forward, then stopped. “You’re looking a bit on edge, Susan, and no wonder. What are you doing with him? Noelle just told me he’s an FBI agent—”

  “Special agent,” Quinlan said, wanting to goad this damned man until he gnashed his teeth. “I’ve always been a special agent.”

  “He caught up with her,” Noelle said, “and he brought her back. I don’t know why he’s here, but we must convince him that since Sally isn
t well, she wasn’t responsible for killing her father. We can protect her. Doctor Beadermeyer can take her back to the sanitarium and keep her safe.”

  “Since Father’s dead,” Sally said, staring her mother right in the eye, “that raises a whole lot of questions. For example, since he’s no longer with us, then who will come and beat me and fondle me and humiliate me every week?”

  Her mother stared at her, her mouth working, but no sound came out. Her face was leached of color. She looked sick now, and uncertain. “Oh, God, no, Sally, that’s not possible. Your father and Scott and Doctor Beadermeyer, they all told me every week how well you were doing, what fine care you were getting. No, this can’t be true.”

  “She shouldn’t speak of her dead father like that,” Dr. Beadermeyer said.

  “He’s right. This just proves how ill she is,” Scott said. “She’s making this up. Amory beat his own daughter? Fondled her? That’s crazy, she’s crazy, she just proved it.”

  “It’s classic,” Dr. Beadermeyer said from his staged pose by the fireplace. “Some patients fantasize so strongly that they begin to believe what their minds dredge up. It’s usually things that they’ve always wanted, deep down.

  “Your father was a handsome man, Sally. Girls have sexual feelings about their fathers. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. The only reason you fantasize that he’s come to you is because you wanted it so badly. The beating part, the humiliating part, is just so you can forgive yourself for these feelings by making yourself helpless so that you couldn’t prevent it.”

  “What a bunch of shit,” Quinlan said. “You’re Doctor Beadermeyer, I take it. Such a pleasure to finally meet you.”

  “Sorry I can’t say the same about you. I’m here to take Sally back with me, and even though you’re FBI there’s nothing you can do about it.”

  “Why did you try to kidnap her from the Bonhomie Club three hours ago?”

  “Alfred? What’s he talking about?”

  “A mere misunderstanding, my dear Noelle. I found out where Sally was. I thought I could simply take her with no fuss, no bother, but it didn’t work out.”

 
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