The cove, p.25
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       The Cove, p.25
 

         Part #1 of FBI Thriller series by Catherine Coulter

  “Noelle is paying me only for her regular treatment, the same as I’ve always received.”

  “Bullshit. Who’s paying you? You still want to lie, do you? Well, I’ll be able to tell you, Mrs. St. John, exactly the amount your dear husband was paying this little bastard, just as soon as the FBI finishes going through all his crooked little books.”

  “I’m calling my lawyer. You can’t do this. I’ll sue you, all of you.”

  “If Mrs. St. John was paying you just for Sally’s care, then why did you come to The Cove, knock both Sally and me on the head, and haul her back to your sanitarium? Did you bill Noelle for the airfare? And your little excursion to the Bonhomie Club with those two goombas—will you send Noelle a bill for their services? How about that rear window I shot out? Don’t you bill for overtime, Norman? No comment this time? Don’t you even want to insist that you’re such a dedicated doctor that you’ll do anything to help your poor patients?” Quinlan turned to Noelle, who looked as if she’d love to have a knife. She was looking at Dr. Beadermeyer with very new eyes. “When I got to Sally in the sanitarium she was so drugged it took more than a day to clear her out. That sounds like great treatment, doesn’t it, Noelle?”

  “Oh, I believe you, Mr. Quinlan. I believe you now.”

  Dr. Beadermeyer just shrugged and looked down at his fingernails.

  “Maybe,” Quinlan said, “it’s Scott here who wants his wife kept under wraps?”

  “That’s ridiculous,” Scott Brainerd yelled. “I never did anything, just told her father how worried I was about her.”

  Noelle said very calmly, “No, Scott, that isn’t true. You’re lying as well. All of you lied to me. If it had been just Amory, I wouldn’t have bought it for a minute, but no, all of you were just like this Greek chorus, telling me the same thing over and over until I believed you. Goddamn you, I believed you! I allowed you to put my little girl in that goddamn institution!”

  Quinlan quickly stepped out of the way when he saw her coming. She dashed to Beadermeyer and slammed her fist into his jaw before he even had a chance to twitch. He reeled back against the mantelpiece. Noelle stepped back, panting. “You bastard.” She whirled around to face Scott. “You vicious little shit, why did you do this to my daughter? How much did my husband pay you?”

  Sally rose from the sofa. She walked to her mother. She put her arms around her. “Thank you,” she said against her mother’s hair. “Thank you. I hope I can hit Beadermeyer myself before this is all over.”

  Sally wiped her damp hands on her pants legs. She felt such a surge of relief that it made her mouth dry. She actually smiled as she said to Scott, “I’m divorcing you. It shouldn’t take long, since I don’t even want my poor ivy plant that’s probably already dead anyway. My lawyer will serve the papers on you as soon as I can arrange it.”

  “You’re fucking crazy. No lawyer is going to do a thing you say.”

  “If you take another step toward her, Brainerd, I’ll just have to kill you. That or I’ll let Noelle at you. Look at poor Norman, his lip is bleeding. You know, I like the thought of Sally as a widow.”

  Quinlan walked calmly up to Scott Brainerd, pulled back his fist, and rammed it into his stomach. “That’s for Sally, Noelle, and me.”

  Scott yelped, bent over, breathing like he’d been shot, his arms clutching his middle.

  “Sally,” Quinlan said, rubbing his knuckles, wanting to hit Scott Brainerd again but knowing it wouldn’t be smart, “one of my sisters-in-law is a lawyer. She’ll handle the paperwork on the divorce. Severing ties with this slug shouldn’t be difficult. It takes six months. Maybe I should kill him. You want to try running away, Scott?”

  “Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you guys, the FBI is also all over the private books in Amory St. John’s firm. They’ve been doing that for a while now. That’s the real reason the FBI is involved in the first place. It’s all delicate stuff, so that’s why we’ve kept it under wraps, but there’s no reason for you not to know.

  “Selling arms to places like Algeria, Iraq, and Libya—well, we do tend to frown on stunts like that. And that’s got to be the other reason, Sally, that your father and your husband locked you away. They must have believed that you would say something incriminating, something to prove that they were traitors.”

  “But I never saw a thing, never,” Sally said. “Is that it, Scott?”

  “No, damn you. I didn’t have a thing to do with that.”

  “And her father manipulated you into coming on to Sally, into marrying her?”

  “No, that’s not true. All right, so I did agree to have her put away. That’s because I believed she was sick.”

  “Why did you believe I was sick, Scott?”

  He didn’t say anything, just waved his pipe at her. “You weren’t a good wife. Your dad swore to me that your career was just something for you to do until you got married. He said you were just like your mother, a woman who really wanted a husband to take care of and children to look after. I wanted a wife to stay home and take care of me, but you wouldn’t do it. I needed you there, to help me, to understand me, but no, you never stayed there for me.”

  “That doesn’t make her sick, Scott,” Quinlan said.

  “I refuse to say anything more about it,” Scott said.

  “Why am I not surprised that he was a traitor?” said Noelle. “But I’m not. Then maybe one of his clients murdered him. Maybe it wasn’t Sally after all. Such a pity it wasn’t Scott who murdered him. That’s what you were, isn’t it, Scott, you pathetic jerk?”

  Good, Quinlan thought, she was trying to explain her husband’s murder another way. He was pleased. He said, “That’s what he was, Mrs. St. John. Now, you said you walked in here with Scott and found Sally literally standing over him with the smoking gun.”

  Noelle was frowning, her mouth working. She was thinking real hard. “Well, yes, but she said that she’d heard the shot and come running. She said she had picked the gun up. She said she was here to get money from me and leave.”

  Quinlan pulled a folded piece of paper out of his breast pocket. He unfolded it and scanned it. “This is your statement to the cops, Noelle. No mention of Sally. Too bad a neighbor reported seeing her running from the house. But you tried, Noelle, you tried.

  “Were you really with Scott that night? Did you really run in here with him to see Sally over your husband’s body?”

  Scott threw his pipe at the fireplace. It fell with a loud crack against the marble hearth. “Damn you! Of course I was with her! I was with her all evening.”

  Scott was still rubbing his belly, and that made Quinlan feel good. That damned bloody little worm. He turned back to Noelle.

  “I’m pleased you tried to protect Sally. But I did wonder if you weren’t in it along with these other sterling characters.”

  “I don’t blame you,” Noelle said. “I’d think I was a jerk too. But I’m not. I’m just plain stupid.”

  Sally smiled at her mother. “I’m stupid too. I married Scott, didn’t I? Just take a good look at him.”

  Quinlan said, “Listen, Noelle. Only a real bad person would turn on her daughter after what she tried to do for you since she was sixteen. She was just a girl, and yet she tried to protect you. I want you to tell me this isn’t true. Tell me you didn’t kill your husband. Tell me you didn’t kill that monster who’d been abusing you.”

  “I didn’t kill him, I didn’t. Oh, God, you believe me, don’t you, Sally? You don’t believe I killed your father, do you?”

  There was no hesitation. Sally took her mother in her arms. “I believe you.”

  “But there’s so much more, Sally,” Quinlan said, his voice soft and smooth, the promise of truth in that voice. “It’s time now to get it all out. I want you to think back now. Look at Noelle and think back to that night.”

  Sally drew back, her eyes on her mother. Then, slowly, she turned to Quinlan. “I now have a clear picture of my father, lying right over there, blood all over his chest. I
m sorry, James, but I don’t remember anything else.”

  “Your mother said you had a gun. You don’t remember taking the gun with you, Sally?”

  She started to shake her head, then she stared down at her brown boots.

  Quinlan said, “It was an antique Roth-Steyr pistol your father probably bought off an old English soldier from World War I. It has a ten-round clip, ugly devil, about nine inches long.”

  “Yes,” Sally said slowly, moving away from him, walking toward the spot on the floor where she’d found her father’s body, right in front of his huge mahogany desk. “Yes, I remember that pistol. He was very proud of it. The English ambassador gave it to him back in the 1970’s. He’d done him a big favor.

  “Yes, now I can see it clearly. I remember picking it up now, holding it. I remember thinking it was heavy, that it weighed my hand down. I remember that it felt hot, like it had just been used.”

  “It is heavy. The sucker weighs a bit more than three pounds. Are you looking at it, Sally?”

  She was standing there, apart from him, apart from all of them, and he knew she was remembering now, fitting those jagged memory pieces together, slowly, but he’d known she could do it.

  “It’s hot, Sally,” he said. “It’s burning your hand. What are you going to do with it?”

  “I remember that I was glad he was dead. He was wicked. He’d hurt Noelle all those years and he’d never paid for it. He’d always done exactly what he’d wanted to do. He’d gotten me. There’d never been any justice, until then.

  “Yes, I can remember that’s what I was thinking. ‘You’re dead, you miserable bastard, and I’m glad. Everyone is free from you now. You’re dead.”’

  “Do you remember Noelle coming in? Do you remember her screaming?”

  She was looking down at her hands, flexing her fingers. “The gun is so hot. I don’t know what to do with it. I can see you now, Noelle, and yes, there’s Scott behind you. But you have your coats on. You weren’t here at the house, you’d been out. Just Father is here, no one else.

  “You started screaming, Noelle. Scott, you didn’t do a blessed thing. You looked at me like I was some sort of wild dog, like you wanted to put me down.”

  “We thought you’d killed him,” Scott said. “He wasn’t even supposed to be at home that night. He was supposed to be in New York, but he came back unexpectedly. You grabbed that gun and you shot him.”

  But Sally was just shaking her head, looking not frightened but thoughtful, her forehead furrowed. “No, I remember that when I got here I tried the front door. I didn’t expect it to be unlocked, but it was. Just as I turned the knob, I heard a shot. I ran into this room and there he was, on the floor, his chest covered with blood.

  “I remember—” She paused, frowning ferociously. Then she pressed her knuckles against her forehead. “It’s so vague, so fuzzy. Those damned drugs you gave me—God, I could kill you for that.”

  Quinlan said, “He’s in so much trouble now, Sally, that killing him would be letting him off lightly. I want to see him spend all his money on lawyers. Then I want to see him rot in prison for the rest of his miserable life. Don’t worry about him. You can do this. It’s all vague, but it’s there. What do you see?”

  She was staring down at where his body had sprawled, arms flung out, his right palm up. So much blood. There had been so much blood. Noelle had laid a new carpet. But there’d been something strange, something she couldn’t quite put her finger on, something . . .

  “There was someone else there,” she said. “Yes, there was someone else in the room.”

  “How did you get the gun?”

  She said without hesitation, “It was on the floor. He was bending down to pick it up when I came into the room. He straightened up real fast and ran to the French doors.”

  She turned slowly and looked at the floor-to-ceiling windows that gave onto a patio and yard. There were high bushes and a fence between this house and the one next door.

  “You’re sure it was a man?”

  “Yes, I’m sure. I can see his hand opening the handle on the French doors. He’s wearing gloves, black leather gloves.”

  “Did you see his face?”

  “No, he—” Her voice froze. She began to shake her head, back and forth, back and forth. “No,” she whispered, looking toward those French doors. “It’s not possible, it’s just not possible.”

  “You see him now, Sally?” Quinlan’s voice was steady and unhurried.

  She looked at James, then at her mother, at Scott, and finally at Dr. Beadermeyer. She said, “Maybe they’re right, James. Maybe I am crazy.”

  “Who was he, Sally?”

  “No, no, I’m crazy. I’m delusional.”

  “Who was he?”

  She looked defeated, her shoulders bowed, her head lowered. She whispered, “He was my father.”

  “Ah,” Quinlan said. Everything was falling neatly into place, though not yet for the others.

  Noelle whispered, “Your father? Oh, Sally, that’s impossible. Your father was lying dead on the floor. I saw him, I went down on my knees beside him. I even shook him. It was your father. I couldn’t be wrong about that.”

  Scott waved his pipe at her, shaking his head, saying, “She’s bloody crazy, crazier than we thought. Your father’s dead, Sally, just like Noelle said. I saw him dead too. Don’t forget there were the two of us.”

  Dr. Beadermeyer said, “It’s all right, Sally. It’s another symptom of your illness. Will you come with me now? I’ll call your father’s lawyer, and he can come and make sure this man doesn’t take you to jail.”

  Quinlan let all their voices float over him for a moment. He stood up and walked to Sally. He took her hands in his. “Well done,” he said, leaned down, and kissed her.

  “You bastard, that’s my wife! I don’t want her, but she still is my wife.”

  He kissed her again. “Everything makes sense now.” He turned to Dr. Beadermeyer. “Now it all fits. You’re a plastic surgeon, Norman. You must be very good at it. Where did you find the man whose face you reworked into Amory St. John’s?”

  “You don’t know what you’re talking about. The murdered man was Amory St. John. No one doubted it. Why should they? There were no questions.”

  “That’s because there was no reason to doubt it. Why would anyone check dental records, for example, if the wife of the deceased identified the body, if the face on the body looked like all the faces on all the photographs on the desk? It does bother me though that the medical examiner didn’t see the scars from the surgery. You must be very good, Norman.”

  “God, did you really do that, Doctor Beadermeyer?” Scott said. Did you really plan with Amory St. John to kill another man and have him take Amory’s place? Was he planning to leave me to take the fall? Dammit, it’s the truth, isn’t it? I’d be the one blamed because he was supposedly dead. And I didn’t do all that much, I swear. There was Sally, but that was necessary because we knew she’d read several short messages that I’d forgotten were in my briefcase. There wasn’t any choice. I went along with him because I had to.”

  Quinlan hit him again, this time in the jaw. He rather hoped he’d broken it.

  Beadermeyer looked down at Scott, who was now lying on his side, unconscious. “What a piece of nothing he is, but that’s not my problem. Now, Quinlan, all this is nuts. Amory St. John was the one who died. I’ve had enough of this. I’m sorry, Sally. I’ve tried to help you, but now I just don’t care. I’m leaving.”

  “When the devil leaves hell, Doctor Beadermeyer,” she said. “That’s when I’d go with you.”

  “Best you find another comparison, Sally,” Quinlan said. “I know for a fact that the devil roams all over the world. We’ve got two of his little minions right here. So Sally’s father is still paying you. That surely answers the rest of my questions.”

  “I’m leaving,” Dr. Beadermeyer said and walked toward the door.

  “I don’t think you want to leave just yet,
” Dillon said, stepping into the room.

  “When that worm wakes up I want to hit him,” Noelle St. John said. “Well, maybe I won’t wait.” She walked over to Scott and kicked him in the ribs. “As for you,” she said to Dr. Beadermeyer, “if only Mr. Quinlan will give me a rubber hose, I’ll work you over but good. What all of you did to my daughter—Jesus, I’d like to kill you.”

  “I’ll make sure you get that rubber hose, Noelle,” Quinlan said.

  “I’m going to sue all of you. Police brutality, that’s it, and libel. Just look at poor Scott.”

  Sally went over and kicked Scott in the ribs. Then she walked into her mother’s arms.

  24

  DILLON NODDED TO Quinlan and smiled at Sally. “That was well done. Quinlan’s good at helping people remember.”

  He turned to Dr. Beadermeyer. “I don’t think you want to leave just yet. I’ve got lots more buddies coming any minute now. And they’re all special agents, which means they can shoot off the end of your pinky finger at fifty yards and make you sing out every secret you’ve had since you were two years old. They’re really very good, so it’s best that you just stay put, Doctor Beadermeyer.”

  Noelle was staring at Dr. Beadermeyer. “I hope you rot in the deepest pit they can find to throw you in. Now, you miserable ass, where is my husband? Who was the poor man both of you murdered?”

  “That’s an excellent question,” Quinlan said. “Tell us, Norman.”

  It happened quickly. Dr. Beadermeyer pulled a small revolver out of his coat pocket. “I don’t have to tell you anything, you son of a bitch. You’ve ruined my life, Quinlan. I have no home, no money, damn you, nothing. God, I’d love to kill you, but then I’d never know peace, would I?”

  They heard several car doors slam.

  “It’s too late to whine, Norman,” Quinlan said. “Now you’re going to the slammer. You might consider cutting a deal. Tell us where Amory St. John is hiding. Tell us the name of that guy whose face you rearranged. Tell us the whole sordid story.”

 
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