The cove, p.26
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       The Cove, p.26
 

         Part #1 of FBI Thriller series by Catherine Coulter

  “Go to hell, Quinlan.”

  “Not for many years yet, I hope,” Quinlan said. “So it was Amory St. John who was continuing to pay you to keep Sally a prisoner. Was it indeed her father who followed her to The Cove and peered at her through her bedroom window that night? Were you with him? Did the two of you knock us out and take Sally back to your wonderful sanitarium? Yeah, that sounds right. It was Amory St. John on the phone to his daughter, his own face staring in at her through the bedroom window.”

  “It’s all a lie, all of it. I’m leaving now. Come here, Noelle. I don’t think anyone will shoot if you’re with me.”

  Sally said, “My father must have been furious when I saw him run out of this room. He would have thought I’d shout it to the world. That’s why he wanted you to keep me in the sanitarium.”

  “Don’t be ridiculous, Sally,” Dr. Beadermeyer said. “You’re crazy. You escaped from a mental institution. Even if you’d spouted all this out as soon as the cops got here, no one would have believed you, not a single soul.”

  “But it would have raised questions,” Quinlan said. “I would have wondered and chewed on it. I’m a real FBI nerd when it comes to things like that. I wouldn’t have let it go. Sally’s right. That’s why you and her father wanted to keep her locked up. She was out of the way permanently. And her father still believed she knew he was a traitor, or at least suspected that he wasn’t a solid citizen.”

  “Shut up. Come here, Noelle, or I’ll shoot your bloody daughter.”

  “How much money are we talking here, Norman? A couple million? More? It just occurred to me why you wanted Sally so badly. She was your insurance policy, wasn’t she? With her, you didn’t have to worry that Amory St. John would kill you. Of course, he could have killed Sally too, but that would have raised questions inevitably.

  “No, better for him to just keep paying you off until he came up with a bright idea to rid himself of you. Have I gotten anything wrong, Norman? I love real-life wicked plots. Novels can’t even come close.”

  Dr. Beadermeyer waved the gun. “Come here, Noelle.”

  Scott stirred on the floor, shook his head, and slowly sat up. He moaned and rubbed his ribs. “What’s going on here? What are you doing, Doctor Beadermeyer?”

  “I’m leaving, Scott. If you want to come along, you can. We’ve got Noelle. The cops won’t take a chance of shooting because they just might hit her. Come here, Noelle.” He pointed the revolver at Sally. “Now.”

  Noelle walked slowly to where he stood. He grabbed her left arm and pulled her tightly against him. “We’ll just go out through the French doors. Nice and slow, Noelle, nice and slow. Ah, Scott, why don’t you just stay put? I really never liked you, always thought you were a no-account worm. Yes, you just stay here.”

  “What you’re doing isn’t smart, Norman,” Quinlan said. “Believe me, it isn’t smart at all.”

  “Shut up, you bastard.” He kicked open the French doors and pulled Noelle through them. Quinlan didn’t move, just shook his head. Dillon said, “You did warn him, Quinlan.”

  There were voices, two shots. Then dead silence. Dillon ran outside.

  “Noelle!” Sally ran through the open French doors onto the patio, yelling her name over and over.

  They turned to see Noelle stumble toward her daughter. The women embraced.

  “I love happy endings,” Quinlan said, “Now, Scott, why don’t you tell us which woman is your lover—Jill or Monica?”

  “Neither, damn you. I’m gay!”

  “Jesus, that’s a kicker,” Quinlan said.

  Dillon came back in. There was a huge grin on his face. “Poor old Norman Lipsy just got a nick in the arm. He’ll be just fine.”

  “I’m glad about that,” Quinlan said.

  “Scott is gay, James?” Sally stared at her husband. “You’re gay and you married me?”

  “I had to,” Scott said. “Your father’s ruthless. I’d done just a little fiddling with some clients’ accounts, but he discovered it. That’s when he got me into the arms deals and told me I had to marry you. He also paid me, but believe me, it wasn’t enough to bear you for those six months.”

  Quinlan laughed and pulled Sally against him. “I hope this doesn’t depress you too much.”

  “I think I’ll kick up my heels.”

  They heard Dr. Beadermeyer cursing outside, then moaning, complaining loudly that his arm was bleeding too much, that he’d die from blood loss, that the bastards wanted him to die.

  They heard Dillon laugh and say loudly, “Justice. I do like to see justice done.”

  Sally said, “There’s no justice yet. James, where is my father?”

  He kissed her on the mouth and hugged her. “We’ll check first to see if his passport is gone. If it isn’t, we’ll have him soon enough.”

  “Another thing,” Dillon said, “where is that bloody Roth-Steyr pistol?”

  “I remember running after my father out the French doors. I threw it in the bushes.”

  “The cops would have found it. They didn’t.”

  “Then that means her father saw her throw it away and doubled back to get it,” Quinlan said. And he smiled. “That pistol ID’s him better than fingerprints.”

  “That poor man Doctor Beadermeyer operated on. I wonder who he was?”

  “I don’t think we’ll ever know, Sally, unless Beadermeyer talks. He was cremated. Damnation, all the clues were there, staring me right in the face. Your father had made out a new will about eight months ago, specifying that he wanted to be cremated immediately. Norman Lipsy was a plastic surgeon. You were certain it was your father on the phone. I should have believed you, but I truly believed that what you heard was some sort of spliced tape recording of his voice. We’ll get him, Sally. I promise.”

  Quinlan took her home and made her promise to stay there. He had to go to the office and see how the investigation was going.

  “But it’s after midnight.”

  “This is a big deal. The FBI building will be lit up from top to bottom, well, at least most of the fifth floor.”

  “Can I go with you?”

  He pictured thirty men and women all talking at the same time, going over reams of paper, one group reviewing what they’d recovered from Amory St. John’s office, another group delving into Dr. Beadermeyer’s papers.

  Then there was Dr. Beadermeyer to interview—ah, he wanted to get Norman in a room alone, just the two of them and a tape recorder and go at it. He nearly rubbed his hands together.

  “Yes,” he said, “you can come, but agents will latch on to you and question you until you want to curl up in the fetal position and sleep.”

  “I’m ready to talk,” she said and grinned up at him. “Oh, James, I’m so relieved. Scott is gay and my mother wasn’t in on anything. There is someone here for me besides you.”

  Marvin Brammer, assistant director and head of the Criminal Investigative Division, wanted her examined by FBI doctors and shrinks.

  Quinlan talked him out of it. Sally didn’t get to see him do it, but she just bet he was very good.

  She ended up talking at length to Marvin Brammer. He, without realizing it, was positively courtly with her.

  By the end of the hour-long interview, he’d gotten even more details of that night from her. Brammer was one of the best interviewers in the FBI, an organization known for its excellent interview skills. Maybe he was even better than Quinlan, but she doubted if James would admit that.

  When she came out of Marvin Brammer’s office, Brammer behind her with his hand lightly holding her elbow, there was Noelle sitting in the small waiting area, asleep. She looked young and very pretty. She looked, Sally thought, just like she should look. But she was worried about her father. What if he got to Noelle again? What if he got to her? She’d said all that to Mr. Brammer, but he’d reassured her again and again that they would have guards on the two of them. There was no chance Amory St. John would get near either of them. Besides, he couldn’t imagine
the man being that stupid. No, everything would be all right.

  “That’s my mother,” Sally said. “Isn’t she beautiful? She’s always loved me.” She gave Brammer a smile that would have disarmed even a more cynical man.

  Brammer cleared his throat. He ran his fingers lightly through his thick white hair. The word was that his interview skills had increased exponentially when his hair had turned white overnight after a shoot-out five years before in which he’d nearly been killed. You looked at him and you trusted him.

  “From what Quinlan told me—he insisted on talking to Scott Brainerd—it seems that Scott did indeed embezzle client funds on a very small scale. But your father caught him, and that was it. He did some of your father’s dirty work, so your father really had him. Ah, you were right, he did have a lover, a guy named Allen Falkes, in the British embassy. I’m sorry.”

  “Actually, all of this comes as quite a relief. I’m not hurt, Mr. Brammer,” she said, and it was true. “I’m just surprised by all of it. I’ve really been used, haven’t I?”

  “Yes, but a lot of people are used every day. Not as grossly as you’ve been, but manipulated by those who are more powerful, those who are smarter, those who have more money. But as I said, that won’t be a problem anymore, Mrs. Brainerd.”

  “Call me Sally. After all this, I don’t think I ever want to have the Brainerd name attached to me again.”

  “Sally. A nice name. Warm and funny and cozy. Quinlan likes your name. He said it was a name that made him feel good, made him feel like he’d always get a ready smile, and probably a good deal more, but he didn’t add that. Sometimes Quinlan has discretion, at least when he’s on the job—or rather, when he’s talking to me, his boss.”

  She said nothing to that.

  Brammer really didn’t know why he was doing it, but this thin young woman who’d been through more than her fair share for a lifetime, who didn’t know the first thing about getting information out of people, had made him spill his guts—and she hadn’t said a thing.

  Actually, he wanted to take her home with him and feed her and tell her jokes until she was smiling and laughing all the time.

  He said, impelled by all the protective instincts she fostered in him, “I’ve known Quinlan for six years. He’s an excellent agent. He’s smart and he’s intuitive. He’s got this sort of extra sense that many times puts him nearly in another person’s head—or heart. Sometimes I’m not sure which. Sometimes I have to rein him in, yell at him because he plays a lone hand, which we don’t like to have happen. Bureau agents are trained to be team players, except for those in New York City, of course, and Quinlan down here at the Metro office. But I always know when he’s doing it, even though he thinks he’s fooling me.

  “He also has this knack for making people remember things buried deep in their brains. He did that with you tonight, didn’t he?”

  “Yes. But, on the other hand, Mr. Brammer, you got even more out of me.”

  “Ah, but that’s just because Quinlan opened the spigot, so to speak. Now, in addition to being one of the best agents in this office, he’s a very talented man. He plays the saxophone. He’s from a huge family sprawled out all over the East Coast. His father retired two years ago, one of the best chiefs the bureau has ever had. His first wife, Teresa, was a big mistake, but that’s over with. He hunkered down for a while, rethought lots of things, and then he came out of hibernation, and he got well. Now he’s met you, and all he can do is smile and rub his hands together and talk about the future. Treat him well, Sally.”

  “As in be gentle with him?”

  Marvin Brammer laughed. “Nah, beat on him, give him a run for his money, don’t let him pull any of his smart-ass pranks on you.”

  “Pranks?”

  He gave her a surprised grin, then just shook his head. “You haven’t known him all that long. You’ll see, once you’re married, Sally. Maybe even before you’re married. Quinlan’s daddy was just the same. But Quinlan has something his daddy didn’t have.”

  “What’s that?”

  “You,” Marvin Brammer said. He touched his palm lightly to her cheek. “Don’t worry, Sally. We’ll get your father, and he’ll pay big time for what he’s done. Quinlan was talking a mile a minute to bring me up-to-date. He told me about your father calling you twice and his face appearing in your bedroom window when you were staying at your aunt’s house in this small town called The Cove. Of course, he thought it was someone mimicking your father, that or a spliced tape. He said you knew it was your father. And that scared you. He told me he’d never doubt you about anything again. Now, Sally, let’s get honest here. It’s not just the murder of that unknown man, it’s not just what he did to you, although that turns my stomach—it’s the dirty dealings he’s been pulling for several years now, the arms sales to very bad people. The feds will chew him up for that, and that, naturally, is why we got involved in the first place after his murder. I’m sorry he had to be your father. We believe that’s another reason he locked you away in Beadermeyer’s sanitarium. He did believe, according to Scott Brainerd, that you had seen some compromising papers. You don’t remember seeing any papers that could have implicated your father in the arms dealing?”

  She shook her head. “No, really, Mr. Brammer. But you do believe this was one of the reasons my father had me admitted to Doctor Beadermeyer’s sanitarium?”

  “It sounds probable. The other thing—the revenge angle—it seems reasonable, but frankly I don’t think it’s enough of a motive in itself. No, I think it was a bunch of things, but primarily that he knew Scott was losing you, and thus he, Amory St. John, was losing control. And he believed you’d seen some incriminating papers about the arms deals. There’s more than enough there, Sally. What was uppermost in your father’s mind? I don’t know. We’ll never know.”

  “You don’t know how much he hated me. I’ll bet even my mother believes it’s enough of a motive.”

  “We’ll find out when we catch him,” Marvin Brammer said. “Then we’ll make him pay. I’m sure sorry about all this, Sally. Not much of a decent childhood for you, but there’s rottenness in some people, and that’s just the way it is.”

  “What will happen to Doctor Beadermeyer?”

  “Ah, Norman Lipsy. If only we’d thought to put Dillon on him earlier. That man can make a computer tap-dance. We all laugh that he’s not a loner like Quinlan because he’s always got his computer tucked under his arm, a modem wrapped around his neck like a stethoscope. He can get into any system on the planet. He’s amazing. We kid him that he sleeps with the bloody thing. I think that even if someone gave him a turn-of-the-century telephone, he could invent a modem that would work. Agents in the bureau don’t have partners like cops do, but Quinlan and Dillon, well, they always do well together.

  “Good Lord, why’d I get off on that? You wanted to know about Norman Lipsy. He’ll go to jail for a very long time. Don’t spend any time worrying about him. He refused to say a thing. Said that Holland was a moron and a liar. But it doesn’t matter. We’ve got the goods on him.”

  She shivered, her arms wrapped around herself. He wanted to comfort her somehow, but he didn’t know what to do.

  He said, “Believe me, Lipsy is going down hard. We don’t as yet know all the people he’s holding there against their will. Our people will interview each one, look at each one’s file, speak to all the relatives. It’ll shake out soon enough. I think when it’s all over, lots of very rich, very famous folk aren’t going to be happy.

  “Also, Lipsy’s an accessory to murder. He’s gone for good, Sally. No need for you to worry about him.”

  Jesus, what had that man done to her? He couldn’t imagine. He really didn’t want to be able to.

  When Quinlan walked up, his eyes alight with pleasure at the sight of Sally, all skinny and pale, her hair mussed, her own eyes bright with the sight of him, Marvin Brammer wandered back into his office thinking that he couldn’t remember the last time he’d talked so much.
>
  She would pry every secret out of Quinlan and he wouldn’t even know what she was doing. Better yet, she didn’t even realize the effect she had on people.

  Good thing she wasn’t a spy, they’d all be in deep shit. He was also mighty relieved that her mama hadn’t been in on the nastiness.

  25

  QUINLAN BROUGHT HER home, to his apartment, to his bedroom, to his bed, and now he was holding her, lightly stroking his hand up and down her back.

  She was so very thin. He could feel her pelvic bones, the thinness of her arms through her nightgown. He had the urge to phone out for Chinese food—lots of sugar in Szechwan beef and pot stickers—but he decided he’d rather be doing what he was doing. Besides, he’d already stuffed her to the gills with spaghetti, lots of Parmesan on top, and hot garlic bread that wasn’t nearly as good as Martha’s.

  “James?”

  “You’re supposed to be asleep.”

  “Mr. Brammer was very nice to me. He told me a thing or two about you, too.”

  Quinlan stared at her. “You’re kidding. Brammer is the biggest closed-mouth in the FBI. If they gave awards for it, he’d win hands down.”

  “Not tonight. Maybe he was tired or excited, like you were. Yep, he told me lots of things. You’ve got a big family. You’re a lot like your father, just for starters.”

  This was interesting. Quinlan cleared his throat against her hair. “Um, was all he talked about—it was all the case and the players?”

  “Most of it, but not all.” He felt her fingers playing over his bicep. He instantly flexed the muscle. A man, he thought, he was just a man who wanted his woman to know he was strong. He nearly laughed aloud at himself.

  “What was the ‘not all’?”

  “You. He told me about you and your father and Dillon.”

  “Brammer and my father go way back. I wish you could have known my old man. He was a kick, Sally. I wish he hadn’t died—just last year. It was a heart attack, all of a sudden, so he didn’t suffer—but still, he was only sixty-three. He’d make you so mad you wanted to punch his lights out and then in the next second you’d be clutching your stomach, you’d be laughing so hard.”

 
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