The cove, p.30
Part #1 of FBI Thriller series by Catherine Coulter
She heard footsteps behind her. She managed to get herself turned around to face the open doorway. James? Was he all right now? But she didn’t call out his name. She was afraid it wasn’t him. James had drunk a whole cup of that coffee. It couldn’t be him. She was afraid of who it might be.
The light was dim. Shadows filled the room, filled her vision. There was a man standing in the doorway, his hands in his pockets.
“NO,” SHE SAID, staring at that shadowy figure, knowing it was him, accepting it, but still she said again, “No, it can’t be you.”
“Of course it can, dear. You’d know your father anywhere, wouldn’t you?”
“No.” She was shaking her head back and forth.
“Why can’t you get up, Sally?”
“You drugged us. I just drank a little bit, but it must have been very strong.”
“Didn’t get enough, did you?” He was coming toward her now, quickly, too quickly.
“Doctor Beadermeyer got to try so many new drugs on you. Actually, I was surprised you survived with your brain intact. Well, I’ll take care of that.”
He leaned down, grabbed the hair at the back of her neck, and yanked her head back. “Here, Sally.” He poured liquid down her throat. Then he threw her away from him, and she fell hard onto her back.
She stared up at him, seeing him weave and fade in the dim light. She tried to focus on him, watching him closely, but his features blurred, his mouth moved and grew bigger. His neck stretched out, becoming longer and longer until she could no longer see his head. Surely this was the way Alice in Wonderland must have felt. Off with her head. “Oh, no,” she whispered. “Oh, no.”
She fell onto her side, the smooth oak boards of the floor cool against her cheek.
Her father was here. That was her first thought when she woke up.
No doubt about it. Her father. He was here. He had drugged her. He would kill her now. She was helpless again, just as helpless as she’d been for days upon weeks, weeks upon months.
She couldn’t move, couldn’t even lift a single finger. She realized her hands were tied in front of her, not all that tightly, but tight enough. She shifted her weight a bit. Her ankles were tied, too. But her mind wasn’t fettered. Her mind was clear—thank God for that. If she’d been vague and blurry again, she would simply have folded up on herself and willed herself to die. But no, she could think. She could remember. She could also open her eyes. Did she want to?
James, she thought, and forced her eyes open.
She was lying on a bed. The springs squeaked when she shifted from one side to the other. She tried to make out more detail but couldn’t. There was only a dim light coming from a hallway. It looked to be a small bedroom, but she couldn’t tell anything more about it.
Where was she? Was she still in The Cove? If so, where?
Where was her father? What would he do?
She saw a shadowy figure walk into the bedroom. The light was too dim for her to make out his face. But she knew. Oh, yes, she knew it was him.
“You,” she said, surprised that the word had come from her mouth. It sounded rusty and infinitely sad.
“It is you. I was praying I’d been wrong. Where am I?”
“It’s a bit soon to tell you that.”
“Are we still in The Cove? Where’s James? And the other two agents?”
“It’s a bit soon to tell you that as well.”
“Damn you, I was praying desperately you’d left the country, that, or you were dead. No, actually I was praying that they would catch you and put you in prison for the rest of your miserable life. Where am I?”
“How poor Noelle suffered for years from that tongue of yours. You were always sniping at her, always moralizing, always telling her what she should do. You wanted her to call the police. You wanted her to leave me. The fact is, she didn’t want to, Sally. Maybe at first she did, but not later. But you just wouldn’t stop. You depressed her with all that criticism of yours, with your contempt. That’s why she never came to see you in the sanitarium. She was afraid you’d preach at her some more, even though you were fucking crazy.”
“That’s bullshit. Naturally you can say anything you want about anybody now. Noelle isn’t here to tell you what she really thinks of you. I’ll bet you she’ll be the happiest woman in Washington once she truly realizes that she doesn’t have to be your punching bag anymore. I’ll bet you she’s already wearing short-sleeved dresses and shirts again. No more fear of showing bruises. I’ll bet she’ll even try two-piece bathing suits this summer. How many years couldn’t she wear them? You loved to punch her in the ribs, didn’t you? You brutalized her. If there’s any justice at all, you’ll pay. Too bad you didn’t die.”
“That’s more out of you than I’ve heard in more than six months. You were blessedly silent most of the time during your too brief stay at the sanitarium. Too bad that Doctor Beadermeyer is out of business, thanks to that bastard Quinlan.
“Everything got so complicated, and it was all your fault, Sally. We had a lid on everything until Quinlan got you away from Doctor Beadermeyer again.”
“His name’s Norman Lipsy. He’s a plastic surgeon. He’s a criminal. He gave that poor man your face, but you’re the one who killed him. You’re a filthy murderer, not just a wife beater. And a traitor to your country.”
“Why do you denounce me only for my more pedestrian deeds? I did one really good thing, something I’m quite proud of that you haven’t mentioned.
“I put my darling daughter away for six months. I do believe that was my favorite project in the last few years.
“Putting you away. Having you under my control. Never having to see the contempt and hatred on your face when you happened to see me. God, how I enjoyed seeing you like a rag doll, your mouth gaping open, looking so stupid and vague that it wasn’t even much fun watching that pathetic Holland take off your clothes and bathe you and then dress you again like you were his dolly.
“Toward the end there, I didn’t even enjoy slapping you to get your attention. You didn’t have any to get, and you got too thin. I told Doctor Beadermeyer to feed you more, but he said all he could do was keep you stabilized. Then you escaped by hiding the pills beneath your tongue.
“To see you in my house, in my study, just after I’d shot Jackie. It was a shock.”
He struck a pose she’d seen many times in her life. He propped his elbow up on his other arm and cupped his chin in his hand. It was his intellectual, thoughtful look, she supposed. All he needed was Scott’s pipe and perhaps Sherlock Holmes’s hat.
“There you were, leaning over poor Jackie—that greedy little bugger—then you turned and saw me, saw me as clear as day. I could see the recognition in your eyes. You picked up my gun. I’d put it down to get some papers from my desk. But then you picked it up, and I had no choice but to run. I hid outside and watched you shake your head, clearly disbelieving you’d seen me. I saw Noelle and Scott come running in. I heard her scream and scream. I saw Scott nearly chew through that damned pipe of his.
“Then you ran, didn’t you, Sally? You ran and you threw my prized pistol in the bushes. I couldn’t get you then and I’ll tell you the truth, I was scared. I had to get my gun first, though, and I did. But I’ll tell you, I was worried, and I stayed worried for a long time. So what if you told the world you’d seen me, your father? If you did, even though you were certifiably crazy, they might have insisted that an autopsy be done, that dental records be compared, but you were so afraid, you just ran. You ran here, to The Cove, to Amabel.
“I didn’t find out for a good four days that you’d blocked it all out. That you ran because you believed that either you’d killed me or dear Noelle had.”
She was trying to take it all in, to realize that she’d never been wrong, to at last understand what this man was. She said slowly, “Quinlan made me remember. That and
“I bet you want to know who the man was who looked like me. He was just a guy I discovered in Baltimore one day when I was meeting one of the Iraqi agents. He was broke, looked remarkably like me—same height, nearly the same weight—and then I knew when I saw him, just knew that he’d be the one to save me.”
Why, she wondered, was he talking so much? Why was he just standing there pouring all this out to her? And she realized then that it pleased him to brag about his brilliance to her. To make her realize how truly great he was. After all, she’d been in the dark about everything. Oh, yes, he was enjoying himself.
“You know, I really don’t remember his last name. Who cares? He played his role and played it perfectly.” Amory St. John laughed. “I promised him a truckload of money if he could impersonate me. I wish you could have heard him practicing my voice tones, my accent. It was pathetic, but both Doctor Beadermeyer and I told him he had a great ear, that he had all my mannerisms, that he could play me to perfection. That’s what he believed would happen. He believed he was going to take my place at a big conference. It was his chance to do something, his chance to make a big score. He was a credulous fool.”
“Now he’s a dead fool.”
She began to pull on the ropes ever so slightly as she said, “Doctor Beadermeyer is down, but you already know all that. He’ll spend the rest of his miserable life in prison. Holland told the FBI everything. All those people—people like me—will be let out of that prison that you call a sanitarium, like it’s a resort where people go to recuperate and rest.”
“Yes, but who cares about all those other people? They weren’t my problem, just you. I only regret that the sanitarium will be closed down. It was such a perfect place for you. Out of the way for good. It all fell into place once I met Jackie. I already knew Doctor Beadermeyer and all about that little racket of his. Nearly seven months ago, it all came together.
“I got you out of the way—with Scott’s help, of course. He was such a miserable little fool, afraid he’d get caught, but I’ll tell you, he sure liked the money he got from helping me. And, you see, I knew all about his lover. At least I made sure you didn’t get AIDS. I threatened Scott that if he made love to you—if he could force himself to do the deed—then he had to use a condom. Doctor Beadermeyer checked your blood. Thanks to me, you’re well. But Scott did play his part. Once he was free of you, he spent his money and dallied openly with his lover. He was a good pawn. Where was I? Oh, yes, then Jackie went under the knife, and I finalized my plans. But you had to butt in, didn’t you, Sally? I had you all locked away and still you got out. Still you had to try to ruin my plans. Well, no more.”
“Do you hate me so much just because I tried to protect my mother from your fists?”
“Actually not. It was natural that I wouldn’t like you very much.”
“It’s because you believed that I’d learned about your illegal arms sales?”
“My dealings with other governments had nothing to do with it. Scott was afraid you’d seen something, but I knew you would have acted in a flash if you had. No, that didn’t concern me. Fact of the matter is, you’re not my daughter. You’re a fucking little bastard. And that, my dear Sally, is why Noelle never left me. She tried once, when you were just a baby. She didn’t believe me when I told her she was in this for life. Perhaps she thought she’d test me. She ran back to her rich, snotty parents in Philadelphia, and they acted true to form just as I knew they would. They told her to get back to her husband and stop making up lies about me. After all, I’d saved her bacon. How could she say such things about me, a wonderful man who’d married her when she was pregnant with another man’s child?”
He laughed, a long, deep laugh that made her skin crawl. She kept lightly tugging on the ropes. Surely they were a little bit looser now, but she wasn’t really thinking about those ropes. She was trying to understand him, to really take in what he was saying. But it was so hard.
He continued, his voice meditative, “When I think about it now, I realize that Noelle really hadn’t believed me. She hadn’t believed that my price to marry her, other than the five hundred thousand dollars I got from her parents, was that she stay with me forever, or until I didn’t want her anymore. When she came dragging back with you—a screaming little brat—I took you away from her and held you over a big fire in the fireplace. The fire was blowing really good. It singed off the little hair you had and your eyebrows. Oh, how she screamed. I told her if she ever tried anything like that again, I’d kill you.
“I meant it, you know. I bet you wonder who your father was.”
She felt as though she’d had a ton of drugs pumped into her body. She couldn’t grasp what he was saying. She understood his words—he wasn’t her father—but she couldn’t seem to get it to the core of herself.
“You’re not my father,” she repeated, staring beyond his left shoulder toward the open door. She wanted to cheer. She didn’t have any of this monster’s blood. “You kept Noelle with you by threatening to kill me, her only child.”
“Yes. My dear wife finally believed me. I can’t tell you the pleasure it gave me to beat that rich little bitch. And she had to take it. She had no choice.
“Then you were sixteen and you saw me hit her. Too bad. It changed everything, but then I had good reason to get rid of you. Remember that last time? You came back into the house and I was kicking her and you got on the phone to call for help and she crawled—actually crawled—over to you and begged you not to call? I enjoyed that. I enjoyed watching you simply disconnect from her.
“I kicked her a couple more times after you left. She really moaned delightfully. Then I had sex with her and she cried the whole time.
“After that I was free of you for a long while. Life was really quite good those four years you were out of my house, out of your mother’s life. But I wanted to pay you back. I got Scott to marry you. That got you away for a little while, but you didn’t want him, did you? You realized he was a phony almost immediately. Well, it didn’t matter.
“I just had to bide my time. When I saw Jackie I knew what to do. You see, the Feds were closing in. I’m not stupid. I knew it was only a matter of time. I’d gotten very rich, but arms sales to places like Iraq are always risky. Yes, it was just a matter of time. I wanted to pay you back for all the trouble you caused me. Those six months you were in Doctor Beadermeyer’s sanitarium were wonderful for me. I loved to have you beneath me, watching me fondle you, fondle myself. I adored hitting you, watching you wince in pain. But then you got away and ruined everything.” He leaned down and slapped her, her left cheek, then her right cheek. Once, again and yet again.
She tasted blood. He’d split her lip.
“You fucking coward.” She spit at him, but he jerked away from her in time. He slapped her again.
“I never wanted to have sex with you in the sanitarium,” he said, close to her face now, “though I could have. I saw you naked enough times, but I never wanted you. Hell, Scott wouldn’t even look at you. He only came that one time because I insisted. Now that little bastard will take the fall because I won’t be around. Come on, Sally, spit at me again. I’m not the coward, you are.”
She spit at him, and this time she didn’t miss. She watched him wipe his mouth and his cheek with the back of his hand. Then he smiled down at her. She had a stark memory of him smiling down at her in the sanitarium. “No,” she whispered, but it didn’t change anything.
He struck her hard and she fell into blackness. Her last thought was that she was grateful he hadn’t given her more drugs.
“WE’RE IN DEEP shit,” Quinlan said and meant it, but he wasn’t thinking about himself and the other agents, he was thinking about Sally. If she was here in this black hole, she was still unconscious. Or dead.
No, it wasn’t a room. It was a shed with a dirt floor. Probably the shed behind Doc Spiver’s cottage.
“Look,” Thomas said, “Quinlan’s right. We are in deep shit, but we’re trained agents. We can get out of this. If we don’t, they’ll fire us. We’ll lose our careers and our federal pensions. I sure as hell don’t want to lose my federal health benefits.”
Corey Harper laughed despite the cramps in her ankles. Her hands were okay. They hadn’t tied them all that tightly, probably because she was a woman. Still, the knots were secure and weren’t about to slip or slide.
“That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard you say, Thomas.”
Quinlan said, as he tugged at the ropes at his wrists, “One of these clowns must have been in the Navy in World War II. These ropes are very well tied, not a bit of give to them. Anybody want to try hands or teeth?”
“I would,” Corey said, “but I’m tied to the wall over here. Yeah, there’s a rope around my waist, and I can feel it’s wrapped around one of the wall boards. And yes, it’s solid. Even with big teeth and a long reach, I couldn’t get to you.”
“I’m tied too,” Thomas said, “Damn.”
“At least everyone’s alive,” Quinlan said. “I wonder what happened to David?” But he was wondering about Sally. He was just afraid to say her name aloud.
“He probably ran off the road,” Thomas said matter-of-factly. “He isn’t here. Maybe he’s already dead.”
“Or maybe somebody rescued him,” Corey said.
“What do you mean ‘already dead’?” Quinlan said, wishing he could see just an outline of something, anything. He kept working on the ropes, but they wouldn’t budge.
The Cove by Catherine Coulter / Mystery & Detective / Romance & Love / Thrillers & Crime / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes