Tell no one, p.38
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       Tell No One, p.38

           Harlan Coben
 
Chapter 37

  When Shauna arrived at the apartment, she collapsed onto her favorite spot on the couch. Linda sat next to her and patted her lap. Shauna laid her head down. She closed her eyes as Linda caressed her hair.

  "Is Mark okay?" Shauna asked.

  "Yes," Linda said. "Do you mind telling me where you were?"

  "Long story. "

  "I'm only sitting here waiting to hear about my brother. "

  "He called me," Shauna said.

  "What?"

  "He's safe. "

  "Thank God. "

  "And he didn't kill Rebecca. "

  "I know that. "

  Shauna turned her head to look up. Linda was blinking her eyes. "He's going to be okay," Shauna said.

  Linda nodded, turned away.

  "What is it?"

  "I took those pictures," Linda said.

  Shauna sat up.

  "Elizabeth came to my office. She was hurt pretty badly. I wanted her to go to a hospital. She said no. She just wanted to make a record of it. "

  "It wasn't a car accident?"

  Linda shook her head.

  "Who hurt her?"

  "She made me promise not to tell. "

  "Eight years ago," Shauna said. "Tell me. "

  "It's not that simple. "

  "Like hell it's not. " Shauna hesitated. "Why would she go to you anyway? And how can you think of protecting. . . " Her voice faded away. She looked at Linda hard. Linda didn't flinch, but Shauna thought about what Carlson had told her downstairs.

  "Brandon Scope," Shauna said softly.

  Linda didn't reply.

  "He's the one who beat her up. Oh Christ, no wonder she came to you. She wanted to keep it a secret. Me or Rebecca, we would have made her go to the police. But not you. "

  "She made me promise," Linda said.

  "And you just accepted that?"

  "What was I supposed to do?"

  "Drag her ass down to the police station. "

  "Well, we can't all be as brave and strong as you, Shauna. "

  "Don't give me that crap. "

  "She didn't want to go," Linda insisted. "She said that she needed more time. That she didn't have enough proof yet. "

  "Proof of what?"

  "That he assaulted her, I guess. I don't know. She wouldn't listen to me. I couldn't just force her. "

  "Oh right - and that was likely. "

  "What the hell does that mean?"

  "You were involved in a charity financed by his family with his face at the helm," Shauna said. "What would happen if it got out that he beat up a woman?"

  "Elizabeth made me promise. "

  "And you were only too happy to keep your mouth shut, right? You wanted to protect your damn charity. "

  "That's not fair-"

  "You put it over her well-being. "

  "Do you know how much good we do?" Linda shouted. "Do you know how many people we help?"

  "On the blood of Elizabeth Beck," Shauna said.

  Linda slapped her across the face. The slap stung. They stared at each other, breathing hard. "I wanted to tell," Linda said. "She wouldn't let me. Maybe I was weak, I don't know. But don't you dare say something like that. "

  "And when Elizabeth was kidnapped at the lake - what did you think, for crying out loud?"

  "I thought it might be connected. I went to Elizabeth's father. I told him what I knew. "

  "What did he say?"

  "He thanked me and said he knew about it. He also told me not to say anything because the situation was delicate. And then when it became clear that KillRoy was the murderer-"

  "You decided to keep silent. "

  "Brandon Scope was dead. What good would dragging his name through the mud do?"

  The phone rang. Linda reached for it. She said hello, paused, and then she handed the phone to Shauna. "For you. "

  Shauna didn't look at her as she took the receiver. "Hello?"

  "Meet me down at my office," Hester Crimstein told her.

  "Why the hell should I?"

  "I'm not big on apologies, Shauna. So let's just agree that I'm a big fat idiot and move on. Grab a taxi and come down here. We've got an innocent man to rescue. "

  * * *

  Assistant District Attorney Lance Fein stormed into Crimstein's conference room looking like a sleep-deprived weasel on too many amphetamines. The two homicide detectives Dimonte and Krinsky followed in his wake. All three had faces taut as piano wire.

  Hester and Shauna stood on the other side of the table. "Gentlemen," Hester said with a sweep of her hand, "please have a seat. "

  Fein eyed her, then shot a look of pure disgust at Shauna. "I'm not here for you to jerk me around. "

  "No, I'm sure you do enough of that in the privacy of your own home," Hester said. "Sit. "

  "If you know where he is-"

  "Sit, Lance. You're giving me a headache. "

  Everyone sat. Dimonte put his snakeskin boots up on the table. Hester took both hands and knocked them off, never letting her smile falter. "We are here, gentlemen, with one aim: saving your careers. So let's get to it, shall we?"

  "I want to know-"

  "Shh, Lance. I'm talking here. Your job is to listen and maybe nod and say things like "Yes, ma'am' and "Thank you, ma'am. " Otherwise, well, you're toast. "

  Lance Fein gave her the eye. "You're the one helping a fugitive escape justice, Hester. "

  "You're sexy when you talk tough, Lance. Actually, you're not. Listen up, okay, because I don't want to have to repeat myself. I'm going to do you a favor, Lance. I'm not going to let you look like a total idiot on this. An idiot, okay, nothing to be done about that, but maybe, if you listen carefully, not a total idiot. You with me? Good. First off, I understand you have a definitive time of death on Rebecca Schayes now. Midnight, give or take a half hour. We pretty clear on that?"

  "So?"

  Hester looked at Shauna. "You want to tell him?"

  "No, that's okay. "

  "But you're the one who did all the hard work. "

  Fein said, "Cut the crap, Crimstein. "

  The door behind them opened. Hester's secretary brought the sheets of paper over to her boss along with a small cassette tape.

  "Thank you, Cheryl. "

  "No problem. "

  "You can go home now. Come in late tomorrow. "

  "Thanks. "

  Cheryl left. Hester took out her half-moon reading glasses. She slipped them on and started reading the pages.

  "I'm getting tired of this, Hester. "

  "You like dogs, Lance?"

  "What?"

  "Dogs. I'm not a big fan of them myself. But this one. . . Shauna, you have that photograph?"

  "Right here. " Shauna held up a large photograph of Chloe for all to see. "She's a bearded collie. "

  "Isn't she cute, Lance?"

  Lance Fein stood. Krinsky stood too. Dimonte didn't budge. "I've had enough. "

  "You leave now," Hester said, "and this dog will piss all over your career like it's a fire hydrant. "

  "What the hell are you talking?"

  She handed two of the sheets to Fein. "That dog proves Beck didn't do it. He was at Kinko's last night. He entered with the dog. Caused quite a ruckus, I understand. Here are four statements from independent witnesses positively IDing Beck. He rented some computer time while there - more precisely, from four past midnight to twelve twenty-three A. M. " according to their billing records. " She grinned. "Here, fellas. Copies for all of you. "

  "You expect me to take these at face value?"

  "Not all. Please, by all means, follow up. "

  Hester tossed a copy at Krinsky and another at Dimonte. Krinsky gathered it up and asked if he could use a phone.

  "Sure," Crimstein said. "But if you're going to make any toll calls, kindly charge it to the department. " She gave him a sickly sweet smile. "Thanks so much. "

  Fein read the sheet, his complexion turning to something in the ash-gray family.

/>   "Thinking about expanding the time of death a bit?" Hester asked. "Feel free, but guess what? There was bridge construction that night. He's covered. "

  Fein was actually quaking. He muttered something under his breath that might have rhymed with "witch. "

  "Now, now, Lance. " Hester Crimstein made a tsk-tsk noise. "You should be thanking me. "

  "What?"

  "Just think of how I could have sandbagged you. There you are, all those cameras, all that delightful media coverage, ready to announce the big arrest of this vicious murderer. You put on your best power tie, make that big speech about keeping the streets safe, about what a team effort the capture of this animal was, though really you should be getting all the credit. The flashbulbs start going off. You smile and call the reporters by their first names, all the while imagining your big oak desk in the governor's mansion - and then bam, I lower the boom. I give the media this airtight alibi. Imagine, Lance. Man, oh, man, do you owe me, or what?"

  Fein shot daggers with his eyes. "He still assaulted a police officer. "

  "No, Lance, he didn't. Think spin, my friend. Fact: You, Assistant District Attorney Lance Fein, jumped to the wrong conclusion. You hunted down an innocent man with your storm troopers - and not just an innocent man, but a doctor who chooses to work for lower pay with the poor instead of in the lucrative private sector. " She sat back, smiling. "Oh, this is good, let me see. So while using dozens of city cops at Lord-knows-what expense, all with guns drawn and chasing down this innocent man, one officer, young and beefy and gung-ho, traps him in an alleyway and starts pounding on him. Nobody else is in sight, so this young cop takes it upon himself to make this scared man pay. Poor, persecuted Dr. David Beck, a widower I might add, did nothing but lash out in self defense. "

  "That'll never sell. "

  "Sure it will, Lance. I don't want to sound immodest, but who's better at spin than yours truly? And wait, you haven't heard me wax philosophical on the comparisons between this case and Richard Jewell, or on the overzealousness of the D. A. 's office, or how they were so eager to pin this on Dr. David Beck, hero to the downtrodden, that they obviously planted evidence at his residence. "

  "Planted?" Fein was apoplectic. "Are you out of your mind?"

  "Come on, Lance, we know Dr. David Beck couldn't have done it. We have a proof-positive alibi in the testimony of four - ah, hell, we'll dig up more than four before this is through - independent, unbiased witnesses that he didn't do it. So how did all that evidence get there? You, Mr. Fein, and your storm troopers. Mark Fuhrman will look like Mahatma Gandhi by the time I'm through with you. "

  Fein's hands tightened into fists. He gulped down a few breaths and made himself lean back. "Okay," he began slowly. "Assuming this alibi checks out-"

  "Oh it will. "

  "Assuming it does, what do you want?"

  "Well now, that's an awfully good question. You're in a bind, Lance. You arrest him, you look like an idiot. You call off the arrest, you look like an idiot. I'm not sure I see any way around it. " Hester Crimstein stood, started pacing as though working a closing. "I've looked into this and I've thought about it and I think I've found a way to minimize the damage. Care to hear it?"

  Fein glared some more. "I'm listening. "

  "You've done one thing smart in all this. Just one, but maybe it's enough. You've kept your mug away from the media. That's because, I imagine, it would be a tad embarrassing trying to explain how this doctor escaped your dragnet. But that's good. Everything that has been reported can be blamed on anonymous leaks. So here's what you do, Lance. You call a press conference. You tell them that the leaks are false, that Dr. Beck is being sought as a material witness, nothing more than that. You do not suspect him in this crime - in fact you're certain he didn't commit it - but you learned that he was one of the last people to see the victim alive and wanted to speak with him"

  "That never fly. "

  "Oh it'll fly. Maybe not straight and true, but it'll stay aloft. The key will be me, Lance. I owe you one because my boy ran. So I, the enemy of the D. A. 's office, will back you up. I'll tell the media how you cooperated with us, how you made sure that my client's rights were not abused, that Dr. Beck and I wholeheartedly support your investigation and look forward to working with you. "

  Fein kept still.

  "It's like I said before, Lance. I can spin for you or I can spin against you. "

  "And in return?"

  "You drop all these silly assault and resisting charges. "

  "No way. "

  Hester motioned him toward the door. "See you in the funny pages. "

  Fein's shoulders slumped ever so slightly. His voice, when he spoke, was soft. "If we agree," he said, "your boy will cooperate? He'll answer all my questions?"

  "Please, Lance, don't try to pretend you're in any condition to negotiate. I've laid out the deal. Take it - or take your chances with the press. Your choice. The clock is ticking. " She bounced her index finger back and forth and made a tick-tock sound.

  Fein looked at Dimonte. Dimonte chewed his toothpick some more. Krinsky got off the phone and nodded at Fein. Fein in turn nodded at Hester. "So how do we handle this?"