The Cove
Page 17

 Catherine Coulter

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How could she have found out so quickly? It didn’t make sense.
“I’m James Quinlan,” he said. “Most people call me Quinlan. You can call me whatever you want to. Won’t you sit down, Sally? I assure you there’s enough food, though when I finish one plate Martha just brings in another one. Does she do the cooking?”
“I don’t know. Who are you?”
“Sit down and we’ll talk. Or would you like a section of the newspaper? It’s the Oregonian, a very good paper. There’s a long article in here about your father.”
She sat down.
“Who are you, Mr. Quinlan?”
“That didn’t last long. It was James yesterday.”
“I have a feeling that nothing lasts very long with you.”
She was right about that, he thought, as he had a fleeting image of Teresa laughing when he’d whispered to her as he’d come inside her that if she ever had another man she would find out what it meant to be half empty.
“What other feelings do you have, Sally?”
“That you love problems, that you get a problem in your hands and shape and mold and twist and do whatever you have to do to solve that problem. Then you lose interest. You look for another problem.”
He stared at her and said aloud, though he didn’t realize he was doing so, “How the hell do you know that?”
“Mr. Quinlan, how did you know my husband is a lawyer? That wasn’t on TV. There was no reason for it to be. Or if he had been shown, they certainly would have had no reason to discuss his profession or anything else about him.”
“Ah, you remembered that, did you?”
“Delaying tactics don’t become you. What if I told you I have a Colt. 45 revolver in my purse and I’ll shoot you if you don’t tell me the truth right now?”
“I’d probably believe you. Keep your gun in your purse. It was on TV—your good old husband escorting your mother to your dad’s funeral. You just didn’t see it.” Thank God he’d heard Thelma and Martha discussing it yesterday. Thank God they hadn’t really been interested. Washington, D.C., was light-years from their world. “If you think there’s anything private about you now, forget it. You’re an open book.”
She had seen it, she’d forgotten, just plain forgotten. She’d made a mistake, and she couldn’t afford to make any more. She remembered eating that wonderful ham sandwich the first day she’d arrived, sitting with Amabel, watching her black-and-white set, listening and watching and knowing that Scott was with her mother. She hadn’t watched TV before or since. She prayed she wasn’t an open book. She prayed no one in The Cove would ever realize who she was.
“I forgot,” she said and picked up a slice of unbuttered toast. She bit into it, chewed slowly, then swallowed. “I shouldn’t have, but I did.”
“Tell me about him.”
She took another bite of toast. “I can’t afford you, remember, James?”
“I sometimes do pro bono.”
“I don’t think so. Have you discovered anything about the old couple?”
“Yes, I have. Everyone I’ve spoken to is lying through their collective dentures. Marge and Harve were here, probably at the World’s Greatest Ice Cream Shop. Why doesn’t anyone want to admit it? What’s to hide? So they had ice cream—who cares?”
He pulled up short, staring at the pale young woman sitting across from him. She took another bite of the dry toast. He lifted the dish of homemade strawberry jam and handed it to her. She shook her head. He’d never in his life told anyone about his business. Of course, old Marge and Harve weren’t really his business, not really, but then again, why the hell had everyone lied to him?
More to the point, why had he said anything about that case to her? She was a damned criminal, or at least she knew who had offed her father. If there was one thing he was sure of, it was that.
Whatever else she was—well, he’d find out. She had come to him. Confronted him. It saved him the trouble of seeking her out again.
“You’re right. That doesn’t make any sense. You’re sure folk lied to you?”
“Positive. It’s interesting, don’t you think?”
She nodded, took another bite of toast, and chewed slowly. “Why don’t I ask Amabel why no one admits to remembering them?”
“No, I don’t think so. I’m the private investigator here. I’ll do the asking. It’s not your job.”
She just shrugged.