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“Oh, go to hell, Quinlan. No, I don’t like Quinlan. I’ll call you James. I won’t stay put.”
But he just shook his head at her. He set her aside and made his way carefully through the rocks until he was standing just five feet above the body of a woman, the waves washing her against the rocks, then tugging her back, back and forth. There was no blood in the water. “Oh, no,” he said aloud.
She was at his side, staring down at the woman. “I knew it,” she said. “I was right, but nobody would listen to me.”
“We’ve got to get her out before there’s nothing left of her,” he said. He sat down, took off his running shoes and socks, and rolled up his jeans. “Stay here, Sally. I mean it. I don’t want to have to worry about you falling into the water and washing out to sea.”
Quinlan finally managed to haul her in. He wrapped the woman, what was left of her, in his jacket. His stomach was churning. He waved to Sally to start climbing back up the path. He didn’t allow himself to think that what he was carrying had once been a living, laughing person. God, it made him sick. “We’ll take her to Doc Spiver,” Sally called over her shoulder. “He’ll take care of her.”
“Yeah,” he said to himself, “I just bet he will.” An old man in this one-horse town would probably say that she’d been killed accidentally by a hunter shooting curlews.
Doc Spiver’s living room smelled musty. James wanted to open the windows and air the place out, but he figured the old man must want it this way. He sat down and called Sam North, a homicide detective with the Portland police department. Sam wasn’t in, so James left Doc Spiver’s number. “Tell him it’s urgent,” he said to Sam’s partner, Martin Amick. “It’s really urgent.”
He hung up and watched Sally St. John Brainerd pace back and forth over a rich wine-red Bokhara carpet. It was fairly new, that beautiful carpet. “What did you mean when you said you knew it?”
“What? Oh, I heard her scream last night. There were three screams, and at the last one I knew someone had killed her. It was just cut off so quickly, like someone just hit her hard and that was it.
“Amabel thought it was the wind because it was howling—no doubt about that, but I knew it was a woman’s scream, just like the one the first night I was here. I told you about that. Do you think it was the same woman?”
“I don’t know.”
“Amabel called Reverend Vorhees and he came with three other men and they went on a search. When they came back they said they hadn’t found anything. It was the wind, they said. Reverend Vorhees patted me again, like I was a child, an idiot.”
“Or worse, a hysterical woman.”
“Exactly. Someone killed her, James. It couldn’t have been an accident. I heard her scream the night I arrived—three nights ago—and then last night. Last night, they killed her.”
“What do you mean, ‘they’?”
She shrugged, looking a bit confused. “I don’t know. It just seems right.”
The phone rang and James answered it. It was Sam North calling him back. Sally listened to his end of the conversation.
“Yes, a woman anywhere from young to middle aged, I guess. The tide washed her in, and she’d been battered against the rocks for a good number of hours. I don’t know how long. What do you want to do, Sam?”
He listened, then said, “A little town called The Cove about an hour or so southwest of you. You know it? Good. The local doctor is looking her over now, but they have no law enforcement, nothing like that. Yes? All right. Done. His name is Doc Spiver, on the end of Main Street. You’ve got the number. Right. Thanks, Sam.”
He said as he hung up the phone, “Sam’s calling the county sheriff. He says they’ll send someone over to handle things.”
“Soon, I hope,” Doc Spiver said, walking into the small living room, wiping his hands—an obscene thing to be doing, Sally thought, staring at those old liver-spotted hands, knowing what those hands had been touching. There was a knock on the front door and Doc Spiver called out, “Come along in!”
It was Reverend Hal Vorhees. On his heels were the four old men who spent most of their time sitting around the barrel playing cards.
“What the hell’s going on, Doc? Excuse me, ma’am, but we heard you’d found a body at the bottom of the cliffs.”
“It’s true, Gus,” Doc Spiver said. “Do all of you know Mr. Quinlan and Sally, Amabel’s niece?”