The Cove
Page 2

 Catherine Coulter

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She didn’t want to think about Scott or about her father now. Despite her vigilance, she knew her father had hit Noelle whenever she happened to be gone from the house. She’d seen the bruises her mother had tried to hide from her, seen her walking carefully, like an old woman. Once he broke her mother’s arm, but Noelle refused to go to the hospital, to the doctor, and ordered Susan to keep quiet. Her father just looked at her, daring her, and she did nothing. Nothing.
Her fingers rubbed unconsciously over the white line where the ring had been. She could remember the past so clearly—her first day at school, when she was on the seesaw and a little boy pointed, laughing that he saw her panties.
It was just the past week that was a near blank in her mind. The week her father had been killed. The whole week was like a very long dream that had almost dissolved into nothing more than an occasional wisp of memory with the coming of the morning.
Sally knew she’d been at her parents’ house that night, but she couldn’t remember anything more, at least nothing she could grasp—just vague shadows that blurred, then faded in and out. But they didn’t know that. They wanted her badly, she’d realized that soon enough. If they couldn’t use her to prove that Noelle had killed her husband, why, then they’d take her and prove that she’d killed her father. Why not? Other children had murdered their fathers. Although there were plenty of times she’d wanted to, she didn’t believe she’d killed him.
On the other hand, she just didn’t know. It was all a blank, locked tightly away in her brain. She knew she was capable of killing that bastard, but had she? There were many people who could have wanted her father dead. Perhaps they’d found out she’d been there after all. Yes, that was it. She’d been a witness and they knew it. She probably had been. She just didn’t remember.
She had to stay focused on the present. She looked out the Greyhound window at the small town the bus was going through. Ugly gray exhaust spewed out the back of the bus. She bet the locals loved that.
They were driving along Highway 101 southwest. Just another half hour, she thought, just thirty more minutes, and she wouldn’t have to worry anymore, at least for a while. She would take any safe time she could get. Soon she wouldn’t have to be afraid of anyone who chanced to look at her. No one knew about her aunt, no one.
She was terrified that the young Marine would get off after her when she stepped down from the bus at the junction of Highways 101 and 101A. But he didn’t. No one did. She stood there with her one small bag, staring at the young Marine, who’d turned around in his seat and was looking back at her. She tamped down on her fear. He just wanted to flirt, not hurt her. She thought he had lousy taste in women. She watched for cars, but none were coming from either direction.
She walked west along Highway 101A to The Cove. Highway 101A didn’t go east.
She stared at the woman she’d seen once in her life when she was no more than seven years old. She looked like a hippie, a colorful scarf wrapped around her long, curling, dark hair, huge gold hoops dangling from her ears, her skirt ankle-length and painted all in dark blues and browns. She was wearing blue sneakers. Her face was strong, her cheekbones high and prominent, her chin sharp, her eyes dark and intelligent. Actually, she was the most beautiful woman Sally had ever seen.
“Aunt Amabel?”
“What did you say?” Amabel stared at the young woman who stood on her front doorstep, a young woman who didn’t look cheap with all that makeup she’d piled on her face, just exhausted and sickly pale. And frightened. Then, of course, she knew. She had known deep down that she would come. Yes, she’d known, but it still shook her.
“I’m Sally,” she said and pulled off the black wig and took out half a dozen hairpins. Thick, waving dark-blond hair tumbled down to her shoulders. “Maybe you called me Susan? Not many people do anymore.”
The woman was shaking her head back and forth, those dazzling earrings slapping against her neck. “My God, it’s really you, Sally?” She rocked back on her heels.
“Yes, Aunt.”
“Oh, my,” Amabel said and quickly pulled her niece against her, hugged her tightly, then pushed her back to look at her. “Oh, my goodness. I’ve been so worried. I finally heard the news about your papa, but I didn’t know if I should call Noelle. You know how she is. I was going to call her tonight when the rates go down, but you’re here, Sally. I guess I hoped you’d come to me. What’s happened? Is your mama all right?”
“Noelle is fine, I think,” Sally said. “I didn’t know where else to go, so I came here. Can I stay here, Aunt Amabel, just for a little while? Just until I can think of something, make some plans?”