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“Sally and Mr. Quinlan found a woman’s body.”
“Who is she? Do you recognize her?” This from Hal Vorhees.
“No. She’s not from around here, I don’t think. I couldn’t find anything on her clothes either. You find anything, Mr. Quinlan?”
“No. The county sheriff is sending someone over soon. A medical examiner as well.”
“Good,” Doc Spiver said. “Look, she could have been killed by anything. Me, I’d say it was an accident, but who knows? I can’t run tests, and I haven’t the tools or equipment to do an autopsy. As I said, I vote for accident.”
“No,” Sally said. “No accident. Someone killed her. I heard her screaming.”
“Now, Sally,” Doc Spiver said, holding out his hand to her, that hand he’d been wiping, “you’re not thinking that the wind you heard was this poor woman screaming.”
“Yes, I am.”
“We never found anything,” Reverend Vorhees said. “We all looked a good two hours.”
“You just didn’t look in the right place,” Sally said.
“Would you like something to calm you?”
She stared at the old man who had been a doctor for many more years than her mother had been alive. She’d met him the previous day. He’d been kind, if a little vague. She knew he didn’t want her here, that she didn’t belong here, but as long as she was with Amabel, he would continue being kind. Come to think of it, all the folk she’d met had been kind, but she still felt they didn’t want her here. It was because she was a murdered man’s daughter—that had to be it. She wondered if they would turn her in now that she and James had found the woman’s body, the woman Sally had heard screaming.
“Something to calm me,” she repeated slowly, “something to calm me.” She laughed, a low, very ugly laugh that brought Quinlan’s head up.
“I’d better get you something,” Doc Spiver said, turned quickly, and ran into an end table. The beautiful Tiffany lamp crashed to the floor. It didn’t break.
He didn’t see it, James realized. The damned old man is going blind. He said easily, “No, Doc. Sally and I will be on our way now. The detective from the Portland police will tell the sheriff to come here. If you’d let them know we’ll be at Amabel’s house?”
“Yes, certainly,” Doc Spiver said, not looking at them. He was on his knees, touching the precious Tiffany lamp, feeling all the lead seams to make certain it wasn’t cracked.
They left him still on the floor. All the other men were silent as death in the small living room with its rich wine-red Bokhara carpet.
“Amabel told me he was blinder than a bat,” Sally said as they stepped out into the bright afternoon sunlight. She stopped cold.
“I forgot. I can’t have the police knowing I’m here. They’ll call the police in Washington, they’ll send someone to get me, they’ll force me to go back to that place or they’ll kill me or they’ll—”
“No, they won’t. I already thought of that. Don’t worry. Your name is Susan Brandon. They’ll have no reason to question that. Just tell them your story and they’ll leave you be.”
“I have a black wig I wore here. I’ll put it on.”
“How can you know they’ll just want to hear my story? You don’t know what’s going on here any more than I do. Oh, I see. You don’t think they’ll believe I heard a woman screaming those two nights.”
He said patiently, “Even if they don’t believe you, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that they’d then have a murdered woman on their hands, does it? You heard a woman’s screams. Now she’s dead. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of other possible conclusions. Get a grip, Sally, and don’t fall apart on me now. You’re going to be Susan Brandon. All right?”
She nodded slowly, but he didn’t think he had ever seen such fear on a face in all his years.
He was glad she had a wig. No one could forget her face, and the good Lord knew it had been flashed on TV enough times recently.
DAVID MOUNTEBANK HAD hated his name ever since he’d looked it up in the dictionary and read it meant boastful and unscrupulous. Whenever he met a big man, a big man who looked smart, and he had to introduce himself, he held himself stiff and wary, waiting to see if the guy would make a crack. He braced himself accordingly as he introduced himself to the man before him now.