The Cove
Page 6

 Catherine Coulter

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She reached out her hand and covered her niece’s thin fingers with hers. She saw where there had once been a ring, but it was gone now, leaving just a pale white mark in its place. She wondered for just a moment if she should tell Sally that she’d spoken to her husband. No, not yet. Maybe never. Let the girl rest for a while. Hopefully there would be time, but Amabel didn’t know. Actually, if she could, she would get rid of Sally this very minute, get her away from here before . . . No, she wouldn’t think about that. She didn’t really have a choice.
Everything would work out. Besides, what would it matter if Scott Brainerd did find out his wife was hiding out here? So she said nothing, just held Sally’s hand in hers.
“I’m awfully tired, Amabel.”
“I’ll bet you are, baby, I’ll just bet you are.”
Amabel tucked her in like she was her little girl in the small second bedroom. The room was quiet, so very quiet. She was asleep within minutes. In a few more minutes she was twisted in the covers, moaning.
There was so much daylight in that room, all of it pouring through the wide windows that gave onto an immaculate lawn stretching a good hundred yards to the edge of a copse of thick oak trees. The two men led her in, shoving her forward, nearly knocking her to her knees. They put their hands on her shoulders, forcing her to sit in front of his desk. He was smiling at her. He didn’t say a word until they’d left, quietly closing the door behind them.
He steepled his fingers. “You look pathetic, Sally, in those gray sweats. And just look at your hair, all stringy, and no makeup on your face, not even a touch of lipstick in honor of coming to see me. Next time I’ll have to ask them to do something with you before bringing you to me.”
She heard every word, felt the hurt that every word intended, but the comprehension quickly died, and she only shrugged, a tiny movement because it was so much work to make her shoulders rise and fall to produce a shrug.
“You’ve been with me now for nearly a week and you’re not a bit better, Sally. You’re still delusional, paranoid. If you’re too stupid to understand what those words mean, why, then, let me get more basic with you. You’re crazy, Sally, just plain crazy, and you’ll stay that way. No cure for you. Now, since I’ve got to look at you for a while longer, why don’t you at least say something, maybe even sing a little song, maybe a song you used to sing in the shower. Yes, I know you always sang in the shower. How about it?”
Oddly, even though the comprehension didn’t remain long in her brain, the viciousness of the words, the utter cruelty of them, hung on. She managed to rise, lean forward, and spit in his face.
He lunged around his desk as he swiped his hand over his face. He jerked her to her feet and slapped her hard, sending her reeling to the floor. The door to his office flew open, and the two men who’d brought her came banging through.
They were worried about him?
She heard him say, “She spit on me and then attacked me. Bring me three milligrams of Haldol. No pill this time. That should calm our poor little girl down.”
No. She knew that if they gave her any more of that stuff she’d die. She knew it, knew it. She staggered to her feet. She ran to those wide windows. She heard shouts behind her. She dove through the glass. For an instant she was flying, white shards of glass falling from her, letting her soar higher and higher above that beautiful lawn, flying away from the horror of this place, the horror of him. Then she wasn’t flying anymore. She heard screams and knew it was she who was screaming. Then she felt the pain drag at her, pulling her down, down, until there was blackness and beautiful nothingness.
* * *
But the screaming went on. That wasn’t right. She was unconscious, no longer screaming.
Another scream jerked her awake. Sally reared up in bed, straining to hear those screams. They’d been here, in The Cove, in Amabel’s house, not in her dream back there. She didn’t move, just waited, waited. A cat? No, it was human, a cry of pain, she knew it was. God knew, she’d heard enough cries of pain in the last year.
Who? Amabel? She didn’t want to move, but she made herself slip out from under the three blankets Amabel had piled on top of her at nine o’clock the previous evening. It was freezing in the small guest room and black as the bottom of a witch’s cauldron. Sally didn’t have a bathrobe, just her long Lanz flannel nightgown. Scott had hated her nightgowns, he hated . . . no, forget Scott. He truly didn’t matter, hadn’t mattered in a very long time.
The room was very dark. She made her way to the door and gently shoved it open. The narrow hallway was just as dark. She waited, waited longer, not wanting to hear that cry again, but knowing she would. It was a cry of pain. Perhaps there had been surprise in it. She couldn’t be sure now. She waited. It was just a matter of time. She walked in her sock feet toward Amabel’s bedroom.