The Cove
Page 63

 Catherine Coulter

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She was at the car when he jumped to his feet. He didn’t think, just sprinted as fast as he could toward the Oldsmobile. He saw her stop by the driver’s door and aim quickly, then he felt the dirt spray his jeans leg as a bullet kicked up not a foot from his right boot. Then she was inside. The car engine revved. God, she was fast.
He watched her throw the car in reverse, watched her back it out of the narrow driveway onto the small country road. She did it well, coming close to that elm tree but not touching the paint job on the car, which was nice of her because the government was never pleased when it had to repaint bureau cars.
He was running after her again, knowing he had to do something, but not knowing what, just accepting that he was a fool and an incompetent ass and running, running.
Her father had beat her and fondled her and humiliated her in the sanitarium? He’d been the one to put her there in the first place?
It was nuts, the whole thing. And that’s why she hadn’t told him. Her father was dead, couldn’t be grilled, and the whole thing did sound crazy.
“Rein in, Quinlan,” Dillon shouted from behind him. “Come on back. She’s well and truly gone.”
He turned to see Dillon run up behind him. “Last time I checked your speed on the track you couldn’t beat an accelerating Olds.”
“Yeah, yeah. Damn, it’s all my fault. You don’t have to say it.”
“There’s hardly any need to say it. How did she get your gun?”
Quinlan turned to his longtime friend, shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans, and said in the most bewildered voice Dillon had ever heard from him, “I was holding her against me, trying to make her understand that I’d done what I had to do and I wasn’t betraying her, really I wasn’t, and I thought perhaps she was coming around.
“Looks like I really screwed up on this one. I never felt a thing. Nothing. Then she told me she was pointing the gun in my gut. She was.”
“I don’t think I like having a partner who’s so besotted that he can’t even keep his own gun in his holster.”
“Is that some sort of weird sexual innuendo?”
“Not at all. Let’s get to the phone. I sure hope she didn’t think to cut the wire.”
“She never went inside the cottage.”
“Thank God for small favors. It’s about time we got one.”
Quinlan said, “Are your connections good enough to get us another one?”
“If not, I’ll call my aunt Paulie. Between her and Uncle Abe, they’ve got more connections than the pope.”
SHE KNEW JAMES would come here, maybe not immediately, but soon enough. She also knew she had time. Too bad she hadn’t thought to pull the telephone cord out of the wall. That would have really slowed him up. But she had enough of a head start.
She pulled the Oldsmobile into an empty parking spot just off Cooperton Street. She locked the door and walked slowly, wearing James’s jacket, which should make her look very hip, toward number 337, the gracious Georgian red-brick home on Lark Street. Lights were on downstairs. She prayed Noelle was there and not the police or the FBI.
She huddled low and ran along the tap line of shrubbery toward the downstairs library. Her father’s office. The room where she’d first seen her father strike her mother. That had been ten years ago. Ten years. What had happened to those years? College, with nightly phone calls and more visits than she cared to make, even unexpected visits during the week to make sure her father wasn’t beating her mother.
She’d sensed the festering anger in her father at her interference, but his position, more highly visible by the year, his absolute horror of anyone finding out that he was a wife beater, kept him in line, at least most of the time. As it turned out, she found out that if he was pissed off, he would beat her mother as soon as Sally left to go back to college. Not that her mother would ever have told her.
On one visit she’d forgotten a sweater and had gone quickly back home to get it. She’d opened the front door with her key and walked into the library, in on a screaming match with her mother cowering on the floor and her father kicking her.
“I’m calling the police,” she said calmly from the doorway. “I don’t care what happens. This will stop and it will stop now.”
Her father had frozen, his leg in mid-kick, and stared at her in the doorway. “You damned little bitch. What the hell are you doing here?”
“I’m calling the police now. It’s over.” She’d walked back into the foyer to the phone that sat on the small Louis XVI table, beneath a beautiful gilt mirror.