The Cove
Page 90

 Catherine Coulter

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She took the phone and dialed. There wasn’t any wait at all. “Mom? It’s me, Sally. I wondered if I could come over. I need to talk to you, Mom. Yes, right now. Is that all right?”
Slowly, she pressed the off button. She started to dial Scott’s number. Quinlan lightly touched his hand to hers and shook his head. “No, I think your mom just might get the other players there.”
“He’s right,” Dillon said. “If she doesn’t, then we’ll talk to her alone. We need to anyway. We need to know exactly where she stands in all of this mess.”
“James is right,” Sally said and swallowed hard. “The others will be there. But know this—she was protecting me. I’d bet my life on it.”
He wanted to hug her, but he didn’t. He watched her blink back the tears and swallow until she had control again. Sally had guts. She also had him.
He said, “Okay. Let me make some phone calls, then we’ll get this show on the road.”
Thirty minutes later James tapped the griffin-head knocker of the St. John home.
Noelle St. John answered the door herself. She was wearing a silk dress in a pale blue. Her hair, blonder than Sally’s, was twisted up in a neat chignon. She looked elegant, tense, and very pale. She hesitated a moment, then held out her arms to her daughter. Sally didn’t move. Noelle St. John looked as if she was ready to burst into tears. She lowered her arms to her sides.
She said quickly, her words running together as if she couldn’t get them out fast enough, “Oh, Sally, you’ve come. I’ve been so worried. When your grandparents called me I didn’t know what to do. Come in, love, come in. We’ll get this all straightened out.” Then she saw Quinlan in the shadows.
“Yes, ma’am. May I come in as well?”
“No, you may not. Sally, what’s going on here?”
“Sorry—no me, then no Sally.”
She looked from Sally to Quinlan, shaking her head. She looked confused.
“Noelle, it’s all right. Let us in.”
She was shaking her head, back and forth. “But he’s FBI, Sally. I don’t want him here. He was here before with another man, and they searched the house looking for you. Why would you want him with you? It doesn’t make sense. The last person you want around you is a cop. He’s lied to you. He’s manipulating you. He’s just making you more confused.”
“No, Noelle, I’m not confused at all about this.”
“But Sally, when your grandparents called me, they told me he was right behind you and you claimed you knew he would be. You said he was smart. But they said you wanted to escape and go into hiding. You said the same thing to me. Why are you with him? Why do you want to be with him?”
“He caught me. I’m an amateur and he’s not. And trust me, you want him with me, too.” Sally took a small step forward and lightly laid her fingertips on her mother’s arm.
“That’s me, ma’am, real smart. Special Agent James Quinlan. I’m pleased you remember me.”
“I wish I didn’t remember, sir,” Noelle said. She looked back over her shoulder. James smiled, knowing now that there was someone else in the living room. Scott Brainerd? Dr. Beadermeyer? Or both of them? He sure as hell hoped both of them were. “Both of us or neither of us,” he said. “It’s chilly out here. Make up your mind, ma’am.”
“All right, but I don’t know why you’re with her. You’ve no right, none at all. Sally’s my daughter, she’s ill, the FBI can’t hold her since she’s mentally unstable, nor can the police. She’s my responsibility, I’m her guardian, and I say she’s going back to the sanitarium. It’s the only way she can be protected.”
“All that?” James said, looking amazed. Noelle looked at him as if she’d like to smack his face. “She doesn’t look unstable to me. I’ll bet she could withstand being beaten with rubber hoses, even having her fingernails yanked out. There’s not an unstable cell in Sally’s brain.”
“She’s been very ill for the past six months,” Noelle said, as she stood back.
They walked past her into the foyer. There were fresh flowers on the beautiful antique table with the large gilded mirror hanging over it. There had always been fresh flowers in that hideous oriental vase, Sally thought, usually white and yellow chrysanthemums.
“Come along into your father’s study, Sally. Let’s get this over with. Then I’ll make certain you’re safe again.”