All that remains, p.12
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       All That Remains, p.12
 

           Patricia Cornwell

  "I fail to see how this is connected to what's happened to Mrs. Harvey's daughter," I said again.

  "Start with this. If you were at cross-purposes with the FBI," Abby said, "and maybe even doing battle with them, how would you feel if your daughter disappeared and the FBI was working the case?"

  It was not a pleasant thought. "Justified or not, I would feel very vulnerable and paranoid. I suppose it would be hard for me to trust."

  "You've just skimmed the surface of Pat Harvey's feelings. I think she really believes that someone used her daughter to get to her, that Deborah's not the victim of a random crime, but a hit. And she's not sure that the FBI isn't involved "Let me get this straight," I said, stopping her. "Are: you implying that Pat Harvey is suspicious the FBI is behind the deaths of her daughter and Fred?"

  "It's entered her mind that the feds are involved."

  "Are you going to tell me that you're entertaining this notion yourself?"

  "I'm to the point of believing anything."

  "Good God," I muttered under my breath.

  "I know how off-the-wall it sounds. But if nothing else, I believe the FBI knows what's going on and maybe even knows who's doing it, and that's why I'm a problem. The feds don't want me snooping around. They're worried I might turn over a rock and find out what's really crawling underneath it."

  "If that's the case," I reminded her, "then it would seem to me the Post would be offering you a raise, not sending you over to features. It's never been my impression that the Post is easily intimidated."

  "I'm not Bob Woodward," she replied bitterly. "I haven't been there very long, and the police beat is chicken shit, usually where rookies get their feet wet. If the Director of the FBI or someone in the White House wants to talk lawsuits or diplomacy with the powers to be at the Post, I'm not going to be invited in on the meeting or necessarily told what's going on."

  She was probably right about that, I thought. If Abby's demeanor in the newsroom was anything like it was now, it was unlikely anyone was eager to deal with her. In fact, I wasn't sure I was surprised she had been relieved of her beat.

  "I'm sorry, Abby," I said. "Maybe I could understand politics being a factor in Deborah Harvey's case, but the others? How do the other couples fit? The first couple disappeared two and a half years before Deborah and Fred did."

  "Kay," she said fiercely, "I don't know the answers.

  But I swear to God something is being covered up. Something the FBI, the government, doesn't want the public ever to find out. You mark my words, even if these killings stop, the cases will never be solved if the FBI has its way about it. That's what I'm up against. And that's what you're up against."

  Finishing her drink, she added "And maybe that would be all right - as long as the killings stopped. But the problem is, when will they stop' And could they have been stopped before now?"

  "Why are you telling me all this?" I asked bluntly.

  "We're talking about innocent teenage kids who are turning up dead. Not to mention the obvious - I trust you. And maybe I need a friend."

  "You're going to continue with the book?"

  "Yes. I just hope there will be a final chapter to write."

  "Please be careful, Abby."

  "Believe me," she said, "I know."

  When we left the bar it was dark out and very cold. My „ mind was in turmoil as we were jostled along crowded sidewalks, and 1 felt no better as I made the drive back ', to Richmond. I wanted to talk to Pat Harvey, but I did not dare. I wanted to talk to Wesley, but I knew he would not divulge his secrets to me, were there any, and more than ever I was unsure of our friendship. . The minute I was home, I called Marino.

  "Where in South Carolina does Hilda Ozimek live?" I asked.

  "Why? What did you find out at the Smithsonian?"

  "Just answer my question, please."

  "Some little armpit of a town called Six Mile."

  "Thank you."

  "Hey! Before you hang up, you mind telling me what went down in D.C.?"

  "Not tonight, Marino. If I can't find you tomorrow, you get hold of me."

  At 5:45 A.M., Richmond International Airport was deserted. Restaurants were closed, newspapers were stacked in front of locked-up gift shops, and a janitor was slowly wheeling a trash can around, a somnambulist picking up gum wrappers and cigarette butts.

  I found Marino inside the USAir terminal, eyes shut and raincoat wadded behind his head as he napped in an airless, artificially lit room of empty chairs and dotted blue carpet. For a fleeting moment I saw him as if I did not know him, my heart touched in a sad, sweet way. Marino had aged.

  I don't think I had been in my new job more than several days when I met him for the first time. I was in the morgue performing an autopsy when a big man with an impassive face walked in and positioned himself on the other side of the table. I remembered feeling his cool scrutiny. I had the uncomfortable sensation he was dissecting me as thoroughly as I was dissecting my patient.

  "So you're the new chief."

  He had posed the comment as a challenge, as if daring me to acknowledge that I believed I could fill a position never before held by a woman.

  "I'm Dr. Scarpetta," I had replied. "You're with Richmond City, I assume?"

  He had mumbled his name, then waited in silence while I removed several bullets from his homicide case and receipted them to him. He strolled off without so much as a "good-bye" or "nice to meet you," by which point our professional rapport had been established. I perceived he resented me for no cause other than my gender, and in turn I dismissed him as a dolt with a brain pickled by testosterone. In truth, he had secretly intimidated the hell out of me.

  It was hard for me to look at Marino now and imagine I had ever found him threatening. He looked old and defeated, shirt straining across his big belly, wisps of graying hair unruly, brow drawn in what was neither a scowl nor a frown but a series of deep creases caused by the erosion of chronic tension and displeasure.

  "Good morning."

  I gently touched his shoulder.

  "What's in the bag?" he muttered without opening his eyes.

  "I thought you were asleep," I said, surprised.

  He sat up and yawned.

  Settling next to him, I opened the paper sack and got out Styrofoam cups of coffee and cream cheese bagels I had fixed at home and heated in the microwave oven just before heading out in the dark.

  "I assume you haven't eaten?"

  I handed him a napkin.

  "Those look like real bagels."

  "They are," I said, unwrapping mine.

  "I thought you said the plane left at six."

  "Six-thirty. I'm quite sure that's what I told you. I hope you haven't been waiting long."

  "Yeah, well I have been."

  "I'm sorry."

  "You got the tickets, right?"

  "In my purse," I replied. There were times when Marino and I sounded like an old married couple.

  "You ask me, I'm not sure this idea of yours is worth the price. It wouldn't come out of my pocket, even if I had it. But it don't thrill me that you're getting soaked, Doc. It would make me feel better if you at least tried to get reimbursed."

  "It wouldn't make me feel better."

  We had been through this before. "I'm not turning in a reimbursement voucher, and you aren't, either. You turn in a voucher and you leave a paper trail. Besides," I added, sipping my coffee, "I can afford it."

  "If it would save me six hundred bucks, I'd leave a paper trail from here to the moon."

  "Nonsense. I know you better than that."

  "Yeah. Nonsense is right. This whole thing's goofy as shit."

  He dumped several packs of sugar into his coffee. "I think Abby Turncoat scrambled your brains."

  "Thank you," I replied shortly.

  Other passengers were filing in, and it was amazing the power Marino had to make the world tilt slightly on its axis. He had chosen to sit in an area designated as non-smoking, then had carried an upri
ght ashtray from rows away and placed it by his chair. This served as a subliminal invitation for other semi-awake smokers to a settle near us, several of whom carried over additional ashtrays. By the time we were ready to board there was hardly an ashtray to be found in the smoking area and nobody seemed quite sure where to sit. Embarrassed and determined to have no part in this unfriendly takeover.

  I left my pack in my purse.

  Marino, who disliked flying more than I did, slept to Charlotte, where we boarded a commuter prop plane that reminded me unpleasantly of how little there is between fragile human flesh and empty air. I had worked my share of disasters and knew what it was like to see an aircraft and passengers scattered over miles of earth. I noted there was no rest room or beverage service, and when the engines started, the plane shook as if it were, having a seizure. For the first part of the trip, I had the rare distinction of watching the pilots chat with each other, stretching and yawning until a stewardess made her way up the aisle and yanked the curtain shut. The air was getting more turbulent, mountains drifting in and- out of fog. The second time the plane suddenly lost altitude, sending my stomach into my throat, Marino, gripped both armrests so hard his knuckles went white.

  "Jesus Christ," he muttered, and I began to regret bringing him breakfast. He looked as if he were about to get sick. "If this bucket ever makes it on the ground in one piece, I'm having a drink. I don't friggin' care what time it is."

  "Hey, I'll buy," a man in front of us turned around and said.

  Marino was staring at a strange phenomenon occurring in a section of the aisle directly ahead of us. Rolling up from a metal strip at the edge of the carpet was a ghostly condensation that I had never seen on any previous flight. It looked as if clouds were seeping inside the plane, and when Marino pointed this out with a loud "What the hell?" to the stewardess, she completely ignored him.

  "Next time I'm going to slip Phenobarbital in your coffee," I warned him between clenched teeth.

  "Next time you decide to talk to some wild-ass gypsy who lives in the sticks, I ain't coming along for the ride."

  For half an hour we circled Spartanburg, bumped and tossed, fits of freezing rain pelting the glass. We could not land because of the fog, and it honestly occurred to me that we might die. I thought about my mother. I thought about Lucy, my niece. I should have gone home for Christmas, but I was so weighted down by my own concerns, and I had not wanted to be asked about Mark. I'm busy, Mother. I simply can't get away right now. "But it's Christmas, Kay."

  I could not remember the last time my mother had cried, but I always knew when she felt like it. Her voice got funny. Words were spaced far apart. "Lucy will be so disappointed," she had said. I had mailed Lucy a generous check and called her Christmas morning. She missed me terribly, but I think I missed her more.

  Suddenly, clouds parted and the sun lit up windows. Spontaneously, all of the passengers, including me, gave God and pilots a round of applause. We celebrated our survival by chatting up and down the aisle as if all of us had been friends for years.

  "So maybe Broom Hilda's looking out for us," Marino said sarcastically, his face covered with sweat.

  "Maybe she is," I said, taking a deep breath as we landed.

  "Yeah, well, be sure to thank her for me."

  "You can thank her yourself, Marino."

  "Yo," he said, yawning and fully recovered.

  "She seems very nice. Maybe for once, you might consider having an open mind."

  "Yo," he said again.

  When I had gotten Hilda Ozimek's number from directory assistance and given her a call, I was expecting a woman shrewd and suspicious who bracketed every comment in dollar signs. Instead, she was unassuming and gentle, and surprisingly trusting. She did not ask questions or want proof of who I was. Her voice sounded worried only once, and this was when she mentioned that she could not meet us at the airport.

  Since I was paying and in a mood to be chauffeured, I told Marino to pick out what he wanted. Like a sixteen year-old on his first test drive to manhood, he selected a brand-new Thunderbird, black, with a sunroof, a tape deck, electric windows, leather bucket seats. He drove west with the sunroof open and the heat turned on as I went into more detail about what Abby had said to me in Washington.

  "I know Deborah Harvey's and Fred Cheney's bodies were moved," I was explaining. "And now I suspect I understand why."

  "I'm not sure I do," he said. "So why don't lay out for me one point at a time."

  "You and I got to the rest stop before anyone went through the Jeep," I began. "And we didn't see a jack of hearts on the dash, on a seat, or anywhere else."

  "Don't mean the card wasn't in the glove compartment or something, and the cops didn't find it until after the dogs was finished sniffing."

  Setting the cruise control, he added, "If this card business is true. Like I said, it's the first I've heard of it."

  "Let's for the sake of argument assume it is true."

  "I'm listening."

  "Wesley arrived at the rest stop after we did, so he didn't see a card, either. Later, the Jeep was searched by the police, and you can be sure that Wesley was either on hand or he called Morrell and wanted to know what was found. If there was no sign of a jack of hearts, and I'm willing to bet that's the case, this had to have thrown Wesley a curve. His next thought may have been that either Deborah's and Fred's disappearance was unrelated to the other couples' disappearances and yon you it deaths, or else if Deborah and Fred were already dead; then it was possible that this time a card may have beets, left at the scene, left with the bodies."

  "And you're thinking this was why their bodies was moved before you got there. "Because the cops was looking for the card."

  "Or Benton was. Yes, that's what I'm considering.

  Otherwise it doesn't make much sense to me. Ben and the police know not to touch a body before the medical examiner arrives. But Benton also wouldn't want to take the chance that a jack of hearts might come into the morgue with the bodies. He wouldn't want me anyone else to find it or know about it."

  ' "Then it would make more sense for him to just tell t to keep our mouths shut instead of him screwing around: with the scene," Marino argued. "It's not like he was out there in the woods alone. There was other cops around:" They would have noticed if Benton found a card."

  "Obviously," I said. "But he would also realize that the fewer people who know, the better. And if I found a playing card among Deborah's or Fred's personal effects that would go into my written report. Commonwealth attorneys, members of my staff, families, insurance companies - other people are going to see the autopsy reports eventually."

  "Okay, okay."

  Marino was getting impatient. "But so what? I mean, what's the big deal?"

  "I don't know. But if what Abby's implying is true;' these cards turning up must be a very big deal to "No offense, Doc, but I never liked Abby Turnbull worth a damn. Not when she was working in Richmond, and I sure as hell don't think better of her now that she's at the Post."

  "I've never known her to lie," I said.

  "Yeah. You've never known it."

  "The detective in Gloucester mentioned playing cards in a transcript I read."

  "And maybe that's where Abby picked up the ball. Now she's running around the block with it. Making assumptions. Hoping. All she gives a shit about is writing her book."

  "She's not herself right now. She's frightened, angry, but I don't agree with you about her character."

  "Right," he said. "She comes to Richmond, acts like your long-lost friend. Says she don't want nothing from you. Next thing, you have to read the New York Times to find out she's writing a friggin' book about these cases. Oh, yeah. She's a real friend, Doc."

  I shut my eyes and listened to a country-music song playing softly on the radio. Sunlight breaking through the windshield was warm on my lap, and the early hour I had gotten out of bed hit me like a stiff drink. I dozed off. When I came to, we were bumping slowly along an unpaved road
out in the middle of nowhere.

 
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