All that remains, p.17
All That Remains, p.17Patricia Cornwell
A detail you apparently have worked very hard to suppress."
"Who told you this?"
he asked, the expression on his face unchanged. He did not even look surprised.
"Is it true?"
"And did you find a card in the Harvey-Cheney case?"
Wesley stared off across the room, nodding at the waiter. "I recommend the filet mignon."
He opened his menu. "That or the lamb chops."
I placed my order as my heart pounded. I lit a cigarette, unable to relax, my mind frenetically groping for a way to break through.
"You didn't answer my question."
"I don't see how it is relevant to your role in the investigation," he said.
"The police waited hours before calling me to the scene. The bodies had been moved, tampered with, by the time I got there. I'm being stonewalled by investigators, you've asked me to indefinitely pend the cause and manner of Fred's and Deborah's deaths. Meanwhile, Pat Harvey is threatening to get a court order because I won't release my findings."
I paused. He remained unflappable.
"Finally," I concluded, my words beginning to bite, "I make a retrospective visit to a scene without knowing it's under surveillance or that the evidence I collected was planted. And you don't think the details of these cases are relevant to my role in the investigation? I'm no longer sure I even have a role in the investigation. Or at least you seem determined to make sure I don't have one."
"I'm not doing anything of the sort."
"Then someone is."
He did not reply.
"If a jack of hearts was found inside Deborah's Jeep on somewhere near their bodies, it's important for me to know. It would link the deaths of all five couples. When there's a serial killer on the loose in Virginia, it is of great concern to me."
Then he caught me off guard. "How much have you been telling Abby Turnbull?"
"I haven't been telling her anything," I said, my heart pounding harder.
"You've met with her, Kay. I'm sure you won't deny that."
"Mark told you, and I'm sure you won't deny that."
"Mark would have no reason to know you saw Abby in Richmond or Washington unless you told him. And any event, he would have no reason to pass this along."
I stared at him. How could Wesley have known I had seen Abby in Washington unless she really was being watched? "When Abby came to see me in Richmond," I said "Mark called and I mentioned she was visiting. Are you telling me he said nothing to you?"
"Then how did you find out?"
"There are some things I can't tell you. And you're just going to have to trust me."
The waiter set down our salads, and we ate in silence. Wesley did not speak again until our main courses arrived.
"I'm under a lot of pressure," he said in a quiet voice.
"I can see that. You look exhausted, run-down."
"Thank you, Doctor," he said ironically.
"You've changed in other ways as well."
I pushed the point.
"I'm sure that is your perception."
"You're shutting me out, Benton."
"I suppose I keep my distance because you ask questions that I can't answer; so does Marino. And then I feel even more pressure. Do you understand?"
"1'm trying to understand," I said.
"I can't tell you everything. Can you let it go at that?"
"Not quite. Because that's where we're at cross-purposes. I have information you need. And you have information I need. I'm not going to show you mine unless you show me yours."
He surprised me by laughing.
"Do you think we can strike a deal under these terms?"
"It looks like I don't have much of a choice."
"You don't," I said.
"Yes, we did find a jack of hearts in the Harvey-Cheney case. Yes, I did have their bodies moved before you arrived at the scene, and I know that was poor form, but you have no idea why the cards are so significant of the problems that would be precipitated by word of them leaking. If it made the newspapers, for example I'm not going to say anything further about that right now."
"Where was the card?" I asked.
"We found it inside Deborah Harvey's purse. When a couple of the cops helped me turn her over, we found the purse under her body."
"Are you suggesting that the killer carried her purse out into the woods?"
"Yes. It wouldn't make any sense to think Deborah carried her purse out there."
"In the other cases," I pointed out, the card was left in plain sight inside the vehicle."
"Exactly. Where the card was found is just one more inconsistency. Why wasn't it left inside the Jeep? Another inconsistency is that the cards left in the other cases are Bicycle playing cards. The one left with Deborah is a different brand. Then there's the matter of fibers."
"What fibers?" I asked.
Though I had collected fibers from all of the decomposed bodies, most of them were consistent with the victims' own clothing or the upholstery of the vehicles. Unknown fibers - what few I had found - had supplied no link between the cases, had proved useless so far.
"In the four cases preceding Deborah's and Fred's murders," Wesley said, "white cotton fibers were recovered from the driver's seat of each abandoned car.
"That's news to me," I said, irritation flaring again.
"The fiber analysis was done by our labs," he explained.
"And what is your interpretation?" I asked.
"The pattern of fibers recovered is interesting. Since the victims weren't wearing white cotton clothing at the time of their deaths, I have to assume that the fibers were left by the perpetrator, and this places him driving the victims' cars after the crimes. But we've been assuming that all along. One has to consider his clothing. And a possibility is that he was wearing some type of uniform when he encountered the couples. White cotton trousers. I don't know. But no white cotton fibers were recovered from the driver's seat of Deborah Harvey's Jeep."
"What did you find inside her Jeep?" I asked.
"Nothing that tells me anything right now. In fact, the interior was immaculate."
He paused, cutting his steak. "The point is, the MO's different enough in this case to worry me a lot, because of the other circumstances."
"Because one of the victims is the Drug Czar's daughter, and you're still considering that what happened to Deborah may have been politically motivated, related to her mother's antidrug endeavors," I said.
He nodded. "We can't rule out that the murders of Deborah and her boyfriend were disguised to resemble the other cases."
"If their deaths aren't related to the others, and were a hit," I asked skeptically, "then how do you explain their killer knowing about the cards, Benton? Even I didn't find out about the jack of hearts until recently. Certainly it hasn't been in the newspapers."
"Pat Harvey knows," he startled me by saying.
Abby, I thought. And I was willing to bet that Abby had divulged the detail to Mrs. Harvey, and that Wesley knew this.
"How long has Mrs. Harvey known about the cards," I asked.
"When her daughter's Jeep was found, she asked if we'd recovered a card. And she called me about again after the bodies turned up."
"I don't understand," I said. "Why would she have known last fall? It sounds to me as if she knew the details of the other cases before Deborah and Fred disappeared."
"She knew some of the details. Pat Harvey was interested in these cases long before she had persona; motivation."
"You've heard some of the theories," he said. "Drug overdoses. Some new weird designer drug on the street, the kids going out in the woods to party and ending up dead. Or some drug dealer who gets his thrills by selling bad stuff in some remote place, then watching the couples die."
"I've heard the theories, and there is nothing to support them. Toxicology results were negative for drugs in the first eight deaths."
"I remember that from the reports," he said," thoughtfully. "But I also assumed this didn't necessarily mean the kids hadn't been involved in drugs. Their bodies were almost skeletonized. Doesn't seem there was much left to test."
"There was some red tissue left, muscle. That's enough for testing. Cocaine or heroin, for example. We, at least, would have expected to find their metabolites of benzoylecogonine or morphine. As for designer drugs, we tested for analogues of PCP, amphetamines."
"What about China White?"
he proposed, referring to a very potent synthetic analgesic popular in California. "From what I understand, it doesn't take much for an overdose and is difficult to detect."
"True. Less than one milligram can be fatal, meaning the concentration is too low to detect without using special analytical procedures such as RLA."
Noting the blank expression on his face, I explained, "Radioimmunoassay, a procedure based on specific drug antibody reactions. Unlike conventional screening procedures, RIA can detect small levels of drugs, so it's what we resort to when looking for China White, LSD, THC."
"None of which you found."
"What about alcohol?"
"Alcohol's a problem when bodies are badly decomposed. Some of those tests were negative, others less than point oh-five, possibly the result of decomposition. Inconclusive, in other words."
"With Harvey and Cheney as well?"
"No trace of drugs so far," I told him. "What is Pat Harvey's interest in the early cases?"
"Don't get me wrong," he replied. "I'm not saying.' was a major preoccupation. But she must have gotten tips back when she was a U.S. attorney, inside information, and she asked some questions. Politics, Kay "' I suppose if it had turned out that these deaths of couples in Virginia were related to drugs - either accidental deaths or drug homicides - she would have used the information to buttress her anti-drug efforts."
That would explain why Mrs. Harvey seemed well informed when I had lunch at her house last fall I thought. No doubt she had information on file in her office because of her early interest in the cases.
"When her inquiries into this didn't go anywhere" Wesley continued, "I think she pretty much let it go until her daughter and Fred disappeared. Then it all came back to her, as you can imagine."
"Yes, I can imagine. And I can also imagine the bitter irony had it turned out that drugs killed the Drug Czar's daughter."
"Don't think that hasn't crossed Mrs. Harvey's mind, Wesley said grimly.
The reminder made me tense again. "She has a right know, Benton. I can't pend these cases forever."
He nodded to the waiter that we were ready for coffee "I need you to buy me more time, Kay."
"Because of your disinformation tactics?"
"We need to give that a shot, let the stories run without interference. The minute Mrs. Harvey gets anything from you, all hell's going to break loose. Believe me, I know how she'll react better than you do at this point. She'll go to the press, and in the process screw up everything we've been setting up to lure the killer."
"What happens when she gets her court order?"
"That will take time. It won't happen tomorrow. Will you stall a little longer, Kay?"
"You haven't finished explaining about the jack of hearts," I reminded him.
"How could a hit man have known about the cards?"
Wesley replied reluctantly, "Pat Harvey doesn't gather information or investigate situations alone. She has aides, a staff. She talks to other politicians, any number of people, including constituents. It all depends on who she divulged information to, and who out there might have wished to destroy her, assuming that's the case, and I'm not saying it is."
"A paid hit disguised to look like the early cases," I considered. "Only the hit man made a mistake. He didn't know to leave the jack of hearts in the car. He left it with Deborah's body, inside her purse. Someone perhaps involved with the fraudulent charities Pat Harvey is supposed to testify against?"
"We're talking about bad people who know other bad people. Drug dealers. Organized crime."
He idly stirred his coffee. "Mrs. Harvey's not faring too well through all this. She's very distracted. This congressional hearing isn't exactly foremost on her mind, at the moment."
"I see. And I suspect she's not exactly on friendly terms with the Justice Department, because of this hearing."
Wesley carefully set his teaspoon on the edge of his saucer. "She's not," he said, looking up at me. "What she's trying to bring about isn't going to help us. It's to put ACTMAD and other scams like it out of business but it's not enough. We want to prosecute. In the past there's been some friction between her and the DEA, also the CIA."
"And now?" I continued to probe.
"It's worse, because she's emotionally involved, has to rely on the Bureau to assist in solving her daughter's homicide. She's uncooperative, paranoid. She's trying work around us, take matters into her own hands. Sighing, he added, "She's a problem, Kay."
"She probably says the same thing about the Bureau."
He smiled wryly. "I'm sure she does."
I wanted to continue the mental poker game to see if Wesley was keeping anything else from me, so I gave him more. "It appears that Deborah received a defensive injury to her left index finger. Not a cut, but a hack inflicted by a knife with a serrated blade."
"Where on her index finger?" he asked, leaning, forward a little.
"Dorsal." I held up my hand to show him. "On top, near her first knuckle."
"Yes. Difficult to reconstruct how she got it."
"So we know he was armed with a knife," he thought out loud. "That makes me all the more suspicious that something went wrong out there. Something happened he wasn't expecting. He may have resorted to a gun to subdue the couple, but intended to kill them with the knife. Possibly by cutting their throats. But then something went haywire. Deborah somehow got away and he shot her in the back, then maybe cut her throat to finish her off."
"And then positioned their bodies to look like the others?"
I asked. "Arm in arm, facedown, and fully clothed?"
He stared at the wall above my head.
I thought of the cigarette butts left at each scene. I thought of the parallels. The fact that the playing card was a different brand and left in a different place this time proved nothing. Killers are not machines. Their rituals and habits are not an exact science or set in stone. Nothing that Wesley had divulged to me, including the absence of white cotton fibers in Deborah's Jeep, was enough to validate the theory that Fred's and Deborah's homicides were unrelated to the other cases. I was experiencing the same confusion that I felt whenever I visited Quantico, where I was never sure if guns were firing bullets or blanks, if helicopters carried marines on real business or FBI agents simulating maneuvers, or if buildings in the Academy's fictitious town of Hogan's Alley were functional or Hollywood facades.
I could push Wesley no further. He wasn't going to tell me more.
"It's getting late," he commented. "You have a long drive back."
I had one last point to make.
"I don't want friendship to interfere with all this, Benton."
"That goes without saying."
"What happened between Mark and me-" "That's not a factor," he interrupted, and his voice firm but not unkind.
"He was your best friend."
"I'd like to think he still is."
"Do you blame me for why he went to Colorado, left Quantico? " "I know why he left," he said. "I'm sorry he left. He was very good for the Academy."
The FBI's strategy of drawing out the killer by way disinformation did not materialize the following Monday. Either the Bureau had changed its mind, or it was preempted by Pat Harvey, who held a press conference the same day.
At noon, she faced cameras in her Washington office adding to the pathos by having Bruce Cheney, Fred's father, by her side. She looked awful. W
"When did these threats begin, Mrs. Harvey, and what was the nature of them?" a reporter asked.
"The first one came shortly after I began investigating the charities. And I suppose this was a little over a year ago," she said without emotion. "This was a letter mailed to my home in Richmond. I won't divulge the specific nature of what it said, but the threat was directed at family."
All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes