All that remains, p.24
All That Remains, p.24Patricia Cornwell
"Doesn't sound as if Jill was an extrovert," I remarked.
"She was described as charismatic, witty, but self-contained."
"And Elizabeth?" I asked.
"More outgoing, I think," she said. "Which I suppose she had to have been to be good in sales."
The glow of gaslight lamps pushed the darkness back from cobblestone sidewalks as we walked to the Merchant's Square parking lot. A heavy layer of clouds obscured the moon, the damp, cold air penetrating.
"I wonder what these couples would be doing now, if they'd still be with each other, what difference they, might have made," Abby said, chin tucked into her collar, hands in her pockets.
"What do you think Henna would be doing?"
I gently asked about her sister.
"She'd probably still be in Richmond. I guess both of us would be."
"Are you sorry you moved?"
"Some days I'm sorry about everything. Ever since Henna died, it's as if I've had no options, no free will. It's as if I've been propelled along by things out of my control."
"I don't see it that way. You chose to take the job at the Post, move to D.C. And now you've chosen to write a book."
"Just as Pat Harvey chose to hold that press conference and do all the other things she's done that have burned her so badly," she said.
"Yes, she has made choices, too."
"When you're going through something like this, you don't know what you're doing, even if you think you do," she went on. "And no one can really understand what it's like unless they've suffered the same thing. You feel isolated. You go places and people avoid you, are afraid to meet your eyes and make conversation because they don't know what to say. So they whisper to each other. 'See her over there? Her sister was the one murdered by the strangler.' Or 'That's Pat Harvey. Her daughter was the one.' You feel as if you're living inside a cave. You're afraid to be alone, afraid to be with others, afraid to be awake, and afraid to go to sleep because of how awful it feels when morning comes. You run like hell and wear yourself out. As I look back, I can see that everything I've done since Henna died was half crazy."
"I think you've done remarkably well," I said sincerely.
"You don't know the things I've done. The mistakes I've made."
"Come on. I'll drive you to your car," I said, for we had reached Merchant's Square.
I heard a car engine start in the dark lot as I got out my keys. We were inside my Mercedes, doors locked and seat belts on when a new Lincoln pulled up beside us and the driver's window hummed down.
I opened my window just enough to hear what the man wanted. He was young, clean cut, folding a map and struggling with it.
He smiled helplessly. "Can you tell me how to get back on Sixty-four East from here?"
I could feel Abby's tension as I gave him quick directions.
"Get his plate number," she said urgently as he drove away. She dug in her pocketbook for a pen and notepad.
"E-N-T-eight-nine-nine," I read quickly.
She wrote it down.
"What's going on?"
I asked, unnerved.
Abby looked left and right for any sign of his car as I pulled out of the lot.
"Did you notice his car when we got to the parking lot?"
I had to think. The parking lot was nearly empty when we had gotten there. I had been vaguely aware of a car that might have been the Lincoln parked in a poorly lit corner.
I told Abby this, adding, "But I assumed no one was in it."
"Right. Because the car's interior light wasn't on."
"I guess not."
"Reading a map in the dark, Kay?"
"Good point," I said, startled.
"And if he's from out of town, then how do you explain the parking sticker on his rear bumper?"
"It had the Colonial Williamsburg seal on it. The same sticker I was given years ago when the skeletal remains were discovered at that archaeology dig, Martin's Hundred. I did a series, was out here a lot, and the sticker permitted me to park inside the Historic District and at Carter's Grove."
"The guy works here and needed directions to Sixty-four?" I muttered.
"You got a good look at him?" she asked.
"Pretty good. Do you think it was the man who followed you that night in Washington?"
"I don't know. But maybe,... Damn it, Kay! This is making me crazy!"
"Well, enough is enough," I said firmly. "Give me that license number. I intend to do something about it."
The next morning Marino called with the cryptic message, "If you haven't read the Post, better go out and get a copy."
"Since when do you read the Post?"
"Since never, if I can help it. Benton alerted me about an hour ago. Call me later. I'm downtown."
Putting on a warm-up suit and ski jacket, I drove through a downpour to a nearby drugstore. For the better part of half an hour I sat inside my car, heater blasting, windshield wipers a monotonous metronome in the hard, cold rain. I was appalled by what I read. Several times it entered my mind that if the Harveys didn't sue Clifford Ring, I should.
The front page carried the first in a three-part series about Deborah Harvey, Fred Cheney, and the other couples who had died. Nothing sacred was spared, Ring's reporting so comprehensive it included details even I did not know.
Not long before Deborah Harvey was murdered, she had confided to a friend her suspicions that her father was an alcoholic and having an affair with an airline flight attendant half his age. Apparently, Deborah had eavesdropped on a number of telephone conversations between her father and his alleged mistress. The flight attendant lived in Charlotte, and according to the story, Harvey was with her the night his daughter and Fred Cheney disappeared, which was why the police and Mrs. Harvey were unable to reach him. Ironically, Deborah's suspicions did not make her bitter toward her father but her mother, who, consumed with her career, was never home, and therefore, in Deborah's eyes, to blame for her father's infidelity and alcohol abuse.
Column after column of vitriolic print added up to paint a pathetic portrait of a powerful woman bent on saving the world while her own family disintegrated from neglect. Pat Harvey had married into money, her home in Richmond was palatial, her quarters at the Watergate filled with antiques and valuable art, including a Picasso and a Remington. She wore the right clothes, went to the right parties, her decorum impeccable, her policies and knowledge of world affairs brilliant.
Yet lurking behind this plutocratic, flawless facade, Ring concluded, was "a driven woman born in a blue collar section of Baltimore, someone described by her colleagues as tormented by insecurity that perpetually propelled her into proving herself."
Pat Harvey, he said, was a megalomaniac. She was irrational - if not rabid when threatened or put to the test.
His treatment of the homicides that had occurred in Virginia over the past three years was just as relentless. He disclosed the fears of the CIA and FBI that the killer might be someone at Camp Peary, and served up this revelation with such a wild spin that it made everyone involved look bad.
The CIA and the Justice Department were involved in a cover-up, their paranoia so extreme they had encouraged investigators in Virginia to withhold information from each other. False evidence had been planted at a scene. Disinformation had been "leaked" to reporters, and it was even suspected that some reporters were under surveillance. Pat Harvey, meanwhile, was supposedly privy to all this, and her indignation was not exactly depicted as righteous, as evidenced by her demeanor during her infamous press conference. Engaged in a turf battle with the Justice Department, Mrs. Harvey had exploited sensitive information to incriminate and harass those federal agencies with which she had become increasingly at odds due to her, campaign against fraudulent charities such as ACTMAD.
The final ingredient in this poisonous stew was me. I had stonewalled and withheld case informa
I wondered how many readers would conclude from this that I was having an affair with Wesley.
Impeached along with my integrity and morals was my competence as a forensic pathologist. In the ten cases in question, I had been unable to determine a cause of death in all of them but one, and when I discovered a cut, on one of Deborah Harvey's bones, I was so worried that I had inflicted this myself with a scalpel, claimed Ring, that I "drove to Washington in the snow, Harvey's and Cheney's skeletons in the trunk of her Mercedes, and sought the advice of a forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History."
Like Pat Harvey, I had "consulted a psychic."
I had accused investigators of tampering with Fred Cheney's and Deborah Harvey's remains at the scene, and then returned to the wooded area to search for a cartridge case myself because I did not trust the police to find it. I had also taken it upon myself to question witnesses, including a clerk at a 7-Eleven, where Fred and Deborah were last seen alive. I smoked, drank, had a license to carry my .38 concealed, had "almost been killed" on several occasions, was divorced and "from Miami."
The latter somehow seemed an explanation for all of the above.
The way Clifford Ring made it sound, I was an arrogant, gun-slinging wild woman who, when it came to forensic medicine, didn't know her ass from a hole in the ground.
Abby, I thought, as I sped home over rain-slick streets. Was this what she meant last night when she referred to mistakes she had made? Had she fed information to her colleague Clifford Ring? "That wouldn't add up," Marino pointed out later as we sat in my kitchen drinking coffee. "Not that my opinion about hers changed. I think she'd sell her grandmother for a story. But she's working on this big book, right? Don't make sense that she'd share information with the competition, especially since she's pissed off at the Post."
"Some of the information had to have come from her."
It was hard for me to admit. "The bit about the Seven-Eleven clerk, for example. Abby and I were together that night. And she knows about Mark."
Marino looked curiously at me.
"I told her."
He just shook his head.
Sipping my coffee, I stared out at the rain. Abby had tried to call twice since I'd gotten home from the drugstore. I had stood by my machine listening to her tense voice. I wasn't ready to talk to her yet. I was afraid of what I might say.
"How's Mark going to react?"
"Fortunately, the story didn't mention his name."
I felt another wave of anxiety. Typical of FBI agents, especially those who had spent years under deep cover, Mark was secretive about his personal life to the point of paranoia. The paper's allusion to our relationship would upset him considerably, I feared. I had to call him. Or maybe I shouldn't. I didn't know what to do.
"Some of the information, I suspect, came from Morrell," I went on, thinking aloud.
Marino was silent.
"Vessey must have talked, too. Or at least someone at the Smithsonian did," I said. "And I don't know how the hell Ring found out that we went to see Hilda Ozimek."
Setting down his cup and saucer, Marino leaned forward and met my eyes.
"My turn to give advice."
I felt like a child about to be scolded.
"It's like a cement truck with no brakes going down a hill. You ain't going to stop it, Doc. All you can do is get ' out of the way."
"Would you care to translate?"
I said impatiently.
"Just do your work and forget it. If you get questioned, and I'm sure you will, just say you never talked to Clifford Ring, don't know nothing about it. Brush it off, in other words. You get into a pissing match with the press and you're going to end up like Pat Harvey. Looking like an idiot."
He was right.
"And if you got any sense, don't talk to Abby anytime soon."
He stood up. "Meanwhile, I got a few things to run down. If they pan out, I'll let you know."
That reminded me. Fetching my pocketbook, I got out the slip of paper with the plate number Abby had taken down.
"Wonder if you could check NCIC. A Lincoln Mark Seven, dark gray. See what comes back."
"Someone tailing you?"
He tucked the slip of paper in his pocket.
"I don't know. The driver stopped to ask directions. I don't think he was really lost."
"Where?" he asked as I walked him to the door.
"Williamsburg. He was sitting in the car in an empty parking lot. This was around ten-thirty, eleven last night at Merchant's Square. I was getting into my car when his headlights suddenly went on and he drove over, asked me how to get to Sixty-four."
"Huh," Marino said shortly. "Probably some dumb shit detective working under cover, bored, waiting for someone to run a red light or make a U-turn. Might have been trying to hit on you, too. A decent-looking woman out at night alone, climbing into a Mercedes."
I didn't offer that Abby had been with me. I didn't want another lecture.
"I wasn't aware that many detectives drive new Lincolns," I said.
"Would you look at the rain. Shit," he complained as he ran to his car.
Fielding, my deputy chief, was never too preoccupied or busy to glance at any reflective object he happened to pass. This included plate-glass windows, computer screens, and the bulletproof security partitions separating the lobby from our inner offices. When I got off the elevator on the first floor, I spotted him pausing before the morgue's stainless-steel refrigerator door, smoothing back his hair.
"It's getting a little long over your ears," I said.
"And yours is getting a little gray."
"Ash. Blonds go ash, never gray."
He absently tightened the drawstring of his surgical greens, biceps bulging like grapefruits. Fielding couldn't blink without flexing something formidable. Whenever I saw him hunched over his microscope, I was reminded of a steroid version of Rodin's The Thinker.
"Jackson was released about twenty minutes ago," he said, referring to one of the morning's cases. "That's it, but we've already got one for tomorrow. The guy they had on life support from the shoot-out over the weekend."
"What's on your schedule for the rest of the afternoon?"
I asked. "And that reminds me, I thought you had court in Petersburg."
"The defendant pleaded."
He glanced at his watch. "About an hour ago."
"He must have heard you were coming."
"Micros are stacked up to the ceiling in the cinderblock cell the state calls my office. That's my agenda for the afternoon. Or at least it was."
He looked speculatively at me.
"I've got a problem I'm hoping you can help me with. I need to track down a prescription that may have been filled in Richmond eight or so years ago."
"If I knew that," I said as we took the elevator to the second floor, "then I wouldn't have a problem. What it amounts to is we need to organize a telethon, so to speak. As many people as possible on the lines calling every pharmacy in Richmond."
Fielding winced. "Jesus, Kay, there's got to be at least a hundred."
"A hundred and thirty-three. I've already counted. Six of us with a list of twenty-two, twenty-three, each. That's fairly manageable. Can you hel
He looked depressed.
In addition to Fielding, I drafted my administrator, Rose, another secretary, and the computer analyst. We assembled in the conference room with lists of the pharmacies. My instructions were quite clear. Discretion. Not a word about what we were doing to family, friends, or the police. Since the prescription had to be at least eight years old and Jill was deceased, there was a good chance the records were no longer in the active files. I told them to ask the pharmacist to check the drugstore's archives. If he was uncooperative or reluctant to release the information, roll that call over to me.
All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes