All that remains, p.27
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       All That Remains, p.27
 

           Patricia Cornwell

  "Must'ave been one hell of a one. There was a lot of blood."

  He thought for a moment. "So maybe one of the women threw back an elbow and hit him in the nose."

  "How would you have responded if one of the women had done that to you?"

  I said. "Provided you were a killer."

  "She wouldn't have done it again. I probably wouldn't have shot her inside the car, but I might have punched her, hit her in the head with the gun."

  "There was no blood in the front seat," I reminded him, "Absolutely no evidence that either of the women was injured inside the car."

  "Hmmmm."

  "Perplexing, isn't it?"

  "Yeah."

  He frowned. "He's in the backseat, leaning forward, and suddenly starts bleeding? Perplexing as shit."

  I put on a fresh pot of coffee while we began to toss around more ideas. For starters, there continued to be the problem of how one individual subdues two people.

  "The car belonged to Elizabeth," I said. "Let's assume she was driving. Obviously, her hands were not tied at this point."

  "But Jill's might have been. He might have tied her hands during the drive, made her hold them up behind her head so he could tie them from the backseat."

  "Or he could have forced her to turn around and place her arms over the headrest," I proposed. "This might have been when she struck him in the face, if that's what happened."

  "Maybe."

  "In any event," I went on, "we'll assume that by the time they stopped the car, Jill was already bound and barefoot. Next he orders Elizabeth to remove her shoes and binds her. Then he forces them at gunpoint into the cemetery."

  "Jill had a lot of cuts on her hands and forearms," Marino said. "Are they consistent with her warding off a knife with her hands tied?"

  "As long as her hands were tied in front of her and not behind her back."

  "It would have been smarter to tie their hands behind their backs."

  "He probably found that out the hard way and improved his techniques," I said.

  "Elizabeth didn't have any defense injuries?"

  "None."

  "The squirrel killed Elizabeth first," Marino decided.

  "How would you have done it? Remember, you've got two hostages to handle."

  "I would have made both of them lie facedown in the grass. I would have put the gun to the back of Elizabeth's head to make her behave as I get ready to use the knife on her. If she surprised me by resisting, I might have pulled the trigger, shot her when I wasn't really intending to."

  "That might explain why she was shot in the neck," I said. "If he had the gun to the back of her head and she resisted, the muzzle may have slipped. The scenario is reminiscent of what happened to Deborah Harvey, except that I seriously doubt she was lying down when she was shot."

  "This guy likes to use a blade," Marino replied. "He uses his gun when things don't go down the way he planned. And so far, that's only happened twice that we know of. With Elizabeth and Deborah."

  "Elizabeth was shot, then what, Marino?"

  "He finishes her off and takes care of Jill."

  "He fought with Jill," I reminded him.

  "You can bet she struggled. Her friend's just been killed. Jill knows she don't got a chance, may as well fight like hell."

  "Or else she was already fighting with him," I ventured.

  Marino's eyes narrowed the way they did when he was skeptical.

  Jill was a lawyer. I doubted she was naive about the cruel deeds people perpetrate upon one another. When she and her friend were being forced into the cemetery late at night, I suspected Jill knew both of them were going to die. One or both women may have begun resisting as he opened the iron gate. If the silver lighter did belong to the killer, it may have fallen out of his pocket at this point. Then, and perhaps Marino was right, the killer forced both women to lie facedown, but when he started on Elizabeth, Jill panicked, tried to protect her friend. The gun discharged, shooting Elizabeth in the neck.

  "The pattern of Jill's injuries sends a message of frenzy, someone who is angry, frightened, because he's lost control," I said. "He may have hit her in the head with the gun, gotten on top of her and ripped open her shirt and started stabbing. As a parting gesture, he cuts their throats. Then he leaves in the Volkswagen, ditches it at the motel, and heads out on foot, perhaps back to wherever his car was."

  "He should have had blood on him," Marino considered. "Interesting there wasn't any blood found in the driver's area, only in the backseat."

  "There hasn't been any blood found in the driver's areas of any of the couples' vehicles," I said. "This killer is very careful. He may bring a change of clothing, towels, who knows what, when he's planning to commit his murders."

  Marino dug into his pocket and produced his Swiss army knife. He began to trim his fingernails over a napkin. Lord knows what Doris had put up with all these years, I thought. Marino probably never bothered to empty an ashtray, place a dish in the sink, or pick his dirty clothes off the floor. I hated to think what the bathroom looked like after he had been in it.

  "Abby Turncoat still trying to get hold of you?" he asked without looking up.

  "I wish you wouldn't call her that."

  He didn't respond.

  "She hasn't tried in the last few days, at least not that I'm aware of."

  "Thought you might be interested in knowing that she and Clifford Ring have more than a professional relationship, Doc."

  "What do you mean?"

  I asked uneasily.

  "I mean that this story about the couples Abby's been working on has nothing to do with why she was taken off the police beat." He was working on his left thumb, fingernail shavings falling on the napkin. "Apparently, she was getting so squirrelly no one in the newsroom could deal with her anymore. Things reached a head last fall, right before she came to Richmond and saw you."

  "What happened?"

  I asked, staring hard at him.

  "Way I heard it, she made a little scene right in the middle of the newsroom. Dumped a cup of coffee in Ring's lap and then stormed out, didn't tell her editors where the hell she was going or when she'd be back. That's when she got reassigned to features."

  "Who told you this?"

  "Benton."

  "How would Benton know what goes on in the Post's newsroom? " "I didn't ask."

  Marino folded the knife and slipped it back into his pocket. Getting up, he wadded the napkin and put it in the trash.

  "One last thing," he said, standing in the middle of my kitchen. "That Lincoln you was interested in?"

  "Yes?"

  "A 1990 Mark Seven. Registered to a Barry Aranoff, thirty-eight-year-old white male from Roanoke. Works for a medical supply company, a salesman. On the road a lot."

  "Then you talked to him," I said.

  "Talked to his wife. He's out of town and has been for the past two weeks."

  "Where was he supposed to have been when I saw the car in Williamsburg?"

  "His wife said she wasn't sure of his schedule. Seems he sometimes hits a different city every day, buzzes all over the place, including out of state. His territory goes as far north as Boston. As best she could remember, around the time you're talking about, he was in Tidewater, then was flying out of Newport Mews, heading to Massachusetts."

  I fell silent, and Marino interpreted this as embarrassment, which it wasn't. I was thinking.

  "Hey, what you done was good detective work. Nothing wrong with writing down a plate number and checking it out. Should make you happy you wasn't being followed by some spook."

  I did not respond.

  He added, "Only thing you missed was the color. You said the Lincoln was dark gray. Aranoff's ride is brown."

  Later that night lightning flashed high over thrashing trees as a storm worthy of summer unloaded its violent arsenal. I sat up in bed, browsing through several journals as I waited for Captain Montana's telephone line to clear.

  Either his phone was out of order or so
meone had been on it for the past two hours. After he and Marino had left, I had recalled a detail from one of the photographs that reminded me of what Anna had said to me last. Inside Jill's apartment, on the carpet beside a La-Z-Boy chair in the living room, was a stack of legal briefs, several out-of-town newspapers, and a copy of the New York Times Magazine. I have never bothered with crossword puzzles. God knows I have too many other things to figure out. But I knew the Times crossword puzzle was as popular as manufacturer's coupons.

  Reaching for the phone, I tried Montana's home number again. This time I was rewarded.

  "Have you ever considered getting Call Waiting?" I asked good-naturedly.

  "I've considered getting my teenage daughter her own switchboard," he said.

  "I've got a question."

  "Ask away."

  "When you went through Jill's and Elizabeth's apartments, I'm assuming you went through their mail."

  "Yes, ma'am. Checked out their mail for quite a while, seeing what all came in, seeing who wrote them letters, went through their charge card bills, that sort of thing."

  "What can you tell me about Jill's subscriptions to newspapers that were delivered by mail?"

  He paused.

  It occurred to me. "I'm sorry. Their cases would be in your office . . .."

  "No, ma'am. I came straight home, have 'em right here. I was just trying to think, it's been a long day. Can you hold on?"

  I heard pages turning.

  "Well, there were a couple of bills, junk mail. But no newspapers."

  Surprised, I explained Jill had several out-of-town newspapers in her apartment. "She had to have gotten them from somewhere."

  "Maybe vending machines," he offered. "Lots of them around the college. That would be my guess."

  The Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal, maybe, I thought. But not the Sunday New York Times. Most likely that had come from a drugstore or a newsstand where Jill and Elizabeth may routinely have stopped when they went out for breakfast on Sunday mornings. I thanked him and hung up.

  Switching off the lamp, I got in bed, listening as rain drummed the roof in a relentless rhythm. I pulled the covers more tightly around me. Thoughts and images drifted, and I envisioned Deborah Harvey's red purse, damp and covered with dirt. Vander, in the fingerprints lab, had finished examining it and I had looked over the report the other day.

  "What are you going to do?" Rose was asking me.

  Oddly, the purse was in a plastic tray on Rose's desk. "You can't send it back to her family like that."

  "Of course not."

  "Maybe we could just take out the charge cards and things, wash them off and send those?"

  Rose's face twisted in anger. She shoved the tray across her desk and screamed, "Get it out of here! I can't stand it!"

  Suddenly I was in my kitchen. Through the window I saw Mark drive up, only the car was unfamiliar, but I recognized it somehow. Rummaging in my pocketbook for a brush, I frantically fixed my hair. I started to run to the bathroom to brush my teeth, but there wasn't time. The doorbell rang, just once.

  He took me in his arms, whispering my name, like a small cry of pain. I wondered why he was here, why he was not in Denver.

  He kissed me as he pushed the door with his foot. It slammed shut with a tremendous bang.

  My eyelids flew open. Thunder cracked. Lightning lit up my bedroom again and then again as my heart pounded.

  The next morning I performed two autopsies, then went upstairs to see Neils Vander, section chief of the fingerprints examination lab. I found him inside the Automated Fingerprint Identification System computer room deep in thought in front of a monitor. In hand was my copy of the report detailing the examination of Deborah Harvey's purse, and I placed it on top of his keyboard.

  "I need to ask you something."

  I raised my voice over the computer's pervasive hum.

  He glanced down at the report with preoccupied eyes, unruly gray hair wisping over his ears.

  "How did you find anything after the purse had been in the woods so long? I'm amazed."

  He returned his gaze to the monitor. "The purse is nylon, waterproof, and the credit cards were protected inside plastic windows, which were inside a zipped-up `Compartment. When I put the cards in the superglue tank, a lot of smudges and partials popped up. I didn't even need the laser."

  "Pretty impressive."

  He smiled a little.

  "But nothing identifiable," I pointed out.

  "Sorry about that."

  "What interests me is the driver's license. Nothing popped up on it."

  "Not even a smudge," he said.

  "Clean?"

  "As a hound's tooth."

  "Thank you, Neils."

  He was off somewhere again, gone in his land of loops and whorls.

  I went back downstairs and looked up the number for the 7-Eleven Abby and I had visited last fall. I was told that Ellen Jordan, the clerk we had talked to, would not be in until nine P.M. I mowed through the rest of the day without stopping for lunch, unaware of the passing hours. I wasn't the slightest bit tired when I got home.

  I was loading the dishwasher when the doorbell rang at eight P.M. drying my hands on a towel, I walked anxiously to the front door.

  Abby Turnbull was standing on the porch, coat collar turned up around her ears, face wan, eyes miserable. A cold wind rocked dark trees in my yard and lifted strands of her hair.

  "You didn't answer my calls. I hope you won't refuse me entrance into your house," she said.

  "Of course not, Abby. Please."

  I opened the door wide and stepped back.

  She did not take off her coat until I invited her to do so, and when I offered to hang it up, she shook her head and draped it over the back of a chair, as if to reassure me that she did not intend to stay very long. She was dressed in faded denim jeans and a heavy-knit maroon sweater flecked with lint. Brushing past her to clear paperwork and newspapers off the kitchen table, I detected the stale odor of cigarette smoke and a pungent hint of sweat.

  "Something to drink?" I asked, and for some reason I could not feel angry with her.

  "Whatever you're having would be fine."

  She got out her cigarettes while I fixed both of us a drink.

  "It's hard to start," she said when I was seated. "The articles were unfair to you, to say the least. And I know what you must be thinking."

  "It's irrelevant what I'm thinking. I'd rather hear what's on your mind."

  "I told you I've made mistakes."

  Her voice trembled slightly. "Cliff Ring was one of them."

  I sat quietly.

  "He's an investigative reporter, one of the first people I got to know after moving to Washington. Very successful, exciting. Bright and sure of himself. I was vulnerable, having just moved to a new city, having been through . . . well, what happened to Henna."

  She glanced away from me.

  "We started out as friends, then everything went too fast. I didn't see what he was like because I didn't want to see it."

  Her voice caught and I waited in silence while she steadied herself.

  "I trusted him with my life, Kay."

  "From which I am to conclude that the details in his story came from you," I said.

  "No. They came from my reporting."

  "What does that mean?"

  "I don't talk to anybody about what I'm writing," Abby said. "Cliff was aware of my involvement in these cases, but I never went into detail about them. He never seemed all that interested."

  She was beginning to sound angry. "But he was, more than a little. That's the way he operates."

  "If you didn't go into detail with him," I said, "then how did he get the information from you?"

  "I used to give him keys to my building, my apartment, when I'd go out of town so he could water my plants, bring the mail in. He could have had copies made."

 
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