All that remains, p.3
All That Remains,
I had watched them trot along the wooded strip separating west lanes from east, then across pavement, heading straight for the rest stop opposite the one where Deborah's Jeep had been found. The bloodhound finally lost the scent in the parking lot.
"Am I to believe," Mrs. Harvey continued, "that whoever was driving Debbie's Jeep last got out, cut through the westbound rest stop, and crossed the Interstate? Then this person most likely got into a car parked in the eastbound rest stop and drove away?"
"That is one possible interpretation," I replied, picking at my quiche.
"What other possible interpretation is there, Dr. Scarpetta?"
"The bloodhound picked up a scent. As for the scent of who or what, I don't know. It could have been Deborah's scent, Fred's scent, the scent of a third person - "
"Her Jeep was sitting out there for hours," Mrs. Harvey interrupted, staring off at the river. "I suppose, anybody could have gotten in to look for money, valuables. A hitchhiker, transient, someone on foot who crossed over to the other side of the Interstate afterward."
I did not remind her of the obvious. The police had found Fred Cheney's wallet in the glove compartment, complete with credit cards and thirty-five dollars cash. It dd not appear that the young couples' luggage had been gone through. As far as anyone could tell, nothing was missing from the Jeep except its occupants and Deborah's purse.
"The way the first dog acted," she went on matter-of-factly. "I assume this is unusual. Something frightened. Upset him, at any rate. A different smell - not the same scent the other dog picked up. The seat where Debbie may have been sitting..."
Her voice trailed off as she met my eyes.
"Yes. It appears that the two dogs picked up different scents."
"Dr. Scarpetta, I'm asking you to be direct with me."
Her voice trembled. "Don't spare my feelings. Please. I know the dog wouldn't have gotten so upset unless there was a reason. Certainly, your work has exposed you to search-and-rescue efforts, to bloodhounds. Have you ever seen this before, the way the dog reacted?"
I had. Twice. Once was when a bloodhound sniffed car trunk that, as it turned out, had been used to transport a murder victim whose body had been found inside a Dumpster. The other was when a scent led to an area along a hiking trail where a woman had been raped and shot.
What I said was "Bloodhounds tend to have strong reactions to pheromonal scents."
"I beg your pardon?"
She looked bewildered.
"Secretions. Animals, insects, secrete chemicals. Sex attractants, for example," I dispassionately explained. "You're familiar with dogs-marking their territory or attacking when they smell fear?"
She just stared at me.
"When someone is sexually aroused, anxious, or afraid, there are various hormonal changes that occur in the body. It is theorized that scent-discriminating animals, such as bloodhounds, can smell the pheromones, or chemicals, that special glands in our bodies secrete - "
She cut me off. "Debbie complained of cramps shortly before Michael, Jason, and I left for the beach. She had just started her period. Could that explain...? Well, if she were sitting in the passenger's seat, perhaps this was the scent the dog picked up?"
I did not reply. What she was suggesting could not account for the dog's extreme distress.
"It's not enough."
Pat Harvey looked away from me and twisted the linen napkin in her lap. "Not enough to explain why the dog started whining, the fur stood up on his back. Oh, dear God. It's like the other couples, isn't it?"
"I can't say that."
"But you're thinking it. The police are thinking it. If it hadn't been on everybody's mind from the start, you never would have been called yesterday. I want to know what happened to them. To those other couples."
I said nothing.
"According to what I've read," she pushed, "you were present at every scene, called there by the police."
Reaching into a pocket of her blazer, she withdrew a sheet of legal paper and smoothed it open.
"Bruce Phillips and Judy Roberts," she began to brief me, as if I needed it. "High school sweethearts who disappeared two and a half years ago on June first when they drove away from a friend's house in Gloucester and never arrived at their respective homes. The next morning Bruce's Camaro was found abandoned off U.S. Seventeen, keys in the ignition, doors unlocked, and windows rolled down. Ten weeks later, you were called to a wooded area one mile east of the York River State Park, where hunters had discovered two partially skeletonized bodies facedown in the leaves, approximately four miles from where Bruce's car had been found ten weeks earlier."
I recalled that it was at this time VICAP was asked by the local police to assist. What Marino, Wesley, and the detective from Gloucester did not know was that a second couple had been reported missing in July, a month after Bruce and Judy had vanished.
"Next we have Jim Freeman and Bonnie Smyth," Mrs. Harvey glanced up at me. "They disappeared the last Saturday, in July after a pool party at the Freemans' Providence Forge home. Late that evening Jim gave Bonnie a ride home, and the following day a Charles City police officer found Jim's Blazer abandoned some ten miles from the Freeman home. Four months after that, on November twelfth, hunters in West Point found then bodies...."
What I suspected she did not know, I thought, unpleasantly, was that despite my repeated requests, I was not given copies of the confidential sections of the police reports, scene photographs, or inventories of evidence. I attributed the apparent lack of co-operation to what had become a multi-jurisdictional investigation.
Mrs. Harvey continued relentlessly. In March of the following year, it happened again. Ben Anderson had driven from Arlington to meet his girlfriend, Carolyn Bennett, at her family's home in Stingray Point on the Chesapeake Bay. They pulled away from the Andersons' house shortly before seven o'clock to begin the drive back to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, where they were juniors. The next night a state trooper contacted Ben's parents and reported that their son's Dodge pickup truck had been found abandoned on the shoulder of 1-64, approximately five miles east of Buckroe Beach. Keys were in the ignition, the doors unlocked, and Carolyn's pocketbook was beneath the passenger's seat. Their partially skeletonized bodies were discovered six months later, during deer season in a wooded area three miles of Route I99 in York County. This time, I did not even get a copy of the police report.
Susan Wilcox and Mike Martin disappeared this last February, I found out about it from the morning newspaper. They were heading to Mike's house in Beach to spend spring break together when, like the couples before them, they vanished. Mike's blue van was found abandoned along the Colonial Parkway near Williamsburg, a white handkerchief tied to the antenna signaling engine trouble that did not exist when the police went over the van later. On May fifteenth a father and son out turkey hunting discovered the couples' bodies in a wooded area between Route 60 in James City County.
I remembered, once again, packing up bones to send to the Smithsonian's forensic anthropologist for one final look. Eight young people, and despite the countless hours I had spent on each one of them, I could not determine how or why they had died.
"If, God forbid, there is a next time, don't wait until the bodies turn up," I finally had instructed Marino. "Let me know the minute the car is found."
"Yo. May as well staff autopsying the cars since the bodies ain't telling us nothing," he had said, trying unsuccessfully to be funny.
"In all cases," Mrs. Harvey was saying, "doors were unlocked, keys in the ignition, there was no sign of a struggle, and it did not appear anything was stolen The MOs were basically the same."
She folded her notes and slipped them back into a pocket "You're well informed" was all I said. I didn't ask, but presumed she had gotten her staff to research the previous cases.
"My point is, you've been involved since the beginning," she said. "You examined all of the bodies. And yet, as I understand it, you don't
"That's right I don't know," I replied.
"You don't know? Or is it that you aren't saying, Dr. Scarpetta?"
Pat Harvey's career as a prosecutor in the federal system had earned her national respect if not awe. She was gutsy and aggressive, and I felt as if her porch suddenly had turned into a courtroom.
"If I knew their cause of death, I would not have signed them out as undetermined," I said calmly.
"But you believe they were murdered."
"I believe that young, healthy people don't suddenly abandon their cars and die of natural causes in the woods, Mrs. Harvey."
"What about the theories? What do you have to say about those? I assume they aren't new to you."
Four jurisdictions and at least that many different detectives were involved, each one with numerous hypotheses. The couples, for example, were recreational drug users and had met up with a dealer selling some new and pernicious designer drug that could not be detected through routine toxicology tests. Or the occult was involved. Or the couples were all members of some secret society, their deaths actually suicide pacts. I don't think much of the theories I've heard," I told her.
"My findings do not support them."
"What do your findings support?"
she demanded. "What findings? Based on everything I've heard and read, you don't have any goddam findings."
A haze had dulled the sky, and a plane was a silver needle pulling a white thread beneath the sun. In silence the vapor trail expanded and begin to disperse. If Deborah and Fred had met up with the same fate as the others we would not find them anytime soon.
"My Debbie has never taken drugs," she continued, blinking back tears. "She isn't into any weird religions or cults. She has a temper and sometimes gets depressed other normal teenager. But she wouldn't- " she suddenly stopped, struggling for control.
"You must try to deal with the here and now," I said quietly. We don't know what has happened to your daughter. We don't know what has happened to Fred. It may be a long time before we know. Is there anything can tell me about her- about them? Anything might help?"
"A police officer came by this morning," she replied with a deep, shaky breath. "He went inside her bedroom, took several articles of her clothing, her hairbrush. Said they were for the dogs, the clothes were, and he needed some of her hair to compare with any hairs they might find inside her Jeep. Would you like to see it? See her bedroom?"
Curious, I nodded.
I followed her up polished hardwood steps to the second floor. Deborah's bedroom was in the east wing, where she could see the sun rise and storms gather over the James. It was not the typical teenager's room. Furniture was Scandinavian, simple in design and built of gorgeous light teakwood. A comforter in shades of cool blue and green covered the queen-size bed, and beneath it was an Indian rug dominated by designs in rose and deep plum. Encyclopedias and novels filled a bookcase, and above the desk two shelves were lined with trophies and dozens of medals attached to bright cloth ribbons. On a top shelf was a large photograph of Deborah on a balance beam, back arched, hands poised like graceful birds, the expression on her face, like the details of her private sanctum, that of pure discipline and grace. I did not have to be Deborah Harvey's mother to know that this nineteen-year-old girl was special.
" Debbie picked out everything herself," Mrs. Harvey said as I looked around. "The furniture, rug, the colors. You'd never know she was in here days ago packing for school."
She stared at suitcases and a trunk in a corner and cleared her throat "She's so organized. I suppose she gets this from me."
Smiling nervously, she added, "If I am nothing else, I am organized."
I remembered Deborah's Jeep. It was immaculate inside and out, luggage and other belongings arranged with deliberation.
"She takes wonderful care of her belongings," Mrs. Harvey went on, moving to the window "I often worried that we indulged her too much. Her clothes, her car, money. Bob and I have had many discussions on the subject. It's difficult with my being in Washington. But when I was appointed last year, we decided, all of us did, that it was too much to uproot the family, and Bob's business is here. Easier if I took the apartment, came home on weekends when I could. Waited to see what would happen with the next election."
After a long pause, she went on. "I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I've never been very good at saying no to Debbie. It's difficult to be sensible when you want the best for your children. Especially when you remember your desires when you were their age, your insecurities about the way you dressed, your physical appearance. When you knew your parents couldn't afford a dermatologist, an orthodontist, a plastic surgeon. We have tried to exercise moderation."
She crossed her arms at her waist "Sometimes I'm not so sure we made the right choices. Her Jeep, for example. I was opposed to her having a car, but I didn't have the energy to argue.
Typically, she was practical, wanting something safe that would get her around in any kind of weather."
Hesitantly, I inquired, "When you mention a plastic surgeon are you referring to something specific concerning your daughter?"
"Large breasts are incomparable with gymnastics, Dr. Scarpetta," she said, not turning around. "By the time Debbie was sixteen she was over endowed. Not only was this rather embarrassing to her, but it interfered with her sport. The problem was taken care of last year."
"Then this photograph is recent," I said, for the Deborah I was looking at was an elegant sculpture of perfectly formed muscle, breasts and buttocks firm and small.
"It was taken last April in California."
When a person is missing and possibly dead, it is not uncommon for people like me to be interested in anatomical detail - whether it be a hysterectomy, a root canal, or scars from plastic surgery - that might assist in the identification of the body. They were the descriptions I reviewed in NCIC missing person forms. They were the mundane and very human features that I depended on, because jewelry and other personal effects, I had learned over the years, can't always be trusted.
"What I've just told you must never go outside this room," Mrs. Harvey said. "Debbie is very private. My family is very private."
"Her relationship with Fred," she continued. "It was private. Too private. As I'm sure you've noted, there are no photographs, no visible symbols of it. I have no doubt they have exchanged pictures, gifts, mementos. But she has always been secretive about them. Her birthday was last February-for example. I noticed shortly after that she was wearing a gold ring on the pinky of her right hand. A narrow band with a floral design. She never said a word, nor did I ask. But I'm sure it was from him."
"Do you consider him a stable young man?"
Turning around, she faced me, eyes dark and distracted. "Fred is very intense, somewhat obsessive. But I can't say that he's unstable. I really can't complain about him. I simply have worried that the relationship is too serious, too..."
She looked away, groping for the right word. "Addictive. That's what comes to mind. It's as if they are each other's drug."
Shutting her eyes, she turned away again and leaned her head against the window. "Oh, God. I wish we'd never bought her that goddam Jeep."
I did not comment.
"Fred doesn't have a car. She would have had no choice..."
Her voice trailed off.
"She would have had no choice," I said, "but to drive with you to the beach."
"And this wouldn't have happened!"
Suddenly she walked out the door to the hallway. She could not bear to be inside her daughters' bedroom one moment longer, I knew, and I followed her down the stairs and to the front door. When I reached for her hand, she turned away from me as her tears fell.
"I'm so sorry."
How many times on this earth would I say that? The front door shut quietly as I went down the steps. While driving home I prayed tha
A week passed before I heard again from anyone connected to the Harvey-Cheney case, the investigation of which had gone nowhere, as far as I knew. Monday, when I was up to my elbows in blood in the morgue, Benton Wesley called. He wanted to talk to Marino and me without delay, and suggested we come for dinner.
"I think Pat Harvey's making him nervous," Marino said that evening. Tentative drops of rain bounced off his car windshield as we headed to Wesley's house. "I personally don't give a rat's ass if she talks to a palm reader, rings up Billy Graham or the friggin' Easter Bunny."
"Hilda Ozimek is not a palm reader," I replied.
"Half those Sister Rose joints with a hand painted on the sign are just fronts for prostitution."
All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes