All that remains, p.30
All That Remains,
On the first day of spring, I emerged from the conference room after being deposed for three hours by two lawyers. Rose told me I had a call.
"Kay? It's Benton. " "Good afternoon," I said, adrenaline surging.
"Can you come up to Quantico tomorrow?"
I reached for my calendar. Rose had penciled in a conference call. It could be rescheduled.
"Ten, if that's convenient. I've already talked to Marino."
Before I could ask questions, he said he couldn't talk and would fill me in when we met. It was six o'clock before I left my office. The sun had gone down and the air felt cold. When I turned into my driveway, I noticed the lights were on. Abby was home.
We had seen little of each other of late, both of us in and out, rarely speaking. She never went to the grocery store, but would leave a fifty-dollar bill taped to the refrigerator every now and then, which more than covered what little she ate. When wine or Scotch got low, I would find a twenty-dollar bill under the bottle. Several days ago, I had discovered a five-dollar bill on top of a depleted box of laundry soap. Wandering through the rooms of my house had turned into a peculiar scavenger hunt.
When I unlocked the front door, Abby suddenly stepped into the doorway, startling me.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I heard you drive in. Didn't mean to scare you."
I felt foolish. Ever since she had moved in, I had become increasingly jumpy. I supposed I wasn't adjusting well to my loss of privacy.
"Can I fix you a drink?" she asked. Abby looked tired.
"Thanks," I said, unbuttoning my coat. My eyes wandered into the living room. On the coffee table, beside an ashtray filled with cigarette butts, were a wineglass and several reporter's notepads.
Taking off my coat and gloves, I went upstairs and tossed them on my bed, pausing long enough to play back the messages on the answering machine. My another had tried to reach me. I was eligible to win a prize if I dialed a certain number by eight P.M., and Marino had called to tell me what time he would pick me up in the morning. Mark and I continued missing each other, talking to each other's machines.
"I've got to go to Quantico tomorrow," I told Abby when I entered the living room.
She pointed to my drink on the coffee table.
"Marino and I have a meeting with Benton," I said.
She reached for her cigarettes.
"I don't know what it's about," I continued. "Maybe you do."
"Why would I know?"
"You haven't been here much. I don't know what you've been doing."
"When you're at your office, I don't know what you're doing either."
"I haven't been doing anything remarkable. What would you like to know?"
I offered lightly, trying to dispel the tension.
"I don't ask because I know how private you are about your work. I don't want to pry."
I assumed she was implying that if I asked about what she was doing I would be prying.
"Abby, you seem distant these days."
"Preoccupied. Please don't take it personally."
Certainly she had plenty to think about, with the book she was writing, what she was going to do with her life. But I had never seen Abby this withdrawn.
"I'm concerned, that's all," I said.
"You don't understand what I'm like, Kay. When I get into something, I'm consumed by it. Can't get my mind off it."
She paused. "You were right when you said this book was my chance to redeem myself. It is."
"I'm glad to hear it, Abby. Knowing you, it will be a bestseller."
"Maybe. I'm not the only one interested in writing a book about these cases. My agent's already hearing rumors about other deals out there. I've got a head start, will be all right if I work fast."
"It's not your book I care about, it's you."
"I care about you, too, Kay," she said. "I appreciate what you've done for me by letting me stay here. And that won't go on much longer, I promise."
"You can stay as long as you like."
She collected her notepads and drink. "I've got to start writing soon, and I can't do that until I have my own space, my computer."
"Then you're simply doing research these days."
"Yes. I'm finding a lot of things I didn't know I was looking for," she said enigmatically as she headed for her bedroom.
When the Quantico exit came into view the following morning, traffic suddenly stopped. Apparently there had been an accident somewhere north of us on I-95, and cars weren't moving. Marino flipped on his grille lights and veered off onto the shoulder, where we bumped along, rocks pelting the undercarriage of the car, for a good hundred yards.
For the past two hours he had been giving me a complete account of his latest domestic accomplishments, while I wondered what Wesley had to tell us and worried about Abby.
"Never had any idea venetian blinds was such a bitch," Marino complained as we sped past Marine Corps barracks and a firing range. "I'm spraying them with 409, right?"
He glanced over at me. "And it's taking me a minute per slat, paper towels shredding the hell all over the place. Finally I get an idea, just take the damn things out of the windows and dump them in the tub. Fill it with hot water and laundry soap. Worked like a charm."
"That's great," I muttered.
"I'm also in the process of tearing down the wallpaper in the kitchen. It came with the house. Doris never liked it."
"The question is whether you like it. You're the one who lives there now."
He shrugged. "Never paid it much mind, you want to know the truth. But I figure if Doris says it's ugly, it probably is. We used to talk about selling the camper and putting in an above-the-ground pool. So I'm finally getting around to that, too. Ought to have it in time for summer."
"Marino, be careful," I said gently. "Make sure what you're doing is for you."
He did not answer me.
"Don't hang your future on a hope that may not be there."
"It can't hurt nothing," he finally said. "Even if she never-comes back, it can't hurt nothing for things to look nice."
"Well, you're going to' have to show me your place sometime," I said.
"Yeah. All the times I've been to your crib and you've never seen mine."
He parked the car and we got out. The FBI Academy had continued to metastasize over the outer fringes of the U.S. Marine Corps base. The main building with its fountain and flags had been turned into administrative offices, and the center of activity had been moved into a new tan brick building next door. What looked like another dormitory had gone up since I had visited last. Gunfire in the distance sounded like firecrackers popping.
Marino checked his .38 at the desk. We signed in and clipped on visitor passes, then he took me on another series of shortcuts, avoiding the enclosed brick-and-glass breezeways, or gerbil tubes. I followed him through a door that led outside the building, and we walked over a loading dock, through a kitchen. We finally emerged from the back of the gift shop, which Marino strolled right through without a glance in the direction of the young female clerk holding a stack of sweatshirts. Her lips parted in unspoken protest as she viewed our unorthodox passage. Out of the store and around a comer, we entered the bar and grill called The Boardroom, where Wesley was waiting for us at a comer table.
He wasted no time getting down to business.
The owner of The Dealer's Room was Steven Spurrier. Wesley described him as "thirty-four years old, white, with black hair, brown eyes. Five-eleven, one hundred and sixty pounds."
Spurrier had not yet been picked up or questioned, but he had been under constant surveillance. What had been observed so far was not exactly normal.
On several occasions he had left his two-story brick home at a late hour and driven to two bars and one rest stop. He never seemed to stay in one place very long. He was always alone. The previous week he had approached a young couple emerging from a bar called Tom-Toms. It appeared he asked for directions again. Nothing happ
"We've got a problem with the evidence," Wesley reported, looking at me through rimless glasses, his face stern. We've got a cartridge case in our lab. You've got the bullet from Deborah Harvey in Richmond."
"I don't have the bullet," I replied. "The Forensic Science Bureau does. I presume you've started the DNA analysis on the blood recovered from Elizabeth Mott's car."
"It will be another week or two."
I nodded. The FBI DNA lab used five polymorphic probes. Each probe had to stay in the X-ray developer for about a week, which was why I had written Wesley a letter some time ago suggesting that he get the bloody swatch from Montana and begin its analysis immediately.
"DNA's not worth a damn without a suspect's blood," Marino reminded us.
"We're working on that," Wesley said stoically.
"Yeah, well, seems like we could pop Spurrier because of the license plate. Ask his sorry ass to explain why he was driving around with Aranoff's tags several weeks back."
"We can't prove he was driving around with them. It's Kay and Abby's word against his."
"All we need is a magistrate who will sign a warrant. Then we start digging. Maybe we turn up ten pairs of shoes," Marino said. "Maybe an Uzi, some Hydra-Shok ammo, who knows what we'll find?"
"We're planning to do so," Wesley continued. "But one thing at a time."
He got up for more coffee, and Marino took my cup and his and followed him. At this early hour The Boardroom was deserted. I looked around at empty tables, the television in a corner, and tried to envision what must go on here late at night. Agents in training lived like priests. Members of the opposite sex, booze, and cigarettes were not allowed inside the dormitory rooms, which also could not be locked. But The Boardroom served beer and wine. When there were blowouts, confrontations, indiscretions, this was where it happened. I remembered Mark telling me he had broken up a free-for-all in here one night when a new FBI agent went too far with his homework and decided to "arrest" a table of veteran DEA agents. Tables had crashed to the floor, beer and baskets of popcorn everywhere.
Wesley and Marino returned to the table, and setting down his coffee, Wesley slipped out of his pearl-gray suit jacket and hung it neatly on the back of his chair. His white shirt scarcely had a wrinkle, I noticed, his silk tie was peacock blue with tiny white fleur-de-lis, and he was wearing peacock blue suspenders. Marino served as the perfect foil to this Fortune 500 partner of his. With his big belly, Marino couldn't possibly do justice to even the most elegant suit, but I had to give him credit. These days he was trying.
"What do you know about Spurrier's background?"
I asked. Wesley was writing notes to himself while Marino reviewed a file, both men seeming to have forgotten there was a third person at the table.
"He doesn't have a record," Wesley replied, looking up. "Never been arrested, hasn't gotten so much as a speeding ticket in the past ten years. He bought the Lincoln in February of 1990 from a dealer in Virginia Beach, traded in an '86 Town Car, paid the rest in cash."
"He must have some bucks," Marino commented.
"Drives high-dollar cars, lives in a nice crib. Hard to believe he makes that much from his bookstore."
"He doesn't make that much," Wesley said. "According to what he filed last year, he cleared less than thirty thousand dollars. But he's got assets of over half a million, a money market account, waterfront real estate, stocks."
"Jeez." Marino shook his head.
"Any dependents?" I asked.
"No," Wesley said. "Never married, both parents dead. His father was very successful in real estate in the Northern Neck. He died when Steven was in his early twenties. I suspect this is where the money comes from."
"What about his mother?" I asked.
"She died about a year after the father did. Cancer. Steven came along late in life. His mother had him when she was forty-two. The only other sibling is a brother named Gordon. He lives in Texas, is fifteen years older than Steven, married, with four kids."
Skimming his notes again, Wesley brought forth more information. Spurrier was born in Gloucester, attended the University of Virginia, where he received a bachelor's degree in English. Afterward he joined the navy, where he lasted less than four months. The next eleven months were spent working at a printing press, where his primary responsibility was to maintain the machinery.
"I'd like to know more about his months in the navy," Marino said.
"There's not much to know," Wesley answered. "After enlisting, he was sent to boot camp in the Great Lakes area. He chose journalism as his specialty and was assigned to the Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis. Later he was assigned his duty station, working for the Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk."
He looked up from his notes. "About a month later his father died, and Steven received a hardship discharge so he could return too Gloucester to take care of his mother, who was already ill with cancer."
"What about the brother?" Marino asked.
"Apparently he couldn't get away from his job and family responsibilities in Texas."
He paused, glancing at us. "Maybe there are other reasons. Obviously, Steven's relationship with his family is of interest to me, but I'm not going to know a whole lot more about it for a while."
"Why not?" I asked.
"It's too risky for me to confront the brother directly at this point. I don't want him calling Steven, tipping my hand. It's unlikely Gordon would cooperate, anyway. Family members tend to stick together in matters like this, even if they don't get along."
"Well, you've been talking to someone," Marino said.
"A couple of people from the navy, UVA, his former employer at the printing press."
"What else did they have to say about this squirrel?"
"A loner," Wesley said. "Not much of a journalist. Was more interested in reading than interviewing anyone or writing stories. Apparently, the printing press suited him rather well. He stayed in the back, had his nose in a book when things were slow. His boss said Steven loved to tinker with the presses, various machines, and kept them spotless. Sometimes he would go for days without talking to anyone. His boss described Steven as peculiar."
"His boss offer any examples?"
"Several things," Wesley said. "A woman employed by the press took off her fingertip with a paper cutter one morning. Steven got angry because she bled all over a piece of equipment he had just cleaned. His response to his mother's death was abnormal as well. Steven was reading during a lunch break when the call came from the hospital. He showed no emotion, just returned to his chair and resumed reading his book."
"A real warmhearted guy," Marino said.
"No one has described him as warmhearted."
"What happened after his mother died?" I asked.
"Then, I would assume, Steven got his inheritance. He moved to Williamsburg, leased the space at Merchant's Square, and opened The Dealer's Room. This was nine years ago."
"A year before Jill Harrington and Elizabeth Mott were murdered," I said.
Wesley nodded. "He was in the area, then. He's been in the area during all of these murders. He's been working in his bookstore since it opened, except for a period of about five months back, uh, seven years ago. The store was closed during that time. We don't know why or know where Spurrier was."
"He runs his bookstore by himself?"
"It's a small operation. No other employees. The store is closed on Mondays. It's been noted that when there isn't much business he just sits behind the counter and reads, and if he leaves the store before closing time he either closes early or puts a sign on the door that says he'll be back at such and such an hour. He also has an answering machine. If you're looking for a certain book or want him to search for something out of print, you can leave your request on his machine."
"It's interesting that someone so antisocial would open a business that requires him to have contact with customers, even if the contact is rather limited," I said.
"It's actually very appropriate, " Wesley said. "The bookstore would serve as a perfect lair for a voyeur, someone intensely interested in observing people without having to personally interact with them. It has been noted that William and Mary students frequent his store, primarily because Spurrier carries unusual, out-of-print books in addition to popular fiction and nonfiction. He also carries a wide selection of spy novels and military magazines, which attract business from the nearby military bases. If he's the killer, then watching young, attractive couples and military personnel who come into his store would fascinate him in a voyeuristic fashion and at the same time stir up feelings of inadequacy, frustration, rage. He would hate what he envies, envy what he hates."
All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes