All that remains, p.5
All That Remains,
Wesley did not respond.
"And other than Deborah and Fred, the other couples didn't appear to have pulled off at a rest stop or any other sort of 'watering hole', as you put it," I went on. "It appears they were en route to some destination when something happened to make them pull off the road and either let someone in their car or get into this person's vehicle."
"The killer cop theory," Marino muttered. "Don't think I haven't heard it before."
"It could be someone posing as a cop," Wesley replied: "Certainly that would account for the couples pulling over and, perhaps, getting into someone else's car for a routine license check or whatever. Anybody can walk into a uniform store and buy a bubble light, uniform, badge, you name it. Problem with that is a flashing light draws attention. Other motorists notice it, and if there is a real cop in the area, he's likely to at least slow down, perhaps even pull over to offer assistance. So far, there hasn't been a single report of anyone noticing a traffic stop that might-have occurred in the area and at the time that these kids disappeared."
"You would also have to wonder why wallets and purses would be left inside their cars - with the exception of Deborah Harvey, whose purse has not been found," 1 said. "If the young people were told to get inside a so called police vehicle for a routine traffic violation, then why would they leave car registrations and driver's licenses behind? These are the first items an officer asks to see, and when you get inside his car, you have these personal effects with you."
"They may not have gotten into this person's vehicle willingly, fly," Wesley said. "They think they're being stopped by a police officer, and when the guy walks up to their window, he pulls out a gun, orders them into his car."
"Risky as shit," Marino argued. "If it was me, I'd throw the damn car in gear and floorboard it the hell out of there. Always the chance someone driving by might see something, too. I mean, how do you force two people at gunpoint into your car on four, maybe five different occasions and not have anyone passing by notice a goddam thing?"
"A better question," Wesley said, looking unemphatically at me, "is how do you murder eight people without leaving any evidence, not so much as a nick on a bone or a bullet found somewhere near the bodies?"
"Strangulation, garroting, or throats cut," I said, and it was not the first time he had pressed me on this. "The bodies have all been badly decomposed, Benton. And I want to remind you that the cop theory implies the victims got inside the assailant's vehicle. Based on the scent the bloodhound followed last weekend, it seems plausible that if someone did something bad to Deborah Harvey and Fred Cheney, this individual may have driven off in Deborah's Jeep, abandoned it at the rest stop, and then taken off on foot across the Interstate."
Wesley's face was tired. Several times now he had rubbed Ids temples as if he had a headache. "My purpose in talking to both of you is that there may be some angles to this thing that require us to act very carefully. I'm asking for direct and open channels among the three of us. Absolute discretion is imperative. No loose talk to reporters, no divulging of information to anyone, not to close friends, relatives, other medical examiners, or cops. And no radio transmissions."
He looked at both of us. "I want to be land lined immediately if and when Deborah Harvey's and Fred Cheney's bodies are found. And if Mrs. Harvey tries to get in touch with either of you, direct her to me."
"She's already been in contact," I said.
"I'm aware of that, Kay," Wesley replied without looking at me.
I did not ask him how he knew, but I was unnerved and it showed.
"Under the circumstances, I can understand your going to see her," he added. "But it's best if it doesn't happen again, better you don't discuss these cases with her further. It only causes more problems. It goes beyond her interfering with the investigation. The more she gets involved, the more she may be endangering herself."
"What? Because she turns up dead?"
Marino asked skeptically.
"More likely because she ends up out of control, irrational."
Wesley's concern over Pat Harvey's psychological wellbeing may have been valid, but it seemed flimsy to me. And I could not help but worry as Marino and I were driving back to Richmond after dinner that the reason Wesley had wanted to see us had nothing to do with the welfare of the missing couple.
"I think I'm feeling handled," I finally confessed as the Richmond skyline came into view.
"Join the club," Marino said irritably.
"Do you have any idea what's really going on here?"
"Oh, yeah," he replied, punching in the cigarette lighter. "I got a suspicion, all right. I think the Friggin' Bureau of Investigation's caught a whiff of something that's going to make someone who counts look bad. I got this funny feeling someone's covering his ass, and Benton's caught in the middle."
"If he is, then so are we."
"You got it, Doc."
It had been three years since Abby Turnbull had appeared in my office doorway, arms laden with fresh cut irises and a bottle of exceptional wine. That had been the day when she had come to say good-bye, having given the Richmond Times notice. She was on her way to work in Washington as a police reporter for the Post. We had promised to keep in touch as people always do. I was ashamed I could not remember the last time I had called or written her a note.
"Do you want me to put her through?"
Rose, my secretary, was asking. "Or should I take a message?"
"I'll talk to her," I said. "Scarpetta," I announced out of habit before I could catch myself.
"You still sound so damn chiefly," the familiar voice said.
"Abby! I'm sorry."
I laughed. "Rose told me it was you. As usual, I'm in the middle of about fifty other things, and I think I've completely lost the art of being friendly on the phone. How are you?"
"Fine. If you don't count the fact that the homicide rate in Washington has tripled since I moved up here."
"A coincidence, I hope."
She sounded nervous. "Cocaine, crack, and semiautomatics. I always thought a beat in Miami would be the worst or maybe New York. But our lovely nation's capital is the worst."
I glanced up at the clock and jotted the time on a call sheet. Habit again. I was so accustomed to filling out call sheets that I reached for the clipboard even when hairdresser called.
"I was hoping you might be free for dinner tonight," she said.
I asked, perplexed.
"Actually, I'm in Richmond."
I suggested dinner at my house, packed up my briefcase, and headed out to the grocery store. After much deliberation as I pushed the cart up and down aisles, I selected two tenderloins and the makings for salad. The afternoon was beautiful. The thought of seeing Abby was improving my mood. I decided that an evening spent with an old friend was a good excuse to brave cooking out again.
When I got home, I began to work quickly, crushing fresh garlic into a bowl of red wine and olive oil. Though my mother had always admonished me about "ruining a good steak," I was spoiled by my own culinary skills. Honestly, I made the best marinade in town, and no cut of meat could resist being improved by it. Rinsing Boston lettuce and draining it on paper towels, I sliced mushrooms, onions, and the last Hanover tomato as I fortified myself to tend to the grill. Unable to put off the task any longer, I stepped out onto the brick patio.
For a moment, I felt like a fugitive on my own property as I surveyed the flower gardens and trees of my backyard. I fetched a bottle of 409 and a sponge and began vigorously to scrub the outdoor furniture before taking a Brillo pad to the grill, which I had not used since the Saturday night in May when Mark and I last had been together. I attacked sooty grease until my elbows hurt. Images and voices invaded my mind. Arguing. Fighting. Then a retreat into angry silence that ended with making frantic love.
I almost did not recognize Abby when she arrived at my front door shortly before six-thirty. When she had worked the pol
"You look very Washingtonian," I said, giving her a hug.
"It's so good to see you, Kay."
She remembered hiked Scotch and had brought a bottle of Glenfiddich, which we wasted no time in uncorking. Then we sipped drinks on the patio and talked nonstop as I lit the grill beneath a dusky late summer sky.
"Yes; I do miss Richmond in some ways," she was explaining. "Washington is exciting, but the pits. I indulged myself and bought a Saab, right? It's already been broken into once, had the hubcaps stolen, the hell beaten out of the doors. I pay a hundred and fifty bucks a month to park the damn thing, and we're talking four blocks from my apartment. Forget parking at the Post. I walk to work and use a staff car. Washington's definitely not Richmond."
She added a little too resolutely, "But I don't regret leaving."
"You're still working evenings?"
Steaks sizzled as I placed them on the grill.
"No. It's somebody else's turn. The young reporters race around after dark and I follow up during the day. I get called after hours only if something really big goes down."
"I've been keeping up with your byline," I told her. "They sell the Post in the cafeteria. I usually pick it up during lunch."
"I don't always know what you're working on," she confessed. "But I'm aware of some things."
"Explaining why you're in Richmond?"
I ventured, as I brushed marinade over the meat.
"Yes. The Harvey case."
I did not reply.
"Marino hasn't changed."
"You've talked to him?"
I asked, glancing up at her.
She replied with a wry smile, "Tried to. And several other investigators. And, of course, Benton Wesley. In other words, forget it."
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, Abby, nobody's talking much to me, either. And that's off the record."
"This entire conversation is off the record, Kay," she said seriously. "I didn't come to see you because I wanted to pick your brain for my story."
She paused. "I've been aware of what's been going on here in Virginia. I was a lot more concerned about it than my editor was until Deborah Harvey and her boyfriend disappeared. Now it's gotten hot, real hot."
"I'm not surprised."
"I'm not quite sure where to begin."
She looked unsettled. "There are things I've not told anybody, Kay. But I have a sense that I'm walking on ground somebody doesn't want me on."
"I'm not sure I understand," I said, reaching for my drink.
"I'm not sure I do, either. I ask myself if I'm imagining things."
"Abby, you're being cryptic. Please explain."
Taking a deep breath as she got out a cigarette, she replied, "I've been interested in the deaths of these couples for a long time. I've been doing some investigating, and the reactions I've gotten from the beginning are odd. It's gone beyond the usual reluctance I often run into with the police. I bring up the subject and people practically hang up on me. Then this past June, the FBI came to see me."
"I beg your pardon?"
I stopped basting and looked hard at her.
"You remember that triple homicide in Williamsburg? The mother, father, and son shot to death during a robbery?"
"I was working on a feature about it, and had to drive to Williamsburg. As you know, when you get off Sixty four, if you turn right you head toward Colonial Williamsburg, William and Mary. But if you turn left off the exit ramp, in maybe two hundred yards you dead end at the entrance of Camp Peary. I wasn't thinking. I took the wrong, turn."
"I've done that once or twice myself," I admitted.
She went on, "I drove up to the guard booth and explained I'd taken a wrong turn. Talk about a creepy place. God. All these big warning signs saying things like' Armed Forces Experimental Training Activity,' and 'Entering This Facility Signifies Your Consent to the Search of Your Person and Personal Property.' I was half expecting a SWAT team of Neanderthals in camouflage to bolt out of the bushes and haul me away."
"The base police are not a friendly lot," I said, somewhat amused.
"Well, I wasted no time getting the hell out of there," Abby said, "and, in truth, forgot all about it until four days later when two FBI agents appeared in the lobby of the Post looking for me. They wanted to know what I'd been doing in Williamsburg, why I'd driven to Camp Peary. Obviously, my plate number had been recorded on film and traced back to the newspaper. It was weird."
"Why would the FBI be interested?"
I asked. "Camp Peary is CIA."
"The CIA has no enforcement powers in the United States. Maybe that's why. Maybe the jerks were really CIA agents posing as FBI. Who can say what the hell is going on when you're dealing with those spooks? Besides, the CIA has never admitted that Camp Peary is its main training facility, and the agents never mentioned the CIA when they interrogated me. But I knew what they were getting at, and they knew I knew."
"What else did they ask?"
"Basically, they wanted to know if I was writing something about Camp Peary, maybe trying to sneak in. I told them if I had intended to sneak in, I would have been a little more covert about it than driving straight to the guard booth, and though I wasn't currently working on anything about, and I quote, 'the CIA,' maybe now I ought to consider it."
"I'm sure that went over well," I said dryly.
"The guys didn't bat an eye. You know the way they are."
"The CIA is paranoid, Abby, especially about Camp Peary. State police and emergency medical helicopters aren't allowed to fly over it. Nobody violates that airspace or gets beyond the guard booth without being cleared by Jesus Christ."
"Yet you've made that same wrong turn before, as have hundreds of tourists," she reminded me. "The FBI's never come looking for you, have they?"
"No. But I don't work for the Post. " I removed the steaks from the grill and she followed me into the kitchen. As I served the salads and poured wine, she continued to talk.
"Ever since the agents came to see me, peculiar things have been happening."
"I think my phones are being tapped."
"Based on what?"
"It started with my phone at home. I'd be talking to someone and hear something. This has also happened at work, especially of late. A call will be transferred, and I have this strong sense that someone else is listening in. It's hard to explain."
She nervously rearranged her silverware. "A static, a noisy silence, or however you want to describe it. But it's there."
"Any other peculiar things?"
"Well, there was something several weeks ago. I was standing out in front of a People's Drug Store off Connecticut, near Dupont Circle. A source was supposed to meet me there at eight P.M., then we were going to find some place quiet to have dinner and talk. And I saw this man. Clean cut, dressed in a windbreaker and jeans, nice looking. He walked by twice during the fifteen minutes I was standing on the corner, and I caught a glimpse of him again later when my appointment and I were going into the restaurant. I know it sounds crazy, but I had the feeling I was being followed."
"Had you ever seen this man before?"
She shook her head.
"Have you seen him since?"
"No," she said. "But there's something else. My mail. I live in an apartment building. All the mailboxes are downstairs in the lobby. Sometimes I get things with postmarks that don't make sense."
"If the CIA were tampering with your mail, I ran assure you that you wouldn't know about it."
"I'm not sayi
She paused. "I probably would just assume it had to do with the ineptitude of the postal service, but with everything else that's been going on, it's made me wonder."
"Why would anyone be tapping your phone, tailing you, or tampering with your mail?"
All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes