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Authors: Jane Haddam

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BOOK: 28 Hearts of Sand
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“It’s not for tourists,” she said, looking around as if she were doing housekeeping inspection. “You get tourists in the Hamptons, but you don’t get them out here. This place doesn’t like flashy.”

“I can understand that.”

“You’re flashy, though,” Darlee said. “You’re on television all the time.”

“And that makes me flashy?”

“It makes you something I wonder about. You’d think that after all this, the last thing the people in this town would want would be publicity. And now here you are.”

“Sometimes publicity is impossible to avoid,” Gregor said. “Sometimes you can’t get rid of it. Then the best you can do is to manage what publicity you’re forced to have.”

“Maybe,” Darlee Corn said. She did a tour of the bedroom, checking the way the quilt lay on the bed, checking the notepad and pen on the night table. She stopped when she got to that big curved wall of glass. “You know how they’re always saying things like, don’t bother with the rich twits, the
real
Green Acres is a lot different? Well, the real Alwych is the rich twits. This town was founded by rich twits. The real Alwych is a woman with a four-thousand-dollar handbag the size of a feed sack, drinking a seven-dollar latte, driving a BMW, and believing with her entire heart and soul that nobody really wants to eat at McDonald’s, they’re just duped into doing it by evil corporations who brainwash them.”

Gregor was intrigued. “And?” he said.

Darlee dragged herself away from the window. “As I said, we don’t get tourists here. It’s not usually very busy. But it’s busy now. The only reason you got this room was that Jason Battlesea asked me first and Virginia Westervan asked me later. And that makes me very nervous.”

“I think it’s probably fairly normal,” Gregor said. “You’ve just had an unusual crime. It’s gotten a lot of publicity. People come to see. To tell you the truth, I was a little surprised not to pass a clutch of tourists on my way here.”

“On your way here? Why?”

“Isn’t the Waring house on this road?” Gregor asked. “Beach Drive.”

“It’s just up the road, back the way you came.”

“Exactly,” Gregor said. “I did assume that there would be people there, people who’d come to get a look at a murder house, maybe even some reporters. I didn’t even see a place with crime tape.”

“They had to take the crime tape down from the end of the driveway,” Darlee said. “There were too many people—” She stopped. “Oh,” she said. “I see.”

Darlee paused, as if trying to figure out how to proceed. “I wasn’t of that generation, but I remember the crimes happening. I remember all the fuss on television. And every once in a while, they do those retrospective things on television, you know. So it’s not like I’m clueless. I do get what’s going on here.”

“And?” Gregor said.

Darlee shook her head. “The problem is that I wouldn’t, I couldn’t, recognize Chapin Waring right off the bat the way a lot of people here could. I wouldn’t just know, if I saw her. But on the day of the murder, I did see her. And I knew it was her.”

Gregor tried to be careful. “A lot of people saw her,” he said. “The notes I got of the initial investigation are full of reports—”

“Well, there are always
reports,
” Darlee said. “I was out on the terrace, and I saw her walk onto the beach. I saw her, and I thought that she looked a lot like Chapin Waring. And then I wasn’t sure, so I came in the house and looked through some of my History of Alwych scrapbooks. The guests like the scrapbooks, and I’ve got one that’s almost nothing but pictures of the Waring case. I looked at these pictures and then I went back out onto the terrace to see if I was right, but she was gone. And that’s when I got to thinking. I’m probably the only woman in this town of my age or older who wouldn’t recognize Chapin Waring when they saw her. And that explains why I didn’t recognize her.”

“But you just said you did.”

“I didn’t recognize her the first time. About five years ago. She was out on Beach Drive that time, just walking along the side of the road with a dog. And when I went by her, the first thing I thought was that these people ought to stop walking their dogs on the road. It could be dangerous. And then there was something about her that just bothered me. So I looked back in the rearview mirror and slowed down a little. And she looked familiar. And she gave me a bad feeling. But I couldn’t figure out why, and so I sped up and just kept going. But the more I’ve thought about it since the murder happened, the more I’m sure. That was Chapin Waring on the side of the road. It had to be.”

3

Chapin Waring was not standing on the side of the road when Gregor climbed back into the perfectly ordinary car with its ridiculously uniformed driver and headed to the Alwych Police Department. The drive back through Alwych was about as interesting as the first drive through it had been. Juan Valdez didn’t speak English, and Gregor wasn’t even sure he knew much about the area. Beach Drive was still an empty landscape of big houses and wide lawns. If women did walk their dogs here, they weren’t doing it now.

This time, when he passed the Waring house, he knew the property from Darlee’s description. He asked Juan Valdez to slow down, and the driver did so. Either his passive English vocabulary was better than his active one, or he had some reason not to want to talk to the people he drove.

Gregor peered up the long drive as they went slowly by. It was gravel all the way up to where it went out of sight between the trees.

“Wasn’t there a fire?” Gregor asked.

Juan Valdez said nothing. He didn’t even look into the rearview mirror to acknowledge that Gregor had said anything. Gregor looked through his notes and found nothing that helped him out. He took one last look down the drive as they glided all the way past. The landscape showed no signs of a traumatic fire.

They drove to the end of Beach Drive and then began meandering again through town.

The police station was a plain, squat brick building with a low band of windows that ran in an uninterrupted line across its facade. Valdez pulled into a parking space right in front of the front door. Gregor got out and looked around. There were four patrol cars sitting in a line a little farther down the building. There were six civilian cars on the other side of the lot.

The front door opened and out came a short, squat man in a business suit that looked as if it had been custom-tailored for someone else. He was a youngish man without being really young. He was also bone-cold bald.

The man came forward, squinting. “It’s Gregor Demarkian. I recognize you from TV. I’m Jason Battlesea,” he said, coming forward with his hand held out. “They called me to tell me you’d arrived. We’re very glad you’re here. I hope you found the accommodations acceptable. If they’re not, we can always put you up in the Radisson on Route 7, but it’s a bit of a drive.”

“The accommodations are fine,” Gregor said. He shook Jason Battlesea’s hand. It was a mechanical process. There was the contact. There was the shake. Then Jason Battlesea dropped his arm as if it were a dead weight.

For a moment, they stood there in the bright summer air. It was as if neither of them knew what to do next.

“We do know about the FBI,” he said finally. “And we’re not going to complain. They’ve got legitimate interests in all this, and we know it.”

“But?” Gregor said.

Jason Battlesea looked uncomfortable. “I don’t think you can just assume that, because the victim is Chapin Waring, the murder has to belong with the FBI.”

“There were two people killed in the last robbery,” Gregor said.

“But this murder happened here,” Jason Battlesea said. “It happened in Chapin Waring’s old childhood home. It happened in a town where one of her sisters still lives. It happened in the town where she grew up and got to be—like she was, which was a first-rate spoiled brat and a world-class bully. Chapin Waring always had a lot of enemies in Alwych.”

“The kind of enemies who would hold a grudge for thirty years?”

“I don’t know,” Jason Battlesea said. “I don’t even know if it’s been thirty years. We don’t know where she’s been. She could have been anywhere. She could have been here.”

“Fair enough,” Gregor said.

“I suppose Darlee’s been on to you about how she saw Chapin Waring in town five years ago.”

“She said something about it.”

“Well,” Jason said, “once you’ve been here for a couple of days, you’ll realize one thing. She’s not the only one who thinks she’s seen that woman wandering around on and off over the years. We’ve got an entire file of sightings in the office. We passed every single one of them on to the FBI, except Darlee’s, of course, because she didn’t say anything about it before last week.”

“Do you think any of those sightings were real?”

“I think Chapin Waring was to this town what Bigfoot was to everyplace else. I think now that she’s dead, we’re going to start getting sightings of her ghost.”

“All right,” Gregor said.

Jason Battlesea looked him up and down and up and down again, as if Gregor were an actress trying out for a role where the physical fit had to be perfect. Then he shook his head slightly and sighed.

“You’re not what I expected you to be,” he said.

The next sigh he took was very deep, as if he were trying to suck in all the air in the universe.

“Thank God,” he said.

 

SEVEN

1

One of the things Virginia Brand Westervan liked best about being a member of the United States Congress was the geography. No matter where you came from, no matter whom you were supposed to represent, you had to spend most of your time in Washington, D.C. It made the ritual returns for constituent contact feel like bad vacations.

This morning, though, what was striking her was that she was not going to be able to stay this far south for too much longer. She had to go back to Connecticut to campaign, and she had to go back soon because July Fourth was coming up. Nobody stayed in Washington on July Fourth, except tourists who came in to see the monuments and watch the fireworks.

Virginia leaned over her desk and buzzed Susan in the outer office. It always astounded her how old-fashioned all the technology in the Capitol building was.

Susan stuck her head in the door, her eyebrows halfway up her forehead.

“Have we heard from Alwych yet?” Virginia asked.

Susan came all the way into the office and closed the door behind her. “Sara in the constituent office called to say that Gregor Demarkian has arrived. She said he got picked up at the train station by a plain car driven by a man in a chauffeur’s uniform. It’s all right, Virginia. We had him thoroughly checked out when Jason Battlesea first said he was going to hire him. The only thing I found interesting in that entire file was that his first wife died of cancer and he just married again a little while ago, to this woman who writes fantasy novels.”

“Bennis Hannaford,” Virginia said. “I know. You know what I’d like to know?”

Susan shook her head.

“I’d like to know just how good he is at his job,” Virginia said.

“Oh,” Susan said. “I don’t think you have to worry about that. He’s solved a number of high-profile cases, and practically everybody who’s ever hired him has thought it was worth it.”

“Is he staying at the Switch and Shingle?”

“Yes.”

“Has there been a press conference down in Alwych? Or is there going to be?”

“No word on that,” Susan said. “I can call down and find out.”

“That would be a good idea.”

“I still think you’re worrying unnecessarily,” Susan said. “Isn’t it better to have somebody who doesn’t have a stake in the outcome? You can’t even say that about the FBI anymore. Everybody has some way they want it to turn out.”

“I suppose,” Virginia said.

She made a face and stood up.

“I take it that there’s been nothing at all on the other thing,” she said.

Susan took a minute to process that. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” she said. “If you’re talking about Kyle, we’ve still got the same intelligence on him and we’re doing the best we can, but he just does what a lawyer does. He meets with clients. The only way we could get any better intel on him is if we bugged his client conferences, and you know as well as I do that we couldn’t do that. If anybody found out about it, we’d be dead.”

“I don’t mean Kyle,” Virginia said. “Although, God only knows, I expect him to get hit with insider trading charges any minute. And now with this Gregor Demarkian in the picture—”

“I don’t know why you’ve got so much trouble with Gregor Demarkian,” Susan said. “You liked the idea when you first heard about it.”

“I know I did. I still like the idea. It’s just—I don’t know. Maybe you just had to have been there at the time. It was a very strange time, the weeks right after Chapin disappeared. I think we were all under suspicion, the four of us who were left. Nobody ever said so out loud, but we were. And there was a lot to be suspected of. There were two people dead. And the rumors were—the only word for them would be insane.”

“Did any of them turn out to be fact?”

“I don’t know,” Virginia said. “I expected that people would look into them now that things had started up again. But nobody seems to be very interested.”

Virginia sighed. Her desk was clean. There was no reason she had to be here at all. She just didn’t feel like moving.

Susan coughed politely. “I’m nearly packed up,” she said. “We can go back to Connecticut anytime you’re ready.”

Virginia made the strangled noise she saved for agreeing to something while she was feeling frustrated.

“It’s very odd,” she said. “I was thinking about all of this the night Chapin Waring died. We had that fund-raiser at the Atlantic Club.”

Virginia let it go. Most of the time, she did not express her deeply held conviction that her brother was not only not a saint, but some kind of Machiavelli with an agenda none of them had figured out yet. Virginia was just as committed to the things she believed in as Tim pretended to be about the things he did. And over the last several years, those things had coalesced in Virginia’s mind as: putting a stop to everything Tim is doing.

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