Read In Search of the Dove Online
Authors: Rebecca York
“Did he kill himself?”
“Uh—yes,” the doctor confirmed reluctantly. “Ms. Duval, he was very disturbed. We had him under very close observation, but—”
“I know you did everything you could, Dr. Frederickson. I’ll be down there in about forty-five minutes.”
* * *
HE COULDN’T FACE
going to the cemetery, not after her recent experience. The very idea of opening up her family crypt was too close to the nightmare of a few days ago. So, after a lot of private soul searching, she had Aubrey’s body cremated.
A few students and some of the university faculty came to the quiet memorial service conducted by a minister recommended by the mortuary. It surprised her that Simone didn’t come. Maybe the grapevine had failed her old friend this time, or perhaps she was still afraid of getting involved. At the very least Jessica had expected a note of condolence. But it didn’t really make any difference. No matter who showed up to tell her they were sorry about the tragedy, taking care of Aubrey’s last needs was a very lonely job.
The only other person she’d really wanted to see was Michael Rome. But when she’d called his room after her visit to Dr. Frederickson, he’d already checked out. She’d thought about getting in touch with Lieutenant Devine to see if he knew where to reach Michael, but somehow she never seemed to be able to work up the courage.
It took only a few days to wrap up Aubrey’s affairs. Jessica was glad that there wasn’t a great deal to do, because she wasn’t capable of much physical or mental activity. Depression had settled around her shoulders like a gray shroud, and she considered it a major accomplishment if she could drag herself out of bed in the morning and get dressed. She’d lost her only close relative, and that was a hard enough blow to cope with. Losing Michael on the same afternoon made things that much worse. Falling in love with a man she hardly knew had been a terrible mistake.
She’d never felt quite so rudderless. When she called Carrie, her manager back in Annapolis, she found that her business was still running smoothly. Carrie urged her to consider taking a vacation before coming back to work. The idea had some merit. There was no reason to stay in Louisiana, and there was no reason to go home. But making a decision about what to do next was almost beyond her capability.
Jessica was occupying her usual chair in the living room when the doorbell rang. She looked with little real interest toward the door, wondering vaguely who it could possibly be coming around. Maybe it was one of those enterprising individuals who encased obituary notices in plastic and sold them to relatives of the deceased. However, when she finally opened the door, the rather pretty young woman standing in the hallway didn’t look as if she were playing that role. Her blue eyes were too perceptive and the style of her light-brown hair too chic.
“Jessica Duval?” she questioned.
“My name is Eden Sommers. May I come in and talk to you for a few minutes?”
Jessica hesitated, searching the woman’s face. She was a person who radiated confidence—and determination. She was there because she wanted something. But it was difficult for Jessica to pick up what it was; it seemed as if the woman were deliberately channeling her mind away from the real reason for her visit.
“I don’t know.”
“Please. It’s important.”
“All right.” With a sigh, she stepped aside and motioned toward the living room.
Jessica returned to her chair. After looking around for a moment, the blue-eyed young woman settled herself gracefully on the couch.
“May I call you Jessica? I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“From Michael. From the Falcon.”
“Aren’t you wondering why I’m here?”
“Does it really matter?”
Eden’s eyes were sympathetic. “Jessica, I heard about your brother. I’m sorry.”
“One of those things.
“We’ve already discovered it wasn’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your brother stumbled into a hornet’s nest at Chartres University. After Michael sent us those letters Aubrey had hidden, we began a thorough investigation into the chemistry department and Henry Bergman. This morning the administration agreed to relieve Bergman of his duties as chairman of the department, pending a hearing. But the whole affair is still being kept quiet over there.”
“What whole affair? What are you talking about?”
“It will be weeks before we have the full story, but apparently Bergman not only steered Xavier to the Blackstone Clinic, he was also allowing the campus labs to be used to manufacture illegal substances. Incidentally, he was also diverting federal grant money to his own purposes.”
For days Jessica had been numb, not wanting to probe any further into the intrigue that had led to Aubrey’s death. She still didn’t know how Ms. Sommers fit into this, but suddenly she was interested in hearing what the woman had to say. “Is that why everyone on campus gave me the cold shoulder when I tried to find out about my brother?”
“I imagine so. Bergman was running scared. Over the last few months a number of outspoken students had been roughed up by thugs.”
“So if Aubrey stumbled on to something questionable, he would have wanted to keep quiet about it while he gathered the proof he needed.”
“That’s what we surmise. Unfortunately someone got to him before he had enough evidence to prove anything. We still don’t know the details of Bergman’s connection to Lonnie, but we’re working on it.”
“Thank you for telling me all this.”
“We owe you that much at least.”
Jessica sighed. “With Bergman under investigation, something good came of this horrible ordeal.”
Eden’s eyes were full of compassion. The information she’d just imparted would give Jessica some measure of peace, but that hadn’t been her primary reason for coming to New Orleans.
“Your brother’s role in the Dove case isn’t the only thing I came to talk to you about. I’d also like to discuss your involvement.”
“I’m done with it!”
The two women confronted each other in silence. Eden could see Jessica’s distress. Jessica could sense Eden’s strength of mind.
“Don’t turn away from Michael,” she finally said.
“What do you mean, turn away? He’s done everything he could to drive me away.”
Eden locked her hands together in her lap. The white knuckles revealed that this was difficult for her too. “In many ways Michael’s like my husband, Mark Bradley. Long before we were married, he walked out on me because he wanted to protect me from the dangerous life he led.”
“But he wasn’t afraid of you. You didn’t make him feel as if his head were glass and you were reading all his secrets.”
“Actually, I did.”
Jessica looked up sharply. “You aren’t...?”
“No, I’m not a psychic. The next worst thing, a psychologist.”
Despite herself, Jessica laughed. Then her expression sobered again. “Why are you here?”
Eden gave her a direct look. “I work for the Falcon.”
“Sure. The Falcon.”
“I’m sorry to be so mysterious. I really can’t tell you very much about our work. But our director feels you could be very valuable on this case.”
“What does Michael think?”
“The possibility of bringing you back hasn’t been broached to him. I argued that until we talked to you, there was no use—”
“Antagonizing him,” Jessica finished.
Eden smiled. “You know him very well, don’t you? But so do I. He’s an old friend, and I have a lot of respect for his integrity.”
“Would you object to working with him again?”
“I think you’ve guessed there’s been some personal involvement between us, and I’m afraid it would get in the way.”
“But what if he were in danger? Wouldn’t you want to help him?” Eden asked.
“He’s going to try to rescue Jed!”
Eden’s eyes widened. “Michael said your perceptions were uncanny. How did you pick that up from me? I was trying not to think about it.”
Jessica shrugged. “Sometimes I just know.”
“Particularly when it has to do with someone you care about.”
The two women stared at each other. Finally Eden spoke. “I first got involved with the Falcon under less than ideal circumstances. He used my love for Mark to guarantee my cooperation on a top-security mission. At the time, I didn’t feel that I had a choice. But I don’t want to use coercive tactics on you.”
“If you’re telling me that Michael’s life may be in danger and that my working with him might make the difference, then there’s no way I can refuse.”
“I was hoping you’d feel that way. Michael Rome is a very lucky man, even if he’s too stubborn to realize it right now.”
* * *
it’s time to stop playing games.”
Jed pushed himself to a sitting position against the pillows. “What games? I don’t follow you, Doctor.”
“Oh, I think you do. You are down here on Royale Verde working for some American intelligence organization. I want to know which one and what your specific interest is in me.”
“Didn’t you tell me that I was recovering from a stroke?”
The doctor sighed. “Unfortunately, I don’t believe you ever bought that story, although it would have made things a great deal easier on both of us.”
Jed stared back at Talifero, wondering what his chances were of escaping from this fortress of a sanitarium. Not very good, he guessed. The windows were barred, the grounds were patrolled, and the guards outside his door were armed. And then there was the doctor’s sudden change in tactics. He wouldn’t be tipping his hand if he thought Jed Prentiss was going anywhere.
“Now, let us be frank with each other, Mr. Prentiss. I have gone through your personal possessions with considerable care. You are quite well equipped for espionage. What was your mission exactly?”
“I had no mission. I am simply a tourist.” So
good was coming out of this. At least he knew he wasn’t crazy—or brain damaged. The doctor’s assessment of his role matched his memories perfectly.
“Oh, come now. My police informants kept me apprised of your activities since the moment you arrived on Royale Verde. You were apprehended sneaking onto my property with a knapsack full of bugging equipment.”
When Jed made no reply, the doctor slipped his hands into his trouser pockets and took a step back, regarding his prisoner with some interest. “As I told you before,” he murmured, “this is a psychiatric hospital. We’re well equipped with many different kinds of experimental medications. I think we will have to try using some of them on you.”
Jed met his gaze levelly.
“Given in high dosages, some of them actually do cause stroke and brain damage. Others loosen the tongue. Although I have the feeling that in your case, your cover story has been drummed into your head so effectively that it would take several interrogations to shake your account. That’s unfortunate for you. It means I’m better off starting with something a bit more traditional. Pain.”
“You don’t frighten me, Talifero.”
“No? What a pity. But you will probably have changed your attitude by tomorrow morning.” He paused and opened the door.
Two large men wearing white uniforms and gun belts walked in and stood with their arms folded across their chests. “I’d like Mr. Prentiss moved to a soundproof cell in the maximum security wing. Strap him down and give him fifty milligrams of tricarbotane.”
The guard sucked in his breath and gave Jed an incredulous look. “Fifty milligrams?”
“Are you questioning my orders?”
Talifero turned back to the man on the bed. “I don’t want to keep my dinner guests waiting. But I’ll be looking in on you later just to see how you’re doing.”
* * *
HE TURBAN OF GOLD CLOTH
would go nicely with her burgundy-and-gold caftan, Moonshadow thought as she held the flowing silk fabric up against her naked body. She was admiring her tawny reflection in the mirrored wall of the bedroom Jackson Talifero had settled her into yesterday morning.
Now that she was down there on Royale Verde, she was feeling quite a bit more optimistic about her relationship with Blackstone’s director. Though he’d tried to hide it, the man had been clearly relieved at getting his chemist back. Since she had been the agent for accomplishing the recapture, a great deal of Talifero’s goodwill toward her had been restored, and she felt more confident that she would be able to handle him—or discover what he was really up to so she could have a stronger weapon to use against him if she needed it.
She, Gilbert Xavier, and Lonnie Milstead, along with two silent security guards, had arrived on Royale Verde by seaplane from Key West the day before. She had been down here on a few other occasions to conduct special voodoo rituals and remembered the opulence well. She supposed it compensated somewhat for the prison atmosphere. Of course, she knew about the hidden television cameras all over the place. But she had a justifiable pride in her sleek body and didn’t mind putting on a show whether she was alone or not. If that improved Jackson’s mood, so much the better.
Too bad for Xavier; he wasn’t having quite such a relaxing time. He’d been under guard ever since they’d captured him in the cemetery. Talifero had given orders that he wasn’t allowed in the bathroom by himself until he was safely back in the Blackstone compound. As soon as he had arrived, the pale and shaken chemist had been frog-marched directly to the lab complex for a series of very frank conversations with Blackstone’s chief of staff. Moonshadow hadn’t seen him since, but she suspected he was going to cooperate for the moment. The conjecture had been confirmed when a servant had arrived a half hour ago with a hand-written note from Talifero. Her host explained that a dinner was being held in honor of Franco Garcia, who had come especially to meet Dr. Xavier. If the chemist were being trotted out for such an occasion, then the man-to-man talks must have been quite successful. But then Talifero had the enviable ability to inspire fear in the heart of just about anyone when it suited him.