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Authors: Patricia Cornwell

Tags: #Women detectives, #Medical examiners (Law), #Scarpetta; Kay (Fictitious character), #Mystery & Detective, #Virginia, #General, #Medical novels, #Women Physicians, #Mystery Fiction, #Women Sleuths, #Thrillers, #Legal stories, #Fiction, #Forensic pathologists

Point of Origin (9 page)

BOOK: Point of Origin
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'She probably did,' Lucy said. 'And I already know about that.'

'But not about Eddie Heath. Remember the candy bar and can of soup he bought at the 7-Eleven? The bag found with his dying, mutilated body? Carrie's thumbprint has since been recovered.'

'No way!' Lucy was shocked.

'There's more.'

'Why haven't you told me this before? She was doing this all along, with him. And probably helped him break out of prison back then, too.'

'We have no doubt. They were Bonnie and Clyde long before you met her, Lucy. She was killing when you were seventeen and had never been kissed.'

'You don't know that I'd never been kissed,' my niece said inanely.

No one spoke for a moment.

Then Lucy said, and her voice quavered, 'So you think she spent two years plotting a way to meet me and become . . . And do the things she did to . . .'

'To seduce you,' I cut in. 'I don't know if she planned it that far in advance. Frankly, I don't care.' My outrage mounted. 'We've moved heaven and earth to extradite her to Virginia for those crimes, and we can't. New York won't let her go.'

My beer bottle was limp and forgotten in my hands as I shut my eyes, and flashes of the dead played through my mind. I saw Eddie Heath propped up against a Dumpster as rain diluted the blood from his wounds, and the sheriff and prison guard killed by Gault and probably Carrie. I had touched their bodies and translated their pain into diagrams and autopsy protocols and dental charts. I could not help it. I wanted Carrie to die for what she had done to them, to my niece and me.

'She's a monster,' I said as my voice shook with grief and fury. 'I will do anything I can to make sure she is punished.'

'Why are you preaching all this to me?' Lucy said in a louder, upset voice. 'Do you somehow think I don't want the same thing?'

'I'm sure you do.'

'Just let me throw the switch or stick the needle in her arm.'

'Don't let your former relationship distract you from justice, Lucy.'

'Jesus Christ.'

'It's already an overwhelming struggle for you. And if you lose perspective, Carrie will have her way.'

'Jesus Christ,' Lucy said again. 'I don't want to hear any more.'

'You wonder what she wants?' I would not stop. 'I can tell you exactly. To manipulate. The thing she does best. And then what? She'll be found not guilty by reason of insanity and the judge will send her back to Kirby. Then she'll suddenly and dramatically improve, and the Kirby doctors will decide she's not insane. Double jeopardy. She can't be tried twice for the same crime. She ends up back on the street.'

'If she walks,' Lucy said coldly, 'I will find her and blow her brains out.'

'What kind of answer is that?'

I watched her silhouette sitting straight up against pillows on her bed. She was very stiff and I could hear her breathing as hatred pounded inside her.

'The world really won't care who or what you slept or sleep with unless you do,' I said to her more quietly. 'In fact, I think the jury will understand how it could have happened back then. When you were so young. And she was older and brilliant and striking to look at. When she was charismatic and attentive, and your supervisor.'

'Like Teun,' Lucy said, and I could not tell if she were mocking me.

'Teun is not a psychopath,' I said.

THE NEXT MORNING, I fell asleep in the rented LTD, and woke up to cornfields and silos, and stands of trees as old as the Civil War. Marino was driving, and we passed vast acres of vacant land strung with barbed wire and telephone lines, and front yards dotted with mailboxes painted like flower gardens and Uncle Sam. There were ponds and creeks and sod farms, and cattle fields high with weeds. Mostly I noticed small houses with leaning fences, and clotheslines sagging with scrubbed garments billowing in the breeze.

I covered a yawn with my hand and averted my face, for I had always considered it a sign of weakness to look tired or bored. Within minutes, we turned right on 715, or Beaverdam Road, and we began to see cows. Barns were bleached gray and it seemed people never thought to haul away their broken-down trucks. The owner of Hootowl Farm lived in a large white brick house surrounded by endless vistas of pasture and fence. According to the sign out front, the house had been built in 1730. Now it had a swimming pool and a satellite dish that looked serious enough to intercept signals from other galaxies.

Betty Foster was out to greet us before we had gotten out of the car. She was somewhere in her fifties with sharp regal features and skin deeply creased by the sun. Her long white hair was tucked in a bun. But she walked with the athletic spring of someone half her age, and her hand was hard and strong when she shook mine and looked at me with pained hazel eyes.

'I'm Betty,' she said. 'And you must be Dr Scarpetta. And you must be Captain Marino.'

She shook his hand too, her movements quick and confident. Betty Foster wore jeans and a sleeveless denim shirt, her brown boots scarred and crusted with mud around the heels. Beneath her hospitality other emotions smoldered, and she seemed slightly dazed by us, as if she did not know where to begin.

'Kenneth is in the riding ring,' she told us. 'He's been waiting for you, and I'll go on and tell you now that he's terribly upset. He loved those horses, everyone of them, and of course, he's devastated that someone died inside his house.'

'What exactly is your relationship to him?' Marino asked as we started walking up the dusty road toward the stables.

'I've bred and trained his horses for years,' she said. 'Ever since he left office and moved back to Warrenton. He had the finest Morgans in the Commonwealth. And quarter horses and thoroughbreds.'

'He would bring his horses to you?' I asked.

'Sometimes he did that. Sometimes it was yearlings he would buy from me and just leave them here to be trained for two years. Then he'd add them to his stable. Or he'd breed racehorses and sell them when they were old enough to be trained for the track. And I also went up there to his farm, sometimes two or three times a week. Basically, I supervised.'

'And he has no stable hand?' I asked.

'The last one quit several months ago. Since then Kenny has been doing most of the work himself. It's not like he can hire just anyone. He has to be careful.'

'I'd like to know more about the stable hand,' Marino said, taking notes.

'A lovely old guy with a very bad heart,' she said.

'It may be that one horse survived the fire,' I told her.

She didn't comment at first, and we drew nearer to a big red barn and a Beware of Dog sign on a fence post.

'It's a foal, I guess. Black,' I went on.

'A filly or a colt?' she asked.

'I don't know. I couldn't tell the gender.'

'What about a star-strip-snip?' she asked, referring to the white stripe on the horse's forehead.

'I wasn't that close,' I told her.

'Well, Kenny had a foal named Windsong,' Foster said. 'The mother, Wind, ran the Derby and came in last, but just being in it was enough. Plus the father had won a few big stake races. So Windsong was probably the most valuable horse in Kenny's stables.'

'Well, Windsong may have gotten out somehow,' I said again. 'And was spared.'

'I hope he's not still out there running around.'

'If he is, I doubt he will be for long. The police know about him.'

Marino was not particularly interested in the surviving horse, and as we entered the indoor ring, we were greeted by the sound of hooves and the clucking of bantam roosters and guinea hens that wandered about freely. Marino coughed and squinted because red dust was thick in the air, kicked up by the cantering of a chestnut Morgan mare. Horses in their stalls neighed and whinnied as horse and rider went by, and although I recognized Kenneth Sparkes in his English saddle, I had never seen him in dirty denim and boots. He was an excellent equestrian, and when he met my eyes as he went by, .he showed no sign of recognition or relief. I knew right then he did not want us here.

'Is there someplace we can talk to him?' I asked Foster.

'There are chairs outside.' She pointed. 'Or you can use my office.'

Sparkes picked up speed and thundered toward us, and the guinea hens lifted up their feathery skirts to hurry out of the way.

'Did you know anything about a lady maybe staying with him in Warrenton?' I asked as we headed back outside again. 'Did you ever see anyone when you went to work with his horses?'

'No,' Foster said.

We picked plastic chairs and sat with our backs to the arena, overlooking woods.

'But Lord knows, Kenny's had girlfriends before, and I don't always know about them,' Foster said, turning around in her chair to look back inside the ring. 'Unless you're right about Windsong, the horse Kenny's on now is the only one he has left. Black Opal. We call him Pal for short.'

Marino and I did not respond as we turned around to see Sparkes dismount and hand the reins to one of Foster's stable hands.

'Good job, Pal,' Sparkes said, patting the horse's handsome neck and head.

'Any special reason this horse wasn't with the others on his farm?' I asked Foster.

'Not quite old enough. He's a barely three-year-old gelding who still needs training. That's why he's still here, lucky for him.'

For a flicker, her face was contorted by grief, and she quickly looked away. She cleared her throat and got up from her chair. She walked away as Sparkes came out of the arena adjusting his belt and the fit of his jeans. I got up and Marino and I respectfully shook his hand. He was sweating through a faded red Izod shirt, and he wiped his face with a yellow bandanna he untied from his neck.

'Please sit down,' he said graciously, as if he were granting us an audience with him.

We took our chairs again, and he pulled his out and turned it around to face us, the skin tight around eyes that were resolute but bloodshot.

'Let me begin by telling you what I firmly believe right now as I sit in this chair,' he said. 'The fire was not an accident.'

'That's what we're here to investigate, sir,' Marino said, more politely than usual.

'I believe the motivation was racist in nature.' Sparkes's jaw muscles began to flex and fury filled his voice. 'And they -- whoever they are -- intentionally murdered my horses, destroying everything I love.'

'If the motive was racism,' Marino said, 'then why wouldn't they have checked to make sure you were home?'

'Some things are worse than death. Perhaps they want me alive to suffer. You put two and two together.'

'We're trying to,' Marino said.

'Don't even consider pinning this on me.'

He pointed a finger at both of us.

'I know exactly how people like you think,' he went on. 'Huh. I torched my own farm and horses for money. Now you listen to me good.'

He leaned closer to us.

'I'm telling you now that I didn't do it. Would never, could never do it, will never do it. I had nothing to do with what happened. I'm the victim here and probably lucky to be alive.'

'Let's talk about the other victim,' I spoke quietly. 'A white female with long blond hair, as it looks now. Is there anyone else who might have been in your house that night?'

'No one should have been in my house!' he exclaimed.

'We are speculating that this person may have died in the master suite,' I went on. 'Possibly the bathroom.'

'Whoever she was, she must have broken in,' he said. 'Or maybe she was the one who set the fire, and couldn't get out.'

'There's no evidence that anyone broke in, sir,' Marino responded. 'And if your burglar alarm was set, it never went off that night. Only the smoke alarm.'

'I don't understand.' Sparkes seemed to be telling the truth. 'Of course, I set the alarm before I left town.'

'And you were headed where?' Marino probed.

'London. I got there and was immediately notified. I never even left Heathrow and instantly caught the next flight back,' he said. 'I got off in D. C. and drove straight here.'

He stared blankly at the ground.

'Drove in what?' Marino asked.

'My Cherokee. I'd left it at Dulles in long-term parking.'

'You've got the receipt?'

'Yes.'

'What about the Mercedes at your house?' Marino went on.

Sparkes frowned. 'What Mercedes? I don't own a Mercedes. I have always bought American cars.'

I remembered that this had been one of his policies that he had been quite vocal about.

'There's a Mercedes behind the house. It burned up, too, so we can't tell much about it yet,' Marino said. 'But it doesn't look like a recent model to me. A sedan, sort of boxy like they were earlier on.'

Sparkes just shook his head.

'Then we might wonder if it was the victim's car,' Marino deduced. 'Maybe someone who had come to see you unexpectedly? Who else had a key to your house, and your burglar alarm code?'

'Good Lord,' Sparkes said as he groped for an answer. 'Josh did. My stable hand, honest as the day is long. He quit for health reasons and I never bothered changing the locks.'

BOOK: Point of Origin
13.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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