The Beginning

Free The Beginning by Catherine Coulter

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Authors: Catherine Coulter
have a black wig I wore here. I’ll put it on.”
    â€œCouldn’t hurt.”
    â€œHow can you know they’ll just want to hear my story? You don’t know what’s going on here any more than I do. Oh, I see. You don’t think they’ll believe I heard a woman screaming those two nights.”
    He said patiently, “Even if they don’t believe you, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that they’d then have a murdered woman on their hands, does it? You heard a woman’s screams. Now she’s dead. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of other possible conclusions. Get a grip, Sally, and don’t fall apart on me now. You’re going to be Susan Brandon. All right?”
    She nodded slowly, but he didn’t think he had ever seen such fear on a face in all his years.
    He was glad she had a wig. No one could forget her face, and the good Lord knew it had been flashed on TV enough times recently.

    David Mountebank had hated his name ever since he’d looked it up in the dictionary and read it meant boastful and unscrupulous. Whenever he met a big man, a big man who looked smart, and he had to introduce himself, he held himself stiff and wary, waiting to see if the guy would make a crack. He braced himself accordingly as he introduced himself to the man before him now.
    â€œI’m Sheriff David Mountebank.”
    The man stuck out his hand. “I’m James Quinlan, Sheriff Mountebank. This is Susan Brandon. We were together when we found the woman’s body two hours ago.”
    â€œMs. Brandon.”
    â€œWon’t you be seated, Sheriff?”
    He nodded, took his hat off, and relaxed into the soft sofa cushions. “The Cove’s changed,” he said, looking around Amabel’s living room as if he’d found himself in a shop filled with modern prints that gave him indigestion. “It seems every time I come here, it just keeps looking better and better. How about that?”
    â€œI wouldn’t know,” Quinlan said. “I’m from L.A.”
    â€œYou live here, Ms. Brandon? If you do, you’ve got to be the youngest sprout within the town limits, although there’s something of a subdivision growing over near the highway. Don’t know why folks would want to live near the highway. They don’t come into The Cove except for ice cream, leastwises that’s what I hear.”
    â€œNo, Sheriff. I’m visiting my aunt. A short vacation. I’m from Missouri.”
    Sheriff Mountebank wrote that down in his book, then sat back, scratched his knees, and said, “The medical examiner’s over at Doc Spiver’s house checking out the dead woman. She’d been in the water a good while, at least eight hours, I’d say.”
    â€œI know when she died,” Sally said.
    The sheriff merely smiled at her and waited. It was a habit of his, just waiting, and sure enough, everything he ever wanted to hear would pop out of a person’s mouth to fill in the silence.
    He didn’t have to wait long this time because Susan Brandon couldn’t wait to tell him about the screams, about how her aunt had convinced her it was the wind that first night, but last night she’d known—just known—it was a woman screaming, a woman in pain, and then that last scream, well, someone had killed her.
    â€œWhat time was that? Do you remember, Ms. Brandon?”
    â€œIt was around two-oh-five in the morning, Sheriff. That’s when my aunt went along with me and called Reverend Vorhees.”
    â€œShe called Hal Vorhees?”
    â€œYes. She said he was the youngest man and the most physically able. He brought over three elderly men with him. They searched but couldn’t find anything.”
    â€œThat was probably the same group over at Doc Spiver’s. They were all sitting around looking at each other. This kind of thing hits a small town like The Cove real hard.”

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