Tail Spin Page 2

Two people sat in a booth next to the glass, a limp waitress standing beside them, a pen poised over her pad. She saw a taxi sitting outside the diner, saw the cabbie at the counter drinking coffee, and she smiled.

When the cab pulled into Jimmy’s driveway, she asked the driver to wait and prayed they hadn’t taken her purse. The alarm wasn’t set, thank God, and the window in her bedroom was still cracked open. She found her purse downstairs on the kitchen counter, where she’d left it earlier that night. Was it really only three, four hours ago? It seemed a lifetime.

Thirty minutes later, she took one final look at Jimmy’s big redbrick Georgian house, built in the thirties, the centerpiece of this well-tended neighborhood, nestled among huge oak trees on Pinchon Lane. She’d never had the chance to think of him as her father, to call him Father; she wondered now if he would remain Jimmy forever.

She’d had only six weeks with him.

She drove her white Charger through the quiet streets until she reached the Beltway. She knew where she was going and also knew she’d be crazy to try to drive through the night, because she was so exhausted she was shaking. But she had no choice. She ate two candy bars, felt a brief spurt of energy. She had to think, had to plan. She had to hide. She forced herself to drive through the night, surviving on hot black coffee and a half dozen more candy bars and, at eight A.M., stopped at the Cozy Boy Motel off the highway in Richmond.

She awoke fourteen hours later, groggy at first, every muscle in her body protesting, but her strength was surging back. Fear, she thought, an excellent energizer.

She wasn’t about to go to her mother’s house. She wasn’t even going to call her. No way would she put them in that kind of danger. She realized with a sort of depressed relief that she had no close friends to call, to tell them not to worry about her. She hadn’t kept up with friends she’d made in Richmond. As far as she could think, there was no one to even wonder where she was. Mrs. Riffin, Jimmy’s longtime house-keeper, was even gone now, having retired the week after Jimmy’s death. No one, she thought, no one to worry, to wonder. Jimmy’s lawyer might wonder in a sort of intellectual way where she was, but she doubted he’d press it. As for Jimmy’s siblings, if they believed she was tied to a concrete block at the bottom of a lake, they certainly wouldn’t say anything.

Could Quincy and Laurel have been involved? Jimmy’s brother and sister—unbelievably, her uncle and aunt—hated her, wanted her gone—but murder? Yes, she thought, they were capable of anything. Maybe there were others who didn’t want her around, but murder? She always came back to Quincy and Laurel.

She meandered along back roads in Virginia until she ended up the following morning at a small motel in Waynesboro. She knew where she was going, but then what? She watched local TV news, listened to the local radio, and thought. She heard a retrospective of Jimmy’s political life on PBS. Even though he hadn’t been a liberal, they’d been mostly positive in their assessment of him. They probably hadn’t meant to, but Jimmy came across as a larger-than-life figure, charismatic, dedicated to public service. If only they knew, she thought, Jimmy had been so much more. And there was the other thing. No, she wouldn’t think about that right now. She couldn’t. It would wait.

She listened to the vice president speak of Jimmy’s ex-wife, his two daughters, but nothing about her, nothing about his other daughter, the one he hadn’t known existed until six weeks before he died.

She leaned down to rub her ankle where the rope had been bound so tightly, and for an instant, she couldn’t breathe. She smacked her palm against the steering wheel, got herself together. She looked out over the dark Virginia fields, the line of trees, unmoving black sentinels in the night, and thought, If you two maniacs tried to kill me, then I hope you’re happy, I hope you’re making toasts to each other on my removal, the one person who can make your lives very unpleasant. Yes, drink up.

Until she was ready to take them down.


Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

Monday morning

Sherlock took Jimmy Maitland’s call at 7:32 while she was pouring Cheerios into Sean’s Transformers cereal bowl, Astro sitting beside his chair, tongue and tail wagging, ready for his share. The terrier loved Cheerios.

“It’s about Jackson Crowne,” Maitland said. “And it isn’t good, Sherlock.”

“What is it, sir?”

Sherlock began shaking her head, her face going pale. Savich’s head snapped up. He poured milk over the Cheerios and talked to Sean to distract him, but he was aware of every expression on his wife’s face. He gave Astro a handful of Cheerios in his dog bowl.

“But you don’t know for certain, sir?” she asked, her voice thread thin.

Maitland said, “No, not for sure, but it doesn’t look good, Sherlock. Add Dr. MacLean to the mix—well, you can imagine how worried everyone is. A helicopter is waiting for you and Savich at Quantico. Get there as soon as you can. We’re not sending out Search and Rescue right now, that would lead directly to the media and that would mean too much information about Dr. MacLean getting out to the wrong people. If you don’t locate him, we have no choice but to call in Search and Rescue. Funny thing is, Jack’s piloting a Cessna search-and-rescue plane. I know you understand. I’m counting on you two.”

Sherlock understood all too well, but she didn’t like it. She would have damned the media, said to hell with concerns for Dr. MacLean’s safety, and launched a full-bore Search and Rescue in ten minutes. But Mr. Maitland could be right—if this wasn’t a malfunction—an accident—then that meant sabotage. As she carefully laid down the kitchen phone, watching Sean studiously plowing through his cereal, she got herself together, said calmly, “It’s Jack. His plane went down in southeast Kentucky, his mayday was near a small town called Parlow in the Appalachians, an hour from the Virginia border. As you know, Jack’s got Dr. MacLean with him. Mr. Maitland wants us there as soon as possible, find out what’s going on. No Search and Rescue right now. It doesn’t sound . . .” She swallowed, looked again at Sean when her voice cracked.

Sean’s spoon stopped halfway to his mouth, and his head came up, his father’s eyes staring at her. “Mama, what’s wrong?”

“It’s one of our agents, Sean, he could be in some trouble. Your papa and I are going to go find him and bring him home.”

Prev page Next page