Page 35 of The Innocent

“In the first place,” Horne said, “these are very old records. SurgiCo didn’t keep the woman’s name on record, only the doctor who performed the procedure.”

“Fine, that’ll be enough.”

Horne crossed his arms. “Do you have a subpoena, Detective?”

“It’s on its way.”

He gave her his smuggest expression, which was saying something. “Well then,” he said, “I’ll return to my office. Please inform Tiffany here when you have it, will you?”

The battle-ax preened, smiled widely. Loren pointed at her and said, “You have lipstick on your teeth.” Then she turned her attention back to Randal Horne. “Do you mind telling me why you require a subpoena?”

“There are all sorts of new patient privacy laws. We at the Lockwood Corporation believe in following them.”

“But this woman is dead.”

“Still.”

“There are no medical secrets here. We know that she had implants. We’re just trying to identify the body.”

“There must be other ways, Detective.”

“We’re trying, believe me. But so far . . .” Loren shrugged.

“Unfortunately that does not change our position.”

“But your position, with all due respect, seems a tad fluid, Mr. Horne.”

“I’m not sure I understand your point.”

“Hold on a sec.” Loren started pulling folded papers out of her back pockets. “I had time on the ride down here to check the New Jersey cases. It seems that your company has always cooperated with law enforcement in the past. You released records on a cadaver found last July in Somerset County. A Mr. Hampton Wheeler, age sixty-six, had his head and fingers cut off in order to avoid identification, but the killer forgot he had a pacemaker. Your company helped the authorities ID him. There was another case—”

“Detective . . . Muse, is it?”

“Inspector.”

“Inspector Muse. I’m very busy. Please make yourself comfortable. When your subpoena arrives, please feel free to tell Tiffany.”

“Wait.” Loren glanced at the battle-ax. “Tiffany—I mean, that can’t be her real name, right?”

“If you’ll excuse me . . .”

“Mr. Horne, you already know I have no subpoena coming—that I was bluffing.”

Randal Horne said nothing.

Loren looked down and spotted the issue of The Third Branch. She frowned and turned toward Horne. This time she did stand. “You didn’t think I was bluffing,” she said, her words coming slowly. “You knew it.”

Horne took a step back.

“But in reality,” Loren went on, more to herself than to him, “it could have been true. It would have been tough timing, sure, but I could have called a federal judge on my way down here. The subpoena would be a no-brainer. Any member of the bench would have rubber-stamped it in five minutes. No judge in their right mind would refuse unless . . .”

Randal Horne waited. It was almost as if he hoped she’d put it together.

“Unless someone on the federal level—the FBI or U.S. attorney’s office—shut you down.”

Horne cleared his throat and checked his watch. “I really have to go now,” he said.

“Your company was cooperating with us at first. That’s what Eldon said. Suddenly you stopped. Why? Why would you suddenly change your mind unless the feds told you to?” She looked up. “Why would the feds care about this case?”

“That isn’t our concern,” he said. Horne then put his hand to his mouth as if he’d been aghast at his own indiscretion. Their eyes met and she knew that he’d done her a favor. Horne wouldn’t say any more. But he had said enough.

The FBI. They were the ones who had shut her down.

And maybe Loren understood why.

Back at her car Loren ran it through her head.

Who did she know at the FBI?

She had some acquaintances there, but nobody who could help on this level. The found-a-lead tingle rushed through her. This was big, no question about it. The FBI had been looking into this case. For some reason they wanted to find whoever was pretending to be Sister Mary Rose, leaving trip wires and calling cards everywhere, even with the company who supplied her breast implants.

She nodded to herself. Sure, this was mere speculation, but it made sense. Start with the victim: Sister Mary Rose had to be some sort of fugitive or witness. Someone valuable to the FBI.

Okay, good. Go on.

A long time ago Sister Mary Rose (or whatever her real name was) ran off—hard to say how long ago, but she’d been teaching at St. Margaret’s, according to Mother Katherine, for seven years. So it had to be at least that long.

Loren stopped, considered the implications. Sister Mary Rose had been a fugitive for at least seven years. Had the feds been looking for her all that time?

It added up.

Sister Mary Rose had gone into deep, deep hiding. She’d changed her identity, for certain. Probably started off in Oregon, at that conservative convent Mother Katherine had mentioned. Who knows how long she was there?

Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that seven years ago, for whatever reason, she chose to come east.

Loren rubbed her hands together. Oh, this is good.

So Sister Mary Rose moves to New Jersey and starts teaching at St. Margaret’s. By all accounts she’s a good teacher and nun, caring and devoted, living a quiet life. Seven years pass. Maybe she thinks she’s safe now. Maybe she gets careless and reaches out to someone from her old life. Whatever.

Somehow, some way, her past catches up with her. Someone learns who she is. And then someone breaks into her small convent room, tortures her, and then suffocates her with a pillow.

Loren paused, almost as if she were offering up a respectful moment of silence.

Okay, she thought, so now what?

She needed to get the identity from the feds.

How?

Only thing she could think of was classic quid pro quo: Give them something in return. But what did she have?

Matt Hunter, for one.

The feds were probably at least a day or two behind her. Would they have the phone logs yet? Doubtful. And if they did, if they knew about the call to Marsha Hunter, would they have already figured in a Matt Hunter connection?

Very doubtful.

Loren hit the highway and picked up her cell phone. It was dead. She cursed the damn thing. The greatest lie—right up there with “the check is in the mail” and “your call is very important to us”—is the stated battery life of a cell phone. Hers was supposed to last a week on standby. She was lucky if the cursed thing gave her thirty-six hours.


Tags: Harlan Coben Thriller
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