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Authors: Luanne Rice

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BOOK: Last Day
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“Yes,” Reid said. “We’re going to fly you back to Connecticut on the state police helicopter.”

“Thank you.”

“And we’re going to talk,” Reid said.

“Good, because I want you to tell me everything, every detail. My mind’s going crazy,” Pete said, a tremor in his voice.

“Well, I’ll tell you one thing right now.”

“What?”

Reid stared into Pete’s pale-blue eyes. The expression on his face was tense, as if he’d been practicing how to set his jaw.

“I think you killed your wife,” Reid said.

6

Tom felt gravity pulling him down as the helicopter lifted straight up. Conor and Pete Lathrop were across the aisle in two seats facing each other. Conor had arranged it so Pete was sitting backward. Tom looked out the window at the ocean below. They flew over the Elizabeth Islands—Naushon, Pasque, Nashawena, and Cuttyhunk.

“You comfortable?” Conor asked Pete.

“No. I’m not freaking comfortable,” Pete said. “How could you think that I could have done anything to Beth?”

“We’ll get to that,” Conor said.

“Should I have a lawyer?”

“That is absolutely your right,” Conor said.


Right
,” Pete said. “What a joke. You haven’t even
read
me my rights.”

“That’s because you’re not under arrest. This is just a courtesy ride.”

“But you just accused me of murdering her!”

“Was she giving you grief about your girlfriend?” Conor asked.

“You have no idea about Beth and me. We loved each other one hundred percent. We were devoted to each other.”

“I bet she loved the fact you have someone else.”

Tom watched the burning intensity in his brother’s face, the cold fear in Pete’s.

“You’re going to arrest me because I had an affair?”

“I wonder how Nicola would feel to hear you calling it an
affair
. Doesn’t she think it’s a whole lot more than that? Didn’t Beth? But no, I’m not going to arrest you.”

Pete’s eyes widened as he took that in. He looked surprised, then relieved: a pinched smile, as if he was getting away with something. His eyes were pale, more gray than blue, the color of spit. Tom glanced at Conor. His younger brother was staring at Pete with laser focus.

Tom loved when he and Conor crossed paths on a case. Two, including this one, were related to the Woodward family. Twenty-three years ago, when Tom was a USCG lieutenant and Conor was in his first year as a Connecticut state trooper, the shoreline had been rocked by the violence and brutality of what had happened to Helen, Kate, and Beth at their family’s fancy art gallery in Black Hall. The fact that their husband and father had paid people to commit the crime had made it all the more horrific.

Conor was new to the Connecticut State Police after a stint as a town cop. Tom was a relatively seasoned Coast Guard officer after four years at the Academy and six years climbing the ranks. The crime scene swarmed with town and state cops, but very quickly the FBI took control of the case. The Coast Guard never would have gotten involved if, the same night as the gallery heist, Tom’s vessel hadn’t performed what had seemed to be a relatively random boarding operation.

It was a Monday in mid-November, just before dusk. The sea off Montauk was dark and calm, the sky the color of a black pearl. Most of the New England yachts going south for the winter had left weeks earlier. Winter in the north Atlantic was nothing to mess with, and decent skippers knew that.

Tom was aboard
Nehantic
, a 270-foot cutter. Just a week before they’d had a successful narcotics operation and were still riding high from it. With a USCG helicopter hovering overhead, they had tracked a narco-sub, a semisubmersible reported to be stuffed with fifteen tons of cocaine.
Nehantic
had gone to battle stations, deployed two raid boats,
and gotten to the sub just in time to catch the crew preparing to scuttle. They’d arrested six smugglers and confiscated the coke and a cache of weapons before the vessel sank, and they’d become cartel-busting heroes in the media.

Then it was back to regular patrol. With a lull in November’s often stormy weather and no reports of smugglers, they had a run of easy days. Cruising off Montauk Point, Tom stood on the foredeck looking west and saw the orange line of sunset just above the horizon. When he turned east, the sky was darkening from slate gray into night, and for just a moment, he thought he glimpsed the silhouette of a large sailboat.

He raised the binoculars to his eyes. There it was again—backlit by the loom of Block Island. It was completely dark, no running lights. The mast was bare, no sails hoisted. He had a good look and estimated the boat’s length at sixty feet overall with a graceful shear and an elegant waterline. At first, he thought the boat was becalmed, but after a few seconds, he saw that it was underway, motoring at a slow speed.

Seconds after spotting the sailboat, he lost sight of it. The vessel passed Block Island into the open ocean, and with no light behind it, the silhouette dissolved. Although the last three days had been calm, a gale was forecast, and by dawn the Atlantic would be roaring.

Glasses held to his eyes, Tom radioed Luis Santiago, the deck watch officer, up on the bridge.

“Twenty degrees off the port bow,” Tom said. “A sailboat running south-southeast without lights. I had her but I lost her.”

“I got her on radar. A smuggler or just a goddamn idiot?” Luis asked.

“Going south is the wrong direction for smuggling drugs,” Tom said.

“Then check box number two. A goddamned idiot who missed the September exodus. His voyage to Saint Barts or wherever will have to wait. We’re going to ruin his night.”

Nehantic
sped toward the invisible boat and minutes later approached what appeared to be a ghost ship. The yacht glided across the glassy sea, its wake white and rippling in the floodlights of the cutter. Its transom was illuminated, and Tom read the name and port:
Rembrandt
, Newport, Rhode Island. The cockpit was empty, but the boat steamed along, obviously on autopilot.

“Yacht
Rembrandt
!” Luis said, his voice booming out the speaker. He didn’t have time to say anything else—two heads poked out of the companionway, and a man and woman scrambled up on deck.

“Hello!” the man called. “We’re fine! Everything’s okay.”

“Running lights,” Luis said.

“Oh, shit,” the man said. “Sorry—it got dark so fast we didn’t even notice. Flip them on, will you, Sally?”

And the yacht’s running lights—white masthead and stern lights, the red port and green starboard lights—came on. That should have been enough. Maybe a citation for ignoring rules of the road. It might have been stupid to be heading south in November, but it wasn’t illegal.

But in the spotlight’s glare, Tom spotted firearms, and not just any: just behind the nav station were two AK-47 assault rifles. They looked like the Chinese Norinco Type 56s they’d taken off the narco-sub a week before. The man glanced at Tom, noticed his line of vision, and inched toward the wheel, moving toward the guns. Tom drew his sidearm and pointed it at the captain and Sally.

“Hands up!” he said.

“You’re making a mistake,” the man said. “We’re heading south for the winter, and we . . .”

“Hands up!” Tom shouted. The man and Sally complied. The entire
Nehantic
crew had responded. Several crew members were standing along the port rail, weapons drawn and pointed at the two people aboard
Rembrandt
; others were hurrying down to the deck where Tom stood. A call was made to headquarters—a request for air-and-sea backup. The raid boat was readied and lowered. Tom led the boarding party.

They handcuffed and searched the two people on board
Rembrandt
—Joshua Anderson and his wife, Sally. Both had Glock 9s in hip holsters hidden beneath their red fleece jackets. The hands of both suspects were covered with deep scratches. Tom took photos of their hands to show that with the blood already coagulating and scabbing, the injuries couldn’t have been caused during the arrest.

The boarding team secured the weapons. The yacht was a Nautor Swan, one of the most luxurious and seaworthy production sailboats made. Tom heard Joshua babbling about pirates, how you can’t be too careful these days, how the Glocks and Chinese AKs were for self-defense, how the rules of the high seas were different, how boat invasions were just as deadly and prevalent as home invasions.

Tom scrambled down into the cabin. At first he thought the gold-framed museum-looking paintings on
Rembrandt
’s walnut-paneled walls were just part of the Swan’s decor. He spotted a thin edge of metal between two of the walnut panels and leaned closer to examine it. He wondered if it was a hinge, so he ran his hands over the wall, pressing as he went, and a door opened. Inside the secret compartment were at least ten more paintings in heavy gold frames and several canvases that looked as if they’d been sliced out of their frames.

He pulled out one of the framed paintings and propped it up on the chart table. It depicted a night scene of beauty and mystery. A large stone house was bathed in gauzy silver light. The moon glinted through dark-green leaves and illuminated a young girl dancing in the yard. The painting conveyed passion and urgency. The lower left corner was signed
B. Morrison
. Tom looked on the back of the painting. The canvas was protected by a sheet of brown paper. A yellowed card taped to the paper gave the painting’s title and other information:
Moonlight
by Benjamin Morrison, 1906.

Ever since the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston had been robbed in the early-morning hours of March 1990, New England law enforcement officers and military had been on the lookout for over
a dozen stolen works of art. Rumors had flown—they’d been stolen by the Irish mob to pay for guns; or a gang of drug dealers had ordered them stolen as ransom to have their leaders released from prison; or the old favorite ORDIAMITB theory:
One Rich Dude in a Mansion in the Bahamas
who wanted to keep the paintings in a locked room for only him to see.

One of the most important missing paintings was
The Storm on the Sea of Galilee
by Rembrandt van Rijn. Could
Rembrandt
, the name of the yacht, be a play on that? Tom wouldn’t know a Rembrandt from a Picasso, but
Moonlight
looked like it belonged in a museum, and the idea occurred to him. He told his theory to his commanding officer, and he figured that if there was anything to it—if the paintings had come from the Gardner—the FBI would take it from there.

But the source of the paintings was much more local. It hadn’t hit the news yet, but they had been stolen from the Harkness-Woodward Gallery earlier that day. And Tom’s brother had been first on the scene.

Glancing across the chopper, Tom knew that case had inaugurated Conor’s career and got him promoted to the Major Crime Squad. Conor was gripped by that long-ago case. He rarely talked about it, but Tom had seen a change in him after he’d rescued the sisters. He began drinking too much, and when Tom called him on it, Conor said he couldn’t sleep, that he figured scotch was better than sleeping pills. Eventually Conor had cut way back on the booze, but he’d never returned to the easygoing way he’d had before.

Tom knew Conor would never forget what he had seen in that basement, and right now Tom felt uneasy, wondering whether it could be clouding his judgment about Pete. He could read his brother’s mind, see the gears turning, and knew that Conor 100 percent wanted Pete for Beth’s murder.

There were overlaps, and Tom saw that it made logical sense to think that Pete could have been inspired by his father-in-law’s crime:
twenty-three years earlier a husband, although a hundred miles away, had set in motion a violent act that had caused his wife’s death.

Garth Woodward’s wife had died during the course of the crime, so the charge had been raised to felony murder. Some believed it hadn’t been an accident at all—that Garth had wanted Helen killed, had ordered the Andersons to make sure the gag was so tight she would choke, so he could collect insurance not only on the paintings but on her life.

Is that what Pete wanted too? To collect the insurance on Beth? Tom forgot to worry that Conor was rushing to judgment and watched his brother stare at his suspect with the unrelenting attention of a hungry panther tracking its prey.

Tom smiled at Pete Lathrop.

You’re in for it,
he thought.

7

It was hard to believe that just that morning, Kate had found her sister’s body. Every minute that ticked by took her farther away from Beth yet made the realization she was gone even more horrifying. Flying to Maine and back, trying to find anything halfway comforting to say to Sam, had filled the hours with heartbreak.

The kettle whistled, and Kate poured boiling water into Mathilda’s Blue Willow teapot. The scent of Earl Grey, Beth’s favorite tea, nearly knocked her over. Sam was wrapped in a blanket, watching TV. Kate had told her to keep the news turned off, but Sam wanted to see everything. Kate heard the somber voice of a newscaster broadcasting from outside her sister’s home at 45 Church Street, Black Hall.

Kate lived on the top floor of an 1833 warehouse on Bank Street in New London. Although gentrifying, the maritime neighborhood was still rugged. Bars had always lined the street, but now cafés and a hair salon had moved in. The sturdy granite Custom House with its Doric columns, now the New London Maritime Society’s museum, was next door.

The terrible day had turned to night. Late-afternoon summer light had blazed through skylights and tall windows, and now there was darkness. The Thames River with all its boat traffic flowed by. Train tracks ran along the riverbank. Two Orient Point ferries passed each other near the New London Harbor Light, exchanging short horn
blasts—everything reminding Kate that time was passing, more time without Beth.

Telling Sam about Beth had been unthinkable, a nightmare; Sam was still in shock. Now it was time to tell Lulu. The four of them—Kate and Lulu, Beth and Scotty—had been best friends forever, and Kate owed it to Lulu to make sure she heard it from her—no one else. But all her calls went straight to voice mail.

BOOK: Last Day
13.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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