The Secret of the Villa Mimosa

BOOK: The Secret of the Villa Mimosa
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THEY WERE LOOKING FOR ANSWERS IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES.

DR. PHYL FORSTER
—At thirty-seven she was at the top of her form, secure, successful—and lonely. Until Bea led her into the past—and desire blinded her to danger …

DETECTIVE FRANCO MAHONEY
—He was the perfect macho cop, with the soul of a poet and the palate of a chef. Nothing could divert him from the trail of a killer—until he met Dr. Phyl …

BEA FRENCH
—It was the name she gave herself when she could remember no other. Amnesia—and Dr. Phyl—were her only shelter, until a letter from beyond the grave awakened the terror again …

NICK LASCELLES
—He was the answer to Bea’s dreams, a writer researching a book on crime on the Riviera, a man to protect her—even as he dug up skeletons from her past …

BRAD KANE
—Tall, blond, and gorgeous, the Hawaii tycoon was looking for the perfect wife. Until he saw Phyl and knew she was destined to be his …

By Elizabeth Adler

LÉONIE
PEACH
THE RICH SHALL INHERIT
THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
FORTUNE IS A WOMAN
LEGACY OF SECRETS
THE SECRET OF THE VILLA MIMOSA
NOW OR NEVER
SOONER OR LATER

For my sisters
Dorothy and Irene

and my brother-in-law
Peter

and for my father and Ken
with love

Heaven from all creatures hides the book of fate.
—A
LEXANDER
P
OPE
,
An Essay on Man

Surely there are in everyone’s life certain connections, twists and turns which pass awhile under the category of Chance, but at the last, well examined, prove to be the very Hand of God.
—S
IR
T
HOMAS
B
ROWNE
,
Religio Medici

Prologue

T
he man was blond, tall, and definitely handsome, with the kind of well-muscled body that looked as good in clothes as you knew it would out of them. He parked the rented automobile—a white Lincoln Town Car, not the Ferrari or even the sporty Jeep Cherokee that you might have expected from one with his cool, slightly arrogant attitude—at the arrivals area of the San Francisco airport, then glanced impatiently at his watch. The evening flight from Honolulu was late, and parking for more than a few minutes was risky. He might be noticed, moved on by the traffic cop, given a ticket. He strode quickly into the arrivals building and checked the flight information screen. The plane had landed five minutes earlier.

Outside again, he leaned against the car, hands thrust into his pockets, watching the doors. He smiled when at last he saw her. Her soft dark copper hair swished around her shoulders as she headed for the taxi line. She didn’t even notice him, didn’t hear his footsteps as he came up from behind. He heard her gasp as she felt the quick prick of the needle in her arm. Her terrified brown eyes recognized him, and he
smiled at her. With scarcely a sound she slumped into his arms and was bundled easily into the backseat of the waiting automobile.

He quickly flung a blanket over her, slipped into the driver’s seat, and pulled into the line of traffic crawling toward the city. He shrugged and lit a cigarette. What the hell, he had plenty of time. In fact he had time to kill.

Forty minutes later he parked the car on Battery, stepped out, opened the back door, and looked at the girl. He checked her pulse and lifted her eyelids. She was out for the count. No trouble from her. He pushed her onto the floor, covered her with the blanket, and locked the car. Then he lit a cigarette and strolled casually around the corner to Il Fornaio.

The brasserie was crowded. The noise bounced from the walls as he pushed his way through to a seat at the counter, ordered a Carta Blanca and a small pizza with mozzarella, anchovies, olives, and capers. While he waited he checked the basketball scores in the
Examiner.
He had another beer with the pizza. Then, because he never could deny his sweet tooth, he ordered a tiramisu.

“That’s about as close to heaven as a dessert can get.” The young woman sitting next to him smiled. “I can never resist it myself,” she admitted.

She took a sip of her margarita. Her hair was red and shoulder length, and she was about the same age as the girl he had just left, drugged and unconscious, in his automobile. He shrugged and called for his check. “Once in a while is okay.”

She had given him an opening, and he could sense her waiting, but he turned away, heading for the cash register by the door. He felt her curious eyes on him, heard her laugh, sensing the so-who-cares shrug of the shoulders that accompanied it. She was pretty and she wasn’t used to rejection. It was just that tonight she had picked on the wrong guy.

He unlocked the car, lifted the blanket covering the girl, and checked her again. She was still out, so he climbed into the driver’s seat and eased the car into the traffic on Embarcadero. He knew exactly the spot he was heading for, but it was still too early—too much traffic, too many people, too many lights.

He cruised slowly through town, looping back on himself several times, finally heading north through subdivisions, past an area of elegant estates, past a golf course, up to where the road ran along the edge of a steep, wooded ravine.

He stopped the car and pulled the girl off the floor. She lolled against him and he cursed her dead weight as he half carried, half dragged her through the trees until he stood in a small clearing on the edge of the ravine. The fog had disappeared. A three-quarter moon illuminated the rocks and scrubby trees and, far below, the tumbling stream that wound its way along the bottom. He hesitated, thinking longingly of the gun in his pocket. But it had to look like an accident. This was the only way.

He lifted the girl to her feet. He held her in his arms for a second until he got his balance. Then, with all his weight, he thrust her over the edge into the abyss.

She made no sound. She didn’t even know what happened.

The moon went behind the clouds and the fog rolled back, winding ghostly tendrils around him as he strained to hear the sound of her fall. With a pleased whoosh of expelled breath he turned and felt his way through the trees to the car, then drove slowly through the dense fog, back to the sumptuous anonymity of his suite in one of the city’s finest hotels.

1

H
omicide Detective Franco Mahoney of the San Francisco Police Department watched impassively as the men from the Fire Department Rescue Services clambered down Mitchell’s Ravine toward the girl’s body. Not that you could see much of her, just her foot in a red sandal and her arm sticking up through the underbrush that had stopped her fall but failed to save her life. Now she would be just another statistic on the unsolved homicide list. He had seen it all before, but now he had a job to do. He had to find her killer.

He glanced at his watch. It was 8:00
A.M.
His shift was just finishing, and he thought longingly of the other, luckier guys, heading wearily for home or for breakfast at the diner on Brannan, talking over the night’s mayhem or maybe just talking dirty, letting off steam. It had been a long night: the usual drug killing in an alley; a stabbing in a squalid tenement room with more blood from the tiny Chinese victim than he had ever seen in a butcher’s shop; and a body of a man tossed out onto the highway and run over several times before he was discovered and found to have been shot. The call about the girl in Mitchell’s Ravine had come at
7:34. It was his turn, his bad luck at the tail end of the shift. Some nights he wondered if he had done the right thing, becoming a cop.

He sighed as he surveyed the clearing at the edge of the ravine. It was crowded with guys from the Fire and Public Health departments as well as the paramedics, the medical examiner, the lab technicians, and the TV news crews, plus all their equipment: cables, winches, ladders, stretchers, oxygen tanks, drips, and cameras. The damp grassy clearing was now a sea of mud.

There had been just enough time to look around and assess that there was no sign of a struggle before the rescue services arrived, and by now any vital clues had disappeared, churned into the mud.

BOOK: The Secret of the Villa Mimosa
4.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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