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Authors: Richard Madeley

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‘Yes,’ he nodded, hugging his knees again. ‘He abducts them, always in the evening. The local police think he uses something such as chloroform to take them and to keep them
quiet. He hides them somewhere for a few hours, and then he moves them down to the water.’

‘By which you mean the sea?’ Stella interrupted again.

‘The ocean of course, yes.’

‘Why do they believe he does that?’

‘He likes peace and quiet, they think. No one’s out there at that time of night. He steals a shallow-draught boat, usually a small skiff, so he can get right out into the mangrove
swamps. Once he’s there he lets them come round before he . . .’ He regarded Stella cautiously. ‘Of course, I don’t have the entire picture just yet. All this is still
coming in to us here.’

‘Please don’t pussyfoot around. Just tell me everything you know. Isn’t that why you got me in here?’

Jack chuckled softly. ‘That’s you told off, Bobby.’

Stella wheeled round. ‘I
beg
your pardon
?’

‘Ah, nothing.’ The President suddenly became fascinated by the activity on the beach outside.

His brother didn’t smile. ‘I’ll tell you the little I do know, Miss Arnold – but I honestly haven’t received anything like a full briefing yet.’ He made a
vague gesture. ‘We’ve been running to catch up here.’

‘Of course . . . look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound rude just now. And I do wish you’d call me Stella.’

‘I’ll try to remember . . . anyway . . .’ Bobby took a deep breath. ‘It’s pretty much the death of a thousand cuts, apparently. He keeps them tied up while he takes
some sort of knife to them.’

Stella nodded. ‘And the wounds are always the same, aren’t they? On all four of his victims, I mean.’

‘So I’m told. But you’ll see the police photographs, of course, if you agree to go down there for us.’

Stella looked surprised.

‘What do you mean, “if ”? Of course I’m going down there. This is absolutely fascinating.’

The brothers exchanged glances.

‘You must understand, Stella,’ Bobby said after a moment, ‘that you wouldn’t have any kind of, ah,
official
role in any of this. It would have to be completely
informal. You’d be working with but
under
a senior FBI agent. And you wouldn’t be placed in the slightest danger. You’d be there as a special advisor, working in the
background. I hope that’s clear to you.’

Stella brooded for a few moments, hardly listening to him. She absently stroked one bare arm and contemplated the floor. ‘You’re right,’ she said at last, looking up again.
‘I suppose I should save my detailed questions for when I get to Florida. But just tell me a couple more things now, if you can. It’ll be a big help to me in arranging my thoughts on
the way down there. How exactly does he kill them, at the very end?’

Bobby looked sidelong at his brother, who gave an imperceptible shrug.

‘Well, OK . . . it’s a knife to the heart. But only after he’s put them through unmitigated hell.’

‘Does he gag them?’

‘No.’

‘Ah. He likes to listen, then.’ Stella chewed her bottom lip. ‘Anything else of significance?’

Bobby Kennedy nodded.

‘I was coming to that, Miss Arn— Stella.’ He drew a long breath, tilting his head back while he exhaled.

‘Yes. He leaves what you might call, ah, a very personal signature.’

16

That night Stella lay up to her chin in soapy water in her bath at the wood-framed house on Bancroft Road. The bathroom door was open so she could talk to Sylvia, who was
stretched out on Stella’s bed.

She’d have tomorrow to pack. She wouldn’t be leaving Massachusetts until Tuesday, it had been decided. After the Secret Service radio car had been fixed, Bobby had spent a good
quarter of an hour speaking to various agencies, organising the background checks on her and making arrangements on the assumption she would be duly verified and approved for purpose.

‘You realise you were alone with them in that beach house for twenty minutes?’ Sylvia was saying. ‘Dad says ambassadors, potentates and kings get less than that.
Twenty
minutes!
What on earth were you talking about for all that time? Come on, you can tell me now we’re safe at home.’

Stella sighed. ‘Honestly, I can’t, Sylvia, not yet, anyway. I explained on the way back here that they were very clear with me about that.’

‘Hmm . . . well, I’ll let you off for now. But come on, at least you can tell me who you thought was the more attractive? Bobby’s always done it for me. He looks like
such
a beach boy.’

Stella considered the question carefully.

‘Yes . . . I know what you mean. Bobby has the youth and all that fizzing energy. He’s stunningly good-looking too – it doesn’t come across on the TV or on the newsreels
where he always looks so thin and serious, and even a bit nervous, but in the flesh . . . yes, he’s quite something, I agree.’

‘And his big brother?’

‘Hmm . . . of the two of them, he’s got more . . . I don’t know if you use this expression over here, Sylvia, but in England we call it sex appeal.’

‘Of course we say that too! But why JFK more than Bobby?’

‘Oh, I don’t know . . . he’s extraordinarily self-possessed and confident and obviously very good-looking, but there’s something else there . . . I suppose it’s all
tied up with power. He exudes it, but not in a horrible, knowing way, like some men do. He almost seems unaware of it. It’s very, very male and very, very seductive. Especially when
it’s just the two of you in the same room.’

‘What? I thought you were with both of them the whole time?’

‘No, Bobby went outside for five minutes – to get beers for us, would you believe. The United States Attorney General getting the drinks in! So it was me and the President in there
for a short while.’

Sylvia seemed to be struggling to speak. Eventually she spluttered: ‘Oh my God! With his reputation! What would you have done if he’d made a pass at you, Stella?’

‘I dread to think,’ she answered calmly. ‘But he wasn’t like that with me, not at all. I felt completely safe with him, all the time . . . anyway, can we change the
subject, please? As long as it’s not back to questions about what they wanted to talk to me about.’

Sylvia settled more comfortably on the bed.

‘Oh, I know exactly what was going on, really. I’ve merely been toying with you, my dear.’

‘Oh
really
? Enlighten me.’

‘It’s obvious. You’re a British spy, aren’t you? You’ve been unmasked, and now they’ve . . . what’s the expression . . . oh yes . . . they’ve
TURNED you. You’re working for us as a double-agent now.’

Stella exploded with laughter. ‘I only wish my life were that exciting,’ she said. ‘But honestly, Sylvia, it’s no use. I can’t say a solitary word about it, not to
you, not to your parents, not to anyone. That’s been made crystal clear to me. After the Kennedys left, I had the most horrible conversation with one of those Secret Service men . . . or
maybe he was from the FBI, I don’t really know, he only showed me his identity card for a split second and then it was back inside his jacket.’

‘What was so horrible about him?’

‘His crew-cut, to start with. Ridiculous on a man his age. But basically, he threatened me. He said if I breathed a word to a living soul about my conversation with the Kennedys I’d
regret it for the rest of my days. I almost felt like retracting my offer to help them.’

Stella heard the creak of the mattress and the swish of Sylvia’s legs against the sheets as the younger girl sat bolt upright on the bed.

‘A-
ha
! Gotcha! Your first slip, Miss Superspy! So, you’ve offered to help them, have you? Now we’re getting somewhere! Help with
what
, exactly?’

A weary groan floated from the bathroom, followed by the sounds of a sharp intake of breath and swirling water and bubbles as Stella submerged herself completely beneath the water.

Two mornings later she stood with her hosts on the front porch of the house on Bancroft Road. A shiny black sedan was parked against the kerb, its dark-suited driver behind the
wheel. He had already silently and effortlessly carried Stella’s bulging suitcase down the front path and deposited it in the trunk.

Sylvia nodded appreciatively at the car. ‘The McKewans on Franklin have just got one exactly the same. It’s an Oldsmobile Dynamic, right, Dad? Brand new, too. That one there’s
got
to be FBI.’ She began to hop up and down on one leg.

‘I
knew
it,’ she continued. ‘It’s obvious. Stella’s going to be an FBI special age—’

‘Hush, Sylvia,’ her father said, with a crispness that Stella hadn’t heard in his voice before. ‘You were bad enough during the drive back on Sunday, let alone at supper
last night. Enough now. Stella’s under a direct presidential order to say nothing. This isn’t a joke, or a game.’

Sylvia subsided, muttering under her breath.

Jeb turned to Stella. ‘Can you at least tell us when you’ll be back?’

She shook her head. ‘I honestly haven’t a clue. I hope it’s before the fall, though. I’d hate to miss my first term at Smith. I haven’t even had time to look around
the campus, yet. But in any event I’ll be well behind in my preparations for next term because of this.’

Dorothy smiled. ‘They’ll understand. They can make allowances. Anyway, we’ll speak to your faculty head for you. Not that there’s much we can tell them . . . all this
secrecy . . .’

A thought suddenly occurred to her.

‘Oh my goodness. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before. What about your mother? Can you write to Diana about any of it?’

Stella nodded. ‘I think so. A little. I asked old Crew-Cut the same question yesterday and he said provided I don’t go into any specific details I can at least tell her I’m
going away on official US government business. But I have to hand over any letters I write to his lot to be censored first. I suppose I’ll write something to my mother on the plane later on
the way down to—’

There was an awkward silence before Stella closed her eyes and shook her head in despair.

‘Oh God, I’m hopeless at this, aren’t I? I wasn’t even supposed to tell you I’m flying anywhere, and now I just have.’

‘Don’t worry, honey, we didn’t hear a thing,’ Jeb smiled, nudging her conspiratorially.

The Oldsmobile’s horn sounded.

‘Well . . .’

The Rockfairs crowded around Stella, taking turns to hug and kiss her.

‘We’ll see you when we see you, I guess,’ Dorothy said, giving her a final squeeze. ‘Call or write when you’re allowed, even if it’s only to let us know
you’re safe.’

‘I will, I promise,’ Stella replied, suddenly feeling absurdly emotional. ‘You’ve all been so lovely to me and I’ve only been here a few days. I’ve learned so
much about life here in America in less than a week.’

‘You’re not the only one,’ Jeb said drily as he took her arm and walked her to the waiting car. ‘I’ve learned
never
to introduce any of my house guests to
the Kennedy boys so soon again. Especially if they’re as beautiful as you. Clearly, it’s just asking for trouble.’

He opened the car’s rear door for her and placed both his hands gently on her shoulders.

‘Good luck, Stella. We’ll be thinking of you every day. Come home safe to us.’

A few moments later, the government car was taking her away from the house on Bancroft and the Rockfairs were dwindling into the distance, still waving to her. Her passenger window seemed to be
locked shut so she flapped her hand as best she could behind the car’s oddly thick rear window.

The Oldsmobile pulled smoothly round the corner and Stella settled slowly back into her seat.

All at once, she felt utterly alone.

What on earth had she allowed herself to be dragged into?

17

He was puzzled. He had to admit it.

He’d expected the newspapers to reveal the technique he was using to take the girls. The nails, the chloroform.

The cops must have worked it out by now. They would have found the peaches’ abandoned cars – he hadn’t bothered to hide them, even if there had been the time – and
everything would have been obvious. Number two would have strongly suggested how he was taking them; number three would have confirmed it beyond a doubt.

But after the fourth – which one headline had labelled:
‘INFAMY IN ISLAMORADA’
(he’d liked that; it sounded classy) – there was still no mention of how
he was grabbing them; what one puffed-up senior cop had called the ‘modus operandi’.

He’d picked up a
Keys Courier AND
a
Miami Herald
on the way in to work this morning and sure enough, number four was front-page news in both, but even though he
combed through the main articles, and a feature piece inside the
Courier
headlined
‘PSYCHO SICKO’
– which was plain dumb, not to mention insulting – there
was squat diddly about how he picked the peaches from their trees.

That bothered him.

He signed in at the office, grabbed the keys for his usual cab from the duty pegboard, and went outside again to the pound.

He wasn’t sure where to start his shift today. The supervisor left that kind of stuff up to the boys to decide. He was sorely tempted to drive south to upmarket Cheeca Lodge in
Islamorada itself. That way he could swing right by the spot he’d been watching from the diner’s window yesterday.

He decided against it. His waitress was giving him some mighty funny looks by the time he left – he’d been at the same table for nearly three hours, watching the increasingly
frantic comings and goings outside – and the cops might now have set up a checkpoint where the dirt road peeled off Route 1. Not that that bothered him, at least not now, at this early stage.
But it was going to be a long game and he didn’t want his face to stick in a watchful cop’s mind as the guy who always seemed to be hanging around the scene of the crime. That was how
you got yourself caught, if you were stupid.

BOOK: The Way You Look Tonight
8.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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