The Tides of Memory by Sidney Sheldon

“But Billy was punished,” said Alexia. “He went to jail.”

“Fifteen years? In a comfortable, safe cell with three decent meals a day? Are you kidding me? That wasn’t punishment. That was a joke.” There was no mistaking the loathing in Lucy’s eyes. “I thought about shooting him in the head as soon as he got out of prison.” Her tone was totally deadpan. “But that was way too swift and painless. Do you know how long it takes a person to drown?”

Alexia shook her head.

“No? On average. Have a guess.”

“I don’t know.”

“Twenty-two minutes. That’s twenty-two minutes of blind terror poor little Nicko went through, praying, pleading for someone to rescue him. No way was his killer gonna get a clean death. He had to suffer, the way my family suffered, the way I suffered. He had to know what it felt like to lose everyone he loved, to lose a child. So . . .” She shrugged. “I had to wait. I waited for Billy Hamlin to get married, to have a child, to build a business. The bastard had to get a life before I could start to destroy it, the way he destroyed mine.”

Except he didn’t destroy yours! Alexia thought desperately. I did. Poor Billy never hurt you, or your family. He never hurt anyone. It was all me!

Lucy went on. “I watched him for years and years before anything happened. And life went on in the meantime. Arnie and I married. I had Summer. We bought the estate here. But I never lost sight of Billy Hamlin. Not for a day, not for an hour. Anyway, the Lord must have been looking out for me and helping me. Because around the time Billy was released, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one spying on Billy Hamlin. An Englishman by the name of Teddy De Vere was sniffing around him too. The PI I was using at the time was the one who first alerted me. If it hadn’t been for that”—she smiled—“I’d never have found you. I’d never have gotten to the truth. ‘And you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.’ John, Chapter Eight. ”

Alexia gasped. “The voice. The threatening phone calls. It was you!”

Lucy bowed theatrically. “You got there at last. Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Teddy. When I learned Teddy was in the private equity business, I found a way to set up a meeting between him and Arnie. I thought a business connection might help me figure out what this guy’s interest was in Nicko’s killer. But of course, it didn’t. I had no idea, and in the end I gave up trying to figure it out. The rest you pretty much know. Arnie and Teddy became friends. Teddy bought the house on Pilgrim. And you and I met. You could say it was fate.”

Alexia’s skin tingled with adrenaline. It was an odd sensation, a combination of physical fear—Lucy’s gun was still directed at her head—and intellectual excitement. Every word Lucy told her was like a puzzle piece slotting into place. A sick puzzle. A terrifying puzzle. But the satisfaction of solving it remained.

From her position on the cliff edge, Alexia could see the rocky path down to the cove more clearly. It was steeper than she’d first thought, and more treacherous. The only possible escape would be to return the way they’d come, through the moorland brush. But that would involve getting past Lucy and somehow disarming her before she had a chance to shoot. There was no way.

I’m trapped.

Bizarrely, this realization made Alexia relax. The certainty that she was going to die here, in this spot, emboldened her. She needed to know the truth, the whole truth, before she left this world.

“So it was you who drove Billy out of business?”

“Of course. That was just the start.”

“And Arnie knew nothing about it?”

“Not a thing. I’m the primary shareholder in HM Capital, not Arnie. HM is short for ‘Handemeyer,’ by the way. I guess your little foray into Internet research didn’t get you that far.”

No. It didn’t.

Somewhere behind them, in the moorland, a twig cracked. Both women froze. Alexia contemplated screaming for help, but she knew if she did that, Lucy might shoot. It wasn’t death itself that frightened her, as much as dying before she knew the truth, before Lucy had finished her story.

“Down!” Lucy whispered, pointing at the shingle path with her gun.

“It’s too dangerous,” Alexia whispered back. “We’ll fall.”

Lucy released the safety catch on her gun with a faint but audible click. “Down,” she repeated.”

Alexia crawled toward the cliff.

Officer Brian Sullivan read the letter. He’d seen suicide notes before. But nothing quite like this. If any piece of Lucy Meyer’s confession was true, any one piece of it, the Martha’s Vineyard Police Department was way out of its depth.

He told Arnie Meyer, “We’ll need help. Helicopters. Dogs. I’m gonna have to call Boston. You’ve no idea where they are, you say?”

Arnie shook his head helplessly. He was clearly still in shock.

“But it was somewhere to the north of the island?”

“Yes. Lucy knows those paths like the back of her hand, but it’s a maze out there. Summer’s already gone out to look for them, but I haven’t heard from her.”

Officer Brian Sullivan looked alarmed. “Your daughter went after them alone?”

“I couldn’t stop her.” Arnie Meyer started to cry.

Alexia lost her footing, gasping as the scree and talus crumbled beneath her. Instinctively she clutched at the rock face to her left. Behind her, Lucy Meyer did the same.

“Keep going!”

It was unnecessary advice. The “path” above them, such as it was, had already flaked away to almost nothing. Even if Alexia somehow overpowered Lucy, she’d have no way to get back up the cliff now. Once the tides rose, the cove would be flooded. The only way out would be to swim, but the currents on this side of the island were lethal.

Alexia tried not to think about it as she scrambled down the bank, falling the last ten feet onto the sand and twisting her ankle painfully. She let out a sharp cry.

“Be quiet!” hissed Lucy. Sliding down after Alexia, she landed comfortably on her feet, her pistol still clasped firmly in her hand. They were completely hidden from view now, tucked beneath the overhang of the cliffs. While Alexia shuffled backward, dragging her legs painfully across the sand, Lucy resumed her earlier monologue.

“By the time I was ready to act against Billy Hamlin, he was already getting divorced. He’d destroyed his marriage on his own. So the next thing to destroy was the business.”

Alexia had her back against the cliff now, pressed to the smooth stone. Her ankle throbbed, but if she kept it still, the pain was bearable. She focused on what Lucy was saying.

“I figured I’d start small, then move on to the things and people Billy really cared about.”

“Like Milo Bates?”

“Like Milo Bates.”

“So you did kill Milo?”

“Not personally.” Lucy smiled. “I weigh a hundred pounds. Milo Bates was a big man, bigger than Arnie. But I arranged his death, yes.”

It was like listening to Teddy talking about Andrew Beesley’s murder. Lucy seemed to have no remorse at all.

“But Milo Bates was completely innocent,” said Alexia. “He had a family of his own. A wife and three children.”

“DON’T YOU DARE PREACH TO ME!” Lucy roared. “No friend of Billy Hamlin was innocent. Bates knew about Billy’s conviction. He knew what that bastard had done. But he still went into business with him.” She took a few deep breaths, eventually regaining her composure. “Milo Bates’s death was strike one. It was actually very easy. Even kidnapping Billy afterward, showing him the tape of what we did to his friend . . . Hamlin was so paranoid by then. A few phone calls, a little pressure on his business, that was really all it took. By the time he told the cops what we did to Milo, no one believed a word he said.”

She said it with pride.

Alexia thought, You’re insane. Completely insane.

“What about Jennifer Hamlin? I’m assuming you killed her too?”

“I’m getting to that,” said Lucy. “You really must learn to be patient, Toni.”

Alexia recoiled. Even now, she hated being called by that name.

“So, Hamlin had lost his wife. He’d lost his business. And he’d lost his only real friend. But there had to be something more. I’d looked into his birth family years earlier, but they were all dead. His father passed away shortly after the trial, and he had no mother or siblings. There was his child, of course, Jennifer. But I wanted losing his daughter to be the grand finale, the last thing the son of a bitch suffered before his own death. It wasn’t her time yet. I needed someone else.”

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon