Whiplash, p.1Part #14 of FBI Thriller series by Catherine Coulter
Also by Catherine Coulter
The FBI Thrillers
Double Jeopardy (2008):
The Target and The Edge
Double Take (2007)
The Beginning (2005):
The Cove and The Maze
Point Blank (2005)
Eleventh Hour (2002)
Hemlock Bay (2001)
The Edge (1999)
The Target (1998)
The Maze (1997)
The Cove (1996)
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Copyright © 2010 by Catherine Coulter
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Whiplash / Catherine Coulter.
1. United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation-Fiction.
2. Savich, Dillon (Fictitious character)-Fiction.
3. Sherlock, Lacey (Fictitious character)-Fiction.
4. Murder-Investigation-Fiction. I. Title.
PS3553.0843W47 2010 2010009114
Printed in the United States of America
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Book design by Amanda dewey
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Table of Contents
I would like to thank:
Lisa Amoroso for yet another incredible jacket.
Karen Evans for her excellent discrepancy-spotting in the manuscript.
Dorian Hastings for all her excellent catches in copyediting.
Chris Pepe for her special enthusiasm about this book.
Erin Vollmer for always keeping all the balls in the air.
I'm very lucky to have you all in my corner. Thank you very much.
To a great group of women:
I'm glad you're in my life.
STONE BRIDGE, CONNECTICUT
Late Sunday night
Erin used her third-generation lock picks. She knew each one intimately, having successfully, and in excellent time, learned to unlock by the age of six and a half whatever her father hid under her pillow. Her hands didn't shake, though her heart felt like it would pound out of her chest. Crouching in a dark maintenance closet for three hours with two bottles of water and a PayDay candy bar hadn't been fun, but surely it wasn't all that illegal. What she was doing now, though, it was the real deal. She wasn't just twisting the law, she was stomping on it. She was breaking and entering. She could go to jail for the rest of her youth, which would be a real shame since she hadn't yet produced the fourth generation of lock pickers.
It wasn't the first time she'd gone through the back door to make things right for a client, but she prayed with all her heart it would be the last. Maybe if she'd been able to speak to the CEO, Caskie Royal, if only she could have tried to reason with him-no, that was a load of bull.
The lock snicked open. She slid her grandfather's picks back into the pocket of her black jacket, checked the corridor both ways, and opened the door just enough so she could slip inside the CEO's office. She turned on her penlight to get the lay of the land. It was a large square room, business-opulent, she'd call it, with a rich dark burgundy leather sofa, a love seat, and a huge matching chair with ottoman. A fine antique mahogany desk dominated the office. She flicked off the penlight, locked the door, and walked to the wall-wide window behind the desk, to make sure no one was out there. Mr. Royal had a lovely view of a large parklike lawn, now moonlit, lined with plants still bursting with blooms at the very end of summer. The maple and oak woods behind the lawn stretched a good quarter of a mile into Van Wie Park. Since she didn't see a single soul out there, she didn't close the draperies. She stepped to the computer sitting on the big desk and turned it on.
Of course it was pass-coded, but she was prepared for that. Her list had failed her only once, but that was years ago, and she started in on it now. Number 3 on her list-his third wife's birthday, that was the o
She was in. Thanks, Adler.
She began searching his files. She felt queasy and ignored it. Get it done, get it done. If you're caught and go to trial, maybe the jury won't convict you given what these greedy yahoos are doing unless you get a crappy lawyer-there it was, no doubt at all in her mind-a file titled "Project A."
She began reading what were obviously Caskie Royal's notes on what Schiffer Hartwin was doing with the drug Culovort. He'd detailed his instructions complete with a To Do list, all neatly bulleted, beginning with the near shutdown of Culovort production at the U.S. Schiffer Hartwin manufacturing laboratory, Cartwright Labs, in Bartonville, Missouri. Next came instructions to their distribution plant, Rexol, also in Bartonville.
She was so deep into disbelief at what she was reading, it took her a moment before her brain processed the sound of a car driving around to the back of the building, right beneath the big window of the CEO's office. She dashed to the window and looked down to see a big silver Lexus. It was Caskie Royal's car.
What was he doing here, late on a Sunday night?
Doesn't matter, he's here. If he caught her, she'd soon be wearing a neon yellow jumpsuit, PI license or not. She plugged in a flash drive, and ran into another password, this one corporate. He's here, he's here. No choice. She pressed Print File and watched as page after page flowed out of the high-speed printer.
She hadn't checked the file size. What if there were a zillion pages? What if what she needed to have didn't print out in time-no, she had some time, it would be all right. Even Mr. Royal had to stop by the guard in the lobby and sign in before coming up.
The printer stopped. Thank goodness there were only nineteen pages in all. She quickly slid the pages inside her black jacket, zipped it up tight, turned off the printer, slipped the flash drive into her pocket, and closed down the computer. She straightened the chair, checked to see it all looked the way it had when she'd come in, and hurried to the office door to listen. She heard voices at the end of the long corridor. Royal and a woman coming her way.
It was time for Plan B. Always have a Plan B, her father had drummed into her head, and she had one. It sounded like they were arguing. She pressed her ear against the door, heard the woman say clearly, "I still can't believe you've made me a part of this, Caskie. What do we need it for?"
"Carla, the money is rolling in so fast there's barely time to even count it. They're looking at a windfall profit of about, conservatively, one and a half billion dollars. They've already racked up nearly a billion in sales in the last six months. And it's a freebee, like manna from heaven."
"It's unethical and you know it. And it's dangerous and illegal."
"Just back me up on this one, and I'll see to it you get a six-figure bonus in your pocket, Carla. And don't fret. There's no danger here, nothing bad can happen."
His voice was impatient. "You gotta admit, with Culovort off patent, the profits are hardly enough to fill a nut cup. What is it? Fifteen bucks a chemo session? Fifteen bucks? Get real. It'll take the FDA so long to get their act together, we'll all have cashed in before the pressure's too great. And so far, you know as well as I do there's hardly been any pressure at all, just a letter of inquiry from the FDA and a couple of newspaper articles about the shortage."
They were coming closer. That wasn't good, but she couldn't help herself, she stayed at the door. What a bit of luck, good and bad. It had to be Carla Alvarez, the production manager. So Carla hadn't been part of it for long, but she wouldn't blow the whistle, either.
"Hey, babe, let's forget this stuff. You look so hot I can't wait to put my mouth on you."
Good grief, Alvarez and Royal? Lovers? She hadn't picked up a whiff of that when she'd done her research on Royal and his management team. Did anyone else know?
Carla said, "Maybe it won't take the FDA long to jump on Schiffer Hartwin. You'd have to be an idiot to believe the shortage of Culovort is just poor planning and-how did they put it-connected to an expansion of our production facilities? Couldn't they come up with a more believable excuse? Aren't they worried we'll soon be hated as much as bankers?"
They were close now, not ten feet from his office door. Any moment they'd be waltzing in, headed toward that big leather sofa. "That's the beauty of it," she heard him say, chuckling, "Even if it's our production and distribution labs in Missouri that are having the expansion problems, it's Schiffer Hartwin who'll get all the blowback, if there is any-and they're way the hell over in Germany. Carla, stop worrying about it tonight. We don't have that much time-"
"But what about-"
There was a whoof of surprise from the woman, the sound of scuffling, then a low moan.
She heard hard breathing, a suck-air kiss, and raunchy groaning. Evidently the time for business talk was past, a pity. She'd studied the floor plans, knew her escape route if disaster struck. Disaster was readying itself to strike in under a minute unless they decided to have sex against a corridor wall. She ran to the adjoining bathroom, slipped inside, and quietly closed the door again. She stepped into the glass-block shower and looked up at a small window near the top that had looked larger and lower on the plans. How the devil would she get up there? She heard the office door open.
She sucked in a deep breath and jumped. She managed to grab the windowsill with one hand, the window latch with the other, and pulled herself up. The window was cracked open enough for her to grab the rough stone edge of the building outside the bathroom window. She shoved at the latch with her other hand, but the sucker didn't budge. Not good. As her heart thumped louder and faster, she heard her father's voice in her head, "When you're butt-deep in trouble, you focus and you get it done." She shoved as hard as she could on that latch, once, twice. The window flew outward.
She eyeballed the opening above her. It wasn't very wide, but on the other hand, thank the good Lord and the gym, she wasn't either.
She heard Royal and Carla Alvarez fumbling with each other not twenty feet away, laughing, kissing, sex-walking, she knew, toward that sofa. She had to be quiet.
She got both hands outside, one on the edge of the outside wall, the other on the window frame, and pulled herself up and through the opening. She hung upside down, looking at bushes a galaxy away.
She heard Caskie Royal say something, then his footsteps coming toward the bathroom.
No choice. She wiggled through and did a lovely tuck into the bushes.
She landed on her shoulder, the shrubbery cushioning her fall, and lay there, breathing slowly, querying her body parts. She was okay, she hoped.
She turned her head and looked up. Would he notice the wide-open window? Would he wonder? Would he be suspicious?
With her luck, he and Carla would probably take a pre-sex shower. She heard them still laughing and talking, coming closer. The shower was small, but not that small.
She rolled off the bush, bent nearly double, and took off running toward the dark woods of Van Wie Park at the back of Schiffer Hartwin's American headquarters.
She ran faster when she heard a yell coming from the bathroom.
Okay, so they knew someone had gone through the window, but they'd have no clue who it had been. It was okay. The cops would want to know if anything had been taken. Royal would search his files and see the date stamp on the Project A file. He'd know someone had read it. Would he know it had been copied? Would he tell the cops? No, he couldn't risk it. On
For that, she couldn't wait.
She hoped it scared the crap out of him.
If the cops were called in, they'd know only one thing for sure. The thief was a small boy or a female, because no male over the age of twelve could have squeezed through that window.
Once inside the Van Wie Park woods, she went down on her knees, sucked in air, and looked back. Lights now flooded the bathroom and the office.
She heard what she hoped was a cop car screech into the parking lot in front of the building. In that moment she knew the guard had called the cops, not Caskie. What are you going to say, Caskie?
She was grinning as she ran through the trees and out the back to the back road that led to the main highway that ran through Stone Bridge. No sex for the wicked tonight, Caskie.
With the cops there, Caskie would have to go on record. On record with what, that was the question. He'd also have to explain to his wife what he was doing in his office late on a lovely Sunday night with Carla Alvarez.
Once she'd hiked half a mile to her baby, a muscular light blue Hummer H3, she fastened her seat belt and turned the ignition. She loved the sound of the powerful engine. She drove slowly down the road for a bit, realized her heart was still pumping too fast and her hands were still shaking. She pulled over to get herself some time to calm down. She sat back, closed her eyes, and thought back to her client, Dr. Edward Kender, professor of archaeology at Yale in New Haven. He'd been a friend of her father's, someone she'd known from her earliest years. Dr. Kender wasn't an emotional man, but she could imagine him grinning from ear to ear in excitement when he read the Culovort files she had tucked in her jacket, as he recognized the power the contents of the files gave him. The media blitz could even force Schiffer Hartwin to start up full production of Culovort again. She'd done good.
It was because he'd known her father that he'd come to her small office the previous Wednesday afternoon. It was nearly three years since she'd seen him, since her father's funeral in fact. He'd arrived unannounced at her small office on Birch Street in Stone Bridge, and told her that, just like her father, his father was undergoing chemotherapy, not for the lung cancer that had killed her father, but for Stage 4 colon cancer. In the middle of it all, he'd been told by his oncologist that the supply of Culovort had been drastically cut. Dr. Kender didn't know what she could do to help him, but he'd been trying to pressure Schiffer Hartwin Pharmaceutical to start up full production of Culovort again.
Whiplash by Catherine Coulter / Mystery & Detective / History & Fiction / Thrillers & Crime / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes