Promise Not to Tell(6)

By: Jayne Ann Krentz

“Generally speaking, we keep our little conspiracy theory a family secret,” Cabot added. “We’ve learned the hard way that it gives other people a bad impression. They tend to regard our interest in Quinton Zane as an unhealthy obsession.”

“Anything connected to Quinton Zane is, by definition, unhealthy,” Virginia said. “But just so you know, I share your obsession.”

“We’re listening,” Cabot said.

He angled himself onto the corner of Anson’s desk, one foot braced on the floor, and peeled the plastic lid off his coffee. His movements were deceptively relaxed. He had no doubt been born with that fluid coordination, Virginia thought. But his actions were infused with an aura of control and power that told her he had worked to hone his natural talent.

Mentally she did the math and concluded that Cabot was in his early thirties, two or three years older than she was. The tall, lanky boy with the very serious eyes had matured into the kind of man who probably wasn’t the life of the party. He would, however, be the kind of man you’d want at your back in a bar fight.

His dark hair was cut ruthlessly short and his lean profile had hardened into pure granite. His eyes were a feral shade of amber brown and still unnaturally intense. Hannah Brewster would have said that Cabot had the eyes of an old soul. But that wouldn’t have been entirely accurate. He had the eyes of a man who took the world very seriously.

There was no ring on his hand. That surprised her because everything about him intrigued her. Surely she wasn’t the first woman to find him interesting. On the other hand, Cabot Sutter would definitely not be the easiest person on the planet to live with. There was a gritty, uncompromising vibe about him that, sooner or later, would probably convince a lot of women that he was more trouble than he was worth.

She understood the reaction. She was a little screwed up herself, with a history of failed relationships testifying to the fact that a number of men had decided that she was more trouble than she was worth.

“As I told Anson, Hannah Brewster was an artist,” Virginia said. “She was also quite eccentric. Some would say unhinged. I occasionally exhibited some of her work in my gallery.”

“Was she any good?” Cabot asked.

“Hannah was quite good but her work is . . . disturbing. It’s too raw and too dark and too personal for most people. Hannah painted to exorcise the demons of her past—our past. She was there, you see.”

“She was a member of Zane’s operation?” Cabot asked.

“Yes. She was my mother’s closest friend in the cult. I’m sure you remember her. She did much of the cooking and cleaning.”

Cabot glanced at Anson. “See if Brewster’s name is on our list.”

Anson was already at work on his computer.

Virginia watched him. “You’ve got a list of the cult members?”

“It’s not a complete list,” Cabot said. “Nobody used last names, remember? And Zane confiscated everyone’s ID. Most of the documentation that he collected disappeared with him that night.”

“I interviewed the survivors after the fire,” Anson said, “but they were all traumatized. Some refused to identify themselves. Others were afraid. Most just took off and disappeared. I had no legal grounds to hold them. We’ve done our best to compile a list of cult members but, as Cabot said, we don’t think that it’s complete, not by a long shot.”

A page came up on the screen. Cabot uncoiled and rounded the desk so that he could read over Anson’s shoulder.

“There’s no Hannah Brewster,” he said. “There is a Hannah Parker, though. She just disappeared after the fire. No family ever came forward to ask about her.”

“That’s her,” Virginia said quickly. “She changed her name. She was always terrified that Zane might come looking for her. That’s why she lived off the grid on Lost Island. No phone. No computers. No credit cards. No bank account. To my knowledge, the only piece of tech that she possessed was a digital camera that I gave her about a year ago.”

Anson whistled softly. “All because she was afraid Zane might find her?”

“Yes,” Virginia said.

“Sounds like Hannah Parker Brewster would have fit right in with our little crowd of conspiracy theorists,” Anson said.

Virginia nodded grimly. “Definitely.”

Cabot fixed her with his intent gaze. “If she didn’t trust technology, why did she accept the camera?”

“She didn’t consider it a risky device. It was just a camera, after all. She used it to take photos of island scenes. She painted the scenes on notecards that were then sold to tourists at one of the island gift shops. That was how she survived, you see—selling boxes of notecards to visitors. She never signed those pictures, and the people who operate the gift shop kept her secret.”