About the Author
Date of Birth:April 5, 1944
Place of Birth:Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Education:B. A., University of California, 1966
Read an Excerpt
Like grains of sand grinding inside the oyster,
Like pearls being formed from the grains;
Still waiting, though in unbearable patience
Still believing, though almost in disbelief.
Archer Donovan wasn′t easily surprised. It was a hangover from his previous line of work when surprised men often ended up dead. Yet the unique, peacock-and-rainbow radiance of the teardrop black pearl Teddy Yamagata was holding out did more than surprise Archer. It shocked him. He hadn′t seen a black pearl with such colour for seven years.
That particular pearl had been clutched in a dead man′s hand. Or nearly dead. Archer had fought his way through the riot in time to pull his half brother out of the mess and get him to a hospital in another, safer place.
Long ago, far away, in another country.
Archer had done everything in his power to bury that part of his past. Years later he still was shovelling. But he had learned the hard way that no matter how determined he was, his previous undercover life had a nasty habit of popping up and casting shadows on his present civilian life. The proof of it was gleaming on the palm of Hawaii′s foremost pearl collector and trader.
Teddy wasn′t in Hawaii now. He had flown to Seattle with a case full of special pearls to show Archer. The extraordinary black pearl was one of them.
"Unusual colour," Archer said neutrally.
Peering through the thick, blended lenses of his glasses, Teddy measured the expression of the man who was a sometime competitor in the pearl trade, an occasional client, and an invariably reliable appraiser. If Archer was particularly interested in the tear-shaped black pearl, nothing showed on his face. He could have been looking at a picture of Teddy′s grandchildren.
"You must be a helluva poker player," Teddy said.
"Are we playing. poker?"
"You′ve got your game face on. At least I think you do. Hard to tell under all that fur."
Absently Archer rubbed his hand against his cheek. He had given up shaving several months ago. He still wasn′t quite certain why. One morning he just had picked up his razor, looked at it as though it was a remnant of the Spanish Inquisition, and dropped the blade in the trash. The fact that it was six years to the day since he had quit working for Uncle Sam might have had something to do with it. Whatever, his beard had grown into a short black continuation of his short black hair.
And if there were a few grey hairs among the black, tough. The dead didn′t age. Only the living did.
"Must be hot when you go to Tahiti," Teddy said.
"It′s always hot there.
"I meant the beard."
"I never sent it to Tahiti."
Teddy abandoned subtlety and tried the in-your-face approach. "What do you think of the pearl?"
"South Sea, maybe fourteen millimetres, teardrop, unblemished surface, fine orient."
"Fine?" Teddy hooted. His black eyes nearly vanished into lines of laughter. "It′s goddamn spectacular and you know it! It′s like ... like . . ."
"Molten rainbows under black ice."
Teddy′s thin black eyebrows shot up and he pounced. "You do like it."
Archer shrugged. "I like a lot of pearls. It′s a weakness of mine."
"In my dreams you′re weak. What′s the pearl worth?"
"Whatever you can get for it." Archer′s cool, graygreen glance stopped Teddy′s immediate protest. "What do you really want to know?"
"What the damn thing′s worth," he said, exasperated. "You′re the best, most honest judge of pearls that I know."
"Where did you get it?"
"From a man who got it from a woman who got it from a man in Kowloon, who supposedly got it from someone in Tahiti. I′ve looked for that man for six months." Teddy shook his head emphatically. "He′s not there. But if you buy the pearl, I′ll give you the names.
"Are there more?"
"I was hoping you could tell me."
"I′ll bet you were."
Archer looked at the stainless steel space-age clock his father had brought back from Germany and placed in the front room of the series of suites that were the Donovan family residence in downtown Seattle.
Two o′clock in Seattle. Wednesday afternoon. Autumn closing in on winter.
Where the black pearl had come from, it was early morning. Thursday. Spring closing in on summer.
What went wrong, Len? Archer asked silently. Why, after seven years, are you selling your unique Pearl Cove gems?
He looked at the radiant black gem, but it had no answers for him except the one he already knew - seven years ago, his half brother, Len McGarry, had mixed the undercover life with one too many shady deals. It had nearly killed him. It had certainly maimed him.
Archer was one of three people on earth who knew that Len had discovered the secret of how to culture extraordinary black pearls from Australia′s South Sea oysters. But Len had refused to sell even one of the thousands upon thousands of black gems Pearl Cove must have produced in seven years.
Yet here was one of those gems: beautiful black ghost of the past.
Part of Archer, the part that stubbornly refused to bow to bleak reality, whispered that maybe Teddy′s pearl was a sign that something had gone right, not wrong. Maybe Len was finally healing in his mind, if not his body. Maybe he was beginning to understand that no matter how many glorious South Sea pearls he hoarded, he was still the same man.
Linked with the thought of Len came unwelcome memories of Hannah McGarry, Len′s once innocent, always alluring wife. Alluring to Archer, at least. Too much so. He had seen her only twice in ten years. He could recall each moment with brutal clarity.
She was like the black pearl, unique. And like the pearl, she hadn′t the least idea of her own beauty, her own worth.
When he had showed up with her broken, bleeding husband in his arms and told her she had two minutes to pack, she didn′t faint or argue. She simply grabbed blankets, medicine, and her purse. It had taken less than ninety seconds. Their flight out of hell had taken a lot longer...Pearl Cove. Copyright © by Elizabeth Lowell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.