The whole truth, p.20
The Whole Truth, p.20Part #1 of A. Shaw series by David Baldacci
“The one that never dies,” Katie said, and then her face reddened when she found Shaw staring at her.
“Didn’t turn out to be a very apt name, did it?” he noted.
Katie said quickly, “But there must be more to The Phoenix Group than people knew. So we really need to nail down who or what it is.”
“No, I need to do that.”
“I thought we were working this together.”
“You thought wrong.”
“I want to find out what happened to Anna too.”
Shaw just shook his head. “What else can you tell me?”
“Why should I tell you anything now?”
“Because I asked you politely.”
His eyes locked on her again and Katie felt herself quivering under their burn.
“Well, when I was about to leave I noticed she had all this research on her desk.”
“She always did. That was her job.”
“No, I mean it was about one thing, the so-called Red Menace.”
Shaw sat forward. “Did you ask her about it? Was she working on it for The Phoenix Group?”
She shook her head. “Anna said she was just curious. That it was just something she was working on in I suppose her spare time.”
“When we were in Dublin she was very interested about this R.I.C. organization. She went online trying to dig up some stuff but didn’t find much.”
“Well, it seemed like she was still very curious.” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “You don’t think her employer had anything to do with any of that? I mean trying to find out who was behind the Red Menace? And maybe they did and that would explain the shooting?”
Shaw slipped a business card out of his pocket and looked at it. Edward Royce, MI5. The man Frank had wanted him to team with on the Red Menace investigation. He was based in London. Shaw didn’t believe for an instant that The Phoenix Group had been investigating the Red Menace and that was the reason for the slaughter. Yet Royce probably had the connections to get Shaw at least into the building if Shaw agreed to help him on the Red Menace situation.
“Anna would’ve told me if she were working on it for them.”
Katie licked her lips and said nervously, “Take this in the spirit in which it’s offered.”
Shaw looked up from the card. “What?”
“Could Anna have been keeping things from you, I mean about what she really did?” She added quickly as his features turned grim, “Look, you weren’t exactly truthful with her. It’s just a thought.”
“It is a thought. I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks.”
“So when do you leave?”
Shaw’s BlackBerry vibrated. He had some difficulty getting it out of his coat pocket so Katie helped him pull it out. “Do you want me to bring up your messages?” She asked this as she watched him struggling with the device basically one-handed.
“I can manage,” he said, perhaps suspecting that this was a ploy on Katie’s part to read his mail. He glanced at the screen. He had a first-class ticket on the Eurostar out of Gare du Nord station to St. Pancras in London. He’d be staying at the recently reopened Savoy. At least Frank didn’t do things on the cheap. It was partial compensation for a job that involved the potential of violent death on a minute-by-minute basis.
“Will you at least call and let me know what you find out?”
He stood after dropping some euros on the table to pay for the meal. “Sorry, I can’t do that.”
“Because I don’t want to. That explanation cover it for you?”
It took Katie a moment to realize he was merely throwing her own words back at her, when he’d quizzed her about not getting plastic surgery done on the scar on her arm.
“No, but I guess I don’t have a choice.”
“Thanks for your help. Now go back home and get on with your life.”
“Oh, yeah, great,” she exclaimed in mock delight. “I hear the New York Times needs a new managing editor. Or maybe I can take over Christiane Amanpour’s slot on CNN. I’ve always wanted to cross over to TV. I’ll make millions. I have no idea why I didn’t do it years ago.”
“Take care of yourself, Katie. And lay off the drink.”
He left her sitting there at the table, her head pounding. Five minutes passed and she hadn’t moved, just sat staring at nothing, because that’s apparently all she had left, nothing. Her ringing phone jolted her. It was a stateside number she didn’t recognize.
“I’m Kevin Gallagher, features editor at Scribe. We’re a fairly new daily based in the U.S.”
“I’ve read some of your stuff. You’ve got some good reporters.”
“Quite a compliment coming from a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. Look, I’m sure you’re busy, but I got your number from a buddy at the Trib. I understand you’re no longer there.”
“That’s right,” Katie said, then quickly added, “Irreconcilable differences. Why are you calling?”
“Hey, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a reporter at your level doesn’t become available all that often. I’d like to hire you to cover the story for the paper.”
Gallagher chuckled. “At least the only story anyone cares about right now.”
“The Red Menace?”
“Nope.” He said. “We’ve already got a team on that. I meant the London Massacre.”
Katie’s heartbeat quickened.
“Katie, you still there?”
“Yeah, yeah. How would we work it?”
“We can’t pay what you’re used to at the Trib. But we’ll pay you per story at the going rate for somebody like you plus reasonable expenses. You break anything big I can go back for more. You have free rein on how to get the story. How’s that sound?”
“Sounds like exactly what I’ve been looking for. I happen to be in Europe right now as a matter of fact.”
“I call that a kickass coincidence.”
“I can e-mail you the contract and other essentials.”
They spoke for a couple more minutes and then Katie clicked off. She couldn’t believe this incredible turn of events. She checked her watch. She’d just have time to catch the one o’clock Eurostar to London.
THE YELLOW-AND-BLUE EUROSTAR TRAIN left right on time, and once past the suburbs of Paris quickly accelerated to over two hundred kilometers an hour. The rails were designed for high-speed trains and the ride was smooth, with just enough gentle swaying to induce a nice nap if one were so inclined.
Shaw was in first class where he enjoyed a wide comfy chair and a three-course meal complete with wine, professionally presented by a smartly uniformed steward who spoke both English and French. Shaw, however, didn’t eat or drink anything. He just stared moodily out the window.
He rarely thought about the past. But as the train sailed along, he did so if for no other reason than he no longer had a future to ponder. Life had come full circle for him. Abandoned in an orphanage by a woman who was his natural mother but someone he could no longer remember, and then thrown onto the garbage heap of a string of fake families who’d done him no good and much harm, he had constructed his adult life around being a loner. Before he had involuntarily joined Frank’s group he had spent his years going from country to country doing the paid bidding of others. He neither cared about the personal risk nor the moral implications of his actions. He had hurt people and been hurt by them. Some of what he’d done had made the world safer; some of it resulted in added danger for the six billion other people who shared the planet. Yet all of what he had done had been authorized by governments, or organizations acting on behalf of such governments. And that had been the sum total of his existence.
Until Anna had come into his life.
Before he met her he believed his life would end when one of F
And then he had planned his escape from Frank. And his future life with Anna. And it seemed that he was so close. Even with Frank being Frank, it was still possible, so long as he could stay alive.
And that was the heartless irony that tore at him now.
It had never occurred to him, never even entered his personal equation, that Anna would be the one to die a violent death instead of him. Never.
He stared out the window at the rolling landscape of breathtaking beauty. It meant nothing to him and never would. The only thing of beauty he had ever cared about was currently inside a refrigerator in a London morgue. Her beauty now only existed in Shaw’s mind, in his memories. That should have been a comfort to him, but wasn’t. Eyes open or closed, all he saw was the one person he’d ever allowed himself to love. That image would be with him forever, his penance for thinking he could ever possibly deserve to be normal. Or happy.
He only had one goal now. To kill. After that, he would end his life as he had started it. Alone.
Katie was in another train car one down from Shaw, though she didn’t know it. As the picturesque French countryside raced past, she was focused, despite her new assignment, on the grieving Shaw, and what would happen when he got to London. He would, of course, go to The Phoenix Group building and, with his connections, probably get in somehow. He would also visit Anna’s flat. He would have to go there, she told herself. There would be no way he could avoid it.
So deep in thought was Katie that she didn’t even notice the train passing through Calais and then entering the tunnel, heading downward and eventually making its way underneath the bedrock of the English Channel. With billions of tons of water overhead, she looked out onto the well-lighted tunnel, unconcerned with leaks or walls of water smashing the train flat.
Twenty-five minutes later the train emerged into bright sunshine. They were in England. The whole trip would take about 140 very pleasant minutes and Katie had electricity for her laptop computer and the convenience of her cell phone, though she had no one to call. Indeed, after the episode at the hospital, she had no desire ever to use her cell phone again.
She thought too about Shaw’s words: My life is over. But whoever did this to Anna is going to die. She had no doubt that he meant it. She had doubt at all he would try to kill the person or persons with his bare hands, injured or not.
But after that? What would he do? Or what if he died in the attempt? Someone who could orchestrate the slaughter of nearly thirty people was not someone who could be easily killed.
And she had stories to write now. What would Shaw think if he found out she was reporting on the London murders, earning a living from Anna’s death? But that was what she did. She was a journalist. Still, though, he would be angry. Very angry.
As she was thinking about this, she noticed the small bottle of red wine on her tray that had been served with lunch. She’d kept it when the steward had cleared the tray. Katie kept staring at it as the train rolled on. Twenty minutes later when the Eurostar reached the outer fringes of London and the old dwellings with their unique chimneystacks, she was still gazing at the wine. She unscrewed the top, took a whiff and a quick gulp, and felt immediate gratification followed by crushing, searing guilt. Yet she took another swig. And the guilt grew a thousandfold. She screwed the cap back on, dropped the bottle on her pulldown tray, and muttered, “Shit.”
The fellow next to her heard this, glanced at her and then at the wine. “Bad year?” he asked with a smile.
She gave him a burning stare. “Bad life!”
He quickly went back to his newspaper.
Katie knew she could not do her job this way. She could not help herself as a drunkard. She could not wallow in self-pity, no matter how enticing that might seem right now. When a steward walked by she stopped him and asked him to take the bottle away.
A few minutes later they pulled into St. Pancras Station. Katie detrained and quickly made her way to the cab stand.
Like Shaw she would be staying in the Strand in the West End of the city, but not at digs as nice as the Savoy. London was not cheap at any time, but one could find bargains, and Katie had traveled enough to where she knew them all. If her stay in London was going to be a long one, she hoped, much as she had done in Paris, to crash at the flat of another news correspondent friend of hers who was away more than she was home.
She checked into her cut-rate hotel, dropped her bag in her room and took a cab to The Phoenix Group building. At some point she would probably run into Shaw. If she did, she felt fairly confident of her action plan.
I’ll run like hell.
ON THE DRIVE over to Anna’s former office, Shaw pulled out the business card he’d been given and called MI5 agent Edward Royce. The man answered on the second ring and Shaw explained that he was in London and had reconsidered helping Royce on the Red Menace investigation.
When Royce asked about his change of heart, Shaw said, “Long story not worth going into, but I’ve got a favor to ask. I’ve already cleared it with Frank.”
“He called me.”
“Really, and said what?”
“To help you any way I could. He told me of your… personal connection to the murders in London.”
“Can you get me access to the building?”
“Well, we might be able to kill two birds with one stone, actually. How does that plan work for you?”
“What are you talking about?” Shaw said curiously.
“You’ll see when you get here.”
“At The Phoenix Group building.”
Shaw’s mouth sagged. “What are you doing there?”
“I’ll see you when you get here,” Royce said tersely.
Shaw put his phone away and leaned back, rubbing his injured arm.
What the hell is going on?
After he’d gotten to Katie’s cell phone and found out about Anna’s death, the next two days in the hospital had been worse than any mission he’d ever done, worse than any nightmare his subconscious had ever conjured. He did remember being sedated again and again after busting up his hospital room and actually throwing someone against a wall. This outlet for his grief, his fury, hadn’t helped. It just kept building until his mind and body had been unable to endure any more. And he had just collapsed. He actually thought he’d died. And a real big chunk of him wished he had.
For twenty-four hours he didn’t move or speak. He just stared at the white wall of the hospital, much as he had done as a little boy at the orphanage, trying to fashion a different reality from the abject collapse of his life. Yet when he’d finally risen from his bed, Anna was still dead. She would always be dead.
The only thing keeping him going now was the thought of finding and killing whoever had done it. It was the one goal that could possibly keep him from simply disintegrating. He hadn’t lapsed into melodrama when he’d told Katie that his life was over. It was over.
All he had to do now was finish it right, by avenging Anna.
He grabbed a cab and headed to the place where her life had ended. What he really wanted to do was run the other way.
ROYCE MET SHAW AT THE FRONT DOOR where police lines were still strung across. Inside the building the activity was intense, with police and forensic teams examining every square inch of the place. As Shaw stepped carefully around their work he saw the pools of dried blood and white tape outlines that distinctly marked where a body had dropped.
Royce eyed his injured arm. “What the bloody hell happened to you?”
The Whole Truth by David Baldacci / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 5.2 out of 5 / Based on47 votes