The fix, p.30
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       The Fix, p.30
 

         Part #3 of Amos Decker series by David Baldacci  

  BOGART SAT DOWN next to Jamison at her and Decker’s apartment. He put a hand on her shoulder.

  “You sure you don’t need anything?”

  Jamison’s eyes were closed and tears trickled out. She slowly nodded her head.

  Bogart looked up at Decker, who sat at the kitchen table holding an ice pack to his swollen cheek. “You okay?”

  “I’ve got no complaints. Alex saved both our lives.”

  Milligan was standing next to Decker. “She never shot anyone before,” he said quietly. “It’s not something you get over quickly.”

  Decker looked over at Jamison. “She’ll be okay. She’s tough.”

  Bogart rose and came over to Decker. “We’ll post people outside just in case Alvarez has friends. You sure you guys will be okay?”

  Decker nodded. “I’ll take it from here.”

  Bogart and Milligan left, and Decker rose from his chair, crossed the room, and sat down next to Jamison.

  “I’m sorry this had to happen, Alex,” he began.

  She wiped her nose with her sleeve and sat up. “If you hadn’t told me what to do, we’d both be dead.”

  “If you hadn’t done what you did, we’d both be dead.”

  She sat back and stared at the ceiling. “I killed someone, Amos.”

  He looked at her awkwardly. “There’s no perfect formula to get over it.”

  “What did you do when it happened to you for the first time?”

  “Honestly?”

  She nodded.

  “I called Cassie and told her I wouldn’t be home that night. I filed my reports, had my interviews with internal affairs, jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops, and then rented a motel room, loaded up with liquor, and got drunk as hell.”

  “Did it help?”

  “No. I woke up with the worst hangover of my life and I still felt shitty about what had happened.”

  “Thanks for the pep talk,” she said in a hollow tone.

  “My point is, even with my perfect recall I did get over it. Things haunt me, Alex. But I can live with them. And you will too. It just takes time.”

  She sank her head into her hands. “I’m going to see his face until the day I die.”

  “No you won’t. He made the choice to start it. You just had to finish it. You saved us, Alex.”

  “I was so scared, Decker.”

  “So was I.”

  “But you were a cop. You’re used to this stuff.”

  “You never get used to somebody trying to kill you.”

  Jamison pulled a tissue from her pocket and rubbed at her eyes. “I’m glad you showed me how to fire that gun.”

  “Being taught how to fire a weapon isn’t that hard. Firing it when you really need to is the hard part. He obviously didn’t see you as a threat. He assumed you weren’t even armed. Big mistake.”

  “But after I shot him, I panicked. I couldn’t even defend myself.”

  “So it was my turn to help you out. That’s what partners do, Alex. We have each other’s back.”

  “That’s the first time you called me that.”

  “What?”

  “Your partner.” She swiped a strand of hair out of her face. “It has a nice ring to it.”

  “You need to go grab a hot shower, take a pill, and go to bed, and not think about it anymore for tonight.”

  “But—”

  “You need to turn your brain off. You can start to try to deal with it later. But not now.”

  He watched her walk off. Right before she closed the bedroom door behind her she turned and said, “Thanks, Amos.”

  “For what?”

  “For…for not being your normal self right now.” She tacked on a weak smile to this and closed the door. A minute later he heard her shower start up.

  Decker rose and stared down at his phone. He’d tried to call Mars a number of times to let him know what had happened, but there’d been no answer.

  That wasn’t like the man.

  He put on his coat, snagged Jamison’s car keys, and walked out, locking the door firmly behind him. He passed the FBI agents stationed in the building’s lobby.

  “Take good care of her, guys,” he said as he walked by them.

  He knew where Mars was staying. It wasn’t that far away.

  He wedged himself into Jamison’s subcompact, wishing for the moment that he could be a foot shorter and a hundred pounds lighter.

  The drive only took about fifteen minutes. There was little traffic at this early hour of the morning.

  He pulled into the parking lot of the hotel and grabbed an open space. He was about to get out when a car he recognized pulled up to the front of the building and a man in a uniform got out. It was one of the hotel valets. He turned the keys over to the owner and that person got in the car and drove off.

  Decker checked his watch.

  It was nearly five in the morning. Decker opted for a change in plan.

  He pulled off and started to follow the other car.

  Twenty minutes later it veered into an open space at the curb. The door opened and the driver got out.

  Decker pulled up, stopped, and rolled down his window.

  “You’re out early,” he said. “Or coming home late.”

  Harper Brown turned to look at him.

  “What are you doing here?’

  “You were telling the truth.”

  “About what?”

  “You are quite social in your off hours. So how’s Melvin? Resting comfortably?”

  She let out a sigh, leaned against the front fender of her Beemer, and said, “You want to come in for a cup of coffee?”

  “I don’t know. Do I?”

  Decker pulled into a free space two cars down and got out. He joined Brown as she was putting the key in her front door.

  “Glad you had a good night,” he said.

  “Thanks, me too. How about you?”

  “Nothing to write home about,” said Decker as they went inside.

  CHAPTER

  48

  BROWN FLIPPED ON the lights in her kitchen, put her bag down, and busied herself making coffee.

  Decker sat at the table and watched her. She slipped off her jacket, revealing her shoulder holster and pistol.

  A couple minutes later she carried two steaming cups over, leaned down, and handed Decker one of them.

  That’s when she saw his bruised face in the wash of the overhead lights.

  “What the hell happened to you?”

  “Just a little altercation tonight. Nothing too serious.”

  “Why do I think you’re lying?”

  “Whatever happened, it’s over and Alex and I are good.”

  “Jamison! She was involved?”

  Decker took a sip of coffee. “Very. So let’s move on to Melvin.”

  She took a drink of her coffee. “You disapprove, of course,” said Brown.

  “It’s really none of my business. But Melvin is my friend and I don’t want to see him get hurt either.”

  “So I’m guessing you think this is all too sudden given we just met tonight?”

  “I don’t think anything. I don’t judge anything. But I can tell you that Melvin’s got a lot of stuff about his life to work out. It’s complicated. That can make somebody vulnerable.”

  She said heatedly, “It’s not like I do this all the time, because I don’t. It was actually just sex, Decker. That does happen, you know, when two people are immediately attracted to each other.”

  “Just sex for you. Was it just sex for him?”

  “Maybe it was.” She set her cup down and stared at him. “You really do care about him?”

  “Why do you sound so surprised by that?”

  “Unfairly or not, some view you as this machine without a lot of human touches.” When he didn’t respond, her features softened. “I don’t include myself in that group, Decker. I’ve seen you being human. You’re being human right now with your concerns about Melvin. It’s…it’s nice, actually
.”

  “If you two hit it off, great. He could use someone like you.”

  “Meaning what?”

  “You may have to deceive as part of your job, but I see you as honorable, Agent Brown. Your father got on that wall because he served his country faithfully. I don’t see the apple falling far from the tree. And Melvin is a very honorable person. So you two have that in common. I would say you both deserve nothing less.”

  This was obviously not what Brown had been expecting. She took a sip of coffee and looked away. When she turned back her eyes held a shimmer of moisture.

  “Let me rephrase what I just said about you being human, Decker. I actually think you’re one of the most human people I’ve ever met. And call me Harper, please.”

  They both sat there in silence for another few seconds until Brown cleared her throat and said, “Why were you at the hotel in the first place?”

  “I’d called Melvin a few times and he never answered. I was worried.”

  “I think he turned his phone off. He was fine when I left him.”

  “Good to know. Thanks.”

  She fingered her cup, her gaze pointed at the tabletop. “We did talk some. Mostly about you. How amazing he thought you were. How, if not for you, he’d still be in prison.”

  “That’s a stretch.”

  “Not according to him.”

  “It was nice of him to say,” Decker said quietly, not looking at her either.

  “What really happened to your face? I’ll find out eventually.”

  Decker took a few minutes to tell her what had happened. Brown’s jaw sank lower with each sentence.

  “Is Jamison okay?”

  “Not now, but she will be. It’s not easy, killing someone. You don’t just get over it in a day.” He looked over at her. “You know that feeling.”

  She nodded. “The guy in your parking lot was not my first. And though I know I didn’t show it that night, I went home, drank a bottle of wine, and didn’t sleep a wink. I kept looking down at my hand and thinking that there was one less person alive that day because of me.”

  “I figured as much.”

  She smiled weakly. “I guess I’m not as tough as you thought I was.”

  “Actually, that makes you tougher than I thought you were.”

  “Every time I think I have you figured out, Mr. Decker, you throw me a curve.”

  “Not my intention.”

  “I wonder.”

  “How did you leave things with Melvin?”

  “That I very much wanted to see him again.”

  “We still have a case to work,” he replied.

  “I compartmentalize with the best of them. Speaking of the case, any revelations since we were last together?”

  “Berkshire was a spy or a spy’s handler. Dabney may or may not have been her mole. We have no real record of her past ten years ago. She might not have been in this area all that time, but Dabney has. Same house, same wife, big family.”

  “So you’re saying there’s an incongruity if we think Dabney and Berkshire were working together long-term?”

  “You tell me. Do the spy and the handler need to be in the same place?”

  “Absolutely not. I mentioned Montes before? Her handlers were in Cuba. She’d meet with them sometimes. They’d either come here or she’d go to them. But only periodically.”

  “So Dabney, who undoubtedly traveled a lot for his business, would have had the means to go to her?”

  “Yes. And use the cover of his business to do so.”

  “And since we have no idea where Berkshire was thirty years ago, we can’t trace that. But—”

  Brown said, “But we know where she was maybe ten years ago. And we could match that up with Dabney’s travel during that same period.”

  “If she met him in the places where she lived. If not, we might be able to check where she traveled, if she went by train or plane or bus.”

  “So you’re leaning to the conclusion that these two have worked together before.”

  “Let’s put it this way, I can’t rule it out,” replied Decker.

  “But we haven’t had any other instances of spying that we could connect to Dabney, other than the secrets sold to pay off the gambling debts.”

  “But Dabney didn’t just work with DIA. He worked with the FBI, NSA, and at least a half dozen other government agencies.”

  Brown’s features tightened. “If he stole from all of them, it’s a big problem.”

  “I always thought this was a big problem,” retorted Decker.

  “We can start checking out the travel angle to see if we can place these two in the same place at the same time.”

  “I’ll have Bogart’s people get on it.”

  “But Decker, if Dabney and Berkshire were working together all this time, why would he kill her on the street in front of the Hoover Building?”

  “Regret? Some friction or falling-out we don’t know about?”

  “Well, if they were working together, her contacts got him the ten million bucks to pay off his son-in-law’s gambling debt and save his daughter’s and granddaughter’s lives. You’d think he would have been grateful toward her, not homicidal.”

  “It’s funny how the human mind works. It all depends on perspective.”

  “And the third party you mentioned? The one who almost killed you and stole the flash drive you discovered?”

  “They’re clearly still out there. They’re connected to this at a level I don’t understand yet, but that connection is deep. And I have a feeling we’re going to have to go face-to-face with them before we solve this thing.”

  Brown took out her Beretta and laid it on the table. “Well, let’s hope they don’t get us before we get them,” she said.

  CHAPTER

  49

 
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