True blue, p.30
True Blue, p.30David Baldacci
flash drive. It would be nice to see what’s on here.” She glanced at him. “Any thoughts on that?”
“It’s password-protected, but let me give it a shot.”
Roy sat down, powered up the Mac, and stared at the password line that appeared.
“What do you use for your password?” Mace asked.
“Okay, the letters I get. UVA spelled backwards. But what about the numbers?”
“Twenty-seven and seven was the record we finished with my senior year.”
“And the eight-eight-six-one?”
“Eighty-eight to sixty-one was the score of my last game when we lost to Kansas in the NCAAs.”
She gave him a sympathetic look. “Ever thought about just letting it go, Roy?”
“I’ve thought about it.”
He refocused on the screen. “Okay, Diane, what would your password be?”
“She’s not married, no children. Pets?” Roy shook his head. Mace glanced at the file she’d carried up with her. “Try her date of birth.” She read it off to Roy and he hit the keys but the password box shook it off. They tried other combinations of the numbers. They tried her mother’s maiden name that Roy just happened to know.
“It’s going to lock us out with one more attempt,” he said.
“We’re not going to break it. Stupid idea.” Mace stared at the top edge of the computer screen. “What’s that thing?”
Roy looked where she was pointing. “A webcam. You can use it for videoconferencing and stuff.”
Mace slowly moved out of the line of sight of the camera and motioned frantically to Roy to get up. But she said in a calm voice, “Well, that’s all we can do here tonight. Might as well get going.”
When Roy was out of the camera’s view, Mace grabbed his arm and hissed in his ear, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
She pulled him out the door and closed it behind them.
Roy snapped, “What’s wrong?”
“That’s why they came after me. They saw me searching Diane’s office.”
“Who saw you?”
“Whoever’s on the other end of that camera. Come on, before they get here.”
“Before who gets here?”
They both turned as they heard the sound at the same time. The front door to the offices of Shilling & Murdoch had just beeped open.
THIS WAY.” Roy grabbed Mace’s hand and they raced down the hall away from the front doors. They reached the end of the corridor and turned left and the short hallway ended at a door. Roy threw it open and they were staring into a darkened room.
“What is this place?”
“The mail room.”
“Great, Roy, now we can check out some cool travel magazines while we count down the last minutes of our freaking lives.”
“I actually had another idea. Come on.”
He led her to the back of the room where there was a small metal door flush with the wall and about four feet off the floor.
“The firm has some offices on the fifth floor and we also keep an archival space there.” He smacked a red button next to the metal and the door slid up, revealing a three-by-three-foot space that barely looked big enough to hold one person.
“A dumbwaiter?” said Mace.
“This shaft feeds right into the storage space on the fifth.”
They both turned when they heard the footsteps running down the hall.
“Get in, Mace.”
“What about you?”
“There’s not enough room for both of us.”
She looked inside the space. “If you don’t get in this box with me, the next box you will get in will be a coffin.”
He boosted her in and then crawled in behind her. As the door to the mail room was kicked open, Roy reached out with a long arm and slapped the green send button. The metal door closed and a moment later the dumbwaiter lurched into action. The space was so tight that Mace’s knees were touching her nose and the much taller Roy was curved around her body like a moat around a castle.
Mace squirmed. “Is that a flashlight in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”
“It is a flashlight. I snagged it off a shelf before I jumped in.”
The dumbwaiter stopped and the metal door slid open. Roy fell out and pulled Mace along with him. He clicked on the flashlight and a few moments later they were running down the hall.
“The elevators are no good. And they’ve probably got the stairs covered.”
She said, “The stairs at the bottom, but not the others. Come on!”
As they raced along, Mace stopped for a moment, covered her hand with her shirtsleeve to eliminate the possibility of prints, reached out and pulled the fire alarm. As the loud clanging and swirling red lights chased them down the corridor she said, “There’s a fire engine company not too far from here, but we still have a few minutes to survive on our own.”
“So where do we go?”
She led him to the fire stairs and they skipped down one flight. A moment later they were back in the place where Mace had subdued the Captain.
“Now we hide.”
“Shouldn’t we call the cops? I’ve got my cell.”
She hesitated for an instant. “Yeah, do it.”
Roy hit 911. “I’ve got no bars. What the hell!”
They sprinted to the back of the space.
“Quick, look around for a weapon,” she said.
“They’ve probably got guns and you want to hold them off with what, a screwdriver?”
Mace scanned the floor and spotted it. A long length of chain. She snagged it and wrapped it around her arm. “We can use this.”
“Wait a minute. When the fire truck gets here they’ll find us and your sister will know you were here.”
“I don’t plan to be here when the fire trucks get here.”
“But I thought—”
“If the bad guys don’t come through that door in the next minute, then that means they were scared off by the alarm. Then you and I are going to get the hell out of here before the fire guys show.”
“Not exactly the way I would’ve done it.”
“Roy, I’m holding a ten-pound chain. Do not piss me off!”
Sixty seconds later they heard the sirens coming. Mace dropped the chain and they raced to the door and bolted down the stairs. They cleared the lobby and stepped into the elevator to the garage right as the firemen were coming in the front doors. They didn’t bother with the Marquis parked in the garage, but fled out the exit and turned away from the building.
“Now what?” said a breathless Roy as they slowed to a fast walk.
She checked her watch. “You up for some coffee?”
“What? Some people were just trying to kill us and you want a stimulant?”
“Yeah, at Simpsons in Georgetown, where Tolliver ate on Friday.”
“Then after that we can break into Tolliver’s house.”
“Oh for the love of God.”
LATER THAT NIGHT Don Hope and Karl Reiger walked down the long hallway. They were several stories underground and the walls were lined with materials that prevented any form of electronic surveillance. It was a good thing since there were few buildings in the country that housed more secrets than this one, and that included the CIA’s command center in Virginia and the NSA headquarters in Maryland.
Both men looked anxious as they came to a stop in front of a metal door. There was a long hiss from hydraulic-powered equipment and the portal slid open. They stepped in and the door automatically closed behind them.
There were two chairs in front of the desk. They sat. Jarvis Burns was seated across from them. He perused his computer screen for another minute before turning to them. He slid off a pair of glasses and set them on the desktop. His hand ventured automatically to his right leg and started r
Burns said, “Interesting developments. Not pleased at all. Overly complicated now.” Each short sentence came out like an MP5 set on two-shot bursts.
Hope said, “Permission to speak candidly?”
“The chief is covered. We fed her the info like you said and made it clear Director Donnelly was the source. As far as she’s concerned it’s domestic terrorists and she owes you. The sister and the lawyer are not really an issue, at least in my mind.”
Burns sat back, made a temple with his fingers, and settled his gaze on the two men. “Your assessment based on what? Your failures?”
“We haven’t failed.”
“Really? ‘Focus in on A-’? We had spyware on Tolliver’s computer. You knew about that e-mail and left it there. You could have erased it from Kingman’s computer before he even read it.”
Reiger said, “We didn’t do that because it sounded innocuous. We thought she’d just hit the send key by mistake. The message wasn’t even finished.”
“It was finished enough, because they figured out what it meant before you did. They got Watkins’s name and went to his apartment just in time to catch one of my people searching it. He had to tap-dance pretty fast.”
Reiger spoke up. “We didn’t know she had a box there. She’s never been to that mailbox place the whole time we’ve had her under surveillance.”
“Well, either she went before you had her under the glass or she had someone else to do it for her.”
“But your guy didn’t have to answer the damn door at Watkins’s apartment,” Hope pointed out.
“Trust me, if he hadn’t, Mace Perry would’ve broken in. And the police know about Watkins, too, of course. We could have removed the message after Perry and her friend found it, but then we would’ve risked her telling her sister and the paper being gone from the box would only have aroused the chief’s suspicions. The damage, in any case, was already done. But on the bright side, they have the old soldier in custody and he will no doubt be charged with murder very soon.”
“So maybe our work is done, then.”
“No, your work is not done. But we cannot afford any more screwups.”
Hope placed one large, muscular hand on the desktop. “We’ve been reactionary from almost the get-go. That’s not how successful ops are done, black or otherwise. That’s not why you brought us on board.”
“You are only technically assigned to DHS, which does not engage in black ops. You and Reiger are actually sterilized weapons, cocked and locked at all times. And we brought you on board to do a job, whatever job you were told to do. There is nothing nice or neat about our line of work. It is invariably messy, dirty, and ever-changing. You do deals with one devil because he’s slightly better than the next devil. If it were otherwise we wouldn’t need you. But we do need you to clean up your mess.”
“Look, they found nothing in the office, and the spyware surveillance established through Tolliver’s computer has already been severed. I don’t see what the problem is.”
“Then let me show you.” Burns clicked a button on his keyboard and spun the screen around to reveal a photo of Mace Perry. “This is the problem.”
Reiger threw up his hands in frustration. “Come on, she’s not even a cop anymore. She’s on probation. Her options are limited. She’s operating completely outside her sister’s authority. I see her as a total non-issue.”
“Really? Have you by chance read Perry’s psych evaluation?”
“Her psych evaluation?” Reiger said curiously.
Burns rose from behind his desk and limped toward them. “The psych evaluation they did on the woman when she wanted to move to undercover. It’s very interesting reading. She never gives up, Reiger. She never walks away. Her father was the U.S. attorney for D.C. I actually knew the man. He was murdered when she was twelve. She has never gotten over that. It burns in her belly with the potential explosive power of a mountain of C-4. She would rather die than be told she was wrong.”
“If you’re going to worry about someone, I think it should be the police chief. She’s a block of granite with a very big brain.”
Burns perched on the edge of his desk. “I’ve known Beth Perry for years. She is a formidable adversary. But she tends to operate within strict parameters. However, her sister does not and never will. Quite frankly, Mace Perry scares the crap out of me. And if she is allowed to screw this entire thing up, then none of us are safe.” He eyed each man with studied deliberation. “None of us. What we are doing here is right and good for the country but not something the public would approve of once they became aware of it.”
Hope said, “But she can’t even legally carry a weapon.”
Burns smacked his palm against the top of the desk. “Which begs the question of why it is so hard for us to eliminate her. Tonight at the law firm was a golden opportunity missed. I sent in a hand-picked team to get it done while you were occupied with Beth Perry, and it turned out like the Keystone Cops.”
“But if she goes down you know her sister will move heaven and earth to find out who did it,” Reiger pointed out.
Burns nodded. “It’s clear the two sisters would each die for the other.”
“See, that’s my point.”
“But I only need one of them to die. And we will help Beth Perry conclude quite clearly that it was the result of one of the many enemies her sister accumulated when she was a cop. A bullet to the head is a damn bullet to the head.”
“This is stupid whack-a-mole,” barked Reiger. “We pop one person but he or she talked to another person. Then we do that person, but turns out they sent a damn letter to someone else and we have to go after them. Where the hell does it stop, Burns?”
“Hopefully, with the intelligence sources and safety of this country still intact,” Burns said as his gaze bore into Reiger. “And watch your tone. Or did you forget the concept of chain of command?”
Reiger let his own stare burn into the man for another moment and then he looked away.
Hope sat back in his chair. “Fine. Then let’s do it the right way. We stop chasing her. We lead her down the path right to the target zone. Then we do it. Clean and quick.”
“To add some urgency to your mission, we all feel the layers of the onion being peeled away.”
“You have preauthorization for the max push. You don’t have to pull the trigger. We have others who will do it. People who will fit the right description, if you get my drift.”
Reiger said, “We need to see these new orders in writing, with the proper chain of signatures before we do anything.”
Burns didn’t look pleased by this. “The elimination order was a
True Blue by David Baldacci / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on40 votes