The fix, p.31
Part #3 of Amos Decker series by David Baldacci
DECKER HAD COME HOME from Brown’s to find Jamison still asleep. He caught a few hours of sleep, showered, and changed. By the time he was done, Jamison was up and dressed and sitting at the kitchen table.
“You need some food,” said Decker. “And so do I. Let’s go.”
They drove to a nearby restaurant and ordered breakfast for lunch.
Thirty minutes later Jamison put a last mouthful of scrambled eggs in her mouth while Decker finished his third cup of coffee. He eyed her closely. “How are you really doing?”
“Better actually than I thought I would. Which makes me feel guilty.”
“Some people just have it coming, and the guy last night did, Alex. But then I’m biased since you saved my life in the process.”
She looked despondently over at him. “Maybe I’m just not cut out for this. I was thinking before that maybe I should just go do something else with my life.”
“Maybe you don’t need to think about that right now.”
“But I do, Decker. I mean, I’m not getting any younger, and I have to make decisions about my life.”
“You’re a good investigator. Ross would not have brought you on if he didn’t think that.”
“Come on, Decker, Bogart brought me on because of you.”
“Why would he have needed to do that? And you were the one who deduced that Dabney was maybe a longtime spy because of how quickly he found someone to buy his secrets. Even if it turns out not to be the case, I didn’t think of that, and neither did Ross or Todd.”
“I’m not saying I don’t have my moments.”
“You have more than moments, Alex. Look, if you want to bag it and go do something else, fine. But don’t do it because you think you’re not cut out for this, because you are.”
She looked at him hopefully. “Do you really think that? You’re not just saying that to make me feel better?”
“As you know better than most, that’s not how my mind works.”
“But I did kill a man,” she said, her expression turning dark again. “I’m not sure I could face doing that again.”
“This job doesn’t call for us to get into shootouts with people. Alvarez wasn’t tied to our work at the FBI. So that may very likely be the first and only time you have to draw your weapon.”
“Apparently not if I keep hanging around with you.”
“You need to get your mind off it. Luckily, we have a very complex case to solve.”
“Hey, do you want to call Melvin and have him come with us? He’s had some good ideas on this too.”
Decker hesitated long enough that she looked at him suspiciously. “What is it?”
“Decker, you’re a shitty liar.”
“I just think we need to let Melvin sleep in.”
“I don’t know. Just a feeling.”
“He had a long night.”
“What do you mean by that? He went home the same—” She stopped and stared wide-eyed at him. “Holy shit. Are you not telling me what I think you’re not telling me?”
“Alex, I don’t even know how to begin to answer that question.”
“I’ll ask you a simpler one then. Did Melvin sleep with Harper Brown?” Her voice had risen to where people at two other tables stared over at them.
“Why do you think that?”
“Why do I think that? Hello, it couldn’t have been more obvious that she wanted him.”
“Oh, come on, for a guy who misses nothing, you really have a blind spot sometimes.”
Decker looked nervously around before focusing on her. “It’s none of our business what they did.”
“You need to tell me everything right now.”
“Because technically I work for Melvin.”
“Decker, I swear to God if you don’t tell me I’m going to make such a scene right here and now.”
Decker sat up. “Okay, okay. Yes, they…spent time together at Melvin’s hotel.”
“And how do you know this?”
“I went over to Melvin’s hotel late last night. Well, it was really early this morning. You were asleep. I’d called him but he didn’t answer.”
She looked at him incredulously. “Oh, really? And what, you were worried?”
“All right, I deserved that.”
“And then what?”
“And then I saw Brown come out. I followed her to her house and we…talked.”
“You talked about what they did?”
“No. I mean, not really. It was mentioned, but it wasn’t like I wanted to hear details,” he said, flustered. “They’re both consenting adults. They can do what they want.”
“They had just met a few hours before!”
“Alex, what do you want me to say?”
“What did Brown say?”
“She said, well, that they were mutually attracted to each other. And that it was just…you know, sex,” he added uncomfortably.
“Does she normally jump into the sack with someone she just met?”
“She says she doesn’t.”
“And you believed her?”
“I wasn’t going to interrogate her about it, for God’s sake,” he said heatedly.
“She works at DIA. Don’t they have rules against this sort of stuff?”
“I don’t know. And now I wish I hadn’t told you.”
“Melvin is your friend. Aren’t you worried about him getting hurt?”
“Yeah, I am actually. I told Brown that.”
“And what did Brown say?”
“That she didn’t want to hurt him. That maybe they could have a relationship.”
“Oh, please. She’s going to dump him.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes I do. Do you really see this lasting?”
“So what if it doesn’t? Maybe Melvin just wanted sex too.”
“Melvin is different.”
“Maybe he is. But he’s also a grown man who can make those decisions for himself.”
“So you’re not going to do anything?”
He looked at her in amazement. “What exactly do you want me to do? Tell them they can’t see each other because I said so? Christ, Alex. Listen to what you’re saying. Next you’ll be wanting me to pass notes to him like we’re back in middle school.”
Jamison slumped back in her chair and stared off. “This is all so wrong.”
“Look, I know you have a problem with Agent Brown.”
“And I’m surprised you don’t since she keeps lying to us.”
“That’s part of her job.”
“Oh, great, so now you’re defending her? Again!”
“I’m not defending anybody. I’m just stating a fact.”
“What do facts have to do with any of this?” she snapped.
An elderly man dressed in a suit and felt cap, who’d been sitting at the table next to theirs, came over on his way out.
“My dear late wife and I used to have arguments just like this. Every marriage has its ups and downs. But don’t worry, you two will work things out.”
He tottered off, leaving Decker and Jamison staring openmouthed at each other.
“Great, now we apparently sound like an old married couple!” exclaimed Jamison in disbelief.
Decker jumped up. “I’ll go pay the check.”
DECKER AND JAMISON said nothing to each other as they drove down the street after leaving the restaurant.
After five minutes, Jamison finally spoke. “I can’t read your mind, Decker. Are we going somewhere or am I just driving aimlessly around?”
Decker said, “Sorry, let’s head to Berkshire’s place. I want to go over it again.”
The drive took about forty minutes. The concierge let them into the co
Jamison, who had not been here before, looked around in awe. “Wow, I guess espionage does pay.”
“Yeah, only ordinarily it doesn’t. Not for the people in the trenches.”
“Well, she certainly disproved that.”
“She’s got this big stock and bond portfolio and the fancy car. But for what purpose? Look around at this place. None of this is her doing. I confirmed with the building manager that all this furniture, in fact everything in this place, came with the condo when she bought it from the previous owners. Apparently they didn’t want to sell it furnished, but she made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.”
“I wonder why she would do that?”
“Good question, to which I’d dearly love to have the answer.”
“Maybe we follow the money,” said Jamison.
“Where did the money come from to pay for all this?”
“Bogart was looking into that but wasn’t finding anything. The records hit a stone wall at a certain point and he hasn’t been able to get past that, he said.”
“And we’re sure the payments to Dabney didn’t come from Berkshire?”
“Nothing of consequence has been sold from her portfolio in the last year.”
Decker looked thoughtful for a moment. “But there might have been a way.”
“How do you mean?”
“What if Berkshire did manage to get that money to Dabney after all?”
“But you said nothing of consequence had been sold in her portfolio.”
“But that doesn’t mean she couldn’t have used her portfolio as collateral for the money.”
“What, you mean like a loan that you use other property to secure?”
“But who would loan her that much money?”
“I don’t know.”
“And she would know if it was going to pay a gambling debt that she would never get it back. That means all of her money would go to pay off the loan.”
“But what if she didn’t know the money was going to pay a gambling debt. Maybe she thought it was for something else.”
“Like a legitimate business thing. Maybe she thought it was a short-term loan that would be paid back, with interest.”
“But we can’t even show she knew Walter Dabney. Why would she loan him ten million dollars?”
“She must have known him. Or knew someone who knew him. And would vouch for his ability to pay back the loan.”
“That seems really out there, Decker. I mean, ten million dollars!”
“But what did Berkshire care about money? Yeah, she has this place and a car she hardly uses. So she wasn’t about money. The clothes she had on when she died were from a discount store. Her closet was pretty bare. No jewelry, no expensive handbags. She didn’t buy anything to outfit this place. She drove around in a crappy Honda. And she had millions sitting in an account. For what?”
Jamison nodded. “Maybe for opportunities like this one.”
Decker cocked his head. “Explain.”
“Maybe it wasn’t simply a loan, Decker. Maybe Dabney hadn’t been spying all that time. But if Berkshire was still spying, maybe the money was a way for her to get Walter Dabney under her thumb. They’d know what he did for a living and all the valuable contacts and access to government agencies he’d have. Hell, the ‘loan’ might have come from Russia for all we know. The point is she might have known about the gambling debt. Maybe the Russians were the ones who got Dabney’s son-in-law so in debt in the first place. Then Berkshire is there to save the day and Dabney is her mole, bought and paid for.”
Decker mulled this over. “So Dabney didn’t go and find Berkshire.”
“Berkshire found Dabney and helped him so she could blackmail him later into spying for her.”
“Only he knew something that she didn’t. He knew that he was dying. And he wasn’t going to be her mole.”
“So he killed her, and then himself. End of story.”
“It makes sense, Alex. But we still have to show some connection between Walter Dabney and Berkshire. So far, we’ve been unable to do that.”
“We may never be able to do that,” she replied. “They might have hidden it too well. Or used intermediaries.”
“Or maybe one intermediary,” said Decker.
“You have someone in mind?”
“Maybe the person he confided everything to? The one who had the problem in the first place? And then went with him to Texas to get his death sentence.”
“But why would she be involved in that? Her husband was the gambler. She was just trying to get the money to pay off his debts.”
Decker didn’t say anything. He was staring off.
“Decker, I said—”
“I heard you. I know that’s what we’ve been told. But right now, I don’t believe anything I’ve been told.”
“But why not?”
“I’ve got my reasons. Ten million of them, in fact,” he added cryptically.
He pulled out his phone and called the Dabneys’ house.
Cecilia Randall, the housekeeper, answered.
Decker asked to speak to Natalie.
The Fix by David Baldacci / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4.1 out of 5 / Based on45 votes