True blue, p.38
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       True Blue, p.38

           David Baldacci
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  was in Newark or thereabouts, that’s practically the same place. They could have had dealings then. She was in private practice up there too?”

  “I think so.”

  “It’s funny.”


  “The D.C. cops got pulled off Meldon’s murder.”

  “You mentioned that but didn’t tell me why.”

  “Beth didn’t know why but she was pissed about it. She and Mona Danforth had words about it while we were at Café Milano. But the thing is, whoever’s investigating Meldon’s death should have retraced his steps too. They could’ve found something or knew that he was meeting with Tolliver. And let me tell you, if their deaths aren’t connected it’s like the mother of all coincidences. And I don’t believe in coincidences anyway.”

  “So we find Diane’s killer, we get Meldon’s murderer too.”

  “That’s sort of the plan.”

  “Any way to find out who is investigating Meldon’s homicide?”

  “If I ask Beth she’ll want to know why. I can try a couple other sources. Meantime we need to follow up our own leads.”

  “But that waiter could call the cops and tell them what he just told us.”

  “He could but I doubt he will.”


  “He’s probably forgotten about it. It just comes with the chronic ADD mentality of that generation that believes that twittering actually constitutes personal interaction.”

  “Hey, that waiter was about the same age as me.”

  “Sorry. So can you find out where Diane worked before Shilling?”

  “Yeah. But let me write it down. Otherwise I’ll probably forget we even had this conversation because of my generational ADD.”

  “Oh, Roy, at least you make me laugh.”

  “Well, while you’re laughing I also just remembered where I saw the initials DLT.”


  “It was at the bottom of the last e-mail Diane sent me.”

  “I saw that. Just figured it was her initials.”

  “That’s what I thought too, but she never signed any other e-mails that way.”

  “Okay. So what else could it mean?”

  “I’m betting DLT stands for Daniels, Langford and Taylor.”

  “And they are?”

  “The escrow agent that Shilling & Murdoch uses for all of its closing transactions. Their offices are up on K Street, right in the middle of Lobbyist Alley.”

  “And they’re significant why?”

  “They do the money wire transfers for our deals. Billions of dollars go through their office, at least electronically. Billions.”

  “Okay, billions of anything always gets my attention. What do you think you can find out?”

  “I can check the firm archives for a start. I can look through closing docs for the deals that Diane and I worked on, check escrow letters, electronic funds transfer confirmations, that sort of thing.”

  Before he walked inside she said, “Call me with whatever info you can get on Diane. I’ll follow it up from there. But you need to focus on repping the Captain. With Mona on the other side waiting with fangs bared, you’re going to really need to bring your A-game.”

  She roared off, leaving Roy to trudge into the building, his briefcase smacking against his leg.

  Ned nodded to him from the security desk.

  “You okay, Mr. Kingman?” he asked.

  “Never better.”


  MACE DROVE BACK to Abe Altman’s place and checked on Alisha and Tyler. She found the pair in Altman’s study going over specifics of the program Altman had designed. They looked up when she poked her head in. Ty still had the basketball and was bouncing it in a corner.

  “Where’s Darren?” Mace asked.

  “He left,” said Alisha. “Didn’t say where he was going and didn’t say when he be back. I’m worried about him.”

  “Hey, Razor can take care of himself.” This was a lie, Mace knew. When it came to people like Psycho you’d need an Army battalion to take care of yourself. She walked back to the guesthouse, went up to her bedroom, and pulled something out of her closet. It was the baggie of shell casings the honor guard had given her at her father’s funeral. She sat back on the bed and held the bag on her chest, staring at the ceiling. It was so stupid of her to have opened the coffin. Every time she thought of her father, it began with that horrifying image before she could manage to push it aside.

  She rattled the metal in the bag.

  Okay, Dad, what do you think I should do? Let Beth run with this or keep chugging on? I want to be a blue again, Dad. I have to be a blue again.

  She rattled the casings some more, as though trying to get better reception. There was no answer. There would never be an answer. She wasn’t a little girl anymore who could run to Daddy for help. These were her problems to solve. Only there was no right or wrong answer. There were only choices. Her choices.

  She put the precious bag of used ordnance away, slipped over to the window, and looked over the grounds. Her gaze, by habit, sought out all places of potential danger. Entry points, the shadowy spaces under trees, a secluded corner. She thought for a second that she had seen Rick Cassidy flit by, but it happened so fast she couldn’t be sure.

  Feeling suddenly lethargic, she scooted down to the kitchen and made some coffee. She brought it back up to the bedroom with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with sliced bananas on toasted wheat that she’d made with her own two hands. It undoubtedly would not have met Herbert’s high culinary standards, but it tasted damn good. Finished, she lay back on the bed with the thought of just resting her eyes. She hadn’t really slept in a long time. It was finally catching up to her. Just a few minutes…

  The vibration woke her. She sat up groggily and looked around for a moment, disoriented. A moment later she snatched her phone from her pocket. As she hit the answer button she noted the time.

  Damn, I’ve been asleep for hours.

  “Hello?” She glanced out the window where a gentle rain was starting to fall.

  “It’s Roy.”

  “I didn’t recognize the number. Where are you calling from?”

  “My health club. Just call me paranoid. If they can tap computer cameras, you know?”

  “I know. So what’s up?”

  “Got something to write with?”

  She grabbed paper and pen off the nightstand. “Shoot.”

  “Okay, just so you know, everyone in the firm hates my guts.”

  “And how magnanimous you’ll be when you turn out to be right.”

  “No, I won’t. I’ll tell them to eat shit and die. Anyway, I checked out some stuff and talked to some people. I’ve got Diane’s ex-husband’s name and number. He lives in Hawaii so you can call him today if you want. It’s morning there now.”

  “Okay. What else?”

  “Apparently the divorce was not all that amicable. I’m hoping that the ex can give you some more info on that. Maybe the name of the lawyer who represented Diane.”

  “And the connection to Meldon?”

  “No clue at this point, but at least it’s a start.”

  “What about DLT?”

  “I’m planning to sneak down to the archives tonight and poke around.”

  “Listen, Roy, you staying there after hours alone is not a good thing.”

  “I’m not sure if anyone here is involved, so I can’t exactly waltz down to archives and start going through boxes. I’ll find what I can and take the stuff home.”

  “Why not come to Abe’s instead? We’ve got real security here.”

  “You think he’ll mind?”

  “I think the place is so big you could roll in with a tank brigade and he’d have no clue you were even here.”

  “Okay, maybe that’s smarter.”

  “And that way we can both go over the docs you found. It’ll be faster. Are you going back to see the Captain?”

  “As soon as I’m done here. They just noti
fied me that the presentment is tomorrow morning at Superior Court. I need to go over some details with him to the extent he can remember any.”

  “The presentment’s pretty perfunctory, right?”

  “Nothing’s perfunctory when Mona Danforth is in the picture. They’ll have to get a grand jury to issue an indictment since it’s a first-degree felony.”

  “Or they can just return a No Bill.”

  “What, did you enroll in law school this afternoon?”

  Mace said, “I was a cop. I’ve been in court more than most lawyers.”

  “But there’s no way she’s not going to get an indictment returned on these facts. They might as well just dispense with the preliminary hearing. They’ve got more than enough to show cause for the prosecution to go forward. The Captain will be arraigned on murder in the first and a trial date set. Any word from your sister on the semen sample?”

  “Uh, hold on a sec.”

  Mace quickly checked to see if she had any phone messages on the off chance that she had slept through a call from Beth. “No, nothing yet.”

  “Well, let me know the minute you do. I don’t want to be blind-sided by that when I walk into court tomorrow.”

  “And when you do your firm will know for sure where you stand.”

  “I know. And they’ll fire me. That’s why I’m going through the archives today. I probably won’t get another chance.”

  “Good luck.”

  “You too.”

  Mace clicked off and punched in the number for Joe Cushman, Diane Tolliver’s ex-husband who was now living in the Hawaiian paradise.

  Must be nice.


  THE COOKOUT was over, the sunshine was long gone, replaced with light rain, and Reiger and Hope were back in their plain suits and riding in their new Town Car.

  “Orders all in order?” joked Hope.

  “Yep, and locked away in my safety deposit box. I dropped by the bank as soon as you and your family left.”

  “Getting paranoid on me? Good.” Hope rolled down the window and breathed in the moist air. “So who signed?”

  “Everybody we need. Including Burns and Donnelly.”

  “Guess the guy finally took us seriously.” Hope nodded at his partner. “Cookout was nice, Karl. Good idea.”

  “Yeah, I’d rather be flipping dogs and burgers right now instead of driving to this place.”

  Hope looked at the address that had come with the signed orders. “Warehouse in Arlington?”

  “A front. They’re all fronts. We’ll see a ‘For Sale’ or ‘For Lease’ sign on the wall. A couple cars parked out of sight. A guy with a face you’ll never remember will answer our knock, we’ll flash our IDs, and the meeting will begin.”

  “What are we hoping to get out of this tonight?”

  “What I want are some recruits to do the trigger pulls while we coordinate from the sidelines. At least that way I can hate myself a little less.”

  “But that’s another set of testimonies in court if this goes wrong. Geez, I can’t believe I’m saying this stuff.”

  “We need to think about it, Don. But I’m not worried about these guys. I’m guessing Burns made sure they are not from this hemisphere. So we get the executioners in place and then the plan gets knocked together.”

  “I know Perry has to go down. What about the punk lawyer?”

  “If he hadn’t gotten in the way that night Perry would already have ceased to be a pain in our ass. But I’m not holding grudges. The order says Perry and anybody else deemed necessary. If we deem him not necessary he can go on being a lawyer after mourning the loss of his friend. I’m not looking to add to my bag of kills here. I’ve smoked my share of dirtbags, but none of them looked like me.”

  Reiger looked up ahead. “There it is. What did I tell you?”

  As they drove into the parking lot the “For Sale” sign was prominently mounted on one wall of the place that was actually three separate buildings on an acre of land in a section of Arlington that had seen far better days.

  “Looks to be 1950s construction,” said Hope. “Surprised they haven’t knocked it down and put up condos. Land in Arlington is damn hard to come by.”

  “Yeah, but if it’s secretly owned by an intelligence agency that doesn’t give a crap about cash flow, that is not your definition of a motivated seller.”

  Reiger drove through a narrow opening between two of the brick buildings and stopped in the middle of the small interior courtyard.

  “Like I said, couple of cars parked here. Now all we need is the faceless guy answering the door and I’m a perfect three for three.”

  Reiger did not go three for three.

  The woman who answered the door was petite with short brown hair angled around an oval face, and dressed in dark slacks, a tan windbreaker, and a pair of black-rimmed glasses. She flicked her badge and ID card at them. They did the same.

  “Follow me,” she said.

  They fell into line behind her as she led them through the darkened hall.

  “Didn’t catch the name on the ID card,” said Reiger.

  “Mary Bard.”

  “Okay, Agent Bard. Karl Reiger and Don Hope.”

  “Call me Mary. And I know who you are. I’ve been tasked to help with this assignment,” she said over her shoulder.

  “Well, we can use the help,” said Reiger. “I assume you’ve been read in?”

  “Yes. I can see why you two are frustrated. It seems to me they’ve been running you around like bulls in a china shop and expecting the impossible.”

  “Exactly. We need to set the hit up our way instead of chasing them.”

  She said, “Burns told me we’re to go over the logistics, call in resources as needed, and then lay the trap.”

  “Now that sounds like a strategy.”

  “Watch your step. I’ll turn the lights on once we get to the interior room. Cops sometimes patrol by here.”

  “Understood. So where are you really from?”

  “You saw my creds.”

  “Right, I’ve got several sets myself and they all say something different.”

  “Okay. Justice Department. That do it for you?”

  Reiger grinned. “That’s what they all say.”

  Bard smiled too. “I know.”

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