True blue, p.4
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       True Blue, p.4

           David Baldacci

  have to learn to walk a straighter line and loosen up your arm.”

  Eddie glanced down at his left pocket and then looked up, grinning. “Got to protect yourself ’round here, Mace.”

  “You find out anything, you let me know.”

  “Uh-huh,” Eddie said, his veneers no longer visible.

  Mace drove through the neighborhood, drawing more stares from folks sitting on their tiny porches or clustered on the street corners or peering out windows. A lot of peering went on around here, usually to see what the sirens were coming for.

  She was not making this circuit just to celebrate her release. She wanted to let certain powers-that-be know that Mace Perry had not only survived prison but also was back on her old turf even if she no longer had a badge, gun, and the might of the MPD gang backing her.

  But what Eddie had told her was troubling. Beth had apparently continued to investigate the case long after Mace had gone to prison, devoting scarce police resources to the matter. Mace knew several people who would use that if they could to attack Beth. Her sister had already done enough for her.

  She finally turned around and rode back to the house. One of the cops on protection duty waved her down as she approached the barricade. She braked to a stop and lifted her visor.

  “Yeah?” she said to the man, a young cop with a buzz cut. She could easily tell that he was an egg, meaning a rookie.

  Sit on them until they hatch.

  She remembered her T.O., or training officer. He was a vet, a “slow walker” who wanted to pull his shift as easy as possible and go home in one piece. Like many cops back then, he didn’t like women in his patrol car, and his rules were simple: Don’t touch the radio, don’t ask to drive, and don’t complain when they went to what cops referred to as the hoodle. It was a gathering place, usually a parking lot, where the police cruisers would cluster and the cops would chill out, sleep, listen to music, or do paperwork. The most important rule of her T.O., however, had been to just shut the hell up.

  She’d endured that ride for one month before getting “checked out” by a sergeant and certified to roll on her own. And from that day forward Mace’s call signal had been 10–99, meaning police officer in service alone.

  “I understand you’re the chief’s sister.”

  “Right,” she said, not desiring to volunteer anything more than that.

  “You were in prison?”

  “Right again. You got another personal question or will two do it for you?”

  He stepped back. “Look, I was just wondering.”

  “Right, just wondering. So why’s a young stud like you pulling barricade action? You oughta be running and gunning and locking up and getting some court OT so you can buy a new TV or a nice piece of jewelry for your lady.”

  “I hear you. Hey, put in a good word for me with the chief.”

  “She doesn’t need any help from me on that. You like being a cop?”

  “Until something better comes along.”

  Mace felt her gut tighten. She would have given anything to be a blue again.

  He twirled his hat and grinned at her, probably thinking up some stupid pickup line.

  Her teeth clenched, Mace said, “Piece of advice, don’t ever take your hat off while on protective duty.”

  The hat stopped spinning as he stared at her. “Why’s that?”

  “Same reason you don’t take it off when you’re on a suspect’s turf. Just one more thing to get in the way of you drawing your gun if something hairy goes down. Egg.”

  She double-clutched, popped a wheelie, barely avoiding his foot as he jumped back, and roared on into the garage.


  HER SISTER was waiting for her in the kitchen, fully dressed in a fresh uniform. A stack of documents was on the table in front of her.

  “Homework?” said Mace.

  “Daily Folder, Homicide Report, news clips, briefing for internal ops meeting. The usual.”

  “You wear the four stars so well,” said Mace as Blind Man sniffed around her ankles and she scratched his ears.

  “How was the ride?”

  “Not as enlightening as I’d hoped.”

  “I hoped you’d disappoint me and not go back to Six D.”

  “Sorry not to disappoint you.” Mace poured another cup of coffee and sat down at the table. “Saw Eddie Minor.”


  “Small-fry huckabuck,” replied Mace. “He said your guys were down there asking questions about my case just last week.”

  Beth put down the folder she was holding. “Okay, so?”

  “So you still working it?”

  “I work all cases where justice hasn’t prevailed.”

  “Eddie said you might be pissing off some high-ups over this.”

  “Come on. You’re listening to a huckabuck’s take on D.C. politics?”

  “So it is political?”

  “I’ve obviously forgotten that you tend to take every word literally.”

  “Is that what the heightened security’s for?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “People gunning for you because you won’t let the case go?”

  “If there are some higher-ups in town who think I’m being a little overzealous in pursuing what happened to you, they sure as hell aren’t going to order a hit on me. They have other avenues they can employ.”

  “So why the extra security?”

  “The number of threats against me has gone up a little. Some of them are credible, so a few extra precautions were in order. I don’t like it but I have to live with it.”

  “Where are the credible threats coming from?”

  “Don’t lose sleep over it. If I had a dollar for every death threat I’ve gotten over the years.”

  “It only takes one, Beth.”

  “I’ve got lots of folks watching my six.”

  “Well, you just got one more added to the group.”

  “No! You focus on you.”


  “Focus on you.”

  “Okay, so what exactly are my options?” she asked bluntly.

  “You don’t have many.”

  “That wasn’t my question.”

  Beth sat back, double thumbing her BlackBerry with skill. “You have a felony conviction involving a firearm and you’re now out on probation. You obviously can’t be a cop anymore with that hanging over you.”

  “Someone kidnapped me, strung me out on multiple meth cocktails laced with who knows what, and forced me to participate in armed robberies while I was whacked out of my mind.”

  “I know that, you know that, but that’s not what the court found.”

  “The jury and the judge got steamrolled by an overzealous U.S. attorney who had it in for me and you.”

  “That overzealous U.S. attorney now heads up the entire office.”

  The color slipped from Mace’s face. “What!”

  “A month ago Mona Danforth was named interim U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia by the AG.”

  “U.S. attorney! Dad’s old office?”

  “That’s right,” Beth said with disgust.

  “The attorney general named her? I thought they had to be Senate confirmed after the president appointed them.”

  “The AG gets to appoint Mona for a hundred and twenty days. If the president doesn’t name a permanent candidate and have that appointee confirmed by the Senate by then, the authority to appoint goes to the district court. The problem is, the AG, the president, and the district court folks all love Mona. So she’s a lock for the job any way you cut it. I expect the president to formally name Mona any day now. And from what I understand the Senate confirmation is a gimme.”

  “I can’t believe that woman is running the largest U.S. Attorney’s Office in the country. She has the least morals of any prosecutor I’ve ever been around.”

  “She’s still out there screaming that you got a sweetheart deal because of your connections. Meaning me, of course. And i
f we hadn’t gotten the sentence knocked down on appeal she might have been crowing instead of screaming.”

  “She ought to be in prison. How many times has she looked the other way when evidence got doctored or else went missing when it didn’t cut to her side? How many times has she sat and listened to people on the stand commit perjury by feeding back the lines she wrote for them?”

  Beth slid her BlackBerry in her pocket. “Proof, little sister. Hearsay won’t cut it. She’s got everyone who matters to her climb up the ladder snookered.”

  Mace put her head in her hands and groaned. “This has got to be the parallel world where Superman is evil. How do I get off the ride?”

  “You never get off the ride. You just learn to hold on a different way.”

  Mace looked at her sister through a gap in her fingers. “So, is the political pressure on you coming from Mona and her demented heavyweight supporters?”

  “Mona has never been my biggest fan.”

  “I’ll take that as a hell yes.”

  “And I can handle it.”

  “But it would be better if you backed off trying to find out who set me up.”

  “Better for whom? The bandits or Mona? Neither of whom I give a crap about. There is no law against the police investigating crimes. And if we get lucky and nail the bastards, you get your record expunged and also receive an official apology and reinstatement to the force.”

  “An apology from who, Mona?”

  “Don’t hold your breath.”

  “Okay, we were talking options?”

  “You can’t do anything that would require a security clearance, which in this town cuts out a lot of possibilities, and the overall job market sucks right now.”

  “If you’re trying to pep up my spirits, please stop before I stab myself in the heart with a fork since I can no longer own a gun to use to kill myself.”

  “You wanted options. I’m giving them to you.”

  “I haven’t heard an option. All I’ve heard is what I can’t do.”

  Beth slid a paper across to her. “Well, here’s maybe something you can do.”

  Mace looked down at what was written on the sheet.

  “Dr. Abraham Altman? I remember him.”

  “And he remembers you. Not many college professors run afoul of one of the worst drug crews in Ward Nine.”

  “That’s right. Nice guy, just doing some research into urban issues. The HF-12 crew didn’t see it that way and came over to G-town to give him grief.”

  “And you stepped in and saved his ass.”

  “You’ve kept up with him?”

  “I was a guest lecturer in criminal justice over at Georgetown when you were in West Virginia. He and I reconnected.”

  “So what does that mean for me?”

  “He’s looking for a research assistant.”

  Mace gaped at her sister. “Beth, I didn’t even finish college. My ‘graduate work’ was sixteen weeks at the police academy, so I’m not exactly the poster girl for research assistants.”

  “He’s doing urban research, specifically into impoverished and crime-ridden areas of D.C. I don’t think there’s anyone out there more qualified to help on that issue than you. And Altman’s got a big federal research grant and can pay you well. He’ll be home tonight. Around seven, if you can make it.”

  “So you arranged all this?”

  “All I really did was make a suggestion to Altman. He was already your second biggest fan.”

  It took a moment for Mace to interpret this remark. “Meaning you’re my biggest?”

  Beth rose. “I’ve got to run. I’ve got testimony on the—”

  Her cell phone buzzed. She answered, listened, and clicked off. “Change of plan.”

  “What is it?”

  “Just got word that some big-shot lady lawyer dropped out of a fridge at her law firm. Board’s been called,” she added, referring to the ambulance. “Bandit apparently long gone.”

  Mace looked at her sister expectantly.

  “What?” Beth asked.

  “I don’t have anything to do.”

  “So relax, go sleep on a real bed. There’s some Rocky Road in the freezer. Go put some weight on those bones.”

  “I’m not tired. And I’m not hungry. For food, anyway.”

  “What, you want to go to the crime scene?”

  “Thanks, Beth. I’ll follow you on the bike.”

  “Hold on, I didn’t say you could go.”

  “I just assumed.”

  “Never assume, Mace. If Dad taught us one thing, it’s that.”

  “I won’t get in the way. I swear. I… I just… miss it, Beth.”

  “Mace, I’m sorry. I don’t think it would be a good idea—” Mace cut her off. “Fine, forget it. You’re right. I’ll just go eat some Rocky Road and take a nap. And try not to die from excitement.”

  She started to walk off, her head down, her shoulders slumped.

  “All right, you can come,” Beth said grudgingly. “But keep your mouth shut. You’re invisible. Okay?”

  Mace didn’t answer; she was sprinting to her bike.

  “And stop whining,” Beth called after her.


  ROY KINGMAN had hit thirty-one shots in a row on his behind-the-door basketball hoop. The police had swarmed the place minutes after he’d phoned 911. It still didn’t seem possible that he’d gone to make coffee, opened the fridge, and caught Diane Tolliver’s dead body before it hit the floor. He’d been asked lots of questions by lots of people, some in uniform and some not. As the other lawyers had arrived at work, word had quickly spread as to what had happened. Several partners and a few associates had stopped by to see him, offering supportive words and also expressions of sympathy, puzzlement, and fear. One fellow lawyer had even seemed a bit suspicious of him.

  The cops wouldn’t tell him anything. He didn’t know how long Diane had been dead. He didn’t even know what had killed the woman. There was no blood or wounds that he could see. Although he’d defended accused murderers when he’d been a CJA and had seen his share of autopsy photos, he wasn’t exactly an expert on violent death.

  He looked at his desk full of work to do and then glanced away. Not today. The clients could wait. He hadn’t been Diane Tolliver’s

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