True blue, p.42
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       True Blue, p.42

           David Baldacci
 

  “Well, he said he did it in a cup.”

  “A cup is not a woman’s vagina. Did he say how long it took him to do it in the cup?”

  “He said it took some time. He also told us they gave him a girlie magazine.”

  “I would bet it took him a long time even with the girlie magazine.”

  “That could be important, because Tolliver wasn’t at the office more than two hours before she was killed. And chances are it was a lot less than that. Maybe thirty minutes to an hour.”

  “No problem for an eighteen-year-old. But if a guy in Dockery’s condition can get an erection in less than four hours, if at all, you can give me what he’s taking. Do you know why the pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars off stuff like Viagra and Cialis?”

  “Because older guys can’t get it up without help?”

  “Exactly, especially for guys Dockery’s age. And keep in mind this is just between you and me. I won’t repeat this on the witness stand. You can get your own expert. Under the law my findings are an open book for the defendant’s counsel to use. But he has to draw his own conclusions and what I’ve said is just speculation. I really can’t form an opinion about it.”

  “Understood. But speculate on one more thing. Do you think they might have given Dockery a pill to help him do it in the cup?”

  “I wouldn’t bet against it.”

  “Hopefully, he’ll remember when we ask him. He’s not that stellar on details. And they could’ve stuck it in a Twinkie. But how long would the sperm last in her? If Dockery is telling the truth, they had to get it from him, store it, transport it to the crime scene, and shoot it into her. Someone I talked to said the stuff breaks down after a while. That’s why they have to yolk it.”

  “It does. The motility and other elements do degrade. The sample I examined hadn’t been there longer than seventy-two hours.”

  Mace sat back. “How about less than twenty-four? Say he gave the sample on Sunday and she was killed on Monday?”

  “No. Longer than that. At least three days.”

  “You’re sure?”

  “I’d stake my reputation on it.”

  “That’s good enough for me.” She stood. “Thanks, Doc.”

  “For what? I’m not sure I was very helpful.”

  “No, I think you cleared up a lot. The only problem is, if what I’m thinking is right, I’ve got a ton of new questions that need answers.”

  “I hope you get them.”

  “Me too.”

  A few minutes later Mace burned down the road. She wasn’t heading back to Abe Altman’s manse. She was heading to Georgetown. If she was right then there was a force behind all of this that scared her. In fact, it might just scare her right to death.

  CHAPTER 96

  JARVIS BURNS LEFT his office building late and hailed a cab. When he was with Sam Donnelly he traveled by motorcade. On his own, public transportation was deemed good enough. He didn’t mind. In fact, it was the perfect opportunity to take in another meeting.

  He settled back against his seat in the taxi. The cabbie eyed him in the mirror. He wore a white loose-fitting cotton shirt, and in his own country would have also had a black-and-white kaffiyeh on his head, which symbolized the man’s Palestinian heritage. This man, Burns knew, had just flown in from the Middle East. He typically lived at thirty-five thousand feet for extended periods of time, passing over oceans and also arid geography where men killed each other with great frequency over issues of religion, land, natural resources, and simple, intractable hate.

  “Mahmud,” Burns began. “How are you, my friend?”

  Mahmud studied Burns closely and then pulled the cab from the curb. He had spent most of his life in constant conflict with others, had lost both parents and two siblings to violent deaths. His parents had been betrayed by those they thought were friends. Therefore their son trusted no one. He had known desperate poverty and didn’t care for it. He had known what it was like to be powerless and cared for that even less. He carried bullet holes and bomb shrapnel in his body. He had been a fierce warrior for his cause. Yet he had come to realize that there were other ways to play the game that did not involve the risk of imminent death. And that there were other rewards to be had while one was still living.

  In crisp English he said, “I am here. I never take that for granted.”

  “I share that philosophy.”

  “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer, Jarvis,” he said. “I think your country is finally learning the value of this. Isolation emboldens those who hate you. It allows them to paint a picture of your country to their fellow citizens, and it is never a pretty picture when they do.”

  “Agreed, agreed,” Burns said hastily.

  “But that is not what we need to discuss?”

  “I wanted to make clear that the situation that has arisen is truly under control.”

  Mahmud gave him a piercing look in the mirror. “That is good to hear. It was unfortunate, very unfortunate. How exactly did it happen?”

  “We believe we’ve pieced together the sequence of events. It was a chain that should have been broken at numerous points along the line, but unfortunately was not. An inadvertent glimpse at a laptop screen on a flight back from Dubai started Diane Tolliver down the road that would eventually lead to her termination. From there she became ever more curious, comparing documents, making inquiries, and gathering information. Fortunately, she made the mistake of trusting someone. That’s how we became aware of the issue.”

  “A close call, then.”

  “The blame lies entirely on our side. But I didn’t want you to think that it would linger. Or that it will disrupt what we are trying to do. It will not. I give you my word.”

  “Your word means a great deal. You too have sacrificed much for your country.”

  “It was my honor and privilege.”

  “I have stopped thinking about such things.”

  “That saddens me.”

  “It is actually uplifting to me.”

  “The money, yes. I can see that. But we are doing the right thing too. It’s what we all want. My country in particular.”

  “If it was what your leaders wanted, my friend, you and the director would not be doing all of this on your own.”

  “We’re not alone, I can assure you. However, sometimes the leadership is unwilling on the record to take the steps necessary to achieve essential goals. But they would not begrudge us the opportunity to employ sufficient if unpopular methods.”

  “Right. The less they know the better.”

  “I would not put it exactly that way.”

  “You talk of course about violent death; the execution of your own people if it jeopardizes those goals. Americans have always been reluctant in that regard. Frankly, I have always seen that as a weakness.”

  “We are a civilized people, Mahmud.”

  “Well, perhaps one day my people will be as unfamiliar with violent death as your people are, Jarvis. What a great thing that will be.”

  “I hope to live to see that day.”

  “I would have to say that your chances of doing so are far better than mine.”

  “I hope you are wrong there.”

  “Even if I’m not, so what? There will be others to take my place. For a people so certain that there will be an afterlife of paradise, you Americans value life too much. None of us are irreplaceable. Even if bin Laden dies, there will be others. That is the way the world works. That is what keeps you gainfully employed, correct?”

  “I would happily retire if there would be no more bin Ladens, Mahmud.”

  “Then you will never retire, my friend. If you require us to assist in ‘cleaning up’ this problem you will let me know?”

  “I think I have the right people for the job.”

  “So many have said and yet been wrong.” There was an edge to the Palestinian’s words that caused Burns to draw his gaze from the mirror where he’d been watching the man’s eyes and instead
look out the window.

  “I understand that your people have to survive. By any means possible.”

  “They have nothing. This way they have something. The money cannot stop now. They have grown used to it. If you don’t pay, others will. Your leaders are very shortsighted in that regard. That is why we’ve had to go this route. Cash trumps all.”

  “It won’t stop. I guarantee it.”

  “That is good, because they do not love your country. But they can be bought. Anyone can be bought, it seems.” He paused and added bluntly, “Even me.”

  “Enemies closer.”

  “Allow no one to ever convince you otherwise.”

  A few minutes later Burns left the cab and climbed into the back-seat of a waiting Town Car and turned to the woman sitting next to him. Mary Bard had discarded the jumpsuit and was dressed in much the same way as she had been when disposing of Karl Reiger and Don Hope.

  “I appreciate your professionalism,” Burns said. “In a difficult assignment.”

  Bard shrugged. “One assignment is much like another assignment. They vary only in degrees of complexity.”

  “Moral as well as logistical?”

  “I leave the moral debate to others. The logistical side is quite enough for me.”

  “I can provide fresh orders for you if you require them,” Burns said, testing her.

  “I have my orders. Your director has told me to assist you and only you in any way you require.”

  “I must make a note to ask to have more people like you sent my way.”

  “For that you will have to talk to my superiors in Moscow,” she said.

  “I will.”

  “So what do you wish me to do?”

  “I need you to be on the watch for two people.” He showed her pictures of Roy Kingman and Mace Perry. She stared at them for a full minute.

  “You can keep the photos,” he said.

  “I don’t need them. They are now in my mind.”

  “All right. We’re setting up perimeter defensive positions. But together with that I need to locate some bait, just in case.”

  “I’m very good at finding bait.”

  “I know that you are.”

  CHAPTER 97

  MACE PARKED her bike behind the building and got off. Her gaze scanned the rear parking area, which had space for ten slots. As she stepped forward she could see the names of two doctors stenciled in yellow on the asphalt in side-by-side parking slots. The big shots always got their own space, she thought. A short stack of steps led up to the back door, which was solid wood. There were two windows in the back, both barred and curtained.

  And there were the green trash cans that the Captain had mentioned. Not that that helped very much since there were only a million of them in the area and they all looked the same. She heard the clink of boots against the pavement before she heard the voice.

  “Can I help you?”

  She turned to see the rental cop walking toward her, his hand resting lightly on the top of his sidearm. He looked to be in his fifties and was probably a retired cop making some extra money. To her, he had the ease but also the awareness of a guy who’d walked a beat and talked the talk for a lot of years.

  “Just checking the place out.”

  He looked at the rear of Potomac Cryobank. “Just checking it out? Or casing it?”

  “I’m not really in the market for sperm right now.”

  “Lot of people are. It’s a hot commodity.”

  “I bet. You guarding the place?”

  “Not out for my health.”

  “You former MPD?”

  “You a cop?”

  “Used to be.”

  “I’m retired now. Do security full-time. What was your beat?”

  “Mostly Six and Seven Ds.”

  “Okay, you earned your stripes.”

  “I’m doing some PI work now.”

  “Involving this place?”

  “I was hired by a lawyer to check out an alibi that has to do with the sperm bank. Don’t think it’s going to fly, but you have to go through the motions.”

  “What sort of alibi?”

  “Guy says he was around here going through trash cans when something else was happening at another place.”

  “And at this other place the something happening was a crime and your guy was arrested for it?”

  “You’re a fast learner.”

  “Not really. Story’s always the same.”

  “I’ve actually been in the sperm bank. I thought it had a security system.”

  “It does.”

  “So why you too? Is sperm really that hot a commodity?”

  “I asked that very same question myself. I’m not some college kid wanting to make some extra bucks or some cop wannabe who doesn’t give a crap. I go into a situation I want to know what’s what. They told me that the security system had been acting screwy here and so they needed feet on the pavement.”

  “Acting screwy?”

  “Yeah. Energy spikes maybe, or a freak wire or software glitch. But they came in one day and found the alarm not even on. And the nurse said she remembered setting it. She was the last to leave.”

  “Did you talk to the nurse?” He nodded. Mace described the woman that she and Roy had spoken with.

  “Yeah, that’s the gal.”

  “She’s pretty efficient. If she said she set it, I bet she did.”

  “Anyway, they had the alarm company come over but they couldn’t figure out what had happened. And there was no record of any break-in or anything, or the alarm going off or any sensors being tripped. It was like the system just went to sleep for no reason. I don’t think anything turned up missing and there was no evidence that anyone actually broke in. But the folks still got worried and they’re in the process of changing the whole system over. Until they get it done, I’m here.”

  “Do you remember when all this went down?”

  “Why are you interested? Think it has to do with your alibi?”

  “Never know. And I’m just naturally curious.”

  “Most cops are.” He stroked his chin. “I got the call to come here on Thursday. So I guess Wednesday of last week.”

  “I thought you might say that.”

  He looked surprised. “Why?”

  She fired up her bike. “It’s a real long story. You might read about it in the papers one day.”

 
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