True blue, p.47
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       True Blue, p.47

           David Baldacci

  These could be drug dealers laundering money. Or operating funds for terrorists. Or spies.

  And they might have someone at DLT on the inside. And then it struck Roy. DLT was just following instructions. It was far more likely they had someone at Shilling in their pocket. He looked at the revised instruction letter. It had Diane’s electronic signature on it. But that was easy to get. Especially for someone in management at the firm.

  Chester Ackerman. The biggest rainmaker at the firm.

  He doubted Ackerman was the driving force behind this. But he felt sure the man knew who was. Roy inserted a flash drive in the USB slot and made copies of as many pages as he could and slipped it in his briefcase. He was walking to the office foyer when he heard Cassie open the door.

  “I’m all done, Cassie,” he called out. “Found the problem.”

  The door closed and he stopped.

  It wasn’t Cassie. It was a petite woman with brown hair, but her gun looked awfully big.


  MACE NEARLY LEAPT off the train when it finally pulled to a stop in Union Station. A short trip had turned into an all-day affair. It was already dark outside. She would wait until she got outside to call Roy. Hopefully he had struck pay dirt at the escrow firm.

  So intent was she on her thoughts that she never saw the man visibly react as she walked by him in the station and headed for the cab stands. She never saw him pull his cell phone and make a quick call. Never saw him walk up behind her. She did notice when the pistol was wedged against the small of her back.

  “Keep your mouth shut or you’re dead.”

  She tried to look back but he pushed the gun deeper. “Eyes straight ahead.”

  “This place is packed with cops,” she said. “How about I start screaming instead?”

  “See them kids over there?”

  Mace’s gaze darted to the left where a group of kids in school uniforms were standing with two older women.

  “I see ’em.”

  “Then you see the dude right behind ’em?”

  Mace saw the dude. Big and angry-looking. “Yeah.”

  “Well he’s got a grenade in his pocket. You give me any shit, he’s gonna pull the pin, drop it in that trash can, and walk away. Then the kiddies go boom.”

  “Why the hell are you doing this?”

  “Shut up and walk!”

  He maneuvered her up the escalators, out to the parking garage, and then far down to a remote corner of the place where no else was around and only one vehicle was parked, a black Escalade. Four men got out as they approached.

  Mace flinched when she saw him.

  Psycho was not smiling this time. No sparkle in the eye, no levity at all in his features. The man looked all business.

  “Dead bitch walking,” he said grimly. “I thought we had a deal,” said Mace. “No harm, no foul.”

  All that got was a backhanded punch from Psycho that dropped Mace on her butt. She sat there wiping the blood off her cheek before one of the boys ripped her back to a standing position just in time for Psycho to knock her on her ass again with an uppercut to her gut.

  Mace was tough, but one more hit like that and she wasn’t going to be doing much else other than lie in a nursing home bed and dribble into a cup. She turned to the side and threw up right before she was jerked back to her feet. She stood there tottering.

  Blood flowing from her nose and cracked mouth she managed to say, “One request.”

  “Do you understand that I’m about to kill you?”

  “That’s why I figure I better ask now.”


  “You’re a big tough guy. You just knocked me on my ass twice. You’re gonna kill me.”


  “So, let me have one punch. Right to your gut. You can even harden up the six-pack before I do it.”

  “What are you, one-ten?”

  “About. And you’re over two, I know.”

  “So where’s that gonna get you?”

  “Satisfaction before I die.”

  “How do I know you’re not some kind of kung fu princess?”

  “If I were, you think I’d be letting you kick my ass?” She spit blood out of her mouth and ran her tongue over a loosened tooth. “Hey, but if you’re afraid of a girl.”

  Psycho reared back his fist to hit her again, but stopped when she flinched. He grinned. “You ain’t no kung fu nothing. I know, because I am. Double black belt.”

  “Figures,” said Mace wearily, wiping blood off her chin with her jacket sleeve. “So it’s a yes?”

  Psycho looked around at his guys, who all looked back at him with amused expressions. Mace also glanced around. There wasn’t anyone to help her. They were in a dark, deserted corner in the pits of the parking garage. She could scream her lungs out and it wouldn’t matter. But she suddenly did see one thing that might help matters. If she lived long enough.

  “Okay. But soon as your little love tap connects, we’re putting your butt in that SUV, taking you to a favorite place of mine, putting a bullet in your brain, and dropping you in Rock Creek Park.”

  “Tense the six-pack, Psych. I’m gonna give it all I got.”

  Psycho zipped open his jacket and exposed a flat belly that Mace knew was probably hard as iron. She was actually surprised no one had noticed, but it was dark out here and so they apparently hadn’t seen what she’d done. Her blow was efficiently delivered, driven right into the man’s diaphragm. Mace had been right, it was hard as rock. But it didn’t matter. The 900,000 volts in her zap knuckles didn’t really care how hard someone’s gut was. Psycho dropped to the concrete shaking like he was holding a live wire, his mouth making little burps of sound, his eyes popping and fluttering.

  His stunned crew just stood there watching him.

  Mace sprinted off.

  The guy who’d originally grabbed her in the station shouted, “Hey!”

  Mace knew she’d never make it. Even as she ran she tensed for the shots that would be hitting her any moment now. The squeal of wheels made her look to her left. The Nissan was coming right at her. She threw herself to the side, only to watch it miss her by design and whip around and come to a stop between her and Psycho’s guys.

  “Get in!”

  Mace jumped to her feet.

  “Get in!”


  Alisha’s brother had his gun out and pointed it at Psycho’s onrushing crew. He placed two shots right over their heads, and the two lead guys hit the concrete, making draw pulls of their own on the way down.

  Mace ripped open the Nissan’s passenger door and threw herself in. There was another squeal of wheels and the Nissan shot forward. Mace ducked as bullets pinged off the metal and one round cracked the rear window glass. They rounded a corner and Darren floored it. Two more curves and they zipped out of the garage. Five minutes later they were two miles away and Mace finally sat up in her seat.

  “Where the hell did you come from?” she exclaimed. “How’d you know I was even there?”

  “Didn’t. I was tailing Psycho. Saw what was going down. Figured you needed a little help.”

  Mace strapped on her seat belt. “Now I know why they call you Razor.”

  “Got some napkins in the glove box. Don’t want you bleeding all over my seat,” he added in a surly tone.

  “Thanks.” She pulled some out and wiped off her face. “Why were you tailing that guy?”

  “Why you think?”

  “There are several endings to that sort of plan, and none of them are good.”

  “What you want me to do, let him walk?”

  “He’s not going to walk.”

  “That’s right, you gonna handle him. That’s what you said. Well, you handling him all right. But for me, your ass is dead tonight.”

  “Hey, don’t forget my zap knuckles.”

  Darren grinned, probably in spite of himself. “That was cool seeing him on his ass like that shaking like a dude coming off meth.”

  Mace palmed her phone. “Okay, we have kidnapping, assault—”

  He glanced at her. “What you talking ’bout?”

  “The crimes Psycho and his guys committed tonight.”

  “Right. He’ll have ten people say he was twenty miles away.”

  “You didn’t see it, then?”

  “See what?”

  “The security camera in the corner of the garage.” She punched in a number. “Beth, Mace. Yeah, I’m cool. Just got into D.C. I brought you a present. A guy named Psycho, tied up in a nice little bow.”


  IT WAS AMAZING to Roy how quickly and efficiently he was bundled out of the building. The truck had driven for an indeterminate amount of time. He was tied up, gagged and blindfolded, and they’d put something in his ear that buzzed constantly so he couldn’t even listen for helpful sounds that might aid in telling him where they were headed. Now he was seated at a table in a room that he sensed was part of a bigger facility. He tensed when the door opened and the woman walked in.

  Mary Bard sat down across from him, her hands clasped in front of her and resting on the table. Roy was no longer tied up and the gag and blindfold had been removed. They obviously didn’t care if he could identify any of them. They clearly didn’t anticipate him sitting in a witness box.

  “Who are you? What do you want?”

  “You watch too much TV,” said Bard with a bemused expression.

  “And what exactly did you expect me to ask?”

  “Do you want to live?” she said simply.

  “Yes. But why do I think it highly unlikely?”

  “It is very unlikely,” she conceded. “But not impossible. And in your situation, it is the impossible you must strive for.”

  “Like this?” He leapt across the table and attempted to grab her. He outweighed her by at least a hundred pounds and was nearly a foot taller. When he woke, he was lying on the cold floor on his stomach. His right shoulder felt like it was out of its socket. He slowly sat up, holding his damaged wing.

  Mary Bard was once more seated at the table and staring at him with the same inscrutable expression. “Are you finished playing John Wayne?”

  John Wayne? She either doesn’t watch much current TV or isn’t from America and subsists on a steady diet of decades-old movies.

  “How did you do that?” he asked, grimacing with pain.

  “I could tell you, but you wouldn’t understand, so what would be the point?”

  He got to his feet and slumped down in the chair, holding his injured shoulder. “I think it’s popped out of joint,” he said. He felt sick to his stomach.

  “It is. Would you like me to put it back for you?”

  “How about some morphine instead?”

  “No. You need to be completely focused for what is coming.” She walked around the table and stood next to him. “Turn toward me.”

  “I swear if this is some kind of trick, ninja chick or not, I will—”

  She moved so fast he had no time to react. There was a pop, an instant of gut-wrenching pain, and then his shoulder was back in place.

  She sat back down while he gingerly moved his arm around, testing her work. “Thank you.”

  “Pleasure,” she said as she stared at him.

  “You’re not American, are you?”

  She shrugged. “What does it matter what I am?”

  “Okay, I’m focused. What do you want?”

  “We want you to text Mace Perry. We want to meet with her too.”

  Roy sat back. “I don’t think so. You’ve got me, you’re not getting her too.”

  “Mr. Kingman, you really should reconsider.”

  “Okay, I will. You want me to text Mace. Ask her to meet me in some out-of-the-way place so when you grab and kill her no one will even know. And then you’ll just kill me too. I’m thinking about it, thinking about it.” He paused and said, “Go to hell, lady.”

  “We can of course text her ourselves using your phone.”

  “Then why even ask me?”

  “As a test, of course.”

  “Did I pass or fail?”

  “I don’t know yet.”

  “So where does that leave us? If you let me call her, I’ll warn her it’s a trap. And since I’ve never sent her a text before, she’ll be instantly suspicious if she gets one. She’s sort of paranoid by nature. And she’ll call me. And when I don’t answer….”

  “Yes, we thought the same thing.”

  “I figured it out, you know. The money thing. The piggyback ride. Dialing for terrorists? Is that what you are? You don’t look Middle Eastern but are you one of bin Laden’s babes?”

  “I am not anyone’s babe,” she said, her voice rising slightly.

  “Okay, but maybe you should consider this. Mace doesn’t know any of what I found out. And neither does anyone else. I never had a chance to tell anybody.”

  “Your point?”

  “You don’t need Mace. You’ve got me. You kill me, it’s over.”

  “I doubt it would be over.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “My briefing on Mace Perry leads me to conclude that if you are in danger she will stop at nothing to try and help you.”

  “Your briefing? Okay, what government do you work for?”

  For the first time Mary Bard exhibited a touch of chagrin. Her lips compressed slightly and there was a certain irritated look to her eyes.

  When she didn’t answer him, he said, “I’d say the impossible just got wildly impossible. I’m never walking out of here, so what incentive do I have to help you?”

  There was a buzzing sound. Roy looked around for a moment until he realized it was the woman’s phone vibrating. She rose, went to a far corner, and answered. She barely spoke, mostly listened. It dawned on Roy that the room was probably wired for both sound and video. Who was out there?

  Bard put the phone back in her pocket and retook her seat. “No incentive at all. But the fact is she will come to try and save you once we tell her we have you. You see, you’re the bait.”

  “Her sister is the D.C. police chief. If she comes it will be with an army.”

  “No she won’t. Because we will tell her that will ensure your death.”

  “But her coming alone she knows will ensure both our deaths.”


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