True blue, p.49
True Blue, p.49David Baldacci
“In the spirit of fair play, I propose to allow you the first move,” said Bard, who had edged closer to Mace with each move.
“And in the spirit of fair play, I propose to kill you any way I can.”
“So you don’t want the first move?”
“No, actually I do. But I want them out of the way.” Mace pointed to the gunmen arrayed around her. “No bullets in the back if I get the upper hand with you.”
Bard hesitated and then motioned to the armed men to clear the area. Mace backed away until she reached the far wall, her knife held in front of her.
“I’m waiting,” said Bard. “For the first move.”
“And I’m still thinking of what that first move should be.”
“This is ridiculous. If you—”
Mace lunged and her hand slammed down on the lever connected to the power box on the wall. The building instantly went dark. With a flick of her wrist, Mace tossed her knife. It flashed across the space and lodged in the chest of the gunman closest to her. He collapsed to the floor, the blade tip resting in the left chamber of his heart.
Mace had no trouble seeing in the pitch dark because she was wearing a pair of latest-generation contact lenses that were actually advanced optics that instantly adapted to all levels of light or darkness. They’d been a gift from the FBI for a situation just like this. From her earlier observations she knew there were four gunmen on this level and three more on the catwalk. They had Heckler and Koch UMPs and MP5s. And she desperately needed some firepower before the bandits figured out a way to light up the place again. She slid across the floor to the dead man and snagged his submachine gun and two extra mags.
Mace opened fire. One of the guys shooting in her vicinity jerked around as two of her rounds impacted his neck and torso. He managed to squeeze off a few more wild rounds before he went down and stayed there. Mace immediately rolled six feet to her left as bullets pounded her last firing position, the bandits taking aim at her previous muzzle flashes. She caught another guy in both knees with another burst. He dropped screaming, but kept firing. Her next round slammed into his face and his UMP went silent.
Lines of fire started coming from the catwalk. Forty-caliber rounds ricocheted off the concrete floor as Mace threw herself behind the guts of a retooling machine and fired off the rest of her mag, dropped it, and slapped in a new one as return fire pinged all around her. A chunk of wood got blown off the end of the table she was behind and she felt the tailing rip into her shoulder and slice across her cheek. Warm blood flowed down her face. Another round cut a groove across her left thigh, searing through her pants and tattooing her skin black.
She sprayed rounds at the catwalk, but even through her optics she couldn’t see much because of the smoke from all the weapons discharge. The remaining shooters had taken cover as well. And they had the high ground and superior firepower. Mace was pinned down. The logistics were depressingly simple. Without help it was only a matter of time before they were dead.
She looked behind her to see Roy slumped over, his face twisted in pain. Even from this distance and with her field of vision a ghostly green Mace could see what she knew was his blood seeping across his shirt. Mary Bard was stooping over him, her knife pulling back for the final stroke while he frantically kicked at her.
The explosion catapulted both front sliding doors a good ten feet across the floor. Out of the smoke came a sight Mace would never forget.
Twenty FBI Hostage Rescue Team armored assaulters loaded for war emerged from the smoke. Just the sight of these guys was enough to scare the hell out of anyone no matter how battle-tested. Knowing what was coming, Mace instantly dropped down and pulled the plugs from out of her boots and stuffed them in her ears. A second later an array of flash-bangs detonated.
As the HRT laid down precise walls of fire at the enemy positions exposed to their night optics, Mace turned and raced toward Roy. Mary Bard was on her side, dazed by the flash-bangs, blood trickling out of one ear. When she tried to rise up and finish off Roy, Mace leapt, the butt of her UMP catching the woman flush on the temple. She crumpled to the floor.
The all-clear sounded a minute later. Someone hit the wall lever and the interior of the building exploded with light.
“Man down,” screamed Mace. In the darkness she’d ripped open Roy’s shirt and used the cloth to stop the bleeding. As the medical support personnel that came on every HRT operation rushed forward, Mace told Roy, “You’re going to be okay.”
“I don’t feel like I’m going to be okay.”
“You can’t die, Roy.”
“I’ve got a pretty good feeling I’m going to need one kick-ass lawyer, and you’re the only one I know.”
He managed a weak smile before the medics took over. A few minutes later the chopper lifted off with them on their way to the nearest hospital.
FORTY MINUTES later the tech with the headset jerked upright in his seat. On the screen an explosion had just rocked the camera. Beth put down the call she was on and joined them. They all stared dumbfounded at the sight on the screen as a fireball lit the sky.
“My God,” said an obviously shaken Burns. “They detonated a bomb.” He turned to the tech. “Get that chopper on the ground ASAP.”
The tech relayed these instructions and they watched as the chopper headed downward. A moment later the camera feed went dead. A tense minute went by and then the tech jerked again as a stream of words came over his headset. He nodded blankly, his face pale. He turned to the others. “The building was destroyed. There does not appear to be any survivors.”
“Are they sure it’s the right spot?” said Beth.
“They just pulled a body from the site,” said the tech as he glanced nervously at Beth. “A female body with a positive ID.”
“My God, Beth,” said Burns. “I’m so sorry.”
“I am too, Jarvis. I am too. Very sorry.”
Something in her tone made him look sharply at her.
“Beth? Are you all right?”
“Okay,” Beth called out loudly in the direction of the door.
It opened and in walked Sam Donnelly, along with a half dozen security officers. Behind him came Steve Lanier, the FBI AD, who was wearing a broad smile.
Burns looked from his boss to Beth and then back to his boss. “Sir, what the hell is going on here?”
“I’m sorry, Jarv. It’s all over,” said Donnelly sadly.
“What is all over?”
“Your secret op. With the FBI’s help we set this trap for you. I’d long suspected that something was going on I wasn’t aware of. I’m sorry it turned out to be you.”
“But—” began Burns.
“Sacrifices, Jarvis. We talked about this before. The national security of this country comes before all.”
Burns and Donnelly shared a pronounced stare.
“You will of course have the full support of the DNI if it turns out we were wrong,” added Donnelly.
“I see. Thank you, sir. I’m sure everything will be worked out.”
Donnelly turned to Lanier. “I think we can handle it from here, Steve. The FBI isn’t cleared for this. But I appreciate the assist. I’ll have my people—”
Beth approached Burns. “Were you really going to do it, Jarv?’
“Fall on the sword for Sam?”
“What?” said Donnelly sharply.
She turned to him. “Sacrifices? The full support of the DNI? We’ll take over now? We’ll never see Jarv again. You’ll just move him to Jordan or Iraq to continue doing what he’s doing.”
“Which is of course what you ordered him to do,” added Lanier.
“I have no idea what you people are talking about,” said Donnelly furiously.
“If I were you,” Lanier said to Donnelly, “I’d save any comments for your defense.” He motioned to his men. They moved forwar
“How dare you!” said Donnelly angrily.
Lanier sat down in a leather chair across from Beth’s desk. “Chief, would you like to do the honors?” he said. “I’m a little sick to my stomach, personally.”
Beth leaned against the edge of her desk. “Jarvis, do you know when you told me that you were aware of the death of Diane Tolliver, the fire alarm pull, and the rest?”
“What of it?” said Burns with a wary expression.
“When I seemed amazed that you knew this, you remarked that if you couldn’t keep track of things going on in your own city how could you be expected to know what was going on in the rest of the world.”
“I’m afraid I’m not seeing your—”
“I took you at your word, Jarvis. I accepted that if anything big were going on in D.C., you and Sam would know about it. And if you two weren’t doing anything to stop it, it occurred to me that that might be because you were behind it. I also tracked Hope and Reiger to the Pentagon one night. I knew they had no military connection, but I was aware that DNI had a satellite office there. And when we learned of the connection between Diane Tolliver and Jamie Meldon, and the fact that she’d been killed on Friday instead of Monday, I knew there was something more here than an old vet raping and killing. We had no proof of anything, so I went to Steve and we hatched a plan to see if we could get that evidence.”
Beth pointed to the screen. “This plan.”
Donnelly said, “My God, Beth, I have no idea what you’re talking about. But am I to believe that you sacrificed your sister to see if some nonsensical idea was valid or not?”
Lanier said, “Mace is fine. We sent in HRT. We were able to track them when Mace slipped a bug on one of the bandits before they scanned her. The chopper took her and Kingman to the nearest hospital.”
Burns glanced nervously at the screen. “Well, apparently the report we received was erroneous. I am very glad that she’s all right.”
Beth said coldly, “The hell you are, Jarv. You and Sam did your best to kill her. This whole thing tonight was an elaborate charade by you. The camera feed was bogus. You didn’t have any choppers out there. No stealth units. All smoke and mirrors.”
“You are utterly mistaken,” said Burns.
“Don’t say anything else, Jarvis,” cautioned Donnelly. “We’ll get this all straightened out.”
“The hell you will,” exclaimed Beth.
“You have nothing!” retorted Donnelly. “No proof. And once I speak to the president, heads will roll.”
“Oh, the proof’s not a problem,” she said. “The evidence is overwhelming.”
Lanier said, “HRT has several of your goons that you imported to do your dirty work.”
“You’ll accept the word of ‘goons’ over ours?” Donnelly said. “Do you realize how ridiculous that will look in court? I strongly suggest that you save yourself the embarrassment, release us immediately, and we’ll just drop it here and now.”
She said, “What really bugged me was the fact that you disrespected me.”
“How exactly did I do that?”
“By assuming I wouldn’t be smart enough to figure it all out.”
“You still have nothing.”
Lanier looked at Beth and then nodded at one of his men. “Bring her in.”
A cuffed Mary Bard, her head bandaged, walked in with an armed escort.
“Mary Bard,” said Lanier. “Recruited to this country to work with the FBI until you stole her from us, Sam. When I learned how Reiger and Hope died, the surgically precise cuts in the throat, it got me remembering about a little joint op she did with CIA last year.”
Bard said bitterly, “The director told me the people tonight were traitors and had killed innocent people. That their terminations had been authorized by your government.”
“Shut the hell up!” screamed Donnelly.
“She killed them. She killed them,” cried Burns. “Not us.”
Beth glanced at Lanier. “Can you please get them out of my sight before I shoot all three of them?”
Later that night Beth Perry strode into the hospital and saw her sister standing at the end of the hall. When Mace looked up and spied Beth she walked toward her. The two sisters met in the middle, flinging their arms around each other.
“God, you were great tonight, Mace.”
“We both came up with the plan, sis.”
“Yeah, but you were in the line of fire executing it, not me. You could have died.”
“You’re the chief. I’m expendable.”
The two women stepped apart and Beth looked at the bandage on Mace’s face and the bulge under her thigh. “Are you okay?”
“I got hurt worse than this falling out of bed.”
“Liar. How’s Kingman?”
“Out of surgery. They said I could see him for a couple of minutes. Do you want to come?”
Roy was still heavily sedated but his eyes opened when he heard Mace’s voice. She wrapped her hand around his.
He said weakly, “Everything okay?”
“Everything is great,” said Mace. “Beth is here.”
Roy slowly turned his head to look at the chief. She reached down and touched his face gently.
“Hey, Roy, I need to tell you something.”
“What’s that?” he mouthed.
Beth glanced over at Mace before answering. “If you want to keep hanging around Mace, it’s okay with me.” She leaned down and kissed him on the cheek.
As the sisters walked down the hall to the waiting room Mace said, “You know, you finally called him Roy.”
“Yeah. That’s because he earned it.”
SO AS I SAID, I’m thrilled to be here today to announce that all charges against my client, Louis Dockery, have been dropped. He has been released from custody and the Veterans Administration has taken it upon itself to see that such a decorated soldier will no longer be living on the streets.”
This time Roy was having no problem handling the siege of reporters in front of the steps to D.C. Superior Court. His shoulder and side bandaged, he had just finished his remarks. Standing a few feet from him, a look of absolute revulsion on her face, was Mona Danforth. The only reason she was here was because the mayor and the head of the Justice Department had “requested” that she be present.
One reporter called out, “Mr. Kingman, how did you injure yourself?”
Roy smiled. “During the course of the litigation I accidentally impaled myself on one of Ms. Danforth’s legendary stilettos.”
The roar of laughter lasted so long that Mona finally stalked off, her face nearly as red as her lipstick. As she made her way inside the court building she bumped into someone.
“Hey, Mona,” said Mace. “Isn’t it a great day when justice finally triumphs?”
“Go to hell!”
“Nah, it’ll be way too crowded with both of us there.”
“I’m still going to press assault charges against you for attacking me in the ladies’ room. You chipped one of my teeth.”
“God, I’m really sorry, Mona. But there’s somebody here who
True Blue by David Baldacci / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on40 votes