True blue, p.50
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       True Blue, p.50

           David Baldacci

  wants to give you something.”

  They turned to see Beth walking up to them with an envelope in hand.

  “Here you go, Ms. Interim.” She thrust the envelope in Mona’s hands.

  “What the hell is this?”

  “Affidavits from my two detectives you coerced into working with you. They are prepared to testify that you initiated contact with Lou Dockery without benefit of his counsel being there, breaking numerous ethical canons and also the law. Since the U.S. Attorney’s Office will be conflicted out over this one, the Justice Department will be prosecuting you.”

  Now Mona’s face turned as white as the envelope she was holding. “Prosecuting me?”

  “Yeah,” said Mace. “You know, that whole court thing that ends in the bars being slammed behind your ass? If you want I can give you some tips on prison etiquette.”

  After the press conference was over, Mace, Beth, and Roy climbed into a government sedan and headed to a meeting that they really would rather have avoided. On the way over, they discussed what had happened.

  “So the Captain is really going to be taken care of?” asked Mace.

  Roy nodded. “The VA guy said he would take it as his personal mission to get him the care he needs. And I’m going to be checking. But I did tell them to order a truckload of Twinkies.”

  “God, Mona was pissed,” said Mace. “You really think they’ll nail her this time?”

  Beth replied, “All I know is when I showed the affidavits to the DOJ lawyer he screamed out, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’”

  “And Psycho?” asked Roy.

  “Signed, sealed, and delivered. When his gang saw the surveillance video from the security camera in the train station parking lot they rolled on him. They should be able to put him away for a long time.”

  “And Alisha, Tyler, and Darren?”

  Mace answered. “Alisha’s enrolled in a GED program. Tyler’s being seen by a specialist from Johns Hopkins, and Mr. Razor is going back to school too. He apparently graduated from high school but never bothered to pick up his diploma. He’s going the community college route for now. He’ll probably be running the world in about ten years.”

  “So are you still going to be working for Altman?” Roy asked.

  “Hey, I made a deal. I’m not going back on it. What about you? You could go back to Shilling.”

  “Haven’t made up my mind yet. But they did drop the lawsuit against me.”

  “How’s the wound?”

  “Won’t be playing ball anytime soon.”

  “I know, I’ll take you on in HORSE, one-handed style.”

  “You’re on.”

  The smiles faded from both their faces as the car slowed. They looked out the window as they stopped at the armed gate. The driver flashed his creds and they headed on.

  “So what do you think is going to happen in there,” Roy said, indicating the two-story building they were heading to. It was set on a multi-acre college-style campus.

  Beth spoke up. “I always expect the worst. And today I think I’ll be justified.”


  BETH’S GLOCK had been confiscated at the door. Mace could tell that her sister was not happy about that just by the way her right fingers continued to flick at the empty space there. An armed escort led them down a long hallway where every single door was closed and also had a security lock. No open-style cubicle system here, thought Mace.

  They were led into a spacious office with the typical wall of photos and shelves of awards and memorabilia that a high-rising public servant invariably collected. The Director of Central Intelligence, or DCI, was there along with a gent in uniform from the Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA, someone from NSA, and a fourth gentleman that Mace had seen on TV recently and knew was very high up at the White House. There was no one else present.

  “I thought Steve Lanier from the FBI would be here,” commented Beth.

  “No, he won’t,” said the DCI bluntly. “But I want to thank each of you for agreeing to come today,” he added in a more gracious tone.

  “We really didn’t have a choice. And we’re all here for the same reason,” said Beth. “We want information.”

  “Well, I’m here to provide it, as much as I can.”

  Beth sighed and sat back, her face showing her displeasure at this disclaimer.

  “Under normal circumstances your sister and Mr. Kingman would not even be allowed to know the location of this building, much less be here. Even you, as police chief, would not be allowed in.”

  “These are not normal circumstances,” said Mace.

  “Truly not,” agreed the DCI while the NSA rep nodded.

  “Well then, what can you tell us?” asked Beth. “What happened to Donnelly and Burns?”

  “Removed from their posts, of course.”

  “Removed from their posts?” said Mace, half coming out of her chair. “What, do they get early retirement and a gold watch too?”

  “It doesn’t quite work that way in the intelligence field, Ms. Perry.”

  “Will they be prosecuted?” asked Roy.

  “That is not possible,” said the fellow from the White House.

  “The hell it isn’t,” snapped Beth. “They masterminded the murder of at least five American citizens and did their best to make it seven.”

  “And in the process let a military veteran take the fall for it,” added Roy heatedly.

  The DCI put up his hands in mock surrender. “Their acts were heinous. I am in total agreement with that.”

  “But I sense a but coming,” said Beth.

  “But to prosecute them would mean the truth would come out.”

  “They were rogues, doing their own op. The higher-ups might have to officially take responsibility for that, but the blame still lies with them,” argued Beth. “Hell, the FBI prosecuted Hanssen. The CIA did the same with Ames. It’s not exactly new territory.”

  “You are not in possession of all the facts.”

  “Then enlighten me.”

  The fellow from the White House interjected. “Their actions were not authorized by anyone higher up on the chain of command; I give you my word on that.”

  “But other things they did were authorized?” said Mace.

  “Illegal things?” added Roy.

  The CIA director looked at him. “You ventured to the escrow firm, DLT?”

  “I did. And I found a pretty slick piggyback scheme using legitimate business transactions to cover other movements of money.”

  “But no hard proof of same?”


  “What are you getting at?” asked Beth.

  “We’re at war, Chief. It is not a conventional war. Most Americans realize that by now. We fight fire with fire. And we also fight dirt with dirt.”


  “Meaning that intelligence is king and who gets the most accurate intelligence wins. And the people who possess that intelligence are often folks that, well, that we would not ordinarily choose to associate with.”

  “Meaning, at least in the eyes of the American public, our enemies.”

  “Our usual allies are virtually powerless to help us in this fight. We combat the devil by working with the devil. And since they obviously aren’t helping us out of the goodness of their hearts…”

  “The piggyback scheme was a way of paying off people for intelligence?” said Roy.

  “Again, I can’t answer that.”

  Beth spoke up. “But if so, and Diane Tolliver found out and then told Meldon, why kill them? Couldn’t you have appealed to their patriotism? Jamie certainly wouldn’t have done anything to jeopardize this country’s interests.”

  The DCI said, “The real truth is that Donnelly and Burns went way past all orthodoxy in getting the monies needed to pay off these folks. And while these sums started off relatively small, they have, over the years, become enormous.”

  “And Congress wouldn’t appropriate the needed funds?” said Beth.

  “You know the deficits we have now.”

  “So how did they manage the money part?”

  “They have not been particularly cooperative. But we have been able, with a little digging, to gain a fairly clear picture of what happened.”

  “And so what does that picture tell us?” asked Beth.”

  Something, unfortunately, that none of you are cleared for.”

  “That is bullshit,” barked the chief. “After all this, you’re telling me that you won’t read us into what happened?”

  “Suffice it to say that a lot of the money coming through those piggyback pipelines Mr. Kingman mentioned was very, very dirty. And in order to launder it, Donnelly and Burns were charging a substantial fee. Those monies were used to purchase support.”

  “Drug dealers, weapon runners, slavery rings?” said Beth.

  “Neither confirm nor deny.”

  “Now that you’ve basically told us nothing, why did you really ask us here?”

  “If any of this comes out it will do this country great harm. I daresay it would destroy any hopes we have of winning the war on terror.”

  The White House representative added, “It would embolden our enemies. It would weaken our position around the globe. Nothing good will come out of this.”

  “You mean other than two bastards being punished for their heinous crimes?” shot back Mace.

  “It’s not that simple,” murmured the DCI.

  “Yeah, it’s never that simple for people in high places. But the little guy does something like this he gets squashed like a bug.”

  Beth shook her head in frustration. “And what exactly do I tell Jamie Meldon’s family? And Diane Tolliver’s friends?”

  “I don’t have a good answer for you. In Meldon’s case I can tell you that his family will never want for money. Uncle Sam is picking up the tab there.”

  “Gee, all it cost them was their husband and father,” said Mace bitterly.

  “If you think I like this any better than you do, you’re mistaken. But that’s just the way it has to be.”

  “And Mary Bard?” asked Beth. “Funny name for a Russian, by the way.”

  “Her father was an American, a defector unfortunately. She’s been returned to her country. She really was only following orders. And she’s an excellent field agent. We may very well use her again.”

  Mace looked ready to burst. “I don’t believe this crap. That lady was going to kill me and Roy. She did kill two American agents. And I thought the Russians weren’t exactly our best friends.”

  The DCI looked at her curiously. “Frankly, Ms. Perry, you obviously don’t understand the intelligence business. Enemies and allies are often interchangeable.”

  “FranklyI consider the term ‘intelligence business’ not only a misnomer but a freaking oxymoron.”

  Beth spoke up. “Mace cracked this case. She should be reinstated to the police force.”

  The DCI shook his head. “I’m sorry. That won’t be happening. That would entail the truth coming out.”

  “So she gets zip,” said Beth.

  The uniform from DIA cleared his throat. “Sacrifice for the greater good.”

  Mace glared at him. “I’ll be sure to tell that to my probation officer, thanks.”

  The White House rep stood, signaling that the meeting was over. “We very much appreciate all your help in this matter. As does the president himself, which he wishes he could make public but of course cannot for national security reasons.”

  “Big shit,” said Mace as she turned and walked out of the office, Beth and Roy trailing her.


  BETH DROVE THEM back to Altman’s house. Before she left to return to work she told Mace, “I know you’ve got the job with Altman, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Roy will be taking up some of your time too. But don’t forget your big sister.”

  “How could I? Every time I need her, she’s right there.”

  “I can say the same about you.”

  “No, you really can’t, Beth. I wish you could, but I’ve fallen down on the job.”

  “It’s just a firstborn’s fate in life,” she said, attempting a smile.

  “Was it my imagination or did the DCI seem really pleased about the turn of events?”

  “Oh, no, he was. Now that Donnelly went down, guess who’s back in charge of the intelligence world and doing the presidential daily briefing?”


  They shared a brief hug before Beth Perry turned back into Chief Perry, climbed into Cruiser One, and headed back to town to fight crime.

  Roy said, “I don’t have any plans today. How about going out to lunch with a former college basketball player turned one-armed paper hanger? I’m buying.”

  “Sounds great. I can help you cut up your food and wipe your mouth for you.”

  “Yeah, that’ll be great practice for down the road.”

  “Down what road?” Mace said sharply as she gave him a piercing stare.

  He took a step back, his face turning red. “Uh, the road where I left my mouth with my size thirteen feet in it.”

  “Oh, Roy, you’re so cute.”

  “Seriously, do you want to go?”

  “I’d love to.”

  Late that night Mace climbed on her Ducati and fired it up. Two minutes later she was ripping down the highway into D.C. She hit the Sixth District and wound her way to the spot where her life had changed forever. Now the sight made her gut clench and her cheeks flame. But there would come a day she told herself when this spot would fill her with supreme satisfaction instead of heartbreak. And when that day came—and it would—Mace Perry would really be back.

  The wink of a car’s lights made her turn around. She started when she saw the person climb out of the police cruiser.

  Beth was still in uniform as she walked over to her and stood beside her sister.

  “I thought you might come down here tonight.”

  “It’s scary sometimes how well you know me.”

  “We are sisters. And…” Beth fell silent.

  “You were going to say and cops,right?”

  “We’re not giving up on it, Mace.”

  “I know.” After a few moments of silence, Mace said, “Why do I

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