Hells corner, p.10
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       Hells Corner, p.10
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         Part #5 of Camel Club series by David Baldacci

  that the Brit ended up winning.

  “I didn’t voluntarily come down here to be judged on my personal choices,” Friedman said to Gross as she broke off looking at Chapman.

  “And that’s not what we’re concerned about,” said Gross quickly.

  “So does it all have to come out?”

  “As I said, your friend’s marital issues don’t concern us and we can be very discreet. Give me his contact information and we’ll take it from there,” said Gross.

  She did so, and then Stone said, “The guy in the jogger’s suit in the park?”

  “Yes, I saw him,” she replied. “What about him?”

  “Did you get a good look at him?”

  “Not really.” She wrinkled her nose. “He was so overweight I remember thinking he was the last person you’d expect to see in workout clothes.”

  “Did you see the man in the suit with the briefcase?” asked Stone. “He was over near the statue of von Steuben in the northwest corner.”

  “No, I don’t think so. There are some trees there. And even with the park lights it was dark.”

  “Yes, it was,” agreed Stone. “But you left about the same time heading toward H Street.”

  “I wasn’t aware of his movements. I was fumbling in my bag for my metro card.”

  “McPherson Square?” asked Stone quickly. “Or Farragut West station?”

  “McPherson. It’s a bit closer to the park. I live in Falls Church. I don’t own a car, so I always take the metro.”

  “So you didn’t actually see the explosion?” asked Gross.

  “No, I wasn’t facing the park, obviously. When the guns started firing I instinctively ducked and ran. Hell, everybody did.”

  “Did you have any sense of where the gunfire was coming from?”

  She thought for a few moments. “It all happened so fast. I was just trying to get low and out of the way. It was somewhere above me, at least I think so.”

  Stone said, “Did you look back toward the park when the bomb exploded?”

  She nodded.

  “What did you see, exactly?”

  Friedman sat back, furrowed her brow again and pursed her lips in concentration. “A lot of smoke, some flames shot up, really high. It was near the Jackson statue in the middle of the park. It was hard to tell at night and because of the trees in the way, but at least that’s where it seemed to be.”

  Chapman asked, “Did you see anyone running away from the scene?”

  “Like I said, everyone was running once the gunfire started up. And they ran faster when the bomb went off. There were a couple of cops and a dog I remember seeing. The dog was barking and the cops pulled their guns and I think they headed toward the park. I couldn’t swear to that because I was going the other way, fast.”

  “And the man in the suit?” asked Gross. “He must’ve been somewhere close to you at that point.”

  “He might’ve been, but I never saw him.”

  “Okay, anything else?” asked Stone.

  “I felt the ground shake a bit. It must’ve been a very powerful bomb. It seems ridiculous that with all the police down there no one noticed an explosive somewhere in the park. I mean, how did that happen?”

  Gross sat back. “What did you do after that?”

  “Grabbed a train home. I got lucky. I heard they closed the metro station a few minutes after I got on.”

  Gross rose and handed her a card. “If you think of anything else let us know.”

  After she left Gross looked at the other three. “Well?”

  “She didn’t add much to what we already knew,” said Stone.

  “What a simpering sot,” snapped Chapman. “I was surprised she didn’t pull her bloody dress up over her fake blonde hair.”

  Stone ignored this barb and said, “Okay, we have gunfire that should have never happened. A bomb that shouldn’t have gone off. And a target that wasn’t even there.”

  Gross’s phone rang. Ten seconds later he clicked off. “Okay, this sucker just got even more complicated. A group in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the attack.”

  CHAPTER 21

  THE NEXT DAY STONE WATCHED on TV along with Tom Gross from the latter’s office as the media reported that a group based in Yemen had opened fire on Lafayette Park and also set off a bomb there. It was done to show that it could reach inside the very heart of the American government. At least that’s what the loose translation of the group’s message released to the Western media had implied. Afterward there was a brief press conference at which the FBI director spoke, and then the ADIC answered a few questions from the media, without really telling them anything at all.

  Stone asked, “Are we sure the Yemen message is authentic?”

  Gross nodded. “Whoever called it in had the proper authorization codes.”

  Stone added, “But that just authenticates the group making the statement. It doesn’t prove they actually did it.”

  “That’s true. And they sometimes lie.”

  “I don’t suppose they gave any helpful details on how they managed the guns and the bomb right under our noses?” asked Stone.

  “No. What scares the crap out of me is that if they can hit Lafayette Park successfully, what’s next? What place is safe? It’s like they said, it’s symbolic. And you know every American is right now thinking the same thing.”

  Stone said, “And can the terrorists hop across the street and hit the White House?”

  Gross nodded. “That possibility is on the mind of every person in this building.”

  “In lots of buildings,” added Stone.

  Gross said, “Where’s your British sidekick?”

  “Not really sure,” said Stone.

  “What’s your take on her?” asked Gross.

  “She’s one of their best or she wouldn’t be involved in this.”

  “A good asset for us, then?”

  “I think so. Any hits on the jogger, or the suit?”

  “None. Unlike Marisa Friedman, the images on the video of the guy in the suit weren’t really clear. I’m not surprised no one has recognized him. He was never looking at the cameras. Just was sort of staring at the ground.”

  “You think he knew where the cameras were posted?”

  “Not even I know where all the cameras are posted,” replied Gross. “But we did put out a notice to the media outlets for all people in the park that night to come forward. That’s how Friedman came in. So I am surprised we haven’t heard from him.”

  “Well, we wouldn’t hear from him if he were involved in this somehow,” Stone pointed out.

  Gross sat down at his desk and fiddled with his stapler. “How close a look did you get at him?”

  Stone searched his mind. “Five-seven, balding, slightly stooped shoulders. Never really saw his face. His skin color might have been more dark than light. Whether that was race, ethnicity or a tan I couldn’t tell. Obviously no turban, kufi or Palestinian keffiyeh. You would have clearly seen that on the video.”

  “Your description tallies with what we have of him on the feed.”

  “Heard from Agent Garchik?” Stone asked.

  “I’ve been harassing the guy every half hour. He did say he was going to go back out to the park today for some follow-up searching.”

  “When exactly was he going back out?” Stone asked.

  “He said this afternoon.”

  Stone rose.

  Gross gazed up at him. “Going somewhere?”

  “Running down a few things.”

  “And you’ll share whatever you find?”

  “I play fair.”

  “I looked you up on the official database. But didn’t find anything.”

  “I would be surprised if you had.”

  “Why?”

  “Because officially, I don’t exist.”

  CHAPTER 22

  THIRTY MINUTES LATER Stone was back at Lafayette Park. The area was still shut down and security was the tightest he had ever seen, tighter
even than after 9/11. Someone had penetrated the very heart of the national leadership, and in the stunned countenances of the security forces Stone could sense anger, embarrassment and fear.

  He had just reached ground zero when Chapman joined him. She was dressed in black slacks and a matching short jacket that was cut a bit large to accommodate her shoulder holster.

  Stone said, “All female agents I’ve ever met use a belt holster.”

  “Is that right? Well, I find I get a quicker pull from the shoulder. And that means I don’t have to stuff my damn gun in my pantyhose when I’m using the loo. And I have an extra layer of material sewn into my blouses at that spot.”

  “Why?”

  She gave him a fierce look. “Because I have breasts, Stone, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

  “Actually, I was trying to remain gender neutral, Agent Chapman.”

  “Very PC of you. So Yemen?” said Chapman.

  “You believe it?” asked Stone.

  “Bloody convenient for some.”

  “And your boss?”

  “He doesn’t believe much anymore, actually.”

  “That comes with age,” noted Stone. “Agent Garchik is coming here later today to do some follow-up.”

  “Follow-up? Didn’t he get enough the first time round for his super-duper debris analyzer?”

  “I believe his follow-up means he actually has some concerns.”

  “Oliver?”

  Stone immediately turned when he heard the voice. It was distinctive, unforgettable, really. And he hadn’t heard it in a very long time.

  “Adelphia?”

  The woman was standing behind the barricades on H Street. She had four police officers and two Secret Service agents in her face.

  Stone hurried over to her while Chapman followed.

  One of the agents said, “The lady said you asked to meet with her here. Or else she wouldn’t have gotten this far.”

  “Adelphia?” he said again as he stared at her.

  The agent said, “So you do know her, sir?”

  “Yes, I do.”

  “Still can’t let unauthorized persons inside the tape. The scene hasn’t been released yet.”

  “Right,” said Stone. “I’ll step out and escort her from here.”

  He passed through an opening in the barricades, took Adelphia’s arm and led her in the direction of St. John’s Church. There was a bench near the entrance. Stone knew this bench had been used years ago to teach rookie CIA agents how to conduct signaling assignments for dead drops of clandestine information. Now it was just a place to rest.

  They sat while Chapman hovered nearby but out of earshot, in deference to Adelphia’s hurried request to talk to Stone alone.

  Oliver Stone and Adelphia shared a common history. She had been a protestor at Lafayette Park even before him. They had become friends. She had helped Stone during some critical times in his life. And then one day she had not come back to her small tent near the edge of the park. After a few days he went to her tiny apartment above a dry cleaning business in Chinatown to check on her. The place was empty. No one could tell him where she had gone. He had not seen her again until right now.

  She looked older, her hair full of gray. Her face, wrinkled when he had last seen her, was even more drawn and withered; the pouches of skin under her eyes had inflated. He remembered her as pugnacious and difficult. And secretive. But he had learned enough of her background to suspect that she had led an extraordinary life before settling in Lafayette Park.

  “Adelphia, where have you been all this time? You just disappeared.”

  “I had to, Oliver. It was time.”

  Her voice was not nearly as accented as it was before. Her command of the English language, always a bit ragged, had improved markedly.

  “What do you mean it was time?”

  “I need to tell you something.”

  “What?”

  “A question first. Are you once more working for the government?”

  “Once more? How do you know I ever did?”

  “There are many things I don’t know about you, Oliver. But there are some things I do know about you.” She paused and added, “Such as your real name is John Carr.”

  He sat back and studied her in a new light. “How long have you known?”

  “You remember when that man attacked you when I was trying to give some money to that poor homeless person?”

  “I remember.”

  “You defended yourself using a technique that I had only seen once before. When some elite Soviet commandos came to Poland to round up dissenters.”

  “Did you suspect me of being a spy?”

  “The thought did cross my mind, but events proved otherwise.”

  “You were made aware of certain events?”

  “I know that your country betrayed you. But you once more work with them?”

  “Yes.”

  “Then I can help you.”

  “How?”

  “The man in the suit that was here two nights ago?”

  He leaned closer. “You know where he is?”

  “Yes.”

  “And do you know why he was at the park that night?”

  “Yes.”

  “Was he there to meet with someone?”

  “Yes.” She paused. “He was there to meet with me.”

  CHAPTER 23

  “HIS NAME IS DR. FUAT TURKEKUL,” said Adelphia, before Stone could even ask the question.

  “A doctor of what?”

  “Not medical. He’s a Ph.D. Of both political science and economics. He is a very well-known man in elite academic circles. He is multilingual. He spent years at Cambridge. The London School of Economics. The Sorbonne. Now he’s a visiting scholar at Georgetown.”

  “Turkekul? Where is he from originally?”

  Adelphia snagged a bit of hair out of her eyes. “Why does it matter?”

  “Adelphia, you know what happened here.”

  “And Fuat being a foreigner he goes to the top of the suspicion list?”

  “Why was he meeting you in the park that night?”

  When she didn’t answer he said, “There are many things I never knew
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