Hells corner, p.11
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       Hells Corner, p.11
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         Part #5 of Camel Club series by David Baldacci

  about you. Would one of them be the real reason why you were in the park all those years?”

  “I knew who you were while I was still at the park,” she said. “What does that tell you?”

  “That you were not working with or for the Americans. Otherwise I would have been taken away.”

  “My allegiances were to another country. But one that was an ally of America.”

  “Which one?”

  “Does it matter?”

  “Perhaps not to me, but it will to others.”

  “Her?” she said, indicating Chapman.

  “Not so much, no.”

  “Your best ally in the Middle East,” she said finally. “That was my master.”

  Stone slowly nodded. “All right, that I can understand. But getting back to Turkekul?”

  “He is not simply a scholar. He has other interests. But again, these interests are in line with the Americans’ goals.”

  “So you say. But what happened two nights ago doesn’t make me believe that.”

  “He had nothing to do with that attack,” she said sternly. “As I told you, he was there to meet me. If he hadn’t left when he did, he would’ve been killed.”

  “Yes, his timing was very fortuitous,” said Stone in a skeptical tone.

  “I tell you he had nothing to do with it.”

  “Why didn’t you meet with him, then? You weren’t there, that I know for sure.”

  She appeared nervous. “It is not easy to say why. But I couldn’t. The time for me to come passed and so he left. We adhere to an exacting schedule.”

  “You’ve talked to him since then?”

  She looked warily at him. “I didn’t say that.”

  “Adelphia, I need to speak with him. Now.”

  “I’m sure he knows nothing about any of this.”

  “If that’s the truth he has nothing to fear.”

  “Famous last words coming from you.”

  “You don’t trust me?”

  “You’ve gone back in, you said so yourself. I may trust you, but not them.” She glanced once more at Chapman as though she represented “them.”

  “If Turkekul had no connection to the attack he has nothing to worry about.”

  Her look was clearly one of skepticism. “I saw you yesterday with the FBI agent. I will not take them to Fuat. Nothing can make me do that.”

  “Your words are not assuring me as to his innocence.”

  “There are many agendas out there, Oliver. And most of them have nothing to do with pure guilt or innocence. You know that.”

  “All right, then take me, just me.”

  She nodded at Chapman. “And what of her?”

  “Just me, Adelphia. But I need to speak with him now.”

  She drew a long breath. “This is not easy, Oliver.”

  “We’ve known each other a long time. You can trust me. Just as I’ve trusted you. And after all, you came to me.”

  “Let me make a call,” she finally said with great reluctance.

  CHAPTER 24

  ON THE WAY Adelphia told Stone that Fuat Turkekul was staying on the Georgetown campus at the residence of a full-time faculty member who was away on a sabbatical overseas.

  Stone looked where they were headed. “This is not the way to Georgetown,” he remarked.

  “I would not take you to where he is staying,” she replied. “In case we’re being followed. He will meet us near the George Washington University campus.”

  “All right.”

  “Your friend did not appear pleased to be left behind,” said Adelphia as they walked along. Stone had asked Chapman to stay back at the park.

  “I wouldn’t either. Tell me more about Turkekul.”

  “What do you want to know?” she asked in a cautious tone. The car horns arose from the snarled traffic as they slowly made their way west of the White House and toward GW University.

  “Everything.”

  “That is impossible.”

  “You said he’s a scholar and a friend of this country. You said he is also far more than an academician. And that he was meeting with you at the park that night for a reason you won’t disclose.”

  “See, I have already told you much.”

  “You have really told me nothing,” he countered.

  “I didn’t have to come to you at all,” she replied crossly.

  “But you did. Don’t let it be for nothing.”

  “I will let Fuat decide what to tell or not to tell. It is up to him really.”

  And she would say no more. They arrived on the GW campus and Stone followed Adelphia to the place where Turkekul would meet them.

  They were let into the building after Adelphia pushed a buzzer and identified herself to a man Stone assumed was Turkekul. They walked up one flight of stairs. Turkekul was waiting for them at the open door to an apartment. He wore a white dress shirt with a cardigan over it, and gray slacks. He was taller than Stone had gauged, about five-ten, and bald, as Stone had correctly remembered. Up close Stone could now see that Turkekul was his age or slightly older.

  Adelphia introduced them and Stone showed his badge to the man. Turkekul studied the credentials and then closed the door and motioned them to take seats on the white couch in the main room of the apartment. As Stone looked around he was intrigued by the piles of books and typewritten pages scattered everywhere. From some of the titles he was able to read it became clear that Turkekul was a man of diverse intellectual interests who was versed in at least four languages.

  “From what Adelphia told me you’re not staying here, but rather at Georgetown.”

  “I also maintain a flat here. Just in case. One can never be too careful,” said Turkekul.

  “I’ll never argue with that.”

  He offered them hot tea. Adelphia accepted. Stone declined. Turkekul fetched the tea and settled across from them.

  “Adelphia has told me some of the situation, and she let me make the decision to meet with you. For that I thank her.” Turkekul’s voice was firm, commanding. He was obviously used to lecturing. Stone tried to diagnose the underlying accent and inflection to determine the man’s origins. Though normally quite adept at that, he came away with no definitive answer.

  “Why do you thank her?” asked Stone. “From the way she told it, you didn’t want to meet at all.”

  “Then you misunderstood her. I thought it better to clear the air now, instead of having what you call the loose threads.”

  “You knew the park was under video surveillance,” said Stone. “And also where the cameras were arrayed?”

  Adelphia clenched her teacup a bit more tightly while Turkekul finished a sip of his drink before setting the cup down and carefully wiping his mouth with a handkerchief pulled from his sweater pocket.

  “Why do you say that?”

  “You kept your back to them. You stooped over, your face pointing down. I remember that. That maneuver threw off my estimate of your height. And you were pretending to read the plaque on the statue, to give you some reason to not look toward the bank of cameras.” He glanced at Adelphia. “Did you tell him where the cameras were located?”

  Before she could answer Turkekul said, “You are mostly correct. However, I was not pretending to read the plaque. I did in fact read it. The German von Steuben has long been of historical interest to me.”

  “Why?”

  “My maternal grandfather was German. He was also in the military.”

  “German and in the military?”

  “The Third Reich, yes. But with a twist.”

  “What twist?”

  “He was a Jew.”

  Stone said nothing.

  “And he was a spy. They discovered his real identity in 1944. They didn’t bother sending him to a concentration camp to join his fellow Jews. They simply executed him on the bombed-out streets of Berlin. The incensed and war-weary crowd of Germans tore his body apart, I was told. It was indeed tragic. A few more months and the war in Europe would
be over.”

  “He died a hero,” added Adelphia, though she was looking at Stone.

  “Adelphia told me you were meeting with her at the park that night, only she never showed up. She also told me that you have interests outside of academia.”

  “That is true.”

  “What are those interests?”

  “I cannot see how they have relevance to what you seek.”

  “I’d like to be the judge of that.”

  “I can see that.”

  “But we can start with what you saw that night in the park.”

  Turkekul spoke in great detail for the next ten minutes as he patiently laid out what he had observed. “I was past the Decatur House when I heard the guns commence firing,” he added.

  “And what did you do?”

  “What any sensible person would have done. I ran in the other direction.”

  “So you could tell from where the gunfire was coming?”

  “Yes and no. Yes in that I saw the bullets ripping through the trees in the park. Thus I assumed that the origin was coming from H Street or thereabouts. I did not stop to look and gauge exactly the shots’ origins. I have some nerve, but not enough to stand pat when guns are firing.”

  “And the woman who left the park about the same time you did?”

  “I saw her once. She too was running across the street.”

  Stone glanced at Adelphia. “So what were you two planning to meet about?”

  “If we refuse to tell you, I suppose you will turn us in,” said Turkekul.

  “No.”

  Turkekul looked surprised. “Why not?”

  “Because Adelphia is an old friend of mine. She’s helped me in the past. She kept secrets about me to herself. I don’t betray my friends.”

  “Even though, as I understand it, you now work for your government.”

  “I don’t betray my friends,” Stone said again.

  “An admirable trait,” opined Turkekul. He remained silent for a few seconds, his index finger tapping absently on the arm of the chair.

  Finally he sat forward. “I have been given a mission, Agent Stone. A very difficult one. One that no one else has been able to accomplish.”

  “Which is?”

  “To help us find Osama bin Laden.”

  The voice did not belong to Fuat Turkekul.

  Stone turned to see Sir James McElroy stroll into the room.

  CHAPTER 25

  MCELROY SAT DOWN across from Stone.

  Stone said, “It’s comforting to see that you still lie as well as ever.”

  “A necessary skill in our line of work, as you well know.”

  “So how big a lie was it?”

  “I have known about Fuat here for some time now. We actually worked with the Americans to bring this whole mission up to snuff.”

  “I can tell you that your keeping me in the dark forced me to waste an incredible amount of time, but then you already know that.”

  “Without seeming to make excuses, Oliver, I also have a higher authority to answer to.”

  “And they wanted to keep the truth from me?”

  “Yes. However, I decided to bring this charade to an end for two reasons. One, it wasn’t fair to you. And second, it’s inefficient.”

  Stone looked at Adelphia. “I take it he asked you to come to me?”

  Adelphia nodded. “But I’ve wanted to for a long time. I miss our chats. Our friendship.”

  Stone looked back at McElroy. “Are you here simply to say you’re sorry and pat me on the head, or do you intend to fill me in? And is Chapman aware of this?”

  McElroy blew his nose into his handkerchief and shook his head. He had on the same blue blazer but a fresh shirt and pants. His face was pinched and the eyes evidenced the physical pain he was suffering. “No, she’s not.”

  “All right,” Stone said warily.

  “To get back to your first query. We decided to tell you because you might’ve figured it out on your own. I know how tenacious you can be. It was the most extraordinarily unfortunate timing that Fuat was in the park when it happened.”

  “And you see no connection?” Stone asked.

  “Actually, I wish I did. It would at least make some sense out of what so far is inexplicable.”

  “You’re sure about that?”

  “That Fuat was not the target? Reasonably sure. The mission has hardly begun. And Fuat is not in the front lines. It would be counterintuitive to expect a man to be hunting Osama bin Laden from the United States. It’s merely in the planning stages, a delicate operation between several like-minded countries, but it does involve a fresh approach with new assets on the ground, hence the need for secrecy. Adelphia represents one such entity. My interests are self-evident.”

  “And what are your interests, Mr. Turkekul?” Stone gazed at the other man.

  Turkekul said, “After the end of World War II my German mother left for Turkey where she met my father. I don’t believe he knew of her ethnicity. The war destroyed the official records of millions of people. I only found out when I was an adult. I was born in Turkey, just outside of Constantinople. But I grew up in Pakistan, although for a time my family lived in Afghanistan. I am a Muslim like my father but I despise the people behind 9/11. They have taken the concept of jihad and twisted it into something ugly and indefensible in furtherance of their own hatred for others.”

  “Fuat is our ace in the hole, as it were,” said McElroy. “He has intimate contacts not only within the Muslim community but also in the area of the world where we believe our quarry to be.”

  “The mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan?” replied Stone.

  Turkekul smiled. “You will not get the man with a Predator drone strike. He is too cunning for that. And perhaps he is in those mountains, and perhaps not.”

  “And it was decided to deploy you now and not before?” asked Stone.

  Turkekul was about to say something in response when McElroy broke in. “Not something that we need to go into, Oliver. Just take my word on that.”

  “All right, but if you are so well-connected, Mr. Turkekul, there are those who would suspect you may be of help to the West. They may have attempted a preemptive strike.”

  “Machine guns and bombs and they missed poor Fuat standing out in the open? Hardly credible,” said McElroy.

  “I don’t disagree. But the Yemen group taking responsibility?”

  “In my eyes equally incredible, but the Yanks, I have to admit, see it differently.”

  “Why a meeting in Lafayette Park?”

  McElroy glanced at Adelphia, who said, “No one expects you to go to so conspicuous a place to conduct a clandestine rendezvous.”

  “Dark alleys and darker pubs,” chimed in McElroy with a fake shudder.
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