End game, p.15
End Game, p.15Part #5 of Will Robie series by David Baldacci
“Pretty drastic move. If you worked for NASA you would have moved from New York, surely.”
“It wasn’t just geographic. It was everything to do with that part of me. I was tired of all the expectations. Of making the family proud.”
Reel stared her down. “So your family is so bad that you came out here, got in with the wrong crowd, did drugs, got arrested, did some prison time, and now you’re hooked up with a guy with a temporary hate symbol on his head. Nice work. And your sister puts on a uniform and risks her life protecting people like you,” she added quietly. “I know she’s proud of you. Maybe you should be proud of her.”
Holly stood and snapped, “I didn’t come here to be lectured. Do you want my help or not?”
“We do,” said Robie with a sharp glance at Reel. “Walton?”
Holly sat back down. “When I was in rehab I heard some things.”
“What things? And from who?” asked Robie.
“Another patient. A guy named Clément. He was in for drugs like me.”
“What did he tell you?”
“That he thought people were being brought here against their will.”
“Brought here to Grand, you mean?” said Robie.
“He saw it. He saw the people in a van. They were tied up with hoods over their heads.”
“He wouldn’t say exactly. But he said there were people with guns guarding them.”
“And you believed him? Even though he was a drug addict? He could have just been making shit up. Either delusional or maybe trying to impress you.”
“No, I think he was telling the truth. There were too many details. He couldn’t have made it all up. And he was really scared. I could tell.”
“Did he tell anyone else?”
“I don’t think so.”
“So why confide in you?”
“We were sort of thrown together. They have a buddy system at the facility, and he was my buddy and I was his. We were supposed to look out for each other. And Clément was really fragile. He needed a friend and I was it. We had just finished up a counseling session when he pulled me aside and told me about it.”
“Did you ask him any questions?”
“Some. I was more concerned with doing my time there and getting out, but he talked to me about it on a couple of other occasions and I became more focused.”
“Where’s Clément now?”
“I don’t know. He left the facility before I did.”
“What’s his last name?”
“Lamarre. Clément Lamarre. He wasn’t from around here. I think he mentioned Boulder. But he’s originally from Canada. He’s French Canadian, or so he told me.”
“What was his issue that he was in rehab?” asked Reel after she wrote this information down.
“Like I said, same as me, drug use. Opioids, coke, and heroin. He’d done some prison time too.”
“And how does this tie into Roger Walton visiting you?”
“He just showed up one day. I had heard of him. I knew that he visited the area. Over the years I’d also heard that he was high up in DC in some way.”
“And you heard this from who?” asked Reel.
“Lots of people.”
“A nurse at the rehab said that Walton used JC Parry’s name when he came to see you. Why would that be? What’s the connection?”
“JC was my friend. I called him from rehab and told him about what Clément had said. Next thing I know, this Walton guy shows up.”
“So presumably Parry talked to Walton and asked him to come and talk to you about it?” said Robie.
“Yeah, I guess so. I didn’t know who else to call.”
“What about your sister?” pointed out Robie. “She’s the law out here.”
“I…I didn’t think she’d believe me.”
Robie studied her and decided she was telling the truth. “Did you tell Walton what Clément had told you?”
“And what did he say to that?”
“That he would look into it.”
“We know he only visited you once while you were in rehab. Did you talk to him again by phone?”
“No. And then I got out of rehab and then, I guess, Mr. Walton had disappeared.”
Robie looked at Reel.
“Parry has disappeared too,” he told Holly.
“Oh shit. Do you, I mean, do you think I’m…?” She couldn’t seem to finish.
“In danger? If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say, yeah, you are.”
“Where do you plan to go with Luke Miller?” asked Reel.
“California. Start over. I know I’ve screwed up big-time, but I graduated from college early, and I’m still only twenty-five. I want to get my master’s and Ph.D. at Stanford, prove myself again. I want to teach.”
“Where’s Luke now?”
“The police released him this morning. We’re supposed to hook up tonight and then head out.”
“Hook up where?”
“There’s this place we used to go to. We’re the only ones who know about it.”
“Like last night, you mean?” said Robie.
Holly looked indecisive. “You’re really scaring me.”
“Then I’m really doing my job,” countered Robie.
Reel said, “And if you really want to start over, do you want to take Luke with you for the ride?”
“I told you, he’s not a bad guy. Hell, he has marketing and computer science degrees from Northwestern and has designed mobile phone apps. He just got kind of burned out like me, came out to the middle of nowhere, and basically wasted years of his life. He’s going to get on with a really successful company out in Silicon Valley when we get to California. He’s already interviewed and everything and they made him an offer. He didn’t tell them what he’s been doing out here, of course. He’s only been hanging out with those idiots for a few months anyway. He’s never even been arrested. He’s going to support us while I go to school and get back on my feet. We’re going to get married and we want to have kids.”
Robie said, “Well, that sounds like a plan. I never would have guessed he was like that just by looking at him. But, like a book cover, you shouldn’t judge.”
Holly said pleadingly, “I have to get to Luke. And I have to get the hell out of here. Can you help me do that? We just want to have a life together.”
Robie looked at Reel. “Hey, people in love, right? They deserve a shot.”
Reel said nothing to this. She just stared stonily at Robie.
He returned his gaze to Holly.
She said tearfully, “So you can help me?”
“Yeah, I think we can,” he answered.
THE NIGHT WAS as dark as it was going to get. There was no ambient light here, which meant it should have been an amazing night for stargazing. However, a storm system had moved in over the Rockies and marched its way to eastern Colorado. The rain had not started yet, but it was not far off.
Robie, Reel, and Holly Malloy sat in their Yukon, its lights off, and watched the road. There was a shack up here, long abandoned, that Luke and Holly had used as a meeting place. It was remote, just like everything was remote here. One road in and one road out.
Robie, in the driver’s seat, looked back at Holly in the second row of seats. Just beyond that, in the rear cargo area was their hard-sided case with the weaponry they had picked up after landing in Colorado.
“I hope he’s not coming on the motorcycle, or else you two are going to be drowned before you get to Denver.”
“He rented a car. He sold his bike.”
Robie nodded, but something was nagging at him. They had gotten here a couple hours early just in case.
“Were you two planning to leave that night at the B and B?”
“But you took t
“I’m not sure about that. We would have for sure run into them on the way out of town.”
“It was still stupid,” said Robie.
“But we’d never been to that place before. And Luke said no one knew that he was leaving. We met up at the B and B because no one would expect us to go there. It’s been shut down for over a year now.”
“But still,” persisted Robie.
Holly looked sheepish. “Shit, Luke got horny, okay? He’s a guy, what can I say? And he was insistent that they had no idea where he was. So I thought it was okay. It wasn’t like it was going to take long,” she added, her gaze averted from Robie.
Robie looked at Reel. Her gaze moved back and forth across the landscape in front of them. It was mostly flat, only occasionally obscured by some higher, rocky ground. There were patches of trees scattered here and there, but the sight lines were still excellent. They could see anyone coming.
He moved a bit in his seat and his hand reached out and automatically touched the butt of his M11.
Reel must have noticed this because she glanced at him. Their gazes met, and in a wordless display of communication everything that needed to be said was said.
Robie looked into the rearview. Though there was little light he could still make out Holly’s strained features.
Now what had been bothering Robie finally percolated to the surface.
“Holly, how did you arrange to meet with Luke at the B and B in town?”
She glanced at him, one hand clinging tightly to the handle of her suitcase.
“I texted him. He texted me back. That’s how we usually do it. The cell reception out here isn’t the best, so you can’t always hear the person if you call. But the texts seem to work okay.”
Now Reel stirred in her seat. Next to her was her sniper rifle, the stock of it resting on the floorboard and the muzzle pointed to the ceiling.
She said, “Where did Luke get his phone?”
This was just the question Robie was about to ask.
“Yeah. They’re not cheap. You have to get a call plan with it. Did he do all that himself?”
“I…I don’t know.”
Robie glanced out the windshield again. “Well, try to remember.”
Holly thought for a few more seconds. “Come to think, I do recall Luke telling me that the skinheads gave him the phone. If you can believe it they had some type of business plan set up for all—”
Reel cut in. “Did you and Luke text about meeting tonight?”
“Well, yeah. Why?”
“How did they know you were meeting with Luke at the B and B?” said Robie. “They had to know because they came roaring into town and went right there a few minutes after he got there.”
“I…are you saying—?”
“They give out the phones with malware on them,” said Robie.
“So they can listen in or read every communication,” added Reel. Her hand slipped down to her rifle even as they heard a car approaching. Two dabs of light could be seen coming along the road toward them.
“What kind of car will Luke be driving?” asked Robie.
“He didn’t tell me.”
Robie glanced at Reel, again silently communicating.
She slipped on a headset, powered up the comm pack clipped to her belt, slid out of the car with her rifle, and flitted away into the darkness.
“Where’s she going?” asked Holly.
“I’m going to hit the button for the rear cargo door, Holly. I want you to climb over the seats and exit the vehicle that way. Then, keeping the truck between you and the road, I want you to keep moving away from here. That direction will take you back to town.”
“Mr. Robie, what’s hap—”
“Just do it, Holly,” he said firmly. “We’ll find you later.”
“Go, now, before it’s too late,” he barked.
A shaky Holly climbed over the backseat as the cargo door lifted. She got out and, keeping behind the truck and carrying her suitcase, Holly moved away into the darkness.
The Yukon was on a slight incline. Without turning the truck on, Robie shifted into neutral, and the GMC rolled backward. Even with the engine off Robie managed to maneuver the steering wheel just enough to turn the truck to the left.
Like Holly, he climbed out the back, keeping the truck between him and the approaching car. He put on a headset and turned on his comm pack.
Into the headset he said, “Talk to me.”
“Bogie’s a half mile away, coming at a slow speed. I can’t see how many are in it. It might be Luke and it might not.”
“Hold on a sec.”
A few moments went by and Reel said, “I’ve got movement at three and nine o’clock, directly in front of me.” She paused another moment. “They’re ATVs, Robie. You should be able to hear them by now.”
“I do,” he affirmed. “How many?”
“I count…eight altogether.”
“And the car, evasive maneuvers?”
“No, coming on straight and true.”
“So it’s not Luke driving.”
“No, it’s not. I guess they weren’t smart enough to think of that.”
“You got high ground?”
“High enough. Where’s Holly?”
“On the retreat behind us. Let me know when you can confirm who’s on the ATVs.”
“They’re coming fast. But they’re blowing up a shitload of dirt. It’s going to make it hard to get a sight line.”
“Roger that. Let me give you an assist.”
He hustled to the back of the Yukon and unlocked the hard-sided case. He gripped the launcher and hefted two RPGs. He slung the launcher over his shoulder after loading the grenades into a belt carrier attached to the launcher’s frame.
He ran to a spot behind a thick tree, knelt down, took out a pair of night optics, and peered through them. He could clearly see the car on the road and the ATVs on the dirt. Reel was right, they were creating quite a dust storm out there. They were now only about three hundred yards away. He would wait until they cut that distance down by half.
He knew it wasn’t the cops or the state police. They didn’t have enough bodies to fill all those vehicles. He was certain it was the skinheads.
He loaded in an RPG and said into his headset, “Fireworks are coming in ten. I’m aiming to make them stop to let the air clear so you can get a lock.”
End Game by David Baldacci / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4.2 out of 5 / Based on50 votes