Hells corner, p.19
Hells Corner, p.19Part #5 of Camel Club series by David Baldacci
of the report and Stone’s skepticism with its conclusions.
“So if Kravitz might not have done it, who did?” she asked.
“That’s what we have to find out. But I may be wrong and the FBI right.”
“And we’ll be doing this how, with the FBI’s knowledge and cooperation?”
“I would say with neither their cooperation nor knowledge,” Stone replied.
Chapman pulled Caleb from his chair and plopped down in it. “All right. Do you have any whiskey here?”
“Well, if I’m going to break the law and my oath of service I’d like to do it in a bit more relaxed frame of mind, if you don’t mind.”
“You don’t have to do it at all, Agent Chapman,” said Stone. “This is my plan and my responsibility. Your boss will understand fully once I talk to him. Then you can back out gracefully.”
“And then what, I get my arse shipped back to the good old UK?”
“Something like that.”
“I don’t think so. Unfinished business bothers the devil out of me.”
Stone smiled. “I can understand that.”
She sat forward. “So where do we go from here?”
“With a plan, an ever-evolving one, but one that involves no one else getting hurt,” said Stone firmly.
“I don’t think you or anyone else can guarantee that, Oliver,” said Annabelle.
“Then at least a plan that allows maximum protection for all of you.”
“Doesn’t sound all that much fun, really,” said Reuben.
Chapman eyed him with interest. “So you’re willing to die for the cause?”
He faced her with a defiant gaze. “I’m willing to die for my friends.”
“I like your way of thinking, Reuben,” said Chapman, giving him a wink.
“Well, there’s a lot more of me to like, MI6.”
Caleb had watched this exchange with growing frustration. He turned to Stone. “So is there something we can do now?”
“Yes,” Stone said. “I actually have something for each of you to do that will utilize your strengths.”
Caleb looked at Chapman. “I usually get the dangerous stuff.”
“Really?” she said, looking bemused.
“It’s my lot in life, I suppose. You should take a drive with me sometime. I think that will explain everything. I’m a real daredevil. Just ask Annabelle.”
“Oh yeah,” said Annabelle. “If you want to drive yourself nuts spend a couple days zooming around country roads with Mr. Speedy while he drones on and on about some dead writer no one but him has ever heard of.”
“Sounds delightful,” replied Chapman. “Sort of like gnawing off one’s arm for sport.”
“Caleb,” said Stone. “I’d like you to research at the library all events to be held at Lafayette Park over the next month.”
Chapman’s lips twitched as she stared at a red-faced Caleb. “I’d go in with at least two machine guns for that one, mate.”
Stone proceeded to give out the rest of the assignments to the others. Before they left, Annabelle gave him a hug.
“Good to be back where we belong.”
Chapman was the last to leave.
Stone said, “I’ll meet you at the park in three hours.”
“Do you really trust these people?”
“With my life.”
“Who are they? I mean really.”
“The Camel Club.”
“The Camel Club? What the hell is that?”
“The most important thing in my life,” answered Stone. “Only I forgot that for a little bit.”
“YOU LOOK PUZZLED, Agent Garchik.”
Stone and Chapman walked up to the ATF agent as he was staring over the grounds of Lafayette Park.
Startled, he turned to them. “I was sorry to hear about Tom Gross,” he said as they joined him. “He seemed like a real good guy.”
Stone nodded, while Chapman simply stood there frowning. Her hair was unkempt and she looked like she’d slept in her clothes. And she had, for all of two hours. Stone, on the other hand, had shaved, showered and pressed his pants and shirt.
“He also believed that his own side was watching him. Do you have the same feeling?”
Garchik looked nervously around. “How did you figure that?”
“I think of the highly unlikely, then push it to the practically impossible, and I often find I arrive at the truth, particularly in this town.” He studied the man. Garchik’s eyes were bloodshot and his clothes were as wrinkled as Chapman’s. “But that isn’t all that’s bothering you, is it?”
Chapman added, “You were bragging before that you could tell us what sort of bomb it was very quickly. We haven’t heard a peep from you since. Did your state-of-the-art facility fail you?”
“Can we talk somewhere else? This place is starting to give me the creeps.”
The three of them walked a couple of blocks to a bagel shop. Stone and Chapman each had a large cup of coffee. Garchik twisted plastic stirrers into knots and ignored the bottle of orange juice he’d purchased.
After swallowing a mouthful of coffee Stone said, “Do you feel comfortable talking here?”
“What? Yeah, I guess.”
Chapman said, “You can trust us, Agent Garchik.”
He gave a dull laugh. “That’s good to know. I’d thought I’d run plum out of people I can trust.”
“What happened to make you feel that way?” asked Stone.
“Little things. Reports not coming back. Pieces of evidence not where they should be. Clicks on my phone when I pick it up. Funny shit on my computer at work.”
“Is that all?” asked Stone.
Garchik snapped, “Isn’t that enough?”
“It would be for me. I’m just wondering if there’s more.”
Garchik drank some of his juice. He put the bottle down and took a breath. “The bomb.”
“What was it?”
“Some components we don’t usually see in an explosive device.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean some unique combinations that were a surprise.”
“You mean undetectable?” asked Chapman quickly.
“No. That would be impossible. Bombs have to have certain elements. Blasting caps for starters. This bomb had all that, at least we found pieces that showed that.”
“So what, then?”
“We also found some other stuff.”
“What stuff?” said Chapman, her irritation growing.
“Stuff that nobody has figured out what the hell it is yet, which is why I’m just referring to it as stuff.”
Stone said, “You mean you found debris from the explosive that you are unable to identify?”
“That’s more or less what I’m saying, yeah.”
“What is ATF’s official position on it?” he asked.
“Official position?” Garchik chuckled. “Their official position is that they are officially baffled and scared shitless. We’re actually getting NASA involved to see if they can figure it out.”
“NASA! So what are the implications for this?” asked Chapman.
“I don’t know. None of us knows. That’s why we’re keeping this on a tight need to know. I probably shouldn’t even be telling you. Correction: I know I shouldn’t be telling you.”
Stone thought about this as he fingered his coffee cup. “Did Agent Gross know?”
Garchik eyed him warily. “Yeah, he did. I told him myself. He was the lead investigator, after all, thought he had a right to know.”
“And what was his reaction?”
“He told me to keep him apprised. I think he had other things on his mind.”
“Did you tell anyone that you’d told him?”
Garchik saw where this was going. “You think he was killed because of what I told him?”
“But who would’ve known?”
“Maybe a couple people at ATF. I have people I have to report to,” he added defiantly.
“I’m sure you do. Have you been out to the trailer owned by John Kravitz?”
“Yeah. We checked the bomb material found there.”
“And did it match the debris in the park?”
“Yes. Although it was a strange place to keep the stuff.”
“Under the trailer, you mean?” said Stone.
“Moisture,” said Chapman. “Not good for that sort of stuff.”
“Right,” agreed Garchik. “And not to mention it was difficult to get to.” He shifted uneasily in his seat. “Look, I’m no chickenshit. I’ve infiltrated militias and gangs and come out alive. But what I’m not used to doing is watching my own side. That freaks me out.”
“It would me too,” said Stone.
“What do you think is going on?”
“There’s a traitor out there somewhere,” answered Stone. “And people are aware of it. So they’re trying to ferret the spy out.”
“So they’re basically watching all of us.”
“Right. The only problem is if one of the watchers is actually the traitor.”
“God help us if that’s the case,” said Garchik. “So what should I do?”
“Keep your head down, limit your conversations on your phone and with your colleagues, and if any other agency strolls into your space, play stupid.”
“There are a lot of us at ATF. I’m not the only one who knows about this new stuff.”
Stone rose. “Given the circumstances, I wouldn’t necessarily count that to be a good thing.”
They left a troubled-looking Garchik in the bagel shop and headed back out.
Chapman said, “So what about your fabled Camel Club? Have they started their work yet?”
Stone checked his watch. “Right about now, in fact.”
Harry Finn walked along like he had not a care in the world. Wraparound shades, jeans and a sweatshirt, sneakers, bedhead, he looked like a college student. Which was what he wanted considering he was on the Georgetown University campus. It had stone buildings that looked craned in from Cambridge or Oxford, nice green spaces, students hurrying here and there or else lounging in between classes. Finn walked confidently among them all. He sipped on a cup of Starbucks, shifted the weight of his backpack over his left shoulder.
He picked up the trail of Fuat Turkekul within five minutes. He did so by good prep work. This involved a little computer hacking onto the college’s database, a couple of discreetly placed questions and a thorough recon of the campus.
The Turkish-born scholar walked along, books cradled under one arm, in deep discussion with another faculty member while a trail of students brought up the rear. They went into a building near the western end of the campus. Finn did too.
Stone’s instructions had been explicit. Watch this man. And it wasn’t entirely for Turkekul’s protection. Stone had been clear that he was not convinced of his loyalties yet.
“It could go either way at this point, Harry,” he’d said. “If someone tries to get to him, stop it. But if he does something that suggests he’s working for the other side, document it and let me know right away.”
Turkekul was teaching a class on the second floor of the building. It had thirty-two students. Finn slipped in as the thirty-third, set up his recorder as did many other students, took out his book and laptop and settled back. If Turkekul noticed him he gave no indication of it. Unlike some of the other students there, Finn listened to every word the man said, and also how he said it, which was often even more important than the actual words spoken.
And unlike any of the students there, Finn assessed the room for threats and came away not entirely satisfied. One door in and out. Little cover. Turkekul would be a sitting duck at the front of the class.
Finn touched his chest and felt the Glock nestled there in the holster. If he’d been an assassin Turkekul would already be dead. He wondered how a man tasked to hunt down Osama bin Laden was allowed to live so cavalierly. It made no sense at all. And things that didn’t make sense bothered Harry Finn. They bothered him greatly.
Caleb settled into his desk at the Rare Book Reading Room and eyed his other colleagues as they moved around doing assorted tasks. He nodded and smiled to several.
“Morning, Avery,” he said to one portly fellow.
“Caleb. Congrats on acquiring the Fitzgerald.”
“Thanks,” Caleb said, beaming. He really was proud of that one. When things had settled down in the room he lifted his glasses to his eyes, pecked some keys on the keyboard and worked his way through several government databases, hoping with each click of a key that he would not run into insurmountable interference. His dear friend Milton Farb could have accessed the necessary database in seconds, but Milton had been one of a kind. Yet Caleb had gotten better over the years with electronics, and he approached the task Stone had given him with deliberation and calm. And he was an employee of the federal government and thus had requisite passwords and authorizations. And it wasn’t as though events at Lafayette Park were classified. At least he hoped they weren’t.
Within a half hour he breathed a sigh of relief. He hit his print button and the two-page single-spaced document slid into the catchbin of his printer. He picked it up and studied it. There were a lot of events on here. And some of them would be attended by some real Washington heavyweights. If his friend was hoping to narrow his search down by consulting this list, Caleb knew at once that it would not be all that easy.
He slipped the papers in his briefcase and returned to work.
ANNABELLE AND REUBEN reached Pennsylvania around three that afternoon. They drove first to Keystone Tree Farm. It was obviously still secured by the FBI. Barricades and black SUVs were everywhere. And Pennsylvania state troopers were there to support the federal agents.
Annabelle, who was driving, said, “No surprise there. That place will be out of circulation for a long time. Let’s keep rolling.”
“You want to try the trailer park?” asked Reuben.
“Might as well, but I have to believe it’ll be the same crime scene scenario there.”
And it was. Cops and Feds in abundance. The road into the trailer park was completely closed off.
“Want to bluff our way in?” asked Reuben. “If we say we live there?”
“Something tells me that’s way too risky for the potential reward. But I have another idea.”
“Good, because Oliver wants information and I’m not sure how we’re supposed to get it.”
“There’s always a way, Reuben. We just have to find it.”
At four-thirty that afternoon, Annabelle found it. Parked outside the tree farm, they watched as a pickup truck pulled out with four of the Latino workers from the farm inside.
“Quitting time,” said Reuben.
Hells Corner by David Baldacci / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on50 votes