Deliver us from evil, p.23
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       Deliver Us From Evil, p.23

         Part #2 of A. Shaw series by David Baldacci
 

  CHAPTER

  52

  SHAW LEANED AWAY from the door in frustration. Attempting to pick a deadbolt lock in near-total darkness using part of the guts of a toilet bowl tank could only lead to frustration, he told himself. There were over eighty-six thousand seconds in a day. Having counted over a hundred thousand seconds off in his head, and nearly driving himself mad in the process, the best Shaw could figure it was either the middle of the night or the middle of the day. He stepped forward and listened at the door. No steps, no breathing. And yet a solid door was between him and freedom. If he tried to break it down, they would be waiting for him with guns. He slumped back in the chair and tried to think of another way.

  His motivation to get free had changed, but really only slightly. If these men were working with Janie Collins, that meant she wasn’t alone in dealing with Waller. So if he tried to do anything to her at least she’d have backup. But he felt certain they weren’t cops. The guy he’d talked with had seemed surprised about the sex slave trade and the nuclear terrorist pieces. So if they didn’t know about his illegal activities, then what was their motivation to take the guy down? And if they weren’t the authorities, why keep Shaw alive? A bullet to the head and a shallow grave in the middle of nowhere would’ve made more sense.

  Thoroughly confused, Shaw sat in the chair and fiddled with the two pieces of metal he’d fashioned. Two useless pieces of metal from a toilet. If Frank could only see him now. As he glanced over at the commode, something occurred to him. He looked at the door and then glanced back at the toilet. Checking the jury-rigged tool in his hand, he thought it might just be possible.

  * * *

  “And how was your swim?” asked Waller. They were walking up to the village of Gordes the next afternoon.

  “Refreshing. Did you enjoy watching?”

  He looked taken aback. “Pardon?”

  “I thought I saw someone peeking over the wall. I assumed it was you, but I guess it could have been one of your men.” She glanced back at the pair of security guards trailing them.

  “It was not me,” said Waller stiffly. “And it was not one of my men.”

  “Perhaps I was mistaken then.”

  “Yes, you were.”

  Reggie wasn’t sure why she’d made such a provocative statement to the man. No, maybe she did know. It was better than scratching his eyes out. Sex slaver. Nuclear terrorist. She drew a calming breath and managed a smile. “The big market is tomorrow. It’s far larger than the one you saw before.”

  “I look forward to it,” said Waller.

  After finishing their shopping they passed by the church again. “Have you been in yet?” asked Reggie.

  “Not yet. I will attend Mass on Sunday.”

  “I’ve been inside. It’s quite lovely. Would you like to see it?”

  Waller looked unsure, glancing back at the two guards. “All right. For a few minutes. Then we must eat. I am hungry. And after the market tomorrow I want to take you to Pont du Gard to see the aqueduct. Then we can have dinner near there at a truly delightful restaurant. Then the next day, Gigondas.”

  “You have it all planned out?”

  “Of course I do.” This blunt statement was softened by his smile.

  They walked down the narrow alley and tugged open the church door. Inside it was noticeably cooler. They moved forward and saw the stairs leading up to the bell tower that was the highest point in Gordes. The two bodyguards, one of whom was Pascal, waited just inside the entrance.

  As they approached the altar, Reggie genuflected and crossed herself; Waller did likewise. An elderly priest walked out and saw them. He spoke to them in French and Reggie answered before the priest moved on.

  She said to Waller, “He just asked—”

  “Yes, I know, my French is as good as my English, perhaps better. The church is closed, but we will only be a few minutes.”

  Reggie looked around. “Centuries of worshippers have passed through here. It’s remarkable.”

  In a low voice Waller said, “It is glorifying to be in the presence of such power.”

  “Power for good,” amended Reggie as she stared at the cross on the altar.

  “In a church what else could there be?”

  “I don’t attend Mass as regularly as I should.”

  “We will go together Sunday.”

  “That’s not possible, because I’m leaving on Saturday.”

  He looked stunned by this. “And going where?”

  “Back home, to the States.”

  “Can you not change your plans?”

  “Why?”

  “Because I am asking you to. I want to spend more time with you here.”

  “But my villa lease will be up.”

  “I will take care of that. I will either extend it or you can stay at my villa.”

  “Evan, I don’t think—”

  He gripped her arm. “I will take care of it.”

  She winced at the pressure he was applying.

  He slowly released her. “You have bewitched me. I am not in my right mind around you. I must watch myself.”

  “Perhaps I should watch myself too,” she said, attempting a smile.

  “But truthfully we must spend more time together. And when I go back to Canada it is a short trip to the United States. We can see each other there.”

  “You hardly know me.”

  “I am a quick judge of people. In fact, I can see right through them.” He laughed in a way that made Reggie’s throat go dry. But she had one more thing to do. It was the reason she’d brought him here.

  “It’s time to go back. I have a few errands to run in my car after lunch,” she said.

  Waller turned to head back the way they’d come.

  “No,” said Reggie. She looked mischievous and playful, a performance she’d worked on in the mirror at the villa. “I found a shortcut.”

  “What?”

  “Follow me.” She started off toward the stairs heading to the lower level.

  “Where are you going?” he asked.

  She turned back. “A shortcut, like I said.” She glanced over at Pascal, who was watching her closely. “He can come too,” she said with a laugh. “I’m not leading you into some ambush, come on.” She skipped down the steps.

  Waller nodded to Pascal and they followed. Reggie was waiting for them at the bottom. She led them farther into the bowels of the holy place. Reggie glanced once more at Pascal and saw that he had his hand near his gun. A minute later she pushed open the door and stepped out into daylight. She pointed to her left. “See? A shortcut down the cliffs. The passage was cut right through the stone. The villas are right down those steps.”

  Waller looked surprised and also impressed. “I passed by this door before and wondered where it led.”

  “Now you know,” she said.

  Now you know.

  CHAPTER

  53

  I WANT TO SEE HIM,” said Reggie.

  “That is definitely not a good idea,” replied Whit.

  They were once more meeting at the Abbaye de Sénanque bookshop.

  “I don’t care if you don’t think it’s a good idea or not. I want you to take me to him.”

  “Does the professor know—”

  “I’m not feeling that charitable toward the man right now. So take me to see Bill.”

  Shaw was sitting in the chair when the knock came.

  “Away from the door!” called out a voice.

  When it opened, Shaw blinked to adjust to the new level of light. Then he saw her standing there.

  Reggie said, “I’m sorry about this. I had no idea what had happened to you.”

  “Then let me go.”

  “That won’t be happening, Paddy,” said Whit, stepping forward to stand next to Reggie.

  Shaw noted the two other men at the doorway. They didn’t have their guns out, probably her doing. But he assumed they were armed.

  “Then tell me what’s going on,” said Shaw. “May
be I can help you.”

  “Same answer as the last one,” countered Whit.

  Shaw shot him a glance. “Did you tell her about Waller, about his background?”

  Reggie spoke up. “Yes, he did. And something you told us will actually help.”

  “What?”

  “I can’t say.”

  “Why are you after him?”

  “Why were you after him?” replied Reggie.

  Shaw didn’t say anything.

  “Nuclear terrorism?” she suggested.

  “He’s a bad guy,” said Shaw. “He needed to be taken down. That’s all I can tell you.”

  “So then why were you leaving town?” asked Reggie. “Before he was taken down?”

  Shaw glanced over at Whit. “Who are you with? Interpol? Mossad? MI6 maybe? Paddy.”

  Reggie started to say something, but Whit let out a loud grunt. “No one you would recognize,” she finally said. “But why were you leaving town?”

  “Op got pulled,” said Shaw finally.

  “Because he killed the terrorists? That doesn’t mean he won’t try again.”

  “I don’t make the orders, I just follow them.”

  “And so do we,” snapped Whit.

  “How did you figure things out with me?” asked Reggie.

  “Right before they caved in my skull it sort of all came together. The last piece was you tipping Waller’s guy I was no longer an issue.”

  “I didn’t want anything to happen to you.”

  “When are you going to do it?” Shaw asked.

  “Okay, little visit’s over,” said Whit.

  Shaw ignored him and kept his gaze on Reggie. “Why did you come to see me?”

  “To tell you that I was sorry.”

  “Look, if Waller can get the drop on—”

  She cut in. “He is very good, no doubt. But so are we. This is what we do.”

  “What is?” he shot back.

  “As soon as it’s over you’ll be released unharmed,” said Reggie. She paused. “I saw some men leave your hotel with your things. One of them was wearing a hat and he didn’t look happy.”

  “I’m sure he’s not very happy with me.”

  “We can contact him, tell him you’re all right. That this was not your fault.”

  “I’ll take care of it. But let me ask you this. If you fail and Waller kills all of you, what then?”

  Whit smirked. “Then it’ll be up to you to get yourself out of here. Not too hard for a tough guy like you, right?”

  Shaw wasn’t giving up. “Tell me your plan and I’ll point out the holes.”

  Whit shook his head. “And then maybe you escape and muck everything up? I don’t think so.”

  “But—” began Reggie.

  “No, Reg,” snapped Whit, and then his face contorted because of this mistake.

  Shaw looked at her. “Reg, for Reggie?”

  “Thank you again,” she said. She held out her hand. Whit moved to stop her, but Shaw was already clutching it. His fingers felt like they were on fire. When he looked at her he could sense she’d had a similar reaction.

  Before the door closed Shaw called out, “I hope you get the son of a bitch.”

  His last image of the woman was her eyes staring at him before the door shut between them.

  He rushed to the door and listened. He heard one word clearly. “Market.”

  Shaw groaned and slapped the door.

  CHAPTER

  54

  WHAT, Evan’s not here with you?”

  Reggie turned to see Alan Rice watching her. He walked across the main street in Gordes and joined her. “I thought his goal was to monopolize every minute of your time. And yet here you are, free and alone.”

  “I guess he had something better to do right now. Plus I had some errands to run. I just came here to pick up a few things.”

  “Do you have time for some coffee? With the sun behind the clouds it’s gotten a bit nippy. I could use some java.” He pointed behind her to a café on a side street near the Pol Para Museum situated in the village square.

  They sat inside, ordered their drinks, and Rice didn’t break his silence until each had their cups. “Evan is quite infatuated with you, I’m sure you know that.”

  “I enjoy his company. He’s a nice man.”

  “No, he’s really not a nice man, Ms. Collins.”

  “Pardon me?” Reggie said in surprise. “I thought you worked for him.”

  “I do, so I know him intimately. He is an enormously successful businessman. But nice does not enter the equation.”

  “And why are you telling me this?”

  “I want to be sure that you know what you’re getting into.”

  “I wasn’t aware that I was getting into anything.”

  “I can assure you that Evan does not see it that way.”

  “So what do you suggest that I do about it?”

  “You can leave Provence.”

  “I’m actually planning to leave on Saturday. If I do, you’re saying this enormously successful businessman with a possessive nature would just let it drop?”

  Rice sipped his coffee and then fiddled with his spoon. “Perhaps.”

  “So has this sort of thing happened before with Evan?”

  “You mean with other women? Yes, it has.”

 
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