Hells corner, p.27
Part #5 of Camel Club series by David Baldacci
“So the truth this time?”
She stuffed her hands in her pockets. “Riley Weaver and Sir James are working together.” She took a breath and said, “God, I can’t believe I’m telling you this. I’ve broken just about every professional rule MI6 has.”
“That’s all right. Most agencies have too many rules.”
“Bloody easy for you to say,” she replied irritably.
“Why are they working together? To what purpose?”
“It wasn’t Sir James’s idea, that I know.”
“So he was persuaded?”
“As Sir James said, your president and our prime minister get along rather well. And America is the superpower. Everyone else just follows its lead.”
“So why keep it from me?”
“Weaver is afraid of you. That’s quite clear from what I’ve seen and heard.”
Stone thought, If he knows what I did to his predecessor, I would be afraid of me too.
“What exactly is your role in all of this?”
“I’ve been tasked to investigate and solve this crime.”
“Even though your prime minister was clearly not the target? Does MI6 have that much free time on its hands to allow one of their best agents to stay over here and assist us in our criminal investigations?”
She said nothing, just studied the pavement.
Stone turned away. “Don’t bother following me this time.”
She grabbed his arm. “All right, all right.”
He turned back, looked at her expectantly.
“I’ve also been tasked to watch you.”
“MI6 tasked by the American government to watch me?” he said skeptically.
“The world has gotten a lot more complicated, Oliver. Assets are not what they used to be, even for you Americans. Global cooperation, that’s the ticket these days. We do favors for the Yanks and they reciprocate. It’s not well-known of course, all hush-hush, but it does happen.”
He cocked his head. “Watch me why? Do they think I’m involved in what happened?”
“No. But Weaver has some other agenda in mind.”
“Has he shared it with McElroy?”
“I don’t believe so, at least not completely. But Sir James’s hands are tied.” She stared at him pensively. “What’s in your background that could have prompted this level of attention?”
“I have three decades’ worth of answers and not nearly enough time to explain them even if I were so inclined, which I’m not.”
“If you tell me what’s going on, maybe I can help.”
“You? The person who’s been tasked to spy on me?”
“I thought we were partners on this thing.”
“We are, but only on this thing. Nothing else.”
“So who’s withholding information now?” she said sharply.
“You were withholding things related to the here and now. I’ve never asked about your past missions. And I expect the same courtesy from you.”
“So where does that leave us?” asked Chapman quietly.
“Back where we started,” Stone said sharply. “And let’s leave it that way.”
THEY TOOK A TAXI BACK to Chapman’s car at the parking garage.
She said, “I can drop you off at your cottage.”
“I feel like walking some more,” he replied.
“Look, I’m sorry about not telling you earlier about Weaver. But I have my orders too.”
Stone drew close to her. “If that’s how you want to operate, so be it.”
“Well, how exactly do you operate in that regard?”
“I don’t keep things from the people I’m working with in the trenches. That’s where my loyalties lie. That’s why I told you about Fuat Turkekul even though your boss didn’t want me to.”
Her face flushed. “Okay, okay. I get it. And I am sorry.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” He paused. “Are you sure you’re okay to drive?”
“I’m fine now. All wide-eyed. A firm verbal spanking does it every time.”
After a very long walk Stone reached the Georgetown campus, which was quiet at this hour. He found the community message board, pulled out a piece of paper and a pen, wrote a note and posted it on the board using a few extra pushpins stuck into the cork. On the way to his cottage he used his cell phone to call Harry Finn.
“Glad Reuben’s okay,” were the first words out of the man’s mouth.
“Me too,” said Stone. “He wants to leave the hospital but I think he’ll be safer in there.”
“You think the folks might try again?”
“Even though he told us what he knew, as did Annabelle, there’s no reason not to be careful. Now tell me about Fuat.”
Stone stopped and leaned against a tree as he listened.
Finn said, “If he is going after bin Laden, he’s taking his own sweet time. He gets up, eats, teaches class. Has lunch. Teaches some more. Has office hours. Goes for a walk. Has dinner, goes to his apartment, reads and goes to sleep.”
“No secret communications? No clandestine meetings?”
“Not that I’ve seen. And I would have.”
“I know you would, Harry.”
“They may have him lying low because they know we’re watching.”
“I thought of that too. But it’s difficult to know what to do about it. Look, go home and rest.”
“I’m going to try a different angle. I’ll keep you posted.”
Stone continued the walk to his cottage. On the next block over his internal senses started tingling. Six o’clock and nine o’clock. He could feel them there before he even saw them. A man behind. A woman to his left. They looked innocuous, uninterested in him. That is, they did to the casual eye. Stone hadn’t possessed a casual eye in over forty years. His hand drifted to his holster. He picked up his pace just a bit because he wanted to get to the next intersection a few seconds faster. A plan had formed based on knowing this area as well as he did.
As soon as he reached the intersection he suddenly veered to his right. A construction Dumpster was up on the sidewalk because the house located there was being renovated. He took up a defensive position behind it, drew his pistol and placed a bead on the woman.
“Agent Stone?” the woman called out.
Stone kept her in his gunsight and said nothing.
“Director Weaver would like to talk to you.”
“I’m sure he would.”
“We were assigned to bring you to him.”
“I prefer he come to me.”
The man appeared next to the woman. He said, “Sir, the director is a very busy person.”
“So am I.”
A car drove past and the old woman inside peered out at the man and woman before driving on. A few other people were walking up the street, not yet in earshot, but they soon would be.
“He just wants to talk,” said the woman, desperation creeping into her voice.
“I’d be glad to entertain him.”
“Okay, where?” the man asked.
“The outdoor parking lot down by the river. One hour.”
“Sir, the director—” began the woman as she nervously looked over her shoulder at the approaching people.
Stone cut in, “The director will be very pleased to meet me there at that time. Now keep walking so I can put my gun away.”
“This is highly irregular,” snapped the woman.
“Yes, it is.”
“We’re federal agents too,” added the man. “On the same side as you.”
“I’ll buy the first part, but not the second. Go!”
They walked off. Stone slipped the gun back in its holster and set out for the river. He wanted to get there first. He had things to get ready. He picked up his pace even as a knot grew in his stomach. It was one thing to risk life and limb trying to solve a complex case. It was quite another to have to do so while watching your rear flank. But apparently that was just
And why am I surprised?
THE THREE VEHICLES PULLED UP to the empty parking lot and stopped. It was one o’clock in the morning, and being a weekday, working Washingtonians had long since finished their collective entertainment for the evening and gone home to sleep. The security team piled out first, checking out obvious attack points and sending personnel scurrying into these hidden crevices before signaling that it was safe for Riley Weaver to exit his ride. He was dressed in a suit and striped tie, looking more ready to step in front of a camera and play the pundit’s role or host a global conference on terrorism than skirmish with an ex-assassin in an empty parking lot at the edge of the Potomac. The bulge at his chest indicated the body armor he wore. He looked around a bit uncertainly before taking a few steps toward the water’s edge.
“Stone?” he called out.
A phone rang. Everyone grabbed cells.
“Sir,” said one of the guards as he picked up the ringing phone from the top of a pier piling, right where Stone had placed it earlier. He handed it to Weaver.
“Hello, Director,” said Stone. “What can I do for you?”
His voice was on speakerphone. When Weaver tried to disable it, he couldn’t.
“What the hell are you doing?” he exclaimed. “It won’t let me off the speakerphone.”
“I want everyone to hear this. So again, what can I do for you?”
“You can start by showing yourself.” Weaver looked nervously around at the darkness.
“And why is that necessary? I thought you wanted to talk. All we need are voices to do that.”
“I wanted to meet at NIC,” snapped Weaver.
“And I picked this place instead.”
“Frankly, your place gives me the creeps. Never quite sure if I’m going to walk out or not.”
“What is wrong with you? You are a federal employee.”
“Of an agency unaffiliated with yours.”
“What are you afraid of?”
“You brought the SWAT team with you. Again! And you’re wearing Kevlar. What are you afraid of?”
Weaver performed a 360-degree spin, trying to see where Stone might be lurking.
“I’ve got long-range eyes, Director, so don’t even bother.”
“I don’t like it that you can see me but I can’t see you.”
“I like it just fine. And as your messengers said, we’re all on the same team.”
“Which begs the question of why we have to meet in such a damn fool way,” barked Weaver into the phone.
“Depends on what you want.”
“Did you speak to Agent Chapman tonight?”
“You know I did. Or else you wouldn’t be here.”
“What did she tell you?”
“She told me lots of things. You’ll have to be more specific.”
“About our arrangement.”
“Meaning you and her?”
“Come on, Stone, don’t play stupid.”
“You were a Marine, Weaver.”
“Still am. Never leave the Corps no matter what other uniform you put on.”
“I was hoping that would be your answer. And in combat who do you rely on?”
“Marine next to you.”
“That’s right. And did you ever keep secrets about the fight in front of you from the Marine next to you?”
Weaver didn’t answer right away. He glanced around at his security detail. Several of them were eyeing him closely.
“This isn’t exactly combat, Stone. You know that as well as anyone. You carried a rifle for your country.”
“It’s looking an awful lot like a battlefield to me.”
“So you’re saying Chapman told you?”
“I’m saying partners don’t keep secrets. If you have a problem with that, then the problem is with me, not her.”
“She could get in a lot of trouble for this.”
“But she won’t.”
“How the hell do you know that?”
“Hit the speakerphone button twice, Weaver.”
“Just do it.”
Weaver did so and the speakerphone function was disabled. Weaver held the phone up to his ear. “What the hell are you playing at?”
Weaver noticeably stiffened.
“And since you never got back to me with the list of events at Lafayette Park, I had someone do it for me. There’s a bunch of stuff on there that could have been the target for the bomb, but something tells me the answer isn’t anywhere on that list.”
“You know about the Pennsylvania adventure my friends had? And the executions of the Latinos?”
“Of course. I am the director of NIC.”
“Lot of trouble for a cover-up. Coupled with the fact that those shots into the park were fired from a government office building behind the Hay-Adams that one needed a pretty high security clearance to get into spells ‘traitor’ with a capital T.”
“Nothing new there. We’re looking into that angle.”
“Your ‘looking’ will show that the person who accessed the building used a stolen or cloned security card while the real card owner was halfway around the world.”
Weaver pursed his lips. “Cloned. Actual holder was in Tokyo.”
“And this person was with the State Department?”
“Jesus, Stone, what are you, a freaking mind reader?”
“No. The folks at State have always been lax about security. Thirty years ago half my missions were because they’d screwed up somehow. And I can see they haven’t changed.”
“Any thoughts on who the inside person might be?”
“Not yet. I need to keep digging. But, Weaver, if I have to spend all my time looking over my shoulder for your boys, that will be very distracting.”
“I can see why your superiors had such a hell of a time with you in the army. You don’t play well with others.”
Hells Corner by David Baldacci / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on50 votes