Hells corner, p.28
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       Hells Corner, p.28
 

         Part #5 of Camel Club series by David Baldacci

  “Sure I do. My problem was when my superiors said one thing and did another. And I can see that hasn’t changed either.”

  “And when that happens what do you do? Eliminate the offender?”

  Stone, who was sitting at the window of a building across from the parking lot that he’d accessed through a never-locked rear door, stared down at the NIC director.

  Okay, next question answered. He knows I killed Gray and Simpson.

  “The past is past.”

  “I don’t think so.”

  “Then you’re a fool, and more than that you’re doing a disservice to the country you were sworn to protect.”

  “What the hell are you talking about?” barked an enraged Weaver. “I’ve fought, bled and killed for my country.”

  “So have I,” retorted Stone.

  “What exactly do you want?”

  “I want you to stop screwing with me. If you want to help, I welcome it. If not, just stay the hell out of my way.”

  “I am the head of the nation’s intelligence service.”

  “Yes, you are. So start acting like it, Marine.”

  Weaver flinched. But before he could respond Stone said, “And the next time we meet it might be over a beer talking about old times, because the traitor who’s trying to pull something really catastrophic is either dead or awaiting trial. I can’t believe you’d have a problem with that.”

  Weaver nodded slowly as he visibly calmed. “Okay, Stone. We’ll play it your way. For now. I guess I understand how you survived all those years.”

  “I guess so.”

  “Stone?”

  “Yeah?”

  “What do you think is going on?”

  Stone stood there in the darkness deciding how to respond. “You were wrong. The guns and the bomb were done by the same party.”

  “How the hell do you know that?”

  “There’s no way I believe in a coincidence that big.”

  “Okay, why?”

  “Something big, Weaver. On your watch. You were right to be concerned.”

  “How big?” asked Weaver nervously.

  “Big enough to make us forget the bullets and the bomb.”

  “We have to stop it, Stone.”

  “Yes, we do.”

  A minute later Weaver and his security detail were gone. Stone came down from his hiding place. He heard the sound and whirled around in time to see Chapman emerge from behind another building. She holstered her gun and joined him.

  “What are you doing here?” he asked.

  “I saw what went down on the street with the two agents and followed you here.”

  “Why?”

  “You’re my partner. I needed to make sure you were okay.”

  After a long gaze passed between them, Stone said, “I appreciate that.”

  “And I heard the essentials. I appreciate you covering for me with Weaver.”

  “It’s what partners do.”

  “Come on, I’ll give you a lift home.”

  This time Stone accepted the offer.

  When they got there he said, “You take my cot, I’ll sleep in the chair.”

  “What?”

  “Cot and me in the chair.”

  “I heard you the first time. But I’m okay to drive.”

  “No you’re not. You almost hit two pedestrians and three parked cars on the way here.”

  “I’ll be fine,” she said with a bit less confidence.

  “The last thing I need is for my partner to be taken from me because she got busted for drunk driving.”

  “Well then let me take the chair.”

  He pointed to his cot and said, “Go.” He gave her a shove in the back.

  Looking bemused, Chapman slipped off her heels, padded to the cot and drew the privacy blanket closed.

  CHAPTER 60

  THE NEXT MORNING CHAPMAN SLOWLY WOKE, turned to the side, fell off the cot and hit the floor hard.

  “Bloody hell!”

  She rubbed her head.

  She glanced up to see Stone standing in front of her holding two cups of coffee.

  “Good morning,” he said pleasantly.

  She sat on the cot and took the offered coffee. She winced and rubbed her head as she drank some.

  “My head feels quite ready to burst.”

  He said, “Four mojitos, two vodka tonics and a glass of port. And that’s just what I saw. I’m stunned you still have a head left.”

  “I told you I could hold my liquor.”

  “Why don’t you shower and then we can grab some breakfast.”

  “Wonderful. I’m famished. I know a nice restaurant.”

  “I know a better one.”

  “I’ll be ready in ten minutes.”

  Forty minutes later they were in downtown D.C. and in line with a group of construction workers ordering breakfast at a food truck a few blocks from the Capitol. They carried their egg sandwiches and hash browns over to Chapman’s car and sat on the hood hungrily eating their meal.

  Her mouth full of scrambled eggs, Chapman moaned. “God, this is good.”

  “It’s the lard, I think,” said Stone, munching on a hash brown. “And the fact that they never wash their frying pan.”

  Finished, they climbed in Chapman’s ride and drove off.

  “Where to?”

  “The park.”

  “Hell’s Corner. It’s living up to its name.”

  “I wonder how NIC is doing this morning.”

  “Based on what happened last night, probably not great.” She skimmed her fingers across the steering wheel. “Look, I know what you did last night. You effectively blocked Weaver from taking action against me for telling you about my other mission. It was neatly done.”

  “I’ve been in this business long enough to know how it really operates. I needed him to back off, but he has lots of assets. So I also need his help and focus.”

  “How much do you intend on telling him? I mean about what you’ve figured out?”

  “A lot. Again, he has resources we don’t. And the primary objective is the same for us both. To prevent whatever is coming.”

  “You think it really is in the planning stages?”

  “It’s past the planning stage. Now it’s in the execution stage.”

  “And the Russians? Pretty formidable foes.”

  “Yes.”

  “I’ve had a few run-ins with them. They can get pretty nasty.”

  Stone said nothing.

  “You spent time in Russia. At least that’s what your file says.”

  “I did.”

  “Cold War era?”

  “Yes.”

  “How was it?”

  “It was what it was.”

  “Was your mission successful?”

  “I came back alive, so I’d say yes, it was.”

  She drove on.

  Twenty minutes later Stone and she were standing in the office building from where they’d deduced the guns had been fired. He opened one of the windows.

  “What are we looking for?” she asked. “This building has the height to give it a direct sightline to the park. But we’d already established that.”

  “I know. But I think there’s something else.”

  “Like what?”

  “If I knew that I wouldn’t be here looking out the window.”

  He continued to gaze down at the park and then onward, south to the White House. There was something in the depths of his mind that he knew was important, but he couldn’t recall it. He had seen it, he was sure of that. In fact he had seen it in the park. But it wouldn’t come. He’d racked his brain all morning, but that focus had only served to bury the potential answer even more deeply.

  Chapman leaned against the window and stared at him.

  “It’s hurting my brain watching your brain burn itself out.”

  “Let’s go. I need to check the message board at Georgetown University.”

  “You into social networking with college students?


  “No. My target is a little older.”

  CHAPTER 61

  “ANYTHING INTERESTING?” Chapman asked as she watched Stone gazing over the message board. His eyes focused on one piece of paper set about two inches from where he’d put his message the night before. He read over it, quickly translating the coded response.

  “Yes. Let’s go.”

  The trip was short and they soon arrived at the apartment located over a dry cleaner’s. Adelphia answered their knock and motioned them in. They sat down. Stone slowly looked around. “I didn’t know you had moved back in here.”

  “I haven’t,” said Adelphia. She had on a long skirt, a white tunic and a string of green beads. Her black-and-silver hair was pulled together at the nape of her neck. “This is just temporary.” She paused. “I was surprised to see your note.”

  “I’m glad to see that the little code we came up with is still effective.”

  “What can I do for you?” she prompted.

  “How is Fuat Turkekul?”

  “Is that why you came here? To get information about him?”

  “Is that a problem?”

  “I know you are having him followed. That could be very dangerous for Fuat.”

  “The shots in the park came from a government office building. How dangerous do you think that is?”

  Adelphia sat back, her features inscrutable to a stranger like Chapman. But Stone could tell she was both intrigued and concerned.

  “You have confirmed this?”

  “To my satisfaction, yes.”

  “And why tell me? I am not part of the investigation. My mission has to do with Fuat, nothing more.”

  “What if one is connected to the other?”

  “I do not think that likely.”

  Chapman, who had been sitting there silently, blurted out, “But can you just dismiss it like that? You have to account for the possibility. Otherwise you’re not doing your bloody job.”

  Adelphia didn’t bother to look at her. “I didn’t expect you to partner with such a nervous person, Oliver.”

  “Do you discount the possibility?” he asked. “To such a degree that you won’t prepare for it?”

  Adelphia hunched forward. “Fuat is prepared for anything.”

  “He eats, he teaches classes, he reads. I suppose somewhere in there he works on finding bin Laden, even if he is seven thousand miles away.”

  “As you were told, the plans are in the preliminary stage.”

  “Very preliminary. Ever since my colleague has been following him he’s done very little prepping.”

  “It is not always obvious.”

  “It is somewhat obvious, Adelphia. To the trained eye.”

  “What exactly are you saying?”

  “That what I was told about Fuat may not be true.”

  “In what way?”

  “That he’s not actually going after Osama bin Laden.”

  Adelphia sat back. Stone noted that the fingers of her left hand twitched a bit.

  He continued, “It’s logical, isn’t it? To throw me off stride you tell me Fuat is going after the most sought-after terrorist since Hitler. You probably counted on the fact that the name alone would preclude the need for further explanation.”

  Chapman said, “You mean he’s not going after bin Laden?”

  Stone kept his gaze on Adelphia. “Well?”

  She rose and strode over to the window and looked out.

  “There’s no one out there,” he said. “At least no one connected to me. But maybe that’s not what you’re concerned about.”

  She turned back to him. “This is not something you want to become involved in, Oliver. It really isn’t. I say this to you as an old friend.”

  “I’m already involved.” He rose. “And I have one more question for you.”

  “I promise no answer.”

  “Turkekul wasn’t at the park to meet with you that night. So who was he really there to see?”

  CHAPTER 62

  THEY LEFT ADELPHIA’S APARTMENT without the question being answered.

  Chapman said, “How did you figure they weren’t going after bin Laden? And that Fuat Turkekul was meeting with someone else that night?”

  “I suspected each was true. Adelphia confirmed both for me just now.”

  “But she didn’t say anything.”

  “That’s what confirmed it.”

  “But why were you suspicious in the first place?” persisted Chapman.

  “You don’t task a man to chase Osama bin Laden and then plunk him in a teaching position in a university in the West, unless you believe bin Laden is hiding out on the East Coast somewhere. It makes no sense. That’s why I had Harry tail him. Not really for protection, but to see what he was doing. Or rather not doing.”

  “And the fact that Adelphia wasn’t at the park to meet with him?”

  “You don’t arrange a meeting like that and then just not show up. They had a message board arrangement. The meeting was late at night. It’s a ten-minute cab ride from Georgetown to the park. Turkekul could have checked the board right before he left. If she couldn’t make the meeting, Adelphia could have posted that message up until a few minutes before he
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