Deliver us from evil, p.32
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       Deliver Us From Evil, p.32

         Part #2 of A. Shaw series by David Baldacci
 

  “What did you tell me before about being forward? Going to your hotel room this late at night seems to fall into that category.”

  “That was before, this is now. We can cab it. It’s down in the Strand.”

  “I know where the damn Savoy is.”

  “Then let’s go.”

  An efficient cabbie with “the knowledge,” as Londoners referred to the mental map cabdrivers were required to learn over several years, whisked them along Piccadilly, over to Haymarket, around Lord Nelson and his army of pigeons, and onto the Strand.

  “It’s always puzzled me why the only place one drives on the right in all of Britain is down the little street to the Savoy entrance,” said Shaw.

  “It’s because the hotel’s forecourt was too narrow for coachmen to pull up to the front doors if they had to hug the left side.” Shaw stared at her in mild amusement. She said sharply, “What? I am English, after all.”

  They walked through the lobby, up a flight of stairs, and rode an elevator car up to Shaw’s room. He closed the door behind them, dropped his keys on the table, and pointed to a chair for Reggie to take while he sat on the edge of the bed.

  “Wretched heels.” She slipped off her shoes and rubbed her aching feet. “Now what?”

  “Now we talk survival.”

  “Yours or mine?”

  “Both, if we’re lucky.”

  “Maybe it was just me, but your boss didn’t seem all that keen on working with us. It was more like he wanted to arrest us.”

  “Should he want to do that?”

  Reggie’s features stiffened a bit. “I’m not going to think for him.”

  Shaw opened the room safe housed in a cabinet and pulled out a paper file. He flicked through some pages. “Fedir Kuchin. I read up on him.”

  “I could have saved you the trouble. We have lots of paper on him.”

  “People believed he was dead; killed in an uprising in Ukraine years before the Wall fell.”

  “Carefully orchestrated escape strategy. A number of them did that.”

  Shaw looked over the top of the file at her. “A number of them? Interesting word choice. What exactly is it that you and your comrades in arms do at Harrowsfield?”

  “Something that I can’t tell you about. Ever.”

  “You’re going to have to tell somebody.”

  “Why? Have you already told your boss about the place?”

  “I haven’t told him anything about anything. What I’m telling you is that you might need a friend on this.”

  “And you’re that friend?” she scoffed.

  “I didn’t say I was that friend. I don’t know enough to know whether I want to be your friend or not.”

  “Meaning you might end up against us?”

  “Just talk to me.”

  Reggie rose and paced in her bare feet, scrunching her toes against the soft carpet, working out the cramps. “It’s not that simple. Nothing about this is simple, Shaw.”

  “It’s only as hard as you make it.”

  “Oh come on, that’s bullshit logic and you know it.”

  “Maybe it is, but I’m finding the words hard to come by to convince you to trust me. I thought maybe I’d earned some of that back in Gordes.”

  “That was then, this is now,” she said, throwing Shaw’s own words back at him.

  “I guess risking life and limb doesn’t mean as much as it used to.”

  Reggie stopped pacing and sat down next to him on the bed. She looked down at the floor and sighed. “No, it actually does.”

  “So what’s the problem? I know Kuchin is a bad guy.”

  “But you know what we were going to do to him.”

  “Seemed pretty obvious.”

  “I take it you don’t play by those rules?”

  “Not unless it’s either them or me. Then I’ll do what I have to, to walk away.”

  “That’s not exactly splitting hairs. It’s a big difference in philosophy.”

  “Like I said before, I don’t have the authority to arrest anyone.”

  “Right, sure.” She stood and drew over to the window and opened the drapes.

  “Nicest views in London,” said Shaw, who joined her there.

  Grateful for this momentary change in the discussion, Reggie pointed to a lighted structure in the distance and said, “Have you been on the Eye?”

  It looked like a Ferris wheel on growth hormones.

  “Once, but only because a guy I was trailing decided to take a ride.”

  Reggie pointed at another structure. “Did you know Claude Monet painted a picture of Waterloo Bridge from a balcony here? And that Fred Astaire danced on the Savoy’s roof?”

  “No, I didn’t know that.”

  She closed the drape and turned to him. “But the oddest story I ever heard about the Savoy has to do with a cat named Kaspar.”

  “Kaspar the cat?”

  “Yes. He’s the oldest resident here, actually. Whenever there’s a dinner party at the Savoy where the number of guests is thirteen Kaspar comes out and fills a fourteenth seat.”

  “That’s because superstition has it that the first person who gets up from a party of thirteen will die?”

  “Precisely. I believe Agatha Christie even wrote a mystery about it.”

  “But eating with a cat?”

  “Kaspar is carved out of wood, which makes him invaluable as a dinner partner, if only for the ‘quiet’ companionship he provides.”

  “Nice story,” Shaw said.

  “Yes, isn’t it?” Reggie replied quietly.

  “How many other Kuchins have there been?” Shaw asked.

  “You deduce that from my vague phraseology? Big assumption on your part.”

  “Not really.”

  “What then?”

  “You don’t get that good your first time out.”

  “I’m not sure how good we really are. Gordes was a major cock-up all around, as you said.”

  “Things happen in the field, no matter how well you plan it out. But the way I see it you have two major problems and they may be connected.”

  She sat back down on the bed and looked up at him. “Okay. What are they?”

  “First, you guys got ambushed. That means you either let somebody sneak up on you or you have a mole.”

  “And the second?”

  “Kuchin is still out there.” He patted the file he’d pulled from the safe. “And unless the guy in these pages has really mellowed over the years he’s not going to just walk away from this. And if he did take out those Muslim terrorists he’s apparently still got his killing mojo. Now, if he also has a plant inside your place that makes it even more problematic.”

  “But if he did have a mole, how could we have gotten him down to the catacombs?”

  “Not sure. But regardless, the issue becomes, what are you going to do about it?”

  “Quite frankly, this is a little bit of new territory for us.”

  “I’d like to help you with this.”

  “You would have no idea what you were getting into, trust me.”

  “That’s all I’m asking you to do, trust me.”

  “I’ve never really trusted anyone. Perhaps not even myself at times,” she added in a strained voice.

  He perched next to her on the bed. “How did you get mixed up in something like this?”

  She said angrily, “How did you get mixed up in what you do?”

  “It was pretty much against my will, actually.”

  “Yeah, well, I went voluntarily down my road.”

  “Then I’ll voluntarily go down that same road with you.”

  “Why? Why help me?”

  “I don’t get to help many people. When the chance comes I try not to miss it.”

  Reggie’s anger faded and she touched his cheek. “Who was Anna?”

  “A woman I cared for. I told you.”

  “I’m sorry.”

  “So am I.”

  “I’m not Anna, Shaw.”


  His eyes glimmered. “I know that. No one can be Anna.” He started to say something else but she covered his mouth with her hand.

  She said, “Please. Don’t.”

  He looked at her as Reggie’s hand slid from his mouth to his cheek.

  “Reggie?”

  She shook her head, stood, unzipped her dress, and stepped out of it. Reggie stood there in front of him in panties and bra. It was as though she was waiting for him to tell her to stop. Shaw said nothing, just looked at her. He finally put his hand on her hip, squeezed lightly. She pushed him flat on the bed and straddled him.

  Reggie attacked his mouth, biting his lower lip and then kissing him on the neck and face before hungrily returning to his mouth, as they hastily worked their clothes off. There was energy and anger and desperation and even violence barely restrained as they went at one another.

  Sweat dripped off them both as the Savoy’s new HVAC system largely failed to keep up with the mingled heat thrown from their energized coupling. They eventually collapsed into a crazy tangle, her hair in his eyes, his knee between her legs, her arm curved around his head. She gently rubbed his face, kissed it.

  Shaw’s eyes were closed, his breathing slowly returning to normal.

  “Seems like it was as long in between for you as it was for me,” she said, her lungs still heaving.

  He disengaged from her and sat against the headboard.

  “Did I say something wrong?”

  “It was nothing you did, Reggie.”

  She wrapped her body against him, curling one of his chest hairs with her finger. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just stay like this for a bit? Maybe a few years?”

  “It would get old, don’t you think?”

  “Actually, I’d really like to see for myself.”

  I just don’t see that happening, thought Shaw.

  CHAPTER

  74

  AFTER FALLING deeply asleep they rose late the next morning and showered together, taking turns soaping the other. Five minutes into it they had sex again while the hot water poured over them. Later, Reggie dressed and sat on the bed next to Shaw, who wore only a robe.

  “So where does all this leave us?” she asked, her gaze searching his face.

  “I’m not sure. We still haven’t resolved Kuchin. And you still haven’t told me enough to help you.”

  “I was talking about the sex, actually.”

  He looked at her, a bit perplexed.

  “I guess it’s a girl thing to want to know about that. I suppose you blokes just take it at face value.”

  “It was terrific, but I still need to understand your operation.”

  “Very sensitive of you. But if I tell you, you have to tell others. I can’t let that happen.”

  “And the trust thing?”

  “Like I said, I don’t trust easily.”

  “Neither do I. But I think I trust you.”

  “Think?”

  “Well, I’m apparently further along the trust road than you are.”

  “So you believe Kuchin will come after us and that we might have a mole in our midst?”

  “Even if you don’t have a traitor he can still come after you.”

  “I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Our cover was excellent.”

  “You don’t know how good your cover is because it hasn’t been tested yet. And this guy will test it. And you didn’t leave the area clean. You had to rush. Things might’ve gotten left behind. People might’ve heard or seen something. Now he’s out there planning how to get to you. He’s doing it 24/7.”

  “How do you know that?”

  “Because it’s what I would be doing.”

  “Comforting to know that you and he think alike. And he’ll be coming after you too.”

  “Right. So we work together. Then maybe we get the guy before he gets us.”

  “Your shop isn’t interested anymore. Are you saying you’ll go outside your people to make this happen?”

  “If necessary, yes.”

  “That Frank guy didn’t seem the lenient or understanding type to me.”

  “He’s not.”

  “Then why do it at all?”

  “Because I don’t want to keep looking over my shoulder for this guy.”

  Reggie looked at him questioningly. “Only reason?”

  “Let’s just take it one step at a time.”

  “But you think someone on my side was prepared to kill you. How is that going to play out? I’m not going to help you take your revenge against my colleagues.”

  “Even if they were going to kill me?”

  “Like you said, let’s take it one step at a time,” she said coolly.

  “Harrowsfield.”

  “What about it?”

  “Take me there.”

  Reggie looked startled. “What?”

  “Take me there.”

  “Have you gone mental? You want me to waltz right in and say, ‘Hello, everyone, here’s Shaw. I don’t know really who the hell he is, but let’s all have a spot of tea and play nice’?”

  “I’ll leave the explanation up to you.”

  “You can’t be serious.”

  “I’m very serious.”

  “And what if I refuse?”

  “Then I make a phone call and it’s out of my hands. All of you go down.”

  She slowly stood and glared down at him. “You’d really do that to me? After what just happened on this bed? And in that damn shower?”

  “First rule in the line of work we loosely call a job? Personal gets checked at the door. Only amateurs forget that rule, or maybe they never understood it in the first place.”

  “So you just banged me for the hell of it? And then dropped this threat on me? You bastard.” She moved to slap him, but he caught her hand.

  “What you don’t seem to get, Reggie, is that I’m putting my life entirely on the line to help you. The odds are much greater he’ll get to you and your people first. I’m offering to do all I can to stop him. But in order to do that you have to trust me. What happened between us in
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