Deliver us from evil, p.33
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       Deliver Us From Evil, p.33

         Part #2 of A. Shaw series by David Baldacci
 

  this room I don’t take lightly. If that explanation isn’t good enough for you, then go ahead and hit me. But make it as hard as you can. It’ll be the only shot you get.”

  He let go of her hand and waited.

  They stared eye to eye in silence for several long seconds.

  Finally, Reggie said, “Get dressed. I need to go to my place to change clothes. And you’re going to at least feed me a proper English breakfast before I go down in flames at bloody Harrowsfield.”

  CHAPTER

  75

  SHAW HAD three cups of coffee while Reggie ate probably the biggest breakfast of her life.

  “Sex gives you an appetite?” said Shaw.

  “It wasn’t the sex.”

  “What then?”

  “Guilt.”

  “Nothing to feel guilty about.”

  “Maybe for you. Me, I’ve got plenty to feel shitty about.”

  They took the Tube to her flat, where Shaw waited downstairs while she changed into white jeans, a denim shirt, and flats. They picked up the City-Coupé from her garage and drove out to Leavesden. Shaw’s head touched the top of the car’s interior and his knees were crunched against the dash. Reggie looked pleased at his obvious discomfort.

  As they passed down the lane heading toward the aged twin columns she said, “Shaw, I’m really not sure about this.”

  “Just take a deep breath and keep driving straight.”

  They parked in front of the house and got out. Shaw could feel eyes on them as they walked to the front door. It opened before Reggie could put a hand on the knob.

  Whit looked ready to shoot both of them.

  “I can’t believe you’d bring this bloke here. Are you out of your bleeding mind?”

  Shaw answered. “She didn’t have an option. It was either me or the cops.”

  “How did you even know about this place?” Whit demanded.

  “It’s hard to keep secrets anymore.”

  “Whit,” began Reggie, “we all need to sit down and talk this out.”

  “You’ve absolutely gone over the edge.” He pointed a finger at Shaw. “This guy is going to bring us all down.”

  “Use your brain, Whit,” said Shaw. “If I were going to do that why would I even need to be here? I could’ve just sent the police.”

  Whit looked at him, then Reggie, then back at Shaw. “Then what the hell do you want?”

  “To help.”

  “Oh, right, you’re the bloody good fairy what brings all sorts of pixie sprinkles to nice little boys and girls?”

  “I don’t really care what you think. I came here to talk to the people running this ‘operation,’ and I know it’s not you. So either get out of the way or try and stop me.”

  Whit looked up at the six-six broad-shouldered Shaw, his ropy muscles clearly visible under his shirt.

  “All right, Paddy, come on in. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

  As soon as Shaw moved forward, Whit pulled his gun or tried to. Shaw jammed him against the wall with his shoulder, ripped the gun out of his hand, kicked out the Irishman’s legs, and pressed a size thirteen shoe to the side of his head. Shaw released the mag, racked back the slider, cleared the seated round, and put the mag and round in his pocket before tossing the empty pistol back to Whit. He reached down, grabbed the man by the shoulder, and jerked him to his feet.

  “If you want to get Kuchin then we need to get this op rolling.”

  “What op?”

  Reggie said fiercely, “The one we’re apparently going to be planning with him.”

  “You don’t sound too happy about this whole thing,” remarked Whit as he rubbed his sore shoulder.

  Reggie looked at Shaw. “Like the man said, I didn’t really have a choice. Where’s the professor?”

  “Right here.”

  They all looked down the hall. Professor Miles Mallory was holding a pistol pointed at Shaw.

  “Would you care to step this way, Mr. Shaw?” said Mallory. “I think we need a word. And for the record, this weapon is fully loaded and I’m a fairly decent shot.”

  Shaw didn’t hesitate. He moved through the front door. “I’d like that, Professor. And hopefully I can find out why you thought it was necessary to order one of your foot soldiers to inject me with enough botulinum to put a rhino down for good.”

  CHAPTER

  76

  KUCHIN HAD SPENT a full day going over the collected file on Katie James. When he turned the final page he called Rice into the room. “A lot of information but very little that might tell us where she is currently.”

  “She had an apartment in New York, but she lost her job, couldn’t pay the rent, and she got kicked out. She left no forwarding address. From what I’ve learned she has a habit of using the homes of former colleagues around the world to crash for a few days or weeks at a time.”

  “I remember the story of course that she worked on most recently,” said Kuchin.

  “Katie James was a key player in bringing that whole conspiracy to light. Even now the whole truth isn’t known.”

  “Buried,” said Kuchin knowingly. “Because the truth would embarrass important people. It’s always that way.”

  Rice tapped the mound of pages. “Well, I’m thinking that as good a journalist as she undoubtedly is, I don’t believe she navigated that whole episode alone.”

  “Bill Young the lobbyist, you mean? And that was why they were together soon after in Zurich?”

  “That’s one theory, anyway.”

  Kuchin said, “There might be other more plausible ones. But I don’t really care what they are. We have to find her.”

  “I can get some people working on it. Check plane records, charge card transactions.”

  “No, I will handle it.”

  “But—”

  Kuchin rose, hefting the file in his right hand. “I told you, Alan, you’re to concentrate on the business. I will be preoccupied with this until the matter is resolved.” He looked down at his assistant. “Now, there has been no unusual activity around the office, I take it?”

  “Unusual activity?”

  “Any extraordinary interest in my whereabouts by any parties, official or otherwise?”

  “Not that I’ve personally seen or heard from anyone. It’s been business as usual.”

  “Then it is possible that I will return on the jet.” Kuchin seemed to be talking more to himself than Rice.

  “All right, Evan, certainly. You’re paying for the plane after all.”

  “I know that. I’ll be ready to leave in one hour. Alert the pilots.”

  Kuchin packed a small bag. Among the many perks of flying via private wings was that you could bring anything on board with you. Weapons, explosives, victims. He had transported all three.

  After closing his bag Kuchin picked up a phone and hit a button. “Pascal?”

  “Yes, Mr. Waller?”

  “I’m going to Montreal. I want you with me.”

  “Yes sir. I’m ready to go.”

  “How did you know?”

  “Just my job, sir.”

  The faithful little servant.

  “Five minutes.”

  “Yes sir.”

  Rice was waiting by the door when Kuchin came out with his bag and briefcase. “Jet’s all ready. The flight to Montreal isn’t much longer than the car ride from the landing strip to here.”

  “Excellent. I will call you when I touch down.”

  “Call me?” said a startled Rice.

  “Yes, you will be staying here.”

  “But I thought… The business.”

  “Computer access, a cell tower not that far away so phone service is very good. You can operate from here, can you not?”

  “Yes, but—”

  “I’ll be in touch.” Kuchin brushed past him with Pascal right behind.

  They were wheels up a little over an hour after that. As the Gulfstream knifed into the sky Kuchin settled at his desk and spread the file on Katie Jam
es in front of him. In his career with the KGB he had been tasked with finding lots of people. These targets never wanted to be found, because if they were they would be tortured, killed, or most likely both. Because of that Kuchin had learned many of the ploys used by people who wanted to remain “lost.” But that was decades ago. Things had changed. There were new ways to cover one’s tracks. Yet Kuchin figured he had at least one advantage. Katie James might not know that anyone was after her. If so, she might not be hiding at all.

  Seven months ago in Zurich. Last known address in New York. If she went from New York to Switzerland she would have gone by plane. After that Kuchin did not know where she might have traveled, or how she might have traveled there. But the means by which she might have done so would be limited. Plane. Train. Car. And then the payment method, of course. Credit card transactions, email activity. There would be records of that in each instance.

  They landed, and on the drive into the city Kuchin made a phone call to a man whom he trusted as much as he did anyone. He was not going to his penthouse in case that was being watched. He had another hideaway in the city. After the call was finished he turned to Pascal.

  “I will need your help with this, Pascal,” said Kuchin.

  “Anything you need done, Mr. Waller, I’ll take care of it.”

  “The tall man?”

  “Yes sir, I apologize for him getting the best of me. I should’ve seen that coming, but we really didn’t have much time to put it all together.”

  “Yes, that is interesting. I would like you to tell me exactly how it was all put together, as you said.”

  “A couple hours before you left to go to the market with the lady Mr. Rice came and got me and Manuel. He said there might be a problem and he wanted to make sure things were okay.”

  “Did he say why he thought there might be a problem?”

  “Just that he had a suspicion about the woman. I told him if that was the case we should tell you.”

  “And his response?”

  “That he wanted to make sure. He knew, well, that you liked the lady and he didn’t want to mess things up in case he was wrong. He didn’t want you to get mad at him. Said you’d already shown your displeasure with him on that score.”

  “All right, I can see that. Go on.”

  “We went to the church. Checked out the altar and stuff like that. Then Mr. Rice said we needed to check out the basement.”

  “The catacombs?”

  “I guess so. Anyway, we got there and didn’t find anything at first, but Mr. Rice noticed that one of the tops was off I guess a crypt thing. And then we saw some equipment set up down there. A battery generator and some lights and stuff. Mr. Rice said we were going to park there and see if something happened.”

  “And it did.”

  “Oh, yeah. Never saw the big guy, though. He came out of nowhere.” Pascal rubbed his head. “Packs a punch. I’m looking forward to paying him back.”

  “But we have to find him first.” Kuchin held up a photo of Katie James. “This woman is really the only link we have to him. She’s a journalist. A very famous one, and yet no one has seen her recently. But if we can find her, we might be able to find him.”

  “You want me to start looking?”

  “I’m going to make some inquiries first. Narrow the search down. Then I’ll put you on it.”

  “Yes sir.”

  Kuchin looked down at the photo. She was a very lovely woman. Too old and too white to be one of his sex units, but still attractive. He wondered how close she was to this man. He hoped it was close enough. Close enough to use her to get to him.

  CHAPTER

  77

  SHAW EASED into a chair in the library. There was no fire in the fireplace; the day was warm, the skies tensing for a thunderstorm later. Reggie and Whit stood by the door. Professor Mallory, still holding the gun, sat down across from Shaw. Liza stood with one hand on the long table. Dominic and his injured arm leaned against a far wall. All their gazes were solely on Shaw.

  “If you could keep that muzzle down until you intend to use it, I’d appreciate it,” said Shaw. “That gun has a grip safety and is known for having a touchy trigger pull.”

  Mallory edged the muzzle down slightly.

  Whit looked at Mallory. “What the hell does he mean about botulinum?”

  Before Mallory could answer Reggie came forward, drew the syringe from her purse, and placed it on the table next to the professor.

  As she stepped back Mallory looked down at it. “Long considered to be the most toxic poison in the world,” he said in a pedantic tone. “Though it has infinite medical uses, including cosmetic under the name Botox, of course.”

  “You die fast, but in excruciating pain,” said Shaw, his gaze never wavering from the other man’s face.

  “You would not have,” declared the professor. “You will note that that syringe has two solutions in separate compartments but with a semipermeable barrier. The additional element was a potent anesthesia. You would have been unconscious. Would have felt nothing.”

  “As I died.”

  “Well, yes,” conceded Mallory. “That was the point after all.”

  “Miles!” exclaimed Liza. “What were you thinking? We don’t do that to innocent people.”

  “Well, the easy answer to that is I didn’t know how innocent Mr. Shaw was, or, frankly, is. What I did know was that he had been told of our operation and plan with Fedir Kuchin. Allowing him to go free after that seemed problematic at best.”

  “But to order his death?” said Reggie in an icy tone. “We’re not murderers—” She stopped, paled, and glanced away. Whit, Dominic, and Liza could not meet one another’s eyes. By their expressions they seemed to all be thinking the same thing.

  Technically, we are murderers.

  “It was a judgment call I made in the heat of battle,” snapped Mallory. “I did not make it lightly or without some misgivings.”

  “Well, that makes me feel better,” said Shaw sarcastically. “But here I am alive and well.”

  “Yes, well, sometimes plans go awry.”

  “But let me tell you what’ll make me feel even better.”

  Mallory and the others looked at one another. “What?” he said.

  “Your putting that gun down. Before I have to do something about it.”

  The two men stared at each other. As Reggie watched, she felt like what she was witnessing was two rams about to smack horns. Yet finally Mallory set the gun on the table next to him, its muzzle pointed harmlessly at a wall.

 
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