Hells corner, p.35
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       Hells Corner, p.35

         Part #5 of Camel Club series by David Baldacci


  “IT’S GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN,” said Friedman as she sat down at the restaurant table. Annabelle and Caleb were already seated across from her.

  “We said we would be in touch,” Annabelle said bluntly.

  Caleb said, “We are very excited to move this forward, with your help.”

  Friedman slid her napkin into her lap and said, “And I’m excited to get to work on this with you. I’ve made some preliminary inquiries and the time is definitely ripe for your project model.”

  They ate and discussed more points of business. As they left the restaurant a Mercedes limo swung around the corner.

  “We can give you a ride home,” said Caleb.

  “You don’t have to do that,” said Friedman. “I live out in Virginia.”

  He took her hand, kissed it. “It is no trouble. In fact it would be my pleasure.”

  Annabelle held the door open. Friedman climbed in. Annabelle shut the door behind her and the limo sped off.

  Friedman jerked around and tried the door handle. The door was locked. She noticed a presence to her left and whirled in that direction.

  A man was staring at her.

  “What the hell is going on?” demanded Friedman. She stopped, caught her breath as she focused on him. “Stone?”

  Stone said, “That’s my partner up there, Mary Chapman. I’m sure you’ve been briefed on her too.” He motioned to the driver. Chapman gave a small wave before turning onto the next street.

  “You’re… you’re kidnapping me?”

  “No, we’re meeting with you.”

  She frowned. “People who want to meet with me usually make an appointment.”

  “We need your help and we wanted to ask for it quietly.”

  “I thought you’d been forbidden by Director Weaver to come near me.”

  “That’s why we’re asking quietly.”

  Friedman sat back, taking all of this in. There was no fear in her eyes. “So Weaver knows nothing about this?”

  “Need to know. And right now he doesn’t need to know.”

  “Interesting theory considering he runs the country’s intelligence services.”

  “As you know, we have great interest in Turkekul.”

  “You’re not alone in that regard.”

  “You told me you figured out he was a traitor, but when exactly did you learn he was a double agent?”

  “You know, you can tell me that Riley Weaver has filled you in, but that doesn’t mean I have to believe it.”

  “People are dying at an alarming clip,” he pointed out.

  She shrugged. “It’s a dangerous business.”

  “And we believe that Turkekul is at the epicenter of that business.”

  Friedman hesitated. “I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment. But—”

  Chapman spoke up. “And yet he just keeps walking along, no troubles.”

  Friedman glanced at her and then at Stone. “I follow orders. I might not agree with them all the time, but I follow them.”

  “All the time?” asked Stone.

  “I wouldn’t last long in this line of work if I didn’t.”

  “Didn’t you learn to exercise some independence in order to get the job done?”

  Friedman crossed her legs and folded her arms over her chest. “Any place in particular where we’re going?”

  “Just seeing the city. Having a nice chat.”

  “What do you have in mind?”

  “So you are concerned?”

  She snapped, “Who the hell wouldn’t be concerned! A dozen people have died at least by my count. Snipers, bombers, executions. All on American soil.”

  “So you’ll help us?”

  “I can’t commit to that,” she said frankly. “Until I know what your plan is. You know that.”

  “We need Turkekul to talk to us.”

  “He’ll talk to you all right. About everything you don’t want to know about. He’s the most tight-lipped, aggravatingly secretive person I’ve ever met, and that’s saying something.”

  “He’s just trying to survive. And you do that by not trusting anyone,” said Stone.

  “Well, then pray tell how do you propose getting him to talk? Because I haven’t come close.”

  “With your help I think we can.”

  “I haven’t agreed to anything. By all rights I should report this contact right away. And if Weaver finds out—”

  “But you won’t report it.”

  She looked at him with a superior expression. “And how do you know that?”

  “Because I can tell you want to get this guy.”

  “I’ve always wanted to get this guy. But it’s the people behind him that my superiors want. I explained that to you. Without them Turkekul isn’t worth anything. If it were just Turkekul it wouldn’t be a problem. He’d be dead.”

  Chapman said, “And you’re sure if you take him out it wouldn’t help matters?”

  “Not in the least. The Russians have a dozen Fuat Turkekuls spread around the globe. And if we show our hand we blow an opportunity that will likely never come along again. That’s been the rub with this whole mission. If we can follow Fuat right back to Moscow and show a clear connection between the government there and the Russian drug cartel then I think even the citizens of Russia would sit up and take notice. The UN certainly would as well as the rest of the free world. And Russia would have no choice but to back the hell off its grandiose plans to dominate the planet again, using cocaine and heroin as opposed to guns and tanks.”

  “I can see his value more clearly now. You expressed the situation very well,” said Stone.

  She glanced up and their gazes locked.

  Friedman said, “Would you care to guess how old I am?”

  Stone appraised her. “Thirty-five?”

  “Add ten years to that.”

  He looked surprised. “For such a high-risk profession you’ve aged remarkably well.”

  “Outside, perhaps,” she replied. “Inside it’s a different matter.” She gazed at him. “Why do I believe you’re in the same boat?”

  “I think I look my age.”

  “Most men your age are fat and bowed. You look like you could do the Marine obstacle course at Quantico without breaking a sweat.”

  Friedman continued to stare at Stone. “Without breaking a sweat,” she said again.

  In the rearview mirror Chapman gazed anxiously between the pair. “So getting back to the matter at hand,” she said quickly as the two continued to stare at each other.

  Friedman ignored her and said, “Did I mention that I checked out John Carr’s military and CIA career? The most unbelievable parts I found the most believable for some reason.”

  “I did my job. Just like you are.”

  “Few people did their job like you did. You’re more than a legend, John Carr. You’re more like a myth.”

  “I’m actually flesh and blood. That’s been very apparent to me from the start.” He touched the bandage on his head. “And never more apparent than right now.”

  “Your missions and methods were actually taught in the classroom at CIA, did you know that?”

  “No, I didn’t.”

  “Not by name, of course, or else I would’ve heard of John Carr much earlier. But I did some digging. Triple Six. Always got a kick out of that name. You never failed.”

  “Sure I did.”



  “I don’t believe you.”

  Chapman blurted out, “Okay, we bloody well need to get back to the matter at hand, if you two don’t mind.”

  Stone asked, “Will you work with us? I need that commitment before I explain my plan.”

  “You’re basically asking me to risk my career over this. If it backfires I’m gone. With nothing left.”

  “But if we don’t stop this, there’ll be a lot more gone, won’t there? Not just people, maybe a city or two?” He paused. “Nanobots? The Russians back on
the global warpath. And if my plan works then your goal may be realized too. This entire mess laid at the doorstep of Moscow.”

  She said coolly, “I’m fully aware of the situation.”

  “Then you know the stakes. And I do need your help.”

  “Turkekul spent time in Afghanistan. They like to carve their enemies up there, one slice of skin at a time. And then he’ll turn me over to the Russians. And I can’t believe they’re any better.”

  “I’ll protect your life with mine.”

  She looked out the window again. Stone watched as the woman’s expression changed continually until he could tell her mind had been made up. She turned back to him.

  “I’ll help you.”

  “Thank you.”

  “But for the record, you could’ve just come to me directly and not stooped to a snatch operation. I think I deserve better than that.”

  “You do,” said Stone. “You actually do.”


  A DAY LATER STONE SAT in a restaurant overlooking Fourteenth Street. He was dressed in a black jacket, white shirt and jeans. He had his gun but not his badge. In his mind, right now the former was critical and the latter was worthless. In a far corner of the restaurant with a clear view of the front door sat Harry Finn sipping on a glass of ginger ale and casually studying the menu. His 9mm rode in a shoulder holster against his chest.

  Mary Chapman had the other end of the restaurant. Perched on a barstool, she sipped on a Coke. Her Walther was in her handbag.

  Three guns awaiting their quarry.

  Stone rose when they entered. Fuat Turkekul looked somewhat inconsequential next to the glamorous Friedman. The woman wore a dark pantsuit and her hair fell flawlessly around her shoulders. She was a beautiful lady, thought Stone. Which in her profession was a good thing. It attracted certain men and also made such men focus on the woman’s physical assets as opposed to what could really hurt them, which was her brain.

  Stone shook hands with Turkekul and they all sat down. The Turk’s gaze roamed the room before falling back on Stone. He took a moment to slide the napkin in his lap before speaking.

  “I was most surprised when Ms. Friedman asked me to meet with you. I did not presume that you would be in the… how do you say…?”

  “The loop?” suggested Stone.


  “I get around,” Stone said vaguely. His gaze pinged off all corners of the restaurant and he came away satisfied. Two guards in suits had followed Turkekul and Friedman in and were waiting near the coat check. Friedman had told Stone that the security detail had standing orders that when she was with the man they were to keep a respectful distance. Riley Weaver’s men looked alert but relaxed. Stone kept out of their line of sight just in case they recognized him.

  “And what did you wish to meet about?” asked Turkekul.

  “How are things going with Adelphia?”

  “We work well together. I am getting my feet wet, so to speak. And Ms. Friedman is a good partner as well.”

  “Fuat hopes to make some progress in the next several months,” volunteered Friedman. She stared at Stone perhaps a beat too long before breaking off and picking up the menu the waiter had just dropped off.

  Turkekul put up a hand. “These things take time. Americans want everything done yesterday.” He chuckled.

  “We have that reputation, yes,” agreed Stone. “But recent events are troubling.”

  Turkekul broke off a piece of bread from the basket in the center of the table and bit into it. He brushed the crumbs off the cloth and onto the floor. “You speak of the bomb and such?”

  “The death of an FBI agent. The second bombing. The murder of the Park Service man. We have to stop it.”

  “Yes, yes, but what does that have to do with me?”

  “A group in Yemen with known ties to Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility, so I think it has a lot to do with you. You are tasked with finding the head of that organization.”

  Turkekul was already shaking his head. “I told you before that the Yemeni group is unreliable. I do not believe that they are behind the bombing or any of the other criminal acts.”

  “Why?” asked Stone evenly.

  Turkekul held up one finger. “First, they are not sophisticated enough. This sort of long-term planning and execution is not their forte. They will put a bomb in a car and blow it up, but that is all.” He held up another finger. “And second, they simply do not have the assets required to do such a mission here. You speak of many deaths but all through separate incidents. No, it is not them.”

  “Okay, then who do you think it is?” Stone paused and glanced at Friedman. “Your old friend Osama? He certainly has the long-term planning skills. And the assets.”

  Turkekul smiled and shook his head. “I think not.”

  “And your reasons?”

  “He has other, how do you say, fish to fry.”

  “And what are those fish?”

  “I am not prepared to say at the moment.”

  Stone sat forward. “I wanted to meet with you to make a deal of sorts.”

  Turkekul looked surprised. He glanced at Friedman before staring back at Stone. “I already have a deal with your government.”

  “I didn’t say it was with my government.”

  Turkekul looked taken aback. “I do not understand.” He gazed again at Friedman when he said this.

  “We need to step things up a bit,” said Friedman. “And I think we now have the intel to do it.” She nodded at Stone.

  Stone picked up this choreographed “tag” from the woman and said, “We’ve discovered that there’s a mole.”

  Turkekul gazed in surprise at him. “A mole?” He shot Friedman another anxious look. “Where exactly?”

  “Very close,” answered Stone. “We don’t have the person’s exact identity, but we do know that a significant event is being planned.”

  “But how can you do anything about it if you don’t know the person’s identity?” Turkekul said with deliberate calm.

  “That status is very near to changing,” said Stone. “For the last month we’ve had a source that we have been in the process of flipping. That’s principally why they brought me on, actually. And that’s why I was so interested in your presence, Fuat. I can call you Fuat, can’t I?”

  “Of course. But I don’t understand why you would be interested in me in connection with this matter.”

  Stone sat forward and dropped his voice. “Do you mind if we carry on this conversation elsewhere, somewhere more private?”

  Turkekul again looked at Friedman, who nodded. “You really need to hear this, Fuat. It’s directly connected to you.”

  The Turk glanced behind him, in the direction of his guards. “As Marisa knows, I do not travel alone.”

  “It can be arranged,” said Stone.

  “How?” Turkekul asked nervously.

  “It can be arranged,” Stone said again. He motioned with his eyes in the direction of Chapman and Finn. Each nodded back when Turkekul glanced at them.

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