End game, p.36
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       End Game, p.36

         Part #5 of Will Robie series by David Baldacci

  “Reel!” began Robie.

  She shot him a scathing look. “What part of ‘shut up’ don’t you get? Now let’s go!”

  She marched out.

  Bender and Robie glared at each other and then followed her out.

  * * *

  At the sheriff’s station Reel faced off with both of them.

  “Holly Malloy and her boyfriend, Luke, are dead. Dolph had Luke killed and he shot Holly in front of us.” She glanced at Robie. “And Valerie knew.”

  Bender grabbed the side of the desk to steady himself. “Wh-what?”

  “They’re dead. Murdered.”

  “But you said you were there. With Dolph!”

  “He kidnapped us. He was going to kill us. But we escaped. But before we did, he murdered Holly.”

  Bender’s face flushed crimson. “Then why the hell didn’t you go back there and arrest his ass! You’re fucking Feds.”

  “It’s more complicated than that,” said Reel. “Besides we had no proof other than our word. And we’re here on assignment. We can’t get mixed up in that.”

  Now Bender turned his fury on her. “Mixed up? People were murdered!”

  Reel said, “And they’re going to pay for what they did, Bender. I promise you that.”

  “How? How the hell can I believe you?”

  “We’re not walking away from this. He tried to kill us, too. If you knew what we really are, you’d understand that nobody does that to us and gets away with it.”

  “Wait a minute, you said, what we are. What does that mean?”

  “It means we go into a situation and we make it right. And if bad guys get in the way, it never ends well for them. We’ve already taken out a slew of Dolph’s guys. I mean taken out in a way that means they are no longer breathing. And I’m not just talking about the guys last night.”

  Bender looked over at Robie, who nodded and said, “That was the reason he came after us. We were helping Holly and Luke to get out of here, and we killed a bunch of his men.”

  Reel added, “So we’re going to finish the job, Bender. I promise. But what we told you about Holly and Luke you can’t tell anyone else.”

  “I’m a cop! You just told me about two murders.”

  “And if you tell anyone else it could very well mean that Dolph and his people will never be punished for what they did.”

  Bender sat back on the desk and slowly took all this in. “There has to be another way. All my cop instincts are telling me to go get this asshole right now.”

  “So are mine, but sometimes your instincts are wrong,” said Robie. “We’ve thought this through every way you can. And this is the only way, Bender. Otherwise, Dolph wins.”

  Bender gave a resigned sigh. “Okay, okay,” he finally said. “So what do we do right now?”

  Robie said, “I have to think that Valerie was taken by Dolph and others who are working with him. One of Dolph’s guys said that he was at the bunker. We think maybe these prisoners might be there too. And Parry, Lamarre, and Walton.”

  “But why at the bunker?” asked Bender. “What does that have to do with prisoners and missing people?”

  “I don’t know. But if you were going to stash people somewhere, that would be a good place to do it.”

  “But didn’t Roark Lambert take you on a tour of the place?”

  Reel said, “He just showed us a slice. That place is so big, there could be a lot of people in there and we’d never know it.”

  “But I know some of the guards out there. They’re good guys. They’d never be party to shit like that. And they’d have to know, wouldn’t they?”

  “Not necessarily, at least not all of them,” replied Robie.

  “But why?” asked Bender. “It’s a survival bunker for rich people. Why would they take people prisoner? I remember Lambert telling me at my mom’s dinner that there was barely enough room and food in there for the people who pay millions for the space.”

  Reel said, “That may be true, but it might be that these prisoners won’t be there when doomsday comes. But they might be there now for a completely different reason.”

  “Like what?” asked Bender.

  “Right now I have no idea,” admitted Reel. “But if we don’t figure it out fast, we might never see any of the missing people again.” She stared at Robie. “Including Roger Walton.” She looked at Bender. “And Valerie Malloy.”



  “I’M NOT USED to this, Robie.”

  It was the next day and Reel was by the window of her hotel room looking out while Robie sat in a chair staring at the floor.

  “Not used to what?”

  She turned to him as he looked up. “Being helpless. I hate it.”

  He shrugged. “I’m not too fond of it myself, so I took a snapshot of the map and sent it to the Agency. They might be able to get us something on that.”

  Someone knocked on the door. Reel crossed the room and looked through the peephole.

  She opened the door to reveal Claire Bender standing there.

  She was dressed casually in jeans and a light blue sweater. Her long silver hair was tied back.

  “I heard about Valerie,” she said, stepping into the room.

  Reel shut the door behind her as Robie rose from his chair.

  “Has there been any word?” Claire asked.

  “Nothing so far. There were signs of a struggle at the station and some blood.”

  Claire turned a bit pale, and Robie helped her sit down in the chair.

  She gasped. “I can’t believe what’s happening here. A little over a week ago everything was as right as rain. And now?”

  “Have you spoken to your son?” asked Reel.

  She nodded. “Derrick was the one who told me about Valerie. He’s very worried. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him like this.”

  “Was that all he told you?” asked Robie, his gaze fixed on her.

  She looked up at him. “Isn’t that enough?”

  “I suppose it is,” agreed Robie, who shot a quick glance at Reel.

  “But while we’re discussing communications, I have to admit that I didn’t tell you everything,” Claire said slowly. “It’s the reason I came by.”

  Both Robie and Reel tensed. “Meaning what?” asked Robie.

  “Meaning that Roger and I were a bit closer than I led you to believe.”

  Reel said, “You were engaged to be married. That’s pretty close.”

  Claire pulled a tissue and dabbed at her eyes. “Roger came back here after he finished graduate school. We were both still in our twenties, with our lives ahead of us. He wanted to make a go of it again, I mean with us as a couple. He wanted me to move with him to Washington. I loved Roger, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.” She paused, and glanced at each of them in turn. “But we parted on a very amicable note.”

  “How so?” asked Reel, studying the woman’s features.

  Claire let out a breath. “I’ve never really talked about this before, but what the hell. I ended up pregnant.”

  “Are you saying that Patti—” began Robie.

  Claire nodded. “She’s Roger’s daughter, yes.”

  “Does he know?” asked Reel.

  Claire shook her head. “The next time Roger came back here I was married. I got walked down the aisle about six months after Roger left that last time. Patti was four years old but he didn’t know her exact age. So he had no way of knowing that Patti was not the product of my first marriage. And I never told him. I…I just didn’t see the point.”

  “How many times have you been married?” asked Robie.

  “Three. Roy Bender was my first. Derrick is Roy’s son. And Roy always treated Patti as his own, even though he knew he wasn’t the father. And he never knew that Roger was Patti’s dad. After Roy died I got hitched twice after that, but only because I was bored. And lonely. Neither lasted all that long.”

  “And Walton?”

  “Roger continued to come b
ack here. But there was no more talk of us getting together. That time had passed, I guess. And there was no more, well, sex.” She sighed. “It was stupid, I know. Roger had a right to know about his child.”

  “You may be the reason he kept coming back here,” pointed out Robie.

  “You might be right about that. I used to just think it was because it was his home. But it wasn’t like he was particularly happy here, especially after his parents died. But still, who knows how much time we have left. Maybe I should have told him how I really feel when he was here this time.”

  “I hope you get a chance to tell him,” said Reel earnestly. “And you might be surprised at what he has to say to you.”

  Robie glanced at her with a quizzical look but said nothing.

  “But you have to find him first,” Claire pointed out.

  “Can you think of nothing to help us?” said Robie.

  “I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with something. But I haven’t. Look, we have bad types around here. I can only think that Roger might have stumbled onto something and these folks found out and…” Her voice trailed off and she dabbed at her eyes with the tissue again.

  “I ran into one of Dolph’s guys,” said Robie. “Did Derrick tell you about that?”

  “No. He’s very professional and keeps police business close to the vest.”

  “The guy told me that Dolph might be at the bunker.”

  She looked puzzled. “At Roark’s silo?”

  “I guess.”

  “I don’t see how that’s possible. I doubt that Roark even knows Dolph. It’s not like they moved in the same circles. And why would he be at the silo?”

  “Hiding out?” suggested Reel.

  “Why would he be hiding out?” asked Claire.

  “I can’t get into that,” said Reel.

  Robie took out his phone and showed Claire the photo of the map Reel had found at Randall’s cabin. “Do you recognize this?” he asked.

  She put on her glasses while Robie magnified the image. “Well, if I had to guess, I’d say that was southeast of here. You see that name there, that’s what makes me think that. I actually drove over there a few years ago with Roark.”

  “Why did you do that?” asked Robie.

  “Well, he was thinking about buying that second missile silo site, but for some reason it didn’t work out. That’s where the site’s located.”

  Reel and Robie looked at each other.

  He exclaimed, “A second missile site!”

  “Shit, Robie,” said Reel. “That’s right. Lambert mentioned that to us at the dinner party at Claire’s. He said he missed out on another site around here.”

  “Yes,” said Claire. “Another old Atlas missile site. That’s the one I’m talking about.”

  Robie thought about this for a moment. “One of Dolph’s guys said he was at the bunker. Then the other guy shot him before he could tell me anything else. Then the guy who shot him told me Dolph was at the silo, meaning Lambert’s silo.”

  Reel said, “Silo versus bunker. Different terminology because they were talking about two different places.”

  “And the second guy shot the first guy before he could tell me anything else. And then he tried to throw me off by saying Dolph was at the silo.”

  “Why wasn’t Lambert able to buy it?” Reel asked Claire.

  “I don’t know for certain, but I would suppose it was because somebody else beat him to it.”

  Robie and Reel exchanged a quick glance.

  “Any idea who?” he asked.

  She shook her head. “Roark might know.”

  “We’ll be sure to ask him,” said Robie.

  Reel said, “Claire, can you tell us how to get to this other silo?”

  “I think so but it might be better if I write it down.” She took a sheet of notepaper from the top of the desk, picked up a pen lying beside it, and took a few minutes to slowly write out the directions.

  She handed it to Reel. “This is as about as much as I can remember. You should see a sign for the road to turn at. It’s in the middle of nowhere, which I guess was the point when they picked the site.”

  “So unlike Lambert, whoever might own this hasn’t started trying to turn it into a luxury bunker?” Reel said.

  “Not that I’m aware. And I would be. Hell, the whole town would. When Roark was building his out, he had an army of guys, including a bunch of locals. They came to Grand to eat and drink and some stayed here at the hotel, others at a bunch of mobile trailers Roark set up out on-site and powered with diesel generators. You can’t hide all those workers. It takes a lot of manpower to overhaul a missile site and turn it into a place people will plunk down millions for.”

  Reel looked down at the directions and said, “So whoever bought the silo might have purchased it for another reason.”

  “Or maybe they’re trying to get financing,” said Claire. “I know Roark took out loans to do his work. It took a while for the banks to see the potential.”

  “That’s possible,” said Reel, who was looking at Robie.

  “I need to get going,” said Claire, rising from the chair. “With all this going on, I’m going to make Derrick and Patti dinner. At least then I can keep an eye on them.”

  After she left Robie pulled out his pistol. Reel looked at him strangely.

  “Thinking of shooting someone?” she asked.

  With his other hand Robie pulled out a slip of paper. It was the one with the drawing of the stick figure holding the ball that Blue Man had left behind.

  Robie said quietly, “I think Blue Man was being quite literal.”

  “What do you mean?” asked Reel.

  “There were actually two clues here,” replied Robie. “And they both were trying to tell us the same thing.”

  He rolled the paper up and partially slid it inside his gun muzzle. “A man in a silo.” He pulled the paper back out. “And I’m thinking that’s not a basketball he’s holding. It’s supposed to be the world. He’s holding up the world.”

  Reel gaped. “Like Atlas. The Atlas silo.”

  “Right,” said Robie.



  THEY WAITED UNTIL it was dark to head to the second silo site. Reel’s phone buzzed. Reel answered.

  It was the Agency. She put the call on speaker.

  A man’s voice said, “We found out some things about Scott Randall that might be helpful. His father made a fortune in the oil exploration business and then he and his wife died in a house fire. Scott was the only child and inherited everything. All told it came to nearly a hundred million net after estate and other taxes.”

  “Convenient house fire,” said Reel. “From what we’ve seen of the guy the police might want to look into that a little more.”

  “But the son was not his father’s equal in business. Not even close. He lost a lot of the money in several stupid deals where he was apparently in way over his head. Then he tried to build his fortune back up by going to Vegas and trying to become a professional gambler.”

  “I wouldn’t think the odds of doing that were too high,” noted Robie.

  “They’re not. He lost what little he had. He came out of that pretty much penniless and without many prospects.”

  “But the guy has a jet and a place in the Hamptons and a multi-million-dollar luxury doomsday bunker,” said Robie. “And that’s just what we know of. So he’s not penniless anymore.”

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