Deliver us from evil, p.36
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       Deliver Us From Evil, p.36

         Part #2 of A. Shaw series by David Baldacci
 

  middle visible through his shirt.

  Shaw was clearly not surprised to see him. He took off his jacket and laid it on the bed. “We might be screwed, Frank.”

  “Things not going according to our little plan?”

  Shaw slumped on the bed. “Definitely not.”

  CHAPTER

  83

  KATIE JAMES ate a few forkfuls of her Chinese takeout before losing her appetite. That had been a waste of twenty bucks from the ATM. She tossed the containers in the trash, put her fork in the dishwasher, rinsed her hands off, and wandered into the living room. The house was dark, which was how she seemed to like things these days.

  These days? More like these months.

  She sat in a chair and stared moodily at the wall opposite where photos of her friend and the woman’s family were hanging. She rose, went over to them, touching each one, running her finger along the heads of the kids. In the progression of the photos, they evolved from infants to squirrel-cheeked kindergartners to tall high schoolers and then on to adulthood with their own children, judging by the recent photos of little kids on the wall.

  Katie had never been married, except to her career. Never had kids, never come close, actually. She had two Pulitzers and an ugly bullet wound tacked permanently on her upper arm. She had seen the world on someone else’s dime. She would be remembered perhaps for a long time for her reporting. She had excelled professionally and failed miserably on the personal side. It was an old story with her hardly the only victim, if she was a victim at all. And yet when she’d been thirteen the only thing she had wanted in life was to be a mother with a little house with a green lawn and a tree, preferably an apple tree because she had always loved apples.

  Instead, somewhere along the way she had chosen documenting one world crisis after another and racking up millions of airline miles in this single-minded pursuit. She suddenly felt chilled, though outside was a typical Washington summer’s evening, meaning warm and humid enough to push sweat through one’s pores with only a brisk walking pace. She slipped a sweater around her shoulders and just stood there in the dark.

  She had stopped drinking, at least. Not one drop for months. Not even on the morning Shaw had left her in Zurich without a word. She had surprised herself. If she were going to fall off the proverbial wagon it would’ve been then, she assumed. She had stayed two extra days, called him repeatedly, and then phoned Frank a dozen times until the man had finally answered her.

  “He’s hurting,” Frank had told her. “Give him some time.”

  And so Katie had given him time. Weeks. And then two months. And she’d tried to call again, but now his number had been changed.

  Then it was back to Frank, who said he would help. And he had, giving her information about Shaw, including the fact that he was back at work, meaning he was risking his life in impossibly dangerous situations all over the world. Every time the phone rang Katie would assume it was Frank calling to report Shaw’s death. She assumed this because she had stopped believing that Shaw would ever call her back.

  And then Frank had come to her aid again. He’d given Shaw her number on a special phone Frank had provided her. He’d called and hung up when he heard her voice. This hadn’t entirely surprised her, but she had been slightly disappointed. Yet he’d called back and the conversation had been brief, but at least they had talked.

  And then she’d traveled to Paris. On Frank’s tip. When she saw Shaw sitting alone at that table, she just stood there. He hadn’t seen her yet and so she watched him. The way he divided the room into grids, looking for possible dangers, just how he lived his life. The only way he could now, of course. They had never had sex, though they’d once shared a bedroom. Never even kissed. Never really come close, at least on his part, she assumed again. She wasn’t sure on her end. Well, maybe she was. It was all very confusing actually.

  In truth, Katie wasn’t sure when she had fallen in love with him. It was clearly before he’d left her in Zurich. It might have been that final night in Wisbach, Germany, outside the graveyard where Anna was buried. He was not capable of loving her back, not then. Maybe never.

  She stared at the photos on the wall again. If she hadn’t left the restaurant so abruptly? But he hadn’t tried to stop her, bring her back to the table. If he had just followed her out, she would have come back, desperately wanted to come and talk to him. But she had walked down the street and he hadn’t come for her.

  She drifted to the window and looked out. There were a few passersby, couples mostly, walking hand in hand. Laughter filtered in from out there. A car roared by, going too fast for the narrow streets in the residential area. Katie had no idea how long she would stay here. Or where she would go from here.

  She slipped her cell phone from her pocket, thought of calling Frank again, to see if he had news about Shaw. Her finger poised over the keypad, but didn’t descend.

  What really was the point, she thought. Packing misery on top of improbability did not seem like a viable long-term solution. She instead went to bed with the reasonable assurance that tomorrow would not be any better than today.

  CHAPTER

  84

  THINGS SEEMED pretty straightforward to me,” Frank was saying. “Well, other than me getting shot. I posted your and the lady’s photos at the train station, like we discussed. That caused the four of you to split up like we wanted, since the Irishman was one loose cannon. You put the GPS chip in the phone you took, rode the boat over, worked her for more information, then gave her the phone back from one of their people. We let her get settled, you followed her to her headquarters, and infiltrated the place. Simple.”

  “I did all that, and reported it back to you.”

  “I know. And you’ve been there for a couple days now. So report again.”

  Shaw filled him in on what he’d seen and heard over the last forty-eight hours.

  “So they really have been doing this awhile.” Frank brushed some lint off his rumpled suit jacket. “You know, we suspected something like this was going down.”

  “How?” asked Shaw.

  Frank took a moment to pop open the room’s minibar concealed in a cabinet and pulled out a Coke. He uncapped it and took a swallow. “Dead Nazis,” he said.

  “What?”

  “Well, their being Nazis was never confirmed on our side, but we had a string of ninety-year-old guys making mysterious exits from life at various points around the world over the last five or six years. A couple in South America where those Third Reich higher-ups tended to migrate after Hitler offed himself in that bunker.”

  “Why was that even on your radar?”

  “Because some of them were later involved in stuff that came damn close to being in our bailiwick. On two occasions we traced them back to their Berlin days. But the guys were already dead and there didn’t seem to be much point in pursuing it after that. But if that’s the case more power to these guys for taking those assholes down.”

  “You mean being vigilantes?”

  “I mean working out justice where there wasn’t any before. That is sort of what we do here, Shaw.”

  “We’ve never been ordered to murder anybody.”

  “No, but do you think all the guys we find and turn over get a jury of their peers?”

  “I know they don’t.”

  “Then let’s get back to the matter at hand. So what’s the issue now?”

  Shaw told him of Mallory’s ultimatum. “Either Reggie comes with me while I’m hunting Kuchin or they expose us too.”

  Frank finished his Coke. “Is that all? Then I don’t see the problem, really. Take her with you.”

  Shaw’s jaw went slack. “I don’t want to go after this bastard with her tagging along. It’s too dangerous.”

  “But the flip side is if you leave her alone, maybe Kuchin catches up to her while you’re looking for him. Then this time he finishes the job.” Frank tossed the empty Coke bottle in the trash and fished out a package of salted almonds from his p
ocket and started popping them into his mouth, crunching down hard with his back molars.

  Shaw looked uncomfortable.

  Frank said, “You disagree?”

  “Not necessarily, but what’s the ultimate goal here?”

  “You tell me what you think it is and I’ll tell you if you’re right or not.”

  “Get Kuchin? But I thought the expensive suits didn’t care about that anymore. He’s just back to making kids into whores for profit. No more mushroom clouds. That’s what you said.”

  Frank finished the almonds before answering. “Well, I truthfully can’t say their attitude has changed on that. But what they are interested in is this new angle in England.”

  “Why?”

  “Why?” Frank said incredulously. “Another organization doing stuff that might have global repercussions? Hmmm, let’s think about that.”

  “It really has nothing to do with us,” Shaw said a bit lamely.

  “You think so, Shaw? Then let me enlighten you. The part that really interested us was the fact that these guys are not only going after past ‘monsters,’ but current ones too. You said they were researching stuff right now in Africa, Asia, and South America, although they wouldn’t tell you who.”

  “So what?”

  Frank tossed the empty packet of nuts in the trash and wiped off his hands on his pants. “I’ll tell you so what. Deposed scumballs sometimes come back to power. These Brits kill a recently deposed dictator, then in geopolitical terms things can get hairy fast.”

  “Who cares if they go after people like that? Didn’t you just say it was a good thing as far as you were concerned?”

  “I was talking about the Nazis. They aren’t coming back to power.”

  “I don’t understand the difference.”

  “Don’t be a virgin. If you want black and white, go watch a Bogie and Bacall flick. These guys take out a monster in the Middle East or South America we could have revolutions going on in places we don’t need them, you see what I’m saying?”

  “No, I really don’t. Because if they’ve already been deposed?”

  “Like I said, they sometimes come back. And depending on who deposed them, it might be in our interests to make sure they do come back because the asshole that knocked them off their perch is even worse. I can give you about a dozen historical examples of that if you want. But we don’t have that option if they’re dead.”

  “Jesus, this is insane.”

  Frank rose. “Maybe I don’t disagree with you. But it doesn’t really matter what the hell we think. We’re just grunts on the ground. So go after Kuchin and take the chick with you. That way you can work on the inside with them and learn even more about their operation. We’ll give you primary support, whatever you need.”

  “And when and if we catch him?” Shaw asked dubiously.

  “Then he’ll get what’s coming to him.”

  “And Reggie and her people?”

  Frank slid on his hat and walked to the door. “And they’ll get what’s coming to them.”

  “Frank, there has to be another way.”

  Frank eyed him intently. “Tell me something.”

  “What?”

  “You already slept with her, didn’t you?”

  “What?” Shaw said with a stunned look on his face.

  “We were watching this place, genius. You two came in that night all touchy-feely and didn’t show again until breakfast.” He added bitterly, “You didn’t deserve Anna. Or Katie James for that matter, you son of a bitch.”

  “Frank—”

  “I’ve cut you enough slack. Now just do your damn job, Shaw.”

  Frank slammed the door on his way out.

  CHAPTER

  85

  SHAW AND REGGIE were private wings up eight hours later heading to Montreal. At thirty-nine thousand feet Shaw pulled out some documents and spread them over the dining table and motioned Reggie to sit opposite him.

  They were both dressed casually, she in jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt and Shaw in khakis and a dark short-sleeved shirt.

  “Nice way to travel,” she said, admiring the interior of the Gulfstream V.

  “We’ve got a lot of work to do and not a lot of time, so let’s get to it,” he said in a tone that could only fairly be described as a bark.

  She sat. “What the hell is your problem?”

  “I’ve got too many to list right now. So let’s just focus on this one.”

  He indicated the architectural plans in front of him. “Kuchin’s penthouse in downtown Montreal.”

  “What, are we going to break into it?” she said jokingly.

  “Do you have a problem with that?”

  She looked at him incredulously. “I thought we were going to find Alan Rice and hold his feet to the fire about him being the informant. And then use him to get to Kuchin.”

  “That’s one possibility. But what if he isn’t the inside guy? What then?”

  “But he has to be.”

  “No he doesn’t. And if we make all our plans contingent on that we’re idiots. No, we’re dead idiots. Now, we have Rice’s address too. The problem is if we go to him first and he isn’t the guy, then Kuchin will be warned.”

  “Wait a minute, isn’t he already warned? I thought the little encounter in the catacombs would’ve been enough to put the man on his guard for the rest of his life.”

  “You’re not analyzing the picture deeply enough, Reggie,” Shaw said in a clearly condescending tone.

  “Well, then, Professor, why don’t you spell it out for me since I can’t get my poor brain to do it.”

  “The fact that Interpol hasn’t knocked on his door yet tells Kuchin that you guys were totally unofficial. He probably thinks the same about me. Interpol or the FBI comes in with badges and overwhelming force. We had neither. So, for now, he’s not feeling that his liberty is at risk, just his life. That will impact how he acts from here on. He’ll go underground, but not as deeply as if it were the FBI or an officially sanctioned hit squad on his butt.”

  “Okay, I guess I see that.”

  “Good. But we still have to tread cautiously. While he’s plotting against us, he has to assume that we’ll likely come after him again.”

  “Do you really think so?”

  “A guy like that didn’t survive in the KGB all those years without knowing how to anticipate his adversary’s next moves. In the Soviet Union at that time you were far more likely to get popped not by the West, but by a guy in your own office who wanted your job, your flat, and your car, even if it was always breaking down. So he’ll definitely plan for a second strike on our part.”

  Reggie glanced down at the documents. “So what are we going to do?”

  “Two-pronged attack, with Kuchin first.”

  “How?”

  “We get into his penthouse, search the place, and hopefully dig up some intel on where he is right now.”

  “How do we know he’s not in his penthouse?”

  “Because we have people posted there. He hasn’t been there since leaving for France.”

  “Wait a minute, if you guys knew where he was all along, why didn’t you just nail him in Montreal? Why go after him in Gordes?”

  “That’s classified.”

  “That’s bullshit. You talk about trust, but it’s apparently all one-sided.”

  Shaw sat back. Her request, under the circumstances, wasn’t all that unreasonable. “He had more guards in Montreal. And a shootout on the street there was not an option. We’ve also had some issues with the Canadians before and they are not our best friends. A holiday in Provence where we could get him in a cave was a far better option.”

  Mollified, Reggie looked down at the drawings. “He must have a fairly sophisticated security system in place at his home.”

  “He does, but we’ve broken better.”

 
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