End game, p.41
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       End Game, p.41

         Part #5 of Will Robie series by David Baldacci

  Blue Man shook his head. “I wasn’t given the grand tour. But I had my suspicions because of the briefings I received. It’s drugs, correct?”

  “On a big scale. Dolph the neo-Nazi is actually a chemist geek named Arthur Fitzsimmons from Caltech doing his very best impression of Walter White from Breaking Bad. He and Patti are in this together.”

  Blue Man frowned. “Claire will be devastated by all this. Devastated.” He slowly shook his head.

  Reel said, “Fitzsimmons said they’re closing up shop here and moving somewhere else. They know with all of us disappearing that an army of Feds are going to be converging on this place.”

  She fell silent as footsteps approached once more.

  Patti reappeared at the door. “It’s time,” she said.



  THEY WERE TAKEN down a series of stairways until it seemed to Robie that they had reached the lowest level of the silo. It was dark, the air dank, but warm. It was hard to breathe down here and he suspected that the air filtration was not really working at this level. There were flickering lights overhead but they gave, at best, a meager portion of light. And farther down the long corridor Robie could see that the light kept diminishing until, at one point, it receded to total darkness.

  They neared a doorway when Patti, who had led the group to this point, stopped.

  The armed men with them immediately pointed their weapons at the prisoners. Robie glanced at Reel and their looks said it all.

  Is this it? The point of our execution?

  But no one opened fire, even as a door in the wall opened and Robie, Reel, and Blue Man looked on, surprised, as another group of people joined them.

  Three of them were in blue scrubs. Two were male, and the other was a petite woman. All three were Hispanic and they looked terrified.

  A fourth person shuffled forward. He was tall and lean with a trim white beard.

  Robie recognized him from a photo as JC Parry, the one who had told Blue Man about what Lamarre had seen. Then the man himself stepped out.

  Clément Lamarre.

  He was thin, with lank hair and a scraggly beard. Both men looked dirty and weak, and Lamarre’s face showed evidence of physical abuse.

  Blue Man said, “JC?” He made a move to step forward, but one of the guards thrust a gun muzzle in his face and Blue Man quickly stepped back.

  Patti faced off with her father.

  “You’re finally reunited with your old friend,” she said, her gaze roaming over his face.

  Blue Man stared back at her, a mixture of emotions fighting for supremacy on his features until one finally won out.


  “Your mother never told me,” said Blue Man. “I had no idea about…us. I’m sorry.”

  Her gaze now held firm on his. “But you’re a very smart man, Mr. Walton. You could have easily figured it out. If you had wanted to. Which you obviously didn’t. So I can’t really accept your apology. Nor do I.”

  “I can understand that,” said Blue Man.

  “I don’t really care if you do or not.”

  Robie interjected, “Where is Valerie Malloy?”

  Reel glanced at him and then back at Patti.

  Patti said, “Maybe she’s dead. Maybe I shot the sheriff and the deputy.”

  Robie appraised her. “No, I don’t think you did. So where is she?”

  “I’m here, Robie.”

  Malloy appeared from around the corner being pulled along by another guard. She was shackled, and her face was bruised and cut in several places.

  She was jerked within a foot of Robie and looked at him. “Good to see you.” Her eyes were watery and unfocused, as though she might have been drugged.

  Robie shot Patti a glance. “Why did you take her?”

  When Patti said nothing Malloy said slowly, “The boot print at Walton’s cabin. I finally recognized it.”

  “It was mine,” said Patti. “Luckily, she told my brother first and he came to me. He just thought I’d been out there looking around after the fact and wanted to confirm that, which I did.”

  “Was that the other reason you killed him?” asked Reel.

  “What!” barked Malloy, no longer looking unfocused. “You killed Derrick?” She tried to lunge at Patti but the guard held her back.

  Reel said to Patti, “What happens now?”

  Patti didn’t even look at her. She spoke directly to Blue Man.

  “I’ve hunted all of my life. I do it fairly. With respect. Sometimes I win, sometimes the thing I’m hunting does.”

  “I’m not following you,” said Robie.

  “It doesn’t matter,” said Patti, wiping a bit of dirt off her face. “And I won’t be the one doing the hunting tonight.”

  “So does that mean we’re the prey?” asked Reel. “We’re the ones who are going to be hunted?”

  She looked at Reel. “I had no beef with you, not really. I sort of liked you. Even admired you. But then you came here. Then you made me kill Derrick.”

  “We didn’t make you do anything,” retorted Reel. “You pulled the trigger.”

  Patti didn’t even seem to hear her. She looked back at Blue Man. “You’ll have a chance, not much of one I’ll admit. But it’s more than what I had in life. I got stuck in this place. I got stuck with…this.”

  “You don’t have to do this, Patti,” said Blue Man. “There are other options available to you.”

  She smiled. It made her look vulnerable and even lovely somehow.

  And then she slammed her fist into his face. Blue Man staggered back as Robie and Reel moved forward, only to be met by gun muzzles and fingers pulsing on triggers.

  As Patti rubbed her injured hand, Blue Man slowly straightened. There was blood pouring down his face from his broken nose.

  “I suppose I deserved that,” he said.

  “So what?” said Patti. “But it’s what I wanted to do. And so I did it. It’s just how I’m wired.”

  She nodded to one of the guards.

  And then Patti Bender turned and walked back in the direction from which they’d come. Soon she was out of sight.

  Robie looked at the guard expectantly. “She said she hunts fair.”

  The guard cracked a smile. “Well, she’s not hunting tonight, like the lady told you.”

  “So who is?” asked Robie.

  “That would be me.”

  They all turned as the man came out of the shadows.

  It was Scott Randall.



  RANDALL STEPPED FORWARD. He was wearing cammie gear, jump boots, and a pair of NVGs on his head, though they were tilted upward.

  He was also carrying a Remington rifle with an infrared scope, both Robie and Reel noted.

  And he was sporting a malicious grin.

  “I was hoping we would hook up again at some point,” he said. “We left things…incomplete last time.”

  “I thought the outcome was pretty straightforward,” countered Reel. “You and your wife were lying on the dirt with your tails tucked between your legs.”

  Randall’s grin faded. He shook his head. “You were maybe going to get a little bit of sympathy from me, lady. But that just went out the door.”

  “I don’t need sympathy, certainly not from a dick like you.”

  “You need to learn how to keep your fucking mouth shut,” shouted Randall.

  Robie said, “Patti mentioned something about being fair?”

  Randall turned to him and chuckled. “You’ll be armed. You’ll get a head start. Maybe you’ll pull off a miracle. But I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.”

  “Do we get NV optics?” asked Reel.

  “That would be a negative,” said Randall. “And just so you know, I won’t be alone.” He called over his shoulder. “Hey, guys, don’t be shy. Come out and show yourselves.”

  From the shadows, seven men appeared. They were all tall and muscular with shaved heads and hardened countenances. They
did not appear to share Randall’s cavalier attitude toward what was happening. They said nothing. They held their weapons professionally and stood in the manner of men with military training.

  Robie studied them. He assumed these must be the “badasses,” and they looked it. They were completely focused. On the mission.

  Killing us.

  He said, “You guys look like the real deal. So I can’t believe you’re good with this idiot being your leader. He could lead you right to an early death.”

  “Shut up,” snapped Randall. “The only ones dying tonight will be all of you. Especially you and the bitch.”

  Robie kept his gaze on the men. “You didn’t answer my question.” He glanced at Randall. “But maybe they already know the answer.”

  Randall pointed a finger at him. “I was an ROTC commander in college.”

  “Yeah, where I’m sure you killed quite a few kegs of beer,” said Reel.

  Blue Man stepped forward. “In the interests of not prolonging whatever this is, how exactly is it going to work?”

  Randall focused on him. “It’s a classic thing, really. You run and we hunt you down. We kill you or you kill us. It’s even, right down to the numbers.”

  Parry looked around and said, “But there are nine of us and eight of you.”

  In answer to this, Randall pulled a pistol from his holster and shot one of the blue scrubs in the head. The man fell where he stood.

  The man and woman in the blue scrubs leapt back. The woman started to sob.

  “Thanks for reminding me,” said Randall. “Almost missed that one. Never was good at math.” He grinned.

  Robie stared down at the body for a moment and then looked at Randall and said, “You mentioned that we’d be armed?”

  In answer Randall pointed to a doorway in the wall. “In there. Guns for everyone. You arm up, you get five minutes to run, and then we come and find you. Kill or be killed.”

  Reel noted his optics. “But you’ll have the clear advantage with those.”

  “Hey, home field advantage, way I see it. But you guys are Feds. You’re supposed to be good.”

  “And how many times have you done this thing down here? Enough times that you know the lay of the land like the back of your hand?”

  Randall shrugged this off. “Again, home field advantage. Gotta love it.”

  “And why are you doing this?” asked Blue Man. He looked at the hardened men behind Randall. “I mean if you’re going to kill us, why go through something this melodramatic?”

  Randall patted his rifle. “It’s got a real purpose. It’s honing our skills for when the apocalypse comes.” He pointed upward. “When it hits, you’re going to have all sorts of shit going on up there. And the little people are going to want to get in where we are. And despite all the stuff that Roark Lambert built into his site, some asswipes are going to get in. And then it’ll come down to mano a mano. We’ve been training a while now.”

  “You mean killing all those enslaved drug workers?” said Reel. “Like that guy?” She looked down at the dead man.

  “Hey, it serves a dual purpose. We don’t like to keep them around too long. It’s sort of like culling vermin, you know, that get in your house. And we have to practice our hunting skills, so we always need fresh meat. Win-win.”

  Reel continued to stare down at the dead man. “Not sure he’d see it that way.”

  “Who gives a shit?” said Randall.

  “So the drug op was a way for you to fill your coffers back up?” said Robie. “After you went through your old man’s fortune because you didn’t know what you were doing?”

  Randall said defensively, “I’m a good businessman. But people cheated me.”

  “Yeah, right.”

  “Enough jawing. We need to get going.” He took a key from his pocket and tossed it to one of his men. “Take off the shackles.”

  The man handed his rifle to his colleague and came forward to do this.

  Randall held up a stopwatch. “Once you’re unshackled, you get five minutes. You can grab the weapons behind that door.” He added with a grin, “And come up with a plan to survive. There’s another door on the far side of the room. You go through there.” He paused as the grin widened. “And then you run like hell.”

  Once the chains were off her, Reel rubbed her wrists and said, “Just to be clear, when we kill all of you, we’re home free, right?”

  Randall laughed, but Reel’s expression didn’t change. She gazed at each of the other men, lingering on their features, sizing them up. Then she returned to Randall.

  “Is that right?”

  “I’m not sure you have to worry about that.”

  “Is that right?”

  “Yeah, it’s fucking right, okay,” snapped Randall impatiently.

  “Thank you,” said Reel. “I’ll be sure to notify your wife of your passing.”

  Randall smirked at her. “You’re living in an alternate reality.”

  “You have no clue to the reality I live in. But you’re going to find out tonight.”

  She walked through the door to get her weapons. Robie and the others followed her.



  “DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?” Blue Man asked the two people in scrubs, as Robie and Reel quickly looked over the weapons stacked on a shelf in the room.

  The woman wiped her eyes and nodded. “Yes.”

  “What are your names?”

  “I am Camilla and he is Mateo.”

  “Do you have any experience with guns?”

  Camilla shook her head but Mateo said, “I have fired a pistol. My father’s.”

  Robie hefted a rifle and looked at Reel, who was sliding a nine-mil into her waistband. She tossed one to him. He automatically checked the action and popped the mag to make sure there was ammo loaded in.

  That was tough to do because it was so dark he could barely see the guns.

  JC Parry walked over to them and said, “I can shoot either a rifle or a pistol.”

  Reel handed him a pistol and an extra mag.

  Parry took it and said, “These are some sick sons of bitches.”

  “Let’s just focus on turning them into dead sons of bitches.” She glanced over at Lamarre. “What do you want, pistol or rifle?”

  When he didn’t answer Reel snapped, “We’ve got maybe thirty seconds. Which one?”

  “Pistol, I guess.”

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