Man down, p.10

Man Down, page 10

 

Man Down
 


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  “You trust her to drive your car, Dad?” Eric was standing behind me, a radio-controlled boat in his hand.

  “Shouldn’t I?”

  “She drove Mom’s car into some bushes.”

  I put my hand on top of Eric’s head. “That’ll teach the bushes to jump out of the way, huh, sport? Now, let’s go get this boat in the water, see what she can do.”

  I woke up in the box. The coffin seemed smaller this time and the air was gone. Desperately, I tried to fill my lungs as I pushed against the top and beat on the sides, screaming for help.

  “Dad!”

  I opened my eyes. Eric and Ali were kneeling over me, shaking my arms.

  “Dad! You’re having a nightmare,” Eric said.

  I sat up on the couch and gasped. Gadget barked at me. Ali and Eric stared, fear draining the color from their cheeks. “I’m fine. Fine.” The TV was on.

  “I heard you yelling,” Ali said.

  “I couldn’t wake you,” Eric said. “I tried and you wouldn’t wake up.”

  “I’m fine now. I’m okay.” I rubbed my face. “What time is it?”

  “Twelve,” Ali said.

  “Oh, right. Good, okay,” I said, still stupid with sleep. My heart was pounding against my ribs. “It was just a dream. I’m okay.”

  The kids asked a dozen more times if I was all right, and after so many reassurances that even I began to doubt them, we all went off to our rooms. Gadget followed me and I had to lift him up onto the bed. He wagged his tail and did a spin on top of the comforter. “I could use the company,” I said.

  I patted Gadget’s head and thought about the dog hairs found at the motel, and that made me think of Katie and that made me feel as if I’d been sucker punched, so I turned on the TV and watched a guy with a crime show give his opinion on the bombing of the congressman’s plane. I knew this guy and he’d been a drug addict and a shyster lawyer before he’d hit it big with reenacted crime. His opinion was about as insightful as my mother’s, a woman who believed that burglars all wore striped shirts and skinny black masks and carried their loot away in a big, round bag.

  I emptied my pockets, took off my shoes, and laid my revolver on the nightstand. Somewhere in between interviews, I fell asleep and slept straight through to morning, without waking up in that damn Black Diamond box again. For that I was thankful.

  As I put the coffee on and let Gadget out, the phone rang.

  “Jake, I hope I didn’t call too early.”

  “No, Mrs. De Vries, not at all. What’s wrong? You sound worried.”

  “I heard that Katie was meeting Janice’s ex-husband today.”

  I laughed. “Mrs. De Vries, you have one hell of an intelligence network. What color shirt am I wearing?”

  “Blue.” She was right. “Jake, I’m worried about Katie. I know she can take care of herself, but I’d feel much better if you were there with her. I’ll pay for your airfare, Jake. Fletcher’s lawyers haven’t found all of my cookie jars just yet.”

  “No, Mrs. De Vries, you keep your money. Trevor will be watching. Nothing will happen. And Katie can take care of herself. She’ll talk your former nephew into surrendering, you’ll see.”

  There was a pause and I thought we’d been cut off. “Mrs. De Vries? Are you still there?”

  “I’m here, Jake. I also got a call from a friend at the Alexandria PD. This is what their investigators think: Janice was sleeping with this man, her ex followed her and killed them in bed. Is that what you think, Jake?”

  “I think we should wait for all the facts, Mrs. De Vries.”

  “My niece wasn’t that kind of woman, Jake.”

  “No one thinks that.”

  “Yes, they do, Jake.”

  I hurt for Mrs. De Vries, this tough old woman who’d suffered through so much loss in one lifetime.

  Her voice softened. It was almost apologetic. “I just don’t want anyone thinking she was like that.”

  “I understand.”

  I heard her sigh. “Well, please keep me posted, Jake. Now that I’m poor, people have stopped calling. This town is so predictable. You know what they say about politics, Jake?”

  “No, Mrs. De Vries, what?”

  “It’s show business for ugly people.”

  I laughed, happy that the old girl still had her sense of humor, and I promised to call just as soon as I knew anything.

  The day seemed long, even for a summer’s day on the river. Eric and I ate grilled cheese sandwiches on the deck overlooking the water. Eric made the little RC boat zip back and forth between the banks until the batteries quit and he had to swim out to retrieve it. Ali went off with friends and promised to be home in time for dinner. A paddle-wheel boat filled with Civil War tourists passed by the house and the tour guide pointed me out as the “famous FBI profiler, Jake Donovan.” I returned the waves.

  Eric giggled. “We should have mooned them, Dad.”

  “Maybe on their way back.”

  It wasn’t dark, although the sun had dipped below the trees and cast long shadows across the yard, when Trevor called.

  “We’re all set, Jake.”

  “Any more word from the husband?”

  “Nothing. But we have two men in the coffee shop, two on the street, and three snipers set up around the meet, all with clear lines of fire. I’m on the roof of a hotel across the street from the café.”

  “What do you think of the locals?”

  “I know one from Quantico. Former marine, trained under Carlos Hathcock. Another I’ve read about. He saved a bank hostage last year with a head shot at seven hundred yards.”

  “That’s two.”

  Often, what Trevor says is not as important as what he doesn’t say. In this case, he was hesitant to judge the third sniper, a man he didn’t know. “He seems okay. Maybe a bit too eager.”

  “What about Katie, is she wired?”

  “Yes.”

  “Can you patch her into the phone?”

  “We’re working on it.”

  On cue, Katie said, “Can you hear me? Is it on?” Then her voice was overwhelmed by a wave of static.

  “What’s wrong? What’s happening?”

  “I don’t know, Jake.”

  “Can you see her?”

  “She’s just below me, not more than sixty yards.”

  “Can you hear her okay?”

  “Yes,” Trevor said. “It’s just the phone connection that’s screwed up.”

  “You’re my ears as well as my eyes.”

  “Roger, Jake.”

  “Weller and Snead with you?”

  “Weller’s here. You want to talk to him?”

  “Yeah.” The phone passed. “Weller, did the lab get the envelope I sent down?”

  “Yeah, the courier showed up around four. The lab hasn’t had time to look at it yet.”

  I heard him wait for an explanation. “They’re dog hairs. I’m hoping they don’t match the hairs found at the motel.”

  “If they do?”

  “It means someone’s sending me a very clear message. The glass, the dog hairs, my prints…”

  “Means someone can reach your family.” Weller was quick to get right to the bottom line.

  “Anytime they want.”

  “You have an idea who?”

  “Yeah, a good idea. But I don’t know how, or why.”

  Trevor’s voice came back on-line. “Jake, we’ve got movement.”

  Katie’s voice crackled, “This could be…,” and again was swallowed up by static.

  “It’s a black Isuzu Trooper,” Trevor said. “One man behind the wheel. He’s parked in the coffee shop lot.”

  It was frustrating not being there, not watching with Trevor, not adding my weight to Katie’s protection.

  I heard Trevor’s voice relax. “It’s not him. It’s not the husband.”

  I sat in a comfortable lawn chair watching swifts perform aerial acrobatics over the slow-moving river and listened helplessly to an operation three
hundred miles away. “Stay on him.”

  “I am.”

  Katie came through a curtain of noise: “It’s not him. It’s not Callahan.”

  “He’s stopping.” I could hear the edge come back into Trevor’s voice.

  “Who is it?”

  “I don’t know. Maybe he’s just attracted to Katie.”

  “Yeah. Stay on him.”

  “I am.” Trevor’s concentration behind the scope made me a distant second in his priorities.

  The man’s voice crackled through Katie’s wire like a distant station: “…McManus…Spider…meet you.”

  “What? What did he say?”

  “Jesus, Jake, you’re not going to believe this.”

  “What?”

  “Wait a minute.”

  I stood up and paced the length of the deck and back, listening to static. When I couldn’t stand it, I said, “Speak to me, Trevor. What’s happening.”

  “Hold on, Jake.”

  “I can’t hold on.” More static. I heard the man saycontract andrights andHollywood. “Who the fuck is he?”

  “He’s an agent, Jake. He’s a literary agent. Set up by Spider Urich.”

  “What the fuck is an agent doing there?”

  “He’s representing the husband. He’s saying Callahan will give himself up if you and Katie work with him on a book.” Trevor laughed. “He says your involvement is critical to selling the publication and film rights. Jesus, Jake, the guy’s doing a deal.”

  I sat back down in the lawn chair and put my head in my hand. “Trevor, this is insane.”

  “Tell me about it.”

  Katie crackled over the line, “Where…? Obstruction of…Aiding and abetting…”

  “She’s telling him about the Son of Sam law,” Trevor said.

  “…can’t profit…illegal activities,” I heard Katie say. Then I heard a pop and Katie said, “Oh…oh…”

  Trevor said, “Shit.”

  “What?” I was on my feet again, hollering into the phone. “What! What’s wrong?”

  “There was a shot, Jake. Somebody took a shot.” I heard muffled movements and distant men shouting. “She’s down, Jake, Katie’s down.”

  “Is she all right?”

  “I don’t know, Jake. I don’t know.”

  “Who fired?”

  “One of the snipers. The man, the agent, reached into his jacket. Christ, Jake, all I can see is blood. The man’s down, Katie’s down…”

  “Is Katie all right?”

  “I don’t know. I’m on my way.”

  I was left with a silent cell phone to my ear, watching bats come out of the trees and dart through the summer twilight over the river.

  16

  In only a few minutes Weller was on the phone, reassuring me, telling me not to come down, that everything was under control, but to me it seemed like hours. In those few minutes I pictured Katie lifeless, her blouse heavy with blood, torn by the sniper’s bullet. I saw my life without her, and the team shattered, too wounded to look at one another without calling up Katie’s face, her voice, her quick hands, her humor and sharp intelligence.

  “She’s all right,” Weller repeated. “The bullet hit the subject in the head and the splatter hit Katie. But she’s all right.”

  “Can I talk to her?”

  “They’re taking her to the hospital for observation, Jake. I’ll have your people call you from there.”

  “I’m coming down.”

  “No. Your team can handle this, Jake.”

  As if on cue, Trevor came on. “Don’t come, Jake. You stay with your kids. I’ll let you know what’s happened as soon as we piece it all together.”

  I blew out a heavy sigh, dialing down the tension from a twelve to a ten. “Okay. I don’t like it, but okay. If anything changes, and I mean anything, I want you to call me. Don’t make me sit here like a fat girl before the prom, waiting for the phone to ring.”

  Trevor laughed. “Don’t worry, baby, you’re on my speed dial.”

  “So use it.” I hung up.

  Eric stood in the doorway to the living room. “What’s wrong, Dad?”

  “There was an accident.”

  “Mom?” Eric’s face fell open.

  “No, no, your mother’s fine. It was Katie. But she’s all right.”

  Eric’s shoulders quivered. “Are you sure Katie’s all right? Where is she?”

  “She’s fine. She’s with Trevor and Jerry and Dom. She’ll be fine.”

  Eric thought about that for a moment. He knew the team as well as he knew his aunts and uncles and, in some ways, was closer to them than to family. “Dad?” He held back a boy’s tears, trying to be a man, too tough to cry.

  “Yeah, sport?”

  “Why can’t you get a real job? You know, like other dads?”

  “Come over here, okay?” Eric sat next to me and I put my arm around him and hugged him to me. “I know this has been really hard on all of us: your mother, you, and your sister. But it’s what I do, sport. Someone has to catch the bad guys.”

  “But I get so scared. Ali does, too, I know. And Mom. We’re not brave like you and Katie.”

  I rocked him back and forth, the way I did when he was a baby. “Sure you are. Being scared doesn’t mean you’re not brave. It’s what you do when you’re scared, that’s what makes you brave or not, and you’re as brave as anyone I’ve ever known. And that’s the truth.”

  Eric curled up against my ribs. “I’m tired, Dad. I’m just really tired.”

  Eric fell asleep about midnight and I carried him up to bed. I found a biography of John Adams in the bedroom and stretched out on the couch and tried to read. I wasn’t very successful. I kept glancing at the revolver within reach on the coffee table, and listening to the sounds a house makes at night.

  Around one, Ali eased open the door, followed by Raoul. Gadget barked at him.

  “Ssssh! You little hairball,” Ali whispered. “You’ll wake up Dad.”

  “I’m awake.”

  “Uh, hi, Mr. Donovan,” Raoul said, his hands in his back pockets. He was edgy, but keeping his cool until he saw the revolver. Then his eyes got big and he backed toward the door. “I, uh, guess I better get home,” he said to Ali. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

  “Wait,” she said.

  I couldn’t see them from my place on the couch, but I could tell he was kissing her. My daughter. My firstborn. Only a few years from being a baby. I heard them whisper, then the door closed.

  “How was the party?”

  Ali sat down across from me and Gadget jumped into her lap. “It was okay.” She looked at the pistol. “Did you leave that out for Raoul’s benefit?”

  I laughed. “No, but I might have if I’d thought about it. Did you have fun tonight?”

  Ali shrugged.

  “There isn’t drinking at these parties, is there?”

  “Some. Some of the kids have beer. Some get drunk.”

  “Do you?”

  “I have.” Ali gave me a tight-lipped smile. “I don’t really like it much. I threw up.”

  “That’s no fun.”

  “No.”

  I had plenty of other questions, but I didn’t really want the answers, not right then, so I didn’t ask.

  “You know you didn’t have to wait up for me.”

  “I know. I wasn’t really.” I put the book on the coffee table, next to my phone. “I’ve been waiting for a call.”

  “I knew something was up. I could see it on your face. You get these lines around your eyes. Did you know that?” Ali saw things in people’s faces, and read them, just like her mother. Whatever man she chose to marry would have to be honest.

  “There was a shooting tonight. Katie was involved, but she’s fine,” I was quick to add. “She’s just shook up.”

  “Have you talked to her?”

  “No. Not yet. Trevor called and said she was okay, not even a scratch.”

  “But Katie hasn’t called.” Ali put her elbows on he
r knees, her hands together. Like her mother, the shrink. All she needed was the notepad.

  “No, she hasn’t.”

  “And that’s the call you were waiting for.”

  “Yeah, I guess so.” I looked at my watch, although I knew what time it was. “It’s probably too late now.”

  “Are you and Katie having problems, Dad?”

  I nodded. “Yeah.” Then I laughed. “Well, not exactly. I think I’m having more problems than Katie. She’s, uh, she’s gone back to Rob.”

  Ali straightened. “Her ex? That creep? I mean, he’s nice looking, but didn’t he run off with some bimbo?”

  “Nice to know you still remember him.”

  “I’m so sorry, Dad.” Ali waited, giving the transition some air. She studied my face again. She was an interesting kid, a combination of her mother’s analytical skills and my dogged persistence. “I guess maybe you don’t know.” A kindness was in her voice, and I got another glimpse of the woman she would become in a few short years.

  “There’s a lot I don’t know.”

  “About Mom. She’s seeing someone. A doctor she met last year.”

  “Oh. That’s great,” I said. I tried to sound cheerful, but I didn’t convince either of us. “You know I want your mother to be happy.”

  Ali looked at me with what I hoped was more sympathy than pity. “Sure, Dad. I just thought you should know about this other guy.”

  “I appreciate it.”

  Ali stretched. “I guess I’d better get to bed. Unless you want to, you know, talk some more.”

  “No, no. You go. I’ll water the dog.”

  That made Ali smile. She kissed me on the cheek and said good-night.

  I stopped her at the bottom of the stairs. “Ali? Have you seen any new people in the house lately? Maybe after I was here the last time?”

  “Dad, I don’t think—”

  “I’m not talking about your mother’s dates. I’m talking about delivery people, repairmen, strangers asking for directions.”

  Ali thought, her hand resting on the newel. “No. Nobody unusual. Why? Has someone been in the house?”

 
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