Man down, p.13

Man Down, page 13


Man Down

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  “I’m sorry, sir, but there’s no answer. Would you care to leave a message?”

  “What do you mean there’s no answer? It’s after midnight.”

  The hotel operator tried again with the same results. “I’m sorry, sir, but if you’d like to leave a message…”

  I remembered the man in the red shirt. “Let me talk to the manager.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  The manager was patient, but insisted that without proper authority, he couldn’t violate a guest’s privacy. “All I can tell you is your party is not answering her phone.”

  Exasperated, I said, “I know she’s not answering her phone, dammit. If she were answering her phone, you and I would not be having this conversation.”

  “No, sir, that’s quite right.”

  I ran my hand over my face, trying to be patient, trying not to get angry. “Okay. Fine. Has anyone seen her this evening? Can you tell me that?”

  “I’m afraid not, sir, even if we had. We don’t make a practice of putting our guests under surveillance. This is Canada,” he said with clear emphasis.

  “Goddammit, what can you tell me?”

  “Just what you already know, sir. Dr. Donovan is a guest of this hotel and she is not taking any calls.”

  “Aha! So she is in her room.”

  “I didn’t say that.”

  “But you said she was not taking calls.”

  “Please forgive me if I was inaccurate, sir. What I meant was that Dr. Donovan is not answering her phone, sir. For whatever reason is not for me to say.”

  Desperate, I played my cheapest card. Celebrity. “I’m sorry. Perhaps I didn’t make it clear who this is. My name is Jake Donovan. Maybe you’ve heard of me.”

  “No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.”

  “With the FBI?”

  “No, sir.”

  “Do you watch crime shows on television?”

  “I don’t own a television, sir.”

  “But you’ve heard of the FBI.”

  “Unfortunately, sir, I was an American citizen until I fled the draft, sir, in 1966. I’m quite familiar with the FBI.”

  “Oh.” This wasn’t going at all well.

  “Would this be official FBI business?”

  “Would it matter if it was?”

  “No, sir, not in Canada, sir.”

  I could hear the smile in his voice and wished my reach were as long as my enemy’s. Then I realized that my reach was at least as long as the Toronto police force.

  I hung up and called headquarters. With luck and several more calls, I tracked down an old friend and colleague, Inspector Haiki Droon, a former student at one of my classes at Quantico.

  “Jake,” he said, “are you thinking of emigrating north?”

  “Every summer, but change my mind in November.”

  “So, what can I do for you at”—he paused, presumably to look at his watch—“ten to one in the morning.”

  “Haiki, I need you to look in on my wife.”

  “What’s wrong?”

  I told him about the man in the red shirt and a little about the case I was working. “I’m just worried that she’s not answering her phone, and the hotel manager doesn’t want to get off his pale northern ass and knock on her door.”

  “She could be in the bath.”

  “Maybe. But I’d like to know.”

  After a moment, Haiki said, “I’ll have some men sent round. I’ll call you.”

  “Thanks, Haiki. Next time you’re down this way, I’ll buy you a hot dog.”

  The next hour went by like a week in Biloxi. I paced the room, walked around the yard, turned on lights and turned them off again, checked the dial tone three times to make sure the batteries in the phone were good, and made myself a drink. Okay, two drinks.

  About the time Conan O’Brien was saying good-night, the phone rang.


  “Haiki, what’s up?”

  Haiki took too long to answer. It could only be bad news. I waited. “Uh, Jake, she’s not in her room.”

  “I know she’s not in her room, Haiki. Where is she?”

  Slowly Haiki said, “She’s all right, Jake. She’s just not in her room.”

  “Then where is she?”

  I heard Haiki let out a long breath that blew past the receiver and into my ear. “Jake, she is your ex-wife, isn’t she?”

  “Yeah, so?” Slowly the light began to dawn.

  “So, a single woman, alone in a romantic city, who is not in her room…”

  “Is sometimes in someone else’s,” I finished for him, just to save him the embarrassment.

  “But if you look at this the right way, you should be relieved.”

  “Yes, of course I am.”

  “Silver lining, right?”


  “I’m sorry, Jake.”

  “No, Haiki, it’s me who’s sorry. I’m sorry you had to do this. Really, really sorry. Does she know I was looking for her?”

  “I’m afraid she does. The officers I sent around explained why they were searching for her.”


  “She said she would talk to you in the morning.”

  “Was she angry?”

  “The officers said she was, yes.”

  Suddenly, J. P. Napoleon took second place on the list of people who wanted me skinned.


  I didn’t sleep much that night. My blunder with Toni and the case in North Carolina kept chasing sleep away with questions and a whole page full of what-ifs. Sometimes, an answer comes to me in those times between being awake and being asleep, but not that night. The few minutes I did drift off put me inside that Black Diamond box again, sealed tight against the night air.

  At four, I showered, dressed, called a cab, and joined the other early-morning commuters into Union Station. A network driver caught me before I descended into the Metro. The driver, who identified himself as Henry, escorted me through the station and out to the curb where a limo waited, guarded by a uniformed police officer. Everywhere, National Guardsmen with M16s watched over the crowd while D.C. police randomly searched the bags of anyone who even remotely fit the profile of a terrorist.

  The police officer guarding the limo touched his cap. “I’m a big fan, Mr. Donovan. I’ve read all your books.”

  “Thanks. Busy day, huh?”

  “They’re all busy. Catching the bad guys.”

  “Go get ’em.”

  Inside the car I said, “Thanks, Henry. Must be tough driving around the city.”

  “It’s not the driving, Mr. Donovan. It’s the parking.” Henry pulled around a yellow Ryder truck being searched by men with dogs. “You can’t stop anywhere for more than a few minutes without someone calling out the bomb squad.”

  Henry drove up Massachusetts to Dupont Circle, turned up Nineteenth, and parked in front of the studio building. “Here you are, Mr. Donovan. Break a leg.”

  A few minutes later, just after six, I was in the chair in the makeup department and a twenty-something girl circled me. “Hi. I’m Randi, with ani.”

  “Hi, Randi. I’m Jake with a silente.”

  “Hi, Jake. Don’t worry. We’ll make you look like you’ve just spent the week in Cancún.” She circled me again, surveying the wreckage.

  “That bad?”

  “Honey, I’ll tell you a secret, okay?”


  “You have to promise, ’cause if this gets out, well, who knows how these TV people might act.”

  “I promise.”

  She leaned in close and whispered, “I used to work in a mortician’s so I’ve seen worse. But not much.”

  I was too tired to make a snappy comeback. I settled for a weak “Ha ha.”

  “Gotcha.” She stretched my skin with her fingertips. “Did you get shoes to match these bags? You know, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear you spent the night in a coffin.”

  I didn’t tell her how close to the truth she was.
  Urich came in, looked at me, and winced. “Randi, you up to the challenge?”

  “Oh, yeah.”

  “Good. Now, Jake, you know how we do these things.”

  “You ask the questions and I answer them.”

  “The man’s a pro, Randi, make him look like Clark Gable.”

  She looked up from her makeup tray. “Who?”

  In spite of my reputation, I’ve never sought out celebrity. I learned a long time ago that newspapers misquote you and broadcast editors cut what you say. This is true across the board, from Pacifica to Fox. On one program I come out sounding like a puppet of the fascist state; on another, an inefficient cog in the bloated federal bureaucracy. So, the only reason to appear on these programs is to take a case public. Sometimes, you need help in finding someone. Sometimes, you want to put out information that will either make the suspect cocky so that he makes a mistake or is convinced that the powers of law enforcement arrayed against him are so relentless that his capture is just a matter of time.

  In this case, I wanted to convince Callahan, the missing ex-husband, to contact us again. I needed to reassure him that he would be safe. I only hoped that he was watching TV, wherever he was.

  Spider Urich, on the other hand, had a different agenda. I should have known.

  The stage manager took me from the artistic hands of Randi with ani to a technician who wired me for sound. From there I went to the green room, which is never green but does have bagels, fruit, and a TV set tuned to the morning show. Before she left, I asked Randi if I could change the channel. She said, “No, honey, and believe me, I’ve tried.”

  I shared the green room with a gardener and his plants for fall, an author with a book about patriotic weight loss, and an actress who was flogging her new movie,Stung . I asked if it was a sequel toThe Sting, but she said it wasn’t.

  “It’s about love gone bad,” she said.

  I nodded and tried to look interested. It was six forty-five.

  About seven-fifteen, after the actress, but before the author and gardener, the stage manager told me to follow her and I did. I waited in the wings next to the producer, and when the host went to a commercial, the producer took me to a set on the far end of the soundstage. Fake books and four golden Emmys lined shelves behind Spider’s chair. I sat on the leather sofa, and a young girl wearing a set of headphones brought me a cup of coffee.

  The floor director said, “We’re back in five, four, three…,” counted silently down the rest of the way, then pointed at Spider.

  Spider smiled. “Good morning. Today I have with me Jake Donovan, famed FBI profiler, technical adviser to numerous Hollywood films, author, speaker, and active investigator. Thank you for being with us this morning, Jake.”

  I smiled back. “It’s nice to be here, Spider.”

  Spider shifted in his chair and leaned closer to me, a pencil in his hand as if he needed to take notes. “Jake, you and Attorney General Armstrong have worked together in the past, isn’t that true?”

  I shot him a What-the-hell-is-this? look and answered, “Not directly, no.”

  “But you were involved in one case, the Little Angel Day Care kidnapping.”

  “Yes. But the attorney general wasn’t on that case.” I tried to gently change the subject. “I am working on an interesting case right now.”

  “But in the Little Angel case, you uncovered some evidence that implicated the attorney general in a criminal conspiracy, isn’t that right?”

  I smiled again and shook my head. “Spider, I don’t know where you get your information…” I fired warning shots with my eyes.

  Spider ignored them. “Armstrong, as a state prosecutor, purposely withheld evidence so that he could gain a conviction, even though the evidence proved his suspect was innocent.”

  “Is there a question in there?” I said with a laugh, hoping to lighten up what was heading into a bad situation.

  “Come on, Jake, the attorney general illegally prosecuted an innocent man, didn’t he?”

  “That man was released, and eventually the right man was convicted—by Attorney General Armstrong.”

  “But onlyafter you threatened to go public with what you knew, isn’t that right?”

  “Spider, this is all history—”

  Spider poked the air with his pencil. “Now we come to today, and what is arguably the biggest case since September eleventh, and that’s the terrorist attack on the First Lady.”

  “I’m not assigned to that case.” I said.

  “Precisely! And why not? Why is one of our finest investigative minds not working an attempted assassination?”

  I took a sip of coffee, giving myself a moment, looking for a way to take control of the interview. “There are many good people assigned to the case, so that I can handle other cases, like this one in North Carolina—”

  “But the attorney general took you off the case.”

  “Not directly, no.”

  “We asked the attorney general earlier and this is what he had to say.”

  Spider nodded and the monitors above us changed to a shot of Armstrong, who said, “Jake Donovan is only interested in furthering Jake Donovan. He relies on hired help, people who have been dismissed from law enforcement for a variety of reasons, to perform actual investigations. What does he do? He goes on television to promote a book. To call him an investigator is granting him a title he doesn’t deserve. Yesterday, Jake Donovan, heedless of the consequences, involved a literary agent, Sid Whare, in a dangerous situation. Tragically, Mr. Whare was shot and killed. So, you want to know why he’s not investigating the attack on the First Lady? That’s why.”

  The picture on the monitor changed to a tight shot of me, looking up, and looking shocked and uncomfortable.

  “What’s your response, Jake?”

  The monitor changed again to a two-shot of Spider and me. As calmly as I could, I said, “Mr. Whare was an unfortunate victim of an accidental shooting. And he was there because you—”

  Spider interrupted, “There is clearly animosity between you and the attorney general.”

  “I have no animosity toward Mr. Armstrong.”

  “When did you change your opinion, Jake?”

  That was one of those Have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife? questions. No answer would be the right answer. The floor director raised one finger and signaled Spider to wrap it up.

  I looked straight into the camera and said, “Mr. Callahan, if you’re watching, I want to hear your story. Please, if you’re watching, contact me. I promise you’ll be treated fairly.”

  “Jake? You want to say hello to your mother while you’re at it?”

  I bared my teeth at Spider and hoped it would pass as a smile.

  Spider asked, “So, what do you think of the investigation so far?”

  “I can’t comment on that, because I haven’t seen the files. But I’m certain the attorney general is doing everything he can.”

  “What would you do differently if you were running the investigation?”

  Blame my vanity, or my anger, but instead of giving a safe, political nonanswer, I said, “I’d look at the victims in that Hawker 700 and see if anyone had motive to kill one or all of them.”

  Spider’s voice went up. “So you’re saying this wasn’t an assault on the first family at all? That the attorney general is on the wrong track completely?”

  “I’m sure the attorney general has considered every possibility.”

  Spider turned to the camera. “A stunning speculation by Jake Donovan, former FBI profiler. The First Lady might not have been the target of the most recent terrorist attack, and the attorney general is completely mishandling the investigation. Back in a minute.” And we were out.

  I pulled the mike from my shirt and headed for the wings.

  Spider caught me by the shoulder. “Jake, that was great! The betrayal, the conflict, and that final revelation. That was terrific. You were terrific. Hell,I was terrific.”

  I tr
ied to back away from Spider but was blocked by the crew carrying a table loaded with pots and dirt for the gardening segment. I was shoved in close to Spider and I said, my voice a whisper between us, “You are a backstabbing son of a bitch, Urich.”

  “Oh, Jake, hold on a minute.”

  I pushed into the hallway. The producer stopped me at the elevators. “Mr. Donovan, I am so sorry. I had no idea Spider was going to ambush you with that clip.”

  “It’s okay. I should have seen it coming.” I watched the numbers above the door change while she apologized again and promised me a three-minute spot for my next book.

  The doors opened and I said, “Do me a favor. Lose my number.”

  Henry met me in the lobby. “The producer just called. I’m supposed to take you back to the train station, Mr. Donovan.”

  “Thanks, Henry. But I’ll catch a cab.” Henry followed me out to the sidewalk where the limo waited by the curb.

  “Come on, Mr. Donovan. I don’t drive you, I could get in trouble.”

  I looked up and down the street. I didn’t see any cabs for blocks.

  Henry held the door to the limo open. “Come on, Mr. Donovan. Hell, I’ll drive you all the way home. Door-to-door service, what do you say?”

  I thought about it for a moment, looked back up at the studios behind me and said, “Sure, Henry, let’s go.” I slid into the rear seat.

  Henry started to close the door, stopped. “You don’t live in Key West, do you? Someplace like that?”

  “No. Fredericksburg.”

  “Ah, well, a man can dream.” Henry closed the door.

  When Henry was behind the wheel, I said, “You won’t get into trouble?”

  “Screw ’em, Mr. Donovan.” Henry wheeled the limo into traffic as if the rear end were on fire and he was trying to outrun the flames.

  We hadn’t made it across the Potomac before my phone rang. It was from Orlando Raven’s office.

  The operator said, “Please, hold for the director.”

  I watched the neighborhood creep by, the morning traffic snarled even worse than usual as people tried to find new routes around the streets blocked off by armored cars. Once again I was reminded of a Latin American capital where the oligarchy ruled behind the protective screen of armed men.

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