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The End Game

The End Game

The End Game 26


  “Well, Mama, maybe not this week.”

  Sherlock grabbed both him and Astro up and swung them around and around, making Sean shout with laughter and Astro bark madly. She gave him a big smacking kiss. “No, no kiss for you, Astro. All right, my boy, it’s time for bed. You’ve humiliated Nicholas enough for one night. Astro, it’s time for your evening walkabout.”

  “Good night, Uncle Nicholas. Good night, Aunt Mike.”

  Mike shook his hand. “A pleasure to watch you trounce my partner. He occasionally needs trouncing. A lot of trouncing.” And even though she’d meant to keep her voice light, hey, all a joke, both Savich and Sherlock gave her a look that said everything.

  They know there’s something going on. Mike looked over at Nicholas. His face was stone vacant and he was staring at his shoes as if the soft Italian leather held all the answers.

  Savich looked from one to the other. “Whatever’s wrong, you two need to fix it.”

  “There is absolutely nothing wrong, Dillon,” Mike said, jumping to her feet. “There’s absolutely nothing at all going on, not a single thing. Besides, I don’t want to talk about it. Nicholas, isn’t it about time you checked in with Ben?”

  Nicholas nodded, punched in Ben’s cell number. Ben answered immediately. “You’re not going to believe this, Nicholas. We found trackers on both your personal cars and five of the vehicles you’ve used from the pool in the past month. Nice Beemer, by the way, you have to let me drive it sometime. The trackers are small, very small, state-of-the-art, placed in the engine block instead of the wheel well. It took some looking to find them. Someone has definitely been keeping track of your—our—whereabouts. From what we can tell, the trackers send a GPS signal strong enough that the person who’s following can watch your movements on a laptop, remotely, up to fifty miles away. Very sophisticated.” He paused, then, “And that’s how they found Mr. Hodges and our three guys.”

  “Any chance you can reverse-engineer the data, see where it broadcasted to?”

  “We’re working on it, but it’s a moot point, really. They’ve been turned off now. We’ve taken them all to the lab to be worked over for any DNA or fingerprints.”

  “Unnecessary. We know who placed them.”

  “Who?”

  “Someone in COE, probably Andy Tate—he’s their computer whiz. Or Zahir Damari, aka Darius. It sounds more like him.

  “Any movement on Gray’s end, on the nanotriggers Spenser engineered for his bombs?”

  “He’s right here, hold on. Let me put this on speaker.”

  There was a click, then Gray came on the line. “The triggers were definitely Havelock technology. Good catch, Nicholas. The only issue is they are on the market, being used by a number of people, legitimately. We’ll have to get a warrant to see who they’ve sold them to, and it will take time.”

  Mike said, “Gray, anything on the money trail?”

  “Now, here I have more for you. We ran a forensic accounting on the guy Adam Pearce found, name of Porter Wallace. He’s definitely managing a few portfolios on the side. I found a link between him and Larry Reeves—the insider at Bayway. The money was moved into Reeves’s account from an offshore account in the Caymans. It’s closed now, totally untraceable. But Wallace went to Grand Cayman three weeks ago. Stands to reason he opened the account, put the money in, moved it when he was given the go-ahead, then closed the account. We’re going to pick him up in the morning, have a nice long chat, start taking apart his entire world. The warrant was issued an hour ago. We’re planning a five a.m. knock at his house. From what I can tell, he’s been a very bad boy.”

  “Any ties to organized crime you can find? We could make a nice RICO case against him.”

  “On the surface, it looks like he’s only been working with COE. I’ll keep digging into his background.”

  Mike leaned over the phone. “Gray, who is this guy, anyway, this Porter Wallace? How does a Wall Street broker get hooked up with Matthew Spenser?”

  “It’s a small world. Wallace is from Hartford, Connecticut, went to Avon Old Farms, a swanky private boys’ school—”

  Nicholas interrupted him. “Gray, you found the link. Matthew Spenser went to Avon. They must have known each other in school. Whether he’s helping out of the goodness of his own heart or he believes Spenser’s ideology or he’s being threatened—either way, we have a direct tie to Spenser. Well done.”

  Mike was grinning. This was huge. “This is great, Gray. Thank you. Next time we’re at the Feathers, your beer’s on me.”

  “I’ll take the beer gladly, but I’ve got to point out that Adam Pearce really got everything we needed. I simply followed the trail. I’m very glad you talked him away from the dark side, Nicholas.”

  Nicholas said, “Let us know how the knock goes on Porter Wallace. Just so you know, I have Adam working on a few more things.”

  “We’ll keep running the trackers, see if we can find where they may be broadcasting to. Otherwise, it’s the usual craziness associated with crime scenes. I notice you’re not here to do any of the paperwork.”

  Mike laughed as she looked at Nicholas and gave him the first real smile since, well, best not to revisit that. “He does manage to escape the paperwork, doesn’t he?”

  • • •

  When Savich was showing her the guest bedroom, Mike said, “Dillon, do you think they’ll cancel the Yorktown speech? I mean, it would be stupid to carry on as if nothing has happened.”

  He shrugged. “I’ve long given up trying to determine what a politician will do in any situation. It’s the president’s decision. We’ll find out in the morning.”

  Nicholas said, “Maybe everything will be handled before it’s crunch time. The place has to be crawling with advance people, and now even more Secret Service. How in the world would Spenser get in to plant one of his bombs?”

  Mike said, “Maybe the bomb or bombs were planted before the Secret Service got there. I give up. My brain is fried. I’m going to sleep.” She laid her hand on Savich’s arm. “Thank you for letting us stay.”

  She was laying her go-bag on the bed when Sherlock called out, “Wait, guys, you’d better see this.”

  On the small television in the kitchen was a still shot of George Washington University Hospital.

  “Your informant’s on the local eleven o’clock news.”

  They all watched as the reporter fed the information to the anchor, who seemed pleased as punch to announce that a government agent, believed dead in a Brooklyn fire, was very much alive and being treated for gunshot wounds.

  Mike looked Nicholas straight in the face. “At least they didn’t use her name. But you know Spenser will come after her if he hears this. Who in the world leaked the story? I mean, if we were setting it all up and I were taking her place, that would be different—”

  “Well, no matter,” Nicholas said, “since you’re not.”

  Savich was already dialing his cell. “I’ll see what I can find out.”

  Nicholas’s phone rang. “Savich, hold on a minute. It’s Carl Grace.”

  He put it on speaker. “Agent Grace?”

  Grace was shouting, nearly incoherent with rage. “What are you people playing at, exposing my niece like this?”

  Savich said, “We don’t know anything about it, Carl. We haven’t talked to anyone. We told you we wouldn’t.”

  But Carl was too furious to listen. “The FBI leaks like a sieve, always has, and you wonder why we don’t take you into our confidence? And you’re trying to pretend you had nothing to do with this? Don’t bother coming back to the hospital, I will see you banned from the grounds.” He hung up.

  “I think he’s a bit upset,” Nicholas said.

  Savich said, “Hold on,” and made a call. He was frowning when he punched off. “Mr. Maitland has no idea where this came from. He imagines the CIA will hav
e extra agents watching Vanessa tonight. Or moving her, that would be better.”

  Mike straightened her shoulders and said to Nicholas, “You know if Spenser sees that broadcast, he’ll come for her immediately. It’s not too late—I can take her place.”

  “No, you will not.” Nicholas turned on his heel and walked out of the kitchen.

  63

  QUEEN TO B8

  Off I-95, near Lorton, Virginia

  The motel room smelled like wet dog and burned coffee, and the tatty bedspread was a nasty orange. But Matthew knew it wouldn’t be smart to stop at a better place. He and Andy would make do. If only Andy would shut his mouth.

  At least the grid attack had worked well, so well that when the lights came on ten minutes before, both he and Andy were startled.

  Now Matthew was pacing the length of the stingy room, back and forth, thinking, worrying. Had Darius managed to get through the fence when the electricity shut down? Stop worrying, sure he had, Darius was that good. He glanced at his watch. Yes, Darius was in place by now.

  At least today everything had gone according to plan, but still, he felt itchy, his brain looping in and out, and nothing seemed right. Matthew knew he was ready, knew he going to pull it off, even though Darius was making other plans in case he failed or lost his nerve. But he didn’t feel pumped with the familiar manic excitement, didn’t feel hot blood whipping through his body. And he knew why. I killed my best friend and Vanessa. He’d murdered her and even now he wasn’t sure what she’d been to him. But no longer hearing her voice joking with Ian or one of the other men, listening to her hum as she built one of her small Semtex bombs, watching her eat a hamburger, mustard, not ketchup—she’d been a part of his life and look what she’d done—she’d forced his hand because she’d betrayed him. She’d played him and here he’d always thought he could judge people so well. She’d blindsided him, and then she’d turned Ian against him, too.

  She’d only wanted his bombs. She’d forced him to act against her, not his fault. Back and forth, his brain kept looking from guilt and pain to justification.

  Matthew finally threw himself down in the single chair in the room. He looked over at Andy, sprawled on the bed, headphones in, listening to one of his frenetic hard-metal excuses for music, eating red licorice from the bag, probably hacking God knew what or watching porn on his laptop. Matthew had cleaned and bandaged his knee and given him two Vicodin, both now swimming happily in his bloodstream. At least it had stopped his infernal whining, stopped his questions about why Matthew was doing this, doing that, something he did more and more.

  Andy sat up suddenly and turned the laptop around.

  “Matthew, you’re not going to believe this. Hurry, look.”

  Matthew leaned over the laptop and stared at the shot of downtown D.C., nothing he really recognized. It was no longer dark and empty since the power had come back on.

  “What is it?”

  “George Washington University Hospital.”

  “So what?”

  “Matthew, listen, Vanessa’s alive. She’s alive!”

  Matthew shook his head. “No, impossible, I shot her in the heart and burned the building down around her. With Ian. What are you talking about?”

  “They’re talking about Vanessa. Listen.”

  Andy pointed to the laptop screen, turned up the volume. A reporter—long smooth blond hair, perfect makeup—stood, mike in hand, in front of a hospital.

  “Turn it up, Andy.”

  “. . . The explosion at Bayway Refinery in Elizabeth, New Jersey, continues to be under investigation. We can now confirm the reports that a federal agent tied to the investigation was also recovered Monday evening from a burning building in Brooklyn. The agent, thought to be undercover, was transported to George Washington University Hospital. I have been told she is in serious but stable condition in the ICU.”

  Andy was shaking his head back and forth. “That’s gotta be a lie, I mean, I saw her with my own eyes. Like you said, you shot her dead, and she was on the floor, bleeding all over the place, and she wasn’t moving. They’ve got to be making that up.”

  Matthew felt strangely detached from himself at that moment.Andy was right, it was a lie, had to be. Vanessa was dead. True, he hadn’t seen her sightless eyes staring up at him as he had Ian, he hadn’t leaned down to feel for a pulse, but he’d never doubted that she was dead. Obviously they were trying to set up a trap to get him to the hospital. The idiots. He wasn’t that great a fool.

  His brain looped back. But what if she’d really survived? Vanessa was smart, he knew that. He didn’t doubt she was a hotshot agent, always thinking, always on red alert, always knowing what to do.

  The reporter continued: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been tasked with finding her assailants. It is not known how she is attached to this investigation, nor what her role was. We’ll have more on this story at the top of the hour. Back to you in the studio . . .”

  Matthew sank back into the chair, covered his eyes with his hand. No, he didn’t think it was a lie, not now. Vanessa was that smart. She’d played dead until he was gone. How had she not burned up with Ian? The hidden exit to the roof—that must have been how she’d managed to get out.

  “She’s alive,” he heard Andy repeat again. Andy seemed a mile away, his bewildered kid’s voice like a loud echo. Matthew scarcely heard him. He was utterly unimportant at the moment.

  Andy’s voice broke in on him, louder now, “Hey, Matthew, she’s a federal agent. Can you beat that?” Andy started slapping his hands against his head and his voice rose to the familiar whine Matthew hated. “Man, we are screwed. Totally and completely screwed. What do we do now? She’s going to tell them all about us. Wait, she’s already told them about us, they already know who we are.

  “And how did she survive? Why didn’t you make sure she was dead? But you didn’t, you just ordered me around and wouldn’t even let me set the fire, and here it was my own special mix, and look what happened.”

  Matthew looked toward the grating voice. He didn’t really see Andy. He saw failure, and it was bright and hard and burned deep, making rage grow, roil around, twisting, bending his mind, taking over.

  Andy shouted, “And Ian named you the Bishop? Because you’re such a genius, like a great chess player who can figure out twenty moves ahead? Well, you sure blew this one, didn’t you? Talk about failure, this is the biggie, Matthew. They’re going to find us and if they don’t kill us dead, they’re gonna put us in prison forever or fry us. You’ve killed us both!”

  Matthew stood slowly, looked to where Andy’s voice simply wouldn’t stop, and said, “Why not get it over with now, Andy?” And Matthew raised his gun and shot Andy in the forehead.

  Andy fell back without a sound, his head striking the cheap backboard, flipping him onto his side, away from Matthew.

  Matthew sat down again, laid the gun on his thigh, and listened to the golden silence.

  Andy was probably right, the whining little puke, so best hit the button now. He picked up the blood-splattered laptop, set it on his knees, opened the program.

  He had to admit, it was a beautiful program. Andy had done well. He smiled as he hit the button, launched the attack. The countdown clock started in the window.

  His beautiful bomb would show the world power beyond belief. There was no stopping it now, and no stopping him. He was set, he was ready to go, ready to change the world, locked and loaded.

  He was whistling as he shoved the gun in his waistband, grabbed his bag. He was only forty minutes from downtown D.C. This time he would do it right. This time he would look into her sightless eyes and know she was finally dead.

  If it was a trap, he’d still make it happen, and who cared if he bit the big one? Maybe he didn’t care, he was no longer sure about it.

  As he closed the door to the motel, hung up the flimsy DO NO
T DISTURB sign, he wondered how long it would be before someone went into that room.

  Good-bye, Andy.

  He was still whistling as he walked to the car.

  64

  PAWN TO B5

  Georgetown

  Mike stuck her face in the shower stream of the hot water. She was angry, but she knew it was no use getting into another fight with Nicholas. In the morning she’d present her case to Dillon, maybe Mr. Maitland, that she would be the best at playing Vanessa. It wasn’t like she was helpless—no, she’d have her Glock. She was fast and smart. She was a professional.

  She fumed and fretted as she towel-dried her hair, combed it out, and pushed it off her face, hooking it behind her ears. She pulled a pair of yoga pants and a T-shirt out of her go-bag.

  The bed looked nice and firm, the way she liked it. She had to admit she was dog-tired, and the bruises were singing out loud and clear. She cursed Nicholas one last time and pulled back the covers.

  There was a knock at her door.

  “Yes?”

  Nicholas opened the door, closed it behind him.

  “We need to talk.”

  She eased out of bed and stood facing him, hands on her hips. “There is absolutely nothing to talk about, unless you’re ready to stop being such a lamebrain about me taking Vanessa’s place. I am a professional, Nicholas, I’ve played bait before, not a problem. I’ll be armed, not helpless, like Vanessa. And I’d—”

  He waved his hand in front of her. “Pay attention, Caine. This is a CIA op. Bait will be a CIA operative. Hang it up.”

  That stopped her mid-rant. She should have come to that obvious conclusion, which went to prove how tired she was, even her brain was operating at twenty watts. It hurt to say it, but she did. “Very well, I suppose you’re right. It’s too bad, their mistake. What did you want to talk about?”

  “About what didn’t happen today, between us. I think we should, don’t you?”

  She took a step back. “There is nothing to talk about, since nothing happened. How many times do I have to tell you that? You’re like a dog with a bone. And isn’t that fitting? No talk, do you hear me?”