So my brother is investigating this case. And I wonder what else he’s investigating?
Would the military really let one brother go after another?
Robert Puller had thought a lot about his brother and what he would make of his older sibling doing a bunk from the DB and leaving behind a dead body. But never once, with all his brilliance and built-in paranoia from working so long in the intelligence field, had he imagined his brother working an investigation whose one goal would be to bring Robert Puller in, dead or alive, as melodramatic as that sounded.
And certain people might very well prefer me dead.
He waited for his brother to disappear from his line of sight and then left the alley and quickly made his way back to his truck. He was confident of his new face and altered appearance. But he had learned that his younger brother’s powers of observation were far beyond the norm. Sometimes they were even scary. So he was taking no chances.
He reached his truck, climbed in, and then just sat there.
His thoughts were now totally focused on one thing, and they had nothing to do with a dead man in a prison cell.
His brother was here.
And Robert Puller did not even want to think about where things might end up.
Things were already complicated enough.
Now? What he was trying to do seemed impossible.
Because his little brother might be standing right in the way.
JOHN PULLER SAT in his motel room staring at a wall. He and Knox had slept in after their late night. Then they had driven back to the motel where Daughtrey had been found. Puller didn’t know what he expected to find there the second time around. And ultimately he had discovered nothing new or helpful. Then he and Knox had spent the entire day running down more leads, but absolutely nothing had popped on any of them. Now it was night again and their investigation hadn’t progressed one iota.
And something Knox had said was sticking in his head like a Ka-Bar knife driven into his skull.
Or do you not want to know if your brother is really guilty or not?
Do I want to know? Or not?
He slipped his phone out of his pocket. It felt like a brick.
He thumbed through his contacts list until he settled on the one he wanted. He checked his watch. It was late and even later on the East Coast, but the person was a night owl. Puller knew many such night owls; he tended to be one himself.
He listened to the phone ringing. On the third ring he heard the gruff voice.
“Who the hell is this?” The gruff had moved on to annoyance.
Puller heard a thump, like a book had been dropped, and a clink, like a glass with ice in it had just been set down. And knowing Shireen as he did, the glass was not filled with water. More likely gin with a splash of tonic, and ice cubes, because as she had once told him, it was important to keep cool and hydrated.
A few moments of silence were followed by, “John Puller? What are you doing with yourself these days?”
Shireen Kirk—her full name, Puller knew, was Cambrai Shireen Kirk—was a Judge Advocate General, or JAG, attorney. She’d had her professional shingle out for nearly twenty years and had been involved in several of the cases that Puller had investigated. Each of those cases had resulted in a conviction. She was now forty-four years old, petite and thin, with reddish-blonde hair cut in a bob and bangs that still showed plenty of her freckles—Irish sprinkles, she had called them once. She was based in D.C. and had a reputation for being brilliant, scrupulously honest, diligent, fair-minded, and a woman who would kick your ass if you lied to her, regardless of military rank. And she could drink anyone of Puller’s acquaintance—and that included many large male beer lifters of prodigious capacity—under the table.
“This and that, Shireen,” replied Puller.
“We haven’t worked a case in a while.”
“Maybe we’re about due.”
“Wait a minute, didn’t you just shoot somebody in Nebraska?”
“Right, one of those flyover states. Saw something come across my desk about it. You okay?”
“I’m fine. The other guy isn’t. I didn’t kill him, but he’ll be walking funny for a while. Not how I wanted it to go down, but he didn’t give me a choice.”
“Where are you now?”
There was a long moment of silence. Puller could almost hear her mind sorting through things and compiling data, with a conclusion soon forthcoming.
“DB,” she said.
“DB’s here, all right.”
“A little surprised you are,” she said warily, as though she were being wiretapped and suspected a legal trap.
“I was too. But it’s all official and authorized.”
She said in an incredulous tone, “You’re not saying you’re investigating the escape?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
“Get off it! You’re shitting me.”
“Has the Army lost its damn mind?”
“I can’t really answer that.”
“Then have you lost your mind?”
“I hope not.”
“Well, I hope your authorizations go about as high as they can go, otherwise I might be prosecuting you for about a dozen violations of military law, Puller.”
“I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t, Shireen.”
“In writing. Sometimes a CO’s memory sucks when the shit hits the fan.”
“Got ’em in writing. Army three-star and the NSC with trickle down the chain of command to my CO good enough for you?”
“Well sonofabitch, will wonders never cease? Why are you calling? If you’re in Kansas it’s too far to catch a beer together.”
“I’m calling about my brother.”
“What would I know about your brother? Other than he’s apparently escaped from DB? And you’re there, apparently investigating a crime you shouldn’t be within a continent of?”
“That word ‘apparently’ again.”
“What about it?”
“You’re not the first to use it when talking about what happened.”
“Well of course, Puller. Think about it. People don’t escape from DB. And do you believe for one second the Army wants to admit to something like that? The bigwigs are probably still praying he got stuck in a ventilation hole and it was all a big misunderstanding.”
“So my brother?”
She said nothing, but Puller could hear papers rustling and thought he detected the sound of a pen clicking. She seemed prepared to take notes. Whether this was a good thing or not, he wasn’t sure.
“I need to find out about his case.”
“His case?” she said.
“Find out what?”
“You don’t already know about it?”