“It was mutual,” said Puller.
Landry nodded. “The letter carried great weight. And I believe it’s the only reason the charge got changed from spying to espionage. Life versus death.”
“Did my brother see the letter?” asked Puller.
Landry hesitated. “No.”
“Why not?” Puller demanded.
“Because his–your father didn’t want him to. Those were the conditions under which the letter could be viewed by the judge to lower the charges.”
“So my father didn’t want my brother to know of his involvement?”
“I suppose not. I thought it was unusual, of course. But I was powerless to do anything about it. I was a soldier then, Agent Puller. I did what I was told. So did Doug Fletcher.”
Puller sat back, digesting this and shaking his head.
“And Robert Puller talked about threats to his family?” prompted Knox.
Landry eyed Puller. “Did you know about that?”
“I was deployed overseas at the time. Combat zone. Didn’t make it back stateside until after my brother had been convicted and sent to DB.”
“He talked about you a lot with me. Not in connection with the case. Just talked. He was very worried that you would think badly of him. Not because he’d done anything wrong. He believed himself innocent all the way through. But just because, well, it had brought dishonor onto the family.”
“I visited him at DB. Quite often.”
“I’m sure those visits meant a lot to him.”
Knox interjected, “But did he provide you with any more details about the threats?”
“He told me that a letter had been slipped under his pillow in his cell.”
“So someone at the prison must have put it there,” said Knox.
“One would think so. He showed it to me. It was all block print, so anyone could have done it. That’s why the letter would have been dubious to use as evidence. The prosecution could have argued he did it himself. But I never got a chance to try because Robert refused to allow me to do so. That’s what convinced me that the letter was legitimate. Someone was using the threat of violence against his family to influence how he was defending himself at the trial. He wouldn’t testify. He wouldn’t really let me do my job from that moment forward. The conviction was a foregone conclusion. The panel only took an hour of deliberation before returning the guilty verdict.”
“I see,” said Puller.
“It’s curious, though. I mean, with what happened yesterday in D.C.,” said Landry.
Both Knox and Puller looked at him strangely.
“What happened in D.C.?” asked Knox.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you would have heard. An old colleague of mine from D.C. called me last night. He’d seen it on the news. There was a brief article about it in USA Today this morning, but I don’t think it’s gotten much media traction yet. Since it was connected to your brother’s case, I just thought the timing was odd.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Puller.
“Niles Robinson, you know who he is?”
“He worked with my brother and testified against him at the trial. We spoke with him recently.”
“Well, that was a good thing, then.”
“Why?” asked Knox.
“Only that it would be impossible to speak with him now. He was shot dead at Union Station last night.”
Puller and Knox exchanged a quick glance. Puller said, “Niles Robinson? You’re sure it was the same man connected to my brother’s case?”
“Absolutely. They had a photo of him in the article. It was clearly him. I recognized him immediately from when he was on the witness stand. I spent a long time cross-examining him on his story, but I really couldn’t make any headway. For what it’s worth, he seemed genuinely sorry to be testifying against Robert.”
“I’m sure he was,” said Puller tightly.
Knox said, “Did they get the shooter?”
“Not according to what I read. My friend said the news story in D.C. placed Robinson at a phone bank at the train station. Odd, since, I mean, who uses a pay phone these days? I’m surprised they still have them.”
“I wonder if he was there to take a train somewhere?” asked Puller.
Knox shot him a curious glance.
“Don’t know,” said Landry. “I guess if they find a ticket on him that will answer that question.”
“Anything else that you can add?” asked Knox.
“Only to reiterate that I always believed Robert was innocent. But the evidence just didn’t cut our way. There were the photos provided by Robinson, his corroborating testimony, the computer files showing the online gambling and the debts, the financial paper trail. And then there was the DVD and the other coworker’s testimony. What was her name again?”
“Susan Reynolds,” supplied Puller.
“Right. She was a rock on the witness stand. But unlike Robinson, she, um—”
“Didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that she was helping to send my brother to prison for the rest of his life?”
Landry pointed at him. “Exactly. In fact, she seemed rather happy about it.” Landry shook his head. “Not a pleasant woman. Tough, ruthless even. Definitely not someone I would choose to hang out with. I investigated her, of course, to see if I could find any ammo to hit her with on the stand. But there was nothing there.”
“Well, maybe we’ll be more fortunate,” said Puller. He rose and extended his hand. “Thank you for your time.”
“No, thank you. And I hope the truth finally comes out,” said Landry. “And if your brother is innocent he shouldn’t have to spend one more minute in prison.”
They said their goodbyes as Knox looked worriedly at Puller.
A few minutes later they were walking back to the hotel.
Knox said, “Robinson dead. That’s a stunner.”
“Maybe not so much.”
“What do you mean?”
“Why would he go to the train station and be on a pay phone?”
Knox thought for a moment. “He was communicating with someone and they didn’t want to be seen together or have their cell phones tracked?”
“So who was he talking to when someone killed him?”
“Could be a lot of possibilities.”
“Maybe not as many as you think. He could communicate with the people who paid for his son’s treatment any number of ways. The pay phone, on the other hand, would be the perfect way for someone who couldn’t afford to be seen with Robinson to communicate with him without the risk that the conversation could be tracked.”
“Wait a minute, are you saying—”
“That it was my brother on the other end of that call.”
“But why would he talk to Robinson?”
“Robinson felt guilty about what he did. You heard Landry. I’m sure my brother noted that when Robinson testified. Maybe he thought that Robinson would be receptive to the truth finally coming out, if only to alleviate his guilt.”
“Do you think he might have figured out Robinson’s motive?”
“The sick child? Maybe. I saw the photo in Robinson’s office. My brother could have too, because I’m sure it would have been in Robinson’s office back in KC. You have to understand that my brother misses nothing. He sees it all. Never forgets anything. Now we need to find out everything about Robinson’s death.”
“So who killed him? Your brother? Maybe Robinson wouldn’t cooperate.”
“If that were my brother’s plan he wouldn’t have picked a place like Union Station. Too many people around. And he’s not a coldblooded killer. He could kill someone in self-defense, like at DB, but not over distance when he was in no personal danger. I think Robinson was followed, and when the follower saw what was going on he took the guy out.”
“And your brother?”