WITH NO WINDSHIELD and a crushed front bumper, Puller decided it would be best to ditch the ride and figure out the paperwork later. Finally he could hear sirens wailing and engines being gunned and he wondered what the cops would find when they got there. Would the guys still be inside the wrecked vehicles? Were they dead? If not, would they answer questions? Would this sucker finally start to unravel?
He hoofed it hard to a metro station and was about to enter the building and hop on a train when a car screeched to a stop directly next to him.
His hand automatically went to his sidearm. The window came down and what he saw truly astonished him.
Knox said, “You need a ride?”
The two stared at each other long enough for it to get uncomfortable. And also long enough for a car waiting behind her to honk its horn.
He opened the door and climbed in next to her.
“Put on your seat belt,” said Knox. “It might get bumpy. But then again it’s been a pretty bumpy night for you already, hasn’t it?”
“How did you find me? You’re supposed to be in a hospital bed.”
“Reach in your left pocket.”
“Just do it, Puller.”
He did as she asked and pulled out the small metal object.
“When did you put the tracking device in there?” he asked curtly.
“When I hugged you for the burgers. Susan Reynolds isn’t the only one good at sleight of hand.”
Puller stared fixedly at her. “So you figured out how she put the DVD in my brother’s pocket?”
“Just used a little magic,” said Knox as she pulled out of the metro station.
“Should you be driving in your condition?” he asked.
“I feel fine. I’m more worried about you.”
“Not sure what you’re talking about.”
“That was one wicked piece of driving back there. You should be proud. Take ownership of it, Puller.”
He dropped the tracking device into her cup holder. “I won’t be needing this anymore, and I’m sure you guys like to recycle.”
She ignored this and said, “Care to tell me what went down tonight?”
“Sounds like you had a front-row seat.”
“Actually I was in the nosebleed section. That’s why I’m asking for a recap.”
“So do you know who the guys were in the black vehicles?” he asked.
She smiled, but there was no mirth behind it. “And you’re asking me this why? I was just a spectator.”
“Just thought you might have an educated guess, being a spy and all. This is more your turf than mine.”
“Who were you protecting tonight, Puller?”
“Not sure what you mean?”
“You get a text, tear out of my hospital room without telling me where you’re going or even touching your delicious fries, and the next thing I know you’re playing monster truck derby in the middle of D.C.” She pulled to the curb and put the car in park. Turning to him, she added, “Must’ve been a really important reason. Or more specifically,person.”
“I’m not sure what you want me to say, Knox.”
“You’re all about the truth, Puller. You preach that all the time. You take me to gravestones of long-dead Custers to make your point. You pound it into my head. You throw it in my face. You make me feel like shit for holding back from you. So do I take your position to mean that that standard only cuts one way? And when you told me you never lied to me and never would, what was that? Having a little fun at the spy lady’s expense, you sonofabitch?”
She ended this tirade by clocking him in the jaw with her left fist, broken fingers and all. The blow stung because she was strong and knew how to throw a punch, but he didn’t feel much of it. Her words were hurting him a lot more.
She rubbed her damaged fingers and he brushed his hand against his chin and then looked out the window.
“If you don’t talk, we don’t get anywhere,” she said.
“Not sure I can do much talking on this one, Knox. Not sure at all.”
As he said this, his gut felt like someone had filled it with dry ice.
“I’m afraid that’s not going to cut it, Puller. There’s way too much at stake.”
He looked over at her. She was holding her phone, her finger poised over the send key.
“Who are you calling?” he asked.
“Well, I’ve got lots of people on speed dial, Puller. And you’d know the names of all of them. You see them in the newspapers and on the news shows. They’re the kind that hold news conferences and set policy and move the country in new directions. They keep us safe and they attack our enemies and they will have no problem stripping off your medals and ribbons and uniform and locking your ass up for the next millennium if the person in the truck back there was who I think it was.”
“And who do you think it was?”
“Are you doing this to annoy me? If so, don’t bother. I don’t believe I could be any more pissed off at you than I am right now.”
“It’s complicated, Knox.”
She laughed derisively. “Oh, really? From where I’m sitting it’s pretty simple. You came down on me for hiding evidence. Okay, fine. I deserved that. Well, now it’s my turn. What’s the penalty for aiding and abetting a convicted felon, Puller? You’re a military cop, you ought to know that off the top of your thick head.”
“I get the point, Knox.”
“No, I don’t think you do. This is not some little criminal case, Puller. This is not one bad guy out there who’s selling drugs on base, or did a little adulterous dance in bed with his CO’s wife, or stabbed someone because he just wanted to. This is national security. This is global. These are the highest stakes you will ever run into in your life. We could be talking about rogue WMDs.”
He sighed and stared over at her. “Been there, done that, Knox.”
Knox’s superior manner disappeared. “What?”
“It’s classified. But with all your speed dial friends, you’d have no problem finding it out. Bobby could explain it to you better than I can.”
Knox pursed her lips. “So it was ‘Bobby’ in the truck tonight?”
“And how long have you known his whereabouts?”
“And you realized that you had a duty to arrest him?”
“But you didn’t.”
“You’re in a ton of trouble, Puller.”
He nodded at this statement, his gaze directed over her shoulder. “Understatement, actually,” he said.
“So what am I supposed to do? I’ve got a duty too.”
“Then carry it out, Knox. Make the call. I’ll sit here while you do it.”
“You’re a real bastard for putting me in this situation, you know that?”
“Yeah, I pretty much do.”
“Is he filled in on everything?”