“Sorry, we had to hurry on that one. And I didn’t know you’d be following him.”

“But why kill Carter?” asked Robert.

“He suspected me,” said Reynolds. “Despite what he might have told your brother, there was going to be an investigation. And that would have been bothersome to me.”

Knox said, “Let’s go.” She shoved Puller ahead of her while Reynolds kept her gun on Robert.

As they walked to the door Puller broke his silence. Speaking in a voice only Knox could hear, he said, “How did you manage that attack in the alley in Charlotte?”

“I thought you might be wondering about that. My gun had blanks. I got you to go running after the others, which gave the ‘dead man’ plenty of time to disappear, after leaving some of his blood behind, of course.”

“Why do it at all?”

“I knew you were still suspicious of me. That was a way to allay that suspicion.”

Puller said, “So was it for the money? Just for kicks? Professional envy? Not getting promoted fast enough? Or maybe missing your fast life?”

“Maybe all of the above.”

“I don’t know about that,” said Puller.

As they walked she looked curiously at him. “What, then?” she said in a casual tone.

“I think your old man had twice the guts you had. You knew you could never live up to that. You probably just invented the bullshit about him. Did you kill him and then come up with the lie about the suicide?”

Knox was unfazed by this barb. “Maybe I did. And after I kill you maybe I can make up some bullshit about how you groveled for your life. Or maybe it won’t be bullshit. Maybe you will. Maybe you’re not nearly as tough as you think you are, Junior.”

“And maybe you’re not as smart as you think.”

“Well, I am holding my gun on you.” She paused and then gave him a knowing look “You wanted me, Puller. In your bed. I could see it in your eyes.”

They were outside the house now and heading to the car. Knox’s voice had risen, and Robert, who had heard this part, quickly glanced at his brother.

“I’d rather put a bullet in my head than lay one finger on you,” said Puller.

“I know you wanted me. You can’t deny that. And it’s not like I’m unattractive.”

“Sure you are, Knox. On the inside. You could be the poster child for ‘beauty is only skin deep.’ My gut on you was right. I couldn’t trust you, because you have no spine.”

“I was wounded on behalf of my country,” she snapped.

“So was I. But I never let scum like her”—he pointed at Reynolds—“talk me into betraying my oath. You’re weak, Knox. Weak. You’re nothing.”

Now Knox’s superior look faded. She stopped walking, turned to Robert, and shoved the muzzle of her gun against his head. “Get on your knees!”

“What?” said a startled Robert.

“On your knees. Now!”

Robert got down on his knees. Knox placed her gun muzzle against the back of his neck and looked at Puller.

“You want to apologize for that comment? Or he’ll get a bullet in his head.”

Puller looked down at his brother and then back up at Knox. “You really want to do this?” he said quietly.

“I have a better idea. I can shoot him with your throwaway.”

She slipped the revolver out of her pocket, pulled back the hammer, and placed the barrel against Robert’s skull.

“You have three seconds to say you’re sorry to me, Puller, or big brother is no more. One, two—”

“I’m sorry,” said Puller.

Knox fired anyway. But she had angled the muzzle to the left so that the round didn’t hit Robert. He yelled out and dropped to the ground clutching his head.

Puller started to rush to his brother, but Reynolds pointed her gun in his face.

Robert sat up and glowered at Knox. “I think you blew out my eardrum.”

“Better than blowing your brains out. I hear you’ve got a big one. Now get up!”

Robert struggled to his feet, still clutching his ear.

When they reached the Lexus, Knox said, “Let’s secure them.”

Reynolds nodded and used zip ties to bind the Pullers. They all climbed into the Lexus. Knox drove. The Pullers sat in back and Reynolds in the passenger seat with her gun trained on them both.

They headed back into D.C. and, following Reynolds’s directions, Knox pulled into an underground parking garage. It was well after midnight and the parking garage was full of cars because it was a residential building.

Knox used a knife to cut the zip ties. “If we meet anyone along the way and you make any attempt to communicate with them, you’re dead and so are they.”

They rode in an elevator to the main floor, and then took a private elevator up to the twelfth floor, for which Reynolds had a key card. The car emptied into a wood- and granite-lined vestibule. Knox nudged Puller in the back with the muzzle of her pistol. They walked into the first room of the vestibule, which turned out to be a large space with walls of windows that offered sweeping vistas of the downtown D.C. area. The lights in the room were dimmed.

Puller looked around. So did Knox and Robert.

However, Reynolds was not at a loss. She stared into one corner of the room where there was situated a desk.

Someone was sitting behind the desk. Only his silhouette was visible.

Reynolds turned to Knox. “I wasn’t going to bring you here,” she said. “Until you did what you did to those two,” she added, indicating the Pullers. “You scared Robert shitless and humbled his egotistical brother. What could be better?”

Knox eagerly eyed the figure behind the desk. “May I be formally introduced?”

Reynolds switched on a light. It barely illuminated the room. Everything was cast in shadows. But there was one thing they could see clearly.

Knox gasped. Puller took a step closer.

Robert said nothing, but he stared at the man sitting rigidly behind the desk.

From the shadows, James Schindler stared back at them, his eyes wide and penetrating. He seemed to be silently appraising the situation.

Knox pulled her gaze from Schindler and looked at Reynolds. “I have to hand it to you, your access goes right to the top.”

Reynolds smiled. “For what we’re planning we needed it.”

“And now I can help you execute that plan.”

“Which is why we’re here. But first things first.” She pulled her gun, slid a suppressor on the muzzle, pointed it at Robert Puller, and said, “You can’t believe how long I’ve waited for this.”

Before she could fire Knox kicked the gun out of her hand. Then she whirled and clipped Reynolds’s legs out from under her. The woman fell hard to the floor.

A moment later Knox tossed two guns. A stunned Puller caught one and Robert the other. The brothers looked confusedly at each other.

Puller said, “Knox, what the hell is—”

Knox yelled out, “I’ll explain later. Keep your guns on Reynolds. Don’t let her out of your sight.”

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