Davis stood there dressed in white capri pants, sandals, a pale blue striped shirt, and a wide-brimmed sun hat. A pair of sunglasses dangled from her fingers.

“I’m heading down to the beach. You want to come?”

“I have to get back. It’s getting late.”

“When can I see you again?”

He stood. “Look, I’m old and you’re young. I’m poor and you’re not. You can have any guy you want. Rich, handsome ones like Mr. Quentin.”

“I’m not looking to marry you, Paul. I just want to know when we can hook up again.”

“I work tonight. You planning to come to the bar?”

“I wasn’t. But I am now.”

“Okay, I’ll see you then. If you’re in the VIP room I can’t go in there. Only Mr. Quentin’s guests can.”

“Stop calling him Mr. Quentin. You make him sound far more important than he is.”

“Well, he’s a very important client of the Grunt.”

“Whatever. I’ll see you tonight.”

Rogers pointed out the window. “I see a man on the beach with a bunch of guards. Is that where you’re going?”

She nodded.

“Is that the person who adopted you?”

“You ask a lot of questions,” she said, but in a humorous tone. “I’ll see you tonight.”

“Okay, sounds good.”

“Thanks for breakfast. And the rest,” she added, flicking a smile at him.

She left and he watched a few minutes later as she walked out to the beach and joined the old man.

Rogers drove back to Hampton more confused than he’d ever been.

Chapter

42

AFTER LEAVING KNOX, Puller had hoofed it to a rental place and a half hour later driven out in a Mitsubishi Outlander.

He had not discounted anything that Knox had told him. In fact, he believed every word.

If this project at Building Q had ended in the murders of four women, and possibly his mother as well, that would be a secret the government would go to great lengths to bury. And for very good reason.

Money drove the Defense Department as much as anything else. If this story got out, Puller could see billions and maybe tens of billions of dollars of defense spending drying up. And shoulder stars, promotions, and retirement packages might be eviscerated as fingers were pointed and blame placed.

And a lot of private contractors who made their living off Uncle Sam would see their bottom lines crash and burn, their stock prices crater, and their huge executive paychecks disappear.

What would folks do to prevent that?

Pretty much anything they have to.

He got a room at a motel, paying in cash. He’d had to use a credit card for the rental because there was no other way. They could track him that way, but he needed wheels. He hunkered down for the night while he thought over everything Knox had told him.

He was tempted to call his brother but didn’t want to do anything that might get Bobby put back in jail.

He ate breakfast the next morning at a place near the motel. After that he drove straight to Fort Monroe, parked, and hoofed it the rest of the way on foot.

He had a map of the fort and quickly located Building Q.

The first thing he noted was that it was obviously still active. The parking lot was full, the perimeter fenced and guarded. People came and went. Trucks arrived, unloaded or loaded, and left.

What he couldn’t see was what the hell they were doing inside there.

Over the hours he watched many people come and go. Some were older. Some younger. Men and women, with the majority being men. He read their body language and processed the possibilities.

He had counted nearly fifty people arriving and leaving when he settled on the one he wanted. He had seen her come and go twice now. Perhaps for a break. She had gotten into her car one of those times and headed out.

He snapped a picture of her with his phone as she was sitting idle at the security gate. As she passed by his hiding place, he noted her appearance up close. Around thirty, petite, unassuming. She had avoided direct eye contact with the security guards. Perhaps an introvert? She drove a beige Ford Fiesta that was as nondescript as she was.

Those were all good things for what he wanted to do.

Six o’clock came and a large group of people headed out the doors of Building Q. Puller found her in the crowd and hustled back to his car. When she passed by in her Fiesta he dropped in behind her.

They drove to what was most likely her apartment. She went directly inside.

Puller stayed in his car contemplating what to do. He could make his flanking maneuver now, or he could wait.

She came back out dressed in a short skirt, a low-cut blouse, and three-inch heels.

That was interesting.

He continued to follow her.

He looked at his watch. It was nearly eight p.m.

Puller wondered where the lady was headed.

She drove about a mile across town and parked her car on the street.

Puller did likewise.

He followed her down the street and around a corner.

And ran into a long line of people waiting to get in somewhere.

He looked up ahead and saw a sign over a door.

The Grunt?

He’d never heard of it, but then he’d never spent much time down here since he’d been a child.

The woman he was following was in the line ahead of him. Puller had two soldiers and a Navy guy in uniform behind him and a gaggle of college-age women in front of him. And the two groups were flirting with each other. Puller finally stepped behind the guys in uniform so they could more directly carry on their flirting with the ladies.

They finally worked their way up to the front, where a tall, well-built man in his fifties wearing a hat, glasses, and black clothing was checking IDs.

The woman Puller was following was cleared in, as were the young women behind her.

Then the soldiers stepped up to the line and presented their IDs.

The man checked them, held a light up to them, and handed them back.

“Nice try, guys,” he said.

“These are legit,” said one of the uniforms, a tall, thin male. “I’m twenty-two.”

“Maybe in another life.”

“This is crap,” snapped the man.

“My light says it’s a forgery, and the light is the judge,” said the bouncer.

“Listen, old man—”

That’s when Puller stepped in. He put a hand on the soldier’s arm.

When the guy whipped around, ready for a fight, he was staring at the clawed eagle on Puller’s CID badge.

The grunt stiffened.

“Bad luck for you all around, son,” said Puller. “Now, I have no jurisdiction over the water boy there,” he said, indicating the man in the Navy uniform. “But I sure as hell do over both of your butts. So turn back around and tell the man you’re sorry, and get back to your post. And consider yourself lucky I don’t haul your asses down to the stockade for using a fake ID, soldiers!”

Puller’s voice had steadily risen as he was speaking, and by the time he was done he was in full-on drill sergeant mode. The two uniforms jumped out of line and tried to do their best imitation of world-class sprinters. After a moment’s hesitation the Navy guy followed. They turned the corner and were soon out of sight.

Paul Rogers looked up at John Puller and put out his hand. He said, “Thanks for that. I never want any trouble.”

“That’s always a good way to look at things. And by the way, I’m old enough to drink.” He showed his ID card.

“Works for me, Mr. Puller. Have a good time.”

Puller walked past him and into the bar.

Rogers flicked a glance at him and then turned back to his work.

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