He had come from nothing, having traveled over an ocean as a stowaway in a cargo ship to get there. He had no friends, no contacts, and no prospects. No support.

And then he felt his luck had changed whe

n he’d answered an ad for a job and run smack into Jericho.

He didn’t know he was to become a guinea pig as a way to achieve her vision for what the world in the future should look like.

He put the ring back on, dried off, changed into the only clean clothes he had, sat down on the bed, and gazed at the still sleeping Suzanne Davis.

It really all came down to Building Q. Jericho was there. She had to be there. He had tried the mansion in North Carolina. He had killed—or at least thought he had killed—Chris Ballard.

He had two possible leads to Jericho.

One was Josh Quentin.

The other was lying right in front of him.

Quentin worked for Atalanta, which meant he worked for Jericho.

And what exactly was going on in that room? Not just sex, drugs, and alcohol, surely.

If he could find out? And if it was something illegal or something that Quentin would not want to be made public he could possibly use that to get to Jericho.

It was a long shot, he knew. But right now all he had were long shots.

Davis had been adopted, or so she’d told him. Had Ballard been the one? If so, could he use her to get to Ballard and then to Jericho?

He rubbed his head. But I killed Ballard. Or did I?

“You look like your head might explode.”

He looked up to find Davis awake and watching him.

“Just thinking through some things.”

She sat up against the headboard. “Can I help?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Okay. You hungry? I’m starving.”

“There’s a place around the corner.”

“Give me a couple minutes.”

She washed up and put her clothes on. They walked to the diner. Davis ordered half the menu and ate it all. Rogers could only manage coffee.

“You still have food poisoning?” she asked, a forkful of scrambled eggs poised in front of her mouth.

He nodded and went back to his thoughts.

Quentin might be a better track to Jericho than Davis. He apparently didn’t bother locking up the house on the beach. Rogers could get in and make him do what needed doing. And what could he really do with Davis? Go to the Ballard mansion and hold her hostage until Jericho walked out? That wasn’t going to happen. He needed subtlety here. Problem was, he was engineered for brute action. He started counting in his head again.

Jericho is one smart lady. She’s playing chess, you can’t play checkers. Brains, not muscle, will get you there.

Yes, Quentin over Davis made a lot of sense. He would use him to get to Jericho.

He glanced up at Davis as she bit into a piece of toast. And the truth was—he couldn’t quite believe he was actually admitting this to himself—he didn’t want to do anything to get Davis hurt. It was an astonishing revelation for him, because Rogers had long, long ago ceased caring about anyone.

But now?

“You need a ride home?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I didn’t go to the bar last night with Josh. I drove. You can drop me. I’m at a parking lot across the street from the bar.”

“Okay.”

“Okay,” she parroted back. “So we’re done here?”

He fiddled with a paper napkin and glanced up at her. “Meaning?”

“Meaning are we done here? You and me?”

“Yeah, I think we are.”

She reached into her purse and put some cash down on the table. Inside the purse he could see the pistol.

She saw him looking at it. “Beretta,” she said. “Mini Cougar model. Fits my hand really well. Double-stack mag chambered in nine mil. And I’m partial to Italian made. They’ve been in business since 1526, did you know that?”

“No.”

“So they must know what they’re doing, right? I mean, come on, all that time? Nearly five centuries? I mean, shit.”

“Right.”

“Took that guy out last night with it, right? Dropped him on the floor, right?”

“Right.”

“Else you’d be fucking dead. Right?”

He looked at her and she looked back at him.

“Right,” she said, answering her own question. “Don’t forget that.” She stood. “Let’s go.”

He dropped her off back at the parking lot and watched her get into the Benz convertible. She put the top down, slid on her sunglasses, and drove off without acknowledging him.

Rogers sat in his van and then reached into the glove box and pulled out the M11-B. He held it in his right hand. Looking in the rearview mirror, he pressed the muzzle against his temple. He thought back to that night, long ago, when a revolver had been held by Jericho against this very temple. She told him she was going to pull the trigger again and again at random intervals. She told him she didn’t know if the gun was fully loaded or not.

The test was to demonstrate whether the emotion of fear had been fully eradicated from his brain.

He was strapped into a chair with wires and electrodes measuring every part of his mental activity, including all emotional points.

He had endured five minutes and five trigger pulls of the six-shot weapon, three of them rapid-fire.

No bullet had erupted from the barrel. Otherwise he would not be here.

And he had never once flinched.

After the test was successfully concluded, he had been released. Jericho had handed him the gun. He had aimed it at a dummy target and pulled the trigger.

The bullet blasted a hole in the dummy’s head.

Part of him believed that Jericho knew exactly how many bullets were in the gun and had no intention of killing her prized creation.

The other part of him believed her to be a purist when it came to testing and the sacrifice of his life would be but a small price to pay to maintain that high quality of scientific validation.

He got into his van and drove to near Fort Monroe. He knew he would have to get another ride because the van might have been seen. He trekked on foot to Building Q and took up surveillance. With any luck he might spot Quentin, or even her.

And if he did see her, he might not be able to control himself. He might just attack.

He didn’t care if he died, so long as she did too.


Tags: David Baldacci John Puller Thriller
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