PULLER CLOSED THE curtains in the motel room in Hampton and turned back to Rogers, who was lying on the bed, still immobilized.
Knox was sitting in a chair next to the bed, gun in hand. Puller had filled her in on what his brother had told him.
Rogers eyed them. “What is it?”
Puller told him about Josh Quentin.
“I didn’t do it.”
“And we should just accept that as gospel?” retorted Knox, gripping her pistol.
His gaze drifted to the gun. “Aim for the head or the heart. Otherwise it won’t stop me.”
“Son of a bitch,” said Knox, shaking her head. “This is like sci-fi.”
Puller sat down in another chair and faced Rogers. “Okay, we need to have a come-to-Jesus meeting. Where have you been all these years?”
“Wandered around. Did some really bad shit but didn’t get caught. Then I was in prison for the last ten for manslaughter. Then I got paroled.”
“So you’re in violation of that parole.”
“I’m in violation of a lot of things.”
“Have you killed anyone else since you left prison, other than those guys who attacked you at the bar?”
“What do you care?”
“I’m trying to understand you, Paul. So I can decide whether to help you or throw you in a cage forever.”
Rogers looked away. “Two people in an alley who tried to rob me after I left prison. Then a gun dealer in West Virginia I stole an M11 pistol from. I wouldn’t have killed him, but he was going to shoot me.”
Knox and Puller exchanged glances. Puller said, “Why would you need a gun?”
“I wanted to return the favor for something Jericho did to me.”
Puller said, “A gun dealer? West Virginia? I heard that on the news.”
Knox said, “But his kid was with him. And he wasn’t harmed.”
Rogers said nothing.
Puller said, “Why didn’t you kill the boy too? He was a witness.”
“I…I just didn’t.”
“So you can control your…impulses?”
“I did then.”
“Do you know where they were taking you?”
“Probably to dump me in the ocean like Josh Quentin. Jericho had finished her tests and I’d told her what I knew about Ballard.”
Puller tensed. “You told us you’d tossed an imposter out the window but there was another man on the beach later. That must be the real Ballard.”
“I think the real Ballard is dead.”
“So why would they pretend that he’s still alive?” asked Knox.
Puller was quiet for a few moments before saying, “My brother told us that Ballard personally controlled all the patents for the technology that Jericho was selling off to private interests.” He looked at a quizzical Rogers. “That’s what was going on in the upstairs room at the bar. Quentin passed the secrets to Myers and she slipped them to some French businessman. Stuff was worth a fortune.”
Knox said, “So let’s say Ballard really is dead. I wonder where the ownership of those patents goes?”
Puller said, “His will would tell us that. But I don’t think they were going to Jericho. So if he is dead they might use the decoy old guys to keep up the impression that Ballard is alive. Maybe they performed plastic surgery to make them look like Ballard. I guess when you have that much at stake, you’d do pretty much anything.”
“But when people visited wouldn’t they know the person wasn’t Ballard when he started talking?”
“Not if they said he had Alzheimer’s or dementia or something like that. Then nobody would expect him to…to be able to be who he was.”
Knox looked at him and seemed to understand that Puller could easily have been talking about his father.
Knox looked over at Rogers. “This guy has already admitted to killing one of the decoys plus others. We don’t know that he didn’t kill Quentin. I think we need to go to the co—”
Knox didn’t finish her sentence, because Rogers had leapt up, stripped Knox of her gun, spun her around, and held the weapon to her head.
Puller swung his pistol around, but Rogers said, “Put it down or she’s dead.”
“You don’t have to do this, Paul.”
“Just call me Rogers. Neither one is my real name, so who cares?”
“You can’t go it alone,” said Puller.
“Put the gun down, Puller. I won’t ask again. And I don’t care if I die. But I think your partner here does.”
Puller slowly lowered his gun.
Rogers immediately let go of Knox and handed her gun back to her. He sat down on the bed and rubbed the back of his head while they both gazed down at him.
He glanced up at them. “The nerve block wore off before we even got here.”
“So why didn’t you kill us when you had the chance?” said Puller.
“And why give me my gun back?” added Knox.
“I didn’t kill Quentin.”
He got up and went into the bathroom, where they could hear him being violently sick.
Puller looked at Knox. “I believe him.”
“So do I.”
“He seems to be falling apart.”
Rogers staggered out of the bathroom a few minutes later and fell on to the bed.
“You going to be okay?” asked Puller.
“No, I’m not, but I’m still going to get Jericho.”
“Quentin is dead. Maybe Myers is too. Jericho might be tying up loose ends.”
“That doesn’t mean she’s not dead. And there’s another gal too, Suzanne Davis.”
“The one who saved your life back at the bar?” said Puller.
“Jericho apparently adopted her. She was at Ballard’s. She knows what’s going on too. She sort of babysits the old guys.”
Puller glanced at Knox. “If we can get to either of them, Myers or Davis, we could use them to nail Jericho.”
“That’s a long shot, since we don’t know where they are, or whether they’ll cooperate.”
“It’s the only shot we have.” Puller looked at Rogers. “How have you controlled the impulse to kill over the years, Rogers?”
Rogers took a chest full of air and let it go. “At first I thought it was something that I worked through when I was in isolation in prison. But Jericho took a brain scan during her testing. She said my brain had rewired itself both in and around the implant. So maybe that was it. I don’t know. I’m not a scientist. I’m just the guinea pig.”
“So maybe who you used to be is coming back?” suggested Puller.
Rogers gaped at him. It was clear he had never considered this possibility.
“I’m not sure I even remember who I was,” he said quietly.