Книга Whiplash. Содержание - 51

"Let's get back to you and Senator Hoffman. Are you still good friends?" Savich saw Valenti had to shift mental gears, that it wasn't simply automatic. He had to work at it.

"David and I are the best of friends. We've known each other for a thousand years, well, maybe a hundred is closer."

"Very longtime friends," Savich said, all of which he already knew.

"Yes, all the way back to just after we all graduated college. It was odd, really, now that I think about it. Both David and I knew-knew all the way to our bones-that we wanted to go into politics. We took different routes, though. David wanted Congress from the get-go but I preferred state government. I was reelected governor of Virginia the same year David won his first election to the Senate. He'd been a congressman for fourteen years before that."

"And you, sir, before you were elected governor?" Of course Savich knew every single fact about Valenti, but he wanted him thinking and focused.

"I started out local, mayor of Richmond, then moved to state government, worked up to governor. I hope I did some good, I tried. Three years ago, when I was in my third term as governor, President Holley tapped me as his running mate. I hadn't considered it, really didn't want it, but David was one of those who talked me into accepting the nomination. Of course my wife and children were great assets in the campaign, they still are."

"During these years, your family and Hoffman's family got together a lot?"

If the vice president wondered at the direction of these questions, he didn't let on. Savich imagined he was pleased to be able to talk and make sense.

"Yes, of course. I knew David's wife, Nikki, ever since we both attended the same high school. Then Nikki went to Stanford on a scholarship-she was very smart and so sweet. I went to Harvard, a tradition in my family going back to my grandfather.

"Did you ever meet Nikki, Agent Savich?"

"Yes I did, in a way."

"Her death wasn't a shock, but I'll tell you, it was difficult for all of us, David in particular. I'll catch myself thinking of her even now, wondering what she'd have to say about this or that.

"Like all eighteen-year-olds, we thought we were in love, but of course when you're young, life is always nearly too serious to bear. Nikki went to Stanford and met David. At Harvard I met my wife, Elyssa. She was two years behind me, at Radcliffe. I remember it was Nikki who got us all together back then. We've been great friends ever since." Valenti tried for a smile and managed a small one. "Our families ended up living within driving distance of each other."

"You're also close to the Richards family, I know. Bowie sends his best wishes."

"Oh, yes, we all go back nearly to the ark. Bowie's a cracker FBI agent. We were pleased when he came back east."

"What do you think of Senator Hoffman's sons, Aiden and Benson?"

Valenti closed his eyes and fell silent. He whispered, sounding so tired, it worried Savich, "I don't know what to say."

"The truth, sir."

"I don't guess it matters, everyone knows what they are. Frankly, both Aiden and Benson are disappointments. Nikki never got over how they turned out. They resent their father's tight hold on his own money. When Nikki died three years ago, David simply let them go. I remember he told me they're adults and there was nothing more he could do."

"Have you ever known them to be violent?"

"Yes, actually. With women. David hushed up a couple of assaults on women they were seeing, paid them off so they wouldn't press charges. Spoiled men acting out."

"I've spoken to both Aiden and Benson. They tell me you're an excellent driver. You've driven competitively in Europe."

Another smile brought on a dash of pain with it. Savich watched the vice president press the button for another hit of morphine.

"Yes, Elyssa has always hated that passion of mine because it scared her so much. Now she wants desperately to say 'I told you so,' but since I'm down and out, she can't."

Savich said, "The two gentlemen standing at the end of your bed say you're not going to die, sir."

"I'm pleased, at least most of the time now." Valenti fell silent a moment, studying Savich's face.

"Tell me what happened."

Valenti gave Savich a small nod. "I see you have no doubts at all about this. Good, because there's no other way it makes sense. I was taking a turn hard, testing the cornering a bit, when something jostled in the wheel. Then the steering failed completely. I jerked the wheel back and forth, but it didn't work. Then it all happened fast. I hit the brakes, but I was moving too fast, must have been near eighty. I saw that tree and I hit it in the same instant. Then it was lights out. I didn't understand it, but I knew it wasn't an accident, even while it was happening."

Savich was bursting with more questions, but he realized Valenti was fading. He leaned close to the vice president's face and said quietly, "Rest now, sir. I will see you again, and count on it, I will find an answer for you." He nodded to the physicians and the Secret Service agents and left the room. Secret Service Agent Alma Stone was soon beside him, escorting him to the door of the ICU.

"You're on your own from here, Dillon. Do you know we caught a media yahoo up here early this morning? No idea how he managed to slip through this far, and he refused to tell us, babbled about the freedom of the press."

"Keep him safe, Alma."

"You can count on that. Give my love to Sherlock and Sean."

"If you need me for anything, Alma, I'll be down the hall speaking to Mrs. Valenti."




The Glenis Springs Country Club boasted a bitch of a course, club golfers were heard to remark fondly. Even though the clubhouse hadn't been updated since 1981, the course was buffed and polished and improved upon every year.

Sherlock bypassed the red stone and glass clubhouse and walked down a stone path, past the pro shop, toward the first tee. In the distance she saw a half-dozen tennis courts, all of them in use. It was a beautiful day, in the mid-sixties, and she hoped Mick Haggarty was giving tennis lessons on one of the courts. Surely Jane Ann Royal would not be here with Mick, not with her husband brutally murdered in her laundry room early yesterday morning. Surprise was usually a good thing.

She was frankly surprised she didn't find Mick Haggarty. She checked in at the pro shop and learned he had an appointment at the Royal house. Go figure that.

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