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Книга Whiplash. Содержание - 45

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Savich's cell pounded out Michael Jackson's "Thriller." He frowned when he saw who was calling, turned and walked out of the conference room into the police station hallway, empty except for a single teenage boy who was sitting on a wooden bench scratching his head, his mother standing over him, her arms crossed over her chest, looking pissed.

"Savich. What's up, sir?"

Five minutes later, Savich returned. "That was Mr. Maitland." He paused a moment, frowning down at his thumbnail. "Vice President Valenti is still alive. He's been in surgery for about two hours now. The doctors have told the family that besides several broken bones, he has critical internal injuries. I'm sorry, Bowie,

Mr. Maitland said they've stopped the bleeding, and he might make it, but it doesn't look good. Everyone agrees it's a miracle he survived the crash at all.

"He was doing at least eighty miles an hour, maybe faster, before his car hit the tree head-on. He was driving on a two-lane country road, no cars in front of him and no cars behind him except for the Secret Service. There were no skid marks, no sign at all that he ever tried to turn or swerve to avoid the collision. Mr. Maitland said it's as if he aimed the car right at the oak. The tree was some eight feet off the road on fairly level ground.

"The vice president had been in a meeting with his staff, left them to drive to the birthday party in Jessup." He looked at Sherlock. "Turns out he and Senator David Hoffman are longtime friends, and both are car freaks. The vice president had arranged to borrow Senator Hoffman's new high-end Mercedes Brabus, the E V12 Biturbo, to drive to Jessup to his granddaughter's birthday party. He wanted to see if all the hoopla was true, that's what Senator Hoffman told Mr. Maitland. Senator Hoffman said his last words to Vice President Valenti were 'Don't wreck my baby.'"

Erin said into the silence, "I'll bet the vice president was on a back road because he wanted to play. It was early in the morning, no one would be out driving around, so he could let her rip."

Savich nodded. "Mr. Maitland said Valenti's Secret Service agents were maybe twenty yards behind the Mercedes, trying to keep up. The agents say they heard a metallic popping sound, and a crash. They came around a bend in the road and saw the Mercedes smashed against the oak tree, smoke billowing out of it. They got the vice president out of the car real fast because they were afraid it would catch fire and explode.

"That wasn't reported and probably won't be unless questions are raised about why the Secret Service was so far behind while the vice president was nearly getting himself killed."

Bowie said, "Did they see anything else, like another car nearby? Anything suspicious?"

Savich said, "No. The car is being taken apart and examined thoroughly. Mr. Maitland said it's a hell of a mess. He wants me back in Washington as soon as possible."

Bowie said, "Georgie and I will go down, hopefully this weekend, but that's for personal reasons. Why you?"

Savich said, "Thing is, since Senator Hoffman is involved, Mr. Maitland believes I should come back. There's what you'd call a problem here, and I'm already involved in it."

Erin forgot about her throbbing back and stared hard at Savich. She said slowly, thinking her way, "Dillon, are you saying that case of arsenic poison at the restaurant in Washington is related to the vice president's accident?"

Sherlock said without fuss, always a smooth liar, one of the skills Savich most admired in her, "Not a clue, but Dillon has to go check it out since Senator Hoffman's already asked for him personally once. Bowie, we're really sorry about Vice President Valenti. It will be all right that Dillon's in Washington for a couple of days. I'll keep digging here."

Bowie's cell phone started up "Silver Bells" again. He looked wildly around for his cell. Erin dug into the tray and handed it to him.

When he punched off, he said, "That was Agent Kesselring. He's on his way. The two directors from Schiffer Hartwin aren't far behind him." He shook his head. "I almost forgot about them. Savich, Sherlock, you guys with me on this?"

"Oh, yes," Sherlock said. Savich smiled and nodded.

Bowie turned at the light knock on the conference room door, then watched Andreas Kesselring stride in.


Andreas Kesselring, looking polished as usual in a gorgeous pale gray suit, a pristine white shirt, and a subdued skinny-striped gray and black tie, stood a moment in the doorway of the conference room until all their attention was on him. He said to Bowie, his voice low to show the depths of his displeasure, "Why did you not call me? I had to find out about Mr. Royal's murder from three waitresses talking to each other when they brought my breakfast in the hotel dining room."

Three waitresses brought him his breakfast? Sherlock thought it was odd that he lowered his voice when he was truly angry. He sounded so finely controlled, though his anger was so hot it nearly glowed. "I called Agent Painter, the FBI agent you assigned to me, but he was unavailable. His cell phone didn't appear to be turned on."

Sherlock gave Kesselring her sunny smile. "Good morning, Agent Kesselring. To be perfectly honest here-and that is always my motto-no one thought about it. So much has happened in such a short time, you see, and since all of us were about to fall over from exhaustion, we had to get just a bit of sleep, not that much for any of us, only a couple of hours. But you are here now." She looked down at her watch. "I hope the directors will arrive soon."

Kesselring said, "They will be here any moment. I was told their driver is escorting them, but they decided not to bring Mr. Bender and Mr. Toms. They are hoping for a more personal conversation, perhaps for some rapport and understanding with you.

"Both Herr Doktor Dieffendorf and Herr Gerlach are very upset about Mr. Royal's murder. We are all anxious to learn the details, since none of you chose to call me."

Kesselring strode to the conference room table and slapped both palms down right in front of Bowie. "I request that you tell me right now what has happened. The directors are reasonable men, but they fully expect me, an agent of the BND sent here to help, to know something useful. If I am to contribute to this case, I cannot be purposefully kept in the dark. I do not intend to fail in my assignment here. My career in the BND is very important to me."

Bowie put his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair. He smiled up at Kesselring.


"I'm thinking," Bowie said.

Kesselring cursed-at least Sherlock thought he was cursing since it was in German. Then he threw his hands up. "On top of that, I heard your vice president crashed his Mercedes into a tree and will probably die. Everything is falling apart, and here you are, Agent Richards, sitting here, thinking!"

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