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Книга Whiplash. Содержание - 48

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"Yeah, but after that, all he did was preach to us about the value of education. He was a pain in the butt, and now his son, Derek, is going to marry Dad's aide, Corliss. Isn't that a kick? I always thought Corliss wanted Uncle Gabe, not his dorky son."

Aiden said, "That's true. She's young enough to be his daughter, but when we've seen them together, there's this sort of embarrassment, you know? And they look at each other when they think no one else will notice. Old Uncle Gabe, I wonder what he thinks about Derek getting her rather than him."

Now this was interesting, Savich thought. "What about your relationship with your dad?"

"Our dad?" Benson said, a trimmed eyebrow shooting up at least a supercilious inch. "What do you want to know about that?"

"I understand your dad spoke to you about his odd midnight visitations," Savich said.

Benson snorted again, more contempt oozing out. "Oh, that. The visitations? Come on, I mean, get a grip here, Dad. Aiden and I could never figure out that little scam. He hasn't sung that song for a while now, I guess he's had his fun with us."

Aiden said, "He only talked about it to us one time. I don't know what he saw, but it must have been something that scared him good because he even suspected that we were the ones behind it. It isn't true, of course. To be honest, we nodded and looked interested because we didn't know what else to do. We even stayed there one night to check it out, but of course there wasn't anything."

"It's funny, really," Benson said, and both his eyes and voice were hot now. "So many people admire our dad, claim he's exactly what our country needs. I've heard people call him a genius. A genius?" Ben let out a bitter laugh. "Our dad claims to see an alien outside his bedroom window. Come on. I'll tell you, the only thing he's good at is being a politician. He's like all the rest of them, a self-serving clown. To this day he won't let us have what is rightfully ours, because we weren't good at slaving away at some low-class office jobs he picked for us."

Aiden said quickly, "It was a brokerage firm, actually."

Benson overrode him. "It was all bull, just like the positions we have now. Then my bitch wife divorced me for no good reason-and my father is so mean-spirited he gave her a sizable payment from my trust, and locked down the principal for both of us until we're fifty. Fifty! I can't even afford the maintenance on my seventy-five-foot StarBird any longer. Dad could buy a new StarBird, pay for it out of household cash, but of course he refuses. It isn't fair."

Aiden looked like he wanted to jump in and agree with his brother, but he was smarter than that. Savich said, "Neither of you considered this manifestation could be the work of a stalker of some sort, someone out to hurt him? You didn't consider that your father could be in any danger?" Savich watched the two men, saw them exchange a look. He felt a tug of pity for Senator Hoffman. He found himself wondering what Hoffman's sons were like at Sean's age. Had they already shown signs of becoming the self-absorbed whiners they were today? Or were they innocent and eager and smart, like Sean, then somehow, for whatever reason, they'd changed utterly into what they'd become?

Savich gave them a chance to jump in, but all he got were another couple of shrugs. He said, "All right, then, so you weren't worried that your dad was in any danger. I would like to know what you and Benson think about what happened to Vice President Valenti."

Aiden sat forward. "Ben and I talked about this while we were waiting for you. We've always known Uncle Alex to be a really good driver. Back before he won his first election to the House of Representatives, he and dad were drinking at our house to his last hurrah-and then he flew to France and drove in Le Mans. Dad said Uncle Alex could have tried his hand at racing professionally."

Benson picked it up. "Yeah, he was a great driver once upon a time. But hey, Valenti's getting up there, he must have pushed the Brabus faster around that curve than he could handle. We all saw what that tree did to the car."

"Your father told me on the phone that he doesn't believe it was an accident," Savich said. "He's scared and he's angry. He believes the car was rigged." He stopped, waited.

"What?" Aiden asked blankly. "You're saying someone wanted to murder Vice President Valenti? That doesn't make any sense. Why would you murder the Vice President of the United States? I mean, they don't do anything, for God's sake. Is that really what you think happened?"

Savich rose, splayed his palms on the conference table, looked at each man in turn, both older than he was but not yet grown men. He strongly doubted they ever would be. He said, "The FBI is examining what remains of the car carefully. We hope to know for certain what happened. Until then, I would appreciate your not adding to any speculation.

"The fact is, very few people knew your father was going to lend the Brabus to Alex Valenti, so the vice president is not the likely target.

"So, tell me, who, other than yourselves, do you think might benefit from your father's death?"

Benson Hoffman laughed. "Other than us? Not more than a thousand people, I imagine. As I said, he's a politician."

Aiden didn't disagree, just tried to look pained.



Friday evening

Savich played basketball with Sean until he nearly fell asleep waiting his turn for a free throw. Savich lightly wiped a damp washcloth over his face, put him into his Transformer pajamas, tucked him into bed, kissed him, and turned out the lights. He stood a moment in the doorway, looking toward his son's bed with its blue dinosaur quilt. The dim light coming through the bedroom window outlined his small body, and Savich wondered again, had David Hoffman looked at his sleeping boys and felt his heart swell?

He was making himself a cup of tea while working on MAX in the kitchen, when the doorbell rang. He glanced at his Mickey Mouse watch. It was nearly ten o'clock. Because he was a cop, before he opened the door he called out, "Who is it?"

It was Jimmy Maitland, and he looked harried and tired, near the end of his rope.

"No coffee for you, sir," he said, and steered his boss to the sofa. Maitland nearly tripped over Astro, just emerging from beneath a big easy chair.

Maitland leaned down and picked him up, settled him on his leg, and to Astro's delight, he began lightly rubbing his ears. He let out a big sigh. "The Valenti case is going to be a monster. I've spent all evening with the forensics team looking at what's left of the steering linkage. It was pretty cleverly done, a small charge tied in to the speedometer. They're still looking for traceable components.

"I'm glad you're with us here on this, Savich, even if Sherlock is still up in Connecticut. You've done a good job already with that, caught Schiffer Hartwin cold with that planned Culovort shortage. They'll probably end up paying out a year's profit. Dice said chances are after they pay the fine, it's back to business as usual, like all the drug companies."

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