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Книга Whiplash. Содержание - 49

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Maitland said, "Have all the Foggy Bottom Grill employees had lie detector tests as well?"

"Not all, but we've scheduled them. No one's refused and demanded a lawyer."

"Let me know the results. Then I want to hear you've got it figured out."

"You'll be the first. Go home, sir, get some sleep."


Savich knew it often came down to clearing out his mind. It was a matter of believing that all the facts one needed were there, waiting to be put together properly, not all that different from a picture puzzle.

After Mr. Maitland left, Savich checked on Sean, who was sleeping so deeply a clap of thunder probably wouldn't have disturbed his dreams. Then he returned to the living room and settled down, only to have his cell phone belt out Elton John. When he slipped the cell back into his pocket, he leaned his head back in his chair, closed his eyes, and thought about nothing at all. And what came immediately to his mind was Dane's call.

One of the Foggy Bottom Grill sous chefs, Emilio Gasparini, who'd been passed over in the first wave of lie detector tests because he'd said he'd been sick in bed with the flu, didn't show up for his rescheduled test. Dane's gut had started to salsa when he discovered Emilio hadn't shown up for his shift at the Foggy Bottom Grill either. Dane told Savich he'd bet his new kayak they'd find a drug problem or maybe gambling debts if they dug deeper. Emilio hadn't prepared the senator's shrimp that day, but he'd had access, and anyway, it didn't matter, because all the other Foggy Bottom Grill employees had passed their lie detector tests with flying colors.

Emilio was long gone. His apartment manager cursed when he found out Emilio had skipped on two months' rent.

Dane was worried Emilio might be dead, murdered by whoever had put him up to this. And the individual responsible for all this suffering, whoever he or she was, was still shrouded in mystery.

Savich let the questions drift through his mind. Whenever he hit a brick wall, he simply backed up and let his brain drift. He kept coming back to Aiden and Benson Hoffman, to what they'd said, and he wondered if the answers were there, in their own words.

Before he fell into bed, he read the transcript of their interview. Then he cleared his mind, called to Nikki, who didn't come.

Nothing came to him that night, neither ghost nor inspiration.




Saturday morning

Savich walked head down into the hospital, hoping no one from the media would notice him. He heard Jumbo Hardy of The Washington Post call out his name, but he didn't react, just kept walking. A Secret Service agent stood at the bank of elevators, first in a long line of agents on the way to the vice president. He showed the agent his creds and took the sole elevator that stopped on the third floor. He said nothing to the dozen family members and friends stuffed in the waiting room. He walked into the ICU, creds out, and stopped. Half of the ICU was given over to the vice president. Savich had expected there to be protection, but there were six Secret Service personnel stationed outside of Vice President Valenti's room, eyeing every person who came within twelve feet of them. It seemed a bit of overkill, maybe partly for show.

He spotted Secret Service Agent Alma Stone and pulled out his creds, flashing each guard as he passed.

"Alma, you've got yourself a fortress here."

"You got that right, Dillon. I was told you were coming to speak to Vice President Valenti. I'll tell you, he's barely conscious, but he wants to talk to you, insisted to his doctors when they dared to disagree. Those are two of his physicians now. These guys don't ever crack a smile, so don't worry about it."

She introduced him to two very serious-faced older men in white coats and scrubs, turned, and quietly opened the glass door.

The two doctors followed Savich into a private cubicle with curtained glass walls, quiet except for the sounds of the machines that kept Valenti tethered to life. There were only chairs and the bed in the room, no flowers, no cards, and enough equipment to launch a rocket, all of it beeping or whirring or humming in random rhythms.

A man and a woman stood by the window, arms crossed over their chests until Savich came in, and they straightened, their hands going closer to their sides, and their weapons.

Savich waited for Alma to nod her okay to the other agents. Then she patted his arm and left the small room. Savich looked hard at the two doctors who stationed themselves at the foot of the bed, giving them silent notice not to interfere, and walked to stand next to Valenti.

Valenti looked ten years older, his handsome hawk's face waxy gray, his eyelids bruised, oxygen tubes in his nose, one of his legs in a cast. He was fastened to several IVs, including one in his neck. His breathing was slow, but not all that labored, which was a relief to Savich.

Alex Valenti was in serious but stable condition, the media had announced with special reports and streamers running along the bottom of TV screens across the country.

The talking heads were at a loss, with nothing much left to speculate about.

Savich leaned down and lightly laid his palm on Valenti's forearm, above one of the IV lines. "Sir, I'm here."

The famous green eyes opened slowly. It took Valenti a while to focus, but when he did, Savich saw awareness and the blaze of ferocious intelligence in his eyes. "Savich. Good, you came. Do you know who did this to me? Was it terrorists? Is anyone taking credit? I know it wasn't an accident."

"No, it wasn't an accident. The car was sabotaged, but we don't think it was political or tied to terrorists. Sir, while we have the opportunity, could you please tell me about your relationship to Senator David Hoffman?"

Valenti blinked. "David? Why?" Savich saw a flash of pain, a moment of confusion.

One of the physicians came forward and pushed the morphine button beside Valenti. "That will help, sir. You'll feel better in a few minutes." He placed the button in Valenti's hand, and curled his fingers around it.

They all waited, the physicians' eyes on Valenti, until he had it together again. "Okay, that's better now. All right, I'll tell you about David and what he did-he got that incredible Mercedes to rub my nose in it. He knew I'd be mad to drive it, since I'd never driven a Brabus before. He was right. All I could think was what an incredible machine, I was flying, that amazing engine purring, it was more than anything I'd known in a long time."

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