Page 98

Hell's Corner (Camel Club 5) David Baldacci 2022/8/8 14:21:19

Stone didn’t hesitate. “Only once in my career. When I was in the army.”

“Are you glad you did?”

“Ever disobey an order when you were at Triple Six?”

“Are you glad you didn’t?”

“No. It’s one of the biggest regrets of my life.”

She lowered her gun and then holstered it. “Well, this is my one time.”

Stone looked surprised. “Why?”

“For a lot of reasons I don’t care to discuss right now.”

“But won’t you suffer for not carrying out the mission?”

“I’m a lady who likes to take her chances in the face of adversity.”

“You’ll have to watch your back now.”

“I’ve been doing that ever since I joined up.”

“Will I see you again?”

“The future is promised to no one.”

She turned and walked to the door but then looked back. “Take care of yourself, Oliver Stone. Oh, one more thing, you can put your gun away. You won’t need it now. At least not with me. But don’t turn your back on Riley Weaver. That would be a mistake. Cheers.”

A moment later Mary Chapman was gone.

Stone slowly put his gun back in the desk drawer and closed it. As soon as he’d seen the dot on his desk he’d aimed his gun toward the kneehole. He was glad he hadn’t had to fire. Chances were very good they each would have killed the other.

He was not tired though the hour was very late. He didn’t need as much sleep as he used to. Age, he supposed, did that to you. He waited a bit and then got up and walked. He walked so far that he reached the spot where it all began.

Not Murder Mountain. That’s where it all began for John Carr.

He looked around the confines of Lafayette Park. This is where it all began for Oliver Stone. And for many reasons he knew this was also where he belonged. He looked across at the White House where the president was no doubt sleeping soundly even after narrowly avoiding an assassination attempt.

aced the grounds of the park, nodding to security personnel who knew him well. He wondered if Alex Ford would ever be standing out here again on protection duty. He would now be a revered legend at the Service, a hero to his president and his country. Stone would have preferred simply having his friend whole again.

His thoughts next turned to Chapman, who would finally be returning to her little island. Maybe he would make a trip across the pond to see her. Just maybe. He sat down at the same bench where Marisa Friedman had perched that night when an explosion rocked Lafayette. That had started everything in motion. Now it was calm once more.

Stone looked over at the maple tree freshly planted in its new home. It looked like it had always belonged here.

Just like some people.

Oliver Stone sat back, drew a long breath and continued to admire the view.

To Mitch Hoffman, who knew “hell” could be so much fun;

To David Young, Jamie Raab, Emi Battaglia, Jennifer Romanello, Tom Maciag, Martha Otis, Anthony Goff, Kim Hoffman, Bob Castillo, Roland Ottewell and all at Grand Central Publishing, who support me every day;

To Aaron and Arleen Priest, Lucy Childs Baker, Lisa Erbach Vance, Nicole James, Frances Jalet-Miller and John Richmond, for keeping me straight and true;

A special shout-out to Maja Thomas, for taking my digital world to a whole new level;

To Maria Rejt, Trisha Jackson and Katie James at Pan Macmillan, for helping me rock across the pond;

To Grace McQuade and Lynn Goldberg, for superb publicity;

To Donna, to whom I owe the title;

To Scot, thanks for the assist;

To Neal Schiff, for all your help on Bureau procedures;

To Bob Scule, for your eagle eye and lobbying insight;

To Frank Verrastro and John Hamre, for the D.C. details;

To Marisa Friedman, Stephen Garchik, the family of Dr. Fuat Turkekul and Tom Gross, hope you enjoyed your roles, and the various charities you contributed to certainly benefited;

To Lynette, Deborah and Natasha, and you know why.