The Fix (Amos Decker series) by David Baldacci
IT WAS NORMALLY one of the safest places on earth.
But not today.
The J. Edgar Hoover Building was the world headquarters of the FBI. It opened in 1975 and had not aged well—a blocks-long chunk of badly dilapidated concrete with honeycomb windows, and fire alarms and toilets that didn’t work. There was even safety netting strung around the top of the building to catch chunks of crumbling concrete before they could fall to the street below and kill someone.
The Bureau was trying to build a new facility to house eleven thousand employees, but a new location hadn’t even been chosen. So the opening of a new headquarters was about two billion dollars and seven years away.
For now, this was home.
The tall man striding down the tree-lined sidewalk was Walter Dabney. He had taken an Uber to a coffee shop down the street, ordered some food, and was now walking the rest of the way. He was in his sixties, with thinning salt-and-pepper hair parted on the side. It looked recently cut, with a bit of cowlick in the back. His suit was expensive and fit his portly frame with the touch of a tailored hand. A colorful pocket square adorned the front of his dark suit. He wore a lanyard around his neck loaded with clearances sufficient to allow him access into the inner sanctums of the Hoover Building with an escort along for the ride. His green eyes were alert. He walked with a determined swagger, his briefcase making pendulum arcs in the air.
A woman was coming from the opposite direction. Anne Berkshire had taken the Metro here. She was in her late fifties, petite, with gray hair cut in parentheses around her long, oval face. As she approached the Hoover Building she seemed to hesitate. There was no lanyard around her neck. The only ID she possessed was the driver’s license in her purse.
It was late morning and the streets were not as crowded as they would have been earlier. Still, there were a great many pedestrians and the street hummed with activity as cars passed up and down with some vehicles making their way into an underground parking garage at the Hoover Building.
Dabney picked up his pace a bit, his Allen Edmonds wingtips striking the stained pavement with purpose. He started to whistle a cheery tune. The man seemed not to have a care in the world.
Berkshire was now walking faster too. Her gaze went to the left and then swung right. She seemed to take in everything with that one sweeping glance.
About twenty yards behind Dabney, Amos Decker trudged along alone. He was six-five and built like the football player he had once been. He’d been on a diet for several months now and had dropped a chunk of weight, but he could stand to lose quite a bit more. He was dressed in khaki pants stained at the cuff and a long, rumpled Ohio State Buckeyes pullover that concealed both his belly and the Glock 41 Gen4 pistol riding in a belt holster on his waistband. Fully loaded with its standard thirteen-round mag, it weighed thirty-six ounces. His size fourteen shoes hit the pavement with noisy splats. His hair was, to put it kindly, disheveled. Decker worked at the FBI on a joint task force. He was on his way to a meeting at the Hoover Building.
He was not looking forward to it. He sensed that a change was coming, and Decker did not like change. He’d experienced enough of it in the last two years to last him a lifetime. He had just settled into a new routine with the FBI and he wanted to keep it that way. Yet apparently that was out of his control.
He stepped around a barricade that had been set up on the sidewalk and that stretched partway into the street. A manhole cover surrounded by an orange web barrier had been opened and workers were congregated around the area. One man in a hard hat emerged at the opening of the manhole and was passed a tool by another man. Most of the other workers stood around, some drinking coffee and others chatting.
Nice work if you can get it, thought Decker.
He saw Dabney up ahead but didn’t focus on him. Decker didn’t see Berkshire because he wasn’t looking that far up the street. He passed by the garage entrance and nodded at the uniformed FBI security officer in a small windowed guard shack situated on the sidewalk. The ramrod-straight man nodded back, his eyes covered by sunglasses as his gaze dutifully swept the street. His right hand was perched on top of his holstered service weapon. It was a nine mil chambered with Speer Gold Dot G2 rounds that the FBI used because of their penetration capability. “One shot, one down” could have been the ammo’s motto. Then again, most ammo would do that so long as it hit the intended target in the right place.
A bird zipped across in front of Decker, perched on a lamppost, and looked down curiously at the passersby. The air was chilly and Decker shivered a bit even in his thick pullover. The sun was hidden behind cloud cover that had materialized on the horizon about an hour before, passed over the Potomac, and settled upon Washington like a gray dome.
Up ahead, Dabney was nearing the end of the block, where he would turn left. The FBI’s “business appointments” entrance was located down there. Years ago public tours were freely given and people could view the famed FBI lab and watch special agents practicing their aim on the shooting range.
In the modern era of terrorism that was no more. After 9/11 the tours were canceled but then restarted in 2008. The FBI had even put in an education center for visitors. But a request for a visit had to be filed at least a month ahead of time to allow the FBI to do a thorough background check. Most federal buildings were now simply fortresses, hard to get into and maybe harder to get out of.
Dabney slowed as he approached the corner.
Berkshire, by contrast, quickened her pace.
Decker continued to lope along, his long strides eating up ground until he was only about ten yards behind Dabney.
Berkshire was about five yards on the other side of Dabney. Moments later that distance was halved. A few clicks after that, they were barely three feet apart.
Decker now saw Berkshire because she had drawn so close to Dabney. He was about ten feet behind the pair when he started to make the turn too.
Berkshire glanced over at Dabney, seemingly noticing him for the first time. Dabney didn’t look back at her, at least not initially.
A few seconds later he saw her gazing at him. He smiled, and if he’d been wearing a hat, he might have even doffed it to her in a show of courtesy.
Berkshire didn’t smile back. Her hand went to her purse clasp.
Dabney slowed a bit more.
Across the street Decker spotted a vendor selling breakfast burritos from a food truck and wondered if he had time to buy one before his meeting. When he decided he didn’t and his waistline would be worse off for it he looked back; Berkshire and Dabney were now beside each other.
Decker didn’t think anything of it; he just assumed they knew each other and were perhaps rendezvousing here.
He looked at his watch to check the time. He didn’t want to be late. If his life was going to change, he wanted to be on time for it.
When he looked back up, he froze.
Dabney had fallen two steps behind the woman. Unknown to Berkshire, he was aiming a compact Beretta at the back of her head.
Decker reached for his weapon, and was about to call out, when Dabney pulled the trigger.
Berkshire jerked forward as the round slammed into the back of her head at an upward angle. It blew out her medulla, pierced her brainpan, banged like a pinball off her skull, and exited through her nose, leaving a wound three times the size of the entry due to the bullet’s built-up wall of kinetic energy. She fell forward onto the pavement, her face mostly obliterated, the concrete tatted with her blood.
His pistol out, Decker ran forward as others on the street screamed and ran away. Dabney was still wielding his weapon.
His heart pounding, Decker aimed his Glock at Dabney and shouted, “FBI, put your gun down. Now!”
Dabney turned to him. He did not put down his gun.
Decker could hear the running footsteps behind him. The guard from the shack was sprinting toward them, his gun also out.
Decker glanced quickly over his shoulder, saw this, and held up his creds with his free hand. “I’m with the FBI. He just shot the woman.”
He let his lanyard go and assumed a two-handed shooting stance, his muzzle aimed at Dabney’s chest. The FBI uniform ran up to stand next to him, his gun pointed at Dabney. “Put the gun down, now!” the guard shouted. “Last chance, or we will shoot.”
It was two guns versus one. The response should have been obvious. Lie down and you won’t fall down.
Dabney looked first at the guard and then at Decker.
“Don’t!” shouted Decker.
Walter Dabney pressed the gun’s muzzle to the bottom of his chin and pulled the trigger for a second and final time.
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|Epub||April 29, 2017|
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