Chapter 18





FOR ADAM YATES IT STARTED out as another day.

At least, that was what he wanted to believe. In a larger sense, no day was ever just another for Yates- at least, not for the past ten years. Each day felt like borrowed time, waiting eternally for the proverbial ax to fall. Even now, when most rational people would conclude that he'd successfully put his past mistakes behind him, the fear still gnawed in the back of his brain, tormenting him.

Yates had been a young agent then, working undercover. Now here he was, ten years later, the SAC- Special Agent in Charge- for all of Nevada, one of the FBI's most plum positions. He had risen up the ranks. In all that time, there had not been the smallest inkling of trouble.

So heading into work that morning, it seemed to be another day.

But when his chief advisor, Cal Dollinger, walked into his office, even though neither had spoken about the incident in nearly a decade, something in his old friend's face told him that this was indeed the day, that all others had merely been leading up to this.

Yates glanced quickly at the photograph on his desk. It was a family shot- he, Bess, the three kids. The girls were in their teens now, and no amount of training adequately prepares a father for that. Yates stayed seated. He wore his casual uniform- khakis, no socks, brightly hued polo shirt.

Cal Dollinger stood over his desk and waited. Cal was huge- six-seven and nearly three hundred pounds. Adam and Cal went way back, having first met as eight-year-olds in Mrs. Colbert's third-grade class at Collingwood Elementary School. Some men called them Lenny and George, referring to the Steinbeck characters in Of Mice and Men. There might be some truth to it- Cal was big and impossibly strong- but where Lenny had a gentleness, Cal had none. He was a rock, both physically and emotionally. He could indeed kill a rabbit by petting it, but he wouldn't care much.

But their bond was even stronger than that. You go back enough years, you pull each other out of enough fires, you become like one. Cal could be cruel, no question about it. But like most violent men, it was just a question of black and white. Those in his very small white zone- his wife, his kids, Adam, Adam's family- he'd protect with his dying breath. The rest of the world was black and inanimate, a distant backdrop.

Adam Yates waited, but Cal could wait longer.

"What is it?" Adam finally asked.

Cal's eyes swept the room. He feared listening devices. He said, "She's dead."

"Which one?"

"The older."

"Are you sure?"

"Her body was found in New Jersey. We ID'd her by the serial numbers on the surgical implants. She was living as a nun."

"You're kidding."

Cal did not smile. Cal did not kid.

"What about"- Yates didn't even want to say Clyde's name-"him?"

Cal shrugged. "No idea."

"And the tape?"

Cal shook his head. It was as Adam Yates had expected. It wouldn't end easily. It would never end at all. He cast one more glance at his wife and children. He looked about his spacious office, the commendations on the wall, his nameplate on the desk. All of it- his family, his career, his entire life- seemed wispy now, like holding smoke in a hand.

"We should go to New Jersey," he said.