Power Play Page 1

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Buckner Park
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Middle of March
Saturday, late afternoon

She always ran at sunset. She rarely ran all-out, rather she maintained a smooth, steady pace because this was her thinking time. Thankfully, it wasn’t freezing cold on this early evening. The two-lane trail wound in and out of oak and maple trees, the terrain not too extreme. She loved how the light played through the still-naked tree branches, and how quiet it was with so few other people out in the park this time of day. Quite different from running along the Embankment in London—a challenge, since there were always people to watch out for. Here or in London, it was still her precious thinking time. Diplomatic protocols with endless snafus, relations with Her Majesty’s government, and now too often about people who wanted to blow up their neighbors, or London, still fighting out thousands of years of hatreds seemingly bred into their bones. Sometimes there were victories. Thankfully, she was good at her job, but there was always something to work through, something to make her brain ache. But not today. Today she was trying to figure out what suddenly happened in her life that had brought her here. As she ran, a constant prayer looped through her brain that she’d left the danger back in England.

Her breathing was even, her muscles warm, and she relaxed into the repetitive movement. She focused on the quiet, even heard a blue jay, the sounds of small animals moving about in the underbrush near her, the slap of her running shoes on the trail, smooth and steady.

After another quarter-mile, the trail turned back toward Nickerson Road, with its two lanes and light traffic. She ran parallel to it for a hundred yards or so. George’s face flashed in her mind. He was eating spaghetti, of all things, and smiling at something she’d said, and she felt the familiar punch of grief, raw and deep.

And that was the question she always came back to. What had she done that would make someone want her to pay with her life? With George’s life? No matter how she turned it over in her mind, she simply couldn’t think of anyone who possibly hated her that much.

She heard a car approaching on Nickerson Road. In that stark moment she heard the engine revving, the car accelerating toward her. She twisted to look, stumbling on a clump of rocks at the edge of the trail and falling sideways, flailing her arms to keep her balance, but still she fell hard. The car was close now, nearly on her, and it was coming fast. She didn’t think, simply rolled into the bushes near several trees. She smelled the exhaust, felt the heat of that beast as it flew past her.

She heard the car brake hard, pictured the driver turning around to come after her again. She jumped to her feet and ran into the woods off the trail, the only sound in her ears the frantic beat of her heart. She plastered herself against the back of an oak tree and waited.

Two Corners Mall
Washington, D.C.

Monday morning

He turned stone-cold and his focus narrowed laser-thin on the man who held the woman in a choke hold. A carjacking in the parking lot of a strip mall not a half-mile from his town house on Euclid—the first one he’d ever seen, and here he was in the middle of it. He’d been walking to his Jeep, a large Starbucks coffee in his left hand, when he saw this man grab the woman and jerk her out of the driver’s side of a shiny black Beemer. She screamed once. Davis yelled at the man to let her go and back away, but the man dragged the woman in front of him, whirled around to face him, and pointed a .22 at her temple. A crap gun, but it could do the job.

“Piss off or the bitch is dead!” the man yelled. “I don’t like bitches. I don’t even like my mom. I mean it, dude, walk away!”

The guy was maybe thirty, and higher than Carly from Homeland Security when she’d nabbed a terrorist in Pittsburgh. He was probably on ice, given the way he was jonesing around, his body jerking on puppet strings. Even from fifteen feet away, Davis could see his eyes were jitterbugging, the hand that held the .22 to the woman’s head shaking. Not good.

New tactics. Davis called out, “Dude, I get it. Look, I love my Starbucks fix, too”—he waved his cup—“but you’ve got to let her go.”

“Go away, ass-wipe, or it’s brains-down-the-drain time!” Jitterbug tightened his hold around her neck, pressing the .22 hard against her cheek. The woman’s hands clutched at his forearm, trying to pull it away from her neck to catch a breath. Even from this distance, it looked to Davis like she was more pissed off than afraid.

“Seriously, dude,” Davis called out. “It’s really not a good idea to mess with me. I’m FBI, a walking, talking death machine. You can’t hit me from fifteen feet with that popgun, but I can shoot the gold hoop out of your ear and call my mother at the same time while singing ‘Happy Birthday.’” He pulled his Glock from his holster for Jitterbug to see, then held it down at his side. “You hurt this very nice lady and I’ll personally stuff you in a meat grinder and make a cheap burger out of you. You got me? You need rehab, not this Beemer you’d just wreck, which really would be a shame, about the car, I mean. So put the peashooter down and let the lady go.”

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