Summer page-turner: David Baldacci's 'Deliver Us From Evil'

Ten minutes later he was in a car going to the airport in Vienna. Sitting next to him was his boss, Frank Wells. Frank looked like the meanest son of a bitch you would ever run into, principally because he was. He had the chest of a mastiff along with the beast's growl. He favored cheap suits that were perpetually rumpled from the mo- ment he put them on, and a sharp-edged hat that took one back several decades. Shaw believed that Frank was a man who'd been born in the wrong era. He would have done well in the 1920s and 1930s chasing criminals like Al Capone and John Dillinger with a tommy gun and not a search warrant or Miranda warning card in sight. His face was unshaven and his second chin lapped against his thick neck. He was in his fifties and looked older, with about eighty years of acid and anger built up in his psyche. He and Shaw had a love-hate relationship that, at least judging from the foul expression on the man's face, had just swung back to hate.

A part of Shaw could understand that. One reason Frank favored wearing his hat inside cars and indoors was not simply to cover his egg-shaped bald head, but also to hide the dent in his skull where a pistol round fired by Shaw had penetrated. It was not an ideal way to begin a healthy friendship. And yet that nearly lethal confrontation was the only reason they were together now.

"You were a little slow on picking up Benny's movements back there," said Frank as he chewed on an unlit cigar.

"Considering 'Benny' bin Alamen is the holder of the number three slot on the Most Wanted Terrorists list, I'll just take a moment to pat myself on the back."

"Just saying is all, Shaw. Never know if it might come in useful next time."

Shaw didn't answer, primarily because he was tired. He looked out the window at the beautiful avenues of Vienna. He'd been many times to the Austrian capital, home to some of history's greatest musical talent. Unfortunately, his travels here were always for work, and his most vivid memory of the town was not a moving concerto but rather almost dying from a large-caliber round that had come uncomfortably close to his head.

He rubbed at his hair, which had finally grown back. He'd had to scalp himself for a recent mission. He was only in his early forties, six and a half feet tall and in rock-hard shape, but when his hair had come back there'd been a sprinkle of gray at the temples and a dab at his sharp widow's peak. Even for him the last six months had been, well, difficult.

As if reading his mind, Frank said, "So what happened with you and Katie James?"

"She went back to being a journalist and I went back to doing what I do."

Frank rolled down the window, lit his cigar, and let the smoke drift out the opening. "That's that, huh?"

"Why would there be any more than that?"

"You two went through some serious stuff together. Tends to draw people closer."

"Well, it didn't."

"She called me, you know."

"When?"

"While back. Said you left without saying good-bye. Just walked off into the sunrise."

"Didn't realize there was a law against that. And why didn't she just call me?"

"Said she tried, but you'd changed your number." "Okay, so maybe I did."

"Why's that?"

"Because I felt like it. Any other personal questions?" "Were you two sleeping together?"

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