pennies for silver. I fed the phone and dialed Franz at Fort Irwin. Five o’clock in the afternoon, it was the middle of his workday.

“Am I going to get past your main gate?” I asked him.

“Why wouldn’t you?”

“Willard’s chasing me. He’s liable to warn any place he thinks I’m going.”

“I haven’t heard from him yet.”

“Maybe you could switch your telex off for a day or two.”

“What’s your ETA?”

“Tomorrow sometime.”

“Your buddies are already here. They just got in.”

“I haven’t got any buddies.”

“Vassell and Coomer. They’re fresh in from Europe.”



“Is Marshall still there?”

“Sure. He drove out to LAX to pick them up. They all came back together. One big happy family.”

“I need you to do two things for me,” I said.

“Two more things, you mean.”

“I need a ride from LAX myself. Tomorrow, first morning arrival from D.C. I need you to send someone.”


“And I need you to get someone to locate the staff car Vassell and Coomer used back here. It’s a black Mercury Grand Marquis. Marshall signed it out on New Year’s Eve. By now it’s either back in the Pentagon garage or parked at Andrews. I need someone to find it and to do a full-court press on it, forensically. And fast.”

“What would they be looking for?”

“Anything at all.”

“OK,” Franz said.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said.

I hung up and turned the pages in the army directory all the way from F for Fort Irwin to P for Pentagon. Slid my finger down the subsection to C for Chief of Staff’s Office. I left it there, briefly.

“Vassell and Coomer are at Irwin,” I said.

“Why?” Summer said.

“Hiding out,” I said. “They think we’re still in Europe. They know Willard is watching the airports. They’re sitting ducks.”

“Do we want them?” Summer said. “They didn’t know about Mrs. Kramer. That was clear. They were shocked when you told them, that night in your office. So I guess they authorized the burglary, but not the collateral damage.”

I nodded. She was right. They had been surprised, that night in my office. Coomer had gone pale and asked: Was it a burglary? It was a question that came straight from a guilty conscience. That meant Marshall hadn’t told them yet. He had kept the really bad news to himself. He had come back to the D.C. hotel at twenty past three in the morning, and he had told them the briefcase hadn’t been there, but he hadn’t told them what else had gone down. Vassell and Coomer must have been piecing it together on the fly, that night in my office, in the dark and after the event. It must have been an interesting ride home. Harsh words must have been exchanged.

“It’s down to Marshall alone,” Summer said. “He panicked, is all.”

“Technically it was a conspiracy,” I said. “Legally they all share the blame.”

“Hard to prosecute.”

“That’s JAG Corps’ problem.”

“It’s a weak case. Hard to prove.”

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