"You should re-check that. Regarding Karl, he respects you, and he knows just how brilliant you are. He either needs some advice, or he needs some information about an old case."
"Why the Wall?" "Well... I don't know. You'll find out when you meet him." "It's cold here. How's it there?" "Sixties." "It's snowing here." "Be careful driving."
"Yeah." We both stayed silent for a while, during which time I thought of our history. We'd met at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. She was engaged to Major What's-His-Name, a Special Forces guy, we got involved, he got pissed, pulled the aforementioned gun on me, I backed off, they got married, and a year later Cynthia and I bumped into each other again.
It was in the Officers Club at Fort Hadley, Georgia, and we were both on assignment. I was undercover, investigating the theft and sale of army weapons, she was wrapping up a rape case. That's her specialty. Sexual crimes. I'd rather be in combat again than have that job. But someone's got to do it, and she's good at it. More important, she can compartmentalize, and she seems to be unaffected by her work, though sometimes I wonder.
But back to Fort Hadley, last summer. While we were both there, the post commander's daughter, Captain Ann Campbell, was found on a rifle range, staked out, naked, strangled, and apparently raped. So, I'm asked to drop my little arms deal case, and Cynthia is asked to assist me. We solved the murder case, then tried to solve our own case, which is proving more difficult. At least she got rid of Major Nut Job.
"Paul, why don't we put this on hold until we can meet? Is that okay?" "Sounds okay." In fact, it was my suggestion. But why point that out? "Good idea."
"We both need to think about how much we have to give up and how much we stand to gain." "Did you rehearse that line?" "Yes. But it's true. Look, I love you" "And I love you."
"I know. That's why this is difficult." Neither of us spoke for a while, then she said, "I'm younger than you"
"But I'm more immature." "Please shut up. And I like what I do, I like my life, my career, my independence.
But... I'd give it up if I thought..." "I hear you. That's a big responsibility for me." "I'm not pressuring you, Paul. I'm not even sure I want what I think I want."
I'm a bright guy, but I get confused when I talk to women. Rather than ask for a clarification, I said, "I understand." "Do you?"
"Absolutely." Totally clueless. "Do you miss me?" "Every day," I said.
"I miss you. I really do. I'm looking forward to seeing you again. I'll take some leave time. I promise." "I'll take some leave time, too." "You're not working." "Right. But if I was, I'd take a leave to be with you. I'll come to you this time. It's warmer there." "Okay. That would be nice." "You like chili?" "No."
"I thought you liked chili. Okay, good luck with the case. Give me a day's notice, and I'll be there."
"It'll be about two weeks. Maybe three. I'll let you know when I get into the case."
"Okay." "Say hello to Karl for me. Let me know what he wanted." "Maybe he wants to tell me about his alien abduction." She laughed.
So, just as we were about to end on a happy note, she said, "You know, Paul, you didn't have to resign."
"Is that a fact?" The case of the general's daughter had been trouble from minute one, a political, emotional, and professional minefield, and I stepped right into it. I would have been better off not solving the case because the solution turned out to be about things no one wanted to know. I said to Cynthia, "A letter of reprimand in my file is the army's way of saying, 'Call your pension officer.' A little subtle, perhaps, but" "I think you misinterpreted what was happening. You were scolded, you got all huffy, and you acted impulsively because your ego was bruised."
Copyright © 2002 by Nelson DeMille
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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