Page 69 of One Perfect Lie

“So far, so good.”

“Stay tuned,” the Rabbi said, and on the video, the dually drove away, but one moment later, was followed by the Ford Ranger pickup. The last frame showed the license plate of the Ranger before it slipped out of the frame.

“So you ran a plate on the Ranger.”

“Yes, and it’s Jimmy Shank’s. So we got Jimmy on auto theft, and it got us into the farmhouse.”

“You got anything on the target? And where’s Evan and Courtney?”

“Nothing on Courtney or Evan, but come in and I’ll brief you. We’ve narrowed possibilities for the target, and we put out a BOLO for auto theft. JTTF doesn’t want to notify the public that we’re talking about a domestic terrorist.” The Rabbi headed for the farmhouse, and Chris fell into step beside him, checking his watch.

“But it’s almost five o’clock in the morning. People are going to work soon.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Can’t we issue some kind of general warning?”

“We’re not calling the shots. JTTF is.”

“But it’s our operation.”

“We know that but nobody else does.” The Rabbi lowered his voice. “Humor them, Curt. It’s the best way to get along. We divided the labor, and so far, we’re living in harmony.”

“So what’s the division of labor?” Chris hid his frustration. He hated bureaucratic crap.

“Their guys searched the farm, and everybody’s gone—the Shank brothers, Courtney, and Evan. We all went through the house, and the FBI found some of the files, and we found some others.”

“What files?”

“I’ll show you inside.”

“Where’s the burn site, the testing ground?”

“At a farm five miles away. Owner is Jason Zucker, and he’s been in the hospital for a long time. Lives alone. Zucker is friends with the Shanks, so it makes sense that the Shanks would have used his backyard for testing while he was away.”

“And nobody goes there?”

“It’s in the middle of the woods. The FBI’s command post is there. They think that’s where the Shanks built the IED but they haven’t found any bomb-making equipment yet.” The Rabbi picked up the pace as they approached the farmhouse. “The Shanks took their laptops. We know they had them because there are boosters in two of the rooms. They left nothing behind. They’re not coming back.”

“But they’re not suicide bombers.”

“No, I don’t think so. They must have a getaway plan.”

“They’re going to make Evan do it, aren’t they?” Chris felt his chest tighten. “They’re going to make Evan drive that dually. They’re going to kill that kid.”

“You’re assuming he’s not in on it.”

“He’s not in on it.”

“Even with the IRS indictment?”

“Even so, I just don’t see it going that far. I just don’t see him or Courtney going that far.”

“Evidently they are.”

“You don’t know if Courtney or Evan’s with them.”

“I got a good guess.” The Rabbi hurried along. “Another possibility is that Courtney and Evan went off together. Killed her husband and took off. Let the brothers bomb their hearts out, but the kid runs off with the teacher.”

“The brothers wouldn’t let them get away. They couldn’t take that risk.”

“You think they’d turn on their sister?”

“You tell me. I never had a sister.”

“Instead of life in prison? Yes. And the youngest always gets picked on, especially a girl. I drove my sister nuts.”

They reached the front door, and Chris followed the Rabbi into the crumbling farmhouse, which had thick stone walls, low ceilings, and small rooms that were typical of homes built during the colonial era, but the décor was hardly historic. The walls had been paneled and decorated with deer heads in baseball caps, and worn mismatched furniture and a fake leather recliner sat around an old television on a metal cart. Beanbag ashtrays overflowed with cigarettes, and the air smelled like stale smoke.

“Love what you’ve done with the place,” Chris said, then his gaze fell on a grouping of family photos that hung at crooked angles. He spotted Courtney’s pretty face, a bright-eyed young girl with missing teeth in her school picture, then a First Communion picture, and group pictures with her two older brothers, who had none of her good looks, though they shared her dark hair and dark brown eyes. Both brothers had broad smiles, which became flatter over the years.

The Rabbi pointed. “That’s David, age thirty-eight, on the left and Jimmy, forty-five, on the right. We circulated a better one, but that gives you an idea.”

“Got it.” Chris took out his phone and snapped a photo, just in case.

“Come this way.” The Rabbi led him from the living room and down the hall, past two crummy bedrooms to a back room, which appeared to be a spare bedroom. On the bed were piles of paper, correspondence in accordion files, and scattered court pleadings with blue backers.

“What’s this?”

“More bad news.” The Rabbi gestured to the papers. “The Shank family has had a dispute for the past five years with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the EPA, and Frazer Gas, which has leases to frack the neighboring farms. The problem is that three of the neighboring farms leased their land to Frazer Gas for fracking. Under Pennsylvania law, if three contiguous farms lease to frackers, the gas company can drill underneath your parcel, whether you leased or not. They drill horizontally.”

“Really.” Chris walked over to the papers, picked up the first packet, and started thumbing through the letter on top, to Frazer Gas, which read:

… You have ruined our home and our business. We used to sell top-quality horse and alfalfa hay, but then it was only good for mushroom hay and now even the mushroom farmers won’t buy it. We can’t sell it to anyone. You ruined our family business. We built a reputation as the best hay dealer on the quality of our hay and now that has gone down the tubes. We could not even give it away, not once they found out where it came from and we are not willing to lie to people to take their money like you will …