Again she cut him off. “So your desire to seek the truth had to have a catalyst, then? An allegation against your father triggered your sudden desire to know what happened to your mother? Then I take it you cared for your father more than you did your mother if her fate meant nothing to you for three decades until an allegation by a dying woman threatened the reputation of Fighting John Puller.” She paused. “Were I to have a son, I would expect better treatment.”

Puller’s hand actually moved an inch toward his M11.

Knox stood and barked, “You are way out of line, lady.”

Jericho stared blankly up at her before settling her gaze back on Puller. “Do you think I’m way out of line, Agent Puller? Or do you think I am the only person to actually speak the truth to you about this matter? I don’t often tell people what they want to hear. I tell people what they need to hear. You said you wanted the truth? Well, here it is. You need to give up this foolishness, get your head back on straight, and move forward with your life and career of service. If you don’t, things will not turn out so very well for you.”

“Is this where I’m supposed to ask if you’re threatening us?”

“No. A threat implies that something may rather than will happen. I don’t wish there to be anything but clarity between you and me.”

Puller said nothing to this, but by his look her words had resonated deeply within him.

Knox just stood there staring at her.

Jericho said, “By training I am a scientist. I only care about the facts. You are an investigator. You should only care about the facts. In that way what we both do is very much alike. Facts are irrefutable. Truths coming from those facts can be difficult to accept, particularly when they are of a personal nature. But truths, Agent Puller, cannot be ignored. Any more than lies can. And people do lie to themselves. All the time. We dupe ourselves into believing that our motives are pure, our actions purer still. But at some point, one has to face up to them for what they are. But one fact does exist here, and I will reiterate to you exactly what it is: If you pursue this it will not turn out well for you.” She abruptly rose. “Thank you for coming to see me. I doubt we will meet again.”

Claire Jericho turned and left.

Chapter

52

KNOX EXCLAIMED, “I have never met a bigger bitch in my life. The crap that came out of her mouth? And the arrogance? I wanted to kick the shit out of her. And she’s working for our side?”

They were sitting in his car in the parking lot of Building Q, the lights of the facility the only thing breaking the darkness.

“I just wanted to shoot her,” said Puller quietly.

He stared up at the façade of the old building and then gazed at the high fence and armed gate.

“You noticed they didn’t let us see anything that was going on in there?”

“I guess they’d say we weren’t cleared for it.”

“I would bet that few people are.”

“So the real purpose of her wanting to see you was to tell you to back the hell off or it will not turn out so well for us,” said Knox.

“I don’t think she left any possibility of misinterpretation.”

“And are you going to back off?”

“What do you think?”

She smiled. “So what’s our next step?”

“Finding Paul.”

He put the car in gear and drove out of the lot. They headed out of Fort Monroe.

There were no other cars about at this time of night. Across the water were Fort Wool and Naval Station Norfolk.

They had just passed through the entrance to Fort Monroe along the waterfront when the car jerked, slowed, and then suddenly accelerated to nearly eighty miles an hour. Knox was thrown back against her seat by the force.

“Puller, what the hell are you doing?”

“It’s not me,” he snapped. “It’s the car.”

He slammed on the brake and then tried to shift into park. Neither maneuver worked. He dug his foot under the accelerator pedal to try to pry it up but it wouldn’t budge.

The speedometer clicked to a hundred and they were still accelerating.

“Omigod!” screamed Knox as the car veered sharply to the left and cut across the oncoming lane, very nearly flipping in the process before the rubber regained firm traction.

What was about to happen would make them both wish the car had flipped.

The vehicle hit a bump, went airborne, cleared the low wall, sailed into open space, and then gravity forced the nose of the car down and they slammed into the dark waters of the channel.

The air bags deployed and Puller was stunned by both the impact of the water and the gas-filled bag slamming into him. The car started to quickly sink into the brackish water of the channel.

Puller shook his head clear and looked over at Knox. Her eyes were closed and there was blood on the side of her head. Despite the front and side air bags she must have hit something.

Puller had been trained to never panic under any circumstances. And thus the water rising and the car sinking did not cause him to lose his nerve.

He unsnapped his seat belt and reached over to do the same to Knox’s.

It was jammed. He pulled out his Ka-Bar knife from its leather holder on his belt, put the blade under the harness strap, and cut away.

By now the car was under the surface and water was pouring in from crevices all over the vehicle. Puller was now operating in near-total darkness. It was like he was flying through fog without instruments.

He reached up, felt around, and hit the button for the inside light and it miraculously came on. He kept cutting away, his mind jumping ahead to what he would have to do next.

The water was not deep here, he knew, about thirty feet. But it was deep enough to kill them if they couldn’t get out.

The harness finally gave and he pulled the unconscious Knox free. The water was now up to their waists.

Keeping the slumping Knox’s head above the water, he turned and kicked out against the door. But having to push through the water was weakening the strength of his kicks, and the water was now up to the bottom of the window.

He held Knox in one arm, bracing her head against the ceiling of the car as he gripped the door handle with his free hand. He opened it and pushed his shoulder against the door. He could feel it give just a bit. If he could put his full bulk against it, he was sure he could get it open.

The only snag was that to do that he would have to let go of Knox.

And she would fall into the water, which was up to his chest now. Despite his training, he felt panic rising.

He maneuvered Knox on top of him, her face pointed to the ceiling, and then he slid over to the door and pushed against it. He could feel it give some more, but the water pressure was now too

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