Page 71 of One Perfect Lie

“You get no bang for your buck in Harrisburg.” Chris set the file back down. “If you want to get attention for a cause and kill a lot of people, you go to Philly or New York.”

“Luckily, there’s no major bridge between here and Philly. There’s a few tunnels through the mountains, but they aren’t much. I’m guessing they’re going into Philly, and most of the federal buildings are around our office in Old City and—” The Rabbi fell abruptly silent as a cadre of FBI agents lumbered down the hallway and into one of the other bedrooms. “Let’s go back outside and talk.”

“When can I go?” Chris wanted to get back in the air, heading to the courthouse.

“We have to wait for authorization from JTTF. They’ll call Alek and he’ll call me.”

“Are you serious?” Chris couldn’t control his impatience. “I have to ask permission to work my own case?”

“Go along to get along, Curt.”

“Man!” Chris sighed inwardly. He followed the Rabbi down the hall, nodding to the FBI agents, a group of JTTF types, and two men in suits. The Rabbi opened the front door, but they both saw at the same moment that their staging area was full of uniformed locals helping themselves to coffee and doughnuts.

“Follow me.” The Rabbi gestured to the right, and Chris fell into step with him. They walked toward the rusted cars in front of the abandoned pasture, with the red barn behind. Chris took a deep lungful of air, but it didn’t smell like country air, but vaguely acrid and foggy. The Rabbi leaned against an ancient blue Taurus, fishing in his breast pocket and pulling out his cigar and lighter. “You’re not asking where Alek is.”

“Don’t tell me, let me guess. He’s with the cool kids.”

“Yes. Taking credit for your investigation. All the machers are up here, and he’s angling for a promotion to JTTF. He only used us as a stepping-stone.”

“I feel so cheap.”

The Rabbi chuckled. “The party line is that he was behind you every step of the way.”

“Fine with me. Let’s get him promoted out. The next Alek can’t be worse than this Alek.”

“Ever hear of the Billy Goat’s Gruff?”

Chris shrugged it off. “Were you able to get an agent to the Larkins?”

“Yes, is that your crush? Heather Larkin?”

“Yes.” Chris had forgotten that he’d told the Rabbi about her.

“I sent Marie over. She’s a great agent, nicer than you.”

“Thanks,” Chris said, grateful. He flashed on Heather’s pained expression when she’d learned his true identity. “I’m not sure Heather’s going to be speaking to me after this.”

“Och.” The Rabbi waved him off. “You save the day, you get the girl. That’s how it works.”

Chris smiled, for the first time in a long time. “I didn’t save the day yet.”

“Added incentive.” The Rabbi blew out a cone of smoke. “Was there ever any other? Every rock star in history says he did it to get girls.”

“But they don’t get shot at.”

“There’s that.”

Chris looked around the pasture, noticing the bright lights in the distance and hearing the mechanical thrumming of drilling machinery, an unnatural sound. “Do they drill at night, too?

“I assume so.”

“The Shanks were hay farmers.” Chris eyed the abandoned equipment behind one of the old cars on cinder blocks. “That’s nice equipment over there. A haybine, hay tedder, and that rusty thing with the round tines is a hayrake. That fluffs the hay into windrows.”

The Rabbi turned, looking. “I always forget you’re a country boy.”

“I’m a country boy, I’m a city boy, I’m a whatever-you-want boy. I wonder why they didn’t sell the equipment.” Chris heard the distinctive sound of a horse nickering. “Somebody’s unhappy.”

“The horse? The FBI guys said he’s crazy. They said he was going in circles. I told them, maybe he’s hungry.”

“When horses are hungry, they kick the stall door.” Chris heard the horse nicker again. “That’s strange. He’s bothered. Something is bothering him.”

“Probably the activity.”

“No, he’d have gotten used to it by now.” Chris found himself edging backwards to listen harder. “Let’s go look into that.”

“The FBI already did.”

“Like I said,” Chris said, heading for the barn.

 

 

Chapter Fifty-two

Chris heard the nickering of the horse as they approached the barn door, which stood open. “What’s in the other outbuildings?”

“Equipment and junk. The FBI searched it pretty thoroughly.”

They walked down the aisle between the empty stalls. The barn had eight stalls, four on either side, and cobwebs festooned the rafters like a Halloween ghost barn. The stalls were empty except for the one at the end, on the right. The manure odor was strong, so the stall hadn’t been picked recently.

“That’s funny,” Chris said, thinking aloud.

“What?” the Rabbi asked, puffing on his cigar.

“If you have one horse, the normal thing to do would be to put him in the first stall. That way you don’t have to walk to the end to turn him out.” Chris gestured to the feed room, directly across in the first stall, the conventional layout. “And that’s where you get the grain from. Why would you put the horse so far from the grain?”

“I don’t know. Darryl and Darryl aren’t Einstein?”

Chris approached the stall, and the horse stood tall, his ears facing stiffly forward at the intruders. “Ho, boy,” he said, sing-song.

“You speak the language.”

“You could too. Horses are easy to understand. They’re flight animals, not fight animals. They’re worried by new things, especially if they don’t have a herd or buddy. You can get them a goat or a pony to keep them company.”

“Horses have pets?”

“They don’t like to be alone.” Chris heard himself talking, realizing that maybe he was a fight animal. Maybe he didn’t need a herd or a buddy. Maybe he truly was untouchable.

“There he goes.” The Rabbi gestured with his cigar, as the horse circled the stall.