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HOLY REDEEMER CEMETERYBALTIMORE, MARYLAND
I looked up from the gravestone to see three big guys in the kind of dark suits Feds wear when they want to be intimidating.
I wasn’t intimidated.
They weren’t wearing topcoats because it was a chilly damn day in Baltimore. There was frost sparkling on the grass around Helen’s grave. Winter birds huddled together in the bare trees and the sun was a white nothing behind a sheet of tinfoil-gray clouds.
“Who’s asking?” I said.
“We need you to come with us,” said the point man. He looked like Lurch from the Addams Family movies. Too tall, too pale, and with a ghoulish face. The other guys might as well have been wearing signs that said “Goon #1” and “Goon #2.” I almost smiled. I’d been fronted like this before. Hell, I’d even been fronted here before. Didn’t scare me then, didn’t scare me now. Didn’t like it either time, though.
“I didn’t ask what you needed, chief,” I said, giving Lurch a bright smile. “I asked who you are.”
“Doesn’t matter who we are,” he said, and he smiled, too.
“Yeah, pretty sure it does,” I said, keeping it neutral.
“You need to come with us,” Lurch repeated as he took a step toward me. He looked reasonably fit, but his weight was on his lead foot and he tended to gesticulate while he spoke. Whoever trained him to do this kind of stuff wasn’t very good at it, or Lurch was simply dumb. He should have had his goons surround me in a wide three-point approach, with none of them directly in the others’ lines of fire, and none of them close enough for me to hit or to use as a shield against the others. It always pissed me off when professionals acted like amateurs.
“Badge me or blow me,” I suggested.
Goon #2 pulled back the flap of his jacket to expose the Glock he wore on his belt. The holster looked new; the gun looked like he’d never used it for anything except trying to overcompensate.
I ignored him. “Here’s the thing, sparky,” I said to Lurch in my best I’m-still-being-reasonable voice, “you either don’t know who I am or you’re operating with limited intelligence. And I mean that in every sense of the word.”
“You’re Joe Ledger,” he said.
“Captain Joe Ledger,” I corrected.
His sneer increased. “Not anymore, Mister Ledger.”
“Says the president of the United goddamn States.”
They were standing in a kind of inverted vee, with Lurch at the point and the goons on either side. Goon #2 had his jacket open; Goon #1 did not. Nor did Lurch. If they were actually experienced agents, they could unbutton and draw in a little over one second. Goon #2 would beat them to the draw by maybe a quarter second.
That wasn’t going to be enough time for them.
“Going to ask one more time,” I said quietly, still smiling. “Show me your identification. Do it now and do it smart.”
Lurch gave me a ninja death stare for three full seconds but then he reached into his jacket pocket and produced a leather identification wallet, flipped it open, and held it four inches from my nose. Secret Service.
“Someone could have made a phone call and gotten me in,” I said.
“No,” he said, without explaining. “Now, here’s how it’s going to play out. You’re going to put your hands on your head, fingers laced, while we pat you down. If you behave, we won’t have to cuff you. If you act out, we’ll do a lot more than cuff you, understand, smart guy?”
“‘Act out’?” I echoed. “That’s adorable. Not sure I’ve ever heard a professional use that phrasing before.”
“They said he’d be an asshole, Tony,” said Goon #1.
Tony—Lurch—nodded and contrived to look sad. “Okay, then we do it the hard way.”
All three of them went for their guns.
Like I said, they didn’t have enough time for that.
Copyright © 2018 by Jonathan Maberry