“Then give me more to work with.”
He took a deep breath, and she glanced over at him. He looked exhausted.
“How about this,” she suggested. She was going on intuition. She’d listened to Carston’s aggravation with that one particular him in the phone calls, and she thought she could guess who it was. After all, it was Deavers’s plan that had failed so spectacularly, over and over. “Would it be accurate to characterize you as unhappy with Deavers’s management of this joint operation?”
“Have you and Deavers disagreed on how to proceed?”
“You could say that.”
“Does he think that you trust him to handle the interrogation of Kevin Beach?”
“No, at this point, I would say he does not believe that I trust him to zip up his own fly correctly.”
“Tell me about your interrogation specialist.”
Carston made a sour face. “Not mine. He’s Deavers’s lackey, and he’s an imbecile. I told Deavers that someone like Beach was going to die before he talked to an ordinary interrogator. You can rest easy, if that’s your concern. They won’t break him. Beach hasn’t said anything about you, except that he killed you. I don’t think they even followed up on that. To be fair, I believed it, too.”
She was surprised. “So you never replaced me?”
Carston shook his head. “I’ve tried. I wasn’t lying about that in the beginning – you remember? ‘True talent is a limited commodity.’” He quoted himself and sighed. “Deavers has had a stranglehold on the department for a long time now, ever since I ‘lost a dangerous asset.’ The CIA has blocked my recruitment process and shut down all but the lab. The things we’re producing now could be created by any halfway decent pharmacist.” He shook his head. “They act as if they aren’t the reason why you’re dangerous in the first place.”
“You still pretend you weren’t part of that decision?”
“If I had been, I’m being punished for it now.” Carston stared morosely through the windshield.
“Would Deavers be shocked to learn that you were developing talent on the side?”
Carston was always quick. He pursed his lips and nodded as he talked it through. “For about half a second, then he’ll just be angry. He’s one hundred percent on board with the current program, but he knows my doubts have been increasing. No, he won’t be that surprised.”
“You don’t like how Pace gets things done? He seems like a pragmatic person, I thought you’d get along.”
“So you did put it together. I thought you might. But I’ll bet you never would have if Pace hadn’t overreacted in the first place. Machiavellianism doesn’t bother me – stupidity does. Mistakes happen, but Pace has a penchant for compounding one error with a second that’s worse. And then a third. He’s put us all in this mess.”
“What are you saying, Carston? That we’re on the same side? Everybody makes mistakes, like you said, but you shouldn’t rely on my gullibility again.”
“I don’t expect you to believe me, but it is what it is. I have nothing to gain from the current agenda. If Pace succeeds, Deavers’s star will rise. He’ll end up director of the CIA. My life’s work is already being dismantled. We’re more on the same side than you know.”
“If it makes you happy to say so. It doesn’t change the plan.”
“We go in together,” he mused. “You’re my secret protégée. I insist that you take over for Deavers’s butcher. It can work, up to that point. I don’t know what you think happens then.”
She tried to hide her flinch when Carston said the word butcher. So much depended on how much was left of Kevin.
“We’ll see,” she said, working to keep her voice smooth.
“No, don’t tell me. That’s smart. Just as long as you have a plan.”
She didn’t answer. Her plan wasn’t strong enough.
“Just out of curiosity,” she asked, trying to distract Carston from her reaction. “When did Dominic Haugen die?”
“Two weeks after the lab in Jammu was destroyed.”
She nodded. Then it was as she’d suspected. Barnaby had seen something and begun his preparations.
“I have an idea,” Carston volunteered.
“This should be good.”
“How do you feel about faking some injuries? A sling, maybe? We had a situation in Turkey nine days ago, got some good information from a quick-thinking corporal. Exactly the kind of person I would have been interested in recruiting, but the situation went dark. The corporal didn’t survive the hostile force’s rescue attempt. But maybe the information was actually acquired by my secret side project, who did make it out alive.”
She stared at him.
He held a hand up, as if in surrender. “Okay, we don’t have to do it my way. It was just an idea. Deavers knows the story; it would make my bringing you in feel anchored, less spur of the moment.”
“I think I can manage some injuries,” Alex said dryly.
They’d gone over the story a few times before they reached the rendezvous point, and he’d described the interrogation room in detail. It wasn’t a pretty picture, and she felt their chances for survival getting more bleak.
Carston pulled into the lot attached to the small municipal park and stopped the Bimmer next to the only other car in the lot, as directed. It gave Alex a start, even though she was expecting it, to see the big blond man waiting on the park bench.