Now we’re back with one of the characters who’s blessed by the author. Michelle is sitting on her laptop, looking through the USSS database. Most companies will cutoff your access when you’re suspended. I guess the government is notoriously more lax than, say, a cable company. We’re assured that she’s looking at some interesting things when the phone rings and it’s King.
King wants to meet at an inn which Michelle passed on the way in. She says it looks clubby and King invites her for lunch. They meet and Baldacci spends a paragraph talking about their dress. Most of it revolves around Michelle wearing makeup which is unusual for her. He admires her vehicle, a Toyota Landcruiser, which is far more important then developing things like characters and setting. Please tell me that you’ll detail their lunch as well, Baldacci.
They sit down and King makes a joke when Michelle calls the waiter sir. King says he was stuck in that habit for years after he left the Service. Being respectful? That’s a good habit to get out of. King asks why a “supersmart, superjock” like Michelle went into the USSS. She says out of habit because much of her family is in law enforcement.
The food shows up but doesn’t get a whole paragraph devoted to it. Michelle likes it and says that King must have eaten there before. He says he mostly brings clients there and starts telling us about how very dull it is. Damn it, Baldacci. King can’t use the same dating strategy that I do, boring his dates into a coma then dragging them home.
Maybe Baldacci is is trying to seduce the audience then. They have drinks, they finish their meal and then they end up in a lounge drinking wine. They talk about wine and King knows a bit about it because h had a friend who was a sommelier. Which will be impressive when it comes back to bite the villain in the ass. That’ll teach him to pretend to be a wine maker and attempt to sneak Bruno out of the country in a cask. Michelle says that he may be the only wine expert who’s killed people. And that makes me bet there’s a short story, at least, where a competing sommelier has killed another and is far more exciting than this.
Michelle says how about they exchange information, quid pro quo. King says he’ll go first and admits that Joan was in his room that night. Michelle says she talked to the maid and kind of already gathered that as King didn’t seem like the type to wear lacy panties. Michelle says that Joan’s not with the service and King says he already knows that and demands new information. Michelle then says that the maid was hiding in the supply closet after the shooting.
King looked interested. “Why?”
You know, it does seem silly in retrospect. With all of those bullets flying around, I’m sure Loretta knew she was perfectly safe so she must have had an ulterior motive to hide in the closet. It turns out she was the second shooter behind the gassy Noel.
Michelle goes back to the elevator then and King says he was just zoned out. Michelle doesn’t buy it, repeating that she heard the ding on the tape. It’s a good thing nothing aside from elevators make dinging noises, like the service bell on a checki-in desk, or she’d look really stupid. She says she thinks it was Joan and that King is covering for her. King says it wouldn’t matter and Michelle says it would, if it was an intentional distraction.
King doesn’t seem thrilled by the idea that the source of his boners might have been using him and goes to leave. That’s when Michelle gets the plot convenient phone call that informs her of Loretta’s death. King asks what happened and Michelle explains how she just talked to Loretta and that they found her dead. King says that they’re going to go and find out why she’s no longer among the living. Michelle tries to protest but King gets her past it by ordering her to come along.
In which Baldacci tries to convince us that his characters have personality. Michelle’s truck is messy, King notes all the wrappers that are scattered about and tells her to never invite him over to her place. How will these two ever resolve to have sex when they’re so incredibly mismatched? One of them’s neat, the other’s a slob. It’s like the Odd Couple but with sexual tension.
Michelle informs him of her preferred nickname, Mick, and King makes fun of it. She says the USSS is still a man’s world and clearly Michelle is out to change that. Instead of just going by her name and teaching the men they can respect her, regardless of her sex, she pretends she’s just one of the guys. Michelle then asks King what he expects to find and he says he doesn’t know but starts talking about the details Michelle worked out like how Bruno’s friend must have been killed.
Michelle is impressed that one of the other characters has figured out the plot like she has. She says she’s impressed and heard that King was the “real deal”. Kling explains that he spent years in investigations trying to get to Presidential detail, that every one wants until they get it. Michelle asks why that is and King says the hours suck. Or he gives a dull explanation about constantly shifting schedules and blah blah blah.
King says he was just getting out of Presidential guard duty when he was assigned to Clyde. King then mentions Joan’s offer and her working on finding Bruno. Michelle is shocked and says the FBI is working on it while King says they can hire any provate group they want. No one seems to notice that King was just put in charge of Clyde’s detail after coming off a stressful job watching the president. It’s almost like it was planned.
King says that’s how Joan explained it to him and that he’s not buying it and wants to know what she thinks. Michelle asks him why he’s asking her and King says she seems suspicious of Joan. Of course. She’s the only other named woman in the whole book and she’s not the shining beacon of justice and desire that turns King’s pants into a tent. Clearly she must be a villain who only uses her body as a weapon in futility against the impervious King.
Michelle says her first inclination is to not trust Joan because she’s evil and blonde, if I remember correctly. King says he agrees and asks what her second inclination is. Michelle says to get in on the investigation and feed her, Michelle, their information along the way. Then she warns him that, if he gets back together with Joan, she doesn’t want to know the details. King says not to worry, black widows eat their mates and he barely escaped last time.