Split Second Chapters 42 & 43

Chapter 42

We join Mildred this time. She’s being dropped off by the police at her house and a black sedan with a pair of FBI agents is watching her. She begins musing how everything has gone wrong but she managed to recover at the last moment. She thinks everything is okay and pours herself a gin and tonic with only a splash of tonic. Because she’s a drunk you see.

Then someone speaks from the shadows and startles her. Mildred asks who it is and he says it’s her old friend who helped her kill Martin. Mildred says she didn’t kill her husband and he retorts that, no, but the methanol she gave him did and she made the call to Bruno like he asked.

He moved forward some more. “I let you get your revenge on John Bruno and become rich with life insurance in the bargain, and found a way for you to put your poor, sick husband out of his misery. And all I asked was for you to play by the rules. That was all I demanded and you’ve disappointed me.”

Mildred says she doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he starts going on about his rules. This is great, Baldacci, neither the character nor the audience has any idea what the villain is talking about. I hope you flesh this out in a few seconds before an old woman is brutally murdered.

Nameless begins asking Mildred why she slipped him the methanol into Martin’s scotch. She says that she just wanted it to seem like she was slipping him scotch as always. Which makes no sense because no one knew that she was giving him scotch until King asked her about it. He asks why she kept the bottle and she says she was afraid that her neighbors would go through the trash and they can find traces on glass even after it’s washed. Then she tells him about the fake maid she concocted on the way to the police station.

Then he asks her how she said she paid this Borden. Mildred says she was vague and they didn’t press the point. He says they, the FBI, will be investigating her banks records, find no evidence of payments and ask her neighbors about her. Then her lie will be found out and he can’t have that. So he stuffs a wad of cloth in her mouth then duct tapes over and throws her in the bath. Then he pours in a bottle of scotch and shoves a wad of money from her purse into her mouth after she’s dead.

He thought he could leave her alive but that proved to be a complication. He knows they’ll figure the same person killed Loretta as Mildred but that it will hinder the authorities more than help them. Which further confuses me as to why he didn’t just kill her then and be done with it. Or why he bothered when she didn’t know who he was in the first place. He then leaves in his old Buick.

Chapter 43

Kicking off this gem of a chapter is a description of the airplane that King and Joan are flying in. It’s has mahogany paneling, leather seats, a TV and enough options to appear in a music video. This is wonderful detail that needs to be covered or I would have gathered a posse to try and stone Baldacci.

Joan comes walking down the aisle, gets told to sit down and stares at the flight attendant until he gives up. Then she tries to wake King up and he doesn’t until she sits on him and starts shaking him. He slowly comes to and she asks him if he remembers Mildred saying she spoke to Bruno when he called to announce his run for the presidency.

Because he hasn’t started suffering from Alzheimer’s, King says he does. She says that the woman has the voice of a foghorn—a detail that Baldacci failed to tell us when they met—and how hard that would be to impersonate. They figure she must have called to lure Bruno in and the FBI is investigating the caregiver but they figure she couldn’t have paid for one.

They talk about how they would be record of a caregiver getting paid through Medicare or via her bank if it was out of pocket. Then they land and Joan gets a brief call which is the FBI telling her that they found no indication in Mildred’s bank account.

There is nothing like the author repeating themselves. Look, Baldacci, we already learned all about Mildred lying about the servant. I remember the last chapter, do you? Because of that, we don’t need to see the protagonist speculate about things we’ve learned. ‘You lied about the servant Mildred, die!’ Many pages later. ‘It looks like Mildred was lying about the servant!’ This whole chapter could have been removed and the book would have suffered no negative impact.

Joan has to go over all the FBI’s findings with King because there’s nothing Baldacci like doing more than killing my brain cells. They also mention that Mildred had a half million dollar life insurance policy on Martin. This didn’t concern the FBI at first as Martin had it for years and he was going to die anyway. King says he can’t believe Mildred would kill him as she seemed so devoted. Joan says that, for all his intelligence and skills, King  knows little about women.

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