So I guess I have to give Baldacci some credit. Not much, maybe half a credit which won’t get him a coffee at Galactic Dunking Doughnuts. But he has to get that much because he doesn’t start off every, or even most, of his chapters with someone waking up. We rejoin Michelle and we’re told in a quick paragraph that she’s being saddled with a desk for at least a month.
Not that this will stop her from leaving but Baldacci will fake like she’s actually stuck. Michelle says she has some vacation saved up and asks her boss to take it. He says no and she wants to know why. Could it be that the higher ups know you’ll just run off to do your own investigation once more? Are we seeing halfway competent superiors in this book? I’m confused. I thought they only existed in fiction to yell about the chief being up their ass and to demand the protagonist turn in their badge and gun?
Michelle figures it’s Bishop’s doing and she’s right. Just as I guessed, he’s smart enough to tell her no vacation because he wants her close by. They start arguing about King and how he’s really more of a Prince. Or that she should stay away from him because he’s bad and there were rumors about him taking money to let Clyde get killed.
Michelle says that’s stupid. Not as stupid as the actual plot will turn out, I’m sure. Bishop says yeah, well people keep dying around King. He suggests that maybe he was part of the assassination and this is his cohorts getting some revenge. A stupid theory but the random deaths would still be enough reason to stay away from King. Then a phone call comes in for Bishop, he gets incredibly angry and tells Michelle to go take her vacation.
Michelle goes and gets her badge and gun back, because you need those on vacation I guess, and a page break happens. Two characters sit around and discuss Michelle being on vacation and how she might get herself into trouble or she might solve the case for them. The three doing the talking are Parks and then the head of the Secret service as well as an FBI agent. And yet Baldacci claims they don’t work together well.
They speculate wildly about King then and how he’s got alibis for the more recent murders. Someone, I don’t care to reread, accuses King of being involved with the assassination yet again. Parks isn’t sure though and says that he certainly didn’t get paid for anything he did. Also, they don’t know his political beliefs and blah blah blah. I don’t really care, Baldacci, and neither does anyone else.
Once they’re done thinking about how King may or may not have been part of an assassin’s plot, they start talking about Bruno. Could his kidnapping be connected with the assassination? What about Joan, isn’t she a weird lady? But Joan couldn’t have been involved because she’s a good agent. But now she works for a private firm and we all know the only people who work for profit are selfish assholes without scruples.
Once they’re done speculating about things which other characters have already speculated about to hell and back, it’s page break time. Parks stops Michelle in the garage and she asks if he’s the one responsible for getting her vacation time. No, that would be your human resources director who fought to get everyone proper benefits for working such a dangerous job.
Parks doesn’t answer her because ladies love men who are mysterious. He asks if she’s going to Wrightsburg which she is because King is there—I think—and wants a bone on her time off. Parks says it looks like Michelle and King are fast friends and he’s surprised considering he almost got her killed. Michelle says that wasn’t his fault, she’s just naturally prone to strangulation. Her uncle was David Carradine, after all.
Back with King, he’s staying in a hotel with Joan when they get the call about Mildred’s death. King, being the kind and wonderful soul he is, immediately complains that they’ve lose another witness. Not that there’s someone serially killing everyone they talk to or get anything useful not lamenting the loss of life. At least he realizes that it’s the same guy going around and killing them. Joan asks King if he knows what this means.
“Yes, whoever killed Loretta Baldwin killed Mildred Martin.” He added sarcastically, “Unless you buy that two different killers would murder their victims in the exact same way.”
Because once you’ve trademarked you’re murder style no one else can use it until it enters public domain. That’s why no one’s been killed by having their lungs filled with hatching iguana eggs. Chester Morton still holds the copyright on that and his estate will hold an iron grip on it until seventy years after his execution.
Joan says that they’ve confirmed that Mildred was lying, poisoned her husband and that Borden was mde up so why kill her? Neither of them know so they land and meet up with Parks and Michelle—by “prearrangement” apparently—and meet at King’s house. They sit around eating Chinese takeout and talking about what’s going on. Morse was uselss, Mildred’s dead as is Loretta. Blah blah blah, Baldacci is going for the crown in the kingdom of Repeat Offenders.
When they get to talking about Jorst, the professor who was friends with Ramsey the Assassin, Michelle says he might be worth another look. She thinks that Jorst was simply telling them what they wanted to hear and he might be hiding something. Not that Michelle would have voiced her opinion then because they we’d have missed out on so much faffing about.
They continue hashing out details we’ve already put together like the murders being connected as well as the assassination and kidnapping. King figures there must have been a second assassin that day who’s trying to ruin King. He says that maybe it’s just him at the center of everything. Uh oh, the book is becoming self aware. Pretty soon it’s going to descend into parody and become funny and then where will my sporkings be?
They go through a list of people to investigate and settle upon a man named Denby who was Clyde’s chief of staff. He disappeared after the assassination so they decide it might be time to try and track him down and ask questions. Then they all make like the musketeers and say they’re all in this together while Joan reminds them that she’s only going along because she’s getting paid.
Did you catch that? It’s very subtle and you might have missed it all buried in the layers Baldacci is so good at. Hint: Joan is evil. If we’re lucky it’ll turn out to be a red herring but I’ve never been fortunate like that.