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The Escape (John Puller 3) - Page 19

He drew closer. “I can see that. But feel free to elaborate on the point.”

“I just know my marching orders were to tread lightly. And to work with you. And that’s what I intend to do.”

“Nothing more to add?” he asked.

“Not right now. Shall we go see to the visitors’ log?”

The visitors’ records at the DB were housed electronically. Puller and Knox were given access to them at a computer terminal in a cubicle adjacent to the visitors’ room. Puller had decided to go back at least six months and maybe longer if nothing stood out. They sat next to each other, knees occasionally touching because of their long legs and the cubicle’s small space.

After a while Knox said, “You were a pretty regular visitor to see your brother.”

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“You have siblings?”

“No.”

“Well then, maybe it’s hard for you to understand.”

“Okay, but I don’t see anyone else who came to visit him, Puller. Again, other than you, that is.”

“Neither do I.”

“So now what? The log shows no calls came in to him, other than from you.”

Puller studied the screen. “But this really doesn’t tell us the whole story.”

“Meaning what?”

“Meaning computers only regurgitate what someone puts into them.”

He rose.

She looked up at him and said, “Now where?”

“To do some real investigative work.”

“Such as?”

“Such as talking to people.”

It took the better part of the rest of the day and they had to speak to numerous people and look at paper records and then talk to supervisory officers and then go back to people originally interviewed. When they were done it was nine p.m.

“You hungry?” said Puller.

She nodded. “Breakfast was a long time ago.”

“You know Leavenworth?”

“Not that well.”

“Well, I do. Come on.”

They drove in his car to a diner on the main street where everything on the menu was fried in grease that was probably as old as the building, which said “1953” on the wall over the entrance. They both ordered their meals. Puller had a beer, while Knox sipped on an iced tea heavy on the ice.

“What we’re about to eat will mean five extra miles on my morning run,” she said, giving a fake grimace.

“You’ve got some room to spare,” he noted. He took a sip of his cold beer. “Crew or basketball in college?”

“Both.”

“Impressive. Multiple sports in college, tough thing to pull off these days.”

“Well, it was over fifteen years ago and it was a small college. And crew was a club sport at Amherst.”

“Amherst. Great school.”

“Yes, it is.”

“And what brought you to the Army?”

“My mother.”

“She was in the Army?” asked Puller.

“No, my father was. He maxed out as a full colonel. Finished up at Fort Hood.”

“Okay, I’m not getting the reference to your mom, then.”

“She said anything my father could do I could sure as hell do better. They’re divorced,” she added, perhaps unnecessarily.

“I take it you don’t get along with your father?”

“You take it right.” She drank her iced tea through a straw and then fiddled with the paper the straw had been wrapped in. “I looked you up, of course. Your father is John Puller Sr. Fighting John Puller.”

“That’s what they call him.”

“A true legend.”

“They call him that too.”

“I hear he’s in a VA hospital.”

“He is.”

“Is he doing okay?”

Puller glanced away and then looked directly at her. “He’s doing. We all get old, right?”

“If we live that long.” She eyed the scar that ran along the side of his neck to the point where it dipped down his back. “Fallujah?” she asked, indicating the mark.

“Mosul. My Fallujah souvenir is on my ankle.”

“I did a tour over there too. Nothing on the front lines.” She added firmly. “Nothing to do with me. Everything to do with the Army.”

“I’ve heard that before,” said Puller. “No mark against you if they wouldn’t let you fight at the front.”

“Still a mark, Puller.”

“But things are changing. And fast.”

“Things had to change. Twenty-first century. No way around it.”

He raised his bottle of Coors in salute. “Agreed. Some of the toughest soldiers I ever served with were women.”

They remained silent until their meals came, and they didn’t speak as they ate them. When the plates were cleared Puller came back around to why they were really here.

“Did you see what I saw in the interviews and paper trail?” he asked.

“Tell me what you saw and I’ll answer you.”

“Let’s say the visitors’ log is accurate and I’m the only one who visited my brother during the last six months.”

“Okay.”

“If he didn’t talk to anyone else on the outside, then we need to look inward.”

“Someone at DB?”

Puller nodded. “Wouldn’t be the first time a prisoner has been aided by someone on the other side of the cell door.”

“I’m pretty sure it would be the first time at DB.”

“And the computer system was hacked, ensuring the doors opened when the power blew. Now that definitely smacks of an inside hand.”

This was the other option Puller had been considering when Macri had told him about the suspected hacking.

“That makes sense,” agreed Knox.

“We need to talk to every guard who was on duty that night.”

“That’s a lot of guards.”

He sat back looking and feeling put off. “You got something else to do with your time?”

“No. So what would we be looking for?”

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