“I know,” she said. “I was just jerking your chain.”
“Can you get it done?”
“Do you care what your boss thinks, or are you calling the shots now?”
Rapp groaned. “Why are you doing this?”
“Torturing me. You told me this morning that you thought it was a good idea.”
“That was when I thought you would accept the medal as well. I’ve had the visual in my head all day of you sitting on Oprah’s couch talking about skin-care products.”
Rapp pulled the phone away from his head and looked at it as if he might snap it in half. “Are you done?”
“Yes, but I want you to at least recognize the fact that you are giving Mike no say in the matter while you have threatened me or anyone else with extreme violence if we dare recognize your achievements, which were even more remarkable than Mike’s.”
“We’ve been through this so many times . . . Do we have to go over it again?”
“No, we don’t have to go over it again,” Kennedy said in slightly playful tone. “I just want you to recognize that you’re not being entirely fair.”
“Fine . . . I’m happy to admit it. Life isn’t fair. Mike has four kids and a wife who need him. My wife and unborn child are dead, because of what I do for a living. Maybe I don’t want to see that happen to him. Maybe I don’t want to have to knock on Maggie’s door some night and explain to her and the kids that their dad is dead. We’re different people. I’m damaged goods. He still has a shot at a seminormal life, and that’s why he’s going to be the face of this thing. Not me.”
Kennedy didn’t answer for a long time. Rapp rarely talked about his deceased wife and it had caught her off guard. “I think I understand.”
Rapp felt like an ass for coming down so hard on her. “Sorry, boss.”
“For snapping at you like that. You know I’m no good at this stuff. I just . . . he’s not doing well,” Rapp said, changing gears. “I’ve seen it before. The lie is tearing him up.”
“I don’t think seeing his assistant and another dozen and a half coworkers killed did him any favors.”
“No, it didn’t.” Rapp thought about Nash’s fragile state. “Just please do this for me, and do it quick. Before he does something stupid.”
“What do you mean something stupid?” Kennedy asked with trepidation.
“Nothing,” Rapp lied. “It’s just a feeling. Tell Dickerson it’s a go. Get it set up for tomorrow if you can.”
“Aren’t you forgetting something?”
“Mike. You know he’ll never go for this.”
“Don’t worry about him. You tell me what time you need him at the White House, and I’ll have him there. Just make sure everyone keeps their mouth shut.”
SANTA MARIA ISLAND, AZORES
THE landing gear thudded into the down position and the plane banked to port. Out of the nearest window Rapp caught a glimpse of the western edge of Santa Maria Island and her big ten-thousand-foot runway, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers. The place had been a busy hub during World War II and in the decade after but was now nothing more than a tourist destination and convenient meeting place for three spooks who didn’t want to be noticed.
The plane landed so softly Rapp wasn’t sure they were down until the pilots began to brake, but with ten thousand feet of concrete there was no rush. He looked out the window and saw the other two private jets parked in the distance at the refueling station. That was the other thing Santa Maria Island was known for—fuel. Roughly a thousand miles from the European mainland, the big airstrip offered a convenient place to stop for fuel or repairs on transatlantic flights.
The other beauty of the island was that it only had five thousand residents, who were more or less uninterested in the tail numbers on the planes that came and went. Even so, Rapp grabbed a pair of sunglasses and a newspaper as he prepared to exit. When the plane stopped he disengaged the safety lock and lowered the steps. He moved stiffly down the stairs and pretended to read the newspaper as he proceeded around the nose of a Bombardier Global Express. He hesitated for a moment at the base of the Bombardier’s stairs and looked around. Not a person in sight. Rapp bounded up the steps two at a time. Once inside, he glanced to his left. The door to the flight deck was closed. Rapp hit the close button on the hatch and the stairs began to fold back into the closed position. He then walked through the well-appointed galley to the rear of the long-haul private jet. All of the shades were down on the windows, and there, sitting side by side at a table near the back of the plane, were two familiar people.
They were both facing the front, but only one of them stood. At six foot four, George Butler had to tilt his head a few inches to the right to avoid hitting the ceiling. The forty-eight-year-old Brit offered his hand and said, “Hello, Mitch. Good of you to come.”