Peter shifted a little uncomfortably. “Well, ma’am, I just, I wanted to stop by and talk to you. I just can’t get my head around Jack being in jail.”
Teri bit her lip and looked past Peter, as though expecting to see someone else there. “Come in, Peter.”
Teri stepped back and let him enter, feeling as she did as if she was allowing the CTU agent to cross some sort of boundary. Her relationship to Jack’s work was, by nature, distant and difficult. At the moment it was also tragic.
Peter looked as uncomfortable as she felt. He had a boyish look for a CTU agent, with a plump face and a ruler-straight part in his thick black hair. He wore a blue suit and dress shirt, but no tie. This Peter Jiminez might have been a young movie executive or a banker, but Teri knew from experience that he would have a gun slung under his arm, and probably another hidden somewhere.
“Can I get you something?” she offered, motioning him to sit on the living room couch. She took a seat in a chair across from the table.
“No, ma’am, thank you,” he replied. “I don’t want to trouble you. Truth is, I’m not even sure why I’m here. Do you mind if I just jump right in? Here’s the thing: when my chance came to join CTU, I jumped at it, because I wanted to work with your husband.”
“Did you know him?”
“Not him personally, but his reputation. CTU guys don’t talk much about their work, that’s true of a lot of agencies, of course. But word gets around. I was in Diplomatic Security Services when they started the CTU program. We did protective services — bodyguard stuff, but we don’t like using the word bodyguard. I was too young to get in, but this is where I wanted to be. So I jumped from DSS to the CIA. In the CIA, of course, I heard all kinds of stuff about what CTU was doing. I’ve got to tell you that Jack’s name came up a lot.”
“I’m sure it did,” Teri said wryly.
Peter laughed. “Well, there was some colorful language attached to his name sometimes. But he also had a reputation for getting the job done. So I jumped into CTU the first chance I got. Two months on the job, and now this happens.”
Teri pulled her feet up and crossed her legs in the chair. This Peter Jiminez was very sincere, but she was confused. Did he want her to be his counselor? If so, he had another think coming. She had a daughter whose father was in jail for murder. “Agent Jiminez, is there something you need from me?”
“I just don’t think he did it, ma’am,” Peter insisted. “Not without a good reason. But there’s no one looking into it on his side. CTU has just written him off. I figured”— he fixed his eyes on her to let her know how serious his statement was—“I figured I’d see what I could do on my own to help out, and I thought I’d start by asking you if there’s any direction you might point me.”
So it was an investigation. Teri folded her arms across her chest. She wasn’t sure if Jiminez’s schoolboy demeanor was an act or his true persona, but she’d been around Jack long enough to recognize a good-cop interrogation when she saw one.
“Agent Jiminez,” she said, her voice hardening ever so slightly. “You have to know that there were lots of things about Jack’s work that he didn’t discuss at home.”
“Of course, ma’am. It’s just that. well, to be honest, a man will sometimes tell his wife things that he won’t tell anyone else.”
Teri laughed, but it was a small thing, with a bitter sound in it. “There are probably more things a man won’t tell his wife.”
Jiminez actually blushed. He really was a schoolboy. “Maybe you’re right, ma’am. But if you don’t mind me saying so, you seem like someone to trust. I’m wondering if there was something going on at the agency that Jack didn’t like. Something he might have confided in you. Maybe someone else was out to get him?”
“You think he was set up.”
Peter held his hands up, warding off the suggestion. “I’m not saying anything for sure, ma’am. I’m just wondering if he said anything to you about trouble with anyone else at the agency.”
Teri shook her head. “You may or may not know that my marriage with Jack has had some pretty rough patches, and pretty recently.”
Jiminez fidgeted in his seat, but nodded. “Ma’am.”
“There’ve been times when we’ve barely spoken and when we did, it wasn’t about his work. There are times when he’s gone for days at a time, and he comes home without a single word about where he’s been or what he’s done. For all I know, he’s saved the world from a nuclear bomb. Or maybe he’s just been in somebody else’s bed. I never know. So no, he’s never told me about any trouble at work. But I will tell you one thing I do know.” Now it was her turn to fix her eyes on him. Her gaze bored into him in a look she had long practiced. “The one thing I do know is that Jack is capable of anything.”
Jack followed Ramirez back into their cell, escorted by Lafayette and two other guards. As soon as the door was locked, Jack turned to the officer. “I need to get in touch with someone on the outside. Can you make a call for me?”
“Call tomorrow,” Lafayette drawled lazily. The trouble was over for now, and he wanted to move on before this became something that required paperwork.
“I can’t wait,” Jack said. “This gang will keep coming at me. Look, all I’m asking is for you to make a one-minute phone call.”
Lafayette frowned at him. He was fit for a man in his early fifties, but he wore all those years in the lines of his face when he frowned. “You know what it’d be if I made a one-minute call for every bird in this cage?”
“They’re not all getting killed. Come on, thirty seconds.”
The lines on the guard’s face deepened. “Awright. I make this call, you forget all about this fight tonight. Then I don’t have to do paperwork.”
Jack agreed. He gave Lafayette the number to CTU. “Tell them you’re calling for Ryan Chappelle. Tell them it’s an emergency. When you get Chappelle, tell him you’re calling because things are going south. Say exactly that, okay?”
Lafayette had been reluctant at first, but he also didn’t like too many fights on his watch. A scuffle here and there between inmates was all right — hell, sometimes it was downright entertaining — but he didn’t like what was going on with these Salvatruchas and Bauer. There was some bad sauce on those ribs, like his mama always said. He locked Jack back in his cell and moseyed down to the guard’s office behind its Plexiglas walls.
Lafayette had returned a few minutes later. “You’re having a bad day,” he said to Jack. “Or maybe it’s everyone around you’s having a bad day.”
“Did you tell him? Jack had asked eagerly.
“Nope,” the corrections officer said. “Couldn’t. He’s in the hospital, too.”
Lafayette had walked away, his job done. But Jack clutched the bars of his cage, squeezing until his knuckles turned white.
But it wasn’t in him to panic. He let go of the bars and watched the color flow back into his fingers. Observe. Assess. Act. That was how battles were won. He had suddenly become a target of MS–13, and since MS–13 was a major force in Los Angeles, and ran a crime syndicate that violated dozens of Federal laws, this Federal jail was crowded with Salvatruchas. They’d keep coming at him from different angles until they put him down. Adam Cox, who was more valuable to Jack than anyone in here knew, was dead. The warden, whom Jack could have turned to, was out of commission, maybe dead, too, for all Jack knew. And now Chappelle. It was certainly no coincidence that the three people he could turn to had all been neutralized.
He was in trouble. What kind of trouble, he didn’t yet know, and he would certainly never find out by waiting around inside for MS–13 to kill him.