Blow Out
Page 24

 Catherine Coulter

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Ben ignored them, looked over at the sprawling brick-and-wood house set back in the woods. “Even if you yelled, the neighbors wouldn’t hear you. It feels like we’re in the sticks somewhere, not in a corner of Chevy Chase.”
Ben and Callie climbed out of the car, trudged through the snow-covered sidewalk toward the front door, still ignoring the reporters. By the time they were halfway up the walk, the reporters had swarmed. Ben didn’t stop walking, just pulled out his badge, held it high, waved it in their faces, and shouted, “We have no comment at this time. We don’t have any news for you.”
The snow had thickened a bit. Callie kept her head down, hoping none of the reporters would recognize her.
It was not to be. “Hey, Markham, what are you doing here? I know Justice Califano was your uncle or something, but how come you get to go in with the cop?”
“Hey, sorry, Markham, but can you tell us—”
“What idiots,” she said under her breath, but at least two reporters caught her words. She continued to ignore all of them as best she could, just as Detective Raven did. The microphones were no longer in her face for the simple reason that Ben gave them all a look that could kill. That backed them up a foot, but no more.
“Why don’t you threaten them with your gun?”
“Doesn’t work. I tried it once, but as I recall, they laughed at me. You don’t make a threat unless you can back it up. That’s what my dad always said.”
“Your dad was a cop?”
“Oh yeah. Now he’s private. He’s a riot, finds humor in every case he takes. Once he was dealing with a real badass, but he told me how the guy broke out in hives whenever he visited his mother. He’s very successful. My father, not the badass.”
She blinked up at him and smiled, despite herself. She tuned out the reporters’ yells behind them. “I remember a lot of laughter, too, when my dad was alive. You’re lucky, Ben.”
“That depends. How would you like to have four siblings, all of them older than you, all of them obnoxious and nosy, always in your business, always trying to set you up with blind dates? I’ve had dreams of being an only child, like you.”
She laughed. “None of us are ever satisfied with what we’ve got. Like you’ve got this slight curl in your hair that’s real sexy, and you wear it a little on the long side that makes it even sexier, while I have this straight-as-a-board hair—”
His hair was sexy? Because he wore it too long? “I suppose you’re fishing for a compliment, aren’t you? However, since you’re perfectly able to see yourself in a mirror and know—well, never mind that. Nearly there, just keep walking.”
A TV reporter who’d had to wait for his cameraman to catch up to him yelled, “Hey, Callie, how do you feel about your stepfather being murdered in the Supreme Court?”
Callie stopped in her tracks. “That’s just too much.” She took a step toward the reporter, ready to do battle.
Ben grabbed her arm, said close to her ear, “Just be quiet. You’re already a story to them by yourself. Ignore them, keep your head down. In a minute we’ll be inside.”
Ben rang the doorbell and called out, “It’s Detective Ben Raven of the Metro Police. Please let us in.”
Ben knew they were being closely observed, and he held his badge to the peephole. Three shouted questions later, the door finally cracked open, and Ben was eyeball to eyeball with a federal marshal. They exchanged badges without saying a word.
Callie said, “We wondered where you were.” She saw another federal marshal standing behind him, and an older woman with a tired face peering over his shoulder. “Come in quickly, Detective Raven, Miss, before those jackasses try to knock you down to try to get to Justice Wallace,” said Federal Marshal Ted Ricks. The federal marshal behind Ricks cracked his knuckles. “Yeah, hurry it up.”
Ricks said, “They’ve been lurking for about two hours now. We figured inside was the most useful place to be.” He grinned. “And the warmest.”
The older woman stepped up. “Justice Wallace thought to speak to them, but he decided he prefers a more dignified setting. We’re locked up tight in here, prisoners in our own home. My husband is in his study.”
Ben introduced himself to her when the two federal marshals stepped out of the way. Naturally Mrs. Wallace knew Callie. Ben said quickly, “Ms. Markham isn’t working for the Post on this, ma’am. She’s along to help.”
“I’m sorry about your stepfather, Callie,” Mrs. Wallace said. “Very sorry for all of us really, especially poor Sumner, who’s naturally devastated.” Callie could only nod and took her hands. There was strength and comfort in them. Mrs. Wallace was wearing old black wool pants, a baggy Redskins sweatshirt, and house slippers. Whenever Callie had seen her before, she’d been dressed to the teeth, an elegant, well-coiffed woman who knew her own worth. But now all she looked was exhausted. Callie knew that Beth Wallace and her mother got along well, although Callie didn’t know how close they were. It was Callie who remembered to take off her coat and wipe her boots on the small rug inside the front door. Ben followed her lead. Callie hung up their coats in the front closet. Mrs. Wallace gestured down the hallway. “Both of you, come along now.” The federal marshals remained by the front door, Ricks looking out the peephole at the reporters milling around.