The Last Man
Author:Vince Flynn

Chapter 51

RAPP and Hurley reviewed the file. Nash, Schneeman, and Coleman had done the bulk of the interrogations, with Lewis providing a brief psychological evaluation. Gould had been very uncooperative, repeating the same things over and over and insisting that he was done talking to anyone other than Rapp. It was total bullshit. The two veterans could smell it from a mile away. Gould was weaving partial truths with outright lies in an effort to hold on to some negotiating chip. From Rapp's perspective none of it mattered. The only negotiating chip that would work with Rapp was the truth.

Unlike the transcripts, which were worthless, the surveillance footage of Rapp that had been shot by Gould before the assassination proved rather interesting. It took just two viewings for Rapp and Hurley to see what had spooked Gould. Someone with less field experience would have missed it. Hurley and Rapp were so attuned to the normal rhythms of a street that the two men jumped out at them.

Rapp took the steps to the basement and hit the buzzer on the metal door. They turned their heads skyward for the camera, and then when he heard the buzz of the lock Rapp opened the door. The room was rectangular, with two large viewing windows for each cell. Gould was in the cell on the left and the one on the right was unoccupied. Big Joe Maslick was sitting at the control desk.

"How's it going, Joe?" Rapp asked.

"Boring as shit. What's with the Zurich trip . . . did I get bumped?"

"Not my call, Joe. Sorry . . . Irene's running the show."

"Is it my shoulder?" Maslick moved his arm around. "It's fine . . . just a little scratch."

Rapp knew that wasn't true. Maslick had been shot at the veterinary clinic in Kabul. Kennedy had told Rapp the doctors were nervous that there might be some nerve damage, but they wouldn't know until he'd completed at least another month of physical therapy. The bigger concern was that his best friend Mick Reavers had been killed in the same attack. Lewis wanted to make sure Maslick was coping before they sent him back out in the field.

"You'll have to bring it up with Kennedy." Rapp took the file in his hand and pointed at Gould's cell. "What's he up to?"

"Nothing." Maslick rocked back in his chair. "He keeps asking to see you. It'd drive me nuts if it wasn't for the fact that the prick probably saved our lives."

"How do you mean?"

"For starters, he could have plugged you the second you stepped out of the vehicle, back in Kabul. After that . . . once the shooting started," Maslick said, shaking his head, "he kept those dogs at bay. If he hadn't been up on the roof with me . . . we would have been fucked."

"You been talking to him?" Rapp asked while he pointed at Gould, who was lying on his bed.

"No . . . not really."

"Keep it that way. What's the status on the video and audio?"

"It's on."

"Take 'em both off-line."

Maslick looked uncomfortable. "Sorry, but Irene said she wants everything recorded."

Rapp was pissed. "Come on!"

"She was adamant, Mitch. She told me you'd want it turned off and that under no circumstances was I to allow that. She also said you need to check your guns."

Turning to Hurley, Rapp said, "What the hell?"

Hurley offered a shrug and said, "Who gives a shit? So she and Doc are going to want to slice and dice your performance? That's nothing new." Hurley drew his 1911 from his hip holster and set it on the desk. "Let's go." Hurley motioned at Rapp to do the same and said, "Come on."

Maslick disengaged the lock and Rapp entered the cell, Hurley behind him. The interrogation table was bolted to the concrete floor, as were the chairs on each side. The bed was also bolted to the floor, and next to it was a toilet with no seat and a small sink. The floor was coated with three inches of black rubber to cushion any falls, and the walls and ceiling were covered in gray foam acoustic tiles that enabled the microphones to catch even the softest whisper.

Rapp set the file on the table and pointed to the chair on the other side. Gould slowly unclasped his hands from behind his head and sat up. "Who's that?" he asked, looking past Rapp.

Rapp didn't bother looking over his shoulder. This arrogant prick was still trying to act as if he was in a charge. Before Rapp could say anything, Hurley answered.

"Who I am is none of your fucking business. You need to be concerned about why I'm here."

Gould rolled his eyes. "Okay, why are you here?"

"I'm here to make sure he kills you this time, and if he doesn't I'll gladly step in and snap your neck."

"Yeah, right," Gould scoffed. "Give it your best shot, old man."

Rapp felt Hurley move past him. Gould was caught in a bad spot on the edge of the bed and underestimated Hurley's quickness. He was halfway up when Hurley smacked him in the jaw with a quick right hook. Gould fell back to the bed and Rapp saw Hurley turn back to him with a pair of brass knuckles on his right hand. Gould was half sitting against the wall holding his jaw. His eyes were closed tight, as he fought through the pain.

"You're not in charge," Rapp said. "So get your ass over here, or I'll let this old man beat the shit out of you."

Gould slowly made his way over to the table, working his jaw as he sat. "That was uncalled for." Addressing Rapp, he added, "That's the way you treat the man who saved your life?"

"Say what?"

"When I got to that building across the street and found out you were the target I could have taken the shot. It would have been easy, but I owed you. I could have run . . . I could have done anything, but instead, I chose to walk across the street and save your ass. And this is how you treat me," Gould said as he held out his arms and looked around the cell.

"Did you have backup for the operation?"

"Excuse me?"

"Backup. Were there people there to support you?"

"No." Gould shook his head. "I always work alone. You know that."

Rapp opened the folder and withdrew one photo and then another. He laid them on the table side by side. "You recognize these guys?"

Gould did, but he shook his head.

"Really? That surprises me. We got them off the memory card you had when we strip-searched you at Bagram." They were photos of two men, both talking on cell phones while manning their posts at each end of the block where the attack had taken place. Rapp laid a third photo on the table, one that had been provided by the Afghan Police. It showed one of the men lying on the ground with a bullet hole in his chest. Rapp made an educated guess and said, "You recognized this guy from your surveillance run and then when you were on the roof you shot him."

Gould did his best to show that he was unaffected. "You may think whatever you like."

"This is really a treat," Rapp said, smiling, "watching you sit here like you did the right thing when we all know you're a piece of shit. You didn't cross the street to save my life . . . you crossed the street to save your own ass. You saw the police show up and you realized you were going to be double-crossed. Your only chance of surviving was to come over and join forces with us."

"You have no idea what you're talking about."

Rapp picked up the three photos and replaced them with two new ones. He had used this trick before. Fathers and husbands were uniquely vulnerable when it came to their wives and their children. Rapp watched Gould. The only sign that the photos affected him was that he looked away after a few seconds.

"I gave you a second chance," Rapp started.

"And I gave you your life in Kabul," Gould quickly added. "We're even."

Anger in this line of work could be an asset as long as it was controlled. Rapp understood this as well as anyone, but this was an exception. This was more personal than anything he had ever dealt with. He made no effort to slow or curb the rage that came rushing to the surface. "You piece of shit. You think I'm that selfish . . . that just because you're so in love with yourself, I must be as well? You dumbass. I would have gladly given my life if it meant that my wife and child could have lived, but I didn't get that choice because you killed them." Rapp leaned over the table and drilled Gould square in the nose with his left fist. Gould's head snapped back, and blood began cascading over his upper lip.

Rapp walked around the table and punched him in the side of the head. Gould moved his arms and hands up to protect his face. Rapp grabbed him by the hair with his right hand and pounded away. "You selfish fuck. I gave you a second chance at life. I allowed you and your wife to live so you could raise that little girl. Do you know what I'd give to spend one more day with my wife?" Rapp stopped punching and yanked Gould's head back so he would have to look at him. "I never got to meet my kid, you idiot. I gave you life. You've spent three years with your daughter. I didn't get one fucking second." Rapp's left fist came crashing down two more times, the thin skin above Gould's left eye bursting. "What are you . . . some kind of a crack addict . . . you need the fix . . . you can't walk away?"

"You don't understand," Gould yelled back. "You're still in the game. You don't know what it's like . . . all of these idiots wandering through life. There's a fucking Walmart in New Zealand . . . did you know that?"

"What in the hell are you talking about?" With the realization that Gould might be nuts, Rapp let go. "You actually think we're alike, don't you?"

"More than you will ever want to admit." Gould took his shirt-sleeve to wipe the blood from his mouth.

"I don't get off on the kill. I don't take bags of cash to do my job. I kill bad guys like you because you not in it makes the world a better place."

Gould wasn't buying a word. "You're lying to yourself. No one can be as good as you and not love it."

"You're wrong. It's a job that I happen to be good at, but I don't get off on it like you do. I don't need the challenge. All I'm trying to do is rid the world of assholes like you . . . something I should have done when I found you on that beach. Do you realize the gift I gave you?"

Gould straightened himself and stared at the surface of the table, refusing to answer Rapp's question.

"You know what . . . they don't deserve you." Rapp walked back around the table and pulled out the photos of Gould's wife and daughter. He placed them directly in front of Gould and then while walking back around the table he drew a second, smaller pistol from the small of his back. "This is your moment of truth." Rapp pressed the barrel into the back of Gould's head.

Maslick's voice came over the speakers. "Mitch, the interrogation is over."

Hurley looked at the mirrored glass, knowing Maslick was on the other side ready to call Kennedy. "Put that fucking phone down right now, Joe." Now Hurley had a gun in his hands as well. "We're going to settle this right now. Either this piece of shit is going to tell us everything he knows, or we're going to execute his ass, and if anyone tries to stop us I'm going to put a bullet in his head."

Rapp forced Gould to look at the photos. "No more games. You either talk and prove to me that they matter to you, or I blow your brains all over those photos and you never see them again. It's an easy choice. What's it going to be?"

"I saved your life," Gould growled through gritted teeth.

"You saved your own ass."

"No, I didn't," Gould shouted.

"None of it matters, Louie. There's no negotiating. You either talk or you're dead."

"I want assurances."

Rapp let go of his hair for a second and slapped Gould in the head. "The only promise you'll get out of me is that I'll let you see your wife and daughter if you tell me everything."

"See them . . . that's not good enough. I want assurances that I will be able to return to my old life."

"As an assassin . . . Are you fucking nuts?" Rapp looked up at Hurley and said, "Can you believe this guy?"

"Don't waste any more time. Just kill him. We'll get Obrecht to talk. We don't need him."

"You're right." Rapp jammed the gun into the back of Gould's head.

Gould wasn't sure if Rapp was bluffing. The man had proven to be difficult to predict. All he needed to do was get through this and then he could negotiate with Kennedy or one of the others guys later. "Wait."

"No more waiting. I know what you're thinking right now," Rapp whispered. "'Is he bluffing or is he going to pull that trigger?' Well, all you have to do is ask yourself one question . . . If someone killed Claudia and your daughter, what would you do? You wouldn't hesitate, would you? The guy would already be dead. So if you think you and I are so much alike, then you know I'll pull this trigger. This is your last chance. We're all dying, Gould. Just some of us sooner than others."