David baldacci — simple genius (the third book in the sean king and michelle maxwell series)
The third book in the Sean King and Michelle Maxwell series
To my dear friend Maureen Egen, May the days be long and the seas calm.
THERE ARE FOUR ACKNOWLEDGED WAYS of meeting your maker: You can die by natural causes including illness; you can die by accident; you can die by another’s hand; and you can die by your own hand.
However, if you live in Washington, D.C., there is a fifth way of kicking the bucket: the political death. It can spring from many sources: frolicking in a public fountain with an exotic dancer who is not your wife; stuffing bags of money in your pants when the payer unfortunately happens to be the FBI; or covering up a bungled burglary when you call 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home.
Michelle Maxwell was currently stalking the pavement in the nation’s capital, but because she wasn’t a politician, that fifth choice of mortal exit was not available to her. In fact, the lady was focused only on getting so wasted she’d wake up the next morning with a chunk of her memory gone. There was much she wanted to forget; much that she had to forget.
Michelle crossed the street, pushed open the bullet-pocked door of the bar and stepped inside. The smoke hit her first, some of it actually from cigarettes. The other aromas were rising off substances that kept the DEA jacked up and in business.
Brain-piercing music crushed all other sounds and would provide an army of hearing specialists with lucrative business in a few years. While glasses and bottles clinked, a trio of ladies ground it out on the dance floor. Meanwhile, a pair of waitresses juggled trays and bad attitudes, all the while prepared to slug anyone attempting to grab their ass.
The bar’s collective attention turned to Michelle, the only WASP in the house this or probably any other night. She looked back at them with enough defiance that they returned to their drinks and talk. That status could change because Michelle Maxwell was tall and very attractive. What they didn’t realize was that she could be nearly as dangerous as a bomb-wrapped terrorist and was looking for any reason to put her foot through someone’s front teeth.
Michelle found a corner table in the back and wedged in, nursing her first drink of the night. An hour and more drinks later, the woman’s rage began to swell. Her pupils seemed to grow dry and harden, while the rest of the eyeball eased to a blood red. She lifted a finger at the passing waitress who satisfied her thirst one last time. Now all Michelle wanted was a target for the fury that had laid claim to every square inch of her.
She swallowed the last drop of alcohol, stood and whipped her long dark hair out of her face. Michelle’s gaze zoned the room grid-by-grid looking for the lucky one. It was a technique the Secret Service had pounded into her head until that instinct of observation became the only way she could look at anything or anyone ever again.
It didn’t take long for Michelle to find the man of her crystallizing nightmare. He was easily a head taller than anyone else in the place. And that head was chocolate brown, bald and beautifully smooth with a column of gold rings stacked in each thick earlobe. His shoulders spanned about a mile. He wore baggie camouflage pants, black military boots and an Army green shirt that showed bare arms full of knotted muscles. He stood there sipping his beer, swaying that big head to the beat of the music, mouthing trash lyrics it was impossible even to hear. Definitely her kind of guy.