Mark Vincent has risen from senior special agent to Director of Interior Affairs in the WBIS. Lately, life has been sweet for him -- in addition to his promotion, he's found a partner in Quinton Mann, who can almost match his ability in the intelligence field, in spite of the fact Quinn's CIA. Mark has also found a condo in Alexandria with the help of Portia Mann, Quinn's mother, and it's closer to Quinn's town house than Mark's present apartment. Sweetest of all, Mark plans to take Quinn to his island in the Caribbean for the holidays.
Quinn's glad he has the holiday with Mark to look forward to -- something is going on at Langley, and he feels he's being kept out of the loop. To make matters even worse, useless missions and sleepless nights filled with nightmares are leaving him exhausted. But then his mother's life if threatened, and Quinn discovers the accident that resulted in her hospitalization was no accident. The obsessively self-absorbed Senator Wexler is involved, and while Quinn considers himself a civilized man, now he's out for blood.
Up until this point, Mark has stayed out of Quinn's CIA business. But hurting Quinn and those he loves isn't a smart move, and Mark has every intention of seeing Wexler pays. Quinn demands to come along, and while Mark isn't happy, he finally agrees, and they set out together to deal with the senator. There's just one catch: this will be the first time Quinn sees Mark at his deadly best, and Mark isn't sure how his lover will react.
Quinn was quiet on the drive to Great Falls. He found a classical station on the car radio -- I didn't even know the Dodge could pick up stations like that -- stretched out his legs, and crossed his ankles. A quick glance at his face showed me an unreadable expression.
"Not now, Mark. If you don't mind?"
Well, yeah, I minded like hell, but I decided I'd let him brood. An additional Christmas present. Later I'd get what was bothering him out of him.
We pulled up in front of his mother's Tudor home and parked behind his uncle's Mercedes. Novotny came hurrying out to help Mrs. Mann into the house.
"Really, you'd think I was a toddler just learning to walk."
"Listen, Breezy, behave or Santa will take back all your gifts." Her brother was on her other side.
"Very well, I'll let you help me, but not because of your threat. Santa knows I've been very good, unlike some I could name."
They continued their banter up the walk, but when they came to the shallow steps, Novotny scooped her up and carried her into the house. Mrs. Mann didn't say a word of protest.
Quinn gave me a look that I had no trouble interpreting: he wanted me to stay behind. "Ludo, would you mind giving us a hand with these gifts?"
"Love to, dear boy."
We stacked Sebring's gift, as well as Novotny's, in Rivenhall's arms.
"Be careful of the dessert," I warned him as I placed it on top.
"Of course. I'm sure you can manage those two."
Once Rivenhall had started toward the house, "Damn Wexler," Quinn said in a low, strained voice. "God damn his soul to eternal hell for what he's done to my mother."
"You don't think his public humiliation was enough? His wife is going to be in a sanitarium for a lot of years, his aide" -- now sadly deceased -- "not only had a shitload of kiddie porn on his computer but was also selling highly confidential, top-secret information to a foreign power, and what's most important to the senator, he no longer has the access to power he's always craved."
"No." Quinn looked into my eyes. "I thought it would be enough, but seeing Mother like this, needing a cane to get from one point to another, no matter how short the distance, unable to ride, unable to dance, unable to climb a fucking set of stairs ...." His expression was clearly readable now, colder than I'd ever seen it. Yeah, this was the Ice Man with a vengeance. "No, it's not nearly enough."
"What about the civil suit?" I'd been following it, but he didn't have to know that.
"My lawyers say it's worse than useless. I've instructed them to press forward, if only to waste Wexler's time and money."
"It's gonna cost you."
"Fuck the cost."
His reaction didn't surprise me. "The outcome?"
"The judge will throw the case out eventually. Wexler knows that. He doesn't even show up in court."
"Okay." I rested my hand on his shoulder and squeezed lightly. "Wexler thinks the worst has happened to him. He's going to learn differently."
Something like this shouldn't be delegated. I'd take care of it myself. I thought about my conversation with Max. After the New Year, I'd pay a visit to former Senator Wexler's fair state and look him up.
"Mark, I want to be there."
"I work alone, baby."
"I want to be there." His mouth had a stubborn set to it.
"Listen, Mann --"
"No, you listen, Vincent. She's. My. Mother. She was in my car. That should have been me in that hospital bed."
And it would have.
If Wexler hadn't become so obvious in his pursuit of Portia Mann that his wife couldn't help but be aware of it, if Mrs. Wexler hadn't had the tires of Mrs. Mann's Town Car slashed, if Quinn hadn't given his mother his car because he knew I'd driven my own and would give him a lift home ....
So many ifs.
"Okay, Quinn. But I give the orders. And if you don't follow them to the letter -- To. The. Letter -- I won't have any qualms about decking you and handling it on my own. Agreed?"