Medina's voice. What time hadn't softened was her own guilt, the knowledge that Dallas wouldn't have been on that job if she hadn't wanted to take it.
And perhaps she wasn't the only one who felt guilty. Medina, under whatever guise, struck her as a man who would do what was expedient and then forget about it, but he hadn't. He had taken care of her, just as he had promised Dallas, when leaving her to freeze to death in the mountains would have been much easier. She couldn't imagine what had motivated him, but she was deeply grateful all the same. "Do you think I blamed
' she asked softly. "No. I never did."
Again she had surprised him. Looking at him, she saw the way his jaw tightened. "Maybe you should have," he replied.
"Why? What could you have done?" She had relived that night a thousand times on the hard journey to accepting reality. "We never could have gotten him out of the plant alive, much less out of Iran. You knew it. He knew it too. He chose to complete the mission and chose a quick death over a slow, terrible one." She managed a crooked smile. "Like you with your cyanide pill."
"I'm the one who told him to push the button."
"He would have done it no matter what you said. He was my husband, and I knew when I married him that he was a damn hero." She had known the type of man Dallas was, known that he would feel he had to complete the job at all costs, and that cost had included his life.
Medina fell silent, concentrating on his driving. She gave him directions on the next turn; she lived in McLean, on the same side of the river as Langley, so the commute was easy.
Once before she had sat beside him as he drove through the night, and he had been silent then, too. It was after Hadi had "liberated" a 1968 Ford Fairlane from the Iranian village, and they had driven into Tehran together. Then Hadi had split off, and she and Medina had gone on alone. She had been feverish and aching, battered by grief and guilt, barely functional.
Medina had taken care of her. When the nail wound in her arm became infected, from somewhere he procured a vial of antibiotic and gave her an injection. He made certain she ate and slept, and he got her across the border into Turkey. He had been there during the first awful paroxysm of grief and hadn't tried to comfort her, knowing that weeping was better than holding it in.
All in all, she owed this man her life.
Blaming Medina would have been easy, much easier than blaming herself. But the inner steel that had attracted Dallas to her in the first place made it impossible, after his death, for her to do anything but face the truth: When Medina approached her and Dallas about the job, Dallas wanted to decline. She was the one who wanted to take it. She could tell herself that the job had been important, and it had been, but there had been others Medina could have recruited if she and Dallas had turned him down.
Yes, Dallas had been very good at explosives. She was very good with electronics, whether it was putting together a functional radio or detonator or bugging a phone line. But other people were also good at those things, and they would have done the job just as well. She had wanted to go, not because she was indispensable, but because she craved the adventure.
As a child she had always been the one to climb highest in the tree, to tie bed sheets together and use them to slide down from a second-story window. She loved roller coasters and white-water rafting and had even toyed with the idea, during high school, of working on a bomb squad. To her parents' relief she had instead begun studying electronics and languages, only to find that her expertise took her farther away from home and into more danger than she ever would have gone with the local bomb squad.
Niema knew her own nature. She loved the thrill, the adrenaline rush, of danger. She had been seeking that thrill, though in pursuit of a legitimate goal, and she had gotten Dallas killed. If not for her, they would