Энди МакНаб. Удаленный контроль(engl)

     REMOTE CONTROL [042-011-4.5]
     By: Andy McNab

     Don't expect to see Andy McNab's  photograph on the cover of his  first
thriller, Remote Control--the former British  Special Air Service agent says
both the Colombian drug  cartel and the Provisional IRA still have contracts
out on him.  His two  nonfiction books, Bravo Two Zero and Immediate Action,
give more detail about his prolific past.
     Remote Control is the fictional story of an SAS agent named Nick Stone,
who is  on  the  case of two  Irish terrorists. He  follows  them across the
Atlantic to Washington, D.C.,  but is suddenly ordered back home on the next
available flight.  His old mate Kevin Brown, now with the  Drug  Enforcement
Agency, lives  near the  airport,  so  Nick  decides to  drop in. He finds a
slaughterhouse: Kev, his wife, and youngest  daughter have been battered  to
death,  but  daughter  Kelly has  survived  in  a  special  hideout.  Prying
information  from the  shocked child,  Nick links  the killers to either the
CIA,  the  DEA, or his own organization--which  means that  he and Kelly are
virtually on their own. As Nick trundles the spunky youngster from one seedy
motel to another, stuffs her with junk food,  and teaches her the  rudiments
of spy craft, he also  begins to  piece together a picture  of why Kevin and
his family were killed. There is a connection between a terrorist bomb scare
in  Gibraltar   in  1988,   the  Colombian   drug  cartel,  and   high-level
intelligence-agency  skullduggery. McNab keeps dropping those  shiny nuggets
of believability  along the trail and winds up holding  our  attention until
the predictable but satisfying end. 
     BALLANTINE BOOKS NEW  YORK Sale of this book  without a  front cover
may be unauthorized. If this book is coverless, it may have been reported to
the  publisher  as "unsold or  destroyed"  and neither  the  author  nor the
publisher may have received payment for it.
     A  Ballantine  Book  Published   by  The  Ballantine  Publishing  Group
Copyright 1997 by Andy McNab
     All  rights  reserved  under International  and  Pan-American Copyright
Conventions.  Published in the  United States  by  The Ballantine Publishing
Group, a division of Random House, Inc." New York.
     Originally  published  in Great Britain by Bantam Press, a  division of
Transworld Publishers Ltd." London.
     This  book  is  a  work of  fiction.  Names,  characters,  places,  and
incidents  are either  the  product of  the author's imagination or are used
     Ballantine and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
     www. random house.com/BB/
     Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 9991022
     ISBN 0345428064
     Manufactured in the United States of America
     First American Hardcover Edition: June 1999  First American Mass Market
Edition: January 2000 GIBRALTAR: SUNDAY, MARCH 6,1988
     We didn't  know which  of the three was going to detonate the bomb. All
Simmonds  had been able to tell  us  was that it was a  big one, and that it
would be initiated remotely.
     For now, though, there was nothing to do but wait. The security service
had triggers  out on the checkpoints with mainland Spain. Until  the players
were  sighted, Pat, Kev, and I were to stay  exactly  where we were: sitting
outside a cafe just off Main Street, drinking coffee, looking and listening.
     The   spring  air  was  crisp  and  clear  under   a  blindingly   blue
Mediterranean  sky,  the morning sun just  starting to  make it  comfortable
enough for shirtsleeves. The  trees that lined the  square were  packed with
birds so small I couldn't see them  among the foliage, but they  made enough
noise  to drown out the sound of  traffic  going up and down the  main drag,
just out of sight. It was strange to think that this small  outpost,  on the
tip of southern Spain, was still under British jurisdiction, a last  bastion
of Empire.
     Through  my earpiece  I heard Euan make a radio check to the operations
room. Everything he said on the net was very precise, very clear, very calm.
Euan was the tidiest man in the world. If you sat on a cushion he would puff
it up again the moment you stood up. Dedication was his middle name.
     I heard a loud hiss of air brakes and looked up.  A tour bus had turned
into the square and was parking about twenty  yards away. The  sign  in  the
windshield said young at heart.
     I didn't pay much attention. I was bored, looking for things to do. The
laces on one of my running shoes had come undone.
     I bent down to do them up and got a  jab in the ribs from the hammer of
the 9mm Browning.  The holster was covert, inside my  jeans; that  way, only
the  pistol grip  would  be in view  if I pulled open my  black nylon bomber
jacket. I  preferred to have my pistol  at the front. A lot of the guys wore
theirs  on the side, but I could  never  get  used  to  it.  Once you find a
position you like,  you don't change; you might be in deep  shit one day, go
to draw your weapon and it isn't there it's several more inches to the right
and you're dead.
     I  had  an extended twenty-round  magazine  protruding from the  pistol
grip. I also had three standard thirteen-round mags on my belt if fifty-nine
rounds weren't enough, I shouldn't be doing this for a living.
     The senior citizens began getting off the bus. They were typical  Brits
abroad,  the men  dressed  almost  identically:   beige flannels,  sensible
shoes, and a V-neck sweater over a shirt and tie. Most of the  women were in
polyester  slacks with  elastic waistbands and  a sewn-in  crease  down  the
front. They  all had flawless,  blow-dried, jet black, white, or blue-rinsed
hair. They spotted the cafe and started to move as a herd toward us.
     Pat muttered,  "Fuck me, the  enemy must  be getting desperate  They've
sent the Barry Manilow fan  club. Friends of  yours, grand ad He grinned  at
Kev, who offered him a finger to swivel on. Whether you like it  or not, you
have  to quit  the SAS the Special  Air Service at the age of forty, and Kev
had just a year or two of his contract with the Regiment left.
     The  young  at heart settled down  at  nearby tables and picked up  the
menus. It was now decision time for them whether to have dessert or go for a
sandwich, because it was halfway between coffee break and lunchtime and they
didn't know which way to jump.
     The waiter came out, and  they started talking to him one syllable at a
time. He looked at them as if they were crazy.
     On the net I heard, "Hello, all call signs, this is Alpha. Radio check,
over." Alpha, who was located in the ops room, was our controller. When we'd
flown in sixty  hours ago, our team of eight SAS soldiers  and support staff
had requisitioned rooms in the accommodation block at HMS Rooke, the British
naval base in the docks, and turned them into living space.
     Kev responded quietly into his concealed microphone:
     Pat: "Oscar."
     I heard Euan: "November."
     My turn came: "Delta."
     The elderly Brits started taking pictures of themselves.
     Then  they were swapping  cameras so  they  could  appear  in their own
     Slack Pat got up and said to one of them, "Here yare,  love, want me to
take one of all of you?"
     "Ooh, you're from England, are you? Isn't it nice and warm now?"
     Slack was in his early thirties, blond-haired, blue-eyed, good-looking,
clever, articulate, funny; he was everything I hated. He was also six  feet
two,  and one of  those people who naturally  shit muscle. Even his hair was
well toned;  I'd seen him  climb into his sleeping bag with his hair looking
groomed and perfect and wake  up with  it in the same condition.  Pat's only
saving grace, as  far as I  was concerned, was  that when he stood up, there
was nothing where  his  ass  should have  been. We used  to  call him  Slack
because he had lots of it.
     He had just started doing a Richard Avedon when we got:
     "Stand by, stand by!" on the net from one of the female triggers.
     "That's a possible, a possible--Bravo One toward the town square."
     Alpha came back, "Roger that. Delta, acknowledge."
     I got to my  feet, gave two  clicks  on the  radio transmitter that was
wired into my jacket pocket, and started walking. It was pointless all three
of us moving at this stage.
     Families on their Sunday paseo  strolled across from my  left. Tourists
were taking pictures  of buildings, looking  at maps,  and  scratching their
heads; locals were sitting down, enjoying the  weather, walking  their dogs,
playing    with   their    grandchildren.   There    were   two   men   with
comfortable-looking  beer  bellies,  old  and not  giving  a  fuck,  smoking
themselves to  death.  Pants  with  big  suspenders, shirt  and  undershirt,
soaking up the March sun.
     I  wondered how  many  of them would survive if the bomb  went off just
     I was just  starting  to  get in  my  stride when  a very fired up male
trigger  shouted: "Stand  by, stand by! That's also a possible Bravo Two and
Echo One at the top end of Main Street."
     This got me quite excited.
     I listened for  Euan.  His task in this operation was the same as mine:
to confirm  the "possibles" with a positive  ID. I  imagined him  sauntering
along the sidewalk like me. He was short, with  an acne-scarred face and the
world's  biggest motorcycle, which he  could just about keep upright because
his toes only brushed the ground. I liked to take the piss out  of him about
it  as often  as I could.  I  knew the guy like a brother--in fact, probably
better; I hadn't seen  any of my family for more than ten years. Euan and  I
had  been young soldiers together; we'd passed  Selection  at the same time,
and we'd been working together  ever since. The fucker was so  unflappable I
always thought his heart must  have been only barely  beating. I'd been with
him in Hereford when the police arrived to tell him that his sister had been
murdered. He  just  said,  "I think I'd  better go  to London then  and sort
things out." It  wasn't  that he didn't  care; he  just didn't get  excited
about anything. That sort  of calm is  contagious.  It  always made  me feel
secure to have guys like him around me.
     I hit Main Street and spotted Bravo One right away.
     I got  on  the net: "Alpha, this is Delta.  That's confirmed-Bravo One,
brown pinstripe on faded blue."
     He  always wore that brown  pinstriped suit jacket; he'd had  it for so
long that it sagged in the  pockets, and  there were constant creases in the
back from  wearing it in a car. And the same old faded and threadbare jeans,
the crotch halfway down between his balls and his knees. He was walking away
from me, stocky, slight stoop, short hair, long sideburns , but I recognized
the gait. I knew it was Sean Savage.
     Bomb maker number one for the Provisional Irish Republican Army--PIRA.
     I followed him to a small square at the bottom end of Main Street, near
the  governor's residence, where  the band  of the resident British infantry
battalion  would fall out  after the  changing of the guard.  It  was  where
Simmonds suspected the PIRA team might plant their bomb.
     Alpha, the base station controlling the operation for now, repeated the
message so that everyone knew which direction  Savage was walking in. I knew
that Golf and Oscar Kev and Slack Pat would soon start moving up behind me.
     There  were six  or  seven  cars parked up  against the  wall of an old
colonial  building, taking advantage of  the shade. I saw Bravo One push his
hand into his jacket pocket as he headed toward them. For  a  split second I
thought he was going for the initiation device.
     Without  checking  his  stride,  Savage  focused  on  one  vehicle   in
particular and headed toward it.  I moved slightly  to the right  so I had a
clear view of the license plate.
     "Alpha, this is Delta," I said.
     "That's Bravo One now at vehicle Mike Lima 174412."
     I  pictured Alpha  with the  bank of computers  in front of him  in the
control room. He confirmed, "Roger  that, Mike  Lima  174412. That's a white
Renault Five."
     "It's on the right, third car from the entrance," I said.
     "That's nose in."  By now the keys were in Savage's hands.
     "Stop, stop, stop. Bravo One at the car, he's at the car."
     I was committed to  passing him quite close now  I couldn't just change
direction. I could see his profile; his chin and top lip  were full of zits,
and I knew what that meant.
     Under pressure, his acne always blew up.
     Savage was  still at the Renault.  He turned, now with his back  to me,
pretending to sort his keys out, but I knew he'd be checking the  telltales.
A sliver  of  Scotch  tape across a door, things arranged  in a certain  way
inside the vehicle; whatever, if they were not  as he had left them.  Savage
would lift off.
     Kev and Slack Pat would be  somewhere near the  entrance to the square,
ready to "back." If I got overexposed to the target, one of  them would take
over, or if  I got in deep shit and had a contact, they would have to finish
it and we'd all worked together long enough  for me to know that, as friends
as well as colleagues, they'd let nothing stand between them and the task.
     The  buildings were casting shadows across  the square. I couldn't feel
any breeze, just the change in temperature as I moved out of the sunlight.
     I was too close to  Savage now to  transmit. As I walked past the car I
could hear the keys going in and the click of the lock.
     I headed for a wooden bench on the far side of the square and sat down.
There  were newspapers  in  a trash can next  to me;  I picked  one  out and
pretended to read, watching him.
     Savage made a suspicious move and I got back on the net:
     "Alpha, this is Delta that's his feet outside, he's fiddling underneath
the dashboard, he's fiddling under the dashboard.
     Wait..." I had my finger on the button,  so  I was still commanding the
net. Could he be making the final connection to the bomb?
     As  I was doing my  ventriloquist act, an  old guy wandered toward  me,
pushing his bike.  The  fucker  was  on his way over for a chat. I  took  my
finger off the  button  and  waited.  I  was deeply  involved  in the  local
newspaper but didn't have a clue what it said. He obviously thought I did. I
didn't want to  stick around and discuss the weather, but I wasn't going  to
just blow him off either because he might start jumping up and down and draw
Savage's attention.  The old guy  stopped, one hand  on his bike, the other
one flailing around. He asked  me a question. I didn't  understand a word he
was saying. I made a face  that said I didn't know what the world was coming
to,  shrugged, and looked down again at  the  paper. I'd obviously  done the
wrong thing. He said some angry shit, then wheeled his  bike away, arm still
     I got back on the  radio. I couldn't exactly see what Savage was doing,
but both of his feet were still outside the Renault.
     He  had his ass on the driver's seat  and  was leaning  under neath the
dash. It  looked  as if he  was trying to get  something  out  of the  glove
compartment as  if he'd forgotten  some thing  and  gone  back to  get it. I
couldn't  confirm  what  he  was doing but  his hands  kept going  into  his
     Everything was closing in. I felt  like a boxer I could hear the crowd,
I was listening to my seconds and the referee, I was listening for the bell,
but mostly I was focused on the  boy I was  fighting. Nothing else mattered.
Nothing. The only important people in the world were me and Bravo One.
     Through my earpiece I could hear  Euan  working  like a  man possessed,
trying to get on top of the other two terrorists.
     Kev and Slack Pat were still backing me; the other two boys in our team
were with Euan. They'd all still be satelliting, listening on the net so  as
to be out of sight of the targets, but always close enough to back  us if we
got in trouble.
     Euan closed  in on  Bravo Two  and  Echo One. They  were coming in  our
direction. Everybody knew where they  were; everybody would keep out  of the
way so they had a clear run in.
     I recognized them as soon as they turned the corner.
     Bravo  Two  was  Daniel Martin McCann.  Unlike  Savage,  who  was  well
educated and an expert bomb maker, "Mad Danny" was  a butcher by trade and a
butcher by nature. He'd  been  expelled from  the movement by Gerry Adams in
1985  for  threatening to initiate  a  campaign  of murder  that  would have
hampered the new political strategy.  It was a bit like being kicked  out of
the Gestapo  for cruelty.  But  McCann had  supporters and soon got  himself
reinstated. Married with two children, he  had twenty-six killings linked to
his name. Ulster Loyalists had  tried  to whack him once,  but failed.  They
should have tried harder.
     Echo  One  was  Mairead  Farrell.  Middle  class   and   an  ex-convent
schoolgirl,  she was, at thirty-one, one of the highest-ranking women in the
IRA. See her picture and you'd think, aah,  an angel.  But she'd served ten
years for planting a  bomb in Belfast and reported back for duty  as soon as
she was released. Things hadn't gone her way; a few months earlier her lover
had accidentally blown himself up. As Simmonds  had  said at  the  briefing,
that made her one very pissed off Echo One.
     I knew them  both  well; Euan and I had been working  against them  for
years. I got on the net and confirmed the ID.
     Everybody was in place. Alpha would be in  the  control  room  with the
senior policeman,  people  from  the Foreign Office, people  from  the  Home
Office, you name it, every man and his dog would be there, everybody wanting
to  put  in  their two cents' worth, everybody with their  own concerns.  We
could only hope that Simmonds would be looking after ours.
     I'd  met  the Secret  Intelligence Service  desk officer  for  Northern
Ireland only a couple of days earlier, but he certainly seemed to be running
our side of the  show.  His voice had the sort of confidence that was shaped
on the playing  fields  of  Eton, and he  measured his words slowly,  like a
big-time attorney with the meter running.
     We wanted the decision made now. But I knew there would be a big debate
going on in the ops  room; you'd  probably have  to cut your way through the
cigarette  smoke with a knife. Our liaison officer  would be listening to us
on his radio and explaining everything that we were doing,  confirming  that
the team was in position. At crunch time, it was  the  police, not us, who'd
decide that we go  in. Once  it was handed over  to the military, K.ev would
control the team.
     The frustration was unendurable. I just wanted to get this over.
     By  now  Farrell was  leaning against the  driver's  door, the two  men
standing and facing her. If  I  hadn't  known differently I'd have said they
were trying to chat her  up. I couldn't hear what they were saying but their
faces showed no sign of stress, and now and then I could hear laughter above
the traffic  noise. Savage even got out a packet  of mints  and  passed them
     I  was still giving a  running commentary when Alpha  came back  on the
     "Hello, all call signs, all call signs, I have control, I have control.
Golf, acknowledge."
     Kev acknowledged. The police had handed over; it was Kev's show now.
     The  targets started to  move  away from the vehicle,  so I pushed  the
button four times.  Golf came back: "Stand by, stand by!"
     That was it; we were off.
     I  let  them walk toward the main square, and then I  got up. I knew we
wouldn't lift them here. There were far  too many people  around. For all we
knew, the  players  might  want to go  out  in  a blaze of glory  and  start
dropping the civilians, take them hostage, or, even worse,  go into kamikaze
mode and detonate the device.
     Alpha came back on the net.
     "Hello, all call signs, all call signs cancel, cancel, cancel! I do not
have control! Cancel!
     Golf, acknowledge."
     At once I heard Kev's not-so-formal reply:  "What the  fuck's going on?
Tell me what's going on?"
     "Wait .. . wait ..." Alpha sounded under pressure.
     There were voices in the background.
     "All stations, all stations, the police need another  ID, they  need to
be sure.
     Golf, acknowledge."
     What do they want, introductions?
     "Hi, I'm Danny, bomber and murderer, I enjoy traveling and working with
     We were in danger of losing them if we didn't act soon.
     Alpha  came back:  "All  stations, ATO is  moving to check the vehicle.
Delta,  we need that  confirmation."  The  ATO  is the ammunitions technical
     I acknowledged. There was obviously  some  sweating going on in the ops
room. The boss  was getting a hard time from  the police; it sounded  like a
chimpanzees' tea party in there.
     The terrorist team would  be crossing  the border within minutes.  Once
they were on the other side, they could detonate the bomb with immunity.
     I was now  on  the other side of the road, and wanted  at  least to get
parallel to them  so I could see their faces again. I had to reconfirm  the
players, then stick with them.
     More  activity on the  net. I could hear the  tension in Alpha's  voice
now, telephone lines ringing, people milling about.
     Kev cut in: "Fuck the ops room, let's keep on top of them until someone
somewhere makes a fucking decision. Lima and Zulu, can you get forward?"
     Zulu came on the net for  himself  and Lima,  very  much out of breath:
"Zulu and Lima, we... we can do that."
     "Roger that, move up, tell me when you're there."
     Kev wanted them beyond the health center. They were running hard to get
ahead of the targets; they didn't care who saw  them as long as  the players
didn't. But we still hadn't got control.
     Kev came back on the net: "Alpha,  this  is Golf. You  need to get your
finger out now we're going to lose them. What do you want us to do?"
     "Golf, wait, wait.. " I could still hear noise in the  background: lots
of talking, more telephones ringing, people shouting instructions.
     Everything went quiet.
     "Wait... wait..."
     All I could  hear now was the background  noise of Alpha  on my  radio,
plus my pulse pounding in my head. Then, at last, the voice of Simmonds very
clear, a voice  you wouldn't argue with. I heard him say to Alpha, "Tell the
ground commander he can continue "  "All call signs,  this is Alpha. I  have
control. I have control.
     Golf, acknowledge."
     Kev got on the net, and instead  of acknowledging, said, "Thank God for
that. All  call signs, if they get  as far as the  airport,  we'll lift them
there. If not on my word, on my word. Zulu and Lima, how's it going?"
     They came back on the net.
     "That's  us  static  at the junction. We  can take."  They were  at the
intersection of Main Street and Smith Dorrien Avenue, the main approach road
to the crossing into Spain. The players were moving toward them.
     I could lift off soon. I'd done the  job I'd been brought here to do. I
prepared myself for the han dover.
     But then they stopped.
     "Stop, stop, stop!" I said.
     "That's Bravo One, Two and Echo One static."
     Everybody was closing in. Come on, let's lift them here and now.
     Savage split from  the other  two and headed  back the way they'd come,
toward the town center. It was  all going to rat shit.  We had two groups to
control now, and we didn't know who had the detonation device.
     Kev arrived to back me. On the net,  I could hear the other two players
being followed toward the border by  the rest of  the team  as I moved in to
take Savage. He turned left down an alleyway.
     I  was just about  to  get  on  the net when  I  heard a  police siren,
followed by gunfire behind me.
     At the same instant Euan came on the net: "Contact!
     Then more shots.
     Kev  and I  looked at  each other. What the fuck was  going  on? We ran
around the corner. Savage had heard  the shots, too, and turned back  toward
us.  Even at this distance  I could see his eyes, big  as plates and jerking
like he was having a seizure.
     There was a female  pedestrian between us. Kev shouted, "Stop, security
forces! Stop!"
     With his  left hand, he had to push the woman over to the side and bang
her against the wall to keep her out of the way.
     She  was going down, blood pouring from her head. At least she wouldn't
get up and become a target.
     She began screaming. We had Kev hollering and screaming at Savage,  and
all the people in the area were starting  to scream. It  was  turning into a
gang fuck.
     Kev  flicked back  the right side  of  his sport  jacket to  reach  the
pancake holster  over his kidneys. We always put a bit of weight in a pocket
a full magis good to help the jacket flick back out of the way.
     But I  wasn't really looking at Kev; I  was  looking at Savage. I could
see  his  hand  moving  to the right side  of  his  jacket.  He  wasn't some
knuckle-dragging moron from the backstreets. The moment  he saw us, he  knew
the score. It was decision time.
     Kev drew his pistol, brought it up, and prepared to fire.
     "Stoppage! Fuck, Nick, fuck, fuck!"
     Trying to clear  his weapon, he dropped on one knee to  make  himself a
smaller target.
     That was when everything seemed to go into slow motion.
     Savage and  I had eye-to-eye. He knew what I was going  to do; he could
have stopped, he could have put his hands up.
     My bomber jacket was held together with Velcro, so at times like this I
could just pull it apart and draw my pistol.
     The only way a weapon can be drawn and used quickly  is by breaking the
whole movement into stages. Stage one, I kept looking at the target. With my
left hand I grabbed a fistful  of  bomber jacket and  pulled it as hard as I
could toward my chest. The Velcro ripped apart.
     At the same time I was sucking  in my stomach and sticking out my chest
to make the pistol grip easy to access. You get only one chance.
     We still had eye contact. He started to shout, but I didn't hear. There
was too much  other shouting going on,  from everyone on  the street and the
earpiece in my head.
     Stage two, I pushed the web of my right hand down onto the pistol grip.
If I got this wrong, I  wouldn't  be able to aim correctly: I would miss and
die. As I  felt  my web push against the pistol grip, my lower three fingers
gripped hard around it.
     My  index  finger  was  outside the trigger  guard,  parallel with  the
barrel. I didn't want to pull the trigger early and kill my self. Savage was
still looking, still shouting.
     Savage's hand was nearly at his pocket.
     Stage three, I drew my weapon, in the  same movement taking  the safety
catch off with my thumb.
     Our eyes were  still locked. I  saw that Savage knew he had lost. There
was just a curling of the lips. He knew he was going to die.
     As my pistol came out I flicked it parallel with the ground.
     No time to extend my arms and get into a stable firing position.
     Stage four, my left hand was still pulling my jacket out of the way and
the pistol was now just  by my belt buckle. There was no need to look at it;
I  knew  where it was  and  what it was pointing  at. I kept my eyes  on the
target, and his never left mine. I pulled the trigger.
     The weapon report seemed to  bring everything back into real  time. The
first round hit him. I didn't know where I didn't need  to. His eyes told me
all I wanted to know.
     I kept on firing. There is no such thing as overkill. If he could move,
he  could  detonate the  bomb. If it took  a whole  magazine to  be sure I'd
stopped the threat, then that  was what I'd fire. As Savage hit the ground I
could  no  longer see  his hands.  He  was curled up in a ball, holding  his
stomach. I moved forward and fired two shots at the head. He was no longer a
     Kev ran over and was searching inside Savage's coat.
     "It's not here," he said.
     "No weapon, no firing device."
     I looked down at Kev as  he wiped the blood off his hands onto Savage's
     "One of the others must have had it," he said.
     "I didn't hear the car go up, did you?"
     In all the confusion I couldn't be sure.
     I  stood  over  them  both. Kev's  mother came  from southern Spain; he
looked like  a  local: jet black  hair, about five  feet ten inches, and the
world's bluest  eyes. His wife reckoned he was a dead ringer for Mel Gibson,
which he scoffed at but secretly liked. Right now his face was a picture; he
knew he owed me one. I wanted to say, "It's OK, these things happen," but it
just didn't seem  like the time. Instead  I said, "Fucking hell, Brown, what
do you expect if you have a name the same color as shit?"
     As I spoke we put our safety catches on, and Kev and I swapped weapons.
     "I'm glad I won't be at any inquest." I grinned at Kev.
     "You'd better start getting your shit together."
     He smiled as he got  on  the  radio  and  started  to send  a situation
report.  It was all right for him and  the others,  but Euan and I shouldn't
have been here. We had  to vanish before  the  police  arrived. We  had been
flown in  from  doing undercover work  in  Northern  Ireland  with  Fourteen
Intelligence Group;
     it was illegal for its members  to operate anywhere else.  If either of
us were caught in Gibraltar, there would be a shit storm.
     The ops room  at HMS  Rooke was about  fifteen minutes away  on foot. I
tucked Kev's weapon inside my jeans and started walking fast.
     The  mood was subdued aboard the C-130  as it lifted from the tarmac at
11 p.m. that night.
     Spanish  police had found PIRA's car  bomb  in an  under ground parking
garage in Marbella, thirty miles away, across the Spanish border; 145 pounds
of  Semtex high explosive and  an unattached  timing device preset at  11:20
a.m." the time the Gibraltar guard-changing ceremony  ended and the soldiers
dispersed in the square. The white Renault had been a blocking vehicle after
     When  Simmonds came  over. Pat said,  "As far as we knew, they had  the
means to detonate a bomb big enough to separate Gibraltar from the mainland.
All it would have taken was one press of a button. If there's going to be an
inquest, fuck it.
     Better to be tried by twelve, I say, than carried by six."
     Deafened suddenly by the roar of the C-130's engines, I glanced at Kev,
Pat, Euan and tried to forget what I was going back to. A house isn't a home
when there are no pictures on the walls.
     Back when we were in the Persian Gulf, Pat  had a battle  cry: "All for
one  and  one for all." We'd laughed when  he used it, but he  was  right on
target.  Any  one of us would  put  his life on  the  line for the others. I
cracked a smile; with these  guys around  me,  who needed family?  Without a
doubt, I thought, this was as good as it was ever going to get.  NINE YEARS
     If you  work for  the British intelligence service (also known  as  the
Firm) and get formally  summoned to a meeting at their headquarters building
on the south bank of the River Thames at Vauxhall, there are three levels of
interview. First is  the one with coffee and  cookies,  which means  they're
going to give you a pat on the head. Next  down the  food chain is the  more
businesslike coffee  but no cookies,  which  means  they're not  asking  but
telling you to follow orders. And finally there's no cookies, and no coffee,
either, which basically means  that you're in deep  shit. Since  leaving the
SAS in 1993 and working on deniable operations,  I'd had a number  at  every
level,  and  I wasn't expecting  a nice  frothy  cappuccino  this particular
Monday. In  fact I was quite worried, because  things hadn't been  going too
     As  I  emerged  from the subway  station at Vauxhall the omens  weren't
exactly with me, either.  The  March  sky was dull  and  overcast, preparing
itself for the Easter holiday; my path was blocked by roadworks, and a burst
from a jackhammer sounded like  the crack of a firing squad. Vauxhall Cross,
home  of  what  the  press  call  MI6  but  which  is  actually  the  Secret
Intelligence  Service,  is  about  a  mile  upstream  from  the   Houses  of
Parliament. Bizarrely shaped like  a beige and black  pyramid that's had its
top cut off, with staged levels, large towers on either side,  and a terrace
bar  overlooking the  river,  it needs  only  a few swirls of neon and you'd
swear it was a casino. It wouldn't look out of place in Las Vegas.  I missed
Century House, the old HQ building near Waterloo station. It might have been
1960s ugly, square with
     loads of  glass, net curtains, and  antennae, and  not so handy to  the
subway, but it was much less pretentious.
     Opposite  Vauxhall  Cross and about  two hundred yards  across the wide
arterial road is an elevated section of  railway line, and  beneath that are
arches  that have  been turned  into shops,  two of which  have been knocked
through to make a massive motorcycle shop. I was  early,  so I popped in and
fantasized  about which Ducati  I  was  going  to  buy  when  I  got  a  pay
raise--which wasn't going to be today. What the hell, the  way  my luck  was
going I'd probably go and kill myself on it.
     I'd  fucked up severely. I'd been  sent  to Saudi  to  encourage,  then
train, some Northern Iraqi Kurds to kill three leading members of the Ba'ath
party; the hope  was that  the assassinations would heat everything  up  and
help dismantle the regime in Baghdad.
     The first part of my task was to take delivery in Saudi of  some former
Eastern bloc  weapons  that had been smuggled  in--Russian  Draganov  sniper
weapons,  a  couple of  Makharov pistols,  and two AK  assault  rifles,  the
parachute version with  a folding stock. All serial numbers had been erased
to make them deniable.
     For maximum chaos, the plan was to get the Kurds to make three hits  at
exactly the same time in and around Baghdad.
     One was going to be a close-quarters shoot, using the Makharovs.
     The idea was for the two boys to walk up to the family house, knock  on
the  door,  take  on  whatever  threat presented itself, make entry into the
house, zap the target, and run.
     The second was going to be a sniper option. The target saw himself as a
big-time fitness freak; he'd come out and have a little jog around a  track,
all  of about four hundred yards. He  emerged from his  house every day in a
lime green, fluffy velour tracksuit, did  one lap, and that was his training
for the day. The boys were going to hit  him just as he started to sweat and
slow down--which by the  look of him would be after about a hundred yards. I
would be on this one to coordinate the hit so that both fired at once.
     The third target was going  to be taken out on his way to the ministry.
Two bikes would pull  up at stoplights and give him the good news with their
     I landed  up  in  Northern Iraq without any  problems  and started  the
buildup training. At this stage not even the  Kurds knew what their task was
going  to be. The Draganov sniper rifles were  a heap of  shit. However, the
weapon is never as important as the ammunition,  which in this case was even
worse, Indian 7.62mm. Given a free  hand I would have wanted to use  Lapier,
manufactured in Finland and the best in the world for sniping because of its
consistency, but Western rounds would have given the game away.
     The Indian ammunition was hit and miss mostly miss.
     On top of that the Draganovs were  semiautomatic rifles.  Ide ally, you
need a bolt-action weapon, which  is not only better for taking the hit,  it
also doesn't leave an empty case behind because it stays in the weapon until
you reload. However, it had  to be Russian shit that they were zapped  with,
and it had to be deniable.
     Once all  three jobs  went down, the  weapons were  to  be  dumped  and
destroyed.  They weren't. On the AK there is  a  forward  leaf sight, with a
serial  number scratched  underneath  it.  I had  been told  that all serial
numbers had been  removed at  the source, and  had taken  the information at
face value. I didn't check I fucked up.
     The only  way to save the situation as far as London  was concerned was
to kill  the Kurd teams I'd  been  training.  It  was damage  control  on  a
drastic scale, but it had  to be done. De tail counts.  If the Iraqis could
trace the weapons, they might make the UK connection. If they  then captured
the Kurds,  who just  happened to  mention  that they  had been trained by a
Westerner  called Nick, it wouldn't take a mastermind  to  figure out  which
country  he came  from. It  actually  pissed  me  off to  have to kill them,
because I'd gotten to know these guys really well. I was still wearing the G
Shock watch one of the snipers  had given me. We'd had a bet when we were on
the  range, and he  lost. I knew that  I could beat him,  but still  cheated
because I had to win. I'd really gotten to like him.
     Back in the  UK  there had been  an  internal  inquiry; every  body was
covering their ass. And because I was a K, they could land it all on me. The
armorers and technicians from the intelligence service said it  was my fault
for not checking.
     What could I say? I didn't even exist. I was bracing myself to take the
     I  entered Vauxhall Cross  via a  single metal  door  that funneled  me
toward reception. Inside, the building could be  mistaken for  any high-tech
office  block  in  any city--very  clean, sleek,  and  corporate. People who
worked there were swiping their identity cards through electronic readers to
get in,  but I had to go over  to the  main  reception  desk. Two women  sat
behind thick bulletproof glass.
     Through the intercom system I said to one of them, "I'm here to see Mr.
     "Can  you  fill  this in, please?"  She passed a  ledger through a slot
under the glass.
     As I signed my name in two boxes, she picked up a telephone.
     "Who shall I say is coming to see Mr. Lynn?"
     "My name is Stamford."
     The ledger held tear-off labels. One  half was going to  be  ripped off
and put in a plastic badge container, which I would have to pin on. My badge
was blue and said escorted
     The  woman came  off  the phone and said, "There'll be somebody  coming
down to pick you up."
     A young clerk appeared minutes later.
     "Mr. Stamford? If you'd like to come with me." He pressed the elevator
button and said, "We're going to the fifth floor."
     The whole building is a maze. I just followed him; I didn't have a clue
where we were going. There was little noise coming from any of  the offices,
just  people  bent  over papers or working  at  PCs.  At  the far end of one
corridor we turned left into a room. Old metal filing  cabinets, a couple of
six-foot  tables  put  together, and  like in any office anywhere, the cups,
packets  of coffee  and  sugar,  and  a milk roster. None  of  that  for me,
though--in free-fall talk, I'd just stand by and accept the landing.
     Lieutenant Colonel Lynn's office  was  off  to one  side  of the larger
area. When the clerk  knocked on  the door, there  was a crisp and immediate
call of "Come in!" The boy turned the handle and ushered me past him.
     Lynn  was  standing behind  his desk. In  his early  forties, he was of
average build, height, and looks  but  had that  aura about him that singled
him out  as  a  high achiever. The only thing  he didn't have,  I was always
pleased to note, was plenty of hair. I'd known him on  and off for about ten
years;  for the last two years his job had been liaison between the Ministry
of Defense and SIS.
     It was only as I walked farther into the room that I realized he wasn't
alone. Sitting to one side  of the desk, obscured until now by the half-open
door, was Simmonds. I hadn't seen him since  Gibraltar. What a  professional
he'd  turned out to be, sorting out  the  inquest and basically making  sure
that Euan and I didn't exist. I felt a mixture of surprise and relief to see
him here. He'd had nothing to do with the Kurd job. We  might be getting the
coffee after all.
     Simmonds   stood   up.   Six    feet   tall,   late   forties,   rather
distinguished-looking,  a very polite man, I thought,  as he  ex tended  his
hand. He was dressed in corduroy trousers the color of Gulden's mustard, and
a shirt that looked as if he'd slept in it.
     "Delighted to see you again. Nick."
     We shook hands and Lynn said, "Would you like some coffee?"
     Things were looking up.
     "Thanks milk, no sugar."
     We all sat down. I took  a wooden chair that was  on  the other side of
the  desk and had a quick  look  around  the office  while Lynn pressed  the
intercom on his desk and passed the order on to the clerk. His office was at
the rear of  the building and overlooked  the  Thames. It was  a very plain,
very functional, very impersonal  room save  for a  framed photograph on the
desk of a group  I presumed were  his wife and two children. There were  two
Easter eggs and wrapping paper on the  windowsill. Mounted on a wall bracket
in one corner was a television;  the screen was scrolling through world news
headlines. Under the TV was the  obligatory officers' squash racquet and his
jacket on a coatrack.
     Without  further formalities Lynn leaned  over  and said, "We've got  a
fastball for you."
     I looked at Simmonds.
     Lynn  continued,  "Nick,  you're  in  deep shit  over the last job, and
that's just tough. But  you can rectify that by going on  this  one. I'm not
saying it'll help, but at least you're still working. Take it or leave it."
     I said, "I'll do it."
     He'd known what I was going to say. He was already reaching for a small
stack of files containing photographs and bits of paper. As a margin note on
one of the sheets I could see a scribble in  green  ink.  It could have been
written only by the head of the Firm. Simmonds still hadn't said a word.
     Lynn handed me a photograph.
     "Who are they?"
     "Michael Kerr and Morgan McGear. They're on their way to Shannon as  we
speak, then  flying to Heathrow for a flight to Washington. They've booked a
return  flight  with Virgin,  and they're running on forged  Southern  Irish
passports. I want you to take them from Shannon to Heathrow and  then  on to
Washington. See what they're up to and who they're meeting there."
     I'd followed  players  out of  the  Irish  Republic  before  and  could
anticipate a problem. I  said,  "What happens if they don't follow the plan?
If they're  on forged passports, they  might go through  the motions just to
get through the  security  check then use  their  other  passports  to board
another flight and fuck off to Amsterdam. It wouldn't be the first time."
     Simmonds smiled.
     "I understand your concern, and it is noted. But they will go."
     Lynn passed me a sheet of paper.
     "These are the flight de tails. They booked yesterday in Belfast."
     There was  a knock  on  the  door. Three coffees arrived, one in  a mug
showing the Tasmanian Devil, one with a vintage car on it, and a plain white
one. I got the impression Lynn and Simmonds were on their second round.
     Simmonds  picked  up the plain one, Lynn picked up  the car, and  I was
left with the Tasmanian Devil running up a hill.
     "Who's taking them from Belfast to Shannon?"
     Simmonds  said, "Actually, it's  Euan. He has them at the moment. He'll
hand over to you at Shannon."
     I smiled to myself at the mention of Euan's name. I was  now out of the
system  and  basically just  used as  a  K on  deniable operations. The only
reason  I did it was  to finance the other things  I wanted to do. What they
were I didn't know yet;
     I was a thirty-seven-year-old  man with a lot  on his mind, but not too
much in it. Euan, however, still felt very much part of the system. He still
had that sense of moral responsibility to fight the good fight whatever that
meant and he'd be there until the day he was kicked out.
     Simmonds handed me the folder.
     "Check that off," he said.
     "There are thirteen pages. I  want you to sign  for it now and  hand it
over to the air crew when you've finished. Good luck," he added, not meaning
it at all.
     "Am I going now?" I said.
     "I don't have my passport with me -fastball isn't the word."
     Lynn said, "Your passport's in there. Have you got your other docs?"
     I looked at him as if I'd been insulted.
     Passport, driver's license, credit cards are the basic requirements for
giving depth  to a cover story. From there the K builds up his own  cover by
using  the credit cards to  buy  things,  or maybe  make direct payments for
magazine subscriptions  or  club memberships. I had  my cards with me as  al
ways,  but  not my passport. The one Simmonds handed  me  had probably  been
specially produced  that morning, correct  even down to visas  and the right
degree of aging.
     I didn't have time to  finish my coffee.  The clerk reappeared and took
me downstairs. I signed for the documents in the outer office before I left;
thirteen pieces of paper with the in formation  on them,  and  I had to sign
each  sheet.  Then  I  had  to  sign  for  the  folder  it was  in.  Fucking
     A car was waiting for me outside. I jumped in the front;
     when I  was a kid I'd look at  people  being chauffeured and think. Who
the fuck  do they think they are?  I talked shit with  the driver,  probably
bored him silly; he didn't really want to talk, but it made me feel better.
     A  civilian Squirrel  was  waiting  on  the pad at  Battersea heliport,
rotors slowly turning. I had one last job to do before boarding;  from a pay
phone I called up the family  who covered for me, people who'd vouch  for me
if I was ever up  against it. They'd never take any action on my behalf, but
if I got lifted I could say  to the police, "That's where I live-phone them,
ask them."
     A male voice answered the phone.
     "James, it's Nick. I've just been given a chance  to  go  to the States
and visit friends. I might be a week or two. If  it's more, I'll call" James
     "The Wilmots  next door had a break-in two days ago and  we're going to
see Bob in Dorset over the Easter weekend."
     I needed to know these things because  I would if I lived there all the
time. They even sent the local paper to my accommodation address each week.
     "Cheers, mate. When you see that son of yours next weekend, tell him he
still owes me a night out."
     "I will... Have a nice holiday."
     As we skimmed over the Irish Sea I opened the briefing pack and thumbed
through the material. I needn't have bothered.
     All they  knew  for certain was  that two boys had  booked  tickets  to
Washington, D.C." and they wanted to find out why.
     They wanted  to know who they  were meeting and what was happening once
they  met.  I knew  from  experience that the chances of failure were great.
Even  if they kept to the script and  landed  in D.C." how was  I  going  to
follow them around?
     There  were  two  of them and  one of me; as a  basic anti surveillance
drill they were sure to split up at some point. But hey, the Firm had me  by
the balls.
     Judging from one of the documents, it seemed that we'd reached the time
of the year when all good PIRA fund raisers headed for the dinner circuit in
Boston, New York, Washington, D.C.--even down as  far as Tucson, Arizona, to
catch Irish American sympathizers who'd retired to the  sun.  It seemed that
the seizure often tons  of explosives and  weapons  during the  search of  a
warehouse in  north London last September had  produced a financial  crisis.
PIRA  wasn't exactly asking its bank for an overdraft yet,  but the increase
in legitimate fund-raising  in Northern  Ireland was an indication that they
were sweating. There were also  other, less  public, ways of raising cash. I
was sure my new friends were part of that.
     Apart  from that, I  was still none the wiser about the  job. I had  no
information  on the  players' cover stories, or  where they  might be going,
inside  or outside D.C. All  I knew was  who they were and what  they looked
like. I read  that Michael Kerr had been  a  member of the South Armagh  ASU
(Active  Service Unit).  He'd  taken part in four mortar attacks on  Special
Forces bases and in  dozens  of shootings against  the  security  forces and
Protestants. He'd  even gotten wounded once  but escaped  into the  South. A
tough nut.
     The same could be said for Morgan McGear. After  a career as a  shooter
in the border area  of  South Armagh, the  thirty-one-year-old subcontractor
had  been promoted  to PIRA's security  team, where his  job was to find and
question informers.
     His favored  method  of interrogation was a Black & Decker power drill.
The  helicopter  was operated by a civilian front company,  so the  arrival
procedure at Shannon, the Irish Republic's premier airport, was no different
than if I'd been a horse breeder coming to check the assets at his stud farm
in Tipperary, or a  businessman flying  in from London to fill his briefcase
with European Union subsidies. I walked across  the tarmac into the arrivals
terminal, went through Customs, and followed the exit signs, heading for the
taxi stand. At the last minute I doubled back into departures.
     At the Aer Lingus ticket desk I picked up my ticket for Heathrow, which
had  been booked  in the name of  Nick Stamford. When  choosing a cover name
it's always best to keep  your own first  name--that way you react naturally
to it. It also helps if your last name begins with the  real initial because
the signature flows better. I'd picked Stamford after the battle of Stamford
Bridge. I loved medieval history.
     I headed straight to the  shop to buy  myself a bag. Everybody has hand
luggage; I'd stick out like the balls on a bulldog if I boarded the aircraft
with nothing but a can of Coke. I never traveled with luggage that had to be
checked in  because then you're in the hands of whoever it is who decides to
take bags  marked Tokyo and  send them to Buenos Aires instead. Even if your
baggage  does arrive safely, if it reaches the  carousel  five minutes after
the target's, you're fucked.
     I bought some toothpaste and other odds and  ends, all the time keeping
an eye  out for Euan. I  knew that he'd be glued to Kerr and McGear,  unless
they'd already gone through the security gates.
     The departures lounge seemed full  of Irish families who  were going to
find  the  Easter sun, and newly retired Americans who'd come  to find their
roots,  wandering  around  with   their   brand-new  Guinness   sweatshirts,
umbrellas, and  baseball  caps, and leprechauns in  tins and little pots  of
grow-your-own shamrock.
     It was  busy, and  the bars were doing good business. I spotted Euan at
the far end of the  terminal, sitting at a  table in a coffee shop, having a
large frothy coffee and reading a paper. I'd always  found  "Euan" a strange
name for him. It always made me think of a guy with a kilt on running up and
down  a hill somewhere, tossing a caber. In fact, he was born in Oxford, and
his parents came from Surrey.
     They must have watched some Scottish movie and liked the name.
     To the left was a bar. Judging by where Euan was sitting I guessed that
was where the players were. I didn't bother looking; I knew Euan would point
them out. There was no rush.
     As I came out of the pharmacy,  I looked toward the coffee shop and got
eye-to-eye.  I started walking toward him, big  grin all over my  face as if
I'd just spotted a long-lost pal, but  didn't say anything yet. If somebody
was watching him, knowing he was on his own, it wouldn't look natural for me
just to come up and sit next to him and start talking. It had to look like a
chance  meeting,  yet not  such a  noisy one that  people  noticed  it. They
wouldn't think. Oh, look,  there's two spies meeting,  but it  registers. It
might not mean anything at the time, but it could cost you later.
     Euan started to stand and returned my smile.
     "Hello, dickhead, what are you doing here?" He gestured  for me to join
     We sat down, and since Euan was sponsoring the RV (rendezvous), he came
up with the cover story.
     "I've just come to see  you from Belfast before you fly back to London.
Old friends from schooldays." It helps to know you both have the same story.
     "Where are they?" I said, as if asking after the family.
     "My half left and  you've got  the  bar. Go right  of  the  TV  They're
sitting--one's got  a jean jacket on, one a black three-quarter-length suede
coat. Ken is on the right-hand side. He's now called Michael Lindsay. McGear
is Morgan Ashdown."
     "Have they checked in?"
     "Yes. Hand luggage only."
     "For two weeks in Washington?"
     "They've got suit bags."
     "And they haven't gone to any other check-in?"
     "No, it looks like they're going to Heathrow."
     I walked over to the counter and bought two coffees.
     They  were  the only Irishmen at  the  bar,  because everybody else was
wearing a  Guinness polo shirt and drinking  pints of the black stuff. These
two had Budweisers by the neck and were watching soccer. Both had cigarettes
and were smoking like ten  men; if I'd been watching them in a bar in Derry,
I'd have taken it as nervousness, but Aer Lingus has a  no-smoking policy on
its flights; it looked as if  these  boys were  getting their big hit before
     Both were looking very much the tourist, clean-shaven, clean  hair, not
overdressed as businessmen, not underdressed  as slobs. Basically they were
so nondescript you wouldn't give  them a second glance, which indicated that
they were quite switched  on--and that was a problem for me. If  they'd been
looking  like  a  bag of  shit or at  all nervous, I'd have  known  I was up
against second or third-string players--easy job. But these  boys were Major
League, a long way from hanging around the docks on kneecapping duty.
     There were  kids everywhere, chasing  and  shouting, mothers  screaming
after  two-year-olds who'd  found  their feet  and were skimming  across the
terminal. For us, the more  noise and activity  the  better. I sat down with
the drinks. I wanted to get as  much information as I could from Euan before
they went through security.
     On cue, he  said, "I picked McGear up  from  Deny. He went to  the Sinn
Fein office on Cable Street and presumably got briefed. Then to Belfast. The
spooks tried to  use the listening device but  didn't have any luck. Nothing
else to report, really.
     They spent the night getting drunk, then came down here.
     Been here about two hours. They booked the flight by credit card, using
their cover names. Their cover's good. They've even got their Virgin luggage
tags on; they don't want anything to go wrong."
     "Where are they staying?"
     "I  don't know.  It's all  very  last-minute and Easter's a busy  time.
There're  about ten  Virgin-affiliated hotels in D.C.; it's  probably one of
them--we haven't had time to check."
     I didn't write anything down. If you write stuff down, you can lose it.
I'd have to remember it.
     "Is that all?" I asked.
     "That's your lot. I don't  know how they're  going to transfer from the
airport, but it looks like they're off to D.C." big boy."
     Subject  closed, as far as Euan  was concerned. It was now time to talk
     "You still see a lot ofKev?"
     I took a sip of coffee and nodded.
     "Yeah, he's in Washington now, doing all right. The kids and Marsha are
fine. I saw them about four months ago. He's been promoted, and they've just
bought  the  biggest  house in  suburbia. It's  what  you'd  call  executive
housing." Euan grinned, looking like Santa  Claus  with white  froth on his
top lip.  His own place was  a stone-walled  sheep farmer's  cottage  in the
middle of nowhere in the Black Mountains of Wales. His nearest neighbor  was
two miles away on the other side of the valley.
     I said, "Marsha loves  it  in D.C.--no one trying to shoot holes in the
     Marsha, an  American, was Kev's second wife. After leaving the Regiment
he'd  moved  to the  States with  her and  had joined  the  Drug Enforcement
Administration. They had two young kids, Kelly and Aida.
     "Is Slack Pat still over there?"
     "I think  so, but  you know  what  he's  like--one minute he's going to
learn how to build houses,  and  the  next minute he's going to take up tree
hugging and crocheting. Fuck knows what he's doing now."
     Pat had  had a job for two  years looking after  the family of  an Arab
diplomat in D.C. It worked out really well--he even got  an apartment thrown
in--but  eventually the children he was minding grew  too old to  be  looked
after. They went back to Saudi, so he  blew off his job and  started bumming
     The fact was, he'd made so much  money during those two years he wasn't
in a hurry.
     We  carried  on chatting  and  joking, but  all  the  time Euan's  eyes
flickered toward the targets.
     The players ordered another drink, so it looked as if we were going  to
be sitting here for a while. We carried on spinning the social shit.
     "How's year ten of the house building program?" I grinned.
     "I'm still having problems with the boiler."
     He'd decided that he was going to put the central  heating  in himself,
but it was  a total screw up.  He'd ended up spending twice as much money as
he would have, had he paid someone to do it.
     "Apart  from that,  it's all  squared  away. You  should come down some
time. I can't wait to finish this fucking tour; then I've got about two more
years and that's it."
     "What are you going to do?"
     "As long as  it's  not  what you're doing, I  don't care. I thought I'd
become a garbageman. I don't give a fuck, really." I laughed.
     "You do! You'll be itching to stay in; you're a party  man. You'll stay
in forever. You moan about it all the time, but actually you love it."
     Euan checked  the players, then  looked back at me. I knew exactly what
he was thinking.
     I said, "You're right. Don't do this job; it's shit."
     "What have you been up to since your Middle Eastern adventure?"
     "I've been  on  holiday, got some downtime in, did a bit of  work for a
couple of the companies, but  nothing much, and  to tell  you the truth it's
great. Now I'm just waiting for the out come of the inquiry.  I think I'm in
deep shit unless this job gets me out."
     Euan's eyes moved again.
     "It looks like you're off."
     The two boys must have started to sort themselves out at the bar.
     I said, "I'll call you after this is finished. When are you back in the
     "I don't know. Maybe a few days."
     "I'll give  you a call;  we can  arrange something. You  got yourself a
woman yet, or what?"
     "You've got to be drunk! I was going  out with someone  from the London
office for a  while, but she wanted to make me all nice  and fluffy. She was
starting to do my washing and all sorts of  shit. I really  didn't get  into
     "You mean she didn't iron a crease in the front of your jeans?"
     Euan shrugged.
     "She didn't do things my way."
     Nobody  did. He was the sort of guy  who  folded his socks  instead  of
putting  them  inside  each  other,   and   stacked   his  coins   in  their
denominations.      Since      his     divorce     he'd      become      Mr.
I'm-going-to-have-the-best-of-everything. People even  started  to  call him
Mr.  Ikea--you name it,  track lights, entertainment center,  the whole nine
yards. The inside of his house was like a showroom.
     I could  tell Euan was watching the  two players pick up their gear and
walk away from the bar.
     I took my time; no  need  to get right up their ass. Euan would tell me
when to move.
     "Do a one-eighty," he said.
     "Look to the right, just approaching the newsstand."
     I casually got to my feet. It had been great to see him.
     Maybe  this job would turn out to be a waste  of time, but at least I'd
seen my closest  friend. We  shook hands, and I  walked away. Then I turned,
looked  ninety degrees to the right, and spotted them,  suit bags over their
     The departures lounge looked like an  Irish craft fair. I  was starting
to feel out of place; I should have gotten myself a Guinness hat.
     What was I  going to do once I got to D.C.?  I didn't  know if somebody
was going to pick them up, whether they were taking a cab or the bus, or, if
they'd managed  to  get  a  hotel,  whether transport was  included. If they
started moving around the city, that would be fun,  too. I knew Washington a
bit but not in any great detail.
     They were still smoking like fiends. I sat in the lounge and  picked up
a  paper  from the  seat. McGear started scrabbling  about for change in his
pocket  as they talked  to each other, standing at the bar.  He was suddenly
looking purposeful;  he was either going to go  to the slot machines  or the
     He got a note out  and leaned  over  to the  bartender; I could see him
asking for change. I was sitting more or less directly behind them and about
twenty feet back, so even  if they turned their heads forty-five  degrees to
either side, I still wouldn't be in even their peripheral vision.
     McGear walked  toward the slot machines but continued on past.  It must
be the telephone.
     I got up and  wandered over  to the newsstand, pretending to  check the
spinning rack of newspapers outside.
     He picked up the phone,  put a couple of pound coins in, and dialed. He
got the number from  a piece of paper, so it wasn't one  that was well known
to  him. I looked at my G Shock; it was 4:16 p.m.  The  display was still on
dual time; if there were  any Iraqis  in the lounge needing to know the time
in Baghdad, I was their man.
     I  checked my pockets for coins;  I  had about two  and a half quid;  I
would need  more  for what I was  going to do,  so  I  went in and bought  a
newspaper with a twenty-pound note.
     McGear finished his call and  went back to the bar. Those  boys weren't
going  anywhere; they ordered more  beer,  opened their  papers, lit another
     I gave it a couple of minutes, then strolled over to the  phone  McGear
had been using. I picked up the receiver, threw in a couple of pound  coins,
and looked  for a number on the set.  I  couldn't find one; not to worry, it
would just take a bit longer.
     I dialed  a London number and  a woman's voice said,  "Good  afternoon,
your PIN number, please?"
     "Two-four-two-two." The digits were  etched  into  my memory; they were
the first half of the army number that I'd had since I was sixteen.
     She said, "Do you have a number?"
     "No. This line please."
     I  heard a click, then nothing.  I  kept my eyes on the players and fed
the phone. Within a minute she was back.
     "What times are you interested in?"
     "I'd like to book it from four-thirteen up till now."
     "That's fine. Do you want me to call you, or will you call back?"
     "I'll call back. Ten minutes?"
     "Fine. Goodbye."
     And that was it. No matter where you are in the world,  you can dial in
and the Firm will run a trace.
     I phoned back  ten  minutes later.  We went through the same PIN number
routine, then she said, "Nothing until four-ten. A Washington, D.C." number.
Washington Flyer Taxis, USA."
     As she recited the number,  I jotted  it down, hung up, and immediately
     "Good morning, Washington Flyer Taxis, Gerry speaking.
     How may I be of assistance today?"
     "Yes, I  wonder if a Mr.  Ashdown or a Mr. Lindsay has booked a taxi. I
just want to make sure they're going to get to a meeting on time."
     "Oh yes, sir, we've just had the booking. Collect from Dulles, arriving
on flight number--" I cut in.
     "Are  you going  to  drop them  off  at the hotel  or  are  they coming
straight to me at Tyson's Corner?"
     "Let  me  see, sir  ...  They're booked  for the  Westin on  M  Street,
     "All right, that's fine. Thank you."
     Now all I  had to do was  try to get to the Westin  before them. Things
were  looking  OK..  Either  that, or  the fuckers  had spotted me and  were
playing a deception.
     The flight to London Heathrow was  getting  ready  to  board. I watched
them get up, find their tickets, and walk. I followed.
     On  something like  this you always travel club class  so you're at the
front of  the  aircraft.  You can then  choose  either to sit down and watch
people boarding or let them  through  ahead of you and come in  later on. At
the destination,  you can wait for the  target to come off the aircraft  and
naturally file in  behind--or get out of the  way beforehand  so that you're
ready to make the pickup once you're out of arrivals.
     I thought about a  drink but decided against it;  I might have to start
performing as soon as  we  got to  the other side.  These  guys seemed  very
professional, so chances  were they weren't going to be doing any work after
all the Bud they'd been putting away. But still, no drink for me.
     I settled into my seat and started to think about Kev  and  his family.
I'd been there when he first met Marsha; I was best man at their wedding and
was even  godfather  to Aida, their second child. I took the  job seriously,
though I didn't really know what I was supposed to do on the God front.
     I  knew I'd never  have  any  of  my own kids;  I'd be too busy running
around doing shit jobs  like this one. Kev and Marsha knew that, and  really
tried to make me feel part of their setup.
     I'd grown up with this  fantasy of the perfect  family, and as far as I
was concerned Kev had it. The first marriage fell apart, but this one seemed
absolutely  right. His job with the DEA was now mostly deskbound in D.C.  He
loved it.
     "More time with the kids, mate," he'd say.
     "Yeah, so you can be one!" I'd reply. Lucidly Marsha was the mature and
sensible  one; when it came to  the family,  they  complemented  each  other
really well. Their home at Tyson's Corner was a healthy, loving environment,
but  after three or four  days it would get too  much for me and I'd have to
move on.  They'd make  a  joke  of it; they knew I loved  them  but  somehow
couldn't handle people showing so much affection. I guessed that was why I'd
always felt  more comfortable with Euan.  We were  both  made from  the same
     As for Slack Pat,  he  was completely  off the  scale. Half  the  world
seemed to be  his best  friend, and he was still working on the others. Even
when he opened the fridge  door  and the light came  on he'd  have to launch
into some  sort  of  chat-up routine.  When he  started the bodyguard job in
Washington, a  real  estate  agent  took him  to  look at  an  apartment  in
Georgetown, by the university. The way he told the story, he saw  a building
with people coming in and out.
     "What's that then?" he asked.
     "One of the best restaurants in Washington," she said.
     "Half of Congress seems to go there."
     "Right, I'll take  it," he said. The moon was  in a new quarter or some
shit like that and I thought for a while he reckoned he'd turned into Donald
Trump. He told  me he used to eat there every day and knew every waitress by
name. He'd even started going out with one of them. Maybe it was her who got
him  into drugs. I hadn't seen it myself, but I'd heard he had a problem. It
made me sad.  We'd  all seen  the  results of addiction  during  our time in
Colombia. Pat had called them losers.
     Now it  seemed he was one  himself.  Hopefully it was  just  one of his
phases. The transfer at Heathrow had been easy. The boys didn't get stopped
at the security checks probably because Special Branch had been informed and
the flight to Dulles had taken off on time.
     I hoped McGear and Kerr were going straight to the hotel.
     I hoped they'd be playing the good tourists and wouldn't blow it by not
checking in.  If I ever  lost a target, I'd look  in all the places where he
might be his place of work,  the pub, where the kids go to school,  where he
lived, or even the bookie's. I needed to know as much as I could about them,
because  once  you're  inside your  target's mind you can second-guess every
movement, even  understand why they do what they  do. Un  fortunately, all I
knew so far about McGear and Kerr was that they liked drinking Budweiser and
must be dying for a smoke. So I had to start with the hotel.
     I  needed to get in front of them. That  shouldn't  be a problem, since
club class had its own shuttle to get us to the terminal ahead of  the herd.
However, since they'd pre booked a transfer, I'd need to grab a cab PDQ if I
was going to beat them to M Street. I could have booked one of my own when I
spoke  to  Washington Flyer,  but  I'd  tried to do that  in Warsaw once  in
similar  circumstances,  only to  come out and find the two drivers fighting
over who to take first, me  or the target. It was the taxi stand for me from
then on.
     I came out of  arrivals through two  large  automatic doors and  into a
horseshoe of waiting relatives held back by steel barriers, and limo drivers
holding up name boards. I  carried  on through  the bustle, turned left, and
walked down a long ramp into heat and brilliant sunshine.
     There were lots of people waiting for taxis. I did a quick calculation;
the  number  of  passengers didn't go  into  the  limited number of  cabs. I
wandered toward the  rear of the rank and waved a twenty-dollar bill  at one
of  the drivers. He smiled conspiratorially  and hustled me inside.  Another
twenty soon had me screaming  along the Dulles  access  road toward Route 66
and  Washington,  D.C.  The  airport and  its  surroundings reminded me of a
high-tech  business park,  with everything green and manicured; there'd even
been a lake as  we exited the terminal. Suburbia started about fifteen miles
from  the  airport,  mainly  ribbon  development  on  either  side   of  the
Beltway--very neat wooden and brick  houses, many  still under construction.
We passed a sign for the Tyson's Corner turnoff  and I strained my  neck  to
see if  I could see Kev's place. I  couldn't.  But, as Euan would have said,
executive housing all looks the same.
     We crossed the Potomac and entered the city of monuments.
     The Westin  on M  Street was a typical upscale  hotel, slick and clean,
totally devoid of character. Walking into the lobby, I got  my bearings and
headed left  and  up a  few  stairs to  a  coffee lounge on  a  landing that
overlooked the reception  area; it  was the only way in and out. I ordered a
double espresso.
     A couple of  refills  later, Kerr and McGear came through the revolving
door. Looking very relaxed, they went straight  to the desk.  I put  down my
coffee, left a five-dollar bill under the saucer, and wandered down.
     It was just a matter of getting  the timing right; there was a bit of a
line at the desk, but the  hotel was as efficient as it was soulless and now
had more people behind the reception desk than were waiting to be served.
     I couldn't  hear what McGear  and Kerr were saying,  but it was obvious
they were checking in. The woman  looking after them  was tapping a keyboard
below desk level. Kerr handed over a  credit card; now was the time  to make
my  approach. It  makes  life  far  easier  if  you  can  get  the  required
information this way rather than trying to follow them, and there was no way
I was going to risk a compromise by  getting in  the elevator  with  them. I
only hoped they were sharing a room.
     To the right of  them  at the  reception desk  was a rack  of postcards
advertising  everything  from restaurants to  bus  tours. I stood  about two
yards away, with my back to them.
     There was no big deal about this; it was a big, busy hotel-they weren't
looking  at me, they were doing their own  stuff.  I  made it obvious  I was
flicking through the postcards and didn't need help.
     The   woman   said,   "There   you  are,  gentlemen,   you're  in  room
four-oh-three. If  you  turn  left just past  the pillars,  you'll  see  the
elevator. Have a nice day!"
     All I had to do now  was listen to their  conversations while they were
in their room, and to make that happen I went to  the  bank of pay phones in
the lobby and dialed the Firm.
     A woman's voice asked me for my PIN number.
     "Two-four two-two."
     "Go ahead."
     "I'd  like  a  room,  please.  The  Westin  on  M  Street,  Washington,
D.C.--four-oh-one or four-oh-five, or three-oh-three or five-oh-three."
     "Have you a contact number?" "No, I'll call back in half an hour."
     They would now  telephone  the hotel using  the name of a front company
and request one of the  rooms I'd specified. It didn't really matter whether
the room was above,  beside, or below the targets', as long as we  could get
in and plant surveillance devices.
     I went  back to the raised lounge  area  and read a few of the leaflets
and postcards I'd picked up, all the time watching the exit onto M Street.
     I ran through a mental checklist of  surveillance equipment to ask for.
I'd  fit the first  wave  of  gear  myself: wall-mounted  listening devices,
phone-line devices, both voice and modem, and cables that fed into the TV in
my room to relay pictures.
     They'd take me  only  about three  hours to rig  up once the  Firm  had
dropped them off.
     The second wave, once  McGear  and Kerr had vacated  their room for the
day, would be fitted by technicians from the Firm. In their  expert hands, a
hotel-room TV could become a camera, and the telephone a microphone.
     Half an  hour later  I called the contact number and again  gave my PIN
number.  There was a  bit of clicking, then the strains of a string quartet.
About five seconds later the woman came back again.
     "You are to lift off and return today. Please acknowledge."
     I thought I'd misheard her. There  was a conference at the hotel  given
by the  Norwegian board of  trade, and all the  dele gates were exiting  for
     "Can you repeat, please?"
     "You are to lift off. Please acknowledge."
     "Yes, I understand, I am to lift off and return today."
     The phone went dead.
     I put the phone down.  Strange. There had even been a memo in green ink
from the head of the service about this the fastball job  that  had now come
to  a sudden halt.  It wasn't unusual to get lifted off, but not so quickly.
Maybe Simmonds had decided these people weren't that important after all.
     Then  I thought,  So what, who  gives a fuck? They wanted me to do  the
job; I've done it. I called the travel agency and tried to get a flight out
of Dulles  The  only  one  I  could  get  on  was  the  British  Airways  at
nine-thirty-five, which  was  hours  away. Kev and  Marsha were only an hour
down the road toward the airport, so why not?
     I dialed another number, and Kev answered. His voice was wary, until he
recognized mine.
     "Nick! How's it going?" He sounded really happy to hear me.
     "Not too bad. I'm in Washington."
     "What are you doing? Nah, I don't want to know! You coming to see us?"
     "If you're not busy. I'm leaving tonight, back to the UK.
     It'll be a quick stop and hello, OK?"
     "Any chance of you getting your ass up here right away?
     I've just got the ball rolling on something, but  I'd be interested  to
know what you think. You'll really like this one!"
     "No problem,  mate. I'll  hire a car at the  hotel  and  head  straight
     "Marsha will want to go into cordon bleu overdrive.  I'll tell her when
she gets back  with the kids. Have a meal with us, then you can go on to the
airport.  You won't believe the stuff  I've  got here. Your friends over the
water are busy."
     "I can't wait."
     "Nick, there's one other thing."
     "What's that, mate?"
     "You  owe  your  goddaughter  a  birthday  present--you  forgot  again,
     Driving west along the freeway, I kept wondering what Kev could want to
talk to me about. Friends over the water? Kev had  no  connection with  PIRA
that I  knew  of. He  was in  the DEA,  not the  CIA  or  any  antiterrorist
department. Besides, I knew that  his  job was far  more administrative than
fieldwork   now.  I  guessed  he   probably  just  needed   some  background
     I thought again about Slack Pat and made a mental note to ask Kev if he
had a contact address for the ass less one.
     I got  on the interstate. Tyson's Corner was the  junction I had to get
off at--well, not really; I wanted the one before but I could never remember
it. The  moment  I left  the freeway I  was  in leafy suburbia. Large houses
lined the road, and just about every one seemed to have a seven-seat minivan
in the drive and a basketball hoop fixed over the garage.
     I  followed  my nose  to Kev's subdivision and turned  into their road.
Hunting  Bear  Path. I  continued on for  about a quarter of  a mile until I
reached a  small parade  of shops arranged  in  an  open square with parking
spaces, mainly little delis and  boutiques specializing in candles and soap.
I bought candy for Aida and Kelly that I knew Marsha wouldn't let them have,
and a couple of other presents.
     Facing the shops  was a stretch of vacant  ground  that looked as if it
had been earmarked as the next phase of the development.
     On  and around the churned-up ground were trailers,  big stockpiles  of
girders and other building materials, and two or three bulldozers.
     Far up on  the right-hand side among the  sprawling houses I could just
about make out the rear  of Kev and  Marsha's "deluxe colonial."  As I drove
closer I could see their Ford Windstar, the thing she threw the kids into to
go  screaming  to  school. It had a  big  furry  Garfield stuck to the  rear
     I couldn't see Kev's company car, a  Caprice Classic that bristled with
antennae. They were so ugly only government  agents used them. Kev  normally
kept his in the garage, safely out of sight of predators.
     I was  looking forward  to seeing the Browns  again even though  I knew
that by the end of the day I'd be more exhausted than the kids. I got to the
driveway and turned in.
     There was nobody waiting. The houses were  quite a distance apart, so I
didn't  see  any  neighbors, either,  but I  wasn't surprised D.C."s bedroom
suburbs were quite dead during weekdays.
     I  braced myself;  on past form,  I'd get ambushed  as  soon as the car
pulled up. The kids would  jump out at me, with Marsha and Kev close behind.
I always made it look as if I  didn't like it, but actually I did.  The kids
would know  I had presents. I'd  bought a little  Tweety-Pie watch for Aida,
and  Kelly's  was  the Goosebumps kids' horror books  numbers  thirty-one to
forty I knew  she already had  the first thirty. I wouldn't  say anything to
Aida about forgetting her birthday;
     hopefully she'd have forgotten.
     I got out of the car and walked toward the front door. Still no ambush.
So far, so good.
     The front door was open about two  inches. I thought, Here  we go, what
they  want me to do  is  walk into the hallway like  Inspector Clouseau, and
there's going to be a  Kato-type am  bush. I  pushed the door  wide open and
called out, "Hello?
     Hello? Anyone home?"
     Any minute now the kids would be attacking a leg each.
     But nothing happened.
     Maybe  they had a  new  plan and were all hidden away somewhere  in the
house, waiting, trying to muffle their giggles.
     Inside the front door there was a little corridor that opened up into a
large rectangular hallway with doors leading off to the different downstairs
rooms. In  the  kitchen to my  right  I heard  the  sound  of a female voice
singing a station jingle.
     Still no kids. I started tiptoeing toward  the noise in the kitchen. In
a loud stage  whisper! said, "Well, well, well I'll have to leave ... seeing
as nobody's here ...  What a  shame,  because I've  got two presents for two
little girls..."
     To my left was the door  to the living room, open about a foot or so. I
didn't look in as I walked past, but I saw something in my peripheral vision
that at first didn't register. Or maybe it did; maybe my brain processed the
information and rejected it as too horrible to be true.
     It  took a second for  it  to sink  in, and when it did my  whole  body
     I  turned my head slowly, trying  to make sense of what was in front of
     It  was  Kev. He was  lying on his side on  the floor, and his head had
been battered to shit by a baseball bat. I knew that, because I could see it
on the floor beside him. It was one he'd shown off to me on his  last visit,
a nice light aluminum one.
     He'd shaken his head and laughed when he said the local rednecks called
them Alabama lie detectors.
     I was still rooted to the spot.
     I thought: Fucking hell,  he's dead--or should be, looking at the state
of him.
     What about Marsha and the kids?
     Was the killer still in the house?
     I had to get a weapon.
     There was nothing I  could do  about Kev at the moment.  I didn't  even
think  of him, just that I  needed one of his pistols. I knew where all five
of them were  concealed in the house, always above  child  level, and always
loaded  and ready, a magazine on the weapon and a round in the  chamber. All
Marsha or Kev had to  do was pick up one of the weapons and blast anyone who
was  pissed off at Kev--and there were more than a few of  those in the drug
community. I thought. Fuck, they 'we got him at last.
     Very slowly, I put the  presents  on the floor. I wanted to  listen for
any creaking of floors, any movement at all around the house.
     The living room  was large and  rectangular;  against  one wall  was  a
fireplace. On either  side of it were alcoves with  bookshelves, and  I knew
that on the second shelf up, on the right, was  the world's biggest, fattest
thesaurus, and on top of that, tucked well back out of view, just above head
level but close enough to reach up for, was a big fat gun. It was positioned
so that as you picked it up it would be in the correct position to fire.
     I ran. I didn't even  look to see if there was anyone else in the room.
Without a weapon, it wouldn't have made much difference.
     I  reached the bookcase,  put my hand up, and took hold  of the pistol,
spun around, and went straight  down onto  my  knees in the aim position. It
was a Heckler & Koch USP 9mm, a fantastic weapon. This one even had a  laser
sight under the barrel where the beam hits, so does the round.
     I  took a series of deep breaths. Once I'd calmed myself, I looked down
and "checked chamber." I got the top slide and pulled it back a bit. I could
see the brass casing in position.
     Now what was I going to do? I had my car outside; if that got  reported
and traced, there'd be all kinds of drama. I was still under my alias cover;
if I got discovered, that meant the job got discovered, and then I'd be in a
world of shit.
     I had a quick look at Kevjust in case I could see breathing.
     No chance. His brains were hanging out, his face was pulped.
     He was dead, and whoever had done  it was  so  blase they'd just thrown
the baseball bat down and left it there.
     There was blood all over the glass coffee table and the thick shag pile
carpet. Some was even splattered on the  patio windows. But strangely, apart
from that, there wasn't much  sign of a struggle. I had to make sure Marsha
and the kids weren't still here,  tied up in  another  room  or held down by
some  fucker with a gun to their heads. I was  going to  have to  clear  the
     If only room clearing were as easy as Don Johnson made it look in Miami
Vice: run up to the door, get right up against the  doorframe, jump out into
the middle  of it, pistol poised, and win the day. A doorway naturally draws
fire, so if you stand in  one, you're presenting yourself  as  a  target. If
there's a guy waiting for you there with a shotgun, you're dead.
     The first room I had to clear was the kitchen; it was the nearest, plus
there was sound there.
     I was on the opposite  side of the living room from the kitchen door. I
started to  move along the outside wall of the room. I stepped over Kev, not
bothering to look at him.
     The pistol was out  in front of me; it had to be ready to  fire as soon
as I saw a target. Where your eyes go, the pistol goes.
     I mentally divided the room into sections. The first was from the couch
halfway across the living room, a distance of about twenty feet; I got there
and froze  by  a big TV stereo  setup, which gave me a bit of cover  while I
cleared the door that led back to the hallway. It was still open.
     There was nothing in the hallway. As I moved through, I closed the door
behind  me.  I  approached the  one to the kitchen. The  handle was  on  the
right-hand side; I couldn't  see the hinges,  so it had  to  open inward.  I
moved  across  to the hinged side and listened. Just above the sound  of  my
breath  and that of  my heart thumping, I could hear some  bonehead going on
about  "Injured  at  work?  Fight  for   compensation  through   our  expert
attorneys--and remember, no win, no fee."
     My pistol arm wasn't completely stretched  out but the weapon was still
facing  forward. I leaned  over to the handle, turned  it,  gave the  door a
push, and moved back. Then I opened it a bit more from the hinge side to see
if there was any reaction from inside the kitchen.
     I  could  hear more of  the radio and  also a  washing machine-turning,
stopping, turning. But nothing happened.
     With the door now open just a few more  inches I could see a small part
of the  kitchen. I  moved  forward and pushed the door fully  open. Still no
reaction. Using the doorframe and wall as cover, I edged around slowly.
     As the angle between me and the frame  increased, I  gradually saw more
of the room. I took my time so I could take in the information in stages. If
I had to react, being two yards away from the  doorframe would not affect my
shooting, and  if it did, I  shouldn't be in this business anyway. Using  my
right thumb, I pushed the  laser sight button. A small dot  of brilliant red
light appeared on the kitchen wall.
     I leaned my body over to present as small a target as possible.
     If  anyone was in the kitchen, all they'd see was a very nervous bit of
head,  and that  would  be  what they'd  have to react to,  not the full Don
     The room was  like the Marie Celeste. Food was still on the side in the
middle of  preparation. Kev  had said  Marsha  was going  to  cook something
special.  There were vegetables and opened packs of meat.  I closed the door
behind me. The radio  was now playing some soft rock and the washing machine
was on spin. The table was half-set--and that really upset me.
     Kev  and Marsha were very strict on the kids' chores; the  sight of the
half-set table made me feel sick inside because it heightened the chances of
the kids being either dead or upstairs with some fucker who had  a 9mm stuck
in one of their mouths.
     I moved slowly to  the other end of the room and locked the door to the
garage. I didn't want to clear the bottom of the house only for  the guys to
come in behind me.
     I was starting to sweat big-time. Were Marsha and the kids still in the
house, or  had they made a  run  for it? I couldn't just leave. The  fuckers
who'd done that to  Kev would be capable of anything. I was starting to feel
my stomach churn. What the fuck was I going to find upstairs?
     I went out into the hallway again. As I moved, I had my pistol pointing
up the stairs, which were now opposite me.
     The last room uncleared downstairs was Kev's study. I put my ear to the
door  and listened.  I couldn't hear  anything. I did  the  same  drill  and
     It  was  a small room, just enough space  for  some  filing cabinets, a
desk, and a chair. Shelves on  the wall  facing the desk were full  of books
and photographs of Kev shooting, Kev running, that sort of stuff. Everything
was  now  on  the floor; the  filing  cabinets  were open and  paper  strewn
     The  only thing  not  ripped  apart was Kev's PC. That was lying on its
side on  the desk, the screen still showing the British army screensaver I'd
sent him for  a laugh. The printer and scanner were on the floor beside  the
desk, but that was where they had always been.
     I  went  back out and looked at  the stairs. They  were going  to be  a
problem. They went up one flight, then turned back on themselves just before
hitting the landing.  That  meant that I'd  have to  be a  bit ofaHoudini to
cover my ass getting up there.
     I wouldn't use the laser now; I didn't want to announce my movements.
     I put my foot on the bottom step and started to move up.
     Fortunately,  Kev's stair carpet was a thick  shag  pile,  which helped
keep the noise down,  but still  it  was like treading on ice, testing  each
step gently for creaks, always  placing my feet to  the  inside edge, slowly
and precisely.
     Once I got level with the landing, I pointed my pistol up above my head
and, using the wall as support, moved up the stairs backward, step by step.
     A couple of steps; wait, listen. A couple more steps; wait, and listen.
     There was only  one of me, and I had only thirteen rounds to play with,
maybe fourteen, if the  round in the chamber was on top of a full magazine.
These guys might have semi 5 automatic weapons for all I knew, or even fully
automatic. If they did and were there, it would not be a good day out.
     The washing machine was on  its  final thundering spin. Still soft rock
on the radio. Nothing else.
     Adrenaline  takes  over. Despite  the air-conditioning, I  was drenched
with sweat. It was starting to get in my eyes; I had to wipe it with my left
hand, one eye at a time.
     The girls' room was facing me. From memory there were bunk beds and the
world's  biggest  shrine to  Pocahontas-T-shirts  and  posters,  sheets  and
bedspreads, and even a doll whose back you  pressed and  she sang  something
about colors.
     I stopped and prepared for the worst.
     I reached for the handle and started to clear the room.
     Nothing. No one.
     For  once the room was even clean  and tidy. There were  piles of teddy
bears and toys  on the beds. The theme was  still Pocahontas, but Toy  Story
was obviously a close second.
     I gradually came out into the  hallway, treating it as if it were a new
room because I didn't know what might have gone on in the  half-minute since
I'd left it.
     I slowly  moved  to  the next bedroom with my  back nearly touching the
wall,  pistol  forward,  eyes  watching  forward  and rear,  thinking:  What
if--what do I do if they appear from that doorway? What if... what if?
     As I got nearer to Kev and Marsha's room, I could see that the door was
slightly ajar.  I couldn't actually  see anything inside yet, but as I moved
nearer  I  started to smell something. A faint, metallic tang,  and  I could
smell shit as well. I felt sick. I knew that I'd have to go in.
     As I inched around the doorframe I got my  first glimpse  of Marsha She
was  kneeling  by the bed,  her top half  spreadeagled  on the mattress. The
bedspread was covered with blood.
     I sank to my knees in the hallway. I  felt myself  going into  shock. I
couldn't believe this was  true.  This was not happening to this family. Why
kill Marsha? It should have been Kev they were after. All I wanted to do was
throw my hand  in and sit down and cry. But I knew the  kids had been in the
house. They might still be here.
     I got a grip of myself  and started to  move. I went in, forcing myself
to ignore Marsha. The room was clear.
     The next job was the master bathroom. I went in, and what I saw made me
lose it,  totally  fucking  lose it. Bang, I went  back against the wall and
slumped onto the floor.
     Blood was everywhere. I got it all over my shirt and hands;
     I sat in a pool of it, soaking the seat of my pants.
     Aida was lying on the floor between the bath and the toilet.
     Her  five-year-old  head had been  nearly severed  from  her shoulders.
There was just  three inches of flesh left intact; I could see the vertebrae
still holding on.
     Turning my head  away  and looking out of the bathroom, I could now see
more  of  Marsha.  I had to  hold back  my  scream.  Her dress  was  hanging
normally, but her tights had been torn,  her panties were  pulled down,  and
she  had soiled herself, probably  at  the point of death. All I saw at this
distance of  about fifteen feet was somebody that  I really  cared for, even
loved maybe, on her knees, her blood splattered all  over the bed. And she'd
had the same done to her as Aida.
     I was  taking  deep  breaths  and wiping my eyes. I  knew  I still  had
another  two rooms  to clear another bathroom and the large  storeroom above
the  garage. I couldn't give up now because I might wind up getting  dropped
     I cleared the other rooms and half-collapsed, half-sat on  the landing.
I could see my bloody footprints all over the carpet.
     Stop, calm down, and think.
     What next? Kelly. Where the fuck was Kelly?
     Then I remembered the hiding place. Because of the threats to Kev, both
kids knew where they had to go and hide in the event of a crisis.
     The thought brought  me  to  my  senses.  If that  was  where Kelly was
hiding, she  was safe for the time being. Better to  leave her there while I
did the other stuff I had to do.
     I got  up and started to move down the stairs, making  sure  that, as I
moved,  I had my pistol pointed. As I descended I could see the blood  I had
left  on the wall  and  carpet  where I'd  sat.  I  was almost  willing  the
attackers to appear. I wanted to see the fuckers.
     I  got a cloth and a  trash bag from  the  kitchen-and started  to  run
around the house  wiping  door handles  and  any surfaces where I might have
left fingerprints.  Then  I went over  to the patio sliding doors and closed
the curtains. I didn't want any body to discover this mess before I was well
out of it, hope fully on a plane back to London.
     I took a quick look at Kev and knew I was back in control.
     He was now just a dead body.
     I went back upstairs, washed the blood off my hands and face, and got a
clean shirt and a  pair of  jeans  and running  shoes from Kev's closet. His
clothes didn't fit  me,  but  they  would  do  for  now.  I bundled  my  own
bloodstained stuff  into the trash bag that I'd take with me. Kev had shown
me the "hidey-hole," as he called it, built under an open staircase that led
up to a  little makeshift  loft stacked with ladders. The kids knew they had
to hide there if ever Kev or Marsha shouted  the word "Disneyland!" and they
were never ever to come out until Daddy or Mommy came and got them.
     I headed to the garage. Pushing the door slightly, I could see the rear
of the large metal doors  to  the right. The garage could easily  have taken
three extra vehicles besides Kev's company car.
     "Fucking thing," I  remembered Kev saying, "all the luxury and mod cons
of the late nineties, in a car that looks like a nineteen-sixties fridge."
     The kids' bikes were hanging from frames on the wall, together with all
the other clutter  that families accumulate in garages. I could  see the red
laser dot on the far wall.
     I moved in and cleared through. There was no one here.
     I went back to the area of the staircase. Chances were she wasn't going
to come out unless her mom and dad came for her, but as I moved I started to
call out very gently, "Kelly! It's Nick! Hello, Kelly, where are you?"
     All the  time the pistol was pointing  forward,  ready to take  on  any
     Moving slowly toward the boxes, I said, "Oh well, since you're not here
I'll go. But I think I'll have one  more look, and I bet you might be hiding
underneath  the  staircase  in those  boxes. I'll just  have a look... I bet
you're in there ..."
     There was a pile of large boxes. One had contained a freezer, another a
washing  machine. Kev had made a sort of cave with  them under the staircase
and kept a few toys there.
     I eased the pistol down my waistband. I didn't  want  her to see a gun.
She'd probably seen and heard enough already.
     I put my mouth against a little gap between the boxes.
     "Kelly, it's me. Nick. Don't be  scared, I'm going to crawl toward you.
You'll see my head in a minute, and I want to see a big smile..."
     I got down on my hands and  knees  and kept talking gently  as  I moved
boxes and squeezed through the gap, inching toward  the back wall. I  wanted
to do it nice and slowly. I didn't know how she was going to react.
     "I'm going to put my head around the corner now, Kelly."
     I  took a  deep  breath and moved my head around the back of  the  box,
smiling away but ready for the worst.
     She was there, facing me, eyes wide with terror, sitting curled up in a
fetal  position, rocking her  body backward and forward,  holding her  hands
over her ears.
     "Hello, Kelly," I said very softly.
     She  must  have  recognized  me,  but  didn't reply.  She just  kept on
rocking, staring at me with wide, scared eyes.
     "Mommy and Daddy can't come and get you out at the moment, but  you can
come with me. Daddy told me  it would be OK. Are  you going to come with me,
     Still no reply. I  crawled  right into the cave until I was  curled  up
beside her. She'd been crying; strands of light brown hair were stuck to her
face.  I tried  to move  them  away from  her mouth. Her eyes  were  red and
     "You're in a bit of a mess there," I said.
     "Do you want me to clean you up?  Come on, let's  go and get you sorted
out, shall we?" I got hold of  her rigid hand and gently guided her out into
the garage.
     She was  dressed in  jeans,  a denim shirt,  running  shoes, and a blue
nylon  fleece. Her hair was  straight and  just above her  shoulders,  a bit
shorter than I remembered it; she was quite lanky for a seven-year-old, with
long,  skinny legs.  I picked her  up  in my arms and  held  her tight  as I
carried  her  into  the  kitchen. I  knew the other doors  were  closed; she
wouldn't see her dad.
     I sat her  down on a chair at the table. "Mommy  and Daddy b said they
had to go away for a while  but asked me to look after you  until they  come
back, OK?"
     She was  trembling so much I couldn't tell if her  head was nodding  or
     I went to the fridge and opened it, hoping to find some comfort food. I
found the world's largest Easter egg.
     "Mmm, yum do you want some chocolate?"
     I'd had a good  relationship with Kelly. She was a great kid,  and that
wasn't just because she was my pal's daughter. I smiled warmly, but she just
stared at the table.
     I broke off  a few pieces and  put them on one of the side  plates that
she'd probably been setting earlier with Aida. I found the Off switch on the
radio; I'd had enough relaxing soft rock for one day.
     As  I looked at Kelly again I suddenly realized I'd fucked up. What was
I going to do with her? I couldn't just leave her here: her family was lying
dead all  over the house. But  more  important, she knew me. When the police
arrived she'd be able  to say,  "Nick Stone was  here." They'd soon find out
that Nick Stone  was one of Daddy's  friends;  the  house was littered  with
photographs with me  in them. And if they  did arrest  the grinning drunk in
the barbecue shots, they'd find that  for some strange reason he wasn't Nick
Stone at all he was Mrs. Stamford's little boy.
     Kev's jacket  was hanging over one of the  chairs.  I said, "Let's wrap
you  up in your dad's coat; that'll keep you nice and warm." At  least she'd
have something other dad's; with luck it would cheer her up.
     There was just a little bit of whimpering in  reply. She was  almost in
rigor  mortis with shock, though at least she had turned her head to look at
me now. This was where normally I would have let Marsha take over, because a
child's mind was far too complicated for me to work  out. But  I couldn't do
that today.
     I wrapped the coat around her and said, "Here you are; get this  around
you. Look, it's your  dad's! Don't tell him, eh, ha ha ha!" I felt something
solid in one of the pockets and checked.
     "Oh good, look, we can phone him up later."
     I looked out the window no movement. I picked up the trash bag, grabbed
Kelly's hand, then realized that  to reach the front door I'd  have  to come
out of the kitchen and into the hallway.
     "Just sit there a second," I said.  "I've got to do something."
     I had a quick  look to make sure the doors were closed. I thought again
about fingerprints,  but if I'd missed a set, there was nothing  I could  do
about it now. My only thought was to get out of the area and keep Kelly away
from the cops until I'd sorted things out.
     I went back and got her and  checked the front  of  the house again for
movement. She seemed to be finding it hard to walk.
     I  had to grip  Kev's coat by the collar, half-dragging her toward  the
     I put her in the front passenger seat and smiled.
     "There  you go; that's nice and warm. Better look after your dad's coat
for him. Keep it nice for when you see him."
     Then I threw the trash bag in the back, settled into the driver's seat,
put my seat belt on, and turned on the ignition.
     We  drove  off at a  really sensible pace, nothing outrageous,  nothing
likely to be noticed.
     We'd gone  only a few  hundred  yards  when I  thought  of something; I
looked across  at her and said, "Kelly, put your seat  belt on. Do you  know
how to do that?"
     She didn't move, didn't even look at me. I had to do it for her.
     I tried to make small talk.
     "It's a  nice day today, isn't it?  Yep, you'll stay  with  me a while;
we'll get everything sorted out."
     My  mind switched back to the matter  in hand. What was I  going to do?
Whatever I decided, I knew  it was  no good where we were at the moment.  We
needed to lose ourselves in a crowd. I headed for Tyson's Corner.
     I turned to  Kelly and  smiled, trying  to be the  happy-go-lucky Uncle
Nick, but it just wasn't happening. She was staring anxiously out the window
as if she was being wrenched away from all her familiar landmarks and seeing
them for the last time.
     "It's OK, Kelly." I tried to stroke her hair.
     She jerked her head away.
     Fuck it, just let her get on with it; with luck I'd be able to drop her
off somewhere before too long.
     I turned my thoughts to Kev.  He'd said he had a  bit of a problem with
my "friends over the water." Could it have been PIRA that'd killed him? What
the  hell for? It  was highly  unlikely that  PIRA would start messing about
like that, not in America. It was too professional to bite the hand that was
feeding it.
     Other things  weren't  adding  up. Why wasn't  there  a  struggle? Both
Marsha and  Kev knew  where the weapons were. Why weren't they used? Why was
the front door ajar?
     There was no way that would have happened. People didn't just wander in
off the street into Kev's house; they had to be invited in.
     I  felt a rush of anger. If the family had been killed in  a car crash,
that would  have been one thing. If the  killers had come in and maybe  shot
them, I'd  be upset, but, at the end of the day, if you live  by the  sword,
you must be prepared  to  die by the sword. But not  like  this. They'd been
hacked up for no reason that I could see.
     I forced myself to think rationally. There was no way I could phone the
police and  explain  my version. Although I'd  been lifted off,  I was still
operating in another country without its consent.  Getting caught would be a
big no-no. The operation here would be seen as a  sign of betrayal and would
create distrust between  the two security communities.  There was no way the
Firm would back me up; that would defeat the  whole purpose of deniable ops.
I was on my own.
     Looking at  my passenger,  I knew I had a problem.  As we drove  toward
Tyson's  Corner I realized what  I had to do. I  saw a Best Western hotel on
the left  and an open-plan mall on the right. I had to dump the car, because
that was one of the connections between me and the house. I needed somewhere
to leave it that wasn't isolated, somewhere without video cameras.
     As well  as  the shopping  mall and  its  massive parking lots,  on the
outskirts was a drive-thru Burger King with its own parking.
     It was all very well abandoning  a vehicle in the middle of hundreds of
others in a parking lot during shopping hours.
     But at  night, it  might  be the  only car left there  and was going to
stick out, and it would be checked out by police patrols.
     What I  was after  was  an  area that  was really busy, day and  night.
Streets or multilevel  parking garages  were out, because nine times out  of
ten they have video cameras to stop muggings and car theft. Many multi story
parking lots have a  camera  that takes  a picture of the  license plate and
driver  as  you  enter.   At  any  major  junction   and  along  most  major
thoroughfares, there  are traffic video  cameras. If  my car  had been found
outside Kev's house, the first  thing they'd do was study the traffic videos
and parking lot photography.
     "Shall we get a burger and some shakes?" I suggested.
     "Do you like  milk shakes? I  tell you what,  I'll park and maybe we'll
even go shopping."
     Again it would be no good  driving into  the  Burger  King parking lot,
stepping out, and then walking a few hundred yards to the shopping mall that
isn't normal behavior. It might stick in people's minds and be recalled at a
later date, so I wanted to make the two of us look as natural as possible.
     "Strawberry, chocolate, or vanilla which one do you want?"
     No reply.
     "Strawberry? Go on, I'm going to have a strawberry."
     I parked. The  place was pretty  full.  I cupped my hand under her chin
and gently turned her face so that she was looking at my big smile.
     "Milk shake?"
     There was  a  faint movement  of her  head,  or maybe it  was a nod  of
appreciation. Not much, but at least it was a reaction.
     I carried on with the bullshit.
     "You just sit here then;  I'll get out, I'll lock the  car, go and  get
the milk shakes. And then I tell you what, we'll go into  the shopping mall.
How about that?"
     She looked away.
     I continued as if she'd given me a positive response.  I got out of the
car and locked her in. I still had the  pistol tucked down in my  waistband,
concealed by Kev's jacket.
     I went  into the Burger King, got two different flavor milk shakes, and
came straight back to the car.
     "Here we go then, chocolate or vanilla?"
     She kept her hands by her sides.
     "I tell you what, I'll have the vanilla; I know you like chocolate."
     I put the shake in her lap.  It was too cold for  her legs; as  soon as
she  lifted  it up I said,  "Come on, then, let's go to  the  shops. You can
bring that with you."
     I  got her out, closed the door, and locked up. I did nothing about our
fingerprints;  no matter how hard I tried, I'd never get rid of them all, so
what was the point? I opened the trunk, pulled out the bag with the bits and
pieces  I'd  bought  at  Shannon,  and  threw  in  the  trash  bag  full  of
bloodstained clothing.
     It  looked like rain. We  walked  toward the  shopping mall;  I kept on
talking to her because the situation felt so awkward.
     What else do you do, walking along with a kid who doesn't belong to you
and doesn't want to be with you?
     I  tried to hold her hand but she refused.  I couldn't make an issue of
it with people around. I gripped the shoulder of the jacket again.
     There  was everything in the shopping center  from a computer  discount
warehouse to an army surplus store, all housed in long one-story  units that
were like islands in a sea of parking lot.
     We  went into a clothing  store, and  I  bought myself  some  jeans and
another shirt. I'd change as  soon as I'd had a shower and got  Aida's blood
off my back and legs.
     At an  ATM I drew out three hundred dollars,  the maximum allowed on my
credit card.
     We came back out to  the parking lot but  didn't  return  to the car. I
kept a  firm grip on her  as we walked toward the hotel across the road. As
we got nearer  I  could see that the Best  Western was  in fact farther away
than I first thought, separated from the  main drag by a row of single-story
office buildings. Our view was of the rear of the hotel.
     Looking  each way, it was obvious that the junctions that would lead us
around to  the front of the  hotel  were miles  away. I  decided  to  take a
shortcut.  The traffic was heavy, and  the road system hadn't been  designed
for people on foot. I gripped Kelly's hand as we dodged to the median  strip
and waited  for another gap. I looked  up at the sky: it  was very overcast;
rain couldn't be far away.
     Drivers,  who  had  probably  never  seen  pedestrians  before,  beeped
furiously,  but  we  made it  to  the other  side  and scrambled over  small
railings onto the sidewalk.  More or less directly in front of us was a  gap
between two office buildings. We went through and crossed a short stretch of
vacant ground that brought us into  the hotel parking lot. As we walked past
the  lines of vehicles I memorized the sequence of letters and numbers for a
Virginia plate.
     The  Best  Western  was  a large four-story rectangle, the architecture
very  1980s.  Every  elevation  was  concrete, painted the  world's weirdest
off-yellow. As we walked up to the reception area, I tried to look inside. I
didn't  want them to see  us coming from the  direction  of the parking lot,
because it would  be  odd  to walk all that way without first  checking that
they had a  room, and then unloading our  bags.  I hoped  Kelly  would  stay
silent  when we were inside; I just wanted to do the  business  and walk out
again as if we were going to see Mommy back in the car.
     Inside  the lobby I got  hold  of Kelly and  whispered, "You  just  sit
there. I'm  going to get us a room." I gave her a tourist brochure that  was
lying on one of the chairs, but she ignored it.
     In  one  corner,  by the  coffee machine and  cream,  was a large TV. A
baseball  game was  on.  I  went  over to the  receptionist, a woman  in her
mid-forties who thought she was  still  twenty-four, who  was  watching  the
screen, probably fantasizing about her chances with one of the pitchers.
     All smiles, I said, "I need a family room just for one night, please."
     "Certainly, sir,"  she  said, an honors graduate  from  Best  Western's
charm school.
     "If you'd like to fill out this card."
     As I started to scribble I said, "How much is a room, anyway?" "That's
sixty-four dollars, plus tax."
     I raised an eyebrow to  make it look as if that was a lot of money to a
family man like myself.
     "I know," she smiled.
     "I'm sorry about that."
     She took my credit card and I filled in the form with crap.
     I'd been doing this for  donkey's years, lying on hotel forms,  looking
relaxed as I wrote but in fact scanning about four questions ahead. I filled
in a car registration, too, and for number of occupants put two adults and a
     She handed back my card.
     "There  you are,  Mr. Stamford, it's room two-twenty-four. Where's your
     "Just around the corner." I pointed vaguely to the rear of the hotel.
     "OK, if you park by the stairs where you see the Coke and ice machines,
turn  left at the top of the stairs, and you'll see room two-twenty-four  on
the left-hand side. You have a nice day now!"
     I could have described the room  even before I ran the key card through
the lock and opened the door. A TV, two double beds, a couple of chairs, and
the typical hotel designer's obsession with dark wood veneers.
     I wanted to  get  Kelly settled  quickly so  I could  use  the phone. I
pressed  the  remote  and flicked  through  the  channels,  hoping  to  find
Nickelodeon. Eventually I found some cartoons.
     "I remember this one; it's good--shall we watch it?"
     She sat on the bed, staring at me. The expression  on her face said she
didn't like this outing too much, and I could understand that.
     "Kelly," I said, "I'm  going to leave you for just a couple of minutes,
because I've got to make a phone call. I'll  get a drink while I'm out. What
would you like. Coke? Mountain Dew?
     Or do you want some candy?"
     There was no reaction, so I just went on.
     "I'm going to  lock the door, and you're not to answer  it for anybody.
Nobody at all, OK? I'll use the key to get back in again.  You sit there and
enjoy yourself and I'll just be about five minutes, OK?"
     Still there was no reaction. I hung the do not disturb sign on the door
handle, made sure I had the key card, and left.
     I was heading for a phone booth I'd seen in the street because I didn't
want her to hear the telephone conversation I  was about  to  have. I didn't
know  much about kids, but I  knew  that when  I  was seven nothing had gone
unnoticed  in my house. On the  off  chance  that it wasn't PIN-protected, I
took Kev's mobile from  his jacket pocket. I pressed the Power button and it
demanded a  PIN number. I  tried two basic ones  the  usual factory default,
four zeros, and then 1234.
     Nothing. I  couldn't try anymore; with some phones you can try me wrong
PIN only  three times and then it automatically cuts out and you need to  go
back to  the dealer to get it rectified.  I turned off the power and put  it
back in my pocket. I'd ask Kelly about it later.
     I turned left through the parking lot and  headed  for the phone booths
out  on  the  street. I spent  a few moments sorting out  in my mind  what I
wanted to say, and then I dialed London.
     In veiled speech I said, "I've just finished work and I'm in Washington
to  visit an old  friend. I  used  to  work with him ten years ago. He's now
working here  for the US  government." I outlined  the problem and said that
Kelly and I both needed help.
     Veiled speech is  not  some magical code; all  you're trying  to do  is
intimate what is going on, yet at the same time throw off a casual listener.
You're not going to  fool any  professional  eavesdroppers that's what codes
and onetime  pads and all the rest  of it are for. But all London needed  to
know was that I was in deep shit; I had Kev's child, and needed sorting out.
     "Fine, I'll pass that message on. Have you a contact number?"
     "No. I'll call back in an hour."
     "OK, goodbye."
     These women  never ceased to amaze me. They  never  ever  got worked up
about  anything. It  must be hard work being  their  husbands  on a Saturday
     I put down the phone and felt a bit  better as I strolled over to a gas
station. I knew the Firm would work everything out.
     They might have to call  in some big-time favors in the US to detach me
from this shit, but what are friends for? They'd pull out all the stops, not
so much to get me off the hook, as to  make sure their operation was covered
     I was  trying to  look  on the bright side,  which was  more  than  the
weather was doing. It had started to drizzle when I left the hotel, and that
had now turned  to light rain. With luck  the Firm would pick up both of  us
tonight. Kelly would be taken care of, and I would be whisked back to the UK
for another interview without coffee and cookies.
     I  bought some food and drink at the  gas station to keep us out of the
public eye in restaurants, and a  few goodies to pass the time, then crossed
the  road and went  back to the hotel.  At the  Coke  machine I went  up the
stairs, turned left, and knocked on our door.
     As I  opened it  I  said, "I've  got loads  of things--I've  got candy,
sandwiches, chips--and I've even got you a Goose-bumps book to read."
     I figured it was better to buy stuff to occupy her mind rather than try
to  cuddle  or  console  her.  I'd have  felt really uncomfortable with that
     She was  lying on the  bed  exactly where I'd left  her, staring in the
direction of the  television set, but not  really watching, her  eyes glazed
     As I put everything down on the other bed I said, "Right, I reckon what
you need now is a nice hot bath. I've even bought some Buzz Lightyear bubble
     It  would give her something  to do,  and  maybe  relax  her out of the
catatonic state  she was in.  Apart from that, when I handed her over to the
Firm I wanted them to see that I'd made an  effort and that she was all nice
and clean. After all, she was my friend's kid.
     I turned the taps on and called back into  the room, "Come on then, get
     She didn't reply. I  went back into the bedroom,  sat at the end of the
bed, and started undressing her. I thought she might resist, but instead she
sat placidly as I pulled off her shirt.
     "You  do your  jeans," I said.  She was only seven, but I felt  awkward
about taking those off.
     "Come on, undo your buttons." In the end, I had to. She was miles away.
     I  carried her into the bathroom. Good  old Buzz Lightyear had done his
job; the bubbles were halfway to the ceiling. I tested the water, lifted her
into the bath, and she sat down without a word.
     "There's loads of soap and shampoo," I said.
     "Do you want me to help you wash your hair?"
     She sat stock-still  in the water. I gave her the soap, which she  just
stared at.
     It was nearly time to call London again. At least I wouldn't have to go
to a phone booth for this one; she'd be out of earshot in  the bath. Just in
case, I kept the TV on.
     There was some weird and  wonderful  cartoon  on:  three  characters in
jeans,  half man, half shark, who  said things like "Fin-tastic!" and "Shark
time!" Apparently  they didn't kick  ass,  they  kicked dorsal.  The  Street
Sharks. The opening credits finished and I dialed London.
     Immediately I heard "PIN number, please?"
     I gave it. She went, "One moment."
     A few seconds later the phone went dead.
     That was strange. I dialed again, gave my PIN number, and again got cut
     What  the fuck was  going  on? I tried to reason with my self, tried to
tell myself that this  was just a  fuck-up. But really, inside,  I knew  the
truth. It had to be deliberate. Either that, or maybe, just maybe, the phone
line was down. No good thinking about it. Take action.
     I went into the bathroom.
     "The phone's not working," I said.
     "I'll just go down to the one on the corner. Is there anything  else we
need from the store? I tell you what, we'll  go down there later on, the two
of us, together."
     Her gaze didn't leave the tiles at the end of the bath.
     I lifted her out and put a towel around her.
     "You're a big girl  now.  You can dry yourself."  I  took the hairbrush
from the bag and dragged Kelly into the bedroom.
     "Once you've done  that, brush  your hair, and make sure you're all dry
and dressed when I come back. We might have to go somewhere.
     Don't open the door for anyone, OK?"
     There  was  no answer. I pulled  out the phone  jack and  left. I  was
feeling apprehensive  as I walked across  the  parking lot. I'd done nothing
wrong, so why were they cutting me off? Was the Firm going to stitch me  up?
I started to go through all the  scenarios in my head. Did they  think I was
the killer? Were they cutting away now as a prelude to denying everything?
     I got to the phone, dialed, and  the same thing happened.  I slowly put
down  the  receiver. A low wall made up part of the entrance to the hotel; I
went and  sat down. I needed to think hard.  It didn't take  long  to decide
that there was only one option, and  that was to phone  the embassy. I'd  be
breaking every rule  in the book. I wouldn't  even  bother going through all
the protocol; I dialed 411 and got the number. I got straight through.
     "Hello, British Embassy. How may I help you?"
     "I want to talk to LOSO."
     "Excuse me?"
     "LOSO. Liaison officer, special operations."
     "I'm sorry, we don't have an extension number for that name."
     "Get hold of the defense attache and tell him there's some body  on the
phone who wants  to speak to LOSO. It's really important. I need to speak to
him now."
     "Hold on a moment." She put me on hold and I waited.
     Another woman came on the line.
     "Hello, how may I help you?"
     "I want to talk to LOSO."
     "I'm sorry, we have no one of that appointment."
     "Then put me through to the DA."
     "Sorry, the defense attache is not here. Can I help you?
     Would you like to give me a name and contact number?"
     I  said, "Listen, this is the  news. I want LOSO or the DA to pass this
on.  I've  tried  to   phone  in   on   my   PIN  number.  My  PIN  number's
two-four-two-two, and I'm getting blanked off.
     I'm in a really bad situation at the moment and I need some  help. Tell
LOSO or  the  DA  that if I  don't make  contact  with London,  I'm going to
expose  what I've got in my security blanket.  I  will call back  in  three
hours' time."
     The woman said, "Excuse me, could you repeat that?"
     "No, you're recording the message will be understood.
     All  you've got to do is pass that on to the DA or LOSO, I don't give a
fuck which  one. Tell them I'll call  London on the PIN line in three hours'
     I put the phone down. The message would get to them.
     Chances were the DA or LOSO was listening anyway.
     Some of the operations I'd been on  had been so dirty that no one would
want them exposed,  but that could cut two  ways: it also meant that someone
like  me would be expendable if things weren't working too well. I'd  always
operated on the basis that  if you were involved in  deniable operations for
the  intelligence  services and hadn't prepared  an  out for  the  day  they
decided to shaft you, then you deserved every thing you got. The head honcho
knew that Ks had  security blankets, but  everybody denied  it the operators
denied it, the Firm denied it. I'd always been  sure  that the Firm  put  as
much effort into trying to find  where the blackmail kit was  hidden as they
did into the operations themselves.
     I'd committed  myself now. It was a card I could play only once. No way
would  I be living an  easy existence after this. I was  finished  with  the
Secret Intelligence Service and would probably have  to spend the rest of my
life in a remote mountain village in Sri Lanka, looking over my shoulder.
     What if the Firm decided to admit to the Americans that there'd been an
op they'd forgotten  to mention? Would they  take the rap on  the  knuckles,
then say, "This man killed one of  your  officers"? No, it didn't  work that
way. The Firm wouldn't  know if my blanket was a bluff  or not, or, if used,
how much damage it could do in the hands of the press.
     They'd  have to  take  it  as  real; they'd  have to help. They  had no
choice.  We'd get  lifted by the Firm, I'd be flown back to the UK, and then
I'd take up basket weaving until they forgot about me.
     Kelly was lying  on the bed with a  towel wrapped around her when I got
back to  the  room. The  cartoon had finished,  and there  was some  sort of
hard-hitting news-type voice on,  but I didn't  pay much attention to  it. I
was more interested  in  getting a response from this little girl. It seemed
that  I was fast running out of friends; she  might be just  seven years old
but I wanted to feel she was on my side.  I said, "We've got to hang around
for another hour or two, and then somebody's coming to..."
     And  then  it  hit  me. The no-nonsense.  New England  female voice was
saying,  "...  brutal  murders  and  a  possible  kidnap..." I  switched  my
attention to the screen.
     She was black  and  in  her mid-thirties. Her  face was on camera, with
Kev's house in  the  background and the Windstar still  in the drive. Police
were milling around two ambulances with flashing lights.
     I grabbed the remote and hit the Off button.
     "Kelly, naughty girl." I grinned.
     "You  haven't cleaned  your  neck.  Just you  go and  do it  right this
     I nearly threw her into the bathroom.
     "And don't come out until I tell you to!"
     I hit the On button and kept the volume low.
     The  woman  said,"... neighbors report seeing a  white man in  his late
thirties, around five-foot-ten to  six  feet tall, medium  build, with short
brown hair. He arrived at the house in a white Dodge with Virginia plates at
approximately two forty-five today. We now have Lieutenant  Davies from  the
Fairfax County Police Department..."
     A balding detective was standing beside her.
     "We can  confirm that  there was  a male fitting  that description, and
we're appealing  for  more witnesses. We need to know the whereabouts of the
Browns' seven-year-old daughter, Kelly."
     A picture came up on the screen of  Kelly standing  in the  garden with
Aida, with a spoken description.  The broadcast cut back to a studio shot of
the two  anchors saying that the family was a victim of what appeared  to be
drug-related murders. A family portrait appeared on the screen.
     "Kevin Brown was a member of the Drug Enforcement Administration ..."
     The anchors expanded the piece into a discussion about the drug problem
in the D.C. area.
     There was no sound of splashing water from the bathroom.
     Kelly  would  be  out  again any minute. I  started  flicking channels.
Nothing more  on the murders. I switched back to children's TV and went into
the bathroom.
     I hadn't heard any splashing because Kelly wasn't washing.
     She was  on the  floor, under the sink, in the  same fetal position I'd
found her in at Kev's, hands over her ears  to block out the news she'd just
heard on the TV.
     I wanted to pick  her up and  comfort her. The only thing was, I didn't
know how. I decided to appear unaffected by her condition.
     "Hello, Kelly." I smiled.
     "What are you doing down there?"
     Her  eyes were shut so tight I could  see the  creases  in her face.  I
picked her up in my arms and started to walk back into the bedroom.
     "Hey, you look sleepy. Do you want to watch  TV or just go  to bed?" It
sounded like crap to me but I just didn't know what else to say or  do. Best
pretend it hadn't happened.
     I took the towel off to get her dressed.
     "Come on, let's get some clothes on and your hair combed." I was really
fighting for words now.
     She just sat there. Then, as I  started to pull her shirt on, she  said
quietly, "Mommy and Daddy are dead, aren't they?"
     Getting her arms into the shirt suddenly became very interesting
     "What makes you say  that? I told you, I'm just looking after you for a
     "So I'm going to see Mommy and Daddy again?"
     I didn't have the words to use, or the guts to tell her.
     "Yes,  of  course you will. It's just  that they  had to go away really
quickly.  I told you, it was too late to pick  you up, but they  asked me to
look after you. As soon as they come back I'll  take you to  Mommy and Daddy
and Aida. I  didn't  know it was going to take  this long; I thought it  was
going to be only a couple of hours. But they will be back soon."
     There was  a  slight pause  as she  worked through  it all.  I got  her
panties and placed her feet in them and pulled them up.
     "Why  didn't they  want  to take  me.  Nick?" She sounded  sad  at  the
     I moved over to the chair and picked up her jeans. I didn't want her to
see my eyes.
     "It isn't  that they  didn't want to take  you, but there was a mistake
made, and that's why they asked me to look after you."
     "Just like Home Alone I turned  around and  saw that she was smiling. I
had to think about that one.
     "Yeah, that's right, just like Home Alone. They left you by mistake!" I
remembered watching it on a flight.
     Shitty film but good booby traps. I busied myself with her jeans again.
     "So when are we going to see them?"
     I couldn't spend all day picking up two bits of clothing.  I did a half
turn and walked back toward the bed.
     "That won't be for a while yet, but when I  spoke to them just now they
wanted me to tell you that they love you, and they're missing you, and to do
everything I say and be a good girl."
     There was a beaming smile on her face.  I wished I had  the  courage to
tell her the truth.
     I said, "Kelly, you must do what I say, do you understand that?"
     "Yeah, I understand."
     She nodded, and I saw a little child needing affection.
     I gave her my best attempt at a smile. I looked into her eyes.
     "Come on,  cheer up.  Let's watch TV" We  both went  back  to watch the
Power Rangers, with  a can of Mountain Dew.  I couldn't take my mind off the
news broadcast.  Kelly's photograph had been on the TV. The receptionist the
clothing  store  clerk,  anyone might remember  her. Surely the embassy  had
called London by now, surely  every fucker knew what was going on because it
was splashed  all over  the  news. No need to wait three hours before making
the call.
     I'd have  to go to the outside phone  again because I didn't want Kelly
to hear. I put Kev's jacket on, slipped the TV remote control into a pocket,
told her where I was going, and left.
     As I came to the stairs by the Coke machine I looked down.
     Two  cars  had pulled  up outside the reception lobby. Both were empty,
but their doors were  still  open  as  if  the occupants  had piled out in a
     I looked  again. Besides  a normal radio  antenna  each  vehicle had  a
two-foot antenna on  the back. One of the cars  was a white Ford Taurus, the
other a blue Chevy Caprice.
     There was no time to think, just to turn around and run toward the rear
fire  exit like a  man possessed. Now wasn't  the time  to  worry about how
they'd  found us. As I ran, the options started to race through my mind. The
obvious one was to leave Kelly  where she  was and let them pick her up. She
was a millstone around my neck. On my own, I could get away.
     So why did I stop running? I wasn't too sure; instinct told me that she
had to come with me.
     I doubled back and burst into the room.
     "Kelly, we've got to go! Come on, get up!"
     She'd  been drifting  off to sleep.  There was a look  of horror on her
face because of my change of tone.
     "We've got to go!"
     Grabbing her  coat, I picked her up in my  arms and started toward  the
door.  I snatched up her shoes and stuffed them into my pockets.  She made a
sound, half-frightened, half-protesting.
     "Just hold on!" I said. Her legs were wrapped around my waist.
     I came out onto the landing. I closed the door behind us, and it locked
automatically.  They'd  have to break it down. I did a  quick check down the
corridor, not  bothering to  look below to see what was happening.  I'd know
soon enough if they were behind us.
     I  turned left and ran to  the end of the corridor,  turned left again,
and there  was the fire exit. I pushed the bar and it  opened. We  came  out
onto  an  open  concrete  staircase  at the rear  of the  hotel,  facing the
shopping mall about a quarter of a mile away. Kelly started to cry.
     There  was no time to be nice. I got hold other  head so  that her face
came right up to mine.
     "People have come to take you away, do you understand  that?" I knew it
would frighten her, and that it would probably  fuck up her mind even  more,
but I didn't care about that.
     "I'm trying to save you. Shut up and do what I say!"
     I squeezed her cheek hard and shook her face.
     "Do you understand me, Kelly? Shut up, and hold me very tight."
     I buried her face in  my shoulder and lunged down  the concrete stairs,
looking  for my escape route. Ahead  of us  lay about forty yards of  rough
grass,  and  beyond that a  six-foot  chain-link fence  that looked  old and
rusty.  On  the  other side of that was the rear  of the long  row of office
buildings that faced the main road. Some were brick, some  were plaster, all
different styles built over the last thirty  years. The  rear administration
area was strewn with clutter and large Dumpsters.
     There  was  a  pathway  running  across the  empty ground,  and it went
through  at  a point  where  a whole  section of  the  chain-link  fence had
crumpled or been  pulled down. Maybe the hotel and office workers used it as
a shortcut.
     Carrying Kelly  was like having a rucksack on  the  wrong way. That was
going to be no  good  if I  had to run fast,  so I threw her around onto  my
back, linking my hands under her butt so I was carrying her piggyback. I got
to  the bottom of the stairs  and stopped  and  listened. No  sound  of them
shouting or  breaking down the door  yet.  The urge  was just to run  for it
across the grassy dirt toward the  gap in the fence, but it was important to
do this correctly.
     Still  with Kelly  on my  back,  not  bothering to tell  her  what  was
happening, I got onto my hands and knees. I lowered myself to within about a
foot of  the floor  and slowly  stuck my head around the corner. There was a
chance that once I'd seen what was happening, I'd choose a different route.
     The two cars had pulled up  to the  bottom of the staircase by the Coke
machine. The fuckers were obviously upstairs. I didn't know how many of them
there were.
     I realized that  the ground was in fact  dead ground to  them now,  and
started running. The rain had  been  light but constant, and the  ground was
muddy.  It was  reasonably well looked after,  littered only  here and there
with bits of paper, old soft drink cans, and burger wrappers. I kept heading
for the gap in the chain-link fence.
     Kelly was weighing me down;  I was taking short,  quick strides and not
bending my knees too much, just enough to  take her weight,  bending forward
from  the  hips. She  made  in  voluntary grunts  in  time with the  running
movements as the wind was knocked out of her.
     We reached the broken section  of fence, which was buried in the mud. I
heard the screech of tires, then the sound of protesting suspension and body
work. I  didn't bother looking around, just dug  deep  to try to lengthen my
     Once  through, we  were faced with the rear of the  office buildings. I
couldn't see the alleyway  we'd come through earlier. I turned left, looking
for any other route through to the main drag. There had to be one somewhere.
 Now  on asphalt, I could make good  speed, but Kelly  started slipping.  I
shouted, "Hold on!" and felt her tense up more.
     "Harder, Kelly, harder!"
     It wasn't working. With  my left hand I got hold of both her wrists and
pulled them down in front of me toward my waist.
     She was nice and tight on me now, and I could use my right hand to pump
myself forward. My priority was to make good speed and distance. They  would
be out and running soon. I needed that alleyway.
     It's a strange  thing when people are being chased. Subconsciously they
try  to  get as  much  distance as  they  can  between themselves and  their
pursuers,  and, whether it's in an  urban environment  or  a rural one, they
think that means going in a straight line. In  fact, what you  need to do is
put in as  many angles as  possible,  especially in a city or a town. If you
come to an intersection  with four options, it makes  the chasers' job  more
difficult: they have a larger area to cover and have to split forces. A hare
being chased in a field doesn't run in a straight line; it takes a big jump,
changes direction,  and off it goes again the  pursuers are gaining momentum
in a straight line and all of a sudden they have to  change  direction, too,
which  means  slowing down, reevaluating their position.  I  was going to be
that hare. As soon as I got to the end of the alleyway I was going to hang a
left  or a  right, I didn't even  know which yet, and run as fast as I could
until I found other options.
     I found the alley. No time to  think  if it was the right decision just
make one.  I could hear shouting behind me, maybe 100 to 150 yards away. But
it wasn't directed at me.
     They  were too professional for  that. They  knew it wouldn't have  any
effect. I heard the cars turning around.  They'd be  trying to cut me off. I
     By now I  was  out of  breath, with this seven-year-old on  my back. My
mouth was dry, and I was breaking into a sweat.
     Kelly's head was banging  onto  the back of mine, and I was holding her
so tight her chin was digging into my neck;  it was starting to hurt her and
she was crying.
     "Stop, stop. Nick!"
     I wasn't  listening.  I  reached the  end of the  alley and ran  into a
totally different world.
     In front of me was a  narrow road  that ran  the  length of  the office
buildings,  and  on  the  other  side  of  it a  grass embankment that went
downhill  to  the main  drag. Beyond that lay parking  lots  and the  malls.
Traffic noise drowned out Kelly's cries. The flow  of vehicles was  fast  in
both  directions, despite the  wet road.  Most had their  headlights on, and
their wipers on intermittent. I stopped.
     We must have looked a sight, a man with  a shoeless child  on his back,
puffing  and panting down the  grass slope,  the child moaning  as her  head
banged on the  back of his. I climbed  the railings  at the side of the main
drag; now we were playing chicken with the traffic. Cars sounded their horns
or braked sharply to avoid us. It seemed my new name was fuck, nut, or jerk.
I didn't  acknowledge anybody,  even the  ones  who'd  saved  our  lives  by
braking; I just kept on running.
     Kelly was screaming. The traffic scared her as much as the running. All
her young life  she'd probably been warned about playing near the road,  and
here she was on a grown-up's back, cars and trucks swerving all around her.
     Crossing the railings at the  far side, I was also  starting to  worry.
Kelly was slowing me down, without a doubt, and I still had quite a distance
to run to get to safety. I ducked and weaved through the parking lot,  using
the height of the pickups and minivans to block us from their view.
     At the far right of  the mall I  could see a computer super store, Comp
USA and that  was where I headed. There's  always a good chance that a large
store on a corner site will have more than one entrance. I expected there to
be one on the  other side, maybe at the  rear,  so even if they saw me going
in, they'd have problems.
     I knew the  store would be hard  for them to deal with, because I'd had
to do this sort of thing myself in Northern Ireland.
     If a player went into a shopping center,  we would send only one guy in
with him,  then rush to seal up  all the exits. It was  hard enough when  we
knew  a target, let alone  having to find and identify  him. If he was doing
anti surveillance drills, he could go up an elevator, leave by one exit,  go
back in through another and up an elevator  two floors, down one floor, then
wander  out  into  a  parking  lot,  and  he's  gone.  If  these  boys  were
professional, they'd start  sealing the exits as soon as  they saw where I'd
gone. I;had to be quick.
     We went  in  through the wide automatic doors. The store had aisles and
aisles  of  office  equipment,  computers,  and  software. I  went past  the
checkout counters without taking a  cart,  still with Kelly on my back.  The
place was packed. I was standing there drenched with sweat, chest heaving up
and down as I fought for breath. Kelly was crying. People started looking at
     Kelly moaned, "I want to get down now!"
     "No, let's just get out of here."
     I took a look behind and could  see two men  coming across the  parking
lot. In their suits they looked very much like plainclothes police, and they
were running purposefully toward the store; they'd be heading  to block  off
the exits. I had to put in some angles, had to get that confusion going.
     I ran down a couple of aisles crammed with CD ROM  games, turned right,
and ran along the exterior wall, looking for an exit. Fuck  it, there wasn't
one. The warehouse seemed to be one big sealed unit. I couldn't go  back out
the way I'd come in, but if I didn't find another exit, I was going to spend
the rest of the day running around the shop in circles.
     One  of  the  young  assistants  looked  at me,  turned away,  and went
trotting down  the aisle,  obviously looking for  the manager or  a security
guard.  Seconds later two  men  in shirtsleeves with name  badges started to
approach us.
     "Yes, excuse me? Can we help you?" all very polite, but in fact meaning
" What the fuck are you doing in our store? " There was no time to answer. I
ran toward the rear of the store, looking for loading bays, emergency doors,
open windows, anything. At last I saw the sign I was hoping to see:
     fire exit. I ran at it, pushed it open, and the alarm went off.
     We were outside. We  were on a platform, obviously used for deliveries,
where trucks could back in and unload.
     I ran down the four or five metal stairs and hit the ground.
     As I started to run to the left I shouted at Kelly to hold tight.
     The  rear  of  the  shopping mall was deserted,  just a long stretch of
administration areas, with Dumpsters, bins, and even a trailer detached from
its truck and being used as a storeroom. There were piles of cardboard boxes
and  bulging trash  bags  everywhere, a day's worth of  garbage.  Beyond the
blacktop was  a  chain-link fence surrounding  the whole  area, and probably
about fifteen  feet high. Then vacant ground with trees  and bushes. On  the
other side of that, I guessed, would be more parking and more stores.
     I felt like a trapped rat.  I had only two exits now, the access  roads
at  either end  of  the long line of stores. I  couldn't get over the fence
with Kelly on my back; if I tried to throw her over, she'd break her legs. I
started to run to the left, along the rear of the stores, heading toward one
of  the access roads. It was no good they'd had too much time  to react; the
road would be sealed.
     I had to make a decision quickly. I moved toward one  of the collection
areas of Dumpsters bagged-up garbage, and card board boxes.
     I lifted her from my back and positioned her in  among it all, throwing
boxes  over the top of her and  moving  others to fill  in the gaps on  each
     She looked at me and started to cry.
     I said, "Disneyland, Kelly! Disneyland!"
     She stared at me,  tears rolling down her cheeks, and  I threw a couple
of boxes over the top.
     "I'll be back, I promise."
     As I ran I looked  at the trailer that was  right up against the fence.
It was a huge thing, the  height of a  truck. Without fifty pounds  of young
girl on my back, running toward  it  was like floating on air. At last I was
in control. I felt as if I'd lost a ball and chain.
     I sprinted like a maniac,  using the cover of the bins and Dumpsters. I
suddenly  spotted the trunk of  a car jutting out from  one of  the  loading
bays. It was a mid-1980s  model, not one  of  the cars that had been chasing
me. I'd check the ignition for keys, and if I was out of luck, I'd cross the
open ground to the container.
     A truck  was parked up near another loading bay. I started to  run past
it. A guy was  running full  tilt  the other way, and we smashed  our  heads
together. We both went down.
     "Shit!" I looked at him through  blurred eyes. He had a suit  on. There
was no way I  was going to take a chance. I staggered to my feet and charged
at him, banging him up against the car. He tried to wrap himself around me.
     As I  was pushing  into  him I could feel with the side of my face that
his body was solid. This fucker had covert body armor on.
     I pinned  him  up against the car,  moved back a step,  and  pulled  my
weapon, flicking on the laser sight with my thumb.
     Then, dazed, I sank back to my  knees.  I was seeing stars and my  head
was spinning; he  was probably in exactly the same state. He looked down at
me, confused, trying to make a decision. I aimed the sight onto his face.
     "Don't do it," I said.
     "Don't waste your life on this, it's  not worth  it.  Get your hands up
     As his hands moved I could see he was wearing a wedding ring.
     "Think about your family. It's not worth dying over this.
     Number one, you're wrong, it wasn't me. Number two, I'll kill  you. Put
your hands on your head."
     My head was clearing. What  the fuck was  I going to do now? Their cars
would be here soon.
     "Stay on your knees," I said.
     "Turn right. Move to the back of the vehicle."
     I got  up off  the ground  and  stumbled behind him. My eyes were still
smarting as if I'd been hit with CS gas.
     We  were between  the  loading bay and the  car.  He knew the score and
hopefully was  thinking of his  wife and kids. I switched my  pistol into my
left hand,  moved  into him, and quickly jabbed the  pistol muzzle into  his
armpit, twisting it into the material of his jacket. I felt his  body  tense
and heard a little grunt.
     "I'll explain the facts of life to you," I said.
     "This weapon is screwed into  your clothes. I've  got my finger  on the
trigger and  the  safety  catch is  off.  If  you  fuck around, you'll  kill
yourself. Understand?"
     He didn't react.
     I said, "Come on, this isn't difficult. Do you understand me?"
     "Yes" "Place your hands on your head."
     With my  right hand I  took his  weapon. Mine had only one magazine. He
was carrying a Sig .45 in a pancake holster over his right kidney, and three
magazines on his belt. The Sig is an approved weapon of the
     He was in his mid-thirties, straight off the set ofBaywatch:
     blond, tanned, fit, good-looking, square-jawed. I could  smell soap and
baby lotion. This guy wanted to keep his skin soft. Or maybe he had  a baby.
Who cared? If he moved he'd be dead.
     There was a white wire behind his ear, linked to an earpiece.
     "Who are you?" I said. Not  that it  made any difference whether he was
FBI or D.C. police.
     No reply.
     "Listen, whatever you think, I did not kill that family. I did not kill
them--do you understand?"
     Nothing.  I  knew  I wouldn't get  Baywatch  man to talk. In any event,
there wasn't any time to waste trying.
     I took the  radio, and the  cash from his wallet. Then, with the pistol
still in  his armpit, I whispered loudly  over my shoulder, "Stay where  you
are, Kelly! Don't worry, I'm coming!" I gripped him harder.
     "Kelly, I said we're going to  go in a minute!" If  they thought  Kelly
was still with me when I legged  it, maybe they'd move on and search a fresh
     I turned  back to him and  said, "I'm going  to untwist this now. Don't
fuck with  me--it's not worth it."  I  gradually released  my pistol, making
sure  I could fire  at any moment. I was  behind him,  with  the weapon  now
pointing at his head.
     He knew that.
     I said, "You know what I've got to do next, don't you?"
     There was a slight nod of acceptance.
     I picked up an iron support  from a pile of discarded shelving and gave
him the good news where his neck met his shoulder. That sent him right down.
For good measure I gave him a few kicks to the head and balls. At the end of
the day, he wasn't  going to be  more  pissed off  with me  because of  this
kicking; he probably  already wanted to kill me.  But I had to keep him from
raising the alarm. A professional like this would be expecting it anyway; if
the  roles  were  reversed,  it  would  be  him  doing the honors.  It would
certainly fuck him up for about ten minutes, and that was all I needed.
     I came out from behind the car, had a quick look around.
     Nobody in  sight. I ran toward the trailer; there was a large trash can
beside it that I could  use as a springboard. I jumped, threw myself upward,
and  got  my arms onto the roof. I scrambled  up. From there  it  was just a
fifteen-foot drop to freedom.
     A sign  pointed the  way to  Maylords Boardwalk.  I turned left and ran
along the grass embankment,  past  the trash cans, and  into another parking
area. I went straight toward the boardwalk  because it promised cover. I was
looking  for a rest room, and with  luck there would also be an exit to  the
other side of the mall.
     The  boardwalk seemed  to be a minimall with  mainly  shoe and greeting
card boutiques. I found the block of conveniences by the coffee shop about a
third of  the way down the arcade. Looking farther  down, I could  see there
was another exit to the boardwalk. I went into the men's room.
     Two guys had just finished pissing  and were now washing their hands. I
went straight  into one of the stalls and sat there  while I waited  to calm
     I put the earpiece  in  my ear and switched  the radio on. I didn't get
much at all, it was broken up, but that meant nothing. I  was  probably in a
dead spot.
     I  used toilet paper to wipe the blood and mud off my shoes  and pants,
and cleaned myself up as much as possible. When I was sure the other two had
gone, I went out to the sinks, pressed the faucet,  and washed my  hands and
face. I still wasn't getting anything but fuzz on the earpiece.
     I headed for the coffee shop, bought  a cappuccino, and sat  down about
three tables  back. From there I could  watch both exits to the boardwalk. I
didn't  look out of  place with the  wire  in my ear because  so  many store
detectives and security guards wore them.
     They sparked up on the net.  They were talking  freely as if  the radio
were secure, not  using codes.  There  was a  jack on the radio for the  key
gun--the  device that sends the chosen encryption  codes  to the radio. Once
this has been done  to two  or more sets, they  can  talk together securely.
Everybody else would just hear fuzz.
     I listened to some of them checking around the back, where the  boy had
been dropped, and others in places that I couldn't identify. What I couldn't
hear was a base station, a central control. I started to wonder  about that.
Then I thought, Why was it these guys and not uniformed police had turned up
at the hotel? I was supposed to be a kidnapping murderer;
     in  situations like this I'd  expect to  see heavily armed  SWAT  teams
leaping from  Chevy vans. I realized it was this that had made me  run  back
for Kelly without even knowing it. I should have checked the boy I'd dropped
for any ID. Never mind, it was too late now.
     How did  they find me so quickly at the  Best  Western?  Had my call to
London been traced to our room? Impossible: too quick. Was it my credit card
when  I  checked in? Unlikelier still.  Only  the Firm  would have known the
details of my  cover  documents, and they wouldn't have turned me in because
they'd be too worried about the Americans finding out  about their  deniable
ops. So it must have been the  receptionist--she must  have watched the news
and recognized Kelly's photograph.
     But even then, it didn't add up somehow. I started to feel very uneasy.
     These  boys  weren't a Mickey Mouse  group. When I bumped into Baywatch
man, he'd been wearing a double-breasted jacket and it  was open. But it was
only  now, thinking about it,  that  I realized that in fact it  hadn't been
open at first.
     There had been a Velcro fastening.
     I heard more  radio traffic. They'd found him. Baywatch  man's name was
Luther, but whoever the boss  was on the ground,  he didn't really  care too
much about Luther's condition.
     He just wanted to know if he was able to talk.
     "Yeah, he's OK."
     "Is he alone?"
     "Yeah, he's alone."
     "Did he see the target?"
     "No, he says he didn't see the target but they're still together."
     "Does he know what direction they went?"
     There was a pause.
     I imagined Luther sitting on the ground  with his head against the car,
getting patched up and feeling pretty pissed  off at me. In the background I
could hear him mumbling in formation. He sounded almost drunk.
     The sender said,  "No  idea of  the direction. And one  more thing he's
armed. He had a sidearm with him and he's also taken Luther's ... Wait..."
     I heard a click, then whoever was with Luther came back on the net; his
voice was very agitated.
     "We've got a problem he's got the radio! He's got the radio!"
     The boss came back on: "Fuck! Everybody, all stations, cut com ms Close
down now! Out."
     The  earpiece  went dead. They were going  to turn the radios  off  and
refill  with a new  code. Luther's  radio was obsolete. What I wouldn't have
given  now for a key  gun. Luther said he hadn't seen the target, so it was
Kelly they  were after, not me. My  face burned  with  anger. These were the
people who'd killed  Kev, they had to be.  This chase was nothing to do with
law enforcement; this  was  about people who wanted to finish the job. Maybe
they thought Kelly had seen them.
     By  now I had finished my coffee  and  the waitress had whisked the cup
away. I was starting to be a pain in the ass here; other people were waiting
for my table. I went back  into the  rest  rooms. The TV remote  control was
still in my pocket.
     That went into the trash can, along with the useless radio.
     What about Kelly? What did I have to gain by going back?
     What if they'd found  her, disposed other, and  were waiting for me  to
pick  her  up? That  was what I  would have done.  I could think of lots  of
reasons why I shouldn't go back.
     I  walked back  toward  the  mall  exit.  Looking  left across the dead
ground, I could just about see the roofofCompUSA.
     The parking lot was still full, and it was raining harder now. I turned
up the collar of Kev's jacket and looked toward the main drag. I could see a
Wendy's like a desert island in the middle of the parking lot. It was coffee
time again. I checked  the route ahead for any  sign of  my  new friends and
again used tall vehicles as cover.
     I took my burger and coffee over to  a window seat. I  couldn't see the
rear of the buildings, but I  could see the nearer of the two  access roads,
the one I'd been running toward when I met Luther. Better than nothing.  The
Wendy's had a play station, which was great cover; kids screamed around in a
tub of multicolored tennis  balls while their parents sat it  out, just like
me. I tried not to think of Kelly hiding  among the Dumpsters,  scared, wet,
cold, and hungry.
     I sat and stared out the window at the rain. I remembered the times I'd
been bad as a child  and  got a spanking from my stepfather and been put  in
the shed for the night. I'd  been terrified  of the rain beating down on the
clear plastic roof; I'd sat there curled up, thinking that if the rain could
get  me, then so could the bogeymen. As a soldier and as a K I had been shot
at,  beaten up,  imprisoned; I'd always been scared, but nothing  like those
times  as a child.  I thought of  Kelly abandoned  in her  makeshift  hiding
place, rain beating down on the cardboard. Then I cut it from my mind. She'd
get over it. I shouldn't let it concern me; I'd done worse things.
     Still  looking out the  window, I saw the  white  Taurus  come out from
behind  the mall  onto the access  road, stop at the  intersection and turn
with the flow of traffic. It was four up by the  looks of things, all suits,
though in the rain it was hard to be certain. Four up was a good  indication
that they  were lifting off: if they were  taking  Luther  to the  hospital,
there'd be three at most inside, one driving, one looking after the casualty
The others  would  have  stayed behind. I was  beginning to  feel a decision
coming on.
     I'd have to change my appearance, and I'd  have to do it on the cheap I
had about five hundred dollars in total, and would be needing every cent.
     I finished my coffee and went back to the boardwalk. I found a clothing
store and bought a thin  cotton raincoat that folded up to about the size of
a handkerchief.  I also bought a Kangol hat, the sort it was fashionable  to
wear the wrong way so the  brim was  hanging down the back of your neck  and
the logo was in front.
     I then went to an Hour Eyes and bought  a pair of  display glasses with
thick rims. Glasses  really  change  the  shape of  your  face. Whenever I'd
needed an appearance change on a job, a  haircut and glasses had always done
the trick. Wearing a  different color and giving yourself a  different shape
was the minimum required.
     I  went  back to  the rest rooms  to sort myself out. I  ripped out the
inside of the raincoat pocket with my teeth.  My newly acquired Sig  .45 was
down the front of my jeans, with the mags in my pockets. If the shit hit the
fan, I could draw the weapon and fire through the coat.
     I  wanted to  use the  last three-quarters of an  hour of day  light re
conning the  garbage area. The lift-off might  have been a ploy; I wanted to
assure  myself  that  nobody  was lying in wait. The  idea would be to do  a
complete 360 degrees around the target area, but before that I wanted  to go
back  and give the  hotel another look;  I wanted  to see if  there were any
police cars outside, to confirm  whether it had  been  an official  lift. If
Luther and  his friends were after a murder suspect,  the cops should be  up
there by now, dusting for prints and taking statements.
     I  put on  my disguise  and looked in the mirror at the world's hippest
dude well, nearly.  If  people  looked closely, they would think  I was  the
oldest swinger  in  town. I turned the cap around with the brim now forward,
and off I went. I walked  straight across the parking  lot, crossed the main
drag at  the intersection, and worked my way back to the Best Western  along
the roads. I saw nothing. Everything  looked perfectly normal;  not a police
car in sight.
     As  I walked back I thought about the state that  Kev, Marsha, and Aida
had been left in. Why hack them to bits? Luther and his friends weren't dope
heads  they  were pros; they  did nothing without  a reason. They must  have
wanted it to appear drug related to  cover their asses. Given the  number of
attempts on  Kev's life in the past, it  would have been perfectly plausible
for the police  to assume  that  one of them had finally succeeded, and that
the perpetrators  had then  gone overboard and slain the whole  family as  a
warning to others. But I knew that wasn't  the explanation. They  had killed
Marsha because they'd have had to assume that  Kev had passed on whatever he
knew,  and  then they'd  had to kill Aida  simply because they  didn't  want
witnesses. Kelly owed her life to their having not seen her. It was probably
only after the news reports that they realized they hadn't finished the job,
that there might be a witness after all.
     The  way  they'd butchered  Aida  brought back  to me a story about the
American "hearts and minds" program in Vietnam.
     In  one  region  they'd  injected  the  children  of a village  against
smallpox.  The Viet Cong came along a  week later  and  cut each child's arm
off. It  worked: no more hearts and  minds programs for them. Sometimes  the
end justifies the means. I had a sort of respect for Luther and company, but
I knew I mustn't fuck around with these people they were too much like me.
     Rush hour was now in full swing; it would be dark soon.
     The stores were still open and the area was  packed with people. It was
great for me; it made me just another sucker.
     As  I walked I had my head down against the rain. I reached the Wendy's
parking lot. This time I was nearer the fence;
     wiping my new glasses, I looked across the low ground  as the  rear  of
the mall came into view.
     There was a loud hiss of brakes as a truck backed up to a  loading bay.
Three  other  trucks were  already  parked along side the  car where I'd met
Luther. But again, just as at  the hotel, there were no police investigating
the crime scene.
     Maybe they didn't like the weather.
     Only the bays that were in use  were lit. The  group of bins  where I'd
hidden Kelly  was pretty much  in shadow. One  was being filled with the old
metal shelving I'd used on Luther.
     Even from where I was,  I could hear the loud crash and clatter.  Kelly
must be petrified down there.
     No need for a 360; I'd seen enough. As I looked forward deciding  where
to  go now, I  watched  a bus  pull up by a shelter, take on passengers, and
drive off again. Maybe that was our way out of here.
     But if they'd found Kelly and set an ambush,  where was I going to run?
I had to work out  an escape route. Hijacking cars doesn't work so well in a
built-up area it attracts too much attention. Better to  use the crowds  and
confusion. I picked three possible routes.
     Hanging around increased the chance  of getting busted, so I decided to
lift off from the area for a  while. I continued on to the stores. I thought
I'd get some stuff for Kelly;  she'd be needing an  appearance change,  too.
She'd been on the news;
     she was famous now.
     I bought her a nice big floppy hat. I wanted to tuck her hair up out of
the way and hide her face as best I could. I also bought her a thinly padded
pink three-quarter-length coat to cover those skinny legs,  and a completely
new  set  of clothes to fit a nine-year-old. She  was tall for her age, so I
thought I'd better  get the larger size. Almost as an afterthought, I bought
myself some new jeans and a T-shirt.
     With a handful of shopping  bags I retraced the route along  the fence.
As I walked away  from the stores, their lights  still reflected  on the wet
asphalt  of  the  parking  lot.  The traffic  was  slow on  the  main  drag,
windshield wipers on full speed.
     As I got to the fence I looked left. There was no change.
     I kept  on  walking. As I  got  level with the stores,  the access road
started to  rise  up  to meet me.  The fence stopped. I turned left  down  a
slippery grass  embankment  and onto the road  that led to the  back of  the
stores. I followed the fence again as I dropped down into the vacant lot.
     The rain had turned the dust into mush. I now had  the fence to my left
and  the  loading  bays  to  the  right. I  kept  on walking,  fighting  the
temptation just  to run to Kelly, grab her,  and get  the hell out of there.
That's what gets people caught or killed.
     My  eyes must  have looked as if I were plugged into the  power  lines.
They were darting everywhere,  getting as much  information into  my head as
possible. I wanted to see this am bush before it was sprung. I was committed
now. If push came to shove, I'd fucking shove.
     What if  Kelly wasn't there? I'd  call 911 and  say I'd seen  that girl
from the  news wandering  around the area.  Hopefully the cops would get her
before Luther's pals did. That was  if they hadn't already. I'd then have to
take  my  chances  when the Nick Stone manhunt began. Whoever  had her would
then have my name.
     I got to within  about twenty yards  of the bins, still  walking at the
same steady pace. I didn't even look around now, because that took  time and
     I came up to the bins and started to lift away the boxes.
     "Kelly, it's me! Kelly! See, I told you I'd come back."
     The cardboard  was soaking wet, coming  apart in  my hands. As I pulled
the  last  of  it away,  I could  see she  was  more or  less exactly in the
position I'd left her.  Curled up, sitting  on some  dry cardboard. My  mind
flashed back to how she'd  looked when I'd found her in the garage. At least
she wasn't rocking, with her hands clamped over her ears. She was dry;
     maybe the bogeyman had got in, but at least the rain hadn't.
     I stood her up and put her new coat around her shoulders.
     "I hope you like pink," I said.
     "I  got this  for  you, too."  I put the  hat  on  her head to preserve
whatever was left of her body heat.
     She put her arms around me. I hadn't been expecting it;
     I didn't know how to  react. I just kept talking to her. She cuddled me
     I readjusted the hat.
     "There, that'll keep you nice  and dry. Now let's go and get you a bath
and something to eat, shall we?"
     I had the bags in my left arm. She gripped my left sleeve as we walked.
It was awkward, but I  needed to keep my  right hand free to draw my pistol.
The bus was about  half full with shoppers and bulging shopping bags. Kelly
was cuddled up beside me in the window seat. Her hat  was doing its job; her
hair  was tucked up, and the dropped brim  covered  her  face. I was feeling
good. I'd saved her from Luther and his buddies. I'd done the right thing.
     We  were  on  our way to  Alexandria, an  area  I  knew to be south  of
downtown D.C. but within the Beltway; we  were going there  because that was
what had been on the destination sign of the first bus to arrive.
     Everyone was fed up and wet, and the bus was well misted  up.  I leaned
across and used my  sleeve to wipe away the condensation, but it didn't help
much. I  looked toward  the  front, where the windshield wipers were working
     The priority was a hotel; we'd  have  to check into one within the next
hour  or so, because  the later  in the  day I left it,  the more unusual it
would look.
     I didn't want to look at her because I knew what she was going to ask.
     "Why were those men chasing you? Did you do something wrong?"
     I could feel her looking at me under her hat.
     "I don't know who they are, Kelly. I just don't know." Eyes still fixed
on the clear patch of windshield, I said, "You hungry?"
     In the corner of my eye, I could see her hat moving up and down.
     "Not long now. What do you want McDonald's?
     She nodded for both, then  mumbled something. I  was still looking  out
the window.
     "What's that?"
     "Mickey D's."
     "Mickey D's?"
     "McDonald's! You're so out of it!" "Ah, OK that's what we'll get."
     I went back to my thoughts. I would only use cash from now on; I had to
assume the worst,  which was  that  we'd been traced through my credit card.
Despite that, I'd still  call London again. Deep down, I guessed that they'd
probably already consigned my  records to the shredder, but  what did I have
to lose?
     We drove past a place called the Roadies Inn. It fit the bill. I didn't
have a clue where we  were, but that didn't matter; I'd sort that out later.
I signaled the driver that we wanted the next stop.
     When the Roadies Inn  had  been built in the 1960s it  probably  looked
like a million dollars.  Now even the grass outside looked faded, and on the
red neon vacancy sign the V and the N were flickering. Perfect.
     I peered through the screen door to the lobby. A  woman in her twenties
was behind the reception desk, smoking,  and watching a  TV that  was on the
far wall. I only hoped we hadn't had star billing on the  news. Looking past
her into the  back office,  I  saw a  bald,  overweight man,  probably  late
fifties, working at a desk.
     "I want you to wait  just here,  Kelly." I pointed  to  the wall of the
hotel under the upstairs landing that acted as a patio.
     She didn't like it.
     "I won't be long," I said, starting to walk backward toward the doors.
     "Just  wait there;  I'll  be  right back." By now I was  at the door. I
pointed at her as if I were training a puppy.
     "Stay, OK?"
     The desk  clerk  was  wearing  jeans and a  T-shirt. Her  hair was  the
blondest I'd ever seen, apart from the roots.  She glanced away  from the TV
and said on autopilot, "Hello, can I help you?"
     "I'm looking for a room for maybe three or four nights."
     "Sure, for how many?"
     "Two adults and a child."
     "Sure, one moment," and she ran her finger down the register.
     The news was on. I turned and watched, but there  was nothing about the
murders. Maybe we were already old news.  I hoped so.
     "Can I have your card?"
     I pulled a face.
     "Ah, that's where we have a problem. We're on a fly-drive vacation, and
we've had our bags stolen. We've  been to see the police and I'm waiting for
replacement cards, but I'm just running on  cash at the moment. I understand
you have to have  it  for the record, but maybe if I pay in advance, and you
disconnect the room phone?"
     She was  starting to nod  her  head, but  her  expression was still the
wrong side of sympathetic.
     "We're really stuck." I played the wet and sorrowful Brit abroad.
     "We've got  to go to  the British  consulate tomorrow  and sort out our
passports." I brought out some twenty-dollar bills.
     It seemed to take a while for it all to sink in.
     "I'm  so  sorry  to hear  about  that."  She  paused, waiting  for more
chemicals to interact in her brain.
     "I'll get the manager."
     She went into the office, and I watched  her talking to the bald guy at
his desk. From their body language I got the impression he was her father. I
felt a drop of sweat roll down my spine. If they refused  us a room, we were
stranded maybe miles from  the next motel  and would need  to start ordering
taxis and raising our profile.
     Hurry  up! I turned and looked outside but couldn't  see Kelly. Fuck, I
hoped Mr. Honest Citizen wasn't about  to  storm in demanding to know  who'd
left a little girl all alone  outside in the  rain.  I quickly walked to the
door and  stuck  my head  outside.  She was still  there, standing where I'd
asked her to.
     I came back  to  the reception desk just as Dad appeared from the  back
office. The woman was on the telephone, taking a reservation.
     "Just making sure our car isn't blocking the way." I grinned.
     "I hear you have a problem?" Dad had a vacant smile on his face. I knew
we were OK.
     "Yes." I sighed. "We've been to the  police  and contacted  the credit
card companies. We're just waiting for it to get sorted out. Until then, all
I've got is cash. I'll pay for the next three days in advance."
     "That's no problem."
     I was sure  it  wasn't. There  was  no way our little  cash transaction
would  be finding its way onto the books. What some people call white trash,
Kev used to call "salt of the earth";
     they might take a while to understand things, but money is money in any
     He smiled.
     "We'll keep the telephone on for you."
     I played the thankful Brit and checked in, then Kelly  and I bounded up
two flights of concrete and cinder-block stairs.
     Kelly hesitated outside the room, then looked at me  and said, "Nick, I
want to see Mommy. When can I go home?"
     Shit, not that again. I wished more than anything that she could go and
see Mommy. It would be one less problem.
     "Not long now, Kelly," I said.
     "I'll get some food in a minute,
     Once inside, I lay down on the bed and thought out the priorities.
     "Yes?" I was looking at the ceiling.
     "Can I watch TV?"
     Thank God for that.
     I reached  over to the remote and quickly checked  the channels, making
sure I wasn't going to catch us both on the news.
     I found Nickelodeon and stuck with it.
     I'd made a decision.  "I'm going out now to  buy us something to eat,"
I said, my mind on the one option that hadn't yet been closed.
     "You stay here, the same as before. I'll put the do not disturb sign on
the  door, and  you make  sure  that  you don't open it for anybody.  Do you
     She nodded.
     The phone booth  was next to  a Korean  grocery  store.  It  was  still
drizzling; I  could hear the noise of tires on wet  asphalt as I crossed the
     I pushed in a couple of quarters and dialed.
     I got "Good evening, British Embassy. How may I help you?"
     "I'd like to speak to the defense attache, please."
     "May I say who's calling?"
     "My name is Stamford." Fuck it, I had nothing to lose.
     "Thank you, one moment please."
     Almost immediately, a no-nonsense voice came on the line: "Stamford?"
     There was a long continuous tone; I  was starting to think I'd been cut
off again. Then, thirty seconds later, I heard Simmonds.
     My call must have been patched through to London.
     Unflappable as ever, he said, "It seems you're in a spot of trouble."
     "Trouble's not the word."
     In veiled speech I told him everything that had  happened since my last
call. Simmonds listened without interruption, then said, "There's not really
a  lot I can do. Obviously, you  understand the situation  I'm  in?" I could
tell he was pissed off with me big-time.
     "You were told to return immediately.
     You disobeyed an order. You should not  have  gone to see him, you know
that." He was still  cool about it  all, but under the veneer I knew he was
     I could  just picture him  behind  his  desk in  his crumpled shirt and
baggy cords, with the family photo and maybe Easter eggs for  his family  on
his  desk, next  to a pile of red-hot faxes from Washington  that had to  be
attended to.
     "It's got nothing on the situation I can put you in," I said.
     "I've got stuff that would make  your lot look not very British at all.
I'll blow it to  whoever wants to listen. It's not a  bluff. I  need help to
get out of this shit and I want it now."
     There was a pause: the  patient parent waiting for a child to  stop its
     He said,  "Your  position  is  pretty  delicate, I'm afraid.  There  is
nothing  I  can  do unless  you  have some  form  of  proof that you're  not
implicated.  I suggest you  make every  effort to discover what has happened
and why, then we can talk  and I  might be able to help. How does that sound
to you? You can carry out your threat, but I wouldn't recommend it."
     I could feel his hand tighten around my balls. Whether they complied or
called my bluff, I'd be spending the rest of my  life on  the run. The  Firm
does not like being strong-armed.
     "I've got no choice really, have I?"
     "I'm glad you see it like that. Bring what you find."
     The phone went dead.
     My  mind  racing, I wandered into the shop. I  bought  a bottle of hair
color  one wash in,  twelve washes  out and  a  hair-trimmer  gadget. I also
bought a full range of washing and shaving supplies because we couldn't look
like a  couple of  scruffies  at large in D.C. Then I filled the basket with
bottles of Coca-Cola and some apples and candy.
     I  couldn't  find a Mickey D's  and ended up in a Burger King. I bought
two meal deals, then went back to the hotel.
     I knocked on the door as I opened it.
     "Guess  what I've got burgers, fries, apple pies, hot chocolate, coffee
for me.. ."
     By the wall next  to  the window was  a little circular  table and  PVC
chairs. The shopping bags went on the bed; I dumped the burgers on the table
with a flourish, like a re  turning  hunter. Ripping the bags open to make a
tablecloth, I tipped the  fries out,  opened the ketchup,  and we both dived
in. She must have been starving.
     I waited until she had a mouthful of burger.
     "Listen,  Kelly,  you know how  grown-up girls are always dyeing  their
hair and cutting it and all sorts of stuff ? I thought you might like to try
     She couldn't have looked less interested.
     "What do you fancy, a really dark brown?"
     She shrugged.
     I wanted to  get  it  done  before she understood too much of  what was
happening. The moment she'd finished her  hot apple  pie, I led  her to  the
bathroom and got her to take  off her shirt. I tested the shower temperature
and leaned her  over the  sink, quickly wetting her hair,  then toweled  and
brushed it.  I got the  trimmer going but I wasn't entirely sure  what I was
doing. I realized it was  for beards, really,  and by the  time I'd got  the
hang of  it  her hair looked like shit. The more  I tried  to  sort  it, the
shorter it was getting. Soon it was up around her collar.
     As  I  studied the bottle of dye,  trying to read the instructions, she
said, "Nick?"
     I was still reading  the bottle and hoping I  wasn't  about to turn her
hair into a ginger fuzz ball
     "Do you know those guys who were chasing you?"
     I was the one who should have been asking questions.
     "No, I don't, Kelly, but I will find out." I thought about it, put  the
hair dye down. I was standing behind  her;  both of us  were looking at each
other in  the mirror. Her light  blue eyes were now  not so  red around  the
edges.  That  only made my brown  ones  even  more dark and tired-looking. I
looked at her a while longer. Finally, I said, "Kelly, why did you go to the
     She said  nothing.  I could  see in her eyes that  she was  starting to
question my hairdressing skills.
     "Did Daddy shout "Disneyland'?"
     "Then why  did you go?" Already this was getting too in tense for me. I
needed to do something. I picked up the dye.
     "Because of the noise."
     I started to comb the dye in.
     "Oh, what noise was that?"
     She looked at me in the mirror.
     "I was in the kitchen but I heard a  bad noise in the living room and I
went and looked."
     "What did you see?"
     "Daddy was shouting at the men and they were hitting him."
     "Did they see you?"
     "I don't know, I didn't go in the room. I just wanted to shout to Mommy
to come and help Daddy."
     "And what did you do?"
     Her eyes went down.
     "I  couldn't help  him." When she looked  up again, I  saw her face was
burning with shame. Her bottom lip started to wobble.
     "I ran to the hidey-hole. I wanted  to go to Mommy but she was upstairs
with Aida, and Daddy was shouting at the men."
     "You ran to the hidey-hole?"
     "Did you stay there?"
     "Did Mommy come and call for you?"
     "No. You did."
     "So you didn't see Mommy and Aida?"
     The picture of the two of them dead flashed into my mind.
     I put my arms  around her  as she sobbed. I said,  "Kelly, you couldn't
have helped Daddy.  Those men  were too  big and strong. Probably I couldn't
have helped him, and I'm a grown-up. It's not your fault Daddy got hurt. But
he is OK  and wants me to look after  you until he is better. Mommy and Aida
had to go with Daddy. There just wasn't any time to get you."
     I let her cry a bit, then asked,  "Did you see any  of the men who were
chasing us today?"
     She shook her head.
     "Did the men who were with Daddy have suits on?"
     "I think so, but they had like painting clothes over them."
     I guessed what she meant.
     "The sort Daddy would wear  to paint the  house?" I did  the actions of
putting on a pair of overalls.
     She nodded.
     "So  do you mean  they had suits  on  underneath, but had  the painting
things on top?"
     She nodded again.
     I knew it; these boys were good  they were players.  They hadn't wanted
to get nasty red stuff all over their nice suits.
     I asked her how many men came out and what they  looked like.  She  was
confused and scared. Her lip started to quiver again.
     "Can I go home soon?" She was fighting back the tears.
     "Yes,  very  soon,  very  soon. When Daddy is  better. Until then,  I'm
looking after you. Come on, Kelly, let's make you look like a big girl."
     After a rinse I combed her wet hair  and got her dressed right  away in
her new clothes. If we had to move, I needed her dressed, so I told her that
the only things she could keep off were her hat, coat, and shoes.
     She inspected herself in the mirror. The new clothes were much  too big
and her hair was--well, she didn't seem too sure.
     We  watched Nickelodeon, and eventually she fell asleep. I lay  staring
at the  ceiling, going through the  options, or rather, trying to kid myself
that I had some.
     What about Slack Pat? He would certainly  help if he could, as long  as
he hadn't turned into some drugged-up New  Age hippie.  But the  only way  I
could  think of contacting  him was  through the restaurant  he used to rave
about. The way he described it, he practically lived there. The problem was,
I couldn't remember the name  of it,  just that it was on a hill at the edge
of Georgetown.
     What about  Euan? He was no good yet because he'd still be operating in
Northern Ireland, and there was no  way I could make contact with him  until
he was back in England.
     I looked over at Kelly. That was how she would have to live now, always
dressed, ready to run at a moment's notice. I put the comforter over her.
     I piled all the trash together and put it in the wastebasket, made sure
the sign was still on the door and  her shoes were in her pockets. I checked
chamber  in  both  weapons--the  9mm  in  Kev's  jacket and  the Sig  in  my
waistband. No doubt Kelly was  going to  be in all of tomorrow's papers, but
at least if the shit hit the fan we were ready to go. I knew my escape route
and would not hesitate to shoot my way out.
     I  got my new clothes out of the bag and took them into the bathroom. I
shaved, then  undressed. I stank; Kev's things were stained with blood  from
Aida or  Marsha,  I  couldn't remember  which.  The  sweat had  thinned  it,
spreading it right up the back and shoulders of  his shirt and the inside of
his  jeans. Everything went into a plastic laundry bag, which I'd throw away
in the  morning. I had  a long, hot shower  and washed my hair.  Then  I got
dressed, checked the door lock, and lay on the bed.
     I woke up at  about 5:30 in the morning after a terrible night's sleep.
I wasn't sure if  all the  bad  stuff was a dream. The only  good result was
that I remembered the name of Slack Pat's restaurant.
     I thought again  about money.  I  definitely couldn't  use credit cards
because  I had to  assume  they'd either been frozen or  would be  used as a
trace. It was cash or nothing--not easy in the West  nowadays. Pat, if I got
to him, would  fund me, but I knew I'd have  to take advantage  of any spare
time  to get hold of more. Kelly was  snoring big-time. I picked  up the key
card, gently  closed the  door behind me, checked  that the sign was up, and
went looking for a fire extinguisher.  As  I passed the  open door  to  the
chambermaid's storeroom I  spotted half a dozen wedge-shaped door stops on a
shelf. I helped myself to a couple.
     I found the fire  extinguisher on the wall by the elevators. I  quickly
unscrewed the top of it and removed the carbon dioxide cylinder, a nine-inch
black steel tube. I put it in my jacket and walked back to the room.
     I put the three spare magazines for the Sig .45 in the left-hand pocket
of Kev's jacket and decided  I was going to keep the USP in the  room. I hid
it in the toilet tank.  A weapon can stand  getting wet in the short term. I
just didn't want her to find it and start putting holes in herself.
     I dozed some more, woke up, and  dozed again. By 7 a.m. I was bored and
hungry. Breakfast was included in the room  price, but to get it I'd have to
go downstairs to the lobby.
     Kelly started to stir. I said, "Good morning. Do you fancy something to
     She was  all yaw ny sitting up  and  looking like  a scarecrow  because
she'd  gone to sleep with wet  hair.  Immediately I  put the TV on  for her,
because I didn't really know what to say.
     She looked down at her clothes, trying to work it out.
     "You fell asleep," I laughed.
     "I couldn't even undress you last night. Hey, it's  like camping, isn't
     She liked that.
     "Yeah."  She  smiled,  still  sleepy  "Shall  I  go  and  get you  some
     She didn't look up, just nodded at the television.
     "Remember, you must do this every time; you  never  ever open the door.
I'll  come  back using  the key. Don't even open  the curtains,  because the
cleaning ladies will think it's OK to come in, and we don't want to talk  to
anyone, do we? I'll leave the do not disturb sign, OK?"
     She nodded. I wasn't sure how much  of it had gone in. I  picked up the
tray the ice bucket was on, put on my glasses, and went down to reception.
     It was already fairly crowded: people with RVs who couldn't be bothered
to sleep in them, and salesmen looking  clean,  fresh,  and straight out of
the "appearance counts" section of the manual.
     The breakfast area was made up of two or three tables by the coffeepots
under  the  TV. I  took three  packets of cereal, bagels and  muffins,  some
apples, then two cups of coffee and an orange juice.
     The desk clerk had just finished her shift and came over.
     hope  everything  goes  OK. with your passports and  all." She  smiled,
helping herself to a bagel.
     "I'm sure it'll be  fine. We're just  going  to concentrate on having a
good vacation."
     "If you need any help, you just come and ask."
     "Thanks." I  walked over to the  desk and picked up a complimentary USA
Today.  I also helped myself  to a book of Roadies Inn  matches from a whole
bowl  of them and a paper clip  that was  in a big ashtray full  of  elastic
bands and office supplies, and went back to the room.
     Ten   minutes  later  Kelly  was  munching  on  her  cereal,  glued  to
Nickelodeon. I said, "I'm going out for about an hour. I've got to do stuff.
While I'm away, I want you  to wash up and be  all nice and clean for when I
get back, and have your hair brushed. Are you going  to be all right on your
own, with your big-girl haircut?"
     She shrugged.
     "What are your favorite colors?"
     "My favorite colors are pink and blue."
     "Well, we've got  the pink." I pointed at the  coat hanging up with her
shoes sticking out of the pockets. That had been a bit of luck.
     "Now I've got to get you something blue."
     I gave my  glasses  a  quick clean with toilet  paper, put them back in
their case and into Kev's jacket,  then put my long black raincoat over  the
top, checking the pocket for the cylinder. I checked my pockets and took out
the loose change.
     I wanted to cut down  on noise,  and always felt better anyway  with as
little as possible dragging around  my clothes.  I got my Kangol hat  in my
hand, and I was all ready to go.
     "I won't be long. Remember, let no one in. I'll be back before you know
     It had stopped raining, but the  sky was still gray and the ground wet.
The road was choked with cars heading into downtown D.C. It's a people town;
the sidewalks were busy, too.
     I walked briskly to  keep pace with the office workers, each with their
"Got to get  up, got  to get going" expression, looking all the time for the
ideal place  to  make some  money quickly and get  back to the  hotel before
Kelly started panicking.
     It was too  early  for a shopping  mall,  since  they didn't open until
tenish. And I wasn't in an area with a  lot of hotels--they were all farther
downtown. There were fast-food outlets but with normally just one way in and
out, and too  much  rest  room  traffic, they  wouldn't be a good choice.  A
service  station would do, as long as it had an  outside bathroom that could
be opened only with a key obtained from the cashier.
     I'd been wandering around for maybe twenty minutes. I walked  through a
couple  of gas stations that were  busy enough,  but  they were modern, with
inside rest rooms.
     Eventually I found what I was looking for, an outdoor rest room  with a
sign on the door that said key at desk. I checked to make sure that the door
was locked, then I walked on.
     I was looking for two  things now: somewhere natural to watch the pumps
from, and  my escape route. Farther up, on the other side of the road, was a
run  of  lawyers'  offices, credit unions, insurance brokers,  in  wonderful
1930s brick  detached houses;  in  between  were  what looked like well-used
alleys. I crossed  over,  walked  down  one, and came out  onto the parallel
street;  turning right, I followed the road to an intersection, turned left,
then right again up another alley. The whole area was perfect for angles and
distance. I made my way back to the gas station by a different route.
     There was a bus stop  across  the street, about a hundred yards away. I
strolled along to it,  stood  in  a  doorway, and  waited;  it  had  to look
natural, I had to have a reason to be doing what I was doing. There were two
or three people waiting, then the line got gradually longer, a bus came, and
we were back to two or three again. I looked at the destination sign of each
bus as it approached, looked fed up that it wasn't the one I wanted, and got
back in the doorway.
     People don't carry much cash with them nowadays, especially here in the
land  of the credit card. The ideal target would be a tourist they  tend to
carry more cash and traveler's checks but there weren't likely to be many in
this part of town.
     Over  a period of  about  thirty  minutes  there'd been  four  or  five
possibles  going in to fill up their  cars, but unfortunately it seemed that
none  of them was in need of  a shit. I thought about Kelly; I hoped she was
sticking to the script.
     A white guy in his late twenties drove up to the pumps in a new Camaro.
It carried thirty-day plates while waiting for  the new registration. He was
wearing a baggy track suit  that was red, blue, green, orange, and six other
colors, and the world's most flamboyant basketball shoes to match. His  hair
was shaved at the  sides, with  the rest  pointing skyward. The sound system
was  booming  out bass that I could  almost feel  vibrating  from across the
     He filled  up and went in to pay. When he came out he was carrying what
looked like a small length of  two-by-four. He turned left toward  the  rest
room. This was my boy.
     I  stepped out of the doorway,  turned my collar  up, and headed across
the road. He was putting his  wallet into his track top  and zipping up. I'd
already checked the garage surveillance cameras; they wouldn't be a problem:
they were focused on the pumps  to catch drive-aways, not on the far  end of
the building to catch toilet paper thieves.
     As  I left the doorway I  was a man who needed a piss and couldn't wait
any  longer for his bus to arrive. It was unlikely to  register with anybody
at  the bus  stop; first thing  in the morning people are brooding about the
day's work ahead, or about their  mortgages or  kids or the wife's  headache
the night before. They're not going to worry too much about a guy going into
a  toilet. I walked toward the  door  with just  enough spring in my step to
look like the man with the world's fullest bladder and went in.
     The room  was about twelve by  twelve, fairly clean, reeking of bleach.
Dead ahead were two  urinals,  with a sink  and  a wall-mounted  paper-towel
dispenser. My boy was in one of the two stalls to the right.
     I could hear the sound of zippers being undone, the rustle of a general
sorting out, and a little  cough. I closed the door behind me and jammed  in
the two door stops with my shoe.
     No one would be getting in or out of here unless I wanted them to.
     I stood at the urinal and made it  look as if I were  taking a leak. My
hands were in front of me,  but holding the steel cylinder. I'd keep my back
to him until he came out to wash his hands. I stood there for three or four
minutes. I heard him pissing.
     It stopped, then nothing.  This character was taking too long. I  swung
my head to  the right as  if to look out  of  the  small, barred  window but
carried on with the motions of pissing in case for some reason  he could see
me and was being hesitant about leaving the stall.
     Then, casually looking right behind me, I saw something really bizarre.
Through the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor I could see one
foot, which seemed to be his right, on the ground and facing the toilet. His
tracksuit  pants  weren't  bunched  around  his  ankles.  I  thought.  Weird
position, but there you go. Then I  noticed that the door was  open an inch.
He hadn't locked it.
     I wasn't  going  to stop and figure  it  out. Clenching  my  right fist
around the cylinder, and with my left hand out to protect  myself, I started
quickly but quietly  toward the  door.  At  the last  minute  I took  a deep
breath, dropped my shoulder, and barged in.
     He banged up against the wall, screaming, "What the fuck!
     What  the fuck!" His hands went out to try to keep himself from falling
and the door held; his bulk was blocking it.
     I had to  barge  in again. The hard and  fast rule  of mugging is to be
exactly that: hard and  fast. Putting all my weight be hind  the door, I had
him pinned up against  the wall. He was  a big boy;  I  had to be careful, I
could get fucked  over here. I  grabbed a handful of his gelled hair with my
left hand and pulled his head over  to the  left, exposing the right side of
his neck.
     You  don't just use your arm to  hit somebody. I  needed to get as much
weight as I  could behind  the cylinder, the same as a  boxer using his hips
and the top half of his body to  power the swing. I brought the  cylinder up
in my right and swung my whole body around as  if  throwing a downward right
hook and cracked him just below the ear. The idea was just to take him down,
not kill  him  or  give him brain damage for  the rest  of  his days; if I'd
wanted  to do that, I'd  have cracked  him over the head a few times. As  it
was, it  wouldn't be  his best day  out, but  tough shit--wrong place, wrong
     It had  been  a good hit. He  groaned and went down. He was fucked, and
without a  doubt he  would have had star bursts in  his eyes, that crackling
and popping sensation you get when you go down semiconscious. He'd just want
to curl up and get under the comforter  and hide. That was  why I'd used the
cylinder instead of a gun. You can't predict people's reactions to a pistol.
He might have been an undercover cop with a gun himself, he might  have been
some kind of heroic, take-a-chance citizen. Not that  it  mattered now.  The
old ways are the best.
     He'd banged his head on the tank and smashed his nose;
     blood  was pouring down  his chin. There  was a high-pitched, childlike
moan  coming from  him. He was in  shitty  shape but  he'd  live. I gave him
another one  for good  measure; I  wanted  him down and well out. He stopped
making a noise.
     I  put my left hand  on  his head and held  it facing away  from  me. I
didn't want him  to  be able to ID me. With my right  hand I  got  under his
belly and  twisted  his tracksuit  top  around toward  me,  unzipped it, and
pulled  out his wallet. Then I  started  to feel down his pockets in case he
had another big  wad stashed away there. My  fingers closed around a plastic
bag that filled  the ball of my hand. I pulled out  what looked like  enough
white  powder to send the guy's  entire neighborhood into orbit, all in neat
little plastic wallets ready for sale.
     No good to me; I left it on the floor, It was then that I realized what
he'd been up to while I was at the urinal. Wrapped tight around his left arm
was a rubber tube, and there was blood dripping from a small puncture wound.
He must have had his left leg up on the toilet seat to support his arm while
he was shooting up. I saw the hypodermic on the floor.
     As I stood up, my pants felt  wet and I looked down. He'd had the  last
laugh. I'd made him  lose control  of his bodily functions  and  he'd pissed
himself. And I'd been kneeling in it.
     I picked up the key from the floor. That, too, was covered  in piss. He
was starting to come around a  bit; there were a few moans and groans. I got
hold of his head and banged it against the toilet to give him the message to
stay where he was for a while.
     I  stepped back from the stall.  There  was no time to  try to clean my
jeans. I  went  to the main door,  retrieved the door  stops put  them in my
pocket, came out,  and locked the door behind me. I tossed the key into some
     I was  out of breath  and a bit of sweat  dripped down the side  of  my
face, but  I had  to make myself look  calm and casual.  If another customer
happened  to come around the corner to use the toilet, I'd say it was out of
     As I crossed the street I glanced left and behind me.
     Nothing.  I wouldn't  look back again. I'd soon  know if  something was
going on because I'd  hear  all the  screaming and shouting, or the sound of
people running toward me. Then I'd have to react--but at the end of the day,
I was the one with the big fucking gun.
     I passed the bus stop and carried on toward the first alley.
     After  two  more  turns  I  took  my  coat  off,  wrapped it around the
cylinder, and folded the  whole  lot up. I took the cap off and  folded that
into the coat as well.  I kept on walking, found a trash can, and got rid of
my bundle. I was a new man, or I would be as soon as I put on my glasses.
     Once  on the  road again,  I got out the wallet as  if I were  checking
whether I had my credit card. I opened it up and found that I  was  a family
man; there was a very nice picture of  me, my wife, and two kids--the family
of  Lance White. I didn't  think Mrs.  White would be too  pleased with  the
state of me when I got home.
     There was about $240 in the billfold; White had either just been  to an
ATM or done  some early-morning deals.  There  were also a  couple of credit
cards, but I wouldn't keep them;
     it would be time-consuming to sell them,  and if I tried to use them it
could  only be in the  next hour  or so  but why run the risk of  the police
doing a trace and ending up with my description from a sales clerk? The rest
of the stuff  was shit, bits of paper with phone numbers  on them.  Probably
his client list.  As I passed another trash  can I dumped everything  except
the cash.
     I now had just under $400 in my pocket, enough for the next few days in
case I couldn't contact Pat or he didn't come up with the goods.
     The piss on my pants was  starting  to dry up a bit as I walked, but it
stank something awful. It was time for a change of clothes.
     I reached the Burger King and all the other shops near the hotel. I was
in and out of  a  discount  shop in about fifteen  minutes,  with  a  duffel
containing a new coat,  jeans, sweat shirt, and underwear,  all bought  with
cash. Kelly had also  got a complete new set  of clothes, down to underpants
and undershirts.
     I had a quick look at my watch on the way up to the room.
     I'd been  gone about two hours and fifteen minutes, a  bit longer  than
I'd said I'd be.
     Before I  even got to the  door I could see it was ajar.  I looked down
and saw a pillow keeping it open. I could hear the TV.
     Pulling my pistol, I went against the wall, the weapon  pointing toward
the gap. I felt disbelief,  then shock. I felt emptiness in  my stomach, and
then I felt sick. I moved into the room. Nothing.
     I checked on the other  side  of the bed in case  she  might be  hiding
there. Maybe she was playing some game with me.
     "Kelly!  Are you in there?" My voice was  serious, and she'd have known
     No reply. My heart was pumping so hard my chest hurt.  If they had her,
why hadn't they jumped me by now?
     I felt  sweat  slide down the  side  of my  face. I started  to  panic,
thinking about her in her house,  her father being beaten, scared, screaming
for  her mommy. I  understood  that feeling  of  desperation  when you  want
someone to take all the scary things away.
     I forced myself to stop, calm down, think about what I was going to do.
I came out onto the patio again and turned left.
     I'd come from the right and hadn't seen anything that way. I broke into
a run, calling, "Kelly! Kelly!" in a loud semi shout
     I turned the corner, and there she was.
     She was just leaving the Coke machine, wrestling with the pull tab on a
can. The "look at me, aren't I a big  girl?" smile soon changed when she saw
me, weapon in hand, looking as serious as cancer.
     For one moment I was going to read her the riot act, but I bit my lip.
     She  was looking suddenly sad and sorry for herself. Getting  herself a
can  of  Coke  was  the  first thing she'd done all  on  her own  since  our
adventure had begun, and I'd ruined it by coming  back so  soon. Leading her
back to the  room, I kept looking around the  open  square to  make sure  we
hadn't been seen.
     There  were empty  potato chip  bags and other  crap on the  floor;  it
looked like a scene out of Animal House.
     I sat her on  the bed while I went and ran a bath. When I came back she
still had a long face. I sat beside her.
     "I'm not cross with you, Kelly,  it's just that I worry if I don't know
where you are. Will you promise me not to do it again?"
     "I promise," she nodded.
     "But only if you promise not  to leave me  again." "I promise. Now get
undressed for a bath." I  picked her up and  basically threw her in the bath
before she had time to think.
     "Do you wash your own hair or get somebody to do it?" I asked. I didn't
have a clue.
     She looked like she was going to cry.
     I said, "Do you want me to wash it for you?"
     "Yes, please."  I  wondered what  was going on in that little  mind  of
     I got out the shampoo and started in; she moaned about  the soap in her
eyes and that the suds were  tickling  her  ears, but I could tell she loved
the attention. I couldn't blame her; she hadn't had much  lately.  Her world
had been turned upside down, and she didn't even know it yet.
     "You stink!" Kelly made a face as she caught the smell of Lance White's
bladder on my clothes.
     "These clothes are a bit old," I said.
     "Make sure you get all the shampoo out of your  hair, and wash yourself
with soap."
     She looked  as if she was  having fun. I was glad somebody was. Walking
into the bedroom, I called  behind  me, "Then I want you to  put some  clean
clothes on. There're knickers and an undershirt on the bed."
     "What're knickers?"
     "These." I picked them up and walked back to show her.
     "They're not, they're panties!"
     Kelly was a water baby. That  was great  for me; the longer she was  in
the bath, the  less time I had to spend dealing with her. I was  finding  it
quite tiring, having to clean, dress, talk,  answer  questions. I  left  her
splashing around for another half an hour, then dragged her out and told her
to go dry herself.
     I got  in the shower,  shaved,  and  got changed, bundling  all my  old
clothes and  Kelly's into a plastic  laundry  bag and stowing it inside  the
duffel. I'd get rid of it at the first opportunity.
     We were both in the bedroom. She was dressed. Her shirt buttons were in
the wrong holes; while I  was undoing  them and sorting them out, I realized
she was looking disapprovingly at me.  "What's the problem?"
     "Those jeans. They're for losers. You should get 501s like Daddy."
     On top of everything else, I had the fashion police after me.  She went
on, "You can't get  501s in my  size. That's  what  Mommy  says  anyway. She
doesn't wear jeans; she's like Aida--she likes dresses and skirts."
     In my mind's eye I saw Marsha kneeling  by her bed. I turned away for a
moment so she couldn't  see my face.  I sat on the bed  and said, "Kelly, do
you know your dad's code number for  his phone? I don't--I've tried it loads
of  times-I've pressed  one-one-one-one, two-two-two-two, I've pressed  them
all and I still don't know. Have you got any idea?"
     She stared at me for a few moments, then nodded.
     "Right! What are the numbers then?"
     She didn't say anything. She seemed to  be working something out in her
mind. Maybe she wondered if she'd be betraying her daddy by telling me.
     I pulled the  phone from my pocket, turned it on, and said, "Look! What
does it say? PIN number! Do you know what numbers your daddy puts in?"
     She nodded,  and I said, "Come  on, you  show me then." She pressed the
buttons, and I watched her fingers.
     "One-nine-nine-oh?" I said.
     "Nineteen-ninety, the year I was born," she beamed.
     We were in business. I fetched the Yellow Pages from one of the drawers
and sat on the edge of the bed.
     "What are you looking for?" she asked.
     "A restaurant called Good Fellas," I said. I found the address.
     "We're going to go there and look for Pat."
     I  thought  about  phoning the place and asking about him,  but  they'd
probably  just  blow  me off.  In any case,  that  could trigger a series of
events I'd know nothing about until  we were both suddenly lifted.  It would
be better to go there.
     I put my glasses on and she giggled. I got her coat and held it for her
to put on. As she turned around I noticed she still had the  label dangling
off her jeans; I ripped that  off, then checked that nothing else looked out
of place just like any other unfashionable dad  taking his  daughter out for
the day.
     I put my jacket on, checked for  the mags and phone, and said,  "Do you
remember Pat?"
     "No. Who is she?"
     "It's  a him; he's  a man called Patrick.  Maybe you've  seen him  with
     "Is Pat going to take me home?"
     "You  will be going home soon, Kelly. But only when Daddy is better and
if you're a good girl and do what I say."
     Her face went moody and sullen.
     "Will I be home by Saturday? I'm going to Melissa's party. She's having
a sleepover."
     I carried on.  There was nothing else I could  do.  I  didn't  have the
skills to coax her out other mood.
     "Pat came around to your house. Surely you remember Pat?"
     "And  I  got to buy  her  a present. I've  made  her  some  friend ship
bracelets, but I want to get something else."
     "Well, we're going to try to find Pat today because  he's going to help
us get you home. Maybe we'll have time to do your shopping, OK?"
     "Where is Pat?"
     "I think he might be  in the restaurant.  But  you've got to be  really
quiet  when we get  there,  OK, and  not talk to anyone. If anybody talks to
you, I want you  just to nod your head or  shake  it, OK?  We've  got  to be
really careful, otherwise they won't tell me where Pat is, and then we might
get into trouble."
     I knew she'd be all right on the dumb act. She'd  done what I'd said by
the bins. I felt bad talking about her going home, but I couldn't think of a
better way of controlling her  behavior and anyway, with any luck I wouldn't
be there when she was finally told the truth.
     There were a couple of other jobs to do before we left the room. I took
the bottom left-hand  corner  of the  blanket on my bed  and folded  it in a
neat, diagonal pleat. Then  I took a matchstick  from the book I'd picked up
in  reception  and wedged it between the  wall and  the  long, low chest of
drawers that the TV rested on. I put a pen mark the size of a pinhead on the
wall and covered it with the match head  Finally I placed the paper  clip in
one of the drawers under the TV and turned the volume up a shade.
     I had a quick look around the room to make sure we hadn't left anything
compromising lying  around; I even put the Yellow Pages back in  the drawer.
The pistol was  still  in the toilet  tank, but there were no problems  with
that; there  was no reason for a cleaner to come in, let alone the cops with
a search warrant.
     I picked up a couple  of  apples  and candy  bars and  put  them in the
pocket of my brand-new three-quarter-length blue coat.
     Then I  closed the door,  checked the  do  not disturb sign, and off we
     We  took  a taxi to Georgetown. It  would have conserved funds if  we'd
taken a bus, but  this way meant less  exposure to commuters or pedestrians.
The  driver was Nigerian. The map  of the city  on  the front passenger seat
didn't instill much confidence, and he could  just  about speak  English. He
used what few  words  he  had to ask me where Georgetown  was. It was like a
London  cabbie  not knowing Chelsea. I  patiently pointed on the  map. By my
guess it was about thirty minutes away.
     It was spitting  with rain, not enough to keep the wipers on but enough
to make him give them a flick every minute or so.
     Kelly  munched  on  a candy bar and I kept an eye out for other motels.
We'd have to move again soon.
     We sat  in silence for a few minutes until  it occurred to me that  the
driver would expect to hear us talking.
     "When I was your age I hadn't been in a taxi," I said.
     "I don't think I went in one until I was about fifteen."
     Kelly looked at me, still chewing on the candy.
     "Didn't you like taxis?"
     "No, it's just we didn't have much money. My stepfather couldn't find a
     She looked  puzzled. She looked  at me for a long time, then turned her
head and looked out the window again.
     The traffic  was clogging the exit  for Key Bridge. Georgetown was just
on the other side of the Potomac; it would have been quicker to get out and
walk, but it made sense to stay out of sight. By now Kelly's face would have
been in  the newspapers, maybe even on posters. The  police would be putting
in a lot of time and effort to find her abductor.
     I  leaned  over the  front seat, picked up the  map,  and directed  the
driver to the river end of Wisconsin  Avenue,  the main north-south drag.  I
remembered Georgetown as  almost  self-contained, with a genteel and  quaint
feel to the town houses that had reminded me of San Francisco. The sidewalks
were  redbrick and  uneven, and  every  car seemed to  be  a  BMW, Volvo, or
Mercedes.  Every house  and store had  a  prominent  sign  warning that  the
property was guarded by  a security firm. Try breaking  in  and you'd have a
rapid-response team down on  you before you even  had time  to rip the leads
from the back of the VCR.
     Wisconsin is  a  wide street with shops  and houses on  either side. We
found Good  Fellas about four blocks up the hill on  the right-hand side. As
restaurants go it looked like one  of  the moody, designer-type places:  the
whole  front was black,  even  down to  the smoked-glass windows;  the  only
relief was the gold lettering above the door. It was now nearly lunchtime;
     all the staff would have punched in.
     We entered through two blackened glass swing doors and were hit by  the
frosty blast of air-conditioning. We were at one end of a dimly lit  hallway
that ran the length of the front.
     Halfway down was a young receptionist sitting at her desk, looking very
upscale and friendly. I was impressed with  Pat's taste. The  girl smiled as
we walked toward her, Kelly's hand in mine.
     As  we got closer I realized that the smile was a quizzical one. By now
she was standing up, and I could see she was dressed very smartly in a white
shirt and black pants.
     "Excuse me, sir," she said, "we don't.. ."
     I held up my hand and smiled.
     "That's fine, we haven't come for lunch. I'm trying to find a friend of
mine called  Patrick. He used  to come here a lot, maybe six or seven months
ago. Does that ring a  bell? As far  as I know, he was going out with one of
your staff. He's an Englishman, speaks like me."
     "I don't  know,  I've  only  been  here  since  the  beginning  of  the
     Semester? Of course,  we were in Georgetown, the university area; every
student was also  a  waiter or waitress.  "Could  you maybe call  somebody,
because  it's really important  that I  make  contact  with  him." I  winked
conspiratorily and said, "I've brought a friend of his--it's a surprise."
     She looked down and smiled warmly.
     "Hi, do you want a mint?" Kelly took a small handful.
     I went on, "Maybe one of the people in the back might know him?"
     While  she  was  thinking  about it, a  couple of guys in suits came in
behind us. Kelly was looking up at them, lumps in her cheeks.
     "Hi, little lady," one of them laughed.
     "You're a bit young for this, aren't you?"
     Kelly shrugged. Not a word.
     The receptionist  said,  "Excuse me  a moment," and  went off to do her
hostess bit, opening the door beyond the desk  for somebody else to meet the
two diners and take them to their table.
     She came back and picked up the phone.
     "I'll call."
     I looked down and winked at Kelly.
     "We've  got somebody  here  with  a  child, and  they're looking for an
Englishman called Patrick?" she said, then listened to the response.
     She put the phone down.
     "Someone'll be here in a minute."
     It rang again almost immediately, and she took a reservation.
     Kelly and I just stood there. A minute or two later a waitress appeared
from the dining room.
     "Hi, follow me."
     Things were looking up. I got hold of Kelly's hand, and we went through
the door to the dining room.
     People here  obviously liked  eating  in semidarkness,  because all the
tables were lit only by candles.  Looking  around, I  noticed that  all  the
waitresses  seemed  to  be wearing snug white  T-shirts  that exposed their
midriffs, with tight shorts and sneakers with little ankle socks.
     On the right-hand  side against  the wall  was  a  bar with  over  head
lighting.  The two suits were  the only two customers. In  the middle of the
room I noticed a small raised stage, with spotlights above.
     I laughed to myself: nice work. Pat!
     Ass or no ass. Slack had always been successful with women. At the time
of  Gibraltar he  was single like me, and rented  the house  next door.  For
about a  year he'd  been having what he called a "relationship," but  we all
knew  better. They'd  met  at a  Medieval  Night fancy dress  party; at four
o'clock the next morning I was woken by the sound of a vehicle screeching up
outside his house, then doors slamming and lots of giggling and laughing. We
lived in a small subdivision, the sort of houses they threw up in about five
minutes  all  through the eighties, so I could hear his front  door crashing
and  thought, here  we  go. Then I  heard a  bit  of music,  and the  toilet
flushing, which is always nice at four in the morning.
     Then lots more laughing and giggling, and  they were at it. At noon the
next day I was in the kitchen washing up when a taxi pulled up, and that was
when Queen Elizabeth I  and one of  her ladies-in-waiting came scuttling out
of Pat's front door, hair all over the place, looking incredibly embarrassed
as they jumped into the cab hoping no one would see them.
     When we grilled  him, it  turned out he was doing  it with a mother and
daughter combo. We hadn't  let him hear  the end of it  ever  since.  Now it
looked as though he'd got his own back.
     One of the girls waved to Kelly.
     "Hi, honey!" Beneath her T-shirt was what looked like a dead heat  in a
zeppelin race.
     Kelly  was loving it. I held  her  hand tight. As we followed the girl,
Kelly looked up at me and said, "What is this place?"
     "It's a kind of bar where people go to relax after work."
     "Like TGI Friday's?"
     "Sort of."
     We came to another set of double doors and went through into a world of
bright  light and  clatter.  The kitchens were on the right,  full  of noisy
chaos; on the left, offices. The  walls were dirty white  plaster with gouge
marks  from  where  they'd  been  knocked by  furniture.   Farther down the
corridor we came to another room. Our  friend led us in and announced, "Here
he is!"
     This  was  obviously  where  all  the  girls  hung  out--in some cases,
literally. If I'd had to  imagine a changing room  in a lap-dancing bar, I'd
have thought of semmaked girls in front of mirrors with big bulbs around the
edges, but this didn't fit the bill at all; it was much more like somebody's
living room. It was clean, with three or four couches, a couple of chairs, a
few  mirrors. There was a no smoking sign that  I  could smell was observed,
and bulletin boards full of university meetings and goings-on.
     Everybody went "Hi, how are you!" to Kelly.
     I looked at a policewoman wearing a  skirt  that was very nonregulation
     "I'm trying to find an Englishman called Pat. He told me he came here a
     Kelly was getting dragged away by two of the girls.
     "What's your name, honey?" There was nothing I could do to stop it.
     I said, "Her name's Josie."
     They were all in their fantasy outfits. One held out a Native  American
outfit, with fringed buckskin sleeves, feathers, the lot. She said to Kelly,
"Do  you  like this?" and started to dress her.  Kelly's eyes  widened  with
     I kept on talking with Washington's finest.
     "It's  just  that  there's been  a  big mess-up  on  the dates. We were
supposed to meet Pat so he and Josie could go on  vacation. It's no problem;
I'll look after her, but she really wants to see him."
     "We haven't seen Pat forever, but Sherry'll know, they used to go  out.
She's  late  but she'll be here any minute. If  you want to hang out, that's
fine. Help yourself to the coffee."
     I  went over and  poured myself  a  cup  and sat down. I  watched Kelly
giggling. For me, this should have been  like dying and going to heaven, but
I was tense about Kelly letting something slip.
     I  could see textbooks lying around. There  was one girl on a couch who
looked as if she'd come out of a Turkish harem;
     she was there with her laptop, tapping away at her thesis.
     Twenty minutes  later the door burst  open and  a girl carrying a black
sports bag ran in like a thing possessed, out of breath, hair everywhere.
     "Sorry I'm late, girls. I wasn't on first, was I?"
     She started to take her shoes off, catching her breath.
     The policewoman  called over, "Sherry, this guy wants to know where Pat
is. Have you seen him lately?"
     I stood up.
     "I've been trying  to find him for ages.  You know what he's like, he's
all over the place."
     "Tell me about it." She started to take her jeans off in front of me as
casually as if we'd been married ten years.
     "He's been away for a while.  I saw him about a month ago  when  he got
back." She shot a glance at Kelly and back at me.
     "You a friend of his?"
     "We go way back."
     "I guess he won't mind. I've got his number here, if I can find it."
     Dressed  now only in her bra and  panties, she rummaged through her bag
as she  talked. She  looked  up  at one of the other girls  and  said, "What
number am I?"
     "Christ! Can somebody go ahead  of me? Can I go number six? I've got no
makeup on yet."
     There was a grunt from behind the laptop. It  seemed the Turkish  harem
girl was going on fourth now.
     Sherry tipped out an Aladdin's cave of a handbag.
     "Here we are."
     She handed me a restaurant card with an address  and  telephone  number
scribbled on the back. I recognized the writing.
     "Is this local?" I asked.
     "Riverwood? About fifteen minutes by car, over the bridge."
     "I'll give him a buzz--thank you!"
     "Remind him I'm alive, will you?" She smiled with weary hope.
     I went over to Kelly and said, "We've got to go now, Josie!"
     She stuck out her lower lip.
     "Aww."  Maybe it  was  being in  the company of other females,  but she
looked more relaxed than at any point since we'd driven away from the house.
     "Do we have to?" she  pleaded with  big round eyes that were covered in
makeup. So were her lips.
     "I'm afraid we must," I said, starting to wipe it off.
     The  Indian maiden said, "Can't we keep her here? We'll look after her.
We'll show her how to dance."
     "I'd like that. Nick!"
     "Sorry,  Josie,  you  have  to be much older  to work here, isn't  that
right, ladies?"
     They helped Kelly get all her feathers off. One of them said, "You work
real hard at school, honey. Then you can work here with us."
     They pointed to  a quicker way out,  through the service  exit  at  the
back.  As  we  were  leaving, Kelly looked up and said,  "What  do  they do,
     "They're dancers."
     "They dance in bikinis? With all those feathers? How come?"
     "I don't know," I said.
     "Some people like watching that sort of thing."
     Just  as we got to the exit I heard Sherry shout, "Pat's  daughter? The
lying bastard!" We walked back down the hill, looking for somewhere  to sit
out of the rain. A place that looked more like a house than a restaurant had
a sign calling itself the Georgetown Diner. We went in.
     We sat in the three-quarters-empty cafe, me with a  coffee, she  with a
Coke, both deep in thought--me  about how to make contact with Pat, she most
probably about growing up and going to college, dressed like Pocahontas. Our
table was by a  rack of greeting cards and local  drawings for sale.  It was
more like an art gallery than a coffee shop.
     "We can't just turn  up  at  Pat's address because we  might compromise
him," I thought aloud to her.
     "And  I can't  phone him  because  they might  have made the connection
between us, and  there  could be a tap on  his  phone and a trigger  on  the
     Kelly  nodded  knowingly,  not  understanding a  word  I was saying but
pleased to be part  of grown-up stuff instead of  being abandoned or dragged
     "It's so annoying because he's only fifteen minutes away," I went on.
     "What can I do?"
     She gave a little shrug, then pointed at the  rack behind me  and said,
"Maybe send him a card?"
     "Good idea, but it would take too long" Then I had a brainstorm.
     "Well done, Kelly!"
     She  grinned from  ear to ear  as I  got up  and bought a birthday card
showing a velvet rabbit holding a rose. I asked for  a  pen and went back to
the table. I wrote: "Pat--I'm in deep  shit. Kev is dead  and Kelly is  with
me. I need help.  IT WAS NOT ME. Call me from a public phone ASAP.  Nick." I
wrote down the number.
     I  sealed  the  envelope  and wrote  down Pat's address, then  asked to
borrow the cafe's Yellow Pages.  I found what I was looking  for; it was  on
the same street, seemingly within walking distance.  We put on our coats and
left. It had stopped raining, but  the sidewalk was still wet. I checked the
street numbers; we had to go downhill toward M Street.
     The courier office was next door to a  weird and wonderful New Age shop
with a windowful of healing crystals that could change your life. I wondered
which one they'd suggest if I went in and described my circumstances.  Kelly
wanted to stay outside  and look in  the  window, but I wanted her with me;
people might look twice at a  child on her own outside a store and something
might register. There was also the risk of  someone  in the shop identifying
her, but it was a  question of balance between exposing her  and making best
use other as cover.
     "Can you get this to my friend after four o'clock today?" I said to the
guy at the desk.
     "We're in real big trouble because we forgot to send his birthday card,
aren't we, Josie?"
     I paid  the fifteen-dollar fee in  cash, and they promised  to  bike it
around just after 4 p.m. I needed the intervening two hours to prepare for a
     We went into the Latham Hotel. I'd guessed my accent wouldn't stick out
in  here,  and I  was  right; the  large reception area was  full of foreign
tourists. I sat Kelly in a corner and went to the information desk.
     "I'm looking for a mall that would have a Fun Zone or a Kids Have Fun,"
I said.
     It  turned out there were about half  a dozen of them in and around the
D.C. area; it was just a matter of looking up all the different addresses in
the city guide I'd been given. There was one at the Landside Mall,  not  far
from the Roadies  Inn. I hailed a taxi;  this time the driver knew where  he
was going.
     The idea of  Kids  Have Fun  is that you drop your kids off for  a  few
hours while you go  off  on  your  big  shopping frenzy.  I'd gone once with
Marsha to pick up Kelly and Aida from one.
     The children get a name tag on their wrist that they can't re move, and
the adult  is given an ID card that means they're  the only  person who  can
collect the  child.  The girls  had been acting up the morning I went, and I
remembered that as we approached the center Marsha had grinned at the travel
agent's  across  the  way  and  said,  "I   always  think  that's  brilliant
positioning the  number of  times I've been tempted to drop the kids off and
pop in for a one-way ticket to Rio!"
     The  mall was shaped like  a large cross, with  a  different department
store  Sears, Hecht's, JCPenney, Nordstrom at  the end of  each  spur. There
were  three floors,  with  escalators moving  people  up and  down from  the
central hub. The food court was on the third floor. It was as busy as it was
massive, and the heat  was  nearly tropical probably on purpose, to send you
to the drink counters.
     I spotted Kids Have Fun on the Hecht's spur. I turned to Kelly.
     "Hey, do you want to go in there later? There's videos and all sorts of
     "I know. But I want to stay with you."
     "Let's go in and have a look anyway." I didn't want to put her in there
yet because I didn't even know if we  were going  to  get  the phone call or
not, but I'd still have to do the recon.
     I went up to the desk.
     "Do we need to reserve to come in?"
     Apparently not; we just had to turn up and  fill out a form.  I figured
that if I  did get a phone call at four, I'd have only half an  hour at  the
most to  hide her. I had to assume  the worst-case scenario, which  was that
they knew Kev's mobile number and were waiting to intercept it and listen to
me giving Pat directions. I wanted Kelly away from that area and safe. Also,
I couldn't be sure about Pat. He might call the police when he got the card.
Or he could be part  of a trap. I had to be careful,  but at the same time I
was desperate to see him.
     I could see her looking around. It didn't look that bad. We walked out.
     "You can come with me now, but I have to go on my own later, OK?"
     She looked pissed.
     "Because I have to do stuff, OK? You can help me now, though."
     At last I got a smile.
     "Oh, OK-. You won't be long, will you?"
     "I'll be back before you know it."
     Kelly and I started walking around,  doing recon without her  realizing
     "What are we looking for. Nick?"
     "A store with cameras and telephones."
     We  covered  the whole  mall,  eventually  finding a store on the first
floor. I bought a battery charger for the mobile phone.
     Kelly decided not to buy another present for Melissa after all;
     she'd  just  pick  up  the  friendship bracelets  from  home.  I didn't
     At five of four  I  took the phone from  my pocket and turned the power
on. The battery and signal strength were fine. I was ready.
     At ten after four it started ringing. I pressed Receive.
     "It's me."
     "Where are you?"
     "In a phone booth."
     "At  five  o'clock,  I  want  you  to come  to  the  Landmark  Mall  in
Alexandria. I want you to enter via JCPenney, go to the center hub, take the
escalator to the third floor, and go straight toward Sears. OK so far?"
     There was a pause as it was sinking in.
     "On the left-hand side there's a restaurant called the Roadhouse.
     Go into the Roadhouse and get two coffees. I'll see you there."
     I turned the power off.
     Kelly said, "Who was that?"
     "Remember I talked  about Pat? I'm going to see him later--that's good,
isn't it? Anyway, are you ready for Kids Have Fun?"
     She was going whether she liked it or  not. If Pat were setting me  up,
this place would soon be swarming with cops.
     I filled out the form with the  names we were using at the hotel. Kelly
was  studying the obstacle  course with  padding and plastic balls to  break
your  fall. There were video areas where a huge variety  of films were being
shown, a juice dispenser, rest  rooms.  It looked  very  well organized. The
place was packed. I could see hosts who were playing games with the kids and
doing  magic  tricks.  Seeing  as she'd  been  doing  nothing  but  watching
children's  TV for God knows how many  hours, Kelly should be into all that.
The downside was the danger of her talking, but I had  no choice. I paid  my
money, plus a twenty-dollar deposit for the magic key to reclaim my child.
     I asked her, "Do you want me to stay for a while?"
     She was dismissive.
     "You can't stay. This is just for kids."
     She pointed at a warning sign that said: be careful, parents.
     I squatted, looking into her eyes.
     "Remember, your name's Josie today, not Kelly. It's a big secret,
     "Yeah, OK." She was too busy looking into the play area.
     "I'll be back soon. You know I'll always be back, don't you?"
     "Yeah, whatever." She was dragging herself away. Her face was toward me
but her eyes were looking the other way. A good sign, I thought, as I headed
     I took the escalator to the  third floor.  I got myself tucked  in  the
corner table of a cafe and ordered an espresso and a Danish.
     I knew that if Pat was late, he wouldn't move into the rendezvous.
     The  SOP--standard operating procedure--was that he'd wait an  hour. If
that didn't happen, it would be the same routine tomorrow. That's  the great
thing about working with people you know.
     I looked at my  watch. It  was two minutes to  five. Looking  down  the
escalators,  I could see the  JCPenney spur joining  the hub. On  my floor I
could also see the entrance to Sears and the Roadhouse.
     At about  two  minutes  past  I saw Pat below me,  walking in from  the
direction  of  JCPenney.  He  was  sauntering along, casual  and  unhurried,
wearing a brown leather  bomber jacket, jeans, and running shoes. From this
distance he looked unchanged, just a bit thinner on top. I looked forward to
laying into him for that.
     He'd been at JCPenney right at five; I  also  knew he  would  have been
putting in his  own  anti  surveillance  drills enroute,  driving  into  the
parking lot early to check it out, even sitting in his car to time it right.
Pat might  have  his  head in the clouds, but when he had to perform, he was
shit-hot. At the moment my only worry was not about what was in his head but
what might be up his nose.
     He walked onto the escalator; I looked away. I wasn't interested in him
now;  I was watching  everywhere  else,  checking to see  if  he  was  being
followed. By covering his back I was protecting my own. I had the easy part,
being  the  third  party,  aware.  The  biggest  problem  would be  for  the
surveillance operators who were following him, trying not to  get spotted by
     In an urban environment it's always best to meet people where there's a
lot of  pedestrian  traffic.  It  looks  normal, people meeting  people. The
downside is  that if  there  is any surveillance on you, they can blend in a
lot easier, too. However, it is  chaos for  them because you can walk in and
out of stores,  stop at a counter, move on, then turn  around and go back to
another  counter. So  if  you're going  to  RV  with  somebody to  talk,  go
     Pat came  up the last escalator, standing ahead  of a group  of teenage
girls. They got off and turned left into the BaskinRobbins.
     Pat went right. There were only four escalators, two  up,  two down.  I
couldn't see anyone who looked like an operator.
     I watched him go into the  Roadhouse. I  gave it another five  minutes,
checked  again,  made sure the girl  saw  me throw my  three  dollars on the
table, and left. Once  on the Sears spur I got on the right-hand side of the
walkway, which gave me a better view  of the Roadhouse on the left, and that
in turn gave me more time to tune in and look about to see if there were any
men in Victoria's  Secret looking out of place as  they flicked through  the
ladies' lingerie.
     I still couldn't be sure about Pat. But I didn't get nervous about that
sort  of thing;  it  was a drill--I'd  done it  so many times. looked  at it
technically, in terms of "what ifs?" What if they lift me from the direction
of Sears? What if they come out from the stores on each side of me?
     "What ifs" stop you  freezing like a rabbit  in  the middle of the road
when the  lights hit you. They get you out  of  that initial danger. In this
particular case, I'd  draw  my  weapon,  move out of the danger area through
Sears or the escalators, and make a run for it. I entered the Roadhouse and
saw Pat closer up. Age was getting to him.  He was only forty, but he looked
eligible for some kind of pension.
     He was  sitting at  a twin table  on the far left-hand side,  with  two
cappuccinos in  front of him. There were about a dozen other people talking,
eating, and yelling  at their kids. I went over, pulled  out the five-dollar
bill that I had ready  in my pocket,  put it on the table, and  said, with a
big flashy smile, "Follow me, mate."
     If he were intending to turn me in, I was just about to find out.
     I was sponsoring the RV  so he  didn't say anything,  he just came with
me. We went over to the far wall to where the rest room sign was; as we went
through  the door we came into a long corridor, with the  rest rooms at  the
end  on  the left-hand  side. I'd reconned this  already  with Kelly. To the
right was an other door, which led into Sears. These were shared rest rooms,
and that was  why I'd chosen them.  I opened the door, let Pat through,  and
followed him into  the baby  wear department.  We took the escalators  down,
putting in angles and distance.  It might not work all the  time, but it was
the best I could do.
     From the perfume counter  on the first  floor it was straight into  the
parking lot. Then we  started to walk along the side walk toward a string of
smaller stores and snack bars.
     Not a word had been said. No need; Pat knew what was happening.
     We walked into a Sub Zone a very  clinical, spotlessly clean  franchise
selling subs with the world's largest supply of hot fillings. I told  Pat to
order me a drink and a cheese and meat special. The place was full. That was
good; it made life more complicated for anybody looking.
     I said, "Sit over there at that table, mate, facing the rest rooms, and
I'll be back in a minute."
     He stood in line to order.
     I went through the door to the  rest rooms and on to the far end, where
there was  a fire escape. I wanted to be sure it hadn't been obstructed by a
trash  can  or  anything since  I  last checked. The  fire-escape  door  was
alarmed,  so I wasn't going to test it to make sure it would open. I'd  done
my recon, so I knew what was on the other side and where to run.
     Pat  was already sitting down with two  coffees and an order  ticket. I
was getting  caffeine overload.  I was also starting to feel  like shit; the
heat of the  shopping mall and now  this place, and the  energy  expended in
this last  two days,  were taking their toll.  But I had  to keep on  top of
that, because this was an operation.
     I sat  down opposite him in  the booth, looking beyond him at the glass
storefront. I could see  everybody coming in and  out, and had  a pillar and
Pat as cover. I wanted to dominate the area because I needed to see what was
going on.
     I looked at Pat and decided not to josh him about his hair.
     He looked  wrecked and wasted.  His eyes were no longer clear and sharp
but red and clouded. He'd put on weight, and there was an  overhang  pulling
at his T-shirt and flopping over his belt. His face looked  puffy;  I  could
only just make out his Adam's apple.
     I said, "The  reason why we're here is that I've come over on vacation,
to see you, and we're shopping."
     I still had to test him, in case he was wearing a wire.
     "If there's a drama, I'm going to go through  there." I pointed  toward
the rest rooms. I was waiting for him to say, "Oh,  what, you're going to go
to the bathroom?" for the benefit of anybody who might  be listening in. But
he didn't.
     He just said, "OK." I was as sure as I could be that I was safe.
     There was no more time to mess around.
     I said, "You OK, mate?"
     "So-so.  Put it this  way: a bit fucking  better than you. How did  you
find me?"
     "Sherry, at Good Fellas." I looked at him and he smiled.
     "Yeah, good catch. Pat!"
     His smile got bigger.
     "Anyway, what's the score?"
     "I've got every man and his dog after me."
     "So it seems." His red eyes twinkled.
     I  started explaining and was still in full  flow when the girl brought
over the subs. They were huge, big enough to feed a family.
     "What the fuck did you order?" I said.
     "We're going to be here all day!"
     Pat  was hungry, fighting with the hot cheese as it sagged  between his
mouth and the sub. It made me wonder when he'd last eaten.
     I was too  busy chatting to eat. I said, "Look, mate, to  tell  you the
truth, all I want to do is get the fuck back to the  UK but that's  going to
be a pain in  the  ass.  I need  to know what's going on, I need to know why
this is happening. Do you're member Simmonds?"
     "Yeah. He still in?"
     "Yes.  I've been in  contact with him. I've even said that if the  Firm
doesn't help me, I'll open up my security blanket."
     Pat's eyes widened.
     "Wow, that's  big boys' stuff! You really are in  heavy shit. What  did
Simmonds have to say to that?"
     His shoulders went into a slow roll as he laughed through a mouthful.
     I  went on for  another fifteen minutes. At the end of it Pat said, "Do
you think that PIRA might have dropped Kev?" He had finished his sub and was
now picking at  mine.  He made it clear he wanted a  few  bites. I pushed it
     "Who the fuck knows? I don't know, I really don't know.  I can't see it
myself. Can you make any sense of it?"
     "The buzz around D.C. was that there was  some  American involvement in
Gibraltar in 'eighty-eight." He was picking the pickles  and tomatoes out of
my sub.
     "What sort of involvement?"
     "I don't know.  It's got something to do with the  Irish American vote,
all that sort of shit. And PIRA gearing up funds from Noraid by getting into
the drug market."
     I wondered how Pat  knew. Maybe that was  where he got his  supply? The
thought made me sad.
     My mind ticked over a bit more. Pat just kept on attacking my sub.
     "Maybe that's where the connection with Kev comes in," I said.
     "DEA, drugs what do you think?"
     "Maybe. The Brits have been giving the Americans a hard time for  years
over Noraid giving money to  PIRA, but  the Yanks can't fuck around with all
those millions of Irish American votes."
     I sat back and studied his face.
     "Go on."
     "I've heard that PIRA buys cocaine and gears it up once they get it out
of the US. It's been going the rounds for years there's nothing new in that.
But maybe  it's a starting point for  you. I  mean, fucking hell, you're the
brainy one, not me."
     It  made  sense;  if  you've  got  some  money  and  you're a terrorist
organization,  of course you're going  to buy drugs,  sell them, and  make a
profit.  And there was no  way the Americans were going to attack Noraid; it
would  be political suicide but if Noraid could be shown  to  be linked with
drug trafficking, that was something  else.  Maybe  Kev was working  against
PIRA and got killed by them.
     I said, "Do  you  reckon Kev might have come across some shit? Or maybe
he was even part of it, and got fucked over?"
     "I  haven't got a clue, mate. Stuff like that gives me  a headache." He
     "So tell me, what do you need?"
     I shrugged.
     He stopped eating my  sub and got out his wallet. He  handed  me an ATM
card and told me his number.
     "There's about three thousand dollars in there," he said.
     "It's a savings account, so you can draw out as much  as you need. What
about Kev's girl? What's the score?"
     "She's all right, mate. I've got her."
     If Pat was setting me up,  at least I was sending a message that I  was
aware of that possibility and taking precautions.
     I said, "Thanks very much for this, mate for the ATM card, and just for
being  here." With friendships like this you didn't  have to  write a letter
every week. I knew that he would help me out, but I didn't want him to think
I was taking him for granted.
     I said, "Look, I'm  not going to get you in trouble. I won't compromise
you, but there is something else I  need. Is there any chance of you phoning
me  sometime  tonight? I need to sit down  and think about what  I've got to
     "About nine-thirty?"
     I smiled. Then all of a sudden I had my second brainstorm of the day.
     "You don't know any Sinn Fein or PIRA locations in D.C.?"
     "No, but I can find out. What are you thinking?"
     "I need to see if there's a connection between PIRA  and the people who
are trying to zap me and who maybe dropped Kev.  If I can check who comes in
and out of a location, well, it's a start. If it came to anything, maybe I'd
go in and have a look around."
     Pat demolished the last of my sub.
     "Be careful, mate.
     Don't get fucked over."
     "I won't. Right, I'll stay here I'll give you ten minutes and then I'll
leave. The mobile will be switched on from nine twenty-five."
     "No drama; we'll talk. Be lucky."
     As  he got up, he picked  at the  fragments of  cheese and meat  at the
bottom of the basket. I went back into  the mall via Sears,  found an  ATM,
and drew out three hundred dollars.
     It was dark outside, but the shopping mall was packed.
     There was still a possibility that I was  being watched, so I stood off
and waited before picking Kelly up. Nothing looked unusual; the only thing I
had to be aware of was the security cameras. The quicker  I got  in and out,
the better.
     I watched the area for ten minutes, then moved in closer.
     Across from the  play center was  a sporting goods store; I went in and
became an instant basketball fan, studying all the shirts that were part  of
the display near  the window.  Kids Have Fun  was  crammed with  kids, but I
couldn't see Kelly.
     I hung around the store a bit, went back to the rack, had another look,
and caught sight of her. She was sitting on the floor watching a home-cinema
type  TV She was there with about  a dozen other kids,  each  with  a  small
carton of juice. It dawned  on me that the girl  did nothing but eat, drink,
and watch TV It was a wonder she didn't look more like Slack Pat.
     I went in, presented my identification card, and asked for my daughter.
They  went through  their process of  verification, and a few minutes  later
Kelly appeared with an escort.
     I started to put her shoes on.
     "Hi, Josie, how's it going?"
     She sat there  sulking because I'd arrived halfway through a  movie.  I
took that as  a  good sign; it showed there was a slight trace  of normality
coming  back in.  It had been  a relief not  having her with  me for a short
while, but  at the  same  time it felt good to  have her back. I didn't know
quite what to make of that.
     We got a  taxi but had  it  drop us  off about four blocks short of the
hotel and walked in. It was our only secure area.
     I opened the door. The  TV  was still on,  telling us how  great Toyota
cars were. I flicked the light switch, told Kelly to stay where she was, and
looked inside.
     The beds weren't  made and the curtains were closed, so it looked as if
the maid had obeyed the sign on the door. She wouldn't have given a damn; it
was less for her to clean, and she still got the same money.
     More tellingly, the small pleat  was still  in the blanket. If I'd seen
from the doorway that it had been disturbed, I'd have needed to make a very
quick decision on whether to just walk away.
     We  went inside. Using the TV for support, I leaned to  the rear of the
bureau, looking into the gap between it and the wall. The match was still in
place,  covering  the pinhead-sized  pen  mark. Even  if they'd noticed that
they'd dislodged it when checking under the  chest  of  drawers, it was very
unlikely that they'd have put it back in exactly  the same position. Looking
good so far.
     "What are you doing, Nick?"
     "I'm just checking to see if the plug is in properly. It looked like it
was going to fall out."
     She didn't  say  anything, just looked at me as if I'd had  a stupidity
leak.  Still not  looking  at her, I got on  my knees,  ready to look at the
     "Do you want some help. Nick?"
     "I'd like to hear what's on the TV" She sat down on the bed and went to
work on a box of Oreos. This kid was really eating healthy.
     There were  three  drawers in the low chest; I'd slipped the paper clip
in the front left side of the middle one. I got the  table lamp and shone it
up  and down, trying to catch  the reflection  of the paper clip. I did; the
drawer hadn't been opened.
     I got Kelly sorted out, coat off, shoes in the  pockets and hung by the
door.  I  cleaned her bed  up  a bit, gathering up  the  food  wrappers  and
brushing away the crumbs.
     "Are you hungry?" I said.
     She looked at the half-empty box of Oreos.
     "I'm sorta stuffed, but I'm sorta still hungry."
     "Without  a doubt.  I'll go and get some food. You  can stay here. I'll
let you stay up late. But don't tell anybody, it's our little secret!"
     She laughed.
     "I won't!"
     I realized that I was hungry, too. Pat hadn't  left me much at Sub Zone
"Same routine, OK?" I went through it all over again.
     "I'll put  up  the do not disturb sign, and you don't open the door for
anyone. Do you understand?"
     "Without a doubt."
     I did a double take.
     "You making fun of me?"
     "Without a doubt."
     It wasn't that busy on the  street, and the rain had eased. I got  more
clothes for us both--jackets and coats,  jeans and  shirts--enough to see us
through the next two appearance changes at least.
     Once done, I walked over to  the burger  joint.  As I  stood  in line I
thought how weird this all was. One minute I'm at Vauxhall being briefed for
a  job,  the next I'm trying to remember what flavor milk shake to buy for a
child. I wondered if she'd approve of the shirts I'd got her.
     On the way back I checked my watch. It was 9:20; I'd been longer than I
expected. Time to  turn on the  phone. I waited in a shop doorway out of the
     It rang right at 9:30. I was excited, but at the same time nervous.
     It might be for Kev. I hit the Receive button.
     "Hi, it's me. I've got something for you."
     "Great,  wait..."  I put  my finger in  my other  ear. I didn't want to
mishear this.
     "Go ahead."
     "It's one-twenty-six Ball Street. It's in the old part of Crystal  City
by the river--between the Pentagon and National Airport. Got that?"
     "Yeah." I let  it sink into my  head. I'd been  to the Pentagon before,
and had used the domestic airport a couple of times. I had a rough memory of
the area.
     "Are you going to phone me tomorrow?"
     "Yeah."  "Same time?"
     "Same time. Stay lucky, mate."
     And that was  it. I turned off  the power  and repeated the address  to
myself  to keep it  in  my  head. I  wasn't going to write it down. If I got
lifted, I needed to be sterile.
     On the way back to the hotel, I was feeling quite upbeat.
     Up until now I'd been  in the wilderness. I didn't  exactly know what I
was  going to do  with this new information, but it was a start. I felt more
in the driver's seat.
     We  ate  and I watched some television with Kelly,  but she looked more
interested in talking.
     "Hey, Nick, do you watch TV at home?"
     "What's your favorite show?"
     "I  don't know.  The  news, I  suppose. We have different programs from
you. What's your favorite?"
     "What's that, a detective show?"
     "You moron! It's about a  girl." She did a  very good  impression of  a
Valley girl.
     "What does she do?"
     "She goes shopping."
     By 10:45 she'd fallen asleep. I got out the city guide I'd forgotten to
give back at the Latham and looked for Ball Street.
     I  followed  the  river south  until I saw National Airport. The target
really was very close to the Pentagon, on the west bank.
     I  had a little laugh to myself. If  it was a PIRA location, they had a
lot of  balls;  they probably  drank at the same bars  as  the boys from the
National Security Council. There was not a lot  I could do  at the  moment.
Kelly was lying on her back,  imitating a starfish. I covered  her  with the
comforter, moved  all the  shit off the other  bed, and  got my head down. A
saying from my infantry  days, a lifetime ago,  roared in my ears: "Whenever
there is a lull in battle, sleep.
     You never know when you are going to get another chance."
     At last I was doing as I'd been told.
     * *  * When I woke  up it seemed  like the same cartoon  was on. I must
have left the TV on all night. I was dying for some coffee.
     I got up, wet my hair, and looked out the window. The rain had gotten a
bit more intense. I  went downstairs and collected enough food and drink for
three people--which was just as well, seeing the amount that Kelly ate.
     "Wakey wa key I said.
     Kelly still wanted  to be marine life but woke up  yawning, stretching,
then curling up into a ball. I  went into  the bathroom and started to run a
     She appeared in the doorway with a towel. She was starting to catch on.
     While she was splashing around, I sat  on the bed  flicking through the
news channels. There was nothing about us.
     There had been so many other murders in the homicide capital of the USA
that we were old hat.
     She came out, got  dressed, and combed her hair,  all without  a single
reminder from me.  I opened  an eat-from-the-pack carton ofF root Loops  for
her and poured in some milk, then headed for the shower.
     When  I reappeared, all clean  and presentable,  I said,  "We've got to
move from here today because the woman wants the room back."
     Her face lit up.
     "Can we go home now? You said Pat was going to help us go home."
     I took her coat off the hanger and slipped her shoes on.
     "Really soon, yes we will. But Daddy needs more time to rest. Pat  will
find out when it's OK," I said.
     "But  first, we've got to do  some  stuff. It's really difficult for me
to explain to you what's going on just  now, Kelly, but it won't be long. I
promise you will be home soon."
     "Good, because Jenny and Ricky are missing me."
     My heart missed a beat. Had I fucked up? Had there been other people in
the house?
     She must have read my mind.
     "They're my teddy bears," she explained. Her face went serious.
     "I miss them. And I want to go to Melissa's party."
     I started  patting the top of  her head. She looked at me; she knew she
was being patronized. I changed the subject.
     "Look, I'll show you where we're going."
     I got the map out.
     "This is  where we are now, and that's where we're heading--just by the
river. We'll get a taxi, find a nice hotel, and  we'll make sure they've got
cable  so  we can watch movies. If they  haven't, maybe we  could  go to the
     "Can we see Jungle 2 Jungle?"
     "Sure we can!"
     What  the  fuck  was  that? Never mind;  at least we'd  gotten  off the
subject of family.
     After checking out  and,  to my surprise,  being  offered  a  one-night
rebate, I  went upstairs  to  collect Kelly and the blue nylon sports bag. I
left  the  USP  in  the toilet  tank. It  had  only  one 9mm magazine; I was
carrying three .45s with the Sig.
     Leaving the hotel, we turned left and immediately left again.  I wanted
to get out of sight of the reception desk before somebody thought of asking,
"Where's his wife?"
     We hailed a cab, and I asked for Pentagon City. The driver was an Asian
in his sixties. He had a map on his seat but didn't bother to look at it. We
seemed to be heading in the right direction. Kelly had her hat on; I thought
of teasing her that she looked like Paddington Bear, but it would have taken
too long to explain.
     The driver asked  where exactly  I  wanted to be  dropped. "The  Metro
station, please." I  didn't have a clue  where that  was,  but it sounded as
good a place as any.
     I gave the old boy his cash and off he drove. The whole area looked new
and high rent, both shopping and residential. There was a Ritz Carlton hotel
and, a few minutes away, the Pentagon.
     I got  my bearings and led Kelly toward the mall. I wanted to  visit an
ATM to celebrate the start of a new financial day.
     We exited and walked across the supermarket parking lot, then on toward
the  river. It was  strange,  because for the  first time I  felt like I was
really responsible for Kelly. I still held  her  hand when we were  crossing
roads, but now it seemed natural to keep holding it on the sidewalks, too. I
had  to admit, it felt  good  to have  her with me, but maybe that was  only
because I knew it looked natural and therefore provided ideal cover.
     We walked under the concrete freeway  bridge that led to downtown  D.C.
It was  very busy.  The  traffic sounded like muffled thunder; I told  Kelly
about the scene in  Cabaret  in which Sally Bowles  goes  under the  railway
bridge to  scream when things get  too much for her. I didn't  tell her that
was what I'd been feeling like doing for the last forty-eight hours.
     Past the bridge the landscape changed. It was easy to imagine what this
area must have looked like  maybe  fifty  or sixty years earlier, because it
hadn't been fully developed yet.
     It  was full of derelict  railway-siding buildings, some of  which  had
been taken over as offices, though much of the area was just fenced off into
lots or used as car pounds.
     I looked left and saw the elevated  section of  the  highway  disappear
into the distance  toward  downtown Washington. A concrete wall hid all  the
supports, and a road ran alongside.
     There was no sidewalk, just a thin  strip of hard ground, littered with
soda  cans and  cigarette packs.  It looked  as if people parked  up on  the
shoulders here to  avoid  the parking  charges farther  in. There  were old,
ramshackle buildings everywhere, but the place was  still being used. On the
right  was the  dark  Street Playhouse, a  theater in  what had  once been a
railway warehouse. The tracks were still there, but they were now rusty, and
weeds  were  growing  through. From above  us came  the  continuous roar  of
traffic on the elevated highway.
     We passed a  scrap-metal yard, then a  cement distribution  plant where
the boats used to  come  up the  Potomac and dump  their  loads. I  then saw
something that  was  so totally out of place it was  almost  surreal. A late
1960s hotel, the Calypso, was still standing in defiance of progress. It was
marooned in the middle of an ocean of chrome, smoked glass, and shiny brick,
as if the owners had  decided to give the finger to  the property developers
who were slowly taking over this dying area.
     It was a very basic, four-story building, built in the shape of an open
square; in the middle was a parking lot crammed with cars and pickups. There
were no windows  on the outer walls, just air conditioners sticking  out  of
the cinder block.
     We turned  left; with  the highway thundering  away above us we  walked
past  the hotel on my right  side. We  were  now parallel with Ball  Street,
which lay behind it. Kelly hadn't said a word. I was in work mode anyway; if
it weren't for the fact that I had hold of her  hand, I  would probably have
forgotten she was with me.
     As we got even  with the  Calypso I wiped the drizzle from my  face and
peered up into the gloom. On its  roof was  a massive satellite dish, easily
three yards  across. It  wouldn't have looked  out of  place on top  of  the
Pentagon. We turned right and right again. We were on Ball Street.
     From street numbers on the map I  knew that the target  was going to be
on my left. I kept to the right side for a better perspective.
     It was still incredibly noisy; if it wasn't an aircraft taking off from
the airport just the other side of the tree line, it was the continuous roar
from Highway 1. "Where are we going?"
     Kelly had to shout to be heard above it all.
     "Down there," I nodded.
     "I want to see if we can find a friend's office. And then we can find a
nice new hotel to stay in."
     "Why do we have to move around all the time?"
     I  was stumped on that one. I was still looking at the street  numbers,
not at her.
     "Because I get bored easily, especially if the food's no good. That one
last night was crap, wasn't it?"
     There was a pause, then, "What's crap?"
     "It means that it's not very nice."
     "It was OK to me."
     "It was dirty. Let's go to a decent hotel, that's what I want to do."
     "But we can stay at my house."
     A jet had just left the runway and was banking hard at what appeared to
be  rooftop  level. We watched for a  while,  trans  fixed;  even Kelly  was
     As the roar of its engines died down I said, "Come on,  let's find that
     I kept looking forward and left, trying  to judge which building it was
going  to be. There was  a  hodgepodge of styles  old factories  and storage
units, new two-story office buildings rubbed shoulders with parking lots and
truck container dumps. In between the  buildings  I  could just  glimpse the
trees that lined the Potomac maybe three hundred yards beyond.
     We  were  in the  high nineties, so I  knew  the  PIRA office  building
wouldn't be far away. We walked on until we  got to a new-looking, two-story
office,  all  steel  frames and exposed pipe work All the fluorescent lights
were on inside. I tried to read the nameplates but couldn't make them out in
the gloom without squinting hard or going closer, neither of which I  wanted
to do. One said unicorn but I couldn't make out the others.
     It didn't look  much like the  sort of Sinn Fein  or PIRA offices I was
used  to.  Cable Street in  Deny,  for example, was a row  house on a  1920s
residential street;  the  places in west Belfast were much the same. Had Pat
got  this right? In my mind I'd  been expecting  some old tenement.  Chances
were this was just a front--it would be a commercial business;
     people working there would be legit.
     I focused on the target  as we walked past, but  didn't look back.  You
have to take in all the information the first time around.
     "My feet are really wet."
     I looked down. Her feet were soaked; I'd been  concentrating so much on
what to do next that I hadn't noticed the puddles we were walking through. I
should have bought her a pair of boots at the mall.
     We got to a T-intersection. Looking left, I could see that the road led
down toward the river. More cars  parked up on the  shoulders, and even more
scrap yards
     I looked right. At the end of  the street was the elevated highway, and
just  before  that, above the rooftops, I could see the dish  on top of  the
Calypso Hotel. I was feeling good.
     A  successful recon and  somewhere to stay, and all before 11 a.m.  We
walked into the hotel parking lot. I  pointed  between a pickup truck and  a
UPS van.
     "Wait under the landing, and keep out of the rain. I'll be back soon."
     "Why can't I come with you. Nick? It's dark under here."
     I started my puppy-training act.
     "No wait ...  there. I won't  be long." I  disappeared before she could
     The  hotel lobby was just one of  the  first-floor rooms turned into an
office. Checking in was as casual as the layout. The  poor Brit family story
was understood a lot quicker here.
     I Went outside, collected  Kelly, and, as we walked along  the concrete
and  cinder block  toward our  new  room on the  second  floor,  I was  busy
thinking about what I'd have to do next. She suddenly tugged on my hand.
     "Double crap!"
     "You know, like not nice. You said the other one was crap.
     This is double crap."
     I had to agree. I even thought I could smell vomit.
     "No,  no, wait till you  get in.  You see that satellite  dish?  We can
probably get every single program in the world on that. It's not going to be
crap at all."
     There  were two king-size beds  in the  room, a  big TV,  and the usual
dark,  lacquered surfaces and a few bits of furniture  a long sideboard that
had seen better days,  a closet that was just a rail inside an open cupboard
in the corner, and one of those things that you rest your suit case on.
     I checked the bathroom and saw a little bottle of shampoo.
     "See that?" I said.
     "Always the sign of a good hotel. I think we're in the Ritz."
     I plugged in the telephone and recharger,  then it was straight on with
the television,  flicking through the channels for a kids' program.  It was
part of the SOPs now.
     I pulled Kelly's coat off, gave  it a  shake, and hung it up, then went
over to the air conditioner and pressed a few buttons.  I held  my coat out,
testing the air flow; I  wanted the room to get hot. Still waiting for  some
reaction from the machine, I said, "What's on?"
     "Power Rangers."
     "Who are they?"
     I knew very well what  it was all about, but there was no harm in a bit
of  conversation. I  didn't want us to  be  best  buddies,  go on  vacations
together, and share toothbrushes  and all that sort of shit far from it. The
sooner  this was sorted out,  the better. But  for the relationship  to look
normal it  had to be normal,  and  I didn't want to get lifted because  some
busy body thought we didn't belong together.
     I said, "Which one do you like?"
     "I like Katherine. She's the pink one."
     "Why's that, because of the color?"
     "Because she's not a moron.  She's really  cool." Then she told me  all
about Katherine and how she was a Brit.
     "I like that because Daddy comes from England."
     I made her change into a new pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.
     It took a lifetime. I thought. Fuck parenting, it's not for me.
     Every moment  of your time is taken up. What is the  point, if you just
spend all day on butler duty?
     She  was finally dry  and sorted out. Next to the  TV was a coffeemaker
and packets of milk  and sugar, and I got that going. As the machine started
to purr and bubble I went to  the window.  As I looked out past the curtain,
left and right  of  me were the other two  sides of the drab, gray  concrete
square; below was the parking lot, and across the road and higher up was the
highway. I realized that my mood matched the view.
     Rain  was still falling.  I  could see the plumes of  spray be hind the
trucks  as  they  rolled along  the  highway. It  wasn't heavy,  but  it was
continuous, the kind that  seeps into every  thing.  I was suddenly aware of
Kelly standing next to me.
     "I hate this type of weather," I said.  "Always have, ever since I was
a teenager and joined the army. Even now, on a really wet and windy winter's
day, I'll make myself a cup of tea and sit on a chair by the window and just
look out and think of all the  poor soldiers sitting in a hole in the middle
of nowhere, freezing, soaking wet, wondering what they're doing there."
     A  wry  smile came to  my face  as the coffee stopped  dripping, and  I
looked  down  at Kelly. What wouldn't I give to  be back on Salisbury Plain,
just sitting in a soaking-wet trench, my only worry in the world how to stop
being wet, cold, and hungry.
     I went and lay on the bed, working out my  options. Not that there were
that many. Why didn't I just make a run for it?  I could steal passports and
try  my  luck at  an airport, but  the chances of getting away  with it were
slim. There were less conventional routes back. I'd heard that you could get
all the way from Canada to the UK by ferry and land-hopping, a route popular
with students.  Or I could go south, getting  into  Belize or Guatemala; I'd
spent years in the jungle on that border and knew how to get out. I could go
to an island off Belize called San Pedro, a staging post for drug runners on
their way  to the east coast of Florida. From there I could get farther into
the Caribbean, where I'd pick up passage on a boat.
     More  bizarre still, one  of the  guys  in the  Regiment  had  flown  a
single-engined Cessna from Canada  to the UK-. The tiny fixed-wing  aircraft
had no  special  equipment apart  from an  extra  fuel tank in the back. The
radio wasn't the right kind;
     he'd had to work  out the  antenna lengths  with wire hanging from  the
aircraft  on a brick.  He  wore a parachute so that if anything  went wrong,
he'd open the door and leap out. How I'd sort that out I didn't know, but at
least I knew it could be done.
     However, there  was too  much risk involved  in  all these  schemes.  I
didn't want to spend the rest of my days in a state penitentiary, but at the
same  time  I  didn't  want Kelly  and me  to be killed  in the  process  of
escaping. Simmonds had presented me with the  best option. If I turned up in
London with what he wanted, I wouldn't exactly be home and dry, but at least
I'd be home. I had to stay and tough it out.
     It all boiled down to my needing to see who and what was going into and
out of the building on Ball Street.
     "Kelly? You know what I'm going to say, don't you?"
     "Without a doubt," she  smiled. I'd obviously been forgiven for  drying
her hair and putting her into nice dry clothes.
     "Ten minutes, all right?"
     I closed the  door, listened,  heard  her  hook the chain, and hung the
sign on  the door. Farther to my left  was a small open area that housed the
Coke and snack  machines.  I bought a can, then  walked  back  past our room
toward the elevator. To the left was  the  fire escape, a concrete staircase
leading up and down. I  knew the  safety regulations meant that there had to
be an exit onto  the roof;  in the  event  of a fire down below,  the rescue
would be by helicopter.
     I  went as far as I could upstairs.  Double fire doors led to the roof;
push the bar and they'd open. There  was no sign warning that the doors were
alarmed,  but I had to check. I looked around the doorframe but couldn't see
a circuit-break alarm. I pushed the bar and the door opened. No bells.
     The roof was flat, its surface covered  with lumps of gravel two inches
in diameter. I picked up a handful and used it to jam the doors open.
     An aircraft  was  landing at  National; I could  just  see  its  lights
through the drizzle. The satellite dish was  on the far corner  of the roof.
There  was also a green  aluminum shed,  which  I  guessed was the  elevator
housing. A three-foot-high wall  ran around the edge of  the roof, hiding me
from the ground, but not from the highway.
     I walked across the gravel to the side facing the river.
     Looking down at the target  building  from this angle, I could  see the
flat  roof and  its air ducts.  It was rectangular and looked  quite  large.
Behind  it were a vacant lot and  fences that seemed to divide it  into  new
building plots waiting to be sold.
     I could just  make out  the Potomac beyond the tree line and the end of
the runway.
     I walked back,  stepping over  a  series of  thick  electric  cables. I
stopped at  the elevator  housing. What  I wanted  now was a power source. I
could use batteries to power  the surveillance equipment I'd be using, but I
couldn't guarantee their life. I tried the door of the elevator housing, but
it was locked. I had a quick look at the lock: a pin tumbler. I'd be able to
defeat that easily.
     Back in the room, I got out  the Yellow Pages and looked  for addresses
of pawn shops.
     Then  I went into the  bathroom,  sat on the  edge  of  the  bath,  and
unloaded the  .45 ammunition from  the  magazines into my pocket, easing the
springs. It's not something that you have to  do every day, but  it needs to
be done. The majority of weapon stoppages  are magazine  connected. I didn't
know how long it had been left loaded; I might  squeeze off  the first round
and  the  second  one  wouldn't  feed into the  chamber because the magazine
spring had stuck. That's why a revolver is sometimes far  better, especially
if you're going  to  have a pistol  lying  about for ages and don't  want to
service it. A revolver  is just a cylinder  with  six  rounds in it,  so you
could keep it loaded all year and it wouldn't matter--as soon as you pick it
up you  know the thing will work. I  emptied the magazines into my pocket so
that I then had the ammunition, magazines, and pistol all on me.
     I came out of the bathroom and wrote myself a shopping list of supplies
that I was going to need and checked  how much money I had. There was enough
for today. I could always get more out tomorrow.
     I wasn't worried about Kelly. She had loads of food and was half-asleep
anyway. I turned up the heat on the air conditioner.
     She'd soon be drowsy.
     I said,  "I'm going  to go and get you some  coloring books and crayons
and all that sort of stuff. Shall I bring back something from Mickey D's?"
     "Can I have sweet and sour sauce with the fries? Can I come with you?"
     "The weather's terrible. I don't want you catching a cold."
     She got up and walked  to the door,  ready to drop the latch without me
having to ask.
     I went  downstairs  and walked to  the Metro station.  The  Washington
Metro is fast and quiet, clean and efficient, everything a subway should be.
The tunnels are vast and  dimly  lit,  somehow soothing, which  is maybe why
passengers  seem  more relaxed than  in  London  or New York  and  some even
exchange eye contact. It's also about the only part of the capital where you
won't be asked by a  seventeen or seventy-seven-year-old Vietnam  vet if you
can spare some change.
     I got out after  seven or eight stops and one transfer. The place I was
looking for was just  a few blocks away, but  it was in a neighborhood I bet
didn't feature in anybody's vacation brochure. I  was used to the Washington
where  those who had really had.  This was the part of town where  those who
didn't have had absolutely nothing.
     The single-story  building was set back from the road  and looked  more
like a supermarket than a  pawn shop, with a  front that was at  least fifty
yards  long. The  whole facade was glass, with  bars running vertically. The
window displays were piled high with everything from drum kits to surfboards
and  bedding.  Fluorescent-yellow  posters  promised  everything  from  zero
percent interest to the best gold price in town.
     Three armed guards controlled the doors and watched me enter.
     Looking  along  one  of the  aisles  to the  rear,  I saw a long  glass
showcase that also formed  the  counter.  Behind it were  more  than a dozen
assistants, all wearing similar red polo shirts. It seemed to be the busiest
department in the shop.
     Then I  saw all the  handguns  and rifles  behind  the  glass.  A  sign
announced that customers were welcome  to  test fire any weapon on the range
out back.
     I went to the  camera department. In an ideal world, what I was looking
for would be something like a security camera,  with a long cable connecting
the camera itself to a separate control box that also housed the  videotape.
I could  put the camera in position on the roof, leave it where it was,  and
hide the control box elsewhere, maybe inside the elevator housing.
     That  way it would be easier  for  me to get to  it to  change the tape
and--if I couldn't tap into the power lines--the batteries, and all  without
having to disturb the camera.
     Unfortunately  I couldn't  find  anything like  that.  But  I did  find
something that was almost as good: a Hi-8 VHS camera, the type favored by  a
lot of freelance TV journalists. Certainly I'd be able to change the lens to
give me more distance.
     I remembered working  in Bosnia  and  seeing  guys  running around with
Hi-8s glued to their eyes. They all thought they were destined to strike it
rich by selling the networks "bang-bang" footage.
     I caught the eye of one of the assistants.
     "How much for the Hi-8?" I said in my usual bad American accent.
     "It's nearly new, hardly out of the packaging. Five hundred dollars."
     I smirked.
     "So make me an offer," he said.
     "Has  it got a spare battery  and  all  the  attachments  for  external
     "Of course. It's got it all. It's even got its own bag."
     "Can I see it working?"
     "Of course, of course."
     "All right--four hundred, cash."
     He did  what every plumber and builder throughout  the world does  when
discussing prices: started sucking air through his teeth.
     "I'll tell you what: four-fifty."
     "Done. I also want a playback machine, but it can't be a
     "I have exactly what you want. Follow me."
     The machine he  retrieved from the back of a shelf had a hundred-dollar
price tag. It looked about a hundred years old, complete with dust. He said,
"I'll tell you what--save the trouble: ninety dollars and it's yours."
     I nodded.
     "I also want some lenses."
     "What kind are you after?"
     "At least  a  two-hundred-millimeter zoom  to  go on  this,  preferably
Nikon." I worked on the basis of one  millimeter of lens for every  yard of
distance to target. For years I had been stuck in people's roof spaces after
breaking into their house and  removing  one of the tiles  so  I  could take
pictures of a target, and I'd learned the hard way that it's a wasted effort
unless the result is good ID-able images.
     He showed me a 250mm lens.
     "How much?"
     "One-fifty." He was waiting for me to say it was too much.
     "All right,  one hundred  fifty  dollars.  Done--if  you throw  in  two
four-hour tapes and an extension cord."
     He seemed almost upset at the lack of a fight.
     "What length?"
     More haggling. He was dying for it.
     "The longest one you've got."
     "Done." He was happy now. No doubt he had a forty-foot.
     I  came across a  Wal-Mart a couple  of blocks short  of  the  Metro. I
ducked inside and wandered around, looking for the items  I'd need to set up
the camera.
     As  I  moved down the  aisles, I found myself doing something I  always
did, no matter where in the world I was:
     looking at cooking ingredients and cans of domestic cleaner and working
out which would go with what to make chaos.
     Mix this stuff and that stuff, then boil  it  up  and stir in  a bit of
this, and  I'd have  an incendiary device.  Or boil all that down and scrape
off  the scum from around the edge of the pot, then  add some  of this stuff
from  the  bakery counter  and boil that  up some  more  until I got just  a
sediment  at the  bottom,  and I'd have  low  explosive. Twenty  minutes  in
Safeway  would  be  enough to  buy all the  ingredients  for a bomb powerful
enough to blow a car in half, and you'd still have change from a ten-spot.
     I didn't  need any  of  that today, however.  All  I was  after  was  a
two-liter plastic bottle of Coke; a pair of scissors;  a roll of trash bags;
a mini  Maglite flashlight with  a range of filters;  a roll of gaffer tape;
and a  tool kit with screwdrivers, wrenches, and  pliers--twenty-one pieces
for five  dollars, and an absolute rip-off;  they'd last about five minutes,
but  that  was all  I'd  need. That done, I  grabbed  some  coloring  books,
crayons, and other bits and pieces to entertain Kelly. I also put a few more
dollars in Mr. Oreo's pocket.
     I  entered the  Metro  and  found a bench. Lights  at the edge  of  the
platform  flash when  a  train's  approaching;  until  then  most locals sit
chatting  or  reading.  There  was  nothing  else  to  do  so  I  started  a
connect-the-dots  picture in one of the coloring books  and  waited for  the
     The rain had stopped at Pentagon City, though it was still overcast and
the ground was wet.  I decided to do a quick check of  the  target  while  I
didn't have Kelly.
     Cutting across the supermarket  parking lot, I headed for  the  highway
tunnel and Ball Street.
     I was  soon on the same side of the road and even with the building.  A
small concrete staircase  surrounded by dense shrubbery led up to the  glass
doors at the front. They opened into a reception area, and  then another set
of doors that probably led into the office complex itself. A security camera
was trained on the front doors, looking down from the right-hand corner. The
windows were sealed, double-glazed units.
     Inside,  the  building on both floors seemed  full  of PCs and bulletin
boards, the normal office environment.
     I couldn't see any external  alarm signs, nor any signs saying that the
property was guarded.  Maybe  the alarm  was at the rear.  If not,  whatever
detectors there were, were  probably connected to a telephone line connected
directly to the police or a security firm.
     I  got  to  the end of the road, turned right, and  headed back to  the
     The  room was like a  sauna. Kelly's hair was sticking up all over  the
place; she  had sleep in her eyes. Her face was creased and  had some crumbs
stuck on it. By  the look  of  it  she'd been halfway through  a cookie  and
fallen asleep.
     As I  dumped all  the supplies  on the side she  said, "Where have  you
     "I've  bought  tons of  stuff."  I started  diving  into the  bags  and
dragging things out.
     "I've got you some books, some coloring books, some crayons..."
     I laid  them on  the bed and  stepped  back, waiting for  some form  of
appreciation. Instead, she looked at me as if I were crazy.
     "I've done those."
     I thought a  coloring book was a coloring book. I'd quite enjoyed doing
my connect-the-dots.
     "Never mind, I've got you some sandwiches and Coke, and you're to drink
as much as you can because I need the bottle for something."
     "Aren't we going out to get something to eat?"
     "There's some cookies in there ..." I pointed at the bag.
     "I don't want any more. I hate it in here all the time."
     "We've got to stay in the hotel today. Remember,  we've  got people who
are looking for us at the moment, and I don't want them to find us. It won't
be for long."
     I suddenly thought. Shit what if she  knows her home  number and starts
using the phone? While she was pouring out some  Coke with both hands around
the bottle that seemed as big as she was, I stretched around the back of the
small cupboard between the two beds and pulled out the tele phone jack.
     I looked at my watch.  It was 4:30; the  best  part of five hours to go
until Pat made contact again.
     I  wanted  to get the camera sorted out. I wanted  it  working at first
light; I might even be able  to get in an hour of  filming before last light
     Kelly got up and looked out the window, a bored, caged-up kid.
     I  poured  myself some Coke and asked, "Do  you want  some more of this
before I dump it out?"
     She shook her head. I  went into the bathroom and  poured the remainder
down  the  sink. I ripped the wrapper  off and  with  the scissors  I'd just
bought I started to make a cut at  the top where the bottle started to curve
into the neck. I also cut at the base so I was left with a cylinder. I cut a
straight  line up it and pushed the resulting rectangle of plastic down flat
to get  rid of the curve. I cut a circle,  first by trimming off the corners
of the rectangle, then developing the shape. That was me, ready to burgle.
     I came back into the  room and checked the  cords  and  made the camera
ready for use, by battery or power lines.
     "What are you doing, Nick?"
     I'd been hoping she wasn't going to ask, but I should have known better
by now. I had a lie all prepared.
     "I'm going  to make a film  so  you can say hello to Mommy, Daddy,  and
Aida because you said you were bored. Here, say hello."
     I put the camera to my eye.
     "Hello, Mommy, Daddy, and Aida," she said into the camera.
     "We're in a hotel room, waiting to come home. I hope you get well soon.
     "Tell them about your new clothes," I cut in.
     "Oh yes." She walked over to the wall.
     "This is my  new blue coat. Nick  got  me a pink  one, too.  He knew my
favorite colors are pink and blue."
     "I'm running out of tape, Kelly. Say goodbye."
     She waved.
     "Bye, Mommy; bye, Daddy; bye, Aida. I love you."
     She came skipping over to me.
     "Can I see it now?"
     Another lie.
     "I haven't got the cords to plug in to the TV But I'm seeing  Pat soon,
so maybe he'll get some for me."
     She went back to her glass of Coke a very happy bunny.
     She  picked up a crayon  and  opened the coloring  book,  and was  soon
engrossed. Good; it meant  I was able to put a tape into the  camera without
her seeing.
     I picked up two plastic coffee cups, got the rest of the kit  together,
put it all in the video bag, and said, "Sorry about this, but..."
     She looked at me and shrugged.
     I made my  way up to  the roof. The rain was holding  off--the aircraft
and traffic noise wasn't.
     The first thing I wanted  to do  was get  into the  elevator housing; I
needed to know whether I could get direct power.
     I got out my circle  of plastic  and put it  in the crease of the green
door. I pushed and turned it,  making it work its way through the twists and
turns  of the doorframe until  it hit against the  lock itself. The door was
there to keep  people out for  safety  reasons, not to protect  something of
value, so it was a simple lock to defeat.
     Once inside I turned on  my mini Maglite, and the first thing I saw was
a bank of four power sockets.
     I looked up at the ceiling. The shed was made of panels of quarter-inch
mild  steel bolted onto a frame. I got the wrench and undid two of the bolts
enough to lift up a bit of the roof.
     Then  I got the power cord from  the camera, pushed it through the gap,
and ran it down against the wall. It didn't look out of place among all  the
other shit.  The small gap I'd created  wouldn't let  in much rain, so there
wouldn't be a flood that somebody had to come up and investigate.  I plugged
the  cord into one  of the  sockets and hoped I'd  remember there  was juice
coming out the other end when I started to mess around with the camera.
     I kept the door open to give me some light while I prepared the camera.
I  got two  trash  bags and  put one  inside  the other, then put the camera
inside, pushing it  against the plastic at  the bottom  until  the lens just
burst through. I then took the two plastic coffee cups, split them both down
the sides, cut  the  bottoms off both, put  them into one another, and  then
fitted them over the lens as a hood. That was going to keep off the rain but
at the same time  let enough light into  the lens so the thing could work. I
used gaffer tape to keep everything in position.
     I got on the roof  with the  camera and plugged it in. I  lay flat  and
looked through the  viewfinder, waiting  for it to spark up and show me what
the lens could see. I wanted a reasonable close-up of  the staircase leading
up to the main door.
     Once it had jumped into life I  used  the zoom, got it right on target,
and pressed Play. I tested  Stop  and Rewind, then  Play again. It worked. I
tucked in  the  plastic,  making sure not  to  dislodge the  camera, pressed
Record, and walked  away. I went and bought a  cartwheel-sized pizza, which
we sat down and ate  in front of the television, with the cell phone plugged
in, charging.
     Then it was  just a matter of hanging  around with  indigestion waiting
for  Pat to call and the  four-hour tape to finish.  It  was dark now, but I
wanted it to run the full four  hours: one, to check that the system worked,
and two, to see what the quality was like at night.
     For the first time, both of  us were bored. Kelly had had death  by TV,
death by pizza, death by Mountain Dew and Coke. She wearily picked up one of
her new books and said, "Would you read to me?"
     I thought, All right, it 'sjtist a collection of stories, it won't take
that long  to  read a  couple.  I  soon  discovered  it  was one  continuous
adventure, with optional endings to each chapter.
     I was reading to her about three kids in a museum. One had gone missing
no one knew where when the story  just stopped. At the bottom of the page it
said, "Do you want to go to  p. 16  and follow him through the magic tunnel,
or do you want to  go and see Madame Edie on p. 56, who might tell you where
he is? It's your choice."
     "Where do you want to go?" I said.
     "Through the tunnel."
     Off we went. After  about  forty-five minutes and changing  tack  about
eight times, I thought we must be getting  to  the end soon. It  took nearly
two hours to get through it. At least she had fun.
     The  room was warm and I still had all my stuff on, ready to go. I kept
dozing off,  waking up every half hour or so to the sound of The Simpsons or
Looney Tunes. One time I woke up and looked down  at  my jacket. It had come
undone, and  my pistol was exposed. I looked across at Kelly, but she didn't
even give it a second glance; maybe she was used to her dad wearing one.
     I opened up  a can of Mountain Dew and looked at my watch.  It was only
8:15; I'd go and get  the first video  in about fifteen minutes, put  a  new
tape in, and then wait for Pat's call.
     When the time  came  I  said, "I'm just popping out for five minutes to
get something to drink--do you want anything?"
     She looked quizzical and said, "We've got loads here."
     "Yeah, but it's all warm. I'll bring some cold ones."
     I went up to the roof. It was damp  and drizzling now. I opened up  the
back of  the plastic  bag, pressed  the Eject button,  and quickly exchanged
tapes. I was ready for the morning.
     I came downstairs, passed  our room,  and got another  couple of sodas.
Coca-Cola shares had probably skyrocketed over the last few days.
     Clueless came on, the TV  series she'd  told me she loved. I was amazed
as I listened to her imitating all the catch-phrases. She had them down pat:
"Loser ... double loser,  moron.. . whatever!"  Now I knew where a lot other
sayings came from.
     At last it was just three minutes to go before Pat was due to check in.
There was no way I'd tell Pat where we  were or that Kelly was actually with
me.  All I would tell him was what he needed to know, as protection for  him
as well as for us. I went into  the bathroom, closed the  door, and listened
for Clueless.
     Right on time the phone rang.
     "All right, mate? Thanks for the sub!"
     We both had a quiet laugh.
     "Do you know what floor they're occupying?"
     There was a short pause, then, "Second floor."
     "OK. Any chance of more money? I need a big wad, mate.
     You know I'll square it away when I get back."
     "I  could  get you about ten grand. But  you're going to have to wait a
day--I won't  be  able to get it until tomorrow, or possibly the  day after.
You're welcome  to it until you're sorted-and I  take  it you've  got  a way
     "Yeah," I lied. It was for the  best. If he  got lifted, he  could give
only  false information,  and  they'd  start  combing the airports and docks
instead of looking around Washington.
     Then I said, "I need more contact in case I manage to find anything out
about the building  and things start  changing  rapidly. What  about  twelve
hundred hours, eighteen hundred, and twenty-three hundred--is that OK?"
     "All right, mate. Is there anything else?"
     "No, mate. Be careful."
     "And you. See ya!"
     I turned the telephone off, went back into the bedroom, and put it back
on the charger. I didn't know if Kelly had heard anything, but she was quiet
and seemed uneasy.
     I got the playback machine set up, pushed the tape in, and tuned in the
     Kelly was watching intently.
     "We're going to play a game," I said.
     "Do you fancy playing? If not, I'll just do it on my own."
     "OK." It beat counting cars on the highway.
     "I thought you didn't have any cords."
     She'd got me on that one.
     "I bought some when I went out."
     "So why can't we see the video we made?"
     I had to think quickly.
     "Because I've already mailed it.
     Sorry" She looked at me, a little confused.
     "We're going to watch this tape of a building," I went on.
     "It's got people going in and out of it. Now,  there's going to be some
famous people going in there, there's going to be people that you know, like
friends of Daddy's and Mommy's, and people that I know. So what we've got to
do is see how many people we  can each  recognize.  Whoever sees the most is
the winner. You want to play?"
     "You've got to be  really quick, because  I'm going to fast-forward it.
Every time  you see somebody moving, you've got to tell  me, then I'll stop,
rewind, and we'll have a look at it."
     I took some of the hotel stationery and a pencil and off we went. I had
to  use  the button  on  the  machine to  fast-forward because  there was no
remote.  I  sat  on the  floor  under the  player by  the  TV  and  hit  the
fast-forward button.  Kelly's  eyes  didn't  leave the screen. I  was  quite
pleased with the result.
     The quality wasn't  bad  at all; you could tell  the difference between
this and a  home video,  and I'd managed to  get full-length pictures of the
people covering about two-thirds of the screen.
     "Stop, stop, stop!" she shrieked.
     I rewound and  had a look. Kelly had correctly  spotted  some movement.
There were a few people entering.  I didn't recognize any of them. Kelly was
sure that man number three was from a pop group called Backstreet Boys.
     She got into the game  more and more.  Everyone seemed to be  famous. I
logged them all, using the counter.
     Two men, one with a long light coat, one with a blue coat.
     People think that being a baby spy is all  James Bond, sports cars, and
casinos. I'd always wished the  fuck it was. The reality is sheer hard work,
getting information,  then  sitting down and working  out  what it is you've
gathered--and then interpreting  it. Two people walking up a  set of  stairs
means shit.  It's interpreting what's going  on that's important-identifying
them,  their body language, what happened before, what you think is going to
happen later on. So you log everything, in case at a  later date it might be
important. Give me a sports car any day.
     The screen  was slowly  getting darker. The ambient  street  light  was
helping, but it was  quite hard to see faces  and  we  were  losing color; I
could tell the difference between a man and a woman and their ages, but just
     It came  to the end of  the working day and everything  began to  close
down; people  going home were throwing switches and  the light dwindled.  In
the end there were lights only in the reception area and corridors.
     I left the tape  running at normal speed. What I now wanted to know was
whether there was a night watchman around, but I couldn't see anyone.
     Kelly was loving  it. She'd seen  four actors, two  of the Spice Girls,
and a teacher from her school. Not bad at all. But what if she did recognize
somebody? I'd have to take it with a grain of salt; after all, she  was only
seven. But I'd have nothing to lose in believing her.
     "Do you want to do this again tomorrow?"
     "Sure. I have more points than you."
     "So you do. I tell you what, after all that  winning I think you should
lie down on the bed and take a nap."
     If Kelly  or I  identified anybody on  the tape tomorrow, it would be a
bonus for me to take to  Simmonds and prove a link.  It would also mean that
I'd definitely have to CTR close target reconnaissance the building and find
out why they were  there. I  decided  to go  and  have a closer look  at the
outside, and then I could plan how to make entry.
     By  11  p.m. Kelly was  sound  asleep, still  fully clothed. I put  the
bedspread over her, picked up the key card, and left.
     To avoid the office I came out of the hotel via the emergency stairs. I
got on the road by the highway,  turned right, and walked past the playhouse
toward the target. The traffic  was quieter now, just peaks of noise instead
of a constant roar.
     I turned  right, then right again.  I  was  on Ball Street. It was the
back I really needed to take  a look at, but first  I wanted  to  recon  the
front again. I wanted to see  if there was a night watchman in there and get
a mental picture of what it looked like inside.
     I  moved into a doorway across the way. If I was spotted, I'd pretend I
was  drunk and  taking a piss. I  was in deep shadow as I looked over at the
target. I could  see through the two  sets of doors into the reception area;
the lights were still on, giving a sheen to the wet  concrete steps  and the
leaves of the bushes. I  looked upstairs and saw  light  shining through the
windows  directly  above the main entrance. That  meant the  corridor lights
were on upstairs as well.
     I  waited around for fifteen  minutes, watching for signs  of movement.
Was security sitting downstairs watching the TV?
     Was he upstairs, doing his rounds? I didn't see anything.
     Time to look at the rear.
     I went back the  way I'd come but  instead of turning  left went  right
toward the river. It was  just a one-lane road with muddy mush on  the sides
and potholes  filled with  oily water that glistened in  the  ambient light.
Using  the shadows,  I  passed  the  scrap-metal  yard and  crossed over the
railway tracks  that  led to the old cement  depot. My footsteps  made  more
noise than  the highway now. Fences divided all the plots, secured  with old
chains and padlocks.  I  followed  the road farther,  looking for a point to
turn and get behind the target.
     The highway lights weren't  strong enough  to have  any effect  at this
distance, but I could make out the mist coming from the river. I'd reached a
dead end.  A fence blocked  the old road, and a large, muddy  turning circle
had  been  made by  cars looking for a parking space and  discovering what I
just had. I  could also see  lights from the airport,  beyond the woods that
sloped down to the Potomac.
     There  was no alternative but  to walk  back to  the  abandoned railway
tracks, which years ago would  have been a branch of the main line. I looked
left, following the tracks;
     they  ran about two  hundred yards to  the  rear of the target,  and to
their left were some old, rusted corrugated-iron buildings.
     I started climbing over the wire gates where the trains would have gone
through to the depot. The padlocked chains rattled  under  the strain. I got
into some shadow and waited.
     There were no dogs barking,  and the airport was  probably  closed down
this late at night because it was so close to the city; all I could hear was
a distant  siren.  I carried on along  the tracks, and soon the only noises
were of my feet and breath.
     To my right was the scrap yard enclosed by a fence, with old cars piled
on top of each  other seven or eight  high.  After about a hundred yards the
ground started  to  open up and I could see buildings. Fences made it  clear
what  belonged to whom.  The area had been  cleared and flattened, ready for
developers. One of those buildings  beyond it was the rear of  my target; on
the other side I could see street lights on Ball Street and the highway. The
drizzle gave them a misty, faded appearance.
     I slowed  down, had a quick  look  at the  target, then started to walk
across  the 150 yards of newly leveled ground  to a fence that was about  50
yards short of the target building.
     Near the fence I  found  some bushes,  stopped, and  squatted down. The
things  that  always  give you  away are  shape, shine, shadow,  silhouette,
spacing, and movement. Forget about them and they'll get you killed.
     Still on my haunches, I  did nothing but sit and watch for the next few
minutes.  You  have  to  give your  senses  a  chance  to  adjust  to a  new
environment. After a while my eyes began  to adapt  to the light and I could
start to make things out. I could see that there were no windows in the back
of the building, just a solid brick wall.  There was, however, a four-flight
steel staircase leading to the ground.  This was  the  fire escape route for
both the  first and  second  floors. To the right of it at ground level were
the meter boxes for the building's utilities.
     I  looked  at  the fire exits. If I had to  make entry at some stage to
find out  what PIRA  was  up to, that was  probably  the way I'd  go  in. It
depended whether they had external locks, and there was only one way to find
     I scanned along the line  of the six-foot chain-link fence, looking for
a break.  I couldn't see one.  Grabbing the top edge  of the wire, I  pulled
myself up, got a foot  on the top, and clambered over. I crouched down again
and stayed still, watching and listening for any reaction.
     There was no  need to rush; slow  movement  meant that  not only did  I
reduce  noise  and  the  risk of being  detected,  I could also  control  my
breathing and  hear  more  around  me.  I used  the  shadows  created by the
building  and trees, moving from  one pool of darkness to the  next, all the
time keeping eyes on the target and the surrounding area.
     Once  I got close enough, I stopped at  the base of two trees and stood
against one of the  trunks. Looking at the rear  wall, I  noticed  a  motion
detector  that had been fixed at a height and angle  to cover people walking
up  the fire escape. I had no  way of knowing  what the  detector triggered,
whether an alarm, a light, or  a camera, or maybe all  three. I couldn't see
any cameras.
     But  I could see lights,  two of them, one  above each fire  exit. They
weren't on. Were they what the motion detector would trigger?  Probably, but
why wasn't there also a camera covering the rear so that security  could see
what had triggered the light? It didn't matter; I'd treat the detector as if
it triggered everything.
     I noted three wooden pallets to the right of the building by the fence.
I could use those.
     I  looked  at the doors. They had sheet  steel covering them,  together
with  an  extra  strip that  went  over the frame  to  prevent  anyone  from
tampering  with  the  gap. Close up,  I could  see that  the locks were  the
pin-tumbler type. Piece of cake; I could defeat them.
     A  quick  check of the  utilities  boxes  and dials showed me that gas,
electricity, water, and telephone  were all there,  all exposed and ready to
be played with. I was feeling better about this all the time.
     I was still worried about the possibility of a night watch man. In some
circumstances, it  can actually be a  bonus. You can try to  get him to come
and open the door and hey presto, you've got an unalarmed entry. However, if
I had to go in, it would be covertly.
     The parking lot was empty, which could be another indication that there
was no one inside. I  had to confirm it one way or another. I  decided to be
slightly drunk, walk  up to the main  entrance, and take a leak; while I was
doing that, I could get  a better look inside. If there was  anybody  in the
foyer,  he  might come out and  give me grief, or I  might see  him watching
television in the back somewhere.
     I followed the same route all the way  back  and reached Ball Street. I
was quite damp  now; the drizzle and wet rusty fences had done their work on
my clothes.
     I walked on the opposite side of the road toward the target.
     As I got nearer, I started to cross at an  angle that gave me more time
to see the target. Head down, conscious of  the  camera covering the door, I
started  to stumble up the steps, and about three-quarters of the way up, as
soon as  I  was able  to see into the right-hand window, I turned, opened my
fly, and started pissing down onto the bushes.
     Almost instantly, a man's voice roared, "Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!"
and there was an explosion of movement in the shrubbery. I nearly jumped out
of my skin.
     I took my hand straight  off my cock and onto the  Sig. I tried to stop
pissing but I was in full flow. My jeans took the brunt.
     I went for the pistol, then realized  that maybe I didn't need to  pull
it out yet. He might be security. Maybe I could talk my way out of this.
     "Fuck you! Who do you think you are? You mothermcker!"
     I could hear him  but still  couldn't see anything.  There was rustling
and  all sorts  of shit going on, then more "Fuck  you! Fuck you!" and I saw
him appearing through the bushes.
     "Fucking asshole, piss on me, you fuck. I'll show you!
     Look at me! You've pissed on me!"
     He was in his  mid-twenties, wearing old  army boots without laces  and
dirty, greasy  black jeans.  He had a hooded, parka-type jacket that  was in
shit shape, grimed with muck  and  with  the elbows hanging out. When he was
about ten  yards away I could also see he had a straggly excuse for a beard,
a big earring in one ear, and long greasy dreadlocks.
     He was soaked.
     The  moment he saw me,  his face lit up.  To  him  I was the accidental
tourist, lost at the wrong end of town. I could almost see the cogs turning;
he thought he'd  cracked it here, he was going to get some easy money out of
this greenhorn.
     "Fuck you, asshole, you owe me a new sleeping  bag! Look at  my clothes
you've pissed all over me, you fucking animal! Give me some money, man!"
     He was certainly going for an Oscar.
     "Do you know who I am? Fucking piss on me, man, I'll fucking  kick your
     I needed to take advantage of this. I went up to the window and started
banging hard. If there was security, he  should come  investigate. I'd  just
play the innocent needing protection from this madman.
     I  banged so hard I thought the glass would break, making sure  all the
time that I had my  back to the camera. It sparked  up the homeless guy even
more because he thought I was panicking.
     He  started  to  come  up  the stairs.  I  kept  on  looking inside the
building. There were no used ashtrays in  sight, no magazines lying open  on
chairs,  no  TV  on; the  furniture was  well  arranged,  the chair  by  the
reception area was  neatly under  the desk.  There was nothing to show  that
anyone was around.
     Nearly on top of me now, I heard, "Fucking asshole!"
     I turned, opened my jacket, and put my hand on the pistol.
     He saw it and stopped in his tracks.
     "Ah, for fuck's sake!
     Fucking hell!" He backed  off, started  to retreat down the stairs, his
eyes fixed on the pistol.
     "Fucking cops," he muttered.
     I had to try hard not to laugh.
     "Fucking cops, piss on me every fucking which way!"
     I waited for him to disappear. The guy thought he had problems this was
the second time in two days that I'd had piss all over me. I felt  sorry for
him, though; I thought about the amount of time he'd probably spent  finding
himself  a  snug  little retreat,  well  concealed from predators and nicely
warmed   by  the  air-conditioning   outlets  and   other  machinery  tucked
underneath.  Then some dickhead comes and empties  his bladder all over  the
     It took me  fifteen minutes to get back to the hotel. I opened the door
nice and quiet. Kelly was in kid  heaven, not having had  to take  a bath or
clean up her mess, just falling asleep surrounded by candy and cookies.
     I got undressed,  took a  shower  and  shaved, then stuffed the clothes
into the hotel laundry  bag. The  duffel  was getting pretty  full now  with
dirty  and bloodstained clothes. I was down to my last change. I got dressed
again, tucked the pistol into  my waistband,  put my  coat on,  and set  the
alarm  for 5:30.  I was half-awake anyway when the  alarm  went.  I'd  been
tossing and turning all night, and now I couldn't really be bothered  to get
up. People must feel like this when they go to a job they really hate.
     I finally  got myself to my feet,  went over to the window,  and opened
the curtains.  We were just  below eye level with the  highway and almost in
its shadow. Headlights lumbered silently toward me from out of the gloom; in
the  other  lanes,  taillights  disappeared  back  into  the  darkness  like
slow-moving tracers. It wasn't time yet.
     I let the curtain fall and turned down the heat, got the coffee machine
gurgling, and went into the bathroom.
     As I  took a leak I  looked at  myself  in the mirror. I  looked like a
scarecrow with creases on  my face where I'd been lying on some  crayons.  I
took my jacket off, turned the collar in on my  polo  shirt, and splashed my
face in the sink.
     I  went back to the bedroom. The brew  wasn't  ready  yet, and my mouth
felt as if a gorilla had dumped in it. He'd certainly been in the room while
we were both asleep, throwing soda cans and food everywhere. I picked  up an
already opened can of Mountain Dew and took a couple of flat, warm sips.
     Until first light, there wasn't that much to do. I was used to this; so
much  of my life had been hurry  up and  wait. I put the chair by the window
and opened the  curtains again. Looking at the highway, I couldn't make  out
whether  it  was  still  raining or  if it  was just  vehicle spray  in  the
headlights that made it look that way.
     By the end of a quarter hour I could begin to make out the shape of the
cars as well as their headlights. It was time.
     There was no need to wake Kelly; the more she slept, the easier my life
would be. I checked that I had the key card and moved up to the roof.
     Rain danced on the metal roof  of the elevator housing. I pulled myself
up and lay there getting soaked  front and back as I pressed the Play button
on the camera and tested the flashing light. I checked to see that  I  still
had the  correct site picture and that  the lens hadn't misted up. It had. I
cursed at  myself because I should have put  on another  plastic bag to keep
the moisture from getting in overnight. I started to  wipe the  moisture off
with my  cuff and suddenly  felt as if  I were between two worlds. Behind me
roared the early morning traffic, yet to my front, toward the river, I could
just about hear birds giving their early morning song. I was almost enjoying
it.  The moment was soon shattered when the first  air craft of the day took
off  and  disappeared  into  low  cloud.  Lens dry, I  rechecked the camera
position, made sure it was recording, and closed the trash bags.
     It was now nearly 6 a.m.  I went back to the room  and my chair by  the
window, coffee in hand. I smiled as  I watched a couple come out of the room
next door, hand in hand. Some thing about them didn't quite match up. I made
a bet with my self that they'd leave in separate cars.
     For  the hundredth time, my mind drifted to the telephone call  I'd had
with Kev. Pat had said that if it was PIRA, there could be a connection with
drugs,  Gibraltar,  and  the  Americans. My hard drive went into  free wheel
because something about the Gibraltar job had always puzzled me.
     The year  1987  had  been PIRA's  annus  horribilis, and  as Detachment
operators  in Northern Ireland, Euan and I  had  done our fair share to fuck
them  over.  At the  beginning of  the  year they'd promised their  faithful
"tangible  success in  the war of national liberation,"  but it hadn't taken
long for  that to turn to  rat shit. In  February, PIRA fielded twenty-seven
Sinn  Fein candidates in  the Irish general election,  but they  man aged to
scrape only about a thousand votes each. Few people in the South gave a damn
about reunification with Northern Ireland; they were far more concerned with
other  issues  like  unemployment and  the crippling level  of taxation.  It
showed how out of touch PIRA was,  and how successful the Anglo Irish accord
was proving. Ordinary people really did believe that London and Dublin could
work together to bring about a long-term solution to the Troubles.
     PIRA couldn't take that lying down  and must have decided they needed a
morale booster. Their knee-jerk  reaction was the murder, on Saturday, April
25, of  Lord  Justice  Maurice  Gibson,  one  of the province's most  senior
judges. Euan and I saw  firsthand the celebrations in some of PIRA's illegal
drinking  dens that  weekend.  We even had a few drinks ourselves as we hung
around. The players loved what had happened.
     Not only  had they  gotten  rid of  one  of  their  worst  enemies, but
recriminations  were  flying  left,  right,  and center between  London  and
Dublin. The Anglo-Irish accord, which had done so  much  to undermine PIRA's
power base, was itself now in question.
     However,  barely  had the  hangovers  gone away than PIRA  had  another
disaster.  Two  weeks  later, at  Loughall in County  Armagh, guys from  the
Regiment ambushed PIRA's East Tyrone Brigade while they  were  attempting to
bomb  a  police  station.  From a force of 1,000 hard-core players  in 1980,
PIRA's  strength had  dwindled  to  fewer  than  250, of which maybe 50 were
members  of active service units. Our successes had further cut  this to 40,
which meant that the operation at Loughall had wiped out one-fifth of PIRA's
hard liners at a stroke. It was their biggest loss in a  single action since
1921. If this continued, all of PIRA would soon be riding around in the same
taxi.  The massive defeat  at  Loughall was followed soon  afterward  by  a
disastrous showing by  Gerry Adams  in  the  British general election.  Sinn
Fein's  vote  plummeted,  with  the Catholic vote switching  to the moderate
SDLP. Then, on  October 31, during Sinn  Fein's annual conference in Dublin,
French  Customs seized a small freighter called the Eksund off the coast  of
Brittany.  On  board was  an early  Christmas present  to PIRA from  Colonel
Gaddafi--hundreds ofAK47s, tons  of Semtex, several  ground-to-air missiles,
and so much ammunition it was a miracle that the ship stayed afloat.
     The  humiliation was  complete. No wonder  Gerry Adams and PIRA  wanted
revenge and some sort of publicity  coup  to  show  people like  Gaddafi and
those  Irish Americans who contributed to Noraid that they hadn't completely
lost their grip.
     On November 8, Remembrance Day, they planted a thirty-pound bomb with a
timer at the  town  memorial in Enniskillen  in  County Fermanagh,  Northern
Ireland. Eleven civilians were killed in  the explosion, and more than sixty
were seriously injured. Outrage at the atrocity was instant and worldwide.
     In Dublin, thousands lined up to sign  a book of condolence. In Moscow,
not a  place well known for  its compassion, the TASS news  agency denounced
what it called "barbaric murders." But worst of all for PIRA, even the Irish
Americans appeared to have had enough.  PIRA had fucked up  big-time. It had
thought the bombing would be hailed  as a victory in its struggle against an
occupying power, but all it  had done was show it up for what it really was.
It might be one  thing to kill  "legitimate" targets like judges, policemen,
and  members of the security forces, but murdering innocent  civilians while
they were honoring their dead at a Remembrance Day service?
     That  was why Gibraltar had been  such a puzzle to  me. I could see why
Adams and  company would be  desperate  to show  their  diminishing group of
sympathizers that they were still in  business, but why risk a repeat of the
international  backlash they'd suffered  after Enniskillen?  If they  bombed
Gibraltar, it wouldn't be only British civilians who might end up killed. At
that time of the year, hundreds of  foreign  tourists  pack  the squares and
streets  of the colony, many from  the cruise liners that  regularly dock in
the harbor.
     And many  of those, PIRA would have known full well, were American. I'd
never been able to see a method to their madness.
     It  suddenly hit me that  maybe I'd  been looking down the wrong end of
the  telescope. PIRA were terrorists, but their presence  here in Washington
proved that they were  also businessmen.  There was no sectarian divide when
it came to money, just normal competition and greed. They got  together with
Protestant  para  militaries on a regular basis  to talk  about their drug,
prostitution, and extortion rackets, even to  discuss demarcation lines  for
different  taxi firms and  sites for slot machines  back home.  They had the
infrastructure,  the knowledge,  and  the weapons to be major players in the
world   of  crime.  With  cooperation  from  other  terrorist  organizations
throughout the world,  the possibilities were  endless. If so, this was some
serious shit.
     Down  in  the  parking  lot  the couple was having  a  long,  lingering
embrace. What  was going on there was some serious shit, too. Then one final
kiss and, yep, separate cars.
     I  wasn't  expecting a phone call from  Pat until  noon and there  were
still about three hours to wait for  the tape to finish recording, so  there
wasn't much to do apart from watch invaders from Mars  and talking shoes who
lived in wastebaskets.
     I felt uneasy. I needed to do something.
     I shook Kelly.
     "Kelly, Kelly, wake up."
     She  moaned, pulling the  covers  back over her. I spoke  gently in her
     "I'm going downstairs to buy some stuff, OK?"
     I got a very weak yes. She couldn't have cared less. I was beginning to
realize she wasn't a morning person.
     I used  the emergency stairs again and crossed under the highway to the
7-Eleven. Inside, it looked like Fort Knox.
     There was a grating in the wall with a cubbyhole behind it and an Asian
face glowering out and then turning back to watch a portable TV.  The  store
was too  hot and  stank  of cigarettes and over brewed coffee. Every inch of
wall  space  was plastered with signs  informing  the  local  villains  cash
     I didn't really need to  buy anything; we had  more  stuff in  the room
than  we  could eat in  a year, but I wanted some time to myself,  away from
Kelly. I  found it tiring just being around her. There was  always something
that needed doing, checking, or washing, and in any time  that was left over
I seemed to be nagging her to hurry up and get dressed.
     At the magazine rack another friendly sign said, no spitting or reading
the  merchandise. I picked up a Washington Post and a handful of magazines,
some for me  and some for Kelly--I  didn't  even bother looking at what they
were--and went and put my money through the  small  hole in  the grille. The
man looked disappointed I hadn't forced him to use the machete I was sure he
had under the till.
     I  strolled into the lobby to get breakfast. There were seven  or eight
people sitting around, eating, and watching a TV mounted  on a wall  bracket
above the table with the food and drink. As I started to load up three paper
plates on a tray, above  me I  could hear  an anchorman talking about George
Mitchell and his part in the Irish peace process. I listened to a couple  of
sound bites from Sinn Fein and the British government, both pouring scorn on
the other side's statements, both claiming that they were the ones who truly
wanted peace.
     A woman's  voice interrupted my thoughts.  She was anchoring the  local
news, and as I  poured  some  orange juice for  Kelly  I  could feel my skin
tingle all over. She was talking about the Browns.
     I didn't dare turn around. One of the barbecue pictures could appear on
screen at any moment.
     The woman told viewers that police had not come up with any  new leads,
but the kidnapping of seven-year-old Kelly had moved forward with a computer
image of the man seen leaving with  her. She gave my height, build, and hair
     There wasn't room to pour any more  coffee or  juice, and the  tray was
overflowing with food. But I didn't  dare move. It felt as if every pair  of
eyes in the room was fixed on me. I put a bagel into the toaster and waited,
drinking coffee, not looking up or  around. I  felt I  was in  a  cocoon  of
silence, apart from the voice of the newscaster. I prayed for her to turn to
a  new subject.  The bagel popped up. Shit. I put some spread  on it. I knew
people were looking at me; they had to be.
     I'd  run out of things  to do. I took a deep breath, picked up my tray,
and turned around. The noise of the room came back.
     No one was looking. They were too busy eating, talking, and reading the
     Kelly was still asleep. Good. I put her food on the side and started to
munch on  my Cheerios.  I switched the TV on, muted it, and  flicked through
the channels,  looking  for  local news. There  was nothing  more about  the
situation on Hunting Bear Path.
     I attacked the newspaper. We were famous well, sort of.
     A  small piece  on  page  five.  No  pictures. A police  spokesman  was
reported as saying that they  were reluctant  to  come up with any theories
until they  had  more concrete evidence,  but  yes, the  murders  were being
treated as drug-related. Luther and his bunch  would be pleased  about that.
Otherwise, there were no new leads. I wasn't the only one in the dark.
     I had to  try to  cut  all the conjecture from my mind because  it  was
getting far too confusing. As the policeman said, without information it was
pointless spending time and effort trying to think of different scenarios. I
determined  to focus  all my effort  into: one, protecting Kelly and myself;
two,  keeping the  video on  target  to discover if there  was  a connection
between PIRA and Kev's death;  three, getting some money from Pat so I could
arrange my return  to the  UK;  and four, getting  hold ofEuan  for  help in
dealing with Simmonds, or,  if I had nothing for him,  to help me  negotiate
with him.
     I looked over at Kelly. She was on her back with her arms out in a star
shape, dreaming she was  Katherine, the pink ranger.  I  felt sorry for her.
She hadn't a  clue  what had happened  to her family. Some  poor bastard was
going to have to tell her one day, and after that someone would have to look
after her.  I  just  hoped  it was  someone nice; maybe  her grand  parents,
wherever they might be.
     At least she was alive. Those boys must be sweating now.
     They'd have to assume that  Kelly had given me  their descriptions  and
that  she'd overheard  what  all  the  shouting  was about. They had  to  be
desperate to get their hands on us.
     I started to  wonder how  I  could get more information out of  her but
gave up on that  one. I was no psychologist; if any thing, I was a candidate
for seeing one.
     I picked up a  bike magazine and by  the end had changed loyalties from
Ducati to  BMW. Then  I read in  a fishing magazinc how wonderful Lake Tahoe
was for  men with waders. I was lost in a whole new  world of hook sizes and
rod materials when all of a sudden there was a knock on the door.
     No time  to  think. I pulled  the Sig, checked chamber, and  looked  at
Kelly. I thought: We both might be dead soon.
     I put my hand over her mouth  and gave her a shake. She woke up scared.
I  put my fingers to my  mouth. It wasn't in  a nice  manner it  was saying:
"Shut the fuck up. Don't say a fucking thing."
     I called out, "One minute, one minute!" I  went through and turned  the
shower on, came back out, then went up to the door, sounding disorganized.
     "Hello, who is it?"  A pause.
     I looked through the peephole and saw a  woman, black, mid-fifties; she
had a cleaning uniform on and a cart be hind her.
     I couldn't  see  anything  else,  but then,  if  she had the  police or
Luther's boys on either side of her, they weren't going to be  showing their
     I looked at her and tried to interpret what was going on from her eyes.
They  would soon tell  me  if  there were ten  policemen around  the  corner
bristling with body armor and firepower.
     I said, "It's OK, not today, thank you, we're sleeping."
     I saw  her look down and heard, "Sorry, sir, you didn't have your  sign
     "Oh, OK."
     "Would you like some towels?"
     "Hang on, I'm just coming out of the shower. I'll get some clothes on."
     It would be natural to be wanting towels.
     I  put the  weapon in my left hand, undid the lock, and opened the door
just a fraction. The weapon was pointing through the  door on the left side;
if any fucker pushed her to get in, it would be the last thing he did.
     I opened  the door a  little more, held it with my leg, and put my head
in the gap. I smiled, "Ah, hiya," the gun pointing at her behind the door. I
didn't put my hand out to get the towels; I didn't want someone grabbing it.
I said, "I just need  two big towels, that'll be fine and have  you got some
more shampoo?"
     She gave me what I wanted. I said, "Thank you,"  and she smiled back. I
closed the door.
     Kelly was lying on the bed openmouthed, watching my every move.
     I shrugged.
     "Don't you just hate it when people do that?" She started laughing. So
did I. "They nearly had us that time!" I said.
     Her expression changed, and she slowly shook her head.
     know you won't ever let them get me."
     It was 10:30: another twenty minutes to go before I went up and changed
the tapes. I picked up the one we'd been  watching the night before, slapped
it back into the player, and rewound it for the next session.
     This time I only had to smile at her and  she jumped up and went to the
door, ready to drop the latch.
     "While I'm out I want you to take a shower. Will you do that?"
     She shrugged.
     "Whatever. I get all the good jobs."
     I went upstairs to the roof.
     The weather was still shitty.
     There  was  still  an  hour to  go before the  noon  call. We  sat down
together to watch the latest footage.
     I said, "It's really important; we  might see somebody we know. Then we
can give the tape to  Daddy  and he can  find out  who was shouting  at him.
Anybody you  think you  might know, like Melissa's  dad  or the man  at  the
grocery  store, or even  the men who came to  see Daddy,  tell me and we can
have a closer look, OK?"
     I started  to  fast-forward,  stopping  the  tape  whenever  there  was
traffic. I logged what they looked like: male, female,  black, white, Asian;
and what they were wearing: black on blue, red on blue.
     The game wasn't as much fun for Kelly the second time around.
     "What about him?" I enthused.
     "That lady?"
     "You sure you've never seen this man?"  "Never!"
     At last she spotted somebody she knew. I rewound the tape.
     "Who is he?"
     "Mr. Mooner on Fox Kids."
     "OK, I'll write that down."
     Another guy  started to walk up  the  stairs.  I stopped the  tape  and
rewound. I said, "Do you know him?"
     She shook her head.
     I said, "Well, I know somebody who looks exactly like him. A man I used
to work with who  could never remember where  he left things, and one day we
hid  his  false teeth and he had  to  eat soup  all week!"  She had a little
laugh; it kept her going a bit longer.
     At 11:45 we were still going through the tape and logging.
     I stopped at two men who were going in together.
     "Do you know either of them? Because I don't.  I can't think of anybody
who  even  looks like  them." I  was racking my brains  trying to  think  of
another story to keep her interested.
     "No, I've never seen them before."
     "Oh,  all  right then. Just  a  couple  more,  then we'll do some thing
else." I started  to fast-forward, saw  a figure coming out of the building,
rewound, and played it.
     She moved to the edge of the bed.
     "I know that man," she said.
     I  pressed  Freeze-frame.  We  were  looking  at a  black  guy  in  his
     "Who is he?"
     "He came to see Daddy with the other men."
     I tried to sound calm.
     "What's his name? Do you know any of  their names?" "Can I go home and
see Mommy now? You said I could go home tomorrow and now it's tomorrow."
     "We have to sort  this out  first,  Kelly.  Daddy  needs to know  their
names. He can't remember."
     I was trying to do the psychology bit but I knew more about fly-fishing
now than I did about child psychology.
     She shook her head.
     "Daddy knew them though, didn't he?"
     "Yeah. They came to see Daddy."
     "Can you remember anything else about them? Were they smoking?"
     "I don't remember. I don't think so."
     "Did any of them have glasses?"
     "I think this guy had glasses."
     I looked closer at the screen. He wore thin wire frames.
     "OK." were they wearing rings or anything?"
     "I don't know, I didn't see."
     I tried the color  of the  car, their shoes, their coats. Did they talk
to each other using different names? Were they American?
     She was starting to get upset, but I had to know.
     I said, "Kelly, are you sure this man came to see Daddy the day I found
     Her eyes were welling up. I'd gone too far.
     "Don't cry." I put my arm around her.
     "It's OK. This man came with the other men, yes?"
     I felt her nod.
     "That's very good,  because I can give this information to Daddy when I
see him and that will help catch them. You see, you've helped him!"
     She looked up at me. There was a slight  smile under the tears. If she
was right, what we had was one of the people who killed Kev coming out of an
office that was fronting for PIRA.
     There was still more tape to run. I tried to sound upbeat.
     "OK then, let's have a look and see  if we can see the other  men. They
were black, too, weren't they?"
     "No, they were white."
     "Oh yes, of course."
     We went on through the  tape. I came out with a  possible  ID of Nelson
Mandela, and she saw Michael Jackson. Apart from that, jack shit.
     "Can we go home now and show  this to Daddy? Maybe he's better now. You
said we could, if we saw anyone."
     I was digging myself deeper.
     "No, not yet. I have to make sure that this is the  man who came to see
Daddy. But not long now, not long."
     I lay on the bed, pretending to read the fishing magazine.
     She knew who they were. My heart was beating loud and slow.
     I was trying  to keep to my  game plan of  concentrating  only  on  the
matter at hand, but I couldn't. Why  would Kev be killed by people who  knew
him? Had it been Luther and company?
     It must have been. What did  Kev know,  or what was he involved in? Why
would  he tell  me  about his  problem  if  he  were  corrupt?  Was  the DEA
investigating PIRA and drug dealing?
     Maybe Kev was, and  the murders  were carried out  by PIRA or  the drug
dealers because  of something  he had  done or was about to do?  But why did
they know him?
     Conjecture would  get  me  nowhere. It was  just  a  waste of time  and
effort. Kelly was stretched out beside me, looking at the magazine. It was a
strange  feeling having her head on my chest.  I  moved my arm around her to
look at my watch. She thought I was going to cuddle her.
     It was nearly time for Pat to call. I got up and switched on the mobile
phone, then  stood by the window, pulling  a gap in  the curtain, looking at
the highway through the rain,  deciding on my next move. I tried to think of
a good RV It wouldn't be secure to meet again  at the shopping mall.  Right
on time the phone rang.
     "Hello, mate." I could hear the traffic going past a phone booth.
     "Things are happening," I said.
     "I need an RV" "In two hours, is that OK?"
     "Two hours. Union Station all right for you?"
     "Er... Union yep, no problem." He sounded spaced out.
     I'd traveled through it a few times and could remember the layout.
     "Come in through the main entrance," I said.
     "Go up to the top floor, to the coffee bar facing the stairs. Buy a cup
of coffee, sit down, and wait. I'll pick you up there, OK?"
     There was a long, worrying pause.
     "Is that OK, Pat?"
     "I'll be there. See ya." The line went dead.
     Union Station is so grand and elegant that it should be  in Paris,  not
here in the home of  cinder block and dark wood veneer At most major railway
stations in the world you expect to find the seedier side  of life,  but not
at Union. The ticketing, check-in, and baggage-handling areas look like part
of a  modern airport.  There's even a first-class lounge. You don't see  the
trains  because  they're behind screens, and in any case  you'd be much  too
distracted  by the shopping mall, the  food court, the  coffee shops, even a
multiplex cinema. More  important  for me,  however, I'd remembered  it as a
big, busy lo  cation, and because of the Easter holiday I knew  there'd be a
big transient population of people from out of  town  who would know nothing
of the events on Hunting Bear Path.
     A  cab got  us to  the station early.  There was  just under an hour to
fill, so  I made the most of  it shopping for items  I'd  be needing for the
reconnaissance of the PIRA office,  besides the  stuff I'd already bought at
Wal-Mart. Now that Kelly had  recognized the  black guy, the only option was
to get in there and have a look around.
     I bought a Polaroid camera and six packs of film;  a  pair of cheap and
nasty  polyester coveralls,  more rolls of gaffer's  tape and  Scotch tape;
heavy-duty scissors that promised I could cut through a shiny new penny with
them;  a Leatherman, a  tool that's a bit like  a Swiss  Army knife; running
shoes; rubber  gloves;  batteries;  Saran Wrap;  a plastic bottle  of orange
juice with a large spout; a  box of  push pins; a dozen  eggs;  and a quartz
kitchen clock, nine inches in diameter. Kelly looked at it all and raised an
eyebrow, but didn't ask.
     By  1:40 I  had a couple of  shopping bags full of gear, as well as the
books and time-wasters I'd had to put in her basket to keep her involved.
     I  remembered the beautiful tiled  floor in the entrance hall, but  I'd
forgotten  the  cathedral  ceilings. In  the middle was  a  rotunda  with  a
newsstand and groups of tables outside.
     Above  it,  reached by a flight  of  stairs,  was  a restaurant. It was
absolutely perfect for what I needed.
     We were greeted at the top by a waitress.
     I smiled.
     "Table for two, please."
     I pointed to a table right at the back.
     "Can we have that one?"
     We sat down,  and I  put the bags under  the table. I  couldn't see the
main entrance,  but I'd be able to see  Pat heading  toward the  coffee shop
because that was farther into the main part of the station and up a level.
     The  waitress  came to take our drink order. I asked for two Cokes  and
said, "I'm ready to order now, if that's all right?
     We'll take a nine-inch pizza."
     Kelly looked up.
     "Can we have extra mushrooms?"
     I nodded at the waitress and she left.
     Kelly smiled.
     "Mommy and me both like extra mushrooms. Daddy says we're like  forest
pixies!" She smiled again, wanting a reaction.
     "That's nice," I  said. This was  a conversation that needed nipping in
the bud.
     Kelly got stuck into her Coke, enjoying being able to watch real people
for a change.
     Pat was early, wearing the same clothes  as a VDM visual distinguishing
mark. Either that or the fucker simply hadn't changed. As he walked past and
below me, something about him didn't seem  right.  There  was a  very slight
stagger in his  stride, and I knew it hadn't come  from  drinking  too  much
beer. I feared the worst.
     I continued my checks, covering his back to protect my own.
     I gave  it about five minutes, got up, and said to Kelly, "I have to go
to the men's  room. I won't be long." On the way out I asked the waitress to
keep an eye on Kelly and our bags.
     Another set  of doors  took me into the main ticketing and train  area.
The place was heaving; half  of the USA must have been on the move. Even the
air-conditioning  was  finding it  too  much:  the  combination  of heat and
humidity from the people made it feel like a greenhouse. I joined the packed
crowds slowly shuffling up to the top floor.
     He was in line at the coffee shop, about three or four  people ahead of
him. Very hale and hearty, I went over and slapped him on the back.
     "Pat! What are you doing here?"
     Reciprocating my big  smile,  he said, "I'm here to meet somebody." His
pupils were as big as saucers.
     "Me, too. You got time for a Mickey D's?"
     "Yeah, yeah, why not?"
     We started to walk beyond the coffee shop, following exit signs through
automatic  doors, and  took  the  escalator up  to the multi  story  parking
     Pat was a step or two above. He looked down at me, puzzled.
     "What the fuck's a Mickey D's?"
     "McDonald's," I  said, as if  he should  have known. But then he didn't
have a seven-year-old on his case day and night.
     "Come on, Pat, get with the program!"
     He started to do a Michael Jackson moon dance
     By now we were  nearly  at the bus station level. I said, "If there's a
drama, I'm going to the bus station area, turning right and out an exit."
     "Fine. No problem!" He sounded OK but looked like shit.
     The cars were  on the two  levels above. We walked up the bare concrete
stairs, stopped at the first level, and got into a position that looked back
the way we had come.
     I didn't have time to fuck around.
     "Two things, mate. I've got a list here I  didn't fancy reading  to you
over the phone." I passed it over.
     "I need  all that stuff. And the other thing  what's  the score on  the
     He was already looking at the small notebook I'd  handed him. Either he
was amazed at the contents or he couldn't focus. Without looking up he said,
"I got some  money for you today. But fucking hell, most of it's going to be
used up on this stuff. I'll be able to get you some more, probably to morrow
or the day after. Fuck me." He shook his head.
     "When do  you want all this by?" He then started to  giggle as  if he'd
just cracked a joke in his head and wasn't going to share it with me.
     "Actually, tonight, mate. You think you can do it, or what?"
     I moved my head to get eye-to-eye with him.
     The giggle became a  laugh until  he saw me looking serious. He cleared
his throat and tried to switch on.
     "I'll do my best, mate. I'll see what I can get on this list."
     "I'd really fucking appreciate it," I said.
     "Don't let me down. Pat. I really need your  help." I hoped the urgency
was going to register with him. I was still checking down the stairs.
     "Also at the back  there" I opened the page for him to make sure he saw
it "I've put a casual pickup I need that to happen at 2300 tonight."
     Pat  was looking at the  RV notes.  I bent my knees to lower myself and
moved his face over so I could get eye-to-eye again.
     "Eleven o'clock tonight, mate, eleven o'clock, OK?"
     I  knew Pat well enough to tell he  knew it was serious. He knew he was
fucked up and was trying hard to understand everything I said.
     I was  glad now  that  I'd put the  details  down on paper  for him. He
looked as if he needed all the help he could get.
     "What do you drive?" I asked.
     "A red Mustang." He pushed his face closer to mine.
     "Redder  than Satan's balls!" He enjoyed  the joke so much he  couldn't
help laughing.
     "Leave via H Street." I pointed away from the rear of the station.
     "See you tonight then." He smiled, moving off. From behind  I could see
a slight veer to the left as he walked.
     I waited and checked he  wasn't being  followed, then went on up toward
the parking  level, making it look as  if I were off to my car. From there I
took the elevator back down to the coffee shop.
     I went back toward the restaurant, stood off, and watched.
     Kelly was still struggling with the pizza.
     "What took you so long?" she said through a mouthful of mushrooms.
     "They ran out of toilet paper." I laughed as I rejoined her.
     She thought about it a moment and did the same. As soon as we got back
to the  hotel I put the TV on for Kelly and  dumped out the shopping bags on
my bed. She asked me what I was doing.
     "I'm just helping Pat. You can watch the TV if you want.
     You hungry?"
     "No." She  was right; after  a pizza the size of a  tank mine, it was a
stupid question.
     I  picked up the big red-and-white-framed  quartz kitchen clock and sat
in the chair by the window. I broke off the frame until I was left with just
the hands and clock face with the quartz mechanics behind  it. By bending it
very  gently, I now started  to break  off the  plastic face. When there was
just  about an inch  of  jagged remains around  the center  of the hands,  I
finally snapped off  the  hour and second  hands. Only  the minute hand  was
left. I put in a new battery.
     Kelly was watching.
     "Now what are you doing. Nick?"
     "It's a trick. Once I've finished I'll show you, OK?"
     "OK." She turned back to the TV, but with one eye on me.
     I  took the egg  carton  over  to  the wastebasket and  tipped  out its
contents. I  ripped off the top and half of  the bottom  so that there  were
just  six compartments left. With  Scotch tape I fashioned  a  small  sleeve
running  all  the  way  up  the  side  of  the carton,  just big  enough  to
accommodate the  minute hand.  I called over to  Kelly,  who was humming the
theme to a soap.
     "Do you want to see what this does?"
     She looked intrigued as I slotted the carton onto the minute hand.
     The  nightstand was  about  four  inches  below the level  of  the TV's
controls. I positioned the clock on it so it was directly below the infrared
sensor on the set and secured it in place with gaffer tape.
     Kelly was taking even more interest.
     "What are you doing?"
     "See the remote? Use it to turn the sound up."
     She  did.  "Now  turn it  down.  OK." I bet you that in about  fifteen
minutes you can't turn the sound up." I joined her on the bed.
     "Both of us must sit here and not move, OK?"
     "OK." She thought I was going to do something  to the remote and smiled
as she hid it under the pillow.
     It was quite nice really, watching  TV during some downtime, apart from
every minute hearing, "Is it fifteen minutes yet?"
     "No, only seven." By now the egg  carton, attached to the  minute hand,
was working its way up toward the base of the TV.
     When the egg carton was  upright  and obscuring the sensor, I said, "Go
on then, try to turn the sound up."
     She did, and nothing happened.
     "Maybe it's the battery?" I teased.
     We put  a fresh  battery into  the remote. Still nothing. She  couldn't
figure it out, and I wasn't going to explain my trick.
     "Magic!" I grinned.
     I extracted the rest  of the  gear, drank  some of the orange juice and
rinsed out the container, made sure that all  the  electrical equipment  had
fresh batteries, and prepared everything to be packed.
     It was about 10:20, and  Kelly  was asleep. I'd have to wake her up and
tell her I was going because I didn't want her to get up and start worrying.
At times  I  thought  she was  just a pain in  the neck, but  I did  want to
protect her.  She  looked so innocent playing  starfish  again.  What  would
happen to her after all this, I wondered--presuming she survived.
     I  tested  everything  again,  unplugged  the mobile and put it  in  my
pocket, and  finally  checked  my weapon and made sure I  had  some  cash. I
picked up a half-empty pack of cookies to eat on the way.
     Close to her ear, I whispered, "Kelly!"
     I got no response. I shook her a bit. She stirred and I said, "I've put
the  TV on low so you  can watch it  if  you want--I've got to go out  for a
couple of minutes."
     I  didn't know if  she understood or not. I preferred  telling her this
when she was half-asleep.
     "Don't put  the lock on this time because I'll  take  the key. I  don't
want to wake you when I come in, OK?"
     I left, and went down in the elevator  and  onto the road.  The highway
traffic rumbled above me. At last, no rain, just air that smelled damp.
     I turned left and walked in the opposite direction from the usual, just
for  one last check.  I munched on the cookies as  I walked past the target.
All the same lights were on; nothing had changed. I wondered if the homeless
bloke was underneath, waiting  with a chain saw for somebody else to piss on
him.  I quickened my pace to  meet  Pat on  time.  I got to the  highway and
turned right, following the road, with the roar of traffic above me.
     The road swung right, and I started  to leave the highway  behind. Soon
there was a  vacant lot on both sides,  and  the sound of traffic receded. I
could hear my footsteps again.  To  my right were more car pounds. How could
Washington  be in such  a  financial  mess when  the  city must be  making a
fortune  on  towed vehicles? To  my  left  there were  the  new, jerry built
office-cum-workshops. I got to  the first one,  moved off the road into  its
shadow, and waited.
     It was bizarre to be  only  a  few  hundred yards from the Pentagon and
possibly right  under the nose  of the people who'd like to see me  dead. It
was also quite a  thrill. It always had been.  Pat  had a term  for  it;  he
called it "the juice."
     I heard an engine  coming toward me. I looked around the corner  of the
building. Just one vehicle. It must be him. I pulled my pistol.
     The red Mustang drew up. I  was in a semi crouch fire  position, aiming
at  the  driver  with my  Sig until it  stopped. It was Pat. I could see his
Roman nose silhouetted in the ambient light from the airport.
     Pistol still in  hand, I walked over to the passenger door  and  opened
it; the interior light didn't come on. I got in and closed the  door gently,
onto its first click only.
     Pat had his hand on the hand brake and slowly released  it to move off.
From a distance it's very difficult to tell whether a car is stopping if you
can't see brake lights. That was why Pat was using the  hand brake  with  no
interior  light coming  on and  no noise of a  car door shutting, the pickup
would have been very hard to clock.
     Checking  the  road  behind  us,  I  said,  "Turn  right  at  the  next
     There was no time to fuck around; he knew it and I knew it.
     Pat said, "Everything's  in the back,  in that duffel." He'd come  down
from whatever high he'd been on and sounded quite embarrassed.
     I leaned  over  and lifted out the laptop. I said, "Is the sound turned
off?" When Windows 95 came up, I didn't want the Microsoft sound playing.
     He  made  a face that  let me know I was a dickhead for even asking. We
both laughed; it broke the ice.
     We came up to the concrete  wall. As we passed the hotel I  was careful
not to turn my head. We turned right under the highway and pulled up at stop
lights on the other side.
     I said, "Go straight and turn right on Kent."
     "No problem."
     The area was  urban and  well lit.  He  kept checking in  his  rearview
mirror to see  if  we were being followed. My  eyes were fixed  on  the side
mirror. I didn't turn and look now; neither of us wanted to appear aware.
     There  were  a  few  cars  behind  us, but they  had  come  from  other
directions. That wasn't to say they weren't following us.
     I  looked at Pat. His 9mm semi was  snug under his  right thigh, and in
the foot well under his legs he  had  a 9mm MP5K, an excellent in-car weapon
because of its compact size  and  rate  of  fire.  He'd  clipped  on  double
thirty-round magazines.
     "What the fuck did you bring that thing along for?"
     "I  didn't like the sound  of your new best mate, Luther. I didn't want
him and his buddies dragging me in for a little chat."
     We approached another set of lights.
     "Do  a  right to  left  switch  here, mate. Let's see  if  we  have any
     There  were  one  or two  cars behind  us.  The shape  of  a  vehicle's
headlights, once it is up  close, helps a lot to ID it. If the same shape is
up your  ass on three  turns in the same direction, it's time to get out the
worry beads.
     Pat signaled  and  started to move to the  right.  All the  other  cars
seemed to want straight ahead or to turn right with us;
     nobody was in the left-turn lane. At the  last moment Pat signaled left
and moved over--nothing that was aggressive  or would provoke a bout of road
rage, just a change of mind.
     We were all held up at the light. I looked at each car in turn.
     Just couples or kids cruising--or so it appeared.  I'd  soon know  if I
saw them again.
     We turned on the green, and nothing followed. It was now time to talk.
     Pat started it off.
     "Your  instructions were  shit.  You said  three buildings; there  were
four. It's a good thing I know what I'm doing." He was waiting for praise.
     "The fact  is, I couldn't remember  how many.  The taxi was driving too
fast. I can't count anyway."
     We were now just cruising. Pat said, "I've been thinking.
     Do you want me to go in as your number two?"
     That would  be  good. It  would get the job done quicker and would mean
better security and  firepower if we were in trouble. But I  decided against
it;  Pat was  my only link with  the outside world,  and  I  didn't  want to
compromise that. I told him my reasons and he nodded his acceptance.
     "Take us back to the Pentagon City Metro station, will you, mate?"
     I started to prepare for the drop-off and  got into acting  mode again.
He  put  his signals  on,  everything  correct, nothing untoward, nice  slow
approach and into the curb outside the Metro. I got out, put my head back in
through the open window.
     "Thanks a lot, mate, see  you later." I retrieved  the black  nylon bag
from the backseat. My mind-set was that  I'd been playing baseball with  him
all  night and now I was going home; he'd just dropped me off after a drink.
I closed the door and tapped the roof a couple of times, and off he drove. I
suddenly felt very alone. Had I made the right decision about Pat not coming
with me? I made distance and  angles before doing  a  circuit  back  to  the
hotel, arriving at about 11:50.
     I  quickly sorted out and  double-checked all  the  stuff that  Pat had
given me and packed what I  needed into the  bag.  I  emptied  my pockets of
change and anything else that  might rattle or fall out. Then I cut off most
of  the top  end of a trash bag, put in my passport and  wallet, wrapped  it
into a small bundle, and put it into my coat pocket.
     Once I'd done that, I jumped up  and down one more time  to  check  for
noise, picking up the bag and shaking that as well.
     "Guess what, Kelly? I'm going to go  out again in a minute, but I'll be
back very soon. Will you be OK?"
     But she was out  of  it. I left the hotel and walked toward the target.
The  bag  had two handles and a  long  shoulder strap. I walked toward  the
river  with it  slung  over my  shoulder, following  the same  route as  the
previous night. Nothing had changed except that  the lights from the highway
were a bit brighter tonight without the mist.
     At  the fenced gate I  used the handles of  the duffel  to put it on my
back like a rucksack and climbed over. I'd keep it on my  back now; if I was
confronted, I could run and still keep the kit,  or, as  a last resort, draw
down on them with the Sig.
     I got level with  the target building, with the vacant lot and fence in
between. There was  no sound apart from the hum of the highway. I started to
pick  my  way through  the clutter. It was muddy  not  deep  squelching mud,
because the ground was quite hard, but I still needed to take my time to get
through;  I  didn't want to  slip and  make noise,  because  my pal  in  the
shrubbery might not be the only homeless person around here.
     I got to the fence  near the PIRA building. Using the  bush as cover, I
eased the bag off my shoulder and sat on it. The first leg was completed; it
was time to stop, look, listen, and take everything in. I needed to be extra
careful because I was on my own.  Really this was  a job for two people, one
watching,  one doing.  I spent a few minutes more just tuning in. Visibility
was a bit better tonight because of the stars.
     Looking left,  the  parking  lot was  still  empty;  to the  right, the
pallets were still where I'd seen them.
     From  my  coat pocket  I pulled out  the  trash bag protecting my docs.
Right at the base of a bush  I dug a shallow  hole in the mud with my hands,
threw in  the  bundle, and covered it over. This was my  emergency cache, my
hidey-hole, as Kelly would say. If I got lifted, I would be  sterile, and if
I got  away, there would always be the chance  of coming back and retrieving
     I  wiped the mud off my hands onto a small tuft of grass and started to
get  myself ready  for the job. I  gently unzipped the duffel. I got out the
pair  of navy blue coveralls, probably just  like the ones Kev's friends had
     The  problem with climbing over  a high fence with a forty-pound bag is
that  you can spend more time getting stuck and  making noise than  actually
crossing it.
     I pulled the draw  string from the center of my coat and put it between
my teeth.  Moving  as near to the  steel stake  support  as  I could without
breaking  cover, I  then lifted the  bag up  to  shoulder  height. Using  my
shoulders  to support its  weight, I tied the handles as near  to the top of
the fence  as I could with a quick-release  knot, throwing the free end  of
the string over the top.
     Checking  that  my weapon was  secure, I  reached up,  put  my  fingers
through the chain  links, and started  to  climb.  Once on the other  side I
again stopped, looked,  and listened; only then did I climb back up and haul
the bag  over  the fence. I climbed down once more and then got  hold of the
free end of the  string and pulled. The bag came free from  the fence, and I
took its weight. Then, squatting, I watched and listened again.
     Working  alone on  a job takes a lot of concentration because you can't
look and work  at the same time, yet both have to  be done. So you do one or
the other; you either get on with the job or you get on with looking. Try to
do both and you'll fuck up.
     I stood  up, put the bag on  my left shoulder, and gently  pulled apart
the Velcro of the coveralls so that, if necessary, I could get to my weapon.
Taking my time, I moved to the left side of the building.
     Before  I  did anything, I had to defeat  the motion detector. I was to
the left of  it, with my back  against the wall. Putting the bag in my  left
hand, I kept my eyes on the detector high above me and started slowly edging
toward it. When  I got more or  less as far as  I estimated I  could without
getting spotted, I bent down and placed the bag by my feet. Everything I did
from now on would happen on the near side of the bag.
     Security lights  that respond  to movement  make  life  much harder for
people like me, but only if they cover the whole of the building. I found it
strange  that  there  was  only  one  detector,  rather  than two  or  three
overlapping  each other to  eliminate  dead  spots. I was expecting,  at any
moment, to be  nailed by one I hadn't noticed. But whoever had installed the
security system had obviously worked on the premise that only the lower fire
escape door had to be covered and not the approach routes to it.
     It was nearly 1  a.m." which left me just over five  hours before first
light. Time was against me, but I  wasn't going to rush. I went the long way
around to collect one of the pallets.
     I got both hands in between the slats of  wood, heaved it up against my
chest, and started to walk slowly. The ground still had a top layer  of mud,
and  my shoes  squelched as  they  made contact. I finally reached the wall,
placed the pallet against the brickwork on my side of the bag, and went back
for the second one.
     I wedged the two pallets together, the bottom of the second jammed into
the gap about three rungs down from the top of the first to make a ladder. I
stopped,  looked, and listened. The pallets had been heavy; I  heard nothing
apart from the sound of my lungs gagging for air through my dry throat.
     I climbed  up on the first pallet, and that was fine. I got up onto the
second pallet and it,  too, seemed  stable enough.  I  started to climb. I'd
moved  just  two rungs when the whole structure buckled and collapsed. I hit
the ground  like a bag of shit,  and the two  pallets slammed down onto each
other with a resounding thud and clatter. Shit. Shit. Shit.
     I was lying on my back, with one of the pallets across my legs. No  one
came running to  investigate, no dogs started barking,  no  lights  came on.
Nothing  but the  noise of  the traffic and  me swallowing  hard,  trying to
moisten my mouth.
     Luckily  everything had happened on my  side  of the bag. I  lifted the
pallet and crawled from under it, quietly cursing.
     This  was crap. But what else could I have  done bought a ladder at the
mall and  carried it to the  target? I moved  to the corner of the building,
got down  on the tips of  my toes and fingers,  as if I  were  going to do a
push-up, and stuck my head around toward Ball Street.
     I was still annoyed with  myself. I  could spend all night  improvising
before I even got  into a position to  attack  this motion detector. Maybe a
ladder wasn't such a stupid idea; I should have gotten one and somehow tried
to drop it off earlier, then pick it up enroute. But it was too late now.
     I stood against the wall  and reevaluated. I  decided  to "react as the
situation dictated," which was the Firm's favorite get-out clause. It simply
meant they didn't know what to do. A bit like me really.
     Fuck  it, I was going  to get  Kelly. All  she'd  have  to do  was lean
against the pallets; she had to be there only  for about fifteen minutes and
I'd  be done. After that she could stay with me or I  could drop her back at
the hotel. I'd cross that bridge when I came to it.
     I picked up the bag, retraced the route to the high fence, and, staying
on the target side, dumped the bag and coveralls.
     Then  I followed the fence along, looking for an opening to get to Ball
Street. There wasn't time to  do the  job properly and go back  all  the way
around. I  finally found a service alley between two buildings that belonged
in some film about the mafia in 1950s New York. It took me down to the road.
I  turned left  and walked briskly to the hotel, no  more  than  two minutes
away. It was  only then I  realized that I didn't have the room  key because
I'd left it in the trash bag. I'd have to wake Kelly.
     I knocked gently at first, then a bit harder. Just when I  was starting
to sweat, I heard "Hi, Nick." A moment or two later, the door opened.
     I gave her a look of concern.
     "How did you know it was me? You should have waited  until I answered."
Then I saw the chair and the drag marks on the carpet. I smiled and gave her
a pat on the head.
     "You looked through the peephole, didn't you, clever girl? Hey, because
you're so clever, I've got a job  for you. I really, really need  your help.
Would you like to help me?"
     She looked sleepy.
     "What do you want me to do?"
     "I'll show you when we get there. Will you come with me?"
     "I guess so."
     I had a brainstorm.
     "Do you want  to do what your dad does? Because this is what Daddy does
for the good guys.
     You can tell him all about it soon."
     Her face brightened. She was a happy bunny again.
     She had to more or less run to keep up with me. We got to the alley and
headed down toward the vacant lot. It was dark; she was less than eager. She
started dragging her feet.
     "Where are we going, Nick?"
     "You want to play spies, don't you?" I said in an excited whisper.
     "Imagine you are a Power Ranger and you're going on a secret mission."
     We reached the empty lot and took the  same route toward the chain-link
fence. I held her hand, and she kept pace; I hoped she was getting into it.
     We got to the bag. I picked up the coveralls and said, "I've got to put
these on because  they're special  spy coveralls." Her face changed when she
saw them. I suddenly realized she must have made the connection with the men
who'd come to see Kev.
     "Your Daddy wears them, too. You'd better be a spy  as well;  undo your
coat."  I turned it inside out  and told her to  put  it back on. She  liked
     I picked up the bag and put it over my shoulder. I pointed.
     "Now we'll walk really slowly over there."
     When we  reached the pallets, I put the  bag down in the  same place as
     "OK.?" I asked, giving her a thumbs-up.
     "OK. "Thumbs-up.
     "See  that  thing up  there? If  that  sees  you, it'll go  waawaa  and
there'll  be lights and all sorts, and then we've lost. So you must never go
to the other side of that bag, OK?" I pointed.
     "OK." We gave each other another thumbs-up.
     I  repositioned the pallets  and showed  her what I wanted her to do. I
could hear her making little  grunts. She had started  leaning as  I'd shown
her and probably thought she had to make noises, doing manual work and all.
     I unzipped the bag, pulled out  the clock and  egg  carton, and slipped
the minute hand into its Scotch tape sleeve. I gently squeezed the tape onto
it; it held nice and firm.
     Kelly was still pushing, and I told her  to rest. At least she was into
it. She  was watching me as I put the clock and egg carton on the ground and
placed two elastic bands around my wrist.
     "It's magic, watch me!"
     She  nodded,  probably still  trying  to work  out how I'd  stopped the
remote from operating the TV "You ready, Kelly?"
     "Let's go!"
     I  climbed up slowly, trying hard to give the least possible weight and
movement for Kelly to handle.
     Once up, and about an arm's length from one side of the detector, I got
my wrist resting on my chest so that I had a good firm support. I turned the
egg  carton so that its long edge was horizontal to the ground. Then gently,
gently, I moved it about six inches below the motion detector, but not going
any  farther than its front. Once there, I rested  my back against  the wall
and my  wrists  on my  chest. I'd  have to stay  like that for about fifteen
     I  was waiting for the egg carton to move  up  against the face of  the
motion  detector,  the  movement  so imperceptible  that the detector simply
wouldn't  register it otherwise, it would have triggered every time a spider
walked across its face. I just hoped Kelly  wouldn't give up.  I'd  find out
     Now and again I looked down and winked at her.
     "Good, this, isn't it?" She looked back at me with  a big smile or so I
assumed, because all I could see was an inside-out coat, a hood, and a cloud
of breath.
     As  we both waited  for  the minute hand to  become vertical,  all of a
sudden there was a single waa! of a dying police siren.
     Shit! Shit!
     It was on the road on the other side of the building. It  couldn't have
anything to do with us. Otherwise why just one unit, and why  use  the siren
     I couldn't move. If I  did, it  would  trip the  device and what for? I
hadn't even seen a flashlight yet.
     "Nick, Nick, did you hear that?"
     "It's OK, Kelly. Just keep on pushing. It's OK, I can hear them."
     What could I do? I told myself to stay calm and think.
     A shout echoed around the parking lot. It  had come  from Ball  Street,
but a bit of a distance away. Other voices joined in. An argument had broken
out. I couldn't make out what was being said, but there were car doors being
slammed and words exchanged,  then  the sound  of a  car starting up. All  I
could think of was that someone  had parked while I fetched Kelly.  Possibly
one  of the couples  I'd seen from  Pat's car-they'd  been busy  getting the
windows steamed up and had got caught by the police. It sounded plausible; I
just made myself believe it.
     The egg carton was close to vertical. I held my  breath.  This wasn't a
science; we had a fifty-fifty chance of  success, no more. If it spotted us,
we'd have to get the fuck out of there PDQ and take our chances.
     At last the box obscured the detector. No lights came on.
     With my  teeth, I pulled the two thin elastic bands off my wrist; I got
the first one over the top of the egg carton and around the motion detector,
then pulled the back of it tight, twisted it, and wound around another  loop
of the band. I put the other band around to make it even tighter. The motion
detector was defeated.
     I slipped the  clock off the box and put it in one of the deep  pockets
at the front of my coveralls. I clambered down and rubbed Kelly's shoulders.
     "Good work!"
     She gave me a huge smile, still not too sure what it was all about--but
hey, this was what  Daddy did.  The  next  thing to  attack was the alarms,
which would mean neutralizing the telephone lines. One of Pat's presents was
a disruption device--a  black  box of computer technology about eight inches
by six;  coming out of it  were six different-colored cables with  crocodile
grips at the  end, a combination  of which I'd attach to the telephone line.
When the intruder alarm inside the building was tripped, a signal should, in
theory, be  sent to the monitor station or the police;  however, it wouldn't
get there because the disruption device would have engaged all the lines.
     I got close to Kelly's ear and said, "You can help me even more now." I
put the clock  back into the bag, and walked past the fire exit doors to the
bank of utility boxes.
     From the  bag  I pulled  out another item  from  Pat's shopping list, a
six-foot square of thick blackout material, the sort photographers use.
     I winked at Kelly.
     "More magic," I said, "and I'll need you to tell me if it works." I was
talking  in  a very low tone; at night, whispering can sometimes be heard as
far away as normal speech. I came right up to her ear again and said, "We've
got to  be really quiet, OK? If you want to talk to me, just tap  me on  the
shoulder, and then  I'll  look at you, and you  can  talk in my  ear. Do you
     She spoke into my ear.
     "That's great,  because that's  what spies  do."  I put  on  my  rubber
     She  stood  there with an  earnest expression  on her face  but looking
quite stupid with her coat inside out and the hood up.
     I said, "I also want you to  tap  me on the shoulder if you see  any of
the light coming out, OK?"
     "Even if  there's only a little bit of light coming from  me, tap me on
the shoulder. OK?"
     I  went  over  to  the  bank of  utilities,  put  the  material over my
shoulders, turned on  the Maglite with a  red filter,  and got to work. I'd
used  disruption devices  many  times. I worked  with  the  flashlight in my
mouth, and was soon dribbling. I attached the clips to the telephone line in
a variety of combinations; as they bit in, a row of lights came on. The  aim
was to  get all  six  red  lights up;  when  that  happened, the lines  were
     Ten minutes was all it took.
     I rested the box in between the  electric  and gas meters. I only hoped
there  wasn't an audio alarm  as well  as a telephone  warning. I doubted it
somehow, seeing as the budget had stretched to only one external detector.
     I took off the blanket, wrapped it in a bundle, and handed it to Kelly.
     "You've got to hold that for me because I'm going to need it again in a
minute. It's fun, this, isn't it?"
     "Yes. But I'm cold."
     "We'll be inside in a minute and it'll be  all nice and warm. Don't you
worry about that."
     I stopped, looked, listened, then moved over to the door.
     The next thing was gaining entry.
     The Americans are into pin tumbler locks in a big way.
     There are  three main  ways to defeat them. The  first, and easiest, is
just to get a  duplicate  key. The second  is called  hard keying. You get a
titanium key the size of the  lock,  and the  key  has  a bolt head that you
whack with a hammer; the titanium key pushes in and gouges out all the  soft
steel. You then fit a special bar onto the bolt head pull down, and  it rips
out the  whole  of  the cylinder.  Hard  keying was no  good for me  tonight
because I wanted to go in and come out without any body knowing. I'd have to
use the third option.
     A lock-pick  gun is a metal lock-picking device that looks like a small
pistol.  It  has  both  straight  and  offset pick  options  to  accommodate
different locks  and key ways The "trigger" of the gun is spring-loaded; you
squeeze it rapidly, and this trigger movement causes the pick to snap upward
within  the lock and transfers the striking force to  the pins that work the
lock  mechanism.  When the  pins are properly aligned,  you use  a  separate
tension  wrench  to turn  the  lock cylinder. Bad news for  people with  pin
tumblers, but a lock-pick gun can open most of them in less than a minute.
     With  the blanket  over me I turned on  the Maglite and put  it  in  my
mouth. I inserted the tension wrench into the bottom of the keyway opposite
the  pins and  applied light pressure  counterclockwise, in  the direction I
expected the lock to turn.
     I then inserted the pick that  protruded from the front of me lock-pick
gun. Once the gun and  tension wrench were in place, I started squeezing the
trigger  rapidly.  I  gave  it five shots  but  the lock didn't open,  so  I
increased the tension adjustment  and tried again. I could hear it go clink,
clink, clink as I squeezed; again I  turned the tension  adjustment  so that
the needle would strike the  pins with just enough force. One by one I heard
the pins drop, and eventually the  tumbler  turned. I held the small tension
wrench in the lock and  pulled  the door  to take the pressure off  the lock
itself, because I didn't want to have too much torque on the wrench and bust
it,  leaving the telltale bit of metal  stuck inside.  I pulled the door and
felt it give.
     I opened it a fraction, half-expecting the sound  of an alarm. Nothing.
I grinned at Kelly, who was right up against the wall with me, very excited.
I closed the door again to keep the light in.
     "When we get in,  you  mustn't touch anything un  less I tell you, OK?"
She nodded.
     There's a world outside that  is full  of mud and  shit, and there's  a
world inside  that is clean, and if you don't  want  to be  compromised, you
don't combine the two. I took off the coveralls, turned them inside out, and
deposited them in the bag.
     I then took off  my shoes and stuck them  into the bag. I put on a pair
of running  shoes,  which meant  that  not only  could  I  move  quickly and
silently inside but also I wouldn't be leaving a trail of mud everywhere.
     I took off Kelly's coat, put it on the  right way,  and got her to take
off her shoes and shove them in the bag.
     I had  one last  check around  the  area to  make  sure  I hadn't  left
     "We're  going to  go inside  now, Kelly.  This is going to be the first
time a little girl has done spying like this ever ever ever. But you must do
what I say, OK?"
     She accepted the mission.
     I  picked up the bag, and we moved  over to  the left-hand side of  the
     "When I  open this, just walk in a couple of steps  and  give me enough
room to come in behind you, OK?"
     I didn't want to tell her what to do if  anything went wrong, because I
didn't want  to get  her frightened. I just wanted  to  make it  sound as if
everything I did was going to work.
     "After three  one, two, three." I opened the door halfway, and she went
right in. I followed, closed  the door,  and put  the lock back on. Done: we
were inside.
     We followed the corridor, looking now for  the  staircase to the second
floor. I had the bag on my left shoulder. Through glass doors at the  end of
the  corridor I  could  see  the  front  of  the  building. It  was a large,
open-office  area  with  everything I'd have expected to see:  desks, filing
cabinets, and  rubber  plants with  name tags. To the left  and right of  us
there were other offices and a copying room. The air-conditioning  was still
     I  found the  stairs  behind  unlocked swing  doors  on the left of the
corridor. Gently so that it didn't squeak, I pulled one of them open and let
Kelly  through.  There  was no light in  the  stairwell. I switched  on  the
Maglite and shined the beam on the stairs. We climbed slowly.
     Quiet as we were, the  stairwell was an echo chamber, and to  Kelly the
red light must have made everything look scary.
     She said, "Nick, I don't like this!"
     "Shhh! It's OK. Don't worry about it your dad and I used to do this all
the time." I grabbed her hand, and we carried on.
     We got to the door. It would open toward us because it was a fire exit.
I put down  the bag, put my lips up to Kelly's ear, and went, "Shhh," trying
to make it all exciting.
     I slowly eased the door open an inch and looked into the corridor. Same
as downstairs,  the  lights were  on  and  every  thing  seemed deserted.  I
listened, opened the door more to let  Kelly through,  and  pointed  where I
wanted her to go and stand. She was a lot happier to be in the light.
     I put the bag down next to her.
     "Wait there a  minute." I turned right, past the rest rooms and an area
that housed  the  Coke, water, and coffee machines.  Next was another  photo
copy room. I went to the fire-escape door,  pulled  it toward me, undid  the
latch, and checked that it would open.  I already  knew there was nothing on
the other side to obstruct it because I'd just been fucking around below it.
If there was a drama, we had an escape route.
     I picked up the  bag again,  and  we started to walk along the corridor
toward the front of the building. We came to the same sort of glass doors as
on the floor below, which opened up into  the open area. I could see all the
workstations,   and  around  the   edge  there  were  other   offices,   all
     Obviously the managers liked to keep an eye on everyone.
     The windows  that  fronted the office block were maybe fifty feet away.
Light from the street and the corridor gave the whole area an eerie glow. To
the right was another glass door that led into another corridor.
     I knew what I was looking for, but I didn't know where I'd find it; all
I knew was that it certainly wouldn't be in this part of the building.
     I looked down and smiled at Kelly. She was as happy as a  clam, just as
her dad would have been.  Keeping  well away from  the windows, we walked to
the other side of the open area toward the glass door.
     There was all the normal office stuff: a bulletin board with targets to
be  reached, pictures of the salesman of the year, and a thank-you card from
somebody who'd just had a baby. Most desks had a  small frame with  pictures
of the family, and everywhere I looked there were motivational posters, shit
     courage to lose sight of the shore. I  had to stop  and read  them. The
only  one I'd seen before was of  a big pen of sheep all closed up together,
and it said, either lead, follow, or get out of the way. It was  on the wall
of the HQ of  the SAS, and had been there for years.  It seemed to  me to be
the only one you needed.
     We went through the glass doors. The  corridor was about ten feet wide,
with plain white walls and not  a  poster or potted plant  in  sight--just a
large fire extinguisher near the door. The sudden brightness of the lighting
made me  close my eyes until they  adjusted. There  were no  more doors, but
about thirty feet farther down was a T-intersection. I could see offices. We
walked down to them; I put down the bag and motioned Kelly to stay with it.
     "Remember, don't touch a thing."
     The handle  on  the door of  each office was a large metal knob  with a
pin-tumbler lock in the middle. I tested each one, pulling the handle toward
me so  as  not to make  any noise, then gently trying to turn it. There were
seven  offices  in  this corridor area; all of them  were  locked. That  was
nothing special in itself; it just meant that I'd have  to use the lock-pick
gun on each one in turn.
     I went  back to  the bag. Kelly was standing beside it, desperate for a
job.  I said, "Kelly, you've really got to help me now. I want you to  stand
where  I tell you, and you've got to  tell me if anyone's coming, all right?
I've got to do exactly what I did outside and I still need your help, OK?"
     I was getting nod after nod. I kept going: "It's really important;
     it's  the  most important job tonight. And we've both got to be really,
really quiet, OK?"
     Another nod. I moved her into position.
     "I want you to stand on the corner here. Your job is also to look after
that  bag,  because  there's  a  lot of  important stuff in it.  If you  see
anything, just tap me on the shoulder like before."
     She nodded, and I got out the lock-pick gun.
     I got to  the first door and  started to squeeze. I  opened it with the
tension wrench and popped my head in, made sure I couldn't see  any windows,
and turned on the  light. It  was  basically just  one office,  quite large,
about twenty feet  by  fifteen,  a  couple  of telephones, a picture  of the
worker's wife, a couple of  filing cabinets, very basic  furniture.  Nothing
resembling  what I was looking for. I didn't check the  filing cabinets--the
first look is nothing more than a once-over;
     you don't want to spend ages in one location only to find out that what
you want is sitting on a desk in the room next door.
     I didn't relock the door because I might have to go back in.
     I looked at  Kelly, still at her  post; I  stuck  my thumb  up and  she
grinned. She had a big job to do.
     I went into office  number two.  Exactly the  same, normal office shit:
the  year  planner with different-colored bits of tape on it, signs  stating
that there was  a strict no-smoking policy, and  individual mugs  of coffee.
People's offices are  a reflection of themselves; that's  why on  a job like
this it's so important that nothing be left out of place. They would  notice
     I continued down the corridor and went to number three.
     The same. Four: the same. I was starting to feel I was on a  wild-goose
     Now for the other  three offices; I crossed over the T, and as I passed
Kelly she tried to look even more hard at work. I gave her another thumbs-up
and went to number five.
     It  was  a much bigger office. There were two couches facing each other
with a coffee table in between and a neat arrangement of magazines; a wooden
liquor cabinet, smart wooden filing cabinets, framed  diplomas and all sorts
of things on the wall. But nothing that looked like what I was looking for.
     However, behind a large desk and leather swing chair, there was another
door.  I got the lock-pick gun working.  Inside, I  found filing cabinets, a
fantastically expensive-looking leather-topped  desk, and a swivel chair. On
the desk  was a  PC. It  wasn't connected to another  computer,  nor was  it
connected to a phone line. There wasn't even a telephone in the room.
     This could be where the key point was.
     It could be a fiber-optic cable that's controlling fixed Scud launching
sites  in  northern Iraq, or it could  be just one  small component  in  the
control  room  of  a  nuclear  power station,  but  a key  point  has  to be
protected. If it's damaged, everything else is inoperable. It might not take
a hundred pounds of explosives to destroy  a target; if you can identify the
key point, then  sometimes  one  blow from  a two-pound hammer  will  do the
trick. I quickly checked the remaining  two offices and  confirmed that this
was the one I should be concentrating on.
     I went back to the bag and got out the Polaroid camera.
     Kelly was still working on her gold star for best spy. I smiled:
     "I think I've found it, Kelly!"
     She smiled back. She didn't have a clue what I was talking about.
     I took pictures of the outer office, of what the desktop looked like, a
couple of panoramic shots of the area, the coffee table in detail, including
the  way the magazines  were  lying; the way  that  the stuff was set on the
table, a picture of all the drawers. In all I took eight shots of the inside
of the  first  office.  I now knew  exactly what it had looked  like when  I
entered, so when we left I could make sure it looked exactly the same.
     I laid the  Polaroids in a  row on  the  floor  against the wall by the
door, just inside the office.  The trash from  the prints went straight into
my pockets.
     Waiting  for the photographs to develop, I put my head  around the door
to check on Kelly.
     I picked up the bag and brought Kelly with me into the bigger office. I
said, "I  want you to  tell me  when  those pictures are all developed. Make
sure you don't touch a  thing, but it's really  important I know when  those
pictures are ready.
     Your daddy used to do this job."
     I closed the door behind us and jammed two wedges in place.
     I remembered a  job I'd  once done with Kev. We'd been sent to plan the
insertion  of  a visual  and audio  device  into  an  arms dealer's house in
Vancouver.  This guy was selling nuclear detonators on the  black market and
we were assigned to recon  the house, come back to the  UK, and  plan how to
put the devices in so that a listening station set up in a nearby hotel room
could find out what was happening.
     Once  we  got  into the  house we took photographs of all the bits  and
pieces that were needed  to plan and prepare  our technical attack. After a
while  we  were just bored;  it wasn't  that  hard a job.  We  went into the
bedroom, wedged  the door, and started going through his wife's closets. She
was very young, and Danish;  looking at the two of them in their pictures in
the  living room, I'd been sure  she loved  her fifty-eight-year-old grossly
overweight husband: there was no way it was his  millions of dollars she was
interested  in.  It was then that Kev opened a drawer and  discovered untold
amounts of kinky underwear.
     The rest of the night was spent taking pictures of each  other with her
panties  over our  heads.  In  fact,  more  time and  effort,  planning  and
preparation  went  into getting her underwear out than into most of the rest
of the job.  It was while  we were  tittering  in the  darkroom  back at the
embassy that Kev  had suddenly broken out in  a cold  sweat, convinced  he'd
left a pair of panties on the bed. If  he had, there was nothing we could do
about  it--except  imagine  the overweight  arms  dealer finding  a pair  of
frillies on his pillow and thinking all his Christmases had come at once.
     I  told Kelly to stay where she was, moved into the  second office, and
started taking  more pictures. The cleaning service hadn't been in here. The
other  offices had  empty wastebaskets,  but these two  offices  hadn't been
touched; they obviously did  these themselves, but not every day.  Even more
indication that this was a secure area. As I moved around  this small room I
saw  a shredder beside the filing cabinet, and  that confirmed  it. What was
being  kept  secret, however,  I didn't yet  know. I put the pictures of the
second room on the floor and went back into the main office.
     Looking over Kelly's shoulder, I asked, "How's it going?"
     "One's nearly ready, look!"
     "Great. What Daddy does also is collect the other pictures."
     I pointed to the ones next door on the carpet.
     "But one at a  time, and  put them in  a  nice  long line just here." I
showed her that I wanted them against the wall.
     "Can you manage that?"
     "Yeah, sure." She walked off.
     I  went back next door  and had a quick look at  the PC. It was on  but
asleep. Kelly was walking in and out, carrying one picture at  a time  as if
it were a bomb.
     I  pressed the Return key on the keyboard; I didn't  want to  touch the
mouse because maybe it was positioned as a telltale.  The screen came  alive
with  Windows 95 and the Microsoft sound which pleased me,  because I'd have
been struggling with any other system.
     I  went back  to  Kelly, who was still  staring at the  pictures in the
other office.
     "Look," she said, "some more are ready!"
     I nodded  as  I  delved  into  the  bag for the  disk with  the sniffer
program. I  was not as good with computers as the sixteen-year-olds who hack
into the USAF computer defense system,  but I knew  how to use one of these.
All  you have  to  do  is  insert a floppy and  off  it  goes,  rooting into
passwords, infiltrating programs. There is nothing that they can't get into.
     I got up and turned toward the back office.
     "Won't be long," I said.
     "Come and tell me when they're ready to look at."
     Eyes glued to  the pictures, she just nodded. As I  walked  back in,  I
looked at the tracks our feet had brushed in the carpet. I'd have  to smooth
it out again once we had finished.
     I  put the  disk in  and  started  it.  The  wonderful thing about this
particular program was that  you had to answer just two questions. There was
a wup! sound and the first one came up.
     Do you want to proceed with XI 222? (Y)es or (N)o.
     I pressed the Y key. Off it went again, whirring and clicking.
     A  progress  bar came  up as the machine  clicked  away. The next stage
would take a few minutes.
     I looked at the filing  cabinet; it was going to  be a piece of cake to
get into. I went to the  bag and retrieved  what  Pat would have  called the
"surreptitious  entry kit" but  which  to  me  was just  the pick  and rakes
wallet.  It  was  a small,  black  leather case  that  contained  a  general
assortment of  tools designed for the efficient opening of most pin-tumbler,
wafer, lever, and double-sided  locks.  Among  the  sixty  pieces were full,
half, and  three-quarter rakes; diamond-tip picks and  single,  double,  and
half-double ball picks; light, medium, and  heavyweight  tension wrenches of
various  lengths  and  styles;  hook-and  saw-type  broken-key  extractors,
probes, feeler  pick,  needle pick, and  double-ball rake. Don't  leave home
without it.
     The progress bar was showing it  was just halfway through a process, so
I started on the filing cabinets with a feeler pick.
     It was a standard lock and opened easily. The contents meant nothing to
me.  They seemed to be spreadsheets and  documents  with  itemized bills and
     I looked at the screen. It was nearly at the end of the progress bar.
     The  guy  who'd  produced  the  sniffer program  was  a  wild-partying,
Ecstasy-taking eighteen-year-old whiz kid who  was  so into body piercing he
had half of British Steel hanging out of his face. He had a shaved head--but
that was  only after we'd  been  taking the  piss out  of  his close-cropped
effort with a  star dyed  onto  the  top. The  government  had been spending
hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to develop ways  to get into computer
programs only  to  discover, after he  had  got arrested  on  some unrelated
charge, that  this  eighteen-year-old  had come up with the greatest sniffer
program ever written. His weekly unemployment suddenly started  looking like
a check from the National Lottery.
     Wup! The  progress bar was complete. Up came  a  little box that  said:
Password: SoOSshltime! Full marks  to them for  originality; normally it was
something  like a spouse's nickname, a family  member's date  of birth, or a
license plate.
     Then up came Do you wish to proceed? (Y)es or (N)o.
     Fucking right I did. I hit the Y key and was into the machine.
     I went to the bag and  I got out the  portable backup drive  and cables
and a handful of high-capacity backup disks.
     I  went  around to the  back of  the  machine and  had  a  good look. I
connected  the drive cable and plugged it into the socket.  I  was going  to
copy everything: operating system, applications, data files, the lot.
     I  now had to move the mouse. I took  a  Polaroid but still studied  it
before moving it.
     I selected Full  System Backup, and  the  computer whirred into action,
loading  information  onto the  backup disks.  I  went  back  to  the filing
cabinets and had another mooch around, not really knowing what I was looking
at, just trying to see if there was anything I recognized.
     Wup! The prompt came up, telling me the sniffer software needed another
instruction. It  had had to  work out  another password  and wanted  to know
whether to proceed.
     I hit they key.
     The machines whirred again. I looked at  Kelly. She was  sitting by the
photos but playing a game with an imaginary  companion. Just  like her  dad;
give her a job to do and she'd forget it.
     "Kelly,  I want you to come with me. If that machine asks me a question
again, I might not see it--will you look out for it?"
     "OK." It wasn't as exciting a job as she'd been hoping for.
     As she sat on the floor with her  back  against the wall, she looked up
at me and said, "I have to go to the bathroom."
     "Yeah, in  a  minute,  we'll be  finished soon."  It was exactly  as  I
remembered,  as a kid, sitting in  the car, adults not taking me  seriously:
"We'll be there soon. Nick, just around the corner."
     She'd be all right. I said, "I'll take you in a minute."
     Wup! I pressed the Fkey.
     Kelly said again, "I really, really have to go."
     I couldn't think of the right words  for a seven-year-old. In the end I
said, "Do you want to go big toilet or little toilet?"
     She looked  at me blankly.  What could I do? Using the rest  room  in a
place  like this is always a big no-no because of the compromise factor from
noise and visible remains. What you enter with must come out with you, which
was why I'd brought an orange  juice bottle to piss into and  Saran Wrap for
anything else.  I couldn't imagine getting Kelly to piss in the bottle while
I  held the film under her bum. That was one thing her dad could do that she
     She said, "I wanna go, I wanna go," and started crossing and uncrossing
her legs. Then she stood up and was bouncing up  and down on the balls other
     I said, "OK, we'll go. Come on, come with me."
     I didn't need this, but I had to do it.  I couldn't  have her  shitting
all over the carpet.
     I  took hold  of her hand. I  retrieved the  door stops from the  outer
office door, gently opened it, and checked the corridor.
     We  moved across the open office, through the glass door, and  into the
fire-escape  corridor. We  went into the rest room and  turned the light on.
Poor  girl, she  was  pulling down  her trousers  in  such a  hurry  she was
fumbling with her buttons. I helped her, but  even so, she nearly missed the
pot altogether in her rush.
     I was wasting time. I had to return to  the  machine, and  she might be
there for five minutes or more. Backing away, I said, "Don't move, and don't
flush the toilet afterward; I'll do all that for you. I just have to go back
one minute and  get the computer working. I'll be right back. Remember shhh,
be quiet!"
     At that particular moment she didn't really care where I went or what I
did. She was in her own heaven.
     Wup!  I  left her and quietly ran  toward the office. Once I'd got  the
disk copying again, I'd come  back to Kelly, fish the shit out with my hand,
and put  it in the Saran Wrap.  Then  I'd keep pushing the toilet brush down
the bowl to lower the level of  the water  by pushing it through  the U bend
and get some fresh water from  the drinking fountain to bring the level back
up again.
     I got back  to the office and pressed the Vkey. Then I went to the  bag
to fetch the Saran Wrap.
     And it was then that I heard her scream.
     Instinctively, I pulled  out my  pistol and  stood against  the wall. I
checked chamber and took the safety catch off with my thumb.
     I could feel my  heart beating faster as the familiar sensation of cold
sweat broke out over my body. My body was getting ready for fight or flight.
The screaming  was from the  area of the  fire escape, my  only way  out. It
looked as  if  I would have  to fight. My heart was pumping so  hard it was
nearly in my mouth. I'd learned long  ago that fear is a  good thing. If you
aren't scared,  you're lying or you're mentally unstable. Everyone has fear,
but as  a professional you use training,  experience, and knowledge to block
out the emotion and help you overcome the problem.
     I was still  thinking it out when I heard a longer, more pitiful scream
of "Nick! Help me!" The sound went  through  me like a knife. Images flashed
through my  mind of her curled up in a fetal position in the  hidey-hole, of
brushing her hair and playing that stupid video-watching game.
     I was by the office door leading out into the corridor.
     I  heard  a man's voice  shout:  "I've got her!  I'll fucking kill her!
Think about it. Don't make me do it!"
     It was not  an  American voice.  Or Hispanic. Or anything else I  might
have expected. But I knew it right off: West Belfast.
     It sounded as if  they were now in the main office. He started to shout
more threats at me above Kelly's screams.  I couldn't  make out  every word,
and I didn't have to. I got the message.
     "OK, OK! I'm going to come into your view in a minute."
     My voice echoed in the semidarkness.
     "Fuck you! Throw your weapon into the corridor. Do it!"
     Then I could hear him shouting at Kelly, "Shut the fuck up!
     Shut up!"
     I came  out  of the  office  and  stopped  just  short of  the corridor
intersection. I slid my pistol out into the main corridor.
     "Put your hands on your head, walk  out  to the middle of the corridor.
If you do anything else, I'll fucking kill her--do you understand?"
     The voice was controlled; he didn't sound like a madman.
     "Yes, I'm coming out, my hands are on my head," I said.
     "Tell me when to move."
     "Now, you fucker!"
     Kelly's screams were deafening, even through the glass door. I started
to walk and, in four paces, came to the intersection.
     I knew that if I looked left I'd be able  to see them through the door,
but that  wasn't the  game  just  now.  I  didn't want eye-to-eye;  he might
     "Stop where you are, you fucker!"
     I stopped. I could still  hear the whimpering.  I didn't say  a word or
turn my head.
     In the movies  you  always hear the good  guy give encouragement to the
hostage. In real life it doesn't work like that;
     you just shut up and do what you're told.
     He said, "Turn left."
     I could  now see them both in the shadows. Kelly  had her back to me as
he dragged her toward me with a weapon stuck in her shoulder area. He pushed
the  glass door  open  with his foot  and  came out into  the light  of  the
     As I  saw him my heart dropped  from beating in quick  time  to  a slow
thud. I felt as if a ten-ton weight had just been dropped on my head. It was
Morgan McGear.
     He was dressed  very smartly in a dark-blue two-piece suit and a crisp,
clean white shirt; even his  shoes looked expensive. It was a  far cry  from
the Falls  Road  uniform  of  jeans,  bomber jacket, and  running  shoes.  I
couldn't see what sort of weapon  he was carrying;  it looked like some sort
of semiautomatic.
     He was watching me, checking me out. What was I doing here with a small
child? He knew he had control, knew there wasn't shit I  was going to do. He
now had his left hand wrapped around her hair--what a pity I hadn't cut more
off in the motel room--and he had  the weapon stuck  into her neck. This was
not a meaningless gesture; he was capable of killing her.
     She looked hysterical, poor kid; she was panicking big-time.
     He called out, "Walk toward me slowly. Walk now.
     C'mon, don't fuck with me, you shite."
     Every noise in the corridor  seemed to be amplified  ten  fold;  McGear
shouting with spit flying  out of his mouth,  Kelly screaming. It  seemed to
reverberate around the whole building. I did as he said. As I got  nearer I
looked  at her and  tried to get eye-to-eye; I wanted to comfort her, but it
didn't work.
     Her eyes were swollen with tears, her face was soaking wet and red. Her
jeans weren't even zipped up yet.
     He had me within about ten feet of him, and  now I looked into his eyes
and I could see that he knew he was  in a position  of power, but sweating a
bit. His  voice might have sounded confident, but his eyes gave it away.  If
his job was to kill us, now was his moment. With my eyes I said to him. Just
get it over and done with. There are times when after using plans  A, B, and
C you must accept you're in deep shit or shite, as this boy would say.
     He snapped, "Stop!" and the echo seemed to reinforce the threat.
     I looked at Kelly, still trying to get that eye-to-eye contact to  say:
Everything's all right, everything's OK, you  asked  me to help  you and I'm
     McGear told me to turn around. Now I knew it was really time to sweat.
     He said, "On your knees, you fucker."
     Facing away from him, I went down so I was sitting back on my heels; if
I had the  chance  to  react,  at  least  from  here  I  had  some  sort  of
     "Up!" he shouted.
     "Get up, get your ass up!" He knew what I was doing; this boy was good.
     "Kneel  upright. More, more. Stay  there, fuck you, think  you're  some
fucking hard guy.. " He moved behind  me,  dragging Kelly with him. I  could
still hear her cries,  but there  was another noise now. Some thing else was
moving; it wasn't just Kelly's moans. I didn't know what it was. I just knew
that  something unhealthy was going to happen.  All I could  do was close my
eyes, grit my teeth, and wait for it.
     He took a couple of labored steps toward me. I could hear Kelly getting
nearer, obviously still in tow.
     "Keep looking straight ahead," he said,  "or I will be hurting the  wee
one. Do  what I say or  " Either  he didn't finish his sentence or I  didn't
hear  it. The bang on the top of my shoulders and head sent me straight down
like a bag of shit.
     I  went into a  semiconscious  state. I  was  awake, but  I knew  I was
fucked,  like a boxer who goes down  and is  trying to get  up to show  the
referee that he's all right, but he's not, he's all over the place.
     I felt nailed to the floor; I looked up, but couldn't see what had done
the damage. It hadn't  been a pistol. It  takes  a decent weight to  knock a
person over. Whatever it was, it took me down but good.
     The strange thing about the next bit was that I knew what was happening
but couldn't do anything about it. I was aware ofMcGear pulling me over onto
my back and jumping astride me,  and I felt cold metal  being pushed into my
face and finally into my mouth.  Slowly, slowly, it dawned on me that it was
the pistol,  and the jumble of words he  was screaming be  came  clearer and
clearer: "Don't  fuck with me!  Don't  fuck with me! Don't fuck with me!" He
sounded out of control.
     I could smell  the nicker. He'd been drinking; there was alcohol on his
breath. He reeked of aftershave and cigarettes.
     He was sitting astride me with his knees on my shoulders and the pistol
stuck in  my mouth. He still had  his left hand around  Kelly's hair and had
pulled her onto the  floor; he was tugging her from side to  side like a rag
doll, either for the sheer  hell of it or perhaps just to keep her screaming
and make me more compliant.
     All I  could hear  was scream, scream, scream;  "Don't fuck  with me!";
scream, scream, scream; "Don't fuck with me!
     Don't  fuck with  me!  Think you're a fucking  hard guy, do you,  think
you're a fucking tough guy, huh?"
     Not  good. I knew what they  did  to "hard  guys."  McGear  once got an
informer into a room for questioning; his kneecaps were drilled with a Black
& Decker; he was burned by an electric fire and electrocuted in the bath. He
managed to jump out a window naked but broke his back. They then dragged him
into the elevator and shot him.
     I felt as if I were drunk. I was aware of what was happening but it was
taking too long for the message to reach my brain.
     Then the software started to kick in. I tried to see if the  hammer was
back on the  pistol, but all I could still see were bubbles of  red light in
front  of  my eyes, and star bursts of white. All I could make  out  was all
this screaming and ranting from him.
     "You bastard! I'm gonna fuck you up!
     Who are you?" and the screaming from Kelly. It was total confusion.
     I tried again to focus my eyes, and this time it worked I could see the
position of the hammer.  The hammer  was back. It was a 9mm. But what about
the safety catch? It was off.
     There was nothing I could do. He'd got his finger on the trigger; if  I
struggled, I was dead, whether he intended it or not.
     He said, "You think you're fucking hard? Do you? Do you?
     We'll soon  see who is the hard man." Then he jumped  his weight up and
down to crush my chest, forcing the pistol harder into my mouth.
     To add  to the confusion,  Kelly  was still  screaming with terror  and
pain. I didn't have a clue what was expected of me;
     all I knew was that I had a  pistol stuck  in my mouth and this guy was
in charge.
     He started to regain his composure. The pistol was  still  shoved  hard
into my mouth, but he was  beginning to ease himself to his  feet. He did it
by putting weight on the pistol  and  then against my  face;  as  the pistol
turned  in  my mouth, it twisted painfully  up  against my cheek  and teeth,
scraping them with  the sight. And all  the  time he kept  a grip on Kelly's
hair, pulling her around all over the place.
     He moved back, the pistol now aimed at my chest.
     "Get back up on your knees!"
     "All right, mate, OK. You got me, OK."
     As I moved  I saw  what had  taken me down. The fire  extinguisher  had
split open  the  skin  at  the back of my head. There was  blood oozing  out
everywhere and matting down my hair.
     There was nothing I could do; you just can't stop capillary bleeding.
     I got back on my knees, my ass  up in the air again so I wasn't resting
on the heels  of  my feet, and  I was looking at  him, trying to sort myself
out.  He started  to  walk  backward toward the  office, keeping the  weapon
pointed at me.
     "Come on, hard man, on your knees."
     I got the hint, he wanted me to follow him.
     By  now Kelly was a  mess.  There  was a small trail of my  blood being
wiped along  the  floor. Kelly must have been kneeling in it before  she was
moved. She  had her hands on  his wrist, trying to support herself. She kept
on tripping up, walking on her knees, trying to pick herself up,  as if  she
were getting dragged behind a  horse. All he  was  interested  in was moving
backward with the weapon pointing at me.
     He said, "Stay where the fuck you are!" and then shuffled backward past
the door to the large office.
     I  was trying to  compose myself;  I knew  I  didn't have long  to live
unless I took some action.
     "In there!"
     I started to shuffle in.
     I got up and walked into the  room, my back still toward  him. I walked
slowly toward the coffee  table. I was just about to move off to the side to
go around it when he said, "Stop!
     Turn around!"
     I did as I was told.  It was an  unusual command  because  normally you
want  the  person  you're holding facing away  from you  so they  don't know
what's going on. If you can't see, it's difficult to react.
     As I turned, I saw Kelly sitting on the leather  swivel  chair that now
had been dragged to the left of the desk. McGear was standing behind her. He
still  had his  left hand wrapped around her hair  and was pulling her  back
onto the seat and pointing the 9mm at me.
     The top half  of a semiautomatic,  the part of the weapon  on which the
fore and rear  sights  are mounted, is  called the top-slide. It  moves back
when you've fired  to eject the empty  case,  then picks up  a round on  its
return. If it's moved back by as little  as an eighth of an inch, the weapon
can't fire--so if you're quick enough, you can shove your hand hard onto the
front of the muzzle, push the top slide  back, and the trigger won't work as
long  as  you  can keep  it  there.  It's  got to  be  really  quick, really
aggressive, but I had nothing to lose.
     There was a lull--was he trying to make a decision about what to do? It
was less than twenty seconds, but it seemed like forever.
     Kelly kept crying  and whimpering; there must have been  friction burns
on her knees where she had been dragged earlier.
     With  his left hand McGear yanked her upright and said, "Shut  the fuck
up!" And just as he did that, we stopped  having eye-to-eye contact; I  knew
that it was time.
     I leaped forward, shouting at the top of my voice to disorient him, got
my right hand  and pushed it as  hard as I could against the muzzle, pushing
down on the top slide so I moved it back maybe half an inch.
     He shouted a loud, drawn-out "Fuck!" half in anger, half in pain.
     I got  hold of his wrist, pulled it toward me, and  pushed away with my
right hand against the top slide He tried, but  it was too late for  him; it
didn't fire. I needed to  grip my hand around the muzzle now to keep the top
slide back.
     As this was happening, I  was  pushing toward the wall-just push, push,
push;  he  still  had  hold of  Kelly, and  she was  being  dragged  around,
screaming  at the top of her  voice.  I shut her out of my mind,  keeping my
eyes on  the pistol, my body bent down, pushing and pushing. I felt the  air
leave  his body  as he  hit the wall. Kelly was getting in  the  way; I  was
stepping on her, he was stepping on her, and she was screaming out  in pain.
He must have decided  he needed two  hands to sort me out  because, the next
thing I knew, Kelly was running.
     I started to head-butt in  earnest. I was hitting  him with my head,  I
was hitting him  with my nose, with the side of my face. My nose was hurting
and bleeding as  much as  his  must have been, but  I just kept on  butting,
butting, and butting,
     trying to do as much damage to him as  possible, and, at the same time,
keeping him against the wall.
     He was screaming, "You fucker! You fucker! You fucker!
     You're dead!"
     And I was doing exactly the same back, screaming, "Fuck you! Fuck  you!
Fuck! Fuck!"
     I still had him  pushed right  against  the  wall. As I butted him, his
teeth cut into my face,  opening up my forehead and just  below my eye.  You
don't notice the  pain  when  the adrenaline is pumping. I  head-butted  him
again and again; it wasn't going to do him much lasting damage, but that was
all I could do at the moment. My hands were on the weapon and I was shouting
all sorts of  shit at the top of  my voice to scare him  and, even  more, to
keep me psyched.
     As his  head  came  down, I bit the first thing that came into range. I
felt  my  teeth  on the  taut skin  of  his  cheek. There  was that  initial
resistance, and then my teeth broke into what felt like warm squid and I was
ripping  his  face  open.  He  screamed  out even louder,  but I was focused
totally  on what  I was  doing; all other thoughts went out the window and I
bit, gouged, did whatever damage I could.
     My teeth sank in and in. He squealed  like a pig. I had  a mouthful  of
his cheek and was ripping and tearing. I saw terror in his eyes.
     By now there was blood  all over  the two of us; I could taste the iron
tang of it, and my whole face was drenched from the cuts on my face and his,
all getting mixed in with our sweat.
     Trying  to clear my mouth, I choked some of  it up into the back  of my
     All the time, I was twisting the weapon away from me and trying to keep
the top  slide back. He  was still pretty  switched on and was squeezing the
trigger,  but nothing was happening--for now. His other hand was pulling  at
my fingers, trying to  pry them  off the weapon. As  long  as I kept my hand
gripped  around that top  slide I'd  be all  right.  I  kept on pushing  and
pushing, keeping him up against  something firm so I could lean against him,
because all I wanted to do was move that pistol around.
     I was still biting and gnawing. I'd gone through the first  part of his
cheek and  kept on  going. By now I was biting the  top of his eyelid, I was
biting his nose, everywhere I was ripping through  the skin onto the bone of
his jaw and skull.
     I was running out of breath because  the adrenaline  was draining away,
and pushing him against the wall had taken a lot of physical strength out of
me. Then I started to choke,  and I realized I had some of his  skin at  the
back of my throat.
     I  could hear air being  sucked into the hole in  his cheek  as he  was
breathing; I could hear  my own throat rattling,  blocked  by chunks  of his
     I  was fighting him by  feel, not sight. Our blood was burning  into my
eyes. Everything was  blurred. I  didn't know  where Kelly was  and  at this
stage I didn't care. I couldn't help her until I'd helped myself.
     I was still trying to get the pistol into  him somewhere. I didn't give
a  fuck where it went it could go  into his leg, into his stomach, I  didn't
give a fuck, as long as I could start shooting him.
     His screams increased as my finger wrapped around his on the trigger.
     I turned it around, let go of the top slide and squeezed.
     The first two shots  missed, but I kept  on shooting. I moved it around
again and got him in the hip and then the thigh. He went down.
     Everything stopped. The lack of noise was absolutely deafening.
     After two or three seconds I could hear Kelly's  screams rebounding off
the walls. At least she was  still somewhere in the building. She sounded as
though she was throwing a fit.
     All I could hear was a high-pitched continuous scream. I was too fucked
up to do anything about it. I was too busy trying to cough up McGear's skin.
     I'd find her later. I pulled myself  up. I was  in pain. The back of my
neck felt as if it could no longer hold my head.
     He  writhed on the ground, bleeding  and begging, "Don't kill me,  man!
Don't kill me! Don't kill me!"
     I got hold of the pistol and did  to him as  he had done to me, jumping
astride him, ramming it deep into his mouth.
     For  several  seconds  I just  sat  there trying  to  catch my  breath.
McGear's body might be dying, but his eyes were alive.
     "Why did  you kill  the  family?" I  said, pulling the pistol  from his
mouth so he could speak.
     "Tell  me and you'll live." i He was looking at  me  as if he wanted to
say something but didn't know what. I "Just tell me why. I need to know."
     "I don't know what the fuck you mean."
     I looked into his eyes and I knew he was telling the truth.
     "What is on that computer?"
     There was no slow reaction this time. His lip curled and he said, "Fuck
     I jammed  the  weapon  back  into his mouth and  said  quietly, firmly,
almost sort of fatherly, "Look at me! Look at me!"
     I looked back into his eyes. No point carrying this on. He wouldn't say
anything. He was too good for that.
     Fuck it. I pulled the trigger. I took a deep breath and wiped away the
blood that had splattered onto  my  face when he  took the round. I tried to
regain  some form of composure. Stop, just take that couple of  seconds take
another deep breath, and try to work out what the fuck to do next.
     The shots would have been  heard and  reported. At least, I had to plan
as  if  they  were.  I  could  still hear  Kelly screaming in  the  distance
     First priority was the equipment. I pushed myself up off McGear's chest
and staggered  back into the small office.  I ripped  the cable and electric
cord from the PC, took the sniffer software out of the floppy drive, and put
it  in my  top pocket.  I packed everything  in  the bag and returned to the
large office.
     I went  over  to McGear. He  looked like Kelly  when she was  sleeping,
except this starfish had a face like a  pizza and a large exit wound  in the
back of his head oozing gray stuff onto the plush carpet.
     I picked up the bag, slung it over my left shoulder, and moved into the
corridor  to  pick  up my pistol.  I had to find Kelly.  Easy I  just had to
follow the screams.
     She  was  fighting  with  the  fire-escape door, the  back  other  coat
splattered  with  blood.  She  was  right  up  against  the  door  trying to
manipulate the handle, but she was in such a state that her fingers couldn't
do it. She  was jumping from  foot  to foot, screaming and beating her fists
against the door in  frustration and  fright. I came up behind her, got hold
other arm, and shook her.
     "Stop it! Stop it!"
     It wasn't the right thing to do. She was hysterical.
     I  looked  into her eyes  under the  tears and said, "Look,  people are
trying to kill you. Do you understand that? Do you want to die?"
     She tried to shake me off. I put my hand over her mouth and listened to
her blocked-up nose fighting for oxygen.  I got  her  face  right up against
     "These people  are trying to kill  you. Stop crying, do  you understand
me? Stop crying."
     She went quiet and limp and I let go of her.
     "Give me your hand, Kelly."
     It was like  holding lettuce. I  said, "Be quiet and just listen to me.
You've got  to listen  to me,  OK?"  I  was looking at  her eyes and nodding
     She just stared through me, tears still  running  down  her cheeks, but
she was trying to hold them back.
     I pushed the  fire-exit bar and cold, damp  air hit my face. I couldn't
see  anything because  my night  vision  was fucked. I dragged Kelly by  the
hand, and the clunks of our footsteps echoed down the metal stairs. I didn't
give a fuck about the noise; we'd made enough already.
     Running toward the fence, I slipped in the mud.  Seeing  me fall, Kelly
let out a cry and  burst into tears again. I  shook her and told her to shut
     As we  got  to the fence I  could already hear sirens on the highway. I
had to  assume they  were coming for us.  After  a moment I  could hear more
noise coming from the parking lot area.
     "Wait here!"
     I climbed up the chain-link  fence with the equipment, dropped  it over
the other  side, and  jumped. They were getting closer,  but I couldn't  see
them yet. Kelly was looking at me from the other side of  the fence, bobbing
up and down, hands on the wire.
     "Nick--Nick... Don't leave me here."
     I didn't even look where I was digging. My eyes were  fixed on the  gap
between the  two  buildings.  Coming  from my  right to left, flashing  blue
lights on the highway lit up the sky.
     Kelly's whimpers turned to sobs.
     I said, "We'll be all right, we'll be all  right.  Just stay where  you
are. Look at me! Look at me!" I got eye-to-eye.
     "Stay where you are!"
     The  lights  and noise  were  now  on  Ball Street. I  got  hold of  my
documents and put them in my pocket.
     All  the vehicles had stopped, their sirens dying. The blue lights were
still flashing, reflecting on Kelly's face, wet with tears.
     I looked at her through the fence and whispered, "Kelly!
     She was in a daze of fear.
     "Kelly, follow me now. Do you understand? Come on!"
     I  started  moving along  the fence. She  was whining and  wanting  her
mommy. She sounded more and more desperate.
     As her feet slapped  the ground  it  made her pleas sound like somebody
talking in a helicopter. I said, "You've  got to keep up,  Kelly, you've got
to keep up. Come on!"
     I was moving fast. She slipped and fell into the mud. I wasn't there to
pick her up this time. She lay there sobbing.
     want to go home, I want to go home so bad. Please take me home."
     By  now there were three police cars on the scene. We weren't  even two
hundred yards away yet. Very soon they would use their searchlights and spot
     "Get up, Kelly, get up!"
     The target  now seemed surrounded by a haze  of  blue and  red  lights.
Flashlights were already jerking in the darkness at the rear.
     We carried on until  we got level with the alley. The sound  of  sirens
again filled the night.
     I climbed over the fence,  the bag nearly landing on top of Kelly as  I
let  it fall. I grabbed  her right hand with my left and started toward  the
     I needed to find a car that was parked in the shadows and old enough to
have no alarms.
     We emerged from the alley and turned left, following a  line  of parked
cars. I found an early nineties Chevy. I put the bag down and ordered Kelly,
"Sit by this."
     I opened the bag and got out the picks. Minutes later I was in. I wired
up the ignition and the engine fired. The digital clock said 3:33.
     I  let the engine  run and put the windshield wipers and heater on full
blast to clear  the morning dew.  I got hold of Kelly  and the bag and threw
them both in the back.
     "Lie down, Kelly, go to sleep." No argument from her on the lying down.
She might have trouble sleeping, though. Perhaps for the rest of her life.
     I  drove to the  road and  turned  left,  nice  and slow. After just  a
quarter of  a  mile  I spotted flashing  lights coming  toward  me. I got my
pistol out and put it under my right  thigh. If  these boys stopped me,  I'd
have  to take them on. There was no way  I was going to let the fuckers take
     I shouted back at Kelly, "Stay down, do not get up, do you understand?"
     There was no reply.
     I got a weak "Yes."
     If I had to kill these policemen, it would be unfortunate, but when all
was  said and done this was  the sort of thing they got  paid for. I made my
plan. If they stopped me, I'd wait until  one or both came within range. The
pistol was where my hand would naturally go, and I'd draw down on them.
     The flashing blue and red  came closer. I just drove on toward them. My
mind-set was  that I was a  shift worker, on my  way to  earn my living. Now
their lights were making me screw up my eyes so I could see beyond.
     I wasn't worried. I felt very calm.  Just  wait and see. They sped past
at more than sixty.
     I looked  in the rearview mirror.  They  hit  the  brakes;  now  I  was
sweating. I watched and made distance at the same time.
     The  brake  lights went off.  Either they'd just been slowing  down  or
they'd changed their minds.
     I needed to dump  this  car before first light, which was  probably the
earliest the owner would discover it missing.  I also had to get both  Kelly
and me a change of clothes, and we had to get into another hotel.
     Kelly started yelling, "I want to go home! I want to go home! I want my
" "Kelly, we are going home! But not yet!" I had to shout to cut in.
     I couldn't see her, so I tilted the mirror. She was curled  up with her
thumb in her mouth. My mind flashed  back to the times  I'd  found her  like
that and I said, quietly, "We will, don't worry."
     We  were following a road that seemed to parallel  the  Potomac, on its
west side.  After about  half  an hour I found an all-night  supermarket.  I
parked. There were maybe  twenty or thirty vehicles outside; at that time of
the morning most of them probably belonged to employees.
     Kelly didn't  ask why we were  stopping. I turned around and said, "I'm
going to get us  some  more clothes. Do you want anything? Shall  I  see  if
they've got a deli and we'll get some sandwiches?"
     She whimpered, "Don't go,  don't leave me!" She looked as if she'd been
slapped. Her face was bright red, with puflfy eyes and wet hair stuck to her
face. You  don't  take  a beaten-up seven-year-old with blood on her clothes
into a store after four in the morning.
     I  leaned over  into  the back,  unzipped  the  bag,  and  took out the
coveralls. I  said, "I've got  to leave you  here.  I need somebody to  look
after everything." I pointed to the bag.
     "Can you do that for me? You're a big girl now, a great spy."
     She nodded reluctantly.
     I started to get the coveralls on while still sitting in the car seat.
     "What?" I was busy fighting with a leg.
     "I heard shooting. Is that man dead?"
     "Which  man is that?" I didn't want to turn around, didn't want to face
     "No, he's not.  I think he made  a mistake and thought we  were someone
else. He'll be OK."
     I was now arching my back to get the top half on.
     "The police will take him to the hospital."
     That was enough of that. I quickly got out of the car and poked my head
back in.  Before  I even started to  outline the  routine  she said, "You're
coming back, aren't you? I want to go home and see Mommy."
     "Definitely, I will  come  back,  no problems, and  you will see  Mommy
     I turned the interior light on and moved the rearview mirror so I could
see my  face. The deep cuts on  my forehead and under my eye were still wet,
the plasma trying hard to get a scab going.  I spat on my hand and  used the
cuff of the coveralls to wipe the rest of the  blood  off, but there  wasn't
much more I could do. Industrial accident.
     I  signaled  Kelly to lock  the  door  and lie  down.  She  nodded  and
     I grabbed a cart and went through  the electric door. I got money  from
the ATM, then  two sets of everything for Kelly  and  me, plus a washing and
shaving  kit and a box of baby wipes,  and  some painkillers for my neck. It
was hurting bad now.  I could  look left or right only  by turning my  whole
     I must have  looked  like a  robot. I threw in  some Coke,  chips,  and
     There weren't many shoppers. My cuts drew the odd glance but no stares.
     I got back to the  car and tapped on the window. I didn't say anything.
Kelly stared up; the windows were now covered in condensation, so she had to
wipe it with  her sleeve. I  could see she'd  been crying. I pointed  at the
lock, and she opened it.
     I was all big smiles.
     "Hiya, how's it going?"
     There  wasn't much of a reply. As I dumped  all the purchases onto  the
passenger seat,  I said, "Look, I've got a present for you." I showed  her a
Snickers bar. There was a reluctant smile. She took it and opened it.
     I  looked  at the car clock.  It was nearly  5 a.m. We  started driving
toward the Beltway, then headed west.
     I  saw the sign for Dulles International and slowed down for  the exit.
We had to  dump  the car soon; I had to assume that  the driver was an early
     Kelly was lying in  the back, staring at  the door. Either she was in a
dream world, or she had  been  damaged mentally by what she had seen. At the
moment I didn't really care which.
     We were  about eight miles from Dulles. I started to keep a lookout for
hotels. I saw the sign for an Economy Inn.
     Absolutely perfect but first, we had to get ourselves cleaned up.
     As we continued on toward the airport I could see the wing lights of an
aircraft making  its approach about four miles away. I followed the signs to
the economy parking, having stopped just  short to check for cameras at  the
entrance. There weren't any; they  must  register on the way out.  I took my
ticket and parked among thousands of other cars.
     "Kelly, we're going to get you dressed in some new clothes," I said.
     I showed her what I'd bought, and as she was getting un dressed, I  got
out the baby wipes and cleaned her face.
     "Here, let's get rid of all those tears, let's clean  you all up,  here
you are, here's a brush." I brushed her hair too quickly; it hurt her.
     "OK, let's  get this sweatshirt  on  you.  Here you go.  There,  you're
looking good. Here's another wipe blow your nose."
     While she was doing that, I got myself changed as well, then dumped all
the clothes in the passenger foot  well Kelly was still looking miserable as
the  shuttle took us to the terminal. We  walked into the  departures area.
The terminal was busier than I'd been expecting at this time of the morning.
People were  checking in all along the lines of desks, hanging around in the
shops, or sitting in the cafes, reading newspapers.
     I wasn't saying much to Kelly, just  holding her hand as I moved along,
bag  on my  left shoulder, looking for the Ar rivals  sign, then to the taxi
stand.  An escalator showed me the  way  down. We were nearly at the  bottom
when Kelly announced, "I need to go to the bathroom."
     "You sure?" I just wanted to get out of there.
     "I'm really sure."
     "OK." After the last time I'd learned my lesson.
     I followed signs  to the  rest rooms. They  were  to the left, near the
large exit doors from international arrivals. You went in through one of two
large openings in  the  wall and immedi lately came across a row of seven or
eight  disabled  toilets, all unisex,  and on either  side of this  were the
entrances to  the  men's and  women's rooms. I  stayed  outside  in the main
concourse, watching all the people who were  waiting for the automatic doors
to open and their loved ones to be disgorged.
     You always know when you're being stared at.  I'd been standing there a
minute or two  when  I  became aware.  I  looked up.  It was  an  old woman,
standing against the rail facing me on the opposite side of the channel made
by the barriers, Obviously waiting for somebody to come through. There was a
silver-haired man with her, but her eyes were fixed on my face.
     She looked away, turning her back to the exit doors, even though people
were streaming out with their carts.  Every few seconds I heard a  scream of
joy as people were reunited.
     What had she been looking at? The  cuts on my face? I hoped it was just
that. There  was nothing I  could  do about it anyway. I would just shake it
off, but keep an eye on her all the same.
     Then I saw her start talking  to her  husband.  She wasn't passing  the
time of day. Her body language looked urgent and agitated. He looked over in
my direction,  then back at her;  he gave her a  shrug that  said, "What the
hell are you talking  about, woman?  " She must have seen Kelly and me going
into  the rest rooms and said to herself, "Where do I know those two from? "
I wasn't going to move.  I  wanted to see what she was doing. The moment she
started to walk away, I'd have to take action.
     I could  tell she was still trying to figure it  out. I felt  my  heart
pumping. I avoided eye contact, but I knew she was staring. Any  moment  now
she'd remember the news report where she'd seen Kelly's face.
     The seconds  ticked by.  At last Kelly came out and stood by  me, a big
smile on her face.
     "Shall we go now?" I said, grabbing her hand before she could answer.
     As  I turned with her  for  the exit,  I  could clearly  see  the woman
tugging  her husband's arm. She recognized us. How ever, the husband had now
seen whoever it was they were meeting and was looking the other way.
     She pulled his arm more urgently.
     I  wanted to  run, but that would confirm it for her. We walked,  and I
talked crap to Kelly with the actions of a happy dad.
     "Look at those lights,  aren't they  nice? This is  the  air port I fly
into every time I  come here, have  you been here before?" Kelly didn't have
time to answer any of my stupid questions.
     I had to fight the urge to  turn around and  look. I started to  think,
what if? If I got the police on me here, I was fucked.
     There was nowhere to  go, just more of the airport, with  more security
than  you  could shake a nightstick at. My eyes were darting around.  We had
about  thirty or forty yards to go  to  the  exit  sign.  With  each step  I
expected to hear a cop shouting for me to freeze. All I  could hear was  the
general hubbub and the occasional squeal of greeting.
     We reached  the exit, turned  left, and started walking  downhill on  a
wide ramp that led down to the pickup points and the  taxis. The moment we'd
made that angle I started to move faster and chanced a look behind.
     There was a  fine drizzle  in the air  as we exited  and looked for the
     Kelly said, "What's up?"
     I said, "There's the taxis, let's go."
     We had  to  wait for three other people in  the line  before it was our
turn.  I  felt like a child who desperately wants a toy and cannot wait  any
longer. Come on, come on!
     At last we jumped into a cab and drove off. I  turned and looked behind
me. Nothing. I still couldn't  relax.  Kelly could obviously sense the drama
but didn't say another word.
     I tried to block it out of my mind. Look  hard enough and you'll find a
positive in even  the worst situation--that was what I'd always told myself.
But I couldn't get a silver lining out of what had just happened. If the old
woman  did make the connection and told the  police she had  seen us heading
for the taxis, it was negatives all the way.
     I looked at Kelly and yawned.
     "I'm sleepy," I said.
     "What about you?"
     She nodded and put her head in my lap.
     I gave  the driver  directions. Once off  the  freeway  we  drove a few
blocks, then I  got him to pull in. I  watched him drive away as we stood in
the  parking  lot  of the Marriott. We  would walk  to  the Economy Inn from
     "We're going to a hotel now," I said.
     "Usual  story. I'll be saying a lot of things that aren't true, and all
you've got to do  is be  quiet and look really  tired,  OK? If  you  do what
you're  told  and  it  works out,  we can  go  home." We  walked toward  the
     There was a young guy on the desk,  his head buried  in  a textbook. We
went through all  the same routine, only this time I'd been beaten up during
the robbery. He  looked embarrassed. "All of America's not  like this,  you
know.  It's beautiful." He  started  talking about the  Grand Canyon;  after
making a promise that  I'd make a point of visiting it  this trip, I  turned
and walked out.
     When we  got to  the room, I started  helping her off with her coat. As
she turned so that her  other arm came out  of the sleeve, she asked without
warning: "Are we going to see Mommy and Daddy now?"
     "Not yet, we've still got things to do."
     "I want my mommy. Nick. I want to go home. You promised."
     "We will go soon, don't worry."
     "Are you sure Mommy and Daddy and Aida will be there?"
     "Of course they will be."
     She didn't look convinced and sat on the edge of the bed. It was crunch
time.  I couldn't  carry  this on  anymore. If we got  out  of this mess,  I
couldn't  bring  myself to let her be dumped on her grandparents  or whoever
and find out what a lying bastard I'd been all this time.
     "Kelly.. ;' I sat next to her and started stroking her hair as she laid
her head on my lap.
     "Kelly, when you get  home,  Mommy, Daddy,  and Aida will not be there.
They've gone to heaven. Do you know what that means?"
     I said it as almost a throwaway, not  really wanting to get into it any
deeper. I wanted her to say, "Oh, I see," and then ask me  if we could  have
Mickey D's.
     There was a pause while she thought about it. All I could hear  was the
hum of the air-conditioning.
     Her face creased into a frown.
     "Is it because I didn't help Daddy?"
     I  felt as if somebody  were stabbing me. But  it  wasn't  too  hard  a
question; I felt OK. answering that one.
     "Kelly, even  if you had tried to  help  Daddy, they still  would  have
     She was crying quietly  into my leg. I  rubbed  her back and  tried  to
think of something to say.
     I heard: "I don't want them to be dead. I want to be with them."  "But
you are." I was fumbling for words.
     She lifted her face and looked at me.
     "You are with them. Every time you do something  that you did with them
means they are with you."
     She was trying to work  this  one out. So  was I. "Every  time I  eat a
pizza with  mushrooms I  think of your mommy and daddy, because  I know your
mommy liked them.
     That's why they are never  far away from me--and  why Mommy, Daddy, and
Aida will be with you all the time."
     She looked at me, waiting for more.
     "What do you mean?"
     I had to think quickly.
     "I mean,  every time you put plates on  a table  Mommy will be with you
because she showed you how. Every time you catch  a ball,  Daddy is with you
because he taught you. Every time you show someone how to do something, Aida
is with you--that's because you used to show her how to do things.  You see,
they are always with you!"
     I didn't know  how good it was,  but it was the  best  I could come  up
with. She was back on my leg; I could feel the heat of her tears and breath.
     "But I want to see them. When will I see them. Nick?"
     I hadn't gotten through. I didn't know who was more upset, me or Kelly.
A  large lump  was  swelling  in  my throat. I had gotten into  something  I
couldn't get out of.
     "They  aren't coming back, Kelly.  They  are dead. It's  not because of
anything you did  or  didn't do. They  didn't want to leave  you.  Sometimes
things happen that even grownups can't fix."
     She lay there listening.  I looked down. Her eyes were open, staring at
the wall. I stopped stroking her and put my arm around her.
     People need to show sadness and loss. Maybe this was the time for Kelly
to do that. If so,  I wanted  to  reach  out, not  cross the street.  I just
didn't know if this was how you did it.
     "You will be with them one day, but not for a long time. You will have
children first, just like Mommy. Then your  children will  be  sad when  you
die, just like you are now. They all loved you very much, Kelly. I knew your
mommy  and  daddy for only a few  years. Just think--you knew them all  your
     I saw a small smile moving across her face. She pressed her body closer
into my legs.
     "I want to stay with you. Nick."
     "That would be nice but it wouldn't work. I travel  a lot. You have  to
go to school and learn how to be a grownup."
     "You can help me do that."
     If only she knew.  I hadn't even a garage to keep a  bike in, let alone
somewhere to look after a child.
     Your  weapon, your  kit,  and only then yourself--that's  the  order of
things. I wanted  to ease my magazine springs; it wasn't strictly necessary,
but I felt that I  needed  to do it  to  mark the  end of  one phase and the
beginning of a new one.
     By now Kelly was sound asleep.
     I plugged in the telephone to recharge it. It was my lifeline.
     Then I tipped  all the supplies out of the bag and sorted them out. The
new clothes were put  to one side, and I packed the CTR stuff  back into the
duffel. I was pissed off about having to leave the video camera on the roof;
it would  be  found  and  a  connection  inevitably made between us and  the
     Plus,  the  videotape  was lost,  and that might have  been of  use  to
Simmonds--it might even have been enough to guarantee me a future.
     I  repacked  the  kit and lay back  on  the bed, hands behind  my head.
Listening to the low drone of the air-conditioning, I started to think about
this whole fucking game and how people like me and McGear were the ones that
got used time and time again. I was starting to feel sorry for myself. I cut
it. McGear and I both had a choice; this was what we chose to do.
     There  were a few good  things that had come out of last night's drama.
At least I didn't have to worry about dumping all the blood-and piss-stained
clothes  that  were  in the blue duffel. The cops would no  doubt match  the
blood to the Browns',  but that was  nothing compared with the trouble I was
already in. And best  of all, I had  confirmed a definite connection between
Kev, PIRA, the  building,  and  whatever it  was  that I'd copied  from that
computer.    I  wasn't going to attempt to get  the  laptop  out  and start
messing around  with it now.  I was  too  tired; I'd make  mistakes and miss
things. Besides, the  adrenaline had  gone,  and the pain across my back and
neck was even more intense.
     I had a hot shower and tried  to shave.  McGear's bite marks on my face
were scabbing nicely. I left them to sort themselves out.
     I dressed in jeans, sweatshirt, and running shoes and reloaded my mags.
I needed rest, but I had to be ready for a quick move. The  plan was to have
a couple hours' sleep and  something to eat, then sit down and see  what was
on the laptop, but it didn't work  out. I tossed and turned, snatched  a bit
of sleep, woke up.
     I turned the TV on and flicked through the channels to see ifMcGear was
news yet. He was.
     The cameras  panned the front of the PIRA building, with the obligatory
backdrop of police  and  ambulance  crews,  then  a man faced the camera and
started rattling on.  I didn't bother turning the volume up; I knew the gist
of what he'd be saying.
     I was half-expecting to see  my piss-covered homeless friend describing
what he had heard or seen.
     Kelly was starting to toss and turn, probably with pictures ofMcGear in
her head.
     I lay there  looking  at her. The girl had done well, without a  doubt.
The last few  days had been chaos for her, and I had really started to worry
about it. Seven-year-old kids shouldn't  be exposed  to  this sort of  shit.
Nobody should. What would happen to  her? It suddenly occurred  to me that I
was worrying more about her than I was about myself.
     I woke with the TV  still on. I looked at  my  watch: 9:35. At noon Pat
would be calling me. I hit the  Off button. I wanted to start working on the
laptop.  I started  to get up and found I could  hardly move. I felt like  a
very  senior citizen as I lifted myself off the bed, my  neck as stiff  as a
     I  made a  racket getting  the laptop  out  of the duffel  and plugging
everything in. Kelly  started to wriggle around. By the time I'd  got  it up
and  running  and connected  to the backup  drive, she was propped up on one
elbow  watching me. Her  hair looked  like an  explosion. She listened for a
while as I cursed the laptop for  not accessing the backup drive, then said,
"Why don't you just reboot  and then look  at the program?" I looked at her
as if  to  say.  You  fucking  smartass!  Instead, I  said, "Mmm,  maybe." I
rebooted,  and it worked.  I turned around and smiled  at her and got one in
     I  started to  scroll  through the files. Instead  of the business like
file  names  I'd been expecting, the documents had code  words  like Weasel,
Boy, Bruce. A lot of them turned out to be spreadsheets or  invoices I could
see  what they  were,  but I didn't know  what they meant.  To me, the whole
forty or so pages could just as well have been in Japanese.
     I  then opened  up the file called  Guru. It was just  dots and numbers
across the screen. I turned to Kelly.
     "What's that then, smart guy?"
     She looked.
     "I'm only seven, I don't know everything."
     It  was  five minutes to noon.  I turned the  phone  on and  carried on
flicking through the files, trying to make sense of them.
     Twelve o'clock came and went.
     By a quarter past, the call still hadn't come in. I  was sweating. Come
on. Pat,  I  need to  get out  of the US and back to Simmonds. I have enough
information maybe. The  longer I  stay now, the higher the risk. Pat, I need
     For Slack to miss an RV there must  be a major  drama; even when he was
high, he'd  managed  it  before. I tried  to block dark  thoughts by telling
myself  that he'd  call  at the  next arranged window. But  as I  carried on
halfheartedly on the laptop, I started  to  feel almost physically  sick. My
only  way out  had  been  lost.  I  had  that awful,  sinking  feeling  that
everything was going to go horribly wrong. I needed to do something.
     I closed down the laptop and put the  backup  disk in  my pocket. Kelly
was half-buried under the covers, watching TV.
     I joked, "Well,  you know what  I'm going  to have to  do in  a minute,
don't you?"
     She jumped out of bed and threw her arms around me.
     "Don't go! Don't go! Stay and  watch TV with  me. Maybe I can come with
     "You can't do that, I want you to stay here."
     What could I do? I felt her pain at being scared and alone.
     "OK, come with me but you've got to do what I say."
     "I will, I will!" She jumped up and went to get her coat.
     "No, not yet!" I pointed to the bathroom.
     "First things first.
     Get in that bath, wash your hair, come out and I'll dry it, then you'll
get changed into your new clothes, and then we'll go out. OK?"
     She was trembling like a dog about to go for walkies.
     "Yeah, OK!" She skipped to the bathroom.
     I sat down  on the bed  and  shouted  into  the  bathroom as  I flicked
through the news channels.
     "Kelly, make sure you brush your teeth or they'll all  fall out and you
won't be able to eat when you're older."
     I heard, "Yeah, yeah, OK."
     I found  nothing more  about McGear.  After a  while I  walked into the
bathroom. The toothpaste tube hadn't been squeezed.
     "Have you brushed your teeth?"
     She nodded, looking guilty.
     I said,  "Well, let's have  a smell." I bent down and  put my nose near
her mouth.
     "You haven't. Come on, do you know how to brush your teeth?"
     "Of course I know how to brush my teeth."
     "Show me then."
     She picked up the toothbrush. It was way too big for her mouth, and she
was brushing from side to side.
     I said, "That's not the way you've been taught, is it?"
     She said, "It is, too."
     I  slowly shook  my  head. I  knew  that  she  would have  been  taught
properly. I said,  "All right, we'll do  it together." I put some toothpaste
on the brush and made her stand in  front of the mirror. I stood beside her,
and she watched as I pretended to brush. Looking after  kids  was easy after
all. It  all  came down to EDI: explanation,  demonstration, imitation. Just
that  instead of doing  it with a weapon  to a room full  of recruits, I was
doing it with a seven-year-old girl.
     "Now with me, like this, then brush around in little circles. And let's
make sure we do the backs."
     And  then it  got silly.  She  started  to laugh  at  the  sight of  me
pretending to brush my teeth, and as she laughed, all the toothpaste sprayed
from her mouth and onto the mirror. I laughed with her.
     She got on with her bath and changed into her new jeans and sweatshirt.
I'd  also bought  us matching baseball hats at the  supermarket, black denim
with the words Washington,
     I wet my hair and washed, and we both looked sparkly clean. She  put on
her new blue coat and  sneakers and we were all ready  to go. My plan was to
get to the vicinity of Pat's apartment. When he rang at six o'clock, we'd be
able to meet right away.
     What  was I going to do with the backup  disk?  I decided to hide it in
the room, because  I  was  going to split my gold; if the backup stayed here
and Kelly came with  me and we  were lifted, at least they wouldn't have the
whole enchilada. The long,  dark wood sideboard with the TV on top covered a
third of the room; it was about two feet high and rested on little half-inch
legs.  I  lifted  one  corner, gaffer-taped  the  disk to the underside, and
positioned a couple of telltales. One last look around the room and we left.
     It was drizzling and slightly colder than earlier in the morning. Kelly
was  on  cloud nine; I gave her  the same smiles  and happy noises  back but
underneath I  was  sweating about Pat. As we crossed  the grass to avoid the
lobby, I wondered about phoning Euan. I decided  not to. Not yet,  anyway. I
might need him later. He was a card to keep up my sleeve.
     The whole area was dotted with hotels. We walked across the road to one
about four hundred yards away, and I went into the lobby and ordered a taxi.
Kelly waited outside under the awning.
     As  I came out again I said,  "When we get  into this taxi I'm going to
put  your  hood up and I  want  you  to rest against me as if you're sleepy.
Remember, you promised me you'd do exactly what I said."
     The taxi turned up and took us to Georgetown. Kelly  leaned against me,
and I got her nuzzled in on my lap with her hood up so it hid her.
     We got out on Wisconsin. It was four o'clock,  and every body around us
looked  so normal as  they  chatted,  strolled, enjoyed  their shopping. Two
hours to go  before Pat rang.  By five-thirty  the Georgetown  mall where we
were sitting was quite warm and we were both feeling sleepy.
     I was having a coffee,  Kelly was having a milk shake, which she wasn't
touching because by now she was  full of burger. I  looked at the display of
my watch every half minute until it  was five to  six. Then  I switched  the
phone on. Good battery level, good signal strength.
     Six o'clock came.
     A minute past.
     Two minutes past.
     I sat there almost paralyzed  with  disbelief. Kelly was  absorbed in a
comic she'd picked out for herself.
     Four minutes past. This was  desperate. Pat wouldn't let me down unless
he couldn't help it. He  knew as well as I did that on operations, if you're
a minute late, you might as well be an hour or a day  late, because people's
lives might depend on it. The attack might have gone in, unsupported by your
covering fire.
     There must be a problem. A major problem.
     I kept the phone switched on. Finally, at six-twenty, I said, "Come on,
Kelly, we're going to visit Pat."
     Now the normality stopped. There was serious shit coming down. All hope
had evaporated. As we came out of the mall, I flagged down a cab.
     Riverwood turned out to be  a  well-established, upscale area,  rows of
weatherboarded houses  with neat  lawns  and two European cars in the drive,
and smart apartment buildings with underground parking. The  shops reflected
its wealth, with good bookstores, expensive-looking boutiques, and small art
     I stopped the cab a block past Pat's street. I paid the  driver, and he
left us in the light rain. It was getting dark, a bit earlier than it should
have, but the  cloud  cover made everything gloomy.  Some  cars  already had
their headlights on.
     "Let's hope Pat's in," I said.
     "Otherwise  we'll  have to  go  all the  way back  to the hotel without
saying hello!"
     She looked excited about meeting him. After  all, this was the  man I'd
said  would help  her go  back home. I couldn't be sure if  what I  had said
about her family had sunk in. I didn't even  know if kids her age understood
that death was irreversible.
     Looking up the hill, I could see that Pat's street  was pure Riverwood,
broad  and elegant,  with  houses and shops that had been  there for  years.
Above the  skyline one or two new  apartment buildings seemed to  be  taking
over, but  even  they  looked  very ordered, clean,  and  wealthy.  I wasn't
entirely sure which one  Pat lived in, but it was  easy enough to count  the
numbers and figure it out. We  walked past, and I had a clear view  into the
secure  rear parking lot. I saw the red Mustang, redder than  Satan's balls.
It was a quarter past seven. If he was there, why the fuck hadn't he phoned?
     We  went into  a coffee  shop across the way.  The waft of newly ground
beans and the blare of rumba music inside La Colombina took me straight back
to Bogota;  maybe  that  was  why  Pat had  chosen to live here. We wanted a
window  seat, which  wasn't a problem. The  glass was misted up; I cleared a
circle with a paper napkin and sat and watched.
     Kelly was doing what she had been told, keeping quiet  until I told her
not to be. Anyway, Girl! magazine seemed the thing to  shut kids  up with. I
checked the phone. Good signal, plenty of power.
     A waitress came over to take  our  order. I was going to  ask for  food
even though I didn't  really want any because it would  take time to prepare
it, and then it would take time to eat it, and that  way we could spend more
time here without it looking unnatural.
     "I'll take a club sandwich and a double cappuccino," I said. "And what
do you want, Josie?"
     Kelly beamed at the waitress.
     "Do you do Shirley Temples?"
     "Sure we do, honey!"
     It sounded like a  cocktail to me,  but the waitress  went  away  quite
happily to order it. Kelly returned to her magazine, and I just kept looking
out the window.
     The drinks arrived. When we were alone again, I said, "What is that?"
     "Cherries and strawberries, mixed with Sprite."
     "Sounds disgusting. Can I have a sip?"
     It tasted to me like bubblegum,  but it was obviously what  kids liked.
She was guzzling it down almost frantically.
     The sandwich  mountain arrived. I didn't need it, but  I ate it anyway.
In my days in the  SAS and since, I'd  learned to think of food  the way  an
infantryman thinks of sleep: Get it down you whenever you get the chance.
     Things were running their natural course in the coffee shop; it was now
coming up to three-quarters of an hour that we'd been sitting there, and you
can stay in a place only  for so long without arousing suspicion or drowning
in coffee.
     Kelly made the decision for me as she spoke.
     "So now what are we going to do?"
     I put some cash on the table.
     "Let's zip you up and see if Pat is home."
     We went out and walked past Pat's apartment once again.
     The car  was still there. I was desperate  to know one way  or  another
what was going on. If it was just that  he didn't want to play anymore, that
was fine. But I  couldn't  really see that;  I knew that  he wanted to help.
There was a  problem,  without a  doubt. But I  needed it  confirmed; then I
could reassess and make a plan without him in it.
     As  we walked back down the hill,  Kelly  asked, "Do you  actually know
where Pat  lives?"  "Yes I do, but I know  he's not  there  yet. We've just
walked past his place and I couldn't see him."
     "Can't you phone him?"
     I couldn't contact him directly; if the phone was tapped, I didn't want
anyone to make  the connection between us.  I'd  promised not  to compromise
him. But she'd just given me an idea all the same.
     "Kelly, do you want to help me play a trick on Pat?"
     "OK, this is what I want you to do."
     We kept  on  walking  and started to  do a circuit around  the area. We
practiced  and practiced until she  said she was  ready  to go. We got  to a
phone booth  about three blocks away, an open booth attached to the  wall. I
brought the receiver down to Kelly's level.
     She gave me a thumbs-up. She was excited; she thought this was great.
     I dialed 911, and about three  seconds later Kelly  was shouting, "Yes,
I've  just  seen  a  man! I've  just seen a  man on the second floor, eleven
twenty-one Twenty-seventh Street and and he's got a gun and the  man's shot,
and and and he's got a gun please help!"
     I put my hand on the hook.
     "Good one! Now, shall we go and see what happens next?"
     I  picked a different route back. This time we  were going  to approach
from the top of the hill and walk down toward the apartment building. By now
it was properly dark, and still very wet. Heads bent in the rain, we made it
to Twenty-seventh Street, turned right, and started walking slowly  down the
     I heard its siren  first, louder  and louder,  then the  flash  of  its
emergency lights as a police cruiser sped past us. Then I saw other blue and
red lights, all flashing in the darkness in the area of the apartment.
     As  we got closer I made out three police cars. An  unmarked car turned
up, a portable light flashing on the roof, just above the driver.
     We walked  farther down and  came  to a bus stop. All I  was doing  was
watching  and  waiting--much  like  everybody  else--as  a small  crowd  had
     "Are they all coming for Pat?" Kelly asked.
     I was too busy feeling  depressed to answer; the  sight of an ambulance
arriving had pole axed me. I stroked her head over her coat hood.
     "I'll tell you  about  it  in  a  minute.  Just  let  me  watch  what's
     A quarter of an hour went by. Local TV news crews were in sight. I then
saw them come out: two guys with a gurney, and on top was a corpse in a body
bag. I didn't have to see  the face to know who  was inside. I only hoped it
had been quick for him, but  judging by the  condition of the Browns I had a
terrible feeling that it hadn't.
     I  said quietly,  "We're  going  to  go  now,  Kelly. Pat's  not  there
     I felt as if my most treasured possession had been stolen from under my
nose,  and  I  knew  that I'd  never  get it back. Our friendship  had  been
rekindled after all these years, and this was the price Pat had paid for it.
I felt lost and desperate, as if I'd got detached from the rest of my patrol
in hostile territory, without  a map, or a weapon, and no hint  of which way
to go.
     He was a true friend. I would miss the man with no ass.
     As Pat was being loaded into the ambulance, I forced myself to cut away
from the emotion. I turned and started to walk back down the  way we'd come,
to avoid the police. One  of the cars had now left with its  siren going and
the ambulance was  just about to. I imagined the crime  scene  people inside
the apartment,  putting on their coveralls and unpacking their gear. Again I
tried to make myself  look at the situation logically. Pat was gone; now all
I had left was Euan.
     We took the first left to get off the  main drag, and I listened as the
ambulance siren twice went off to maneuver through traffic.
     We kept going along the road. It wasn't a main thoroughfare;
     it  was  residential  on  both  sides,  large  houses  with wide  stone
staircases leading up to the front doors.
     I had Kelly's hand. We were walking without talking.
     Feelings about Pat had no place in my mind at the moment.
     What  mattered was  what information about  us he could  have given  to
whoever had zapped him. PIRA or Luther and Co." who could tell? It had to be
one or the  other. If it was connected with  me, of course.  Fuck knows what
else he  could have been up to.  However, I had  to  work on the  basis that
whoever killed him  wanted to know where we were. All Pat knew was the phone
number,  and that  I was going  into  the  PIRA office.  OP SEC  operational
security might have saved our lives.
     I was thinking so hard that  at first the voice didn't really register.
Then I thought it  was Kelly,  so I was  going to give  her hand a bit of  a
squeeze and tell her to be quiet and  let me think. But then it spoke again,
a  man's  voice, low, resolute,  and this  time there was no  mistaking  the
     "Freeze. If you move, I'll kill you. Stay exactly where you are. Do not
     It wasn't a druggy voice, it wasn't a young nervous voice;
     it was  a voice that was in total control. I  kept my hands where they
     Kelly flung her arms around my waist.
     "It's OK, it's all right. They aren't going to hurt you," I lied like a
cheap watch.
     His footsteps moved from behind me and to  the left. He must  have come
from the service alley that ran behind the houses we'd just passed.
     He said, "You have two choices. Get smart by keeping still.
     Get  dead  by moving." The voice  was  late  twenties,  early thirties,
precise, well drilled.
     It was pointless trying to draw on him. He would  kill me the instant I
made a move.
     I decided to take choice one.
     More footsteps came from the other side, and somebody was tugging Kelly
away.  She cried out, "Nick! Nick!" but  I couldn't help.  Her  grip was  no
match  for  theirs.  She  was dragged  behind me and out  of sight.  I still
couldn't  see anything of  the guys who'd caught us. I made myself calm down
and accept what was happening.
     The voice  started to give me commands in the same no-nonsense,  almost
pleasant voice. He  said, "I  want you to raise your hands  slowly, and  put
them on top of your head. Do that now."
     When I'd complied, he said, "Now turn around."
     I turned and saw a short, dark-haired man aiming a pistol at  me  in  a
very professional manner.  He  was standing  about  ten yards  away  at  the
entrance  to  the  alley. He was  breathing heavily,  probably after running
around the streets to find us both. He was wearing a suit, and I saw Velcro.
I now knew who had gotten to Pat.
     "Walk toward me. Do it now."
     I couldn't see Kelly.  She must have already been taken down the alley.
They  had  got her at last. I pictured Aida's savaged little body as I  came
toward him.
     "Stop. Turn left." Very low, very calm and  confident. As he said it, I
heard a car pull up to my right, and out of the corner of my eye I could see
it was the blue Caprice from the first motel.
     "Walk." I moved into the alley. Still no sign of Kelly.
     I heard, "Get on your knees."
     I  knelt down. I'd never been particularly  worried about dying;  we've
all got  to check out sometime.  When it did happen I just wanted it  to  be
nice  and  quick.  I'd  always  hoped  there  was an afterlife, but  not  as
reincarnation back on Earth.
     I'd hate to find myself back here as something low down the food chain.
But  I  wouldn't  mind a  spiritual thing where  you  just  become aware  of
everything from the truth about the creation of humankind to the recipe  for
Coca-Cola. I'd always known  I was going to die  early, but this was just  a
bit too early.
     Nothing was happening and  nothing was  said. Then  what must have been
that Caprice drove into the alley behind me, its headlights illuminating the
rears of the houses. Each had facing garages  and three or  four cars parked
along the sides of the alley. I could see my kneeling shadow against the wet
     The engine was still running, and I heard the doors being opened. There
was radio traffic from a different voice;
     this one had an accent that  should have  been selling hot dogs  in New
York. He was giving a location.
     "Affirmative, we're in the service road  for  Dent and Avon.  We are on
the south side. You'll see our lights. Affirmative, we have both of them."
     I stayed on my knees with  my hands  on my head  in  the rain  while we
waited for the others to arrive. I heard footsteps coming toward me from the
car. I clenched my teeth and  closed my eyes, expecting to be given the good
news. They walked slightly past me to my right and stopped.
     I didn't  hear the second one  come up behind  me. I  just felt a heavy
hand grip my own firmly on my head as the other felt for my weapon. The hand
pulled out the Sig, and in front of my  face I watched him  check the safety
catch  as  he  released  his  grip  on my  hands and, in the  same movement,
produced a clear  plastic bag. I  could smell coffee on his slightly labored
     Nothing happened  for a moment or two, apart from  the rustling  of the
bag behind me.  Into view  on my right came  a man who  looked  a bit like a
fashion seeker, dressed in a black suit with a mandarin jacket.  Fuck me, it
was Mr. Armani. He was maybe late twenties,  very  clean-cut, and  dark  and
smooth.  He  probably glided over the ground  so his shoes never got wet. He
was covering me.   I  heard  Kelly crying in the background. She must  have
been in the car. Fuck knows how she got there, but at least I knew where she
was. The man behind me continued with  the search and placed my stuff in the
     The hot-dog seller was being quite good with her;  he didn't  sound too
aggressive or rough. Maybe he had kids of his own.
     "It's OK, it's OK," he said.
     "What's your name?"
     I couldn't  hear her reply, but  I heard him say, "No, little  lady,  I
don't think your name's Josie, I think your name is Kelly."
     Good one, mate, at least you tried!
     Car lights stopped  on the  main road about 150  yards farther down, at
the end of  the alley. Then the red lights of a car  in  reverse were coming
toward me.
     By now all  my  stuff was in the  plastic bag and being held by whoever
was  behind  me.  I was still  on my knees, hands on head, with  Mr.  Armani
hovering to my right.
     There  were  noises  of  more people  behind me.  Hopefully  they  were
passersby who would report  us. But to whom? My hopes collapsed as  I  heard
the driver get out of the Caprice and start to speak.
     "That's OK,  folks, everything's  under control. There's nothing to see
     I was confused. How could they just move people on unless they were law
enforcement? Maybe there was a glimmer of hope; maybe I'd be able to talk my
way  out of  this  one. I still had  the  backup disk hidden. Maybe  I could
bargain with it.
     The reversing  car stopped  about five yards away and three people  got
out the driver  from the left-hand side, and two  out of the  back. At first
they were in shadow and I couldn't see their faces, but then one walked into
the glare of the other car's headlights. And then I knew I was really in for
     Luther was looking a  little the worse for  wear, and he wasn't blowing
me kisses. He looked like a pissed-off devil with a large gauze dressing. He
was still in a  suit,  but he wouldn't be wearing a tie for a while. I could
tell  by the smile on his face that he had a few tricks saved  up for me.  I
guess I'd earned them. He  walked toward me. I thought he was going to make
a  point.  I  closed  my  eyes and  got ready to take the hit, but he walked
straight past. That scared me even more.
     Luther started to talk as he got to the car.
     "Hi, Kelly, re member me? My name's Luther."
     There  were  some mumblings  in  reply.  I  was straining  to hear  the
conversation, but only the adult voice was audible.
     "Don't you remember me?  I came to pick your daddy up for work a couple
of  times. You have to come  with  me now, because  I have been sent to look
after you."
     I could hear protests from the car.
     "No, he's not dead. He wants  me to collect you. Now come on,  move it,
you little bitch!"
     Kelly  screamed,  "Nick,  help!  I  don't  want  to  go!"  She  sounded
     Luther walked back to his car with her. He had his arm around her tight
to stop her from bucking and kicking. It was all over in a few seconds. Once
Kelly was secure in the  back of the car, all  three drove off. I felt as if
I'd been taken down by the fire extinguisher again.
     "Get  up." My  hands  were still on my head,  and I felt someone's hand
grip onto my right triceps and lift me up. I heard the car behind me move.
     I looked to my right. The short guy had  hold of me with his left hand;
in his right he  had the plastic bag  with  Kev's mobile, my weapon, wallet,
passport, ATM card, and loose change.  He turned me  around to face the car,
which had  just finished parallel parking in the  road, pointing  toward the
right. Mr. Annani had me covered.
     I'd stayed calm so  far. But  I had to get out of this shit now. I  was
going to be killed, it was as easy as  that.  The engine  was running, and I
had about ten yards in which to do something.
     Whatever I did, there would have to be  a lot of speed, aggression, and
surprise. And it must work the first time; if not, I was dead.
     The guy who was holding me was right-handed or he wouldn't be  dragging
me along with his left, and therefore, if I started fucking around, he would
have to drop the bag and draw his pistol. If I was wrong about that, I would
soon be dying. But I was dead anyway, so fuck it why not go for it?
     There were  about three yards left between me and the  car.  By now Mr.
Armani had glided to  the rear door to open it and, as his eyes glanced down
for the door handle, I knew it was time.
     Screaming  at the  top of my lungs, I  brought my right hand down hard,
half-turned my hips, and hit his left shoulder as hard as I could.
     I had surprise on my side.  All three now had to take in what was going
on and make an assessment.  It would  take them little more than a second to
turn that assessment into reaction.
     As I hit him, I started  to push in an attempt to spin  him to his left
so that his  right  side would come toward  me. We were  both screaming now.
He'd already made his assessment. He  dropped the bag and  was going for his
     I knew that for him also it was happening in  slow motion.  I could see
the saliva  spray out of his mouth  as he  shouted a warning to the  others.
There  was nothing to worry about with the other two at  the moment; if they
were quicker than me, knowing about it wouldn't make it any better.
     Looking down on his belt, I  could see the pistol moving  slowly toward
me  as  he spun around. Nothing else mattered. I kept my eyes on it. I heard
the other two screaming. We were all at it.
     The  Colt  .45 is a  single-action  weapon, which  means  that  all the
trigger does is release the hammer. To cock  the hammer  in the  first place
and  chamber the  first  round, you  must  first rack back the top  slide by
pinching  in with the fingers  and  thumb  of  the  left  hand  against  its
serrations,  pulling  it  back firmly to the rear, and releasing. The pistol
can be  carried "cocked  and locked" hammer back and safety on, with a round
in the breech. The Colt  has both a manual safety and a grip safety. Even if
the manual safety is off, your  hand must be firm enough on the grip to keep
the grip safety depressed or the weapon won't fire.
     I grabbed the pistol with my left hand, I didn't care where.
     At  the same  time  I brought my right hand  down,  with  four  fingers
together and my thumb stretched out to present a big re cess for the weapon.
I pushed onto it with the web of my hand, taking the manual safety catch off
with my thumb and using the  web  of my hand to release the grip  safety  by
holding the weapon correctly. I couldn't see if the  hammer was back. And I
had no way of knowing if the weapon had a round in the chamber. With my left
hand, I racked the top slide back to cock  it. It had already been cocked. A
brass  round spun out of the ejection  port, glinting as  it tumbled in  the
street lights. It didn't matter losing one round;  at least I wouldn't get a
dead man's click.
     I knew the first threat was Mr. Armani. He had a weapon in his hand.
     I kept turning in the direction the shoulder hit had taken me, and as I
did I  came up  into the aim,  firing low because these  fuckers wore armor.
Armani went down. I didn't know if he was dead.
     I  kept  on spinning  and  dropped the short  guy, moved for ward,  and
looked at the  driver. He was still in his seat, but in a crouched position,
screaming and writhing.
     I ran to his side of the car, pointing the pistol.
     "Move over!
     Move over! Move over!"
     I pulled the door open  and, keeping the pistol on him, kicked him with
my  right foot. I wasn't going to  start dragging him out; it would take too
long.  I  just wanted to get in the car and go. I shoved the muzzle into his
cheek and pulled out his weapon, kept it,  and threw mine out--I didn't know
how many rounds were left.
     The injury was to his  upper right arm. There was a small entry hole in
the material, but not much blood around the site.
     He must have taken one of  the rounds aimed at Armani as I spun around.
His  hand, however, was red and dripping from where  blood was coursing down
his  arm. The .45 round is big and heavy and doesn't fuck about. The massive
exit wound would have blown away most of the underside  of his arm.  I would
be having no problems from this guy.
     As I drove off I screamed at him, "Where are they going?
     Where are they going?"
     His answer was half a cry, half a shout.
     "Fuck you! Fuck you!" His dark-gray suit was turning brown with blood.
     I jabbed his leg hard with the pistol.
     "Where are they going?"  We were on a narrow residential  road. I tore
off both side mirrors in the  process of turning to question him. He told me
to fuck off again, so I fired. I could feel  the air  pressure change as the
gases left the barrel, and  then the  smell of cordite filled the air. There
was an explosion of material and flesh  as  the  round plowed a  twelve-inch
furrow along and down into his leg. He howled like a stuck pig.
     I didn't  know  where  I  was heading.  The  driver's  screams  quickly
subsided, but he kept thrashing about. His convulsions left him on his knees
in the  foot well  with his head  on  the seat. He  was starting  to go into
shock. He was probably wishing he did sell hot dogs in New York.
     "Where are they going?" I demanded again. I didn't want him to pass out
before I got the information.
     "They're heading south," he moaned.
     "Route ninety-five south."
     We were speeding on the elevated section of the highway that led to the
     I looked across.
     "Who are you?"
     His face screwed up in pain as he fought for breath. He didn't reply. I
hit  him on the temple with the  pistol.  He gave  a low moan  and moved his
fingers sluggishly from his leg to his head. We passed the  Pentagon, then I
saw the sign for the Calypso Hotel. It seemed like a bad dream.
     "Who are you? Tell me why you're after me!"
     I could barely hear his reply. His  mouth  was  dribbling blood, and he
was finding it hard to breathe.
     "Let me go, man. Just leave me here and I'll tell you."
     No way was I falling for that one.
     "You're  going  to  die  soon.  Tell me and I'll help you.  Why are you
trying to kill us? Who are you?"
     His head lolled. He didn't reply because he couldn't.
     I  found  them  just short of the Beltway, in  the  middle of the three
lanes. It was easy to pick them out in my headlights. I could see they were
still three  up; one  in the  front, two  in the back. No sign of Kelly  but
there  was  enough space between the two in  the back  to  have another body
between them. She was only a little fucker; her head wouldn't be showing.
     I couldn't do anything on the freeway, so now was the time to calm down
and get my head  around the next plan.  What was I  going to do? Whatever it
was,  it had to  be soon, because I didn't know  their destination, and 1-95
goes  all the  way  to Florida. Much  nearer, however, about thirty  minutes
away, was Quantico, the FBI and DEA academy. It  was starting to make sense.
Luther  and  the other guy coming to  the house, both knowing Kev; they were
all the  same  group. But  why would they kill  Kev? And  if they  were  the
killers, what connection then did "bad DEA"  have  with my "friends over the
water"? Was there something happening here between these two groups that Kev
had discovered and got fucked over for?
     I thought again of Florida and it gave me an idea. I tucked it away for
     I  looked  down at  the  driver.  He was in shitty  shape, still losing
blood. He was sitting in  a pool  of it because  the rubber  mat in the foot
well stopped the  carpet from soaking  it up.  I  could  see his face as the
lights from  the opposite side of the freeway hit us now and again; all  the
agitation had drained from  it and he looked ashen, like an old  fish;  life
was slowly  going  out of his  eyes, which were staring into  space. He  was
going to die soon. Tough shit.
     I reached over,  flipped  open his jacket,  and took the two  magazines
that were  in a holder on  his shoulder  holster. He was oblivious to what I
was  doing; he  was  in  his own place  now, perhaps reflecting  on his life
before he died.
     I had surveillance on the  target car. My wipers  were on high-speed as
the trucks and  cars  splashed more water onto the windshield than the  rain
itself. I put the defroster on full blast. The driver's leaking blood and my
own sweating body were misting the car up big-time.
     A freeway  was perfect  for my  purposes; I  could just drive along and
even allow  a bit of distance to develop to the point of letting another car
get in between  me and the target. As an exit came  up I'd just get a little
bit closer; if he was going to turn off,  I could then fall in naturally and
come up behind him.
     After  about  another five minutes I saw a sign  saying lorton  1 mile.
They started to indicate that they were getting into  the right lane to make
the exit. They weren't going to Quantico after all. This would be  the  time
to  hit them. I glanced down,  changed mags, and checked chamber. As I came
across to  get  into the right lane,  I realized for the first time that  we
were driving through heavily wooded terrain.
     The  tires throbbed rhythmically as they hit the joints in the concrete
     By now the driver  had slumped completely into  the foot well  with his
back  against the door. It was only the body armor under his shirt that gave
him posture. He was dead.
     I was now in the exit lane, just twenty yards behind them, close enough
to be on top of them,  but  far  enough away so that  if they looked behind,
they'd just see headlights. Nobody turned their head; they didn't seem to be
aware of me. I started to take deep breaths and spark myself up.
     The Lorton exit ramp went slightly  uphill with  a gentle curve  to the
right. The tall trees on  each  side  gave  the  impression of a  tunnel.  I
planned  to do it at the  first  intersection.  My  brain was  in overdrive,
getting me into a mind-set, trying to take the fear away.
     I  could see traffic lights in the middle distance  and put my  foot on
the gas to close up even  more. Their brake lights came on, then their right
turn  signal.  A truck thundered past from left  to right. It looked like it
was a wide major road ahead.
     The car  started its right  turn.  Pushing myself back into the seat, I
put my foot down hard on the accelerator and braced my arms  on the steering
     I  must  have been doing about  forty-five and still accelerating as  I
drew level and yanked the wheel hard to the right.
     My right fender hit the front of theirs. There  was a massive jolt.  My
air bag exploded as the car slewed around into the main drag.  The other car
spun sideways. I heard glass shattering and the screech of tortured rubber.
     The  moment the vehicle came to a halt I jabbed at the seatbelt release
and  opened the door. The air  felt freezing.  At first all I could hear was
the hiss of  the  radiator and the ping ping ping warning that  the door was
open and the lights on; then came  the sound  of muffled shouts  from inside
the other vehicle.
     The first priority was the driver. The car had to be immobilized.
     He was still fighting his seat  belt. I fired through the windshield. I
didn't know where I hit him, but he was down.
     As I looked into the back I could see Kelly, or at least her shape. She
was low down in the foot well hands over her ears.
     Luther was getting his first rounds off at me. His door  was half open,
and he was starting to roll out. I'd have been doing the same  because a car
draws fire--so you need to get out  of  the  way.  As he  rolled  I kept  on
firing,  just  below the  level of  the door.  He  screamed. I'd got  him. I
couldn't tell whether it was a direct hit or the splash of the round off the
asphalt, but it didn't matter, the effect was the same.
     I moved from behind the hood of my car to take on the third guy. He was
out  now  but had had a change  of heart.  He  put his hands up and  yelled,
"Don't do it, don't do it!" His  eyes were like saucers. I double-tapped him
in the head.
     Kelly was still curled up in a ball  in the  foot well She wasn't going
     I searched the two bodies for wallets and magazines. I  left Luther for
     He was on the ground behind his car, hands clutched to his chest.
     "Help me... help me... please..."
     He'd  taken a  round in the armpit as he rolled on  the ground,  and it
must have continued on into his chest cavity. I thought of Kev, Marsha,  and
Aida and kicked. He opened his mouth to scream, but all that  came out was a
gurgle. He was on his way out. Good. Let it happen slowly.
     I ran back for  Kelly and lifted her out  other hiding place. I  had to
shout at her above her screams.
     "It's OK, Kelly. I'm here, it's OK."
     I held her tight in my arms. She was nearly deafening me.
     "It's all over now! It's OK!"
     It wasn't.
     The police  would be here soon. I looked around.  The inter section was
with a main road, two lanes in each direction. To my left and  downhill  was
1-95, crossing the road  by a bridge, with a  Texaco gas  station about four
hundred yards away on the other side of it on  the  right. Uphill  and about
the same distance away a Best Western hotel cut the skyline.
     Lights were coming from the exit road toward us. Luther was lying there
softly  moaning  to himself.  He wasn't dead, but it  wouldn't  be long. The
lights came closer.
     Kelly was still  hysterical. Grabbing her  to conceal my pistol, I went
behind the two cars.  The lights were nearly level  with us. I moved out and
waved the vehicle down.
     The good  Samaritans  were in  a  Toyota  Previa, man  and woman in the
front, two kids  in the  back. I played the traumatized victim for all I was
worth, shouting, "Help! Help!"  as I rushed to the driver's side. The  woman
was at the wheel; she opened her door.
     "Oh my God, oh my  God!" Her husband already had his cell phone  out to
call for an ambulance.
     I put the safety catch on and held the gun against her face.
     "Everybody out now! Get out, get out now!" My other arm was windmilling
like a madman's. Hopefully they'd think I was one.
     "Get out! I'll fucking kill you! Get out!"
     The one thing  I did  know  about  families is that  no one  will  risk
theirs. The husband started to lose it.
     "Please don't, please don't!" Then he started to cry.
     Kelly had quietened down, listening to my act.
     It was the mother who kept her cool.
     "OK, we are getting out. Dean, get the kids out. Out!"
     Dean  got  his  act together. I yelled at him, "Throw your  wallet back
     I pushed Kelly through the sliding door, slammed it shut, ran around to
the driver's side, climbed up, and we were off.
     I  wanted  to get away  from the  initial danger area, then sort myself
out. The freeway was out because it would be too easy for the police to pick
me up. I drove up  onto the intersection and turned left  under the  bridge,
past the  garage.  The road  became a  normal two-lane highway, and I put my
foot down.
     This was no  time to be explaining stuff to Kelly. She was curled up in
the backseat, sobbing. My adrenaline rush was slowing down, but my face  was
soaked with sweat and I was lathering up. I took deep breaths, trying to get
more oxygen into my body and calm everything down. I felt unbelievably angry
with myself for losing control back there. I should have killed Luther right
off the bat, not fucked around.
     I realized we were heading south, away from the airport.
     I'd have to stop and get my shit together instead of just running in  a
blind panic. I pulled over and checked the road atlas.
     Kelly didn't look  good, but I  didn't have too much of a clue what  to
say to comfort her.
     "It's OK now," I tried.
     "I told you I was going to look after you, didn't I?"
     She looked up at me and nodded, her bottom lip quivering.
     I made a decision. Fuck it,  let's just go straight to  the  hotel, get
the  backup  disk, and clear  out. I swung the Previa around  in  a  U-turn,
heading for the freeway. We stayed on it until we hit the Beltway.
     Blue  lights flickered toward us. There  must have been ten of  them. I
wasn't  worried.  Even  if  they did ID  me, they'd  have to get  across the
     It took  us  just under an  hour  to get to the  Economy Inn. We  drove
straight into the parking lot, and  I told Kelly  to wait where she  was. If
she did hear me, there was no reaction. I tried again and got a nod.
     I  went upstairs,  got out my pistol,  and went  inside.  I pulled  the
bureau onto its side,  the TV crashing onto the floor,  and ripped  the disk
away from the tape.  If Luther and  company were connected  with  PIRA, they
must know  I had a disk they had to  assume it, anyway. Retrieving the black
bag, I went into the  bathroom and threw two hand towels  into the bath  and
ran the  water. While that was happening I got the plastic  laundry bag from
the drawer. I put in the wet towels and some soap. I walked out of the room,
keeping the do not disturb sign on the handle.
     Kelly was still curled up  in the backseat. We  drove straight down the
road  to the  Marriott. I parked up  alongside  a  line of cars  and pickup
trucks and grabbed the towels. The  moment I opened the door, Kelly ambushed
me, throwing her arms around my  neck and clinging  hard. Her whole body was
     I lifted her head off  my shoulder. Blood from the guy  I'd head-jobbed
had gone all over my jacket, and now some of it was on her face, too, mixing
with her tears. I whispered in her  ear,  "It's OK now, Kelly,  really it is
it's all over."
     She held on even harder. Her tears were warm and wet on my neck.
     I  said,  "I've  got  to go and get another  car, so I want you to stay
here. I won't be long."
     I started to  lift her away from me to put her back on the seat but she
resisted, burying  her face into  my  shoulder. I could feel the heat of her
breath through the material of my jacket.
     I put my hand on the back of her head and rocked gently.
     For a moment I didn't know who was clinging to  whom. The  idea of what
was  happening and who  might  be  behind it  scared  me  shitless. I had to
confirm what Luther had said, and now was as bad a time as any.
     "Kelly, do you know Luther?
     Was it true what he said about him coming to pick up Daddy?"
     I could feel her head nod slowly against my shoulder.
     "I'll never leave you alone again, Kelly. Let's just clean ourselves up
a bit, shall we?"
     I tried to sound happy as I used one of the wet hand towels to wipe her
     "If  you're  going  to come with  me,  I'd  better  give  you a  really
important job. I want  you to look after the  bag while I go and get  a car,
     As  she  dried herself  I checked  the wallets.  Just  over two hundred
dollars in all.
     The parking lot surrounded the whole hotel and was lit only by borrowed
light from the street.  The area dividers that made it easier  for people to
find their  cars were waist-high bushes and shrubs,  with small trees around
the main perimeter. There was plenty of  shadow.  I  positioned Kelly  in a
clump of shrubbery with the bag.
     "Don't come out until I stop the car and get out to fetch the bag,
     "Will I be able to  see you?" she whispered as she put her hood up. Her
coat was already wet from the leaves.
     "I want to see you."
     I  had my eye on  a  family-size  Dodge among the long lines of cars. I
said, "See  that big blue car over there? That's the one  I'm  going to pick
up." I didn't  actually  want to tell her  I was going  to  steal it,  which
seemed crazy after what had just happened.
     It   took  about  five  minutes  to  break  in.  The  vehicle   started
immediately. I put the  windshield wipers and defroster on high, rubbing the
inside of the screen with my sleeve. I backed up to the bushes, stopped, and
got out. Kelly climbed  into the front with a big smile, and we started off.
I stopped.
     "Seat belt!"
     She put it on.
     We headed south on 1-95.  About twenty miles before the Lorton exit  we
came  across temporary traffic signs warning us that the junction was closed
off.  As  we crossed  the  bridge,  I  looked  down to my  right  and  got a
bird's-eye  view of the shooting. Police cars  dotted the area, red and blue
lights  flashing. I didn't slow down with the rest  of the traffic to take a
closer look.
     The  gas  gauge showed three-quarters full,  so we could gain  a decent
distance before refueling. I turned  on the  radio,  surfing the channels to
find some news.
     There was quite a  lot of traffic, which  was good because  it  made us
just  one of many, but the highway itself was mesmerizingly boring. The only
variant was that  sometimes it was two lanes, then  three, then back to two.
At least it had stopped raining.
     After  a hundred miles  or so I was exhausted and my eyes were starting
to sting. I stopped for gas just over the Virginia-North Carolina border and
continued on south.
     Kelly was asleep in the back.
     By 1 a.m. we had traveled about 170 miles, but at least the speed limit
was higher now, up from sixty miles an hour to seventy. I kept seeing large
billboards featuring a  cartoon of  a Mexican,  advertising  a place  called
South of the Border. That would be our next stop in two hundred miles' time.
     We crossed into  South Carolina  at about 5  a.m. South of the  Border,
just a  mile or two farther down  the road, turned out  to  be a mixture  of
service area  and amusement  park. It was probably a great hit with families
going to and from the beaches of North and South Carolina. It covered a huge
area  and included beachwear shops, grocery  stores, drugstores,  even a bar
with dancing. It looked as if it  was still open,  judging by the  number of
cars parked outside.
     I started to fill up with gas. The weather was only a little bit warmer
than in D.C."  but I could hear the crickets; it definitely felt  like I was
going south.  I was still standing there  watching the  numbers spin  on the
pump  when a brand-new four-wheel-drive Cherokee rolled up. Rap music blared
out  as the doors opened.  Inside were four white college-age kids, two boys
and two girls.
     Kelly  had  already  been  awoken by the strong white  light under  the
filling station's canopy and now  took an interest in  the mobile  disco.  I
motioned with my  hand through the window to ask her if she wanted a  drink.
She nodded, rubbing her eyes.
     I went inside, picked up some drinks and sandwiches, and went up to the
counter. The cashier,  a guy  in his late fifties,  started totaling  up  my
     The  two girls came in, followed by  one of  the boys.  Both girls  had
dyed-blond shoulder-length  hair.  The lad was skinny,  pimply,  and  had an
unsuccessful attempt at a goatee.
     The  cashier winked  and said  quietly,  "Love  is  blind." I smiled in
     The girls were talking to each other, making more noise  than the music
system. Maybe they'd blown their eardrums. I looked outside at the other boy
filling  up. All  were in the same uniform:  baggy T-shirts and shorts. They
looked as if they'd been to the beach. You could tell they had money-Daddy's
     They lined up behind me. One of the girls was going to pay.
     "That  was a totally cool day," she  shouted. I was meeting a real-life
member of the  cast  of Clueless. By the  sound  of  the  conversation their
parents were  total assholes who never gave them  enough money,  even though
they were loaded and could easily afford it.
     The cashier gave me my change and leaned over to me.  "Maybe getting a
job would help!" His eyes twinkled.
     I grinned back and started  to pick up  my stuff from the counter.  The
girl came up to pay and opened her purse. Clueless Two, still behind me with
the boy, was pissed off by the cashier's comment, and at me for agreeing.
     "Look at that face, guys!" she stage-whispered behind my back.
     "What's bitten you, mister?" The lad guffawed.
     Daddy was very generous by the look of it, no matter  what she  said. I
saw a wad  of cash and  enough cards for a bridge tournament. The other  two
were holding  the beers they'd gotten  from  the fridge and were giggling. I
     Our vehicles were facing each other at the pumps.  Sitting in the front
of the Cherokee was  the fourth member of the group,  who'd finished filling
up and was now air-drumming along to whatever shit was on the
     Kelly was stretched out across the backseat. I  went over to her window
and tapped. Kelly sat up, startled, and I held out her Coke.
     The other three were now coming out of the shop. Clueless Two was still
pissed  off. As  they  got  in  their car  I heard one of the  girls shriek,
"Fucking asshole," and they closed the doors to gales of laughter.
     I got into the Dodge and drove over  to the air pump. The story was now
being told to the driver, and I  could see them all getting  worked up about
it. The boys had to show how hard they were, and the girls didn't like being
shown  up in front of their beaus. There was a lot of chemistry driving  out
of the garage.
     As  the  Cherokee  rolled away from  the  pumps,  it caught  me  in its
headlights, chatting away  with Kelly  as I  checked the tires.  They slowed
right  down and looked at us.  Clueless One must have  made a crack about my
appearance, because they  all laughed  and the driver gave me  the finger to
make him look good, then zoomed off into the night.
     I gave it about a minute, backed out, and followed.
     I didn't want to do it on the highway unless I had to. Sooner or  later
I knew they'd turn off the main drag so they could drink those beers  out of
sight of highway cops and maybe spread a couple of blankets on the ground.
     After just five  miles  we  followed the big Jeep onto a potholed  road
that seemed to go through the middle of nowhere.
     "Kelly,  see that car ahead?  I have to stop and  ask them something. I
want you to stay in the car, OK?"
     "OK." She was more interested in the Coke.
     I didn't want to force them off the road or do anything drastic. It had
to look natural in case another car drove past.
     We  passed a roadside store that  was closed, then  a large truck stop,
then a trailer park and a  big stretch of dark nothingness, then an isolated
house. I was  beginning to  think I'd fucked up when at last it  happened. I
saw a stop sign four  hundred yards ahead; accelerating,  I got a bit closer
and checked for other car lights.
     I  drove up on their  left-hand side.  Beeping my horn, I waved at them
with  the road map and  gave a big smile.  They all  looked  over,  and as I
turned  the interior  light  on  they saw first me, then  Kelly in the  back
half-asleep. They looked worried, then recognized me as the asshole from the
gas station, Jokes were exchanged, and their beer cans came back up to their
mouths from their hiding places.
     I  got  out.  The crickets  were  louder out  here than at  the filling
station. I kept looking  at them, smiling. The map was for Washington, D.C."
but they couldn't see that, and by the time they did, it would be too late.
     The driver was making a comment to the rest, probably proposing driving
off as soon as I got to the door.
     I  said, "Hiya!  Can you help me? I'm trying to get  to Raleigh"--which
was a place I'd seen signs for on the freeway, way back in North Carolina.
     As the electric window  rolled  down farther,  I  could hear  whispered
giggles  from the backseat ordering  the  driver to tell me  to fuck  off. I
could see he had other ideas, maybe to send me anywhere but Raleigh.
     "Sure, man, I'll show you."
     I offered the map through the open window.
     "I don't know  how I got lost. I must have taken the wrong exit after I
got gas.
     He didn't need the  map. He started  to give directions, pointing  down
the road.
     "Hey, man,  just turn left and go for about  twenty miles until you see
..." The girls were liking this one, working hard to stifle their sniggers.
     I got  hold  of  his head with  my left hand, pulled  my pistol up, and
stuck it into the young flesh of his cheek.
     "Oh shit, he's got a gun, he's got a gun!"
     The  other three  went  silent, but the  driver's  mouth went into free
     "I'm sorry, man, it was a joke, just a joke.
     We're drunk, man. It's the bitch in the back who started it.
     I've got nothing against you, man."
     I  couldn't even be  bothered  to answer him. I shouted  into the back,
"Throw your purses out! Now!"
     My Southern drawl was quite good, I thought. I just hoped I was looking
scary enough. The girls passed over their handbags.
     By  now the  driver  was trembling,  and  quiet tears  rolled down  his
cheeks. The girls huddled together.
     I looked at the front passenger.
     He looked at me as if he were one of a hundred I could be talking to.
     "Yes, you. Give me your  money, out this window." It  took all  of  two
seconds for him to comply.
     It was the driver's turn. He beat his pal's  record. I reached in, took
the keys,  and  put them in my  pocket. He didn't seem too clever now. I had
another look around for lights. All clear.
     The pistol was still against the driver's skin. I said quietly into his
ear, "I'm going to kill you now."
     Everyone else heard it and wanted nothing to do with him.
     I said, "Say whatever prayer you need to say, and be quick."
     He didn't pray, he begged.
     "Please don't kill me, man, please don't."
     I  looked  down and  saw that  his  shorts,  made  of  gray  sweatshirt
material, were  rather  darker now.  Daddy would not  be  impressed with the
stains on his nice beige leather.
     I  was quite enjoying it, but knew I  had to  get going. I stepped back
and picked  everything off  the road. I glanced at Clueless Two. She  looked
like she'd swallowed a wasp.
     "What's bitten you?" I said.
     I got in the car, did a one-eighty, and drove off.
     Kelly said, "How come you made those  people give you their money?" She
sounded confused.
     "Because we need loads of money, and we're much nicer than they are, so
they wanted us to have it."
     I  looked at  her in the rearview  mirror. She knew  damned well I  was
     I said, "You want a job?"
     "Like what?"
     "Count this money."
     She opened up the bags and wallets and piled all the bills in her lap.
     "At least a million dollars," she said at length.
     "Maybe count it once more to check."
     Five minutes later I got the more realistic figure of $336.
     The clueless girls were wrong. Daddy was a diamond.
     We started seeing signs for Florence. That would do me fine.
     The town was  about sixty miles away, and it  was about  five-twenty in
the morning. It would be getting light by sevenish, and if possible I wanted
to be in a town before dawn. I'd dump the  Dodge, and we'd have to find some
other form of transport. We had to get to Florida if I was to get the help I
     About ten miles short,  I saw a sign for a tourist information area.  I
pulled in  and  took a free map of the town and surrounding area.  Kelly was
half-awake as  we  parked.  I  opened the door and got  out. The birds  were
singing,  and I could just make out first  light.  There was a little nip in
the air,  but you could tell  it  was going to be a  nice warm  day. It felt
great to have a stretch. I  stank of sweat and  had a layer of grease  on my
skin; my eyes were stinging and no  doubt bloodshot and swollen from lack of
sleep. The pain in my neck still made  me walk as if  I had  a plank of wood
strapped to my back.
     The  map  showed a train station  in the town; not necessarily helpful,
but it was a start. I got back into the car and  started to get the bags and
wallets  together  to dump. All  were  expensive leather. A couple were even
monogrammed. Inside one of them I found coke and  a lump of pot in a plastic
bag.  The  spoiled brats had  obviously been on spring  break,  college kids
using  up all  their hormones before the end of the semester.  Mom  and  Dad
worked  their  asses off and provided  for these  kids and they  thought the
world owed them a living.
     Fuck 'em, I was glad I'd  robbed  them. I laughed;  they were  probably
still sitting  there blaming each other, trying to think of a way of getting
piss stains off leather upholstery. There  was a good chance  they'd be  too
embarrassed to even report it. I dumped everything in the trash cans.
     We drove toward the train station. It looked as if the town center were
terminally ill, but big efforts had been made to keep the patient alive; the
old  historical part  had  been rejuvenated, but  it seemed that every store
sold candles, perfumed soap, and potpourri. There was nothing there for real
people, no life in it at all.
     We got to the station, which could have  been any station  in any town,
mil of the homeless who stay there because it's warm.  It reeked  of  bodies
and decay. Drunks were sprawled on benches that nobody  in their  right mind
would go near for fear of getting their head bitten off.
     I looked at the departure signs. It seemed  we could get to  De Land by
train,  with a bus transfer to  Daytona Beach.  It was just before  six; the
train would be arriving at seven.
     The ticket office was already open and looked as if it had been modeled
on an  urban  7-Eleven, wire mesh everywhere, painted  white but chipped.  I
could just  about see the  large face  behind it that was  demanding to know
where I wanted to go.
     An hour later we got on the  train, found our seats, and collapsed. Our
car was no more than half full. Kelly cuddled into me, dog-tired.
     I  was busy looking at the other passengers.  They all looked  like me,
frazzled grown-ups looking after kids.
     "Where are we going?"
     "To see a friend."
     "Who's that?"  She  sounded happy at the idea. Probably  she was fed up
with my company.
     "He lives near the beach. His name is Frankie."
     "Are we going on vacation with him?"
     "No, Frankie's not that kind of friend."
     I decided to  keep the conversation going, as she would be asleep in no
time at all. The rhythmic sounds and motion of the train would soon send her
     "Who is your best friend? Is it Melissa?"
     "How come she's your best friend?"
     "Uh  we ride bikes together, and  go to each other's houses  a  lot. We
have secrets."
     "What kind of secrets do you have?"
     "Silly, that would be telling! Who's your best friend?"
     That was easy, but I wasn't going to say his  name.  If we were  lifted
again,  I would hate it if he was mentioned  and  put in danger. The sun was
starting to burn through the windows;
     I leaned across her and pulled down the blind.
     "My best  friend is called  ... David." It was  about  as far away from
Euan as I could think of.
     "Just like you and Melissa, we tell each other things that no  one else
knows. In fact, he has a daughter who's just a little bit older than you.
     No one else knows about her apart from David and me and now you!"
     There was no reply. It seemed she was starting to doze off. I continued
anyway, I didn't know why.
     "We've known each other since we were seventeen, and we've been friends
ever  since." I started to stroke  her  hair. I was going to talk  more  but
found  it really hard to  tell her. I couldn't put it into words. Euan and I
were just there for each other and always had  been. That was it,  really. I
just didn't  have  the  tools to  describe it.  Frank de  Sabatino had been
crossed off the Christmas-card list of LCN La Cosa Nostra  in Miami  and for
his own  protection  had been sent over to  the  UK as part of  the  federal
witness protection program. I had been one of the team  charged with looking
after him for the three months he spent in Wales before returning to the US.
I remembered  Frankie as about five-foot-five and seedy; he had  very black,
tight,  curly hair that looked as if it  had been  permed in the style of  a
1970s pop star.
     The FBI had been  investigating LCN in South Florida they don't use the
word "Mafia"  and had  discovered that de  Sabatino, a  thirty-four-year-old
computer nerd who worked for one of the major players, had been skimming off
hundreds of thousands of dollars from their drug operations.  The government
agents  coerced de Sabatino into gathering  evidence for the prosecution. He
had no choice if  he were arrested, LCN would  be told what he'd been up to.
LCN  members in prison would have done the rest. Pat had had a good relation
ship with him during the  job, and  we'd later joked that maybe that was why
he'd got out right afterward. I now  knew  that  Pat had liked to sample the
goods a bit too much.
     Frankie's clothing had been anything but low profile; to him, "subdued"
meant a pale orange shirt with purple pants and alligator skin cowboy boots.
Whatever he was wearing,  his fat would push up against his  shirt. The last
I'd  heard of him, he'd been given a new identity after the trial  and, very
surprisingly, had  opted  to stay in  the States  and, even  more weird,  in
Florida. Maybe the shirt selection wasn't so good elsewhere.
     I'd thought again about calling  Euan,  but what could he  do for me at
the moment?  I decided against  it;  better  not use up all my  resources at
once.  Frankie would help  decrypt  the PIRA stuff,  then Euan could help me
once I was back in the UK.
     We got  to  De  Land station just before 2 p.m. The bus was waiting  to
take us to the coast. After so many hours of air-conditioning on  the train,
the Florida afternoon hit  me as if I'd opened the door  of a blast furnace.
Both of us were blinking like bats under the  clear, oppressive sky. We were
surrounded  by  people  wearing  tans and  summer  clothes.  The  electronic
information scroll at the station told us it was ninety-one degrees.
     We boarded the hot bus, sat  down, and waited for the PVC  to stick  to
our backs as we chugged along the highway to the Daytona Beach bus depot.
     It was  an uneventful trip. Occasionally from behind us would  come the
sound of rolling thunder, and a blur of chrome, leather, and sawed-off denim
would  flash past  with  the  distinctive,  explosive bubbling  gurgle  of a
Harley-Davidson. I'd forgotten  Daytona Beach  was a mecca for bikers. From
the bus window, the roadside diners looked black with them.
     Two hours later we trundled across the bridge  over the inland waterway
into  downtown  Daytona  Beach.  We peeled ourselves off  the  seats,  and I
reclaimed  our bag.  The first thing  I  did  was buy  us two fresh-squeezed
orange  juices, and as we walked  from the shelter of the  bus depot I could
feel the sunlight burning through my shirt.
     At the taxi stand I asked the driver to take us to an ordinary hotel.
     "What kind of ordinary?" he asked.
     "Cheap"  The  driver  was  Latino. Gloria  Estefan blasted  out of  the
cassette player; he had a little statue of the Virgin Mary on the dashboard,
a  picture  of  his  kids hanging off the mirror,  and he was wearing a big,
loud, flowery shirt de Sabatino would have died for. I rolled my window down
and let the breeze hit my face. We turned onto Atlantic Avenue, and I  found
myself staring at a massive white ribbon of hard-packed  sand that stretched
to  infinity. We  drove past  diners,  beachwear and biker  stores,  Chinese
restaurants, oyster houses, 7-Elevens, parking lots, tacky hotels, then more
diners and beachwear stores.
     The  whole place was  built  for vacations.  Everywhere I turned  I saw
hotels with  brightly  colored murals.  Nearly  all  had signs saying spring
breakers welcome. There was even a cheerleaders convention going on; I could
see scores of girls in skimpy outfits  strutting their stuff on a ball field
outside the convention center. Maybe Frankie was there, sitting in a corner,
     "Are we there yet?" Kelly asked.
     The driver said, "Two more blocks on the left."
     I saw all the usual chain hotels, and then ours--the Castaway Hotel.
     Standing  on  the  sidewalk  outside,  listening  to  Gloria's  singing
disappearing  into  the  distance, I  looked at  Kelly  and said,  "Yeah,  I
     She grinned.
     "Triple-decker crap with cheese."
     Maybe,  but it looked  perfect  for us.  What  was more,  it  was  only
twenty-four dollars a night,  though I could  already tell  from the outside
that we'd get only twenty-four bucks' worth.
     I came out with the same old story,  plus  us being determined still to
have our Disney vacation. I didn't  think  the woman at the desk believed a
word I was saying, but she just didn't care, as long as I gave her the  cash
that went into the front pocket other dirty black jeans.
     Our room was a small box with a pane of glass in one wall.
     The floor had a layer of dust that it would have been a shame to clean,
and the heat bouncing off the cinder block made  it feel like the black hole
of Calcutta.
     "Once the air-conditioning is on it'll be OK.," I said.
     "What air-conditioning?" Kelly asked, looking at the bare walls.
     She flopped  onto  the  bed. I could swear I  heard  a thousand bedbugs
     "Can we go to the beach?"
     I was thinking the same, but the first priority, as ever, was the kit.
     "We'll go out soon. Do you want to help me sort every thing out first?"
     She seemed  happy at the suggestion. I gave her the  .45 magazines from
the Lorton exit shooting.
     "Can you take  the bullets out and put them in there?" I pointed to the
side pocket of the bag. The mags didn't fit into my Sig, but the rounds were
the same.
     "Sure" She looked really pleased.
     I didn't show her how to do it because I wanted to keep her busy. I hid
the  backup disk inside the bed,  using one  of the screwdrivers to rip  the
mattress lining. I got the  washing kit  out, had a shower and a shave.  The
scabs were a dark color now and hard. I got dressed in my new jeans and gray
     Then I got Kelly cleaned up too.
     It  was 4:45. She was still getting dressed in black pants  and a green
pullover as I leaned over to the cabinet between the two beds and pulled out
the telephone book.
     "What's this?"  I pointed a thumb at the TV " The Big Bad Beetleborgs."
"The who?"
     She started to explain but I wasn't really listening; I just nodded and
agreed and read the phone book.
     I was looking for the  surname DeNiro. It  was  a crazy name for him to
have chosen, but I remembered that was what he'd renamed himself: Al DeNiro.
For somebody who was supposed  to  spend his  life keeping a low  profile it
wasn't exactly the  most secure, but he was Al and Bob's  biggest  fan.  The
only reason he'd got involved in the drug  scene in the first place was that
he'd seen Al Pacino in Scarface. His whole life had been a  fantasy. He knew
all the dialogue from their films;
     he'd even entertained us in Wales with passable impressions.
     Sad, but true.
     There  was no  listing  under  De Niro, A. I tried directory assistance
They  couldn't  help, either. The next step would  be to  start phoning  all
around the state or to get a private eye on it with some story, but that was
going to take a lot of time and money.
     Scratching my butt until I realized  Kelly  was watching, I walked over
to the  curtains, and pulled  them back. We  were  two bats in the bat  cave
again, exposed to the deadly sunlight.
     Craning my neck around to the left, I  could just about see  the  ocean
view I'd  paid an extra five dollars for.  People were  strewn all over  the
beach;  there  was  a young couple who couldn't  keep their  hands  off each
other, and families, some with tans and others like us, the lily-white ones,
who looked like uncooked trench fries. Maybe they'd come on the same train.
     I turned to Kelly. She was happy enough that the Beetle-borgs had saved
the world again, but looked bored.
     "What are we going to do now?" she said.
     "I've got to find my friend, but I'm not sure where he lives.
     I'm just wondering how to go about it."
     "The computer geek you told me about?"
     I nodded.
     All  very nonchalant, she said, "Why don't you try the Net?" She wasn't
even looking at me; she was now  back  to watching  the shit  on the  TV  Of
course--the bloke is a computer  freak,  there's no way he's not going to be
on  the Internet,  probably surfing the  porn pages  for pictures  of naked
teenagers. It  was as good a starting  point as any. Better than  my private
eye idea, anyway.
     I walked over to the bag.
     "You can use the Net, can you?"
     "Sure. We do it at school."
     I  started  to get  the laptop out, feeling  quite  excited  about this
girl's genius.
     I  suddenly realized  that  even  if  there was  an internal modem  and
Internet software on the  laptop, it  would  be no good to me. I didn't have
any credit cards I could use to register with, and I couldn't use the stolen
ones because they'd need a billing address. I put the laptop on the bed.
     "Good idea," I said, "but I can't do it on this machine."
     Still looking at the TV, she was now drinking a warm  Minute Maid  that
had been in the bag, using both hands  on the carton so she  didn't have  to
tilt her head and miss anything.
     She said, "We'll  just have to go to a cyber cafe--when Melissa's phone
was out of order, her mommy used to go to the cyber cafe for her email."
     "Oh, did she?"
     * * * Cybercino  was  a coffee  shop  with  croissants,  doughnuts, and
sandwiches, with the addition  of office dividers  to create small cubicles.
In  each  was a PC, with  a little table  for food and drink. Pinned on  the
dividers were  notices  about  session  times, how  to  log on,  and  little
business cards advertising various sites.
     I bought coffee, doughnuts, and a Coke and tried to log on.
     In the end I handed the controls to a more skilled pilot. Kelly  zoomed
off into cyberspace as if it were her own backyard.
     "Is he on AOL, MSN, CompuServe, or what?" she demanded.
     I didn't have a clue.
     She shrugged.
     "We'll use a search engine."
     Less  than a minute later we  were visiting a site  called  Info-Space.
Kelly hit the e-mail icon and a dialogue box appeared.
     "Last name?"
     I spelled out De Niro.
     "First name?"
     "Better leave that blank. Just put Florida. He might have moved."
     She hit Search, and moments later, up came his e-mail address.
     I couldn't believe it. There was even a Send Mail icon, which she hit.
     I sent a message saying I wanted  to  contact Al  De Niro-or anyone who
was a  Pacino/De Niro  fan and knew "Nicky Two" from the UK.. That  was  the
nickname de Sabatino had given me. There were three Nicks on the team. I was
the second  one he'd  come  in contact with. When  we  met  he would do  his
Godfather thing, holding out his arms, saying, "Heyyy, Nicky Two" as he gave
me a kiss and a hug. Thankfully, he did that to everyone.
     The cafe  would open  the next  day at 10 a.m. Our session fee included
the use of the Cybercino address, so I signed off by saying that I would log
on  at 10:15  tomorrow morning to retrieve  any messages. The  risk that his
e-mail was being monitored and somebody could make a connection with  "Nicky
Two" was minimal.
     By  now  I was hungry  for more  than  doughnuts, and so  was Kelly. We
walked back toward the main strip and stopped at our favorite restaurant. We
ordered to go  and ate our Big  Macs  on  the walk back. The temperature was
still in the seventies, even at this time of the evening.
     "Can't we play miniature golf?" Kelly said. She pointed to what  looked
like  a cross between Disneyland and  St. Andrews  with trees, waterfalls, a
pirate ship, all made to look like a floodlit Treasure Island.
     I  actually enjoyed it. There was  no  danger, and the pressure release
was tremendous, even though Kelly was cheating.
     She  started to  putt on the  eleventh hole.  A  dragon behind  us  was
blowing out water rather than fire from its cave.
     "What?" I was busy working out how to negotiate the ninety-degree angle
I needed to hole the ball.
     "Can we see your friend, what's his name David?"
     "Maybe some day." I swung, and it didn't work. I was stuck on the water
     "Do you have any sisters or brothers?"
     Where was this going?
     "Yes, I have."
     "How many?"
     I marked my card after six attempts on a par three hole.
     "Three brothers." I decided to cut the interrogation.
     "They are called... John, Joe, and Jim."
     "Oh. How old are they?"
     She got  me on that one. I didn't even know where they lived, let alone
how old they were.
     "I don't know really."
     "Why not?"
     I found it hard to explain because I really didn't know the answer.
     "Because." I positioned the ball for her to putt.
     "Come on or we'll hold everyone up."
     On the way back I felt strangely close to her, and that worried me. She
seemed to have latched on to me as a stand-in  parent and we'd been together
only six days. I couldn't take the place of Kev and Marsha, even if I wanted
to. The prospect was too scary.
     Next  day.  It was  ice  cream for  breakfast, then  we  logged  on  at
ten-fifteen. There  was  a message  waiting for  us, telling  us to  visit a
certain chat  room. Kelly hit a few keys and there  we were. De Sabatino was
waiting  for us, or at  least  someone called  Big Al was.  A  dialogue  box
invited us  to  a  private room for a one-on-one; thank goodness  Kelly  was
there to do the navigating.
     I got right down to it. Kelly typed with two fingers: I need your help.
     What do you want?
     I've got something here that I need you to decode or translate--I'm not
entirely sure what it is, but  I know  you'll be able to  do it, What is it?
     I needed to get him  hooked. For  him,  half  the point of stealing all
that money had been the sheer kick  of doing  it-"the juice." Thinking about
it now,  Pat had probably got the  term from Big Al in the first place. This
guy enjoyed putting  one over on the big boys;  he needed to be involved, to
be part of something, and I knew that if  I  used the right bait, he'd  come
and see me.
     I  spoke  and  she typed: I'm not going  to  tell you! Believe me, it's
good. If you want to look, you'll have to see me. I'm in Daytona. And then I
started to lie. Other people say it's impossible.
     I thought of you.
     He came back at once: What format? I'd got him.
     I told him all the details.
     He said. Can't see  you until 9 tonight. Outside Boot Hill Saloon, Main
     I'll be there.
     Big Al came back: Yeehaa! Yeehaa!
     There was nothing changed about him,  then.  Kelly logged off,  and  we
paid the twelve dollars. About a hundredth of what a private eye would  have
cost me.
     Now we had hours to kill. We bought sunglasses, and I also got  Kelly a
fashionable pair of shorts, a T-shirt, and sandals. I had to  stay as I was,
wearing  my shirt over my pants to  cover my pistol. The only addition was a
bandanna  to cover the cut on my forehead. Chrome aviators covered the lower
     With the wind on our faces, we sauntered along the beach.
     It was that  time of  day when the restaurants were starting to fill up
with people wanting early lunches.
     Back  at  the hotel I made  some  calls  to  check  flights out  of the
country.  If the stuff Big Al decrypted for me  seemed to  be  what Simmonds
needed, Kelly and  I were out of here. I knew Big Al would have the contacts
and resources to get passports for our exit, even money.
     We had lunch, followed by eighteen holes with the pirates I let her win
and then it was time to start getting ready for the meet.
     At about 7:30 the  sun  started to go down and the street neon came on.
Suddenly it was another world, with music pumping out of  the stores and the
kids now driving up  and  down the  strip faster than the legal ten miles an
     I didn't  know what it was, the weather maybe, but I felt detached from
the situation  I was  in. It was just the two of  us, we  were  having  fun,
eating ice cream and  walking around looking in shops. Kelly was doing usual
kid  things, even  to the point of spotting something  in a store window and
doing the "Look at that!" act as in. Hint, hint, are you going to buy it for
me? I found  myself acting the parent, saying, "No, I think we've had enough
for today."
     I  did  worry about  her. I felt  she  should be more  upset, shouldn't
really be taking it so well. Maybe she hadn't  under stood  what I'd said to
her about  her  family; maybe her sub conscious was putting a lid on  it. At
the moment, however, that  was exactly  what I  needed: a child looking  and
behaving normally.
     We stopped outside a toy store. She asked for a ring in the window that
glowed in the dark. I lied and said I had no money left.
     "Couldn't you steal it for me?" she said.
     She was getting into this on-the-run thing too much.  We had  a serious
talk about right and wrong.
     It  was  about  a quarter of nine by now; we'd had a pizza, and at that
time of night on vacation, the next thing you should always have is a Haagen
Dazs. Afterward,  we  started to wander to the  RV with Big Al. We  squeezed
past  ranks of parked motorcycles and jostling crowds, most wearing T-shirts
with bike slogans.
     I got us into a position from which I could see both approaches to  the
Boot Hill Saloon from the  old graveyard on the other side of the street. It
was all that remained of the original town, the  only thing that couldn't be
ripped apart and have  a hotel built on it.  As bikers parked and opened the
doors,  loud rock and roll thundered from the bar. It collided  head-on with
the Latin and rap that were blaring from  the vehicles cruising up and down;
it  was  that body-fluid time of night,  and groups of breakers were hanging
out of Jeeps and pickups with banks of six or seven speakers in the back.
     Some  even had electric blue lights fitted under the car; as they drove
past, they  looked like  hovering  spaceships  playing music  from  Mars.  I
thought about our friends in the Cherokee. I  wondered if they'd gotten home
     Kelly and  I just  waited,  eating our ice cream and  sitting on a bank
next to Mrs. J. Mostyn, who  went to Our  Savior on July  16, 1924, God rest
her soul. Main Street wasn't in fact the main drag but a road that led from
the sea to a bridge over the  inland waterway.  Daytona has a bike week each
year, and this was the street on which the thousands of bikers descended. It
was a one-theme street, and that theme was Harleys. If it wasn't a bike bar,
it was a store selling spare parts, helmets, or leather goods. And even when
the convention wasn't on, bikes with helmets  on the seats were  lined up by
the dozen outside bars with names like  Dirty Harry's  or  Froggie's,  where
there was even a bike made of dusty bones in the window.
     I could spot Big  Al a  mile  away  as he  shambled  toward us from the
direction of the bridge. He  was wearing a blue,  white, and yellow Hawaiian
shirt  and pale  pink  pants, both straining against  a body that  was  even
fatter than I remembered;
     his outfit was set off by white shoes and the same shaggy hairstyle. He
looked like  an  out-of-work  extra  from  Miami Vice.  In  his left hand he
carried a  briefcase, which was  a good  sign; he'd brought the tools of his
trade  with  him. He  ducked into  the Main  Street Cigar  Store and emerged
chomping on a huge corona.
     He stopped outside the Boot Hill Saloon, Harleys all around him. He put
his briefcase down between his feet and stood  there sucking his cigar as if
he  owned  the place. Behind him was  an  enormous mural  of a  biker on the
beach, covering an entire wall of the saloon. A board announced no colors,
     I nudged Kelly: "See that man over there?"
     "Which one?"
     "The one with that really big flowery shirt on, the big fat man."
     "You mean the geekazoid?"
     "It's like a double geek."
     "Whatever." I grinned.
     "He's the man we're going to see."
     She said, "Why didn't we wait over there for him?"
     "No,  no--what you do is 'stand off' and watch. See what I'm doing? I'm
looking  up  and down  the  road,  just to  make sure  there's no  bad  guys
following him. Then I know we're safe. What do you think? Think it's
     All of a sudden she'd become very important. She looked up and down and
said, "All clear." She didn't have a clue what she was looking for.
     "Come  on  then, give me your hand. We've got to be careful  with these
cars driving so fast."
     We left Mrs. Mostyn and  stopped  at the curb. I said, "When we  go and
meet  him, I might  have to do something that looks funny, but actually it's
not--we do it all the time.
     He understands it."
     As we  dodged through the  traffic she said,  "OK." After  what she had
seen lately this would be kindergarten stuff.
     We got  closer; he was  certainly  looking older. He recognized me from
twenty yards away and was suddenly starring in The Godfather again. Cigar in
his right hand,  arms thrown  out wide, head cocked to one side, he growled,
     It's  Nicky  Two!"  He had a  smile  on  his face the  size  of half  a
watermelon. It was  probably shit living in hiding; at last he  had somebody
from the past he could talk freely with.
     He jammed the cigar back into his mouth, picked up his briefcase in his
right hand, and walked toward us, his fat thighs rubbing together.
     "Hey! Nicky! How's it going!" He beamed and started pumping my hand, at
the same time studying Kelly. He stank of flowery aftershave.
     "And  who's this pretty little lady,  then?"  He bent down to greet her
and I felt a slight twinge of wariness. Maybe the charm was genuine, but for
some reason it made me feel a bit revolted.
     I said, "This is Kelly, one of my friend's daughters. I'm looking after
her for a while."
     I very  much  doubted  he  knew  what had  been  going on up  north. He
certainly didn't know Kev.
     Still bending down and shaking her hand for  a  bit too long, he  said,
"Welcome to the Sunshine  State! It's great here  we've got Seaworld, Disney
World, everything to make a little lady happy!"
     He stood up and said, slightly out of breath, "Where are we  going?" He
pointed hopefully and said, "Main Street Pier?
     I shook my head.
     "No, we'll go back to our hotel. I've got all the gear there I want you
to have a look at. Follow me."
     I held Kelly's hand  in my left and got  him on the right. As we walked
we  made small talk about how wonderful it was to  see each other again, but
he knew very well  that this meeting wasn't casual and  he liked it. He  got
off on this sort of stuff, just like Al and Bob.
     We turned right and then took  the first left, which was into a parking
area behind the shops. I  looked at Kelly and nodded to  show everything was
fine, then let go other hand. Big Al was still jabbering away. I grabbed his
left  arm with both hands and used  his own momentum to turn him against the
wall. He  hit it with quite  a bounce. I  pushed him into  the doorway of  a
restaurant's fire exit.
     "It's  cool, I'm  cool."  Big  Al was keeping a low voice. He knew  the
     Just looking at  him, it was obvious he  couldn't conceal as much as  a
playing  card  under  his  clothes, let  alone  a  weapon,  the material was
stretched so tight against his skin. However, I ran my hand down the back of
his  spine  in case he had  some  thing  concealed in the lumbar region; the
natural curve makes it a wonderful place to hide odds and ends, and Big Al's
was curvier than most. I continued frisking him.
     He looked down at Kelly, who was watching everything.
     He winked.
     "I suppose you've seen him do this all the time?"
     "My daddy does it, too, in heaven."
     His answer was quick.
     "Ah, OK, yeah,  smart kid,  smart kid." He looked  at her and  tried to
work that one out.
     Then came the bit that he probably enjoyed most, me running my hand  up
his pant legs. I checked thoroughly at the top. I said, "You know  I need to
look in your briefcase now, don't you?"
     "Yeah, sure." He opened it up; I found two cigars in tubes, and all his
work tools floppy disks, a backup drive and disks, cables, wires, all sorts
of shit. I had a quick feel around to make sure there wasn't a secret panel.
     I was happy. He was also. In fact, he probably had a hard-on.
     I said, "Right, let's go."
     "Let's get some ice cream on the way," he suggested.
     We waved down a cab. Kelly and I got in the back and he squeezed in the
front, resting a pint of Ben & Jerry's on his briefcase.
     We  got  to the hotel  and  went  to the  room.  His body  language was
excited, probably because he thought it was like the old days, all spies and
shit, and the  cheapness of the room only  made it all the more exhilarating
for him. He put his briefcase on one  of the beds, opened it up, and started
taking out all his gizmos. He fished, "So what are you up to these days?"
     I didn't reply.
     Kelly and  I  were  sitting  on the bed,  not really doing much  except
watching what was going on. Kelly started to take quite an interest.
     "You got any games?" she said.
     I thought de Sabatino would look at her in disgust: I'm a technician, I
don't have games. But he went, "Yeah, loads!
     Maybe, if we get time, we can sit down and play a few. What ones do you
     They went off  on  a tangent about Quake and Third Dimension. I  cut in
and said, "So what do you do with yourself nowadays?"
     "I just  teach people  how to  work these  things." He pointed  at  the
     "Also,  I do  a  bit of work for a  couple  of  private eyes down here,
getting into bank accounts, that sort of thing.
     It's pretty low-key but it suits me I have to keep my head down."
     Almost choking on Kouros  cologne and looking at his choice of clothes,
I wondered what his idea of high profile would be.
     Without a  reply to  his original question, he seemed to feel compelled
to fill the  silence. He started sniggering and said, "Still managed to tuck
away a few hundred thou! So, plus the resettlement, things ain't too bad." 
He was fiddling about, attaching more cables to the laptop;
     God knows what he  was doing, so  I let him get on  with  it. He  tried
     "What about you? Same old thing?"
     "Yeah, same sort of stuff. Bit of this, bit of that."
     Now sitting  at the table with his  back to me, he was concentrating on
the laptop.
     "You still being a--what did you call it--a baby spy?"
     "I do that a bit."
     "You working now, are you?"
     "Yeah, I'm working."
     He laughed.
     "You  lying sonofabitch!"  He  looked at Kelly  and said, "Oops! Do you
learn  French at school?" He turned back  to me and said, "You wouldn't need
me if you were,  you'd be getting somebody else to do it. You can't bullshit
Big All" He looked at Kelly and  said, "Franfais!" Then he looked back at me
and said, "You still married?"
     The Microsoft sound chimed as Windows 95 opened on his machine.
     "Divorced about three years ago," I said.
     "I haven't heard from her for about two years. I  think she's living up
in Scotland or somewhere, I don't know."
     I suddenly realized that Kelly was hanging on my every word.
     He winked at her.
     "Just like me--young, free, and single! Yeah!" Big Al was one of life's
really sad fucks; I was probably the nearest thing he had to a friend.
     I handed him the  backup disk, and it was soon humming in the drive. It
wouldn't be long before I got a few answers.
     By now there was  a pall of cigar smoke filling the top quarter  of the
room. Between that, the Kouros, and the lack  of  air-conditioning, the room
was close to unbearable.  It was just as well we'd be moving from here  the
moment Big Al left. I checked outside by moving the curtain, then opened the
     The first batch  of documents  came up on the screen, and I looked over
his shoulder as he tapped away in the semidarkness.
     I pointed at one of the spreadsheets.
     "This  is where I've  got a  problem. I  haven't got  a  clue what that
means. Any idea?"
     "I'll tell  you  what  we  have  here, Nicky." His eyes never left  the
     "These are shipment and payment records-of  what,  I don't know." As he
pointed  to  the  screen,  his finger  touched  it and squidged  the  liquid
     "Never touch the screen!" he scolded himself  as if he were telling off
one of his students. He was really getting into this.
     "See  these  here?" His voice had changed  from  that of a no-hoper  to
someone who knew his stuff.
     I looked at columns headed  by groups of initials like MON, JC,  IN. He
said, "They refer to  shipments. They're telling you what's going where, and
to who."
     He started to scroll down the pages, confirming it to himself.
     As he was looking through he nodded emphatically.
     "These are  definitely  shipments and payments. How  did  you  get into
this, anyway? You're not exactly the world's greatest hacker, and there's no
way these files weren't password-protected."
     "I had a sniffer program."
     "Wow! Which one do you have?" The computer nerd was coming back.
     "Mexy twenty-one," I lied.
     "That's shit! Oops, garbage! There are sniffers now that do it at three
times the speed." He looked down at Kelly.
     "That's the problem with the Brits. They're still in the Steam Age."
     He was now out of the spreadsheets and looking at more file names.
     I said, "This is another group of files I was having problems with. Can
you decrypt them?"
     "I don't understand," he said.
     "Which files are you having trouble with?"
     "Well, they're in code or something--just a  lot of random letters  and
numbers. Any chance  of  you  figuring  it  out?"  He made  me  feel  like a
six-year-old child having to ask to have his shoelaces tied.
     He scrolled down the file names.
     "You mean these GIFs?"
     he said.
     "They're graphics files,  that's all. You just  need a graphics program
to read them."
     He tapped a few keys, found what  he was  looking for, and selected one
of the files.
     "They're scans of photographs," he said.
     He leaned  over and pulled open the pint of ice cream,  reached for one
of the plastic  spoons, and started to dig in. He threw a spoon to Kelly and
said, "You'd better get in here before Uncle Al finishes it all."
     The first  picture  was now on the screen.  It was  a  grainy black and
white of two people standing  at the top of a flight of  steps that led to a
grand old  building. I knew both men very well.  Seamus  Macauley  and  Liam
Femahan  were  "businessmen" who fronted  a  lot of  fund-raising  and other
operations for PIRA. They were good at the game, once even getting a project
backed  by  the British  government  to  finance revitalization  in Northern
Ireland's cities. The whole scheme was designed to provide local employment.
They convinced Westminster that if a community was  responsible  for its own
rebuilding, there would be less chance of them then wanting to go  and  blow
it up. But what the  government didn't know was  that the  contractors could
only  employ people  that  PIRA  wanted  to work; those  people  were  still
claiming unemployment and social benefits, and PIRA was getting  a kick back
from  letting  them  work  on  the  sites illegally,  so it was  costing the
government twice as much and, of  course, the businessmen got  their cut  as
well. And if the government's paying, why not blow more up and rebuild?
     Without a doubt, PIRA had come a long way from the days of rattling its
tin  cups in West  Belfast,  Liverpool, and  Boston. So  much so  that  the
Northern  Ireland Office  had established a  Terrorist  Finance  Unit  as  a
countermeasure  in 1988, staffed by  specialists in  accounting, law, taxes,
and computing. Euan and I had done a lot of work with them.
     Big Al now opened and viewed a  series of shots of Macauley and Femahan
shaking hands with two other  men, then walking down the steps  and  getting
into a Mercedes.
     One of  them was  the late Mr. Morgan McGear, looking  very smart  in a
suit I was familiar with. The fourth man I had no idea about.
     The photography was covert: I could see the darkness around the edge of
the frames  where they hadn't gotten the  aperture  right,  but it was  good
enough for me to tell,  by the cars parked in the background, that they were
on the Continent.
     I said, "Let's see the next one."
     De Sabatino  could tell that I  recognized something or someone; he was
looking at me, dying to know what, wanting to  get in on the  act.  He'd had
five years on the back burner, and now was his chance for a comeback.
     I wasn't going to tell him jack shit.
     "Let's push on."
     There was  another group of  pictures  that  he opened and  viewed, but
these meant nothing at all to me.
     Big Al looked at them. The big half watermelon was back on his face.
     "Now I know what all those spreadsheets refer to."
     "What's that?"
     "fEstd  es la coca, senorl Hey, I  know  this guy.  He  works  for  the
     I was looking  at  a really smart-looking Latino in  his early  forties
getting out of a  car. I could tell by the  surroundings that  it was in the
United States.
     "That's Raoul Martinez," he said.
     "He's part of the Colombian trade delegation."
     This was  getting more interesting by the  minute. PIRA al ways claimed
no association with drug trafficking, but the profits were too great for it
to ignore. What I had in front of me now was close to admissible evidence of
its direct involvement with the cartels. But that  still didn't help me with
my problem.
     He looked through the pictures.
     "You'll  see Raoul with  somebody else in a minute, I guarantee it." He
flicked through a couple more.
     "There you are: big bad Sal."
     This  other  character  was about the same  age but much  taller;  he'd
probably been a weight  lifter at  some  stage,  then ballooned out to maybe
three hundred pounds. Sal was a big old boy, and very bald.
     De Sabatino said, "Martinez is never without him. We used  to do  a lot
of business with them  in the old days. A nice man, a family man. We used to
run cocaine up the East Coast, all the way to the Canadian border. We needed
things  evened  out to  ease the route--these guys  did the  necessary,  and
everybody  was  making money.  Yeah, these fellas, they're all  right. As we
went through more picture files, I saw both men eating in  a restaurant with
another bloke, a Caucasian.
     Big Al said, "I haven't got a clue who he is."
     I  was looking over  de Sabatino's shoulder, concentrating hard  on the
     Kelly perked up.
     "In a minute." I turned my head to Big Al.
     "Absolutely no idea?"
     "Not a clue."
     I cut in.
     "Not now, Kelly."
     Kelly butted in again.
     "Nick, Nick!"
     "Go back to the--" "Nick, Nick! I know who that man is."
     I looked at her.
     "Which man?"
     "The one that was in the picture." She grinned.
     "You don't know who he is--but I do."
     "This one?" I pointed at Martinez.
     "No, the one before."
     Big Al scrolled back.
     "Him! That one there!"
     It was the white guy who was sitting with Raoul and big bad Sal.
     I said, "You're sure?"
     "I'm totally sure."
     "Who is  he?"  After  our experience with the  video I expected  her to
nominate anyone from Clint Eastwood to Brad Pitt.
     "It's Daddy's boss."
     There was  a  long, palpable silence as I let  it sink in.  Big Al  was
sucking air through his teeth.
     "What do you mean, Daddy's boss?" I said.
     "He came to our house once for dinner."
     "Do you remember his name?"
     "No. I just came down for some water and he and a lady were eating with
Mommy and Daddy in the dining room.
     Daddy let  me  say hello and he said,  "Big  smile, Kelly,  this  is my
     " It was a good imitation ofKev, and I saw a  flicker of sadness in her
     Big Al joined the conversation in nerd mode.
     There you go! So who's your daddy?"
     I swung around.
     "Shut up!" And so she couldn't hear  it, I muttered angrily,  "I turned
up at  her parents' house a week ago. Everybody was dead. He was in the DEA,
killed by people he knew."
     I pushed him off his seat and sat down with Kelly on my knee so she had
a better view of the screen.
     "Are you definitely sure he's Daddy's boss?"
     "I'm sure Daddy told me. The next day Mommy and me made jokes about his
mustache because he looked like a cowboy."
     He  did;  he  looked like a Marlboro man. As  she pointed,  her  finger
touched the screen, and Daddy's boss was distorted.
     Having  Kelly in  my arms  and  seeing  someone  who  might  have  been
responsible  for her father's  death made me want to  do  the same to him in
     I looked at Big Al.
     "Let's go back through all the photos."
     Big Al sat down  and scrolled back through the files to the pictures of
Macauley and Femahan with McGear.
     "Do  you  know these  people?" Kelly answered  with a no,  but I wasn't
really listening  to her now.  I was  in my own world. I'd noticed two other
cars  parked on the other  side  of  the road. I looked hard at  the license
plates, and then I knew where the pictures had been taken.
     "Gibraltar." I couldn't help mouthing it aloud.
     Big Al pointed to Macauley and his mates.
     "Are these terrorists from Ireland?"
     "Sort of."
     There was a gap while I tried to work this one out.
     Big Al spoke up.
     "It's obvious to me what's going on."
     "What's that?"
     "Well,  these  Irish  guys  were buying cocaine from the Colombians. It
came by  the normal route to the Florida  Keys, then the Caribbean and North
Africa.  They then  used Gibraltar  as the jump-off point  for  the  rest of
Europe. They made fortunes, and at the same time we took our cut for letting
them move it through South Florida. All of  a sudden, though, at the end of'
eighty-seven, it stopped going through Gibraltar."
     "Why was that?" I was finding it hard to stay calm.
     Big Al shrugged.
     "Some big  hullaballoo  with the locals. I  think  they now run it from
South Africa instead, into the  west  coast  of  Spain, something like that.
They're linked with some other terrorists up there."
     "Search me. Some bunch of terrorists or freedom fighters.
     Call them what you like, to me they're all just dealers.
     Anyway,  they  help the Irish now. No doubt old Raoul  organized things
Stateside with Daddy's  boss to ensure that the  route stayed open  for  the
Irish,  because  otherwise the  Colombians would  have given  it to  someone
     "You make it sound like allocating air routes or something."
     Big Al shrugged again.
     "Of  course. It's business."  He spoke as if  all this stuff was common
knowledge. It was news tome.
     So who the fuck was PIRA talking to in Gibraltar? Was the PIRA there in
an attempt to keep the drug trafficking going?
     It came back to me that  in September 1988, Sir Peter Terry, who'd been
instrumental in  pressing for a crackdown on  drug smuggling and  who'd been
governor  of  Gibraltar until earlier  that  year, had narrowly survived  an
assassination attempt  at his  home in  Staffordshire. A  gunman who'd never
been  caught had  given him  the good news with twenty rounds from an  AK-47
something, as  it happened, that Mr.  McGear was not unaccustomed to  doing.
Maybe the  fourth  man in the photograph was  getting a similar warning? And
was there  some sort of connection between the ending  of  the drug runs and
the shooting of PIRA players in Gibraltar just a few months later?
     Whatever,  it  confirmed that there were some  strange things  going on
with some members of the DEA, including Kev's  boss. Maybe they were getting
a cut of the action from PIRA and Kev found out?
     Big Al sucked through his teeth once more.
     "You've  got a brilliant  package here, man. So which one are you going
to blackmail?"
     "Micky, you've got a  senior figure in the  DEA talking with big-cheese
cartel  members,  your  terrorist  fellas,  and  Gibraltar  government,  law
enforcement, whoever. You're not trying to tell me these pictures aren't for
the purpose of blackmail? Get real. If it's not you who's going to use them,
whoever  took these photographs is certainly intending to." We went through
all  the  pictures  one more  time. Kelly didn't recognize  any more  of the
     I  asked de Sabatino  if  there  was  any  way  we  could  enhance  the
     "What's the  point? You seem  to know everybody." He was right. I  just
wanted Kelly to look at "Daddy's boss" more closely.
     There was silence for about three minutes as we  just kept  on flicking
     "What else do you know about Gibraltar?" I asked.
     "Not much. What more  do  you  want?" His second  cigar was well on its
way, and Kelly was waving away the smoke.
     "It's  common  sense if you've  got  enough money, do a  deal with  the
Colombians and get the goods into Europe. Every other bunch of  bad asses is
doing it, so why not your Irish guys?"
     Big Al was looking at  me  as  if  what we'd  stumbled across was  very
mundane. And I had to admit, it didn't seem enough for Kev and his family to
have been murdered for.
     There was too much silence; Big Al had to inject some thing.
     "Whatever, someone is definitely in the blackmail biz."
     I  wasn't so sure.  Maybe  it  was some kind of insurance for  PIRA. If
Kev's boss or the Gibraltarians decided not to  play anymore, maybe this was
what would keep them in the game.
     I looked at Kelly.
     "Can you do us a favor? Will you go and get some cans of soda?"
     She  looked happy to get out of the  smoke. I followed her to the door,
gave  her a handful of  coins,  and  pulled the  curtain so  I could see the
machines.  The landing  was clear; I watched  Kelly until  she  reached  the
dispenser,  then I sat down  on the bed. Big  Al  was still playing with the
     I pointed at the screen.
     "First  Kev is killed.  Now  we've got  Daddy's  boss  mixing  with the
cartels. It's reasonable to assume that what  we've  got here  is corruption
within the DEA, involving drug shipments  via Florida  to  Irish  terrorists
who've been getting it  into Europe via  Gibraltar. Only  now it seems there
were some problems for them in late 'eighty-seven."
     Big  Al wasn't really listening. The thought  of a corrupt DEA  officer
had taken him to another planet.
     "Way to go!
     You gonna nail the bastard?"
     "I don't know what I'm going to do."
     "Fucking  nail him, Nicky! I hate cops! I hate the DEAf I  have to live
like a fucking hermit federal witness protection program, kiss my ass!"
     I was worried that five years  of frustration were about to explode out
of him. I had no time for that.
     "Frankie, I need a car."
     He wasn't listening.
     "They used me, then they just fucked me over..."
     "I need a car."
     He looked at Kelly as she returned with a selection  of soda cans, then
slowly came back to earth.
     "Sure, OK, for how long?"
     "Two days, maybe three. And I need some money."
     "When do you want it by?"
     Big Al was weird and a sad fuck, too soft and stupid to be in this sort
of world,  but I felt sorry for  him. Me turning  up must have been the best
thing that had happened to him in years.  Life must be shit with no friends,
and always worrying about being hit. But that was how mine was  going to  be
if I didn't get this stuff back to Simmonds.
     Big Al used  the room phone to call a car rental agency. It would  take
about an hour  to  deliver a vehicle, so the three of us strolled to an ATM.
He drew out twelve hundred dollars from four different accounts.
     "You never know when you're going to need mucho dinero in  a hurry!" He
grinned. Maybe  he wasn't so stupid after all.  Back  in the room,  waiting
for the car, I  could sense there was more to come from him. He'd definitely
been brooding on something for the last half hour.
     "Would you like to make some money, Nicky real money?"
     I was checking my bag to make sure I hadn't left anything.
     "Why's that? Are you going to give me some?"
     "In a way." He came and stood by me as I zipped the bag closed.
     "On   those  files  there  are   some   account  numbers  stuffed  with
narco-dollars. Give me two minutes to access what I need and then I can hack
in. I could do it in my sleep." He put an arm around me.
     "Nicky, two minutes on  my  laptop  and  we could  be  talking  serious
enrichment. What do you say?"
     His head was nodding at a thousand rpm, his eyes never leaving mine.
     I let him sweat a bit.
     "How do I know that you'll pay me my half?" I thought  I'd let him know
how much I wanted.
     "I can transfer it anywhere you want. And don't  worry, once I've moved
it they'll never know where it's gone."
     I had to smile. The one thing Frank de  Sabatino was good at was hiding
     "C'mon, Nicky Two, let's do it!"  He had his  arms  wide  open  and was
looking at me like a child who'd done wrong.
     I  gave  him the time  he  needed with the laptop  and  wrote  down the
account number for him to transfer my share to.
     Fuck it,  Kelly  was going to  need  money for school and stuff,  and I
wanted a payback for working against these people for so many years. It felt
good and anyway it was just business.
     He finished. There was a serious, down-to-work look on his face.
     "Where are you going now?" he asked.
     "I'm not going to  tell you; you know the  score.  People I've been  in
contact  with  are  now dead,  and I  don't want  that  to  happen to  you."
"Bullshit!" He looked at Kelly and shrugged his shoulders.
     "You just don't want me to know in case I go blurting off to somebody."
     "That's not the case," I said, though in fact it was.
     "If you did that, or didn't send the money, you know what I'd do."
     He raised an eyebrow.
     I looked at him and smiled.
     "I'd make sure the right people know where you are."
     The color  drained  from  his face  for  a while,  then  back came  the
watermelon. He shook his head.
     "I may have been out  of the loop for a  while, but I  see nothing  has
     The telephone rang. A blue Nissan was waiting outside the lobby. Big Al
signed for it and gave me a copy of the agreement for when I dropped it off.
Kelly and I got in;  Big Al stayed  on  the sidewalk  with  his briefcase. I
pressed the switch to open the windows.
     "Listen, Frankie, I'll e-mail you to let you know where the  car's been
dropped off, OK?"
     He nodded. It was sinking in that he was about to lose us.
     "Do you want a lift anywhere?"
     "No, I've got work to do. By the morning we could be seriously rich."
     We shook  hands through the open window. Al  smiled at Kelly and  said,
"Make sure  you come  and visit Uncle Al in  about ten years'  time,  little
lady. I'll buy the ice cream!"
     We  set off slowly down the strip.  It was still packed. There  was  so
much neon the street lighting was superfluous.
     Kelly was in the back, staring out the window,  then gazing into space,
lost in  her own  little world.  I didn't  tell her  that  ahead of us lay a
seven-hundred-mile drive.
     Soon Daytona Beach was behind  us  and we  were back on  the long, open
road. As I  drove, I  mulled over  Kev's words again: You  won't believe the
stuff I've got  here.  Your friends over the water  are busy! And he'd also
said: I've just got the ball rolling on something, but  I'd be interested to
know what you  think.  Did that  mean he'd spoken to his boss?  Had his boss
then got him zapped? But there  was  no way  Kev would have been talking  to
anyone in the DEA if he suspected corruption. So who the fuck did he call?
     I now had some valuable material from the PIRA office, a lot of which I
didn't understand, but maybe Kev had had  more.  The more information  I got
hold of, the better it was going to be for me when I got it to Simmonds, and
that was why we were going back to Washington, D.C.
     Once on  the interstate  I put the car into cruise  control and my mind
into neutral.
     We  drove through the night, stopping only to refuel. I bought cans  of
Coke to keep the caffeine levels up as we drove and in case Kelly woke up.
     At first light I could  begin to make out changes in the terrain, proof
that we were  moving north into a more temperate climate. Then the sun  came
up, a big burning ball to my right, and my eyes started to sting.
     We stopped at another gas station. This time Kelly stirred.
     "Where are we?" she yawned.
     "I don't know."
     "Well, where are we going?"
     "It's a surprise."
     "Were you really married?" she asked.
     "It seems so long ago I can hardly remember."
     I looked in  the mirror.  She'd slumped back down, too tired to  pursue
     I wanted to have one last look at Kev's place to see what he had, and I
wanted  to do it  at  last  light  tonight. I knew there'd be a secure  area
somewhere in  the house--exactly where, we'd have to find out. Then I wanted
to be out of  the D.C. area again before first light. Big  Al didn't know it
yet, but he was  going to  get his ass into gear and help us  get out of the
US. If he didn't do it voluntarily, I'd be giving him a jump-start.
     By midmorning Kelly was wide awake, reading a comic book I'd gotten her
at  the  last stop. She was lying in the back, shoes off, totally absorbed.
We  hadn't  talked. We  were in a  world  of empty candy wrappers, Styrofoam
coffee cups,  potato chip bags, and  cans of Coke with bits of chip floating
in them.
     "You know in your house, Daddy had the hidey-holes for you and Aida?"
     "Well, do you know  if Daddy had any  hidey-holes for important  things
like money, or where Mommy would keep her rings? Did he have a special place
where they'd put stuff?"
     Busying myself with the cruise control, I said, "Oh, and  where is that
     "In his study."
     Which  made  sense.  But  that was  the  room that  had been torn apart
     "Where is it exactly?"
     "In the wall."
     "In  the  wall! I just saw Daddy doing it  once.  We're  not allowed in
there, but the door was open  and we'd  just come in from  school and we saw
Daddy putting something in there.
     We were standing right by the door and he didn't know."
     "Is it behind the  picture?" I asked, though  there was no way he'd  be
that obvious.
     "No, it's behind the wood."
     "The wood?"
     "Would you be able to show me?"
     "Is that where we're going?" She suddenly sat bolt  upright.  "I  want
Jenny and Ricky!"
     "We can't see them when we get there because they'll be busy."
     She looked at me as if I was nuts.
     "They're my teddies, I told you! They're in my bedroom. Can I get them?
They need me."
     I felt like a right dickhead.
     "Of course you can. As  long as you're quiet." I knew there was more to
     "Can I tell Melissa I'm sorry I missed the sleepover?"
     "We won't have time" She sat back in her seat, brooding.
     "But you're going to phone her mother?"
     I nodded.
     I  started to see signs for  Washington, D.C. We'd been on the road for
nearly eighteen hours. My eyes  were smarting  worse than  ever, despite the
air conditioner being on full blast.  We'd get there in  two hours, but we'd
still have most of the afternoon to kill before last light. I pulled in at a
rest area and tried to sleep. It could be a busy night.
     It was about six in the evening  as we  approached the Lorton exit. For
once it wasn't raining, just overcast. Only about forty-five minutes to go.
     I couldn't see Kelly in  the mirror. She was hunkered down in  the seat
     "Are you awake?"
     "I'm tired, Nick. Are we there yet?"
     "I'm  not going  to tell you.  It's going to  be  a surprise. Just keep
down; I don't want you to sit up."
     I drove  onto  Hunting  Bear  Path,  negotiating  the speed bumps ultra
cautiously so I could have a good look around.
     Everything seemed quite normal. I could see the  back of  Kev's garage,
but  I couldn't see the front of  the house yet. When I  got  up level, the
driveway was finally exposed.
     Parked outside the  front door  was a  cop car. No problem;  just  look
ahead, act normal.
     I drove on, checking in  the rearview mirror. The car's sidelights were
on and there were two cops inside. The house hadn't been boarded up yet, but
it was cordoned off with yellow tape.
     I drove straight on;  I couldn't tell if they  were looking at me. Even
if they did a plate check as I drove past, it  wouldn't matter.  They'd come
up  with  only  Big Al. If I was compromised, I'd run for it and leave Kelly
here. Maybe the police would be  good guys and look after her. At least that
would be the logical  thing to do,  but there  was a conflict. I'd  promised
that I wouldn't leave her; that promise shouldn't mean much, but it did.
     I went down to the  bottom of the road and turned  right to get out  of
sight as quickly as possible, then drove a big square to get back in  behind
them. I reached  the small parade of shops. The  parking  lot  was  about  a
quarter full, so we could pull in without attracting attention.
     Kelly shrieked, "We're at the stores!"
     "That's right,  but  we can't buy anything because I haven't much money
left. But we can go to the house."
     "Yesss! Can I get my Pollypockets and Yak-backs from my bedroom, too?"
     "Of course  you  can."  I didn't have any  idea  what she  was going on
     I went around to the back, opened up  the trunk  and got  out  the bag,
then opened her door. I threw the bag beside her and leaned in.
     "Are we going to my house now?"
     I started to sort out the kit I'd be needing.
     "Yes.  I  want  you to  help me because I  want you to  show me Daddy's
hidey-hole.  Can  you  do  that?  It's important;  he  wanted  me  to  check
something. We've got to sneak in because the cops are outside. Are you going
to do everything that I say?"
     "Yeah, I'll do that! Can I get Pocahontas, too?"
     I didn't give a fuck; I'd have nodded and agreed to anything as long as
she showed me the cache.
     "You ready?  Let's put  your hood up." It  was  dark  and  cloudy,  and
thankfully the  road wasn't  exactly  built for  pedestrians.  We  shouldn't
encounter any Melissas enroute.
     With  the bag slung over my shoulder,  I  held her hand and  we set off
toward  the house. It  was nearly seven o'clock, and  the street lights were
on. My  plan was to  work our way to the back of the house so I could have a
look at it and prepare to go in.
     We started to  walk over the vacant lot to the rear  of the house, past
trailers  and stockpiles of girders  and building materials. The  mud was so
treacherous in places I thought we'd lose our shoes.
     Kelly was almost beside herself with excitement but fighting it hard.
     "That's where my friend Candice lives!" She pointed to a house.
     "I helped her with their yard sale. We got twenty whole dollars!"
     "Shhh!" Smiling, I  said slowly, "We've  got to be very, very quiet  or
the policemen will get us."
     There was a look of confusion on her face.
     What now?
     "Yes,  Kelly." "Why  are  we  hiding from the police?  Aren't they good
     I suppose I should  have anticipated that one. What  could  I  say? She
wouldn't have  understood any of the 101 reasons why we'd be up to our necks
in shit if the police caught us.
     Even if I did have a  spare couple of hours to explain them to her. Nor
did  I want to undermine forever her confidence in  the  authorities at this
early stage in her life. So I lied.
     "I don't think they're real cops; I think they're  just dressed up like
cops.  They  might be  friends of the men who came to  see Daddy." It didn't
take long for that to register.
     Finally we were standing  in the shadow of the neighbor's garage. I put
the bag down and watched and listened. The engine of the cruiser was idling.
They were less than twenty yards away  on  the other  side  of the target. I
could hear a little of their radio traffic, but I couldn't make out what was
being said.  Now  and  again  a car drove past,  braked for the speed bumps,
rattled over them, and accelerated away.
     Lights were on in some of the houses, so I could see into the rooms. It
had  always given me a strange sort of kick doing this, like  my own private
viewing of a nature documentary:
     human beings  in their natural habitat. As  young soldiers  in the late
seventies in Northern Ireland, part of our job was to "lurk"  hang around in
the shadows,  watching and  listening,  hoping to catch a glimpse of someone
with a weapon.  It  was amazing what you'd see people doing in their cars or
living rooms,  and slightly  less amazing what they'd  be  up  to  in  their
bedrooms. Sometimes  we'd watch for hours on end, all in the line of duty. I
really enjoyed it.  Here, people  were just  doing dishes  or  watching  TV,
probably  worrying  about  the  effect  of  multiple  murders on real estate
     There were no motion-detector  lights at the back  of  the  house, just
standard ones  with an on/  off switch by  the  patio  doors.  I  remembered
switching them on for a barbecue.
     I stroked Kelly's hair and looked down and smiled. Then, really slowly,
I started  to unzip  the bag and get out what I needed. I put my mouth right
to her ear and whispered, "I  want you to  stay here. It's  really important
that you look after this kit. You'll see me over there, OK?"
     She nodded. Off I went.
     I reached  the  patio  doors.  First things  first: make  sure  they're
locked. They were. I  got my Maglite  and checked to see if there  were  any
bolts at the top and bottom of the frame.
     It's no good defeating a lock if there are also bolts across;
     that's one of the reasons why you try to attack a building at the point
of last exit, because you know they can't be bolted again from the outside.
     Normally the next thing to do would  be to look  for the  spare key why
spend an  hour with the  lock-picking  kit if there's one hidden  only a few
feet away? Some people  still leave theirs dangling on a string on the other
side of the mailbox, or on the inside of a pet door. Others leave it under a
trash can  or just behind a little  pile of rocks by the  door. If a  key is
going to be left, it will nearly always be somewhere  on the normal approach
to  the door. But  this  was Kev's house:  I wouldn't  find spare keys lying
around.  I put the  photographer's blanket over  my  head and shoulders and,
with the Maglite in my mouth, got to work with the lock-pick gun.
     I  opened the doors  gently, moved the curtain aside, and looked inside
the  living  room.  The  first thing I noticed was that all the curtains and
shutters were closed,  which was good for me because, once inside, we'd have
cover. The second thing that  hit me was an overpowering smell of chemicals.
I tiptoed back to Kelly and whispered, "Come on, then!"
     Our shoes were caked with mud, so we took them off on the concrete step
and put them in the bag. Then we went inside and I pulled the doors closed.
     I held the Maglite with  my  middle finger and forefinger over the lens
to block most of the light and kept it  close to the floor so  we  could see
our way  through the living room. The carpet and underlay had been taken up,
and  all the  furniture was  pushed to  one side. All that was left were the
particle board sheets that the builders had used instead of floorboards.
     Someone had done a good job of scrubbing  the  brown stains under where
Kev  had  been  lying, which explained the chemical  smell.  The Murder  Mop
people had been in; once forensics  finished,  it was  up  to the commercial
companies to clear away the mess.
     We reached the door that led into the front hall. Kelly stood still, an
old hand at all this stuff now. I  got on my knees, eased the door ajar, and
looked through.  The  front door  was closed but light from  the streetlamps
shone through  the stained-glass  flower set  into  the window  above it.  I
switched off the flashlight and stationed Kelly by the bag in the hallway.
     I  stopped  and listened, and generally tuned in. The engine was  still
     I felt Kelly pulling my jacket.
     "What happened to the rug--and what's that horrible smell?"
     I turned around and half-crouched down. I put my finger to her lips and
said, "We'll talk about it later."
     There was a beep beep beep from the police car's radio.
     The guys inside were probably drinking coffee, pissed off to be on duty
all night. Some radio traffic came on the net. Who  ever was Control sounded
like Hitler with a dress on.
     Indicating that Kelly  should stay where she was, I moved across to the
study and gently opened the door. I went back, picked up the bag, and guided
Kelly into the room,  propping the door open with the bag to  let  the light
come through from the hall. Everything looked very much  the same as before
except that the things that had been strewn all over the  place had now been
arranged in a neat line along  one wall. The PC was still on its side on the
desk, the printer and scanner  in position on  the  floor. They had all been
dusted for prints.
     I took the photographer's material and a box of tacks from the  bag and
lifted the chair near to the window. Taking my time, I climbed up and pinned
the  fabric along the top  and  down  the sides of the entire  wooden window
frame. I could now close the door and put the flashlight on.
     I went over  to Kelly. Even above the reek of  solvents and  cleaners I
got a waft of greasy  hair, Coca-Cola, bubblegum, and chocolate. I whispered
into her ear, "Where is it? Just point."
     I  shone the  flashlight all  around  the walls, and she pointed at the
baseboard behind  the door. This was good; nothing there seemed to have been
     I immediately started prying the wooden strip away from the wall with a
screwdriver.  A  vehicle passed  the house,  and I heard  laughter from  the
police car probably  at Control's expense.  They'd be there solely to  deter
people from coming  around and being nosy. Chances were, the place  would be
knocked  down soon;  who'd want to  buy a house  in which a family  had been
murdered? Maybe it would be turned into a memorial park or something.
     I kept  Kelly right next to me; I wanted to keep her reassured. She was
interested  in what was happening, so I smiled at her now and  again to show
that everything was fine.
     With a small creak the section of board started to give way.
     I pulled it right off  and put it to one  side.  Then I bent down again
and shone the flashlight inside. The beam glinted on metal. What looked like
a gun safety box,  about eighteen inches square, was recessed into the wall.
It was going to need decoding. It could take hours.
     I got out the black wallet and set to work, trying to re member to grin
at Kelly and let  her know  it  wouldn't be long, but I  could see  she  was
getting restless. Ten minutes went by.
     Fifteen. Twenty. Finally it was all too much for her. In a loud whisper
she said crossly, "What about my teddies?"
     "Shhh!" I  put  my finger to her lips again. What I meant was  Fuck the
teddies we'll get them later on. I continued decoding.
     There was a pause; then, no longer a whisper: "But you said!"  It  had
to be  stopped  right  there and  then.  Obviously, being Mr.  Smiley wasn't
working. I turned to Kelly and  hissed,  "We'll do it in a minute.  Now shut
     She was taken aback, but it worked.
     I was luckier than  I  might  have  been with  the decoding.  I'd  just
finished, had put the tools away, and was opening the box when I heard a low
moan from her.
     "I don't like it here, Nick.
     It's all changed."
     I turned around, grabbed her, and covered her mouth with my hand.
     "For  Christ's sake shut up!" It wasn't what she expected  but I didn't
have time to explain.
     With my  hand  still clamped hard over her mouth,  I  picked her up and
slowly walked to the window. I listened, waited, but there was nothing. Just
a bit of banter and laughing, and the crackle of the radio.
     As I  turned back, however, I  heard a  short, sharp metallic  dragging
     Then, for a split second, nothing.
     Then, as Kev's pewter  tankard  of pens  and pencils fell from the desk
and hit the bare floor, there was a resounding crash.
     The  noise went on as bits and  pieces scattered in  all directions. As
I'd turned, Kelly's coat must have caught on the sharp points of the pencils
and dragged the tankard off the table.
     I knew the noise was magnified twenty times in my head, but I also knew
they would have heard it.
     Kelly chose that moment to start to lose it,  but there was no time  to
worry about that. I  just left her where  she was, went to the doorway,  and
listened to the sound of car doors opening.
     Pulling the pistol from my  jeans  and checking chamber, I moved out of
the study. Three strides got  me across the hall  and into  the  kitchen.  I
closed the door behind me, took a couple of deep breaths, and waited.
     The front door opened; I  could hear both of them in the hallway. There
was a click, and light spilled under the kitchen door.
     Then footsteps, and I could  hear nervous  breathing on the other side,
and the jangle of keys on a belt.
     I  heard the study door opening.  Then a half-shouted,  half-whispered,
"Melvin, Melvin--in here!"
     I knew it was my time. I brought the pistol up into  the fire position,
put my hand on the doorknob and gently twisted. I moved into the hallway.
     Melvin  was  in the study doorway, his back toward me. He was young and
of  medium build. I took  a  couple  of big strides, grabbed him across  the
forehead with  my left  hand, yanked  his head back, and  rammed  the pistol
muzzle into his neck. In a very controlled voice that had nothing to do with
the way I was feeling, I said, "Drop your weapon, Melvin.
     Don't fuck around with me. Drop it now."
     Melvin's arm  came  down to his  side  and  he let the gun fall to  the
     I couldn't see if the other one had his pistol out or not. It was still
dark in the study. Their flashlight was no help.
     Melvin and I blocked out most of the  hallway  light. I was hoping that
he'd already reholstered, because  part  of their training  would  be not to
scare kids.  As far as he  was concerned, Kelly had been just a kid there on
her own.
     Melvin and  I  were in  the doorway. I  shouted,  "Put  the lights  on,
Kelly--do it now!"
     Nothing happened.
     "Kelly, turn  the lights on." I heard small footsteps coming toward us.
There was a click, and the lights came on.
     "Now wait there." I could see her eyes were swollen and red.
     Inside the  room  stood Michelin Man.  He must have weighed  around 250
pounds, and by the  looks of him, he had only a couple of years to go before
retirement. He was holstered, but his hand was down by his pistol.
     I said, "Don't do it! Tell him, Melvin." I prodded his neck.
     Melvin went, "I'm fucked, Ron."
     "Ron, don't start  messing around. This is  not  the one to  do it for.
It's not worth it, not just for this."
     I could see  that Ron was on top of it. He was thinking about his wife,
his mortgage, and the chances of ever seeing another bag of doughnuts.
     Melvin's  radio  sparked up. Control  snapped,  "Unit  Sixty-two,  Unit
Sixty-two.  Do you copy?" It sounded like  a demand, not a  request. It must
have been great to be married to her.
     "That's you, isn't it, Melvin?" I said.
     "Yes, sir, that's us."
     "Melvin, tell them you're OK." I jabbed the pistol a little harder into
his neck to underline the point.
     "The safety catch  is off, Melvin.  I've got my finger  on the trigger.
Just tell them everything's OK.. It ain't worth it, mate."
     Ron blurted, "I'll do it."
     Another demand: "Unit Sixty-two, respond."
     I said, "Put your right hand up and answer with your left.
     Kelly, be very quiet, OK?"
     She nodded. Ron pressed his radio.
     "Hello, Control. We've checked. Everything's fine."
     "Roger, Unit Sixty-two, your report timed at twenty-two thirteen."
     Ron clicked off.
     Kelly immediately went back into  crying mode and sank to the  floor. I
was stuck in the doorway with a  pistol to Melvin's neck, and Ron, who still
had a weapon in his holster, was facing me from the middle of the room.
     "When all's said and done, Ron,  if you don't play  the game,  Melvin's
going to die--and then you're going to die.
     Do you understand me?"
     Ron nodded.
     "OK, Ron, let's see you turn around."
     He did.
     "Get on your knees."
     He  did.  He was about four feet  from Kelly, but as long as she stayed
still she wasn't in the line of fire.
     Melvin was sweating big-time. My  hand was  slipping  on his  forehead.
There were even droplets running down the top-slide. His shirt was  so wet I
could make out the shape of his body armor underneath.
     I said,  "With your left hand, Ron, I want you to lift out your pistol.
Very slow, and use just your thumb and forefinger.
     Then I want you to move it to your left-hand side and drop it.
     Do you understand me, Ron?"
     Ron nodded.
     I said, "Tell him, Melvin, tell him not to fuck around."
     "Listen to the man, Ron."
     Ron  gently removed  his pistol from its holster and dropped it on  the
     "What  I want you  to do now, with your left hand,  is get hold of your
handcuffs, and I want you to drop them just behind you. Understand?"
     Ron complied. I turned my  attention  to  Melvin, who  was  starting to
tremble. I spoke quietly in his ear.
     "Don't worry about  it, you're going to live. You'll be talking to your
grandchildren about this. Just do exactly what I say. Understand?"
     He nodded.
     I turned to Ron and said, "Now lie down, Ron. Facedown on the floor."
     Ron spreadeagled himself and was now  under  control. I said, "What I'm
going to do next, Melvin, is take one step back, and this pistol is going to
leave your neck--but it's still going to be pointing at  your head, so don't
get any ideas.
     Once  I've stepped back, I'm  then going to tell you  to kneel down--do
you understand me?"
     He nodded,  and I  took a  swift step  backward. I wanted  to be out of
arm's reach from him right away; I didn't want him doing some kind of heroic
pirouette to grab the gun or knock it out of the way.
     "OK, kneel down, then lie down. Just  like Ron. Now put your hand  next
to Ron's."
     I now had both of them lying facedown, forearms together.
     I moved behind them, picked up the handcuffs, and with the pistol stuck
in  Melvin's ear, I locked  his  left  wrist  to  Ron's  right. I  then took
Melvin's handcuffs from  their holster, stepped back, and said, "I want  you
to  arch your bodies and move your free hands around so  they're together as
well. Both understand me? Believe me, boys, I want to get this over and done
with; I just want out of here."
     I finished the  job. They weren't going anywhere.  I took their wallets
and threw them into  the bag. I took Melvin's radio and kept it with me, and
took the battery out of Ron's and threw it into the bag. At the same time, I
grabbed the roll of gaffer tape. I  started  with their legs, then used  the
tape to bind their heads together as well. I  put a final strip around their
necks, and  another around their mouths. I checked  that both were breathing
through their noses, then dragged them into the hallway--no small job, but I
didn't want them to see what I was going to do next.
     I looked at Kelly, pressed against the study wall. She looked pathetic.
This must have been terrible for her.  She'd been looking forward so much to
coming home,  only  to  find it wasn't the  place she'd  been  expecting. It
wasn't only that her family was missing; everything that was familiar to her
was drenched in chemicals, shoved to one side, or simply not there.
     I heard  myself saying, "Why don't you go and see  if your teddies  are
     She turned and ran. I heard her rattling up the now uncarpeted stairs.
     I went into  the  study, crouched down by the baseboard, and,  at last,
was able to  open the  gun box.  There was  nothing inside but a lone floppy
     I  put the  chair back  by the desk and lifted up the PC. I soon had it
working.  There  was  no  password  protection,  probably  deliberately.  If
anything happened  to Kev, he'd want the whole world to read what was on the
     I clicked open various files but found nothing interesting.
     Then  I  found one called Flavius; I knew I'd hit pay  dirt. It was the
code name of the Gibraltar operation.
     I started reading. Kev had found out pretty much  what Big  Al had told
me--that  PIRA's  connection  with the  cartels  originated when  it started
running drugs for the Colombians up through  North Africa and into Gibraltar
for distribution in Spain and the rest of Europe. PIRA was good at  the job,
and the cartels paid well.
     After  a while, PIRA had also begun to use the drug trade to raise some
of its  own  money, funds  collected  by Noraid  in the  USA.  Big sums were
involved; Kev's figures showed  that Sinn Fein had been  netting more than $
1,000,000 a year.
     These donations had been  invested in narcotics, transported to Europe,
and then bartered for arms and explosives in the old Eastern-bloc countries.
It was a business marriage  made in  heaven; PIRA had the  drugs,  the  East
Europeans  had the  weapons. The  downfall of the USSR  and the  rise of the
Russian mafia couldn't have been better timed.
     I had to get back  into work mode. I couldn't just sit there reading. I
was in a house with two policemen and one pissed-off little girl.  I ejected
the floppy disk and put it in my coat pocket.
     The controller from hell came back on the net.
     "Unit Sixty-two, do you copy?"
     I went into the hall.
     "Ron, time to speak up."
     Ron looked at me, and I knew he was going to fuck with me. His face was
a picture of defiance.  I moved over  to them and pulled the tape off  their
mouths. Ron was the first to talk:
     "You answer it, because we can't. You won't kill us, not for that."
     Control went up an octave.
     "Unit Sixty-two!"
     Ron had a point.
     "Kelly! Kelly! Where are you?"
     "Coming--I just found Ricky."
     I  stepped back over  my  two new friends toward Kelly, who was  coming
down the stairs. There was no time to be sympathetic or nice.
     "Get your coat and shoes on quick!"
     I got all the stuff together, put my running shoes on, and checked that
Ron and  Melvin  weren't choking  to death on  the  gaffer tape. Both looked
quite happy with themselves but were still thinking of a good excuse for why
they were in this state in the first place.
     We  left the same way  we'd come. I was gripping Kelly's  hand, more or
less dragging her along,  keeping an eagle eye on  Jenny and Ricky. I didn't
want the neighbors hearing screams for lost teddies.
     As we drove, bursts of light from the streetlamps strobed into the back
of  the car, and I  could see Kelly in  the rearview mirror. She was looking
miserable, her eyes puffy and wet.
     She had every  right to  be sad. She was  bright enough to realize that
this was probably the last time she'd ever be here.
     This wasn't her home anymore. Now she was the same as me.
     Neither of us had one. I hit the Dulles Airport access road and headed
for economy parking. I allowed myself a wry smile; if this kept up, it would
soon be full of my stolen cars. I could hear the light patter of rain on the
roof as we parked.
     Ron and  Melvin  might  have made  a connection between  me and the car
because of the drive-by. If they were back in circulation by now, they might
be able to track us down.
     There was not  a lot I could do about it  but just  sit  tight and hope
that the mass of cars and the rain would conceal us, because it was far  too
early for a child to  be moving around an airport  with  an  adult man  with
scabs on his face.
     I  turned around in the seat  and said,  "Are you all right, Kelly? I'm
sorry I had to shout, but it was really important to get out quick."
     She was looking down at one of the teddies, picking its fur, pouting.
     I  said, "You're not a bad girl and I'm sorry that I  told you  off.  I
didn't really mean it, I was just getting excited."
     She nodded slowly, still playing with her furry friend.
     "Do you want to come to England?"
     She looked up. She didn't say anything, but I took it as a yes.
     "That's good, because I would like you to come, too.
     You've  been a really good girl, you always do what I  say. Do you want
to help me again?"
     She shrugged.  I leaned over  and picked  up the other teddy and rubbed
its face against her cheek.
     "We'll get Jenny and Ricky to help me as well. How about that?"
     She gave a reluctant nod.
     "First of all, we've got to sort out the bag."
     I got into the backseat and put the duffel between us, opening it up.
     "What do you think we should take out then?"
     I knew exactly what we  were going to take out: the blanket and washing
kit, because  they were the  only  things I needed now. I said, "What do you
reckon? Is that all?" She nodded and agreed as if she'd packed it herself. 
I put everything else into the trunk. The rain was coming down more heavily.
I sat with her again and pulled out the blanket.
     "We have to wait here for the next couple of hours.
     It's too  early to go to the  airport yet.  You can  take a nap  if you
     I folded up the bag and made a pillow.
     "There, that's better--cuddle Jenny and Ricky."
     She looked at me and smiled. We were mates again.
     "Are you going away again. Nick?"
     For once I was staying put.
     "No, I'm going to  do some work. You just  go  to sleep. I'm  not going
anywhere." I got out and sat in the  front  again. I rested the laptop on my
knees and lifted the  screen. I checked that  the keys were in the  ignition
and I could  easily grab the steering wheel. I had to  be ready to  move  at
once if we got spotted.
     I pressed  the  On switch, and as  the screen lit  up  it  cast a  glow
through the inside of the car. I inserted Kev's floppy disk. I was desperate
to read the rest of his report, but first I  downloaded everything  onto the
laptop. As I waited, I said quietly, "Kelly?" There was no reply. The gentle
rhythm of the rain had done its job.
     I began reading where I'd left off. Gibraltar had always  been a center
for international drug trafficking, money laundering, and smuggling, but  it
seemed that in 1987, Spain not only still wanted Gib back,  it  also  wanted
the Brits  to clean it  up. Thatcher's  government told the Gibraltarians to
sort it  out, but the  high-powered speedboats  still  ran drugs  from North
Africa. The Brits threatened direct control of the colony if the trafficking
didn't stop  and,  at  the  same  time, ordered  a highly illegal  operation
against  police and government  officials they suspected of involvement. The
boys taking the hush money got the hint and  suddenly ceased doing  business
with PIRA and everyone else.
     My eyes were racing ahead of my brain.
     The  closure of  the Gibraltar route was  all well and good for the war
against  corruption, but the Colombians were very  pissed off. A major trade
artery had been clamped,  and  they wanted it  reopened. According to  Kev's
findings,  they'd  decided  a  show  of strength was  required.  They wanted
Gibraltar  bombed  as a warning that  the local  officials should  start  co
operating again, and they ordered PIRA to carry it out.  PIRA had a problem
with this. It wanted the route re opened as much as the Colombians did, but,
after the debacle of Enniskillen, it couldn't run the risk of killing non-UK
civilians  and  invoking even  greater  international condemnation. PIRA had
refused to do it.
     From evidence that Kev had gathered,  the cartels' reply  to  PIRA  was
blunt: either you bomb Gibraltar or we shift our  drug business to the other
side the Protestant UVF. For PIRA, not a good day out.
     PIRA's  head  honchos  came up  with a solution,  and  as I read  on, I
couldn't help but admire it.
     "Mad  Danny"  McCann  had already been kicked out of PIRA and was  rein
stated against Gerry Adams's wishes. Mairead Farrell, after the death of her
boyfriend, had become too fanatical for her own good "a bit of a social hand
grenade," Simmonds had said other. PIRA's plan was to  send to Gibraltar two
players they'd be happy to see the back  of,  together with Sean Savage, who
had the misfortune to be part of the same Active Service Unit.
     The team had the technology and Semtex for the bomb but  were told that
the explosives were to stay behind in Spain until it had finished its recons
and rehearsals. The team was told to take it in once the blocking car was in
position, to guarantee the correct placement of the bomb. PIRA then gave the
three  players  bad passports and leaked information to London. They  wanted
the Brits to react and stop the bombing so that when the three were arrested
they could claim to the cartels that they'd given it their best shot.
     We'd  been duly told about the  ASU,  but we'd also  been briefed  that
there would  be no blocking  car and  that the  bomb would be detonated by a
handheld device.  These last two pieces of  intelligence meant  that McCann,
Farrell, and Savage had never stood a chance. They were dead from the moment
we thought the bomb was in position and armed, because at some  stage one of
them was bound to make a hand movement that would be construed as an attempt
to detonate the device.
     I certainly wouldn't  have taken the chance that  Savage was only going
for  his  packet of mints, and Euan obviously didn't when  he  initiated the
contact with McCann and Farrell. In Pat's immortal words: Better to be tried
by twelve than carried by six.
     A  dialogue  box came up on  the screen  telling me that I was  running
short of power  and needed to plug into another power source. Fuck! I wanted
to read more.  I got back to the screen and read  as fast as  I could to get
the general idea.
     Even  though there hadn't  been a bomb, the  cartels had accepted  that
their Irish lackies were playing ball. After all, three of their people had
been killed  in the  process.  PIRA kept the trade with the Colombians, even
though, as  Big Al had said, it  was thereafter routed through South Africa,
then Spain.
     PIRA  was in seventh heaven. It  had gotten  rid of two trouble makers,
not quite in the  way that  it  had  intended,  but three martyrs  had  been
created,  with the result that  PIRA's cause at home  was  strengthened, and
even more dollars rolled into the coffers.
     It was only the Brits who appeared to have been left with  egg on their
faces, but even so, no matter how much the inter national community publicly
condemned  the  shootings, in secret most heads of  state admired Thatcher's
muscular stand against terrorism.
     Fuck it. Another box came up and told me to plug into an external power
source. I switched off the laptop and packed it away, full of frustration. I
wanted to know more. At the same time I was on a high. If we made it back to
the UK with this stuff, I'd have cracked it with Simmonds.
     It was 3:30 a.m. There was nothing to do but wait for three hours or so
until  the  first  wave of  aircraft started to arrive and depart,  creating
enough activity for us to blend in.
     I let  the  backrest down  a bit  and  tried  to  get my  neck  into  a
comfortable position,  but  I couldn't relax. My mind  was racing. The whole
operation in  Gibraltar had  been  a setup  so that PIRA  and the Colombians
could keep making money.
     That  was one  thing,  but where did  Kev  and I fit into the scheme of
things? I lay there and listened to the patter of rain.
     For  Euan and me it had all started on March 3, less than a week before
the  shootings. We were both  on different jobs  and had got lifted off  and
sent to Lisbum, HQ of  the British army in Northern Ireland.  From  there it
was a quick move by Puma to Stirling Lines in Hereford, England, the home of
the Special Air Service.
     We were taken straight to regimental headquarters, and the moment I saw
the china cups and cookies outside the  briefing room I knew that  something
big was in the offing.  Last time that had happened, the  prime minister had
been here.
     The room was in  semidarkness and packed. There  was a large screen  at
the back of a stage and tiered seats so that everyone got a good view.
     We were looking  for somewhere to sit when  I heard,  "Hey,  over here,
dick spot Kev and Slack Pat were sitting  drinking tea. With them were  the
other  two members of their four-man team, Geoff and  Steve. All were from A
Squadron, doing their six months on the counterterrorist team.
     Euan turned to Kev and said, "Know what this job is about?"
     "We're off to Gib, mate. PIRA's planning a bomb."
     The commanding officer got up on the stage and the room fell silent.
     "Two problems," he said.
     "Number  one, a  shortage of time.  You  leave  immediately  after this
briefing.  Number  two,  shortage  of  solid  intelligence.  However,  Joint
Operations Committee wants the Regiment to  deploy.  You  will  get  as much
information as we know now, and as  it comes in  during your flight and once
on the ground."
     I thought. What the fuck are Euan and I doing here? Surely it would  be
illegal for us to work outside Northern Ireland?  I kept my mouth shut; if I
started querying the decision, they might send me back and I'd miss out.
     I looked around and saw members of RHQ, the operations officer, and the
world's supply of intelligence corps.  The final member of  the team was  an
ammunitions technical  officer, a bomb disposal expert  on attachment to the
counter-terrorism team.
     Someone  I had never seen  before moved toward the  stage, a tea cup in
one  hand, a cookie  in the other.  He stood to the right-hand  side of  the
stage by the lectern. There was an overnight bag by his feet.
     "My name is  Simmonds, and I  run the Northern  Ireland  desk  for  the
intelligence service from London. The people behind you are a mix of service
and military intelligence officers.
     First, a very brief outline of the events that have brought us all here
     Judging  by the bag,  it  looked as if he would  be coming with us. The
lights were dimmed, and a slide projector lit the screen behind him.
     "Last year," he said, "we learned that a PIRA  team had based itself in
southern Spain. We intercepted mail going to the homes of known players from
Spain and found a postcard from Sean Savage in the Costa del Sol."
     A slide came up on the screen.
     "Our Sean," Simmonds  said with a half smile, "told  Mummy and Daddy he
was working abroad. It rang  a few alarm bells when we read it, because the
work young Savage is best at is bomb making."
     Was he making a joke? No, he didn't look the sort.
     "Then in November two men went through Madrid airport on their way from
Malaga to Dublin. They  carried  Irish passports, and in a routine check the
Spanish  sent  the  details  to  Madrid,  who,  in  turn,  passed them  with
photographs to London. It turned out that both passports were false."
     I thought to myself. Stupid timing by them, really. Terrorist incidents
in  Northern  Ireland tended  to  decrease in the  summer  months  when PIRA
members took their wives  and  kids to the  Mediterranean for a fortnight of
sun  and   sand.  The   funny   thing  was   that   the  RUC--Royal   Ulster
Constabulary-also took their  vacations in the same  places, and  they'd all
bump into each other in the bars.  These two characters had drawn  attention
to themselves; if they'd passed  through Malaga airport  during the  tourist
season, they might have gotten away with it.
     It turned out that one of the passport  holders was Sean Savage, but it
was the identity of the second man that had made everybody concerned.
     Simmonds showed his next slide.
     "Daniel Martin McCann.
     I'm  sure you know  more about him than I do." He gave a no-fucking-way
sort of smile.
     "Mad Danny" had really earned his name. Linked  to twenty-six killings,
he had been lifted often, but had been put away for only two years.
     To British  intelligence, Simmonds said, the  combination of McCann and
Savage on the Costa del Sol could  mean only  one of two things: either PIRA
was going  to attack a British target on the Spanish mainland,  or there was
going to be an attack on Gibraltar.
     "One thing's for sure," he said.
     "They weren't there to top off their suntans."
     At last there was a round of laughter. I could see Simmonds liked that,
as if he'd practiced  his one-liners so the  timing was  just right. Despite
that, I was warming to the man.
     It  wasn't  that  often  you got people  making  jokes at a briefing as
important as this one.
     The slide changed again to  a street map of  Gibraltar. I was listening
to Simmonds but  at  the same time thinking of my infantry posting there in
the 1970s. I'd had a whale of a time.
     "Gibraltar is a soft target," Simmonds said.
     "There  are  several  potential  locations  for  a  bomb, such  as  the
Governor's residence or the law  courts, but our threat  assessment  is that
the  most likely target will be  the garrison regiment, the  Royal Anglians.
Every  Tuesday  morning  the band of  the First  Battalion parades  for  the
changing of the guard ceremony. We think the most likely site for  a bomb is
a square that the band marches into after the parade. A bomb could easily be
concealed in a car there."
     He  might have  added that from a bomber's point of view it would be  a
near-perfect location. Because  of the  confined area,  the  blast  would be
tamped and therefore more effective.
     "Following this assessment we stopped the ceremony on  December 11. The
local  media   reported   that  the   Governor's  guardhouse  needed  urgent
redecoration" slight smile  "In fact, we needed  time while we gathered more
intelligence to stop it needing rebuilding."
     Not as good as his last one, but there were still a few subdued laughs.
     "The  local police were  then  reinforced by plainclothes officers from
the  UK,  and  their  surveillance paid off.  When  the  ceremony resumed on
February 23,  a woman, ostensibly taking a vacation  on  the  Costa del Sol,
made  a trip  to the Rock  and  photographed  the parade.  She  was covertly
checked and was found to be traveling on a stolen Irish passport.
     "The  following week  she  was  there again, only this time she  tagged
along  behind  the  bandsmen  as  they  marched   to  the  square.  Even  my
shortsighted  mother-in-law could have worked out that  she was doing  recon
for the arrival of an Active Service Unit."
     There was loud laughter. He'd done it  again. I  wasn't  too sure if we
were all laughing at his jokes or at the fact that he  kept on telling them.
Who  the fuck  was this man?  This should have been  one of the most serious
briefings  ever. Either he just didn't give  a fuck or he was so powerful no
one was going to say a word against  him. Whatever, I could already tell his
presence in Gibraltar would be a real bonus.
     Simmonds stopped smiling.
     "Our intelligence tells  us that the  bombing is to take place sometime
this week. However, there is no sign that either McCann or Savage is getting
ready to leave Belfast." He wasn't wrong. I had seen both of them, stinking
drunk, outside a  bar on the  Falls  Road just the night before. They didn't
look that ready to me. It should take them quite a while to prepare for this
one or maybe  this was part of the preparation,  having their last night out
before work started.
     "This is where we have a few problems," he went on.  He was working now
without  his notes.  Did that mean  no more one-liners? Certainly, there was
more of an edge to his voice.
     "What are we to do with  these people? If we try to move in on them too
early, that would only  leave  other  PIRA teams  free to go ahead  with the
bombing. In any case, if the ASU  travels through Malaga airport and remains
on Spanish territory  until the last minute, there is no  guarantee that the
Spanish courts will hand them over, not only because of the dispute with the
UK on the question of whom Gibraltar belongs to but because the case against
them could only be based on conspiracy, which is pretty flimsy.
     "So,  gentlemen, we  must arrest  them  in  Gibraltar." The screen went
blank; there was only the light from the lectern shining on his face.
     "And this throws up three options. The first is to arrest  them as they
cross the border from Spain.
     Easier said than  done; there's  no guarantee we'll  know what kind  of
vehicle  they're in. There would be only  about ten  to  fifteen  seconds in
which to make a positive  identification  and  effect an arrest  not an easy
thing to do, especially if they are sitting in a car and probably armed.
     "The  second option is  to arrest the team members  once they're in the
area of the  square, but again this depends on  advance warning and positive
identification, and their all being together with the device. At the present
time, therefore,  we are going for  the third option, and  that's why we are
all here."
     He took a sip of his tea and asked for the lights to come back on.
     He looked around for each group as he talked.
     "The Security Service will place surveillance teams to trigger the PIRA
team  into Gibraltar. The two soldiers  who have  just arrived from Northern
Ireland" Euan caught my eye that was him and me  "must give positive IDs  on
the terrorists before the civil authorities  will hand over the operation to
the military.  You two will not, repeat,  not, conduct any arrest or contact
action. You understand the reasons why?
     The four men from your counterterrorist team  will make  a hard  arrest
only after they have planted the device.
     "Once arrested," Simmonds went on,  "they are  to be handed over to the
civil  authorities. Of  course, the normal protection  will be  given to the
team from any court appearance."
     He managed a smile.
     "I think that's enough, gentlemen."
     He looked at the commanding officer.
     "Francis, I understand  we fly to R.A.F  Lyneham in ten minutes to link
up with the Hercules?"
     Just over three hours later I was sitting in a C-130 with Euan, who was
busy worrying about a black mark on his  new sneakers. Kev  was checking the
weapon bundles and ammunition and, more important as far as I was concerned,
the medical packs. If I got dropped, I wanted fluid  put into me as  soon as
     We landed at about 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 3.
     Gibraltar was still  awake;  lights were on everywhere. We moved off to
the military area, where trucks were waiting with  our advance  party to get
us away quickly and without fuss.
     Our FOB--Field  Operations Base--was in HMS Rooke, the Royal Navy shore
base. We had requisitioned half a dozen rooms in the accommodation block and
turned them into living space, with our own cooking area and ops room. Wires
trailed everywhere, telephones were ringing,  signalers ran around  in track
suits or jeans, testing radios and satellite communications links.
     Over  the din Simmonds said,  "Intelligence  suggests there could be  a
third member of the team, probably its commander.
     Her  name is Mairead Farrell. We'll  have pictures within the hour, but
here's some background for you.  She's a particularly nasty  piece of  work:
middle class, thirty-one, ex-convent schoolgirl."
     He  grinned, then told us  more about her. She'd  served  ten  years in
prison  for  planting a bomb  in the Conway Hotel, Belfast, in  1976, but as
soon as she  was released she reported straight back to PIRA for duty. There
was a slight smile on his face  as he explained that her lover, unbelievably
named Brendan Burns, had blown himself up recently.
     The meeting broke up, and a signaler came  over and started handing out
street maps.  "They've already been spotted up by Intelligence," he said.
     As we started to look at their handiwork he went on.
     "The  main routes from the border  to the square are marked  in detail,
the rest of the town fairly  well,  and of  the outlying  areas,  just major
     I looked at it. Fucking hell! There were about a hundred coordinates to
learn before the ASU came over the border.
     I didn't know what was tougher--the PIRA team or the homework.
     "Any questions, lads?"
     Kev said, "Yeah, three. Where do  we sleep, where's the toilet, and has
somebody got some coffee on?"
     In  the morning, we picked up our weapons and ammunition  and went onto
the range. The four on the counterterrorism team had their own  pistols. The
ones Euan and I  had were borrowed--our own were still in Derry. Not that it
mattered much; people think that blokes in the SAS are very particular about
their  weapons, but we aren't. So  long as you know that  when you pull  the
trigger it will  fire the first  time and the  rounds will  hit  the  target
you're aiming at, you're happy.
     Once at the range, people  did  their own  thing. The  other  four just
wanted to know that their mags were working OK and  that the pistols  had no
defects after being bundled up. We wanted to do the same,  but also  to find
out the  behavior of our new  weapons at  different ranges. After firing off
all the  mags in quick  succession to  make sure  everything worked, we then
fired at five,  ten,  fifteen,  twenty, and  twenty-five  yards. Good, slow,
aimed shots,  always aiming at the same point  and checking where the rounds
fell at each  range. That way  we  knew where to  aim at  fifteen yards, for
example, and  that was at the top  of the  target's torso.  Because  of  the
distance, quite a lot for  a pistol, the  rounds  would fall lower into  the
bottom of his chest and take him down. Every weapon is different, so it took
an hour to be confident.
     Once finished we didn't strip the weapons to clean them.
     Why  do  that when we knew they  worked  perfectly? We just got a brush
into the area that feeds the round into the barrel and got the carbon off.
     Next job was  getting on the ground  to learn  the spots system, at the
same time checking our radios and finding out if there were  any dead areas.
We were still  running around doing that  when, at 2 p.m."  Alpha came up on
the net.  "Hello, all stations, return to this location immediately."
     Simmonds was already in the briefing area when we arrived, looking like
a  man under pressure.  Like the rest of us, he'd  probably had very  little
sleep. There was two days'  growth on his chin, and he was having a bad hair
day. Something  was definitely  going  on; there was  a  lot more noise  and
bustle from the machines and men in the background. He had about twenty bits
of paper  in  his hand. The  intelligence boys  were giving him  more  as he
talked, and they  distributed  copies of the  rules of engagement to us. The
operation, I saw, was now called Flavius.
     "Just about an hour and a half ago," he said, "Savage and McCann passed
through Immigration at Malaga airport.
     They were on a flight from Paris. Farrell met them. We have no idea how
she got there. The team is  complete. There is  just one little problem--the
Spanish  lost them as they got into a taxi. Triggers are now being placed on
the  border crossing as a precaution. I  have no reason to  believe that the
attack will not take place as planned."
     He paused and looked at each of us in turn.
     "I've  just  become  aware of two very critical pieces  of information.
First, the players  will not be  using a blocking car  to  reserve a parking
space in  the target area. A blocking car would mean making two trips across
the border, and the  intelligence  is that they're  not prepared to take the
risk. The  PIRA vehicle, when it arrives,  should therefore be  perceived as
the real thing.
     "Second, the  detonation  of  the bomb will  be by  a  handheld  remote
control  initiation device: they want  to be sure that the  bomb goes off at
exactly the  right moment. Remember, gentlemen, any one of the team,  or all
of them, could be in possession of that device. That bomb must not detonate.
     There could be hundreds of lives at risk."
     I was awoken  by the  noise  of engines  in  reverse  and wheels on the
tarmac. It was just after  6 a.m. I had been asleep for three hours. It  was
still dark; the rain had eased quite a bit. I leaned over to the back.
     "Kelly, Kelly,  time to wake  up." As I  shook her  there was a  gentle
moan. She sat up, rubbing her eyes.
     With the cuff of my  coat  I started to tidy her up. I didn't want  her
walking into the airport looking wrecked. I wanted us as spruce and happy as
Donny and Marie Osmond on Prozac.  We got out of the car with the bag and I
locked  up, after checking  inside to make  sure that  there wasn't anything
attractive to see. The  last thing I needed now  was a parking lot attendant
taking an  interest in my lock-picking kit. We walked  over to the  bus stop
and waited for the shuttle to take us to departures.
     The  terminal looked just like any airport at that time of the morning.
The check-in desks were already quite busy with  business fliers.  A handful
of people, mostly  student  types, looked as though  they  were  waiting for
flights  that  they'd  gotten there much too  early for. Cleaners with floor
waxers trudged across the tiled floors like zombies.
     I picked up a free airport  magazine from  the  rack at the  top of the
escalator.  Looking  at the  flight guide, I  saw  that the  first  possible
departure to the UK. was at just after five o'clock in the afternoon. It was
going to be a long wait.
     I looked  at Kelly; we both could do with  a decent wash. We  went down
the escalator to  the  international arrivals area on the lower level. I put
some money in a machine  and got a  couple of travel kits to  supplement our
washing kit and went into one of the handicap-accessible toilets.
     I shaved  as Kelly washed her face. I  scraped  the dirt  off her boots
with  toilet paper and generally cleaned her up, combed her hair, and put it
in an  elastic band  at the  back so it didn't look so greasy. After half an
hour we were looking fairly  respectable  The scabs on my face were healing.
No Prozac, but we'd pass muster.
     I picked up the bag.
     "You ready?"
     "Are we going to England now?"
     "Just one thing left to do. Follow me." I pulled at the stubby ponytail
that made her look like a four-foot-tall cheerleader.
     She acted annoyed, but I could tell she liked the attention.
     We  went  back  up  the  escalator  and walked  around  the edge of the
terminal. I  pretended  to be  studying the aircraft out  on  the tarmac. In
fact, there were two quite different things I was looking for.
     "I need to mail something," I said, spotting the FedEx box.
     I used the credit card details on the  car rental agreement to fill out
the  mailing label. Fuck it--Big Al could pay for  a few things now that he
was rich.
     Kelly was watching every movement.
     "Who are you writing?"
     "I'm sending something to England in case we are stopped." I showed her
the floppy disk and backup disk.
     "Who are you sending it to?" She got more like her dad every day.
     "Don't be so nosy."
     I  put  them  in the  envelope,  sealed it, and  entered  the  delivery
details. In the past we'd used the FedEx system to send the Firm photos from
abroad that we'd taken of a target and developed in a hotel  room, or  other
highly sensitive material.
     It saved getting caught with them in our possession. Nowadays, however,
the system was obsolete; with digital cameras you can take pictures, plug in
your cellular mobile, dial up the UK, and transmit.
     We continued walking around the edge of the terminal. I found the power
outlet I was looking for at the  end  of a row of black plastic  seats where
two students were snoring. I pointed to the last two spaces.
     "Let's sit down here. I want to look at the laptop."
     I got it plugged in. Kelly decided she wanted something to eat.
     "Give me five minutes," I said.
     From what I'd read earlier, I understood Gibraltar was  a setup, but it
still didn't explain what Kev had to do with it. It soon became clearer.
     In the late 1980s the Bush administration had been under pressure  from
Thatcher  to  do  something about Noraid fundraising for PIRA. With  so many
millions of Irish American votes on the line, however, it was a tricky call.
A deal was struck: if the Brits could expose the fact that Noraid money  was
being  used to buy drugs,  it would help discredit  PIRA in the USA and Bush
could  then   take  action.  After  all,  who  would  complain  about  a  US
administration fighting the spread of dangerous narcotics?
     When the  British  intelligence  service started to  gather data  about
PIRA's  drug  connections with Gibraltar, it  seemed to present a  window of
opportunity. After the  events of  March 6, however, the  window was slammed
shut. Those votes were  too important.  By the early 1990s the US had a new
administration and the  UK  a  new prime minister. In Northern  Ireland, the
peace process began. The US was told  and  the message was delivered  at the
highest level that  unless  it  put  pressure on  PIRA to come to the  peace
table, the UK would  ex  pose what  was  happening to Noraid funds raised in
     The failure to fight the drug war in its  own backyard, by a power that
preached so readily to others, would be a serious embarrassment.
     Another deal  was  sorted out. Clinton allowed Gerry Adams into the USA
in 1995, a move that was not only good for the Irish American vote but which
made Clinton look  like  the prince of peacemakers.  He also  appeared to be
snubbing John  Major's stand against PIRA, but the British didn't mind; they
knew  the  agenda. Behind closed doors,  Gerry Adams  was told that if  PIRA
didn't let the peace process  happen, the US would come down  on them like a
ton of steaming shit.
     A  cease  fire was  indeed declared. It seemed that the years of covert
talks that had  gone nowhere were finally at an end; it was now time to talk
for real. Clinton and the British government would be seen as peace brokers,
and PIRA would have a say in the way the deal was shaped.
     On February  12,  1996,  however,  a  massive bomb exploded at London's
newest business  center,  Canary  Wharf, killing two and causing hundreds of
millions of dollars of damage.
     The cease fire was broken. It was back to business as usual.
     But it didn't  end there. Kev  had also discovered  that  PIRA had been
trying to blackmail certain Gibraltarian officials,  with  some success.  It
seemed Gibraltar was still the key to  Europe.  Spain was far too much  of a
risk. They had also targeted some important personalities in the US  so they
could  continue to  operate their drug  business with  impunity. One  of the
victims was high up in the DEA. Kev's problem was, he didn't know who.
     I did; I had the photograph of his boss.
     And  now  I  knew  why  McGear,  Fernahan,  and  Macauley had  been  in
Gibraltar. Whoever the official was,  they'd been there to give him a  final
warning  and  to try  to  blackmail  him  with  the  shipment documents  and
photographs to get the routes open again.
     I had to get back to the UK. I had to see Simmonds.
     At  ten o'clock  we  went back  down  the  escalator  to  international
arrivals. I needed passports--British or American, I didn't  care. I scanned
the international  flights on  the monitor.  Chances were we were  going to
end up with American documents  rather  than British, purely because  of the
number of families streaming back from spring vacation.
     Just like before,  there  were  people on  both sides of  the railings,
waiting with their cameras and flowers. Kelly and  I sat  on  the PVC  seats
near the domestic carousels on the other side of the  international gates. I
had my arm around her as if I were cuddling her and chatting  away. In fact,
I was talking her through some of the finer points of theft.
     "Do you think you can do it?"
     We  sat and  watched the  first wave of domestic arrivals  come,  stand
around, then leave when they collected their luggage.
     I spotted a potential family.
     "That's the  sort of thing we're looking for, but  they're two boys." I
     "You want to be a boy for the day?"
     "No way--boys stink!"
     I put my nose into my sweatshirt. I agreed.
     "OK, we'll wait."
     A flight arrived from Frankfurt; this time we struck gold.
     The parents  were late  thirties, the kids were about ten  or eleven, a
girl and  a  boy; the mother was carrying a clear plastic handbag with white
mesh  so  you  could check  everything was where it should  be.  I  couldn't
believe our luck.
     "See them?
     That's what we want. Let's go, shall we?"
     There was a slightly hesitant  "Yeahhh." She didn't sound too keen now.
Should I  let her do this? I  could stop it right now. As they walked toward
the rest rooms  I had to  make a  decision. Fuck it. Let's  carry on and get
this done.
     "She's going in with her daughter," I said.
     "Make  sure  no  body's behind  you. Remember, I'll  be  waiting."  We
followed casually. The husband had left with the boy,  perhaps  to visit one
of the vending machines or to wait for their bags.
     Mother  and daughter  went  in via the  ladies'  entrance, chatting and
giggling. The mother had the bag over her shoulder.
     We entered via  the  men's on  the right  of the  handicap toilets, and
immediately went into one of the large stalls.
     "I'll be in this one here, OK, Kelly?"
     "Remember what you have to do?"
     I got a big, positive nod.
     "Off you go then." I closed the door and held it in place.
     The stalls were large enough for a wheelchair to maneuver in.
     The slightest sound seemed to echo.  The floors were wet and smelled of
bleach. The time sheet on  the back of  the door showed the place  had  been
cleaned only fifteen minutes ago.
     My heart was pumping so hard I could feel it underneath my shirt; I was
even starting to hyperventilate. My whole future pivoted on the actions of a
seven-year-old girl.  She  had  to slip  her hand under the  stall, grab the
handbag, put  it under her coat,  and  walk  away without looking back.  Not
difficult just majorly flawed. But without  passports we couldn't get out of
the  country; it was as  simple as that. I had  decided  there was no way  I
could go back to Big Al's. Besides the risk of the journey, I couldn't trust
him,  because I had no  idea what he'd been doing since I  left him.  It was
just too fucking complicated. We needed to get out of this country, and now.
     I  was  shaken from my thoughts by  a sudden knock, knock, knock and  a
nervous "Nickkk!"
     I opened the door quickly, didn't even look, and in she ran.
     I  closed and  locked  it, picked her up, and carried her  over  to the
     I put the lid  down  and we sat together. I smiled and whispered, "Well
done!" She looked both excited and scared. I was just scared, because I knew
that at any minute all hell would break loose.
     And  then  it came.  The  mother was  running  out  of  the rest  room,
shouting, "My bag!  My bag's  been stolen! Where's Louise? Louise!"  Louise
came out and started to cry.
     "Oh, Mom, what's happened?"
     I could hear both of them running off, yelling. Now was not the time to
get out. People would be looking; attention would be focused. Let's just sit
tight and look at the passports.
     We'd just robbed Mrs.  Sarah Glazar and  family.  Fine, except that Mr.
Glazar didn't look at all like Mr. Stone. Never  mind, I  could do something
about  that later on. But the  names of  both kids were  entered  on each of
their parents' passports, and that was a problem.
     I pulled  out the  cash and her  reading glasses. The toilet tank was a
sealed unit behind  the  wall. There was nowhere to hide the bag. I got  up,
told Kelly to stand, and listened at the door.
     The woman had found a policeman. I imagined the scene outside. A little
crowd  would have gathered around. The cop would  be making notes,  radioing
Control, maybe checking the other stalls. I broke into a sweat.
     I stood  at  the door and waited for  what  seemed like an hour.  Kelly
tiptoed  exaggeratedly toward me; I bent  down and she  whispered in my ear,
"Is it all right yet?"
     Then I heard a banging noise, and  knocking.  Somebody was pushing back
the doors in the vacant stalls and knocking on the doors of the others. They
were looking  for  the thief  or, more likely, to  see  if the bag had  been
dumped once the money had been taken. They'd be at our stall any second.
     I didn't have time to think.
     "Kelly, you  must  talk  if they knock. I want you to  "  Knock, knock,
     It sounded like the slam of a cell door.
     A male voice shouted, "Hello, police anyone in there?"
     He tried to turn the handle.
     I quickly moved Kelly back to the toilet and whispered in her ear.
     "Say you will be out soon." She shouted, "I'll be out in a minute."
     There  was no reply, just  the same thing happening at  the next stall.
The danger had passed, or so I hoped.
     All that was left to do was dump my  pistol and  mags. That was easy. I
slipped  them into Sarah's bag and crushed it into a package  that would fit
in a trash can.
     It was an  hour  before  I decided  it  was safe to leave.  I turned to
     "Your name is Louise now, OK? Louise Glazar."
     She didn't seem fussed at all.
     "Louise, when  we leave here in a  minute I want you to be really happy
and I want you to hold my hand." With that I picked up the bag.
     "OK, we're off!"
     "To England?"
     "Of course! But first of all we've got to get on the plane. By the way,
you were great--well done!"
     We got into the departures area at 11:30 a.m. Still several hours to go
before the first possible flight, British Airways flight 216 to Heathrow  at
     I went  to  a  phone and,  using the numbers in  the  airport magazine,
called each airline in turn to check seat availability.
     The British Airways flight was fully booked. So was  United Airways 918
at 6:10,  the  BA at 6:10, and  the United at  6:40. I eventually managed to
find  two spare  seats on  a  flight  with Virgin at  6:45, and gave all the
details  of Mr. Glazar, who was on his way to the airport right now. Payment
was courtesy of the details for Big Al's plastic on the car rental form.
     I  wandered past  the Virgin  desk and found  it didn't open until 1:30
p.m. One and a half hours to sit and sweat.
     Christian  Glazar was a little  older than me, and his  shoulder-length
hair was  starting to  go gray.  My hair was just below  the ear, and brown.
Thankfully, his passport was four years old.
     To  the  delight of  Kelly  and  the  terminal's  barbershop  owner,  I
underwent a number one crew cut, coming out looking like a US Marine.
     We  then  went into the travel store and bought a  pack of  painkillers
that claimed to be the answer to female pains.
     Judging by  the list of ingredients, they were certainly the answer for
     All the time, I kept hoping that the  police had assumed the motive for
the theft was money and had left it to  the Glazars  to report the cards and
passports missing rather than pursuing the matter further. I didn't want  to
turn up at the ticket sales  desk and be jumped on by several hundred pounds
of cop.
     Still  thirty minutes to go before we could check in. One more thing to
     "Kelly, we have to go to the bathroom up here for a while."
     "I don't need to go."
     "It's for me to get into my disguise. Come and see."
     We  went to the  handicap toilet in departures  and closed  the door. I
took out Sarah's glasses. They were  gold-framed and had lenses as  thick as
the  bottom of Coke bottles. I tried them on. The frames weren't big  enough
but they looked OK..  I turned to  Kelly and crossed my eyes. Then I had  to
stop her laughing.
     I took the painkillers out of the duffel.
     "I'm going to swallow  these and they're going to make me ill. But it's
for a reason, OK?"
     She wasn't quite sure.
     I took six capsules  and waited. The hot flashes started, then the cold
sweats. I put my hands up  to show it was OK  as  the contents of my stomach
flew out of my mouth into the toilet bowl.
     Kelly watched  in  amazement  as I rinsed out my mouth in the basin.  I
looked at myself  in the  mirror. Just  as I'd hoped, I  looked as pale  and
clammy as I felt. I took two more.
     There  were few  customers at the long line of check-in desks and  only
one woman on duty at Virgin Atlantic ticket sales.
     She was writing something so her head was down as we approached.
     She  was in her mid-twenties and  beautiful,  with relaxed hair  pulled
back in a bun.
     "Hello, the name's Glazar." Because of the  vomiting my voice was lower
and coarse.
     "There should be two tickets for me."  I tried to look disorganized and
     "Hopefully,  my brother-in-law has booked them?" My  eyes looked to the
sky in hope.
     "Sure, do you have a reference number?"
     "Sorry,  he  didn't give  me  one. Just Glazar, Christian  Glazar"  She
tapped that out and said, "That's  fine, Mr. Glazar, two tickets for you and
Louise. How many bags are you checking in?"
     I had the laptop on my shoulder and the duffel in my hand.
     I dithered, as if working out if I'd need the laptop on the flight.
     "Just this one." I put the bag on the scale. It didn't weigh  much, but
it was bulked up respectably with the blanket.
     "Could I see your passport, please?"
     I looked in  all my pockets without apparent success.  I didn't want to
produce Glazar's documents right away.
     "Look, I know we were lucky to get seats at all, but is it possible  to
make  sure   we're   sitting  together?"  I  leaned  a   little  closer  and
half-whispered, "Louise hates flying."
     Kelly and I exchanged glances.
     "Everything's going to be OK.," I told her. My voice dropped again.
     "We're on a bit of a mercy mission."
     I looked down at Kelly and back at the woman, my face pained.
     "Her grandmother^ ..."  I let it hang, as  if the  rest of the sentence
would be too terrible for a little girl's ears.
     "I'll see what I can do, sir."
     She was hitting the keys other PC at such a speed it  looked as  if she
were bluffing. I put  the passport on top of  the counter. She looked up and
smiled. "No problem, Mr.
     Glazar;' "That's marvelous" But I still wanted to keep the conversation
     "I wonder, would it be possible for us to use one of your lounges? It's
just  that,  after my chemotherapy, I tire very  easily. We've been  rushing
around today and  I don't feel too good. I  only have to knock myself  and I
start bleeding " She looked at my scabs and pale complexion and under stood.
There was a pause, then she said, "My mother went through chemo  for  cancer
of the liver. The therapy worked;
     after all that pain she came through "
     I thanked her for her concern and her message of support.
     Now just get me into the lounge, out of the fucking way!
     "Let me find out." Smiling at Kelly, she picked up the phone and spoke.
After  several seconds  of weird  airline  vocabulary she looked at  me  and
     "That's  fine, sir. We share  facilities with United. I'll fill out  an
     I thanked her  as she reached for the passport. I hoped that by now she
knew me so well it was just a formality.  She flicked it open; I turned away
and talked to Kelly, telling her how exciting it  was going to be, flying to
see Grandma.
     I heard,  "You'll be boarding at about five-thirty."  I looked up,  all
     "Go to Gate C. A shuttle will take you  to the  lounge. You both have a
pleasant flight."
     "Thank you so  much. Come on then, Louise, we've got a plane to catch!"
I let Kelly walk on a few steps, then turned and said, "I just  hope Grandma
can wait for us." She nodded knowingly.
     All  I  wanted  to do  now  was get  through  Customs. First hurdle was
security. Kelly went through first, and I followed.
     No  alarms. I had to open up the laptop and switch  it on  to prove  it
worked,  but I'd been expecting  that. All the Flavius files were  now  in a
folder called Games.
     We went straight to Gate C, walked through, and got on the shuttle bus.
There was a five-minute wait while the bus filled up, then the doors closed,
the hydraulics  lowered, and we drove about half a mile across the tarmac to
the departures lounge proper.
     The area was plush and busy. I heard a lot of British accents, mixed in
with  snatches of  German  and  French.  Kelly  and I headed  for the United
lounge, via a detour to the candy stall.
     We  sat quietly with a large  cappuccino and a Coke. Unfortunately, the
downtime just gave me a while to think about whether I'd made any mistakes.
     A security man walked into the  reception area and talked to the people
at  the desk. My heart beat faster. We were so close to the aircraft  on the
other  side  of the glass that I felt I could reach  out and  touch them.  I
could almost smell the aviation fuel.
     I told myself  to calm down. If they'd wanted us, they would have found
us by now.
     But,  in truth,  so many things could  still go wrong that one of  them
almost certainly  would.  I was still sweating away. My head was glistening.
And I didn't know if it was the capsules or my  worrying, but I was starting
to feel weak.
     "Nick, am I Louise all day today or just for now?"
     I pretended to think about it.
     "The whole day. You're Louise Glazar all day."
     "Because they won't let us go to England unless we use another name."
     I got a smiling, thoughtful nod.
     I said, "Do you want to know something else?"
     "If I call you Louise, you have to call me Daddy. But just for today."
     I  wasn't  sure what kind of  reaction that  would  get, but  she  just
     "Whatever." Maybe that was what she wanted now.
     The next three hours were grim, but at least we were out of the way. If
I'd  had any heart  problems,  I  would probably have  died,  the blood  was
coursing through me so fast and hard. I could hear it pumping in my ears.
     I kept saying to  myself: You're here  now, there's nothing you can  do
about it; accept it. Just get on that fucking aircraft!
     I looked at Kelly.
     "You all right, Louise?"
     "Yeah, I'm all right. Daddy." She had a big smile now. I just hoped she
kept it.
     I  watched the  receptionist  move to the microphone. She announced our
flight and told us that she had really enjoyed having us stay in the lounge.
     There were  about a  dozen  others who  stood  up and  started to  sort
themselves out, folding papers and zipping up bags.
     I got to my feet and stretched.
     "Let's go to England!"
     We walked toward the gate, father and daughter,  hand in hand, chatting
about nothing.  My theory went: if I talked with  her, they wouldn't talk to
     Four or five people were  ahead of  us in line--like us,  families with
young children. Passports were being checked by a young Latino; he had an ID
card on  a chain around his neck, but we were too far way yet for me to make
out what it said.
     Was he airline security or airport security?
     Two uniformed  security men  came  up and stood  behind him, talking to
each other.  It  was the  kind  of chat  that  looked so  casual it probably
wasn't. I used my sleeve to mop sweat from the side of my face.
     Both of the uniformed  men were armed. The  black one cracked a joke as
the white one laughed and looked around.
     Kelly and I shuffled forward.
     I held her beside  me,  the  protective parent anxious in a  crowd. The
laptop was over my shoulder. Kelly held a teddy bear under each arm.
     We moved three steps  forward; another wait, then it was  our turn with
the Latino.
     I  wanted to make it all  very easy for him. Smiling, I handed  him the
boarding  passes  and the passport. I was convinced the uniformed  guys were
looking at me. I went into boxer mode: everything was focused on the Latino;
everything else was  in the distance, muffled, distorted, peripheral. A bead
of sweat fell down my cheek, and I knew he'd noticed it. I knew he could see
my chest heaving up and down.
     Kelly was just  behind and to the  right of  me.  I  looked at  her and
     I silently exhaled in preparation and looked back at him.
     "Just the  passport,  sir." He  handed me back the boarding  passes.  I
grinned, the inexperienced dickhead traveler.
     He  flicked through  the  pages  of the passport,  stopping at Glazar's
photograph. He glanced at me, then back at the passport.
     I'm in deep shit.
     I let him see I was reading his thoughts.
     "Male menopause," I grinned,  rubbing my hand over what  was left of my
hair. My scalp was drenched.
     "The Bruce Willis look!"
     The  fucker didn't  laugh. He  was  making  up his  mind. He closed the
passport and tapped it in his hand.
     "Have a pleasant flight, sir."
     I went to give him  a nod, but he was already  paying attention  to the
people behind me.
     We moved  two paces  toward the women from Virgin and  handed them  our
boarding passes. The two security men didn't budge.
     We started to walk onto the air bridge I felt  as if I'd been trying to
run through waist-high water and was suddenly on the shoreline.
     The Latino still worried me. I thought about  him all the  way onto the
aircraft.  It  was only  when I'd found  our seats,  put  the  laptop in the
overhead  locker,  settled down, and picked up the in-flight magazine that I
took a  deep breath  and let  it out very, very slowly. It  wasn't a sigh of
relief; I was boosting the oxygen levels in my blood. No,  the fucker wasn't
happy. His suspicions had  been aroused, but  he hadn't asked any questions,
hadn't even asked my name. We might be on the shoreline, but it was far from
being dry land.
     The aircraft was still filling up. I kept taking deep breaths to try to
control my pulse rate.
     Officials were moving in and out of the  aircraft with manifests. Every
time it happened I was expecting to see the two security guys in  tow. There
was only one entrance, only one exit. There was nowhere to run.  As I worked
through the  scenarios  in my  mind, I just had to accept that  the die  was
cast. I  was  a passenger now, and  for  a  fleeting second  I  had the same
feeling that I'd always had on  any aircraft, military  or civilian I was in
the hands of others and powerless to decide my own destiny. I hated it.
     People were still filing on. I nearly burst out in nervous  laughter as
the speakers played Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive " I looked at  Kelly and
winked. She thought it was great, sitting there trying to strap in her teddy
     One of the male  flight attendants came down our aisle,  still  wearing
his Virgin uniform, not  yet  in shirtsleeves. He came  down  to our  row of
seats and  stopped. Judging by his line of sight, he seemed to  be  checking
our seat belts.  It was too  early for that, surely? I nodded and smiled. He
turned back and disappeared into the galley.
     I watched the entrance, expecting the  worst. One of the  female flight
attendants poked her head out and looked directly at me. Kelly's teddy bears
were suddenly very interesting.
     I could  feel tingling in  my feet. My stomach tightened. I  looked  up
again. She was gone.
     The  male  attendant  came  out  again,  carrying  a  garbage  bag.  He
approached us again, stopped, and squatted down in the aisle next to  Kelly.
He said, "Hiya!"
     He put his hand into the bag; I  waited  for him to  bring out the .45.
Good ploy,  letting me think he's a member  of the crew doing  something for
the kid.
     He pulled out a little nylon day sack Splattered all over the back  was
the Virgin logo and the words kids with altitude.
     "We forgot to give you one of these," he said. I nearly hugged him.
     "Thank you very much!" I grinned like  an  asylum inmate, my  eyes  one
hundred percent larger through the lenses of Sarah's glasses.
     "Thank you so much!"
     He did  his best not  to look at me, as if I were indeed  some  sort of
weirdo, then offered us  a drink before takeoff. I was dying for a beer, but
I  might have to  start performing  on the other  side and,  anyway, I  just
wanted to lean back and rest.
     We each ordered an orange juice instead.
     Sharing the in-flight  guide  with Kelly,  I said,  "What film  are you
going to watch, Louise?"
     "Clueless," she grinned.
     "Whatever," I said.
     Twenty minutes  later, right  on schedule, the aircraft finally  lifted
off from the runway. Suddenly I didn't mind  being in a pilot's  hands after
all. We went through  all the nonsense of  the introduction by the captain,
how wonderful it was to have us on board, and  when we were going to be fed.
My body heat was starting to dry  out my sweat-drenched shirt. Even my socks
had been wet. I  looked over at  Kelly. She had a sad face on. I nudged  her
with my arm.
     "You OK?"
     "I guess. I couldn't even tell Melissa I'm going to England."
     I knew how to get out of this type of thing now.
     "Well, all you have to do is  think good things about Melissa  and that
will make you feel  happy." I was waiting for  her reply. I knew the sort of
thing it was going to be.
     "Do you think about David? What do you remember about David?"
     Easy; I was prepared.
     "Well,  nearly twelve years ago, we were  rebuilding his house together
and it needed a new wooden floor."
     She  was enjoying this,  stories at bedtime. She certainly looked as if
she would go to sleep soon, cuddling up to me.
     I continued telling her how we'd  both swiped a squash court floor from
one  of the HQ Security Forces bases  in Northern Ireland.  We were there at
three o'clock  in the morning with spades,  hammers, and chisels. We put the
boards in a van and brought  them  over to  his Welsh cottage. After all, HM
Government spent all that time and money training us  to break in and  steal
things. Why not use it for ourselves?
     The next three days had been spent  laying  the hallway  and kitchen of
the house near Brecon with his nice new flooring.
     I grinned down at her for a reaction, but she was already sound asleep.
     I started to watch  the video but knew I was  going  to fall asleep any
minute--as long as the capsules wore off and I could stop my mind going back
to the same question over and over again.
     There was an unholy alliance  between PIRA and corrupt  elements of the
DEA, of that there  was  no  doubt--and it very much  looked as though Kev's
boss  was at the center of  it. Kev had found out about the  corruption, but
not who was involved.
     He  wanted  to talk to somebody about  it.  Was  it  his boss whom he'd
unwittingly phoned  for  an opinion  the day I  arrived in Washington?  Very
unlikely,  because  Kev  would  have  had  to include  him on his  list  of
suspects. Much  more probable was  that  he'd spoken to  someone unconnected
with the DEA, someone who'd know what he was talking about and whose opinion
he valued. Could it  have been  Luther? He knew Kev; would Kev  have trusted
him? Who knows? Whoever he had called, he was dead within an hour of putting
down the phone.
     The cabin lights came on a  couple of hours before landing, and we were
served breakfast. I tried to wake  Kelly, but she groaned and buried herself
under her blanket. I didn't bother with the food. From feeling almost elated
at having gotten past security, I awoke profoundly depressed. My mood was as
black  as the  coffee  in front  of  me. I'd  been crazy to let  myself feel
relieved. We weren't out of the woods by a long shot;
     if they  knew  we  were  on  the aircraft, of  course they  wouldn't do
anything about it until we landed. It was at the point that I walked off and
stepped onto the ramp that they'd lift me.
     Even if that didn't happen, there was Immigration. The officials trying
to keep out undesirables are much  tougher and a lot more  on  the ball than
those in charge of waving you off.
     They  vet  your  documents  much  more  closely,  scrutinize your  body
language, read your eyes. Kelly and I were on a stolen passport. We'd gotten
through at Dulles, but that didn't mean we could pull it off again.
     I took four capsules and finished my coffee. I remembered that I was an
American  citizen  now.  When the attendant  came  past I asked  her for  an
immigration card. Kelly was still asleep.
     Filling in the card, I decided that the Glazars had just moved and  now
lived next door to Mr. and Mrs. Brown.
     Hunting Bear Path was the only address I could talk about convincingly.
     If I was lifted at Immigration, it wouldn't be the first time.
     I'd come into Gatwick airport  once from a job.  I  gave my passport to
the Immigration officer, and  while  he was inspecting it a boy  came  up on
either side, gripped my arms and took the passport from the official.
     "Mr. Stamford? Special Branch. Come with us."  I wasn't going to argue;
my cover was good, I was in the UK now, everything was going to be fine.
     They strip-searched  me  in an interview  room, firing  questions left,
right, and  center. I  went through the whole  routine of my  cover  story:
where I'd been,  what I'd been doing, why I'd been doing it. They telephoned
my cover, and James supported my story. Everything was going swimmingly.
     Then I got put in the airport detention cells, and three policemen came
in. They wasted no time; two held my arms, one threw punches; they then took
turns. They beat the shit out of me. No word of explanation.
     Next I  got taken for an interview and was accused of being a pedophile
and procuring kids in Thailand which was strange, considering I'd been  on a
deniable op in Russia.
     There was nothing I could say; it was just down to denying, and waiting
for the system to get me out.
     After about four hours of interviews I was sitting in my  cell. In came
people from  the intelligence service, to debrief me  on my performance.  It
had been a fucking exercise.
     They'd been testing all the operators as we came back into the  UK; the
only trouble  was, they'd  picked  the wrong charge  to pull  us up  on. The
police don't  wait for niceties  like  court rooms when it comes to  dealing
with child molesters, so everyone  who was lifted got  taken to one side and
given the good news. One bloke got such a severe kicking he ended  up in the
     * * * Kelly looked as if she'd been sleeping in a hedge. She yawned and
made an attempt  to stretch.  As  she  opened her  eyes  and looked  around,
completely bewildered, I grinned and offered her the carton of orange juice.
     "How are you today, Louise?"
     She  still seemed lost  for  a second or  two,  then got back with  the
     "I'm  all  right." She paused, grinned, and added, "Daddy." She  closed
her  eyes and turned over, trying to sort  herself  out  with the pillow and
blanket. I didn't have the heart to tell her we were landing soon.
     At least I got  to drink her orange  juice as a Welcome to London video
came  on  the screens:  loads  of pomp,  circumstance,  and  pageantry,  the
Household Cavalry astride their horses. Guardsmen marching up and down,  the
Queen riding down the Mall  in her  carriage. To me, London had never looked
so good.
     Then  the aircraft landed  and we became actors again.   We taxied and
stopped at  our  ramp. Everybody jumped out of their  seat  as  if they were
going to miss out on something. I leaned over to Kelly.
     "Wait here. We're in  no rush." I wanted to get into the  middle of the
     We  eventually got all the  bits and pieces back into  Kelly's day sack
organized the teddies, and joined the line. I was trying to look ahead but I
couldn't see much.
     We got to the galley area, turned  left, and  shuffled toward the door.
On  the  ramp  were three men--normal British  Airports  Authority reception
staff  in  fluorescent jackets,  who were  manning the  air bridge helping a
woman into a wheelchair.
     Things were looking good; freedom felt so close.
     We  walked up  the  ramp  and joined  the  spur that  led  to the  main
terminal. Kelly didn't have a care  in the world, which was good.  I  didn't
want her to understand what was happening.
     There was  heavy foot traffic  in both directions, people  running with
hand luggage, drifting in and  out of  shops, milling around at gates. I had
the day  sack and  the laptop  over my  shoulder and held  Kelly's  hand. We
reached the walkway.
     Heathrow airport is  the  most monitored, most  camera'd, most visually
and physically secure airport in the world.
     Untold  pairs of eyes would  already  be on  us;  this was no time  for
looking furtive or guilty. The moving walkway stopped by Gates 43-47, then a
new one started about  ten yards later. As we trundled along I waited  until
there was a gap on each side of us and bent down to Kelly.
     "You mustn't forget I am your daddy today OK, Louise Glazar?"
     "As if!" she said with a big smile.
     I just hoped we were both smiling in thirty minutes' time.
     We came to the end of the walkway and  took a down escalator, following
signs  for Passport Control and  Baggage  Re  claim. From  halfway down  the
escalator  I could see  the Immigration hall  straight ahead. This was where
we'd stand or fall.
     There were about four or five people waiting to go through the desks. I
started joking with Kelly, trying to give myself something to do instead of
just looking nervous. I'd entered countries illegally hundreds of times, but
never so unprepared or under such pressure.
     "All set, Louise?"
     "I'm ready, Daddy."
     I passed  her the day sack so I could  get the passport and immigration
card out of my pocket. We ambled up  to Passport Control and  joined the end
of a line.  I kept reminding myself about an  American friend who'd traveled
from Boston to Canada, and then  from Canada back  to the UK. He'd picked up
his friend's passport while they were sharing a hotel room;
     he couldn't get back to exchange  it so he had to fake it.  No  one had
even batted an eyelid.
     We waited in line. Still with the  laptop  on my right  shoulder, I was
holding Kelly's hand with my left. I  kept  looking down at her and smiling,
but not excessively so; that was suspicious behavior, and I knew that people
would be watching on  monitors and from behind two-way mirrors. The business
type in front of us went through with a wave and a smile to the official. It
was our turn. We approached the desk.
     I handed  my passport  and visa waiver to the woman.  She ran  her eyes
down the details on the card. She looked down at Kelly from her high desk.
     "Hello, welcome to England."
     Kelly came back with a very American, "Hi!"
     I guessed the woman was in  her late thirties. Her hair was permed, but
the perm had gone slightly wrong.
     "Did you have a nice flight?" she asked.
     Kelly had Jenny or Ricky in one hand, hanging by its ear, and the other
one's head was  sticking out from the top flap  of the day sack on her back.
She said, "Yes, it was fine, thank you."
     The woman kept the conversation going.
     "And what's your name?" she asked, still checking the form.
     Could I trust her to get it right, or should I butt in?
     Kelly smiled and said, "Kelly!"
     What a farce. We'd  come so far, we'd come through so much, only  to be
caught by a line straight out ofaB movie.
     Right away I smiled down at Kelly.
     "No, it's  not!" I didn't want to look at the  woman; I could  feel the
smile drain from her face, could feel her eyes  burning  into the side of my
     There was a pause that felt like an hour as I tried to think of what to
do or say next.  I  pictured  the woman's finger hovering  over a  concealed
     Kelly got there before me.
     "I know, I'm joking." She giggled, holding out a teddy.
     "This is Kelly! My name is Louise. What's yours?"
     "My name's Margaret." The smile was back. If only she'd known how close
she'd been to a kill.
     She  opened the passport. Her eyes flicked  up and down as  she studied
first the picture, then my  face. She put the pass port down below the level
of  the  desk, and I saw  the  telltale glow of ultraviolet light.  Then she
looked back into my eyes and said, "When was this picture taken?"
     "About four years ago, I guess." I  gave a weak smile and said in a low
voice  that Kelly wasn't meant to overhear, "I've been  having chemotherapy.
The hair's just starting to grow back." I rubbed  my head. My skin felt damp
and  cold. Hope fully I still  looked like shit. The capsules certainly made
me feel it.
     "I'm bringing Louise over to see  my parents because it's been quite  a
traumatic time. My wife's staying with our other child  because he's  ill at
the moment. When it rains, it pours!"
     "Oh,"  she said,  and it sounded  genuinely sympathetic. But she didn't
hand back the passport.
     There was a big lull, as if she were waiting for me to fill the silence
with  a  confession.  Or  maybe  she was just  trying  to think of something
helpful and human to say. Finally she said, "Have a  good stay," and put the
documents back on the desktop.
     There was that urge just to grab them and run.
     "Thank you very much," I said, picking them  up and  putting them  back
into my pocket, then carefully doing up the button, because that was  what a
normal dad would do. Only then did I turn to Kelly.
     "C'mon, Louise, let's go!"
     I started to walk, but Kelly stood her ground. Oh fuck, now what?
     "Bye, Margaret." She beamed.
     "Have a nice day!"
     That was  it. We were  nearly there. I knew  there wasn't going to be a
problem with the luggage, because I wasn't going to collect it.
     I checked the carousels. There was a flight from Brussels that was also
unloading, so I headed for the blue channel.
     Even if they  were watching and stopped us because  Kelly had a  Virgin
Atlantic bag, I would play the stupid person routine.
     But there weren't any Customs  officers on duty in the blue channel. We
were free.  The large sliding doors  opened up into the  arrivals  hall. We
walked  through into a throng of  chauffeurs holding  up  cards  and  people
waiting for their loved ones. Nobody gave us a second look.
     I went  straight to the currency  exchange. I found I'd  done well last
night  with Ron, Melvin, and the Glazars, ending up  with  more  than  three
hundred pounds in cash. Like a dickhead, I forgot to ask for a smaller  bill
for the subway ticket machine, so we had to stand in line for ages to get to
the kiosk. It didn't seem to matter; even the hour-long ride to Bank station
was enjoyable. I was a free man. I was  among ordinary  people, none of whom
knew who we were or was going to pull a gun on us.
     The central London district known as  the City is a  strange mixture of
architecture. As we left the subway station, we passed grand  buildings made
up of columns  and puritanically straight lines--the old Establishment. Turn
a corner  and we were confronted  by monstrosities  that were built  in  the
sixties and early  seventies  by architects who must have taken  a "Let's go
fuck up the City"  pill. One  of  these buildings was the one I was  heading
for, the NatWest bank on Lombard Street, a road so  narrow that just one car
could squeeze down it.
     We  went through  the revolving  steel and glass doors into the banking
hall, where  rows  of  cashiers sat behind protective screens. But  I wasn't
there for money.
     The reception desk  was  staffed  by  a man and a woman, both  in their
early twenties, both wearing  NatWest suits; they  even had little corporate
logos  sewn into  the  material  of their breast pockets, probably so  staff
wouldn't wear them after hours. As Kelly would have said, "As if!"
     I saw  both of them give  Kelly and me an  instant appraisal and  could
feel them turning up their noses. I gave  them a cheery, "Hi, how are  you?"
and asked to speak with Guy Bexley.
     The woman said, "Can  I  have  your name, please?" as she picked up the
     "Nick Stevenson."
     The girl called an extension. The man  went  back to being efficient on
the other side of the reception desk.
     I bent down and whispered to Kelly, "I'll explain later."
     "He'll be along in a minute. Would you like to sit down?"
     We  waited  on a couch that  was very long,  very deep, very plastic. I
could sense Kelly's cogs turning.  Sure enough.
     "Nick, am I Louise Stevenson now, or Louise Glazar?"
     I screwed up my face and scratched my head.
     "Umm ... Kelly!"
     Guy Bexley came down. Guy was my "relationship man ager," whatever that
was. All I knew was that he was the  man I asked for when I wanted to get my
security blanket out. He was in his late twenties, and you  could see by his
hairstyle and goatee that he felt uncomfortable in the issued suit and would
be  far happier wearing PVC pants, holding a bottle  of  water, and partying
all night bare-chested.
     We shook hands.
     "Hello, Mr. Stevenson, haven't seen you for a long time."
     I shrugged my shoulders.
     "Work. This is Kelly."
     He bent down and said,  "Hello there,  Kelly," in his  best  "I've been
trained how to introduce myself to kids" manner.
     "I just need my locked box for five minutes, mate."
     I followed him toward  the row of partitioned offices on the other side
of the hall. I'd been in them many times before.
     They were  all identical;  each contained  just  a  round  table,  four
chairs, and a  telephone. It was where people went to count money or beg for
a loan. He started to leave.
     "Could I also have a statement on my savings account, please?"
     Guy nodded and left. Kelly said, "What are we doing here?"
     I should  have known by now  that she hated to be  left  out of things.
Just like her dad.
     "Wait and see." I winked.
     A few minutes later Guy reappeared, put  the box on the table, and gave
me a folded printout of my account. I felt nervous as I opened up the paper.
My eyes went straight for the bottom right-hand corner.
     It read four hundred twenty-six thousand, five hundred seventy dollars,
converted at a rate of 1.58 dollars to the pound.
     Big Al had done it. I had to control myself, as I remembered Bexley was
still standing there.
     "I'll just be about five minutes," I said.
     "Tell reception when you're ready. They'll put it back in the vault for
you." He left with a shake of my hand and a "
     "Bye, Kelly!" and closed the door behind him.
     The  box was eighteen  inches  by twelve,  a metal  file container  I'd
bought for ten pounds in Woolworth's, with a very cheap lock on the top that
opened under  pressure.  It meant  that I didn't have  to turn up with a key
every time--I couldn't always guarantee  I was going  to have  that with me.
The only problem was  that  if I had to make a  run out of  the country,  it
could only be during banking hours.
     I flipped the lock and pulled out  a couple of old soccer fanzines  I'd
put on top in case it accidentally opened. I threw them over to Kelly.
     "See if you can make any sense of those."
     She picked one up and started to flip through the pages.
     The  first thing I  took out  was the  mobile  phone and  recharger.  I
switched it on. The battery was still working, but I put it in the recharger
anyway and plugged it into the wall.
     Next I pulled out a clear plastic freezer bag that contained bundles of
US dollar bills and pounds sterling, five South African Krugerrands, and ten
half-sovereigns that  I'd stolen  after the Persian Gulf War. All troops who
were behind enemy lines in Iraq were  issued twenty of the things  as bribes
for the locals in case we  got in heavy shit.  In my patrol we'd managed  to
keep ten of  them each; we said we'd  lost  the rest in a contact.  To begin
with I'd  kept them only as souvenirs, but they'd soon increased in value. I
left them in the bag; I was interested only in the sterling.
     I dug out a French leather porte-monnaie with a strap, in which I had a
complete set of ID: passport, credit cards, driver's license, all  the stuff
I needed to  become  Nicholas  Duncan Stevenson. It had taken  years  to get
cover  in such  depth,  all  originating from a  social  security number I'd
bought in a pub in Brixton for fifty pounds.
     I then  got out an electronic notebook. It was great; it  meant that  I
could fax, send memos, word process, and maintain a database anywhere in the
world. The problem  was I didn't have a clue how to use it. I used only the
phone number and address section facility because it could  be accessed only
with a password.
     I  had  a quick  look  over at  Kelly.  She was  thumbing  through  the
magazines, not understanding  a word. I pushed my hand to the bottom  of the
box and extracted the  9mm semiautomatic Browning  I'd liberated from Africa
in the late eighties.
     Loading the mags with rounds from a  small Tupperware box, I made ready
and checked chamber. Kelly looked up but didn't give it a second glance.
     I  powered  up  the  notebook,  tapped in 2422, and  found the number I
wanted. I picked up the telephone on the table.
     Kelly looked up again.
     "Who are you calling?"
     "Who is he?"
     I could see the confusion on her face.
     "He's my best friend." I carried on pressing the phone number.
     I put my finger to my lips.
     He wasn't  in. I left  a message  on the  answering  machine in  veiled
speech. I then put the laptop into the box, together with  everything that I
wasn't taking with me including the printout.
     Kelly was bored with the fanzines now, so I put them back in the box. I
knew there was a question on its way.
     I just carried on packing.
     "I thought David was your best friend."
     "Ah yes. Well, Euan is my  best friend. It's just that sometimes I have
to call him David because--" I started to think of a lie, but why?
     "I told you  to make sure you wouldn't know  his real  name if  we  got
caught. That way you  couldn't tell anyone. It's  something that is done all
the time.  It's called OP SEC--operational security." I finished packing and
closed the box. She thought about it.
     "Oh, OK. His name's Euan then."
     "When you see him he might even show you the floor I told you about."
     I poked my head around the corner and waved at the receptionist.
     She came in, picked up the box, and left.
     I turned to Kelly.
     "Right, then, time for a shopping frenzy.
     Let me see; we'd better buy some nice new clothes for us both, and then
we'll go and stay in a hotel and wait for Euan to call. Sound good to you?"
     Her face brightened.
     Once this was all over I would have to set up a different named account
and move the money, and I'd stop  being Stevenson.  A pain  in  the  ass  to
organize, but I could live with that for $426,072.
     The cab ride  to Trafalgar Square became a tour given by me to Kelly. I
was  more  into  it than she  was,  and I  could tell by the  taxi  driver's
expression in his  rearview mirror  that I  was getting  most of the details
     We  were going down the Strand when I  spotted  clothes stores  on both
sides of the road. We paid off the taxi and shopped for jeans, T-shirts, and
a washing kit. Once that was done, we took another cab to Brown's Hotel.
     I said to Kelly, "You'll like  this place. It's got  two entrances,  so
you  can enter from Dover  Street and come out the other side, on Albermarle
Street. Very important for spies like us."
     I switched on the phone, got hold  of information, and called the hotel
to make a reservation. Less than half an hour later we were in our room, but
only after discovering that the Dover Street exit was no longer open. Finger
on the pulse.
     The room  was a world removed from the ones we had been used to. It was
plush, comfortable, and, best of all, had a minibar with Toblerones. I could
have killed for a beer, but not yet; there was work to do.
     Jet  lag was starting to  kick in. Kelly  looked exhausted. She flopped
onto the bed and I helped undress her, then threw her between the sheets.
     "You can take a bath tomorrow," I said.
     She was a starfish in about two minutes flat.
     I  checked that the  phone had  a good  signal and that the charger was
working. Euan knew my voice, so the "It's John the plumber, when do you want
me to come and fix that tap?
     Give me a ring on..." would have done the trick.
     I decided  to  have a  quick nap for  ten  minutes,  maybe shower, have
something to eat, then go to bed. After all, it was only 5 p.m.
     At a quarter to six in  the morning, the phone rang. I pressed Receive.
I heard "Hello?" in that very low, very controlled voice I knew so well.
     "I need a hand, mate," I said. I didn't want to give him time to talk.
     "I need you to help me. Can you get to London?"
     "When do you want me?"
     "I'm in Wales. It'll take a bit of time."
     "I'll wait out on this number."
     "No problem. I'll get a train; it'll be quicker."
     "Thanks,  mate.  Give  me a  call  about  an hour before  you  get into
     "Yep. OK."
     The phone went dead.
     I had never felt so relieved. It was like putting  the phone down after
a doctor's just told you the cancer test was negative.
     The  train journey alone would  take  more  than three hours,  so there
wasn't much to do apart from enjoy the lull  in the battle. Kelly awoke as I
caught up with some  international  news in the  copy of the  Times that had
been slipped under the door--no walk to the street corner with  a  couple of
quarters at Brown's Hotel. I phoned room service and tried  out the hotel TV
channels. No Power Rangers. Great.
     Lazily, we both eventually got  up, showered, changed, and were looking
good. We took a  leisurely stroll through Piccadilly  Circus  and  Leicester
Square. I delivered another tour lecture that Kelly didn't listen to. I kept
on  looking at my watch,  waiting for Euan  to call. While  Kelly  was being
overrun by pigeons  having a  feeding frenzy in  Trafalgar Square, the phone
rang. It was  9:50  a.m. I  put my finger  in my other  ear to block out the
traffic  and  the screams of delight  from Kelly and the other kids as birds
tried to peck their eyes out.
     "I'm an hour from Paddington."
     "That's great. I'll meet you at Platform Three, Charing  Cross station,
OK, mate?"
     "See you there."
     The  Charing  Cross  hotel was part of  the  station  complex, just two
minutes' walk from Trafalgar Square. I'd picked it  because I knew that from
the foyer you could see the taxis  pull  into the station and drop off their
     We waited and watched. The place was full of package-tour Americans and
Italians. The Americans were at the tour-guide desk, reserving every show in
town, and the Italians just moved  from the elevator to the exit door in one
loud, arm-waving mob, shouting  at each other and all trying  to get through
the glass doors at the same time.
     It was about half an hour later when I saw a cab with a familiar figure
in the back. I pointed him out to Kelly.
     "Aren't we going to go and meet him?"
     "No, we're going to stay here and look, because we're going to surprise
him. Just like we did with Frankie in Daytona, remember?"
     "Oh, yes. We have to stand off."
     I watched him get out.  It was so wonderful to see him that I wanted to
jump up and  run outside.  He was  dressed in jeans and wearing  the kind of
shoes  you  see  advertised  in  a  Sunday  supplement.  Hush  Puppies  were
positively cutting-edge fashion compared  to  these. He was  also  wearing a
black nylon bomber  jacket,  so  he'd be  easy  enough  to pick  out  in the
station. I said to Kelly, "We'll give him a couple of minutes, then we'll go
and surprise him, shall we?"
     "Yeah!" She sounded quite excited. She had two lumps  of  bird shit  on
the back of her coat. I was waiting for them to dry before picking them off.
     I  waited for five minutes, watching his  back for him. Then we  walked
toward  the station and through a couple of arches to the ticket offices. We
looked for Platform  3 and there he was, leaning against the wall, reading a
paper. The same feeling: I wanted  to run over  there and hug him. We walked
     He looked up and saw me. We both smiled and said, "Hi, how's it going!"
He looked at me, then at Kelly, but he didn't say anything; he knew that I'd
tell him at some stage. We went off to the side of the station to steps that
led  down toward the river.  As we walked  he looked at my head and tried to
hide a grin.
     "Good haircut!"
     Outside  Embankment  station   we   got   into   a   taxi.  Drills  are
drills--they're there for a reason, and that is to protect you:
     the moment you start falling  down on drills, you start fucking  up. We
took the driver on a roundabout route, covering  our tracks,  taking  twenty
minutes to  Brown's instead of the straight-line ten. As soon as we got back
to  the room I turned the TV  on for Kelly and phoned room service. Everyone
was hungry.
     Euan was already chatting away with  Kelly. She looked pleased  to have
somebody  else to talk to, even if it was only  another grown-up  and a man.
That  was  good--they were  getting a  relationship going;  she  was feeling
comfortable with him.
     The food came; there  was a hamburger and fries for Kelly, and two club
sandwiches for us. I said to Kelly, "We'll let you eat in peace. We're going
into  the bathroom because  you're watching TV, and  I  want to talk to Euan
about some stuff. Is that all right?"
     She nodded, mouth already full.
     Euan smiled.
     "See  you in a minute,  Kelly.  Save us some  fries." We went into the
bathroom with  our coffees  and sandwiches  the  noise  of the TV  dying the
moment I closed the door.
     I started to tell him the story. Euan listened intently. He was visibly
upset about Kev  and Marsha. I'd got as  far as the  lift by Luther and  Co.
when he cut in. By now he was sitting on the edge of the bath.
     "Bastards!  Who were they?  Do you  think  it  was the same group  that
zapped Kev?"
     "Must be." I sat next to him.
     "Kev knew the three who killed him. Kelly confirmed that Luther  worked
with Kev.
     Then there's the question of that phone call to 'get the ball rolling."
     " "You reckon it was Luther?"
     I nodded.
     "Who the fuck  knows where he  fits  into the picture,  but my guess is
he's  DEA, and also  corrupt. It looks like  some of the  DEA  are  bent and
working for drug money." I told him about  the McGear killing and what I had
found on the backup disk once de Sabatino had loaded the GIFs.
     Euan understood so far.
     "So it all has to  do with PIRA running  drugs into Europe? To keep the
route  open  it  needs  bribes,  blackmail,  and  threats.  But  what  about
McGear--did he say anything?"
     "Not a word. He knew he was going to die anyway."
     "This guy de Sabatino? Does he have any copies of the intelligence?"
     I laughed.
     "You know I'm not going to tell you that.
     OP SEC mate, OP SEC
     "Fair one." He shrugged.
     "Just being nosy."
     I explained what I had found in Kev's house. Euan didn't speak. He just
sat  there, letting  it all soak  in.  I  felt  exhausted,  as if by somehow
passing  on  the  baton to Euan everything that had happened in the last ten
days could now catch up with me and take its toll.
     I looked at him. He seemed pretty drained himself.
     "I can see only one thing wrong with what you're saying."
     "What's that, mate?"
     "Wouldn't the Colombians  have anticipated that  a bomb  would heighten
security in Gibraltar, making it harder to get the drugs in?"
     "It was a warning.  They  were sending it  out to anyone who might  not
want to keep business going. I tell you, mate, this is far too big for me to
be messing around with. I just want to  get it to Simmonds and wash my hands
of it."
     "I'll help any way I can."  He  opened a pack of Benson &  Hedges; he'd
obviously taken up smoking again. I stood up, out of the way.
     "I  don't want to get you directly involved. Kev,  Pat, me,  we've  all
been fucked over but I'm going to need you to back me if things go wrong."
     "You just have to name it."
     I could smell the sulfur from his match. He smiled as I started to wave
the smoke from  my face. He knew I hated that. Even  under  extreme pressure
some things never changed.
     I said, "Tomorrow afternoon, you should receive copies  of the files by
FedEx.  If anything happens to me or Simmonds, it's basically down  to you."
By now we  were  in  a  cloud of  smoke. The alarm was  going  to go off any
     "No  problems  with that, mate," he said  in his  very slow, very calm,
very  calculating  way.  If you  told  Euan he'd won  the lottery he'd  say,
"That's nice," then go back to stacking his coins or folding his socks.
     "How many copies of the disk are  there besides the ones you're sending
     "I'm not going to tell you, mate. Need-to-know!"
     He smiled. He knew I was protecting him.
     "One more thing," I said.
     "I don't want to take Kelly with me to the Simmonds meet. He wasn't too
pleased with  me the last time we  spoke. If this turns  into a gang fuck, I
don't want her caught in the crossfire.  You're the only  person I can trust
her with.  It's going  to be for  only one night, maybe two. Can you do that
for me?"
     I expected an immediate answer and I got one.
     "No problem." He smiled. He knew I'd let him talk freely  with Kelly so
they'd get to know each other.
     "Will you take her back to Brecon?"
     "Yeah. Have you told her I live in Wales?"
     "I've told her you live in a sheep pen."
     He threw the butt  into the toilet because he knew  I hated that smell,
     I put both my hands on his shoulders.
     "This has been a fucking shit week, mate."
     "Don't worry about it. Let's just go  back in the  room and finish  the
coffee. Then you just  go and sort  your shit  out with Simmonds  and get it
over and done with."
     "How was the burger?"
     "Fine. I saved Euan some fries."
     I sat on the bed next to her.
     "Listen, Kelly, me and Euan have been talking, and because I've  got to
do  some  stuff  in  London, we reckon it's  a good idea  if  you go  to the
countryside with him and stay at his house. It's only for one night; I'll be
back  tomorrow.  What  do you  think? Hey,  you  can even see the  floor  we
laid--remember I talked about it?"
     She suspected she wasn't  being offered any  option, and  her face said
     I said, "I won't be long, and Euan's house has sheep all around it."
     She looked down at her fingers and mumbled, "I want to stay with you."
     I said with mock surprise, "What, don't you want to go?
     You'll see all the sheep!"
     She was embarrassed. She was too polite to say no in front of Euan.
     I  said,  "It  won't be  for long." Then, like a bastard,  I closed the
     "You like Euan, don't you?"
     She nodded, never losing eye contact with me  in case she made  it with
     "It's just going to be for one  night. I'll be calling you anyway; I'll
be able to talk to you."
     She looked very unhappy about it. After  all, I'd promised not to leave
her again. I caught sight of my mobile and had an idea.
     "How about  I give you my mobile phone. I'll show you how to use it." I
started playing with the buttons.
     "Here you are, you have a  go. If I show you how to use it, you can put
that under your pillow tonight, all right?"
     I looked up at Euan, trying to bring him in.
     "Because she'll have her own bedroom, won't she?"
     "That's right. She'll have her own bedroom, the one that overlooks  the
sheep pen."
     I said, "And I believe there's a TV in her bedroom, isn't there?"
     "Yes, there's a TV  in there." He nodded and agreed, wondering where he
was going to get one from.
     There was an  acceptance; she wasn't wild about it, but  that  was good
enough.  I  switched  on the phone,  tapped in my  PIN number, and handed it
     "Just plug the charger into the wall when you get there and it'll work,
     "Then put  it underneath your pillow so when it rings you'll be sure to
hear it. All right?"
     "Whatever." By now she understood that she definitely had no choice.
     Euan said, "I'll tell you what. We'd better get  your teddies organized
if we're going to the country. What are their names? Have they  ever been on
a train before?"
     She warmed to him. We went downstairs and got into a taxi to Paddington
station. We bought Kelly ice cream, candy, soda,  anything to keep her mind
off what  was happening.  She was still deciding what  comic  to buy as Euan
looked at his watch and said, "Wheels turning soon, mate."
     I went with them  along the platform and gave her a big hug at the door
of the train car.
     "I'll call you tonight, Kelly. I promise."
     As she  climbed up. Jenny and  Ricky were looking at me from the Virgin
Atlantic day sack on her back.
     The guard was  walking the length of the train, closing the doors. Euan
lowered the window so Kelly could wave.
     "Nick?" She leaned toward me through the open window and beckoned as if
she wanted to whisper something.
     "What?" I put my face near hers.
     "This." She threw her arms around my  neck, squeezed, and planted a big
kiss on my cheek. I was so taken aback I just stood there.
     The train started moving.
     "I'll see you tomorrow," Euan called.
     "Don't worry about us. We'll be OK."
     As  the  train slowly disappeared  from  the platform,  I felt the same
wrench  as  I  had at the moment I'd seen  Pat's body being loaded into  the
ambulance. But this time I couldn't figure  out why.  After all, it  was for
the  best and she was in  safe hands. Forcing myself to  see it as  one more
problem out of the way, I headed for the pay phones.
     I got a very businesslike reply from Vauxhall: "Extension please?"
     "Two-six one-two."
     There was a pause, then a voice I recognized at once.
     "Hello, two-six one-two?"
     "It's Stone. I've got what you needed."
     "Nick! Where are you?"
     I put  my finger  in  my ear  as a  departure was announced.  "I'm  in
England."  Not that  he needed me  to say that  when he could hear that  the
Exeter train was leaving in five minutes.
     "I'm pretty desperate to see you."
     "Likewise. But I'm tied  up  here until the early hours." He paused  to
     "Perhaps we can go for a walk and a talk.
     Let's say three-thirty tomorrow morning?"
     "I'll walk toward the station. I presume you'll find me."
     "I'll do that."
     I put the phone  down with a  feeling that at long  last the  dice were
rolling for me. Kelly was  safe, Simmonds sounded amenable. With luck  I was
only hours from sorting out this mess.
     Back at the hotel I rented a car  so I could pick up Kelly from  Brecon
after the  meeting, and  had something  to eat.  In  my  head  I ran through
exactly what I was going to say  to Simmonds, and the way I was going to say
it. Without a doubt, I had  in my possession precisely the sort of  evidence
Simmonds had asked for. It  was a shame I didn't have the videotape to  back
up some of it, but, even so, the stuff I had was probably more than he could
have hoped for. The worst-case scenario now was that I'd get the slate wiped
clean and be let loose. At least I had a few quid to start a new life with.
     I thought about Kelly.  What would  become  other? Where would  she go?
Would  she have been affected  by everything  she'd  seen  and  all that had
happened  to her and her  family?  I tried to  cut  away  from that, telling
myself that it would all get sorted out--somehow. Simmonds could help there.
Perhaps he could orchestrate the  reunion with her grandparents, or at least
point me in the direction of the right kind of expert help.
     I  tried to get some sleep but failed. At 2 a.m. I retrieved the rental
car and headed for Vauxhall Bridge.
     I went a long way around,  going all  the way down the King's  Road  to
World's  End,  then turning for  the  river and  heading  east again, mainly
because I wanted to organize my thoughts one last time,  but also because to
me, the  drive  along the deserted Embankment and past  all  the  historic,
floodlit bridges offered one of the most beautiful sights in the world.
     This particular night  the lights  seemed to shine a  bit brighter, and
the bridges seemed  more sharply in focus; I found myself  wishing Kelly was
there to see it with me.
     I got  to  Vauxhall  Bridge  early.  I drove east  along the road  that
follows the river toward the next bridge, Lambeth.
     Nothing looked suspicious at the RV point on the drive-by.
     The gas station on the opposite side of the road, about halfway  toward
Lambeth bridge, had about four cars by the pumps, groups of kids buying fuel
and Mars bars, and some early-morning office cleaning vans filling up before
their shift.
     Farther along the river, and on the other side,  I could see the Houses
of Parliament. I smiled  to myself. If  only the  MPs  really knew what  the
intelligence services got up to.
     I did a  full circle and headed  back on the  same road toward Vauxhall
for one more drive-by. I still had time to kill, so I stopped at the station
and bought a drink and a sandwich.
     The RV point  still looked fine. My plan  was to pick up Simmonds, make
distance and angles  as we walked to my car, and  go for a drive. That way I
controlled the environment. I could protect myself as well as him.
     I  parked about  four hundred  yards  west  of the RV  While  eating my
sandwich I checked my  route back to the car. I got out and walked down  the
road, arriving at five minutes to three.  There was  still nothing to do but
wait,  so I window-shopped at the motorcycle shop, resolving that  I  really
would buy one as a gift to myself. No, more than a gift--a reward.
     At  twenty after three I moved  into  the shadows of the railway arches
opposite the exit point I knew Simmonds  would  use. There were one  or  two
people  wandering  about, clubbers on  their  way  home, or to another club.
Their drunken laughs shattered the still morning air, then there was silence
     I  could tell  it was  him  right off, leaning slightly  forward  as he
bounced  along on the balls of his feet. I watched him branch right from the
exit  and  stand at the pedestrian crossing, intending to head for the metal
footbridge  over  the five-way  road intersection to  the railway station. I
     There was no rush; I'd  let him come to  me.  As he crossed the road I
came out of the shadows at the bottom of the footbridge steps.
     He smiled.
     "Nick,  how  are  you?"  He  kept walking,  nodding left toward Lambeth
     "Shall we walk?" It wasn't a question.
     I nodded the opposite way, toward my car.
     "I've arranged a pickup."
     Simmonds stopped and looked at me with the expression of a disappointed
     "No, I think we'll walk."
     I was sponsoring the RV; he should have known that I'd organize for our
safety. He stared at  me a few more moments and then, as if  he  knew  I was
going to follow, continued on walking. I fell into step beside him.
     Simmonds looked the same as ever, his tie about half an inch loose, the
shirt and suit looking as if his wardrobe were a carrier bag.
     "So, Nick, what have you got?" He smiled  but didn't look at me, and as
I  told him the story he didn't interrupt, just kept his eyes on the ground,
nodding. I felt like a son unloading his problems onto  his dad, and it felt
     We'd been walking for about fifteen minutes when I'd come to the end of
my presentation. It was his turn to talk. I somehow expected him to stop, or
at least find a bench where we could sit, but he kept on walking.
     He turned his head toward me and smiled again.
     "Nick, I had no idea you'd be so thorough. Who else have you  spoken to
about this?"
     "No one else, only de Sabatino and Euan."
     "And has Euan or this de Sabatino also got copies of the disks?"
     I lied.
     "No,  no one apart from me." Even  when you come  to  someone for help,
you never play your full hand. You never know when you might need an edge.
     He remained incredibly calm.
     "What  we  have to ensure is that  no  one else  finds out not  for the
moment, anyway.
     This is more than low-level corruption. The links with PIRA, Gibraltar,
and, it  seems, the DEA mean  this is very grave  indeed. You seem to have a
pretty good grasp of this so far, so let me ask you something." He paused as
if he were a judge about to hand down his decision.
     "Do you think it goes further?"
     "Who the fuck knows," I said.
     "But you can't be too careful. It's why I wanted to talk to you on your
     "And where is the Brown child now?"
     "In  a  hotel, fast asleep. I'll be needing some help to pass her on to
her grandparents."
     "Of course. Nick. All in good time."
     We walked on a while in silence. We got to a bar on the corner of a car
tunnel under the railway line. Simmonds turned to the right, taking us under
the arches. Then he spoke  again, and it was as if there was no question  of
me not com plying with his demand.
     "Before I can do anything to help you, what I need from you, of course,
is the evidence." He was still not looking at me, making sure he avoided the
puddles of water stained with engine oil.
     "I haven't brought the disks with me, if that's what you mean."
     "Nick, I shall do my best to see that you both have  protection.  But I
do need the proof and all copies of it. Can you get them for me now?"
     "Not possible. Not for a few hours."
     "Nick, I cannot do anything without them. I need all copies.  Even ones
you'd normally leave in that security blanket of yours."
     I  shrugged.  "You must understand that it's for my own protection" We
turned  right  again and  were now heading back  toward  the train  station,
paralleling  the railway. For a couple  of  minutes we moved  along  narrow,
warehoused streets in silence.
     Simmonds was  deep in  thought.  He wasn't  happy about  the  disks.  A
freight  train  rumbled above  us on its way to waking  up the residents  of
southwest London. Why the  fuck was it so important for him to know how many
copies there were and get his hands on all of them?
     "Believe me," I shouted above the noise, "I've got that side all  under
control. I've  been fucked over enough. You know  as well  as I do that I've
got to protect everyone, including you."
     "Yes, of course, but  I  need to control all the information. Not  even
you should have it. There is too much risk involved."
     This was getting stupid.
     "I understand that. But what if you  get zapped? There would be nothing
to back up what I'm saying. It's not only the DEA corruption, don't you see?
     Gibraltar was a setup. It includes us."
     Simmonds slowly nodded at a puddle in the gutter.
     "A few things puzzle me," I said.
     "Why  were we  briefed  that  the bomb  would  be  initiated  by remote
control? How  come  the intelligence was so good about the ASU, but so wrong
about there being no bomb?"
     Still he gave no reply.
     Things weren't adding up here.
     I  felt  as  if  I'd been  hit  on  the  back  of  the head by  a  fire
extinguisher again. Why hadn't I thought of it? The freight train's rumbling
was now in the distance. The early-morning silence had returned.
     "But you know all this, don't you?"
     No reply. He didn't even break his stride.
     Who had briefed us that the Gibraltar bomb was going to be initiated by
remote control? Simmonds, who  was  there at  Alpha  to oversee it. Why the
fuck hadn't I thought of it before?
     I stopped. Simmonds kept walking.
     "This  isn't  just an American-PIRA thing, is it? It's much bigger. You
are part of it, aren't you?"
     The  rear  arches were  more light  industrial than retail  auto repair
shops, sheetmetal works, and storage units, most  with company vans that had
been parked outside for the night.
     He turned to face me  and took the six steps back to where I stood. For
the first time, we had eye-to-eye.
     "Nick, I think you need to be aware of something. You will give me  all
the  information  and I  mean all  of  it. We  cannot take the risk of other
copies being in circulation."
     The  look  on his  face was of a  chess grand  master about to make the
decisive move. The shock in mine must have been plain to see.
     "We  didn't necessarily go along  with  the Americans' determination to
kill you, but you  should be in no doubt that we  will do so  now if we have
     "It's much bigger than you think. Nick. You're intelligent.
     You must realize the commercial and political  implications of a  cease
fire  Exposing what is on the disks would mess up  much more  than just what
you know. It's unfortunate about  Kevin and his family, I grant you. When he
told me  what he'd discovered, I did try to talk my American colleagues into
a subtler course of action."
     So  that  was  why I'd been  ordered back  to the UK so  abruptly. Once
Simmonds had talked with  Kev, he wanted me  out  of  the US  and  quick. He
didn't want me speaking to Kev or interrupting his murder.
     I thought of Kelly At least she was safe.
     It was almost as if he were reading my mind.
     "If you decide not  to give  me  all the  information, we will kill the
child. And  then we will kill  you after extracting what  we  need. Don't be
naive. Nick.  You and I,  we're the same. This isn't about  emotion; this is
business. Nick, business. You really have no choice."
     I tried  to  fight it. He had to be bluffing. "Euan sends his regards,
by  the  way, and says  that  he managed  to get a  television  set for  her
bedroom. Believe me, Nick, Euan will kill her. He rather likes the financial
     I shook my head slowly from side to side.
     "Think back. Who initiated the contact?"
     He was  right,  it was Euan. Simmonds was there to direct it,  Euan was
there to pull the trigger. But I still fought against the idea.
     He opened his jacket and pulled a mobile phone from his inside pocket.
     "Let Euan explain; he was expecting a call later anyway."
     He  turned on the power and waited to put in his PIN  number. He smiled
as he looked down at the phone's display.
     "This  is  how the  Americans found you,  you know. People  think  that
detection  can take place only when the phone is  in use. Not so. As long as
they're switched on, these things are miniature tracking devices, even if no
calls are made or received. It's actually a  form  of electronic tagging. We
find it terribly useful."
     He tapped in his PIN number, the tones blaring out of his hand.
     "However, once you'd given them the slip at Lorton, our only option was
to let you  make entry back into the UK. I needed  to know what you'd  found
out. I have to say, I'm so glad your cancer treatment was successful."
     Fuck! He hadn't  even  mentioned my  lack of hair. That was because  he
already knew. But  Euan. He'd been aware  enough to mention it. I felt  sick
knowing he was using his skills against me.
     Simmonds smiled. He knew he had me by the balls.
     "Nick,  I'll say this  again.  I really do need all the disks. You know
the child  would suffer greatly; it's not something that we would enjoy, but
there are important matters at stake."
     I wanted so much for him to get through to  Euan. I  wanted to speak to
him, wanted him to confirm  that it was a bluff. But in my heart of hearts I
knew that it wasn't.
     Simmonds had nearly finished tapping in the number.
     I  had no choice.  I couldn't risk Kelly.  He wasn't going to make this
call.   With  my right  arm in a hooked position, I swung  around  hard and
connected with his nose. There  was a dull crunch  of fracturing  bone as he
went down with a muffled moan. While he writhed  on the ground I kicked  his
case under one of the vans and, in the same motion, picked up  the  phone in
my left hand, got behind  him, and positioned it at the front of his throat.
Grabbing the  other  side  with my right hand, I jammed  it firmly under his
Adam's apple.
     I looked to the right and left. We were too exposed where we were; what
I had in mind would take several minutes  to complete. I shuffled  backward,
dragging him in between two of the trucks. I got down onto my knees, all the
time  pulling  back  on the  phone.  He was kicking out, his  arms flailing,
trying to rip my face apart.
     His whimpers and chokes filled the air. I responded by leaning forward,
using the weight of my upper body to bend his head down so that his chin was
more or less on his chest.
     At the same time I pulled even harder. Just another two minutes and I'd
be done.
     After thirty  seconds he started to struggle  furiously,  with all  the
frenzied  strength that a man  draws on when he knows  he  is dying.  But no
matter what he did now, he wouldn't be getting up.
     His hands still scratched at my face. I bobbed and weaved to avoid them
but maintained the pressure on his throat.
     Already the scabs from the fight with McGear had been pulled off, but I
couldn't feel much blood. Then Simmonds managed to get  his fingernails into
the cut just below my  eye. I stifled a  scream as  his three  nails started
into the already damaged soft skin. I made the injury  worse  by  pulling my
face away; as I did, Simmonds's nails took my skin with them.
     I didn't bother now to see if anyone was watching. I was beyond caring.
I  was  fighting  for breath  myself with  the effort, as  sweat  stung  the
injuries on my face.
     Gradually at first, his movements subsided to no  more than a spasmodic
twitching in  his  legs. His  hands  stopped  grasping. Seconds later he was
unconscious.  It crossed my mind just to get up and walk away, to leave  him
to suffer  the effects  of hypoxia and be brain-damaged for life. I  decided
against that. I wanted this fucker dead.
     I gave it another thirty seconds. His chest stopped moving.
     I put my fingers on the carotid pulse and felt nothing.
     I dragged him to the wall and  sat him up against  the doors of a unit.
Then I got to my feet and started dusting myself off.
     Keeping to the shadows,  I tucked my shirt in and wiped away  the sweat
and blood with my sleeve. I checked the phone. It had been turned off in the
fight. I wiped my prints off it, then just left everything where it  was and
casually walked  away. If  anybody had  seen  me, so what?  It didn't really
matter. I had more important things to worry about.
     I drove west, holding my coat cuff against my eye to stop the bleeding.
     The whole situation was still  spinning around  inside my head,  slowly
beginning to make sense.
     I now knew how Luther and his lot had found  me--they must have  beaten
the number  out of  Pat and traced the  signal while  I  had  it switched on
waiting for his call.
     If I'd let on to  Euan or Simmonds that there was just one more set  of
backups in my laptop and had handed it  over, I'd have been  dead. They were
covering their asses by retrieving the information.
     Had Simmonds arranged to phone Euan some  time  after our meeting? Euan
was  more than  three hours away,  and Simmonds's  body would be  discovered
soon. If  Euan  found  out, he  wouldn't take  any chances. He would  change
location,  maybe even kill Kelly  right away. Either way, I'd have lost her.
This time there was no question of just leaving her. I could call her on the
mobile and  tell  her  to  run,  but what would that achieve? She was in the
middle of  nowhere; even  if she  ran for half  an  hour, it would  make  no
     Euan's cottage was  in the middle of acres of mountains, grass,  rocks,
and sheep shit. He would find her.
     I could call the police, but would they believe me? I could waste hours
trying to convince them,  by which time it would be too late. Or they  might
take it  on themselves  to raid Euan's  house,  and the result would  be the
     For a fleeting second I thought about Big Al. I hoped he'd be  well out
of  it by  now. He  didn't  have  getaway  accounts  for  nothing.  If  he'd
transferred four  hundred grand into mine, for sure  he'd  have taken  eight
hundred for himself. Old Watermelon would be OK. I cut him from my mind.
     The highway services just before Heathrow were just coming up.  I had a
     I pulled off and drove into the  parking lot. Now  all I had  to do was
get to a phone and make  a call. The service station was  busy. I'd had  to
park a hundred yards from the  main entrance.  I got out of the car  just as
the  heavens opened. By  the  time  I reached  the  bank of  four telephones
outside Burger King,  I  was  soaked. The  first two  I tried  accepted only
cards. I had about three  pounds  in change in my pocket--not enough. I  ran
into the shop,  wiping  my  face to get  some of  the blood off.  I bought a
newspaper with a river, walked  out, the woman  looking worried at the state
of my face. I men went back in and got  a  packet of M&Ms with a tenner. The
woman looked even more scared. She was just happy for me  to take  my change
and get out.
     As  I  dialed the number I felt a knot  in my stomach, as if I  were  a
teenager phoning to  arrange his very first  date. Would she have charged it
and left it switched on? Why wouldn't she? She had never let me down before.
     It started to ring.
     For a moment I felt like a child in a candy store  with his dad, hardly
able to contain my excitement. Then  I had  new  things to worry about. What
ifEuan had the phone now?
     Did I  hang up or  did I  try to bluff it and maybe find out where  she
     It was too late to think. The ringing stopped; there was  a pause, then
I heard a quiet, hesitant, "Hello, who is it?"
     "Hi, Kelly, it's me. Nick," I said,  trying for  all the world to sound
like Mr. Casual.
     "Are you on your own?"
     "Yes, you woke me up. Are  you coming  back now?" She sounded tired and
confused. I was trying hard to think of an answer; thankfully she went on.
     "Euan said that I might be staying with him longer, because you have to
go away. It isn't true, is it. Nick? You said you wouldn't leave me."
     It was a bad connection. I had  to put a finger in my other ear to hear
her above the  noise of  the  rain on the  glass of the phone booth. A truck
driver in the  next one along was shouting loudly and  angrily, arguing with
his  boss that  he couldn't  go any farther  because of his odometer, and he
wasn't going to lose his license just to get a  few  boxes of bloody anoraks
up  to Carlisle. On  top  of  that  was  the steady  boom of traffic  on the
highway, and the noises of people coming in and out of the station. I had to
block all that out and concentrate on  the phone call, because there  was no
way I could ask Kelly  to speak up.  I said, "Yes, of course, you're right,
I will never leave you.
     Euan  is lying  to you. I  have found out  some bad things  about  him,
Kelly. Are you still in the house?"
     "Yes, I'm in bed."
     "Is Euan in his bed?"
     "Yes. Do you want to speak with him?"
     "No, no. Let me think for a minute."
     My  mind was racing now, trying to think of the best way to  say what I
     "Of course I'm coming to get you. In fact, I'll be there very soon. Now
listen.  I  need you to do  something very difficult and very dangerous. You
only have to do this one last thing for me and everything will be over." The
moment I said it I felt like a lowlife.
     "I don't have to run away again, do I?"
     "No, no, no it's not like that this time. But it's the most special job
a spy ever does." I didn't want  to give her  time to think,  so I just went
     "But I want  to check something first, OK?  You're in bed,  aren't you?
Get under the covers and talk to me only in a whisper, OK?"
     I  could hear  the rustling, then she said,  "What are  we going to do.
     "First, I  want  you to press a number and  look  at the front  of  the
telephone. Can you  see  it  light up? Tell  me  if  there's a picture  of a
battery. How many  blocks  are there where  the battery sign is? Can you see
     I heard some scuffling.
     "I can see that."
     "How many blocks are there in the picture?"
     "Three. There's three blocks. One of them is flashing."
     "That's good." It wasn't really. I  was sweating: two blocks meant she
hadn't recharged it and the battery was down to less than half-power, and  I
was going to need a lot of air time to talk her through the whole process.
     "What's that noise?" she said.
     The  truck driver  was  now  really pissed off  and hollering  into the
phone, the cigarette in his hand  making  the phone booth look like  a steam
     "Nothing to worry about.  Kelly, I'm going to  tell you what to do, but
you need to keep listening to me on the telephone.
     Can you do that?"
     "Why is Euan bad, Nick? What.. " "Listen, Kelly, Euan wants to hurt me.
If he  finds  you  doing this thing for me,  he  will hurt you, too.  Do you
understand that?"
     I could hear lots  of  rustling;  she was obviously still under the bed
covers. Then there was a very quiet "Yes."
     She wasn't  sounding  like a happy bunny. I was sure there was a better
way  I could be going about all this, I just didn't have time to  think what
it might be.
     "If Euan wakes up," I said, "or if the telephone stops  working, I want
you to leave the  house very, very  quietly. I want you to go down the track
to  the road and hide behind the trees, just by the big gate that Euan drove
through to get to his cottage. Know where I mean?"
     "You must hide there until you hear a car  come and stop, but don't get
out from  your  hiding place unless it  toots its horn two  times. Then come
out. Do you understand that? I'll be in the car. It's a blue Astra, OK?"
     There was a pause.
     "What's an As--Astra, Nick?"
     Shit, she was seven years old and American. What was I expecting?
     "OK. I'll stop in a blue car and come and get you."
     I got her  to repeat it, and for good measure I said, "So if Euan wakes
up and sees you, I want you to run to the trees as fast as you can and hide.
Because if Euan catches you doing what I want you  to do, we will never see
each other again.
     Don't  let me down, OK? And remember, don't  you come out  from  behind
those trees, even if Euan calls for you, OK?"
     "OK. You will come and get me, won't you?"
     There was a bit of doubt in her mind.
     "Of course I will. Now, first of all, what I want you to  do is get out
of bed, then put the phone on the bed and get dressed, very  quietly. Put on
a nice thick coat. And you know those sneakers we bought? Make sure you take
those as well, but don't put them on yet."
     I heard her put the phone down and start rummaging around the room.
     For God's sake, hurry up!
     I forced myself to calm down.
     It was almost two minutes before I heard: "I'm ready, Nick."
     "Now listen to me very carefully. Euan is not a friend; he has tried to
kill me. Do you understand, Kelly? He has tried to kill me."
     There was a pause.
     "Why? I--I don't understand. Nick. I thought he was your best friend."
     "I know, I know, but things change. Do you want to help me?"
     "Good. Then you must do exactly what I tell you. I want you to put your
sneakers  in your coat pockets.  OK, now it's time to  go downstairs. I want
you to keep the telephone with you. All right?"
     Time was running short, and so was my money.
     "Just remember, you must  be very, very quiet,  because  otherwise  you
will wake Euan.  If that happens, you run  out of the house toward the hidey
     "Cross my heart."
     "OK, I want you to creep very, very gently down the stairs. Don't talk
to me again until you're in the kitchen; and re member, from now on, what we
must do is whisper all the time. OK?"
     I  heard  the door  open. As she  came out of  the  room I imagined her
passing the bathroom on her left. Ahead of her, up a half-landing and  about
twelve feet  away, would be the door to Euan's  room. Was it open or closed?
Too late to ask  her. A few  steps  now and she'd be at the top of  the main
stairs and  next  to the old grandfather  clock. On  cue,  I heard its slow,
ponderous tick-tock; it was like something out of a Hitchcock movie.
     The sound  receded very slowly: good girl,  she must be going down  the
stairs  very carefully. Only once did I  hear the  creak  of a  board and  I
wondered  again about  Euan's  door.  Did he usually sleep  with it open?  I
couldn't remember.
     At the bottom of the stairs she'd be turning back to the right, heading
toward the kitchen.
     I tried to imagine where she was but lost her in the silence.
     At last  I  heard the barely  perceptible sound of  a protesting hinge;
that was the kitchen door. I  felt a stab of  guilt  for using the girl like
this, but she  knew the score well, sort of. Fuck it, the decision was made;
I just had to do it. If it worked, fine;
     if  it  didn't, she was  dead. But if I  didn't try  it,  she  was dead
anyway, so let's get on with it.
     "I'm in the kitchen,  but  I can't see very  much. Am I allowed to turn
the light on?"
     It was the loudest whisper I'd ever heard.
     "No, no,  no, Kelly, you've got to speak very slowly and  very  quietly
like this," I demonstrated.
     "And don't  put the light on; that would wake  Euan  up. Just  go  more
slowly, and  listen to me  all  the time. If you don't understand  anything,
just ask, and remember, if anything goes wrong or you hear a noise, stop and
we will both listen. OK?"
     The problem with her being quieter on the phone was that it  was harder
to hear her. The truck  driver had now finished, slamming the phone down and
storming into the Burger King. A woman took his place and was yammering to a
girlfriend.   The kitchen was two areas knocked into one, the old back room
of the house and what  had used to  be an alley between the  cottage and the
old sheep-pen wall. The alley  had been closed in by a sunroom, with all the
kitchen units arranged galley-style in one long range beneath it. There were
plants on pedestals and  a large circular wooden table in the middle of  the
area;  I  hoped Kelly  wouldn't knock anything  over  onto  the squash-court
floor. Thinking of the night we'd spent "rescuing" the wood made me  shudder
at all those years  of friendship,  trust, and  even love. I felt let  down,
used, fucked over.
     There couldn't be much battery time left.
     "Everything OK?" I said. I tried hard not to convey any sense of panic,
but I knew we  would be in trouble soon.  If the  phone went dead, would she
remember what I'd told her to do?
     "I can't see a thing. Nick."
     I thought for a few seconds, trying to remember more of the layout.
     "OK, Kelly, go very slowly to where the sink is.
     Go and stand by the hob."
     "What's that?"
     "It's the bit you cook on with saucepans. You see it?"
     "OK, there's a switch on the right-hand side. Can you see that?"
     "I'll look."
     A second or two later she said, "I can see now."
     She  must have switched on the small fluorescent light that illuminated
the stove top; she sounded relieved.
     "Good girl. Now I want you to go back and very gently close the kitchen
door. Will you do that for me?"
     "OK. You are coming for me. Nick?"
     I wasn't feeling confident about this  at all. Should I stop it now and
just get  her to open the door for me  and  wait? No, fuck it.  He  might be
getting a phone call any minute about Simmonds's death.
     "Of course  I am, but I can't come  unless you do  what I say, OK? Keep
the telephone to your ear and very gently close that door."
     I heard the telltale click.
     "What I want you to do now is go and have a look under the sink and put
all the bottles and things on the table. Will you do that for me?"
     There was silence, then  a soft clatter as she  moved bottles and  cans
     "Everything's out now."
     "Well done! Now, very quietly, read out the labels to me.
     Can you do that?"
     "I can't."
     "Why not?"
     "There's too many things and it's too dark. I can't do it."
     She  was  sounding  under pressure  now; there  was  that wobble in her
     Fuck, this is taking too long.
     "It's OK, Kelly, just  walk  over to the light switch by the  door  and
turn the light on. Don't rush. Will you do that?"
     "OK." It  sounded  as if her  nose  was stuffed up. I knew the sound so
well  by  now. The next stage, if I  wasn't very careful, would be tears and
     I heard her shuffling toward the light switch.
     "I can see now, Nick."
     "OK, go back and read to me what the labels say, OK?"
     "OK." She  moved  back to  the table. I could  hear  her  pick  up  the
cleaning products.
     "OK, Kelly, what's the next one?"
     Fucking  hell, this was outrageous.  I held the phone  hard  against my
ear,  almost holding  my  breath as I silently willed her to succeed. I was
really pumped; I  could feel my heart going. I was writhing like a madman in
a straitjacket, twisting and turning in the kiosk, miming Kelly's actions to
myself. I looked across at the other booth; the woman who was talking to her
friend had wiped the  condensation from the glass to get a better view of me
and now  seemed to be relaying a running commentary. I must have looked like
a mass murderer, with cuts and scratches on my face, and my hair and clothes
soaking wet.
     The loud noise of metal clattering onto wood made me jump.
     Kelly? Kelly
     Silence, then the phone was picked up.
     "Sorry,  Nick. I knocked a spoon off. I  didn't  see it. I'm  scared. I
don't want to do this. Please come and get me."
     It wasn't long before the crying was going to start.
     "Kelly, don't worry, it's OK, it's OK."
     No, not now, for Christ's sake! I heard sniffing on the phone.
     "It's OK, Kelly, it's OK. I can't get you unless you help me.
     You must be brave. Euan is trying to kill me; only you can help me. Can
you do that for me?"
     "Please hurry. Nick. I want to be with you."
     "It's all right, it's all right."
     It  wasn't  all  right.   Nick,  because  Nick's  fucking   money   was
disappearing. I was down to my last few coins. They weren't going to last. I
put  another  coin  in  and  it rattled out into  the coin  return; I had to
scramble for another one.
     Kelly  started to go through more of the labels. Most of the  words she
couldn't read. I asked  her  to spell  them. As she got  three letters out I
worked out the rest.
     "No, that one's no good. Read the next."
     My mind was now racing, trying to remember ingredients and formulas. At
last she read out something I could use.
     "Kelly, you must listen very carefully.  That's a  green can, isn't it?
Put it where you can find it again. Then I want you to creep out to the room
next door, where the washing machine is. You know the one?"  "Yes."
     Euan had a place for everything,  and everything had  its place. I even
knew that his forks would be lined up beside each other in the drawer.
     "Just by the door is a cabinet, and in it there's a blue bottle.
     The label says antifreeze."
     "Antifreeze. A-N-T-I... I want you to bring it to the table,
     The phone clunked onto the stove. I started to sweat even more.
     After what seemed like an eternity she came back on.
     "I've got it" "Put it on the table and then open it."
     I  heard  the  phone  go  down  again and lots  of  heavy breathing and
sniffing as she struggled with the bottle top.
     "I don't know how to do it."
     "Just twist it. You know how to open a bottle."
     "I can't. It won't move. I am trying. Nick, but my hands are shaking."
     I then heard a soft,  long moan.  I  was sure it was going to turn into
     Shit, I don't need this. It isn't going to work.
     "Kelly? Kelly? Are you OK? Talk to me, come on, talk to me."
     I was getting nothing.
     Come on, Kelly, come on.
     Nothing. All I could hear was her holding back tears and sniffing.
     "Nick... I want  you to get me. Please, Nick, please."  She was sobbing
     "Just  take  your  time,  Kelly,   just  take  your  time.   It's   OK,
everything's OK. I'm here, don't worry. OK, let's just stand and listen. If
you  can hear anything, you tell me on the phone, OK, and I'll try to listen
at the same time."
     I  listened. I wanted to make sure  Euan wasn't awake.  I also wanted a
break: there needs to be a cut  in the action at a time like this, otherwise
the errors snowball and people start tripping over themselves; so let's take
our time, but at the same time be as fast as possible. I knew exactly what I
needed  to do,  but the  frustration  lay in trying to interpret  it to this
child, under pressure, and to get her to work quietly and all the time I was
running out of money and the mobile was running out of battery life.
     The woman left her booth  and gave me a  grin  of appeasement in case I
was going to lunge at her with a meat cleaver.
     "Are you OK now, Kelly?"
     "Yes, do you want me to unscrew the bottle still?"
     I couldn't understand why she couldn't do it. I started giving her more
instructions. Then I  remembered:  the bottle had  a  childproof  top.  As I
started to tell her how to undo it, there was a soft bleep.
     Battery. Shit!
     "Yes, remember to push the top down before you turn. We just have to be
a bit quicker or the phone is going to stop before we finish."
     "Now what?"
     "Is it on the table with the top undone?"
     "Kelly? Kelly? Are you there?"
     Was the battery dead?
     Then I heard, "What do I do now?"
     "Thank goodness, I thought the battery had gone. Is there anything  you
can open that  green  can with? I know,  use the  spoon, Kelly.  Very,  very
carefully  now, pick  it  up, put the phone on  the table, and then open the
can. OK?"
     I  listened, running through all  the different options there were left
if this scheme fucked up. I came to the conclusion there were none.
     "Now here comes the  hard  part.  Do you think you can do  this? You've
got to be pretty special to do this bit."
     "Yes, I'm OK now. I didn't mean to cry, it's just that I am--" "I know,
I know, Kelly. I am, too, but we will do this together.
     What  I need  you to do now is put  the phone in your pocket with  your
sneakers. Then take one of those big bottles from the  table and walk to the
front door of the house and open it just a little bit. Not wide open, just a
little bit. Then  put the bottle behind the door, to stop it  swinging shut.
Now remember, it's  a big heavy door, so  I want you to do it really slowly,
really, really gently so it doesn't make a noise. Can you do that for me?"
     "Yeah, I can do that. Then what?"
     "I'll tell  you  in  a  minute.  Now don't forget,  if  the phone stops
working and  you can't hear me anymore, I want you to run to  the trees  and
     Chances were Euan would find her, but what else was there to do?
     This  was  going to  be the tough part.  Even  if he was  sound asleep,
Euan's  subconscious  was  likely to  detect the  change in air pressure and
ambient noise when the front  door was opened and  make something of it in a
dream, giving him a sort of sixth sense that something was wrong.
     If so, at least she'd have a head start as long as she remembered  what
I'd told her.
     "I'm back in the kitchen what do I do now?"
     "Listen to  me. This bit's very important. What number can you count up
     "I can count to ten thousand."
     She was sounding a little happier now, sensing the end was in sight.
     "I only want you to count up to three hundred. Can you do that?"
     "You've got to do it in your head."
     "First, I want you to go to the hob again. You know how to turn the gas
     "Of course! Sometimes I help Mommy with the cooking."
     I had never felt so sad.
     I made myself  concentrate again. There  was  no room for distractions.
She might be dead soon anyway. I felt enough of a shit for getting her to do
my dirty work; while I was at it, I might as well make sure she  did the job
     "That's  good, so you know how to  turn on the gas in the oven, and all
the rings on the hob?"
     "I told you, I can help cook."
     A coach load of teenage kids returning from a school trip was streaming
into the Burger King.  A gang of six or seven  of them  hung back and headed
for the phones, laughing and shouting in newly broken voices, all trying  to
cram into the  one vacant booth. The noise was horrendous; I couldn't hear a
thing Kelly was saying. I had to do something.
     "Kelly, just wait a minute."
     I  put  my  hand over  the  mouthpiece, leaned out  of  the  booth, and
shouted, "You shut the fuck up! I've  got my  aunty here, her husband's just
died and I'm trying to talk to her, OK? Give us some time!"
     The kids  went quiet, their  cheeks red. They slunk off  to  join their
friends, sniggering with mock bravado to disguise their embarrassment.
     I got back on the phone.
     "Kelly,  this is very important. The phone might stop  soon because the
battery is running out. I want you to turn on all the gas jets on the stove.
Take the phone with you so I can hear the  gas. Go there now while I talk to
you" I heard the hiss of the bottled propane that Euan used.
     "It's very stinky, Nick."
     "That's good. Now, just walk out of the kitchen and close the door. But
be very quiet in the foyer. Remember, we don't want to wake Euan. Don't talk
to me anymore, just listen.
     I heard the door close.
     I tried to keep calm.
     "Yes, Kelly?"
     "Can I get Jenny and Ricky to take with me, please?"
     I tried hard to keep myself in check.
     "No, Kelly, there is  no time! Just listen to me. There isn't  time for
you  to talk. I want you to count  up to three hundred in your head.  Then I
want  you  to take  a  really, really  deep  breath  and  walk back into the
kitchen. Don't run.  You  must walk. Go  into the  kitchen and pour  all the
antifreeze in the blue bottle into the green can.
     Then I want  you to walk out of the kitchen don't run! I don't want you
to wake Euan."
     If  she tripped up and hurt herself, she could get engulfed by what was
about to happen.
     "Walk out very  slowly, close the  door behind you, then go  out of the
house and close the front door, really, really gently.
     Do not go back for Jenny or Ricky."
     "But I want them please. Nick?"
     I ignored her.
     "Then  I want you  to run as fast as you can  up to the trees and hide.
When you're running you will hear a big bang and there will be a fire. Don't
stop and don't look back.
     And don't come out until I get there, no matter what happens.
     I promise I will be there soon."
     It  was  at  times  like  this  that  I was pleased  I'd  done  all the
laborious, rote learning  of mixtures and formulas for making  incendiaries.
At the time, many years ago, it had been mind-bogglingly  boring, but it had
to be done because you can't take a notebook on the job with you. I learned,
by heart, how  to make  bombs  from everyday  ingredients  and how  to  make
improvised  electrical  devices. As  clearly as even  atheists remember  the
Lord's Prayer from the time it was drummed into them at school, I remembered
the  formulas and  step-by-step instructions for  making  everything from  a
simple  incendiary like  the  one I was using to  try to kill  Euan--Mixture
Number  5--to a  bomb that I could initiate by using a  pager from the other
side of the world.
     The  phone started  bleeping urgently,  and then it just  went  dead. I
visualized the glycerine in the antifreeze working on the mixture.  In forty
or fifty seconds it would ignite. If it was damp, maybe a little longer.
     Kelly had less than a minute  to get out of the house; the  instant the
gas was ignited there  was going to  be a massive explosion and then a fire.
Hopefully, it would take Euan down, but would it take her with it?
     Please, please, please don't go after those fucking teddy bears!
     I  ran back to the car and started driving  west. First light  was just
trying to fight its way through the clouds. It was the  worst journey of my
     I saw a  sign saying it was  seventy miles  to Wales. I raced along  at
warp speed for  what I  guessed was thirty miles,  then another sign told me
that Wales was sixty miles away.  I felt as if I were running on a treadmill
to nowhere and the treadmill was waist-deep in water.
     My body had calmed down  from all  the excitement and was telling me  I
was hurt. My neck was in agony. The flow  of blood had stopped, but the  eye
Simmonds had gouged was starting to swell up and affect my vision.
     Euan, the fucker. The friend I had trusted for years. It was almost too
painful to think about. I felt numb. I felt bereaved.
     In time, maybe that numbness would turn to anger or grief or some other
thing, but not yet. In my mind's eye all I could see was the look on Kelly's
face as the train left the station and the smile on Euan's.
     Where did  I go  from  here?  No fucker was going  to  move against  me
because they'd know that I  still had the files. If the  plan worked, Euan's
package would sit in the post office now that there was no one to deliver it
to. The  killing of  Simmonds would be covered  up, no matter what. If  some
zealous policeman started getting too close to the truth, he'd be removed.
     It all made  sense to me, now, that every time peace talks began, PIRA,
or  someone claiming to be  PIRA, had dropped  a soldier or  a policeman  or
bombed the mainland  UK. And  why? Because it was good business to keep  the
Troubles alive.
     There  were plenty  on  our side who  profited from  conflicts  such as
Northern Ireland and didn't want them to end. The Royal  Ulster Constabulary
is  probably the  highest-paid  police force in Europe, if not the world. If
you're  its chief constable,  it's your duty to  say that you want an end to
the war,  but  the reality is that  you've got  a massive police force under
your command and limitless amounts of resources and power.
     The  British  army doesn't want it to stop, either.  The province is  a
fantastic testing ground for equipment and training ground  for troops  and,
as with the RUC, it means the  army gets  a bigger  slice of the cake. Every
year the army has to justify its budget, and it's up against the navy, which
is asking for more funds for Trident submarines, and the air force, which is
banging on about needing to buy the Eurofighter 2000.
     With  Northern Ireland on the agenda, the  army can talk about a  "now"
commitment, an operational imperative and no  body's going to  argue against
the  need  for funds to  fight  terrorism.   British industry stood to lose
substantially from a  cease fire, too.  Major  defense  manufacturers design
equipment specifically for internal security  and  make fortunes  out of the
operational conditions. Equipment that was battle-proven in Northern Ireland
was eagerly sought after by foreign buyers.
     No  wonder  the conflict had made Britain  one  of  the  top three arms
exporters  in the  world,  with  beneficial  effects  on the UK  balance  of
     I knew now why McCann, Farrell, and Savage had had to die. Enniskillen.
The  backlash  against  PIRA.  People  signing books  of  condolence.  Irish
Americans stopping their donations.  Dialogue  and reconciliation must  have
looked a real prospect. Simmonds and his mates couldn't have that. They  had
to create martyrs to keep the pot boiling.
     Me?  I was probably just  a  very small glitch in a well-oiled machine.
Come  to  that. Northern Ireland  was probably  only one item  among many in
their  company accounts.  For all  I knew, these guys also provoked killings
and  riots in Hebron, stirred up Croats against Serbs, and even got  Kennedy
killed  because he wanted  to stop the Vietnam War. As Simmonds had said, it
was  business.  There  was  nothing I could do to  stop them.  But  I wasn't
worried about that. What was the point?
     The only thing I had achieved--perhaps--was revenge for Kev's and Pat's
deaths. That would have to be enough.
     I got off the freeway  and onto  the  secondary highway to Abergavenny.
The  rain had  stopped, but  it  was a stretch of  road notorious for repair
works. Euan's house was  about ten miles  on the other side  of the town, on
the road toward Brecon.
     I weaved  in and out of  traffic, the other drivers hooting  and waving
their fists. Then,  in  the  distance, I saw  the red  of brake lights.  The
morning rush hour  had started. I slowed with the  volume of traffic heading
into the  town  and eventually came  to  a complete  standstill. The jam was
caused  by  resurfacing  work;  it  looked  as though there was a  mile-long
     I  drove  onto  the  shoulder.  As  I  sped  past them  on the  inside,
stationary motorists  honked angrily. The noise  alerted the workers  laying
the asphalt  up ahead.  They  ran and  shouted,  trying  to  wave  me  down,
gesticulating at the roadwork sign.  I  didn't even acknowledge them. I only
hoped I didn't get caught  by the police. I dropped a gear, picked up speed,
and shifted back up.
     I got to Abergavenny and stayed on the ring road. The traffic slowed at
a long set of stoplights so I had  to bump  up onto the curb and edge my way
to the front of the line.
     Once  I  was on the other side of  the town I was in the sticks and the
road  narrowed to  a  single lane  in each direction. I put my foot down and
bombed  along at seventy  to  eighty, using the whole road as  if it were my
own. Seeing a left-hand bend, I moved over  to the  far right-hand  side.  I
could hear the  hedgerow screech against  the side  of the  car.  From  this
position I could see more of the dead ground around the bend.
     Not bothering with  brakes, I banged  down through the  gears to second
just before turning. Once  on the bend I put  my foot down  and made use  of
rubber on asphalt. Out of the bend, I shifted into fourth and stayed there.
     After a mile, a slow-moving truck  was  taking up most of the road. Its
large trailer of sheep on two  levels had a  sticker asking me  if I thought
the driving was OK--if not, to call the head office. I had plenty of time to
read it, laboring behind the fucker at twenty miles an hour.
     The road twisted and turned;  the trucker  could see me in his mirrors,
but there  was no  way he was  going to pull over for me to pass. The speedo
dropped to fifteen mph.  and I looked at my watch. It  was 9:05; I'd been on
the road for just under three hours.
     I kept pulling  out, looking and tucking back in  again. Even the sheep
were  staring  at me  now.  The truck  driver  was enjoying  himself; we had
eye-to-eye in his side mirror, and I could see he was laughing. I  knew this
road, and I knew that unless he let me pass I was doomed to several miles of
driving at his pace. By now  the road had a two-foot  mud bank on each side,
then trees and hedges.  It was wet and slippery, with  small streams running
along each side.  I'd have to  take  a  chance,  just hope that  nothing was
coming. On this road, all corners were blind.
     Preparing  for  the next  bend,  the truck driver  shifted  slowly down
through the gears, and I accelerated past him on the wrong side of the road.
If there  was  anything  coming  around  the bend, we'd  both be killed.  He
flashed his lights and honked, probably doing his  best to  distract  me and
force me off the road. For the first time today, I was in luck. The road was
clear; I'd soon left the truck far behind.
     Fifteen minutes later I was at the turnoff for  Euan's valley. I hung a
left, and within a hundred yards the road petered out into a single lane. If
I came up  behind a tractor or farm machinery,  there would be  few  passing
places, but luck stayed with  me and there was nothing ahead. Another twenty
minutes and I got to the valley.
     As I approached the brow of the hill I could already see the  spiral of
smoke. The walls were still intact but most of the roof had collapsed,  and
there were smoke and scorch marks around the window frames. Two fire engines
were there, and the firemen were still damping down. They looked wet, tired,
and stressed. On the other side of the house was an ambulance.
     A handful of people had gathered, locals in their  slickers and  boots,
who'd driven from the other side of the valley to rubberneck.
     I drove on and stopped by the gate. A  couple of firemen turned around,
but they didn't say anything; they were too busy doing their work.
     I got out of the car and ran across the road  to the  small copse about
fifty yards away, hollering and shouting like a madman.
     "Kelly! Kelly!"
     "It's me it's Nick! You can come out now!"
     But  she wasn't there. Deep down, I'd probably known all along that she
wouldn't be. She'd been dead from the moment she'd picked up the phone.
     I  turned  away  and walked  slowly  up the track  toward the throng of
spectators. They gave me the once-over, obviously  not liking the look of my
damaged face, then turned back, more interested in the remains of the house.
     "Was there anyone in there?" I asked nobody in particular.
     A woman spoke.
     "His  lights  were on last night. The  ambulance crew  has been  inside
already. Oh, it's such a shame. He was such a nice young man."
     I walked  beyond  the group and a  fireman  came toward  me,  lifting a
gloved hand.
     "Excuse me, sir, if you could  stay well back. We haven't made the area
safe yet."
     "Radio Wales," I said.
     "Can you tell me what happened?"
     I  looked  over his  shoulder.  Other  firefighters were  dragging  out
charred remains of Euan's house  and placing them on a  pile that  was being
damped down. I could now smell the burning.
     I looked back at the fireman. He said, "It looks as if there was a fire
and then the gas bottles blew up. If you could move back, sir."
     "Was anyone killed or injured?"
     As I asked, something  one  of them threw on the pile caught my eye. It
was Jenny or Ricky, one or the other I never could tell which was which. Not
that it mattered now.
     Whichever one it was, it  was  now  burned black with only half an  arm
     "It will take some  time before we'll  know  for sure. But no one could
have survived that blast."
     He  was  right. In  any  other circumstances,  it  would  have been  an
explosion to be proud of.
     Kelly was dead. Maybe it wouldn't be  too bad. It would be a bitch, but
I'd get over it. What could I have offered her?
     Kelly would have been in bad shape when she  realized what had happened
to her; she would probably  need psychiatric  treatment. Besides, she'd been
starting to like the way we'd been living. Her death would tidy things up. I
wouldn't have to protect or worry about her anymore.
     I started back toward  the car, deep in my thoughts.  What was done was
done; I couldn't change  it, couldn't turn the clock back. I'd find out more
from the news.
     Behind me, in the distance, I heard the squawk of a bird, maybe a crow.
It almost sounded like my name.
     I stopped and turned.
     And there she was, running toward me from beyond the trees.
     I started to  run toward her  but  checked myself. I  wanted to make it
look casual, even if my insides were shaking off the Richter scale.
     She  flew into my arms, burying her face  in my neck. I pulled her back
and held her at arm's length.
     "Why weren't you at the trees?" I was half-angry, half-relieved, like a
parent who thinks he's lost a child in a crowd and then finds her again  and
doesn't know whether to give her  a good old chewing out or just a hug and a
kiss. I didn't know what to do, but it felt good.
     "Why weren't you by the trees where I said?"
     She looked at me in disbelief.
     "As  if! Because  you always make  sure  you stand  off and  watch. You
taught me that!"
     I got hold of her hand, grinned, and said, "Yeah, that's fair."
     Still  smiling, we  walked  toward  the car. She was  soaked, her  hair
matted to her head.
     We reached the car and got in without exchanging another word.
     I looked at her in the rearview mirror. We had eye-to-eye.
     She smiled, and I snapped, "Put your seat belt on!"
     I turned the ignition and we drove  off. A former  member of the crack
elite force  the Special Air Service,  Andy McNab has  seen  action  on five
continents. Now,  in  his  explosive  fiction  debut, he  has  drawn  on his
seventeen  years'  experience  of active  service  to create  a  thriller of
high-stakes intrigue and unstoppable action.
     In  January  1991,  McNab commanded the  eight-man SAS squad  that went
behind Iraqi lines  to destroy  Saddam's  scuds.  He eventually  became  the
British  Army's most highly decorated serving soldier,  and  remains closely
involved with the intelligence communities on both sides of the Atlantic.
     Because of the highly sensitive and clandestine nature of his work with
the SAS,  McNab is wanted by  a  number of the world's terrorist groups. His
whereabouts, therefore, cannot be disclosed.  

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