Control was on his best behavior, sympathetic of the womenís grief at losing their friend and apologetic at having to point out that Chao Tsu had lied to them on several points. He went out of his way to be charming to Suzy; he seemed to know it was wasted effort on Ann.
While Control was busy with the delicate interrogation of Suzy, Robert pulled Ann to one side.
"Will you be all right here? I need to go out."
"I suppose so," she answered. "Whatís up?"
"I have some papers to find, and I wouldnít mind getting a lead on Wu and Ko and their driver."
"All the gloves are off, Robert. If theyíre willing to shoot up Brooklyn, theyíll be more than willing to knock you off in a Chinatown alley."
Robert squeezed her hand. "Thatís why Iím taking Mickey with me." It wasnít the only reason, but omission did not violate their resolve not to lie to each other.
Ann hesitated. "If Han Lin is involved Ö"
"Chin seemed to think sheís run back to China to avoid him. Iím wondering if sheís just laying low. Iím still looking for her, and an attack on you brought her out of hiding to apologize once before." He reached out to caress her cheek. "If she is involved, I wonít let the past intrude. My present is too important to me."
She wrapped her arms around him and leaned against his chest, wanting to keep him safe, wanting to be kept safe. "Whatís going to happen when weíre done here?"
"You wait here until Mickey or I get back. Then Iíll take you and Suzy somewhere safe."
"I doubt Iíll be bored," she said wryly. "Suzy will undoubtedly have lots of questions."
Robert studied her face. She was defensive, but seemed willing to listen. "Itís not just you," he finally said. "What isnít told canít cause trouble."
She relaxed. "The only tale thatís mine to tell is my own. I think sheíll understand that. Besides, itíll be nice to have someone else to talk to about all this. She can help with cover stories."
"True." He saw Mickey coming down the hall. "Iíd best go, love."
Ann glanced over her shoulder. "I know itís harping, but be careful, both of you." She looked pointedly at her husband. "I know thereís something youíre not telling me, but you generally have a good reason."
Robert took her hand and kissed it. "Youíll be here when we get back?" There was a barely disguised reprimand in his voice, but it made Ann smile.
"Weíll be here, I promiseóunless other people have other ideas," she temporized.
"Heís not your enemy, darling," Robert repeated, knowing she meant Control. "Heís your friend."
"Heís your friend. Thereís a difference. Iím someone who occasionally messes up his master plan."
"He would like to be considered your friend. At the very least, heís someone you can count on if real trouble should occur."
That brought to Annís mind some instructions Robert had once given her in case serious or fatal harm befell him, and she didnít want to think about that. "I know," she said quickly. "I do, really."
There was no time for further discussion. Mickey hugged Ann and promised heíd look after Robert, and she watched them walk away. She sighed, grateful Robert hadnít seen how uneasy she was. She and Suzy were in Federal custody, no matter how unofficial and friendly it all was. She didnít trust Control and never would, but perhaps use could be made of him anyway. As Robert had mentioned the night before, she was getting good at this.
After some argument, Mickey agreed to drive Robert into Chinatown. Mickey won the day, however, on Robert laying low while Mickey investigated his own contacts. So Robert stayed in the van as Mickey moved in and out of small stores, brothels, and fan tan parlors. The microphone he wore transmitted the conversations back to the van.
They were searching for Harvey Chung. Mickey had some more-or-less reliable contacts in the dissident community on the strength of some incredibly hair-brained stunts pulled on the Tibet-Chinese border.
A lead was found at a Buddhist shrine on Mott Street. Apparently Harveyís affectation of the trappings of a monk wasnít merely a fashion statement.
Robert turned on the tape recorder when the quasi-hermit who tended the shrine chuckled with all evidence of fondness at Mickeyís question about a young man from Beijing who wore beads and jeans.
"Kwang Chung, yes, heís been here. He says saffron isnít his color, but Iíve yet to convince him that American rock groups may not be the best robes for a monk. Still, the Buddha is everywhere. That young man wonít be a monk anytime soon, though, not with his eye on beautiful young ladies."
"Do you know where I can find Kwang Chung, brother?" Mickey asked.
"At this hour? Probably at the Hop Lo Teahouse, plotting better days with the other young men. And the old men, and all the other men. But heíll be here at sunset to help with prayers. Heís foolish, but faithful."
"Arenít we all fools at one time or another?" Mickey laughed.
"Indeed. Ah, blessings on you, my son, go in peace," the monk said at the sound of several coins dropping into a receptacle. Robert, in the van, smiled. Mickey had always been a sucker for dedicated religious personnel of any stripe.
"Thank you, brother."
In a few minutes, Mickey hopped back into the van. "You heard?"
"Yes, I did," Robert said, resuming the passenger seat. "Hop Loís is over a block. I hope Harvey is there, otherwise weíll be asked politely to leave. Weíre a bit pale for that place."
"Ah. Wonít talking to us get him in troubles? Letís do the lost tourist bit. I havenít seen you do your Uncle Godfrey routine in ages," he grinned.
Ten minutes later, a genially befuddled Englishman walked through the door of Hop Loís Teahouse and peered into the scented gloom. The Chinese crowd inside went silent except for the intense mah jongg game in the far corner.
"So sorry to intrude," Robert said to the woman behind the front desk, "but I was passing by outside and saw your sign. This place isnít related to the Hop Loís Teahouse in Brighton is it?"
The lady smiled thinly. "Iím sorry, sir, but all the tea houses in Brighton are Russian these days."
"Russian? Oh, I donít think so." He glanced absently around the room. In a far corner, Harvey Chung sat at a table of young men, still as the rest but with a hint of panic in his eyes. Robertís gaze passed over him.
Mickey hurried in through the door. "There you are, Mr. Throggbottle. You shouldnít sneak away like that."
"Oh, Michael, I was just asking ó"
"Thatís fine, the others are waiting, itís almost time for your annual Coldwater Guards Lawn Bowling Reunion and Nap."
Robert drew himself up and glared imperiously. It was the only way he could keep from laughing. "Thatís Coldstream Guards, young man."
"Coldwater, Coldstream, letís just go back to the van." He smiled and bowed to the woman at the desk. "So sorry, he slipped the leash," he apologized in Cantonese.
"Thatís quite all right, old imperialists are the worst," she answered in the same.
"This way, Mr. Throggbottle."
They made it to the van before losing it.
"Throggbottle?" Robert demanded when he caught his breath.
"Officer of the Ghurkas in Angola, you sounded just like him."
"Did you see our man?"
"Yes, he was in the back with all the other fine young radicals. He saw me, too."
"Then he shouldnít be far behind."
They hopped into the van standing near the corner and waited. Within five minutes, Harvey Chung strolled out of the tea house with some of his compatriots. They stood on the sidewalk for several minutes talking. Harvey casually scanned the street, and he stiffened slightly when he saw the van. Robert dropped his arm out the window and made a slight summoning gesture. Harvey slowly strolled in their direction, still talking to two old men desperate to prove some point to him. Just out of ear shot of the van he nodded agreement and bowed to them. The old men cackled and went back the other way, poking each other in delight.
Harvey walked slowly towards the van. He stopped to study the fliers attached to a lamppost. "I just agreed to say a special prayer on those two barracudasí behalf for tomorrowís races," he said. "I hope this is worth it."
"Would you mind getting in?" Robert asked.
Harvey glanced through the van at Mickey. "Whoís that?"
"A friend. Both of mine and of Chao Tsu." Mickey raised a hand in greeting.
Harvey glanced up and down the street, studied the windows and cars around them, then shrugged and climbed in.
Introductions were performed on their way to a private spot on an East River Wharf near the U.N. Building. Harvey stared at Dag Hammerskjold Plaza with longing and frustration.
"Theyíll pass referendums against childish dictators whining in their sandboxes," he declared, "but Beijing scowls and vetoes anything they donít like."
"Not quite," Robert temporized, joining him in his regard. "I sometimes think itís the debates and deals that go on in the washrooms that prove the worth of the place, rather than the General Assembly. At least thereís some place in the world where enemies have a chance to deal with each other without having to shoot."
"I want to take those papers that Do Yin brought for me there. Someone would know what to do with them."
"Shred Ďem after making secret Xeroxes," Mickey offered cynically. "Or hand Ďem to the Chinese after making secret Xeroxes. Blackmailís no good if the whole world knows."
Harvey only nodded. "It doesnít matter, because I donít know where they are. Mr. McCall, have your wife and her sister told you anything?"
"They have nothing to tell. The papers never reached them. Where is your brother, Harvey? Perhaps he can tell us more?"
"Iíve told you everything he knows," Harvey said curtly.
"I mean him no harm. I donít care how he got into the country. My concern begins and ends with the safety of my wife and her sister."
"Which means youíd hand over those letters in return for a pledge that the women would be left alone. No."
Robert stared at him gravely. "If handing over the letters would have saved Chao Tsu, would you have done it?"
Harvey turned away and stared across the river. "That option isnít mine to consider."
Robert leaned on the capstan and stared at Brooklyn. "Love is an inconvenient emotion for a revolutionary. Itís very easy to give grand heartfelt speeches about liberty or death when you donít mind the choice. But when you want with all your soul to live, even if only long enough for one last look into those eyes, you start to hesitate. One is willing to consider compromises."
"There can be no compromise." But Harveyís voice was brittle.
"No," Robert agreed. "There canít. And no man can serve two masters. Thatís why all intelligence services look for the loved ones of their enemies, especially those enemies to whom human love is more important than patriotic love."
"íCause one day you always have to chose," Mickey said, joining the perusal of the river.
"My choice was taken from me," Harvey said. "But I can make them pay."
"When you let yourself love someone," Robert offered, "you bind yourself to the people that person loves. Your revenge could cost the lives of two people Chao Tsu called sister. I strongly advise against that choice," he finished menacingly.
"If those letters are brought to light, there will be no reason for any more threats."
"But we canít bring them to light if we donít know where they are."
Mickey studied Harvey sidelong. "Of course, if those letters were already located, a frantic search would be a nice cover. Distract everybody while they were quietly moved into place."
Harvey gasped, and Robert looked directly at Mickey. "What do you know?"
Mickey nodded at the U.N. "The Beijing Cultural Minister is due in next week, semi-secret talks and a discreet attempt at showing themselves civilized. Rumor has it the minister had his fingers in Tienamin."
Robert grabbed Harvey by his shirtfront and slammed him against the van. "Is that it? Youíve got all of us chasing our tails while you maneuver your knowledge into the right, blackmailable ear?"
"No! Yes! No, not like that! I would have, but ó urk!"
"McCall!" Mickey grabbed Robertís hand before it finished clamping around Harveyís throat.
"What do you mean?" Robert snarled. "You would have, but what?"
Harvey panted in fear. "I donít have the letters! I swear! Iíve been looking! The Taiwanese ambassador is waiting for them, I keep telling him theyíre almost in my reach. But I canít find them!"
Robert very carefully let go of him and stepped away. "Earlier today, two goons from your government made a serious effort to kidnap Ann and Suzy. My wifeís car has several dozen bullet holes in it, and if she hadnít had the courage and skill to outshoot and outdrive them, Iíd be cooperating with General Chin right now in order to get her free."
"Youíd sacrifice the freedom of a billion people for one woman?" Harvey burst out.
"I think I might," Robert said after a thoughtful pause. "But those letters wonít bring freedom. Theyíre an embarrassment tool, a prybar to a few concessions. More likely theyíll never see the light of day. Theyíll be referred to in a delicate hint, some minor consideration will be granted, theyíll be handed over, and that will be the end of the matter." He gave Harvey a terrible look. "And for that kind of tawdry dealing, with my wifeís life on the line, Iíd hand deliver them to the Forbidden City."
Mickey shifted in silent protest, but kept the awareness of subplots to kidnap retired agents to himself.
"But the Taiwanese government promised me ó" Harvey began.
"Oh, grow up!" Mickey snapped. "They want to blacken Beijingís eye. Youíve got a club. As soon as you hand it over, theyíll shove you out the dooróif they didnít hand you over to sweeten the deal."
"If I kept copies Ö?"
"Dismissed out of hand as forgeries if you made them public, the cause of a sudden accident to you if you hinted youíd kept a copy." He shrugged coldly. "Of course, these guys always assume you keep a copy. Itís what they would do."
Harvey looked at Robert, who nodded grimly. "You are not a player in this, Harvey. Youíre a commodity. Your greatest value is as the guest of honor at an educational lynching in China to show the masses the price of protest."
"But if the letters are so unimportant, why all this grief? Why all this pain? Why Chao Tsu?" he finished in agony.
"Chao Tsu was trying to break away," Robert grimaced. "The great powers disapprove of their tools developing minds of their own. As for the letters, they are important. Beijing cannot afford embarrassment nor a too-public discussion of Tienamin." Some of his anger faded to a very weary cynicism. "There are always letters, Harvey, always little bits and pieces with which to needle the people you donít like. Youíd be ruined if it was known your lover was a Chinese spy. There is no truth, only spins. And bullets aimed at the heads of the women we love."
"Life is cheap to them," Harvey whispered. "They donít even know our names." He looked at Robert, disillusioned but still determined. "If I listened to you, Iíd never stand up to them."
"No. No, Harvey. Stand up to them. The solitary man can work miracles. But you cannot drag innocent people behind you." He laughed in wry self-mocking. "Personal crusades are best fought alone."
Mickey tsked at him. "Unless someone wants to help."
Harvey paced in tormented thought. "Youíre certain? Youíre certain this wonít do any real good?"
"It might ó but nothing like what youíre hoping for. Iíve seen it far too often. The men and women dying and bleeding in the field for some scrap of advantage, only to have it dickered away to nothing by the politicians."
Harvey clutched at his beads. His eyes were tightly shut, and he seemed to be praying. He finally looked at Robert with tears in his eyes. "She said I could trust you. But with who you work for ó"
"I work for myself, my family, and my friends. Any contact I have with my old employers is as a resource only. I begged Chao Tsu to let me help her. Let me help you."
"All right. Iíll take you to my brother."
Suzy stared around the room covertly. "The CIA has a cafeteria?"
"You saw Controlís face when I suggested ordering out for Chinese delivery," Ann replied, picking at the salad sheíd bought.
"You did that on purpose, didnít you."
"Iím afraid so. I get my jollies from pulling his chain. I wish we could leave."
Control had finished his questioning and sent the two women off to lunch under the escort of his secretary. Ann had initially been concerned about being recognized as Robertís wife, but everyone left everyone else alone. The secretary had insinuated that they should stay in the cafeteria until called for, but that had been more than an hour ago.
Suzy glared at her watch. "I had meetings today."
"I had a consultation that was scheduled two weeks ago. But ó"
"But nothing. Weíve not been taken into custody. We have the right to contact our offices." With the assurance of one who had taken several classes on due process, Suzy pulled out her cellular phone.
Ann glanced around the room anxiously. No one seemed to be paying attention. Over by the vending machines, she saw Jonah from the computer section. He glanced over and started in surprise at seeing Ann. He looked around anxiously, then relaxed at not seeing Robert. He waved slightly but headed out.
Suzy clicked off the phone. "I claimed a family emergency and pulled some vacation time. Luckily my clients seem to be flattered by being brushed off. They seem to think thereís social advantage to having a lawyer who is so important she can cancel Rockefellers." She held out the phone. "You want to call your office?"
"No, I left a message on the voice mail last night. I donít want to hear Bernie call me a dilettante again."
"Sis, are you really cut out for this full-time businesswoman thing? You seem to have these interruptions all the time."
"Look, months go by without anything more hazardous than a jealous husband who needs talked down. Fifty percent of Robertís cases are settled with a stern talking to. Itís justóevery now and then all hell breaks loose and everything else takes a back seat."
"So youíre not a capitalist tool daughter of the merchant prince overloads after all," Suzy smiled, a little sadly as it was Chao Tsuís favorite tease.
"I guess Iím not. Iíll accept Bernieís accusations in order to snuggle Robert after some insignificant individual catastrophe drags him through the sordid underbelly of the city. The people here wouldnít consider it worth notice, but itís the end of the world for the folks involved."
"And you get to pick up the pieces."
She grinned. "Someoneís got to glue the Lone Ranger back together." She lost her smile at the approach of Control.
"Sorry for the confusion, ladies." He sat down and proceeded to add cream and sugar to his coffee. "Ann, did Robert leave some sort of game plan with you?"
"We were supposed to wait for him or Mickey before leaving. Why?"
"You canít hang around the cafeteria all day and night. Where was he going to send you?"
"Iím not sure." She was reluctant to reveal the whereabouts of any of Robertís hideaways to others. "Has he called?"
"Robert? Heís not the checking in sort, surely youíve noticed. I donít want to send you anywhere without his knowing about it."
"I donít want to go, either."
He smiled faintly. "Donít look so shocked that we agree on something."
"Iím willing to go home," Suzy said. "From what I hear, I have some cleaning up to do."
"Well, Iím not willing to send you. They could be back, especially if they know youíre there."
"How would they know?" Ann mused. "Go in quietly, Robert could come by when he was done and take us to whatever bolt hole makes him happy. It would only be a few hours. Iím not suggesting my house," she continued, seeing Control considering it. "Suzyís place is more defensible. Though the cats do need fed and I could get some work done," she added for argumentís sake.
"Itís too obvious," Control said.
"Precisely," Suzy grinned. "What professional would consider the idea?"
"It has that certain je nais se quois that the amateur brings to these situations," Ann agreed.
Control was not amused. "Iím not interested in je nais se quois. Iím interested in keeping you two safe. Robert was very insistent, and I lost my taste for friendsí funerals a long time ago." He gazed significantly at Ann, who had the grace to blush.
Suzy remembered Annís outburst about this man, who appeared so gracious and civil but who still brought a knot to Suzyís stomach. His questioning of her had been very polite, the bow tie reminding her of one of her favorite professors in law school, but there was a cold watchfulness in the back of his eyes that made her nervous. She remembered him vaguely from the wedding; here in his own domainóCIA headquarters in New York, for Godís sake, what was she doing here!óhe was a lot more intimidating.
Ann had told how Control had blackmailed her into going after the Black Riders. Certainly heíd done everything in his power to rescue her when it had all gone wrong, but would it have blown up so spectacularly without this spymasterís interference? And what angles of vulnerability might he be seeing with regards to Suzy? Would the senior partners at the law firm be well disposed to a woman who had been close friends with a known Chinese spy? She made a note to be very circumspect in what she told this genial man.
"So what is your plan?" she asked.
Control looked at them thoughtfully. "Would you accept a guard as a condition for going home?"
"Why a guard?" Ann protested.
"A professional guard. Even the most talented amateur can lose his head when the trouble starts."
"Like whom?" Suzy asked, seeing Ann was flustered and dismayed at the left-handed compliment.
"Do you remember Sterno?"
Suzy looked perplexed. "You met him at the wedding," Ann supplied. "Robertís friend with the glasses?"
"The one at the buffet?"
"Thatís him. Heís a nice guy, very mellow, and he knows whatís going on. Iím willing."
Suzy shrugged. "Anything that letís me get home to see what happened."
Control nodded and stood. "Iíll send him in and you can call a cab. Iíll take care of letting Robert know where you are. Iím used to him yelling."
"Thank you," Ann said, but Suzy noticed it was a drawing room smile, all false graciousness and the barest hint of impatience. Ann waiting till Control was out of earshot. "And Iíll call him myself in a bit just to make sure he really knows where we are."
"Iíve never seen you so paranoid," Suzy said anxiously. "Are you sure itís justified?"
"No," Ann sighed. "He is Robertís great, good friend, and I know he didnít want us to get married. He wants Robert back, which wonít happen while Iím around."
Suzy gasped at the corollary. "Surely not! He wouldnítówould he?"
"Not if there was a breath of a chance of Robert finding out. But Control is the most dangerous, cunning, devious man I have ever met, and the potential of what he could do scares the shit out of me. And I canít help thinking that Control maneuvered me into a situation that could very easily have resolved his concerns about the marriage."
"I hope to God not. Robert was furious enough as it was. But Control is a man of opportunities. Thereís always an advantage somewhere."
Suzy shook her head. "How can you live like this?"
Ann grinned at her. "Because I have a very sane sister who will bap me in the head and keep things in perspective."
"Well, consider yourself bapped."
In a YMCA in Tribeca, Harvey Chung knocked on a door on the second floor, then called something in Chinese. The door opened slowly. The man inside peered out, then pushed the door partly closed when he saw Robert and Mickey.
"Who are they?" he asked in Cantonese.
"Friends," Harvey said in English. "They know whatís going on. They knew Chao Tsu. Let us in."
The man opened the door.
"This is Robert," Harvey continued, gesturing his companions in ahead of him, "and this is Mickey. This is my brother Do Yin."
Robert glanced around the small room, a typically plain YMCA refuge. A small Buddhist shrine had been set up on the dresser. Two-day old Chinese papers littered the bed.
Do Yin studied his visitors uneasily. He was younger than Harvey, and thinner, with a hunted wildness in his eyes. "What do you want?" he asked in the British accented English of Hong Kong.
"Weíre looking for the letters," Robert answered. "You were the last to see them that we can speak to."
"Are you Hong Kong police?" Do Yin asked, suspicious of Robertís accent.
"I am not any sort of police. I am an independent."
"Then whatís your angle?"
"If I can find those letters and prove to certain individuals that I have them, Chinese agents should stop trying to shoot my wife."
"Who is your wife?"
"Ann Marshall McCall," Harvey supplied. "One of the friends weíre assuming Chao Tsu gave the letters to."
Do Yin nodded slowly. "She doesnít have them?"
"We donít know what Chao Tsu did with them," Robert answered. "Iím hoping you might have some clue as to where she put them."
"You know, I donít want to be involved in this. Heís the revolutionary." Do Yin nodded at his brother. "I brought them to pay for my way out of Hong Kong. I just want to live my life without any trouble."
"Tell us what we want, and weíll let you."
Do Yin shrugged. "I got into town three weeks ago. I looked for Harvey, but he was out of town. The monk at the shrine told me to try Ming Chao Tsu at the Jade Pagoda. Apparently sheíd seen pictures of me, so she was willing to let Harveyís brother in the door."
Harvey grinned back at his brother, but it faded quickly.
The story continued. "I told her about the package I had. I didnít know what was in it. I still donít know, other than papers, and I donít want to know. But Chao Tsu popped them open and read some of them. She said wanted to see how safe they need to be kept."
"So she knew what they were," Robert mused. "Why didnít she give them to you, Harvey, when you got back? Did she know what you were planning on doing with them?"
"Yes. She didnít agree. She thought we should save them. IóI thought she was considering if she should turn them in for a reward from the government. I asked her that, when she wouldnít give them to me. She said they were our retirement account, that we could be free if we waited for the right moment. I told her it was better to free our people." Harvey hung his head. "She said, ĎTheyíre your people, not mine.í IóI left. It was the last time I saw her."
Robert wanted to be sympathetic, but there was no time. "She said nothing more about where they were than that her friends would look after them?"
"Do Yin? Did she say where she was going to put them?"
The young man looked perplexed. "She said something odd, it sounded like she was going to a sheriff."
"A sheriff?" Harvey repeated.
"You know, like in the old Westerns Uncle would bring us tapes of, ĎGunsmokeí and ĎMaverickí and ĎHigh Noon.í She said the marshals would take care of them."
"Oh, my god," Robert whispered. "The bank."
"Where else do you keep your retirement account," Mickey agreed, standing up.
"What bank?" Harvey asked.
"Schaeffer & Marshall," Robert said, "a very private banking establishment. It is sometimes easier to get information out of Switzerland than to get those people to talk about their clients. And Chao Tsu had an in there through Ann. Thatís where her mortgage was."
"Will they talk to you?" Mickey asked.
"Never. Iím disapproved of for stymieing their dynastic plans. But Ann has access."
"So letís go get her."
"Is that it?" Do Yin asked anxiously. "Youíre done with me?"
"Weíre done with you," Robert assured him. "And thank you for your taste in old Westerns."
He smiled shyly. "Youíre welcome. They have cable downstairs. Thereís a whole channel that shows nothing but Westerns."
"Enjoy them in good health."
Robert and Mickey headed out to the hall and for the stairs. Harvey followed them.
"Let me come with you."
"No." Robert didnít slow down.
"Why? Is it because you have your own plans for the letters?"
Robert stopped and faced him. "And if it is?"
"I have the chance to save dozens of lives. You must let me have them."
"I have the chance to save my wife. Iím afraid my decision is obvious. I am sorry," he added sincerely.
"Iíve heard of you and your work. You didnít used to be this way. Once no personal consideration would have stopped you from helping persecuted people. Please. Help me help my friends in prison."
"You low son of a bitch," Mickey growled as Robert was silent.
"No, Mickey, heís right," Robert sighed. Harvey looked hopefulóuntil Robert glared at him. "But all that means is itís a good thing the situation never came up when I was in the field, because my decision stands. Iím going to save my wife. And her sister and, most likely, my son. There are as many people here who need saving as there are that you can help, Harvey. So no, youíre not coming."
He turned swiftly and went down the stairs. Mickey glared at Harvey and followed.
Suzy kept her temper when she saw her clothes all over the floor. She only grimaced when she was the remains of the crystal fruit bowl that had been a gift from Annís mother upon passing the bar. It was the bullet holes in the kitchen walls that really upset her. She stared at them, strangled noises coming from her throat.
Sterno finished his last takeout cheeseburger and licked his fingers. "And no one called the cops, Miz McCall?" he asked, looking at the holes as well.
"Their guns had silencers," Ann replied, watching Suzy carefully. "Robert only got off one shot, and the walls are thick. Anyone who noticed probably decided not to bother."
"My house is all shot up," Suzy whispered.
"No, love, this is only dinged. My house is all shot up. This was pistol fire, I had high powered rifle rounds coming in." Suzy looked ready to cry.
"Why are they all around that back door?" Sterno asked.
"Robert and I came through there."
"And they shot at you?" Suzy gasped. "What did you do?"
Ann looked everywhere but at her. "Well, Robert distracted them, and Iówell, I cut through the gym and took one down. The other one got away."
"Why did you take such a risk?"
Ann looked at her, remembered fear in her eyes. "We thought you were in here or that theyíd hurt you." Suzy reached over and squeezed her hand.
For the next couple of hours, Suzy and Ann cleaned up the apartment. Sterno dug the bullets out of the walls and carried garbage down to the dumpster. Suzy muttered to herself as she reassembled her dresser.
"And they pawed through my stuff and looked at my things and how did they get in, anyway?"
"Youíre going to get an alarm now, arenít you?" Ann said. "Robertís very good with them."
Suzy shrugged and muttered unhappily. Ann hugged her.
Over on the dresser, Suzyís cellular beeped. "Should I answer it?" Suzy asked nervously.
"Sure, itís probably Robert."
"Or my mother." She picked it up and punched the buttons. "Hello?"
She gasped in shock as she listened.
Ann dropped the shoes she held. "What?"
Suzy threw the phone away from herself, horror on her face. The phone bounced and came to rest under a chair.
"Suzy, what? Who was it?"
The phone rang again.
"Donít touch it!" Suzy yelled as Ann moved towards it.
"What the hell is wrong?"
Suzy wrung her hands as Ann picked up the still ringing phone. "Itísóitís a haunt. It has to be."
"A haunt? A ghost? Suzy, stop sounding like your Granny Mae-Mae." She was cautious all the same as she pushed the receive button. "Hello?"
"Hello, half-baked," said Chao Tsuís voice. "So youíre there, too."
Ann didnít throw the phone, but she did lower it slowly. She and Suzy stared at each other for several seconds. Suzy chewed on her fingers, her eyes huge and scared. Ann swallowed and lifted the phone. "And this is ó?"
"Iím the one whoís just right."
The reference was to a creation myth told by various people around the world. When God had been forming humans from the clay, heíd left the blacks in his oven too long. The whites had been pulled out too soon, but the Asians had baked to a perfect golden brown. When the three women had gotten drunk together, theyíd called each other over-cooked, half-baked, and just right.
Ann made her hand stop shaking. "If thatís who you are, whose funeral did we go to?" Suzy came over to hold Annís arm, still scared.
The voice sighed. "It was a woman called Han Lin, who came to my restaurant to kill me. It was her or me. I torched the place to cover my tracks."
"Of course," Ann breathed, seeing the mystery fall into place. Han Lin hadnít gone to China to cause trouble, nor was she manipulating events behind the scenes. But was Chao Tsu manipulating events?
For now, though, plots took second place to a friend returned. "Chao Tsu," Ann whispered. "Itís really you?"
"Itís really me," Chao Tsu said, starting to cry herself. "Whereís Suzy?"
Ann held the phone out to Suzy, who cringed away. Ann nodded in encouragement, and she slowly took the phone. "ChaoóChao Tsu?"
"Hi, Suzy. Yes, itís me."
"Why did you let us think you were dead!"
"Iím sorry Ö"
Ann took the phone back. "I know why you wanted to disappear, Chao Tsu. Why are you calling now?" Suzy blinked in surprise, then nodded agreement.
"Itís very complicated," Chao Tsu sighed. "Youíll just have to trust me."
Suspicion had become too much a part of Ann. "More complicated than your being a spy sent to watch dissidents, except you fell in love with one of them? More complicated than Suzy and me getting chased and shot at for papers you somehow dumped on us? More complicated than General Chin coercing Robert into a meeting by snatching me?"
"Oh, my God. How do you know all this?"
"Because I married into the CIA, as you damned well know! While youíve been in hiding, your plots have gotten us shot at and yelled at and broken into and interrogated, and there are people onto you, girl, and theyíre willing to kill!" Her anger drained away. "And I watched the Jade Pagoda blow up and burn and I thought I was watching you die."
"Iím sorry, Iím sorry. I thought if I was dead it would protect everybody. Have they really gone so far?"
"I havenít told you the half. Chao Tsu Ö" It felt so odd to use that name as a form of address again. "Why are you calling now?"
"I have a chance to get away from them. It took several days to arrange. I wanted to say good-bye."
Suzy, listening next to Ann, sniffed. But Ann had learned too much. "Is that the only reason?" she asked coldly. Suzy stared at her in shock.
Chao Tsu sighed. "Did you pick this up from Robert, or have you always been so suspicious?"
"Both. Youíre after the papers, arenít you, like everyone else."
"Ann, if I werenít legally dead, I wouldnít have to ask you."
"Youíd just disappear into the night with them and leave us to your mess."
"How much have you seen to make you so cynical?"
"Iíve seen one of my best friends revealed as a spy and liar," Ann snapped. "You used us, Chao Tsu. We were your cover. You became our friend under orders, and if youíd been more cold-blooded youíd still be using us. What do you know about Robert?"
There was silence for a moment. "I know heís wanted by my former employers. When I moved to New York I was shown a list of people in the city to be acquired if it could be done simply and without anyone noticing. Iíve had questions asked of me before why I havenít done anything about him. Watch him, Ann. If he gets too far from back up they will grab him."
"Theyíd have to deal with me."
A smile entered the voice from the grave. "But they donít know that. It could be fun to see." She became serious. "They heard nothing about him from me. The people who watch me saw him. Your wedding was a trial, Ann, there were people there I should have reported, but I said nothing. I think Han Lin ratted on him."
Ann said nothing, not wanting to deal with Han Lin. She was relieved that the woman was no longer a threat, but she didnít want to see Robertís face when he heard. "What about the papers, Chao Tsu?"
"You know cellulars can be tapped with the right equipment?"
Suzy glanced at Ann and felt like an outsider as she listened to these women she thought she knew talking about another world.
"Talk to your uncles," Chao Tsu said simply.
"Your uncles, you silly capitalist."
"O-oh. Those uncles. You sneaky bitch."
"Iíll take that as a compliment from you."
"Youíll see. Iíve got to go. Be careful, both of you. Bye." The phone went dead.
Ann clicked the phone off. "That was abrupt."
"Maybe someone was listening," Suzy offered.
"What do we do, kemo sabe?"
Ann laughed. "I know what that means, Tonto. What we do is sneak away again and head for the bank."
Suzy stopped her with a hand on her arm. "Sneak? What about Robert?"
"Robert has other priorities. He may have left the Agency, but he still subscribes to many of its goals. All I know is my friend has asked me for help, and my husband may not agree. What he doesnít know he canít forbid."
Suzy shook her head. "You two sure arenít easy on each other."
"I donít think that was in the vows." She froze suddenly. "Chao Tsuís alive."
Suzy hugged her. "It hadnít sunk in yet on you either?"
"I donít think so. Just as well, I guess," Ann grinned.
But Suzy was more solemn. "But do we know this woman who called? The woman who was our friend wasnít real. I donít know if doing what she wants is a good idea."
"Lord, youíre right. I donít know either." Ann firmed her shoulders. "What I do know is people have been trying to hurt us over those papers. I really want to see what all the fuss is about. After that, weíll see."
Suzy glanced at her watch. "The bank will be closing soon. Weíd better hurry."
"Right. You call a cab, have it wait in front of the deli. Iíll go distract Sterno."
"Oh, lord, thatís right. Howó"
Ann grinned. "Piece of cake. Most of Robertís cronies still see me as little more than his bed warmer. He wonít expect sneakiness. Come on out when youíve set up the cab."
Sterno was sent to the dumpster to investigate the possibility that Suzyís planner, in truth residing safely in her purse, had inadvertently gone in the trash. He went reluctantly and only after getting a promise that the women would lock the door after him. Ann promised faithfully.
Suzy peeked out and saw Ann scribbling a hasty note. "Theyíre on their way. What are you doing?"
"Writing an excuse note for Sterno so Robert wonít break his arms. Iím going to be apologizing for this for weeks."
They sneaked down the front stairs. Ann got serious when they reached the front door. After all, the enemy was still out there, and Sterno was guarding them for a reason.
"Do we sneak?" Suzy asked when they got to the street.
Ann studied the street carefully. Traffic was heavy, and none of the cars parked along the curbs looked occupied. They might get away with it cold. "No, we just walk down the street."
"There it is," Suzy said as a cab pulled up in front of the deli a few doors down.
They slid into the taxi; Ann gave the driver an address half a block away from the Schaeffer building. They spoke absently of small things as they watched their surroundings.
Ann paid off the taxi and waited till it had turned the corner before heading down the street through the crowd of people headed home after a long dayís work.
"Who was handling her account?" Suzy asked.
"Tom Guilford in Real Estate. He has the few mortgages they do. I hope heís still in."
The guard at the front desk nodded respectfully at the board member and her friend. Ann saw her Uncle Andrew getting off the elevator and pulled Suzy into concealment behind a column.
"Fewer people who know the better?" Suzy asked.
"Uh huh. I donít want to have to explain." Fear clenched Annís stomach. "Dear God, if General Chin knew this was where to come. My family is in this building, and those bastards donít mind spraying bullets around."
Suzy tugged her towards an open elevator. "No percentage in that kind of blatancy. Theyíd just show up with some document from her lawyer claiming anything related to the account. What floor?"
"Fifth." Ann watched the numbers change above the door. "If whatever this is was placed here openly, it would have been turned over already, wouldnít it?"
"No need for that much hurry. I only heard from her lawyer yesterday, and he told me he was still drawing up the papers to submit for the inheritance." She laughed briefly. "Not that we should take it."
"Sheís still legally dead. They know that here, Uncle Andrew and Nate asked if they should send flowers."
The doors opened onto the fifth floor and another group of people headed home. One of them was the receptionist for this floor, who told Ann that Mr. Guilford was still in his office.
The Real Estate division of Schaeffer and Marshall specialized in the analysis of mortgage funds for investment portfolios and in the management of the extensive real estate holdings of the bank and the Marshall clan. Personal mortgages were handled for a very exclusive clientele of family members and close associates.
Guilford looked up from his desk at Annís knock and smiled. "Hello, Ann, what brings you here at this late hour?"
"Hi, Tom. Itís business. You know my friend Suzy?"
"Oh, yes, you found a better rate for your condo from Citibank. I am sorry," he said sincerely as he shook Suzyís hand, "but we donít have as much faith in the resale value of lofts in Greenwich as Citi does." He gestured the women to chairs.
"That was years ago," Suzy blinked.
Tom shrugged. "I remember these things."
Ann leaned forward. "Iím glad you do, Tom. Weíre here about Ming Chao Tsu."
"Oh, yes," Tom said solemnly. "Very sad. My condolences."
"Thank you," Suzy said, seeing Ann had forgotten she was supposed to be grieving. "It was a shock. Her lawyer tells us Ann and I were left her physical property in her will."
"Oh, really? Has the will cleared probate already?"
"Itís still in the process. But weíve learned that some documents have possibly been left here for us by Chao Tsu. Do you know anything about that?"
Tom leaned back to think. "Documents, hm. Well, she was here a couple of weeks ago to investigate an equity loan, she may have gotten into her safe deposit box."
Ann blinked. "We have safe deposit boxes here?"
"Of course, didnít you know?"
"No, or I wouldnít have one over at B of A."
"Theyíre not advertised. Thereís a vault upstairs for the temporary storage of our customersí valuables. Thereís been some question if itís the proper environment for a Van Gogh."
Ann started to ask, but Suzy kicked her discreetly. "Would it be possible to see the contents of her box? We donít have the keys, though, they were undoubtedly in the ..." She trailed off in melancholy discretion.
"Of course. I do know she had the standard clause in her contract that her heirs would have access in the event of her death. Shall we?"
Ann leaned closer to Suzy as they followed Tom. "Should he be letting us see it so easily? He only has our word that weíre heirs."
"Youíre a director, silly. What would you be up to that you could possibly get away with? Strictly speaking, he shouldnít, but thatís the beauty and flaw of the private banking system. Everybody knows everybody and if something came up theyíd know where to find you."
The offices on the floor above were larger and more discreet. Very important transactions were conducted here. Ann knew her status as a director and member of the family was not sufficient to give her entre into the financial circles that worked up here.
In the farthest corner from the elevator, Tom stopped at a heavy, unmarked door. He punched in a code, then pulled the door open, beckoning the women in after him.
Motion sensitive lights clicked on, revealing a large square room much like any other safe deposit vault. Individual metal doors ranging from index card size to locker lined one wall.
"Whereís the Van Gogh?" Suzy asked.
"Over there." Tom nodded at a narrow wooden crate leaning against another wall next to other awkwardly shaped containers. "Chao Tsuís box is over here."
Hers was one of the ones the size of a bus station locker. Tom pulled out a ring of keys and opened the door. He opened it partway, then stepped back.
"Iíll leave you ladies to this, then," he smiled. "Make sure everythingís latched when youíre done. The main door should give you no trouble. Take your time."
"Thank you, Tom," Ann said, once again grateful for the power of her name.
"If you werenít a director," Suzy said when they were alone, "heíd never do that. I hope."
Ann grinned. "Like you said, what could I get away with?" She pulled open the door and they peered inside.
To their disappointment, no Oriental treasure lurked inside. A thick manila envelope rested on top of a notebook. Nothing else was there, but marks in the dust showed where something had been.
Suzy pulled out the contents. The manila envelope had "For Ann or Suzy" in Chao Tsuís handwriting. As Suzy opened the envelope, Ann glanced at the notebook. It was full of Chinese characters, so she put it to one side.
Suzy pulled out a smaller envelope and a sheet of paper. "Itís to us," she said, scanning the letter. "ĎDear sisters. If youíve gotten this far, then you know what Iíve wanted to tell you for years. If I canít see you, please believe that whatever I may have felt at the beginning, I do now think of you as the sisters I always wanted. I do love you both, and Iím sorry for any pain Iíve caused.í"
Suzy took a moment to clear her throat. "ĎThe envelope contains incriminating documents that people are probably looking for. The notebook is for you, Ann, to give to Robert as a symbol of my good intentions. Itís a journal Iíve kept over the years of my work. Heíll know what to do with it. Someday I hope to know how you met him.
"ĎThe phone number with this letter should reach me. If not, do what you think best with this information, and be careful. Much love, Chao Tsu.í"
There was another slip of paper in the package. Suzy unfolded it as she wiped her eyes. "I have my cell phone," she told Ann.
"No, not cellular. Thereíll be a phone here we can use." Ann picked up the notebook again. "Ten years of spying in New York. This will make some people very happy. Think we should call this number?"
Suzy considered the pile of documents. "Strictly speaking, we should turn it all in. How much trouble could we get in for aiding and abetting a foreign agent?"
"Oh, god, lots. But itís not American information, and all weíre considering is transporting it. We could argue the point."
"China could, too."
Ann grinned. "Robert would never allow it, and Control owes me." She lost her smile. "But delivering these papers could be insanely dangerous."
"We wonít know until we ask where she wants us to take them."
They secured the vault behind them and headed down three floors to the computer section, where Ann had a cubicle she could claim when she was called in for consultations. It was bare of everything but a computer and a phone, but nothing else was needed.
Ann firmed her shoulders, punched up an outside line, and dialed the number. She set the phone on speaker, and she and Suzy listened to the ringing.
After ten rings, Ann reached for the switch, then the phone on the other end clicked on. "Weh?" said a voice, using the common Chinese word for "Yes, what do you want?"
"Ming Chao Tsu," Suzy said simply. Her pronunciation had always been better than Annís.
There was rustling and murmuring on the other end, then Chao Tsuís voice came on. "Suzy? Ann?"
"Right here," Ann said. "Weíve got this number, so weíve got the stuff. Now what?"
"Have you told Robert anything?"
"No. But I should."
Chao Tsu was silent a moment. "I wish you wouldnít."
"Why?" Ann said suspiciously.
"Because he has his own uses for those papers, and I need them to keep myself and someone I love safe. Iím just a little cog, I need insurance."
Ann looked at Suzy for input. The other woman could only shrug helplessly.
"Robertís concern is that people stop shooting at me. He wants the papers so he can tell your old bosses to back off."
"If my plan works, you wonít need to worry about them," Chao Tsu said persuasively.
Ann snorted. "Yeah, if. I donít like putting my and Suzyís butts on the line for Ďifí."
Chao Tsuís voice became more desperate. "Robert can use that notebook. Itís much more valuable than the letters."
Suzy leaned closer to the phone. "So why not use that for insurance?"
"The letters need the right timing. By the time their value has expired, Iíll be long gone. But they wouldnít forgive me for threatening them with that journal. Theyíd hunt me down to get it."
"To be of any use," Suzy argued, "Robert would have to reveal that he had it. Theyíd go after you anyway."
"No," Ann contradicted soberly. "Theyíd go after the person with the journal. Youíd throw my husband to the wolves to cover your escape."
"Yes!" Chao Tsu said desperately. "He can watch himself better than I can. And if he passed it on, theyíd ignore him, theyíd follow the journal. Personal grudges get in the way."
Suzy looked uncertainly at Ann, who shrugged. "Thatís what Robert says. Theyíd probably see him as just a conduit. Getting back at him wouldnít solve anything. OK," she said to the phone, "I wonít tell himóyet. What do you want us to do with these things?"
"I want you to bring them to me."
Ann felt her stomach start to twist. "Where?"
Chao Tsu paused. "Liberty Island."
"Liberty Island?" Suzy protested. Ann could only gape at the phone. "Are you nuts, girl? How are we supposed to get to Liberty Island? The ferries stopped an hour ago."
"Weíve got that taken care of ó"
"Why there, Chao Tsu?" Ann snapped. "We are not going out there without a damned good reason."
"Is my life a good reason?" Stark fear filled Chao Tsuís voice. "Weíve arranged transport, but I have to be there. I canít leave. You have to come to me. Please."
Suzy and Ann looked at each other for several moments. "How are we supposed to get out there?" Ann raised a hand to hush Suzy.
"Liberty State Park, in Jersey," Chao Tsu said eagerly. "Youíll be met. Oh, thank you."
Ann frowned. "Met by whom? I swear, Chao Tsu, if this is a set-upó"
"Itís not, I promise. Iíve lied to you long enough. Please, hurry."
"Thank you. Iíll see you soon. Bye."
The phone clicked off. Ann slowly reached for the speakerís off button.
"You are not serious," Suzy said. "God knows what could happen."
"And if sheís telling the simple truth? I know itís stupid, but I want to look her in the eyes and see if thereís anything of the woman I remember."
"At least call Robert."
Ann grimaced. "And heíll come in like the 7th Cavalry with God knows what backup."
Suzy took hold of her arm. "This is beyond us, sis."
"I think so too. But if we go to Robert, Control will end up involved, and I donít know what he might do to Chao Tsu."
Suzy nodded reluctantly. "I donít want to turn her in, but going out to Liberty Island ..."
"Yeah. How about this: we go to Jersey, look at the set-up and decide then."
Suzy thought it over. "What about those people to meet us? The last bunch that wanted our company ..." She trailed off at the look on her sisterís face, a look of ruthless anticipation. "Annie?"
"Weíll go by my place first," she said. "Thereís some stuff I could use there. Do you still trust me on the bike?"
As soon as Sterno saw Robertís face in the peephole, he unlocked the door and backed up fast. "Itís not my fault, Mr. McCall!"
Robert hesitated in the doorway. "Whatís not your fault?" He looked around suspiciously. The obvious emptiness of the rest of Suzyís apartment told its tale. "Sterno!"
Sterno cringed and held out the note Ann had left.
Presented with an alternative to breaking the neck of an old friend, Robert ripped the paper from his hands.
Mickey moseyed in. "Itís all clear outside." He glanced around at the lack of female voices. "Where are they?"
Robert flung the paper at him and advanced on Sterno. "How long have they been gone?"
"About an hour."
Mickey read the note twice in disbelief: "Donít hurt Sterno, itís not his fault we tricked him. We know what weíre doing, no one is making us do it, weíll call as soon as we can. Ann." He glared at Sterno. "You let them leave?"
"Control told me to keep an eye on them, not keep them locked down," Sterno complained. "Miz McCall sent me to check the dumpster. She even promised to lock the door after meówhich she did, I had to pick the lock to get back in."
"Did you see anybody?" Mickey asked.
"No! They just left."
Robertís anger transferred from Sterno to a much more appropriate target: his wife. "Control didnít say they objected to you. What happened?"
Sterno relaxed, but he didnít go any closer to Robert. "We were just waiting for you to get back and say where you wanted to stash the ladies. Control didnít want them at the office with time on their hands."
Robert had a sudden vision of a hacker and her favorite accomplice bored and at loose in CIA New York headquarters. Control would rather herd cats. But he was too angry to laugh. "Could you tell they were plotting?"
"They were just cleaning up and talking." Sterno looked disillusioned. "Why didnít you tell me sheís as sneaky as you are?"
"Sheís not," Robert snapped. "She just refuses to think her stupid plans out. What set them off? Were there any phone calls?"
"Not on that." Sterno nodded at the house phone. "I thought I heard a cellular once or twice, but I wasnít sure."
Mickey looked at Robert. "Who would call that theyíd go off like this?"
Robert froze, seeing in his mind a growing dawn of comprehension. But this time it really was an oncoming train as well. He studied the new concept and saw how it tied everything together. "Chao Tsu."
"Huh?" Mickey blinked.
"Chao Tsu called."
"Sheís dead, McCall."
Robert nodded. "Being dead is the best disguise of all."
Mickeyís eyes slowly widened as he reconfigured the plot. "Then who was in the restaurant?"
"What woman have people all over the world been searching for, but no one knows where she went?"
Robert nodded again, surprised at the pang of grief he felt. "And Chao Tsu torched the place to fake her death. Weh Hong must have been in on it."
"Women donít confide in men, havenít you noticed? They go off on half-cocked schemes and let us know when theyíre damned good and ready." He glared at the phone. "Mickey, get your stuff, sweep this phone. I have some calls to make."
The first call was to Control, who was blasphemous in his opinion of Ann and Suzyís sense. He promised to stay on stand-by in case rapid deployment was needed and offered whatever services were necessary.
Robert next called Schaeffer and Marshall. All the receptionists were gone, and the call was bounced through several routing junctions before hitting a voice, albeit electronic. Robert kept his temper by tapping a pencil on the desk next to the phone, but he stopped when it shattered.
One of the options of the recording was an emergency connection to the operator. The phone creaked as Robert jabbed the proper button.
"This is the operator," said the characterless voice.
"I need a connection to the guard desk at the front door, please."
"One moment, please."
Nine rings and another splintered pencil later, the guardís desk picked up. "Security."
Robert didnít waste time on niceties. "Iím looking for a person who may in the building. Her name is Ann McCall, sheís a director of Schaeffer & Marshall."
"Oh, Mrs. McCall? I know her. Just a moment, please."
"Someone with a brain, thank god," Robert muttered. "Mickey, has her car moved?"
"Nope." Mickey put the small tracking unit back in its carrying case. "Signal strength says itís still half a mile away at Ricoís. You ever going to tell her you put a bug in Lady Catherineís trunk?"
"Not if she keeps pulling stunts like this. Sterno, anything on the beeper on her motorcycle?"
"Iím not sure." Sterno brought the tracker he was using over. "Is this the new Israeli model?"
"Yes, finer resolution for tracking in cities. I put it on the motorcycle because she takes more chances on the bike." He studied the screen. Cynthia the motorcycle hadnít moved either.
Sterno dared a frown. "Begging your pardon, Mr. McCall, but it sounds like you donít trust her." He backed off at the glare he got.
Robert turned his attention back to the phone and the guard who had returned. "Yes?" He didnít want to think about trust just yet.
"We just changed shifts, sir. The guard before me says she was here but that she left fifteen minutes ago."
"Thank you." He hung up and turned to his compatriots. "She was there, she has the papers." He snatched up the phone again and dialed.
"Do you think theyíll come back here?" Mickey asked.
"Possibly, or to the house. Yes," he said to the new voice at the other end of the phone, "I need a cellular phone trace, clearance C Epsilon." He read off Suzyís cellular number and waited. "Control offered all services," he added to the perplexed Mickey.
"Why not just call them?" Sterno asked.
"They might turn off the phone. This way we can pin them down to a region. Yes? Itís in Chelsea? Thank you, can you tell me what the last number it was connected to is? Yes, C Epsilon. Thank you." He waved Mickey back into his chair. "We donít know if theyíre staying or not. Sterno, watch the bikeís signal. Iíd like to know where Chao Tsu called from."
"If it was her," Mickey added.
Robert nodded, then began taking notes as the voice on the phone gave him his information. "Thank you." He hung up, capped his pen decisively and pulled his glasses off. "Mickey, you know how to work that scanner Sterno has?"
"Of course. Whatís the plan, chief?"
"The last number to call Suzyís phone is in Jersey City. It was bounced through two transfer points, one being the Jade Pagoda, which is apparently still a valid switch in the phone company computers. You and I are going to Jersey, Mickey."
"Just the way I love to spend my evening."
Sterno cleared his throat cautiously. "What about me, Mr. McCall?"
"You stay here. If they come back do anything in your power to make them stay."
"But Miz McCallís a black belt!"
Robert gave him a cruel look. "Yes, she is. Now that we know this phone is clean, we can use it as a communications hub. Iím hoping the girls have the sense God gave a blue-green algae and bring the papers in, but I doubt it."
The scanner Sterno still held beeped. He jumped, then studied the screen. "Theyíre moving."
Robert took the scanner and watched the blip crawl slowly across the screen. "Towards the harbor. Who wants to take odds against Jersey?"
"Not against you," Mickey said. "Do we ride?"
They settled into Mickeyís van and headed towards the Holland Tunnel and the wilds of Jersey beyond. "Where do you want the intercept?" Mickey asked, cutting through traffic with the aplomb of a native.
"Weíre not doing an intercept," Robert said.
"What?" Mickey glanced at him in surprise. "Youíre just going to let them run?"
"I think we have to. They know where the drop is."
"Well, we catch up to them and we ask them."
Robert hesitated for several seconds. "I donít think sheíd tell me."
By the brittleness of his voice, Mickey knew how much that admission had cost him. "If it wasnít Chao Tsu involved ..." he dared.
"I know." Robert stared out the windshield. "What Iím afraid of is that Chao Tsuís being manipulated. Deep cover agents work best when they donít know everything thatís going on." The scanner in his hand beeped twice. "Damn."
"Iím losing the signal. Theyíve taken the tunnel. The Israelis sacrificed range for accuracy. I hope they donít get too far ahead in the Tunnel, this is only good for about a mile."
"Whereíd that call come from?" If McCall could be cool, so could Mickey.
"Near the shore, down near Liberty State Park. As good a target as any." He stared pensively out the window, ignoring Mickey and the drive through the tunnel collectors and into the tunnel itself.
What had decided Ann not to call him? She had admitted more than once that when trouble started she was more than willing to let Robert deal with it. Was it just misplaced loyalty to a woman she called sister? Or was there more?
The suspicious thought got further than he liked before common sense dismissed it: perhaps sheíd known all along that Chao Tsu was alive, maybe she was a player in a larger plot. If he was going to start thinking like that, like the continuous paranoia of his days in the field, then heíd wasted the last year and a half of his life. He would concede Ann guilty of criminal stupidity, but he would not believe her capable of perpetuating the kind of lie necessary to be covering up a secret life of that scope.
So what would have convinced her not to call him? Perhaps the call from Chao Tsu hadnít been as congenial as heíd been assuming. Threats to Annís family made her irresponsible. If someone had called with proof positive of Chao Tsuís continued survival, but then qualified it by demanding Ann and Suzyís unquestioning obedience, Annís good sense may have been overridden. Perhaps they were met at the bank by someone holding a trump cardóor who had already shown untoward knowledge of Ann and her world.
"General Chin," he muttered.
Mickey jumped slightly, busy monitoring a taxi tailgating him. "What about him?"
"We havenít seen the last of him. Heís somewhere in this. Unless, of course, Chao Tsu is a lot better at this than Iíve given her credit for."
The tunnel exit came upon them, and Mickey felt his shoulders relax. He took the bridges, by preference. He liked having somewhere to go in an emergency, even if it was over the side. Ex-Navy SEALS swam like fish. "If youíre expecting serious trouble, Iíve got serious weaponry in back."
"Good." Robert stared at the scanner. The motorcycle was out of range. "Head for Harbor Drive, the warehouse is a mile south of here."