"Shouldnít there be a watchman or something?" Suzy asked anxiously.
"One would think so," Ann replied grimly.
They were sitting on Annís motorcycle across the street from the gate of Liberty State Park in Jersey City. There was a chain across the roadway, but there was room on the outer sides to get the motorcycle around. Even this late at night there should have been signs of someone around, either here near the gatehouse or down at the big museum. Ann prayed the dark silence was due to the bribery of underpaid staffers rather than violence.
"Hang on," she told Suzy through the helmet radios as she opened the throttle. "Keep your knees in."
Suzy tightened her hold on the leather-clad back of her sister. They had both changed clothes at Annís house, Suzy digging around in Annís things for more knock-about stuff than sheíd been wearing. Ann had changed into an unrelieved black that made Suzy a little nervous. That gun had gone back into its belt holster and into the waist of her jeans. Suzy could feel it as she held on as Ann wove the bike around the barrier stanchions.
Then there was whatever was in that small gym bag Ann had brought up from the basement as Suzy had waited next to the bike. It had been stashed in one of the bikeís saddle bags, and from the way it moved, it was heavy. Suzy didnít ask, she didnít think she needed to. She fought back tears, instead, that people she loved were becoming strangers.
Half the street lights inside the park were burned out. Ann couldnít decide if she wanted more light or should have found a way to deactivate the always-on headlight on the bike. She took the first side road she could to get out of sight of the street and any passing authorities.
The roads led down to the Harbor and several large docks for the ferries out to Liberty Island. Barely a mile off shore, Lady Liberty herself was glowing in her lights. It was so bright it cast shadows on shore.
Ann killed the power and coasted the darkened bike into the shadows of a maintenance shed to park. Suzy hopped off the back and pulled her helmet off.
The sound of the water lapping against the pier pilings almost drowned out the distant traffic. Otherwise, the park was quiet. Ann joined Suzy and studied everything she could see.
"What are they waiting for?" Suzy whispered nervously.
"I donít know." Ann stared out at Liberty Island. "Are we supposed to hotwire a ferry?"
Suzy giggled. "Iíve always wanted to drive one."
Ann looked around one more time, then went to the bike and opened the saddle bag. "Here," she said, reaching into the gym bag she brought and pulling out something heavy.
Suzy took it and saw it was a very elaborate pair of binoculars. "Whatís this."
"Low-light scope. One of Robertís toys."
Suzy started to scan the night, then she saw the other item from the gym bag. "Oh, Annie .."
"I know." Ann stared at the heavy submachine gun in her hand. She had lots of ammo for it, and just holding it made her ill.
"Do you know how to use it?" Suzy whispered.
"Yes. Robertís taught me how to use everything in the house."
"Everything? Christ, Annie, what elseó"
"Please, Suzy, not now!" Commanding her stomach quiet, she shoved a long clip into the gun and stashed the four spares in pockets on her thighs.
"Donít you think youíre taking the Linda Hamilton routine a little far?" Suzy persisted.
"We donít know whatís out there, Suze. You saw what happened this morning! Somethingís going to happen tonight, and it wonít be pretty."
"Then we shouldnít be here! Call Robert or Control, let them deal with this."
"Chao Tsu said ó"
A crunch of gravel cut them off, and they turned to study the night. There was movement on the far side of the ferry parking lot. Ann raised the MAC-10 and aimed.
"We see you," she said curtly. "Come out."
An old man in the ragged clothes of the street scuttled into the light of a distant lamppost. He studied the women uneasily. "Is ó is one of you named Johnson?"
The women glanced at each other. "What of it?" Ann asked, not lowering the gun.
"I was told to give a woman named Johnson a message."
The man drew himself up. "Only to the right person."
Suzy shrugged. "Good work ethic. Iím Johnson."
The man sidled closer. "I was told you was good with boats."
The girl who had out sailed all the boys at a Boy Scout-Girl Scout regatta on Long Island Sound shrugged. "I manage. Why?"
"Christ," Ann muttered, "are we supposed to hotwire a ferry after all?"
"Thereís a boat down here," the old man beckoned. Suzy followed, and Ann took the rear, watching all the shadows.
Near the ferry wharfs was a landing for smaller official boats. Tied up there was a small cabin cruiser with in-board engine. The old man held a key out to Suzy. She took it gingerly. Ann tried to look everywhere at once.
"Now what?" Suzy asked.
"Donít know," said the old man. "Lady gave me fifty bucks to give you the key to the boat. You got the key. Iím going."
"Wait," Ann said. "What lady?" The old man only waved and kept walking. "Well, hell."
Suzy stared at the key, then at the boat, then across the dark harbor towards the glowing statue on her island. "I can do it, the harborís still tonight."
Ann found her hands shaking as she remembered driving into Queens on a mission she knew was stupidly dangerous. "It might not even be Chao Tsu out there."
"What? Who else would bother?" Suzy swallowed as she remembered that morning. "That what should we do?"
Ann weighted logic, loyalty, and good sense. "Give me your phone."
"Who are you going to call?"
"This is over our heads. Iím calling Robert."
"Oh, thank God."
The source of Chao Tsuís phone call was a rundown warehouse with a For Lease sign on it. Mickey hopped out of the van to pick the lock on the chain holding the gate closed, and Robert rolled the vehicle through with the lights off. Mickey carefully closed the gate behind them.
Robert stopped the van short of the doors of the building. Mickey joined him in a perusal of the surroundings.
"Somebodyís been and gone," Mickey observed, pointing to tire tracks.
Robert nodded. "But has anyone stayed?"
"We go in?"
"We go in."
They circled the building and found a likely entry point on the far side: a broken window that looked into an empty office. Mickey reached in and snapped the latch, opened it for Robert to climb through, then followed.
They stood and listened for a long time, then moved out. There was silence from the warehouse proper, but they took their time.
Cigarette smoke hung in the air, overlying the smell of Oriental spices. There was another smell, a metallic smell too familiar to men who had made their livings on battlefields. As they wound their way among boxes in long aisles, they finally heard a noise, a faint moaning.
Robert gestured Mickey to cover him as he followed the sound. In the center of the warehouse, housekeeping had been set up, with a cot, a Coleman stove, and a small television plugged into an extension cord. But lying on the floor was a man clutching his abdomen as a pool of red grew slowly larger. Robert knelt swiftly at his side. The man looked up painfully.
"Weh Hong?" Robert said in surprise. "Good God, man, what happened?"
Chao Tsuís maitre dí gasped for air. "Theyíve gone after her."
"Who?" Robert tried to move Weh Hongís hands so he could see the wound. "Is there a phone, Weh Hong? We must get you to a doctor."
"No phone. No doctor. Help her."
"Chao Tsu? Where has she gone?" Robert finally got a look at the wound. Over his shoulder, Mickey grunted at sight of the gaping gut wound. "Who did this to you?"
"Chin," Weh Hong gasped, fighting harder to stay alert. "Heís gone after her." He clutched at Robert. "I told him, Lord forgive me. I told him she was here. I brought them. And see how Iím repaid." He fell back, the breath beginning to rasp in his throat.
"Where did they go, elder brother?" Mickey asked in Cantonese. "Where did Chao Tsu go?"
"The lady ..." the dying man gasped. "The lady inóin the harbor." The last effort was too much. He gurgled, then went limp.
"Damn," Robert muttered. He closed Weh Hongís eyes. "Damn it to hell."
"So much for the kindly father looking for his long-lost daughter," Mickey said grimly.
"Yes. The lady in the harbor. Are you thinking what I am?"
"Liberty Island. Weíll need to find a boat."
Robert got to his feet and stared down at the man heíd known. "Call Control. Maybe we can get some help from Governorís Island. Iíll look around in here for anything usefulówhat the hell?" he muttered as his beeper vibrated. He yanked it out and glared at the display. "About time, ladies," he snapped, heading for the doors.
"What?" Mickey demanded as he followed.
"Suzyís cell phone. Theyíve decided to call in."
Robert grabbed Mickeyís car phone and punched in the number. It rang several times, and Annís voice was scared but defiant when she said "Hello?"
"Where the hell are you?" Robert asked as quietly as he could.
"Liberty State Park," she answered obediently. "Chao Tsuís alive, Robert. She called us, asked us to meet her out on Liberty Island. Thereís a boat here, but this stinks to high heaven."
Robert signaled Mickey to take the driverís seat. "Is anyone else there?"
Ann kept scanning the darkness in the park. "No one I can see. Are you coming?"
"Oh, yes, weíre on our way. Weíll be there in ó" a glance at the speedometer changed his estimate "óten minutes."
Robertís patience snapped. "Madam, I have been tracking you ever since I got back to Suzyís and found out you two had slipped the leashóagain. I tracked you to the bank and I tracked you to Jersey, and if you dare take a step away from where you are at this moment, no court in the land will hold me liable for what I do. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, sir," Ann answered in a tiny voice. "Weíll be here."
"I donít care if the second coming of Christ is announced in Hoboken, you will stay put."
"We will. The gateís locked."
"Not for long."
"Weíre by the ferry docks."
"Can I hang up now?"
Robertís lips twitched. "Yes."
Ann turned off the phone and handed it back to Suzy. "I am in so much trouble."
"He wouldnítódo anything, would he?" Suzy asked.
"Other than scold, no." She remembered her husbandís tone of voice. "Though thatís bad enough."
The lock on the gate was no challenge, especially as Robert took a handy crowbar to it. Better a lock than his wife. Mickey switched off the lights as they drove through the park. The parking lot next to the ferry docks was empty.
"She didnít," Mickey said in disbelief.
"No," Robert replied slowly. "She wouldnít." He got out of the stopped van, pulled his gun, and looked around slowly. A short whistle from the shadows caught his attention. He whirled and saw Ann and Suzy by Annís motorcycle. "Over here."
Ann watched very anxiously as Robert and Mickey came to join them. Her husband looked furious. Not that he didnít have reason, but she hated getting yelled at. He was making no pretence about glaring at her as he walked up, and she had to duck her head.
"Excuse us," he said tersely to Mickey and Suzy, and he took Annís arm to draw her away.
"Oh, dear," Suzy said.
"Youíre damned right, oh, dear," Mickey snapped. "For a couple of smart women, you two can be real dumb."
Robert stopped just out of earshot. He stared at Ann, and she was dismayed to see grave disappointment as well as anger.
"Iím sorry," she offered in a small voice.
"Sorry," he muttered. "Please tell me, Ann, what I have ever done to make you think you canít trust me?"
"What? Oh, god, no, itís not that. I trust you to the graveóand beyond, probably, if there is one."
"Then why?" he asked softly. "Why run off like this? I assume it was your idea."
"It was Chao Tsuís, actually. Robert, sheís alive, she called us."
"She did call you? You talked to her?"
Ann stared at him. "You knew? And you didnít say anything!"
Robert squeezed her shoulder. "I just figured it out. I couldnít think of anyone else who would make you be this stupid." Ann had the grace to blush. He sighed. "Was it Han Lin in the restaurant?"
She looked up. "Yes, it was. Iím sorry," she added softly. He shook his head, but she reached up to touch his face. "Chao Tsu said she came to kill her."
He tried to push away the foolish grief and the memories of a voice and eyes and grace. "It doesnít matter," he said brusquely. "Did she tell you about the bank?"
"Yes. How do you know all this?"
"Legwork and witnesses and deductive reasoning. Iíll tell you later. Right now we have to figure out what to do. You have the letters?"
"Let me see them."
She hesitated. "Chao Tsu said her life depended on having those letters as a bargaining chip. What do you intend to do with them?"
He stared at her for a long moment. "Is that what decided you not to call me? That you couldnít trust me with those papers?"
He took a deep breath. "You thought Iíd just turn them, and, if possible, her, over to Control? Is that the kind of lap dog you think I am? Very flattering, my wife," he said bitterly.
There was nothing she could say to deny it. "What are you going to do?"
Robert stared out at Miss Liberty in the harbor. Heíd thought Ann at least respected his sense of honor. He wrestled with the hurt and wondered if the bitterness he tasted was the taste of happiness dying.
The look on his face terrified her. "I didnít want to make you choose between your loyalties," she said softly. "Iíve seen what it does to you. I thought, if the question never came up, you wouldnít have to decide between your duty to your old job and your loyalty to a friend."
He closed his eyes. "You were trying to spare me?"
Ann shrugged. "Chao Tsu asked for my help. And there was the chance to thwart some scheme of Controlís. For me it was a win-win situation."
Robert fought back laughing out loud in relief. "My love, I have hindered more of his schemes than I have helped. He and I always disagree on methods. I would have been delighted to help."
"You would?" She subsided at the glare she got.
"Yes. And did it occur to you how dangerous this is?"
"Well, yes ...
"And did you think I could blithely ignore the kind of trouble you could be in? I like to think I love you as much as you do me, and I know how you worry. Ever since I found out you sneaked away from Sterno Iíve been trying not to think about you being grabbed and ó"
He broke off, both for the look on her face and his memories.
"Thatís why I called you," she said in a small voice after a moment. "Chao Tsu wants us to meet her on Liberty Island, and oh, god, I know itís another trap ..."
"Sh-h." He finally hugged her, and if the squeeze was more than half from aggravation, neither cared. "Will you please let me help? All I want is to make sure this is settled with you safe, and if Chao Tsu can be safe as well, all the better. All right?"
"All right." She felt a huge surge of relief. "Youíre not mad at me?"
"My dear woman, Iím positively furious with you, and if I spend the next few months keeping close tabs on you, youíve only yourself to blame. Now letís go compare notes."
Mickey took a deep breath as Robert and Ann approached, but Ann stopped him. "Iíve already been yelled at, thank you very much. I have no desire to go through it again."
"Humph," Mickey said. "Are we going home now or what?"
Suzy dared to clear her throat. "Chao Tsuís waiting for us." She nodded at the Statue of Liberty.
Ann reached under her leather jacket and pulled out an envelope. "Here," she said, handing it to Robert. "The reason for it all."
Robert sighed as he looked in at the thin papers. "I doubt itís worth two peopleís lives."
"Two?" Suzy asked.
Robert looked at the women gravely. "Weh Hong is dead."
"What?" Ann demanded. "When?"
"About twenty minutes ago, in the warehouse Chao Tsu called you from. He saw it was Chin."
"Butóhe said he was on her side."
"Did he? Iím not even sure we should believe heís her father. And even if he is, I donít know that heíd choose to risk his career and his life for her."
Ann shook her head in disbelief. "Then what do we do?"
Robert stared at Liberty Island. "Finish it. Mickey, get ready to move out, then check that boat."
"Right." Mickey headed for his van.
Robert turned to the women. "Weíre going with you," Suzy said first. "Sheís expecting us."
"And Iíd feel safer with you," Ann admitted.
"I donít know if I can protect you adequately," Robert said unhappily.
Ann smiled faintly and went to the bike. "Sisters are doiní it for themselves." She unhooked the MAC-10's carrying strap off the handlebars and slung it on her shoulder.
Robert studied her with pride tempered by dismay. "I never meant to turn you into this, my darling."
"The kind of woman who can stand beside you during trouble?" She went to kiss him. "I never meant to be anything else."
He held her very close.
Suzy would have smiled, but she was too scared. "Is it going to be just us doing this? Shouldnít we tell someone about Weh Hong and this Chin guy?"
Robert remembered his plan to call Control for backup from Governorís Island. "When were you supposed to meet her out there?"
"As soon as possible, was all she said," Ann told him. "She said something about arranging transport but she has to be there waiting."
"Sheís waiting for someone out there, is she? Then weíre under a time constraint. Damn."
Mickey rejoined them, carrying an Uzi and something bigger. "Here you go," he told Robert as he handed over the Uzi. "How many clips do you want?"
"How many do you have?" Robert accepted a handful and stashed them about his person.
Mickey looked at the women assessingly. His eyebrows twitched when he saw the gun on Annís shoulder. "You got enough ammo for that thing?"
"Four clips on semi-auto. If itís not enough, too bad."
Ann patted her hip. "Yes." She glanced over as Suzy made a faint noise of protest. "I know, love. Donít go if you donít want to."
Suzy clung to her composure. "Iím sure as hell not staying here alone. Itís justóitís been a hell of a day. Iím not sure I know you anymore."
"This was always in me, sis," Ann told her. Robert and Mickey stepped away to give them some privacy.
Suzy glanced at the men. "They expect this of you, donít they?"
"No. Robert would be much happier if I would let him do this sort of thing. Mickeyís just a little nuts."
"How many times have you been shot at?"
"Lord." She remembered them clearly. "My old boss, that jerk Sandahl, Cousin Mark at the bank, last night, this morning ... Angmar."
"And how many of them wouldnít have happened if you hadnít met Robert?"
Ann stared at Suzy for several seconds. "All but the one that would have killed me."
Suzy nodded reluctantly. "I donít want you hurt. Physically or mentally."
"I know." Ann hugged her one-armed, her off-hand steadying the MAC-10. "But to grow youíve got to risk hurt."
The lawyer didnít relax. She studied her sister gravely and asked that last question. "Have you killed anyone?" she whispered.
Ann flinched and looked away. Suzy grabbed her shoulders when she would have moved away. The sounds replayed in her mind: the nun chuks slicing through the air, the surprisingly dull thunk of the impact with the skull, the manís faint gasp of shock. And she remembered riding the rebound to pull the chuks back and to swing again as she made sure.
"Who?" Suzy asked faintly.
"One of Angmarís men," Ann finally answered, staring into the distance. "He stopped me getting to the van and getting away. Self-defense, I guess." She didnít know about the second man, the one sheíd throat punched as heíd helped drag her from her overturned van at the end of the chase. She didnít remember that instinctive fight, and Robert didnít think she needed to be reminded. A cornered wolf is not to blame for defending itself.
Suzy pulled Ann into a hug, ignoring the chunks of metal she felt. Ann wrapped her arms around her and tried to control the tears. "I was afraid youíd hate me if you knew. I remember everything we believed in, and it doesnít work anymore."
"I could never hate you, Annie." Suzy pulled back to look at her. "But I am scared for you."
"I am always careful. Robertís always careful. And forgive me if Iím depending on you to keep me sane."
"Iíll be here to pull you in if I have to," Suzy promised. "And it strikes me you might be needing legal counsel more often in the future."
Ann laughed in relief. "You may be right." She shook herself, calling to mind the seriousness of the nightís work. "We have another sisterís butt to save."
"Right, Iíll stay behind you three."
"Well, Iíll be behind those two." Ann turned to look for Mickey and Robert. The men were near the boat. Robert apparently watched Mickey confirm the boatís seaworthiness, but his attention was evenly divided between keeping watch on the park, the harbor, and the women. He straightened as they approached. Ann kissed him briefly, careful not to tie up his gun handóor hers.
"It checks out," Mickey called, straightening from his examination of the steering linkages. "Iíd like to go over the side and check the hull, but I donít have a wet suit or dry clothes. Whatís the plan?" he asked Robert.
"Thereís something going on over there," Robert said, scanning Liberty Island once again with the night scope. "I can see the superintendentís post, and itís dark. They live out there, so I hope they decided to do an evening on the town."
"Thereís no one on duty here," Suzy said, gesturing at the park. "But it doesnít look like thereís been trouble."
Mickey studied her seriously. "Would you recognize trouble?"
Suzy smiled faintly. "I grew up near Bedford-Sty. I recognize trouble."
"Cool. We all going?"
"Yes," Robert said. "Ladies? I hope you donít mind if Mickey drives. I know of no one better with small boats." He noted the amused look between Ann and Suzy but there was no time to comment.
Mickey stayed low at the wheel, wary of observers on Liberty Island. It was cold out on the water, and a faint mist stood in the Narrows. While Robert crouched next to Mickey, Ann and Suzy scanned the Harbor for traffic and the Island for activity.
Suzy stared at the giant statue. "Whenís the last time you were out here, sis?"
"Last year," Ann answered as she studied the dock through the night scope. "We helped chaperone Nate's school trip when Abby had to take Elizabeth to the dentist."
Suzy glanced at Robert in surprise, trying to see a man who would traipse along on his nephewís school outing in the aging commando checking over his weaponry. He glanced up and smiled faintly.
"Heís quite Nateís favorite uncle," Ann added. She stiffened. "I see somebody on the dock. Itís a Chinese man."
The atmosphere on the boat tensed. Robert took the scope and scanned the dock. "Itís Harvey Chung," he said in no little surprise. "Mickey, stand off." Mickey eased the throttle back, letting the boat drift to a stop a couple of hundred yards off the island.
"We canít just drift here," Mickey commented.
Robert stared at the man on the dock. "Heís waving us in. Now heís talking to someó" He broke off, then lowered the scope to stare at the island. Silently he handed the scope to Ann.
She stared at the dock and felt her heart thump. "Chao Tsu." Suzy squeaked and reached for the scope. Ann let it go and stared in wonder and doubt. She glanced at Robert and saw her own uncertainty mirrored in his face.
Suzy just stared at the woman on the dock, tears in her eyes. She watched Chao Tsu take Harveyís hand as they consulted anxiously. "Is he the fiancé?"
"Yes," Robert answered. "Howís the current, Mickey?"
"Itís there." Mickey raised the throttle for the power to maintain position. "The tideís going out, too. Make a decision on where we going before we run afoul of the buoys."
There was really no choice. "Head on in to the launch tie-up."
The official launch tie-up spot was empty. Suzy leaped nimbly onto the concrete landing and caught the line Mickey threw her to tie the boat up. Robert nodded for Ann to get out next. She joined Suzy on the dock and stared up the stairs that led to the lawns and buildings.
"Come on," she told Suzy. "Letís meet them instead of them coming to us."
Near the top, Ann paused to listen. The spotlights from the Statue cast convenient shadows. She pulled the MAC-10 around and gently slid the safety off. She took the last few steps slowly, scanning everything she could see. A whispering voice near a clump of trees caught her ear, and she whirled to face that way, gun leveled.
"Donít shoot," Chao Tsu said, coming into the open slowly. She smiled faintly. "Hi, there."
Suzy started forward, but she hesitated. Ann hadnít moved. She still had the gun leveled, and she still surveyed the area suspiciously.
Chao Tsu nodded in resignation, accepting the new conditions of the relationship. "Come on out, sweetheart," she called over her shoulder.
The man from the dock stepped out of concealment in the bushes slowly.
"Harvey Chung," Chao Tsu said, "Suzy Johnson, Ann McCall." Harvey stared at Ann uneasily.
"Your fiancé," Ann said.
"Robert told me."
"You were going to tell us, werenít you?" Suzy asked plaintively.
Chao Tsu sighed. "Eventually."
"Before or after you used those papers to disappear?" Ann asked coldly.
"I understand why youíre angryó"
"Do you?" Ann finally lowered the gun. "We thought you were dead! You let us think you were dead! You used us then and youíre using us now, just to get those damned papers."
"Yes, I let you think I was dead!" Chao Tsu burst out. "It was the only way to keep you safe! They meant to kill you when they shot up your house, Ann. They told me that. Han Lin told me the next bullet wouldnít miss and I was to choose between you or Suzy."
There were too many lies to balance, too many relationships involved. "Han Lin broke cover the day after the shooting to tell Robert that I was safe, that no harm would come to his family."
Chao Tsu looked shocked. "She talked to Robert?"
"Apparently she knew him from before, knew him well enough to know what heíd do if anything happened to me."
Harvey and Chao Tsu looked at each other in dismay. "But," she said hesitantly, "she told me that night that she was looking for him, that if she found him she had specific orders Ö"
"I think she chose to ignore those orders." Ann felt more than a bit grateful.
"But General Chin saidó"
"When the hell did you talk to Chin!"
Chao Tsu stared at her. "This morning."
"How did you find him?"
"When did he know you were alive?" Cold chills climbed Annís spine.
"Oh, my god. Robert!"
Robert came over the top of the stairs from the dock. "I heard."
Chao Tsu stared at him. "Ann, I asked youó"
"Whom should I trust, Chao Tsu, my husband or a woman whoís lied to me from the beginning? Robert, what do we do?"
"We leave, is what we do." He paused to look at Chao Tsu, who was still staring at him in shock. "I am glad youíre not dead. And if youíd just confided in me, we could have done this much more neatly."
Chao Tsu almost dropped in amazement. "Youíd have helped me? But Iím the enemy."
He chuckled, but it was a very tired sound. "You havenít been at this long, have you?"
"All my lifeó!"
"Youíve been trained for just one job," Robert concluded for her. "Infiltration. And youíve only ever done one job." He smiled sadly. "My dear, Iíve seen too many eager, loyal, talented people earmarked for one specific job with only a well-timed sacrifice as their reward." He glanced around the dark island. "And this can be discussed somewhere else. Come along, everyone."
Harvey blinked in confusion. "Butóthere are people coming."
"Iím just sure there are. But do you really want to be here to meet them?"
"But General Chinó" Chao Tsu started.
Ann grabbed her arms. "Last night General Chin sat across a table from me and Robert and told us how much he wanted to avenge your death. Last night, Chao Tsu! And you said he knew you were alive!" She nodded at her friendís gasp of horror as it sunk in. "Wouldnít you really rather trust Robert?"
Robert smiled faintly at his wifeís vehement defense of his trustworthiness. Then he saw Mickey come running up the stairs from the dock at full tilt, with his marksmanís rifle at the ready. Robert felt that awful cold tightness that said events were going to become unpleasant.
"Ladies, Harvey," he said curtly, "timeís up. Weíre moving now, no more arguments."
As the others gaped at him, Robert went to meet Mickey. "Whatís wrong?"
"Boats," Mickey said tersely. "No lights, the night scope makes it three Zodiacs with commandos."
"Bloody hell," Robert muttered.
Ann had come up to listen. "Three boats of commandos? Just for Chao Tsu and the papers?"
Mickey and Robert glanced at each other, then Robert looked at his wife uncertainly, not sure how to put it. Ann looked at him suspiciously, then at Mickey and the way he was holding his rifle.
"Theyíre after you," she whispered.
Robert felt a new chill as he watched it happen: the ruthless defender rising up in Annís eyes as she saw a threat to those she loved. She didnít even look down at the MAC-10 she carried as she found the selector switch and changed it to full auto.
"They wonít be expecting much from us, will they," she commented evenly.
He reacted automatically, reaching down to the gun and shoving the switch firmly back to semi-auto. "Donít waste ammo," he told his fellow warrior, then the husband regained ascendancy. "In fact, donít use it at all. This is a big island to be playing hide and seek on, and they donít dare attract too much attention."
He forestalled argument by pushing Ann towards the trees and Suzy, Harvey and Chao Tsu after. Mickey nodded silently in the direction of some outbuildings and faded off at Robertís answering nod.
Ann was taking point rather than just leading a retreat into the woods. She gave Suzy as much of a reassuring smile as she could with her stomach in knots. Suzy couldnít decide if she should be scared or outraged at the workings of fate. They entered the narrow band of trees, where Ann paused to wait for the others.
Harvey hung back just outside the woods for Chao Tsu, who was waiting for Robert. He finished his scan of the area and frowned when he saw Chao Tsu still in the open.
"Silly woman," he snapped, grabbing her arm and hauling her towards safety.
"You know theyíre after you," she said urgently.
"Yes, I know."
"I didnít tell them."
Some of the grimness lightened as Robert glanced at her. "Thank you. But General Chin didnít need you to."
They reached Harvey, who grabbed Chao Tsuís other arm to hustle her into the trees. Chao Tsu shook herself free once they were under cover. She tugged on Robertís arm. "Han Lin told me she was going to have you picked up. Ann just told me Han Lin went to you herself to tell you nothing was going to happen to you or her. Do you know what she was up to?"
Robert was unwilling to talk about his old lover and adversary, especially with the person who had probably killed her, especially when the old adversary may have been a better ally than heíd ever expected.
Suzy, undistracted by old memories or the necessity of keeping watch, had her own ideas. "Perhaps she thought if you thought she was dealing with Robert, you wouldnít have to, thereby keeping you away from him and removing one avenue of danger."
Chao Tsu began to wonder if somehow a dreadful miscalculation had occurred. "You mean, she never intended to let him Ö But why?"
"Ancient days," Robert said curtly, hoping to finish the subject. He remembered his last sight of Han Lin, cool and elegant and apparently remembering him fondly, and he remembered his first sight of her, an Oriental mystery who had smiled at him with such beautiful eyes. "And younger hearts," he added softly.
Chao Tsu stared at him in disbelief, then glanced at Ann for her reaction. But Ann only watched her husband, sadness in her eyes for his grief.
Robert shook himself and gave Chao Tsu a level look. "Make no mistake, Chao Tsu. If sheíd thought you were any kind of threat, she would have moved against you."
"I wasnít a threat to you."
"But a threat to her? If youíd realized she wasnít going to move against me, as sheíd been ordered? You could have made your own deal with that knowledge."
Ann saw the confusion on Chao Tsuís face and chuckled grimly. "It takes some getting used to, looking at everyone as someone whoís potentially plotting against you."
"But I was trained ..." Chao Tsu said softly.
Harvey hugged her. "So youíre not a good spy. I donít mind."
Robert gave him an approving look. "We need to keep moving, people. That way. The superintendentís house is on the other side of these trees." As everyone began creeping through the shadows, he moved closer to Chao Tsu. "What happened to the superintendent and his family?"
She smiled wanly. "Les Mis tickets and dinner ashore. I saw them off myself."
Ann, just about to step out of cover, stepped back onto Suzyís foot. "Robert," she whispered urgently.
He joined her quickly. She pointed towards the Jersey shore.
A helicopter was headed out to Liberty Island, a long-distance model with extra fuel-tanks. As it got closer, the beam of a spotlight lanced out and probed the shadows of the Island.
"Down!" Robert ordered, shoving Ann towards the dirt. She drug him down with her. The others followed quickly.
"Whose side?" Ann whispered to Robert.
"Iím not expecting anyone, are you?"
"No." The chopper came over the superintendentís house, the light sweeping the trees. "Then you didnít tell Control what was going on?" she asked when sheíd stopped ducking.
He glared at her. "I do occasionally do things without his involvement."
The helicopter settled noisily for a landing on the other side of the trees. Ann stared in that direction anxiously. "Too bad."
Robert crawled back to the others. "The debate society is closed. Youíre all going to do exactly what I tell you with no arguments. Weíre going to split up. Chao Tsu, are you armed?"
Chao Tsu pulled an automatic pistol from under her jacket. Suzy grimaced in resignation.
"Good," Robert continued. "You and Harvey find yourselves somewhere to hide. Ann, you and Suzy do the same." He answered the silent demand in his wifeís eyes. "Iím going to the ranger station to use their radio to get us some help."
Chao Tsu nodded briskly and led Harvey down through the trees towards shore. Ann and Suzy got ready to leave, then Ann glanced over her shoulder.
"If your back-up plan is to trade yourself for our safety," she said calmly, "just remember that I have the resources to follow you."
They disappeared before Robert could protest. He spared a moment to remember Control wishing for the kind of budget Ann had access to, then moved towards the ranger station.
Mickey watched the action at the helicopter through the scope of his rifle. The roof of the visitorís center near the docks gave him a view of most of the shoreward part of the island. He was betting the action would be kept on this side, away from eyes at the Coast Guard station on Governorís Island.
The commandos from the boats had cut the launch adrift, then come up the steps in full assault mode. Mickey would have given an hour of his life to know if their orders were to capture or kill.
He scanned the woods where the others had disappeared. No movement visible, but he kept his sights trained on the pair of soldiers who took up their positions near the trees. One hint that they knew where the birds had flown, and theyíd find out Mickey could qualify for his sniperís badge any time he wanted.
Once the area at the head of the stairs was secured, the helicopter came in and landed. As the rotors slowed, the door opened and General Chin stepped out. The head of the commando unit presented himself and saluted.
Mickey centered the cross hairs on Chinís forehead thoughtfully. He watched the Chinese Intelligence Chief argue angrily with the soldier. Chinís wide dismissing gesture was an obvious order to spread out and find the people who should have been waiting obediently for the trap to be sprung.
It still wasnít certain what game Chin was playing. He was ruthless enough to turn over his only child to his superiors if he felt threatened or if his duty demanded. But he could also be playing a bloody game of protection for his only child. If so, heíd need to make sure no hint of his actions got out to endanger. Hence the death of Weh Hong. He was a witness either way to the cooperation of Chin with Chao Tsu. Regardless, Chin was too good at his job to see the potential capture of Robert McCall as anything but an unexpected bonus.
And so Han Linís involvement. Apparently she still felt affection enough to want to keep Robert safe. Chinís motives for Chao Tsuís safety were irrelevant to Han Lin, and Chao Tsu herself was a potential source of risk if she decided to report Robert to her bosses. She could have traded Robertóand Control and Mickey and half a dozen of the others sheíd metófor her own skin a dozen times over.
Conflicting loyalties and human feelings. Abstract plans formed in strategy meetings always required people for their implementation, and people always developed these inconvenient attachments and biases. More than one intelligence chief, remote and ruthless, had wished for operatives cold and calculating enough to transcend all mortal preferences. It would be a sad day on the front lines of the secret wars if the personal relations and negotiations were swept away. The world was not a chess board, and no plan, however clever, had ever survived meeting reality.
Motion at the tip of the woods distracted Mickey from his thoughts. He focused the scope on the spot and saw two forms just within the trees. So far the commandos hadnít spotted them, and Mickey took up his surveillance again.
"Oh, god," Ann breathed, staring out at the helicopter and the commandos. She counted a dozen heavily armed and armored soldiers, all looking around with every indication of competence, and all of them keeping aware of General Chin by the helicopter.
"All this for little olí us?" Suzy whispered at Annís side.
"Hey, weíre dangerous people. Youíre a lawyer."
The banter didnít hide the mutual awareness of fear and danger. The plan had been to dash across the wide lawn surrounding Lady Liberty and lose themselves in the bushes around the base. But it was a good hundred yards to cross, and there were too many eyes to risk the run.
"If we lay low right here," Suzy whispered, "they wonít think to look so close, will they? Or do they have those night vision thingies?"
"The Statue would wipe them out, if they did. Not a bad plan, sis." Annís voice became grim. "And if one caught us in the woods, we could play helpless long enough for me to get close enough."
Suzy didnít ask "close enough for what?" Instead she pointed to a thicket of bushes that had survived the daily traffic of tourists poking through the woods.