Lisa stroked his cheek tenderly. “You don’t really believe that, do you?”
“Yes. I do.”
“But what if someone’s past is a nightmare. What if it’s worse than you can possibly imagine? What if it’s unforgivable?”
“Nothing’s unforgivable.” Matt reached for her. “I’m not in love with your past, Lisa. I’m in love with you.”
Their lovemaking was more restrained than it had been the previous night. Less explosive, but closer, more tender. If Matt had had any doubts about Lisa’s feelings, they evaporated at the touch of her hand, the caress of her lips on his skin, his hair, the soft, lulling cadence of her voice. I love you, Matt. I love you.
Afterward Matt called room service and ordered two whiskeys. It was very late, past one, but both of their minds were racing.
Matt spoke first. “Let’s run away together.”
Lisa laughed. She adored Matt’s sense of humor. She’d laughed more since meeting him than at any time she could remember, despite the desperate circumstances.
“I’m serious. Let’s take off.”
“We can’t,” said Lisa, putting a finger to Matt’s lips.
“Sure we can. We can do whatever we want.”
“Shhh.” Lisa snuggled into him, her heavy eyes at last beginning to close.
“I’m serious,” said Matt.
“So am I. Now go to sleep.”
BY THE TIME LISA OPENED HER eyes, Matt was already at the desk, hammering away at his laptop. He’d had the forethought to have Mrs. Harcourt send over both his and Lisa’s computers from Bali in the Barings’ private plane, along with a small case of clothes and other essentials. They’d arrived at the Peninsula overnight.
Lisa watched him work, naked except for a small white towel knotted at his waist. He’s so beautiful, she thought with a pang. Not model handsome like some of the men she’d known over the years, but sexy in his own warm, loving, quirky way. She allowed herself a moment’s fantasy: she and Matt, married, happy, living far away from Hong Kong, far away from the rest of the world. Safe. Free. Together.
Catching her staring, Matt looked up and smiled. “Breakfast?”
Lisa grinned. “Sure. I’m starving.”
They ordered fresh fruit salad and croissants with hot coffee and a side of crispy bacon for Matt. Lisa ate hers in bed, but Matt remained glued to the screen.
“What are you doing?” she asked him eventually, spooning the last of the honey onto her third croissant and biting into it greedily.
“I told you last night,” said Matt. “Planning our escape.”
“And I told you last night,” said Lisa. “We can’t just disappear together. Inspector Liu only released me from custody on condition that I stay in Hong Kong. Remember what John Crowley said last night? Don’t give him any ammunition. It’s vital that we play things by the book.”
Matt closed his computer. “Screw John Crowley.”
“Matt, come on. The jealous boyfriend shtick’s cute and all, but this is serious.”
“I know it is. Lisa, the Chinese police are trying to frame you for Miles’s murder. They’ve already got Interpol buying into their theory, that you and your mystery boyfriend staged the whole thing. Just because Liu hasn’t charged you yet doesn’t mean he’s not going to.”
“But he’s got no evidence.”
“Sure he has evidence. It’s circumstantial, and it’s bullshit, but convictions have been built on less, believe me. If you continue to refuse to name this other guy—”
“We’ve been through that.” Lisa sounded exasperated.
“I know. I’m not trying to change your mind. I’m simply stating the fact that they don’t have him, but they do have you. And a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Liu knows that the American, British and French police were all left with a fistful of feathers. He won’t let you go till he’s made something stick.”
Lisa hesitated. It wasn’t that the idea of running away with Matt Daley wasn’t appealing. It was wonderful, a fantasy, a dream. But it couldn’t be done. Could it?
“Every day we stay here, we’re like sitting ducks,” said Matt. “Either for Liu or for the killer, whoever he is. Is that what you want?”
No. You’re right. It’s not what I want. But my life isn’t about what I want. It’s about what I have to do. My duty. My destiny.
“If I run, I’ll look guilty.”
“You look guilty now, angel. I’m afraid that’s part of the problem. The tabloids already hate you.”
“Thanks a lot!” Lisa tried to make light of it, but the laugh caught in her throat. Matt walked over to the bed and kissed her.
“I’m just being realistic.”
“I know you are.” Lisa pushed aside her breakfast. She wasn’t hungry anymore. “So what do we do? Theoretically, I mean, in this grand escape plan of yours. Where would we go?”
Grabbing his laptop from the desk, Matt brought it over to the bed. He clicked open a map of the world.
“You tell me.”
He wanted to pick somewhere special, someplace that Lisa had happy memories of. But he realized when he woke up this morning that he still knew next to nothing about Lisa’s life before she met Miles. She was American, raised in New York. Her parents were both dead and she had no family, save for one estranged sister. She was obviously well traveled. Her conversation was peppered with references to Europe and North Africa. And at some point she’d taken a job in Asia, where she’d met Miles. But that was it. If she had roots anywhere, Matt didn’t know about them.
“Where do you think you’d be happy?”
Where would I be happy? I’ve been to so many wonderful places. Rome, Paris, London, New York. I’ve soaked up the sun on a Malibu beach and swum in the Mediterranean off the Italian Riviera. But have I ever truly been happy?
“Anywhere significant. Anywhere that means somewhere to you…outside of the States, obviously. I don’t think it’d be the smartest move for either of us to go back there.”
Lisa stared at the map, her mind a blank. Then suddenly the answer came to her, as blindingly obvious as the nose on her face. She stroked the screen lovingly with her finger.
“Morocco. I’d like to go to Morocco.”
I’M NOT HAPPY ABOUT THIS, MCGUIRE. Not happy at all.”
Henri Frémeaux didn’t look happy. Then again, Henri Frémeaux never looked happy.
“I understand that, sir.”
“We are here to assist and facilitate. Assist and facilitate. Which part of those two words do you not understand?”
“I do understand, sir.”
“Oh, really? Then why do I find myself on the receiving end of an extremely tense telephone call with Hong Kong’s chief of police, informing me that the Azrael team has been obstructive, difficult and unavailable, and that…”—he consulted his notes—“Inspector Liu cannot even get his phone calls returned.”
“With all due respect, sir, Liu asked me to ‘assist’ him by liaising with the Indonesian authorities. I was in the process of doing that when he decided to take matters into his own hands, arresting at least one innocent American citizen and possibly two. The legality of his actions was dubious at best.”
“I’m not here to pass judgment on how the Hong Kong Chinese conduct their affairs!” Frémeaux shot back angrily. “My job is to see to it that we, Interpol, are doing our job. These protocols exist for a reason, you know.”
Yeah, thought Danny, to satisfy uptight pen pushers like you.
Still, he could understand Henri Frémeaux’s irritation. So far the Azrael task force had made little or no headway, other than Richard Sturi’s brilliant statistical analysis; but without any forthcoming arrest on the horizon, that too was academic. Azrael had also taken up a phenomenal amount of time and resources, far more than the eight man-hours Frémeaux had grudgingly allotted. It was mostly Danny McGuire’s time, although Danny had just sent Claude Demartin on a fact-finding mission to Aix-en-Provence to delve deeper into the scant DNA evidence surrounding Didier Anjou’s murder. Thank God Frémeaux doesn’t know about that yet. Or about Matt Daley’s involvement in the Hong Kong fiasco. Then we’d really be up shit creek.
“I’ll give you a month, McGuire,” Henri Frémeaux grunted. “That’s assuming I get no more calls from member countries complaining about your attitude.”
“You won’t, sir. I guarantee it.”
“If I don’t see tangible progress in that time—and by tangible I mean something that justifies the money we’re spending chasing our tails—Azrael is finished.”
Danny McGuire walked back to his own office despondent. Céline was barely talking to him. At work, his own IRT division, who had always been extremely loyal to him personally, was starting to get pissed at the amount of time he was devoting to Azrael, which most of them considered to be the wildest of wild-goose chases. When he started all this, he’d thought of Matt Daley as a partner, a fellow American who cared about catching the Jakes killer, as Danny still thought of him, as much as he did. But now even Matt had deserted him, apparently besotted by the beautiful Mrs. Baring, the latest of the widows. It was a long time since Danny McGuire had felt this alone. Not since the wilderness years, after Angela Jakes went missing.