“Let’s say you’re right. Let’s say Sarah Jane has lied about her name and background.”
“That much is a provable fact.”
“Okay, fine. But it doesn’t make her a killer, does it?”
McGuire felt bad for the guy. He didn’t want to believe that his wife was a murderer, any more than Matt Daley wanted to accept that Lisa Baring had conspired in Miles’s death, or than he, Danny, wanted to blame Angela Jakes for her husband’s death all those years ago. Even now, despite knowing what he did, Danny McGuire found that part the hardest to accept. That the Angela Jakes he remembered, that sweet, good-natured, innocent angel of a woman had never really existed. She was a character, an act, a shell. An identity assumed for a purpose—a deadly purpose—just like Tracey Henley was an act, and Irina Anjou and Lisa Baring and now Sarah Jane Ishag.
Angela Jakes’s words on the night of the first murder came floating back to him.
“I have no life.”
If only he’d realized then that she meant it literally. Angela had no life. She didn’t exist, had never existed. And neither did Sarah Jane.
“It makes her an accessory to multiple homicides,” Danny said bluntly. “It also makes her a liar.”
David longed to jump in and defend Sarah’s honor, but what could he say? At a minimum she had lied to him. He clung to the hope that the pictures McGuire sent him of the other Azrael widows would somehow exonerate her, but deep down he knew that they would not. Interpol wouldn’t have sent a senior director to see him if all they had were wild accusations.
Even so, it all sounded so preposterous, so impossible to believe.
McGuire went on: “Clearly, she’s not acting alone. As I said, there’s been a sexual element to all the Azrael killings, with each of the ‘wives’ apparently raped and beaten at the scene. We have clear forensic evidence that a man was present at each homicide. We don’t know whether the rapes were conceived as a cover, to throw us off the scent, or whether violent sex is a part of the motive. This woman, whoever she really is, may get off on the sadomasochistic element.”
David groaned. No, not my Sarah. She loves me. The pain was so intense that he felt it physically, like someone injecting acid into his veins.
“Certainly money does not seem to be the primary motive. Despite the fact that all four prior victims have been wealthy, and their wills altered in their wives’ favor, most of the money has wound up going to children’s charities. May I ask if you and Sarah Jane signed a prenuptial agreement of any kind?”
David stared out of the window bleakly. “No,” he said wearily. “No prenup.”
Sarah Jane’s voice rang in his head: “You might as well have written me a letter saying ‘I don’t trust you.’”
“And your will?”
David put his head in his hands.
It had started out as a joke between them. One night in Paris, in bed in the palatial honeymoon suite at the Georges V, Sarah Jane had teased him for not wanting to make love.
“Is this what I’ve let myself in for, marrying such an old man? Long nights of celibacy?”
“It’s the wine we had at dinner!” David protested. “And then that Château d’Yquem with dessert. It’s done for me.”
Sarah Jane shook her head in mock disappointment. “I knew I should have gone for a younger man. Next time around I’m going for a boy toy.”
“When I’m living the life of a merry widow.”
David grinned and rolled on top of her. “I’ll put a provision in my will. One sniff of a boy toy and you’ll be penniless.”
Sarah Jane laughed, that deep sexy laugh that fired up David’s libido like a blowtorch. In the end, he made love to her that night with more passion than he’d ever felt before. The next morning, thinking back to their banter, he realized guiltily, Shit. She isn’t even in my will. I’d better change it before she has another cow about me not trusting her with money.
He’d faxed the amendments to his attorney the next day.
Danny McGuire asked gently, “Is she sole beneficiary?”
David Ishag nodded. He looked so stricken that for one awful moment Danny McGuire feared he was going to break down in tears.
“I understand how hard this is for you, Mr. Ishag, believe me. I’m truly sorry.” Hard? The understatement was so hilarious, David almost laughed.
“But we need your help if we’re going to catch this woman and the man who’s helping her. We got to you in time. But if Sarah Jane figures out we’re on to her and takes off, her next victim may not be so lucky.”
David Ishag closed his eyes. In a dull, lifeless monotone he asked, “What do you want me to do?”
OUTSIDE, IN THE PUNISHING MUMBAI HEAT, Danny pulled out his BlackBerry and sent a private, encrypted e-mail. It was addressed to Rajit Kapiri of the Indian IB and all six members of the Azrael team, and was cc’d to Henri Frémeaux back in Lyon.
The message read simply: “Ishag’s in. Operation Azrael a go.”
WILL YOU BE LATE TONIGHT, DARLING?”
Sarah Jane Ishag leaned over the breakfast table to kiss her husband. David had been unusually distracted lately. They hadn’t made love in weeks.
Without looking up from the Wall Street Journal, David said, “Hmm? Late? Oh no. I shouldn’t think so.”
Sarah Jane studied his handsome head, with its thick, shining jet-black hair and skin the same shade of cappuccino as her silk La Perla robe. She watched his fingers trace the words of the newspaper article as he read. Everything about him seemed so vital, so alive. For a moment panic gripped her, but she quickly banished it.
“Good. I thought we could make it an early night. I’ll make you some of that horrid chicken noodle soup that you like, with the dumplings.”
David looked up. It was disconcerting the way he stared at her, as if he were seeing her face for the first time.
“Matzo balls,” he said dully.
“Sorry. Matzo balls.” She blushed. “Not much of a Jewish wife, am I?”
A few weeks earlier, on their honeymoon, David would have laughed at that line. Made some joke about Catholic girls being crap in the kitchen but virtuosos in the bedroom. Now he said nothing. He just sat there, staring. Something’s changed.
Inside, she was worried, but she made sure to betray no trace of her anxiety in her tone.
“So if I have dinner ready at eight, you’ll be home?”
“I’ll be home.”
David Ishag kissed her on the cheek and went to work.
TEN MINUTES LATER, BEHIND THE WHEEL of his Range Rover Evoque, David plugged in his MP3 player and listened again to the recording Danny McGuire had given him yesterday.
Sarah Jane’s voice. “We can’t, not yet. I’m not ready.”
A man’s voice, electronically distorted. “Come on, angel. We’ve been through this. We go through it every time. The gods have demanded their sacrifice. The time is now.”
Sarah Jane again. Angry now. “That’s all very easy for you to say, but it’s not the gods that have to do it, is it? It’s me. I’m the one who has to suffer. I’m the one who always suffers.”
“I’ll be gentle this time.”
A strangled sound, half muffled. Was it a laugh? Then Sarah’s voice again.
“He’s different from the others. I don’t know if I can do it.”
“Different? How is he different?”
“He’s younger.” There was a note of desperation in her voice, of pity even. Hearing her made David Ishag’s heart tighten. “He has so much to live for.”
The distorted voice took on a harder edge. “Your sister has a lot to live for too, doesn’t she?”
The line went crackly at this point, and the audio was lost. David had heard the recording fifty, a hundred times now, desperately searching for any meaning other than the obvious one: that his wife and some unknown lover were plotting his murder. Each time he reached this point, he willed the next line to be different. Prayed he would hear Sarah Jane’s voice saying: “No, I can’t, I won’t do it. David’s my husband and I love him. Leave me alone.” But each time, the nightmare recurred exactly as it had before.
“Yes, yes. Friday night.”
“I love you, angel.”
“I love you too.”
With David’s help, Danny McGuire and his team had finally managed to tap in to Sarah Jane’s cell phone, as well as the two pay phones in Dharavi that his men had observed her using. They still hadn’t traced the identity of the man. He was obviously a pro, distorting his voice and using sophisticated blocking software to prevent anyone from accurately tracking his number. But the Ishag mansion was under twenty-four-hour surveillance. Any unidentified male coming within five hundred feet of the place was photographed and, if necessary, stopped and searched.