“You’re completely safe,” Danny McGuire told David. “If she tries anything, we’ll be there in an instant.”
But David Ishag didn’t feel safe. Not just because Interpol being there “in an instant” might not be quick enough. It could take less than “an instant” for a bullet to penetrate his skull or a kitchen knife to puncture his aorta. But because the real tragedy of all this, the thing he feared most, had already happened. He had lost Sarah Jane. Worse than that, he never really had her in the first place. Sarah Jane, his Sarah Jane, didn’t exist.
Even now, in the face of overwhelming damning evidence of her guilt—even without the audiotapes, David Ishag had seen McGuire’s pictures of the other widows, and the resemblances were too striking to ignore—he couldn’t fully make himself believe it. Sarah Jane had looked so heartbreakingly sexy in that negligee this morning. She’d sounded so vulnerable when he hadn’t been able to bring himself to laugh at her jokes, or even look at her properly when she spoke to him. Part of him, a big part, still wanted to tell Danny McGuire and Interpol and the rest of the world to go fuck themselves. To take Sarah Jane to bed, make love to her the way he used to and afterward simply ask her about the man on the tape and the lies she’d told him. Challenge her face-to-face to explain herself and give him a rational explanation.
And she would explain herself and apologize, and David would forgive her, and someone else would have committed these dreadful murders, not Sarah Jane, and they’d live happily ever after.
His car phone rang, shattering the fantasy.
“So we’re still set for an eight o’clock start tonight.” Danny McGuire sounded almost excited, as if they were talking about a kick-off at a football game and not an attempt on David’s life. “No last-minute changes. That’s good.”
“You picked all that up, then? At breakfast.”
“Clear as a bell.”
David thought, At least the bugging devices are working properly. The only thing more terrifying than going through with tonight’s plan would be going through it with technical hitches.
Danny McGuire said, “Try to relax. I know it doesn’t feel that way, but you’re perfectly safe in there. We’ve got your back.”
“I’ll try to remember that this evening when my wife’s boyfriend starts lunging at my jugular with a sharpened machete.” David laughed weakly.
“You’re doing the right thing. Come tomorrow morning, this will all be over.”
David Ishag hung up the phone and swallowed hard. He knew that if he allowed himself to cry once, the tears would never stop.
“This will all be over.”
No, it won’t.
For David Ishag, the pain of Sarah Jane’s betrayal would never be over. Without her, he might as well be dead.
AT SIX P.M., DANNY MCGUIRE SAT in the back of the transit van, dividing his attention between the screen in front of him and today’s London Times crossword puzzle on his iPad. It was Richard Sturi, the statistician, who’d gotten him hooked on British-style crosswords and Danny had quickly become a junkie. They helped relieve the stress and loneliness of running Operation Azrael, helped him forget how much he missed home and Céline, helped him block out the fear about the state his marriage might be in once this operation was finally over.
The London Times puzzle was usually the most challenging, far superior to that of the New York Times or Le Figaro, but today’s setter seemed to be having an off day.
One across: Wet yarn I entangled.
As anagrams went, it was laughably easy. As Danny typed in the answer—R-a-i-n-y—his mind started to wander. When had he last been in the rain? A month ago? Longer? It rained a lot in Lyon. Here in Mumbai the sun was relentless, beating down punishingly on the sticky, humid city from dawn till dusk.
“Sir.” Ajay Jassal, a surveillance operative on loan from the Indians, tapped Danny on the shoulder. “The catering van. That’s not the usual driver.”
Danny was alert in an instant. “Zoom in.”
Jassal was eagle-eyed. Even up close, it was tough to make out the van driver’s features on the fuzzy green screen. It didn’t help that he was wearing a cap and had one hand covering the lower part of his face as he waited for the service gates to open.
“You’re quite sure it’s a different driver?”
The young Indian looked at Danny McGuire curiously, as if he were blind. “Yes, sir. Quite sure. Look at his arms, sir. That is a white man.”
Danny’s pulse quickened. Ajay Jassal was right. The arm dangling out of the driver’s-side window was a distinctly paler shade of green than that of the rear gatekeeper waving him into the compound.
Was this him? Was this the killer?
Was the face beneath that cap the face of Lyle Renalto, aka Frankie Mancini?
Have we got him at last?
The barrier lifted. Lurching forward, the driver put both hands back on the wheel, turning slightly to the side as he did so. For the first time Danny McGuire got a good look at his face.
“I don’t believe it,” he whispered.
“I do not fucking believe it.”
“You know the man, sir? You’ve seen him before?”
“Oh yeah.” Danny nodded. “I know the man.”
It wasn’t Lyle Renalto.
DAVID ISHAG PULLED INTO HIS UNDERGROUND garage. The clock on the dashboard said 7:30 P.M.
In five minutes, I’ll see Sarah Jane.
In half an hour, we’ll have dinner together.
By midnight, she’ll have tried to kill me.
None of it felt real, except his nerves. The tight knot in his stomach, the sweat running down his back. Mentally he ran over the plan again. He would go inside and act as natural as possible around Sarah Jane. They would have dinner. By nine o’clock it would be safe for David to go up to bed. At some point Sarah Jane would join him, and soon afterward her mysterious accomplice would presumably burst in. David’s job then was to feign a heart attack, momentarily confusing his would-be killers and hopefully buying enough time for McGuire and his men to show up and make their arrests.
Raj, David’s valet, greeted him as calmly as ever. “Good evening, sir. How was your day?”
None of the staff knew what was going on, for their own safety. David trusted Raj implicitly, but Danny McGuire had been insistent on total secrecy.
“It was fine, thank you, Raj. Is Mrs. Ishag at home?”
Please say no. She’s gone out. She’s changed her mind. She couldn’t go through with it after all.
“She’s in the drawing room, sir. Waiting for you.”
When David walked in, Sarah Jane was facing the window, her back to him. She was wearing a long scarlet jersey dress with a scooped back that David had bought for her in Paris, on their honeymoon. Her hair was piled up in loose coils on top of her head. She looked stunning.
“You dressed up.”
She turned and smiled at him shyly. “I thought I’d make an effort for once. Do you like it?”
David’s throat went dry. “You look incredible.”
Walking over to him, Sarah Jane wrapped her arms around his neck. “Thanks.” She kissed him tenderly on the lips and David felt his resolve weaken. He tried to think about the photographs of the other Azrael widows, Sarah Jane’s alter egos; about her voice on the police tape, plotting his death. But both those things felt like a dream, utterly unconnected with the real Sarah Jane, the Sarah Jane whose soft lips now pressed against his own.
Was it possible to love someone you knew was going to try to murder you?
“Shall we eat?”
BACK IN THE SURVEILLANCE VAN, DANNY McGuire’s mind was racing.
The “new” delivery driver was not Lyle Renalto, as he’d half hoped, half expected.
The new driver was Matthew Daley.
Danny’s thoughts lurched wildly from past to present, questioning everything. Could Daley really be involved? Could he be Azrael’s accomplice?
Every instinct in him told him that this wasn’t possible. Matt Daley hadn’t met the woman now calling herself Sarah Jane Ishag till her most recent previous incarnation as Lisa Baring. And that meeting had happened after Miles Baring’s murder, a crime Matt couldn’t have committed because was in L.A. at the time.
What did Danny McGuire actually know about Matthew Daley? Only what Matt had chosen to tell him. That he was a writer from Los Angeles, that he had a sister called Claire and an ex-wife called Raquel and that he was Andrew Jakes’s biological son. The sister was real enough. Danny had met her. As for the rest of the story, McGuire had taken it all on trust. What if it was all bullshit?
Forcing himself to calm down, Danny tried to analyze things rationally.
Let’s say what he told me was true. Let’s say he really is Jakes’s son.