The lights in the cabin dimmed. Tracy’s fellow passengers began to settle down to sleep. Switching on her reading light, Tracy sipped her coffee instead. Pressing her face against the window for a moment, she looked out into the blackness.
Thoughts of Nicholas came to her then. She could only ever hold them off for so long. Sleep was the worst. As soon as she let herself slip under, the dreams would begin. Strangely, they were never nightmares about the accident. They were always beautiful dreams, snapshots from the past. Blake was in some of them. Jeff was in others. But always there was Nicholas, smiling, laughing, his hand holding Tracy’s, their fingers entwined in love. In Tracy’s dreams she could hear her son, feel him, smell him. He was so real. So alive.
And then she would wake up and the loss would crush her again afresh, like an anvil being dropped onto her heart. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d woken without screaming, or crying out, her hands grasping at the air in front of her as if she could somehow hold on to Nick, reach into her beautiful dreams and pull him back to her . . .
She thought about Jeff.
Did Jeff have dreams like that too?
Was he out there tonight somewhere, soul-dead and hopeless like she was, clawing at the void that Nicholas’s death had left?
Tracy had felt guilty, running out on Jeff. She knew he must be hurting too, desperately. But the truth was she simply didn’t have the strength to see him. Nick had looked so like him, had been so like him. It would be too hard. Besides, in Tracy’s experience, a grief shared was never a grief halved. Human loss was not a team game. Each person dealt with tragedy differently.
Tracy Whitney dealt with it alone.
Turning back to the CIA files, Tracy forced Jeff’s image out of her mind, along with dear Blake Carter’s, and her darling Nick.
There would be time for tears later. A lifetime of tears.
Right now Tracy was going to find the woman who killed her son.
TRACY STORMED OUT ONTO the Rue de la Croix Rouge in a white-hot fury.
A light dusting of new snow covered the sidewalk, and a bitter wind blew as Tracy stalked across the street towards the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre. But her blood was boiling so furiously, she barely felt the cold.
Arrogant asshole! How dare he?
Monsieur Gerald Le Doux, the managing partner of Ronde Suisse Private Bank, had been as sexist, condescending, superior and generally obnoxious as he possibly could be during Tracy’s brief meeting in his office. He reminded her of a Swiss version of Clarence Desmond, the senior vice president at the Fiduciary Bank & Trust in Philadelphia where Tracy had once worked as a computer specialist, a hundred lifetimes ago. Desmond had been seen as a dinosaur even back then, with his constant innuendos and knee patting and “harmless” in-jokes that were very pointedly only for the boys. Yet here was Monsieur Le Doux, at the pinnacle of banking’s new age of modernity and transparency, still flying the flag for entitled chauvinists everywhere.
“How may I help such a beautiful lady?”
“You ladies have your secrets, Miss Whitney, and so must we.”
“I daresay you’re not familiar with our banking laws here in Switzerland, young lady. But I’m under no obligation whatsoever to provide you information about our private clients, still less with video footage.”
“I assume you’ll be shopping while you’re in our beautiful city?”
Hateful little man.
Tracy might have felt better about this fruitless meeting had the rest of her encounters in Geneva been more productive. Her visits to Henry Cranston’s widow, mistress and secretary had all contributed to a picture of a man so thoroughly unpleasant, it was a wonder no one had blown him to smithereens years ago. Between the women he’d betrayed, business partners he’d double crossed and employees he’d bullied, Henry Cranston had a list of enemies as long as both Tracy’s arms. And yet there was nothing, beyond the general nature of his business, to tie him to Althea or Group 99.
However, the latter had now formally claimed responsibility online for his murder, although Althea herself had remained pointedly silent. No cryptic messages had been sent to the CIA, or to Swiss Intelligence. Tracy had done her usual trawl of hotels and guesthouses and a comprehensive computer search of airline, train and car rental records. But Althea, like Henry Cranston’s missing $4 million, had vanished into thin air.
With Greg Walton’s words about “being resourceful” ringing in her ears, Tracy had reached out to two old contacts from her con artist days. Pierre Bonsin was an ex-banker turned occasional thief, although Pierre himself would never have used that word. A wizard with financial models of all kinds and a demon cracker of algorithms, Pierre saw himself as a sort of rogue chess player, outsmarting the machine that was the international banking system. Tracy had asked him to see if he could find any evidence of Althea having been in Ronde’s systems.
She’d asked her other old friend, Jim Cage, a yacht broker and safe-blower by night, whether any of his contacts knew anything about a woman sourcing explosives in the weeks leading up to Cranston’s death.
“She’d be American, educated, attractive and wealthy. Tall, with brown hair, although she may well have disguised her appearance.”
To Tracy’s intense disappointment, both had drawn a blank. Ronde’s systems had indeed been attacked, and potentially compromised.
“Unfortunately it happened four times in the last six weeks,” Pierre Bonsin explained. “Any one of them could have been your girl, but we’ve no way of knowing. This is the age of the hacker, Tracy. You know that. These kinds of cyberattacks are a part of daily life now, for all the big banks.”
Jim Cage was equally downbeat.
“No female of the description you gave me has been sourcing bomb-making equipment here,” Jim told Tracy, in his luxurious, modernist office overlooking the lake. “No female of any description come to that.”
Jim Cage was handsome in a classic, aging matinee idol sort of way, tall and dark with a little too much tan and extremely white teeth. He’d always fancied Tracy, and was pleased to see how well she’d held up over the years. She was a bit too thin these days. The bottle-green cashmere dress she was wearing today showed her ribs, a look that some men liked but that was a bit too much for Jim. But Tracy was still a knockout. It was those emerald eyes that really did it. Or were they jade? Either way they were looking at him reproachfully now. She’d hoped for better news.
“The thing is, Tracy, you and I are old school. We still like to do things in person. Talk to the experts, the artists. Group 99’s not like that, are they? They’re kids. Anything they need to build a bomb they can get online. There’s no romance anymore.”
Althea’s not a kid, Tracy thought. And there was precious little romance in Henry Cranston’s death. But she took the point. Althea was too smart to risk being seen or leaving evidence when she didn’t need to.
Now, drawing her fur coat more tightly around her as she approached the bridge towards Saint-Gervais Les Bergues, Tracy did something she hated doing: she admitted defeat. If either Althea or Henry Cranston’s missing $4 million were still in Geneva, or even in Europe, she’d be very surprised. Monsieur Le Doux’s patronizing stonewalling back at the bank had been the bitter cherry on the top of an already thoroughly disappointing cake. Tracy’s entire trip had been a total waste of time.
Tracy had been so lost in her own thoughts, she didn’t look where she was going and collided suddenly and forcefully with a man on the sidewalk. Losing her footing from the impact, she managed to drop her briefcase, which promptly burst open, scattering papers all over the place.
“Let me help you,” the man said, as Tracy scrambled to retrieve them. His response in English was the first thing that threw her. The second was his smile. Broad and genuine, it lit up his entire face.
“Thank you,” Tracy muttered, embarrassed. Between them they managed to pick up all the stray documents. “I’m so sorry,” she said afterwards. “I’m afraid I was miles away.”
“I can see that.” The man was still smiling. Handing her a sheaf of letters, he noticed the name on the top of one of them. Looking at Tracy astonished, he asked, “You’re not . . . Tracy Whitney, are you?”
Tracy frowned. “Do we know each other?”
“Not yet.” The man’s smile broadened still further. “But I believe we were supposed to meet next week in New York. I’m Cameron Crewe.”
OVER DINNER THAT NIGHT at Rasoi by Vineet, the Michelin- starred Indian restaurant at Tracy’s hotel, Tracy learned a lot about Cameron Crewe.