Sidney Sheldon’s Reckless

AFTER TRACY LEFT, FRANK turned to Jamie.

“I don’t trust her.”

“You don’t trust anyone, Frank.”

“I’m serious. Someone needs to follow her. We can’t let her out of our sight for a second.”

If it irritated Jamie MacIntosh to be told his job by a subordinate, he hid it well.

“Don’t worry, General,” he replied smoothly. “It’s taken care of.”

JEFF STEVENS STEPPED OUT of his club onto Piccadilly and into the pouring rain. Water cascaded off his umbrella as he scanned the streets in vain for a cab with its light on. All around him people were diving for cover, scurrying into shops or cowering under bus shelters.

“Mr. Stevens?”

A sandy-haired man in a crumpled Macintosh appeared at his side, apparently out of nowhere.

“Might I have a word?” The man gestured towards a gleaming black Daimler with diplomatic plates that had pulled up to the curb. “In private.”

Jeff frowned suspiciously. “Do I know you?”

“Not yet.” Jamie MacIntosh smiled affably, adding, “It’s about Tracy Whitney.”

Without hesitation, Jeff closed his umbrella and climbed into the car.

LEAVING THE ICONIC MI6 building on Albert Embankment, Tracy decided to walk for a while to clear her head. Crossing Vauxhall Bridge she turned left towards Belgravia and Chelsea, her old stomping grounds. The rain began as a light drizzle, but was soon falling hard. Ducking into a newsstand, Tracy bought a cheap umbrella and kept going.

For an hour she walked aimlessly, thinking about Sally Faiers and how best to make her approach tomorrow. Sometimes Tracy panicked that she was no nearer finding Althea than she had been when she arrived. Was the interview with Sally a diversion? Had General Dorrien set it up deliberately as a red herring, to throw Tracy off the scent? She didn’t trust Frank Dorrien, that much she knew. On the other hand, as she’d told Cameron Crewe, she felt in her gut that Hunter Drexel was a crucial link in all of this. Hunter and the fracking industry, together, held the key to Althea’s identity and her connection to Group 99. If Sally Faiers could tell Tracy anything, anything at all, that shed light on Hunter Drexel and the mysterious story he was working on, then it was worth making the trip to see her. Whatever General Dorrien’s motives.

Tracy found herself wishing she had someone to talk to about all this. With a pang it struck her that all her life’s confidantes were gone, either dead or lost to her forever. Her beloved parents. Jeff. Blake Carter.

Then it came to her. I know where I need to go.

THE CEMETERY WAS JUST off the Fulham Road, on the border of Chelsea. By the time Tracy got there twilight had already fallen. Rain soaked graves glistened eerily beneath a silver moon. The rain was still beating down, as it had been all afternoon, pounding the gravel paths like a million angry bullets flung down by a spiteful heaven. Deep puddles forced mourners and dog walkers alike to veer off the paths onto the sodden grass, more mud than turf in places.

Gunther Hartog, Tracy and Jeff’s former mentor and a father figure to Tracy in her wild, con artist days, had always loved this place. Personally Tracy never understood it. To her the solid, Victorian graves cut from dour gray stone were deeply depressing. But not to Gunther. Tracy could hear his voice now as if he stood beside her.

“It’s the thrill of the Gothic, my darling! The kitschness of it all. One half expects Ebenezer Scrooge to jump out from behind a plinth and grab you. Muuuah ha ha ha haaa!”

His deep, melodramatic cackle used to make Tracy laugh.

She wondered if she would ever laugh like that again.

The night she’d had dinner with Cameron Crewe in Geneva, she’d felt some faint stirrings of happiness. But the guilt that followed was so profound and debilitating, she was in no hurry to repeat the experience.

I’m afraid to be happy, she realized. Afraid to live.

And yet she knew she must live. She must live to avenge Nick’s death.

Unexpectedly, a feeling of defeat swept over her. I’m never going to find Althea. I’m never going to know what really happened to my darling Nick.

Tracking somebody electronically was one thing. But it didn’t count for much in the real world. Trying to anticipate an invisible woman’s next move was like trying to play chess with a ghost.

Was that how the police felt, trying to catch me and Jeff all those years?

Was that frustration what turned Daniel Cooper mad?

No, Tracy reminded herself. Cooper was a homicidal lunatic long before he even met me.

It’s not you, Tracy. It’s not your fault.

At last she arrived at Gunther’s grave. For all his love of Gothic pastiche, in the end his good taste had won out and he’d gone for a simple, understated headstone, devoid of gargoyles or roses or crosses ringed with thorns.

The inscription read simply Gunther Hartog—Art Collector and the dates.

Tracy stood next to the stone, so that her umbrella covered both of them. She hadn’t brought flowers or anything. Now that she was here she wasn’t even really sure why she’d come. Only that she’d needed the comfort of an old friend. Of someone who had loved her.

As the rain beat down on her umbrella, Tracy closed her eyes and allowed herself to feel the pain. The loss. Like a roll call, the faces of her loved ones floated before her.

Her father.

Her mother.




Jeff Stevens was still alive, of course. But with Nick gone, it would be too painful for Tracy ever to see Jeff again. He might as well be dead.

“I’m alone, Gunther,” Tracy murmured in the darkness. “I’m completely alone.”

Standing in the muddy London graveyard, Tracy fell to her knees and wept.

JEFF SAT IN THE back of the car in stunned silence.

Jamie MacIntosh had been talking for almost forty minutes. For all of that time, Jeff had listened, processed, considered. Now, for the first time, he spoke.

“You believe this Althea woman really killed Nick?”

“I don’t know,” Jamie said honestly. “I know Tracy believes it. But it’s possible that the CIA put that idea into her head just to get her involved.”

Jeff considered this, nodding. “OK.”

Jamie said, “I know Althea ordered the murder of Captain Daley, and probably Henry Cranston. I know she’s a grave threat to Western security.”

“I don’t care about any of that.” Jeff waved a hand dismissively.

“But you care about Tracy?”

“Of course.”

“So you’ll help us? I know your history, Jeff.” Jamie MacIntosh softened his tone. “We have a file on you and Tracy as big as the Koran, going back almost twenty years now.”

“I’m sure you do,” said Jeff, not without a touch of pride.

“If anybody understands how she thinks, how she operates, it’s you. Please. For her sake, if not for ours.”

Jeff closed his eyes. What this man wanted—what the British Government wanted—was for him to follow Tracy. Not just to track her physical movements. But to anticipate her strategy, spy on her, outsmart her. Play her. MI6 wanted to find Althea, and Hunter Drexel, before the CIA did. They wanted to win. Tracy was the Americans’ star player. Jamie was asking Jeff to become theirs.

Following Tracy. Outsmarting Tracy. Protecting Tracy, or trying to. It was how Jeff Stevens had spent most of his adult life. The best parts of it, anyway.

Of course, she’d probably hate him for it.

He opened his eyes and looked at Jamie MacIntosh. “When do I start?”

WHEN TRACY WOKE UP, sunshine streamed brightly through the window. For a moment she thought she was back home in Colorado. The light in Steamboat Springs was always dazzling, even in winter. But reality soon reasserted itself.

She was in London, in the modest Pimlico hotel that the agency had paid for. The red damask curtains were pulled back. Traffic was honking outside. The clock by the side of Tracy’s bed said 11:15 A.M.

11:15? Tracy rubbed her eyes. How was that even possible? She must have slept for fourteen hours, the first unbroken, dreamless night she’d had since Nick’s death. She couldn’t remember how she’d got back to her hotel from the graveyard, or how long she’d sat, slumped over Gunther Hartog’s grave, sobbing until her body had no more to give. But she remembered getting back to her room and feeling incredibly cold. Peeling off her wet clothes, she’d intended to take a hot shower, but exhaustion must have overtaken her before she could make it to the bathroom. Crawling under the covers, she’d sunk into a sleep so deep it was closer to a coma.

She’d needed to cry and she’d needed to sleep. Thanks to Gunther Hartog, she’d managed both. Thank you, Gunther darling. Her body felt wonderful, her mind alert. But there was no time to enjoy these novel sensations, not if she were going to catch Sally Faiers before she left the Times offices for her lunch.

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon