Sidney Sheldon’s Reckless

Leaping out of bed, Tracy pulled on jeans and a sweater.

Ten minutes later she was in a black cab, heading for Wapping.


SALLY FAIERS WAS RUSHING for the tube when a waiflike woman approached her.


“Yes,” Sally said uncertainly. The woman said her name as if she knew her but Sally was sure she’d never seen her before. The huge, sad green eyes, high cheekbones and tiny, birdlike body that was closer to a child’s than a grown adult’s were all striking enough that she would have remembered them. “Have we met?”

“No. My name is Tracy Whitney.”

Was that supposed to mean something?

“I need to talk to you.”

“What about?” Sally looked at her watch. She didn’t have time for guessing games with tiny women. Her boiler was on the blink and the annoying people from Eon were due at the flat in half an hour to fix it. “If it’s about a story you can call the news desk.” She fumbled in her pocket for a card.

Tracy said, “It’s about Hunter Drexel.”

Sally froze.

“Not here,” she whispered. Scrawling an address on a piece of paper, she handed it to Tracy. “It’s a café, off East Street market. I’ll meet you there in twenty minutes.”

THE CAFÉ WAS GRIMY, with steamed-up windows. It smelled of frying bacon and strong PG Tips tea and its clientele seemed to be made up entirely of Polish builders. Tracy loved it immediately.

“Your local?” she asked Sally.

“Not anymore. I was a student in this area. Briefly.” Sally wasn’t in the mood for small talk. “Who are you?”

They ordered tea and Tracy told her, the edited version. That she was working with the CIA counterterrorism division dealing with the threat from Group 99. “Specifically I’m trying to track down an American woman believed to be one of their leaders. We think she played a part in Captain Daley’s murder and in Hunter’s abduction.”

Sally looked skeptical. “So you’re a CIA agent?”

“Not exactly.” Tracy heaped sugar into her tea. “I work with them, not for them. I guess you could say I’m a consultant. Of sorts.”

“How did you find me?” Sally asked. Reaching into her pocket she pulled out a Dictaphone and placed it on the table, pressing the record button as Tracy looked on. “Just a precaution. Do you mind?”

“Not at all,” said Tracy. “General Frank Dorrien gave me your name.”

“Ah.” Sally rolled her eyes. “The general.”

“You’re not a fan?” Tracy asked.

Sally smiled. “Is anyone?”

Tracy smiled back. “Mrs. Dorrien, perhaps?”

I like this woman, Tracy and Sally thought simultaneously.

“So what did General Frank tell you?” Sally asked.

“Just that you’ve been asking questions about him and about Prince Achileas’s suicide. And that you and Hunter Drexel were close.”

“Hunter’s close to a lot of women,” Sally said archly.

“Not that he would trust to chase down a story for him. While he’s on the run from Group 99 and the U.S. government, and probably in fear for his life,” said Tracy.

Sally looked at her admiringly.

“He’s alive, then? He’s contacted you?”

Sally focused on her tea. She liked Tracy Whitney instinctively, but her instincts had been wrong before. And she’d sworn to Hunter that she wouldn’t breathe a word about their contact to anyone.

Sensing her hesitation, Tracy said bluntly, “If Group 99 finds him before we do, they’ll kill him. Whether Hunter believes it or not, we’re trying to save his life. But we need your help, Sally.”

A heavy silence descended over the table. Finally, Sally broke it. “OK. Yes, he’s alive. Yes, we’ve spoken. But I don’t know where he is. And even if I did I wouldn’t tell you.”

“What’s he working on? His story.”

“I don’t know.”

“You must know something,” Tracy pressed her. “He asked you to look into Frank Dorrien, didn’t he? Why?”

“I swear to you, I don’t know.” Sally ran a hand through her dirty-blond hair in frustration. “Hunter would rather die, literally, than let anyone else in on his scoop. Even me. I know he suspected the general of having a hand in the Greek prince’s death. That’s why he asked me to check him out.”

“And did he?” Tracy tried to make the question sound casual.

Sally shook her head. “No. It was suicide. Like I told Hunter, there is no dirt on this guy. And I mean none. He may not be warm and cuddly, but Frank Dorrien’s as clean as a whistle. The man’s never gambled, barely drinks, never been disciplined, never cheated on his wife. I wouldn’t mind betting his shirts are all perfectly color-coded in his closet. He’s rude and a bit weird, maybe, but being OCD and a stickler for good form doesn’t make you a killer.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Tracy agreed. “But Hunter still suspects him?”

“He suspects him of something,” Sally said. “I don’t think even he knows what exactly. One of Hunter’s problems is his stubbornness. When he gets an idea in his head, it can take a lot more than facts—or in this case a complete and utter lack of facts—to change his mind. It’s the same way with his gambling. Once he’s playing his hand at poker, or he’s put his money on a horse, it’s as if, for him, the outcome is already decided. He must win, so he will win. It’s as if he thinks he can make something true by believing it hard enough.”

Tracy remembered that Cameron Crewe had told her something very similar about him.

“Not a good trait for a journalist,” she observed.

“No,” Sally agreed. “Hunter has his strengths. But he can be willfully blind when he wants to be.”

“Do you know why he ran from his rescuers?” Tracy changed tack abruptly.

Sally shook her head. “I mean clearly he didn’t trust them. But if you’re asking why, I have no idea.”

“And he never mentioned Althea to you? Or anyone else in Group 99?”

“No.” Sally drained her mug of tea. “The weird thing is, they are trying to kill him.” She told Tracy about Hunter’s near miss with Apollo, being careful not to let slip any locations. “But I get the strong sense that this story he’s writing goes way beyond Group 99. It’s something big. Big enough for your friends at the CIA to want to bury.”

Tracy considered this, chewing on her bacon sandwich in silence. Suddenly Sally said, “Do you know why Hunter and I broke up?”

“Another woman?” Tracy hazarded a wild guess.

Sally smiled. “That didn’t help. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was actually his gambling. We owned a place together, a lovely garden flat in Hampstead. Most of the money came from my parents. Hunter remortgaged it behind my back to pay off a poker debt.” She laughed but there was no happiness in the sound. “I love him. But he is so dishonest, it takes your breath away. I lost that flat, and honestly, he wasn’t even sorry about it. He just kept saying it was ‘only’ money, ‘only’ bricks and mortar. You’re wondering why I’m telling you this, aren’t you?”

“A bit,” Tracy admitted.

“The thing is, Hunter and I are close. But I’ve never understood him. I’m probably the last person you should ask about his motivations. I never know what he’s going to do next.”

Tracy paid the bill and they walked out onto the street. They swapped numbers, and promised to stay in touch.

“Does anyone else know you’ve heard from Hunter? Or about him running from the SEALs?”

Sally shook her head. “No one. I’m only telling you because, honestly, I’m scared. All Hunter cares about is his stupid story. But like you said, if Group 99 find him, they’ll kill him. Whatever it is that he doesn’t want your lot to find out, I don’t believe it’s worth dying for.”

“You really do love him, don’t you?”

Sally pulled her coat around her shoulders forlornly. “Unfortunately, yes. I do. He’s an asshole and a player. Totally toxic. But there literally is no one else like him. Once you’ve loved someone like Hunter, it ruins you for normal, stable men.” She laughed, embarrassed. “You probably have no idea what I’m talking about.”

An image of Jeff Stevens’s face popped, unbidden, into Tracy’s mind.

“Oh, I do,” she told Sally. “Believe me. I absolutely do.”

TRACY WAS WOKEN AT six the next morning by a phone call from Greg Walton.

“We’ve had complaints.”

Tracy rubbed her eyes. Good morning to you too. “What sort of complaints?”

“Serious complaints. From the British Home Office. According to them you were uncooperative and obstructive in yesterday’s meeting.”

“That’s absurd.” Tracy cast her mind back to her conversation with Jamie MacIntosh and Frank Dorrien at MI6 yesterday, trying to think of anything she said or did that might be construed as obstructive. “They asked me to interview a journalist, a contact of Hunter Drexel’s, and I did that. Who complained, Greg?”

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66

Categories: Sidney Sheldon