Cameron Crewe’s voice rang in her ears.
You won’t find proof!
You’ll be arrested, Tracy.
Tracy slipped the key in the door and turned the handle.
The alarm exploded into life. No bells were ringing yet, but the system was beeping loudly, very loudly, like an angry bee calling back to its hive for reinforcements. Any minute now there would be sirens and lights and . . .
Shit! Where the fuck is the keypad?
Flustered, Tracy felt desperately up and down the wall. Finally she found it, hidden behind a hanging coat. Thank God! Heart hammering, she keyed in the code.
Damn it! Her hands were shaking. In her panic, she must have got the numbers in the wrong order. Tracy knew she only had twenty seconds to disarm the system. Jacob had been very clear about that. Ten of those seconds must have passed already, at least.
Sweat poured down Tracy’s back like a river. She didn’t care about being caught for herself. Her own life, her own safety, meant nothing to her anymore. But she had to know what Frank Dorrien was hiding. She had to put the pieces of this puzzle together, for Nicholas’s sake.
Forcing herself to stay calm, she typed the code in again, slowly this time, whispering each number as she pressed.
Five. Three. Five. Six.
The beeping stopped.
Tracy laughed. For the first time since she opened her eyes this morning, she began to relax.
Frank Dorrien’s house was small and neat and orderly and a little bit soulless, at least to Tracy’s way of thinking. There were no family photographs on display, no flowers, no novels or newspapers left casually on a side table. It was more like an office than a home. There was also far too much brown, heavy furniture, nothing colorful or feminine or light. Although perhaps things looked worse in the gloom? Frank and Cynthia had left a few lights on downstairs—no energy saving going on in the Dorrien household. No doubt Frank thought that was for hippies and lefties, but the illumination was patchy at best. Upstairs, everything was pitch-dark.
As black as the general’s heart, Tracy thought. As black as my world without Nick.
She headed to the master bedroom. This, too, was a dull space, as uninspiring as any corporate apartment. There was a simply upholstered Habitat bed with plain white linen, a chest of drawers with a carved, Chinese box on top and some built-in closets with mirrored doors. A lone cushion in the shape of a sausage dog, propped up against the pillows, was the only sign of humor or personal taste of any kind. Clearly, General Frank was as controlled and uptight at home as he was at work.
The safe was exactly where Jacob said it would be, at the back of the large master closet. Tracy didn’t know what she was looking for, exactly, but the safe seemed a good place to start. She entered the code and this time there were no mishaps, no alarms or lights or warning signals. The thing popped open as obligingly as a hooker’s legs, as Jeff used to say.
Why must she always think of Jeff at times like this? Irritated, Tracy focused on the job at hand.
Gingerly removing the safe’s contents, item by item, she examined each one with her flashlight.
The general’s will.
Deeds to the house.
A string of pearls that Tracy’s expert eye could see immediately were of more sentimental than material value.
Twenty thousand pounds in cash.
That was unexpected. Twenty grand was a lot of money for a family of modest means to keep at home, stuffed into a dirty envelope. But Tracy put her curiosity aside for now. She didn’t have time to waste wondering where Dorrien might have come by such a sum, or what he intended to do with it. Instead she looked through everything again, carefully separating each banknote and each sheet of the legal documents, forcing herself to slow down so she didn’t miss anything. But it was no good. She was right the first time.
There’s nothing of Achileas’s here.
Tracy relocked the safe and looked at her watch. It was still only 6:45 P.M. Plenty of time before Cynthia Dorrien got back from her bridge game.
Tracy retraced her steps back downstairs to Frank’s study.
The general’s desk was as orderly as everything else in the house, clean as a whistle and perfectly devoid of clutter. Infuriatingly, his computer was gone. He must have taken it with him to tonight’s meeting at the barracks. Tracy couldn’t get a break tonight.
She started opening drawers, looking for papers, photographs, a thumb drive, anything.
Nothing, nothing, nothing.
There has to be something here, she told herself. There must be something in this house.
Tracy searched each room in turn. At first she was methodical, closing kitchen cupboards behind her, replacing carpets that she’d peeled back, covering her tracks. But as the minutes ticked by, then the hours, she grew more and more frantic, pulling paintings down off walls, sweeping piles of books onto the floor.
She was on the point of giving up when she found it. Of all places it was in the loo. A tissue box beside the washbasin felt heavier than it ought to. Tracy ripped it apart like a wild woman, pulling out the precious hard drive like a diver plucking a pearl from its oyster.
She stared at the little black square for a moment, overwhelmed that after so much disappointment she’d actually found it. This is it. This has to be it.
I did it!
There was no time to stop and celebrate. Stuffing the drive deep into her rucksack, Tracy stepped back into the hallway. She was almost at the front door when the beams from a car’s headlights suddenly blinded her.
Tracy froze. She heard the unmistakable noise of an engine drawing closer, then idling and finally switching off. The headlights went off.
Cynthia Dorrien was home.
Worse, she wasn’t alone.
PARKED A FEW YARDS down the street, in an unremarkable Ford Transit, Jeff sat in the darkness, watching the police arrive.
Things had gotten complicated the moment Jeff realized that Tracy was hitting General Dorrien’s house. Then again, things always got complicated with Tracy.
Should he tell Jamie MacIntosh what she was planning? Or keep it to himself?
It hadn’t taken Jeff long to decide on the latter. If Tracy didn’t trust the MI6 officer then Jeff didn’t either. On the other hand, he was concerned for Tracy’s safety. Even more so now that the boys in blue were on the scene.
He longed to intervene, to do something to save Tracy, but he was powerless.
Come on, sweetheart, he willed her. Think of something.
TRACY RECOGNIZED THE FAMILIAR blue and white lights of the British police. She heard male voices, hushed but urgent.
Instinctively, she dropped to the floor. She must have been visible, at least partially, from the window. But something told her the police hadn’t seen her yet. The car engines switched off one by one, and with them the lights. Everything was dark again and eerily hushed. The calm before the storm. Tracy listened. Every sense was on high alert. She felt like a violin whose strings had been tightened till they were about to snap.
How had the police found her? Had someone seen something? A neighbor, perhaps?
She knew Jacob wouldn’t have turned her in, and he was the only one who knew she was here tonight. Her mind raced.
She heard footsteps, walking towards the front door. Other feet were scurrying around the back. Desperately, Tracy looked around for a means of escape. But even if she found one, there was no time! In a matter of seconds the door would burst open. She’d be caught red-handed, arrested. Cameron was right. At best she’d be sent back to the U.S. in disgrace. Or perhaps the CIA would disown her and leave her to rot in a British jail. Save themselves the embarrassment.
Then she would never find Althea. Never learn what happened to Nick.
There was a hammering on the front door.
“Police! Open up!”
Tracy made her decision.
MAJOR GENERAL FRANK DORRIEN was tired. He loathed meetings. If I’d wanted to witter on about mission statements and best practices or waste my evenings on PowerPoint presentations, I’d have gone into business, he thought resentfully as he drove home. It was bad enough having to waste half his day indulging in cryptic “chats” with MI6. But one expected spies to beat around the bush. Officers in the British Army ought to know better. Tonight’s SFCR (Sandhurst Funding Committee Review) had been torture by any other name. It ought to have been banned by the Geneva bloody Convention. All Frank wanted now was a whisky, a bath and his bed.
Two police cars passed him as he turned into his street. He was just thinking how unusual that was, when he saw a third car with its engine running still parked in his driveway. A uniformed officer was standing on his doorstep, talking seriously to a worried-looking Cynthia, who’d obviously just returned home from bridge.