Sidney Sheldon’s Reckless

“I’m so sorry, General.” The policeman accosted Frank as he stepped out of the car. “Are the others on their way?”

Frank frowned. “Others? What others?”

“The cadets.” The policeman adopted a conspiratorial tone. “It’s all right, General. The explosives specialist already filled us in.”

Frank was starting to get irritated. It had been a very long day. “Explosives specialist? What the devil are you talking about, man?”

“Captain Phillips. The explosives specialist who let us in to the property earlier. The Captain explained about the training exercise, and how important it was to leave the house untouched, once it had been set up.”

Frank’s eyes widened.

“We do understand that these ‘surprise’ exercises are important, General,” the policeman went on. “Your cadets need to know how to respond to bomb threats in the community, and real terrorists don’t give advance warning. We get it. But this is a residential area. In future we’d appreciate a heads-up if you’re planning this sort of drill. At a minimum we’d like to warn your neighbors.”

“How about warning me?” Cynthia piped up indignantly.

“Old Mr. Dingle across the street thought you were being burgled,” the policeman chuckled. “So did we, when we first arrived.”

Frank Dorrien pushed past the policeman into the house. He ran straight to the downstairs lavatory. The remnants of the tissue box lay in pieces on the floor.

Frank felt the bile rise up in his throat.

Racing back outside he asked the policeman, “When did the explosives specialist leave?”

“About ten minutes ago. Just before your wife got home. She said she was heading back to the barracks but that the others would be on their way shortly. We tried to contact you on your mobile, General, but . . .”

Frank interrupted him. “She?”

“That’s right, General.”

“Captain Phillips . . . was a woman?”

Now it was the policeman’s turn to look confused.

“Yes, Sir. But surely you knew that? If you ordered the exercise?”

Slowly, painfully slowly, the penny began to drop.

Jeff Stevens drove away, his shoulders shaking with laughter.

Darling Tracy! He smiled to himself. You’ve still got it.

HUNTER DREXEL GAVE TWO hard, animal thrusts and climaxed.

The girl underneath him, Claudette, rolled over onto her back, smiling up at him languidly.

“Encore une fois?”

Hunter shook his head. He was far too exhausted to screw her again, or do anything other than sleep. It was a long time since he’d been with a woman, even longer since he’d been with a professional. He’d picked up Claudette at the Crazy Horse, where she was a dancer. At 500 euros a night her rates were steep, but well worth it. She was also clearly prepared to work hard for the money. If only Hunter weren’t too shattered to take advantage of it.

He’d taken a big risk coming to Paris. There was much more chance of his being recognized in a cosmopolitan city like this one. But if he was going to publish this story before Group 99 put a bullet between his eyes or the CIA spirited him off to some torture camp somewhere, he needed help. Sally was doing her best but that only went so far, and it was far too dangerous for Hunter to go to London. He had friends in Paris, journalists and subversives, who could help him. And the poker was outstanding.

Drifting into sleep, a parade of images danced before his eyes.

Sally Faiers, naked in his bed.

The Navy SEAL holding his hand out in the Chinook in Bratislava. “Get in!”

Bob Daley smiling at him, right before his head was blown off.

Apollo standing in the dark alleyway in Riga, smiling down the barrel of his gun.

Waking with a start, Hunter leaped out of bed and pulled Claudette’s right arm painfully behind her back. The little bitch was rifling through the pockets of his pants, trying to rob him!

“Qu’est-ce que tu fais?” Hunter hissed at her, turning her to face him. “Putain.”

“Asshole!” the girl shot back in English. “I know who you are.”

Hunter’s face darkened menacingly. All of a sudden, Claudette’s stomach liquefied with fear. She’d gone too far. This man was dangerous. Very dangerous. He’d seemed so handsome in the club, so charming. But the look in his eyes now was cold as ice.

Hunter muttered darkly. “Tu connais rien. Je pouvais te casser. Comme un poulet. Tu comprends?”

She nodded mutely.

“Get dressed and get out.”

He released her, watching in satisfaction as she grabbed her clothes, terrified, and ran.

CAMERON CREWE WAS ABOUT to go to bed when the doorman buzzed his apartment.

“What is it?” he asked curtly. He was in no mood for visitors.

“I’m sorry, Sir. But there’s a lady here to see you.”

“A lady?”

“Yes, Sir. A Miss Whitney. She says it’s urgent.”

Cameron’s bad mood evaporated like a puddle of rain in the sun. He hadn’t heard from Tracy since their phone call of a few days ago, and had fully expected her next call to be from a police cell. In fact she was here, in New York, on his doorstep.

“That’s quite all right, Billy. Show her up.”

Cameron barely had time to change his shirt and splash on some cologne before Tracy burst through the door, a ball of nervous energy.

“Hi.” Peeling off her wet trench coat she tossed it on Cameron’s expensive B&B Italia couch where it dripped excessively onto the suede. “I’m sorry I didn’t call in advance. I needed to see you.”

Cameron was thrown by how happy this statement made him. “No need to apologize. You can come by any time. Can I get you a—”

“I need you to see this,” Tracy interrupted him, pulling the black hard drive out of her pocket and waving it in front of Cameron. “Where’s your computer?”

“In my study. But slow down, Tracy. This is General Dorrien’s?”

“No. It’s Prince Achileas’s.”

“But you broke into the home of an MI6 agent and stole it?”

“I didn’t steal it. I retrieved it,” Tracy corrected him. “Frank Dorrien stole it.”

“I’m not sure that’s the way British intelligence will look at it. Or the CIA for that matter.” Cameron ran a worried hand through his hair. “Greg Walton recalled you, Tracy. He specifically instructed you to stay away from Dorrien.”

“Yes. And did you ever wonder why?”

“No. Not really. But I’m sure he had his reasons. I can’t believe you actually did it. You went and burgled the guy’s house!”

“Computer,” said Tracy.

Still frowning, Cameron led her through into the study.

He watched as Tracy sat down, uploaded the drive and began tapping away, writing code into his computer at a ridiculously rapid rate, her long fingers flying across his keyboard like a swooping flock of birds.

“What are you doing?”

“Retrieving files,” Tracy said, not looking up. She was wearing a dark blue cashmere dress that softened her slender frame and her hair was swept up messily at the back. She smelled faintly of irises. Cameron felt a rush of desire shoot through him. “Frank Dorrien’s smart,” Tracy said. “He erased these pretty good.”

“But I take it you’re smarter?”

“Naturally.” She grinned. “Let’s start with the pictures, shall we?”

A large cache of fairly soft core gay porn was interspersed with pictures of Achileas himself, engaged in various sex acts with another, unknown man.

“So he was gay.”

“Or bi–very curious indeed,” quipped Tracy.

“Yeah. That’s six hard inches of curiosity right there,” said Cameron.

Tracy said, “He may have been being blackmailed. I found twenty thousand pounds cash in the general’s safe.”

“Which would support suicide,” Cameron reminded her.

“Right. But that’s not all. Look at this.”

Tracy clicked open images of Achileas relaxing at a picnic with Bob Daley. He was playing with Daley’s children. Bob’s wife must have taken the pictures. The two were obviously close. In one of the shots, at the far right of the picture, another woman could be seen. Standing off to the side with her back to the group, apparently looking down at a river, she was tall and slender with long dark hair cascading around her shoulders.

“Achileas knew Bob Daley well,” Tracy said. “And so did she.”

“Who is that?” Cameron asked.

“I don’t know. But I went to visit Bob’s wife, Claire, and asked about her. She said her first name was Kate. She was an American, a friend of Achileas’s. She thought maybe a girlfriend.”

“That seems unlikely,” said Cameron.

“Very,” agreed Tracy. “But ‘Kate’ was close enough to be asked on that picnic. So what was their connection?”

Cameron assumed this to be a rhetorical question.

“Take a look at these.”

Tracy brought up a string of emails, around thirty in all. Cameron instantly noticed the famous red balloon logo at the top of each one.

“No.” He looked genuinely shocked. Pulling up a chair, he sat beside Tracy and started reading the notes. “Why on earth would a wealthy, connected, royal Greek kid get involved with Group 99? He was the walking embodiment of everything they hate.”

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon