Apparently one of the newcomers Cauchin had invited tonight was another queer, a theater type from New York. Pascal probably wants to limit his competition for the Texas woman, Albert thought bitterly. Pathetic the way he’s all over her.
The doorbell rang.
“That’s probably Jeremy now,” Antione de la Court said, sounding relieved.
“Good.” Pascal beamed at Mary Jo. “That only leaves Lex Brightman. As soon as he gets here, we’ll get started.”
Jeremy Sands. Lex Brightman, Tracy thought. One of them is Hunter Drexel. I’m sure of it.
Was Hunter about to be shown into the room?
Tracy’s heart began to beat faster. Maybe she did need that second drink after all?
ALEXIS ARGYROS PULLED DOWN the visor on his motorcycle helmet.
Where the hell is he?
A laundry van passed him, pulling round to the back of the building and disappearing into the underground garage. Alexis felt his stomach churn.
Had he missed Hunter somehow? Was the bastard already inside?
He turned on his engine.
“THAT’S STEVENS!” FRANK DORRIEN hissed at the man stationed in front of Cauchin’s building. “He’s crossing the road now. For God’s sake stop him.”
The man started walking towards Jeff, when another voice in his ear made him hesitate.
“Target sighted!” It was the man on the roof. “Repeat, Drexel sighted.”
“Where?” Frank scanned the street frantically.
“Coming towards you, General. You should be looking right at him in about twenty seconds. Blond hair, black jacket.”
“Shit!” Frank jumped to his feet, spilling hot tea all down his crotch. “Keep him in sights but don’t shoot,” he told the man on the roof. “Jim,” he told the first man, “get over here, now!”
JEFF STEVENS STOOD ON the doorstep of Pascal Cauchin’s apartment building, panting and mopping the sweat from his brow.
He was late, but only by a few minutes.
Had Drexel arrived already? Was he inside? Was Tracy?
More than anything it was the prospect of coming face-to-face with Tracy again that made his heart race and his palms sweat uncontrollably.
Get a grip, Jeff told himself sternly. You are Jeremy Sands. You are a wealthy energy investor from Manhattan.
Tracy wouldn’t give him away. She couldn’t risk blowing her own cover. But once she saw him the game would be up. Tracy would want to know how he’d found her, not to mention why he was following her. Jeff would have to tell her the truth, or some version of it. I’m here to protect you, wouldn’t go down well. Tracy didn’t appreciate being protected. She could take care of herself. She would also doubtless be furious with Jeff for ruining her chance of confronting Hunter Drexel.
Too bad. She should never have run out on me after Nick died. She’s the one who owes me an explanation, not the other way around.
The door swung open.
“May I help you?”
Jeff drew back his shoulders and smiled. “Jeremy Sands. I’m here for the game.”
HUNTER HAD BEEN ABOUT to blag his way into the service entrance when he heard the motorbike engine revving just a few yards behind him.
Even before he looked over his shoulder he knew.
Risky had just turned into fatal. He had to get out of here. Darting out of his shadowy hiding place like a cockroach out of its nest, Hunter forced himself to keep to a walking pace as he turned the corner into the street.
Left was a dead end. Right took him straight towards the café where MI6 were waiting.
No. I can’t let it end here. Caught like a rat in a trap.
The front entrance to Cauchin’s building was directly opposite him now. A smartly dressed man was standing on the stoop. A doorman opened the door and was talking to the man.
Changing course suddenly, Hunter ran towards the open door.
TRACY WAS STILL FENDING off Pascal Cauchin’s advances when she heard the first shot.
“What the hell was that?” Antoine de la Court asked.
“Probably somebody’s car backfiring,” said Albert Dumas.
Then came the second and third shots, in quick succession, followed by loud screaming from the street below.
“That’s gunfire!” Pascal dropped Tracy’s hand like a hot stone and dived for the panic button on the far wall. “Everybody get down!” His voice had shot up an octave with fear. Despite this, everyone in the room flattened themselves to the ground as commanded.
Everyone except Tracy. Moving calmly to the window, she pulled back the curtain and surveyed the street below. A man dressed in black and driving a Ducati motorbike roared past and out of sight. The shooter, presumably. But had he found his target?
At first it was hard to tell what was happening. People were running everywhere, scattering in panic, screaming. But Tracy’s trained eyes swiftly settled on three individuals amid the melee.
The first was Major General Frank Dorrien, standing in the street yelling into his telephone, gesticulating wildly.
So MI6 knew Drexel would be here! Interesting that they never said a word to the CIA.
The second was a blond man who appeared to be trying to hide a limp. Tracy couldn’t make out the man’s face from this angle but she saw his muscles tense in pain as he attempted to run in the direction of the river.
The third individual who drew Tracy’s attention she could only see from behind. This man was tall, well dressed with dark curly hair, and he was the only person walking, rather than running, toward the metro station.
Tracy’s heart sank into the pit of her stomach.
I recognize that walk.
Just then, a hand grabbed her roughly by the waist and manhandled her down onto the floor.
“Mon Dieu, Mary Jo, have you lost your mind?” Pascal Cauchin hissed in Tracy’s ear. “Stay away from the window. It could be a terrorist attack! The police are on their way but you must stay down.”
“Sorry, Pascaaaal,” Tracy drawled. Decades of practice had taught her never to slip when in character. “Ah guess ah was just curious.”
Lying on Pascal Cauchin’s parquet floor, Tracy’s heart and mind raced.
I must have made a mistake. It can’t be him.
It just can’t be.
HÉLÈNE FAUBOURG ALMOST JUMPED out of her skin. A handsome, blond man with wild eyes and a terrifying expression on his face stepped right in front of her Renault Clio, practically hurling himself across her windscreen.
“Help me,” he panted, wrenching open the passenger door and climbing inside once Hélène screeched to a halt.
“Get out!” she screamed. “Get out of my car!”
She had pepper spray in the glove box, but would have to reach across him to get it.
“Please. I won’t hurt you. I’ve been shot. See?” The man pulled up the leg of his pants to reveal rivers of blood.
“I’ll take you to the hospital,” Hélène said. “The one on Rue Ambroise Paré is the closest. You’ll be OK.”
“No,” said the man. “No hospitals. Please. I need to get out of Paris. Just drive.”
Reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulled out what must have been tens of thousands of euros, maybe more, in cash.
“Take it,” he wheezed, wincing in pain. “Please. Just get me out of here.”
Hélène looked at the money. Then she looked at the man’s face. And made a decision.
What the hell. You only live once.
TRACY MIGHT NOT BE a real poker player. But she could certainly do a good poker face.
Two days after the mysterious shooting incident in Montmartre—despite multiple witnesses, both the would-be assassin and the victim he apparently wounded disappeared without a trace—Tracy paid an official visit to the Neuilly crime scene.
“Miss Whitney’s a special advisor to the CIA on Group 99,” Greg Walton explained over the phone to Benjamin Liset, his French intelligence counterpart in Paris. “I trust you’ll give her every assistance.”
Benjamin found he had no trouble assisting Miss Whitney, who turned out to be not only polite, intelligent and attractive, but thin and well dressed, a positive barrage of surprises from an American female.
The same could not be said of Tracy’s colleague from the FBI, Agent Milton Buck, an arrogant, overbearing boor if ever Benjamin Liset had seen one.
“Forensics went over the entire campus, I presume?” Buck asked, in a tone that made it quite clear he presumed nothing of the sort.
“Naturally.” Benjamin’s tone was frosty.
“Why haven’t we seen a report?”
“Because this isn’t your investigation, Agent Buck. I hope I don’t need to remind you but you are here as our guests, solely as a courtesy.”
“Courtesy?” Buck laughed rudely. “I wouldn’t say that’s what you French are known for. I hope I don’t need to remind you that your government has promised the president full disclosure and total cooperation. I mean, let’s face it, Ben, you could use the help, right? What’s it been now, two weeks? And still no leads?”