But Sally didn’t feel safe. As she dressed Hunter’s wounds, tended his fevers and pumped him up with the illegal antibiotics she’d bought online, she felt further and further removed from reality. From the normal world she’d left behind in London. Her flat. Her job.
All she had left was her own article, her own secrets. She tried to focus on writing, while Hunter was running around the city doing God knows what, but it was hard. Right now Sally couldn’t imagine how today would end, never mind make any sort of plan for the future. Somehow her exposé of corruption in the fracking business no longer seemed as important and earth shattering as it had when it started. She felt isolated and riddled with doubt.
Even Tracy Whitney had stopped calling. It was as if Sally and Hunter were on a boat with no power, drifting deeper and deeper out to sea. Hunter claimed to know where they were going. But all Sally could do was sit and wait for them to sink, or starve, or go insane out here all alone.
A knock on the door made her leap out of her skin. Darting into the bedroom, Sally reached under the bed with shaking hands and grabbed Hunter’s gun. Images of Bob Daley’s head being blown apart rushed, unbidden, into her mind.
Flattening her back to the wall, she edged back into the living room, towards the door. Adrenaline coursed through her body. She was ready to shoot when she suddenly caught a glimpse of who it was on the doorstep:
Monsieur Hanneau, their sweet, bookish next-door neighbor.
For God’s sake. Feeling foolish and ridiculous, Sally slipped the gun under a cushion and opened the door. He probably wanted to borrow a cup of sugar or something. This was Belgium, not bloody Beirut.
“Hello, Monsieur Hanneau. I was just . . .”
The bullet was silent, but it blew a hole in Sally’s chest the size of a grapefruit.
She was dead before she hit the floor.
HARRY GRAHAM LOST THE first two games. He won modestly in the third and grotesquely overplayed his hand on the fourth, ending up down several hundred thousand euros.
Luc Charles thought, Reckless doesn’t begin to cover it. This fellow Graham clearly had money to burn.
At nine o’clock they broke for a meal—fat, juicy mussels in white wine and garlic, washed down with a local Belgian beer. Harry Graham barely touched his food. Understandable, given how much money he’d just lost, although Luc Charles got the unsettling impression that losing didn’t seem to mean that much to Mr. Graham.
It’s not the winning, Luc decided. It’s the playing. The high stakes. The risk. As long as his adrenaline’s up, that’s all that matters.
“One more hand, Mr. Graham?” Charles asked, as a butler cleared away the plates.
It was a rhetorical question, but the American answered anyway, nodding brusquely.
“Of course. Always.”
FORTY MINUTES LATER, A murderous Luc Charles watched from the window as his guests took their leave. Pierre Gassin and Dom Crecy both left by car, their chauffeur driven Bentleys arriving discreetly at the side entrance to the monastery. Johnny Cray drove off in his own, matte-black limited-edition Lamborghini.
Cray’s friend Harry Graham, the night’s big winner, hopped into a water taxi. Luc watched his skinny, blond head get smaller and smaller before fading to black completely as the boat drifted down the canal, swallowed by the night.
In Harry Graham’s pocket was a check made out to cash.
It was for 850,000 euros.
He played me, Luc Charles thought darkly. The bastard played me.
Luc never made bets above his personal limit of a hundred thousand per hand. Never. Yet somehow this silent stranger had lured him into it.
Johnny Cray had described Harry Graham as reckless. But the truth was, Harry had made Luc Charles reckless.
He made me a damn fool.
Luc Charles didn’t know much about Harry Graham. But he intended to find out more.
A lot more.
As soon as Graham’s boat was out of sight, Luc Charles picked up the phone.
JEFF STEVENS’S BOAT DRIFTED quietly a few yards behind Hunter’s.
Jeff’s hotel kept two old-fashioned, gondola-style canal boats with long punts that were available to guests day or night. They employed three old men whose sole job it was to slide the wooden poles into the water and gently propel these vessels along Bruges’s famous waterways.
It was quiet tonight. Jeff was the boatman’s only customer, and even he didn’t go far, asking to be let out after only a few bridges had passed. Hunter had stepped out at one of the many mooring spots along the Spinolerai into a barely lit cobbled street. Just managing to catch him before he disappeared from view, Jeff followed him towards Steenstraat. Drexel glanced around him briefly, but didn’t seem to notice anything untoward. He turned right into the pretty cobbled square of Simon Stevinplein, then left into Oude Burg, where small crowds of tourists were still milling around, even at this late hour. Bruges’s famous Belfry was lit from below, giving it a quasimagical glow that made the surrounding gabled houses even more fairy-tale-like than they were by day.
It’s like Disneyland, Jeff thought, taking care not to lose Hunter as he weaved through the crowds on Breidelstraat, past the lace and biscuit shops, before coming to a stop outside a bar in Burg Square. Wedged next to the magnificent Gothic Basilica of the Holy Blood, Gerta’s was the kind of hole-in-the-wall sliver of a place you could find in any European city, a haven for thirsty tourists. After one last glance around, Hunter slipped inside.
The bar backed directly on to the Basilica wall. That meant there was no way out, other than the way in.
I could take him right now, Jeff thought. End this thing.
But both Frank Dorrien and Jamie MacIntosh had been clear about his brief:
Follow. Gather intel. Do not confront.
The problem was that its frontage was so small, it was impossible for Jeff to see anything without either standing right by the window or actually going inside. Pulling his baseball cap lower over his face, he decided on the latter. As far as he knew Hunter didn’t know who he was, still less what he looked like.
Jeff made straight for the bar and ordered a whisky. Only once the drink was in his hand did he look up.
Drexel was sitting at a table in the corner. He was with a woman. From the corner of his eye, Jeff could see that she was a brunette, somewhere in her thirties. She was attractive and well dressed, expensively dressed, in cream wide-leg pants and a gossamer-thin cashmere sweater. She wore a classic gold chain at her neck, and diamonds on her fingers, which she was jabbing accusingly at Hunter.
“Take it,” he was saying, pushing something in the woman’s direction. Without turning around and looking directly it was hard for Jeff to make out what it was, but eventually he realized it was a check. Harry Graham’s winnings.
“I don’t want it. I don’t need it!” She was angry. Upset. “Do you think I came here for money?”
“I didn’t say that.” Hunter’s tone was conciliatory.
“This was never about the money. Never!”
To Jeff’s dismay, someone behind the bar turned up the music. He could no longer hear what the two of them were saying. Even worse, right at that crucial moment his phone rang, so loudly that both Drexel and the woman turned and stared at him.
Turning his face away, Jeff left a note for the barman and hurried back out into the street. To take the call. Only two people had this number. One was Tracy.
But it wasn’t her.
“What the hell?” Jeff barked at Frank Dorrien. “I had Drexel sitting five feet away from me! Why are you calling?”
“Where are you?”
“In a bar. He’s meeting a woman.”
“I don’t know. Could be. They seem close. He tried to give her money but she wouldn’t take it. It could be Althea, Frank. I need to get back in there. They were talking . . .”
“Did he go to the bar straight from the game?”
Frank’s tone sounded urgent.
“And you had eyes on him the whole time?”
“Since he got to the Charles house, yes. What is it, Frank?”
“Sally Faiers is dead. Someone blew a hole in her torso the size of a rugby ball. About two hours ago.”
Jeff exhaled slowly. Tracy had liked Sally.
“I doubt he had much to do with it. Our guys are over there now, cleaning up. We can’t have the Belgian police getting mixed up in this.”
“Hold on,” said Jeff. “How did you know? Was someone watching the bungalow? I thought you said I was alone here.”
“Never mind that,” Frank said dismissively. “Are they still in the bar?”