Pulling out a checkbook, Jeff left Arendt with what he and Tracy used to call a “bouncing bomb”—a beautiful forgery—for half a million dollars and hurried out into the night.
He called Tracy from the car but got no answer.
“Start packing,” he texted. “Clarke and Lassferly both no-shows. Back in ten.”
LEAVING THE CAR ENGINE running, Jeff sprinted into the hotel.
Ignoring the girl at the front desk trying to get his attention, he stepped into a waiting elevator and went straight up to the room, only to find his key card didn’t work.
“Annie? Honey?” He banged loudly on the door.
Goddamn it, Tracy!
He took out his frustration on the girl at the front desk. “I’ve been locked out of my room,” he fumed. “And I can’t find my wife.”
“I was trying to tell you earlier, Mr. Crick, when you came in. Mrs. Crick checked out earlier this evening. She paid the bill in full. I’m afraid I assumed you were both leaving Megève, as Mrs. Crick took all the luggage with her.”
“All of it?”
Jeff’s mind raced.
My second phone.
“If you still need the room I’d be happy to reactivate your cards . . .”
But Jeff was already running.
TRACY SAT IN THE back of the cab, downloading the last of Jeff’s files to her USB chip as they approached Grenoble. At this time of night the roads were clear. She should make the train in good time.
Poor Jeff. I hope he’ll forgive me when this is all over.
Jeff. Cameron. Greg Walton. There were a lot of people Tracy would have to explain herself to. But she didn’t care. The only person who really mattered was Nick.
Closing her eyes, Tracy focused on his face.
I’m close, darling. Really close. I’ll do this for you, I promise.
Bringing Jeff down to Megève, the whole poker setup, had been complicated but necessary.
She had all the information she needed now.
It’s time to finish this thing.
JEFF HAD NEVER DRIVEN faster in his life.
Part of him wanted to strangle Tracy with his bare hands. But another part wanted to kiss her passionately and never let her go.
She hadn’t changed. Not really. Not deep down. Whatever she said.
Tonight proved it, even if it also proved she’d been lying to him all along. Tracy knew where Hunter Drexel was. She probably knew who Kate was too. And it had nothing to do with any stupid poker game.
She’s figured it out, damn her. And she’s cut me out. She still doesn’t trust me.
The entire poker game had been a setup. All of it—except for the part about Gustav Arendt being a cheat. Johnny Cray was never going to be there. As for Catherine Clarke and Ali Lassferly, whoever they were . . .
A sudden thought stopped Jeff in his tracks. Pulling over, he reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a pen and paper.
He wrote out each letter carefully.
A-L-I-L-A-S-S –F-E. . . .
I don’t believe it. Jeff started to laugh.
Ali Lassferly was an anagram.
Of Sally Faiers.
Tracy’s idea of a tribute, perhaps?
Pulling back onto the AutoRoute, his foot firmly on the accelerator, Jeff felt a momentary rush of joy. Tracy was still the same wonderful, smart, conniving, deceitful, perfect woman she’d always been. And here he was chasing her. Again.
Jeff glanced at the red dot on the satellite tracker he had wired to his dashboard and smiled. Tracy was heading for Grenoble station.
Thank God he’d slipped the tracking device into Tracy’s phone.
Right behind you, my darling.
Jeff Stevens hadn’t changed either.
GRENOBLE STATION WAS BUSIER than Jeff expected so late at night.
The huge timetable boards mounted above the concourse announced the arrival and departure of a large number of trains, many of them international.
With the satellite tracker now clenched tightly in his hand, Jeff weaved his way through gaggles of tired travelers, closing in on Tracy’s red dot.
It drew him in a straight line towards platform 13, where a train was waiting to leave. The sign at the barrier informed Jeff of its destination—Rome—and departure time. He had two minutes.
“Billet.” The surly inspector at the gate scowled at Jeff as he tried to push his way onto the platform.
“I’m late. I’ll pay on board!” Jeff tapped frantically at his watch.
“Billet,” the man repeated, impassively.
Jeff contemplated punching him in his ugly, jowly, miserable French face, but he couldn’t afford to be arrested. Not before he got to see the look on Tracy’s face as he took his seat opposite her. Fancy seeing you here, darling.
Forget Hunter Drexel. It would be worth it for that look alone.
Turning around, Jeff sprinted to the ticket office, practically combusting with frustration as he waited for the family in front of him to finish arguing about the fare.
“Je vous en prie!” he begged, waving large euro notes at them and pointing desperately to the Rome train. “Please! I have to catch that train. It’s urgent.”
Sprinting back to platform 13, he arrived just as the barrier was closing. That was when he saw her, in the same cream polo neck and tailored gray pants she’d been wearing earlier, with her hair tied back. She was right at the far end of the platform, in the front carriage of the train. Leaning out of the doorway, Tracy looked back to the concourse as the guard blew his whistle. Apparently satisfied, she retreated back inside the train.
Jeff waved his ticket at the guard.
The squat little man shrugged. “Sorry,” he said in French. “Too late. Barrier’s closed.”
The train began to move.
Jeff’s face darkened for a moment. Then he gave the man a beaming smile.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I think you misheard.”
Jeff’s fist connected with the man’s cheekbone with a satisfying crack. With a howl of pain, he dropped to the floor. Jeff vaulted the balcony and ran towards the train. It was gaining speed.
“Monsieur!” A guard yelled after him. “Arrête!”
But Jeff kept running, arms outstretched. He just managed to wrench open a door and jump inside before the train’s increasing speed would have made it impossible. Half panting, half laughing, he doubled over, resting his head on his knees while he got his breath back.
I’m too old for this lark. Especially at this time of night.
Once he’d recovered, he straightened his tie, smoothed back his hair and walked calmly down the train towards Tracy’s carriage. He was safe, for now at least. This was a high-speed train, not expected to stop until after they’d crossed the border into Germany. After a short break in Munich it would carry on south through Italy during the night, arriving in Rome by lunchtime tomorrow.
Plenty of time for Jeff to savor his triumph over Tracy—she was smart, but Jeff was smarter—and for him to convince her that, as she would never succeed in shaking him off, she may as well tell him the truth and let him help her. Capture Drexel and Kate.
For real this time.
Despite being an overnight train there appeared to be only one carriage of sleeping berths. Most of the cars contained ordinary seats, many with little RESERVED papers sticking up above the headrests. People sipped coffee, or slept, or read news on their iPads. What little conversation heard was muted, a low murmur of French and German and Italian all mingled into one.
Jeff felt his excitement build as he reached the front carriage. The little red dot on his tracker gave a single solid beep and stopped flashing.
She was still here.
He’d found her.
He would be gracious in victory. After all, he still needed to win Tracy over. It wouldn’t do to gloat.
He saw her leaning forwards, reaching into her purse for something. A phone.
Sliding into the seat beside her, Jeff waited for her to look up, then froze in horror.
“Are you all right?” A woman he had never seen before looked at him quizzically. “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”
Jeff stared first at her, then at the phone in her hand. It was Tracy’s phone. The one he’d given her at the fondue restaurant less than twelve hours earlier.
“That phone. Where did you get it?” he asked numbly.
“I have no idea,” the woman frowned. “It’s not mine. I found it just now. Someone must have dropped it into my bag by mistake.”
Jeff’s heart began to pound. Just then his own phone buzzed with a text.
He wrenched it out of his pocket.
Only one person had this number.
Sorry darling, Tracy wrote. Enjoy Rome. T. x
Frantically, Jeff accosted a passing guard.
“I’m sorry,” he said in broken French. “There’s been a mistake. An emergency. I have to get off the train.”
The guard smiled. “I am sorry, Monsieur. The train will not stop until the border.”