Sidney Sheldon’s Reckless

“And then murders people,” Greg Walton interrupted.

“Precisely. We are fearful that Captain Daley’s death may mark the beginning of a new era of global terror. It’s an enormous pity you didn’t kill Argyros when you had the chance.”

“How do you know we didn’t?” Greg Walton asked.

This time Frank Dorrien answered.

“Because we’ve picked up internet traffic between Apollo and an unknown contact in the U.S. Alexis Argyros is alive and well and he’s out there looking for Drexel, just like we are. Make no mistake. Group 99 want Hunter Drexel dead.”

“And you know all this how?” Milton Buck demanded sourly. A stocky, handsome, middle-aged man with dark hair and what ought to have been a pleasing face, Buck successfully concealed whatever charms he may have had beneath a thick veneer of arrogance.

“Our methods are none of your concern,” Frank Dorrien snapped back. “We’re here to share intelligence, not tell you how we came by it. Now, what do you have for us?”

Milton Buck looked at Greg Walton, who nodded his approval. Buck pulled out an old-fashioned Dictaphone voice recorder and put it on the table.

“While you’ve been unmasking the monkey,” the FBI man sneered, “we’ve been focused on the organ grinder.”

Jamie MacIntosh sighed. He was starting to find Milton Buck’s posturing deeply irritating.

“Your man Apollo may have pulled the trigger,” Buck went on, “but he was following orders from above.”

He pressed PLAY. A woman’s voice filled the room. It was American, educated, soft and low and the sound quality was excellent, as if she were sitting right there with them.

“Is everything ready?”

A man’s voice answered. “Yes. Everything has been done as you instructed.”

“And I will see it on live feed, correct?”

“Correct. You’ll be right there with us. Don’t worry.”

“Good.” The woman’s smile was audible. “Have him deliver the speech first.”

“Of course. As we agreed.”

“And at nine p.m. New York time precisely, you will shoot him in the head.”

“Yes, Althea.”

Milton Buck hit STOP and smiled smugly.

“That, gentlemen, was the authorization for Captain Daley’s execution. The woman on that tape, who goes by the codename Althea, is the real brains behind Group 99. We’ve been tracking her for the last eighteen months.”

“We already knew about Althea,” Jamie MacIntosh said dismissively, to the FBI man’s visible annoyance.

“But you didn’t know she’d directly ordered Daley’s assassination. Did you?” Greg Walton countered.

“No,” Jamie admitted. “What else have you got on her? An ID?”

“Not yet,” Greg Walton admitted, a little uncomfortably.

“You’ve been tracking this person for eighteen months and you still don’t know who she is?” Frank Dorrien asked, disbelievingly. “What do you know?”

“We know she channels funds to Group 99 through a complicated network of offshore accounts that we’ve mapped extensively,” Milton Buck snapped.

“We have some unconfirmed physical data,” Greg Walton added more calmly. “Witnesses at various banks and hotels we believe she’s used have suggested she’s tall, physically attractive and dark haired.”

“Well that narrows it down,” Frank Dorrien muttered sarcastically.

Milton Buck looked as if he were about to spontaneously combust.

“We know she orchestrated the attack on the CIA systems and the blackout of the stock exchange servers on Wall Street two years ago,” he snarled. “We know she personally arranged the kidnap and murder of one of your men, General Dorrien. All in all I’d say we know a hell of a lot more than you.”

“How long have you had this recording?” Jamie MacIntosh asked.

Greg Walton shot Milton Buck a warning look but it was too late.

“Three weeks,” Buck said smugly. “I played this to the president the day after Daley was killed.”

A muscle on Jamie’s jaw twitched. “Three weeks. And nobody thought to share this information with us sooner?”

“We’re sharing it with you now,” Greg Walton said.

Frank Dorrien slammed his fist down hard on the table. Everybody’s water glasses shook.

“It’s not bloody good enough!” he roared. “Daley was one of ours. With allies like you, who needs enemies?”

“Frank.” Jamie MacIntosh put a hand on the old soldier’s arm, but Dorrien shrugged it off angrily.

“No, Jamie. This is a farce! Here we are spoon-feeding the Americans valuable intelligence, detailed intelligence, actually providing them with the exact location of their hostage. And all the while they’re sitting on vital information about Bob Daley’s killer? It’s unacceptable.”

Buck leaned forward aggressively.

“And just who are you to tell us what’s acceptable, General? Has it occurred to you that maybe we didn’t trust the British with this intelligence? After all, your men have been dropping like flies lately.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Think about it. First a Greek royal dies on your watch, General,” Buck said accusingly, “a young man who just happens to be a personal friend of Captain Daley. Then, only days later, Daley himself is killed, which let’s just say is out of character for Group 99, up to this point. Now, you may say there’s no connection between those two events—”

“Of course there’s no connection!” Frank Dorrien scoffed. “Prince Achileas died by suicide.”

Milton Buck raised an eyebrow. “Did he? Because the other possibility is that Group 99 have someone embedded within the British military. Maybe someone at Sandhurst, or in the upper echelons of the MOD—also the subject of a Group 99 attack, if you remember.”

“As were the CIA!” Dorrien shouted back. “Prince Achileas was gay. The man hung himself out of shame, you cretin.”

“What did you call me?” Buck got to his feet.

“That. Is. ENOUGH.” Greg Walton finally lost his temper. “Sit down, Milton. NOW.”

Greg was the senior man here. He hadn’t flown thousands of miles to watch his FBI colleague and General Dorrien go at each other like a pair of ill-disciplined dogs.

There was also something about the tone the general used to talk about the Greek prince that put Greg Walton’s back up. Greg was also a homosexual. He found the general’s lack of compassion for the dead boy both distasteful and disturbing.

“Whatever has happened in the past, in terms of sharing information, has happened,” he said, looking from Buck to Dorrien and back again. “From now on we have direct orders from the White House and Downing Street to cooperate fully with one another and that’s what we’re going to do. This is a joint operation. So if either of you have a problem with that, I suggest you get over it. Now.”

Frank Dorrien looked to Jamie MacIntosh for support but there was none forthcoming. He shot a last look of loathing at Milton Buck and sat back in his chair, sullen but compliant. Buck did the same.

“Good. Now, as it happens we do have one other important development to share with you,” Greg Walton went on. “Have either of you ever heard of an individual named Tracy Whitney?”

Frank Dorrien noticed the way Milton Buck tensed up at the mere mention of this name.

“Never heard of her,” he said.

“Tracy Whitney the con artist?” Jamie MacIntosh frowned.

“Con artist, jewel thief, computer wizard, cat burglar,” Greg Walton elaborated. “Miss Whitney’s résumé is a long and varied one.”

“That’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time. We thought she was dead,” said Jamie. He explained to Frank Dorrien how, along with her partner Jeff Stevens, Tracy Whitney had been suspected of a swath of daring crimes across Europe a decade ago, conning the corrupt rich out of millions of dollars in jewelry and fine art, and even extracting a grandmaster from the Prado in Madrid. But neither Interpol nor the CIA nor MI5 had ever been able to prove a case against her. “I dread to think the man-hours and money we wasted trying to outsmart that woman.” He sounded almost nostalgic. “But then overnight it seemed, she vanished and that was that. Jeff Stevens is still knocking around in London I believe, but he seems to be retired.” Jamie turned back to Greg Walton. “I’m baffled as to what Tracy Whitney can possibly have to do with all this.”

“So are we,” Greg admitted. “The day after the failed raid in Bratislava, we received an encrypted message at Langley from Althea in which she referenced Tracy Whitney.”

“More than referenced,” Milton Buck jumped in. “The two women clearly knew each other.”

“What did the message say?” Jamie MacIntosh asked.

“It was a taunt, basically,” Walton replied. “ ‘You guys will never catch me. I’m going to outsmart you just like Tracy Whitney did. I’ll bet you Tracy could find me. Why don’t you have Agent Buck call her in . . .’ That kind of stuff. She clearly knew Tracy, but it was more than that. She knew the agency’s history with Tracy. She knew that Agent Buck had had dealings with her.”

Greg Walton filled his British counterparts in briefly on the operation a few years ago to track down and catch the Bible Killer. How Tracy and Jeff Stevens had both resurfaced at that time, and Tracy had formed an uneasy alliance with both Interpol and the FBI to bring Daniel Cooper to justice. “Agent Buck here ran the operation. It was a success, but it would be fair to say that Milton and Tracy’s relationship was”—he searched for the right word—“tempestuous. Althea knew that.”

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon