“You look lovely,” Frank said. “Very French.”
Tracy smiled. “It’s the scarf.”
“It suits you.”
For a few minutes they walked on in companionable silence, Tracy leaning into Frank like a sapling bending in the wind. Then Tracy said, “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever properly thanked you.”
Tracy laughed. “For saving my life that day. If you hadn’t showed up . . . if you hadn’t shot Cameron . . .”
“Yes, well,” Frank Dorrien said gruffly. “I should never have allowed things to get that far in the first place. We should never have lost track of you.”
“Jeff should never have lost track of me, you mean,” Tracy said archly.
“No, no,” said Frank. “I can’t have that. I was team leader. The buck stopped with me.”
Tracy thought, He’s so British. So clipped and reserved. Heaven forbid he show any emotion, or take any credit for his own heroism.
They’d reached the top of the hill now. Frank led them to an empty bench so that Tracy could get her breath back.
“I take it you’ve seen this?”
He handed her a copy of today’s Times.
“No!” Tracy took it delightedly. “I mean I’ve read the piece online, obviously. But I haven’t seen a hard copy. All the newsagents I passed on the way here had sold out.”
No one had been more astonished than Tracy to learn that Hunter Drexel was still alive—that he’d survived Cameron’s point-blank bullet that night at the villa. After all, she had watched Hunter go down with her own eyes, seen his empty gaze. Had anybody asked her, Tracy would have sworn on oath that Hunter was dead. But apparently he’d been wearing body armor underneath his clothes during dinner. Ironically to protect himself from her, not Cameron Crewe. But it had saved his life just the same.
Tracy was relieved to learn Drexel was alive. But she still had mixed feelings about him, and about where his loyalties really lay. He’d refused to tell MI6 anything about Kate Evans location, and seemed determined that she should evade justice for the murder of Bob Daley—supposedly his friend—as well as for the other Group 99 cyberattacks she organized. And though he hadn’t been involved in Sally Faiers’s death, or Hélène Faubourg’s, to Tracy’s mind he’d bounced back from both these tragic events in a manner that did not endear him, nor engender trust.
On the other hand, he’d been through hell and risked a lot to bring Crewe Oil to justice and to expose the truth about both the global fracking industry and Group 99.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the whole truth.
Tracy opened the paper eagerly and scanned the first four pages, all of which were devoted to Hunter’s article. It contained a great many bombshells, but the most shocking part for Tracy was what it omitted.
No mention was made of President Havers’s involvement in corrupt practices, still less was there any allusion to the botched Bratislavan rescue attempt. Instead a false story had been concocted about Hunter escaping while in transit from one Group 99 camp to another. Even worse, he claimed to have been working alongside the CIA while on the run from Group 99, helping to lure the group’s leader, Alexis Argyros, aka Apollo, into a trap that resulted in his ultimate death via drone strike. Names and locations had all been withheld as “classified,” making the story conveniently impossible to verify. And meanwhile Greg Walton and his team came out of the whole thing smelling of roses while Hunter was hailed as a hero.
Tracy shook her head. “I still can’t believe he sold out.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that exactly,” said Frank. “The Havers administration was never as bad as Drexel painted them. At the end of the day, all they did was arrange a few off book, handshake deals to promote U.S. interests. We were just as bad.”
“I’m sure you were,” said Tracy. “But someone ought to be saying so!”
“Sally Faiers tried,” Frank reminded her. “Look what happened to her.”
Tracy handed him back the paper. They walked on.
“Do you think the Americans killed Sally?” Tracy asked.
Frank shook his head. “No. We’re pretty sure Crewe ordered the hit in Bruges. And on Hélène. Hunter had confided in both of them, you see.”
“Kate wasn’t mentioned in the article,” said Tracy. “After everything we went through! They don’t even talk about Althea.”
“Drexel insisted on keeping her out of it.” For the first time, Dorrien sounded as outraged as Tracy was. “That was his quid pro quo, for keeping his mouth shut about Bratislava and the president. We know he gave her well over a million dollars in poker winnings, presumably to start a new life somewhere. And at the end of the day it was in everyone’s interests to let her drop, to focus on Argyros. The drone strike on Apollo was a success. Letting Althea slip through the net was a failure. With Crewe and Argyros both dead, Group 99 have been cut off at the knees. Hunter Drexel’s a hero, and so’s the President. Everyone’s a winner.”
“Tell that to Bob Daley’s widow,” Tracy said bitterly. “Or the parents of those poor kids at Camp France.”
“I agree, my dear,” said Frank. “It’s not fair. But then life so rarely is, wouldn’t you agree? Ah, here we are. Chez Patrick. I hope you’re hungry.”
They’d turned a corner into a charming cobbled mews. A few yards in front of them stood an extremely pretty French restaurant, with blue and white canvas awnings hanging over outdoor tables, simple wicker bistro chairs and window boxes overflowing with Sweet William perched above the open door. A glorious smell of garlic and white wine wafted down the mews towards them, making Tracy’s mouth water.
Inside, Chez Patrick was bustling. An elderly Frenchman took Tracy’s coat and scarf. He was reaching for Frank’s heavy tweed coat when Frank’s phone rang.
“Sorry,” he mouthed to Tracy, darting back into the mews. “You go in. I won’t be long.”
Leaving him to his phone call, Tracy followed the maître d’ through the restaurant. Weaving her way through gingham-clothed tables and past chattering diners, she arrived at a table tucked away round a corner, in a little alcove all its own.
Jeff Stevens looked up and smiled.
TRACY TURNED AND BOLTED out of the restaurant.
She looked up and down the mews in search of Frank Dorrien. But Frank had gone.
He set me up. The bastard set me up.
By the time she turned around, Jeff was standing outside. In a dark suit that off set his gray eyes perfectly, with his curly dark hair ruffled by the wind, he looked as handsome as he had the day Tracy first saw him, in a train compartment en route to St. Louis. Tracy remembered that first meeting as if it were yesterday. She had just pulled off her first ever job, stealing Lois Bellamy’s jewels for a crooked New York jeweler named Conrad Morgan. Jeff, posing as FBI Agent Thomas Bowers, had scammed her into handing them over; and Tracy had scammed him right back.
But of course, it wasn’t yesterday. Decades had passed since that train journey. Decades of adventure and excitement, of love and loss, of exquisite joy and unbearable pain. Nicholas’s life, and death, lay between then and now, an unbridgeable Grand Canyon of grief that Tracy could never cross, no matter how much she might want to.
“Please,” Jeff said reproachfully. “Don’t run away. Have lunch with me.”
“I can’t believe Frank did this,” Tracy muttered furiously.
“You mustn’t blame Frank,” Jeff said. “I begged him. I told him I needed to see you.”
“And I told him, very plainly, that I didn’t want to see you,” Tracy said.
Jeff’s wounded expression was like a punch in the stomach.
Softening her tone, Tracy said, “It’s a bad idea. You know it is.”
“It’s only lunch.”
Tracy gave Jeff a knowing look. When it came to the two of them, there was no such thing as “only lunch” and they both knew it.
“We do need to talk,” Jeff pressed her.
Tracy hesitated, just for a second, and Jeff smiled. He knew he had her.
THE FOOD WAS DELICIOUS. Nothing too rich and creamy, the way French food sometimes could be. Tracy had a langoustine salad that positively exploded with flavor, and Jeff had a fortifying steak frites, washed down with a good Burgundy for courage.
He knew he was going to need it.
For the first half an hour they talked about the case. About Hunter and Kate and the drone strike that had killed Alexis Argyros. About the fracking industry and corruption and the duplicitous nature of politicians.
“If only more people were as honest as us, eh, darling?” Jeff quipped.
Tracy loved his sense of humor and she envied it. She wished she could still laugh at the world the way Jeff could. She used to laugh a lot.