A little before noon the next day, Sunday, I walked down to the boat at St. Katharine's Dock. It was overcast. London seemed asleep under the gloom. It was hard for me to believe it was July. It felt more like November.
"Any more news about Price?" Zorn asked when I dropped down the ladder into the cabin.
"Nothing but what I told you. Price says he's going to kill us," I said.
"A cheery thought." Zorn put water on for coffee.
"Are you worried?" I asked.
"Of course I'm worried. But what's the use?"
"Right," Zorn said. "But maybe we can do a few things ourselves to ruin Price's life."
"You mean like killing him?"
"No. Nothing as radical as that. Maybe you won't have to try and kill him."
"I'll tell you later. Why don't you make coffee, and I'll pour us some orange juice."
I made coffee and then set up the little galley table. When the coffee had dripped, I handed Zorn a mug, and he took a sip.
"This coffee is terrible."
"Nobody likes it but me," I said.
"How much coffee did you put in?"
"Five scoops plus one for the pot."
"That's enough to make me jitter all day."
"That's the idea. Real java. If it doesn't give you palpitations and delusions of persecution, it's not real coffee."
"You won't have to wait for Price to kill you. This stuff will do the trick." Zorn got up to put more water in his cup to dilute the tar-black mud. "Have you heard about health?"
"I eat lots of healthy stuff," I said. "It's only the stuff I like that's unhealthy." I drank a sip of coffee. Then I gulped down the orange juice. "So what ideas do you have about Price?" I asked.
"I've been talking to Bob."
"Price's computer, remember?"
"Yeah. You mean they haven't changed the codes on the Omni Arms computer?"
"Oh sure. They changed them. But it didn't do any good. Bob and I are old friends."
"You're weird, Zorn."
"Yeah. Everybody's weird."
"So what did Bob say?"
"Nothing. I talked to him. I programmed instructions that will shut down the whole system."
I laughed. "You're kidding."
"No. Really. As soon as I tell Bob, the whole thing goes dormant. Nobody will be able to retrieve a thing. I figure if Price wants to kill us, we might as well ruin his life."
"That's great. Imagine. No orders. No inventory reports. No accounts receivable. No receipts get entered. No bills get paid," I said and laughed again. "But they must have backup disks."
"It won't do them any good. They'll have to install a whole new computer system. Once I tell Bob what to do, the whole system is junk."
"So you've programmed him to commit suicide?"
"No. It's more like Sleeping Beauty. When the right prince comes along, he'll wake up."
"When do you want to put old Bob in a coma?"
"Whenever. This afternoon," Zorn said. "I've also been wondering about some other stuff."
"I was wondering about the whole IBIC business," Zorn said.
"Are you thinking about breaking into their computer now?"
"I already tried," Zorn said.
"No luck. They don't seem to have a computer system," Zorn said.
"Oh yeah. Now that you mention it, somebody told me about that. They keep their books in longhand. Their accounts are in Urdu."
"In Urdu? That'll keep nosy investigators at bay," Zorn said. "Anyway, after that I called my contact at the CIA."
"That again." I frowned.
"Yeah. He didn't really want to talk to me. He sounded distracted. I think something big is up."
"Like what?" I put down my coffee cup.
"I don't know, but his attitude was like don't bother me. There's more important stuff going on. He shut me off."
"Is that all?"
"No. I called a guy I know at NSA. He's a friend of the guy at the Company, but I know him myself. We went to school together, and I've done some work for NSA."
"So you called someone at the National Security Agency. Jeez, Zorn."
"Well, you know they monitor all these communication links with ground-based monitors and satellites."
"Right," I said, thinking about the magic belt and the eye-in-the-sky that sat up there ready to watch me die. "So what?"
"He told me confidentially, super-confidentially, what's been going on. He even put on the scrambler to tell me. I had to run the transmission through the descrambler on my computer." Zorn looked at the desktop unit on the bulkhead opposite us.
"So what kind of high-tech, top-secret shit did he tell you?"
"It's not much, but IBIC and Omni Arms have been talking to a lot of people in the Middle East over the last week or so. The traffic has been intense. And satellite photographs show major troop movements."
"He wouldn't say."
"That's just like those idiots," I said. "They treat as top secret information stuff that anybody can read in the morning paper."
"You mean Iraq?" Zorn asked.
"Sure. Saddam Hussein's been mouthing off about Kuwait being part of Iraq. Of course, he's right. British and American oil companies helped create Kuwait when they discovered oil there. The same as they did with Saudi Arabia and the oil sheiks. He wants the oil back. He must be trying to ensure financing for more arms if he goes into Kuwait."
"I thought Iraq's armaments were from the Soviet Union," Zorn said.
"That's right, but Russia doesn't want to alienate the United States right now. Saddam Hussein would have to cover his ass. He'll need another, less obvious, route of resupply."
"So Price could get the weapons, and IBIC could provide the credit."
"But I thought IBIC was bankrolled by Saudi Arabia," Zorn said.
"It is. Saudi Arabia has supported Iraq for years, especially against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. They'll keep on doing it, unless Iraq actually goes into Kuwait," I said.
We finished our coffee. A little after two o'clock Zorn sat down at his computer and rang up Bob at Omni Arms.
HELLO, BOB. THIS IS RAY, Zorn typed in.
YOU ARE VERY TIRED, BOB. IT IS TIME TO SLEEP, Zorn typed.
THANK YOU, RAY. I AM SLEEPY. GOOD NIGHT, RAY, the screen answered.
GOOD NIGHT, BOB, Zorn typed.
The screen went blank.
"Is that it?" I asked, looking over Zorn's shoulder.
"He's sleeping like a baby," Zorn said. "Bob won't wake up until I tell him to. You want a beer to celebrate?"
"Not after that coffee. Why don't we get out of here. I've got too much nervous energy to sit still." I looked around at the confined space of the cabin.
"Good idea. Let's walk over to the Tower," Zorn said.
Zorn locked the cabin on the way out, and we walked up the dock to St. Katharine's Way.
"I'd like to be a little bird at Omni Arms tomorrow when they find out their computer is toast," I said as we crossed Tower Bridge Road. There weren't many tourists because the day was so bleak.
"It'll probably take them the whole day to figure out nothing will revive him," Zorn said.
"It, Zorn. The computer is an it," I reminded him.
"Of course. I forgot. But I better not tell that to Bob."
"You really are weird, Zorn."
"It's true," Zorn said.
We walked along the greensward between the Tower of London and the river, stopping for a while to peer through the fog across the Thames. The H.M.S. Belfast was barely visible on the opposite shore at Southwark. We continued our walk, going down the embankment where boats used to deliver prisoners through the portcullis into the Tower.
"Some of my favorite people died there," I said.
"Yeah? Who?" Zorn asked as we stopped to look.
"Sir Walter Raleigh for one. He wrote a history of the world while he was imprisoned here. Sir Thomas More. I think he died here. If he didn't, he should have. I think the Tower was abandoned as a residence because the Normans built their houses like prisons. To wall people out you have to wall yourself in."
"These days a castle makes a lot of sense," Zorn said.
"You're right. Number Ten Downing Street only works if the citizens are civilized. Otherwise, a Norman keep is a lot safer."
We walked up from the portcullis to the opposite embankment.
"Did they find out who killed Margaret Thatcher's secretary, Giles Draper?"
"I don't know," I said. "There was nothing in the papers about the explosive used to kill him. I asked Entwhistle about it when I called Scotland Yard the other day. Suddenly it's classified information. But it had to be C-4," I said.
We walked down toward Lower Thames Street.
"What's going on?" Zorn said.
"Is the Thatcher government worried about U.S.-British relations?"
"The C-4 is made in America. Price got it for Qaddafi who gave it to the IRA. You tell me," I said.
"It's all too predictable," Zorn said.
"Do you remember the policewoman who was killed when the Libyans barricaded their embassy here a few years ago?" I asked.
"No. What happened?"
"The Libyans started firing, and a London policewoman was killed. The gun came from Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S.A. It was registered to a former member of Special Forces who worked for Qaddafi's terrorist training camp in Libya. The Libyan terrorists used it to kill her. I've thought sometimes that, if Reagan had been killed by the Turks Qaddafi sent to kill him, the gun would have been one of ours, traceable to somebody from the United States."
We walked around the Tower, back toward East Smithfield Road and St. Katharine's Dock. It was almost three-thirty when we got back to Zorn's boat.
"I'm supposed to be at Angelique's at four," I said.
"You'd better get going. Let me know what you hear from Price and Omni Arms."
"You might want to go for a sail again. I know I'm paranoid, but Price is out to get us, and he's going to know it was you that messed up his computer."
"Maybe I will. Give me a call tomorrow. I might still be here," Zorn said.
I took the Tube to Bloomsbury. As I entered Angelique's building, I heard the sound of retching from the stairway above. I entered the lift and rode it up to Angelique's floor. As I got off the elevator, I saw where the sound came from. Angelique stood in her doorway over a man who was attempting to vomit his guts out on the marble floor of the hall.
"Who's that?" I asked her.
"A very sick man who came here to kill me," Angelique said.
I noticed that she held a pistol at her side.
"Where did you get that?" I asked.
"This man dropped it when he became ill," Angelique explained.
"I was making a delicious stew when this man broke into my apartment, announcing that he would abduct me. He brandished this gun." Angelique pointed it at me.
"Um. Maybe you'd better point that somewhere else. So what happened?"
"What happened?" I said louder over the echoing retching of the man on the floor. "Maybe we ought to go inside. It's awfully noisy out here."
I stepped over the vomiting man into the apartment. Angelique shut the door.
"Do you think he will escape?" Angelique asked.
"I'll check on him if the noise stops," I said. "What happened?"
"I was standing in front of the stove stirring the stew. He insisted on eating a bowl of it. Then he became quite sick. I think it was the mushrooms." Angelique smiled broadly.
"What did you do poison him?"
She nodded her head like a little girl.
"You gave him toadstools in his stew! You are very bad," I said and laughed.
"It smelled so good he had to eat some. I hope he doesn't die," Angelique said, and she began to laugh too.
After a minute we stopped to listen. The man was still alive and still very sick.
"He couldn't hold his gun, and so I held it for him," she said. "I coaxed him out the door on his knees. I didn't want him to vomit in the apartment."
"Miss Compulsively Neat leads her prey to the hall to barf. How kind of you," I said.
"Where did you get the deadly shrooms?"
"Shrooms? What are shrooms? Les champignons? You mean mushrooms?"
"Yeah, right. Mushrooms."
"Anywhere. It is wet. They grow. I pick them."
"You recognize poisonous mushrooms?"
"Are you a witch?"
Angelique laughed again. "No. I am French. I am from the countryside. I learn to know mushrooms, the edible ones, and the ones that are not so good, no? I thought poisoned stew might be useful, is it not so?"
The retching sounds continued from beyond the door.
"Is he going to die?" I asked.
"Maybe not. Maybe so. I have called Scotland Yard. They will be here soon."
"Good. But let me get this straight. You made this stew on purpose to feed to someone who might show up to kill you?"
"Yes. Exactly so. It has been on the stove now since yesterday, just in case."
"Well done. Remind me never to get on your bad side.”
"What are you saying?"
"I have a new respect for your cuisine."
"Thank you, Jacques. Would you like some stew?"
"I'll pass. But it smells delicious. Maybe we ought to have a look at your guest before the police arrive."
We opened the door and climbed over the sick man in the hall. There wasn't much of a mess on the floor, considering the noise he was making. He was bald and wore a gray windbreaker. I thought I recognized him. I turned him over and attempted to push up the sleeves of the jacket. The man made no effort to resist. Except for the heaving, he was as supple as a rag doll.
"What are you doing?" Angelique asked.
"I'm looking for this," I said and showed her the tattoo of a rose on the man's right forearm.
From below we heard the squeal of hinges as the front door opened. And a few moments later the elevator descended to the first floor and then rose laboriously to Angelique's flat. I expected to see Entwhistle, but it was another detective and a uniformed officer who got off the lift. Soon an ambulance arrived to take the sick man away. The bobby left with the ambulance, but the detective stayed to interview Angelique and me. When he left, the detective took the would-be assassin's gun. I was sorry to see the weapon go.
Afterward, I tried to talk to Angelique about Ann.
"I'm sorry about what happened yesterday," I said.
"What you do is your own business," Angelique said. "I am not your wife."
"So you're not mad anymore?"
"Yes, I am still angry with you."
"That doesn't make sense," I said.
"It makes sense. You do what you want. I will have nothing to do with you."
"Is that what you want?" I asked.
"No. It is what I will do if you continue to make such a fool of yourself. I think you have no judgment."
"I like you. That shows good judgment." I smiled what I hoped was a winning smile.
"When are you going to grow up, Jacques?"
"I'll start now."
"Perhaps I will relent." Then she asked, "Are you going to stop getting into trouble?"
"Maybe. Must I?"
"It's your choice. Would you like to stay for dinner?" she asked.
"Actually, I'm not really hungry. Is there something we could do besides eat?"
"I am hungry. I will not feed you poison stew, I promise."
"Okay. It's a deal then. I'll stay for dinner."
I stayed for dinner, and then she kicked me out.
It was Monday, July 23. After my morning run, I picked up a copy of the London Times and read it over coffee . The newspaper contained nothing new. At nine o'clock, I headed for Victoria, to Scotland Yard for a talk with Entwhistle.
"What did you find out from the man who tried to kidnap Angelique Jardin?" I asked.
"He's still too sick. The anti-terrorist unit wants to talk to him as soon as he's able. They've been busy with the recent IRA violence, so it's just as well the man can't talk yet. Have you any idea who sent him?"
"It was Price, I'm sure," I said. "He threatened to kill us."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"There didn't seem to be any point. He just would have denied it," I said. "Let me know if you get anything out of him, will you?"
"If I can," Entwhistle said.
"Did you see his rose tattoo?"
"Yes. We have a full physical description, fingerprints, and pictures," Entwhistle said.
"Who is he?"
"We're working on it."
"Let me know, please," I said.
I left Scotland Yard and took the Tube to Notting Hill Gate. It was almost eleven, and I wanted to catch Eoin Cogan before the pub opened. When I got there, the door was locked. I knocked. There was no sound from inside. I looked through the window. It was hard to see. The lights were off. I shaded my eyes against the glare from the glass from the light outside and squinted through the window.
There was a body on the floor in front of the bar. I put my hip to the door and tried to force it open. No luck. Then I stepped back and kicked the glass out of the frame. The glass shattered inward with a loud crash. People in the street stared. I ignored them. I reached inside the broken frame and unlocked the door.
In the light from the open door I could see that it was Eoin. There wasn't much blood. I knelt down and placed my fingers on Eoin's neck. I couldn't feel a pulse. I sat on the floor and lifted the man's head and shoulders toward me.
There was no reply. The hand that held the back of his head was wet with blood. Blood was suddenly all over my knee and on the floor. I did not move as the blood soaked my clothes. After several minutes I got up and washed my hands. Then I called Entwhistle at Scotland Yard.
Torsky was waiting for me in a car when I got back to my flat.
"Somebody killed Eoin Cogan," I said.
"I heard," Torsky replied.
"It's my fault he's dead."
"You won't need that item for a while," Torsky said.
"Your man flew out at seven this morning."
"Price? Where did he go?"
"We think he's headed for Baghdad," Torsky said.
"What's he doing there?"
"The same thing he always does."
"When's he coming back?"
"It's open-ended. He didn't file a return flight plan."
"I see. But his being out of the country won't prevent his thugs from trying to get us. Did you hear what happened to Angelique?"
"Yeah. Your French nurse is a tough customer."
"We might end up like Eoin."
"Don't worry about Price," Torsky said.
"So you keep saying. What do you know that I don't?"
"You ask too many questions."
Nothing went right that week.
On Saturday, Entwhistle called to tell me Angelique's would-be assassin had escaped from his hospital room.
"Did you have a chance to interrogate him?" I asked.
"He wouldn't say anything. We'll get him back."
"Not alive you won't," I said. "They'll kill him. Who is he?"
"He's an Italian hitman. Probably Mafia," Entwhistle told him.
"A Mafia hitman working for Price. How about that."
"You don't know it was Price," Entwhistle said.
"Who else would have hired him?"
"It could have been the ones who killed Angelique Jardin's father."
"I hadn't thought of that," I said.
On Monday I went up to the Times newsroom to see Gordon Bennett.
"Your man Price is dead," Gordon told me.
"Dead? What happened?"
"We're putting the story together now."
The newsroom was indeed busy but not just with the Price story. Things were getting hot in the Middle East. Saddam Hussein was talking again about making Kuwait a province of Iraq. The United States Department of State continued to believe Saddam wouldn't do it. The British government seemed sure he would. I peered over the shoulders of the people writing stories.
"Are you too busy to talk?" I asked.
"Sit down here, and I'll tell you what we've got," Gordon said. "Apparently, Price's private jet left Baghdad at one p.m.Greenwich time for a stop in Athens and took off again at three. The plane blew up near the border of Macedonia."
"Who was on it besides Price?"
"Just his pilot."
"Do they know yet what happened?"
"The Greek authorities think it was a terrorist bomb. Ironic isn't it?"
"The Greek government is trying to get to the plane to examine it. They may ask for international assistance in determining the cause. No one has claimed responsibility for the bomb if that's what it was."
"Thanks, Gordon. May I use your phone?"
"Sure. Use this one." Gordon Bennett pointed to the phone on the desk. Feel free to stick around."
I called Torsky at the Israeli Embassy, but Torsky wasn't there. I left a message and went back to my flat. Torsky didn't return my call. I tried for two days, but Torsky was still out.
The next day Iraq invaded Kuwait. It was Thursday, August 2. Saddam Hussein threatened to annihilate Israel. The PLO gave Iraq their support. The United States and Western Europe scrambled to line up the rest of the Middle East against Saddam Hussein. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria wavered. Jordan was caught in the middle. Israel began to prepare for war.
By Friday, the impending indictment against Simon Shilling and IBIC was dropped. The British had no desire to offend IBIC's bankroller, Saudi Arabia.
I went to see Angelique.
"I'm going back to the States for a while. I've got to visit my son Mike. I told him I would. There's not much more for me to do here."
"Suit yourself, Jacques," Angelique said.
"Would you come with me?"
"No. I must stay here to work."
"You'll be going back to France at the end of August?"
"Yes. I've decided to go to Carcassonne. I want to work in my grandfather's vineyard. All that has happened has made me reassess my life," she said.
"Do your plans include me?" I asked.
"Perhaps. It depends."
"When are you going to America?"
"If I can get my passport back, I'll probably go next week."
"I'm glad you are going to see your son." She turned to me and kissed me. "Goodbye, Jacques."
"Don't say goodbye. I'll see you before I go."
I went to the U.S. Embassy and persuaded them to get the British government to give me back my passport.
I went to see Zorn in the afternoon. He was getting his boat ready for a long sail.
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"The South Pacific. Maybe Australia and New Zealand."
"You're going to sail all the way there?"
"Why so far?"
"My wife just informed me that she's filed for divorce."
"It's probably for the best."
"Thanks for all your help," I said.
"It's nothing. You helped me," Zorn said. He grinned and one eye blinked wide.
"Let's keep in touch," I said.
"I'll write to you from Tahiti. Or the Marquesas maybe."
"Great," I said.
We shook hands, and I left the boat, hoping I would see Zorn again some day but thinking maybe I wouldn't.
On Saturday, I called Angelique.
"I was wondering if you'd have dinner with me tonight at my place," I said.
I must work tonight," she said.
"How about tomorrow night?"
"I don't think so."
"I will not because I do not think you will come back when you go to America. I do not think you should come back. You should stay there and raise your son."
"I'll be back," I said. Angelique made no reply.
‘Maybe you're right,’ I said. “Will I see you again?"
"If you come to Carcassonne, you will see me."
"Will you give me your address?"
She gave me her address.
"Thanks. Goodbye, Angelique."
The next day, I went through all my belongings and decided what to keep and what to give away. On Monday I called a shipping company to come and pack up my stuff and store it until I had a new address. I told Mrs. Gardiner she would need a new tenant for the flat. Then I called a ticket agent and booked a flight to Boston by way of Prestwick in Scotland. I would visit my father in Boston before going on to Buffalo. But first I wanted to spend a few days on Iona before I flew home. I would stay at the inn on Iona, and visit with Teller.
I sent a telegram to Teller. Then I called my old man in Boston. My father actually sounded glad to hear from me. Then I called my son Mike and said I was on my way home and told him we would be spending some time together.
On Tuesday I called Gordon Bennett at the Times to thank him for his help. Then I called Torsky to say the same thing. Torsky sounded preoccupied.
"When are you flying out?" Torsky asked.
"Tomorrow morning at 7:30." I named the airline at Gatwick.
"I'll meet you there at six."
"To give you a send-off. Just be there when I get there."
"I'll be there," I said.
I met Torsky at the gate. I checked my bags, and Torsky took me to a coffee shop where we got two large styrofoam cups of coffee to go. We walked around as Torsky talked.
"There's going to be a war in the Persian Gulf. Israel is preparing for an invasion by Iraq across Jordan. I've been busy. You've been a pain in the ass, but you gave me the information I needed to get Price. Just for the record, I didn't have him blown out of the sky."
"I'm glad you told me," I said. "I was sure it was you. Was it just an accident?"
"No. Somebody blew up the plane with a bomb in the luggage compartment. It was C-4."
"Is that so? It serves him right. Who planted the bomb?"
"There's no way of knowing for sure, but I think Price had become a liability to the organization he worked for."
"You mean Omni Arms?"
"No. That was just the company he used to do business. It was what you figured out, an organization like the Mafia, sort of like cancer, a network that gets inside a host body."
"How do you know all this?"
We stopped in the middle of the airport lobby. No one was around. It was not yet six-thirty in the morning.
Torsky took something from his pocket. It was an envelope. He handed it to me.
I opened the envelope. It was a piece of vellum with a five-petaled rose on it. I held it up to the light. It looked like a Gothic rose window.
"What is it?"
"It's human skin."
I almost dropped it.
"Where'd you get it?" I put the thing back in the envelope and tried to hand it to Torsky, but Torsky wouldn't take it.
"It's yours. A souvenir. It's off of the guy who tried to kill your French nurse. We had the hospital staked out just in case. Somebody sprung the guy, and we grabbed him."
"What happened to him?"
"We took him out of the country. He died."
"What did he tell you?"
"He told us everything he knew, and then when we weren't looking, he hanged himself."
"What did he say?"
"He said everything you suspected is true."
"It's all true?" I mumbled.
"Yeah. The rose tattoo stands for a secret organization. Now that Price is dead, they'll replace him with someone less visible. There's a big market for Russian nuclear technology. It's going to the highest bidder. Nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists." Torsky laughed. "It'll make C-4 look like a firecracker by comparison."
"Thanks for the information," I said.
"I thought you'd like to know. Now we're even."
"Now we're even," I said and walked away.
And this tattooing had been the work of a departed prophet and seer of his island, who, by those hieroglyphic marks, had written out on his body a complete theory of the heavens and the earth, and a mystical treatise on the art of attaining truth . . . ; and these mysteries were therefore destined in the end to moulder away with the living parchment whereon they were inscribed, and so be unsolved to the last.