No, I said to myself, as usual, when I woke up at six the next morning, and as usual, I put on my sweats to go running and went out. As I ran, I thought about the impending interview with Cruikshank. When I got back to the flat, I took a shower and let the water run down my head, as if it could wash out the mess of my mind. Then I put water on the gas ring for coffee and went into the bedroom to dress. I put on gray wool pants and my old blazer, pausing at the last minute to put on a tie as armor against the man I was about to go and see.
I made a cup of instant coffee and sliced a piece of bread, along with a Granny Smith apple imported from God-knows-where. The orange tabby I called Marmalade appeared at the window. The cat had adopted me. He was a "walk-on," no scholarship for his services as either athlete or friend. And he was quite an athlete, this cat, climbing to the third floor on the diagonal drainpipe from a second floor addition and the garage below. I poured milk into the coffee and put some in a bowl for the cat. After we both finished breakfast, I asked the cat what he'd been up to while I was gone. He didn't answer me, just switched his tail and mewed.
"See ya around, kid," I told him. The cat curled up on the bed and went to sleep.
I closed up the flat, except for the window to let the cat out, and descended the stairs. I lived off Blomfield Road, by the Grand Canal and the Regents Canal, where they meet at the Little Venice Landing Stage. Barges and small boats moved up and down the canals in the calm water and clear morning sunlight. Children not yet in school followed pigeons down the walkway and across the grass as their mothers watched them play.
I walked to the Paddington tube station, put the proper number of pence in the machine for a ticket, and boarded the Circle line for Chelsea. I got off at Sloan Square and headed toward Cruikshank's house, along King's Road, past all the shops, and then toward the Thames. On a side street off Chelsea Embankment, on a pleasant, quiet, really expensive street, I came to the home of George Cruikshank, former spy.
I liked the Chelsea house, but I hated going in. My previous visit, when I learned about Teller, had not been pleasant. This one would likely be the same, but I needed to talk to the man. So, I walked up the steps and banged the knocker. A woman answered and demanded to know my business. I announced my appointment, and she grudgingly let me in and disappeared. I walked through the hall, past the sitting room, to Cruikshank's study. Huddled over a low table, Cruikshank peered through black-rimmed glasses at an ancient book. He wore a heavy dark suit, expensively made but aged and unpressed, a white shirt, and dark tie. The folds of his girth arranged themselves in tiers over his belt. He had not heard me enter.
The study was lined with old books. Books and papers covered every flat surface. None seemed to have moved since my last audience with the great man. From the study, French doors led out to a garden filled with rose bushes. Eventually, the imposing gray head looked up and said, "Are you here?"
"It seems so, yes."
"We have an appointment."
"That is not an answer. Why are you here?"
"I have some questions," I tried.
"It's all in the architecture."
Cruikshank leaned forward and said, "Architecture reveals the state of the soul. The sublime monuments to Saint Michael the Archangel, to the Virgin, and to Christ. Durham. Heaven. Now," he sneered, "perfect buildings of glass and steel are built in five minutes to mirror emptiness at one another. A low aim indeed." Cruikshank leaned back in his chair, self-satisfied.
"In the end, we only hit what we aim at," I said.
"Thoreau. What about you?" I asked.
Cruikshank looked at me over the top of his black-framed glasses. "Oh, Ruskin, I suppose. It's usually Ruskin when I start in." He sat back with his hands folded across his middle and continued, "Architecture records the relationship of man to himself and to God."
"The Jews lived in tents and wrote a book," I said.
"Solomon built the Temple, but yes, only the book remains."
"What are you reading?"
"You wouldn't be interested." Cruikshank leaned forward and closed the tome. "You have not answered my question."
"What was it?"
"Why are you here?"
"I have questions to ask you."
"I cannot help you."
"Perhaps you can. Let's find out."
"If you wish." Cruikshank rose heavily and walked to the French doors where he stared out at the rose garden.
"I've been to see Teller. He gave me some names. I thought . . ."
"Ah. You saw him. How is he?"
"Fine. He mentioned a name you might be able to help me with."
"He talked to you, did he? How interesting. He used to be close-mouthed." Cruikshank stood still, with his back to me.
"He seems to have changed from when you knew him."
"It has been my experience that men do not change."
"He mentioned an American named Rand, who used to work for the CIA. He’s been selling arms to terrorists."
I watched the old man's back as he continued to stare out at the garden. Was it my imagination, or did the man's shoulders stiffen at the mention of Rand's name?
Cruikshank spoke, "Rand. The name seems familiar. You say he became an entrepreneur. Nasty business. No loyalty."
"Rand may have provided cover for someone named Charlie Stoat, who ran the terrorist training camp for Qaddafi in Libya."
"Stoat. Yes. An odious creature, the stoat. I always believed the CIA lacked taste in choosing agents." Cruikshank fell silent.
After several minutes he spoke again, "Stoat worked with an American agent in Turkey. Rand was a cryptonym. The man you want is named Edmund Price."
"So that's his name. He had a friend of mine killed for knowing about his deals with Qaddafi in Libya."
Cruikshank spoke again. "Yes. You want to find Price very much, I see."
"I'm working on a story. I want to find him and show what he's doing."
"Good, good." Cruikshank's eyes lit up. "A noble cause, Sir Percival. Worthy of a great knight. However, I cannot help you find him."
The old spy turned again to stare out at the rose garden. There was a long silence. I tried to reel him back in.
"You grow the roses yourself?" I asked.
"No." Cruikshank sniffed. "I have a gardener who takes care of them. If I tended them, they would undoubtedly die."
Cruikshank fell silent and continued to stare out the window.
"Do you know where I can find Price?"
There was no response. I took this to be my cue to leave.
"Thanks for your help," I said and found my way to the door.
Once outside, I walked the few short blocks to the Thames and stood watching the water. Cruikshank's words echoed in my mind. My elation at finding out about Price began to fade. The seal of approval from an old bird like Cruikshank might turn out to be the kiss of death.
I retraced my earlier route, but as I neared the tube station at Sloane Square, I decided against taking the train and kept walking north. Thoughts of Cruikshank receded, and a new idea formed in my head. I would go to Harrods and buy a present for Ann Hamilton. She would be returning soon from Scotland. I would get her something nice and have it sent to her. I cut over to Brompton Road. The sidewalk was busy with noontime pedestrians.
As I approached the façade of Harrods, I passed an old woman in a heavy coat and wondered how she could wear it on such a warm day. And then suddenly, I was flying backwards through the air.
I never really heard the explosion. Glass and chunks of metal and masonry pelted me. The old woman in the heavy coat screamed desperately as we both hit the concrete of the walkway. My body bounced, snapping my head back against the pavement.
I raised myself to one bloody elbow. The old woman lay unmoving at my side. I began to feel sick, and my vision blurred. I slumped to the sidewalk as my elbow began to unflex and slide greasily in the blood. For some reason, I thought of Cruikshank. I never asked him why he was going to Australia.
I awoke with a crashing pain in my head and no idea where I was. As my mind cleared, I realized I was in a hospital room and that it was morning. It must be early, I thought. I figured out that the window in my room faced southeast. I could see the sun rising over the city. Through the window I thought I could make out the roofline of the British Museum and, a little nearer, the University of London.
Into my room stepped a young nurse, muttering to herself, in French. Could I be in France? My head hurt acutely.
"Where am I? "
"You are in hospital. You were in an accident. There was an explosion," the nurse told me in French-accented English.
"I'm sorry. It seemed crazy. Is this University College Hospital?"
"Yes" was all she said.
She began to change my bandages. I hadn't even noticed them. My head was wrapped, as was my left arm. She pulled back the sheet and hospital gown. I had a huge gauze patch on my left side. She surveyed the dressing and my body below it.
"You are in good shape." She spoke very seriously, and her voice sounded professional, but her eyes laughed at me.
I watched her as she changed the dressing on my side. Her eyes and hair were dark and shining. Her hands were small and deft. She was lovely and sensual even in her white nursing uniform. I enjoyed the feel of her hands against my skin as she changed the bandages. The wounds looked nasty, but I hardly noticed. Then she turned me over and stuck a needle into my left buttock.
"You have been injured, but you are better now, I think." She was still laughing at me. "Soon you will be much better still. Your head is cracked and needs to mend."
"What time is it?"
"It is six-thirty."
"What's the date?"
"It is the twenty-fifth of June. You have been here for two weeks," she said and left the room.
It depressed me to learn I had lost two weeks of my life. Of course, I thought, I could be dead. But it bothered me that I missed the summer solstice. I was unconscious on the longest day of the year, and now the days were growing shorter. I was on the downhill side of the year, and I felt as if I had to hurry to get things done, before I ran out of time, and the dark days of winter arrived. But right then I couldn't do anything. Sometime in the early afternoon a tall dragon of a nurse came in with lunch. I was hungry. The nurse had a lovely, downy beard. She set the meal in front of me and raised the bed brusquely.
"You won't have to be hooked up to a tube anymore. Enjoy your lunch," she said and then added, "A friend of yours came to see you this morning while you were asleep. He'll be back tomorrow."
"Who was it?"
She did not know.
"What did he look like?"
She did not know that either and went out. When the nurse returned, I asked for some writing paper and a pen. I wanted to write to Teller about my visit to Cruikshank and the breakthrough about Price. I thanked Teller for his help. After sealing the envelope, I wondered vaguely if I would hear back from Teller at all.
About midnight the young French nurse appeared again. She changed the bandage on my left thigh. She was businesslike, but I was disturbed.
"You seem nervy tonight. Does the leg hurt?"
"You are bashful. American men are very embarrassed about their bodies, is it not true?"
"No. Maybe. How did you know I'm American?"
"Everyone knows. It is on your chart. They had to search your pockets when they brought you here all bloody and torn. They found your passport and wallet."
"You will have to have new clothes when you leave the hospital unless you want to walk out naked."
"Why is that?"
"They were in bloody rags. We had to throw them away."
I felt glum lying there in a stupid hospital gown.
"I'm sorry I make you uncomfortable," she said and touched the stitches on my cheek. "You will have a scar there. It will be very distinguished. You will be almost as good as new. Now you must go to sleep." She started to turn me over.
"Wait a minute. Please. I want to ask you some questions."
"One question. Then I must go."
"How did you end up here?"
"I am here on a professional and cultural exchange. I return to Paris in August."
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Ah. That makes two questions." She gave me a shot and left.
The next morning, I had a visitor.
"Hey, Mac. How's it going?"
"What are you doing here?"
"I got to London two days ago. Your landlady said you were hurt in the blast. The police came around asking about you and told her what happened."
"Great," I laughed, then winced, as my grin stretched the inch-long stitches in my cheek.
"Maybe the cops think I blew myself up."
"Who knows? A lot of people died and a bunch more were hurt. The police didn't tell your landlady which hospital you were in so I called all the hospitals in the West End. When that didn't work, I finally called here, and the Casualty Department said they had you. I came by yesterday, but you were asleep."
"It's good to see you."
"Yeah. I'm glad you're not dead. What happened?" Zorn asked.
"I don't know. I was walking to Harrods to buy Ann a present. . . ."
"I met her on Iona. She lives here in London."
"Then what happened?"
"This humongous explosion went off. That's the last thing I remember."
Zorn handed me a two-week old newspaper and pointed at the headline. "It was the IRA. They planted a bomb at the entrance to Harrods, and then they called the papers and the BBC and claimed credit."
"Wonderful," I sighed.
"Neat irony. You're investigating terrorism, and you get blown up by an IRA bomb."
"I'm having trouble laughing," I said.
"The bomb was planted to go off around noon when the greatest number of shoppers and pedestrians would be in the King's Road. Dumb luck you weren't killed."
"There was an old lady in a wool coat. Do you know what happened to her?" I asked.
"Scotland Yard said something about a woman. She's dead. They wanted to know if you knew her. They said she caught the brunt of the blast. Did you know her?"
"She saved your life."
"Could you find out her address?"
"Are you serious?"
"I'll try and get it for you. How long are they going to keep you in here?"
"I don't know. A couple more days. Tell me about your trip. Did you sail all the way to London?"
"Yeah. Just like we planned. It was great. I sailed down to Ballycastle in Northern Ireland. There's a beautiful old abbey, and they were having a music festival in the center of town. Then I went on down to the Isle of Man. Have you ever been there?"
"It's beautiful. Then I stopped at a little port in Wales and followed the English coast to the Isle of Wight. Then up the Thames. Such great names: The Knock, Grain Spit, Deadman's Point, Gravesend Reach. Finally, I put in at St. Katharine's Dock."
"You going to stay for a while?"
"Yep. What if I were to work with you on this terrorist thing? You might need some help."
"Maybe, if you really want to do it."
"Sure. I’ve got nothing else to do."
"Okay. But you'll probably get tired of it."
"If I get bored I'll quit and go sailing again. What can I do for you?"
"Well, if you want to, you can go to a library and look in the London Guardian files for any references to Edmund Price. He's an arms dealer. Look for a Libyan connection."
"You're right. It sounds boring."
"You don't have to do it."
"No. I'll do it," Zorn said.
"I'll see you tomorrow, okay? Take it easy, Mac."
Zorn was going to help. I had no idea why. In the afternoon, I wrote a letter to Ann Hamilton. It took a long time to write. I thought about telling her I loved her, but I didn't know if it was true. Instead, I told her my address and telephone number and asked her to call when she got home. I said I really wanted to see her. I also told her about going to Harrods to buy her a present only to be blown up by a terrorist bomb.
Suddenly I felt lonely. I thought about my son Mike. It was a year since I'd seen him. He must think I don't give a damn about him. It depressed me to see how the damage of one generation was inflicted on the next. Here's the shit, pass it on. I wrote to Mike and told him I loved him. I told him I'd see him soon. I told him I'd see him as soon as the story I was working on was done. I knew I'd better make good on it. Kids don't forget their parents' broken promises.
I felt good. After placing the letters on the side table to be mailed, I slept. They woke me for supper, but right after the meal I slept again, waking at eleven when the French nurse came in. She checked my bandages and smiled at me.
"You are healing very well. I think they will let you go home in two days."
"I'm glad to hear it, but I'll miss you."
"You are very handsome. But too serious, no? Perhaps the accident makes you serious."
"No. I'm always serious, almost always."
She moved around the bed straightening the covers. She leaned down, putting her lips to my ear, and said, in French, something incredibly foul. I burst out laughing.
"I am glad I make you laugh."
"What is your name?" he asked.
"What should my name be?"
"C'est vrai. I will be Aphrodite for you." She gave the word its French pronunciation.
"Really, what is your name?"
"It fits. The angelic one of the garden. That's you."
"Thank you. And what does your name mean?"
"Yes. Your name. John McGlashan."
"I don't know. I never thought about it. I should find out sometime."
"I will find a book, and we will look it up together, John."
"I'm called 'Jack.'"
"Then I will call you Jacques. I must go. I will see you when you get out of here, yes?"
"That'd be nice. But what if they let me out tomorrow? How will I reach you?"
She picked up the two envelopes and studied the return address. "I know this address. I will come to see you, the night after tomorrow night, at your flat. At seven o'clock. I do not work that night. Good?"
"Sure." I didn't know what else to say.
Along about eleven the next morning, Zorn arrived carrying a legal pad covered with notes.
"I had some luck, Mac. You want to hear what I found?"
Zorn pulled a chair to the bed and sat down, looking through the pages of yellow paper. "This is weird stuff. I looked up back issues of newspapers and checked out indexes of news magazines. The guy's full name is Edmund Colfax Price. I don't know when he went to work for the CIA, or when he left, but since '76 he's been a top executive for Omni Arms International. It's the largest private arms dealer in the world. Omni Arms had a weapons contract with Libya licensed in Great Britain, but when Qaddafi took over British Petroleum in Libya, the British cancelled the contract. So, Qaddafi made an arms deal with France. But guess who ended up with the new contract?"
"Yeah. Looks like private contractors can get licenses to sell arms from any number of countries. These are multi-national corporations. If one country won't give them a license to sell, they just find one that will. Perfectly legal. It's scary."
"Did you find a picture of Price anywhere?"
"No, but I found a picture of Charlie Stoat. He calls himself 'Major.' Here's a copy of a magazine photo I found in Soldier of Fortune magazine." Zorn handed me a Xerox picture. It showed a nasty face with thin lank hair and a fat walrus mustache. "Stoat's another ex-CIA man. He's a real operator. Before Libya he was in Uganda working with Idi Amin."
"Stoat got charged back in the States with violating federal laws for running the terrorist training camp, but he's still on the loose. Nobody's been able to catch him."
"Price may be protecting him."
"Jeez," Zorn said, looking over the pages of his notes. "Do you know what they were doing at that camp? The newspapers say they gave a complete curriculum in terrorism. How to make bombs, booby traps, and wire taps, how to use silenced pistols to assassinate people. They had everything there, all kinds of small arms, automatic weapons, hand-carried rocket launchers. They also taught how to forge passports and other documents."
"Yeah. They just took everything we learned in Special Forces and gave it away to the craziest people in the world."
"There's more. They introduced these guys to American C-4 plastique. It's great for terrorists. Pliable as play dough, sticks to anything, and will blow you to smithereens. Stoat sold Libya twenty-one tons of the stuff, made in America. Qaddafi probably gave it away to every terrorist he could find." Zorn looked up in disgust.
"I wonder if the bomb at Harrods was C-4."
"Twenty-one tons of explosive would last forever. You could afford to be generous. Give it out as graduation presents to start them right off." Zorn paused. "Why do you suppose a bunch of Americans got involved in this?"
"Who knows? All that training in the US Military and then finally some monbey to be made off it. Maybe the lower level ones were duped. But Price, he’s got to be plain greedy. I want to nail him."
"Well, there's nothing in print that I could find linking Price or Omni Arms to Stoat or any other illegal activity," Zorn said. "Even if you're right, it could be awfully hard to prove."
As Zorn got up to leave, he added, "By the way, Mac, the woman in the coat who died in the explosion at Harrods. Her name is Mary Maury, and her family lives in Camden Town. Here's the address."
"Sure. See you later."
At half past one, Zorn returned with a small nylon duffel bag full my clothes.
"I hope this stuff's all right. I found some khakis and another blazer in your closet. Nice flat."
"You need a place to stay? The couch folds out."
"Thanks but my boat's home. Maybe if I get claustrophobic."
"What are you going to do now?"
"I'm going to walk all over London and look around. Then tomorrow I may go down to Surrey to visit the friend of a friend. I'll be back in a couple of days. Then who knows? I've got some reading to catch up on. And maybe I'll find out some more about the way the arms industry works. It sounds interesting, but I have a feeling you could get caught in a maze."
"I'm not sure. The word that comes to mind is 'maya.' It's a Hindu word for getting caught up in a false reality."
"Sounds like a Hindu word for 'bullshit.’"
"Yeah, that too. Seriously. The deeper you get into it, the more lost you’re likely to become."
"So, why do you want to get involved?"
Zorn laughed. "That's the question I asked you when you told me about it on the boat."
"Yeah, I remember."
Zorn thought for a moment. "I guess I want to deal with it because it's been put in my way. Like a task I have to perform to get to where I'm going."
"I don't understand," I said.
Zorn grinned and one eye blinked wide. "I don't quite understand it either. I'm just talking. I'll have to see how it works out."
Zorn disappeared out the door. After he left, I got up and pulled my clothes out of the bag. Having real clothes to wear made me want to get dressed and leave. So, I got dressed and talked a doctor into releasing me. I rolled up the nylon duffel bag and stuffed it into my coat pocket. Instead of heading for home when I left the hospital, I walked over to the Warren Street tube station and took the Northern Line to Camden Town.
It was an old house in a sad and seedy neighborhood, bordering an area that was being brought back to life by young London entrepreneurs and Yuppies. But this neighborhood wasn't coming back to life yet, and when it did, the people who lived here wouldn't be part of it. An old man in a tired cap sat on the stoop, an empty milk crate beside him.
"You Maury?" I asked.
The man looked up.
"Mind if I sit down?"
"Go ahead, chum. Sit."
I sat and looked at him for a minute.
"Your wife was killed in the Harrods bombing?"
The man looked surprised. Then he answered, "It was me sister. Who are you?"
"I was walking next to her when the bomb went off. I didn't know her. She died next to me."
The old man nodded his understanding as he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. He clasped his hands.
"She was me little sister. Fifty-eight years I knew her. She cooked for me and cleaned for me after me wife died. All we had was each other."
We sat in silence. The old man sat on the stoop looking past his folded hands. After a while I got up and left. I walked to Camden Lock Market and along the Regent's Canal then up the steps to the zoo and Regent's Park. The expanse of green in the warm overcast of the afternoon felt good. When I came out of the park, I was in St John's Wood. I went past Lord's Cricket Ground and the Liberal Synogogue. Then along the Regent's Canal again until I was back home.
I realized before I entered the house that there was nothing in the flat to eat, but I was too tired to go further. I looked on the table in the hall for two weeks worth of mail, but there was nothing. Then I climbed the four flights of stairs. The flat looked neglected. I picked things up and straightened piles in a haphazard fashion. Throwing my coat over the back of the couch, I rolled up my shirtsleeves and sat down at the computer on the desk. I took out my note book. A corner of the cover and most of the pages were stained with dried blood. I leafed through it, and then began typing out notes concerning everything I had learned so far about the Price business. After a half hour I heard a thud by the window. The big, orange-striped cat had returned.
"Hey, Marmalade. Come here, buddy."
The big tomcat jumped into my lap and rubbed against my shirt. "Did you miss me?" I scratched the cat's ears and back. "You almost lost your free meals." I grabbed the cat's tail gently, and he jumped to the floor and meowed. "You hungry?"I went to a cabinet by the stove and got a tin of cat food, opened it, and placed it on the floor. After eating, the cat hopped into a chair by my desk and went to sleep.
That's the great thing about a cat. He knows what's important. A cat is a cat. An integer. Integrity. Integrated. One. A whole number. Not like a man. No fractions with pieces missing or remainders left over.
I finished typing the notes. Later, I went out to my favorite pub and had a pint of bitter and ate supper. As the good beer began to loosen me up, I started to listen to the conversation, joining in when I felt like it.
Later, on the way home, I thought, I'll start running again tomorrow. Maybe just a mile. Then I'll clean up the flat and get some food and a bottle of wine. I'll buy some geraniums to put in the window. Got to spiff the place up a bit. I wonder if she'll show up?