I spent the rest of the day trying to forget about Angelique. I busied myself looking for more information about Price and Omni Arms. It was Friday. I called the Israeli Embassy to set up a meeting with Joshua Torsky. No chance. He was not in. When he was in, Torsky wouldn't talk to me. I wasn’t surprised. Mossad agents were not in the habit of talking to writers. Publicity was not good for business.
Teller had implied that when Torsky got hold of terrorists against Israel, the terrorists tended to disappear. As a result, the British government was not pleased to have Torsky in England as a military attaché, at least that is what he was supposed to be, but they tolerated the situation. France and Italy wouldn't allow him to be stationed there. Too inflammatory. His presence might anger certain Arab exiles living in Paris and Rome, and they might blow up a building. Among other types of preventive care, Torsky kept El Al flights safe and Israeli citizens from being kidnapped in Europe. He knew what was going on, but I couldn't get hold of him.
I also tried Omni Arms. Their warehouses in England were supposed to be in Manchester, but their offices were in London in one of the faceless skyscrapers in the City, between St. Paul's and the Bank of England. When I called, I said I wanted to interview one of the Omni Arms executives about the arms business. I got an appointment, but when I arrived at the Omni Arms offices, all I found was a P.R. flunky.
I stewed about it over the weekend, and on Monday in frustration I decided to drop a rock in the pond. I called the P.R. man at Omni Arms and told him to get hold of someone in charge and tell him four words: Price, Stoat, terrorists, and plastique. My call was immediately transferred to someone in charge who gave me an appointment for the next morning. I also finally got through to Torsky, whose reply to the same four words came in perfect New York English: "Awright, schmuck. You got your meeting." I was to be at Round Pond in Kensington Gardens at three-thirty the next afternoon.
In the morning, just as I was putting on a tie and blue blazer to go out, the phone rang. It was Zorn. We agreed to meet at Mother Brunch's, a wine bar and restaurant off Ludgate Circus, at noon. I took the Bakerloo Line from Warwick Avenue station to Oxford Circus where I changed to the Central line and got off at the Bank of England. I walked west, back the way I had come while underground in the Tube, arriving a little before ten at the building in which Omni Arms had its offices. Nothing but glass and steel, it could only mirror the real buildings that surrounded it—the ones from an earlier time. It was a building Cruikshank would have despised.
Omni Arms offices were high up and occupied a complete floor. They owned the lines of sight in all directions. The offices had been done in corporate modern with lots of oak, glass, and chrome. The furniture in the large reception area looked like it had been imported from Houston. The receptionist, distinguished by her briskness and lack of charm, was discreetly chewing gum. She led me into the office of a Mr. Wattle who, I was told, was in charge of the London office. As I entered, I saw a large, fleshy man of about fifty who looked as if he drank a lot of scotch.
"Hey there. I'm Hale Wattle," the fleshy face said and flashed me a bright, bogus smile, along with a meaty handshake. By the voice, I guessed he was from Texas. The man was round but not quite fat, about six feet tall, and he wore a sharply cut suit in the London mode that constricted its wearer at the armholes, waist, and crotch.
"I'm Jack McGlashan."
"What can I do for you, Jack?"
The secretary withdrew, closing the door, and the two of us sat down on either side of a monstrously huge desk.
"I'm a writer. I'm doing a story on arms sales, and I want to know about your man Price."
"You a reporter?"
"No. Magazines. Freelance."
"You know, we really don't want any publicity here, Jack. We're not in a real popular business, and we like to keep a low profile, you understand?"
"Yeah, well, I want to know about Price. I think he's involved in some really nasty stuff. I think he's been selling arms to terrorists."
Hale Wattle's veneer of geniality was wearing thin. He looked me over and said, "You don't want to be making allegations. This is a big company. Why would we risk our reputation doing that?"
"I don’t know. Money?"
"We can make money other ways. Mr. Price is a fine man. A loyal American. And he's one of our most productive managers. You don't want to go causing him or us trouble." Hale Wattle looked at me as if to say, Somebody could get hurt.
"I want to talk to him," I said.
Hale Wattle reached down to pull on the crotch of his expensive, too tight suit, as he moved backward in his chair in a futile attempt to give himself more room.
"You're barking up the wrong tree there, mister. There's nothing for you to be poking your nose into. Nothing. The U.S. government's got a line on the ones that've been selling that stuff. Soon's they catch 'em, the whole thing'll be settled."
I said, "Yeah, but who did they get the stuff from? I think a slimeball named Stoat got it from Price and Omni Arms."
"That's dead wrong. We don't sell arms to terrorists, not Ed Price or anybody else in this company. Omni Arms only sells to legitimate governments trying to protect their national interests." The man paused for a moment of self-righteous emphasis. "We don't sell arms to folks that are terrorists." Hale Wattle leaned back and put his feet on the desk, the narrow last of his English shoes constricting his big American feet.
Except for the formalities involved in leaving, the meeting was over. Back out on the street, I could feel frustration harden into anger. I had expected to talk to someone with some power, but instead I'd gotten another bozo. The words that should have created a major response had triggered nothing but platitudes. I walked slowly west toward St. Paul's. It never occurred to me that I was being followed.
I was struck on the head with a sap just as I turned into the shadowed arches of Old Seacoal Lane. Despite the pain in my head, I could tell that my assailant was going through my pockets. I grabbed for the thief as the man went for my wallet and notebook. For this I received a kick in the gut. Half-conscious, I sat watching the man disappear toward the Old Bailey. Waves of nausea greeted my return to sense. My head hurt like hell.
Just then two men came around the corner on their way to lunch. Dressed in dark, heavy suits, they were probably lawyers, but I didn’t ask. They helped me to my feet. Sooty and in pain, I protested that I was all right. They helped me inside, down the stairs, and into the atmospheric cellar of Mother Brunch's. All I wanted to do was to clean myself up. When I came out of the men's room, looking better but not much, I discovered that Zorn had arrived. We got a table and sat down.
"What happened to you?" Zorn said.
"I got mugged."
"God. Nice going. You okay?"
"I guess so. My head feels terrible. Shit." I felt around in my Jacket and in the hip pocket of my khakis.
"What did he take? Or they?"
"I think there was just one. He got my wallet and my notebook with all the stuff in it on Price and Omni Arms."
"You think that's what he wanted?"
"I don't know. Could be. It was a pretty straightforward mugging by U.S. standards but violent for London."
"What did he look like?"
"I didn't really see him. Big. Bald. Wearing a tan windbreaker and dark slacks." I had the feeling I’d seen him before, but I couldn’t think where.
"Can you reproduce the information you lost?"
"Yeah. Pretty much, except for some addresses. I've got most of it on my computer."
"Are you gonna eat?" Zorn asked.
"No. Too much adrenaline. I'll just watch you."
While Zorn had an appetizer of prosciutto and melon and a main course of smoked chicken, I drank coffee and talked about my visit with Hale Wattle at Omni Arms and my impending meeting with Joshua Torsky that afternoon. Then I asked about Angelique.
"Have you seen her since she walked out?"
"As a matter of fact, she's on my boat."
I made a face.
"You don't mind, do you?"
"No. I don't mind. I guess."
"She's really something, Mac."
"Yeah. I know. Too much for me."
"I don't know. She knows who she is, and she's very direct," Zorn said.
"Whatever. Good luck."
After lunch we walked along Fleet Street. My headache had subsided. We wandered west to the Strand and through the Middle Temple with all the old solicitors, and young ones trying to be old, lawyering about. We came out on the Embankment. Zorn went back to his boat and Angelique at St. Katharine's Dock, and I headed to my flat in Little Venice to get some clean clothes before meeting with Torsky.
When I reached my flat, I checked the mail as usual but found nothing, not even a bill. As I started up the stairs, I planned out the calls to the police about the mugging, to credit companies to cancel cards and get new ones, a note to the State of Ohio for a new driver's license, or maybe an international driver's license would be better. How do you get one of those? I wondered. I had reached the top of the stairs and opened the door. The place was a disaster.
I looked to see if anyone was still in the apartment. There was no one. My papers were scattered around the room. Articles I had been preparing were strewn across my desk and on the floor. I picked up the papers and tried to sort them out. I was very, very angry. My heart beat hard against my chest, and my breath came in short gasps. I had trouble swallowing.
My computer was smashed. The notes on Price were gone. Price. Who else did he know about now? Teller and Cruikshank. Shit. I would have to warn Teller and Cruikshank that goons from Omni Arms knew about their involvement with me. It had to be Price's men. There was no other possible explanation. I paced around the flat looking for something to hit. Then I saw it.
I took in a breath that came out as the words "Oh, no" deep in my throat. I was shaking with rage, tears falling down my cheeks. I bent down slowly. Gently I placed both hands under the dead cat and picked it up. Its neck had been broken. I held the orange-striped body against my chest.
"I'm sorry, old fella'. I'm sorry."
If the person who did it had been there at that moment, I would have killed him.
Well, what did you expect? I thought. Did you think they would roll out the red carpet for you? The voice of reproof was familiar. So, here is your response. At least they were paying attention.
I got up slowly and sighed. I held the dead cat with one arm and petted it absently with the other. Blood from the cat's mouth covered my Jacket at the crook of the elbow. I walked down to the cellar still holding the cat. I found a coal shovel. It would do. I buried the cat in the back garden under a rose bush. I buried it nice and deep. My landlady the gardener would not notice.
"Goodbye, old buddy," I said softly. I felt sad and alone.
Back in the apartment, I made the appropriate phone calls. It was when I was on the line with Barclay's about my VISA card that I opened a particular drawer in my desk and discovered that my passport was gone. I sighed, and after the Barclay's call, I rang up the American Embassy. Forms would have to be filled out. It would take weeks to get a new passport. Swell, I thought. Great. I thanked the woman at the Embassy and hung up.
It was after three o'clock. I left the mess, took a quick shower, and put on fresh clothes. It took me fifteen minutes to walk to Kensington Gardens for the meeting with Torsky. When I got to Round Pond, I was right on time. After ten minutes I began to think Torsky wouldn't show up. I looked around and began to walk along the path toward the Italian Gardens. I could see a man at the other end of the path watching me.
The man didn't move. As I walked toward him, he just watched me, his arms folded and a frown on his face. He was about my height but bulkier, especially through the chest and arms. He wore a white, open-collar, short-sleeve shirt and black trousers. As I got closer it occurred to me that this was probably the hairiest man I ever saw. The guy was a bear. Although the man was clean-shaven, the outline of his beard was darkly imprinted on his face. Chest hair sprouted from the neck of his lightweight shirt. His arms were hairy black. The hair on his head stood thick and combed back.
"Are you Torsky?" I asked.
"Yeah" was all the bear-man said. He unfolded his great hairy arms but didn't offer to shake hands. "What do you want?"
"My name's McGlashan. I'm a writer. I need to ask you some questions."
"I don't answer questions." He folded his huge black arms again. "Where did you hear about Price and plastique?"
"It's a matter of public record. Twenty-one tons of plastique made in America were sold to the Libyans. It was in the newspapers. Qaddafi gave it to terrorists to blow people up."
"That's old news. What about Stoat? Where is he?"
"I don't know. But I think Stoat got the C-4 plastique from Omni Arms through Price."
"Where'd you hear that?"
"It's confidential. I need information connecting Price and Stoat."
Torsky pressed the question again: "Where'd you hear about Price and Stoat selling C-4?"
"That's my business," I countered.
Torsky was in my face. "Listen. I don't care about your sources or your story. Somebody's going to die while you're protecting your sources. Who is it?"
"He's dead. I've been whacked on the head, and my apartment has been ransacked. I'm looking for answers."
Torsky smirked at me.
"What are you laughing at?" Torsky's eyes didn't match his body. Their intelligent focus bored a hole through me.
Torsky's face looked smug. "I had you followed. You've had a bad day."
"Thanks a lot."
"I don't like you," Torsky growled. "You're a fool, and fools are dangerous. But you are a man things happen to, and that could work to my advantage. I want Price for my own purposes.
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to watch you."
"So I'm supposed to be a magnet for trouble. I'm writing a story. I'm not trying to get myself killed."
"You may not have a choice."
"So I hear. But somebody's got to try to stop all this stuff."
Torsky laughed derisively. "Why don't you go home and write about Americans who give money to the IRA because they think those guys are heroes?"
"You're a tough man to talk to."
Torsky laughed and shook his head. "Let's take a walk," he said.
I followed as he turned and headed south along the Serpentine toward the statue of Peter Pan. It started to rain. At the statue Torsky turned to speak again, his face wet and dark.
"You won't know who's following you. As you learned from what happened today, it could be anyone trying to stop you. If you become a nuisance, I'll stop you myself. If Price or Stoat makes a move, we shall see. Have fun, asshole."
"Shit," I said to myself as Torsky walked away. I shouted at his back, "Where'd you get the Brooklyn accent?"
With that, Torsky retraced his steps toward the Italian Gardens. Even his back was hairy. It was like a sweater under his white shirt. I turned and found myself staring at the statue of Peter Pan.
I walked along the path by the Serpentine toward home. The rain had stopped, but the day was cool and overcast. I was in no hurry to go back to the flat. I thought about the mess that needed to be cleaned up. And I thought about my cat. When I got to the roadway, I turned back along the path toward Round Pond. As I walked, I began to think about Ann Hamilton. She live nearby. She was probably back in London by now. I looked around as I walked for three little girls and a beautiful woman with a sketch pad.
And there they were. My heart stopped.
Ann Hamilton and the girls were across from the bandstand under the trees. They seemed to be getting ready to go home. It was beginning to rain again. I walked up to her.
"Oh! It's you!" she exclaimed.
"Yeah. It's me."
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Fine. Never better. So, you got my letter?"
"Yes. It came just before we left. We got home Sunday. I should have called. Were you badly hurt?" She was looking at the scar on my cheek.
"Just some stitches and a concussion. I'm all right really. How have you been?"
"Fine. I'm not glad to be back, but duty calls."
I could see the three girls watching from a short distance off, reluctant to come up to their mother while she was talking to the strange man they had met on Iona. I felt uncomfortable, but I really wanted to talk to her again.
"It's nice to see you," I tried. We were all getting wet. "I'd like to see you again some time, if I could."
She looked pained. "Simon has asked for a reconciliation. I told him I would try it. I'm sorry."
"Simon. Yes. Well. I'm sorry too. Good luck." I walked away.
I was walking the wrong way if I wanted to get home, but eventually I found myself back in Bayswater. It had been an unbelievably shitty day. On the way back to my flat I bought a bottle of scotch. When I got there, I ignored the mess and poured myself a huge drink. I turned on the tube, sat down, and got drunk.
I opened one eye. Daylight streamed through the window. It was the Fourth of July. I looked at the clock. It was after eight. I don't feel like working out today, I thought. What difference does it make anyway? I pulled the covers over my head and tried to go back to sleep. No luck. My mind wandered around, thinking whatever it wanted.
You're an anachronism, it said. A male chauvinist, I'll-do-it-my-own-way-all-alone anachronism. Nobody gets drunk any more, and here you are lying in bed with your second hangover in a week on top of a double concussion. An Irishman with a hangover. What a cliché. All stereotypes are true, a friend of mine once said, I replied to myself. It kept on. Alcohol is poison. It will kill you. My body could only agree. My head ached, I was damp with sweat, and my heart banged against the inside of my chest in crazy fibrillations.
My mind continued to carp. You're living here in this dinky flat in splendid isolation, it said. I like living here alone, I thought in reply. Right. Let me go back to sleep. You've been asleep long enough. Wake up. You're not a kid anymore. Is this the best you can do with your life? I've got my life arranged the way I want it, I replied to the nagging voice. Fine. Then why are you so disappointed that she's back with her husband? What did you want her and her three kids to do, move in here? You had a wife. It didn't work out, I countered. You didn't make it work. And what about Angelique? You lost her too. Now she's living with Zorn on his boat. Are you ever going to grow up? It's almost too late.
"Shut up," I said aloud and sat up.
I looked around at the stuff all over the floor. Since it's going to be another lousy day, I might as well call Scotland Yard and get them to examine this mess.
In the afternoon a uniform and two plainclothes detectives showed up to interview me and look around the flat. I told them about my conversation with Hale Wattle at Omni Arms and about being mugged at Ludgate. They could see for themselves that the flat had been trashed, since I hadn't cleaned it up. I told them about the stuff that was stolen and about the dead cat. They weren't exactly solicitous.
"You've been stirring up trouble, Yank," said one.
"Why didn't you call us yesterday when all this happened?" said the other.
"You've got a mess here," said the first.
They reminded me of Dee and Dum, the Tweedle brothers.
"You want to see if you can get any prints, so I can clean up around here?" I asked.
They found prints. They said they'd need me to come down and get printed, so they could tell my prints from any others they had found. When they had finished with my place, I went with them to New Scotland Yard to make an official statement and get fingerprinted.
At the end I was told to stay out of trouble, and they would call if they had any more questions. The whole performance seemed fairly meaningless. Oh, well, I thought, it might do some good. It was worth a try. I was always surprised that anything ever worked at all. It was late afternoon.
On the way home I noticed I was hungry. I stopped at the pub in Bayswater and got some food and a pint of bitter. It was dark by the time I left. The city sat under its usual cloud. The streetlights shone brightly as I walked. I looked up but couldn't see the sky. The lights of the city glowed against the overcast. Even if the sky had been clear, I wouldn't have been able to see the stars. Too much light from the city. There were no natural night sounds either. No crickets or frogs. Just an occasional voice or footsteps or a car in the street. It oppressed me, especially not being able to see the stars. I imagined being out in space, watching the dark side of the earth lit with streetlights.
I thought of Iona. I could see the stars from there.
As I continued to walk, I realized that in a matter of hours, back in the States, there would be glorious showers of fireworks. I wondered if I could see them from space. Maybe so. The Fourth of July. All that patriotic hoopla at home. Would I ever go back there?
When I reached the flat, I decided to muck out the place and restore order. For some reason I put on a tape of a Mozart Mass, the Coronation Mass in C Major. I didn't know whose coronation it was, but the music gave me a sense of hope and faith in the order of the universe. Tomorrow, I'll go fishing again.
The next morning, I got up at six, stretched, and went through my usual workout. Then I went out and ran three miles. As I neared Little Venice Landing Stage on the return leg of my run, I could see old Thad on his canal boat, sitting on top of the cabin, his wrinkly, stubbly face turned to the morning sky.
"What are you doing there, Thad?" I asked as I climbed aboard.
"I'm worshipin' the sun, lad."
"You're interruptin' me, boy. I'm worshipin' the sun."
Thad looked down from his devotional exercises. "That's an impertinent question, but I'll answer it nonetheless." But Thad turned his face to the sun again without answering.
"Why are you worshiping the sun?" I asked again.
"Because I can see it and feel it," Thad said without looking down. "Rain or shine it comes up. It sends me a message that says, 'I'm here.' It's a miracle every day. This way I don't have to worship no invisible god."
"I didn't know you were a pagan."
"There's lots of things you don't know."
"Do you worship the moon too?"
"No, but I know them that does. Too fickle for me, though. The moon disappears and hides on you sometimes when you need it."
With this lesson in natural religion to kick off my day, I returned to my flat and prepared to pay Omni Arms an unannounced visit. For the occasion, I dug out my dark wool suit and put on a white shirt and dark tie. I also dusted off my attache case and took it along.
By nine, I was at Omni Arms headquarters. Instead of getting off the elevator at the fifteenth floor as I had done before, this time I got off at fourteen, intending to walk up the fire stairs. If I could avoid the front people, I might be able to stumble into some information from Omni Arms employees not used to lying to outsiders. When I got off at fourteen, I found myself in a small corridor of translucent glass and stainless steel. There was only one door, unmarked except for the letters OA in a blue circle on the glass. I tried the handle. It was not locked, and I walked right in.
I found myself in a big office space with lots of half-wall partitions covered with gray carpet and chromed steel. The offices had computer terminals with people typing in data from paper order forms. I walked through the space, trying to look as if I knew what I was doing. I headed to the center of the room where I could see, beyond a clear glass and steel wall, a large computer. The desktops must hook up to the big job in there, I thought. I was looking to see if there was a logo on it when someone stopped me.
"You can't go in there," a woman said as she put a hand on my arm. "That's a restricted area."
"Oh, I'm sorry," I said with a bewildered smile. "I've got a new software lineup I wanted to show. Is there someone I can talk to?"
The woman who had stopped him was American, middle-aged, middle height, heavyweight, and no fool, but she listened to my palaver.
"You need to call for an appointment," she said.
"Is there a name of someone I can ask for when I call?"
"You need to ask for Roy Smith. He's our chief programmer."
"What kind of computer do you have there? Our software packages are IBM compatible. Is it IBM?"
"Is it Japanese?"
"No. Now, will you please leave?" She backed me toward the door.
"Sure. I'm sorry to bother you. Just one favor before I go. Could I use a phone to call my next appointment?"
"I suppose so. Use that office over there. Dial 9 to get an outside line."
She left me alone, and I looked around the cubbyhole of an office. Pinned to the gray carpet wall was a photocopied internal phone list for Omni Arms, International, Ltd. I took it down and put it in the attaché case. On a bookshelf was a three-ring binder labeled Omni Arms: Internal Organization and Procedures. Another one said, Employee Rules, Regulations, Benefits. I took them both and stuffed them in the attaché case. As I got up, I noticed a small, blue stapled telephone directory of Omni Arms office and warehouse numbers worldwide. I pocketed it. On the way out I thanked the woman profusely for her help and breezed out the door.
Out in the hall I tried the fire stairs and walked up to the fifteenth floor. When I opened the firedoor at fifteen, I saw the gum-chewing receptionist. Deciding not to push my luck, I closed the door again, walked down the fire stairs two flights, and got on the elevator at the twelfth floor (there was no thirteenth). I took the elevator down and was back on the street by 9:45.
It occurred to me as I walked back to the tube station that security was pretty lax for a place that was conducting illegal business. The office I had just left appeared to be organized as if they had nothing to hide. This I found puzzling. It didn't fit with my picture of Omni Arms. I thought about it all the way back to Paddington on the train.
When I got to the flat, I took out all the information I had stolen and read it through. I perused the company policies and procedures, the organization chart, and the telephone lists for the remainder of the morning. Gradually, a picture of Omni Arms began to emerge. I also called Dun and Bradstreet and got a report on Omni Arms and looked up some biographical information on the company president in Who's Who. At noon I made a sandwich and called Zorn.
"What are you up to?" I asked.
"Not much. Just polishing the brass and getting a tan through the London haze. What about you?"
"I got hold of some information on that company we were talking about. I thought you might want to see it. You want to come over?"
"I'd like to see what you've got. Why don't you come over here?" Zorn suggested.
"Is Angelique. . . ?"
"Don't worry. She's not here. She's back at her apartment. You want to come down?"
"Sure. I'll be there in an hour."
St. Katharine's Dock was a pretty spot. It housed the H.M.S. Discovery Historic Ships collection, and it also had slips for rich Londoners to park their yachts surrounded by every comfort money could buy. I admired the boats in all their different shapes and colors.
Zorn was sitting in the cockpit with his feet up when I came aboard.
"What's up, captain?"
"Not much. Just enjoying my leisure," Zorn answered without moving. "What have you been up to?"
"I went to Omni Arms this morning and came away with a bunch of information."
I related the story to Zorn.
"And nobody tried to stop you?" Zorn asked.
"No. It was really odd. I was thinking a company involved in illegal arms ought to have better security. It makes me think Omni Arms may be on the up and up and that the guys in charge might not know what Price has been doing. Either that or they don't want to know."
"What makes you think that?" Zorn said.
"Let's go down in the cabin, and I'll show you the documents I lifted."
In the cabin I showed Zorn the internal phone list for the London office. There was a number listed for Price. Then he opened the directory entitled "Office Warehouse Numbers, Omni Arms International, Ltd." There were two types of entries. One set of numbers was listed under headings by country and within each country by location of warehouse or office. Names and numbers were listed under each warehouse or office. The other set of entries was strictly alphabetical by the person's last name and job title with phone numbers. Under PRICE, EDMUND C. was the title "Manager" and a private telephone number and fax number. The numbers listed had the English international area number and a London exchange.
I turned to the London office listings in the book. There was Price again. Same numbers. In glancing through the book, we didn’t see these numbers used for anyone else.
Zorn looked at the numbers.
"Okay. There's Price. No problem. We can get him on a private line or send him a fax on his own machine. So, how is the company organized?
I opened the three-ring manual to the page showing the organization chart. "The president of the company sits on the fifteenth floor of that building near the Bank of England. Then there are about fifteen 'managers.' It doesn't say regional managers, so I guess any of the managers could have accounts anywhere in the world. They probably can do a deal with anyone or any government they have influence with. If you look through the phone directory for managers, you see that each has his own private phone and fax numbers. I think each manager works pretty much on his own like an autonomous company within the company. And that each manager works on a commission basis using his personal contacts and wielding influence with whomever he knows. If you read between the lines of this page of organization and procedures, you can sort of tell what I mean."
Zorn read the page. "Yeah, Mac, I think you've got it right. Price could carry on extra-legal business on the side without the company's knowledge?"
"I don't know who in Omni Arms is in on it. Price probably has his spies within the company. That guy I talked to the other day who runs the London office may or may not know exactly what Price is up to, but after I talked to him either he or Price sent out the gorillas to find out what I had learned and discourage my going any further. I think maybe Omni Arms is a legitimate enterprise." I handed Zorn the notes I had written. "This is a biographical sketch of the Omni Arms CEO. His name is Sam Cody. He was born in Missoula, Montana. He had a distinguished career in the Marines. Finished up as a full colonel. He was military liaison to NATO and an advisor on military affairs to several Third World countries. His forefathers sold Remington rifles to the settlers on the frontier, so he comes by his present career naturally. My hunch is that he's a straight arrow. Or not."
Zorn speculated, "So Price doesn't tell him when he does things like selling plastique to one of the world's leading madmen."
"Right. He does the illegal stuff on his own. There's got to be big profits because it's illegal. He may have dummy companies someplace. And the rest is just what you found in the newspapers. You get bogus end-user certificates and send the stuff to phony destinations to be moved along by shady freight-forwarding companies."
"That sounds like the kind of stuff he learned to do in the CIA," Zorn observed.
"Maybe so," I said.
"You want some coffee?" Zorn asked.
Zorn put the water on the galley stove to boil. He got out some coffee and put it in the coffee pot.
"You know, I was wondering," I said slowly. "I don't get it with Price. What did you tell me about his background? Andover, Yale?"
"Yes. Skull and Bones. The whole bit."
"I don't understand. Why would Price deal with Qaddafi, help him to train terrorists, and give him explosives, knowing full well he would turn around and kill Americans with it?"
"I don't know, but Price wasn't very well fixed,” Zorn said. “He went to a fancy prep school and Yale, but he was on big scholarships. His father, remember, was a Presbyterian minister who died when Price was fifteen. They didn't have much money anyway, I bet, and after that he probably didn't have a dime. Lack of money does weird things to people. Maybe he did it to get rich."
Zorn looked off into space. His right eye went wide open as he pondered his thoughts.
"I was thinking," Zorn said. "Building computers you meet a lot of different people. I've actually met a bunch of CIA guys. There seem to be two types: I’ll just call them the Notre Dame guys and the Yalies. I didn't go to Notre Dame or Yale, so I may not know what I'm talking about. What I mean is they seem like these two different types. The Notre Dame type is gung-ho, religious, patriotic, bright but not too bright, and straight. The Yale type is patriotic too but also cynical and relativistic, as if the spy business is some kind of game. Those guys are maybe too smart for their own good. I think Price is one of those."
Zorn was full of surprises.
"Where did you go to college, Zorn? That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."
"MIT," Zorn replied. "So, what do we do now?"
"I tried to get a look at the logo on Omni Arm's mongo mainframe computer. It looks from the size of it as if they could trace all the armaments ever made. I couldn't tell what kind of computer it was, and they wouldn't tell me, of course. But I think we need to gain access to the computer if we're to get anything on Price that will stick. Is there a way for you to get into their computer, so we can rummage around in their files?"
"Maybe. Information access is the lifeblood of any business these days. If you can't get at your information, you can't do business. So, yes, it's possible, but there will be passwords and firewalls to keep me out. It helps to know who built the computer. They probably didn't get an IBM or some other big off-the-shelf model. They don't want someone like me unlocking their files. Although, if it's custom built, it could actually be easier for me to get in."
He looked at the Omni Arms telephone directory of offices and warehouses. "I'll try telephone numbers on their London exchange until I get their computer to answer me. My own desktop and modem are set up right here." He pointed to the small screen, keyboard and phone hookup.
"You can crack their codes with that?"
"What I can do is use the modem and dial a number that'll connect me to a satellite that will connect me to a fiber-optic line to my supercomputer in Palo Alto. I'll command it to talk to the unit at Omni Arms."
"Thanks, Zorn. Say, what are you doing for dinner?"
"Angelique is making dinner for me tonight at her place."
"That's great," I said, but I wasn’t convinced.
I didn't stay long after that. Zorn said he would call me as soon as he learned anything.
It was getting on toward that hour when one, especially one who lives alone, has to begin thinking about supper. I didn’t want to go back to my flat. As I walked to the Underground station at Tower Hill, an idea formed in my head. I took the Circle Line, but rather than getting off at Paddington or Edgware Road as I would have if I were going home, I went instead to Notting Hill gate. I had decided to pay a visit to Eoin Cogan who kept a pub near Portobello Road.
The busy, international neighborhood reminded me once again that almost everyone who lives and works in London is really from someplace else, including Eoin, who was from County Meath (Eoin pronounced it "Meat") in Ireland.
As I entered the pub, I could see Eoin behind the curved mahogany bar, polishing glasses and adding them to the glittering rows next to the long pulls of the taps. To his right were ornate cut glass Victorian screens that provided privacy to customers who wanted to talk without being disturbed or overheard. I smelled the special pub smell of fresh and stale beer and tobacco smoke, along with the smell of waxed wood, old leather, and grilled food.
Before I had bellied up to the bar, Eoin was topping off a serious pint of bitter for me.
"How's the Russian Embassy in Dublin?" I asked, tipping my glass toward Eoin and then drinking off a good swallow.
"Not too good," Eoin said with considerable gravity.
It was a standing joke between us, ever since the Irish, notably tolerant of aberrant behavior in diplomats, expelled a First Secretary, a Second Secretary, and a Press Attaché for "unacceptable activities," diplomatic language for spying. Once upon a time, the Soviet Embassy in Dublin had been a clearinghouse for a major international spy ring. According to Eoin, the expulsions were just the Irish government caving in to the British. Eoin was a Communist even though he was a capitalist and business proprietor. He was an Irish nationalist living as a resident alien off the British economy. He was also a self-taught scholar who loved ideas and hated intellectuals. And his inconsistencies didn't bother him a bit.
"Yer not welcome here, ya know that," Eoin said. "Yuv got a damned Antrim name, and yer probably a Protestant."
"My mother was a Cath-o-lic. Besides, you're an atheist and a Communist."
"How are you, Jack? It's been a while."
"I'm good, Eoin. Been staying busy writing and such. How've you been?"
I looked across the bar at the Irishman, short and powerfully built with thinning, sandy-red hair and high coloring. His cunning blue eyes were at odds with the open smiling face.
"Puttin' in me time. I can't complain," Eoin replied, making his accent as broad as possible.
"What do you think of all this stuff in Russia and Eastern Europe? Is there a future for Marxist socialism?"
"Agh. The capitalists have been gloating like gulls on a garbage scow. The bastards can hardly wait to go in and carry off all the oil in Siberia. But they may be laughin' too quick."
"What do you think will happen?" I asked, sipping my beer.
"Somethin's up is all. They thought they could bring back the nineteenth century with nationalism and imperialism and freebooters doing business for God and country. They won't know what hit 'em."
I was interested.
"What do you think? Do the Russians have something up their sleeve?"
"Nah. Russia's a dead duck, right enough. You spent 'em into the poorhouse. They've got the largest bankrupt army in the world. And all the races and groups can smell freedom and want to break away. No. That's all fallen apart. What they don't understand is, from a capitalist point of view, the nation-state is irrelevant." Eoin abandoned his stage-Irish brogue as he got into his subject.
"Isn't it relevant whether or not a country is bankrupt? How can you do business in a country that's broke?"
"It's easy. The Japanese have been doing it in your bankrupt America for years. All you got to do is get these multi-national companies to buy up the country's debt. It's simple. Ya see, I've modified my Marxist principles, based on a pragmatic assessment of the situation. The problem is the Soviets owned the businesses, and when the government went broke, the whole thing went broke. No companies, no business. But in the so-called free world the companies are bigger than the countries."
"So what does that mean?"
"It means that politics and ideology are dead. Economics is all that matters. Marx was right about that. And all them that's gloatin' over the fall of Communism are in for a surprise."
"What's the surprise?"
Eoin leaned against the mahogany shelf full of bottles.
"The surprise is that these companies own the countries, and there's nothing the countries can do about it. The companies don't even need the countries. There's no law to govern 'em, and they're runnin' amok."
Eoin stood up straight and slapped his dishtowel on the bar. "People are so dumb they don't even know when they're gettin' fucked. Used to be people could tell what was goin' on, but not anymore. These rich companies don't care about people. They never did. Marx knew that, and he knew the trickle-down-yer-leg economic theories don't work neither. Anything you want out of business, you got to get with a gun. The future’s with the Russian Mafia. You watch."
"Some companies are pretty enlightened," I offered.
"Yeah, but they can't compete for long. Cheaper ones undercut 'em. Less of a stake in people."
"So what's going to happen?"
"Looks to me like we'll have another world-wide depression from all this credit collapsing, and then we'll have a real revolution at last."
Eoin was gleeful in anticipation. I changed the subject.
"What do you make of the bomb blast at Harrods?"
"I dunno. Who did it?" Eoin looked askance at me from under his sandy brows.
"The IRA took credit."
"Why do you suppose they did it?"
"I suppose they did it to make the English get out of Northern Ireland," Eoin said.
"Anything more specific?"
"The IRA doesn't waste time coming back from a setback. They were getting even for the murder of the Provos the English gunned down in Gibraltar."
"Where does it stop?"
"Like I said, when the occupation army gets out of Northern Ireland."
"I'd like to talk to the guys that did it."
"The bombing. I want to interview them and get their story for the papers."
Eoin considered. "I don't know nothing about it," he said.
"You could ask around."
"I could." He was about to say, "But I won't." Instead, he paused and then said, "Maybe. I'll let you know. You have a number where I can ring you?"
I gave it to him. Then I had another pint of bitter and a grilled dinner.
As I ate the meal, I asked, "How does the situation in Ireland square with your theory that economics is all? Where do the giant corporations fit in?"
"They don't," Eoin answered as he filled glasses for the customers who had begun to pour in. "You don't see giant corporations in the North or in the Republic to speak of. And why not? Ireland has been passed by. The English think we’re ignorant, but the Irish people are pretty well educated. The labor's cheap but not dirt cheap like in Taiwan or Mexico. There's no natural resources like metals or timber to exploit. Scotland's as bleak as Arabia, and they both got oil. What have we got--peat," Eoin concluded in disgust.
"So why does England keep hanging on in the North?" I asked.
"That's what we all would like to know. If they would just get out, an accommodation could be reached. Ulster would join the Republic with minority rights guaranteed, to protect those self-righteous, parsimonious bastards."
"You're a case in point. How can the English leave if the two sides are going to go on hating and killing each other?" I asked.
"The only thing the English understand about hatred is how to use it for their own ends. Ireland was England's first colony across the water, and they still treat us as if they own us. There are one and a half million people in Northern Ireland, of whom maybe a quarter million are Catholics. There are about three-and-a-half million people in the Irish Republic. Those that hate each other will hate each other. The rest can work together. They don't need the English to help. They just make it worse. You don't think the Protestants in the North like the English, do you? Most of them are Scots. The English landlords have been screwing them for three hundred years. Why do you think they all went to America? Jesus!"
"How does ethnic hatred fit in with your economic theories?" I asked.
"Like I said before, it doesn't. The multi-national corporations are functioning on the macroeconomic scale. They're up here." Eoin's hand traced a line above their heads. "Ethnic unity is tribal. It functions way down here, among the people--the real people."
"The Volk. Some kind of grassroots folk feeling," I suggested.
"Yeah. Maybe deeper than that," Eoin speculated. "It's ancestral. Maybe genetic."
"It's like when I went to Scotland the first time, I thought I'd been there before."
"Wait until you go to Ireland. You'll think you've been reincarnated as yer old dead self."
This notion made a chill run up my spine, and I shuddered.
"The English don't understand folk psychology," Eoin summed up. "And since they don't know what they're doin', they might as well get out."
"Maybe you're right," I said. "I gotta go now. See you later. About the IRA, let me know. It could be a good article for the dailies."
"Maybe," Eoin said.
It was dark when I left the busy pub. As I walked north toward home, I listened to the sounds of the quiet street to hear if I was being followed. I heard nothing and felt relieved.
The next day was Friday, July 6. I rose early as usual and went for a run through the park. To my annoyance I found myself thinking about Ann Hamilton. It occurred to me that if I thought about her every time I went through Kensington Gardens, I would have to find another route. Back at the flat I did exercises and made breakfast. I noticed the tins of cat food in the cupboard and felt depressed. Maybe I should get another cat, or maybe a dog, I thought. No, a dog is too big a commitment. Besides a city's no place for a dog, and who'd take care of it when I'm away. A cat is it. I'll look for another cat. Preferably a full-grown, macho stray like, well, like the last one.
After breakfast, I went out and bought a new computer and monitor, took a cab back, and set it up in my flat. Then I sat down at my desk and ass best I could I reconstructed all my notes on Price, Omni Arms, terrorists, and illegal arms sales. The history of Qaddafi's C-4 plastique made a grim picture. Its main ingredient RDX is the most powerful conventional explosive in the world. American-made C-4 was supposed to be under the strictest possible export controls. Yet Price had delivered Qaddafi twenty-one tons of it.
I listed in a new notebook all the major terrorist attacks of the last ten years that involved explosives: bombs on airplanes, carbombs, and bombs in buildings. I didn't bother to include letterbombs, although I knew that C-4, when made into quarter-inch sheets, worked well for that purpose too.
When I finished the list, I dialed the Israeli embassy and went through an elaborate telephone dance to get to Torsky.
"What do you want?" the Mossad man demanded.
"I need to see you. I've got some more questions."
"I don't have time to play your games. Go and get something on your man, so I can nail him."
"That's what I'm trying to do," I countered. "But I need information."
"Be at the Albert Memorial in fifteen minutes."
Torsky hung up.
Fifteen minutes. I would have to hurry. It was nine o'clock. By 9:15 I could see the Albert Memorial through the trees as I came out of Kensington Gardens on Flower Walk. It was one of my favorite spots. The monument to Queen Victoria's husband was a Victorian neo-Gothic fantasy. The canopy in the shape of a Gothic spire dwarfed the little prince underneath. The memorial celebrated the benevolence of British Imperialism and for good measure depicted the portraits of 178 of the most creative people of all time. It was busy. It was ornate. It was tacky. I loved going there, especially when I was depressed. The Albert Memorial was so ingenuous and in such remarkably bad taste that it always cheered me up.
Torsky was there waiting at the base of the steps next to Queen Victoria riding an elephant. He didn't look pleased.
I took out my notebook listing terrorist explosions and confronted Torsky with it.
"Why should I tell you?" Torsky demanded.
"Does anybody ever try to blow up Israelis? Wouldn't it help Israel's P.R. to have people know who is using American-made C-4?"
"Washington wouldn't like it. They especially wouldn't like it if they knew where you got your information."
"The source can remain confidential."
Torsky thought about it for what seemed like a long time.
"Awright. What do you want to know?"
I looked at my list.
"Can you tell after an explosion what kind of charge was used?"
"Oh yeah. Always."
"Do you know what stuff was used in different bombings?"
"It's my job to know."
"The bombs in the Berlin disco and Rome Airport in '86, were they C-4?"
"And the bomb on TWA Flight 840 from Rome to Athens, that was C-4. Am I right?"
"You got it right, yeah."
"What about the bomb in the truck that killed the Marines from the peacekeeping force in Lebanon in '83?"
"No. That was a truckload of TNT. Lebanese Shiites. The orders and money came from Iran, but Syria gave them a place to operate out of."
"How about Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in December of '89?"
"It was a bomb made of C-4 in the forward hold. Those people never had a chance. The same group probably blew up the DC-8 over Gander, Newfoundland a few years before that. Either it was the same ones or both groups were taught how to blow up planes by the same guy."
I looked over my list again.
"What about the failed El Al bombing attempt in '86?"
"That was me. I got her before her plane took off. Her Palestinian boyfriend put the explosive in the lining of her luggage. She was six months pregnant with his child."
"Yeah. A real sweetheart," Torsky replied. "Syrian Air Force Intelligence gave him a Syrian passport, twelve thousand dollars, and plastic explosives, but it wasn't C-4. It was Semtex-H from Czechoslovakia."
"That must have been about the time Reagan got pissed off at Qaddafi and tried to blow his villa to hell with Navy aircraft."
"That was it. Qaddafi took the hint and got out of the terrorist business. Syria picked up the slack. Syria set up the Berlin disco bombing."
"You mean the Syrians have C-4 too?"
"You don't get the picture too quick do you? Everybody's got C-4. Qaddafi gave it away to whoever wanted to kill us. It's still out there."
"What about the wave of bombings in France in '86? Were those C-4?"
"No. That was Semtex-H."
"Who did those bombings? And how did they get Eastern Bloc plastique? Did it come from the KGB?"
"That's a long story. Maybe some other time."
"Well, what about the C-4? Where did all these terrorists get it?"
"You already know."
"You mean Price and Qaddafi?"
"You got it."
"So all the C-4 came from the same source?"
"Who knows. It's hard to get unless you got an inside line," Torsky said.
"And those people who died in Pan Am 103 and all those others. It was C-4 furnished by Price in that one big load," Jack said.
"Yeah," Torsky replied.
For the first time Torsky asked a question. "So where did you hear about Price and this C-4 business?"
"It was a friend of mine from Special Forces in Vietnam. His name was Jim Fick. He told me about it. He knew I was a writer and that I had written some stuff about terrorism. He thought I could write about what he found out. Fick was one of those guys hired to work in Qaddafi's training camp in the Libyan desert. He saw an ad in Soldier of Fortune. Somebody killed him and cut him into little pieces."
"That's why he's dead. He told somebody besides you. And they had him killed."
Torsky thought for a moment. "That was this spring, wasn't it? I remember. It was a professional job. They never found his hands or his head. No fingerprints or dental work to identify him. Nothing but . . ."
"A rose tattoo." I finished the thought for him. "No head and no hands. But he had a tattoo of a rose, and they figured out his identity from that. I got the word through the grapevine from another old Special Forces buddy."
"So you know what they were doing, those Green Beanies, in Libya in '78 and '79?" Torsky asked.
"They were training terrorists for Qaddafi."
"More. They were training terrorists from all over the world," Torsky said. “You said an ad in Soldier of Fortune, but somebody recruited a lot of those guys right out of Fort Bragg.”
"You said something before about Pan Am 103 and the DC-8 over Gander, Newfoundland, that they were blown up by the same group or by two different groups trained by the same person."
"You were talking about an American Special Forces bomb expert training them. The same method of operation."
"The same signature on both. Right. It didn’t have to be in Libya though. It could have been in Afganistan where they learned it."
I was stunned.
"You feel better knowing this stuff?" Torsky said. "You gonna sleep sounder? They're gonna kill you, you know that. I'm just hoping that Price will make a mistake and give me an excuse to kill him."
"Why doesn't the CIA kill him?"
"That's another long story."
"Thanks a lot for the information."
"Don't mention it," Torsky said. "Do something interesting. I'll be watching you."
"Somehow I don't take great comfort in that."
Torsky turned and walked away, his enormous back and hairy black arms rolling in a huge bear-like gait.
Where to now? I wondered. My feet took me west along Kensington Road and past Palace Avenue, the entrance to Kensington Palace. In a minute I was in front of the south end of Kensington Palace Gardens where Kensington Road became Kensington High Street. I suddenly realized where I was. I looked up the broad, tree-lined avenue called Palace Green. I could see huge houses set in vast enclosed grounds. It was a private road with a uniformed guard to limit access to the area. I knew there was a guard at the other end too.
This restricted area contained the embassies of several countries that felt the need for extraordinary security--Romania and Russia among others. The mansions that housed the embassies dated from the 1850s and '60s. Thackeray wrote Vanity Fair in the house he built at Number 2 Kensington Palace Gardens. Now his house was the Israeli Embassy.
I kept on walking. SomeTimes its easier to think about something by not thinking about it. What I had learned from Torsky put the whole deal of Price and Omni Arms in focus, but it would take me a while to look at all of it.
At Kensington Church Street I turned north, passing along the busy shopping street, so lost in thought I didn’t notice. After a few minutes I realized I had left the busy thoroughfare and was on a residential street. I did not remember turning off the main road. This was unfamiliar territory to me. I looked at the stately stuccoed houses with their pillared porches. I wandered to the end of the street. It smelled like money.
As I read the street sign, I began to panic.
This was the street Ann Hamilton lived on. She and her husband Simon and their three girls lived at Number 23. I was standing right across from it. I moved off as fast as possible. Images went through my mind of Ann's seeing me lurking around her house. I didn't want to see her, I told himself. I didn't want anything to do with her.
In a minute I was back on Kensington Church Street. I kept walking until I passed Campden Hill Road and eventually ended up in the seclusion of Holland Park.
I couldn't understand how I had happened upon her street without knowing it. I had put her out of my mind. It must have been coincidence, I thought, but another voice said, she's on your mind whether you like it or not. I wandered through Holland Park, through the woods and out on to manicured lawns, paths, and playing fields. Lots of children. And dogs. No dog poop anywhere. Doggy toilets like sandboxes. Dog owners with plastic baggies to lift the poop steaming fresh from the doggy's ass. I was in a bad mood.
When I finally got back to my flat, I realized I had to write a note to Teller warning him that Omni Arms' thugs knew about his helping me. When I finished the note, I called Cruikshank's house to get his address in Australia to warn him too. It was an off chance, but I wanted to tell him just in case. The housekeeper at Cruikshank's place said that he had gone to visit his daughter, then reluctantly gave me the address.
That's one mystery solved, I thought. The old spy went to see his daughter. Well, good for him. Who says people don't change? I laughed to myself and felt better about my own life.
I had just finished the note to Cruikshank when the phone rang. It was Zorn.
"You busy, Mac?" Zorn asked.
"Not really. What's up?"
"I've got some more information for you on Price."
"You want me to come down to the dock?"
"Better not. Let's meet on neutral ground." Zorn sounded strange.
"Sure. Whatever you say," I replied. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah. I'm fine. How about if we meet at St. Paul's Cathedral, the west steps, at two o'clock?"
"I'll be there."
"Good. See you then," Zorn said and hung up.
I wondered what was going on. Since I had to wait to find out, I put it out of my mind and decided to have some lunch. I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and ate it with a glass of milk. Then I had a Granny Smith apple. I must have eaten that same lunch about five thousand times.
Before going to meet Zorn, I sat down at my desk and wrote a postcard to my son Mike. "I love you" was all I could think of to put. That's enough, I guess, I said to himself. I remembered the last time I saw my father. The old man said something cryptic about a woman he had once been engaged to.
My father said, "I was in college. She broke off the engagement. She said, 'You don't know how to love anybody but yourself.' I've always wondered if she was right."
"Did you love her?" I said.
"I don't know," he said
"Did you love my mother?"
"I don't know."
I know what he meant now. It was what Angelique tried to tell me about myself. You’re too old to be thinking these thoughts, my critical self countered. But then I realized that it's like Zorn said, we all have to start at the starting place. Maybe life isn't inevitable.
On that optimistic note I picked up my letters and postcard and went out the door. On the way to the Tube station, I dropped them in a letterbox. After the ride on the Underground, I emerged from St. Paul's Station and walked over to the cathedral.
St. Paul's provided an interesting view of seventeenth-century architecture and Christianity. I looked up at the cathedral's monumental facade. Even surrounded by newer, higher modern office buildings, Wren's vision seemed vast and self-confident. St. Paul's wasn't my idea of a cathedral. The massive vaults, all gilt and color, with a sky-high, daunting dome above the intersection of nave and transept were impressive, but the whole effect of this Neo-Classical mausoleum was too intellectual and essentially cold for me, not conducive to religious reflection. I preferred Gothic cathedrals. Still, for amusement, St. Paul's was hard to beat. I loved the pagan hero-worship, with all the statues of dead Englishmen.
As I walked up the steps of the west portico, I remembered that the west end of the cathedral inside the front doors was devoted to souvenir sales. Looking at the brisk business, I couldn’t help thinking of Jesus casting the moneychangers out of the Temple.
Zorn was waiting for me. He looked worried.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Let's get a beer at the Black Friar. Some guy's been hanging around St. Katharine's Dock. I think he's been watching my boat. I want to make sure we're not being followed."
We walked down Ludgate Hill, then south toward the Blackfriar's tube station and the wedge-shaped building with a statue of a friar on the front. As we entered the pub, we were greeted by Victorian-medieval wood carvings, stained glass, and bronze bas-reliefs of friars engaged in various religious and profane activities. Zorn and I sat in a booth where we could see the door.
"I think we're okay," Zorn said.
"I didn't see anybody. What's this all about?"
"My guess is that somebody from Omni Arms trailed you to the boat yesterday," Zorn speculated.
"That could be it. I'm sorry about that. It could even be one of Torsky's men from the Israeli Embassy. He won't hurt us, but he might not help us either. Look, Zorn, maybe you ought to back away from this stuff. There's no reason you should get hurt."
"I know that," Zorn said. "I also know that I said I'd help you, and I will. As I told you, I have my reasons."
"If you say so. I hope you know what you're doing.”
"You sound like me," Zorn said, and he chuckled through his gap-toothed grin. We ordered a couple of pints of bitter.
"What have you found out?" I asked.
"I got hold of an old friend of mine and told him about Price. He gave me some interesting scuttlebutt."
"Who's your friend?"
"I can't tell you, but the information is accurate," Zorn replied.
"It sounds fishy," I said as I got out my notebook.
"Trust me. The guy would only talk to me on the promise that no one would ever know who he is or where he is."
"All right, but I'm about to feel very paranoid about this." Just then the beer arrived, and I cheered up. I took a sip and said, "Okay. What’s up?"
"I asked him whether the CIA knows what Price has been doing for the last ten or fifteen years," Zorn said.
"He said the CIA is a highly compartmentalized outfit. Secrets are distributed on a need to know basis for security reasons. If a department or operation is doing something illegal, compartmentalization provides deniability. Unless someone in the CIA steps forward and tells the Senate or a special prosecutor, 'Yes, I told him myself,' or 'I sent the report to him, and he initialed it,' the next guy in the chain can deny he knew anything about it."
"The principle of deniability is convenient, there's no doubt about that."
"There's something weird with Price and the Libyan connection," Zorn continued. "This guy told me that during the Carter administration, Stansfield Turner must have figured out about guys like Price and their ties with active CIA higher-ups because he tried to get rid of a couple of them. Maybe he heard that they were moonlighting for Price. Who knows? Anyway, he stuck one guy in a dead-end job and ordered another one transferred to the CIA equivalent of Siberia. But the guy never went."
"What do you mean he never went?"
"He was never transferred. He left his old job all right, but he ended up as CIA liaison with the British Secret Service, MI-5, right here in London. And Turner never knew."
"No. I swear," Zorn insisted. "Here's Turner, this really smart guy right? Amherst, Rhodes Scholar, Navy admiral. He gets to the CIA, and the insiders shut him out. Under William Casey some of the guys who were in tight with Price were still there, doing better than ever."
We both took a sip of beer.
"I guess it goes to show the CIA isn't the Navy," I offered, and we both sort of laughed.
Then I said, "It also explains some of what Jim Fick tried to tell me. Somebody from the CIA wanted to know what Stoat and Price were up to in Libya. Fick must have told the wrong guy."
"Or the wrong person at the CIA got wind of what someone else at the CIA was looking into," Zorn speculated.
"Yeah, that's another possibility," I said and then asked, "Did you learn anything else from this friend of yours?"
"Oh yeah, I just remembered. Did you ever hear of Billy Seabold, the Air Force general who was involved with Oliver North in the Iran-Contra Affair? He was the one who got the arms for Iran."
"I remember him. Iran-Contra. He was a supply officer in the Air Force. They let him take early retirement with a full pension. He should have gone to jail."
"That's him," Zorn said. "He's one of Ed Price's old friends. Where do you suppose Seabold bought the missiles for Iran?"
"Omni Arms." I guessed.
"Close. He got them from Price but outside of the Omni Arms organizational purview. It's what you suspected. Price seems to be running his own company within the company. He's got his own network. It's the basic CIA principle of deniability working within the structure of a large multinational corporation. It almost doesn't matter whether the corporation knows what's going on or not."
"Unless the CEO and board of directors are honest men," I suggested, "in which case they might be interested in getting rid of him."
"True," Zorn said, "but they're in business to make money."
"There's a difference, though, between selling arms to legitimate governments and selling them to terrorists.”
"Not always," Zorn disagreed. "Look at Iran. Everyone sold weapons to the Shah, and he wasn't exactly Mr. Nice Guy. Then his regime was toppled, and all the weapons came under the control of the Ayatollah to be used against us."
I didn't really agree, so I changed the subject. "That's great information about Price. How do you know people who can tell you things like that?"
"I can't tell you. It wouldn't be safe for either of us, but whatever you're thinking, that's probably not it," Zorn said.
"All right. I give up," I said and changed the subject. "How's Angelique?"
"I haven't seen her in a couple of days. Dinner last night got called off."
"I thought you two were getting serious."
Zorn laughed his gap-toothed grin and shook his head. "I thought that's what you thought. No. There's nothing between us that way. We're just friends. Besides, I think she's still sweet on you."
I made a face, and Zorn laughed at me.
"You're making a big mistake, Mac," Zorn laughed again.
"Why didn't you make a play for her?"
"I don't know. It may sound ridiculous these days, but I'm still married, and until I'm sure that's over, I don't really want to start anything new," Zorn said and then added, "Besides the opportunity never presented itself."
"What a straight arrow you are," I kidded.
"Me? What about you?" Zorn said and laughed again.
We drank our beer. I asked about the Omni Arms computer. "Have you tried to get into it yet?"
"I found a phone number finally. I was wondering if you'd like to stop by tomorrow, and I'll try it while you're there. That way if we get in, you can tell me what you want to know."
"Sounds good. But what about the guy who's been hanging around the dock?"
"If he's there, we can try it some other time. How about ten o'clock?"
"I'll be there," I said.
We finished our beer and headed in separate directions.
By the time I got back to my apartment, it was late afternoon. I sat down and looked at the mail. Nothing new. No checks for any of the grist I had in the mill. It occurred to me that I ought to go see Eoin Cogan again and get going on the IRA piece. Got to keep the pipeline filled, I thought.
As I looked through some bills, my mind returned to what Zorn had told me about Price's CIA connections. What was the current relationship between Price and the CIA? I was worried about the man who had been hanging around Zorn's boat. I felt guilty about getting Zorn involved. And for the first time in a week I allowed myself to think about Angelique. Maybe I should call her, I thought. No. Why ask for trouble?
I got up from my desk and walked to the window to admire the view of Little Venice in the late afternoon sun. I guess I better water this geranium, I thought, staring at the plant on the windowsill. I'm surprised it survived the mess they made of this place.
The phone rang as I was walking back to the kitchen to get a pitcher of water for the plant. I leaned over the desk and picked up the receiver.
"Hello," I said brusquely.
"This is Inspector Entwhistle from Scotland Yard."
"Right. What's up?"
"We have some information," Entwhistle confided.
"Did you find the guys who broke in?"
"We've discovered the names of those whose fingerprints were found in your flat."
"Yeah, what did you find out?"
"One set of prints belongs to an American named Thomas Zorn, and the other belongs to a French woman named Angelique Jardin."
"Great. Those are friends of mine. They didn't trash my place."
"Well, you have some interesting friends then, don't you?"
"What do you mean?"
"We traced their backgrounds. Miss Jardin is the daughter of the late president of Renault who was shot by Arab terrorists. We couldn't find much about Mr. Zorn. All we could gather was he's involved in computers. It seems the CIA put a stop to any further information. Top Secret. Special access required. Do you know anything about this fellow?"
My paranoia hit nine on the Richter Scale.
I managed to say, "No. Except that he used to build computers. I don't know anything about his involvement with the CIA. All I know is he didn't break into my place. Nor did Angelique Jardin."
At least he hoped they didn't.
"You'll tell us if you hear anything more about these two, won't you?" the detective asked.
"I will," I promised, then added, "Let me know if you find out who did it."
I dropped the receiver back in its cradle. My thoughts were in total disarray. Only one word came to me.
"Shit," I said out loud.
And then thoughts and images poured forth. No wonder Zorn knows so much about the CIA. But how did he find me on Iona? He couldn't have sailed up there to intercept me. That would have taken too long. Still, Zorn must have known because he certainly found me up there. It couldn't have been a coincidence, considering the way things have turned out. Or could it? Not bloody likely. But who tipped him off? Maybe someone who knew Jim Fick talked to me. Maybe they tortured Fick before he died. Probably they did. And under torture Fick let them know he told me. Who else might have informed the CIA? Cruikshank? Teller? Who knows?
Was Zorn working with Price? The paranoia skyrocketed again. Price's people inside the CIA could have informed Zorn. But there is another possibility, I realized. Maybe Zorn is working with people in the CIA who are trying to run down and eliminate Price and his buddies. But this possibility did not make me feel much better.
He lied to me.
As usual when I felt betrayed, I wanted to hit someone. There was no one to hit. My mind turned to Angelique. Her father was assassinated by terrorists. She didn't mention it to me. Of course not. I spent the whole time talking about myself. Even when we were talking about terrorists. It's no wonder she walked out. When was her father assassinated? It must have been about two years ago that the president of Renault was killed. The detective said he was shot. I remembered reading about it, but I couldn’t recall the circumstances. With a shudder I thought of Angelique's learning of her father's gruesome death.
I began to reassess my approach to the whole investigation. I was supposed to meet Zorn at ten the next morning to look into the Omni Arms computer. Should I go and feign ignorance of what Zorn was up to? Should I confront him? Or should I call Zorn and say forget it? I brooded like this for several hours until I'd had enough of my own mind.
This is getting me nowhere, I thought. I decided to go through with the meeting with Zorn and play it by ear. Meanwhile, I also decided to forget worrying about Zorn. Instead I would spend the evening at Eoin Cogan's pub, talking Eoin into introducing me to his favorite thugs from the IRA.
As usual when I had a lot on my mind, I decided to walk. It was almost nine by the time I approached the faded Victorian façade of Eoin's pub. I hadn't had anything to eat, and I was starved. I looked forward to a good meal and a good talk with Eoin.
But as soon as I walked through the door and saw Eoin's face looking back at me, I knew that I was in for more bad news.
Eoin had made no move to draw a pint of the good bitter beer he knew I liked. Instead he leaned into the bar and said to Jack in a dead level voice, "You'd better leave now and be quick."
Eoin's eyes looked past mine as if he were searching the dark corners of the pub for a secret.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"They're after you is what," Eoin replied.
Eoin Cogan was angry. His cunning blue eyes were bright and mean.
"What's going on?" I tried.
I looked closely at the pubkeeper. The man's face was puffy and distorted, as if he had sustained a beating.
"All I'll say is I told 'em you wanted a story on the Harrods thing. That you were sympathetic to the cause. Somebody told 'em you were against us, that you were looking into how we got guns and explosives. They came down on me, and if you stick around, they'll get rid of you. So get out while the getting's good."
Eoin threw his towel down on the bar and turned away.
"Who told them?" I asked, but it was no use. Eoin wouldn't say another word.
I turned and walked out of the pub. I felt threatened, and my adrenaline was pumping. Night had fallen. I looked around to make sure no one was watching or following me. There was a dark-colored van parked along the crowded street ahead of me, and I heard footsteps behind me approaching fast.
I turned and hit the first one full in the face as hard as I could with my right hand. The man went down in a heap, blood gushing from his nose. The second man swung on me with a sap, but I blocked his arm with my left hand and gave him a rousing kick in the groin. I smiled and turned back to the first man, who was trying to rise. I didn't see the two men who got out of the van behind me.
One of them pinned my arms from behind while the other pushed a needle into my right arm. I turned my head to see my new assailants. The last image before I passed out was that of a long face with tiny brown eyes and a droopy handlebar mustache, as I was shoved into the van.