FIFTY

Liz met up with Peggy at the golf clubhouse, which was in use until the dinner the following day as a sort of officers’ mess for the security contingents. They ordered lunch from the bar menu – Liz a sandwich, Peggy a small side salad. ‘Is that going to be enough to get you through the afternoon?’ asked Liz.

Peggy nodded. ‘I’ve put on a few pounds lately, thanks to Tim. He bought a pasta machine, and it’s been fatal. If I never saw hand-made ravioli again, it wouldn’t be too soon.’

They sat in a conservatory-like annexe that overlooked the last undulating hole of the famed King’s Course. The eighteenth green sat like an emerald oval amidst the yellowed grass of the fairways, bleached by the long hot summer.

Peggy plonked a stack of papers on the table. ‘These are the itineraries for all the delegations,’ she announced with a sigh. ‘I’m not sure where to begin.’

Liz put her hand on the stack of pages. ‘I think we should get Dave’s team to put those onto one big spreadsheet so that we know where everyone is at any given time. You may find they’ve done it already. In general, there’s no point trying to duplicate what the security people have already done. For the moment, I think we should concentrate on the Syrians’ schedule. After all, they are the only specific target that we know Kollek might have. Anything strike you there?’

‘Just the dinner here in this restaurant tomorrow.’

‘That, certainly. But there’s to be some sort of entertainment before it. It’s being planned by the Israelis to amuse the Syrians. Something to do with birds and dogs, I gather. It seems Kollek was interesting himself in it. I can’t think why that Naomi woman didn’t tell me. I’m going over to the falconry school and the gun dogs after this and find out exactly what they’re going to be doing tomorrow. If Kollek’s planning something to happen while their demonstration is on, then maybe we can work out what it might be.’

‘Do you think he’ll try to do something himself? He must know now that we’ll all be looking for him.’

‘I just don’t know. It would be very difficult for him; the outer security cordon’s going up today. I’ve made sure his photo is being circulated to everyone – provided old Jamieson doesn’t sit on it.’

‘How did you get on with the chief constable?’ asked Peggy. ‘Was he as bad as Dave said?’

‘I’ll tell you all about him tonight. But I think I sorted him out.’

Peggy grinned. ‘I’ll bet you did.’ She added, ‘What if Kollek’s hidden himself somewhere?’

‘I can’t see it. Between the police and Special Branch and the Secret Service, there isn’t a room anywhere in the entire resort that hasn’t been checked, and checked again. The same goes for any explosive device he might have tried to put in place – every inch of interior space will have had sniffer dogs and detectors all over it.’

‘So what could he do then?’

‘I reckon there are only two options. One is that he somehow attacks the Syrians from outside.’

‘What, with a mortar?’ Peggy sounded horrified.

‘Too imprecise. He’d have to get within the perimeter cordon to be confident of a shell even landing in the grounds.’

‘Then a helicopter, or is that too far-fetched?’

Liz shook her head. ‘I wouldn’t put anything past Kollek, but I don’t think he’d have a chance of doing that. There’s a strict no-fly zone except for conference traffic – he’d get shot down before he even got within sight of this place.’

‘Hang glider, balloon, microlight?’

‘All those things are possible. I suspect he’s determined enough, and quite possibly mad enough, to try anything. But I’m pretty sure the protective cordon on the ground and in the air would pick any of that up. And he’ll know that.’

‘Well, that’s a relief at least.’ But Peggy still looked anxious. ‘What’s the other possibility?’

‘That he has someone inside to do something for him.’

‘An accomplice?’

‘Possibly, though I’d doubt it was a full-blown partner. Kollek’s too much of a lone wolf to take anyone into his confidence. But it might be someone helping him unwittingly.’

‘Someone in the Israeli delegation?’

‘I don’t think so. They’ve all been questioned about Kollek, and briefed in case he gets in contact. More likely someone here at Gleneagles. I’ve asked the manager to have all the staff interviewed, just in case Kollek struck up a friendship with one of them. The other possibility is Hannah Gold – he cultivated her and then got her invited here.’

‘Has she arrived?’

‘I don’t think so, and I’d like you to find out when she’s due, and where she’s staying – she mentioned a B and B in Auchterarder. While you do that, I’ll head off for the falconry school.’

As she got up from the table, she saw Dave Armstrong coming in to the restaurant. When she waved he came over. He was wearing jeans and trainers and an army-issue olive sweater.

‘Have you been on manoeuvres?’

He laughed. ‘It feels that way. I’ve been out there with the army.’ He pointed out of the window to the foothills in the middle distance. Cloud was rolling in now, and the bright sunshine of the morning had given way to grey.

‘How far is it to those hills?’ asked Liz.

‘I’d say two or three miles.’

‘Can a sniper operate at that distance?’

‘Funny you should ask. I was discussing that very issue with the brigadier this morning. He said that even five years ago, the answer would have been no. Now it’s not so clear cut – the usual terrifying advances in arms technology. You’d need to have been trained as a sniper and have the right rifle, of course, and there’d be an element of luck involved. But it’s doable. That’s why we’ve extended the perimeter to the crest of those hills. They’ll be patrolled.’

‘There’s a lot of ground to cover.’

‘I know. But we’ve got three platoons coming to cover it.’

‘This one’s name is Fatty,’ said McCash, the handler. ‘You can see why.’

Liz tried to look appreciatively at the eagle, which seemed about three times the size of the other birds of prey. It was brown and black with white stripes on its front shoulders, and had an evil-looking curved yellow beak. It perched like a small fat tank on McCash’s outstretched hand, which was encased in a leather gauntlet with a reinforced thumb.

Liz and McCash stood about thirty yards from the school, where birds sat in their individual cells, peering out through the barred windows, glaring enviously at Fatty’s freedom. Next to Liz was a flat wooden platform, about the size of a doormat, perched about five feet off the ground on top of a wooden upright. There was a twin as well, roughly fifty feet away. McCash gently extended his arm over the platform and put down a motionless Fatty.

‘Follow me,’ said McCash, and they moved towards the other platform. Liz glanced nervously behind her as they walked; she didn’t fancy being attacked from behind by that beak. But Fatty sat as immobile as Simeon Stylites on his pillar.

Using his ungloved hand, McCash reached into the pocket of his Barbour jacket and drew out a small piece of lean meat. He put it on the platform, explaining, ‘Grouse. It has to be raw – they can’t digest anything cooked. Or anything vegetable for that matter. If you feed them pigeon, and the pigeon’s been eating grain, they’ll regurgitate the grain.’

He moved away and Liz went to stand next to him. Turning towards Fatty he clapped his hands loudly. At first, there was no reaction from the bird. Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, it leaned forward and lifted itself up on its two taloned feet. It hesitated, took a small tentative step, then seemed almost to tumble off the edge of the platform.

For a moment Liz thought it would hit the ground, but with one immense sweep of its wings it stayed airborne and began to lumber slowly towards them, staying above the ground by little more than the height of the two platforms. The bird reminded Liz of an immense aeroplane she’d read about in a magazine. Called The Spruce Goose, it had been built by Howard Hughes in the 1940s. It flew only once, and that for only about five hundred feet. Those watching its inaugural and final flight had found it hard to believe it would ever get off the ground.

But it had – and so had Fatty. Nearing the target platform, Fatty spread its vast wings and lurched half a foot skywards, then landed with a heavy whoomf on the wood, where it immediately scoffed the titbit of grouse and looked round hungrily for more.

McCash laughed. Liz had been there twenty minutes and was beginning to get impatient. She had asked McCash about the programme for the next day, and this demonstration had been the result. Apparently something of the same sort was going to happen, and then the guests would be invited to fly the falcons themselves, if they wanted to. It was difficult to imagine how any real harm could be injected.

She turned to McCash. ‘Did you meet the Israelis when they came to set this up?’ She felt that if she allowed him to pursue his bird obsession much longer, she might as well leave the service and join up as an apprentice falconer. And she still hadn’t got to the gun dogs.

‘Funny people,’ McCash said now. ‘There was a woman, not interested in the birds at all. Don’t know why she bothered coming down here. Then two blokes – one was a little pipsqueak of a man; he was scared. Don’t know why.’

I do, thought Liz, looking at Fatty’s sharp beak and ferocious talons. ‘What about the other man?’

‘Ah, he was interested all right. Though not in the birds, more the technology. He wanted to know how we could be certain the birds would come back when we unhooded them and let them fly off. I told him, we can’t be certain – that’s why we’ve got a transmitter in every bird.’

Liz was listening carefully. ‘Tell me about the transmitters, will you?’

McCash gave her a look. ‘You’re as bad as him. That was all he wanted to know about. It’s simple really. If they don’t come back, we can go and find them – it’s like an old-fashioned tracking device, the sort of thing James Bond sticks on the villain’s car. The closer you get, the louder the beep on our detector. It’s just a chip inserted beneath their skin – doesn’t hurt them. The problem is, they were designed in the States – Utah, I’ve been told.’ He gestured towards the surrounding hills and trees. ‘This isn’t exactly similar terrain. The manufacturers claim the transmitters are good for up to twelve miles. Around here, it’s much less. Thankfully, when the birds don’t come back they’re usually just sitting in the trees over there.’

‘Is there any way it ever works in reverse?’ McCash’s look made her feel stupid. ‘I mean-’ she began to explain, when her mobile rang in her coat pocket. ‘Excuse me,’ she said, and walked away a little.

It was Ryerson, the manager. ‘I’ve found him!’ he exclaimed excitedly.

‘Who?’

‘Kollek. I knew I’d seen him before. He was a guest in the hotel a month ago. Only he wasn’t called Kollek then. Glick was the name he signed in as. Samuel Glick. He was in room 411. Would you like to see it? It’s been allocated to an American, but he’s not due until this evening.’

‘I’ll be there in five minutes,’ said Liz. ‘Please don’t go in the room until I arrive.’

She made her excuses to McCash and set off for the hotel ballroom. This time Jamieson paid her prompt attention, and when she emerged from the hotel lift on the fourth floor, she was accompanied by a sniffer dog and his handler, two armed anti-terrorist officers with explosive detection equipment, and a uniformed local bobby.

Waiting outside the door of the room, Ryerson looked taken aback to find Liz arriving with an armed entourage. He held out the key to the room and an armed officer took it and cautiously opened the door. It was a spacious room, with light streaming through from its western window. She stood back and let the men get to work. Turning to Ryerson, she said, ‘Are you sure it was the same man staying in this room?’

‘I’m positive it was the man in the photograph you showed me. He paid with a French credit card – one of the girls behind the desk was new so I had to come out to reception and confirm it was okay. That’s when I saw him.’

‘Well done. Now, do you know which American is meant to be staying in this room?’

‘Yes, it’s somebody from their embassy in London.’

‘The ambassador?’ Her heart beat slightly faster.

‘No, no,’ he said, as if this was out of the question. ‘He’s in a suite.’

‘Of course,’ said Liz, suppressing a smile. But she was also remembering how the IRA had operated in Brighton. ‘What about on the floors above this room? Are there suites up there? Is the President or the Prime Minister staying directly above this room?’

He thought about it for a moment, but shook his head. ‘No, they’re just rooms, too.’

Liz peered in. One of the men was moving a machine along the far wall, following the trail of the sniffer dog and its handler. Catching Liz’s eye, the anti-terrorist officer shook his head. In the middle of the room, the bobby was standing with a bewildered frown on his face; the second anti-terrorist officer had disappeared into the bathroom. Suddenly from there she heard a shout. ‘Come in here a minute.’

Liz walked in to find the officer lowering himself down from a hole in the ceiling. He landed lightly on his feet and extended an open hand, palm up. ‘Look at this,’ he said, puffing slightly.

It was a crumpled wad of cardboard, roughly half the size of an egg carton. ‘There’s a crawl space up there,’ he said triumphantly. ‘It’s where the air-conditioning vents run through. Somebody’s left this behind.’

Liz took the cardboard out of his hand and gently squeezed it until it bore a faint resemblance to its original box-like form. There was writing on the box in Hebrew, and numbers.

From behind a hand suddenly reached for the small carton, and Liz turned to find Dave Armstrong. ‘Let me have a look,’ he said. He examined the box carefully. ‘The Hebrew doesn’t mean much to me. But the numbers do.’ He held the box up in the air gingerly. ‘This held rifle shells. 7.62 mm, or.308 to our American friends. They’re weighted, designed for a sniper rifle.’

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