58. SMALL BLUE ABSENCE

THE close-up, hand-held, shows Laney this small blue absence just in from the corner of the dead man’s eye, like some radical experiment with mascara. A bullet hole, entry wound, of the most modest circumference.

‘You’ll note the lack of powder burns, says the one holding the camera. ‘Done from a distance.

‘Why are you showing me this? Harwood asks, once more the disembodied voice.

The frame pulls back, revealing the dead man, blonde in a black leather jacket, reclining against some vertical surface fogged with whorls of aerosol enamel. He looks surprised and slightly cross-eyed. Pulls back farther, revealing a second body, this one in a black armored vest, facedown on worn pavement.

‘One shot each. We weren’t expecting him to have a gun.

‘The bridge isn’t noted for adherence to firearms regulations, you know.

The man with the camera reverses it, his face appearing from an odd angle, shot from the level of his waist. ‘I just wanted to tell you ‘I told you so.

‘If he leaves the vicinity alive, your firm will find itself in more than contractual difficulties. You signed on to take care of anything, remember?

‘And you agreed to listen to our suggestions.

‘I listened.

‘I came out here with a five-man team. Now two of them are dead, I’ve lost radio contact with the other three, and I’ve just heard what sounded like an explosion. This environment is inherently unstable: an armed anthill. These people have short fuses and no coordinating authority. We could have a riot on our hands, and once that happens, we’ll have no hope at all of taking out your man, or of capturing Rydell.

‘Recapturing Rydell, you should say.

‘I have one last suggestion. The man raises the camera slightly, so that his face fills the screen, his black scarf blanking the bottom third of the image.

‘Yes?

‘Burn it.

‘Burn what?

‘The bridge. It’s a tinderbox.

‘But wouldn’t that take time to arrange?

‘It’s already arranged. The man shows the camera a small rectangle, a remote, that he holds in his other hand. ‘We’ve been planting radio-activated incendiaries. We like to cover the options.

‘But aren’t our two men likely to escape in the ensuing confusion? You tell me you’re afraid of a riot, after all.

‘Nobody’s getting off this thing. It’ll burn from both ends, from Bryant Street to Treasure Island.

‘And how are you getting off yourself?

‘That’s been taken care of.

Harwood falls silent. ‘Well, he says, at last, ‘I suppose you should.

The man thumbs a button on the remote.

Laney flicks away from the lozenge, panicking, looking for Libia and Paco.

The projector is still here, still on the bridge. He still doesn’t know what part it plays, but Rei Toei must have a presence in the impending cusp.

And he sees that Harwood knows that, or feels it, and is moving, has moved, to prevent it.

He pulls the eyephones from his head and gropes through the colors of darkness, searching for a phone.

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