Chapter Forty-Four

This morning Thorpe was in and out of his office like a jack-in-the-box. His ear to the phone, hand over the mouthpiece, Thorpe was talking to his secretary who was standing in the office doorway. “Get ahold of somebody in authority in the Paris Police Prefecture. Check our computer contacts. We must have a name and phone number for somebody somewhere.”

The secretary looked at her watch. “It would be early evening over there.”

“I don’t care. Get ’em at home. Get ’em out of bed. Tell them it’s urgent. I need to talk to someone in the prefecture immediately.”

The secretary turned and headed for her desk.

Thorpe went back to the phone. “Where did he go?… What do you mean, you don’t know? He called you, didn’t he?… When did he call, what time?… Well, damn it, why didn’t you call me last night?… I don’t care. You could have called down to the duty desk. They would have called me at home. What else did he say?” Thorpe listened as Herman conveyed the message given to him by Madriani the previous evening.

Everything was coming to a head at once. Earlier that morning, information from immigration in the United Arab Emirates had finally come back showing that the Spanish passport with Liquida’s picture on it had moved on to Thailand.

Thorpe immediately called Bangkok to have his people check and see when it arrived, whether the passport was still in the country and if not, where it had gone from there. Deep down, Thorpe already knew the answer. His worst fears were being realized. The information from Madriani was correct.

Thorpe’s people were already preparing a warrant for Liquida’s arrest in Paris when Madriani’s investigator called to tell him about the dead body in the alley behind the hotel. It was too late. If bodies were popping up, Thorpe knew that Liquida would already be gone from the hotel. His only hope now was to stop him from getting out of France.

“What do you mean, software? What kind of software?… You mean he found it with the body? What was he doing messing with the body? Listen, never mind! If he calls again, you find out where he is and tell him to stay there. Do you understand? And call me.” Thorpe hung up. “Susan!”

Two seconds later his secretary was back in the doorway.

“Find out who was on the desk last night at the safe house, Madriani’s condo. Tell them I want the telephone records for last night, all the audio recordings from Madriani’s phone. Tell them to transmit them over here immediately.” When Thorpe looked up, Bill Britain was standing in the doorway right behind the secretary. “What is it?”

“More bad news, I’m afraid.”

“That’s all, Susan.” Thorpe motioned Britain into his office and told him to close the door.

The second Britain got the door closed he started talking: “Our embassy people in Paris just called from the hotel…” He looked at his notes. “Saint-Jacques, I think it is. When they showed the people on the desk the poster with Liquida’s picture, they recognized him. Said he was a guest but that he checked out very early that morning. According to them, it was about forty minutes before they heard all the sirens behind the building in the alley where the body was found.”

“Did they have a passport with a name?” said Thorpe.

“Again, another Spanish passport, only this time the name was Jorge Menold.”

“They know he can move around on those things,” said Thorpe. This was because there was no visa requirement for Western Europe, the Americas, much of Asia, or the Middle East. For Liquida’s purposes, a Spanish passport was almost as good as one from the United States.

“French authorities have already put out the name to have him picked up if he shows at any of the airports under that name,” said Britain. “But so far nothing.”

“He’s not that stupid. By now he’ll have a stack of passports like a deck of playing cards, dealing off the bottom as he moves,” said Thorpe.

“And there’s more,” said Britain. “The body in the alley…”

“Yes?”

“It’s one of our two guys from NASA.”

“I knew it,” said Thorpe. “I knew it. Tell Susan to get Llewellyn up here right away. We need to talk.”

Britain opened the door, delivered the message, and closed it again.

“Which one of the two of them was it?” said Thorpe.

Britain looked at his notes. “According to his U.S. passport, his name was Raji Fareed…”

“Software guy,” said Thorpe. “That makes sense. Looks like Madriani’s man was telling the truth.”

“What do you mean?”

“Never mind. Anything else?”

“Fareed was booked into the hotel under an Egyptian passport with an alias,” said Britain. “The hotel desk said they never saw him in the flesh. Only his passport picture. It was delivered by another man who brought the passports down in a bundle. They said the guy booked an entire floor of rooms for a week. They checked out a day early.”

“How many in all?”

“Seven, according to the desk. Six showed up on the first day. Liquida arrived with his new Spanish passport three days later,” said Britain.

“Get copies of all the passports. Make sure the photos are clear. And I want those rooms scoured, anything they find bagged and brought back here, do you understand?”

“Our people from the embassy are already working on it,” said Britain. “But I’m not sure the French authorities are going to allow us to take evidence if it relates to the murder in the alley.”

“Do it anyway. Check and see if they found a computer. If so, tell our people not to let it out of their hands. Tell the French it’s embassy property. Put it in a diplomatic pouch if they have to. Go to the State Department and tell them we need a backdated diplomatic passport in Fareed’s name. Shoot it over there. Tell the French he was on State Department business acting as a courier. If State gives you any trouble, tell them to call the White House. Did you check the hotel to see if there was any sign of Madriani, Hinds, or Joselyn Cole?”

“We checked. No sign. The front desk looked at their passport photos and didn’t recognize any of them.”

“Have our people check the other hotels in the area and do me a favor, put all three names and their passport numbers on the no-fly list. Do it immediately. And make sure they’re not just tagged for additional screening. I want them held with a notation to contact the legat’s office at the U.S. Embassy. And tell the embassy to contact my office immediately if they find them.”

“I can put them on the list but it won’t be updated with the airlines until tomorrow,” said Britain. “And without a warrant, the French authorities won’t take them into custody. How do we hold them?” said Britain.

“Don’t worry about that. Just go out to the airport, get their luggage, give them a ride to the embassy, and keep them there. We’ll worry about the legalities later.”

Britain turned to head for the door.

“One more thing,” said Thorpe.

“Yes.”

“What kind of resources and juice do we have down in Mexico at the present time?”

Britain wrinkled his forehead with the thought. “I’m not sure the Mexican government has a handle on what’s happening down there right now. We don’t have much influence, if that’s what you mean. What do you need?”

“I’m not sure yet.”

“If you need boots on the ground, my guess is your best bet’s gonna be Drug Enforcement.”

“Then get ahold of somebody at DEA and tell them I need a meeting, later today if possible. Tell them this comes from the highest authority. The man in the big house at the end of Pennsylvania Avenue.”

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