CHAPTER 64

“We’re working together, right?’’ McNeal asked Boldt from the other end of a cellular call.

‘‘Far as I’m concerned.’’ His mind was on Mama Lu-the location of that sweatshop. If the Great Lady wouldn’t cooperate, then, as far as he was concerned, their one and only chance of finding Melissa, of busting the sweatshop, came down to the shipment expected that same night. Stevie McNeal, and her world of problems, was far from his thoughts.

‘‘Together as in: Whatever I have, you have and vice versa.’’

‘‘As in,’’ Boldt confirmed, his attention still drifting.

‘‘This surveillance that was reported,’’ she said, waking him up some. ‘‘What are your chances of making this bust?’’

‘‘Until they reported it, our chances were pretty good, I think.’’

‘‘And now?’’

‘‘Not so good,’’ he answered.

‘‘There’s something going down,’’ she stated. ‘‘A container shipment?’’

His mind sprang fully awake. Where had she gotten that? ‘‘It’s possible,’’ he admitted. ‘‘We don’t know exactly when, although any time around the new moon makes strategic sense for them.’’ He added, ‘‘We thought the drop was going to be at a naval yard-that is, until things leaked this morning. That hurt us. Now, quite honestly, we’re not so sure.’’

‘‘Your plan?’’

His mind briefly prevented him from discussing it-do not share this with the press! But his tongue overruled. ‘‘Had been to intercept the drop fully cloaked and to follow the shipment wherever it led. We believed that would include not only the sweatshop and those people

responsible, but quite possibly Ms. Chow as well.’’

‘‘And now that it has leaked?’’ she inquired.

‘‘One step forward, two steps back. We’re still watching our location, but I’m guessing we’ve been sandbagged by the leak.’’

‘‘So you’re tracking all arriving freighters,’’ she stated. Reporters and cops thought the same way.

‘‘Freighters, tankers, trawlers.’’ He hesitated. ‘‘Any ship making port in the next thirty-six hours. Of special interest are any that made port in Hong Kong. I’ll be down at Port Authority. We’ll be tracking every ship closely,’’ he confirmed, though his jaw was tight and his voice sounded foreign even to him. ‘‘Three in particular, due in later tonight, all made port in Kowloon. That matches with the Visage. None due in from Hong Kong scheduled for tomorrow or Friday, so we’re leaning on tonight. We play the high-percentage hunches.’’

‘‘So do I, and my hunch is you’re about to be sandbagged again,’’ she warned. She explained what she had found out about Channel Seven’s SkyCam crew.

Boldt remained silent trying to clear his thoughts, suddenly a tangle of confusion and outright anger. The press no longer reported cases, they intervened and destroyed them.

‘‘We haven’t much time,’’ she warned.

‘‘I’m listening.’’ His throat dry and scratchy, his temper flaring.

‘‘No one-not you, not the mayor-can stop a news crew from reporting.’’

‘‘Believe me, I’m aware of that,’’ he said.

‘‘Competition is a wonderful thing. The infrared technology has its limits: It doesn’t like light. If we-my team, I’m talking about-were to aim enough light toward that infrared camera, we’d blind the equipment. We’d piss them off, sure-but we wouldn’t be breaking any laws, just one news crew out to scoop the other. You see how this works?’’

‘‘You’re going to sabotage a live news feed?’’

The open line hissed with static. ‘‘I’m going to improve Melissa’s chances,’’ she said. ‘‘They expose this freighter, and who knows what

happens? When people panic, they make poor choices.’’

‘‘Agreed.’’

‘‘If you’re going to be at Port Authority, then that helps. I need you to provide me the exact locations of these three freighters,’’ she suggested. ‘‘Maybe we can mislead Seven’s chopper.’’

Boldt paused, his mind whirring.

She asked, ‘‘You’ve got to trust me on this.’’

A week earlier he might not have, but they were two pieces of the same puzzle now. Boldt said, ‘‘Let me have your number again. I’ll call you from Port Authority.’’

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