Chapter 13

In Death there are no troubled waters nor is there any need of hope for the calm.

— Tilok proverb

A matter-of-fact beep kept precise time with the tempo of Anna’s heartbeat, underscoring her fragile state, her head was swathed in bandages. It had taken eighteen hours of surgery to remove the bullet fragment. Dr. Prince, whose straight back and firm jaw and head of gray hair were a fine match for his surname, spoke reassuringly in the manner of a decent trial lawyer or politician. But it was as a neurosurgeon that he held a place in the top tier of Sam Wintripp’s uni verse. When Dr. Prince said that her recovery was hopeful, his soft, rising tones were themselves instruments of hope for those seeking the man-made version. When he said there could be no accurate prognosis, you knew that he was telling the unvarnished truth. With that, his pastoral role ended as rapidly as it had begun.

Dr. Prince didn’t think the bullet had destroyed anything vital, so a full recovery was possible. There was some expla nation about the holistic nature of brains and the compensating circuitry that boiled down to: She might be fine or she might have one of a seemingly endless number of disabili ties. Or she might die from a hemorrhage. Watch and wait meant just that.

She had been unconscious for three days. People all around him told Sam that it was best to assume she could hear him and he should talk to her. It was best to say reassur ing things and to dwell on pleasant topics. If it felt like talking to a sleeping person he should take heart: comas were little understood, and not the equivalent of sleep.

They had shaved her head and he knew she wasn’t going to like that, assuming she could ever like anything again. Nurses came and went, and at the moment one was adjusting the pillows that were part of bedsore prevention.

Sam drank hospital rot-gut coffee from the nurses’ station. Tasted like camp coffee made in a can without a filter.

Anna’s mother, Carol, came back in the room after finding some lunch and it was still obvious from the way she opened the door, the way she carried herself through it, the way she had the flowers carried for her, the way she cast her eyes, and the way she knew how to fill up a room with a five- foot eight-inch frame, she was in charge.

“I want to talk with you.”

For the second time since he met her, she spoke to him other than with regard to simple logistics.

“Anna told me about you,” she said right out. “Mystery man, no name, no identity, a creature of some netherworld that she didn’t understand, but she was foolish enough to be excited about it. Surely, it wasn’t you that made her feel that way.”

Sam smiled a weary smile. “I was so relieved when I saw how much you loved her, how you wanted to protect her from the likes of me. And there was some truth in what you were feeling. My life has been dangerous for Anna.”

Carol looked at him hard and then she softened.

“I want her so much to make it… and I blamed you.”

“I know.”

The woman turned away in her grief.

“I believe she’s going to make it,” Sam said. “Call me if anything changes.”

“I will. I promise.”

“I’ll be checking in. You call if you need anything. It is right that I should leave and attend to things that would be important to Anna.”

“I believe you.”

Sam relied on a mother’s love and the skill of the highly professional nursing staff to bolster his confidence. He left the hospital for the local FBI office. He still wondered about everything and it was a terrible indecision that dogged his every move. He tried calling Ernie Dunkin, his primary contact with the FBI, but got no answer. He didn’t want to take whoever else might be on call. At times Ernie pretended not to like the hassles of dealing with a renegade government contractor, but essentially he liked Sam and cooperated as best he could. Ernie had gotten credit for some major arrests through tips and evidence provided by Sam, and no doubt those merit citations shaped Ernie’s thinking.

Within several hours of the shooting Sam’s team of local private investigators, all ex-cops, some New York city, some Feds, had begun their own preliminary investigation. It might be tough to prove that Gaudet was behind the shoot ing, but they did demonstrate to Sam’s satisfaction that it was a setup and Gaudet was the man with the motivation.

Sam passed his Robert Chase picture ID to the woman in the glass booth. Chase was well known to the FBI. Under that ID he was listed as a top informant and always received a welcome reception from any agent with a computer. Without a special access code a field agent could not access any of Sam’s aliases or the name on his birth certificate. Sam had seven aliases, but only three were deep aliases complete with a Social Security number. Possession of three Social Security numbers was the only illegal facet of Sam’s aliases, but it was administratively approved for two of them through a slightly unusual use of the witness protection program. As to the third, Sam simply told the government to concentrate on the intelligence they received through his offices. To date that had cured their bureaucratitis.

Sam gave up his gun and his permit to carry it at the front desk.

He was ushered into the office of Special Agent Bud Cross.

The man had a pinched, narrow face, was balding, sported a bushy mustache, and wore wire-framed glasses. The blue eyes looked at him with something less than warmth.

They shook hands.

“I will be honest with you, Mr. Chase, or whatever your name really is. I don’t care for special people. I like regular ones. However, the bosses in DC say extend every courtesy and so you shall have every courtesy of this office. I just want you to know where I stand. Cops should be cops and everybody else should be a civilian-that’s my personal bias and not the official view of

the FBI.”

“I think it’s the view of most conscientious field agents, and I respect it,” Sam said. “I’m really here as a civilian.”

“We’ve gone over the shooting thoroughly. DC is all over my ass because it was Anna Wade and not some chambermaid. And we can’t find a thing to substantiate your theory. Two guys with a history get in a street fight and start shooting. They have some drugs in them. Not a lot, but enough.”

“Very convenient. Two guys just start shooting at each other for no reason. They shoot way wide, missing each other, then go to an alley and kill each other simultaneously. Think about it.”

“These nuts do that stuff all the time. They’re paranoid once they get a grudge going.”

“They fight, sure. But two guys don’t often simultaneously shoot each other. More likely, that was staged,” Sam said.

“Yeah, well, we’ve leaned on several gang members and everyone says these two hated each other.”

“That’s why they were pointed out by the leader to create the charade. Gaudet made a logical selection.”

“The gang members we talked to say this isn’t the first time these two have shot at each other.”

“Look. Those two kids were being used. I know it was the work of the man I’ve described to you.”

“Perhaps, but they are both dead. Preliminary ballistics tests confirm the bullets that hit you and Anna Wade didn’t come from the two thugs’ guns. But they got away from the scene. One of them might have had a second gun and that gun may not have been fired into the surrounding buildings. Or there might have been a third shooter involved in the melee. Of course both those options are unlikely. Ballistics supports your sniper theory, but we have nothing more at this point. Nobody saw anything except two guys shooting on the street.”

Sam didn’t say anything, hoping for more, for something else.

“Look, I’m sympathetic. We’re doing a lot of forensic work on the bodies. Maybe we’ll find someone who knew about a setup. Maybe they talked to somebody. Right now we have nothing but your instincts and a mysterious ballistics test.”

“Whatever you can do, I appreciate it.”

“You’re not going to take the law into your own hands?” Cross was concerned.

“I’m going to do my job, nothing more and nothing less.” But despite his words, there was a deadly single-minded de termination in Sam and nothing anyone could say or do would change that.

When he hit the street, he called the nurses’ station and spoke with Lydia, the nurse he had befriended. Anna’s con dition hadn’t changed, but her color looked good and they were still full of hope, Lydia said. He would call back in a few hours.

“I’m sorry, Sam,” Grogg began the phone conversation. It was the way everyone from the office started. It was hard to go on working and act normally while Anna lay in a coma. Sam wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it, right down to the condolences. He couldn’t stop thinking of her, seeing her lying there, so still.

“I appreciate your thoughts, Grogg. I’m sure Anna does too. I wish I could put the world on hold and be with Anna, but since I can’t, I just keep chugging as best I can. So, tell me, have you turned anything up?”

“Yeah, something important.”

Sam could hear the excitement in his voice.

“What is it?”

“Just a minute.”

Sam then heard Jill pick up on a second line.

“Sam, we got an e-mail message from someone in the French government, probably their Senate, purporting to relay a message from Benoit Moreau. It says ‘I can help you disinfect Cordyceps and deliver Chaperone.’ “

“Did you say yes?” Sam said, absolutely amazed.

“We couldn’t get hold of you, so we winged it and said ‘Absolutely yes.’ “

“Good answer. How the heck did she send the message?”

“E-mail. It was sent to firechiefatbluehades. com.”

Sam’s mind tumbled as to how such a thing could be pos sible.

“Guess she put one over on us, Sam.”

“I gave that to Anna Wade, the CIA, a few other people. Wait a minute. The CIA. Figgy might know that e-mail. He could have told his clients, the French. Benoit Moreau is one of the best information gatherers in the world and she prob ably talked it out of some French agent right after she screwed him. That’s Benoit Moreau.”

“And why would someone in the French Senate want to relay a message from a convicted criminal? It could be a setup or a feint by Gaudet to mislead.”

“True. But I don’t see the harm in saying yes. Good job. Let me know when you get a response.”

“There’s more. We couldn’t get hold of you at all, so we wrote a second response.”

“What did you say.”

” ‘How can we help?’ “

“Good answer.”

“You won’t believe what she or rather her friends an swered.”

“I am all ears.”

” ‘Monitor uaeromtioneb. net//exchange. Meet you in New York.’ Signed ‘Caterpillar.’ Then we got no more.”

“It wasn’t easy monitoring that site,” Grogg chimed in. “You have to have a password. Rollin’s password quit work ing the day he died.”

“But that wouldn’t stop you, would it?”

“Hell no.”

“So what did you do?”

“I downloaded Figgy’s computer.”

“You what?”

“I downloaded his computer awhile back and just re cently pulled it up on Big Brain and hit gold.”

“That’s inexcusable. Actually, it’s outrageous. What did you get?”

“His correspondence isn’t saved and he has special soft ware that scrambles it beyond recognition no matter what you do. But I got protocols for getting onto certain limited segments of the SDECE server. I was able to do the best hacking of my life and log on to the computer of Jean- Baptiste Sourriaux, a commandant apparently assigned di rectly for at least some purposes to Admiral Larive, the big tuna. For some reason Jean-Baptiste had the password we needed.”

“Grogg, you are good. What’s Baptiste up to?”

“Aside from the password, his correspondence and so on, it’s all scrambled.”

“Okay. Well. Use the password if it’s still good. Write an e-mail. Let’s take a complete flier. Pretend to be Figgy. Write: ‘Please confirm independently the instructions for the meeting.’ Can you make it appear that Big Brain is Figgy’s laptop working through the SDECE server?”

“Good enough so only two or three computer geeks out of a thousand would catch the forgery.”

“Give it a try. See what we get back.”

“Hey, Sam,” Jill said. “Why a meeting? What meeting?”

“No idea, but it’s worth a try, isn’t it? I presume Figgy meets with Baptiste at times, don’t you?”

“Sure. Why do you think Benoit Moreau signed her note Caterpillar?”

“Maybe because she fancies she’ll be turning into a butter- fly.”

Michael, Grady, Professor Lyman, and the entourage made their way across the campus. The journals were stored in a clearinghouse structure, where various artifacts from antiquity were examined, cataloged, and held until their final resting place had been determined. Some artifacts were actually reburied once thoroughly studied. The building was located at the edge of the campus and was outfitted with heavy wire screens over the windows. It was a long brick building of three stories, simple but attractive with well- maintained white trim and matching shutters. It had no doubt been constructed for some other purpose, perhaps classrooms. It was mostly the province of physical anthro pologists, paleontologists, and that sort, although the evolutionary biologists had a corner.

“Is there twenty-four-hour security?” Michael asked.

“Well, I don’t really think so, but I’m sure it’s safe.”

They stopped at the front desk and each person signed in and received a name tag. There were people coming and going and the place looked occupied.

Michael picked up the pace as they walked through the door to one of the storage areas and proceeded to a spot pointed out by Dr. Lyman. There were about eighteen years’ worth of three-ring binders, including the ones created by Michael’s father before his death, with an average of three 4-inch binders per year totaling a little over sixty volumes. There were five trunks each about 4 feet by 1.5 feet by 14 inches. Each trunk was said to contain twelve volumes. Michael saw the trunks at a distance and literally trotted up to them with Grady on his heels. Reaching into his pocket, he removed a key. Each trunk had two locks. According to the labels af fixed to the ends of the trunks, they were in chronological order. Michael started with the most recent trunk, dated from 1998 through October 2003. Grady felt the tension while she reassured herself that they had to be there.

But when Michael opened the trunk, it was empty.

“Amazing,” Dr. Lyman said, sounding genuinely surprised in his own understated way.

Michael kicked the next trunk in line and it too was obviously empty. The rest were not. Someone had taken everything back to 1995, no doubt figuring they would get the volume describing the plant or animal that would turn out to be Chaperone.

Michael was visibly distraught. “It feels like it did when my mother died. Something very important has been taken away.”

“We should have had somebody here during the day,” the security man said.

“You mean you had someone here all night?”

“Oh yeah, sitting right there on that chair until they were fully operational in here at nine a.m., and we asked the people to keep an eye out for strangers.”

“When were you last here?” Grady asked Lyman.

“Just yesterday. The time before that was three days ago-the day they were delivered.”

“What time?”

“Early afternoon.”

“Then did you call Michael right away?”

“Well, it wasn’t right away because we brought them over here first.”

“Who knew they were here?”

“Just me and your security fellows. Well, wait a minute. That’s not true. I did tell Nemus Larkin, a graduate student I work with. He’s read Dr. Bowden’s books and was very interested. I’m afraid I mentioned to him about the vector technology. And Chaperone.”

“Tell me you didn’t.” Michael groaned. “I told you not to.”

“I know, I know, but he’s like a son.”

Grady knew that Michael had told Lyman, in fairness, so that he would understand the potential danger in taking possession of the journals. Unfortunately, Lyman had been unwise and overly enthusiastic.

“Where does this graduate student live?” she asked.

“In the basement of a house right near where I live.”

“Would you take us to his house?”

“All right.” Lyman shrugged. “But I’m sure he hasn’t got it.”

As they walked to the car, Grady whispered to Michael, “Could Lyman have taken your journals?”

“Absolutely not.”

“I’m with you. I saw his face. He was as surprised as you, maybe more.”

The entire group drove through the university and out Triphammer Road, past Jessup Field, past the fraternities into the neighborhoods, then down a side street to a dead- end cul-de-sac. Grady and Michael were in a car with two of the security people. They rolled up behind Dr. Lyman’s vehi cle in front of a brick house built into a hillside. The bottom story was a daylight basement and from the street level the house appeared as a two-story home.

Grady went to Dr. Lyman’s vehicle, just in front of them.

“Please stay here with your security man.”

Before going to the house Grady and Michael had a lengthy conversation with the other two security men sketching out a plan.

When they were ready Michael and Grady crossed over the sidewalk and entered through a gate in a well-kept picket fence. There was a concrete path that turned into steps along side the house.

“He’s probably not home,” Grady said to Michael as they walked down the steps along a gently terraced rose garden. Someone did a nice job on the roses as the beds were weeded and the roses pruned back in anticipation of winter. The back yard was spacious for the crowded neighborhood, perhaps sixty feet square with a few autumn-colored vine maples and a birch.

When they arrived at the lower level, there was a tiny concrete porch for the basement door. Michael looked at Grady. “Once we’re in, we play it by the script,” she said.

“Why?” Michael smiled wryly, knowing it would get her goat.

Michael knocked.

“Maybe we should wait and talk to Sam.”

“No, I want the journals now,” Michael said.

A young man with gold wire-rimmed glasses and a fair number of pimples opened the door. His blond hair was short and stood on end. He smiled. Grady noticed that he was grabbing the material on his jeans right about thigh level. His fingers were constantly busy, kneading the pants.

“I’m Michael Bowden.”

“Oh great, great. I’m a big fan.”

“This is Grady a private detective.”

“When was the last time you were over at the antiquities building, the warehouse on Osborne?” Grady asked.

“Let’s see. When was the last time-“

“It’s not a hard question,” Grady urged.

“I was there with Dr. Lyman yesterday. But the last time. Let’s see. That would be this morning. Why? What’s wrong?”

“You signed in?”

“Did I sign in? Well, you’re supposed to sign in.”

“Did you sign in?” Michael interjected pushing his way past the young man and into the apartment. The young fellow gave way and turned as Michael entered.

“Your name is Nemus, right?”

“Right. It’s Nemus.”

“Nemus, you were telling Grady whether you signed in.”

“I think perhaps I didn’t. I know the girl at the front there.”

“Did she see you walk past without signing in?” Grady asked.

“Well, let’s see she might have. But… ah, she probably didn’t.”

“So, she doesn’t know you went in?”

“Well, I don’t know. Like I said, she knows me.”

“Did you say hi to your friend?”

“Well, I don’t think so.”

“You mean you don’t know?”

“I didn’t say hi.”

“How did you get there?”

“I borrowed my friend’s truck.”

“Which door did you use to leave the building?”

“Well, there are only three, I think.”

“Nemus I don’t recall Grady asking you how many doors there are. I think you stole my journals.”

“That’s crazy. Why would I do that?”

“Because they’re worth a lot of money,” Grady picked it up again. “The United States government wants them. The French want them. Terrorists want them. And Nemus they’re all gonna know you have them. Michael’s life’s work.”

“You’re not scaring me.”

“You have to deny your fear only because you’re guilty,” Michael said.

Nemus looked as if the blood in his face had drained to his feet. Plainly he was unused to crime.

“I don’t have to talk to you.”

“Think about how that’s going to sound to the graduate school.” Michael continued. “What kind of a man says I don’t have to talk to you, to a fellow scientist who has lost his life’s work? What would you think of such a man Nemus?”

“I’d think he was busy.”

“Will they think you’re busy Nemus?” Grady’s voice was subdued but full of incredulity. “Is that what Professor Lyman will think, or the chair of the department, or the President of the University? When the U.S. government is bearing down, when French agents are crawling all over the place? They’ll think you’re too busy?”

Michael walked over to a bookcase and began pulling volumes out. Grady went to the nearest closet and began rummaging.

“You can’t search my house.”

“Any minute the people you were going to sell to will be arriving,” Grady explained. “They’ll have guns. And they’ll search your house. They’ll take the journals and murder you. You better get those journals out of here before they come or you’re a dead man.”

“You are crazy. They wouldn’t…”

“What wouldn’t they do Nemus? They tried to kill us. They murdered Michael’s wife and killed a woman named Marita. Raped her sister. Killed her child. Tell us about these people Nemus if you’re such an expert,” Grady urged.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Call the police Nemus,” Grady said. “Tell them you’re in danger. Tell them about the people who bought the journals.”

“You’re not scaring me.”

“It’s possible we’ll have found the journals by the time they get here. We’ll turn them over to the police and send the academic community a full report. I’m sure they’ll lay awake nights worried about your legal rights.”

“Get out of my house now.”

“We’re exposing you Nemus,” Michael began. “Ending your world as you know it. You’ll be ruined forever in academia. Scientists the world over will spurn you. They’ll get sick in the guts when you walk in the room. A petty thief. A fraud. A man who can’t do his own work. What are you becoming Nemus?”

“I’m becoming nothing. Get out of here. Get out!”

Nemus was trembling.

Grady started in on the kitchen cupboards.

“Grady call the government man. Tell him we want the U.S. government. The CIA in here.”

“They have no jurisdiction, you fool,” Nemus said.

“Tell them that when you’re full of drugs and they’re pump ing you for information about the foreign agents you’re trying to sell to,” Grady said. “Write a long letter to the director of Homeland Security and the appropriate Senate committee. After you look it up.”

“Nemus concentrate on this,” Michael took over. “Your whole life hangs in the balance. If you give me the journals and you leave Cornell we’ll call it a misunderstanding and tell no one. If you don’t a man who goes by Girard is going to take them and kill you. And if you escape that I’ll probably find them in the next ten minutes or so and then you’re career is dead forever. You got that?”

Nemus was thinking.

Michael headed toward the bedroom.

Nemus ran to him and grabbed his wrist but he was a small man and Michael merely glared at him and yanked his wrist away.

“Oh my God,” Grady said. A man in a suit with a gun was plainly visible in the backyard. Nemus looked and moved back in the house as if to hide.

Grady pulled her Dessert Eagle. 357 out of her purse. And stood out of sight.

“Here’s the first one of Gerard’s men Nemus.”

Then a second man jumped the fence.

“We could call it a misunderstanding?” Nemus said.

“They’re in the bedroom,” Grady said. “His voice rose an octave when you headed that way. Or maybe they are on the way to the bedroom.”

The window seat was in the hallway covered with cush ions.

“In two minutes Nemus we’re gonna be shooting at people. Now we need to negotiate with these people and give them the journals if we’re going to get out alive.”

Michael grabbed for the cushions to explore the window seat and Nemus sprinted to block him.

“Nemus this is your moment,” Michael said almost in a whisper. “Your whole life hangs in the balance. If you give me my journals and tell us everything, I’ll sacrifice my jour nals to get us out alive. I’ll walk away and tell only Professor Lyman. You could still work for a corporation. No arrest. No public humiliation.”

The men had now disappeared on either side of the front windows.

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

Grady walked back to the window seat and opened it.

“Well look what we have here,” Grady said revealing two full rows of binders. While Michael pulled them out she put her gun away, walked to the front door and stuck her head out.

“You can come in now gentlemen.” Then she turned to Michael. “We have a deal Nemus but only if you come clean. So tell us about the copies, if you want to stay out of jail.”

“I copied 1998. They gave me thirty grand and I sent the original out for copying.”

“Where is it now?” Michael asked.

“I gave it to FedEx and threw the address away. They’re coming anytime with one hundred grand to collect copies of the other volumes. They are just copying them and leaving the originals with me to return. I swear it.”

“You copied these?” Michael said. “You bastard. You copied these volumes.”

“I only copied the 1998 volume so far.”

“What exactly did you do with it?” Grady demanded.

“I told you. I gave it to FedEx.”

“Do you have the tracking slip?” Grady asked.

“Yeah I guess I do. On the desk.”

“When did you deposit it?”

“This morning.” Grady grabbed the tracking slip off the desk, got on the phone to Jill, and gave her the information. The package was sent to a street address in New York. It would be diverted and would end up in LA at Sam’s new offices. They put Nemus on the phone for about thirty seconds to confirm the change. Jill would investigate the mailing address, but it would no doubt be newly established and a dead end.

“How much were they paying you for the 1998 copy?”

“I told you thirty thousand. But I don’t know who they were. I swear.”

“Where’s the money?”

“They were going to give me the money with the rest. The hundred thousand for the copies of the others. Like I said.”

Grady hated this Nemus character for putting her through the last forty-five minutes. She planned to talk to Lyman and make sure this fool was done at Cornell.

“I’ll tell the guys to bring the trunks,” Michael said.

“I’m gonna call the cops on you guys.”

“Yeah, needle dick, you do that. We’ll call the FBI. And we’ll tell them what you stole, show them the FedEx receipt, and have you arrested for a damn felony,” Grady shot back.

Nemus shut his mouth.

Grady went to get the security guys with the two 4-foot trunks and the Ford Explorer. They carried them up to the car like a couple of tiny caskets. After they had packed up the volumes, they left Nemus to his own thoughts and to contemplate the blessing of his intact body and his freedom.

Baptiste and Figgy sat at a table at a convenient restaurant located down the street from the executive terminal at Teterboro Airport. They were trying to be prudent in their eating and so had each ordered blackened salmon on cream-sauced pasta, but had the chef hold the pasta and substitute broccoli. It was boring for a Frenchman but perhaps more palatable to Figgy, Baptiste wasn’t sure. It had been three long and hectic days since Baptiste had left France, on a flight to New York-the one following the flight taken by Benoit Moreau.

“Once we’re on that plane, we’ve got no control.”

“Wouldn’t you want it that way if you were Gaudet?” Baptiste replied.

“There are better ways to meet people.”

“It seems to me that we need him more than he needs us. As I see it, he makes money with or without us. He just makes more with us. Without him I don’t see us making any thing.”

“That’s not true. What about the copy of Bowden’s 1998 journal you’re waiting for? Is that nothing?”

“We won’t know until we’ve had a chance to study it.”

“Does the admiral know you’re about to get the journal?”

Baptiste looked at Figgy as if he’d lost his mind. “No, and he won’t until I’m ready. I need you to understand this. Gaudet is a shield, a… How do you say? A prophylactic for us. We need to convince my government that Gaudet stole the journal. Not you, and certainly not me. We’re just making a deal with him.”

“A deal with Gaudet?”

“It’s complicated, but it’ll work. Benoit will handle it all through a Swiss escrow. She knows Gaudet and we don’t.” Baptiste changed the subject to an unpleasant topic before Figgy could protest. “You killed Sam’s man. A guy he probably liked.”

“What the hell are you bringing that up for? It’s old news. When he recognized me, I had no choice. The man attacked me!” Figgy’s face had grown red. “Where are you going with this?”

“We need you either all the way in or all the way out. All the way in means trusting me to run this show. It also means letting Gaudet execute his Cordyceps plan against the U.S.”

“You’re a crazy motherfucker, Baptiste. That was never part of the deal. We were supposed to sell the technology to a foreign government. That’s it.”

Baptiste clucked his tongue and shook his head, and when Figgy had quieted, he explained the plan to multiply their cut of the deal as laid out by Benoit Moreau. “To really make money, we need Cordyceps to happen.”

“It seems you and Benoit have thought of everything. I hope you two haven’t outsmarted yourselves. You know she was Gaudet’s lover-probably still is.”

“And?”

“She could be with him right now discussing this deal!”

“You are completely out of your mind. I said you need to-“

“Whoa! Don’t get touchy. You… you are in love, aren’t you? Shit. In love with a black widow.”

Baptiste stood and threw his napkin down. “That’s enough! Worry about yourself, Meeks. Pay the bill and let’s get out of here.”

They waited at Executive Air at La Guardia for Gaudet to arrive. They noticed a sleek jet with large engines taxi up in front of the establishment and shut down.

“It’s a Citation X,” Figgy said. “A very fast plane.”

Baptiste had no idea what kind of plane would come to fetch them. Several business types, men and women, disem barked, so it was obviously not Gaudet. Next a single-engine plane with a butterfly tail came taxiing up and they dis missed that as too small.

“It’s a Beechcraft Bonanza,” Figgy said. They waited and noted that it was one minute until the appointed time. Two men and a woman got out of the Beechcraft. Oddly, the woman wore an Islamic burka that covered her from head to toe. Her height, if indeed it was a she, was difficult to ascertain under the tentlike garment. That was unusual enough, but it seemed oddly out of place when the two men and the woman boarded the Citation X.

“Probably an Arab princess or something,” Figgy said. “The pilots are still in the cockpit.”

One of the men, tall, good-looking, with swept-back blond hair and dressed business casual, exited the jet and walked directly toward the lobby where they sat waiting. He came right to them.

“Gentlemen, I am Jack. I have come on behalf of Devan Gaudet to invite you aboard the jet.”

Baptiste retained his poker face but immediately feared that something was amiss with the person under the burka. It wouldn’t have been necessary to put someone on in full view-it had to have been done for effect. But what effect?

Then as they walked to the plane, he reconsidered. The whole thing was a carefully orchestrated mind game to throw him off balance, to make impressions about important themes. He just hadn’t figured it out yet.

“I will have to ask you to enter the plane one at a time. I regret it, but we will need to search you for weapons,” Jack said.

Baptiste went first into a posh business jet that would seat comfortably perhaps ten people. There was a curtain across the middle of the jet and two armed men sat on their side of the curtain. Jack did a thorough pat down, apologizing once more for the inconvenience. They used a sort of electronic wand to check for microphones and another to check for metal. Baptiste and Figgy took seats facing the two men and the curtain.

“Welcome,” said an electronically scrambled voice.

Baptiste should have known they would neither hear nor see Gaudet directly. Recording such a voice would be useless even if they had managed to smuggle a microphone on board the jet.

“Good afternoon,” Baptiste replied in English.

A stewardess rose from the backseat of the plane, closed the heavy exterior door, and brought a tray of French pastries. They appeared to Baptiste to be of the finest quality. Figgy took one of the delicious-looking chocolate eclairs. Baptiste declined. The engines spooled up and the plane began the long taxi. The man on the other side of the curtain did not speak. As the plane taxied toward the runway, the stewardess and the two men went forward on the far side of the curtain.

“This jet is very fast,” Figgy explained. “The fastest pri vate jet. Something like Mach. 92. That’s even faster than the new Gulfstream.”

“So, you are interested in airplanes,” said the electronic voice.

“May I assume that you are Mr. Gaudet?” Baptiste said.

“You may assume anything you like. But I am not the man.”

Then a cabinet in the back wall of the plane opened up and a TV screen appeared. On it was a man whose face was largely shadowed. He had a beard, but it was difficult to make out features.

“Please put on your headphones,” said the man on the far side of the curtain. On the arms of their chair were large headphones with a microphone, the sort of headset that a pilot might wear.

“I am Gaudet,” said the man on the screen in another electronic voice speaking into the headphones. “I am pleased to meet you. I regret that I can’t join you, but I’m not particularly fond of airplanes. I merely tolerate them and I wouldn’t actually put myself inside a heavily secured area like an airport for a meeting.”

“Just out of curiosity, why the burka?”

“She is an intermediary between myself and the Swiss es crow company where we will do business if we make a deal. I understand from Benoit that the escrow is a must. Like me, my intermediary prefers not to be known and not to be photographed.”

Baptiste figured it was either an escrow agent or a trusted lieutenant of Gaudet’s. The rest were no doubt contract mer cenaries.

“Let’s get down to business,” Baptiste said as they shot down the runway for takeoff.

And so the negotiations began. First it was peripheral mat ters and the bragging by each side of all that they were bring ing to the table. They talked about the financial terms and there was haggling, but the end result was much as Benoit had suggested. A $200,000,000 purchase by France, with a kickback to everyone on Baptiste’s team of $5,000,000 in cash. They agreed on how exactly they would communicate with the escrow company, security codes for the communications, and other related matters. An additional $5,000,000 in cash was to go to the Eviral Trust and various other trusts and corporations as dictated by Gaudet. For some reason Gaudet found some humor in the dispersal, but it escaped Baptiste.

“There are two more matters,” Baptiste finally said. “We have heard that Benoit, acting through you, may be able to deliver copies of Bowden’s 1998 journals to the French government. You will need to speak with Benoit about that. We realize that there is no guarantee for the French government that Chaperone is in those journals, but circumstantial evidence suggests it may be.”

“Hmm. I am envious. How did you manage to pull off getting the journals?”

“That would be Benoit’s doing. Take it up with her. You should get some additional money from the French government and we should get half.”

“You’re greedy bastards. You blame the theft on me and get half the money.”

“Much will already be blamed on you… what is one more thing?”

Gaudet actually chuckled.

“The second issue is that Cordyceps must not come too quickly after delivery of Chaperone.”

“Five days,” Gaudet said.

“That is very fast,” Baptiste said.

“That is all you get. I can’t wait around. As it is, my in vestors won’t like it. When Chaperone and related documents, including Bowden documents and all vector technology doc uments, are in escrow, you will have five days’ notice of Cordyceps.”

“What if we need time to authenticate before closing?”

“You do that on your own clock. My five-day clock starts running when I have everything you’re buying in escrow. If we and Benoit working together take too long getting Chaperone into escrow, then we will so notify you and the deal is off.”

“But we have no control over that.”

“How right you are. But you don’t have to spend your money if we don’t deliver the product. And that, gentlemen, concludes our business.”

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