The cougar stalks while the fawn eats.
— Tilok proverb
The law firm was a short cab ride from Greenwich Vil lage, where Sam was staying. Instead of having the driver stop in front of the building, Sam had him drive past the front entry and drop him off a block down the street. In this area the buildings were truly huge and walking in the con crete canyons seemed like something out of a Tolkien fantasy. It was cold and he wore a dense sweater with a heavy wool topcoat-all purchased by Anna. It was hard to stop thinking about her and he made no particular effort
The weather, like his mood, was troubled, and above the city the sky loomed pitch dark. Ground Zero was still a cav ernous, empty space in the skyline. All the buildings were lit and the neon was everywhere, making twilight across the pavement and deep shadows along its borders. As Sam walked down the crowded sidewalks, he kept to the shadows and scanned the street.
Automobiles filled Broadway, taxis crept and honked while motorcycles weaved in and out, playing tag with death or dismemberment.
Sam eyed the entrance to the law firm’s building and noted that people were leaving in ones and twos, not in a steady stream. All walked briskly, no doubt anxious to get home.
There did not seem to be anyone hanging around near the doorways to the main lobby. Sam approached the building’s covered portico through a break in the foot traffic. He carried a sizable briefcase with the tools of his trade. Four revolving doors were set to allow exit while, given the hour, only one was set to allow entry. As he stepped close to the entryway door, it began to move as if it had a mind, and he stepped in between the glass sections and was whisked into the building. Once inside, he went to the security man, glanced at the board, and saw that main reception for the firm of Binkley, Hart, amp; Rove was on the tenth floor.
“I’m Michael Bowden. I’m meeting Mr. John Stephan at Binkley, Hart, and Rove.” He handed the man a fictitious Michael Bowden passport, which matched his artificially bearded face. He looked nothing like himself after an hour with makeup and the beard.
“Go on up to the second floor.”
Sam looked down at the listings under the law firm, let his eye travel to S, and found no Stephan, only a Stevens, a Smith, and a Stewart. Bowden had recalled that the managing partner on the project was Stewart. The law firm occupied floors 10 through 13, not the second floor. No office number was listed for Stewart.
“I don’t see a Mr. Stephan listed.”
“I was told you would be meeting Mr. Stephan and that you would meet him on the second floor in the lobby of the restaurant.”
“I see. Okay. Well, thanks.”
Sam emptied his pockets, went through a metal detector, then walked around the corner to elevator banks for the lower floors 1 through 20, and immediately found the stairs and noted with satisfaction that they could be entered without passing through the guard’s field of view, but for a scan ning camera. It was an easy matter to feign waiting for an el evator and to then remain outside the camera’s changing field of view all the way to the stairs. If the security had been good, there would have been multiple cameras or a hidden camera, and evasion would not have been so simple. Or perhaps it wasn’t so simple and he was being watched but not apprehended. It made for an interesting life.
Sam took care not to make loud, echoing footfalls on the stairs. At the top he came to a steel door. As he approached it, he was able to see through a small window. Normally, this sort of door would be kept locked, but when he twisted the handle, it released. He opened it a crack.
There was grayish-white canvas draped around, with white wall texture material on it, and there were three men in the doorway of a darkened restaurant that was obviously being remodeled. It was a place with its guts ripped out, a skeleton of a room, and it did not provide a reassuring feeling. He listened.
“You got any more of that gum? The kind that squirts the green stuff in your mouth?” The speaker was very big, six feet four inches, probably 250 pounds, bull-necked, a round, meaty face with old zit scars, and a marine-style haircut. He spoke to a thin, smaller guy, probably just over thirty, with a jogger’s body but no apparent muscle above the waist. The little guy was a sharp but conservative dresser wearing something like a Hickey Freeman suit, three-button coat with quality material, and wing tip shoes, nearly new. He sported a $40 haircut that came down slightly over the ears, had soft, white hands with well-kept fingernails, a crisp white shirt, and a red-checked power tie. He was bored, obviously hanging around with a couple of guys he deemed in ferior, and he was without a doubt a lawyer-unless they had asked some stockbroker to stand around outside a gutted restaurant.
The third man was black with a mustache, the kind of guy who watches everything. He was in a sport coat, tie, and good slacks. No telling his role.
The lawyer fellow reached in his pockets and pulled out loose change, a cell phone, old receipts, an airline stub, and a wadded-up tissue.
“I think I’m out of gum. But he should be here anytime.”
“Yeah. I don’t know why they wanted us to go through this baloney. We could tell if he was alone down in the lobby.”
“Just conservative is all. They don’t want to be embar rassed upstairs.”
“Yeah, well, if I was this guy Bowden, I’d get the spooks just stepping off the elevator and seeing this.”
“This guy has lived in the jungle with savages, for God’s sake. He tracks down remote tribes. I think he’ll know we’re friendly.”
“Then why am I here?”
“We’ve gone over it, Max. You’re a prop. Just a prop. Your only job is to chew your gum.”
“If after talking, he doesn’t want to go upstairs, he leaves?”
“Of course he leaves. Jeez, remember who you are working for. Besides, have you ever actually been in a fight after you got out of the service?”
“The rowdy client at the Christmas party. What do we do if he’s like that guy, and after he listens to you, he wants to strangle your scrawny lawyer neck.”
“That’s not a question. And you wouldn’t say that if you weren’t the senior partner’s pet.”
Sam let the door slide quietly closed, then proceeded to climb the stairs to the tenth floor. It took between half a minute and a minute per floor, which left little time to think. For a few seconds he thought of Anna and his loneliness and his guilt and of not being with her, and the pain he would feel if he was. Then he thought about killing Gaudet, about wrapping his hands around his throat, and knew that he needed to be careful. And then he was at the tenth floor. Through the door’s glass window he saw only hallway. It seemed the staff was long gone. There were still lawyers, he was sure, and there would be evening-shift word-processing computer operators. Grasping the steel handle, he slowly turned it but found it wouldn’t open. That was a big letdown. He waited a mo ment, and someone passed by. On impulse Sam knocked. The man turned as if startled and opened the door.
“I’m here to see Arthur Stewart.” And then he dipped his head just a bit as if embarrassed. “I’m afraid I get claustro phobic in elevators, so I never use them.”
“Ah. I see. We don’t get many that climb the stairs to the tenth. Check in at reception there,” he said, and then turned the corner toward the elevators and was gone.
Sam looked down the hall to the one receptionist remaining behind a chest-high granite counter. Only the top of her head, with its vivid light red hair, was visible, and fortunately she was oblivious to his presence and the discussion. Looking around, Sam immediately saw another wide hall with cubicles and offices down it. He glided down this new hall and began looking at the names beside the doors. Hinkle, Cassaway, Manchester, Warne, Thomas, Meyer, Cooper, etc., etc. But no Stewart. The furnishings in the offices were taste ful and expensive-this was a prosperous firm.
Sam decided to try the eleventh floor but didn’t want to be locked in the stairwell. He wondered if there might be an inside stairway, and no sooner had he thought about it, than one appeared as he completed a tour around the outside hall of the building. It struck him as odd that the man hadn’t commented that Stewart was upstairs.
He made himself climb the stairs briskly, as if he knew what he was doing. If he encountered someone, he wanted as few questions as possible. Every office seemed to have files or papers strewn on the desk, much like his own. This was hopeful. After touring the entire eleventh floor and failing to locate any Arthur Stewart, Sam went to the firm’s next and second-highest floor. At the twelfth floor he discovered a library in the middle of the floor with hallways, offices, and cubicles around the outside. Just before the library there was a hall. Down it was reception and beyond that a large, glass-walled conference room in which there were four men. He moved quickly, figuring that it was the meeting arranged for Bowden. This was a group of optimists, given that Bowden had made no promise that he would show. Still, no Stewart. Finally, in the far corner of the thirteenth floor, he found the office. It was in a corner space, featuring windows on two walls. On a tripod sat a brass telescope, which was quite handsome and, no doubt, functional. There was a globe on a stand in one corner, a leather sofa, a coffee table, and, at the end opposite, a hand-carved wooden desk. Obviously, Arthur Stewart was very senior.
There was a photo of a middle-aged man and a young woman, cheek to cheek, and several other photos displaying similar togetherness. One photo, partially hidden behind a Rotary award, depicted Stewart and some thirtyish adults- no doubt the kids from the first marriage-just a little older than the new wife. He figured it was his imagination, but the young adult quartet seemed to be glaring at the cheek-to- cheek number. Sam found these happy, little families inspi rational-just like Monday-night football with the boys, poker night, and other good reasons for serious caution in the marriage department.
He searched the desktop, which had a number of files stacked in the corner. One was labeled estate of mildred mcbeth, another troy vs humbitt manufacturing and still another southways corporation. Upon casual inspection they all involved patent rights. Looking at the bookshelves, he saw they were full with treatises on patents, many pharmaceutically related. So, this man was a patent lawyer and he did work with the patenting of molecules. It lent credence to the message Bowden had received.
Another file holder made of beautiful wood contained several more files: trustee: grace technologies. In this file Sam found some notes:
Contacted by Jean-Baptiste French government. Amazonia Molecule. Uses of the molecule strictly confidential. Molecular structure to follow. Discovered by Michael J. Bowden and under development by Northern Lights. Proprietary processes claimed by French Government trustee for Grace Technologies. Need to verify exclusive rights. Need to purchase any interest possible. Need location and habitat of the plant mate rial. Memo FPC file.
Sam supposed that FPC meant fireproof cabinet. It would be locked probably in a secure room, so the odds of getting in were not great. Still, he decided to look. Exiting the of fice, he walked down the hall and glanced down a narrow in terior hall, where he saw a young man and a young woman, maybe in their twenties, drinking coffee. No doubt, the junior associates burning the midnight oil. He decided to take a chance.
There was a reference to a secure file in the FPC and the date of initial contact was recent-right after they had left the Amazon. He couldn’t imagine what he might find in the fireproof cabinet. He had been willing to wander around in this law firm, ostensibly lost, looking for the office of a Mr. Stewart, but breaking into a locked file cabinet was up a notch and he was still pondering the morality of that against his need to know. Borrowing the firm’s copier for a couple of minutes, Sam duplicated the office file and walked into the kitchen with an air of nonchalance. The two young people barely glanced up, although the woman glanced a little longer.
He walked over to the coffeemaker, poured some black, and nodded at the woman. With a little effort he managed to catch her eye.
“I don’t believe we’ve met,” she said. “Are you a part ner?”
“No. I’m from another firm. Working with Mr. Stewart.”
“I thought he went home.”
“He did. He’s coming back and asked me to meet him at the fireproof cabinet. This case.”
Sam laid the file down.
“Yeah, well, I’m not his associate and know nothing. I’m in litigation. But the file room is all the way down this hall, then to the right. It’s on the short outside wall with no windows. If that’s where he is, that’s where you’ll find him.”
The logic was amusingly tautological, but he decided not to tease her. As he walked away, he heard the young man.” ‘If that’s where he is, that’s where you’ll find him’? Come on.”
Sam went down the hall, turned right, and passed an of fice with a thirtysomething woman bent over a desk. Then he kept on to the end of the hall and found a locked door. This was the difficult part. He walked into an open attorney’s office and found a phone directory. This office belonged to Norman Chapman. He was a bit of a pack rat, even had piles of papers on the floor. Using the directory, Sam determined that there were more than one hundred lawyers in the firm. He rifled through the drawers. In the top drawer he found a bunch of papers and a memo concerning one Scott Davis, dated the previous month. It was a bio, a memo with a busi ness plan, a bunch of interviews and partner ratings. Obviously, the man had been a partner at another firm and was a candi date to come to Binkley, Hart, amp; Rove. On a hunch he looked in the back of the phone book to the supplement and found that Scott Davis was added as of October. Davis was brand new. He dialed the extension for Davis and got a recording.
“My first day in the office will be November fourth, but until then, I will be getting my messages, so please leave a message.”
Leafing through the resume papers and the business plan, he discovered that Davis was a civil litigator specializing in the defense of class actions. The man was from Boston and had been with the Arthur amp; Taylor firm. The business plan made the point that he would be bringing some large clients. On the first page of the resume was a picture of Davis. He had a full head of hair, some graying, was clean shaven, and slightly paunchy. Unfortunately, Sam couldn’t judge the man’s height.
Sam took a deep breath, knowing what he was about to try was very risky. Quickly he found a restroom and re moved his entire disguise. After wetting his hair down com pletely, he combed as near as he could to Scott Davis. He went back to the woman’s office. Next to the door was a plaque with the name Martha McConnell.
“Hi, Martha, I’m Scott Davis. You probably don’t even remember me-“
“Oh yes,” she said. “Of course. I was in the group of partners at Grady’s Bar a month ago. Actually, I stopped by for just a minute and never got to shake your hand. You’ve done something to your hair. It looks great.”
“Thanks. Probably the Grecian Formula.” He gave her a toothy smile.
“What can I do for you?”
“Oh, I was just helping out Stewart on some stuff and needed to get into the fireproof cabinet.”
“Oh sure. Gosh, it’s really a cabinet in a big safe and they’ve locked it… I’m sure… but on a good day I can do the combination of… Just a minute…” She fished around in her top drawer. “We’re not supposed to keep this, but everybody does, otherwise you have to go to Mary Weiss’s desk and she always has it locked, so it’s just one thing after another. They never give anybody a thing they need until a month after they’ve been here.”
She got a key and her piece of paper and another smaller key and went back to the locked door. When she opened the door and turned on the lights, they encountered a huge file room.
“What is your kind of lawyer doing with patents?”
“I’m just a little weary of defending drug companies and car manufacturers. The big class actions require a lot of travel. Some of the patent claim litigation isn’t all that technical that a guy can’t learn it. Especially with Arthur Stewart around. Anyway, he thought I might be interested in this. It’s about a plant from the Amazon, of all things.”
“Never heard of it. But anything to do with the Amazon sounds interesting.”
“I thought so.”
He noticed that she was appraising him and that she wore no wedding ring. Recalling the resume and the profile materials pertaining to Scott Davis, he recalled that he had seen nothing about a wife.
“It’s normal I suppose for you to work into the evening.”
“You can tell I’m relatively young and I’m a junior part ner.”
“What kind of work do you do?”
“Environmental litigation mainly. That’s our end of the hall. The other is the estate planners. They’re in another world.”
“Aren’t they, though.”
“I guess you must be busy moving,” she said as she walked toward a massive safe.
“This is interim filing for stuff closing or just closed in the last six months. But when somebody has the family jewels or some national secret, they put it in the cabinets inside the safe here. I think nobody ever put anything in here worth knowing, but it’s fun to think about. Okay. Now for ‘Big Bertha.’ ” She walked over to the steel door and began on the dial. It required two tries and probably three minutes, but at last she grunted and pulled open the nearly foot-thick door.
“Impressive,” Sam said.
“Now we sign in. At one time this part of this floor be longed to a prominent wholesale jeweler and that’s why the big walk-in safe. We would never have spent the money.”
Sam wrote the name Scott Davis, the date, and the time on the sign-in sheet.
They went inside the big vault to a row of locked fireproof filing cabinets. Files were arranged by number so they located the file whose number corresponded with the one that Sam had carried upstairs.
“You will just be using the file in the office?”
“Will you be here long?”
“Just a few minutes.”
“Because without Mr. Arthur Stewart okaying it, I would feel extremely strange.”
“Oh, of course. I’ll just be a minute with these docu ments.”
Sam had already spied a large copier in the filing room.
“Call me when you want to lock up.”
“Sure will. And thanks so much for your help. And say, I was wondering, you know, I don’t want to be forward, but I was wondering if we might go out for a cup of coffee.”
“Oh. That’s actually a kind invitation. And I definitely would if I weren’t having to get a motion out tomorrow. But maybe a rain check.”
He looked in her eyes and could see that she really meant it. He felt guilty for trying to use her. Walking and talking with her as he left the building would naturally cause people not to notice him like they would a lone late-night stranger.
Sam could not recall when he had been this interested in a discovery. The locked file was voluminous and had various parts. He went to what looked like the guts of the matter. Attorney memos designed to explain in straightforward language what the hell was going on.
There were typed notes of a telephone interview, probably recorded. On the file earpiece it said: trustee: grace technologies. On the memo header: Admiral Francois Larive and Mademoiselle Benoit Moreau, representatives of the Government of France, acting as trustee for Grace Technologies.
We have various representations in this matter and a number of confidential relationships. See conflicts file.
Then there was the following:
Moreau: Freshwater sponge material was provided by Michael J. Bowden to Northern Lights Pharma ceutical in the fall of 1998… I believe it was No vember. Jacques Boudreaux of Grace Technologies, a French Corporation, obtained a sample of a molecule isolated from certain organic material because it was said to be a powerful immune system suppressant. Bou dreaux gave the material to Georges Raval, a skilled young researcher. Quite by accident Raval traveled down a path of research that led to the development of what he called a Chaperone. To understand Chaperone it is necessary to understand the underlying technology for which it was developed.
The memo went on to give a detailed and a somewhat technical description of the use of vector technology to alter the DNA in animal cells, particularly human cells-effectively, genetic engineering on live humans. In particular, it was genetic re-engineering of human brain cells. Sam skipped down, since he was already familiar with the concept. In among the technical stuff there was a lawyer’s explanation of the Chaperone technology that was more or less understand able.
Moreau: Chaperone gets its name from the common concept of an escort. For purposes of this explanation we will call the recipient of Chaperone “the patient.” Say the patient receives a vector that alters the patients brain cells. Once altered, they are foreign and will be rejected by the patient’s body. Each cell in the body makes protein. It is the protein that the immune system either recognizes or rejects. If each new brain cell type is paired with Chaperone and introduced into the bloodstream, then those new cells will be accepted by the patient’s body because his immune system will be reset by Chaperone to accept the particular proteins that they manufacture. The process of binding Chaperone to a foreign protein molecule is complex and is contained in papers of the inventor Georges Raval, former employee of Grace Technologies, to be deposited into escrow (see appendix for escrow details). There are many applications for Chaperone. Suppose a patient is to receive a heart transplant from a donor. The donor’s DNA will never match the patient’s and hence, except in the case of an identical twin, there is never a perfect match of the new organ from the donor with the patient. The patient’s body will reject the donor’s organ and the only known method of medically dealing with the rejection is to administer immunosuppressants for the life of the patient and these drugs have undesirable side effects. If we were to isolate a particular protein molecule from the donor and bind it to Chaperone, and inject the combination into the patient, the patient would soon accept the donor’s molecule as if it were native to the patient. Chaperone can be bound to multiple molecules so that all of the proteins associated with a donor’s organ, such as a heart, are accepted as native by the patient.
DNA altered by vector technology produces the same proteins consistently regardless of the patient’s individual DNA makeup. These foreign proteins can be bound with Chaperone and administered along with the vec tors. Hence, there is no immune reaction from the onset of the extrusion of foreign proteins by altered brain cells.
Sam skipped the rest of the lawyer’s explanation and went down to a section on patent rights.
Raval was at all times an employee of Grace Technologies when this special process was developed as was Dr. Boudreaux (per Admiral Larive).
Moreau states: I am certain the molecule for the Chaperone was discovered by Bowden in the Amazon basin in 1998. We do not know whether the molecule is plant or animal. I was told that the properties of the molecule as an immunosuppressant were very similar or the same to that of a certain molecule from Porifera, a saltwater sponge which is technically an animal as distinguished from a plant. However, it was my under standing that the Porifera molecule would not function as a Chaperone.
Grace purchased a license to utilize the Chaperone molecule from Northern Lights. The processes for uti lizing Chaperone belonged to Grace through its em ployee Raval as the inventor. Moreau states: Raval’s status as an employee of Grace will be verified by the French government’s bankruptcy attorneys.
A confidential communication from Northern Lights not to be disclosed to other parties is to be to the effect that the Chaperone is a molecule taken from a freshwater sponge known only to occur in the Amazon and known only to Michael Bowden, and that Northern Lights makes certain claims to this molecule outlined in a confidential letter from their attorney. Those claims seem dubious because they have not yet described this complex molecule with any precision and parts of the molecule are as yet not understood.
Immediately Sam focused on Benoit’s comment regarding the employment of Raval. It seemed to be placed in the interview like a bomb in an innocent-looking sack. Sam wondered how the law firm was handling all the confiden tiality between all of the parties and figured they must have a giant file folder full of conflict waivers. Looking further, he found the “Conflicts” file, but he didn’t bother trying to copy it, since it was, in fact, massive and he was running out of time.
There were other notes and research about process patent rights. Obviously, Michael’s 1998 journal entries would be critical. Hurriedly he copied what looked to be the important material and headed for the handicap stall in the women’s rest- room where he opened his briefcase. He spent a half hour doing a passable job on his disguise.
As he was about to exit the restroom, he heard running footsteps and immediately supposed that he might be in trouble. Quickly he closed the door but for a crack.
“God, I love that show Six Feet Under, have you seen it?” The girl from the coffee room. “Who’s running?” There was a pause and the footsteps grew closer. “Jeez. Who are you?”
“FBI. We’ve been alerted that someone has broken into your offices. They might be looking for the office of Arthur Stewart. Have you seen any strangers?”
“Bearded guy. He was looking for the fireproof cabinets. He said Mr. Stewart was there and we told him where to go.” They meticulously described the route. “What’s with the guns?”
Sam could see that the agents each held a 9mm model 459 Smith amp; Wesson. The weapon was not standard-issue FBI, and if they were Feds, they would not be running around with their guns out when there was no threat.
“Thanks. You should leave immediately. Get out of the building.”
“Whatever you say.”
“This guy is very dangerous.”
They weren’t even good imitators. Real agents would have given a name.
Sam knew that if he ran down the stairs to lower floors, he would have a good chance of fueling a gun battle and that was just what he didn’t need. If he went to the elevators, somebody might watch the elevator descend and that would be a dead giveaway. If he went for the emergency stairs in the building, the number of bodies chasing him might increase geometrically as he descended. This was feeling like a trap resulting from a tip-off.
He followed the two men, figuring they would end up in Martha’s office. When he got to the right turn leading down Martha’s hall, he stopped and listened.
“You’re sure you haven’t seen any strangers, no bearded guy?”
“No. Only a new lawyer by the name of Scott Davis. That’s it”
“Where is he now?”
Sam quickly stepped into the first open office before hear ing the answer. He closed the door, locked it, and stepped behind the door. There was a window to the hall with blinds and he saw their legs move by in a blur.
After waiting a minute, he opened the door and went quickly to Martha’s office.
When he walked in, she jumped and looked frightened.
“It’s me again.”
“What in the hell? The beard?”
“Be calm. I’ll explain.”
“The FBI is here. They said to leave.”
“Obviously I’m not Scott. I’m Sam. Those men are im personating the FBI and I am a government contractor of sorts.”
“Oh, my god. Why are they pretending to be the FBI?”
“Here’s what I want you to do. Get the number of the New York FBI, Manhattan office.”
She grabbed the phone and dialed, still looking fright ened.
“Please don’t be frightened. In seconds you’ll have real FBI agents on the phone and on the way.”
“I’m beginning to hope so.”
“You got them?”
“Yes. Tell them you want to be put through to the Wash ington field office. Tell them you are placing the call for Agent Silverwind.”
“She says just a minute. She says she doesn’t know what you’re talking about. She says she’s new.”
“Tell her that she should have a list of FBI agents on her computer. Tell her to look up Agent Silverwind.”
“She says, ‘What now?'”
“Ask her what it says by the asterisk.”
“She says that it says to put through all calls and gives a number.”
“Ask her to do it.”
“Please put the call through.”
“She says, ‘Why didn’t you say so?’ “
“It may take awhile. It’s running through relays to the cell of whoever is on call.”
“Hello. I’m standing here with a guy named Sam who says he knows you.”
“Tell him I need to prove I’m a government contractor.” Sam said.
“He says he needs to prove he’s a government contractor.” Pause.
“You have a locket?” She looked genuinely perturbed.
They waited and she reached out for the locket, which was still outside his shirt. “Let me see.” She studied it.
“I see the locket. It’s gold and has a picture of an old Indian gentleman. He says to take off your right shoe. There is a red birthmark on your instep.”
Sam quickly took off his maroon dress shoe. It had gum soles in keeping with tradition.
“I see the birthmark. He says now to ask you how the earth smiles.”
“In flowers,” Sam answered.
“He says you’re a good guy, but not an employee of the government. He says though that he would trust you with his own mother.”
Sam took the phone. “Who have I got?”
“Thank God it wasn’t your hard-ass partner.”
“You lucked out. What’s going on?”
“Long story, no time. I’m at Binkley, Hart, and Rove on Wall Street. We have guys with guns over here impersonating agents and hunting me.”
“Are you clean?”
“No, but I think I’m onto a big one.”
“As in terror?”
“Terror for profit.”
“Okay, so maybe we aren’t so concerned about you being dirty. But don’t use the term government contractor. You kill anybody?”
“Not yet. I’ve got to get out of here, though.”
“I’ll get people there as fast as I can. But this is Man hattan and there’s traffic.”
“Do you look like yourself?”
“What difference would that make?”
“At the moment I may go with the full beard. Not sure.”
Sam hung up.
“Make a copy of these.” Sam held out the Chaperone pa pers.
“These are documents from our law firm. Client documents.”
“I have reason to believe the people who want these are on the verge of committing a massive atrocity that will make 9/11 look like child’s play. It is a crime in the future, not in the past. The attorney/client privilege doesn’t cover it, and if it does, then damn the privilege.”
She looked at him with hardened green eyes.
“You want a lot of trust.”
“I think I’m looking at someone who has the courage to be a hero.”
“Or is a damn fool.” She took the papers to a copy machine, copied them in about two minutes, and handed the originals back to Sam, who put them in his briefcase. She went to a file folder full of papers as thick as a couple of New York phone books and placed them in the stack.
“If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, make sure these go to the man you just talked to. He’s Ernie Dunkin, like Dunkin’ Donuts. FBI. Call him and tell him to show them to Jill. He’ll know.”
“What if you don’t call, how will I find you?”
“If I don’t call, things are bad. I’ll have to find you.”
“How did you sign in?” Martha asked, obviously think ing.
“As Michael Bowden. But I had this beard. In a minute I won’t.”
“If I say you’re Scott Davis, who is going to argue? There’s probably not many partners around.”
“If they know what I look like, they won’t argue-they’ll just shoot.”
“You die just as fast if people are watching. I gotta go.”
“I’m coming with you. I can help get you out.”
Sam thought of a lot of things he could say, and perhaps should say, but he had a feeling about Martha. She understood the danger and was determined to help, and standing around discussing it could be more dangerous than moving.
“Let’s go up five or ten floors on the outside stairs.”
“Isn’t that the wrong direction?”
“We’ll pull a fire alarm up there. Those guys who want my ass will have to wonder if it’s real. The firefighters will come.”
“I know someone up there. We’ll need someone to open the door this time of night.”
They slipped into an office near the exit to the stairway to use the phone. Sam pulled off the beard and got the makeup off as best he could.
“My friend always works late.” Martha said. “Let’s hope this isn’t the only night she takes off this week.”
Her friend was in and agreed without much explanation to open the stairway door. They went through the exit to the stairwell with their shoes off to keep the sound down and began climbing fast. After a couple of flights they heard someone running up from a few floors down. By the seventeenth floor Martha was breathing deeply and slowing a bit.
“One more,” she said.
At the eighteenth floor a woman was holding the door open a crack. She was young like Martha, dark and Latin-looking.
“Go pull a fire alarm anywhere on this floor,” said Sam, pointing at the door.
“But what about you?”
“I’ll be fine. Please do it.”
In his stocking feet Sam resumed running up the stairs, leaving a fretting Martha to disappear with her friend into the eighteenth-floor warren.
Sounds of foot strikes on the concrete floor began reverberating up the stairwell. People were coming down.
“You’re going the wrong way, buddy,” the first guy said. Others tried to be more forceful, even grabbing him by the arm.
“My family” was all he said. He put on his shoes because noise no longer mattered. When he got to the twentieth floor, he found what he was looking for-another fire alarm. He pulled the alarm and stepped behind the door, hoping there were still some late-night stragglers. There were. When the door opened, he ducked inside. No doubt men in the control room would instantly speculate that he might have pulled the alarm and thereby deduce his possible location. Once inside, he went diagonally across the building and found the stair way on the other side. The place was empty now. In his brief case he kept a lighter. He moved about a large office area full of cubicles and gathered wastebaskets which he clumped to gether under a smoke-and-heat sensor. Quickly he lit the contents of each on fire and ran to the stairs. The sprinklers began pouring water down from the ceiling. The fires would be out in seconds, but somebody was going to be pissed. He began descending the stairs. There were not many people now, a couple or so that he could hear above, and a few more within earshot below.
There would be men posted at the stairs probably looking for a bearded guy, but there might be those who would sus pect a disguise. If it was Gaudet, his men might have his pic ture from their surveillance of the LA office. There was no good explanation for how Gaudet’s men might have tracked him here, and that was a serious concern. He suspected that Figgy had somehow figured it out and passed it on to the French. Suddenly he knew he had to have the office checked for microphones. The betrayal was a miserable feeling.
He heard sirens outside and knew that both the FBI and the fire department would be arriving. As he descended to the fifteenth floor, a man in a tailored blue suit with expensive shoes exited, obviously unconcerned.
“There’s no significant fire. Wastebaskets on the twentieth. Some asshole practical joker getting his kicks.”
“Yeah,” Sam said. “Think I’ll wait right here for the elevators to start again.”
“Suit yourself,” the man said, electing to walk down the stairs. Sam walked into a hallway to find locked doors to a computer-processing facility. On a lark he went and knocked on a door. Soon a curious-looking Asian woman opened it.
“I’m just checking that this floor is cleared,” he said as of ficially as possible. He stepped past her, gently pushing through when she tried to stop him by holding his arm.
Then, Sam had a minor epiphany. Gaudet and the French were in league-for the moment, at least, they were the same. The men on the street and in the tunnel were Gaudet men acting on French information.