Iceberg, p.27

Iceberg, page 27

 

Iceberg
 


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  "It seems we're about to crash a family reunion."

  "Meaning?

  "They're all here. Kelly, Marks, Rondheim, the whole lot."

  "Here in California?" Pitt asked incredulously.

  "Yes, we had them traced as soon as they left Iceland. The serial number you found on that black -,jet came home a winner.

  Hermit Limited purchased six of the same model with consecutive numbers from the factory. We have every one of the remaining five planes under surveillance at this moment."

  "I'm impressed. That was fast work."

  Kippmann dropped a smile. "Not all that tough. it might have been if the planes had been scattered around the globe, but as it is, they're all sitting neatly side by side exactly eight miles from here at the Orange County Airport."

  "Then Kelly's headquarters must be nearby."

  "In the hills behind Laguna Beach, a fifty-acre complex," Kippmann said, pointing in a southwesterly direction.

  "Incidentally, Hermit Limited has over three hundred employees on the payroll who they're doir, classified political anaivsis for their own government."

  "Where do we go from here?"

  Kippmann motioned Pitt into the car. "Disney land," he said solemnly, "to stop a double murder."

  They pulled onto the Santa Ana Freeway and headed north, weaving in and out of the light morning traffic. As they passed the Newport Beach tumor, Pitt couldn't help wondering if the beautiful redhead he had met on the beach just a few days ago would still be there waiting at the New ' Porter Inn.

  Kippmann produced two photographs and shoved them in front of Pitt. "Here are the men we're trying to save."

  Pitt tapped the face in one of the photos. "This is Pablo Castile, President of the Dominican Republic."

  Kippmann nodded. "A brilliant economist and one of the leading members of the Latin American right Since his inauguration he has begun an ambitious program of reforms. For the first time the people of his country are projecting an atmosphere of confidence and optimism. Our state department would hate like hell to see Kelly screw things ut) just when there's hope of the Dominican Republic becoming economically stable."

  Pitt held up the other photo. "I can't place him."

  Juan De Croix," Kippmann said. "A highly successful doctor of East Indian ancestry. Leader of the People's Progressive Party-won the election only six months ago, Now President of French Guiana."

  "If I remember my current events, he's got problems."

  "He's got problems, all right," Kippmann agreed.

  "French Guiana is less prosperous than the British or Dutch Guianas. A movement for independence developed five years ago, but it was only under the threat of a revolution that the French permitted a new constitution and a general election. De Croix, of course, walked off with the votes and oroclaimed total independence.

  He's got an uphill battle. His country suffers from tropical diseases of every type and from chronic shortages of domestic food. I don't envy him; no one does."

  "De Croix's government is vulnerable," -aid Pitt thoughtfully. "But what of Catde's cabinet, aren't his ministers strong enough to survive his death?"

  "With the people, maybe. But the Dominican army isn't too faithful. A military junta would no doubt take over, except in this case Kelly has obviously bought off the generals."

  "How is it both of these men are at the same place at the same time?"

  "If you'd read the papers, you'd know the leaders of the Western Hemisphere have just finished a conference in San Francisco for the Alliance of Economic and Agricultural Progress. De Croix, Castile and several other Latin leaders are doing a little sightseeing on the way home. it's that simple."

  Why didn't you stop them from entering the park?

  "I tried, but by the time our internal security forces could act, it was too late. De Croix and Castile have already been in the 92

  park for two hours and both refuse to leave. We can only keep our fingers crossed that Rondheim's killers stick to their time schedule."

  "Cutting it a bit fine, aren't you?" Pitt said slowly.

  Kippmann shrugged indifferently. "Some things YOU can Control, others you can only stand by and watch."

  The car turned off the freeway onto Harbor Boulevard and soon pulled up to the employees' gate, and while the driver showed his credentials and asked directions from the guard, Pitt leaned out the window and watched the monorail train pass overhead. they were at the north end of the park and all he could see over the landscaped mounds that surrounded the buildings was the top half of the Matterhorn and the turrets on the Fantasyland castle. The gate was pushed open and they were passed in.

  By the time Pitt walked down the underground hallway to the park security offices, he was beginning to think how good that hospital bed in Reykjavik had felt and wondered how soon he could fall into a replacement. He wasn't sure what he expected to find in the park security offices but he had hardly envisioned what he stepped into.

  The main conference room was huge; it looked like a scaleddown version of the war room at the Pentagon. The main table ran for at least fifty feet and was circled by over twenty people. There was a radio in one corner and the operator was busily pointing out locations to a marker who stood on a ramp beneath a map that must have stretched ten feet high and covered half the facing wall. Pitt walked slowly around the table and stood under the beautifully contoured and painted map of Disneyland.

  He was studying the many colored lights and the trail of blue fluorescent tape the marker was laying throulh the park traffic areas when Kippmann tapped him on the shoulder.

  "Ready to go to work?"

  "My body is still running on Iceland time. It's past five o'clock there. I could stand a little bracer."

  "I'm sorry, sir." The words came from a big man, a tall pipe-smoking man whose eyes stared out at Pitt from behind fashionable rimless glasses. "Alcohol has never been permitted in any area of the park since we opened. And we intend to keep it that way."

  "Sorry about that," Pitt said goodnaturedly. He looked at Kippmann expectantly.

  Kippmann took the cue. "Major Dirk Pitt, allow me to introduce Mr. Dan Lazard, Chief of Park security."

  Lazard's grip was firm. "Mr. Kippmann has filled me in concerning your injuries. Do you think you're up to this?"

  "I can handle it," Pitt said somberly. "But we'll have to do something about my bandaged profile-it's a bit conspicuous."

  Lazard's eyes.

  A glint of amusement came into Lazard's eye.

  "Think we can fix it so no one will notice your bandages-not even the nurse who taped them."

  Later Pitt stoed in front of the full-length mirror and struck a menacing pose. He was torn between uttering laughter or a stream of four-lettered words from embarrassment as he stared at the life-sized figure of the Big Bad Wolf, who politely stared back at him.

  "You've got to admit," Kippmann said, fighting back a chuckle, "your own mother wouldn't recognize you in that rig."

  "I suppose it is in keeping with my character," Pitt said. He removed the wolf's head, sat down in a chair and sighed. "How much time have we left?"

  "Another hour and forty minutes to go before Kelly's deadline."

  "Don't you think I should be sent in the game now? You're not leaving me much time to spot the killers . . . if I can spot them."

  "Between my men, the park security staff and agents from the F.B.I there must be close to forty people concentrating every effort on stopping the assassination. I'm saving you for when we Come down to the wire."

  "Scraping the bottom of the barrel for a last-ditch attempt." Pitt leaned back and relaxed. "I can't say I agree with your tactics."

  "You're not working with amateurs, Major. Every one of those people out there are pros. Some are dressed in costumes like you, some are walking hand in hand like lovers on a holiday, some are playing the part of families enjoying the rides, others have taken over as attendants. We even have men stationed on roofs and in the dummy second-st
ory offices with telescopes and binoculars." Kippmann's voice was soft, but it carried total conviction. "The killers will be found and stopped before they do their dirty work. The odds we've stacked against Kelly meeting his goal and deade are staggering."

  "Tell that to Oskar Rondheim," Pitt said. "There's the flaw that knocks the hell out of your good intentions-you don't know your adversary."

  The silence lay heavy in the small room. Kippmann rubbed his palms across his face, then shook his head slowly, as if he were about to do something he intensely disliked. He picked up the ever-present briefcase and handed Pitt a folder marked simply 078-34.

  "Granted, I haven't met him face to face, but he is no stranger to me." Kippmann read from the folder.

  "'Oskar Rondheim, alias Max Rolland, alias Hugo von Klausen, alias Chatford Marazan, real name Carzo Butera, born in Brooklyn, New York, July 15, 1940. I could go on for hours about his arrests, his convictions.

  93

  He was pretty big along the New York waterfront. Organized the fishermen's union. Got muscled out by the syndicate and dropped from sight. Over the past few years we kept close tabs on Mr. Rondheim and his albatross industries. We finally put two and two together and came up with Carzo Butera."

  A sly grin crept across Pitts face. "You've made your point. It would be interesting to see what your scandal sheet has to say about me."

  "I have it right here," Kippmann said, matching Pitts grin. "Care to see it?"

  "No, thanks. It couldn't tell me anything that I don't already know," Pitt said flatly. "I would be interested though in seeing what you have on Kirsti Fyrie."

  Kippmann's expression went blank and he looked as if he had been shot. "I was hoping you wouldn't get around to her."

  "You have her file also." It was more statement than question.

  "Yes," Kippmann answered briefly. He saw there was no way out, no argument that would stand. He sighed with uneasiness and handed Pitt rUe number 883-57.

  Pitt reached out and took the folder. For ten minutes he examined the contents, leafing very slowly, almost reluctantly from documents to photos, from reports to letters. Then finally, like a man in a dream, he closed the folder and gave it back to Kippmann.

  "I can't believe it. It's ridiculous. I won't believe it."

  "I'm afraid what you read is true, all of it." Kippmann's voice was quiet, even.

  Pitt pulled the back of his hand across his eyes.

  "Never, never in a thousand years would I have His voice faded away.

  "It threw us out of gear too. Our first hint came when we could find no trace of her on New Guinea."

  "I know. I'd already pegged her for a phony on that score."

  "You knew? But how?"

  "When we had dinner together in Reykjavik, I described a recipe that called for shark meat wrapped in a seaweed known as echidna. Miss Fyrie accepted it.

  Rather strange behavior from a missionary who spent years in the jungles of New Guinea, don't you think?"

  "How the hell should I know." Kippmann shrugged. "I don't have the vaguest notion as to what an echidna is."

  "An echidna," Pitt said, "is an egg-laying spiny anteater. A mammal very common to the landscape of New Guinea."

  "I can't say I blame her for missing the catch."

  "How would you react if I said I was going to barbecue a New York cut steak wrapped in porcupine quills?"

  "I'd say something."

  "You've got the idea."

  Kippmann stared at Pitt with an admiring look.

  "What put you on to her in the first place? You wouldn't have tricked her without a nudge, without a suspicious hint."

  "Her tan," Pitt answered. "It was shallow-not burned deep like one acquired after years and months spent in a tropic jungle."

  "You, sir, are very observant," Kippmann murmured thoughtfully. "But why . . . why bother to trip up someone you barely knew?"

  "Partly for the same reason I'm standing here in this ridiculous wolf suit," Pitt said grimly. "I volunteered for your little manhunt for two reasons. One, I've got a score to even with Rondheim and Kelly, no more, no less.

  Second, I'm still Special Projects Director for NUMA, and as such, my primary duty is to obtain the plans for Fyrie's undersea mineral probe. That's why I conned Kirsti-she knows where the blueprints are hidden. Boy something I shouldn't have, it gave me a wedge, to her."

  Kippmann nodded. "Now I understand." He sat on a desk and toyed with a letter opener.

  I have Kelly and his group in custody, I'll r to you and Admiral Sandecker for quesgood enough," Pitt snapped. "If you want my cooperation as an identifying witness, then promise me a few minutes alone with Rondheim-And full and complete custody of Kirsti Fyrie."

  "Impossible!"

  "What does Rondheim's future physical condition mean to you?"

  "If I turned my back so you could kick him in the teeth, I couldn't let you have Kirsti Fyrie."

  "You could," Pitt said positively. "Mostly because she isn't yours to give. If you're lucky, you might pin an accomplice charge on her. But that might strain our relations with Iceland, in event that wouldn't make our State Department exactly jump for joy."

  "You're wasting your breath," Kippmann said impatiently. "She will be convicted of murder along with all the rest."

  "Yours is not to convict, yours is to apprehend and arrest." Kippmann shook his head. "You don't understand-" He broke off as the door opened wide. Lazard stood framed in the doorway, his face ashen.

  Kippmann stared at him curiously. "Dan, what is it?" Lazard wiped his brow and slumped into an empty chair. "De Croix and Castile have suddenly changed their planned excursion. They've shaken their escort and disappeared somewhere in the 94

  park. God only knows what can happen before we find them."

  Frowning, baffled, Kippmann's face expressed a moment of utter uncomprehension. "Christ!" he exploded. "How could it happen? How could you lose them with half the federal agents in the state guarding their party?"

  "There are twenty thousand people out there in the park right this minute," Lazard tone. "It doesn't take any great magician to replace two of them. feat of cleverness to Croix and Castile bitched. He shrugged helplessly. "Deal about our heavy security precautions from the second they stepped through the main gate. They went to the john together and gave us the slip by ducking out a side window, just like a pair of kids."

  Pitt stood up. "Quickly, do you have their tour and scheduled stops?"

  Lazard stared at him for a moment. "Yes, here, each amusement and exhibit and their time schedules." He handed Pitt a Xeroxed sheet of paper.

  Pitt rapidly glanced at the schedule. Then a slow grin cut his face as he turned to Kippmann. "You'd better send me into the game, coach."y 'Major," Kippmann said unhappily. "I have the feeling I'm about to be blackmailed.

  "As they say during campus riots, why won't you meet our demands?"

  The slump of Kippmann's shoulders displayed as sure a sign of defeat as if he'd waved a white flag. He stared at Pitt. The eyes that stared back were disconcertingly steady.

  Kippmann nodded. "Rondheim and Miss Fyrie are yours-They're staying in the Disneyland Hotel across the street.

  Adjoining rooms, 605 and 607."

  "And Kelly, Marks, Von Hummel and the rest?"

  "They're all there-Hermit Limited reserved the entire sixth floor." Kippmann rubbed his face uncomfortably. "Just what do you have in mind?"

  "Rest easy. Five minutes with Rondheim. Then You can have him. Kirsti Fyrie I keep. Call her a little bonus from the N.I.A.

  too. Kippmann gave up completely. "You win. Now where are De Croix and Castile?"

  "The obvious." Pitt smiled at Kippmann and Lazard.

  The most obvious place where any two men who passed their childhood near the Spanish Main would head."

  "God, you've hit it," Lazard said almost bitterly.

  "The last stop on the schedule-The Pirates of the Caribbean."

  Next to the cleverly engineered
apparitions in the Disneyland Haunted House, The Pirates of the Caribbean is the most popular attraction in the world-famous park. Constructed on two underground levels that occupy nearly two acres'. the quarter-of-a-mile boat ride carries awed passengers through a maze of tunnels and vast rooms decorated as roving pirate ships and pillaged seaside towns, manned by almost a hundred lifelike figures that not only match the best of Madame Tussaud's, but who also sing, dance and loot.

  Pitt was the last one up the entrance ramp to the landing where the attendants assist the paying customers into the boats at the start of the fifteen-minute excursion. The fifty or sixty people waiting in line waved to Pitt and made smiling remarks about his costume as he made his way behind Kippmann and Lazard. He waved back, wondering what the expressions on their faces would be if he were to suddenly whip off his wolf's mask and display his bandaged face. He could see at least ten small children who would never again want the Three Little Pigs read at bedtime.

  Lazard grasped the managing attendant by the arm. "Quickly. you must stop the boats."

  The attendant, a blond, lanky boy no more than twenty years of age, simply stood there in mute uncomprehension.

  Lazard, obviously a man who disliked wasted conversation, moved hurriedly across the landing to the controls, disengaged the underwater traction chain that pulled the excursion boats, set the handbrake and turned to face the stunned boy again.

  "Two men, two men together, have they taken the ride?"

 
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