Viking bay, p.22

Viking Bay, page 22

 

Viking Bay
 



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  “I don’t want to do that,” Callahan said. “If Sterling gets a wrong-number call to a number that only Mercer had, he’ll get suspicious. I don’t want to give him any advance notice that I’m coming after him.”

  “Why do you think Mercer left the phone where you could find it?” Kay asked.

  Callahan shrugged. “I don’t know for sure, but my guess is that Anna was giving me Sterling. I think she just wants him gone so he can’t cause her any problems in the future. She knows I’m not going to take anyone to court, and she also knows what will happen to Sterling if I’m convinced he was involved.”

  “Won’t she be worried that Sterling will confess?”

  “No. She knows I don’t need a confession from Sterling to know she’s guilty. And she won’t be worried at all about Sterling knowing where she is, because I’m positive she never told him where she was going. I think she just views Sterling as a loose end, and she wants me to snip it off for her.”

  “So what do you intend to do to Sterling?” Kay asked.

  “What the hell do you think I’m going to do?” Callahan said. There was no twinkle in his eyes.

  “How are we going to find Anna?” Dolan asked, switching the discussion away from Callahan’s plans for Nathan Sterling.

  “I don’t know,” Callahan said. “What I do know is that she’s got some sort of bulletproof ID and we’re not going to find her using credit-card purchases or passenger manifests or cell phones or anything simple like that.”

  “How much money do you think she has?” Dolan asked.

  “My guess is at least half of the fifty million,” Callahan said. “She would have been forced to share some with Sterling and Finley, but no way would she have given them more than half. So let’s assume twenty-five to thirty million. That amount isn’t enough for her to make the Forbes 400 list, but it’s enough for her to lead a very comfortable life.”

  “But what would she do?” Kay said. “Raise Arabian stallions? Collect Fabergé eggs?”

  Callahan stubbed out the cigarette he’d been smoking. “That’s actually a good question,” he said, “and probably the way we’re going to find her. And the answer is: She’ll shop and pamper herself.”

  “Shop?” Kay said.

  “Yeah. I don’t know if you ever noticed, but Anna dresses very well. Then there’s her house; you need to go look at her house. It’s not that big, but it’s magnificent, and as far as I know, it was the only hobby she ever had. After she bought the place, she had it completely remodeled and she didn’t scrimp. Granite countertops, hardwood floors, fancy rugs, good artwork, top-of-the-line appliances. She loved that house, and when she wasn’t working, she used to go to estate sales to find bargains.”

  “Besides clothes and her home, is there anything else?” Kay asked. “Expensive cars? Jewelry? Will she contact her family or a boyfriend?”

  “Not cars,” Callahan said. “Anna drove a used Mercedes, and with twenty-five million she’ll buy a new car, most likely another Mercedes or something similar. But she’s never really cared about cars; she’ll get something respectable, but not a Ferrari. As for her family, the only family she has is her sister and an aunt in Raleigh, and she’s never been close to either of them. When Anna told Henry she was going to see her wacky sister in Wilmington, I should have stopped her right then.

  “I also know she doesn’t have a boyfriend. Every once in a while, I get a massage. I don’t do it very often, but sometimes I feel like having someone pummel my muscles and rub my back, and every five or six months I’ll get one. That’s Anna and sex. Every once in a while, she gets the urge and has sex with someone, but she doesn’t do it frequently and she has no interest whatsoever in having a sloppy man clutter up her beautiful home. Companionship is not a priority for her.”

  “How would you know about her sex life?” Kay asked.

  Now the twinkle was back in Callahan’s eyes. “We used to talk about our love lives sometimes, mostly bitching that neither one of us really had one. Although, come to think of it, in the last year Anna hasn’t been all that forthcoming about who she’s been screwing.

  “Anyway, to get back to how we’ll find her, it won’t be because she contacts her sister or tries to hook up with an old lover. As for jewelry, she likes jewelry, just like she likes clothes, but she can’t afford to be a regular customer at Harry Winston’s with only twenty-five or thirty mil in the bank. She’ll buy nice earrings and other doodads, but nothing so outrageous that one of her purchases will make the news.

  “But we may find her because she likes to be pampered. At least once a month, she’d go to a place here in D.C. to get spa treatments. You know, massages, facials, the whole package. She’s been doing that the last five years, maybe thinking after she turned forty she needed the facials. I think she’ll spend a lot of time at spas.”

  Callahan reached into a drawer on the lower right-hand side of his desk and pulled out a bottle of Courvoisier. “Anyone want a drink?” he asked. Dolan and Kay both shook their heads. Callahan filled half a coffee cup with the brandy.

  “So here’s what I think she’s going to do,” Callahan said. “She’s going to settle in some foreign country, buy a nice house, and spend a lot of time remodeling it and filling it with nice things. She’ll buy expensive clothes, spend time in spas, and take vacations to sunny spots when she has the urge.”

  “Why are you so sure she’ll pick a foreign country?” Kay asked.

  “Because that will make it harder for me to find her. Here in the U.S., I have a lot of pull with federal law-enforcement agencies. I don’t have that kind of pull overseas.”

  “Then where do you think she’ll move to?” Kay asked. “Someplace where we don’t have an extradition treaty?”

  “No. She knows I’m not going to try to extradite her, and most places where we don’t have extradition treaties aren’t really all that nice. Plus, you usually end up paying some government bagman to leave you alone. Then there’s the language problem. She speaks passable French, but she isn’t really fluent in the language. She’s not like you when it comes to languages. I think she’ll pick someplace in Europe, England or Ireland, maybe Switzerland. She won’t go to the Orient, because she’d be afraid she might stand out as a rich white woman. And because she’s a bit of a bigot. She won’t pick Australia because it’s too remote, and Canada is too close to the U.S. So I’m guessing an English-speaking country in Europe so she’ll be able to take shopping trips to Paris or Berlin and go to the Costa del Sol when she wants to sit on the beach.

  “And one other thing,” Callahan said. “I think she’s going to get plastic surgery to change her appearance. She’s not going to spend the rest of her life hiding inside a house like bin Laden. She’ll want to be free to move about and not worry about her face being spotted on some surveillance camera.”

  “Maybe we can find her that way,” Kay said. “You know, distribute pictures of her current face to likely doctors.”

  “I doubt that will work,” Eli said. “I mean, we could mail her picture to every plastic surgeon in the world, but those people tend to treat patient confidentiality rather seriously. The other thing is, unless Anna’s dumber than I think she is, she won’t pick a plastic surgeon in the country where she’s living or using her bottom-line ID.”

  “We could offer a reward,” Kay said. “A million bucks to the doctor who’ll give her up.”

  “Yeah, maybe,” Eli said, “but I doubt that will work if she picks a reputable doctor, and she will. She’s not going to have her face cut on by a second-rate surgeon, and a first-rate surgeon probably makes more than a million a year.”

  “Not to mention,” Callahan said, “that I’ve already pissed away fifty million dollars and I don’t feel like pissing away any more.”

  Callahan rubbed a hand over his doughy, pale face and said, “Look. I’m beat. I’ve been up all night and so h
ave you guys. Go home and get some sleep, and we’ll meet back here at three p.m.”

  “I’m not sure I’ll be coming back,” Dolan said.

  “Aw, come on, Eli,” Callahan said. “I’m sorry I doubted you. Okay? What do I have to do to get you to forgive me? Get down on my knees? Plus, Mercer tried to set you up. Don’t you want some payback?”

  “I haven’t decided,” Dolan said, and walked out of Callahan’s office.

  “He’ll come around,” Callahan said to Kay.

  Kay didn’t say anything, but now she was thinking that maybe she didn’t care if he came back. What did it take for the guy to get over a little mistake? Well, maybe not a little mistake, but still a mistake. Like Callahan had said, did they have to get down on their knees and beg? Well, she wasn’t getting down on her knees for anyone.

  37 | By the time Kay got home, Jessica had left for school. Two ships passing in the night—except one ship had left a message for the other, a Post-it note on the refrigerator door: “If you have time, it would be nice if you could pick up a few things from the store.” This guilt-inducing sentence was followed by a list of all the healthy foods her daughter wanted her to purchase.

  Kay went into her bedroom, set the alarm for noon, stripped off her jeans, and fell into bed. When the alarm went off a couple of hours later, she felt like her head was stuffed with cotton as a result of sleep deprivation. She took a quick shower, put on clean jeans and a T-shirt, and went to the store and purchased everything on Jessica’s list plus a couple of other items her daughter wouldn’t approve of, like Oreo cookies and beer nuts.

  After she restocked the shelves and the freezer, it was time to leave for K Street. She put a note where her daughter’s note had been. “May have to work late. Call you later.” She hesitated, then added, “Love you. Kay.”

  —

  KAY WALKED INTO Callahan’s office at exactly three p.m. She had many faults, but tardiness was not one of them. Callahan was once more dressed in a suit and looking as if he hadn’t slept any more than she had, but he seemed alert and cheerful. Eli wasn’t there.

  “Are we going to wait for Eli?” she asked.

  “Let’s give him a few minutes,” Callahan said. “You want some coffee?”

  “Sure.”

  Callahan poured them coffee, adding cream and about six pounds of sugar to his cup. He was just handing Kay her cup when Eli walked into the office.

  “You want some coffee?” Callahan asked, not saying that he was glad that Eli had decided to join them.

  “No, I’m fine,” Eli said. He opened his mouth to say something else—and Kay thought that he might have planned a little speech about why he had decided to return—but then he changed his mind and didn’t say anything more.

  Callahan dropped into the chair behind his cluttered desk and said, “Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do unless you two have a better idea. First, Anna Mercer. Homeland is going to be encouraged to look very hard for her.”

  There it was again, Kay thought: Callahan’s special connection to Homeland. “What reason will you give Homeland to encourage them?” she asked.

  “Finley,” Callahan said, “was a dangerous hacker who had a record for busting into a Pentagon database. Mercer is ex-CIA. Homeland will be told that Finley and Mercer were connected, and it’s imperative we find out what they were doing. The fact that Finley’s dead and she’s disappeared off the face of the earth shows she’s up to something.

  “Then we’re going to assume she’s living in the United Kingdom. That may be a bad assumption, but we have to start somewhere. Homeland, working with Scotland Yard and MI6 and whoever else they work with over there, will be asked to look for single women, approximately forty years of age, who’ve bought a house in the one- to two-million-dollar range.”

  “You gotta be kidding!” Kay said. “That list is going to be tremendously long. I mean, a million-dollar house isn’t that big a deal. I’ll bet there will be thousands of women buying million-dollar homes in the U.K. in the next two or three months. And you’re talking England, Wales, Scotland, and I guess Ireland. I mean . . .”

  “I realize all that, Hamilton,” Callahan said, “but we have to start somewhere. And if they find a single woman buying an expensive house, they’ll be able to do background checks, and if the woman is somebody real, she’ll have a history. There will be marriage records, property records of previous homes she’s owned, tax records, scholastic records. There’s no way Mercer will have been able to build a background that will be deep enough for her to have a completely documented history. So that’s the plan: find single gals in their forties buying expensive homes, and then start pulling the string to see if the woman is real.”

  “But—” Kay started to say.

  “The other thing is, I had someone inventory the furniture in Mercer’s house in Arlington, and I’m guessing that when she furnishes her home, she’ll buy some of the same brands of furniture she’s bought in the past. And also maybe a cat. She’s always had a cat.”

  Kay groaned. “But what if she’s not living in the U.K.? What if she decides to rent for a year or two instead of buying property? What if she gets somebody to buy the property for her so it’s not in her name? And a fucking cat? You gotta be shittin’ me. Half the single women on the planet own a cat.”

  Callahan’s response to all her objections was one he’d used before: “Hey, if you got a better idea, I’m all ears.”

  When Kay just shook her head, Callahan said, “Okay. Then that’s it for now. We’ll just have to wait for a while to see what Homeland and the Brits come up with, and in the meantime, we’ve got other irons in the fire. For one thing, Mercer was working an op in Liberia that she didn’t finish before she split and—”

  “Wait a minute!” Kay said. “What about Sterling?”

  “Don’t worry about Sterling. I’ll take care of him.”

  “You mean, you’re going to kill him.”

  Somebody had to say the word kill and quit pretending they were discussing some other, more benign, solution.

  “Hamilton, listen to me,” Callahan said. “Sterling is never going to go to jail or pay in any other way for what he did. For one thing, we can’t prove he killed Ara Khan. We can’t investigate a murder that occurred in Afghanistan. And if we connect Sterling to the stolen fifty million, I can’t take him to court. I can’t talk about what we were trying to do in Ghazni Province, and I sure as hell can’t talk about where the money came from. I’m also going to ask Sterling where he put his share of the money. I know he won’t know where Anna is and where she put her money, but maybe I can find out where he stashed his.”

  “And you’re going to do this personally?” Kay said.

  “Yes. I can’t ask somebody working for me to kill and torture a U.S. citizen, particularly when the man’s death has nothing to do with national security. This isn’t about national security, not at this point. It’s about payback. It’s about revenge.”

  Kay shook her head. “Callahan, look at yourself. You couldn’t run fifty yards without collapsing. Maybe twenty or thirty years ago you were a real badass, but you’re in no condition to take on a guy like Sterling. He’s not only in better physical shape than you, he also runs a company that employs people who were trained to kill by the U.S. military.”

  Callahan opened his mouth to protest, but before he could, Kay said, “I’ll take care of Sterling. You’ve been training me for this sort of thing, and although I don’t know this for a fact, I’m willing to bet that I’ve killed more people than you have.”

  Kay was referring to four drug dealers she’d killed in Miami and two more in Mexico.

  “She’s right, Thomas,” Dolan said. “And I’ll help her.”

  “No, you won’t,” Kay said. “You need to help Callahan find Anna Mercer. If I need any kind of equipment or personnel support, I’ll let Callahan know, but
I’m doing this on my own.”

  Callahan, the stubborn bastard, shook his head.

  “Callahan,” Kay said, “this is the kind of thing you hired me for, and we both know it. Let me do my job.”

  38 | Anna Mercer’s head hurt as if a blacksmith were pounding on it with a ball-peen hammer. It hurt so bad she couldn’t even localize the pain and was unable to tell if it was coming from her chin, her cheeks, or her nose. She reached for the button to call the nurse and ask for more medication, but stopped before she pressed it. No, she’d endure the pain, at least a while longer. She was terrified of becoming addicted to pain medication; she’d just heard too many stories of people becoming addicts and their lives falling apart after surgery. But maybe it had been a mistake to have all the surgeries performed at once.

  After she arrived in Geneva from New York, she immediately took a cab to the clinic she’d chosen on the outskirts of the city. It was a lovely place: ivy-covered brick walls, a breathtaking view of Lake Léman, large wooded areas with walking trails, and a spa that offered every amenity. It was surrounded by a high stone wall so the patients wouldn’t be concerned about outsiders seeing them walking around with bandages on their noses and purple and yellow bruises all over their faces.

  She’d selected the clinic when she was developing her disappear-forever plan. It was horrendously expensive and she could have had the surgeries performed in any number of places that were cheaper, but she’d selected it because of its reputation for protecting the privacy of its clients, many of whom were celebrities. When it came to the surgeries, privacy was much more important to her than money.

  She met with her primary doctor the day after her arrival and spent three days deciding what sort of face she wanted to live with for the rest of her life. She’d always thought that her chin was a bit small and her nose too sharp, so those flaws would be remedied. Her cheekbones were good but could be enhanced a bit, and then, of course, it would be necessary to do the work around the eyes and under the chin to minimize the signs of forty-five years of living. The final result—at least in the three-dimensional pictures she was shown—was marvelous. Not only would she be better- and younger-looking, but the most important thing was that she wouldn’t look like Anna Mercer.

 

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M. A. LAWSON SERIES:

  • Agent Kay Hamilton
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