The woman with the violet eyes walked slowly beneath the trees of Central Park, hands deep in the pockets of her trench coat. Her older brother walked beside her, his restless eyes taking in everything.
“What time is it?” she asked, yet again.
“Six o’clock precisely.”
It was a mild evening in mid-November, and the dying sun threw dappled shadows over the sweeping lawn. They crossed East Drive, passed the statue of Hans Christian Andersen, and ascended a slight rise. And then—as if possessed by the same thought—they stopped. Ahead, across the placid surface of Conservatory Water, stood the Kerbs Memorial Boathouse, toy-like, framed against the vast ramparts of the buildings lining Fifth Avenue. It was a scene from a picture postcard: the small lake reflecting the blood-orange sky, the little model yachts cutting through the still water to the appreciative cries of children. In the gap between two skyscrapers, a full moon was just appearing.
Her throat felt tight and dry, and the necklace of freshwater pearls felt constricting around her throat. “Judson,” she said, “I’m not sure I can do this.”
She felt his brotherly grip on her arm tighten reassuringly. “It’ll be okay.”
She glanced around at the tableau spread before her, heart beating fast. A violinist was sawing away on the parapet before the lake. A young couple sat on one of the boathouse benches, oblivious to everything but each other’s company. On the next bench, a short-haired man with a bodybuilder’s physique read the Wall Street Journal. Commuters and joggers passed by in small streams. In the shadow of the boathouse itself, a homeless man was settling down for the night.
And there he stood before the lake—a slender figure, motionless, dressed in a long pale coat of exquisite cut, blond-white hair burnished platinum by the dying light.
The woman drew in a sharp breath.
“Go ahead,” Judson said in a low voice. “I’ll be close by.” He released her arm.
As the woman stepped forward, her surroundings vanished, her entire attention focused on the man who watched her approach. Thousands of times she had imagined this moment, spun it out in her mind in all its many variants, always ending with the bitter thought that it could never happen; that it would remain only a dream. And yet here he was. He looked older, but not by much: his alabaster skin, his fine patrician features, his glittering eyes that held her own so intently, awakened a storm of feeling and memory and—even at this time of extreme danger—desire.
She stopped a few feet from him.
“Is it really you?” he asked, his courtly southern drawl freighted with emotion.
She tried to smile. “I’m sorry, Aloysius. So very sorry.”
Growing up in Westport, currently teaching at Yale, Jeremy Logan thought himself familiar with his home state of Connecticut. But the stretch through which he now drove was a revelation. Heading east from Groton—¬following the e-¬mailed directions—¬he’d turned onto US 1 and then, just past Stonington, onto US 1 Alternate. Hugging the gray Atlantic coastline, he’d passed Wequetequock, rolled over a bridge that looked as old as New England itself, then turned sharply right onto a well-¬paved but unmarked road. Quite abruptly, the minimalls and tourist motels fell away behind. He passed a sleepy cove in which lobster boats bobbed at anchor, and then entered an equally sleepy hamlet. And yet it was a real village, a working village, with a general store and a tackle shop and an Episcopal church with a steeple three sizes too large, and gray-¬shingled houses with trim picket fences painted white. There were no hulking SUVs, no out-¬of-¬state plates; and the scattering of people sitting on benches or leaning out of front windows waved to him as he passed. The April sunlight was strong, and the sea air had a clean, fresh bite to it. A signboard hanging from the doorframe of the post office informed him he was in Pevensey Point, population 182. Something about the place reminded him irresistibly of Herman Melville.
“Karen,” he said, “if you’d seen this place, you’d never have made us buy that summer cottage in Hyannis.”
Although his wife had died of cancer years ago, Logan still allowed himself to converse with her now and then. Of course it was usually—¬though not always—¬more monologue than conversation. At first, he’d been sure to do it only when he was certain not to be overheard. But then—¬as what had started as a kind of intellectual hobby for him turned increasingly into a profession—¬he no longer bothered to be so discreet. These days, judging by what he did for a living, people expected him to be a little strange.
Two miles beyond the town, precisely as the directions indicated, a narrow lane led off to the right. Taking it, Logan found himself in a sandy forest of thin scrub pine that soon gave way to tawny dunes. The dunes ended at a metal bridge leading to a low, broad island jutting out into Fishers Island Sound. Even from this distance, Logan could see there were at least a dozen structures on the island, all built of the same reddish-¬brown stone. At the center were three large five-¬story buildings that resembled dormitories, arranged in parallel, like dominos. At the far end of the island, partly concealed by the various structures, was an empty airstrip. And beyond everything lay the ocean and the dark green line of Rhode Island.
Logan drove the final mile, stopping at a gatehouse before the bridge. He showed the printed e-¬mail to the guard inside, who smiled and waved him through. A single sign beside the gatehouse, expensive looking but unobtrusive, read simply cts.
He crossed the bridge, passed an outlying structure, and pulled into a parking lot. It was surprisingly large: there were at least a hundred cars and space for as many more. Nosing into one of the spots, he killed the engine. But instead of exiting, he paused to read the e-¬mail once again.
Gideon Crew stood at the window of the conference room, looking out over the former Meatpacking District of Manhattan. His gaze followed the tarred roofs of the old buildings, now hip boutiques and trendy restaurants; moved past the new High Line park thick with people; past the rotting piers; and came to rest on the broad expanse of the Hudson River. In the hazy sun of early summer, the river for a change looked like real water, the surface a mass of blue moving upstream with the incoming tide.
The Hudson reminded him of other rivers he had known, and streams and creeks, and his thoughts lingered on one stream in particular, high in the Jemez Mountains. He thought about a deep pool in it and the large cutthroat trout he was sure lurked in its dappled depths.
He couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there, out of New York City, away from that withered gnome named Glinn and his mysterious company, Effective Engineering Solutions.
“I’m going fishing,” he said.
Glinn shifted in his wheelchair and sighed. Gideon turned. The man’s crippled hand appeared from under the blanket that was shrouding his knees. It contained a brown-paper package. “Your payment.”
Gideon hesitated. “You’re paying me? After what I did?”
“The fact is, based on what you’ve told me, our payment structure has changed.” Glinn opened the package, counted out several banded bricks of hundreds, and laid them on the table in the conference room.
“Here is half of the hundred thousand.”
Gideon snatched it up before Glinn could change his mind.
Then, to his surprise, Glinn handed him the other half. “And here’s the rest. Not as payment for services rendered, however. More in the way of, shall we say, an advance.”
Gideon stuffed the money into his jacket pockets. “An advance on what?”
“Before you leave town,” Glinn said, “I thought you might like to drop in on an old friend of yours.”
“Thanks, but I’ve got a date with a cutthroat trout in Chihuahueños Creek.”
“Ah, but I was so hoping you’d have time to see your friend.”
“I don’t have any friends. And if I did, I sure as hell wouldn’t be interested in ‘dropping in’ on them right now. As you so kindly pointed out, I’m living on borrowed time.”
“Reed Chalker is his name. I believe you worked with him?”
“We worked in the same Tech Area—that’s not the same as working with him. I haven’t seen the guy around Los Alamos in months.”
“Well, you’re about to see him now. The authorities are hoping you could have a little chat with him.”
“The authorities? A chat? What the hell’s this about?”
“At this moment, Chalker’s got a hostage. Four of them, actually. A family in Queens. Held at gunpoint.”
Gideon laughed. “Chalker? No way. The guy I knew was a typical Los Alamos geek, straight as an arrow, wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Nothing in his twelve years of life had prepared Gideon Crew for that day. Every insignificant detail, every trivial gesture, every sound and smell, became frozen as if in a block of glass, unchanging and permanent, ready to be examined at will.
His mother was driving him home from his tennis lesson in their Plymouth station wagon. It was a hot day, well up in the nineties, the kind where clothes stick to one’s skin and sunlight has the texture of flypaper. Gideon had turned the dashboard vents onto his face, enjoying the rush of cold air. They were driving on Route 27, passing the long cement wall enclosing Arlington National Cemetery, when two motorcycle cops intercepted their car, one pulling ahead, the other staying behind, sirens wailing, red lights turning. The one in front motioned with a black-gloved hand toward the Columbia Pike exit ramp; once on the ramp, he signaled for Gideon’s mother to pull over. There was none of the slow deliberation of a routine traffic stop—instead, both officers hopped off their motorcycles and came running up.
“Follow us,” said one, leaning in the window. “Now.”
“What’s this all about?” Gideon’s mother asked.
“National security emergency. Keep up—we’ll be driving fast and clearing traffic.”
“I don’t understand—”
But they were already running back to their motorcycles.
Sirens blaring, the officers escorted them down Columbia Pike to George Mason Drive, forcing cars aside as they went. They were joined by more motorcycles, squad cars, and finally an ambulance: a motorcade that screamed through the traffic-laden streets. Gideon didn’t know whether to be thrilled or scared. Once they turned onto Arlington Boulevard, he could guess where they were going: Arlington Hall Station, where his father worked for INSCOM, the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command.
Police barricades were up over the entrance to the complex, but they were flung aside as the motorcade pulled through. They went shrieking down Ceremonial Drive and came to a halt at a second set of barricades, beside a welter of fire trucks, police cars, and SWAT vans. Gideon could see his father’s building through the trees, the stately white pillars and brick façade set among emerald lawns and manicured oaks. It had once been a girls’ finishing school and still looked it. A large area in front had been cleared. He could see two sharpshooters lying on the lawn, behind a low hummock, rifles deployed on bipods.
His mother turned to him and said, fiercely, “Stay in the car. Don’t get out, no matter what.” Her face was gray and strained, and it scared him.
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