A Line in the Sand

A Line in the Sand

by Gerald Seymour
     
 

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In a village on the English seacoast, Frank Perry waits for his past to arrive.

He believed that it would never catch up with him, that he was safe. A decade earlier, he spied on the Iranian chemical and biological weapons installations -- he had privileged access and his information crippled their killing capacity.

Now, Iran will have its revenge and has

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Overview

In a village on the English seacoast, Frank Perry waits for his past to arrive.

He believed that it would never catch up with him, that he was safe. A decade earlier, he spied on the Iranian chemical and biological weapons installations -- he had privileged access and his information crippled their killing capacity.

Now, Iran will have its revenge and has dispatched its most deadly assassin to fulfill the task. Code-named The Anvil, he will move with stealth towards his chosen objective -- unless Perry's protectors can reach him first.

But the first threat to Perry comes from closer to home. Within the local community many are outraged by the preparations being undertaken for his safety and, fearing for their lives, they close ranks against him.

As the assassin draws nearer, the ring of steel protecting Perry grows tighter, and the pressure from those whom he believed to be his friends grows stronger and more violent. But against a faceless adversary, and with the job fatally compromised by stifling political bureaucracy and domestic tension, there seems little chance that the past will not have its day once more.

A Line in the Sand is a powerful and thrilling novel about how the past can haunt the present and how profound its consequences can be. It is about public and private courage and the difficulties of uniting the two. Once again Gerald Seymour demonstrates that he is one of the most penetrating and compelling thriller writers of the modern era.

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Editorial Reviews

Bolton Evening News
A Line in the Sand is the perfect remedy for any New Year blues -- readable, believable, and never less than gripping.
Evening Telegraph
And a life on the run is no life at all, as the central character discovers in A Line in the Sand, the latest heart-thumping, nerve-twitching thriller from former TV newsman Gerald Seymour....You won't be able to put it down.
Mail on Sunday
Seymour's latest tale hinges on fundamentalism and friendship as he tracks an Iranian assassin to a quiet English village and paints the devastation that state protection provokes (imagine that your neighbour was a key target). Brilliantly written.
Oxford Mail
A Line in the Sand finds [Seymour] on top form in a well-crafted story with its origins in Britain's tangled relations with Iran.
Library Journal - Library Journal
An engineering salesman was a spy for British intelligence, providing details of Iranian biological and chemical weapons plants. Living under a new identity with his wife and stepson in a Suffolk village, Frank Perry becomes the target of an assassin, and the villagers turn against him for placing their lives at risk. Seymour's tale switches between the Perrys and their neighbors, the often embattled intelligence officers and police trying to protect them, and the determined killer, with the target seeming to do everything he can to make his protectors' job more difficult. Often compared to John le Carr , Seymour lacks the master's subtlety, spelling out his themes too obviously. Anthony Head handles the narrative passages well but overacts during the frequent, loud arguments between characters. The author is most successful with minor characters like the eccentric civilian enlisted to track down the assassin and with ironic touches such as acts of kindness having fatal consequences. Recommended for public libraries.--Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684854779
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
08/08/2000
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
6.52(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.15(d)

Meet the Author

Gerald Seymour spent fifteen years as an international television news reporter and is the author of seventeen novels, many of them United Kingdom bestsellers. Several have been made into television movies in the United Kingdom and the United States. He lives in Bath, England.

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Chapter One

The harrier contorted to clean the clammy mud from underneath its wing feathers. It worked hard at the clinging dirt as if its primitive, wild mind demanded cleanliness before the start of the day's long flight north. The dawn sunshine glossed the rusted gold of the feathers. The bird worked at them with its vicious curved, sharpened beak, pecked at the mud, spat, and coughed it down into the marsh water below the perch on a dead, stark tree. At first light it had hunted. It had dived on a brightly crested duck, the bone-stripped carcass of which was now wedged in a fork of the dead tree. The mud had speckled the underneath of the wings when it had fallen, stone fast, onto the unsuspecting prey.

Abruptly, without warning, it flapped with a slow wing beat away from the perch and abandoned its kill. It headed north, away from the hot, wet wintering grounds of west Africa.

It would fly all day, without rest, on an unerring course that retraced its first migratory route. As a killing bird, a predator, the harrier had no sense of threat or hazard.

They had been right over the tent camp, bucking in the strength of the gale, before they had seen it. They had searched all morning for it, forced lower by the lessening visibility from the whipped-up sand. The pilot of the lead helicopter had been sweating, and he was supposed to be the best, with many hours of desert flying experience, good enough in Desert Storm to have flown behind the lines into Iraq to supply the Special Forces. They had been down to a hundred feet, where the wind was most treacherous, and the wipers in front of him were clogged by grains of sand. Only a minute after he hadrapped his gloved fist on the fuel gauge and muttered into their earphones that they had little time left, the Marine Corps major had spotted the camp, tapped the pilot's shoulder, and pointed down. The colonel of the National Guard had softly mouthed his thanks to his God.

Duane Seitz had heard the excited voices on his headset and thought this might be a good game for kids, reckoning himself too old for this sort of serious shit. They had put down beside the tents. The two following helicopters, which were also flown by Americans, were talked in and disgorged the local National Guardsmen. The rotors lifted away two of the camp's seven tents, but the pilots had refused, no argument accepted, to cut their engines. They wanted out and soonest.

As the thirty National Guardsmen corralled the camp, the rotors and the wind threw the fine grains in stinging clouds into their faces. The two tents had come to rest in bushes of low scrub thorn a hundred yards from the camp, but the bedding that had been with them, and the clothes, were still in loose flight, scudding over the sand. The pilots broke their huddle. They shouted into the ear of the Marine Corps major: the storm was not lifting, the gusting sand would infiltrate every aperture in the helicopters' engines, they should get the fuck out -- not negotiable -- now. It was already clear to them, to the Saudi colonel, to the men of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, and to Duane Seitz, that the raid had failed.

The man they sought had evaded them.

Seitz felt it keenest. He stood in the center of the camp, huddled against the wind and the blast of the rotors, the sand crusting on his face, and gazed around him. The information had been good. It had come from the interception of the signal of a digital mobile telephone. The antennae on the eastern coast had identified the position across the Gulf from which the call had been initiated, and the position in the Empty Quarter where it had been received. It should have led them to the man Duane Seitz hunted.

There was one prisoner. He was heavyset, jowled, and lay on his stomach with his arms bound behind him at the wrist and his ankles tied sharply. He wore the clothes of a Bedouin tribesman, but his physique and stomach were too gross for him to have been from this group of camel herdsmen. Seitz knew the face of the prisoner from the files, knew he came from Riyadh, was a courier for the man he tracked.

The tribesmen huddled on their haunches around a dead fire surrounded by scorched stones. The colonel yelled at them, kicked them, and they keeled away from him. Twice he whipped them with the barrel of his pistol, but none cried out even when they bled. They were small men with twig-thin bodies, impassive in the face of his anger. They could be shown the blade of a sword or the barrel of a gun but they never talked.

The camels were hobbled to pegs and kept their heads away from the force of the wind. Seitz thought the nameless, faceless man would have ridden on a camel into the blast of the driven sand. There would be no tracks and no chance of pursuit from the air. He knew only the man's reputation, which was why he sought him as if he were the Grail.

The patience of the lead pilot was exhausted. He was gesticulating to the colonel, pointing at his watch, at his helicopter, and back into the eye of the storm. The colonel gave his orders. The prisoner was dragged, helpless, towards a fuselage hatch. Above the scream of the wind, Duane Seitz heard behind him the crash of gunfire, then the camels screaming. Without their animals the Bedouin would either starve or die of thirst or exposure in the wilderness of the Empty Quarter. It was a shit country to which he was posted, with a shit little war, and he had failed to find his enemy.

Perhaps it was because one of the emaciated tribesmen ducked to avoid the blow of a rifle butt, but for a brief second the dead embers of the fire were no longer protected against the wind. Seitz saw black shreds of paper lifting in the gusts between the charred wood. He scrambled through the Bedouin and the National Guardsmen, fell to his knees, whipping out the little plastic bags that were always in his hip pocket.

Carefully, as he had been taught at the Academy at Quantico more than two decades ago, he slipped the scraps into the bags. As he squinted down, he fancied that there were still faint traces of Arabic characters on the fragments.

He was the last into the helicopter, holding his bags as if they were the relics of a saint. They lifted, and the camp in which he had placed such hope disappeared in the storm of driven sand.


"No."

"I appreciate that this is a difficult moment for you, but what I am telling you is based on information gathered within the last month."

"No."

"Of course, it's a difficult situation for you to absorb."

"No."

"Difficult, but inescapable. It's not a problem that can be ignored."

"No."

"They're serious people, Mr. Perry. You know it, we know it. Nothing has changed...For God's sake, you were in Iran as often as I'm in the supermarket. I cannot conceive that you are incredulous to what I'm saying. But this is not accountancy or commerce, where you would have the right to expect definitive statements. I can't give you detail. It is intelligence, the putting together of mosaic scraps of information, then analyzing the little that presents itself. I am not at liberty to divulge the detail that provided the analysis...You have been there, you know those people...If they find you, then they will seek to kill you."

Geoff Markham stood by the door watching Fenton doing the talking and recognizing already that Fenton had made a right maggot of it. The man, Perry, had his back to them and was gazing out the front window as the late-winter rain lashed the glass panes. As the senior operative, Fenton ought to have made a better fist of it. He should have sat Perry down, gone to the sideboard, routed for a whisky bottle, poured generously, and put the glass into Perry's hand. He should have communicated warmth and commitment and concern; instead, he had trampled with the finesse of a buffalo into Perry's home. Now it was fast going sour. And as it went sour, so Fenton's voice rose to a shrilling bark.

Geoff Markham stood by the door and remained silent. It was not his place to intervene when his superior fouled up. He could see Perry's hunched shoulders tighten with each new assault.

Perry's voice was low and muffled, and Markham had to strain to hear the words.

"You're not listening to me...No."

"I cannot see what other option you have."

"My option is to say what I have said...No."

"That isn't an option...Listen, you're in shock. You are also being willfully obstinate, refusing to face reality -- "

"No. Not again. I won't run."

He heard the hiss of his superior's exasperation. He glanced down at his watch. Christ, they had not even been in the house for fifteen minutes. They had driven down from London, come unannounced, had parked the car on the far side of the green onto which the house faced. Fenton had smiled in satisfaction because there were lights on inside. They had seen the face at the window upstairs as they had opened the low wicket gate and gone up the path to the door. He had seen Perry's face and he had thought there was already a recognition of their business before they reached the door. They wore their London suits. Fenton had a martinet's mustache, painstakingly trimmed, a brown trilby, and a briefcase with the faded gold of the EIIR symbol.

There was no porch over the front door, and Perry would have recognized them for what they were, a senior and a junior from the Security Service, before they had even wiped their feet on the doormat. He made them wait and allowed the rain to spatter their backs before opening the door...Fenton was not often out of Thames House: he was a section head, consumed by the reading of reports and attendance at meetings. In Geoff Markham's opinion, Fenton had long ago lost touch with the great mass of people who surged back and forth each day along the Thames embankment under the high walls of the building on Millbank. To Fenton, they would have been a damn bloody nuisance, an impediment to the pure world of counterespionage...Markham wondered how he would have reacted if strangers had pitched up at his door, flashed their IDs, muscled into his home, started to talk of life and death.

Fenton snapped, "We have conduits of information, some more reliable than others. I have to tell you, the information we are acting upon is first class. The threat is a fact -- "

"I won't run again."

Fenton's right fist slammed into the palm of his left hand. "We're not urging this course of action lightly. Look, you did it before -- "

"No."

"You can do it a second time."

"No."

"I have the impression that you wish to delude yourself on the strength of the threat. Well, let us understand each other. I am not accustomed to leaving my desk for a day, journeying into this sort of backwater, for my own amusement -- "

"I won't run again -- final."

Fenton brayed, at the back of Perry's head, "There is evidence of a very considerable danger. Got me? Hard evidence, real danger..."

From where he stood at the door, Geoff Markham thought that Perry's silhouetted shoulders drooped slightly, as if he'd been cudgeled. Then they stiffened and straightened.

"I won't run again."

Fenton ground on relentlessly. "Look, it's a pretty straightforward process. Getting there is something we're expert at. You move on, you take a new identity...A cash sum to tide you over the incidental expenses. Just leave it to us. New national insurance, new NHS number, new Inland Revenue coding -- "

"Not again. No."

"Bloody hell, Mr. Perry, do me the courtesy of hearing me out. They have your name, not the old one, they have Frank Perry -- get that into your skull. If they have the name, then I have to examine the probability that they have the location..."

Perry turned from the window. There was a pallor now to his cheeks, and his jaw muscles seemed to flex, slacken, and flex again. There was weariness in his eyes. He didn't cower. He stood his full height. He gazed back at Fenton. Geoff Markham didn't know the details on Perry's file, had not been shown it, but if he deserved the threat, then there was something in his past that required raw toughness.

"It's your problem."

"Wrong, Mr. Perry. It's your problem because it's your life."

"Your problem and you deal with it."

"That's ridiculous."

The voice was a whisper: "Men like you, they came, they told me of the threat, they told me to quit, run. I listened, I quit, I ran. I'm not spending the rest of my life, every day that remains of my life, like a chicken in a coop wondering if the fox has found me. It is your responsibility, it's owed me. If the fox comes, shoot it. Understand me? Shoot it...What did you ever do for your country?"

Geoff Markham heard Fenton's snort, then the cut of the sarcasm. "Oh, we're there, are we? Playing the patriot's card. A man of letters once said that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels."

"I worked for my country. My head was on the block for it."

"While lining a damn deep pocket..."

"I am staying, this is my home."

It was a good room, Geoff Markham thought. There was decent furniture, a solid sideboard and a chest of dark wood, low tables. It suited the room, which was lived in. He could see it was a home. When he was not sleeping at Vicky's, he lived in an anonymous, sterile, one-bedroom apartment in west London. Here, a child's books were on the floor, an opened technical magazine, and a cotton bag from which peeped a woman's embroidery. Invitations to drinks and social functions stood on the mantelpiece above the fireplace. If it had been Markham's, he, too, would have tried to cling to it...But he had seen bodies, in Ireland, of men who had not covered their tracks, had made themselves available to their killers. He had seen their white, dead faces, the dried blood pools below their cheeks, and hair matted with brain tissue and bone fragments...They could whistle up the removals company; there were people who did discreet business for them. They could have him loaded within twenty-four hours, gone, lost.

Fenton jabbed his finger at Perry. "You won't get the sources from me, but I can tell you they have given this matter -- your life, your death -- a very considerable priority. Are you listening?"

"I am not leaving my home."

"They are starting on a journey. We don't know when they began it, could be a couple of weeks ago. For them, Mr. Perry, it is a long road, but you can be certain that at the end of it you are their target..."


The dhow had brought dried fish and cotton bales across the Gulf. The cargo for the return journey was boxes of dates, packaged videocassette recorders and television sets from the Abu Dhabi warehouses, cooking spices bought from Indian traders, and the man. The dhow's large sail was furled, and it was driven by a powerful engine. The man was the important cargo and the engine was at full throttle. He sat alone at the bow and stared down into the foaming water below. The previous night, each of the five crewmen had seen him come aboard in the darkness, slipping silently down the quayside ladder. Only the boat's owner had spoken with him, then immediately given the order for the ropes to be cast off, the engine to be started. He had been left alone since the start of the journey. The call to his mobile telephone had come just after the crewmen had seen him lean forward and peer down to watch the dark shape of a shark, large enough to take a man, swimming under the bow wave before it dived.

None of the crew approached him except to offer him a plastic bottle of water and a bag of dried dates. Then the man had lifted his face. The scarred redness around his eyes, the upper part of his cheeks, and his forehead were raw. The crewmen, swabbing the deck, stowing ropes, taking turns at the wheel, understood: he had come through the stinging ferocity of a sandstorm. He had talked quietly into his telephone and none of them could hear his words in the several minutes the call had taken. It would be late afternoon before he would see the raised outline of the city's buildings, the mosque minarets, and the angled, idle cranes of the port. They did not know his name, but they could recognize his importance because they had sailed with their hold half empty, at night, to bring him home.

He wore the torn, dirtied clothes of a tribesman, he smelt of camels' filth, but the crewmen and the owner -- simple, devout men who had sailed through the worst gale storms of the Gulf waters -- would have said that they held this quiet man in fear.

Later, when they had a good view of the buildings, minarets, and cranes of Bandar Abbas, a fast speedboat of the pasdaran intercepted them, took him off, and ferried him towards the closed military section of the port used by the Revolutionary Guards. They felt then as if a chill winter shadow was no longer on their dhow, and they tried to forget his face, his eyes.


"The last time I did what I was told to do."

"For your own good. You were sensible, Mr. Perry."

"I had only two suitcases of clothes. I even cleared out the dirty washing from the bathroom basket and took that with me."

"Self-pity is always degrading."

"The men in bloody raincoats, they packed all my work papers, said I wouldn't need them again, said they'd lose them. Where did my work life go -- into a landfill?"

"Dredging history rarely helps."

"I had six hours to pack. The men in raincoats were crawling all through my house. My wife -- "

"As I understand, about to divorce you, and with a 'friend' to comfort her."

"There was my son. He's seventeen now. I haven't seen him since -- I don't know what exams he's passed and failed, where he's going, what he's doing..."

"Always better, Mr. Perry, not to sink into sentimentality."

"I had damn good friends there, never said good-bye, not to any of them, just walked away..."

"I don't recall from the file that you were under duress."

"It was a good company I worked for, but I wasn't allowed to clear my desk. The raincoats did that."

Fenton sneered. "The directors of that company were lucky, from what I've read, not to face a Customs and Excise prosecution, as you were lucky."

"You bastard!"

"Obscenities, Mr. Perry, in my experience are seldom substitutes for common sense."

"I gave up everything!"

"Life, my friend, is not merely a photograph album to be pulled out each Christmas Day for the relations to gawp at. Little to be gained from wallowing in the past. Life is for living. Your choice -- move on and live, or stay and write your own funeral service. That's the truth, Mr. Perry, and the truth should be faced."

The rain was heavier outside, beating a drumroll on the windowpanes. The darkening cloud came out of the east, off the sea. Geoff Markham stayed by the door. He could have reached beside him to switch on the lights to break the gloom, but he did not.

Markham knew his superior's performance was a disaster. He doubted Fenton had the sensitivity to appreciate the castration of a life -- Perry had run away from a wife who no longer loved him, a son, friends and neighbors, even his office, the banter and excitement of the sales section, everything that was past. Frank Perry was a damned ordinary name. If there had been six hours for him to quit his house, then the time allotted to choosing a new name would have been about three short minutes. Maybe the raincoats had saddled him with it.

Perry had turned back to the window, and Fenton paced as if he did not know what else to say...Markham wondered whether Perry had gone, a year or two later, to watch a school gate from the far side of the street, to see the boy come out from school, a leggy youth with his shirt hanging out, his tie loosened. Maybe the kid would have been alone, still traumatized from his father's disappearance. The raincoats would have told him that kids couldn't handle secrets, that they blabbed, that he endangered himself and the kid if he made contact...They would have tracked Frank Perry's former footsteps, his onetime life, until they were convinced that the trail was broken. Fenton wouldn't have understood.

"You have to face facts, and facts dictate that you move on."

"And my new home, new family, new life, new friends?"

"Start again."

"Dump my new home, put my new family through the hoop?"

"They'll cope. There's no alternative."

"And in a year, or three years, do it all again? And again after that, and again. Do it forever -- peer over my shoulder, wetting myself, keeping the bags packed. Is that a life worth living?"

"It's what you've got, Mr. Perry." Fenton rubbed his fingernail against the brush of his mustache. Despite the gloom, Markham could see the flush on his superior's cheeks. He didn't think Fenton was an evil man or a bully, just insensitive...He'd do a memo -- they liked memos back at Thames House -- to Administration, on the need for counseling courses in sensitivity. They could set up a sensitivity subcommittee and they could call in outside consul-tants. There could be a paper -- "Sensitivity (Dealing with Obstinate, Bloody-Minded, Pigheaded ?Ordinary' Members of the Public)." There could be two-day courses in sensitivity for all senior executive officers.

Fenton beat a path between the toys and the embroidery.

"I won't do it."

"You're a fool, Mr. Perry."

"It's your privilege to say so, but I'm not going to run, not again."

Fenton picked up his coat from the arm of a chair and shrugged himself into it, covered his neatly combed hair with his hat. Geoff Markham turned and quietly opened the living room door.

Fenton's voice was raised. "I hope it's what you want, but we're going into an area of unpredictability..."


It would be in the third week of its migration. The bird would have left its sub-Saharan wintering grounds around twenty days earlier, have stored weight, strength, and fat in the wetlands of Senegal or Mauretania. It would have rested that last night in the southern extreme of the Charente-Maritime, and hunted at dawn.

He sold insurance for a Paris-based company -- annuities, fire and theft, household and motor, life and accident policies -- in a quadrangle of territory between La Rochelle in the north, Rochefort in the south, Niort and Cognac in the east. The trade to be gained at a weekend, when clients were at home and not tired, was the most fruitful, but in March and October he never worked weekends. Instead, early in the morning, he left his home at Loulay with his liver white spaniel and drove a dozen kilometers into the winter-flooded marshland of the Charente-Maritime. In the boot of his car was his most prized possession: an Armi Bettinsoli over-and-under shotgun. Every Saturday and Sunday morning, in the early spring and the late autumn, he parked his car and carried the shotgun, wrapped in sacking, a kilometer away. His sport, as practiced by his father and grandfather, was now opposed by the city bastards who claimed to protect the birds. It was necessary to be covert, to move after each shot, because the bastards looked for men enjoying legal sport, to interfere. In the remaining months, he shot pheasants, partridges, rabbits, and foxes, but the sport he craved was in March, when the birds migrated north, and October, when they returned south to escape the winter.

That Sunday morning in late March, he saw the bird first as a speck and swung his binoculars up from his chest to make the distant identification. He had already fired and moved twice that morning. The dog had retrieved a swallow crushed by the weight of shot and a spotted redshank, which had been alive. He had twisted its neck.

The swallows flew in tight, fast groups and were easy to down. The spotted redshanks came in clusters and were not too difficult to shoot. But the bird coming now, from the south, low over the reed beds, was a true target for a marksman. He knew the markings of the harrier, could recognize them with his binoculars at half a kilometer's distance. It was a worthy target: those birds always flew singly, low, at near to fifty kilometers per hour, a ground speed of 140 meters in ten seconds. A marsh harrier would pay for his weekend's cartridges: his friend Pierre, the amateur taxidermist, always paid well for a raptor, and top price for a marsh harrier. He crouched, his breath coming in short spurts. The bird had such good sight, but he was low down and hidden by the marsh fronds.

He rose and aimed. The bird was straight ahead and would pass directly over him. He could see the ginger-capped crown of the bird and the ruff at its neck. It would be a juvenile, but it had fed well in the African winter. He fired. For a moment the bird dipped, bucked, then fell. The dog bounded forward, splashing into the marsh water. He fired the second barrel and shouted, urging the dog forward into the wall of reeds. He was still reloading when the bird came past him, within five meters. Its flight was level to his head, and then it was past. It had a labored, fractured flight; the wings beat unevenly. His hands shook and a cartridge dropped from his fingers into the water. He howled in frustration. When the gun was loaded and the dog was back beside him, he swung. The bird was beyond range but he heard its scream. He watched it for a long time with his eye, then with the binoculars. It went north, for La Rochelle. If it had the strength, it would pass by the estuary at Nantes and the river at Rennes, then reach the Channel coast. He thought his pellets had hit the muscle, ligament, or tendons in the wing, but not the bone: bone fracture would have brought it down. From the look of it, the bird would not survive a crossing of the Channel to an English landfall.


They were crowded in the hallway, pressed close together against hanging coats. The family's boots were scattered on the tiled floor. There were tennis rackets in the corner, a bright plastic beach bucket and spade, a chaos of stones from the shore. It was the same comforting clutter that Geoff Markham knew from his own parents' home.

Perry reached past them and pulled the door open. There was an old bolt on it and a new lock. Geoff Markham shuddered -- in Belfast the psychopaths had sledgehammered through doors to do their killing.

Fenton tried a last time. "Is it that you're frightened of telling her?"

"Who? What?"

"Frightened of telling your wife what you did. Is that the problem?"

"They never told me what I'd done. Said it was better I didn't know."

"She doesn't know about before?"

"She didn't need to know."

"Lived with the secret, did you? Festering, is it?"

"Get out."

"My advice, Mr. Perry, is to come clean with her, then fall into line."

"Tell them, back where you came from, no."

"So much better, Mr. Perry, if you'd had the guts to be honest with your wife. Isn't she just common-law?"

Fenton was on his way to the gate when his feet slipped on the wet brick of the path. He stumbled and cursed.

Geoff Markham was going after him when his sleeve was grabbed. The rain ran on Perry's face. He hissed, "This is mine. It's all I have. I'm not running again. Tell them that. This is my home, where I live with the woman I love. I am among friends -- true, good friends. I won't spend the rest of my life hiding, a rat in a hole. This is where I stand, with my woman and my friends...Do you know what it's like to be alone and running? They don't stay with you, the raincoats, did you know that? With you for a week, ten days, then gone. A contact telephone number for a month, then discontinued. You are so bloody alone. Tell them, whoever sent you, that I'm sorry if it's not convenient but I won't run again."

Fenton was at the car, crouched behind it to protect himself from the rain. Markham reached it and opened the door for his superior.

He looked back. Perry's door was already shut.

Copyright © 1999 by Gerald Seymour

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