Read an Excerpt
A Clifford Driscoll Mystery
By William L. DeAndrea
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 1985 William L. DeAndrea
All rights reserved.
He felt better once they started trying to kill him.
It settled a lot of things he'd been wondering about. It told him they had a long reach and it told him they were efficient to have caught up with him so quickly. It told him they were very thorough, and very smart, because as far as the young man with the suitcase could tell, they had every reason to believe they'd already killed Jeffrey Bellman. Two weeks ago, on Christmas day, in a deserted parking lot outside a holiday-empty shopping mall in the State of Maryland, just outside Washington.
Which, in a way, they had.
He didn't know yet if the men with the guns thought they were after the old Bellman or the new one. He didn't know if they were the same men who'd done such a good job back in the States. He didn't know who they were, or who was behind them.
If he got out of this alive, he'd take some time to worry about it.
The new Jeffrey Bellman could have taken the Concorde from Washington—he was on an unlimited expense account, and the Congressman could have arranged a seat in minutes—but Bellman preferred to travel on a British Airways 747. It was less obtrusive, for one thing. When you stake yourself out as bait, it doesn't pay to be too obvious about it. Make them work, see how keen they are to find you, how smart they are at it. He also preferred the slower trip because he wanted time to think. He wanted to see if he could find any excuse for having put himself in this mess. He was here because a dying man croaked two words—"Leo Calvin." And there was no way he could afford to ignore that.
Less than eighteen months ago he'd been in a position to walk out on his father, walk out on the Agency for good, and make it stick. Now he was back in it, up to his neck. Jeffrey Bellman's neck. The replacement for the smashed throat of the man who'd been found in the parking lot. That neck.
Because he wasn't Jeffrey Bellman, any more than the agent who'd been wearing the name when he died. He wasn't Bellman, just as he hadn't been Harry Dekker, or Clifford Driscoll, or any of the two dozen or so other names people had known him by during the last thirteen years.
It occurred to him just after the plane took off that outside the Agency, he wasn't anybody. That had been enough thinking on that subject. He spent the rest of the trip looking out the window at the tops of clouds glowing in the wing lights. The plane had been hours delayed taking off—one of those sudden winter blizzards that sweep through Washington—and Bellman could have used the sleep, but he denied himself the luxury. He wouldn't sleep in the presence of another human being. Too dangerous. If they're going to take you, let them take you with your eyes open.
It was late when he landed in London, so late all the airport shops had closed. Aside from his fellow passengers, the only people around were airport staff—sweepers, customs officers, chars.
The red-faced man behind the desk at Passport Control seemed glad of the company. He took Bellman's passport, looked at it, decided it was genuine. It was arguable whether it was or not. It came from the United States Government, but the State Department didn't know anything about it, and wouldn't unless somebody got interested enough in Jeffrey Bellman to check back that far. The Congressman would hear about it in ample time, and take steps.
It shouldn't come to that, though, Bellman thought. The photo matches the printed description, and they both match my face—age 31, hair brown, eyes blue. The eyes were a legacy from the previous Jeffrey Bellman; in the interest of continuity the current one had been fitted with extended-wear blue lenses. He was supposed to take them out every two weeks to clean them. He hoped it would be less than two weeks before he could finish this assignment (whatever it turned out to be), junk the lenses, and go back to his own horn-rims over his own feeble brown eyes.
The signature matched the one on the card he'd signed on the plane. The red-faced man gave the passport and the card a quick expert glance as he made small talk.
"How long do you plan to stay in the United Kingdom, Mr. Bellman?"
"Not entirely sure. About two weeks." Bellman risked a sheepish grin. "Want to be back in the States in time for the Super Bowl."
"It's on telly here, you know, if you can't get back in time."
"Live?" Bellman knew all about it. He supposed he was doing this for practice.
"Yes. On Channel Four. It'll be in the papers."
"Thanks," Bellman said. "Thanks a lot."
"My pleasure," the official said grandly. "Purpose of visit?"
"I see. Terrible weather for a holiday, isn't it?"
"Better than what I left in Washington."
"All right, sir," he said. He stamped the passport and the card. "You've a visa for six months. Enjoy your stay."
Bellman smiled, nodded, moved on. He heard the red-faced man start his spiel to the lady who'd been behind him in line. He went downstairs, picked up his suitcase, got waved through Customs (they were only stopping Asians, apparently), and came out into the concourse of Terminal Three. He'd been told someone would meet him, but there was no one there to meet anyone. Just sweepers and chars.
A mixup. They happened. British Intelligence probably had someone waiting for him to get off a British Caledonian flight down at Gatwick. He had a telephone number he could ring to check, but he could do that from his hotel.
He considered taking a cab, but decided against it. He was back in London after a long absence—he might as well reacquaint himself with the public transportation. He had made a promise to himself long ago that the first thing he'd do whenever he got to a new town would be to learn all the different ways to leave if it became necessary.
Bellman looked at his watch. Twelve o'clock. If he hurried, he could make the tube into town before it closed down for the night. He picked up his suitcase, shrugged his shoulders more comfortably into his overcoat, and walked briskly to the escalator outside Terminal Two, where he could get the moving walkway to the entrance of the London Underground.
The in-flight magazine had called it Alphabet Way. It was a long corridor, not brightly lit, with a ceiling that looked low because the hallway was so wide. Along each wall was a moving strip of black rubber, about six feet wide. Only one of them was going at the moment, the one on the left. Bellman was grateful for the small break—it was the one he needed. The other was closed down for maintenance work, and two guys in overalls—one with a blond crew cut and an earring, and a dark-skinned fellow with a long beard and a turban—were working on it in the dim light.
Bellman hopped on the walkway, and added his own best speed to that of the strip. He compared alphabets as he went. To his left, the wall was decorated with the names of cities around the world (... Lisbon ... Manila ... New York ...); across the corridor was an alphabetical list of cities in Britain (... Leeds ... Manchester ... Neasden). Bellman made a mental note to find out what British city with an airport in it began with X, but never followed through.
The first bullet dotted the "I" in Manila. The second hit the rim of the crater made by the first one. The silenced guns sounded like basenjis. They yipped twice more, but Bellman didn't see where they landed. His father hadn't spent all those years training him for nothing—with the first impact, he hit the deck.
Unfortunately, the deck was moving him along rapidly to the end of the walkway. Bellman could hear running footsteps. One of the maintenance men was running to meet him. Bellman was beginning to feel like a carcass on a slaughterhouse conveyor.
All right. He'd been waiting for them to try it. He just hadn't figured on their being so good.
Bellman had no gun. There are ways of getting guns past airport security, but none of them is foolproof except taking the weapons through under diplomatic seal. Bellman wasn't posing as a diplomat this trip, so that was out. His hosts were supposed to arm him on his arrival if they thought he needed it.
Well, by God, I need it, he thought. I just don't have it.
By now his brain was making it clear to him what he was up against. If he followed his first instinct, and got to his feet, his head was bound to pop up above the metal handrail like a duck in a shooting gallery. If he managed to avoid that, and stay in a crouch, he was still moving rapidly toward grief in the person of the man (his footsteps had passed Bellman now) running to head him off. Running the other way was out of the question. Running against the motion of the pedway, especially in a crouch, would put him in the same boat with Alice and the Red Queen—it would take all the running he could do to stay in the same place. All attempting it would gain him would be the privilege of being shot in the back instead of in the belly.
He could, of course, get up and jump clean over the barrier, but that was worse than useless. He'd be naked to their guns, and dead in ten seconds. Or less.
Bellman wasted a split-second being angry at himself for not sleeping on the plane. If he'd gotten a little rest, he might have been more alert.
Above him the alphabet sped by. Paris ... Quito ... Last stop, hell, thank you for flying British Airways.
Bellman shook it off and forced himself to think. He almost laughed when he realized he had a chance. Not much of a chance. Just enough to keep him scrambling, to pass his last few moments in action rather than in resignation and fear.
Bellman threw out his arms and legs like a starfish, pressing against the wall and the barrier, trying to stop himself. He was slowing down a little, but he was still sliding ... Rio de Janeiro ... Singapore ... Bellman was beginning to wish he was a starfish, with suckers to stick him in place. A seam in the smooth metal of the barrier tore most of the nail off the ring finger of his right hand as he went by. It hurt like mad, but it gave him an idea.
He'd been doing this the wrong way. He pulled arms and legs in, then rolled and twisted until his body was alongside the barrier. When he came to the next seam he got as good a grip as he could with his fingernails and pressed the toes of his shoes against the next one. It brought him to a precarious stop under the "E" of Singapore, caused as much by tension and balance of forces as any actual grip he had on the metal.
He could feel heat building up on his right shoulder and hip from friction with the walkway. He felt a thump on his back that almost jarred him loose. His suitcase had finally caught up with him—he'd thrown it backward when he dropped.
Bellman didn't want to risk changing his position, but he had to. Carefully, he took the toe of his left shoe away from the crack, then raised and drew back his left leg and kicked the barrier.
Too soft. He'd hardly made any noise at all. The idea was to kick the metal with his top leg hard enough to advertise his presence without jarring his right leg loose from its nearly nonexistent toehold.
He tried again, producing a fairly respectable thump, then again, a little harder, then over and over, rhythmically. He was trying to make it sound as if he'd gotten tangled in the machinery.
Now he needed luck. A lot of it. The only thing he had going for him was the fact that his playmates couldn't know he wasn't armed. Otherwise, the man at the end of the walkway could simply step around the barrier and shoot Bellman at leisure. Bellman hoped he'd remain prudent, and wait at the end in ambush.
He also hoped the other one would get curious at the thumping and come peek over the barrier to see what was what. He might do that anyway when Bellman failed to appear anytime soon after his suitcase, but the thumping was to tell the man where to look. He had to be where Bellman could grab him, smash his throat, take his gun, and deal with the one at the end, or all this effort, to say nothing of blisters and broken nails, would be for nothing.
It eventually worked. Unfortunately, the wrong one got curious. Looking down the pedway past his feet, Bellman saw one of his playmates appear. It was the Sikh. A beautiful white grin appeared in the middle of his beard. Bellman saw the gun go up.
Then a strange thing happened. The smile disappeared, and the gun kept rising, as though the man were taking aim at something past Bellman, something unexpected.
A witness, Bellman thought. Some poor slob has wandered by, and he dies first.
Bellman winced as he heard the shot. He waited for the next one, the one he'd never hear.
Then he realized he shouldn't have heard the first one. At least not as a sharp crack. These guys were using silencers.
He looked again to the end of the pedway. The bearded man was down, his turban caught in the meshes of the moving sidewalk, twisting his head around at painful-looking angles. His gun kept bumping into his outstretched fingers, then bouncing away.
Bellman got to his feet. An angry voice said, "Stay down!" A woman's voice. Bellman crouched and looked back up the walkway to the source of the sound.
What appeared to be a Typical Young British Housewife was crouched below the barrier back at about Djakarta. She wore a plaid skirt, a light-colored wool sweater, a short coat, boots, and a dark scarf over shiny hair. Colors were hard to make out in the dim light. She had an American-made Colt .38 calibre short-nosed police special in her hand.
Bellman reached Zanzibar. He scooped up the Sikh's gun just before the pedway dumped him off, jumped over the body, and hid where the barrier ended. He looked around.
The crew cut was coming to check out the strange happenings behind the barrier. Better late than never, Bellman thought.
"Over here," Bellman said. He stepped out from behind the barrier. The crew cut whirled on him. He snapped off a shot that missed.
Bellman smiled. He didn't know he did that when he aimed a gun. In back of his target, though, the woman rose up from behind the barrier. She held the gun in two hands, like a professional. She fired it that way too. The maintenance man pitched forward on his nose. Blood oozed out from under his face, and a second later from under his chest.
The woman was clambering over the barrier, and having a little trouble because of her high boots. Bellman decided it would only be gallant to help her.
He took her by the arm and got her over the barrier. Even through coat and sweater he could feel strong muscles.
"Thank you," she said, safe on a floor that didn't move.
"Thank you," Bellman said.
"Are they dead?"
"They will be soon. If we want to clean up anything here, we'd better start moving."
"That won't be necessary. This gun is traceable to the IRA."
She had a West Country accent, the kind Long John Silver had in the movies. In her low, sweet voice, it was charming. "If you'd come along with me ...?"
"Sure," Bellman said. "Who are you?"
Right, Bellman thought, and mine's Bond. James Bond.
"And you are Mr. Bellman," she said. He gave her the password for the week and proved it. She not only gave him the countersign ("green lilacs"), she showed him credentials that would have embarrassed British Intelligence if the maintenance men had won that particular scrum.
But then, saving some important BI people from embarrassment was what his trip was all about.
"Let's go," he said.
"Just a second," Felicity Grace said. She picked up the other gun. "You can keep the one you've got if you like," she said, then led the way out to her car.
Excerpted from Snark by William L. DeAndrea. Copyright © 1985 William L. DeAndrea. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
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