Cotton Malone stepped up to the Customs window at Heathrow Airport and presented two passports—his own and his son Gary’s. Positioned between himself and the glass-enclosed counter, however, stood a problem.
Fifteen-year-old Ian Dunne.
“This one doesn’t have a passport,” he told the attendant, then explained who he was and what he was doing. A brief call to somebody led to verbal approval for Ian to reenter the country.
Which didn’t surprise Malone.
He assumed that since the Central Intelligence Agency wanted the boy in England they’d make the necessary arrangements.
He was tired from the long flight, though he’d caught a few hours of sleep. His knee still hurt from the kick Ian had delivered in Atlanta, before trying to flee from that airport. Luckily, his own fifteen-year-old, Gary, had been quick to tackle the pesky Scot before he’d escaped the concourse.
Favors for friends.
Always a problem.
This one for his former boss, Stephanie Nelle, at the Magellan Billet.
It’s the CIA, she’d told him. Langley had called directly. Somehow they were aware Malone was in Georgia and wanted him to escort the boy back to London, handing him over to the Metropolitan Police. After that he and Gary could head on to Copenhagen. In return, they’d received first-class tickets all the way home to Denmark.
Not bad. His own were coach.
Four days ago he’d flown to Georgia for two reasons. The State Bar of Georgia required twelve hours of continuing legal education from all of its licensed lawyers. Though he’d retired from the navy and the Magellan Billet, he still kept his law license active, which meant he had to satisfy the annual education mandate. Last year he’d attended a sanctioned event in Brussels, a three-day meeting on multinational property rights. This year he’d chosen a seminar in Atlanta on international law. Not the most exciting way to spend two days, but he’d worked too hard for that degree to simply allow his ticket to lapse.
The second reason was personal.
Gary had asked to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with him. School was out and his ex-wife, Pam, thought an overseas trip a good idea. He’d wondered why she was so reticent, and found out last week when Pam called his bookshop in Copenhagen.
“Gary’s angry,” she said. “He’s asking a lot of questions.”
“Ones you don’t want to answer?”
“Ones I’m going to have a tough time answering.”
Which was an understatement. Six months ago she’d revealed a harsh truth to him during another call from Atlanta to Denmark. Gary was not his natural son. Instead, the boy was the product of an affair some sixteen years past.
Now she’d told Gary that truth, and his son was not happy. For Malone, the news had been crushing. He could only imagine what it had been for Gary.