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The elevator door slid open at the first floor, Mullin hastened ahead to hold the outer glass door for her, and they walked into the sticky heat of a July afternoon. The unmarked police car was parked at the curb, next to the No Parking sign, with a second man at the wheel. Mrs. Pollifax was no sooner seated, with Mullin beside her, when the driver's foot hit the accelerator, a hidden siren began to scream, and Mrs. Pollifax, clinging to her flowered hat, was startled into delight. How marvelous to be involved in so much haste, she thought, and was not even dismayed when she found herself suddenly gazing into the eyes of her astonished pastor, who barely escaped the racing car by jumping back to the curb. "C'est la vie," she called out gaily, fluttering her hand at him, and then they were leaving the city behind, cars scattering to right and left at the sound of the siren. Moments later they entered the gates of the small local airport. The police car bounced across the field and came to a screaming halt in front of a helicopter whose blades were already beating the air. Mrs. Pollifax, clinging desperately to her hat now, was boosted into the copter, and almost before she had reworked her hatpins the helicopter was landing at a very busy and much larger airfield.
They appeared to be expected: a man in a wrinkled beige suit left a waiting car and raced toward them. "Mrs. Pollifax?" he shouted up at her.
"Yes," she screamed back, and was dropped from the cockpit into his arms.
"Over here," he said, grasping her elbow. "They're holding the plane. Jamison's my name."
"Yes, but where am I going?" she gasped.
"Later." He hurried her into the car,which immediately tore off with a squeal of tires.
"Then where am I now?" demanded Mrs. Pollifax.
"Kennedy International," he told her. "You did very well time-wise, but that plane over there is waiting just for us and they've already held up the flight five minutes."
"Flight for where?" asked Mrs. Pollifax again.
"Washington. Carstairs wants to brief you personally before you leave the country."
So she was to leave the country; Mrs. Pollifax felt that shiver of the irrevocable again, of forces in motion that could no longer be halted, and then the reaction passed as swiftly as it had arrived. The car stopped, the door was thrown open and Mrs. Pollifax was hurried up steps and into the plane, where she and Jamison were belted into their seats at once. Before Mrs. Pollifax had sufficiently caught her breath they were landing again.
"Dulles Airport," contributed Jamison with authority, and once they had reached the terminal he guided her through the building to the parking area. "Here we are," he said, pointing to a long black limousine, and from it emerged Carstairs, tall, thin, his shock of crew-cut hair pure white against his tanned face.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Pollifax," he said gravely, as if they had met only yesterday and she had not been spirited to his side in less than an hour.
"I'm delighted to see you," said Mrs. Pollifax, clasping his hand warmly. "It's seemed such a long time. How have things been going?"
Carstairs said cheerfully, "Abominably, as always." He gestured toward a stolid-looking young man in a dark suit and black tie. "I'd like you to meet Henry Miles first."
"How do you do," said Mrs. Pollifax politely.
"Henry is going to be traveling behind you but not with you, and it's important you know what the other looks like."
"Behind me?" echoed Mrs. Pollifax as they shook hands.
"He's keeping an eye on you," explained Carstairs, and added with a faint smile, "This time I'm taking no chances with you. All right, Jamison, take Henry off to seat 22 and make sure that plane doesn't get away!" To Mrs. Pollifax he said, "You're about to depart for the Near East. Come and sit in my car, we've only fifteen minutes in which to talk."