When they left, they hung on the outside door handle the notice requesting that the occupant not be disturbed.

By 9.30 in the morning when the director general of the specialised engineering firm of Ital/Int had waited in the hotel lobby for 75 minutes, when his patience was exhausted, he demanded of the hotel management that they should go themselves to find why his calls to the room went unanswered.

At 9.30 that morning, as the hotel room door was opened with a pass key, the briefcase was secreted in a diplomatic bag that rested on the knee of a courier. The courier sat in first class, the bag discreetly chained to his wrist, and the flight had been airborne for 19 minutes.

Few in the city cared that Zulfiqar Khan, aged 39, resident of Baghdad, Republic of Iraq, last seen in the company of a woman presumed to be a prostitute, had been put to death. Fewer still would understand that a sovereign government had, at prime-ministerial level, sanctioned his killing in cold blood.


At the end of the road a boy was doing good business from the refrigerated box mounted over the front wheel of his bicycle. A crowd of 40, perhaps 50, had gathered to watch the coming and going of the police and the counter-terrorism team. They stood quietly in the light rain, and more than half of them sucked at their ice creams.

The road that was blocked off was residential. There were good-sized villas hidden behind high whitewashed walls. There was the barking of guard dogs. It was the sort of road where the pick of the surgeons and lawyers and import-export dealers made their homes. Erlich paid off his taxi. He reckoned the boy had doubled the price for his ice cream because he was up at the smart end of town, not plying his usual pitch at the bottom of the Acropolis. Beside the boy an argument was developing between an overweight policeman and the auburn-haired girl who had parked her florist's truck across the end of the road. Erlich could see why she wanted to deliver her flowers. He reckoned the armful of red roses would have cost the policeman his week's wages. The girl held her head high. Her shoulders were back.

Erlich didn't understand much Greek but he got her drift.

Eventually the policeman was prepared to lose face. He stepped aside and the auburn-haired girl strode forward into the empty road carrying the roses loosely in her arm. Erlich shouldered his way through the crowd and went after her.

The policeman shuffled into his path.

Erlich said quietly, ' F. B. I., excuse me, please.'

He kept on walking. He doubted that the policeman had understood a word he had said. Perhaps the policeman had looked into Erlich's face and calculated that if he had not stood aside then he might just have ended up on his back. He stepped back and saluted. Erlich smiled and walked past the policeman, a dozen strides, into the centre of the road.

He had known Harry Lawrence since the fall of '88. There were not many in the Agency that he would call a true friend. He had thought of Harry all the way out of Rome to Leonardo da Vinci, all the time that he had stood in the check-in line, all the time he had sat on the Alitalia, all the time he had stood at Customs and Immigration at Athens International, all the time in the taxi out to the Kifisia suburb. If the policeman had stopped him getting close to where Harry had been shot to death then Erlich might just have punched him. He stood still, absorbing every detail of the street. Best done at the very start of an investigation.

' Y o u poor old son of a bitch, Harry.'

A hundred yards down on the other side of the road a knot of men were gathered. The girl with the flowers stopped, looked across at the men, then turned into a front drive and was gone from sight.

It would have been a pretty road in spring, with the blossom on the trees that lined it. The leaves were down now. He knew very little of what had happened, had been out of touch since the first report had reached the Embassy in Rome and he had started running. They always sent a Fed when an American citizen was killed, and the Rome office covered Athens.

The men grouped together ahead of him were hunched against the drizzle. Erlich recognised from his balding head Harry's Station Chief. If that was where Harry had died, there should have been a big area quarantined off with tape. There shouldn't have been a cattle herd of feet trampling over the grass.

Erlich walked forward. He reached the group.

The killing had been early in the morning. The Station Chief would have come from home because he wore no tie and he was draped in an old windbreaker, probably the first coat to hand on the pegs by his front door. Killings never came convenient. The Station Chief detached himself from the group. He took Erlich's hand, as if he were a priest, offering his condolences. The Station Chief would have known that Harry Lawrence and Bill Erlich were close, that their friendship crossed the divide of Agency man and Fed.

The Station Chief pointed between the trousered legs and the shoes of the Greek police and security officials. There was blood on the grass, thin darkened streaks. The pointing finger moved on, away from the grass and over towards the pavement.

On the pavement were two patches of blood.

The Station Chief said, 'Harry had a contact with him – they were both taken out… Good to have you here, Bill.'

He didn't have small talk, not his way. Erlich said, 'This is unbelievable.'

'It's their back-yard… '

'Has this place been cleaned up?'

'They got the cartridge cases…'

'What else?'

'I don't know what else… '

' Y o u happy with that?'

'Where was your Scene of Crime experience?'

'Atlanta, Georgia,' Erlich said.

'Listen here, Bill, this is sure as hell not Atlanta.'

' A n d you take that?'

The Station C h i e f s voice was low. ' W e are foreigners, we are far from home. What I know from long and painful experience is this: we kick them, they go mightily obstinate. The harder we kick, the less we get.'

'I hear you.'

There was the rattle of iron gates behind him. Erlich turned.

A woman came from the villa to which the girl had delivered the flowers. She wore a tailored two-piece grey suit and deli cate shoes, and there was a scarf over her hair that came from Dior, minimum, and she carried the red roses. She walked in the rain across the road and round the group of policemen, Erlich watched her. She went to the stained pavement, where the blood pools were washed by the rain spots. She knelt. Her eyes were closed, her lips moved. She crossed herself. The woman laid the roses on the pavement. She stood. For a moment she stared down at the stains and the roses, and then she walked away.

Erlich said softly, 'Thank you, ma'am.'

He didn't know whether she heard him, she gave no sign.

Erlich said to the Station Chief, ' I ' d like to see Harry.'

Bill had been enough times to a morgue. He knew what they looked like, what the procedures were. A body didn't change if it had been blasted with an automatic weapon in a robbery on Lenox Square or gunned down on a sidewalk in Athens. Morgues were the same, bodies were the same. He fancied that the section of the morgue in Atlanta that dealt with violent death was cleaner, but it would be cleaner, had to be, because it was busier. The attendants stood back to allow Erlich and the Station Chief to go on their own to the centre of the room where the two stretchers were parked on their wheeled bases, draped with green sheeting.

The harsh central neon light glared down onto the contours of the sheeting, and gouged back at Erlich's eyes from the white-tiled wall. He lifted the sheet nearer him.

A pale, sallow face. A neat, dark moustache. A half-crescent of recently cut hair set round a receding scalp. A

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