scraped dis-colouration on the left cheek.

'Where he fell they were all body shots that took him.'

Erlich lifted the sheet further and studied the two gaping exit wounds.

' W h o was he?'

The Station Officer said, 'Dissident, Iraqi. Price on his life, living in Damascus. Harry had met him before. The guy was back in town, rang Harry. Harry liked to pump him… '

He laid the sheet back over the face. He skirted the two stretchers, then raised the sheet of the second.

He swallowed back the bile in his throat.

It would have been a back-of-the-head shot. A low-velocity round tumbling against the toughness of the skull bone.

The exit was a mess where the eyes and nose of his friend had been.

The mouth was what he would remember. Where the laughter was, where the good cracks were. Only the mouth told him that he looked on the face of his friend.

The Station Officer said, 'There are six wounds on the joker

– Harry just took the one.'

'Which means?'

Erlich knew the answer.

The Station Officer said, 'Almost certainly it means, wrong place, wrong time.'

'Makes my day.'

' H e wasn't the target, just in the way.'

' T h e Iraqis do their own people…?'

'When they step out of line, sure, why not?'

Erlich drew the sheet back over his friend's wretched face.

He would get autopsy details later. He didn't need more time in this chilled room. From what he had seen he estimated that the low-velocity rounds had been fired at a maximum of a dozen paces. It probably didn't matter whether his calculations were right or wild. A good man and his good friend was dead.

' A s long as I am allowed to, I will follow this, Elsa. That is my most solemn guarantee, no backing off. If it takes a month, a year, ten years… Elsa, I promise.'

His friend's wife sat on the sofa. The two kids were against her, one on each side, and she had her small and narrow arms round her kids' shoulders and she pulled them to her.

It was five months since he had last seen her, since he had last been in Athens. Barbecue time late on a Sunday night on the balcony, and another Embassy staffer from the floor above leaning over his parapet and complaining about the smoke. She might have understood him, and she might not. She wasn't a pretty woman, but to Erlich's eye she was about the best there could be. Okay, so he didn't have a wife of his own – but of the wives of the men he knew, Elsa Lawrence was the first in line. She had been weeping, he could see that, but there was no chance that she would cry now because the apartment was filled with Agency staff, four men moving through the small apartment, packing the family's belongings. In the fifteen minutes Erlich had been there, not one of the men had come to Elsa to ask her what case which clothes should go in. They were shadow walkers, emerging every few moments with a suitcase, bulging, from one of the bedrooms, stacking it in the cramped hallway.

' A s long as it takes, Elsa.'

She took her arms away from round her kids' shoulders and held them out for him.

Erlich came close to her, kneeling on the rug he knew that Harry had brought back from a fast run to Beirut. Her arms were round his neck. He kissed her cheek. He could feel the wetness of his own tears.

He broke away. When he looked back he could see that once more she hugged her children to her. In the hall the Station Officer said, 'Good talk, fighting talk.'

'Not a lot else to say.'

'You're paid to do a job.'

' Yes. '

' Not to play Victim Counsellor.'

' Yes. '

' The same job whether you knew him or didn't.'

' Taken. '

'How many shots?'

'Twelve cartridge cases, seven hits.'

' How many weapons?'

'One weapon. Pistol,. 22 calibre, with silencer. A professional's.'

' And are you sure that Harry Lawrence was not the target?'

'That's the way it looks.'

Erlich wrote it all down in a pocket notebook, longhand. The policeman sipped coffee. He was not welcome, Erlich knew that.

He could hardly have been welcome, because when he had entered the senior police officer's room it had been with two aides trying to keep him out by every manoeuvre other than manhandling him. He'd got there, and he was staying… He hadn't been offered coffee.

' D o you have any evidence on which to base this supposition?'

' T h e aim of the shots.'

' D o you have an eyewitness?'

The grating of the cup on the saucer. A pause. The snapping of a cigarette lighter.

'That is a very straightforward question, sir.'

' Yes, Mr Erlich, I have an eyewitness.'

'Who saw it all?'

' So I understand, yes.'

' May I talk to the eyewitness?'

'Probably – at a suitable time.'

' Is tomorrow suitable?'

' I cannot say… '

Again, a pause. The smoke curled between them, eddied to Erlich's face. A telephone rang in an outer office. The policeman glanced upwards as if he hoped that the phone would give him an excuse to get rid of this intruder.

'Well, sir, what do you have?'

'What do I have? Put simply, Mr Erlich, I have an intelligence agent of a foreign country going about his activities without informing the local authorities of his work… Do you think, Mr Erlich, that if I went to your Embassy to request a detailed briefing concerning the work in my country of Mr Harry Lawrence, Central Intelligence Agency, that I would be shown anything, other than the door…?'

' You have the hit car?'

'Burned out, no help.'

A welling frustration.

'We're on the same side.' The last time he had been in Athens, when the group that called themselves 'November 1 7 t h ' had hit the Procter amp; Gamble offices with an anti-tank rocket, he had not been admitted to the presence of this big man. The warhead had not detonated, there had been no casualties. He hadn't been welcome then, wasn't welcome now, but he hadn't pushed his luck as hard when the target had been a corporation and no casualties, as when the target had been an American government servant, dead.

'Are we, Mr Erlich?'

'What do you have?'

'Lawrence and his contact walking in a quiet street. An Opel Rekord, stolen three days earlier in the Piraeus, pulls up 20 yards behind them. One man out, Caucasian, blond short hair. The contact shot. Lawrence blunders into the path of the bullets, is hit..


'Caucasian, Mr Erlich, white.'

'IN that it?'

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