street was right. If the American hadn't gone then he had my face, and he had the car. He had to go… and he should have chosen his friends more carefully.'

At last the Colonel smiled, and there was the gravel growl of his chuckle. 'And you did nothing stupid in Athens…?'

' You taught me what to d o. '

'… Nothing Colt-like, nothing wild? What did you do, Colt?

No girls, no boasting?'

' Y o u taught me. I'm clean. It was a good street, Colonel.

There was an opportunity and I took it.'

' Y o u could not be identified?'

' I ' d go back, to Europe, because I know that I cannot be traced.'

The Colonel laid his broad hands on the young man's shoulders.

He looked into the calm of the face, into the clear eyes.

'It was well done, Colt.'

Amongst those few who knew Zulfiqar Khan, and what work he did, news of his killing spread fast. And with the news, fear.

In Paris, an engineering specialist in deep tunnelling in heavy rock strata, home on leave, made up his mind there and then to turn his back on the remaining two and a half years of his contract.

The tunnelling that the Frenchman was paid – and handsomely

– to supervise was off the road to Arbil, close to the village of Salahuddin, due north of Baghdad. The area so far excavated was the size of a football pitch, and deep enough for three levels of laboratories and workshops that would be concrete-lined. One more floor was required. The cavern was eminently suitable for the work intended for it. It was safe from air attack and shielded by the Karochooq mountain mass from satellite photography that would tell the siory of the purpose for which this rock cave was fashioned, News ol Dr Khan's murder had eddied amongst the foreign specialists on the project. By midday word had reached all the hard hat staffers. By late that night, two of those staffers were at Baghdad International airport. They had driven the two hundred miles from their Portacabin compound in the village of Salahuddin at high speed. They waited for the first flight out of Iraq on which there were seats. It might be to Jeddah, or to Karachi, or to Budapest.

At the airport was an Italian who specialised in the fitting of the argon gas filters necessary for the hot cell boxes. The Italian sat close to his friend on the front row of the plastic-coated seats, and studied every two, three, minutes the T. V. monitor that would announce the next flight out. The friend had an office in the same block at Tuwaithah. The friend, who was an engineer involved in the precision shaping of chemical explosive, had that morning received a letter bomb which by chance had failed to detonate. They had been at the airport for six hours, waiting for a flight, any flight out of Iraq, going anywhere.

Erlich was breaking the rules. A Fed on assignment overseas with the ranking of Assistant Legal Attache must always work through local law-enforcement agencies. Back at F. B. I. H. Q., where the book ran the show, they would have been climbing the walls in the Office of Liaison and International Affairs if they had known that he was out on his own. At the very least, he should have had a local policeman with him. At best, he should have been waiting until the morning and then politely requesting a desk and a telephone and an interpreter somewhere in the back reaches of their Counter-Terrorism building. But Erlich was his own man.

He had been his own man on the training run at Quantico and it had not been held against him there. And his own man in Atlanta, where his straight talking and his independence had won him his next posting. And his own man in the Washington Field Office, the CI-3 team, and putting in the longest hours and never a word of complaint, and that had won him the job in the Attache's office in Rome. It was not his intention that he would spend the rest of his life as a Special Agent. Ten years, he had set himself, to running a Field Office. Twenty years, he reckoned, to an Assistant Director's desk in Headquarters. It was a break, coming down to Athens, and a good break should be grabbed with both fists.

The sadness was that it came from the killing of Harry. The excitement was that it was a really brilliant break. Sadness and excitement, both already seeking their own compartments.

At the edge of his flashlight beam he could see the dampened flowers, flattened now by the steady fall of rain. He wasn't interested in an examination by torchlight of the exact spot where Harry Lawrence and the contact had fallen. He paced out an arc of twelve paces, looked for the killer's place. He could be very thorough

… A body on a garbage dump nine miles out west of Atlanta. Female, eighteen, black. Believed to be the victim of a serial killer, probably the fourth. She'd fought, her fists were bruised to show she'd fought, and there was nothing to work from.

Over to the right of the dump was a high tree, holding the storks' nests. Erlich, rookie Fed, had demanded of the local police that they get a man up there, up to the nests, that they get each of the nests down, that they sift each of the nests on the very long chance that the storks had lifted a fibre of torn clothing to bind a nest wall.

They'd done it, too, the police, and they'd found nothing…

After fifteen minutes he was crouched over tyre marks on the grass verge between the pavement and the road. Possibly the tyre threads of the Opel Rekord, that was burned through and useless for evidence prints.

After 40 minutes, on his hands and knees, peering into the-beam of his flashlight, he found the butt end of a small cigar. He had already found chewing-gum wrapping, sweet papers and cigarette filters faded by weather. The butt end of the cigar was fresh. Everything else he had collected he abandoned in the street drain. The butt end of the cigar was three paces from where the tyre treads were clearest, probably where the car had braked. He heard a shout.

He looked up. On the pavement opposite a small boy watched him. The shouting grew fiercer, and the gates opposite were thrown open. It was the woman who had put the flowers on the place where Harry Lawrence had died, and there was a small toy dog, a Pekinese, yapping by her ankles. The child went to her, reluctant to leave. The gates closed.

From his pocket, Erlich took a small plastic bag, and into it he dropped the cigar butt.

It was a beginning.

The wind came from the west. It blew hard on the beach and the militia men who kept guard, protecting the Sheraton and the Ramada and the Tel Aviv Hilton against a landing by guerrillas, turned their faces from the stinging sand.

Two streets behind the sea front the cafes on Ben Yehuda were quiet. There were five of them at one table and they were the only ones still outside. The men drank beer from the bottles, and one of them passed round the cigarettes he had bought on the flight, and the blond girl contributed a half-bottle of Stock brandy. They no longer talked about the substance of the mission.

The debriefing had gone on through the afternoon and early evening in the sound-proofed rooms of their headquarters. The mission was completed. They would probably not work as a team again, and certainly it would be many months before the girl, on any pretext, work or vacation, was permitted to leave the country.

Drinking at a pavement cafe on Ben Yehuda was for each of them a way of signing off from the mission. There was the senior officer who had authorised the mission after assembling the detailed biography of Professor Zulfiqar Khan. There was his deputy who had collated the intelligence that gave the itinerary of the Pakistani. There was the girl who had played the whore and who would go home that night to her husband. There was the man who had killed Khan and who later would go barefoot into the children's room to kiss them and not wake them. There was the man who had been with him and taken the briefcase from the hotel room and who in the morning would go back to the Golani Brigade stationed on the Lebanese border and who would be chided by his fellow officers for having taken leave while the military workload was intense.

Only when the cafe owner remonstrated with them did they leave.

In the middle of Ben Yehuda they kissed each other. It was the only display, through the days and nights of tension, of their emotion. They kissed and they split.

The senior officer walked with the girl. When he waved down a taxi, he saw that her hand ferreted in her bag. As the taxi stopped, he saw that she pushed back onto her finger her narrow and plain gold ring. He opened the door for her.

'It was necessary,' he said. ' I f we do nothing, if we sit back and watch… the State is finished. If that dwarf, Tariq, is permitted to build them a bomb… '

The senior officer of the Mossad drew his finger across his throat then quietly shut the taxi door, waved,

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