must already know,' I said. 'That was his message. He has a head start on us.'

'You're right,' Tal said curtly. 'We'll have to hurry.'

'Just one second,' I said, grabbing the telephone. 'Can you get me an open line?'

Tal punched a button and I heard a dial tone. I dialed Garth's precinct. Garth was out. I did a lot of screaming about a death in the family and they patched me through to his car.

'Mongo!' he shouted over the line. 'What the hell-? Where the hell are you? I've been looking all over the goddamn city! Man, have I got some questions for you'

'I'll meet you at'-I looked at the address Tal had written on the pad-'1386 Rockaway Boulevard.'

'What's on Rockaway Boulevard?'


'Don't be cryptic! I can't just drive out to the Rock aways!'

'You will if you want to be in on the wrap-up of the Rafferty thing. Make a lot of noise on the way, and bring along as much blue as you can!'

'We go now,' Tal said, heading for the elevator as I hung up.


The tires of Tal's car squealed as we gathered speed in the underground garage. He was doing close to thirty by the time we hit the street. As we sped down Second Avenue, I hung on and listened to the sirens in the distance ahead of us. Garth was on his way, with company.

'I think this could be a trick,' Malakov said. The Ambassador's face was ashen, and he was hanging on to a leather passenger loop with both hands. 'The American agent will get there before we do.'

The Ambassador had a point. Lippitt had a good half- hour start, and there was no way Tal could drive fast enough to make up the difference. It bothered me.

'Lippitt's not going to like our showing up,' I said to Tal. 'We could both end up in the slammer for the next two hundred years.'

'Well, we'll just have to worry about that when the time comes,' Tal said. He came up on a lumbering soda truck and veered effortlessly around it while I fought off the impulse to grab the wheel. Malakov gasped. 'The important thing is that Rafferty's proposal is reasonable,' Tal continued easily. 'He'll be highly visible at all times. Whatever he wants to do, he'll be seen doing it, and that's the all-important thing. If anyone wishes to talk with him, fine; people with secrets will know enough to stay away.'

'There'll be emotional problems for the Fosters,' I said.

'They'll be all right. Certainly, Rafferty will make no demands on her.' After a pause he added, 'He may have loved her much more than Mrs. Foster realizes.'

'Uh-huh. And he was legally dead as far as the law is concerned when the Fosters were married.'

In twenty minutes we reached Rockaway Boulevard. Tal turned left and we sped down the broad highway. I thought I could hear the deadly rattle of automatic-weapons fire ahead. Tal heard it too, jammed the accelerator to the floor, cursed softly and systematically. The Ambassador leaned forward anxiously. We were speeding along a section of the highway bounded by rocky cliffs on one side and, on the other, dirty, rock-strewn stretches of muddied sand sloping down to the sea. The air smelled of rotting fish.

Tal went into a power slide, straightened out, and fish- tailed fifty yards down the rutted remains of a road leading toward a collection of police cars and men. He stopped behind a patrol car with a siren that was just dying. We quickly got out and made our way around a television camera crew that was just setting up. A police cordon had been erected a few yards farther down the road. Garth was standing off to one side, staring intently down a hundred-yard stretch of sand to where three rotting boathouses jutted out over the water. I ran up to him and grabbed his arm.


Garth turned and grinned when he saw me. He poked and prodded for a few seconds, presumably to see if I was all in one piece. When he was satisfied that I was, his grin faded.

'What the hell's going on here, Mongo? I've got my neck stuck out a mile.'

'It's for a good cause. Garth, this is Ronald Tal and Ambassador Malakov. Gentlemen, my brother.'

Garth nodded to the Ambassador and gave Tal a long, cold stare. 'I talked to you on the phone,' he said, perfunctorily shaking Tal's hand before turning back to me. 'You didn't tell me the Feds would be here.'

'Which boathouse is Rafferty in?'

'That's Rafferty in there with the machine gun?'

'It is. Where is he?'

'The one on the left,' he said, jerking his thumb in that direction.

'Garth,' I said, 'Tal and I have to get down there.'

'I will go too,' the Ambassador said anxiously. 'I go where you go.'

'You'll get your heads blown off,' Garth said. 'It's quiet now. You should have been here five minutes ago.'

'He won't shoot when he sees who it is,' Tal said.

Garth snorted. 'That's what you say.'

It was suddenly very still. Somewhere in the distance the raucous whine of a powerboat carried clearly over the water; there was something disquieting, ominous about the sound.

'Garth,' I said, 'at least get us to Lippitt.'

Garth took me by the elbow, led me around the barricade, and pointed twenty yards farther down the beach to where Lippitt and two other men were squatting down behind another barricade made up of the old, rotting husks of row- boats. All three had automatic pistols.

Lippitt!' I yelled. 'Let us come down!'

Lippitt's bald head snapped around; the pale eyes found and focused on me. He hesitated a moment, then signaled to Garth, who was still holding me. His hand left my arm. Tal, Malakov, and I hurried across the sand. The two agents with Lippitt gave us a cursory glance as we dropped down behind the rowboats, then turned their attention-and their guns-back to the boathouse.

'What the hell are you trying to do?' I said, grabbing Lippitt's arm. 'Didn't Rafferty explain his plan?'

'He didn't explain anything. He was the one who started shooting.' He paused. 'What's Malakov doing here?'

'Rafferty wants to negotiate,' I said. 'Malakov got a call too.'

'Negotiate what, for Christ's sake? He's five years too late! Besides, we've tried to talk to him. He won't answer, and he won't let any of us come down. He may have gone crazy.'

'He's not crazy! He's been buying time until we could get here. He called Tal, and I've spoken to him before. Maybe he'll talk to one of us now.'

Lippitt rested one knee on the sand and looked at me. 'When did you talk to him?'

'A few days ago, but I didn't know he was Victor Rafferty. He's been using the name Elliot Thomas. He's been working as an engineer at the U.N. The sketch of the Nately Museum was his. The paper must have dropped out of his pocket, or he just forgot and left it on the table. He's ready to give himself up … under the auspices of the U.N.'

Speaking in a low monotone, Tal outlined Rafferty's plan to Lippitt. Lippitt's face was totally impassive as he listened. The sound of the powerboat was much louder now, coming closer. Far out in the water I could see sunlight glinting off its metal hull.

Tal finished as Lippitt absently began drawing figures in the sand with his finger.

'What do you think?' I said to the agent.

'I don't know,' Lippitt said without looking up. 'You're suggesting that the United States give up-'

'You can't have him, Lippitt,' Tal broke in impatiently. 'Your only alternative is to kill him, and I don't think you want to do that. He won't let anyone use him; he gave up everything to make that point, and he's not going to change his mind now. What he suggests is the only way.'

'I can't authorize something like that on my own, Tal,' Lippitt said quietly.

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