probed to find out where the British agents were supposed to be.' He smiled thinly. 'Pure speculation, of course.'

Tal seemed calmer now, and I was certain I knew why. He'd made a decision: Tal, in his own way, was telling me I was right. He really had no choice; whether he admitted it or not, what I'd already said was probably enough to get us both killed if I repeated it anywhere else.

'Go ahead,' Tal said. 'Let's hear the rest of it.'

'Again: why don't you just read my mind?'

Tal took some time to think about his answer. 'Perhaps it's physically painful, Mongo. Maybe it's a very personal thing that involves simply not wanting to invade someone else's privacy. Or, maybe I'm simply not Victor Rafferty.'

'You are Victor Rafferty.'

'Why insist on being so sure, Mongo? Right or wrong, you'll pay a terrible price; that kind of certainty could make you responsible for the lives of Victor Rafferty and others for as long as you live. Don't pick up that burden. Rafferty died in that explosion down on the beach. Leave it at that.'

'Why not just kill me?'

'You mean if I was who you say I am? Because Victor Rafferty is not a killer.' He paused, added: 'Except, I assume, when he has no other choice.'

I cleared my throat, tried to swallow. My mouth was still dry. 'I was in bad shape after Kaznakov played his tune on me. I was finished. I might never have come back. But you took care of that, too… in the apartment, while I slept. I know enough about psychiatry to realize that a mental condition like the one I had couldn't possibly cure itself overnight. Thaag probably put something in the tea to make me sleep. Then you came back and went to work on my head, just the same as you did when you entered Lippitt's mind to cure him of that permanent chill. You fixed me up because you needed me for the break-in at the consulate.

'Incidentally, you probably stole that plan from Lippitt. You were going in anyway because you knew about the ultimatum. That's why you called the Russians, using a voice you hadn't used in five years. Lippitt had a good plan, and that's why you co-opted it. You had to make sure that you went along, because that was the only way you could help ensure success. After all, your ex-wife was in there, and you still love her.'

Tal made an angry, impatient gesture. 'Victor Rafferty is dead, remember?'

I went on as if he hadn't spoken. 'The most incredible thing was that trick you pulled off at the consulate. If you did what I think you did, it's no wonder everyone's turning the world inside out looking for you.' I paused for breath; the excitement and anxiety I felt were making me short-winded. 'You knew something was wrong when I didn't show up on time to open the door. You waited until Lippitt got nervous and started to look around-or maybe you planted the suggestion in his mind. He walked away for a few seconds and you threw back that steel bolt with your mind. Telekinesis. God, how that must have cost you! You hemorrhaged, just as you did five years ago when you broke out of that hospital room. There was blood running out of your nose. You'd come up to help me. Finally, there was the way you guided us safely out of that building. You seemed to know where everything was, and what was happening; you even knew that a silent alarm had been triggered. You picked that up from the guard.'

'Who blew up the boathouse?' Tal asked. 'Do you believe Elliot Thomas was kind enough to do that for… Victor Rafferty?'

'Rolfe Thaag took care of that bit of business. He's not young, but he's in good shape, and he'd know about firearms and explosives from his World War Two days with the Resistance.'

'The Secretary General is in the hospital.'

'Is he? We'll see. I think you had something like this as a contingency plan from the beginning, although having Thomas make his move when he did was an added blessing; you had a real body to put in the boathouse. I'm betting a title search will show that this particular piece of real estate belongs to you personally, to Rolfe Thaag, or even to some U.N. agency. You've both had time to plan this thing and make preparations. My guess is that there's an underground passage leading out of that boathouse into this one or the one next door. Rolfe Thaag sat in there for a while with an unconscious Thomas, trading shots with Lippitt and his men long enough for all the invited guests to show up. Then he left through that underground passage-which I think we'll find with a little digging-to wherever he is now. That's where he operated the boat by remote control. Thomas must have regained consciousness before he was supposed to. Hell, for all I know you may have been able to control the poor bastard from here.'

Tal suddenly looked over my shoulder and tensed. 'Why don't you join us, Mr. Lippitt?'

There was the sound of footsteps behind me, and I turned in time to see Lippitt step out from the shadows by the entranceway where he'd been listening. He walked slowly into the boathouse and stopped a few yards away from where Tal and I were standing. The agent was carrying a large, ugly pistol which was leveled at Tal.

I felt stricken at the thought that I'd been the one to expose Tal.

no, mongo, you didn't lead him here

It was Tal, reading my thoughts as easily as if they'd been spoken aloud.

Lippitt has had his own suspicions for some time

I felt a sudden chill as I realized that Tal hadn't spoken at all; the words?the thoughts-had simply appeared in my mind, clear, unmistakable. I looked at Tal in astonishment. He returned my gaze and slowly, deliberately … winked.

So now you know for certain, my friend I need your help with Lippitt, we have a real problem

'That door at the consulate was locked,' Lippitt said. 'It was bolted tight. I tried it. There's only one man who could have opened that door … Jesus, Rafferty! What the hell have you been up to for the past five years?'

'You know as well as anyone,' Tal said easily. 'I've never been out of the public eye, and I think my record speaks for itself. The Secretary General has made continued good use of the information I've supplied him with.'

'That's a matter of opinion, Rafferty. Thaag's periodic revelations to the world press haven't always been in the best interests of your country. I believe I've mentioned that.'

DON'T, Mongo he'll kill you

I'd been thinking of trying to jump Lippitt.

good… relax as you may have noticed, Mr. Lippitt does tend to get slightly hysterical where I'm concerned argue my case, if you will, but don't try to move on him he's very, very fast he's on his guard now and his will is very strong if you talk to him, distract him, we may get out of this yet trust me

'I have no country, Lippitt,' Tal said. 'You took that away from me. But that's immaterial. The point is that our work at the U.N. has been evenhanded and fair. People benefit from what I do.'

Lippitt seemed to bow his head slightly. When he spoke, his voice was so low it could hardly be heard. 'I… I've never had a chance to thank you for healing me.'

'You showed your appreciation to Victor Rafferty by protecting his wife these past five years,' Tal said. 'You knew you would get no thanks from her, yet you risked your life to rescue her from the consulate. You're a man of loyalty and honor.' He paused, smiled. 'That's a source of torment even Victor Rafferty can't do anything about.'

'What will you do now, Lippitt?' I said.

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