'What are you doing here, anyway?'

'I was on my way to get your opinion on one of my latest pieces.'

'You have a painting with you?'

'I did have; somebody stole it. Just a minute, Victor.'

Veil walked across the room to the woman who was standing absolutely still and looking profoundly forlorn, like some fragile piece of living sculpture that had been abandoned to the elements of confusion, fear, and panic and was in danger of shattering. She was a wounded woman, Veil thought. A man crucified on a wall by a spear was not the first horrible scene she had witnessed.

'I'm Veil Kendry,' he said softly, looking directly into the large, liquid eyes and smiling gently. 'The man who stole the idol is a friend of yours, isn't he?'

The woman swallowed and blinked; her eyes slowly came into focus on Veil's face, and the spare movement of her head was in direct contrast to the desperate, naked plea in her eyes.

'He's all right, at least for the time being,' Veil continued. 'The last time I saw him, he was disappearing into Central Park.'

'But he'd been shot. . . .' The woman's voice was faint and breathy, as frail as her body.

'A shoulder wound and, judging by the way he was moving, not too serious. The cops probably have him by now, so he may already be on the way to a hospital.'

The woman's eyes were the most expressive Veil had ever seen, and what they flashed now was relief. Her lips managed to form a shaky, tentative smile, and then she abruptly turned her head away, as if to hide whatever else might show in her eyes.

'I'm Reyna Alexander,' the woman said, her voice muffled slightly by the thick strand of hair that had fallen across the side of her face. 'Thank you for telling me that.' 'You're welcome. I'd say you need a drink.'

The woman shook her head. 'I don't drink.'

'Tea, then. Victor brews the strongest pot of tea this side of the Urals.' Veil paused, then continued seriously. 'You need something strong in you, Reyna. You need time to wind down.'

'No. I just want to go home.'

'Is anyone there?'


'Then I don't think that's a good idea—not for a while, anyway. You're suffering from shock.'

'I want to go home.'

'Where do you live?'

'Wesley Missionary College.'

'How did you get here?'

'I have a car.'

'Then I'll drive you. I know where the college is; I only live a few blocks from there. You don't have to be afraid. I'm quite harmless.'

Now the woman looked at him again; there was a new emotion reflected in her eyes that Veil could not read. 'That's not true. You're a very dangerous man; I could feel that all the way across the room. And you must be insane to talk that way, and do whatever it was you did, to Carl Nagle.'

'That seems to be the consensus of opinion. You sound as though you speak from experience.'

Fear shimmered across the surface of the black eyes. The woman pressed her lips tightly together and shook her head. 'I don't know what you mean.'

'I'm not dangerous to you.'

Reyna Alexander studied him for a few moments, then nodded her head. 'I know that, Mr. Kendry. And I would appreciate it if you'd take me home. Thank you.'

Chapter Three

Because of the chain collision on Fifth Avenue, most of the avenues and cross streets around midtown were jammed. Veil drove east on Sixty-eighth to the FDR Drive, then turned south and headed downtown toward the tip of Manhattan. A full moon was rising over the East River.

Reyna Alexander had turned on the radio the moment they'd gotten into the '79 brown Buick, then tuned it to one of the city's all-news stations. The theft of the Nal-toon, the killing of the security guard, and the traffic tie-up were the lead items, but there were no details on who had stolen the idol or why. Nor was there any indication that the thief had been captured, despite the helicopter and the large numbers of policemen dispatched to the scene.

'He's K'ung, isn't he?' Veil asked casually as he maneuvered around a car that had stalled in the center lane.

Reyna glanced over at Veil and was obviously surprised. 'You pronounce that remarkably well.'

'I heard it pronounced that way on television a few weeks ago, when the story first started to break. I have a fairly good ear for languages.'

'So do a lot of other people, but I'm the only person in the northeast I know of who speaks K'ung—and you're the first person I've heard even come close to pronouncing the tribe's name correctly. Where did you learn to make the glottal sound?'

Veil thought about it, then decided that mentioning work with tribes in Southeast Asia would only lead to questions he could not—was not permitted to—answer. There were men in Washington who were extremely displeased by what they considered the high profile he had developed in New York. Orville Madison in particular was displeased, Veil thought, and that was dangerous. It did not matter what he did for this man or how often he did it; he was still under sentence of death. That had been made clear to him at the time when he had bartered his soul for Sharon's life.

'It doesn't matter,' Veil replied evenly. 'Am I right about him being K'ung?'

Reyna abruptly turned off the radio, looked at Veil, and nodded. 'Yes. His name's Tobal'ak. I call him Toby. He's the chief's son—a prince.' She paused, smiled wryly. 'He's also the toughest kid in the rather large block known as the Kalahari Desert. The fools!'

Veil glanced sideways at the woman. There was sorrow and anxiety reflected in her eyes, but the rest of her face was clenched in anger. 'Who are fools?' he asked quietly.

Reyna shook her head. 'I shouldn't have said that. It's not their fault; all they could see was need, not consequences. I don't want to talk about it.'

Veil waited a few minutes. He eased right in order to exit on Houston Street, then gently pressed the woman. 'What was this Toby doing here? And why the secrecy? After all the publicity about the Nal-toon and the plight of the tribe it was stolen from, I would have thought that the arrival of a K'ung prince in New York City would have rated headlines. I never heard or read anything about him coming here.'

Reyna made a sound that was somewhere between a laugh and a sob. 'Toby's only been here two hours, and I only found out he was coming a little over three hours ago. I'm afraid I didn't have much time to call a press conference.'

Again, sensing that the woman badly wanted to talk but could not be pressed further, Veil drove in silence. Finally Reyna sighed, leaned back in the passenger's seat, and rested her head against the window. When she spoke, her voice, muffled by the glass, was so faint that Veil had to strain to hear her over the hum of the engine.

'Obviously you've been following the story.'

'Yes. Also, Victor Raskolnikov is a friend. I don't have to tell you how much trouble that idol has caused for him, which means that I took a rather personal interest.'

'Still . . . Are you religious, Mr. Kendry?'

'No, but I think I appreciate the importance of religion in a lot of people's lives.'

Reyna shook her head. 'This is different. No matter how much you've read, and no matter how sensitive you may be, there's just no way you can appreciate how important the Nal-toon is to the K'ung. I spent years with that tribe—my parents were the first missionaries to make contact with that particular group, which is probably the most reclusive, isolated tribe in the Kalahari. Then I went back later as a missionary student working for my degree in

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