Long Lost Page 45

Then I tried Google Newsing Rick and Karen.

I\'d expected to find little, maybe an obituary, but that wasn\'t the case. There was plenty, albeit most of it from papers in the United Kingdom. The news somehow shocked me and yet it all made bizarre sense:

REPORTER AND WIFE MURDERED BY TERRORISTS

Cell Broken Up, Killed in Wild Shoot-out

I started reading. Esperanza came to my door. ’’Myron?’’

I held up a finger asking for a moment.

She came around my desk and saw what I was doing. She sighed and sat.

’’You knew about this?’’ I asked.

’’Of course.’’

According to the articles, ’’special forces working on international terrorism’’ engaged and ’’eliminated’’ legendary terrorist Mohammad Matar, aka ’’Doctor Death.’’ Mohammad Matar had been born in Egypt but raised in the finest schools in Europe, including Spain (thus the name, combining the Islamic first name with a last name that meant ’’death’’ in Spanish), and was indeed a medical doctor who\'d done his training in the United States. The special forces also killed at least three other men in his cell two in London, one in Paris.

There was a photograph of Matar. It was the same mug shot that Berleand had sent me. I looked at the man I had, to use the journalistic term, eliminated.

The articles further noted that news producer Rick Collins had gotten close to the cell, trying to infiltrate and expose it, when his identity was breached. Matar and his ’’henchmen’’ murdered Collins in Paris. Matar slipped through a French dragnet (though apparently one of his men was killed in it), made his way to London and tried to clean up all evidence of his cell and his ’’fiendish terrorist plot’’ by killing Rick Collins\'s longtime production partner Mario Contuzzi and Collins\'s wife, Karen Tower. It was there, in the home Collins and Tower shared, that Mohammad Matar and two members of his cell met their demise.

I looked up at Esperanza. ’’Terrorists?’’

She nodded.

’’So that explains why Interpol freaked out when we showed them the picture.’’

’’Yes.’’

’’So where\'s Terese?’’

’’No one knows.’’

I sat back, tried to process that. ’’It says government agents killed the terrorists.’’

’’Yep.’’

’’Except they didn\'t.’’

’’True. You did.’’

’’And Win.’’

’’Right.’’

’’But they left our names out of it.’’

’’Yes.’’

I thought about the sixteen days, about Terese, about the blood tests, about the blond girl. ’’What the hell is going on?’’

’’Don\'t know about the details,’’ she said. ’’Didn\'t really care.’’

’’Why not?’’

Esperanza shook her head. ’’You can be such a dope sometimes.’’

I waited.

’’You were shot. Win saw that. And for more than two weeks we had absolutely no idea where you were if you were alive or dead or anything.’’

I couldn\'t help it. I grinned.

’’Stop grinning like an idiot.’’

’’You were worried about me.’’

’’I was worried about my business interest.’’

’’You like me.’’

’’You\'re a pain in the ass.’’

’’I still don\'t get it,’’ I said, and the grin slid off my face. ’’How can I not remember where I was?’’

’’Just let it go. . . .’’

My hands started shaking. I looked down at them, tried to make them stop. They wouldn\'t. Esperanza was looking too.

’’You tell me,’’ she said. ’’What do you remember?’’

My leg started twitching. I felt something catch in my chest. Panic began to set in.

’’You okay?’’

’’I could use some water,’’ I said.

She hurried out and came back with a cup. I drank it slowly, almost afraid I would choke. I looked at my hands. The quake. I couldn\'t make it stop. What the hell was wrong with me?

’’Myron?’’

’’I\'m fine,’’ I said. ’’So what now?’’

’’We have clients who need our help.’’

I looked at her.

She sighed. ’’We thought you might need time.’’

’’For?’’

’’To recover.’’

’’From what? I\'m fine.’’

’’Yeah, you look great. That shake is a terrific addition. And don\'t get me started on your new facial tic. Très se*y.’’

’’I don\'t need time, Esperanza.’’

’’Yeah, you do.’’

’’Terese is missing.’’

’’Or dead.’’

’’You trying to shock me?’’

She shrugged.

’’And if she\'s dead, I still need to find her daughter.’’

’’Not in your condition.’’

’’Yeah, Esperanza, in my condition.’’

She said nothing.

’’What is it?’’

’’I don\'t think you\'re ready.’’

’’Not your call.’’

She thought about that. ’’I guess not.’’

’’So?’’

’’So I have some stuff on the doctor Collins saw about Huntington\'s disease and that angel charity.’’

’’Like?’’

’’It can wait. If you\'re really serious about this, if you\'re really ready, you need to call this number on this phone.’’

She handed me a cell phone and left the room, closing the door behind her. I stared at the phone number. Unfamiliar, but I wouldn\'t have expected anything else. I put in the digits and pressed Send.

Two rings later, I heard a familiar voice say, ’’Welcome back from the dead, my friend. Let\'s meet in person at a secret locale. We have much to discuss, I\'m afraid.’’

It was Berleand.

25

BERLEAND\'S ’’secret locale’’ was an address in the Bronx.

The street was a pit, the location a dive. I checked the address again, but there was no mistake. It was a strip joint called, according to the sign, UPSCALE PLEASURES, though to my eye the establishment appeared to be neither. A smaller sign written in neon script noted that it was a CLASSY GENTLEMEN\'S LOUNGE. The term ’’classy’’ here is not so much an oxymoron as an irrelevance. ’’Classy strip club’’ is a bit like saying ’’good toupee.’’ It might be good, it might be bad it\'s still a toupee.

The room was dark and windowless so that noontime, which was when I arrived, looked the same as midnight.

A large black man with a shaved head asked, ’’May I help you?’’

’’I\'m looking for a Frenchman in his midfifties.’’


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