CAROLINE MERRIVALE SAT DOWN AT HER dressing table, pulled back her hair and slathered Creme de la Mer moisturizer over her face. At forty, she still had the skin of a woman half her age, which pleased her. Caroline had never been a classic beauty, not like the Grace Brooksteins of this world. But she had style and presence, she dressed well and she knew how to take care of herself.

She wondered what she would do with the rest of the day. John had left early for the airport. Harry Bain was sending him to Mustique of all places, in search of another piece of the giant Quorum jigsaw puzzle. But not before Caroline had forced him to have sex with her, photographing him in a series of humiliating and graphic poses. Dominating John was always a pleasure, but today she'd enjoyed it more than usual. In recent weeks, Caroline had noticed a change in her pathetic, milquetoast of a husband - a growing confidence that made her uneasy. He practically skipped out of the house in the mornings, excited to get to work. He'd even taken to telling her things about his day - as if she were interested! -  "Harry Bain said so-and-so," or "the agency were delighted with my work on such-and-such."

Caroline had deliberately waited until this morning to teach John a lesson. He'd been full of this trip to Mustique for days, and she wanted the bursting of his bubble to have as much impact as possible. When he got home, she would tell him flat out: he'd acted as the FBI's unpaid lackey for long enough. It was time to get back to work, start a fund of his own and bring in some more money. Billy Joel's estate in East Hampton was up for sale after his third divorce. Caroline had had her eye on that house for years.

"Mrs. Caroline?" Cecilia, the Merrivales' housekeeper, knocked nervously on her employers' bedroom door. "Is a gennelman downstairs to see you."

Caroline turned and glared. Naked from the waist up, with a thick white layer of cream on her face, she looked like a Maori warrior minus the tattoos. "Do I look like I'm ready to receive guests?" she snarled.

Cecilia tried to avert her gaze from her boss's nipples, large and dark and repellent, like two rotting mushrooms. "He ask for Mr. John. Is from police. He said he will wait."

Meanwhile, downstairs, Mitch looked around the Merrivales' sumptuous living room. The most striking object in it was probably the solid gold Louis XV carriage clock over the mantel. It was vulgar and hideous, but it must have cost a fortune. But everything about the room bespoke serious money: the heavy, brushed-silk drapes, the antique French furniture, the Persian rugs, the Ming vases. This is what they had left after the Quorum fraud wiped them out? How much did they have before?

It didn't matter now anyway. Armed with Hannah Coffin's testimony and a copy of the airline records, as well as Buccola's evidence of foul play to Lenny's body, Mitch had enough to bring John Merrivale in. Of course, a confession would seal the deal. Push it from a solid circumstantial case to a guaranteed conviction. Mitch pictured the expression on Dubray's face when he told him. The groveling apology. His triumphant reinstatement and promotion to captain. Better still would be Grace's smile. How happy he, Mitch Connors, would make her, and how grateful she'd be. Oh, Mitch, you're incredible. How can I ever make it up to you? He'd get her a lawyer. She'd appeal her sentence and -

"This had better be important."

In a stark gray kimono, with her black bobbed hair slicked back and her face bare of makeup, Caroline Merrivale looked even harder than usual. She reminded Mitch of a prison matron. Anna Wintour meets Cruella de Vil.

"I don't appreciate uninvited guests at eight thirty in the morning."

"I need to speak to your husband. Urgently."

"He's not here. Was that all?"

Christ, she's disdainful. Mitch stiffened. "No, it's not all. I need to know where he is. Like I said, it's urgent."

Caroline Merrivale yawned. "I have no idea where he is. Gretchen, John's secretary, keeps his diary. She'll be here at ten, I believe. Or is it eleven? Now, if you'll excuse me."

"Take one more step and I will arrest you." Mitch stood up and grabbed Caroline by the wrist. She swung around, laughing.

"Arrest me? For what? Let go of me, you fool."

"Not until you tell me where your husband is."

Caroline tried to shake him off, but Mitch tightened his grip. As he did so he noticed her chin jut forward defiantly and her pupils start to dilate. He thought, This is turning her on. She likes power games. Although physically she repulsed him, he forced himself to pull her closer, dropping his voice to a whisper.

"Don't make me hurt you. I'll give you one last chance. Where. Is. John."

Caroline ran her eyes lasciviously over Mitch's butch, masculine physique. Here was a man she could respect. A man who was worth giving in to.

"He's at Newark airport." She breathed huskily. "He's on his way to Mustique."

MITCH DROVE LIKE A MADMAN. PULLING up outside departures, he leaped out of the car, leaving the engine running. An official yelled at him.

"Hey! HEY! You can't leave your car there, man."

Ignoring him, Mitch kept running and didn't stop till he got to the Delta desk.

"Flight 64 to St. Lucia," he panted.

"I'm sorry, sir. Boarding's completed."

"Well, reopen it." Mitch pushed his police badge across the desk.

"I'll go get my supervisor."

An older woman with thick, black-framed glasses emerged from a back office. "How can I help you?"

"There's a passenger on Flight 64. J. Merrivale. I need to speak to him. I need him off the plane."

"I'm sorry, sir. Flight 64 already left. Two minutes ago."

Mitch groaned and put his head in his hands.

"Let's have a look, though. What did you say the passenger's name was?"

"Merrivale. John."

The woman typed something into her computer. "If need be, we can alert the cabin crew and ground staff. They can hold him until - " She broke off.

"What?" asked Mitch.

"Are you sure it was this flight? There's no J. Merrivale on the passenger list." She spun the screen around so Mitch could see it.

He had a bad feeling about this.

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE'S DEAD?"

The director of the FBI lost his temper. "What do you mean 'what do I mean'? He's dead! What part of 'dead' do you not understand, Harry?"

Harry Bain held the phone away from his ear and waited for Ashton Kutcher to jump out from behind the door. He was being "punk'd." He had to be.

"But, sir, Gavin Williams is on leave. He has been for over a month."

"Yeah, well, that's not what he told the guys at Dillwyn. He said he was personally authorized by you to transfer Grace Brookstein to our Fairfax facility. They faxed me the documents, Harry. I'm looking at your signature right now."

"This is crazy! I never authorized anything. Williams was obsessed with Grace Brookstein. He had this weird, personal thing going on with her. That's why we let him go."

"Jesus Christ!" roared the director. "Do you have any idea what a stinking mess this is?"

Harry Bain did have some idea. The staff at the OGA prison had released Grace Brookstein into Gavin Williams's custody last night. The two of them were last seen driving out of Dillwyn at around five P.M. At five A.M. this morning, the burned-out shell of Williams's car had been discovered in a remote part of rural Virginia with Gavin's remains inside. Or as Harry's boss put it, "his barbecued remains." Grace Brookstein herself had vanished.

"What's happening with the search effort? Is there anything my guys can do to help?"

"We're all over it. We got helicopters up, tracker dogs, you name it. I was gonna say 'she won't get far' but after last time..."

"I take it the media don't know yet?"

"No one knows. And we're gonna keep it that way. No one knew she was at Dillwyn in the first place, thank God."

Harry Bain thought, Except Gavin Williams. How long would it take for a persistent reporter to uncover the truth? Long enough for them to find Grace? He was reminded of Lady Bracknell's famous line in The Importance of Being Earnest. To lose Grace Brookstein once may be regarded as misfortune. To lose her twice looked like carelessness.

He hung up, wondering under what circumstances it might be possible to salvage his career, and was searching through his desk drawer for some aspirin when a disheveled blond man burst into his office. Harry reached for his gun.

"Easy." Mitch put his hands in the air. "We're on the same side, remember?"

Harry Bain didn't remember. The NYPD had been nothing but obstructive with his guys since the day Grace escaped. Even after they captured her, Mitch Connors had done all that he could to block their access to her.

"What do you want, Connors?"

Mitch got straight to the point. "John Merrivale did not catch his flight to St. Lucia this morning."

"How do you know?"

"I went to the airport. Checked the passenger lists. I've been doing a lot of that lately."

Harry Bain shrugged. "So he missed his flight."

"No. You don't understand. He never intended to catch that plane. He's not going to Mustique."

"Why would you think that?"

"Because I believe Merrivale has left the country to avoid being prosecuted for murder."

"Murder?" This conversation was starting to become surreal. "Whose murder?"

"Leonard Brookstein's."

Harry Bain laughed, then stopped laughing. Connors was serious.

"I believe that John Merrivale was responsible for the theft of billions of dollars from the Quorum Hedge Fund. I believe he's known where that money has been hidden all along. I believe he is on his way to retrieve it now."

Harry had heard rumors that the NYPD's erstwhile wonder boy had gone off the rails. There was a 90 percent chance the guy was a crackpot.

That meant there was a 10 percent chance he could be onto something.

Harry Bain pointed to the chair opposite him. "Sit down. You've got fifteen minutes. Convince me."

MITCH DIDN'T TAKE A BREATH. STARTING with Davey Buccola's information, he told Harry Bain everything he knew about what might have happened the day that Lenny Brookstein's boat went missing. He talked about evidence of violence to the corpse; about Lenny's affair with his sister-in-law; about his strained relationships with all of his so-called friends, and their various motives for wanting him dead. He talked about Andrew Preston's debts and his obsessive love for his adulterous wife, about Jack Warner's love affair with a hooker, and Connie Gray's blatant attempts at blackmail. Finally, he talked about John Merrivale: Grace's suspicions that John had deliberately sabotaged her trial; the lies John had told police; his faked alibi; his affair with Maria Preston, whom he claimed barely to have known.

Fifteen minutes passed, then twenty, then thirty. Harry Bain listened and said nothing. When Mitch finished, he asked only one question.

"How much did Grace Brookstein know about all this?"

"Up to the part about Merrivale, she knew everything," said Mitch. "I only figured it out myself in the last forty-eight hours."

He told Harry Bain about Grace outsmarting him and his men at Times Square, about her humiliation of Buccola after he'd betrayed her, about her rape and abortion and her determination to clear her husband's name at all costs. "I'll tell you something about Grace Brookstein. She's smart. She's courageous. And she's resourceful as hell."

"Sounds like you admire her," said Bain.

"I do."

"Like her?"

"Yes, I like her." Mitch smiled. I like her too much for my own good. "The real Grace, not the monster they paint on TV. But at this moment I'm happy she's locked up somewhere. She's safer that way."

Harry Bain looked uncomfortable. Mitch Connors had risked a lot coming here, to a rival agency, an agency that theoretically supported John Merrivale, and laying his cards on the table. On the other hand, he was a maverick. He'd already broken every rule in the book to get the information he had. His own department had suspended him. Is this really the sort of man I can afford to trust right now?

Bain made a decision. "There's something you ought to know."

Mitch listened openmouthed. Was it possible? Grace had escaped? She'd killed a man? His first thought was for her safety. If those helicopters found her, they would shoot first and ask questions later. Everything about Grace Brookstein's case had been a cover-up, so why not her death? Mitch could imagine the headlines now. Grace had slipped in the shower. She'd succumbed to a rare virus. Who would know? Who would care?

"The dead guy, the one who faked your signature on his authorization papers. What did you say his name was?"

"Williams. Gavin Williams."

Alarm bells went off in Mitch's head. Nantucket. The woman at the airport. William, he said his name was...he had one of those army haircuts...went to the same page, June twelfth, John Merrivale...

"How did he wear his hair?"

Bain looked confused.

"Gavin Williams. His hair. Was it long, dark, light, was he bald?"

"He was gray-haired. Always wore a crew cut. What the hell has that got to do with anything?"

Mitch sprang to his feet. "He knew. He knew about John Merrivale! He was the guy in Nantucket asking questions, just a day or so before me. Gavin Williams knew John flew back to the island, that he'd lied about his alibi. He must have suspected he was involved in Lenny's death."

Bain let the significance of this sink in.

"Do you think he told Grace?"

"I have no idea," said Mitch. "You're the one who knew him. But if he did, and your helicopters don't find her, at least we know where she's headed."

"We do?"

"Sure. Find John Merrivale and you've found Grace Brookstein. She's on her way to kill him."




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