BY JON CLEARY
Scobie Malone, honeymooning in New York with Lisa, faces a horrifying
situation — beginning a four-part serial by famous Australian author
"LAW and order," said Scobie Malone. "There's something wrong with the system when
that becomes an election issue."
The newscaster on the television screen paused and looked straight at Malone as if he had heard him. He seemed to sigh, then he said, "More election news right after this message."
He disappeared from the screen and a girl floated on to take his place, looked straight at Malone and asked him if, as a woman, he would like to smell like roses.
Malone, a short back-and-sides holdout against long-haired unisex, stood up and
switched off the television set.
"I'm here in America and I just don't believe a word of what I see or hear. I think I'll ask for our money back on this part of the trip — "
"East 69th Street." said Lisa. "Would that be far uptown?"
We've arrived at it, thought Malone with amused resignation. We have reached the stage of being an old married couple. Eight weeks, and already we're not listening to each other, just like my mum and dad after thirty-eight years.
"'Why don't you go down to the desk and ask them to recommend a dentist? They'd know one
"I make it a point never to ask hotel desks to recommend anything. Everyone who works in
the front of a hotel has a vested interest —
himself. If he recommends anything, it's because he's getting a kickback."
"I don't know that I'll ever learn to live with
your mean Dutch suspicion."
"That's good, coming from a mug copper."
"You're starting to sound like a real Aussie."" he said with approval. "I wondered how long it would take. Now if I can just get you off wine
and French cooking and on to beer and sausage
He kissed the back of her neck as she leaned
over the Manhattan telephone directory. Lisa had lost a filling last night and a nerve in the tooth had been exposed.
She was now trying to find a dentist who could give her a temporary filling without delay.
So far she had tried four without success.
"East 69th Street would be a long way uptown
"I'll go to Boston or Philadelphia if a dentist there says he can see me this morning. Anyhow, I have to go to the Holland Society and that's on
58th Street, so it won't be much farther. Dr.
Willey. I'll try him."
To page 50
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 49
She picked up the telephone and Malone
walked to the window and looked out. He and Lisa had been travelling for eight weeks and each time he looked out of a hotel window he was still surprised not to be looking out on the
None of the world's cities
was really unfamiliar any
more. The television screen
was everyone's window.
But pictures, whether
from television or films or magazines, never gave you the feel of a city: and he was a man very conscious of the feel of his environment, a
policeman who felt the
tension in a crowd, the sad or
sometimes menacing loneli-
ness in a deserted street.
He had not yet got the
feel of New York, but it was
working on him.
He thought, as he had thought each time he had looked out of every window that had presented itself since they had left Sydney, what a tight blind little world
he had lived in.
lt had been just that realisation that had promp-
ted him to blow five thousand
dollars on this honeymoon trip round the world, and every step of the way had proved to himself that he had been right.
"You've gone mental,"
Lisa had said when he had suggested it.
"Look, that twelve thousand dollars was a
windfall. I've been buying lottery tickets for twenty years and I've never even won a fiver before. I've made
the down payment on our house and I've got enough money to furnish it. And now that I've been made Inspector — "
That, like the lottery win, had been totally unexpected. The promotion had come several years ahead of schedule. It had been a month of windfalls and he had wondered if his luck was
proving too good, if sooner
or later he would be
expected to pay for it all in some dreadful way.
"All right." Lisa had said patiently, "so we have security. But we could invest
that twelve thousand dollars and who knows what it would be worth in, say. another ten or fifteen years."
Malone had gently brushed back the lock of blonde hair that had fallen down over her forehead. She was much too beautiful for him and he would never fail to marvel at his luck in
having won her.
"Look." he had said. "You and I have nothing in common except that we love each other. Right?"
"Right. Isn't that enough?"
"No. it isn't. And once
you're over your starry-eyed condition about me you'll realise it. Look at my background. Born and raised
in Erskineville, a slum that
even the rest of Sydney seems to have forgotten.
"I've been a cop for seventeen years and the only
time I've been out of Australia was when I came to
London on police business and met you."
"Darling, I'm not marry- ing your background — "
"You are, that's just it. And I'm marrying yours. What other cop in Sydney, even a Detective-Inspector, has got a wife who was born
in Holland, educated in Switzerland — "
"That was only for a year at finishing school — "
"Only ! You know Europe better than you know
Australia. You worked for
our High Commissioner in
"Darling, I don't know what you're worrying about. You're intelligent, you know what's going on in the world -—there'll always be something for us to talk
about — "
Malone shook his head.
"Sooner or later you'll be looking for someone to talk to about the things you
know. We'll invest five
thousand dollars against
Actually Lisa's arguments had been more a matter of form than anything else. She was excited by the mere prospect of the trip.
They had visited Bang- kok. Hong Kong. Athens. Rome. They had wandered back and forth across Europe, and visited Lisa's
relatives in Holland.
Now they were in New York on their way home, and in another two weeks he would be back at work.
He had had three months' leave due to him and he had been glad of it. but now he was becoming bored with travelling and filling in his days with sightseeing."
He glanced down at the copy of The New York Times lying on the chair beside the window. The New
York mayoral election was tomorrow and the Mayor's face smiled up at him: Michael Forte, all teeth
and sparkling eyes, looking ready to burst into song.
Yesterday Malone had bought the Sunday edition of The Daily News, which supported the Mayor's opponent, and seen that it
called Forte the Harvard Gondolier.
Politics in America seemed more interesting, if only because the newspapers
could be more libellous.
Lisa hung up the phone.
"His nurse says he's fully booked, but if I can get up there by nine-forty-five she thinks he might be able to fit
me in." She looked at her watch. "I'll have to hurry."
"What are you going to the Holland Society for?"
"Mother wants me to find out how far the Pretorious
family has spread throughout
the world. After I've been there I'll do some shopping for presents to take home. I'll meet you back here for an early lunch, then we'll do that boat trip round
A few minutes later
Malone, again at the
window, watched Lisa as she crossed the street and hailed a cab. This hotel in the East
Thirties had been highly recommended by the travel
agent in Sydney, but Malone now suspected the travel agent was another of those
who had a vested interest.
lt was clean and comfortable and com-
paratively inexpensive, but it was in an area through which
Malone would not have liked
to walk at night.
Down below, on the other side of the street, he could see two men, drunks or
junkies, lolling on the steps of a shabby tenement. Farther up the street a gang of long-haired youths were blocking the sidewalk, making passers-by step into the gutter to walk round
The cop in him bristled. Then he relaxed. Stay out of
it. Malone told himself. Your business is ten thousand
miles away and you'll be back there soon enough.
He showered, dressed, then went out to pay a
courtesy call on the New
York Police Department. He was glad he did not belong to that Department, not with their crime figures. The longer he was away from Sydney the more he appreciated it. So far that was something he had kept
The telephone rang in the office on the tenth floor of Cornwall Gardens on East
69th Street. Dr. Willey's nurse. Polly Nussbaum.
"This is Mrs. Michael Forte's private secretary." The woman's voice was soft and pleasant and Polly Nussbaum always admired
"I am just double-check- ing Mrs. Forte's appointment for ten o'clock this morning."
" Yes, we arc expecting
her at ten."
"Thank you. Mrs. Forte will bc on time."
Polly Nussbaum rang off, poured sugar into the cup of
coffee she had made for herself and prepared to enjoy the only five minutes of leisure she would have from now until one o'clock.
Dr. Willey did not get in until nine-fifteen and the first patient was due at nine-thirty. She hoped she had done the right thing by trying to fit in that (she
checked her book) Mrs. Malone.
Mrs. Malone would never know it, but it had been her
voice that had got her the appointment.
Come to think of it. Mrs. Forte had a nice voice too. But underneath it all, she
suspected, Mrs. Forte was holding back a screech.
I wouldn't want to work
for her, not even if some day she ends up as the President's wife. Polly thought. She
would be a terror to work
for, always making sure you never forgot the tiniest thing.
That was probably why she had had her secretary check twice in the past week on this morning's appoint-
Polly spread out The Daily News on her desk, began to leaf slowly through it. Then she stopped.
Michael Forte, handsome in
that nice Italian way, smiled up at her, inviting her vote.
All right. Mr. Forte, you can have my vote, especially if you can bring law and
order back to this town. Your wife I can do without. But
she's your pain, not mine.
I got rid of my pain. Irving Nussbaum. ten years ago. May he never come
"'I have to be at Dr.
Willey's at ten." said Sylvia
Forte. "What?" said her
husband abstractedly. He was a handsome man just above middle height, with a
broad, dark face.
He stood at the window
gazing out at the East River that was dull under the grey November sky. The trees in the grounds of Gracie
Mansion, the official
residence of the Mayor of New York City, had no shine to them in the dull light.
But despite the dullness. Michael Forte could see up beyond the Triborough Bridge to the northern tip of Astoria on Long Island. On such days he imagined he could see clear into the past, the family history that he had never experienced.
Old Michele Forte, his grandfather, had settled over there in Astoria when he had arrived in America from
Italy in 1895, getting off the ship with a wife, three small children, forty dollars, a strong back and a driving
The family construction business had begun there and the Triborough was one of the monuments to it. M. Forte and Sons had been one of the contractors on the bridge.
Michael knew that Sam,
his father, the last surviving
son of old Michele, never looked back at Astoria, but
maybe that was understand-
able. America was full of
first-generation sons trying to escape from their back- ground.
But then Sam Forte had
never run for political office,
had never had to convince
the voters that, though rich, he was as good and humble
as they were.
"I hope you listen to your ward bosses more than you do to me." said Sylvia.
Michael smiled at her, his husband's smile, not his
"Sorry. I'll be able lo give you my undivided attention after tomorrow — I hope. What are you doing this morning?"
She sighed. a little impatiently. "I'm going to Dr. Willey's at ten. I'm blessing children or some- thing at St. Mary's School at
eleven. Then I'm due at a
luncheon at the Colony
"Why there? They're not
the sort who'll vote for mc."
"They may — perhaps I can persuade them to. According lo Scotty Reston this morning —" she tapped the copy of The New York
Times that lay on the
breakfast table — "you'll need every vote you can get
He looked at her
admiringly. Also with some sympathy that he hoped she
would not detect.
She was thc perfect political wife — beautiful, with that red-gold hair that
was a sensation on colour
television, hard-working, always polite to the right people, never wasting her time on the wrong ones.
If I don't make it
tomorrow, he thought, she is the one who is going to be disappointed. She and Old
As if on cue, Nathan, the butler, came to the door of
the small dining-room where the Fortes usually break-
"Mr. Samuel is here, sir."
Michael smiled to himself
at his father's formality. Ever
since Michael could remem-
ber, his life had been run by
his father. But once he had reached political office, first as a Congressman in Washington and then as Mayor here in New York, his father had always had
himself announced when he
called. Preparing for bigger things. Michael thought with slightly sour amusement.
Sam would never expect
to enter the White House
without being announced. To Sylvia and Old Sam. Gracie Mansion was just a wayside stop on the road to the ultimate destination.
Sylvia rose and went forward to kiss her father-in-law as he came in the door. There was warm affection between the two of
them. They were related by
ambition as well as by marriage.
Michael had to admit
they made a fine-looking pair -—the lovely red-haired woman and the stiff-backed, white-haired old man.
"Sorry if I'm too early —" Samuel Forte had not quite managed to eliminate the roughness of his early years
from his voice.
He had gone to work for his father at eighteen and it had been ten years before he had been able to escape from the shouting above the job noises and the yelling at the immigrant construction
workers in the dialect that
"No, we're finished. We
had a late night and we're going to be late again tonight. We gave ourselves the luxury of an extra hour in bed this morning."
Syliva brought her
father-in-law to the table and
poured him a cup of coffee.
The old man sat down,
carefully arranging the
creases in his trousers.
"The day after tomorrow you may not need to get up at all. I've been talking to Ed Horan — he says things are going against us up in the Bronx. He thinks you have been too complacent.
Michael held in his
temper. It was too early in the day to start expending his energy that way.
"Ed Horan is an uneducated fool. He
wouldn't know the meaning of complacency."
"The word was mine. Ed
actually said you had left it too late to get going."
"lt's easy for Horan to sit up there in the Bronx telling
me what I should have done.
He's not running for office, never has." Michael paused, looking at his father. But Sam Forte was carefully measuring sugar into his
"When Tom Kirkbride
came out with his campaign
for law and order, what was I
supposed to do? Tell the
Police Commissioner that
the police force had to go out and double its daily quota? Already we're arresting more
law-breakers than we have room for.
"I've done everything I
can. From now on, it's a
question of luck."
"Luck should never come
into an election. It suggests a poor campaign or a poor
"And what do you reckon you've had of those two?"
Sam Forte took his time,
as he always had with his son. When his boy had been
born he had taken the long view. It took years, decades, to put a man into the White House, especially when you
decided, when he was one
day old, that that was his
"You have been a good
candidate. Michael. You
have been a good mayor too. even though you have had a
lot of critics."
"But you don't think I've run a good campaign this
"No." Sam Forte finished his coffee. "You let
Kirkbride get away too soon with his claim that he can bring back law and order if
he is elected. You should
have hit him right at the
To page 51
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 50
"How?" asked Michael.
"By giving him the same argument you've given me Ask him where the money is coming from for more police, for more prisons —"
"Do you think people listen to that sort of argument? When they're scared to walk down the street after dark, scared to open their front door, do you really think they're going to listen to logical argument?"
"It would have been worth a try —"
Michael gestured in exasperation.
"Look, I believe in law and order — I believe in it absolutely. But how do I convince the ordinary man in the street that I'm even more concerned than he is, because it's my responsibil- ity? He just expects miracles and he votes you out if you don't produce them."
Then Michael heard the clatter of the Police Department helicopter as it went over the house and down to the wharf below.
Once a week he rode
downtown by helicopter, one week going down the East Side, the next down the West, like an old-time king surveying his domain.
He had been doing it every Monday for four years and he still got the same thrill. When you stood off
from it New York was still
the most exciting city he had
"lt's time I was leaving."
"I'll stay and have a little talk with Sylvia. We haven't
seen much of each other this past month."
"You can drive me down
to my dentist." said Sylvia. "We can talk in your car."
"How will you get to St. Mary's?" Michael asked. He was forever worried for her. though he knew in his heart she was stronger than he was. "I don't want you riding around in any old crummy
"Lester can pick me up at ten-thirty." She kissed him. lovingly, but wondering why lately she had begun to lose patience with him "Don't worry, darling."
"Sometimes I wonder if it's all worth it," he said, and his father and his wife
glanced sharply at him "There's some safety in anonymity."
"It's a little late for that," said Sam Forte.
"Yes," said Michael "You saw to that."
Abel Simmons, cruising
slowly down Second Avenue
glanced at his watch. Nine-forty: time to move. He stepped on the gas pedal as he came to East 70th, then had to brake sharply as a green-and-white police car pulled out from the kerb right in front of him.
He cursed; and cursed again when he saw the lights go red at the corner. He halted behind the police car. bouncing his hands impatiently on the steering wheel of the delivery truck. If he missed the lights at East 69th, it could blow the whole show.
Carole was going to be down there in the garage waiting for him, the Forte woman on her hands, the garage jockey wondering what was going on, and all because a couple of pigs
didn't follow their own rules
about pulling out into moving traffic.
It would serve them right
if he took the gun out of his pocket and shot them both in
the back of the head.
The light turned green and instinctively his hand touched the horn button. The
two cops turned round in their seats and for a moment
he thought the guy beside the driver was going to get out
and come back to him.
He smiled and waved in
an apologetic gesture. Neither of the cops smiled back, just stared at him a moment longer, then they faced forward again and the driver unhurriedly set the police car going.
Abel. resisting thc temptation to speed up past
them, fell in behind. Of all
things, he didn't want cops following him.
Their car cruised slowly on, the driver and his partner lolling negligently in their seats. Abel was trembling
now and he could feel a headache coming on.
Then they were at 69th Street. The police car went on along Second Avenue, and Abel swung the delivery
truck round into 69th . . .
Up the street Carole Cox was already turning into the steps that led up into the small garden fronting
She was dressed in a plain grey suit, wore dark wrapround glasses and a wig
that was much darker than her own hair. She hoped she looked like a thousand other working girls in New York City, felt sure that she did.
Over the past four years she had come to accept anonymity, something she had once thought impossible
for her. Until she had met
Roy in her last year of college and fallen so deeply
in love with him she had
wanted recognition, to be an
actress, a writer, someone. But
even after today she would still be anonymous. That was part of the perfection of the plan.
She paused at the top of the steps, looked down the street and saw Abel driving up in the delivery truck.
He drove past her, carefully not looking at her, then swung out of sight down the curving ramp that went under the garden to the basement garage.
She moved on to a side
path, and checked her watch. Nine-forty-seven. Would Sylvia Forte be early, right on time, or late?
Then the answer came up the street, the big black Lincoln Continental pulling
into the kerb below her. The
door opened and Sylvia Forte, red-gold hair so easily recognisable, got out of it.
A taxi lurched in behind the Lincoln and Lisa Malone
got out of it. She shoved two
dollars at the driver and
moved quickly to the steps that led up to Cornwall
Gardens. As she did so she saw the red-haired woman
who had just got out of the big black car turn back.
"I'm early, but I don't think Dr. Willey will mind."
But I will, thought Lisa, seeing her own appointment disappearing. She hurried up the steps.
She saw the dark-haired
girl standing to one side, looking down the street as if waiting for someone who had promised to meet her here and hoped the girl was not another of Dr. Willey's patients who had turned up early for an appointment.
Her hollow tooth began to ache again — with impatience, she guessed.
Lisa went into the lobby,
crossed to the elevator and entered it. There was no time to check what floor Dr. Willev was on. The red-haired woman was
already in the elevator with her, pressing the button for
the tenth floor. That must be where Dr. Willey had his
But before thc elevator
began to move, the girl Lisa had seen waiting outside came quickly into it.
She stood in front of the
control panel, pressed the
master button, then a second button, waited till the doors closed, then turned round and faced Lisa and the red-haired woman. In her
gloved hand was a small
"I am sorry, Mrs. Forte, but you will have to see your dentist another day."
Lisa felt the elevator
going down beneath her. It came gently to a stop, the doors opened and Lisa, looking past the girl, saw they were in a basement garage that seemed full of
A grey delivery truck, its rear doors open, was backed up almost against the elevator exit. A young blond man in coveralls, wearing the same sort of wrapround dark glasses as the girl, stood by the open doors of the truck.
The girl jerked the gun at
the red-haired woman.
"Please don't make any trouble. Mrs. Forte, or you'll get hurt. Get into the truck."
"Who's the other one?"
The young man sounded
The girl shook her head,
then seemed to look at Lisa for the first time.
"I don't know who you are, but you're out of luck.
You'll have to come with us — "
"But we don't want her!"
The young man swore.
"Shut up!" The gun
shook for a moment in the
girl's hand. Lisa flinched, waiting for the involuntary squeezing of the trigger. "I
know we don't want her. But we're stuck with her. What else do we do with her?"
"I don't know —" Despite the dark mask of the glasses, worry and indecision showed in the thin face of the young
Then there was the sound
of a car coming down the ramp. Thc young man swung round, looking on thc verge of panic.
"I put the chain across the top of the down ramp! He's coming down the other
The girl jerked the gun at
Lisa and the red-haired
"Into the truck quick!"
The red-haired woman looked at Lisa.
"I'm sorry. I think we had better do what they say." she
To page 71
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 51
"I'm staying here! I don't want any part of it —!" Lisa
The young man cursed savagely and stepped into the elevator. She felt a blow across the back of her neck, everything was suddenly
blurred and next moment she was flung headlong into the back of the truck.
Her gaze clearing, she saw the red-haired woman being pushed into the truck and the girl scrambling in after her.
The doors were slammed shut and a moment later she heard the young man jump up into the front of the truck and the other car coming down into the garage.
Its horn was tooted twice, then the truck jumped forward. Lisa tried to sit up, but the girl, sitting on the floor of the truck beside the red-haired woman, .leaned across and poked the gun into her bosom.
"Lie still! If you move, I'll shoot you!"
Lisa lay back, and the truck, engine roaring, swung round the newly-arrived car and went up the ramp out of the garage.
The girl waved the gun at both women, her mouth snarling wordlessly, then she
crawled forward to the
partition that separated the
back of the truck from the driver's seat and hammered on it with her hand.
"Abel -—slow down! We
don't want to be pulled in for speeding!"
Abel slowed. His head
was aching, as it always did
when he was worried. His
face was streaming with sweat and his dark glasses were beginning to fog up.
But he couldn't take them
off yet, not till he was out of 69th and had turned up Third Avenue. They had worked out the route a dozen times. All he had to do was not panic.
Everything had been going so well until the blonde had unexpectedly appeared in the picture. There had been no trouble with the garage attendant. He had been lounging in a chair in the tiny office as Abel had pulled up the truck, swung down and entered the office.
He had said nothing as Abel had come at him with
the butt end of the gun, just opened his eyes wide. His chair had tipped over right in
front of the toilet where Abel meant to hide him.
Abel had come in here
two weeks ago on the pretext of looking for a job. Two minutes in the tiny office had been enough for him to remember its lay-out. It had
taken him less than a minute
to gag the guy, tape his hands behind him, then shove him into the toilet and lock the door.
Then Abel had run back
up the ramp and put the chain across the entrance, hanging the Garage Full sign
Two minutes later he had
had the truck waiting outside the elevator, back doors open, engine running, everything ready just for
Carole and the Forte dame
to put in an appearance. Then the elevator doors had opened and there were Carole and the Forte dame and the blonde besides.
Then to top it all there had been the guy who took no notice of signs, who drove down an Up ramp — what if they had met him halfway up the ramp!
Sweat broke more profusely over him. Then he willed his cool to come back, telling himself the worst was
Even if the guy who had driven down into the garage
found the attendant in the
toilet, they wouldn't know what else had happened. It
could be hours before anyone learned there had been a kidnapping.
In the back of the truck Carole sat with her back
braced against the partition that separated her from
Abel. Mrs. Forte and the blonde sat on either side of
the truck, facing each other.
Neither had said a word
since they had been bundled into the truck. Maybe, she mused, they had both been so scared they had been
She herself had been scared when Abel had
grabbed the blonde girl. It
had looked as if he were
going to kill her. She would have to watch him carefully.
He seemed to lose his head
too quickly when things got panicky.
Sylvia Forte looked at her trembling hand and cupped
it in the other hand. She looked across at Lisa.
"Perhaps we had better
introduce ourselves. I am
"Lisa Malone." Lisa looked down at the holes in
the knees of her stockings.
She reached out for her
handbag, but Carole grabbed it and also took Sylvia's. "There's nothing in there but what any woman carries."
Carole smiled, nodded at the gun in her hand.
"Today I was carrying this in mine. You can fix your face when we get where we're going."
"Where are you taking us? And why?"
Carole just shook her
"We're somewhere on
Long Island - I heard us come over the Queensboro Bridge," Sylvia said.
"Very smart, Mrs. Forte," said Carole. "You must be a
great help to your husband if you are always so obser-
Lisa suddenly tightened her gaze on Sylvia.
"Are you Mrs. Michael Forte? The Mayor's wife?"
"I'm surprised you recognise me. You're not American, are you?" But Sylvia was pleased. One never really knew how much
interest the rest of the world
took in Americans, especially
"No. Dutch." Then Lisa corrected herself. She would
have to get used to the idea. "Or Dutch-Australian, I suppose. My husband is an
Australian and that's where I live. I still can't believe this is happening —"
"You're not going to get hurt," said Carole. "If Mrs. Forte's husband listens to
reason you will be released within thirty-six hours."
"Thirty-six hours?" Sylvia pondered. "'You're waiting till tomorrow. Election Day? Is this a political kidnapping,
"Very smart again, Mrs. Forte." Carole looked at
Lisa. "You're not part of the politics. Mrs. — Malone? You're just unfortunate. You might say you're one of the poor non-voters caught in the cross-fire. It happens too often in this country."
Beneath the wraparound dark glasses the wide sensitive mouth suddenly
thinned with bitterness.
"But Mrs. Forte's hus- band and men like him never know it and never care. But he'll know now."
Malone stuck the stamps on the postcards. He would post them when he and Lisa went out to lunch. They were not large cards but it had
taken him half an hour to
compose the messages on the
backs of them.
His police reports had
never been noted for their
literary quality. Their virtue had been their brevity. But
the cards to his parents and
to Lisa's had needed more thought.
Jan and Elizabeth Pretor-
ious were sophisticated, educated people. Con and Brigid, his own parents, though uneducated, had the Irish respect for garrulity. They might not look for fine words but they wanted a lot
He looked at his watch.
What was keeping Lisa? She was the most punctual
woman he had ever met and
though she had set no time to
meet him back here at the hotel, she had mentioned an
early lunch which, for a hungry man like himself, was any time after eleven-thirty.
It was now nearly half past twelve and she had been gone three hours. He began to worry, thinking of what Captain Jefferson had told him that morning of the increasing number of attacks on women in broad daylight.
Captain Jefferson was
the officer at Police
Headquarters who had taken
him on the conducted tour.
He was a middle-aged negro and Malone had at once recognised him for what he was, a desk detective who had grown fat in his chair and cynical in his lazy
routine. He had been
friendly enough, but Malone guessed that Jefferson was a professional greeter.
Malone had been sur-
prised when he had approached Police Head- quarters. He had not known what to expect, but he had not, for instance, expected New York to
accommodate its law
enforcement headquarters in circumstances that compared so unfavorably with those in
The New York accommodation did not look
any better than what was afforded back in Sydney, only larger.
Its surroundings looked as if they had been designed to bleed out any optimism any rookie policeman might have
nurtured that he was
To page 72
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 71
contributing to a Brave New World, and the front of the main building was veiled by scaffolding.
"You saw the construc-
tion work going on outside?" said Jefferson. "That'll be the first renovations we've had here in I don't know how long, and we have a bunch of anarchists to thank
Malone then remembered an item he had read in the newspapers before he had left Sydney. Only the worst aspects of any country were news in another country.
"That was where they planted the bomb?"
"Right there. Blew out three rooms and killed two
of our guys and injured another six. But we got the jerks who did it — they're down in The Tombs waiting trial. We got them in only two days."
"Good going," said
"lt didn't satisfy every- body. Some people wanted to know why it took us so long. Others wanted to know why we could act so fast and efficiently when it was cops
who were killed, but took our time when ordinary citizens were murdered. You can't win."
"Do you expect to?"
"We have a force of 30,000 men," said Jefferson, "and if we doubled it, then
we might, and I repeat might, just begin to start controlling this town again."
He sounded tired. Then he smiled, as if he realised he
was letting the side down in front of a stranger.
"But we survive. Us cops,
"Where would they be if we didn't?" Malone grinned in reply.
He knew Jefferson would
know whom he meant by "they" — the outsiders, the taxpayers who expected miracles, who hated cops but always came demanding help and sympathy when things went wrong with them personally.
Jefferson's smile widened, became personal and not
"We should swap reminiscences. Inspector. Maybe we could have lunch
Then a young uniformed policeman came hurrying down the long corridor where they stood. At once Malone knew that something unusually serious had occurred. Cops, even young ones, did not normally look as agitated as this one.
Jefferson, equally aware, moved toward the young
man, who looked as if he had come to announce the outbreak of World War Three.
"Captain, you're wanted in the Commissioner's office at once. The Mayor's wife has just been kidnapped!"
quizzically at the young
policeman, then shook his
'I"ll go along right now. Will you show Inspector
Malone out?" He turned back to Malone.
"You heard that? Thirty- three years in the force and I
can still be surprised. Looks as though we might not get together again. Inspector. But you understand —"
He held out his hand and Malone shook it.
"I'll read the papers and see how you make out. Good luck. I'm just glad I'm not in your shoes."
So Malone had come back to the hotel, the
policeman in him wanting to stay at Headquarters and
watch another force in action
during an emergency, the ordinary man in him wanting to be gone from it and glad he did not live in this city of extraordinary violence.
After a time, the telephone rang and he picked it up, wondering where Lisa was calling from. Was she being feted at the Holland Society and she wanted him to join her?
"'Sir, there is a Captain Jefferson downstairs here.
May I send him up?" a voice
Malone put down the
receiver, puzzled and beginning to be worried. Why would a captain of detectives, in the middle of an emergency, come all the way uptown to call on him at the hotel? Why hadn't he just phoned?
He had the door open
before Jefferson knocked on it.
"What's the matter? Has
my wife been hurt or something?"
Jefferson's voice was
puzzled. "How did you know?"
'"Know what? I don't
know anything! But you haven't come all the way up
here for that lunch —"
"No." Jefferson's voice was a rumble of despair. "I wish that was the reason —"
"Come in." Malone closed the door.
Jefferson had not yet told him anything, but he knew that for the first time in his
life a cop had come to him
with bad news. He could not remember the number of times he had knocked on
strangers' doors with a feeling of utter helplessness
as he delivered the bad news.
"'What has happened to my wife?"
'"The kidnappers took her with them when they took the Mayor's wife."
Malone felt his legs go
weak. For a moment he could not see Jefferson or anything else in the room.
"I don't believe it!" he
blurted out then. "'Why would they want lo take her
"They said it was an
accident." Jefferson told
Malone all the police knew.
The kidnapping appeared to have taken place
somewhere in the Cornwall
Gardens building where
Mrs. Forte's dentist was.
A young blond man in dark glasses had slugged the garage attendant, and the kidnapped women must have been in a grey delivery
truck that had been driven at
speed out of the garage as
another man had driven down into it.
'"Accidents like this do
happen. You're a cop — you
know that —"
'"Did the kidnappers phone or what?"
"Some woman phoned the Mayor, told him they had
his wife and another woman named Malone, an Austra- lian. I was going to call you from Headquarters, then I
thought it better —" He made a vague gesture.
"Thanks. I'm glad you didn't phone — I'd have thought it was someone trying a sick joke." Malone
sat down on the bed. "How's
the Mayor taking it?"
"I don't know — I haven't seen him. But some
kidnappings we've had in the past, while he's been Mayor,
he's really ridden us. He's so uptight about law and order, there are some cops wonder if he knows what we're up against."
"'What do the kidnappers want? Money for my wife as
"I don't know what demands they're making. If they're socking the Mayor, you can bet the price will be high — he's a very rich man. Maybe they'll include your wife in the price."
"'Don't talk like that!"
Then Malone looked up. "'Sorry, it just made my wife
sound like some sort of commodity."
"Look — I've been on
three kidnappings and I know the history of most of the big ones here in this country. As far as kidnappers are concerned, their victims are a commodity and nothing else. That's brutal, I know, but you're a cop and sympathy isn't gonna be any comfort to you."
Malone nodded. He looked at Jefferson, almost unable to ask the question: "Do you think my wife — and the Mayor's wife — are
The answer seemed to sicken Jefferson as much as the question.
"'We can't tell. You know
the statistics — no, maybe you don't. Most times the kidnappers panic —" His face screwed up in pain.
"It won't be easy for you, Malone. It's never easy for anyone in these circum- stances, but it'll be harder for you. You're a cop and you're not gonna believe any of the stuff we usually dole out. I'd like to say the chances are your wife is unharmed, but we just plain don't know."
"What's happening then? What are you doing?"
"I can't tell you till I go back down to Headquarters.
You're welcome to come down there with me."
Malone was already on his feet. They went out of the hotel, the desk clerk looking inquisitively after them as they went through the lobby and got into the police car drawn up at the kerb.
As they drove off, the radio began to crackle. "It's for you. Captain." the driver
The message was for Jefferson to proceed straight to City Hall, to the Mayor's
office. Jefferson acknowl-
edged the directive, gave the microphone back to the driver and sat back beside Malone.
"'Let's hope they got some good news."
Malone said nothing. Suddenly he hated America
"Declaring war is not going to help Sylvia and this
other woman, this — Mrs. Malone or whatever her name is." said Michael Forte.
'"If we deploy every cop we have, call in every FBI agent in the country, all we are going lo do is panic these kidnappers and they'll —"
He stopped, unable to voice the thought in his
To page 74
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 72
mind. He looked appealingly at Police Commissioner Desmond Hungerford.
"Des. I appreciate your efforts, but I think it would be wrong. I want Sylvia — and this other woman — back alive."
"And you're willing to pay the ransom price?" Hungerford said. "I don't
mean that as a cruel
question. Mr. Mayor. I'm just asking."
Michael Forte put his hand over his eyes, a habit he had developed years ago when trying to evade his father's questions.
The other three men in the room, his father, Hungerford and Cartwright,
from the FBI, watched him closely and sympathetically. Each of them was privately glad he was not in the Mayor's shoes, either as the city's chief official or as a
"It's not just my decision,
is it?" Forte said at last. "Those men are held on
charges — that means the law is responsible for them. I'm
not the law, Des. The law is an instrument of the State."
"Forgive me saying so, Mr. Mayor, but I don't think the Governor will like the
decision being thrown in his lap."
"I didn't mean it would
be." Forte dropped his hands on to the big desk in front of him. His program for the rest of the day lay there. It was
another life, one that he was
suddenly no longer interest- ed in. "Sorry, Des. I was only trying to evade the issue."
Samuel Forte sat quietly, alert but unobtrusively. He had never made the mistake
of emphasising in public that
he was his son's mentor.
Even in this personal crisis of Michael's there were politi- cal implications just as critical and he waited, though deeply worried for the safety of Sylvia.
Des Hungerford had been his own suggestion to
Michael as Police Commissioner. He had come to see it as one of the few
poor recommendations he
had ever made.
Hungerford, a tall, bony but handsome man, had been an excellent cop and probably the best Chief Inspector the Department
had ever known. But he had been a failure as Commissioner, and every- one, including himself, knew
He was the sort whose
pinnacle of potential was to be second from the top, the man who would always need
another man above him to take the ultimate responsibility.
Sam sometimes won- dered, in the darkness of an
old man's sleepless nights, if Michael would prove to be another Des Hungerford when he got to the White House. But it was something
he would never admit to
anyone, not even fully to
*'Mr. Mayor, I think
circumstances will decide for us what we can and cannot
do." Cartwright was the Special Agent in charge of
the FBI's New York office.
"We have very little to go on." he went on. "We know there is a young man involved — blond, thin,
maybe in his early twenties.
And there's a woman — the
one who phoned you. What
sort of voice did she have — I mean, did she have an accent or anything?"
"Not that I remember."
Michael Forte gestured helplessly. "I don't think so. I was too shocked to take any
Cartwright nodded sympathetically.
"Why had your wife no protection, nobody with
"She usually does when she goes in one of our own or a City car. A detective from Headquarters goes with her
or trails her in an unmarked
car. This morning she went with my father." He carefully
avoided looking at his father. This was no time to be
scoring points off him.
"We know a grey delivery truck was probably used to transport your wife and Mrs. Malone," said Hungerford. 'The man who drove down
into the garage as they drove out gave us a rough description —but it was very rough.
"We have the garage attendant over at Headquar- ters going through our mug shots, but he already says he will only be guessing. The
man who hit him had the collar of his coveralls turned
up around his ears and jaw, and the dark glasses just about obliterated the rest of his face.
"He says he could have been a young man who came in looking for a job two weeks ago, but he's not
"I take it your men are working with the FBI?"
"Naturally, sir." said Cartwright, and looked at Hungerford, who nodded. "That's only newspaper talk, that the Police Department and the Bureau don't get on together. Des phoned me as soon as you gave him the
There was a knock on the door and Michael
Forte's secretary put her
"Mr. Mayor, Captain
Jefferson is here with
As soon as Malone
walked into the big room
he knew that he and
Jefferson were very much
the low men on this totem
The handshake Mayor Forte gave him and the
nods from the other three
men were friendly and sympathetic enough. But he recognised at once that he
— and Lisa — were never
going to be anything more than supporting players in
Nothing was said, but Malone already sensed politics.
"Inspector Malone. I can't say how sorry I am —"
Then Michael Forte shook
his head in mild disgust, and Malone recognised that
this man at least was an honest one. "No, that's not what you want to hear, is
"No, sir," said Malone, equally honest. "All I want to hear is what is being done to get my wife back."
"Nothing right now — nothing constructive, that is. The woman who made the
call said they would call back at three o'clock to see if we agreed to their
"What are their de- mands, sir?"
"They don't want money. Inspector — I wish it were as simple as that.
We have five anarchists held in The Tombs, our detention jail, on conspiring
to set off a bomb — actually, it went off two months ago and killed two policemen —"
"I know about them. C aptain Jefferson told me this morning. What have they got to do with this?"
"They are the ransom fee — their release and a plane to take them to Cuba. The deadline is noon to-morrow."
Malone felt the sick weakness come back on him.
"Go on, sir." he said.
Forte looked at the Australian shrewdly, for the first time really appreciating
that this man had as much
at stake in the kidnapping
"What do you mean, Inspector?"
"You hadn't finished.
You've implied that you're not prepared to agree to the kidnappers' demands."
"The Mayor didn't say that!" snapped Hungerford.
"I know he didn't. But
I'm a policeman, like you.
Commissioner — I don't
have to have things spelled
out for me. I don't care about your anarchists — all I want is to get my wife
"If you are a policeman, you'll realise the conse- quences." Then Hungerford stopped and looked toward
the door as there was a knock and a small dark-haired man looked in.
"Joe Burgmann is here, Mr. Mayor," the newcomer
"Bring him in, Manny."
Michael Forte said and the small dark-haired man.
dapper as a head-waiter, brought in a burly man with thinning grey hair and; hard bright eyes. They were introduced to Malone as; Manny Pearl and Joe Burgmann.
Burgmann looked Ma- lone over cursorily, decided
he was no voter, and turned back to Michael Forte.
"Manny's put me in the picture. Mr. Mayor, I can't say how sorry I am —" Malone caught the swift glance from Michael Forte,
but there was no flicker of
expression otherwise on the Mayor's face, "lt's a real dilemma. Anyone come up with any suggestions?"
"None so far, Joe."
"I have." said Malone.
"I've suggested you give in to them. My wife — and yours too, Mr. Mayor — are
more valuable than a bunch of anarchists, no matter what they've done."
"That's easy for you to say 1" Burgmann began.
"Nothing is easy for me to say." snapped Malone, "not when my wife's life is in danger."
"O.K.. Joe —" Michael
Forte motioned to Burg-
mann, then looked at Malone.
"Mr. Burgmann is my campaign manager — you
know we have an election
coming up tomorrow. I've always been a strong proponent of law and order, but in tomorrow's election my principal opponent has chosen to make an issue of it.
"If I agree to the ransom demand — as you say, Inspector, you're a police- man, you don't have to have things spelled out for you."
To page 88
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 74
"Maybe I do," Malone said slowly. He knew now why he had sensed the atmosphere of politics as
soon as he had entered the room. "What's more impor- tant to you — your political reputation or getting your
At once there was an
angry murmur from several
of the men. Michael Forte stiffened, his face flushed.
Malone poised himself, wondering if he had gone too far but determined not to back down. Then Sam Forte, a veteran of such moments, spoke for the first
"Inspector Malone has asked the proper question, I
think. There will be a lot of
people. Michael, asking where you stand on law and order when you're confront-
ed with this — this
dilemma. All you've said in the past will look pretty
hollow if —"
Malone looked gratefully
at the old man. But Sam
Forte ignored him. I don't mean anything to him. Malone suddenly realised. He's only intent on protecting the image of his
He had an abrupt urge
to spin round and stride out of the building, but he knew that would achieve nothing. If he was to get Lisa back safely, he needed
these men in this room.
All at once he felt more
ragingly helpless than he
had ever felt in his life before.
Then Manny Pearl spoke.
"The reporters have guessed there's something wrong. Mr. Mayor. I think you'll have to make a
Michael Forte looked at
Hungerford and Cartwright.
"Will that endanger the lives of my wife and Mrs. Malone, do you think?"
"Did the woman who
telephoned say anything about not telling the papers?" asked Cartwright.
"No. Come to think of
it, she didn't even say anything about not telling the police. That's one of their usual demands, isn't it?"
"Most kidnappers hope we'll be kept out of it. Telling the newspapers may result in these people thinking the pressure is being increased on them,
but that is a risk we have to
take, Mr. Mayor."
Cartwright then looked at Malone. He felt sorry for
the Australian, who looked
angry and bewildered by
what must sound to him
like a lot of empty, delaying talk. But maybe things were simpler in Australia.
"Do you agree. Inspec-
Malone, his emotion under control again, thought, Here's one bloke who's on my side.
"If we have no real clues of our own, then we may have to rely on the public, hope there's an outside
chance that someone saw
something that will help
He's a worried husband
but he hasn't forgotten how to be a cop, Cartwright thought. He turned again to Michael Forte, who looked just as worried but less
decisive than the Australian.
ls he the sort of man
who'd panic when the chips
were down? He'd make a
hopeless President if he is. But —then how many
Presidents have been faced
with a personal dilemma
like this? A real dilemma,
as the voting machine that went by the name of Burgmann had said.
"I think we may need the newspapers, sir. If Commissioner Hungerford agrees, I think you should
make a statement."
"What do I do? Just issue a statement or call the reporters in here?"
"If I can make a
suggestion, Mr. Mayor. I think you should have 'em in here." Burgmann, Malone was beginning to
To page 90
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 88
realise, was an important man in this room. He showed some deference to Michael Forte himself, but none at all to the other men, least of all to Malone.
"Some of these guys have been very much against us the past few months — they oughta be given the chance to see how you're suffering in this
"Joe, I don't want to have to answer a lot of questions —"
"No questions then. Just
a statement. Where's some paper?"
Malone felt his anger rising again. He wanted to
smash his fist into the face
of the campaign manager. Burgmann's sole concern was to promote his
He scribbled in a large
hand on two sheets of
paper, never stopping to grope for a word, then handed the statement to Michael Forte.
"That do?" he asked.
But without waiting for any assent from the Mayor, he had already moved to the door, opened it and told
the secretary outside to
bring in the newspapermen.
They came trooping in, five reporters and two photographers, all of them
with that mixture of boredom and alertness that Malone had seen on the
faces of newspapermen
back home who had to I cover the same beat day
"Gentlemen, I have some bad news — bad, that
is, for Inspector Malone
and myself —" Michael Forte introduced Malone, then baldlv and without emotion read out the statement.
Shock replaced the boredom on the newspaper- men's faces. But they were all veterans and they soon recovered. Shock was grist
to their mill and as they moved in on the Mayor.
Malone wanted to get out of this room before his disgust, anger and frustra- tion made him erupt.
" Where'd it happen. Mr. Mayor? What time?"
"That ransom, Mr.
Mayor how does that tie in with your concept of law
Michael Forte's jaw tightened, but all he said was. "No questions. Not at this stage."
"lt's been a terrible
shock to the Mayor." said Burgmann. "Come on, boys. We'll fill you in later —"
"How do you feel about the ransom demand. Inspec- tor?" Everyone in the room
looked at Malone as one of
the reporters put the question. "As a cop, you
must be concerned for law and order."
Malone felt the floor
suddenly rumble beneath him. He looked down in
puzzlement, then Michael Forte spoke.
"It's just a subway train. Inspector, City Hall isn't going to fall down."
Malone stared hard at
the Mayor. He didn't know whether any of the newspapermen read the message in the words, but he quite clearly understood
what Michael Forte meant.
Tell the truth if you like, Malone, we don't need you. But you sure as hell need
"I'm a stranger in this city." said Malone. "I have
to take the advice of Mayor
Out of the corner of his eye he saw the relief on the faces of Burgmann and
Manny Pearl. But he was
still looking at Michael
Forte. For a moment the
Mayor all at once seemed
The dark eyes softened and Malone suddenly
realised that Forte was not solely and unalterably a political animal.
For the first time the two men looked at each
other with the recognition
that no one else here could
feel the pain and worry that
was common to them both.
"Commissioner Hunger- ford has every available man in the Police Depart- ment already at work." Burgmann was saying to the reporters, "aided, of course, by the FBI —"
But not aided by me, the
one law and order officer in
this room who has the most to lose.
Again the explosive anger brought on by frustration simmered in Malone. He could not be
expected to sit back while other cops worked on this
case. He had to do
something to get Lisa back
— but what?
"You have no time for
Joe Burgmann, have you?"
Michael Forte asked suddenly.
The abruptness of the
question caught Malone off guard. He took delaying refuge behind his coffee
Unexpectedly Forte, when the meeting had been breaking up, had invited him to stay behind and
share a sandwiches-and-cof-
fee lunch. Malone, intrigued now by this man with
whom he had to share a
common anguish, had accepted.
He had not expected to be called upon to answer leading questions such as
"In these circumstances, no," he said at last.
Forte stared down at the
red carpet beneath his feet. He and Malone were sitting
on chairs at one side of the room, a low table between them and a television set
against the wall opposite
On the table, beside the
tray of coffee and almost
untouched sandwiches were
copies of the morning papers and the first edition
of the afternoon Post. Forte
smiled up at himself from
each of the front pages. Yesterday's man.
The photograph that
would be in the later editions of the Post and in the Times and News
tomorrow morning would
be of a worried, more honest man.
"You have to try to understand him. Inspector. I
don't think Joe is without
feelings — he has a wife
and kids and I'm sure he loves them. But all his life
he's been in politics — he sees everything in terms of
"I wouldn't want to understand him." said Malone stubbornly, "if that's the way he is."
"What's your wife like? You didn't tell the reporters much. How long have you
"Then you're still getting to know her, aren't you? I've been married eighteen years I have two kids, a boy sixteen and a girl
fourteen. I don't know which is worse to lose
someone you've become
accustomed to or someone
you're still finding out
"You think we're going
to lose them?"
"I don't know!" Forte
put his hand over his eves
for a moment.
To page 92
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 90
Then there was a tap on the door and Manny Pearl came in. He waited patiently and without embarrassment till the Mayor had recovered his
"The news is already on TV and radio," he said then. "All the networks have been on to me asking if you'd do a spot for their main news shows tonight, but I took it upon myself to say No."
"Good." Forte nodded, then looked at Malone. "You don't want to be bothered by them, do you?"
"No, I don't think
they're interested in me, anyway." Then he stopped.
"I'm not offended,
Inspector. If anyone has the right to be offended, it's you." Again there was the glance of recognition
between them, then Forte looked back at Pearl. "What else is happening. Manny?"
"I've taken some phone calls for you. A few people, some organisations. I thanked them all on your behalf."
Malone was not sure what Pearl's official title was, but it was obvious that he had the Mayor's trust.
Actually, Manny Pearl had long ago dedicated
himself to Michael Forte
and not just for political
reasons. He had a natural warmth of affection, but too
much of his early life had been spent in an atmos- phere where friendship was only an instrument to be
Then he had met Michael Forte and the Italian rich boy and the Jewish delicatessen owner's son had found how much they had in common and a respect and deep liking for each other had grown up.
Wherever Mike went from now on, to the White House or oblivion. Manny hoped he would take him
with him . . .
Malone's thoughts had gone back to Lisa. He was remembering how she looked when she had gone
out of the hotel. She was
smiling . . . with love, not
"Do we have to sit here
and do nothing?" he said abruptly.
"What can we do?" But
Forte got up and illustrated his own frustration by moving restlessly about the room. "I have to stay here for that next phone call. Did you cancel all my appointments tor this afternoon. Manny .'"
"Not all. I've cancelled
everything up till four o'clock. At four you are supposed to shake hands with the United Nations
delegation that is looking
over City Hall —"
"Do I have to do that?"
"lt seemed to me the
least demanding of your appointments. It will show you are carrying on with your job."
"Always the image! You disappoint me sometimes.
I'm sure I do," said Pearl, unruffled.
"At four-thirty you were supposed to start touring the campaign offices, thanking your workers for what they've done for you." he went on. I'll just send out a message to each of the ward captains in your name. I hate to say it, but we can't postpone the
"I could withdraw my name— " But the threat was half-hearted and Forte knew it. So, too, did Malone and Manny Pearl.
Sharp at three o'clock the telephone rang. By then Sam Forte, Hungerford and Cartwright had returned.
Michael Forte took the call.
"Who are you? lt was a woman who called this morning."
"We're partners — don't worry which one of us makes the calls, Mr. Forte." The woman this morning had been soft-voiced,
almost polite. But this man's voice had a ragged edge to it and Forte heard danger.
"The message is the same, you hear? We want those five guys outa The Tombs and quick. You decided what you gonna
"I can't release them at
once — there's a legal procedure we have to go through." Hungerford, listening on an extension, gestured to him to keep talking. In the outer office police technicians were taping the conversation and trying to trace the call.
"You gave us until noon tomorrow. How is my wife — can I speak to her?"
"No, man. you can't." There was a note of grating
satisfaction in the man's
voice. "Is that guy Malone there with you? Let me talk
Forte motioned to the Australian, handed him the receiver.
"Your wife says you're a cop. Right? I'd sooner deal with someone else, but this
time I'm not gonna hold it against you. You're just lucky, man. you ain't American — but pigs are
the same all over.
"Listen — you tell the Mayor he's not gonna see his wife again and you're not gonna see yours, unless he lets those guys outa The Tombs. Right? That's all for now. There'll be just one
more call from us."
"What time? Where — here?"
"We'll find you. No- body's gonna be more available than you and the Mayor. You just expect to hear from us. And pass on that message to the Mayor.
"We don't want to hurt your missus, but she's in the same boat now as Mrs.
Forte. It could get awful rough for her."
The room was small but
comfortably furnished. There was a white carpet square on the polished
floorboards, with two
Colonial-style single beds, a
chest-of-drawers and a
dressing-table in the same style and a built-in
Two easy chairs had
blue denim covers and an
electric heater stood against
one wall. It was a room
that Lisa guessed was
similar to thousands of others all over America.
Except for two things.
The window was board-
ed up from the inside and three pictures had been removed from the walls, leaving oblong shapes that were slightly cleaner than
the rest of the white
"We're in a cottage of
some sort. I think." said
Sylvia Forte. "I used to have a room very much like
this in a house we had on Fishers Island."
"I wonder why the pictures were taken off the
"I don't know. Unless
they would have identified
those two outside.'*
They had been in the room an hour. At first, after their initial words to each other in the truck, they had fallen silent as they had begun to appreciate the frightening potential of their predicament.
Their growing apprehen-
sion had not been slowed
by the sullenness of the girl
in the back of the truck with them. It seemed to Lisa that behind and below
the dark glasses the girl's
face had hardened into a mask that showed no hint of mercy for them.
After three-quarters of an hour's travelling the truck had slowed, turned and pulled up. Lisa and Sylvia heard the driver get down, then a few moments later he came back, got into
the truck and drove it into
a garage or large shed.
The back doors of the
truck were opened and Abel, smiling widely,
looked in at Carole.
"So far so good. You make the phone call, while
I look after these two."
Carole got out of the truck. She kissed his cheek,
put her gun back in her handbag and slipped cautiously out of a side door of the two-car garage.
Abel gestured to Sylvia and Lisa. They got out of the truck, and he pushed them up against the side of a second delivery truck, a black one, parked in the garage.
He opened the back doors of the black truck, took out two white hoods.
"'Join the Ku Klux Klan."
Lisa and Sylvia took the hoods, hesitated, then slipped them over their heads. There were no eyeholes, but a hole had been cut in the material at mouth level and Lisa found she was able to breathe quite easily.
The young man moved close to her, tightening a slip-cord round her neck.
"Tm not gonna hurt you." he said gently as she tried to pull away. Carole had taught him how to be gentle with a woman. Carole — the greatest thing that had ever happened to
him in his whole life.
"You just behave and we'll get along fine." he
He moved away from her to Sylvia Forte, but as
soon as he touched her, her
hands flew up to push him
"Keep still!" There was no gentleness in him now.
His voice was a hard snarl.
Lisa put out a hand, groping blindly, found Sylvia's hand and held it. They clung to each other, strangers who suddenly
needed each other.
They were bundled into the back of the black truck, then they heard the girl come back into the garage, closing the side door after
"I spoke to him," Lisa heard her say. "The next
call to him is three o'clock this afternoon. You can make that."
"It'll be a pleasure. Let's go—"
The girl got into the
back of the truck and the doors were closed. A
minute later they were back on the road, moving more quickly now as if there was
Lisa, sitting close to Sylvia Forte, felt the other
woman reach for her hand
again, felt the fingers digging into her palm.
"Don't worry, Mrs. Forte." Carole sat watching
the women with cold
amusement. For the past hour she had felt uneasy.
She had never done
anything like this before,
never even broken the law
in a minor way.
She had planned the whole project right down to
the smallest detail, but because she could remem- ber every detail she knew
how many things could go wrong if there was the slightest accident.
The only accident so far had been Mrs. Malone, but
she might prove to be a
bonus. The climax of the
operation had been reached when she had spoken to Mayor Forte himself and
told him her terms.
From now on the show
was to be enjoyed, for she had no doubt that the
Mayor would agree to her
demands. He had no alternative.
To be continued
The novel "Ransom" by Jon Cleary is published by
William Collins Ltd.