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RANSOM

BY JON CLEARY

Padua spread his hands in a gesture, angering Forte and Malone almost unbearably.

STRANGE CHANCE brings disaster to INSPECTOR SCOBIE MALONE and his attractive wife LISA during their honeymoon trip to New

York.

CAROLE COX, aided by ABEL SIMMONS, planned to kidnap SYLVIA, wife of New York's Mayor MICHAEL FORTE, in the lift of a city building on her way to a dental appointment.

As Lisa happened to enter the lift at the same time to visit the same dentist, the kidnappers took her too, forcing both women at gun point into a truck that Abel had brought into the building's basement garage.

The ransom, demanded first by Carole and then by Abel in telephone calls to the Mayor, is the release of five anarchists now in prison on charges ef a bombing which destroyed part of Police Headquarters, killing two policemen.

News of the kidnapping was brought to Malone

at his hotel by a Negro policeman, CAPTAIN

JOHN JEFFERSON.

They went straight to City Hall where Mayor Forte was in agonised consultation with DESMOND HUNGERFORD, the Police Commissioner, and FBI agent CARTWRIGHT; also SAM FORTE, his father; MANNY PEARL, his personal secretary; and JOE BURGMANN, his campaign director.

Malone stands by in helpless anger as the others debate what effect releasing the prisoners might, have on Forte's chances next day in the Mayoral elections in which "law and order" is a

vital issue.

Meanwhile, Sylvia and Lisa have been locked in a small but comfortable bedroom. For the trip there they had been forced to put on long hoods with only breathing holes for their mouths. NOW READ

ON:

AS THE TRUCK had driven onward, Sylvia Forte

had continued to clutch Lisa's hand. Presently she moved restlessly.

I'm suffocating in this thing," she protested.

"No, you're not." Carole's voice came to her. "Just relax and you can breathe quite easily through that

hole. I tried it myself."

"lt's not the breathing. I suffer from claustro- phobia." Lisa could feel the nails digging into her palm, and knew Sylvia's growing panic was not faked.  

"You'll just have to put up with it," said Carole. "I'd have thought a woman in your position would be accustomed to claustrophobia. All those hangers-on you find in politics — don't they crush the life out of

you?"

Sylvia was silent. Lisa could feel the tension slowly

draining out of the other woman's hand. Then: "I

heard you say you had spoken to 'him.' Was that my

husband?"

"Yes. I told him our terms and if he agrees to them you will be back with him by tomorrow afternoon."

"What are your terms? How much are you asking  

"Money, you mean? None at all. All we want are five people in exchange for you. Two for five, that's a bargain in these inflationary days."

"Who are the five people?" Sylvia asked.

"Five men held in The Tombs. Parker, McBean, Fishman, Ratelli and Latrobe —" Carole knew the

names as well as she knew her own, even the name

among them that she knew was an alias.

Lisa felt Sylvia's hand stiffen again, but she made no reply.

The truck sped along. Then at last it had arrived at

its destination.

As they had got out, Lisa had felt a rising wind, smelled salt on the air. They had been hustled out of the garage into which the truck had been driven and quickly across a small yard into the cottage.

Lisa had felt sand and short spiky grass beneath her shoes. But she had heard no sound of traffic, no cries of children. Wherever they were, their surroundings

seemed to be deserted.

When they had been pushed into this room where they were now, they had been left enclosed in the

hoods for almost two hours. When the hoods had been removed it had taken them almost half a minute to

accustom themselves to even the dim, shaded light hanging from the ceiling.

Lisa had felt giddy for a moment and had sat down

on one of the beds.

"You all right?" She had been surprised at the sudden solicitude in the girl's voice.

She nodded. "I'd like a glass of water."

The girl went out, locking the door behind her, and Lisa, all at once weak and frightened, lay on the bed.

Sylvia walked once round the room, almost like a

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RANSOM

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 77

woman trying to make up her mind whether to stay or to leave. Then suddenly she stopped by the other bed and

fell on it, face down, as Carole came back with two glasses of water.

"I'll get you some lunch

soon, it won't be much, but then this isn't Gracie Mansion."'

Sylvia did not move, continued to lie face down on the bed. Lisa got up, took both glasses of water and put them on the dressing-table. Carole stared down at Sylvia, then abruptly she went out of the room, slamming the door hard and locking it again.

As soon as she was gone Sylvia rolled over and sat up.

Lisa handed her one of the glasses of water.

"Do you think we are going to gain anything by ignoring her?" she said.

"I'm trying to get myself straightened out. I'm afraid just now that I'll try to hit her if she speaks to me again. And that might be dangerous for us — for you as well as

me."

Lisa looked at her with interest.

"Despite the red hair, you

don't strike me as the sort of woman who'd have a

temper."

"Oh, I have," said Sylvia. She sipped the water, seemed

to be much more relaxed now. "Or had. I've been

controlling it for years — though there have been

times when I've been

tempted to let fly. For the first

time Lisa saw her smile. It was an attractive smile that took some of the cool

severity out of the beautiful

face.

"I was a brat as a child.

My daughter has the same temper — though I hope she

is not a brat." The smile died

and her eyes appeared to cloud over. "I hope she and Roger, that's my son, don't worry too much."

"They will," said Lisa. "So will our husbands. Poor Scobie, he will —" Then she

turned away, on the point of tears. She felt the pain of love as tangibly as if she had just been hit a solid blow.

The door opened again

and Carole came in with the

two women's handbags.

"I had to check you had nothing lethal in them. I've taken out your nail files, but everything else except your cigarettes and lighters is there. I'm afraid there'll be no smoking while you're here, just in case you get some ideas about burning

the house down."

"A cigarette would help steady my nerves," said Sylvia.

"I didn't think you had any." said Carole. "Aren't you president of the Make America Healthy move-

ment?"

Lisa turned round, recovered again.

'Td like a wash. I feel

sweaty and dirty after being

in that hood."

"Later. But don't start asking for too much. Mrs. Malone. I'm not your

servant."

"I didn't suggest you

were." Lisa felt more

composed, though still apprehensive. "Mrs. Forte and I will be more satisfied

— guests, if you like to call us

thal - if we can feel clean and comfortable."

"You have your nerve, Mrs. Malone," Carole said. "Do Australians always

demand such service when they're —guests?"  

"I'm only Australian by adoption. It's the Dutch in me that you're talking to

now."

"The Dutch were

imperialists, just like the British. Those days are over, Mrs. Malone." Carole turned

quickly and went out of the

room.

"Where do you think we

are?" Lisa asked, after a

moment.

"I think we're on Long Island somewhere," Sylvia said slowly. "Probably a long way out. I smelled the salt air

as we came in."

"Do you think this might be that girl's home?"

"Her summer home, perhaps."

"What about the boy?"

"He has me puzzled. He's not her — class, if you like. Would you think so?"

I don't know. I've always been taught that America is a classless society, though I

don't believe that."

"lt isn't." said Sylvia with an almost arrogant lack of apology. "That girl has had the advantage of some money — and she's obviously educated. But the boy —"

She shook her head.

I don't like him." said

Lisa, and shuddered. "I can't imagine what she sees in

him."

Carole sat in the

living-room, of the cottage fighting hard against the memories that pressed in on

her. She had made a mistake

in choosing this place as their

hide-out, but nowhere else had seemed better.

She had taken off her

dark glasses and wig, and the removal of the disguise only served to identify her more

with this room. She looked at

her watch, wondering how much longer Abel would be.

Perhaps she had made a mistake in letting him make the second call to Mayor Forte. But she knew his temperament, or thought she did, and knew he thought of himself as her equal partner in this job.

Job. It sounded a mundane word for an act of revenge. But she had been determined all along that she would not allow her approach to the . . . the job ... to become

overheated.

You didn't wait four years

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RANSOM

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 78

to avenge your husband's   death and then blow it all by  

letting anger and rhetoric the faults that Roy himself   had never been able to     contain, spoil the execution    

of it.

Carole had been surprised how much pleasure she had   got out of planning the   details of the operation. She

just hoped that Mayor Forte  

would carry out the part that

she had assigned to him. She was not going to enjoy killing

the two women in the next room, even though their

deaths might be forced on

her.

A memory shook her.

Roy lying lifeless in her arms, and she got up quickly, desperate for something that

would distract her.

Then she heard the car

drive up beside the cottage, heard Abel get out, open the garage doors and drive the

car in.

Then he was letting

himself in the back door and she went out into the kitchen

to greet him, clutching at him with an eagerness that surprised and delighted him.

"It's all right, baby." He

held her to him, kissed her

brow, once again amazed at

how beautiful she was and that she had chosen him from among a dozen guys

who would have let her

trample over them. "No trouble at all. It's gonna rain, though."

"Just the edge of the storm. We'll be all right."

Carole kissed him. ashamed of herself. He would never know what a

poor substitute he was for Roy, that when this was over she was going to disappear

from his life. But he hud been the only man she had met in four years whom she

felt she could trust.

"Did you talk to Forte himself?"'

Abel nodded, still enjoy- ing having her in his arms.

He would hold her forever like this if she would let him.

"And the other guy — Malone. Forte was hedging, playing for time, but I let him know we're not gonna

bc fooled around."

She kissed him again, gently disengaged herself

from his arms.

"You dumped the truck?" "In Flushing. It could

stand there in the street for a

week before anyone looks at it. Nobody's gonna trace it to us. You're not starting to worry, are you?"

Carole smiled, shook her

head. They had been extremely careful about the vehicles they had used. A week ago, Abel had stolen the two trucks and brought them

to the house with the two-car

garage she had rented in Jamaica on Long Island.

Her own car, with its

Missouri plates, had been left in a garage in Flushing. Abel had picked it up from

there this afternoon when he

had dumped the black truck.

The grey truck, minus plates, was still in the garage

at the house in Jamaica, but she had rented the house under a false name and she

would never be going back

there.

In less than twenty-four hours everything would be over, one way or another, and they would be on their way, leaving not a clue behind. Leaving the last

remnant of her life behind too.

"How're they?" Abel

nodded toward the bedroom door.

"I think we'd better feed them now."

Carole busied herself with cans while Abel watched her

curiously. He had taken off his blond wig and under his

own dark hair his thin face

looked older, the blue eyes wary. After a time, he spoke hesitantly.

"Baby, I don't know anything about you —" Her face stiffened and he held up a placatory hand.

"I know — you'll tell me all that in your own time. But I'm not blind — you don't

come from the same sorta

neighborhood I do. You've had — privileges. You belong to the sorta people I been hating all my life."

"Do vou hate me for that?"

"I'll never hate you — for any reason. But that don't say you've forgotten where you came from — all this."

He waved a hand at their

surroundings.

"Some day I'll tell you all

about it." she said.

They put on their dark glasses and wigs again, and took in soup, sandwiches and

coffee to the two women in the bedroom.

Sylvia, ear pressed to the

door, had heard the

conversation that had gone

on out in the kitchen.

"Did you talk to my

husband?" she asked.

Abel nodded.

"He didn't say much, but it seems like he isn't hurrying himself. Maybe you're not the number one priority."

Sylvia turned her back, her face going white and

taut.

"Put the tray over there," she said sharply.

There was a rattle of cups and saucers as the tray shook in Abel's hands, but Carole

put a restraining hand on his

arm.

"Don't start giving orders. Mrs. Forte," she said. "You

keep on this way and you'll get no food at all. It doesn't matter to us whether you're

fed or not."

Sylvia still had her back

turned.

"That's up to you. I am not going to kow-tow to you."

Lisa, standing by her bed.

watched the three Ameri- cans. She wanted to take the

tray from Abel, usher him and the girl out of the room.

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RANSOM

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 79

placate Sylvia Forte. But she sensed that all three might turn on her. Outsiders were never welcome in a civil war.

"You're very different from your public image, aren't you?" Carole was aroused in her turn by Sylvia Forte's arrogance. "All that devotion to good works, wanting to show New Yorkers their heritage —"

Sylvia turned back slowly, looked the two kidnappers up and down. Lisa, watching Sylvia's face, waited for

some sarcastic remark.

But Sylvia was not stupid, knew the right moment to

concede. She sat down in a

chair and put a hand over her eyes, borrowing Mich- ael's strategy. It was a strategic withdrawal, not a surrender.

"May we have the tray? We're both very hungry."

Carole looked at her.

'"You sound as if you are going to be sensible, Mrs.

Malone."

"How is my husband? Does he know that I'm here?"

'He's okay." said Abel.

"He understands what's

happening. He's not gonna be any trouble."

"I didn't think he would be." Lisa smiled with rueful

irony. "He's like me. All we want is to go home."

Sylvia lowered her hand

from her face.

"Why don't you let Mrs. Malone go? You don't want

her."

"No. that's right." said Carole. "And I'm sorry we had to bring you here. Mrs.

Malone." She looked at Lisa,

at the innocent stranger who

would have to die tomorrow if the ransom demands were

not met.

Violence had its own

impetus. That had killed Roy. And as soon as she thought of him all pity for anyone else, stranger or not. disappeared.

Abruptly she went out of the room, saying as she went, "Your husband had just better work on the Mayor,

that's all."

Abel stared at the two women, his face hard behind the dark glasses, then he went out, locking the door again. The wind had risen and they could hear it rattling the shutters outside the boarded-up window.

"They're going to kill us," said Sylvia.

Malone got out of the

police car, waited for

Jefferson to ease his bulk out

of it.

"We could've walked over here," said Jefferson, "but I gotta keep in touch on the radio, just in case. Stick around, Stan," he added to the driver.

Malone had been looking about him, at the towering

block of the Manhattan House of Detention, The Tombs as it was called, at the shabby shops across the

narrow street.

"I hope I did the right thing in asking you if you

wanted to come over here with me," Jefferson said.

"lt's better than sitting

back at the hotel."

"That's what I thought."

After the second tele-

phone call to Forte's office and the subsequent discus- sion which had been only words going in circles,

Malone had wanted to

escape from the ornate room and the stifling atmosphere brought in by the men who

surrounded Michael Forte.

He could not understand

why the kidnapper's de-

mands could not be met at once, but he knew he would get no answer to such a question if he asked it in the company the Mayor kept. He

would have to wait till he was alone with Michael Forte again.

But then he would not

make it a question. It would

be a demand.

He had come out of the

Mayor's room escorted by Manny Pearl.

"I suggested to the Mayor that it might be better — for you, for all of us — if you  

moved out of you hotel and went up to Gracie Mansion, the Mayor's official resi-

dence."

"I'll think about it," said Malone.

"lt would save you from being pestered by the Press. And —" He glanced at Malone, wondering how

sensitive the Australian was.

"And maybe you and the Mayor can be of some

comfort to each other."

"He would be more

comforting if he agreed to release those blokes you are holding."

Then John Jefferson had

come down the carpeted

corridor to them.

"I'm on my way over to The Tombs. Maybe you'd

like to come with me.

Inspector."

"What's happening?"

Pearl asked.

"There are two men from

the Department over at The

Tombs now with an FBI man

— they're questioning Parker

and the other men we're

holding. I thought you might like to listen in, Inspector."

Now, as they crossed to

the entrance of the detention house, Jefferson said, "You won't be impressed by this place. We got no excuses — except lack of money. We're the richest country in the world, but we never seem to have enough money to solve our worst problems."

Malone had never been in

a jail in which one stepped immediately in off a city street. Jefferson tapped on a door and it was opened by a uniformed guard.

He clanged the door behind them and opened

another one to allow them

into the main lobby, a

narrow hall crowded with

guards who had the same air

about them as Malone had

seen on prisoners, a boredom

laced with tension.

Jefferson checked his gun with the duty officer in the tiny cubicle in the corner of the lobby, signed a book,

introduced Malone to the

duty officer, then stepped up to the bars that separated the entrance lobby from a second, inner lobby.

A guard opened a door in

the bars and Jefferson and

Malone stepped through.

"Hi, Jack. How's it been?" "Same old routine Captain." The guard, like

most of the men in uniform in the cramped lobby, was

black. "We had another two

suicides last night. Maybe if

enough of 'em did that, we could solve the accommoda- tion problem."

"This place was designed

in 1933 to hold 900 inmates."

Jefferson explained to

Malone. "Today the average day to day population is

between fourteen and fifteen hundred."

The guard led them into a side room. It was the sort of

room familiar to Malone, designed to eliminate all

cheer and encouragement, sterilised even of hope. Three men were there, two

of them sitting on metal

chairs.

They were introduced to

him as Captain Lewton and   Lieutenant Markowitz of the Police Department, and Special Agent Butlin of the

FBI.

"We're getting nowhere

so far, John." Lewton was a tall, thin man with an unhappy mouth. "They

won't see us."

"They don't have to."

Jefferson told Malone

"Since they haven't yet been convicted, they still have most of their rights. One of them being that they can

refuse to be questioned on anything that doesn't concern them. And they're claiming the kidnapping has nothing to do with them."

"But the ransom has!"

Malone protested angrily.

"Can't you drag them down

here?"

"I don't know what the law is in Australia." said

Lewton quietly, "but in this country, since the Supreme

Court decided in its wisdom

that the guilty have as many rights as the innocent, we

work with our hands tied."

Then a door behind Lewton opened and grey-haired white man in

uniform came in. With him

was a young black guard and

a second black with an Afro hair-do, wearing blue jeans

and a white T-shirt.

"McBean has said he'll

listen to you." The   grey-haired white man was

introduced to Malone and

Warden Canby. "I told him Inspector, that you might be coming here. That was when

he said he'd come down."

"Just to show you your

side doesn't have a

monopoly on compassion, said McBean. He smiled suddenly.

"Officer Robinson will

stay with you. Good luck." said Canby, and went out.

"That's what you gonna need — luck," said McBean.

He sat down at the room's small table.

"What do you mean, Eddie? Why are we gonna

need luck?" said Lewton.

"Because there's nothing I can tell you about the kidnapping — nothing."

Malone found himself at

the opposite end of the table

from McBean. He saw

nothing in the broad

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RANSOM

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 80

blue-black face that afforded him any hope.

But they had to start somewhere if Lisa was to be found before it was too late. If it was not already too late.

"I don't know what the other guys have told you." said McBean. "I haven't seen them since I came in here — they don't let conspirators fraternise, you know that? Afraid of conspiracy, I

guess."

"Do you mind if we cut out the jokes?" said Lewton patiently. "I don't think Inspector Malone is in the mood for laughing."

McBean looked down the table again at Malone. As he had said, he was not with compassion.

"You're one of the pigs, man, and internationally speaking you're all the same, But this isn't your scene and

I guess you deserve some sympathy," he said.

"Thanks." said Malone.

"Like I said, I dunno

anything about your wile or

the Mayor's wife. I dunno, if I did know anything, that I'd be co-operative about the Mayor's wife. She's part of what we don't believe in and we don't owe him anything." He glanced around at the

other men.

"But you know that, don't

you?" he added.

"That's why you're here,"

said Lewton.

McBean shook his head,

smiled.

"Let's be specific, Cap- tain. I'm here on a bomb conspiracy charge and you have to prove I had anything

to do with it."

Then Butlin leaned

forward.

"Mr. McBean, we are not suggesting you had any hand in this kidnapping. But you must have some idea who amongst your supporters would dream up such a

bizarre scheme."

"Not bizarre, man. It looks to me like a stroke of

genius."

"So if we agree to the demands of the kidnappers, release you and send you to Cuba, you'll go along with it?"

"You crazy? Wouldn't

you?"

"I'm not in your position,

Mr. McBean."

McBean's laugh was one of genuine amusement. "I

got imagination, man, but not

that much — you in my

position!"

Butlin sat back, flushing slightly and Lieutenant Markowitz spoke.

'"McBean, we'll be candid with you. We have nothing, no record, on any of you but

old Fred Parker —"

"Oh, Fred," grinned McBean. "The daddy of us

all."

"We know him — he's

been around for years. But the rest of you — you're all strangers. None of you have even had any visitors while you been in here —"

"You think that's strange? They come here, right away you pigs gonna be leaning on 'em. No, man, they know enough to stay outa this

scene."

"Would you blame us for leaning on them? You killed

two of our men —"

McBean shook his head.

"Not guilty. You heard our plea."

Markowitz took a deep breath, looked at Lewton. The latter looked at Jefferson and Malone, then

nodded at the guard standing by the door.

"You can take him back. Thanks, McBean."

"For what?" McBean

stood up. 'I'm sorry, Malone. I hope your wife is okay."

When McBean and the

guard had gone Jefferson said. "What do you reckon?"

"He knows nothing." said

Lewton. "I'm sure of it." The

others nodded agreement.

"Inspector, let's go back to Headquarters. Maybe something's been happening while we been away." Jefferson suggested.

Malone stood up, feeling depressed to the point of

sickness. When he and Jefferson were outside in the

street he said. "Maybe I

shouldn't have come down.

Captain —"

"Call me John. I think

you and I might be spending a lot of time together."

Jefferson went across to the car, checked with the driver that there were no

messages, then came back. "Let's walk —Scobie, isn't   it?"

He looked up at the darkening sky. A wind had sprung up. ambushing people as they came to corners. Papers blew along the gutters.

"Someone will stay there

with those anarchists." said

Jefferson, "just in case one of

them decides he knows

something. But I think in the

end the Mayor's gonna have to agree to the ransom

demand."

"Do you think he will agree to it?"

"He'd agree. I think. I

dunno — sometimes I think he's not as ambitious as the

people around him. His old man, for instance — and his missus, come to think of it. She's in the news as much as he is. Look there."

The wind had flattened

the front page of a newspaper against a wall. Sylvia Forte smiled at them as from an election poster.

Then her face wrinkled as

the sheet was whipped away.

"That'd be the early

edition. She'll be on the front

page of every paper in the country by tomorrow morning."

"The reporters asked me if I had a photo of my wife. I've got one in my wallet, but I didn't want to part with it."

"I don't blame you. But I might have to ask you for it, run off some copies. Our

men don't know what she

looks like, other than your description. Tall, blonde and good-looking. Could be a

million women. Can I see it?"

They stopped on the

corner of a street and

Malone took Lisa's photo

out of his wallet. Jefferson,

turning away from the wind, looked at it carefully.

"You downgraded her.

She's beautiful."

"I think so, too. But I couldn't say that."

"I know. I used to think

my wife was beautiful —

she's dead now —" He was silent for a moment, he could

have been waiting for the traffic light above them to turn green.

"Maybe other people thought she was no more than pretty. She was black, darker than me. Can I keep

this a while?"

"Be careful of it."

"I will, Scobie. I'll have some extra copies run off for you, if you like."

"No, the original will do."

It would be too much like

tempting fate to ask for extra copies, as if he were storing up mementoes of Lisa against an empty future.

Police Commissioner

Hungerford looked up as

Sam Forte came into the

Mayor's office. The old man sat down, and arranged the

creases of his trousers.

"Michael still upstairs at the reception — for the

United Nations, wasn't it?"

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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 83

"Yes," Hungerford nodded.

"So in the meantime, what have you got for us.

Des?"

"Nothing. We're up against it. Sam. In every way."

"Which ways do you mean?" But Sam Forte did not sound curious or

ignorant, only as if he

wanted confirmation of what he already knew.

"First, getting Sylvia and

this other woman back. That's the main thing, of

course."

"Of course."

"But there's the other

aspect. If we release Parker

and those others, it could

mean losing the election. It'll certainly make a laugh of

what Mike and I are

supposed to stand for — law

and order."

"We still have time on our side, Des."

"Not much," said Hungerford.

"But some. And I think

we must use it. My own first impulse was to do anything

they asked, so long as it got us back Sylvia and this —this  

Mrs. Malone.

"But I think I can

persuade Michael that we should ask for some proof from the kidnappers that the

two women are still alive. Pat Brendan is certainly going to ask for that sort of

guarantee."

Brendan was the District

Attorney.

"Have you suggested it to Mike?" Hungerford asked.

"Yes. He wouldn't give

me an answer. I think he has

to hang on to the belief that Sylvia's still alive." Sam

Forte shivered as if he were

suddenly cold.

"I think we shall have to set ourselves a time limit," said Hungerford. "Give ourselves till say seven o'clock tomorrow morning. If we have made no progress by that time, then we release Parker and his gang."

The door opened and

Michael Forte came in. He

paused to give some instructions to Manny Pearl

behind him. Then he crossed

to his desk and sat down,

glancing inquiringly at Hungerford.

The Commissioner shook his head.

"Nothing. The garage attendant found nothing in our files on the young guy who hit him. And the last I

heard we were getting nowhere with Parker and the others."

Michael Forte could feel

the beginning of a severe

headache. The other two men saw how close he was to

breaking and they kept quiet, not wanting to push him any closer to the edge. At last he spoke.

"I'm no longer interested

in law and order or votes.

The next time the kidnappers call I'm going to tell them they can have Parker and his gang."

Sam Forte was aware of

Hungerfords quick glance in his direction, but he didn't

acknowledge it.

"Michael —" He kept his voice soft and sympathetic

while he told his son of the need for some proof from the kidnappers that Sylvia

and the other woman were still alive.

They had just finished discussing it back and forth when there was a knock, the door opened and Manny

Pearl stood there with Malone and Jefferson. Michael Forte looked at

them anxiously.

"Any luck over at The

Tombs?"

"None," said Malone. "What's been happening

here?"

There was a pause, then

Michael Forte answered.

"We've decided to hold

off releasing those men until

seven o'clock tomorrow

morning. I'm going to make

a broadcast, ask the

kidnappers for some proof

that our wives are still alive. Do you agree to that?"

"I have no vote in this

city," said Malone.

'That was a pretty low blow." Michael Forte pushed his steak, hardly touched, away from him. "You don't seem to appreciate the fix

I'm in."

Malone pushed his own steak away. He picked up the beer he had asked for with his dinner and sipped it. Compared with the stuff back

home it tasted like aerated water that had a hop or two dunked in it.

"Look," he said. "I'm not a stranger to politics — I've

had one or two brushes with

it back home."

"You think that's all I'm

considering — politics?"

"Isn't it? Anyway, I don't care what your considera- tions are —" Malone put down his glass. "If I don't get my wife back, and your politics or whatever has been even part of the reason, I'll take you apart bone by

bone!"

Forte stared back, then

slowly he relaxed.

"I think you would, too," he said quietly. "But only because I wouldn't fight

back."

Malone, after more

persuasion from Manny Pearl, had decided to leave the hotel and move up to

Gracie Mansion.

He had not seen Michael

Forte till they had sat down to dinner, just the two of them, and then Forte had made his comment on what

had happened at City Hall.

"My kids are due home some time tonight. They're going to ask the same sort of questions you've been asking."

"What are you going to

tell them?"

"Lies. I guess. You see, releasing those men isn't just up to me. The District Attorney is the key man — and like me, he's got people leaning on him. He's not

callous, but he's even more hard-nosed than I am about law and order. And he knows those anarchists better than I do.

"He figures if we let them   go free, go to Cuba, they'll

be back in the United States

within six months. They're fanatics and they're not going to give up their fight. You want something else to

eat?"

"Just some of this fruit."

Malone took an apple from a

bowl on the table.

Then the two Forte

children arrived, brought home from their respective schools. Roger, red-haired, sixteen and already taller than his father, shook hands with Malone.

"Glad to meet you, sir."

"It would be better in other circumstances." said

Malone, and the boy, after a moment's puzzled blink,

nodded.

Pier Forte freed herself from her father's embrace. She was as dark as her

father, already a beauty at fourteen, and Malone had the feeling that she was going to cope with this situation

better than either her father or her brother.

"I am sorry for you Inspector. But I am sure my mother will do her best to see

that the kidnappers don't hurt your wife." The speech sounded almost rehearsed, yet Malone knew the girl had not known that he would be here.

"When are you releasing the anarchists. Dad?" Roger had picked up a banana from the table and was peeling it. He looked like boy who would always be eating, never able to fill the

frame that was too big for him. "There's a guy at school

who's one."

"One what?" his father said.

"An anarchist, for Pete's sake —"

"They're everywhere," said Forte drily to Malone. But his humor did not reach his eyes.

"Roger goes to Ports- mouth Priory, it's supposed to be one of the top Catholic schools in the country. When I was there we were only interested in two things — dodging prayers and catching girls."

"Some of the Catholic girls at St. Tim's are saying prayers for Mother," said Pier; then added, and Malone did not know whether she was being

truthful or just gracious

"And for Mrs. Malone too,

Inspector."

The mention of prayers

reminded Malone of his own

mother. He tried to

remember the time gap

between New York and

Sydney, wondered if she and his father and Lisa's parents down in Melbourne had yet

heard the news.

"Mr. Forte, I wonder if I could make a couple of phone calls to Australia?"

As soon as he uttered the

words they sounded ridicu- lous in his own ears. On the

rare occasions back home when he had made a trunlk

call to Lisa's parents in

Melbourne, he had counted

the pips as if they were gongs

of doom.

But Forte was accustomed

to his overnight guests asking if they could mak<e

international calls.

"Ask Nathan to place the calls for you. He'll get you priority, if it's needed."

As Malone went out of the room he heard Forte say to his children, "You're to get down to Grandma Vern- kamp's —"

"We want to stay here!"

Malone heard no more as out in the hall, he found Nathan the butler, who let him into a small study.

He got the Melbourne

number first.

"I hope it is a good line,

sir."

The line was almost too clear. Malone heard Lisa's mother gasp as he spoke to

her. It was ten o'clock in the

morning in Melbourne and the news of the kidnapping had been on the early morning radio news.

He tried to sound reassuring to Lisa's mother and to her father, who soon took over from his wife, but distance and Malone's own

To page 87

RANSOM

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 84

despair exposed his words

for the sham they were.

Then he realised that Jan Pretorious was comforting him. "Scobie, all we can do is trust in God. I wish we could be there with you. If the worst his voice faltered for a moment. Ten thousand miles of painful silence separated the two men "— if the worst happens, we'll fly over at once. Will you call us again?"

"As soon as I have something definite."

The line to Sydney by contrast was, inexplicably, a bad one. Only Brigid Malone was at home and she keened as if at a wake.

"Mum!" Malone found he was yelling, chasing her down the thousands of miles.

"Is it good news you have, then? Is the poor girl safe?"

"No, Mum." The keening started again, made worse by static. "Mum, I have to go. I'll call you again tomor-

row —"

"What?" she shouted across the world. "I'm having a Mass said for the poor girl —"

When Malone went out

of the study Nathan was in

the hall.

"How do I pay for the

calls. Nathan?"

"I think the City of New York can afford them, sir," said the butler with a slow sympathetic smile.

"I wonder if the City of New York could afford me a drink?"

"Another beer, sir?"

Malone shook his head.

He needed something stronger than American beer to get him over what he had just been through.

"A scotch and water."

Forte was waiting for him in the living-room. Rain had begun to pelt against the

windows and the wind was finding the weak branches in

the trees.

"I have to go out — I have to take the kids down to their grandparents, then I have to go to my campaign headquarters down at the Biltmore. Do you mind being left alone or would you

like to come with me?"

"Will there be reporters down at your headquarters?"

"Dozens of them, I'd say."

"I'll stay here." Then the cop in him said, "What about your kids? I mean, in

case someone tries to snatch them?"

Forte looked grateful for

his concern.

'That's been taken care

of. There'll be a police guard staked outside my in-laws'

apartment. But thanks for thinking of it."

Malone nodded, feeling a slowly growing rapport with the other man. Then the butler came to the door.

"Mr. Frank Padua wishes to see you, sir."

"Padua? Frank Padua?' Forte's brow came down in puzzlement, then he shook his head. "Tell him I can

see him."

"I think he anticipated   that, sir. He said to tell you it

was to do with Mrs. Forte. "

Malone l00ked sharply at Forte.

"Tell Mr. Padua to wait a moment," the Mayor said. As the butler went out, he lowered his voice. "I don't know what this is all about."

"Who's this Padua?"

"A wheeler-dealer, he's in everything in this town that will make a buck — and he's made a lot. But as far as I

know he's respectable. I'd

better see him alone."

"If he has any news of your wife, then he'd know something about mine. You can't expect me to step

outside —"

When the butler brought

Padua into the room Malone recognised his type at once. He could have been an old-fashioned banker, one whose larceny would be gentlemanly and courteous.

Yet Malone sensed this

was a man whose money was

not as old as the man

himself, who was not quite sure of the power of money

and would therefore, when

the pinch came, rely too

much on it.

Sydney, like New York and affluent cities every- where, was full of them, the robber barons who wanted to

be accepted at court.

"I wanted to see you alone. Mr. Mayor." Padua, like Sam Forte, had worked hard on his voice. But he was

twenty years behind Sam and the rough times in New Jersey were still there. "Perhaps Inspector Malone

will excuse us?"

Malone shook his head.

"I understand you wanted to see me about my wife," Forte said. "Inspector

Malone's wife is with her — he and I are in the same terrible situation."

"As you wish. May I sit down? I have had a very busy afternoon — ever since I

heard of this dreadful business." He sat down, and

Forte sat down opposite, but Malone, on edge, remained standing.

"As you know, Mr. Mayor, I have a lot of connections in this city. I believe I may be in a position to effect the return of your good ladies." Padua looked up at Malone. "That is why I have been so busy this afternoon. My connec-

tions —"

"What connections?" demanded Forte.

"Ah, I am not at liberty to say. However —"

"Padua, have you come here with any definite information on my wife and Mrs. Malone? Or are you just flying a kite?"

Padua spread his hands palms upwards, the Italian

answer that was no answer.

"That depends. Are you interested in kite-flying?"

Forte sensed rather than saw Malone's angry, impa-

tient movement and waved a

restraining hand. "All right. Padua. Keep talking."

"I shall be honest with

you — I do not wish to raise your hopes unduly. I do not like to see suffering any more than I care to endure it

myself." He took a gold watch from the fob pocket of his waistcoat. "I should need

probably seven or eight hours — can you give me that

much time?"

"First, I want to know who your connections are. Are they political connec- tions? I just don't believe my opponent Tom Kirkbride would try to make capital out of something like this."

"Mr. Kirkbride has

nothing to do with this, I assure you."

"Then who are they?"

"Just connections."

"Are your connections the

Mafia?"

"What is the Mafia?" Padua's smooth thin face was

bland. "Mr. Mayor, you are Italian like me. You know

we don't admit any more that there is such a thing as

the Mafia."

"But it is the Mafia we're

talking about, isn't it?"

"Connections, that's all I have. But I think they can be very helpful."

"For a price?" said Forte.

Padua spread his hands again.

"I haven't talked about

such a thing with them. My desire to help you is just that

of a citizen who thinks such

things as this dreadful kidnapping should not happen in our city."

I'm going to king-hit him in a moment, thought

Malone. But he restrained himself.

"Mr. Padua, you're not being helpful at all." he said.

"I don't know what Mr.

Forte thinks of your offer to help, but I think you ought to be kicked for coming here giving us false hopes and then trying to make some sort of deal. If you came into a police station and tried that same sort of caper, I'd lock you up."

Padua stared coldly at Malone, then stood up.

"I can help you. Mr. Forte. Here is my card. Telephone me at home if you think I'm honest in my

offer and that Inspector Malone is wrong in his opinion of me. Goodnight. I'd just warn you — you don't

have too much time."

He went out, walking with practised dignity. Malone took a step after him, but Forte stood up and grabbed his arm.

"Let me bring him back!" Malone protested. "He's the only lead we've had so

far —"

"No." Forte waited till Malone relaxed, then he let

go of the Australian's arm.

He looked at the card in his

hand, then dropped it on a

small side table.

"If he was here sounding

out the chances of a deal with the Mafia, I wouldn't want to listen to him. I've never connected Padua with them before, but it's no surprise."

"Have you had any

trouble from the Mafia

before? Padua said you were

Italian like him —"

Forte's mouth stiffened.

"Never. Most of them are

Sicilians and my old man,

like a lot from northern Italy,

has no time for them."

"If Padua came up with some proof that he knows where Lisa and your wife are — would you do a deal with

him?" Malone was still

chafing with anger at being

held back. He had wanted to

grab Padua by the throat and force the man to tell them if he knew anything.

"How do I know what I'd do!" Forte whirled round, working off his own sudden anger. Then he regained control of himself, turned back. "Look, these guys have their price for everything. If I made a deal with Padua, his connections could get a stranglehold on me — on the city. I can't take the chance — not yet."

Malone grabbed up Padua's card from the small table.

"I'm going after him! I don't care about you and

New York —"

Forte stood in front of him. "You stay where you

To page 88

RANSOM

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 87

are! You try to go and see Padua and I'll have you picked up and held —"

"Held? What for?"

"Disturbing the peace, suspicious behaviour — you're a cop, you've used the

same excuses whenever

you've wanted anyone held. I'll do it, Malone," he emphasised, when he saw

that the Australian didn't quite believe him.

"I'm sorry about your wife, but my wife's in this too. And we'll play it my way till I know there's absolutely no alternative but to give in

on the ransom terms!"

"That may be too late —"

Then Roger and Pier came in, wrapped up against the storm outside. They paused at the door, sensing something was wrong.

"We're ready, Dad," Roger said. "But I wish we didn't have to go down to

Grandma's. We'd rather be

here — just in case they let

Mother make a call —"

Forte hesitated, looked at Malone, then back at the children.

"Very well, stay here. Look after Inspector Ma- lone, keep him company."

He looked back at Malone. that — if we can feel clean what I said!"

"Mother and Dad are on

television tonight," said Pier.

Forte had gone, and for the past half-hour Malone had held a desultory, awkward conversation with the two children. Roger, awkward in his attempt to sound older than he was, not

helped at all by Malone's inability to find a level with him, had soon lapsed into

silence.

Pier, more at ease, had tried to keep the conversa- tion going by asking about Lisa. Malone, appreciating her effort, had done his best to reply in something other than monosyllables.

Now Pier led the way out to the little study. Roger, unwinding himself like a young giraffe getting to its feet, followed his sister and Malone into the room, switched on the television set

mounted in the wall, then fell into the nearest chair.

Malone looked around for chairs for Pier and himself.

"Let Roger get them. Inspector." The girl looked at her brother. "On your feet, you slob. Your manners are

execrablo."

"Ex-who? What sorta

words do they teach you at St. Tim's?" But the boy got to his feet, dragged two chairs up level with his own. "Sorry, Inspector. I guess I'm not functioning too well tonight."

"Who is?" said Malone, but he smiled at the boy and

for the first time there was

some rapport between them.

"The segment was taped last week," said Pier. "When I phoned Mother about it

from school, that was the last time I spoke to her."

She looked down at the

hands folded in her lap and Malone, watching her

closely, saw the fingers tighten. His own hand went out of its own volition, touched her arm. She looked up at him and blinked.

"Thank you. Inspector. I'm going to be all right." she said quietly.

Then Malone all at once felt at home with the two children. Thc three of them

settled back like a family for a night's television viewing.

Malone listened to the introduction, then the film of Michael and Sylvia Forte began to run.

He now dimly remem- bered seeing a photograph of Sylvia Forte in some magazine, but it had not done her justice.

"Your mother's beauti- ful," he said.

"Yes," said Pier, and her brother nodded. "But she's more than that. Dad loves

her so much — you can see it

even there."

It was true. Michael Forte

turned and smiled at his wife and there was a moment of

intimacy between them when the camera suddenly was an

intruder.

Malone was not listening to the words. He stared at Michael and Sylvia Forte, and like a double image, saw the ghosts of himself and

Lisa behind them.

The telephone rang. Malone looked anxiously at Roger as the boy answered.

The boy put his hand over the mouthpiece.

"It's some dame wanting

Dad —"

Malone took the phone.

"This is Inspector Ma-

lone —"

A man's voice answered.

"This is Lieutenant

Denning, Inspector. We've set up an emergency switchboard here, just in case something like this hap- pened. We've told the woman the Mayor's not here. Do you think we should tell her where she can get him? She could be just a crank —"

"Put her on," said Malone. "If I keep her talking, can you trace the

call?"

"We can try, sir. We're linked through to Headquar- ters and they've alerted the telephone company."

The woman's voice was

soft and pleasant, but

Malone could notice the faint undertone of tension in it. Whoever she was, he would bet she was not an old

hand at this game.

"I understand Mayor

Forte is not there. Who is this?"

"Malone. You're holding my wife with Mrs. Forte."

There was silence for a moment, then the woman spoke again.

"I am truly sorry about that. Mr. Malone. We'd rather not have her with us, but we had to take her."

"Is she still all right? Both

of them?" The children leaned forward. He could

almost hear them holding

their breath.

"They are both well. Mr.

Malone."

"Can you give us some proof of that? Can I speak to my wife? To both of them?" He had no real hope that the woman would grant him his request, but he had to keep

her on the line. "We want

some proof that you're going to carry out your part of the bargain —"

"Oh, we'll carry it out, Mr. Malone. But there may

be a hitch. This storm —

planes might not be able to

take off tomorrow. What

happens then?"

"You name it. We'll do

whatever you say, just so long as we get my wife and Mrs. Forte back safely."

"You've decided to release Parker and his friends?"

"Yes." She had asked him if he had decided. He was not speaking for Forte and the politicians who surround-

ed him.

"We'll be back to you."

The tension went out of her

voice. "If the storm keeps up, we'll tell you our other plans. We'll call again first thing in the morning."

"Wait!" How could he keep her on the line?

"What about Frank

Padua?" he asked.

"Who?" she said sharply.   "Your go-between —" He hoped he sounded convinc- ing. "He was here an hour ago, said he was acting for you —"

"Frank Padua, you said?" "I don't know him. He's a — a political acquaintance of Mayor Forte's —"

There was silence, then a click. A man's voice came on the line at once.

"She's hung up, Inspector. We traced the call, but I'm afraid it won't be much use. It was a phone booth out on Long Island, at Patchogue. We've sent two squad cars to it, but we'll be lucky if she's

still there."

Malone hung up, turned back to the children. He shook his head in answer to

their silent question. Then Nathan, the butler, came to the door.

"Captain Jefferson is here, Inspector. He says he has something for you."

Carole hung up the phone, stood staring at the

wall in front of her.

Something was wrong; and once again she felt the uneasiness grip her.

It had clutched her this afternoon when the wind

had come battering at the cottage — the first warning that things might not go exactly as she had planned.

She would have to find out who Frank Padua was,

do something about him. No

outsiders could be allowed to

interfere with her plan. She ran across through the rain to her car, got in and drove

down the deserted street.

A huge truck, loaded with potatoes, overtook her, riding alongside her for a full block, flinging up mud and water against the window

beside her. She cursed the

truck driver, urging him to get quickly by her.

She did not see the two

police cars speeding down

the other side of the street,

nor did they see her.

lt had been a mistake to

come out on such a night. But she had had to escape from the cottage. She had become as much a prisoner there as Sylvia Forte and the

Australian woman.

"You're crazy, baby, wanting to go out now!" he

had said.

"I have to. I — I think we

ought to call them, tell them the storm may change our plans." It was as good a reason as any, though she

had had to invent it. But

Abel was angry. He did not like the thought of her leaving him even for a couple of hours.

"If they want the dames back, they're gonna let those guys go, don't matter what

the weather's like."

"We've got to think of

Parker and the other men —

we can't risk their lives by insisting that the plane take off for Cuba regardless oí

what the weather's like. No.

To page 101

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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 88

I'm going into Patchogue, honey—"

It was part of their plan that they should make no calls any closer than thirty miles to the cottage. There was a telephone here in the living-room, but they had agreed it was to be used only

in the utmost emergency.

Carole had been pleased to find that her mother hadn't changed, had, with her usual vagueness, forgot- ten to have the phone disconnected when the cottage had been closed up.

The first call by herself had been made from the house in Jamaica on Long Island: the second, by Abel, from a call-box in Flushing. So long as they spread the calls the police would have difficulty in pinning down

their location.

She would be safe enough driving into Patchogue. Anywhere would be an escape from what was beginning to torment her in this cottage ...

As she drove out of

Patchogue she debated whether she should stop and phone Abel. Then she decided against it.

Several times, when she had got on to the parkway that led to Manhattan, she slowed, wondering if she

should turn back.

But each time she picked up speed again, driven on by

the determination to find out who Frank Padua was, to

stop him, if she could, from ruining her plans.

She knew where Michael

Forte had his campaign headquarters and she

reasoned that would be the

best place to start looking for

information on Padua.

Once in Manhattan she had very little trouble finding a parking spot. Tonight was a night for sensible people to stay at home. She got out into the wind and rain, staggering a little under the force of them.

She was taking a risk going to the Biltmore Hotel, into Michael Forte's very own territory. But she knew she would merge easily with those who were working for the Mayor.

The lobby of the Biltmore was thronged. Sensible people might stay at home on such a night, but campaign workers and kidnappers were not sensible people.  

Carole smiled to herself

at the thought, and a passing

young man, a Forte for

Mayor button in his lapel.

stopped beside her to help

her off with her raincoat.

"You're a real worker to

come out on a night like this. You've lost your button, though."

She smiled up at him. "Where can I get another?"

He took the button out of his lapel.

"Be my guest. I haven't seen you down here before — how about being my guest

later on for a drink or

something? I'm Bill Brewer."

She looked him up and down, keeping her smile friendly.

He had the image her

parents had wanted for

Mark, her brother. Mark had rebelled, turned his back on

the image. But this smiling, good-looking man with his

Brooks Brothers suit and

shirt would go to his grave exactly as he was now. conservatism personified.

"I'll think about it. First, I have to find Mr. Padua — Frank Padua."

Brewer frowned.

"Frank Padua? I don't

think you'll find him around

here. But you might try up in

one of the rooms — someone

up there may know."

As soon as she got out of

the elevator on the door that had been taken over as

campaign headquarters. Carole found herself trapped in the crowd surging down

the corridor.

Then she heard the yells for "Quiet!" and she saw all the heads turn toward the far end of the corridor.

"Poor man! Doesn't he

look sick and worried?" a girl explained.

Michael Forte was

coming down the corridor, a phalanx of aides pushing their way through the crowd

ahead of him.

Then all at once the crush

of people in front of Carole

thinned out and she was face

to face with the Mayor.

She saw the strain in his face, the dark exhaustion in his eyes. But he was smiling and reaching out with both

hands to those around him. He reached toward her and,

suddenly laughing, she took his hand and pressed it.

"Good luck!" she said.

"Thanks — thanks for

working for me —" He

smiled at her, but she knew he could not see her. The faces in the crowd were not

registering on the dark, worried eyes. "We'll win

tomorrow — thanks a lot —"

He passed on, the crowd closing behind him, and

Carole moved in the

opposite direction through the rapidly thinning wake.

She found herself oppos- ite a doorway, looking into a room in which a man,

To page 102

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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 101

weary-faced and dishevelled, sat at a paper-strewn table. He looked up at her and grinned tiredly.

"I'm looking for Mr. Padua — Frank Padua," she

said.

"Frank Padua?" He

looked at her curiously, the weariness abruptly gone from his face, and she felt suddenly afraid. "You a

friend of his, miss?"

She shook her head.

"Someone must be

playing a trick on me — they told me to report to him

here —"

He relaxed, smiled again.

"They are, they are indeed. People do it to relieve the strain — like sending a kid out for a can of striped paint. I haven't seen

Mr. Padua around these

headquarters in, oh, maybe two or three campaigns. I

understand he's retired from politics now."

"Well,"' she said, smiling

at him. "Good luck."

"It's not me needs the luck. It's our candidate."

Carole found some back

stairs, made her way down

and out a side entrance to the street. The wind and the rain

hit her at once. A policeman

went by and spoke to her.

"You want a cab, miss? Over at Grand Central is your best bet."

"Thanks, officer, but I have my car."

"Driving on a night like

this? Be careful."

"Oh, I will be."

He went on, leaning into the storm, all law and order and helpfulness, and she hated him for being so

solicitous of her. But she

followed him, heading for

Grand Central and a telephone booth.

It was going to take her hours to drive back to

Sunday Harbor and she

knew Abel would never

forgive her for letting him worry for so long.

Abel angrily hung up the phone.

"I'll explain when I get back, it may be nothing, but I had to check. Don't worry — I'll make it back all right."

Don't worry! What did she think he was made of? He felt sick at the thought of Carole driving all the way back along the Island in this storm. Hurricane Myrtle had not been included in their plans.

He cursed again, glower- ing at the locked bedroom door. Behind it, the two women were sitting on their beds, each wrapped in a

blanket. The lash of the rain

against the shutters outside added to their feeling that

this room was an ice-box.

"I don't understand why we're still here," said Lisa,

and tried not to sound petulant. "Surely they've

released those men by now."

"I'm sure my husband is doing all he can." Sylvia, in her turn, tried to sound

patient. "But it isn't just up

to him. He has to go to the District Attorney and the Court."

"You sound as if you know the whole procedure."

"I know City Hall through and through. My

whole married life has been political, one way or another. My husband was a junior Congressman when we married. He was only twenty-six. Perhaps we should have stayed in Washington."

"I don't understand the American political system — why would your husband leave Washington to come here to New York? Isn't it

supposed to be the worst job

in America, worse even than

being President?"

"I think so." Then she

said half-jokingly, "I'll tell you if my husband ever gets to be in the White House."  

"I read that some Presidents' wives never wanted to be there."

"I think it would depend on the times and the circumstances. If it could be a trouble-free time, no

foreign war to worry about,

no economic recession, no law and order crisis — but no President for the next ten

years is going to be so lucky."

"Would your husband

like to be President?"

No! How often had the accusation been there on the

tip of her tongue to fling at

him. Ambition and love had several times almost torn her

apart. She did not answer Lisa's question but asked one

of her own.

"Do you and your husband have any secrets

from each other?"

"I — I don't know." The

question had exposed something of the Fortes. They had secrets. "I suppose in a way we don't really know each other yet, so there

are bound to be secrets.

Perhaps there always will be.

Are there?"

"You mean after you've been married for years? Yes, I think so. They're not always deliberate — "

Sylvia lay back on her pillow. She felt suddenly penitent for everything she

had not told Michael. Love should have no secrets. And she did love him, had never even thought of another man

after she had met him.

Lisa was massaging her jaw as her tooth, forgotten for most of the day, began to ache again. If only I'd listened to Scobie, got the

hotel desk to recommend a dentist, I'd not be here, she thought ruefully.

"It's only your wife's photo." said Jefferson, handing the photograph to Malone. "I'm sorry. "

shouldn't have told the

butler to tell you I had something for you. You were expecting some news weren't you?"

To page 110

RANSOM

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 102

Malone nodded, looked  

at the photo of Lisa, then put it carefully away in his

wallet.

"Did you run off the   copies?"

"They've gone out to all newspapers and wire services and TV stations. Though by the time they appear, your wife and Mrs. Forte should

be safe."

"Should be?"

"Will be." Jefferson looked at the Forte children

standing in the doorway of the study. "We'll have your mother back here first thing

in the morning. Were making progress — "

"I'd like to talk to the

Captain." said Malone, and

led Jefferson to the

living-room. He closed the door. " Did Denning tell you about the phone call just

then?"

Jefferson nodded. "I

wouldn't count on anything coming of it."

" A bloke named Frank Padua came here tonight, tried to offer a deal to the Mayor. When I asked the woman who rang if she knew Padua, she hedged."

"Did you get the impression that she knew

Padua?"

"I couldn't tell. I was

trying to keep her talking, so   I told her that Padua said he was their go-between. That   seemed to hit her — she said

nothing for a while, as if she were thinking about it, then she just hung up."

"Did the Mayor give you

a rundown on Padua?" Malone nodded. "What was the deal?"

"They didn't get down to specifics." Malone outlined

the conversation with Padua.

"The Mayor thought Padua was flying a kite, but I don't

know. From the reaction of

that woman, maybe Padua

does have a connection that can help us."

"Padua with the Mafia?

It's possible, I suppose. I

don't know him well. He was

never in my precinct and by the time I got down to Headquarters he'd sort of retired from politics."

Malone picked up Pa-

dua's card from the side table where it still lay.  

"That's his address. I'd

like to go and see him."

"Officially or unofficial- ly?"

"Here. I'm very unoffi-

cial. I'm not even an

ordinary citizen with a vote."

"Don't be sour with me,

Scobie. I'm on your side."

"Enough to come with

me?" Malone told him of the Major's threat to arrest him.

Jefferson shrugged. "Why

not? Sure, I'll come."  

Malone told the Forte children he was going out.

"Are you going to see that  

Mr. Padua?" said Roger.  

"Are you trying to be a  

detective?"

"No offence, Inspector, but a cop is the last thing I'd   want to be — none of the guys would speak to me." Malone and Jefferson exchanged resigned expres- sions. "But you didn't answer my question, Inspector."

"Yes, I'm going to see Mr. Padua. But I don't think

you'd better tell that to

anyone, least of all your

father."

"Good luck. Inspector,

said Pier, cool and political.

"We want Mother back any way you can find her."

To be continued

The novel "Ransom" by Jon Cleary is published tn

William Collins Ltd.

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