Empire State Part 38

Eva nodded at Herrick, who hit Khan again.

Gibbons had dragged himself from the floor. Holding his stomach with both hands, he lurched to where the food and the candles were by the window, picked up a plastic bag, then made his way to Herrick and handed it to her. Then he threw himself across Khan's body, pinning him to the bed. Herrick looked down at Khan and wrapped the bag over his head.

'No!' shouted Loz. 'I will tell you.'

Eva stepped back and reached for the phone. 'Can you hear this, Bobby?'

Harland told her he could.

'Tell us what the plan is. Then we'll let your friend breathe.'

'There are six,' mumbled Loz. 'Three in New York. Two in London. One in Holland.'

Eva repeated this to the phone.

Khan's legs were trembling and jerking in the air, as though he was suffering a seizure.

'Let him breathe,' pleaded Loz.

'What's your plan?' Eva screamed. 'What's your G.o.ddam plan?' She hit him on the ear with the gun.

He shook his head again.

Herrick was now aware of Gibbons whispering to her. He was pointing to the TV monitor on the floor. 'The cops are in the other room,' he hissed. She glanced down and saw the figures darting across both halves of the split screen. She held the bag tighter round Khan's head. His right hand weakly tore at Gibbons's back. The other flailed in the air near Herrick. His legs stopped moving.

Eva stepped back from Loz. 'Tell us and you'll save him.'

'They are martyrs. Martyrs with explosive. You understand! Martyrs! You cannot stop martyrs who give their lives to the struggle!'

'Suicide bombers with Semtex, men spreading disease and toxic agents?'

He did nothing and she repeated the question, screaming in his ear.

He nodded. 'Yes.'

'When're they going to attack?'

'They have pa.s.ses for two o'clock.'

'American or European time?'

Khan had now stopped moving completely.

'Please! Let him breathe!' Eva signalled to Herrick, who pulled the bag from Khan's head.

'American time - after the other attacks.'

'There aren't going to be any other attacks. Who are these men?'

'You know some of their names,' said Loz. 'I will tell you everything if you let Khan live.'

He gave them the names, haltingly, as if he couldn't quite remember, but soon they had six names, only three of which Herrick recognised. He repeated them slowly again while Eva held the phone to his mouth. Langer, Khalil, Al-Ayssid, Ajami Hossein, Mahmud Buktar and Iliyas Shar. One American, three Arabs and two Pakistanis. He told them the men's details. Their phone numbers and addresses were on a laptop by the table, which none of them had noticed before. Everything was there, including his last message to the martyrs.

Herrick looked down at her victim and nodded to him. Only she and Khan knew that she'd punctured the bag with her fingernails before wrapping it around his head. Despite the ferocious a.s.sault on his feet, he had gone along with her and play-acted his suffocation. She bent down, stroked his hair and kissed him on the forehead. Her other hand went to Gibbons' shoulder.

Loz saw all this. He looked perplexed for a moment, then seemed to understand. 'The G.o.ddess Isis used the essence of Ra to defeat him,' he said. 'That is what you did to me. You used my essence - my love for Karim - to defeat me.'

Herrick heard this but was too concerned about Gibbons' condition to reply. She tore to the reception area and bellowed into the corridor. Within seconds, the place filled with members of the SWAT team they'd seen on the CCTV. They pressed field dressings to Gibbons' wounds and then four of them picked him up and rushed to the elevator bank. Ollins, who had come in behind the men, crouched down by Loz.

'How much information have you got from him?' he asked Eva quietly.

'He's told us there are six men, three to attack the UN building here, two in London and one in Holland.'

'Where in London? The UN offices?'

Loz's eyes had come to rest on the patterned rug a few feet away. 'This has been my prayer mat since I was a small boy. It has been with me all these years.' He smiled to himself. 'It's the only thing I have left.'

'Forget the self-pitying s.h.i.t,' said Ollins. He took hold of Loz's jaw and banged his head upwards against the wall. 'Where in London? Where in Holland? How are they going to make these attacks at the United Nations?'

'He can't speak if you're going to hold him like that,' said Eva.

Ollins let go and Herrick took over. 'You've got men at the Hague. Is that right? The War Crimes court, the Chemical Weapons Inspectorate - which part of the UN in Holland?'

'You will not find these men.' Loz worked his jaw from side to side as though recovering from Ollins' a.s.sault, paused and turned to Herrick, his eyes locking onto hers with the strange, wild look she had seen on the island. He bit into something, winced and opened his mouth to reveal foaming saliva. Herrick grabbed his shoulders, more out of desperation than any hope of saving him. Then, with only the smallest convulsion, the cyanide capsule silently took his life. His head lolled sideways and a little stream of dribble ran from his mouth onto his chest.

Ollins swore and thumped the floor. Herrick sat back, shocked.

'Is he gone?' They turned to see Khan, his head raised from the bed. 'Is he dead?'

'Yes,' said Eva.

Khan's head sank back.

'He killed himself because of the failure,' said Eva. 'He killed himself because he'd told us everything.'

'What makes you so d.a.m.ned certain?' asked Ollins.

'Because this man lived to outwit people. Once he knew he was beaten there was no point in living. If anything was still going to happen, he surely would have waited until at least the end of tomorrow to see the realisation of his plans.'

Herrick stood up and looked over to Khan. 'Are there any more surprises for us, Karim?'

'Yes,' he said at length. 'The man called Langer.'

'Larry Langer?'

'Yes. Langer is waiting to kill the Secretary General. Jaidi got him a job at Sammi's request six months ago. He has a pa.s.s that allows him anywhere in the building. He is waiting there now for Jaidi to meet the Israeli Amba.s.sador to the United Nations for breakfast in his office.' He stopped and looked up at Herrick. 'If you bring me that computer, I will show you the other plans.' His hand flopped out towards the laptop. 'You see, Sammi told me everything because he trusted me. But you saved me, Isis Herrick, and now I will help you.'

Twenty-one days after that night in the Empire State building, Isis sat down for dinner with her father and Harland - effectively three generations of British Intelligence officers, as Munroe pointed out - at a pub in the Western Highlands. There were still several hours of daylight left, but they'd been forced to abandon fishing on the loch nearby because clouds of midges had risen when the wind dropped, making it impossible for them to concentrate. She glanced at Harland's face, already covered with tiny red blotches from midge bites, but he still looked jubilant. An hour before, he had caught his first sea trout from the old wooden rowing boat they were using. It was a big specimen, weighing just under five pounds, which had s.n.a.t.c.hed at the fly as he dragged it across a ripple on the water, then fought for its life for a full twenty minutes before being landed.

They had said little to each other during the day and now there was silence between them. Without warning, her father rose to his feet in the empty dining room and held his tumbler of whisky up to her and then to Harland.

'This is to you two,' he said. 'And to the most remarkable intelligence operation of the last two decades.'

Harland smiled and, when Munroe sat down, raised his own gla.s.s to Isis. 'It was your success.'

She couldn't agree with them. She shook her head and stared down at the table mat.

'What is it?' her father asked. 'Come along, spit it out.'

'I hurt Khan... real pain... deliberately inflicted to get the information. That's torture, whichever way you look at it.'

'Yes, but even Khan understood why you had to do it,' Harland told her. 'Without it, those men would have caused havoc with their bombs and poisons and diseases. It was an operational necessity. You took the only course open to you in the circ.u.mstances. I know. I heard it all through Eva's phone.'

'Yes, but I did it without thinking. That's how these things happen - you slip into them without realising the threshold you've crossed. I'm no different from The Doctor, or Gibbons for that matter.'

'That's the world we live in,' said Munroe gently.

'But it shouldn't be,' she replied, turning to her father. 'If we are to stand for anything, we have to preserve our standards and morals whatever the price. The only way we can argue for our system and beliefs is if we are utterly rigorous with ourselves as well as other people. We have to make sacrifices not to become like the other side.'

Her father looked at Harland, who spoke. 'It's a matter of weighing the lesser of two evils. You were there and you had to make a decision. Besides, Khan went along with it. As a result he will soon be a free man, and can rebuild his life. That's all you need to take from this.'

'The question is, would I have done it anyway - without his cooperation?' She paused and put her hand up to her father who was about to interrupt. 'And the answer is yes, I would.'

Munroe tapped his daughter on the hand. 'Enough of this,' he said. 'Now, let's think about what we're going to order so we can get back on the water as soon as possible. The conditions are perfect and there's a bit of a breeze coming up.'

Herrick looked out over the slate grey loch but her mind was still in the Empire State.

end.

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