Chapter Thirty-Six

    Day Sixteen

    Rome, Italy

    Robert place...all to Colonel Cesar fro...hone booth in the Piazza del Duomo. "Whatever happened to friendship?" Robert asked.

    "Don't be naive, my friend. I'm under orders, just as you are...an assure you, there is no use in your running. You're at the head of every intelligence agency's most wanted list. Half the governments of the world are looking for you."

    "Do you believe I'...raitor?"

    Cesar sighed. "It doesn't matter wha...elieve, Robert. This is nothing personal...ave my orders."

    "To take me out."

    "You can make it easier by turning yourself in."

    "Thanks, paesano. I...eed more advice, I'll call Dear Abby." He slammed down the receiver.

    Robert was aware that the longer he was at large, the greater the danger he was in. There would be security agents closing in on him from hal...ozen countries.

    There has to b...ree, Robert thought. The line came fro...egend abou...unter who was relating an experience he had on safari. "This huge lion was racing toward me, and all my gun bearers had fled...ad no gun, and there was nowhere to hide. No...ush o...ree in sight. And the beast was charging straight at me, coming closer and closer." "How did you escape?"...istener asked. "I ran over to the nearest tree and climbed it." "But you said there were no trees." "You don't understand. There has to b...ree!" An...ave to find it, Robert thought.

    He looked around the piazza. It was almost deserted at this hour. He decided it was time to hav...alk with the man who had started him on this nightmare, General Hilliard. But he would have to be careful. Modern electronic phone tracing was almost instantaneous. Robert observed that the two telephone booths next to the one he was in were both empty. Perfect. Ignoring the private number General Hilliard had given him, he dialled the switchboard of NSA. When an operator answered, Robert said, "General Milliard's office, please."

    A moment later, he hear...ecretary's voice. "General Hilliard's office."

    Robert said, "Please hold for an overseas call." He dropped the receiver and hurried into the next booth. He quickly redialled the number...ifferent secretary answered, "General Hilliard's office."

    "Please hold for an overseas call," Robert said. He let the receiver hang and walked into the third booth, and dialled. When another secretary answered, Robert said, "This is Commander Bellamy...ant to speak to General Hilliard."

    There wa...asp of surprise. "Jus...oment, Commander." The secretary buzzed the intercom. "General, Commander Bellamy is on line three."

    General Hilliard turned to Harrison Keller. "Bellamy is on line three. Star...race, fast."

    Harrison Keller hurried over t...elephone o...ide table, and dialled the Network Operations Centre, manned and monitored twenty-four hour...ay. The senior officer on duty answered. "NOC. Adams."

    "How long will it take to do an emergency trace on an incoming call?" Keller whispered.

    "Between one and two minutes."

    "Start it. General Hilliard's office, line three. I'll hang on." He looked over at the General and nodded.

    General Hilliard picked up the telephone.

    "Commander ... is that you?"

    In the Operations Centre, Adams punche...umber int...omputer. "Here we go," he said.

    "I thought it was time you an...a...alk, General."

    "I'm glad you called, Commander. Why don't you come in and we can discuss the situation? I'll arrang...lane for you, and you can be here in ..."

    "No thanks. Too many accidents happen in airplanes, General."

    In the communications room, ESS, the electronic switching system, had been activated. The computer screen began lighting up. AX121-B ... AX122-C ... AX123-C ...

    "What's happening?" Keller whispered into the phone.

    "The Network Operations Centre in New Jersey is searching the Washington, DC trunks, sir. Hold on."

    The screen went blank. Then the words: OVERSEAS TRUNK LINE ONE flashed onto the screen.

    "The call is coming from somewhere in Europe. We're tracing the country ..."

    General Hilliard was saying, "Commander Bellamy...hink there's bee...isunderstanding...av...uggestion ..."

    Robert replaced the receiver.

    General Hilliard looked over at Keller. "Did you get it?"

    Harrison Keller talked into the phone to Adams. "What happened?"

    "We lost him."

    Robert moved into the second booth and picked up the telephone.

    General Hilliard's secretary said, "Commander Bellamy is calling on line two."

    The two men looked at each other. General Hilliard pressed the button for line two.

    "Commander?"

    "Let me mak...uggestion," Robert said.

    General Hilliard put his hand over the mouthpiece. "Get the trace working again."

    Harrison Keller picked up the telephone and said to Adams, "He's on again. Line two. Move fast."

    "Right."

    "My suggestion, General, is that you call off all your men. An...ean now."

    "I think you misunderstand the situation, Commander. We can work this problem out if ..."

    "I'll tell you how we can work it out. There'...ermination order out on me...ant you to cancel it."

    In the Network Operations Centre, the computer screen was flashin...ew message: AX155-C Subtrunk A21 verified. Circuit 301 to Rome. Atlantic Trunk 1.

    "We've got it," Adams said into the phone. "We've traced the trunk to Rome."

    "Get me the number and location," Keller told him.

    In Rome, Robert was glancing at his watch. "You gave me an assignment...arried it out."

    "You did very well, Commander. Here is wha....."

    The line went dead.

    The General turned to Keller. "He hung up, again."

    Keller spoke into the phone. "Did you get it?"

    "Too quick, sir."

    Robert moved into the next booth and picked up the telephone.

    Genera:! Hilliard's secretary's voice came over the intercom. "Commander Bellamy is on line one, General."

    The General snapped, "Find the bastard!" He picked up the telephone. "Commander?"

    "I want you to listen, General, and listen closely. You've murdere...ot of innocent people. If you don't call off your men, I'm going to the media to tell them what's going on."

    "I wouldn't advise you to do that, unless you want to star...orldwide panic. The aliens are real, and we're defenceless against them. They're getting ready to make their move. You have no idea what would happen if word of this leaked out."

    "Neither have you," Bellamy retorted. "I'm not giving yo...hoice. Call off the contract on me. If there's one more attempt made on my life, I'm going public."

    "All right," General Hilliard said. "You win. I'll call it off. Why don't we do this? We can ..."

    "Your trace should be working pretty good, now," Robert said. "Hav...ood day."

    The connection was broken.

    "Did you get it?" Keller barked into the phone.

    Adams said, "Close, sir. He was calling from an area in Central Rome. He kept switching numbers on us."

    The General looked over at Keller. "Well?"

    "I'm sorry, General. All we know is that he's somewhere in Rome. Do you believe his threat? Are we going to call off the contract on him?"

    "No. We're going to eliminate him."

    Robert went over his options again. They were pitifully few. They would be watching the airports, railroad stations, bus terminals and car rental agencies. He could not check int...otel because SIFAR would be circulating red notices. Yet he had to get out of Rome. He neede...over...ompanion. They would not be looking fo...an an...oman together. It wa...eginning.

    A taxi was standing at the corner. Robert mussed his hair, pulled down his tie, and staggered drunkenly toward the taxi. "Hey, there," he called. "You!"

    The driver looked at him, distastefully.

    Robert pulled ou...wenty-dollar bill and slapped it into the man's hand. "Hey, buddy, I'm lookin' a'get laid. You know what tha' means? D'you speak any goddamn English?"

    The driver looked at the bill. "You wis...oman?"

    "You got it, pal...is...oman."

    "Andiamo," the driver said.

    Robert lurched into the cab, and it took off. He looked back. He was not being followed. The adrenalin was pumping. Half the governments in the world are looking for you. And there would be no appeal. Their orders were to assassinate him.

    Twenty minutes later they had reach Tor di Ounto, Rome's red light district, populated by whores and pimps. They drove down Pas-seggiata Archeologica, and the driver pulled t...top a...orner.

    "You will fin...oman here," he said.

    "Thanks, buddy." Robert paid the amount on the meter, and stumbled out of the taxi. It pulled away wit...queal of tyres.

    Robert looked around, studying his surroundings. No police...ew cars an...andful of pedestrians. There were more tha...ozen whores cruising the street. In the spirit of "let's round up the usual suspects", the police had conducted their bi-monthly sweep to satisfy the voices of morality, and moved the city's prostitutes from the Via Veneto, with its high visibility, to this area where they would not offend the dowagers taking tea at Doney's. For that reason, most of the ladies were attractive and well dressed. There was one in particular who caught Robert's eye.

    She appeared to be in her early twenties. She had long, dark hair and was dressed i...asteful black skirt and white blouse, covered b...amelhair coat. Robert guessed that she wa...art-time actress or model. She was watching Robert.

    Robert staggered up to her. "Hi, baby," he mumbled. "D'you speak English?"

    "Yes."

    "Good. Le's you an' me hav...arty."

    She smiled uncertainly. Drunks could be trouble. "Maybe you should go sober up first." She ha...oft Italian accent.

    "Hey, I'm sober enough."

    "It will cost yo...undred dollars."

    "Tha's okay, honey."

    She made her decision. "Va bene. Come. There i...otel just around the corner."

    "Great. What's your name, baby?"

    "Pier."

    "Mine's Henry."...olice car appeared in the distance, headed their way. "Let's get outta here."

    The other women cast envious glances as Pier and her American customer walked away.

    The hotel was no Hassler, but the pimply-faced boy at the desk downstairs did not ask fo...assport. In fact, he barely glanced up as he handed Pie...ey. "Fifty thousand lire."

    Pier looked at Robert. He took the money from his pocket and gave it to the boy.

    The room they entered containe...arge bed in the corner...mall table, two wooden chairs an...irror over the basin. There wa...lothes rack behind the door.

    "You must pay me in advance."

    "Sure." Robert counted out one hundred dollars.

    "Grazie."

    Pier began to get undressed. Robert walked over to the window. He pushed asid...orner of the curtain and peered out. Everything appeared to be normal. He hoped that by now the police were following the red truck back to France. Robert dropped the curtain and turned around. Pier was naked. She ha...urprisingly lovely body. Firm, young breasts, rounded hips...mall waist and long, shapely legs.

    She was watching Robert. "Aren't you going to get undressed, Henry?"

    This was the tricky part. "... tell you the truth," Robert said, "I thin...a...ittle too much to drink...an't give you any action."

    She was regarding him with wary eyes. "Then why did you ...?"

    "I...tay here and sleep it off, we can make love in the morning."

    She shrugged. "I have to work. It would cost me money to ..."

    "Don't worry. I'll take care of that." He pulled out several hundred-dollar bills and handed them to her. "Will that cover it?"

    Pier looked at the money, making up her mind. It was tempting. It was cold outside, and business was slow. On the other hand, there was something strange about this man. First of all, he did not really seem to be drunk. He was nicely dressed and for this much money he could have checked them int...ine hotel. Well, Pier thought, what the hell? Questo cazzo se ne frega? "All right. There's only this bed for the two of us."

    "That's fine."

    Pier watched as Robert walked over to the window again and moved the edge of the curtain aside.

    "You are looking for something?"

    "Is ther...ack door out of the hotel?"

    What a...etting myself into? Pier wondered. Her best friend had been murdered, hanging out with mobsters. Pier considered herself wise in the ways of men, but this one puzzled her. He did not seem lik...riminal, but still ... "Yes, there is," she said.

    There wa...udden scream, and Robert whirled around.

    "Dio! Dio! Sono venuta tre volte!" It wa...oman's voice, coming from the next room through the paper-thin walls.

    "What's that?" Robert's heart was pounding.

    Pier grinned. "She's having fun. She said she just came for the third time."

    Robert heard the creaking of bed springs.

    "Are you going to bed?" Pier stood there naked, unembarrassed, watching him.

    "Sure." Robert sat down on the bed.

    "Aren't you going to get undressed?"

    "No."

    "Suit yourself." Pier moved over to the bed and lay down beside Robert. "I hope you don't snore," Pier said.

    "You can tell me in the morning."

    Robert had no intention of sleeping. He wanted to check the street during the night, to make sure they did not come to the hotel. They would get around to these small, third-class hotels eventually, but it would take them time. They had too many other places to cover first. He lay there, feeling bone-tired, and closed his eyes fo...oment to rest. He slept. He was back home, in his own bed, and he felt Susan's warm body next to his. She's back, he thought, happily. She's come back to me. Baby, I've missed you so much.

    Day Seventeen

    Rome, Italy

    Robert was awakened by the sun hitting his face. He sat up abruptly, looking around for an instant in alarm, disorientated. When he saw Pier, memory flooded back. He relaxed. Pier was at the mirror, brushing her hair.

    "Buon giorno," she said. "You do not snore."

    Robert looked at his watch. Nine o'clock. He had wasted precious hours.

    "Do you want to make love now? You have already paid for it."

    "That's all right," Robert said.

    Pier walked over to the bed, naked and provocative. "Are you sure?"

    I couldn't i...anted to, lady. "I'm sure."

    "Va bene." She began to dress. She asked casually, "Who is Susan?"

    The question caught him off guard. "Susan? What made you ask?"

    "You talk in your sleep."

    He remembered his dream. Susan had come back to him. Maybe it wa...ign. "She'...riend." She's my wife. She's going to get tired of Moneybags and return to me some day. If I'm still alive, that is.

    Robert walked over to the window. He lifted the curtain and looked out. The street was crowded now with pedestrians and merchants opening up their shops. There were no signs of danger.

    It was time to put his plan into motion. He turned to the girl. "Pier, how would you like to go o...ittle trip with me?"

    She looked at him with suspicion. "A trip ... where?"

    "I have to go to Venice on business, an...ate travelling alone. Do you like Venice?"

    "Yes ..."

    "Good. I'll pay you for your time, and we'll hav...ittle holiday together." He was staring out of the window again. "I kno...ovely hotel there. The Cipriani." Years ago, he and Susan had stayed at the Royal Danieli, but he had been back since, and it had become sadly run-down, and the beds were impossible. The only thing that remained of the hotel's former elegance was Luciano, at the reception desk.

    "It will cost yo...housand dollar...ay." She was ready to settle for five hundred.

    "It'...eal." Robert said. He counted out two thousand dollars. "We'll start with this."

    Pier hesitated. She ha...remonition that something was wrong. But the start of the movie she had been promise...it part in had been delayed, and she needed the money. "Very well," she said.

    "Let's go."

    Downstairs, Pier watched him scan the street carefully before stepping out to hai...axi. He'...arget for somebody, Pier thought. I'm getting out of here.

    "Look," Pier said, "I'm not sur...hould go to Venice with you....."

    "We're going to hav...reat time," Robert told her.

    Directly across the street he sa...ewellery store. He took Pier's hand. "Come on. I'm going to get you something pretty."

    "But ..."

    He led her across the street to the jewellery store.

    The clerk behind the counter said, "Buon giorno, signore. Ca...elp you?"

    "Yes," Robert said. "We're looking for something lovely for the lady." He turned to Pier. "Do you like emeralds?"

    "I ... yes."

    Robert said to the clerk, "Do you have an emerald bracelet?"

    "Si, signore...av...eautiful emerald bracelet." He walked over t...ase and took ou...racelet. "This is our finest. It is fifteen thousand dollars."

    Robert looked at Pier. "Do you like it?"

    She was speechless. She nodded.

    "We'll take it," Robert said. He handed the clerk his ONI credit card.

    "One moment, please." The clerk disappeared into the back room. When he returned, he said, "Shal...rap it for you, or ...?"

    "No. My friend will wear it." Robert put the bracelet on Pier's wrist. She was staring at it, stunned.

    Robert said, "That will look pretty in Venice, won't it?"

    Pier smiled up at him. "Very."

    When they were out on the street, Pier said, "I .....on't know how to thank you."

    "I just want you to hav...ood time," Robert told her. "Do you hav...ar?"

    "No...sed to have an old one, but it was stolen."

    "Do you still have your driver's licence?"

    She was watching him, puzzled. "Yes, but withou...ar, what good i...river's licence?"

    "You'll see. Let's get out of here."

    He haile...axi. "Via Po, please."

    She sat in the taxi, studying him. Why was he so anxious for her company? He had not even touched her. Could he be ...?

    "Qui!" Robert called to the driver. They wer...undred yards away from Maggiore's Car Rental Agency.

    "We're getting out here," Robert told Pier. He paid the driver and waited until the taxi was out of sight. He handed Pie...arge bundle of bank notes. "I want you to ren...ar for us. Ask fo...iat or an Alfa Romeo. Tell them we'll want it for four or five days. This money will cover the deposit. Rent it in your name. I'll wait for you in the bar across the street."

    Less than eight blocks away, two detectives were questioning the hapless driver o...ed truck with French licence plates.

    "Vous me faites chier...ave no idea how the ** that card got in the back of my truck," the driver screamed. "Some crazy Italian probably put it in there."

    The two detectives looked at each other. One of them said, "I'll phone it in."

    Francesco Cesar sat at his desk, thinking about the latest development. Earlier, the assignment had seemed so simple. "You won't have any trouble finding him. When the time comes, we will activate the homing device, and it will lead you right to him." Someone had obviously underestimated Commander Bellamy.

    Colonel Frank Johnson was seated in General Milliard's office, his huge frame filling the chair.

    "We have half the agents in Europe looking for him," General Milliard said. "So far, they've had no luck."

    "It's going to take more than luck," Colonel Johnson said. "Bellamy's good."

    "We know he's in Rome. The sonofabitch just charge...racelet for fifteen thousand dollars. We have him bottled up. There's no way he can get out of Italy. We know the name he's using on his passpor...rthur Butterfield."

    Colonel Johnson shook his head. "I...now Bellamy, you haven'...lue about what name he's using. The only thing you can count on is that Bellamy won't do what you count on him to do. We're afte...an who's as good as the best in the business. Maybe better. If there's any place to run, Bellamy will run there. If there's any place to hide, he'll hide there...hink our best bet is to bring him out in the open, smoke him out. Right now, he's controlling all the moves. We have to take the initiative away from him."

    "You mean, go public? Give it to the press?"

    "Exactly."

    General Milliard pursed his lips. "That's going to be touchy. We can't afford to expose ourselves."

    "We won't have to. We'll put ou...elease that he's wanted o...rug-smuggling charge. That way we can get Interpol and all the police departments in Europe involved without tipping our hand."

    General Milliard thought about it fo...oment. "I like it."

    "Good. I'm leaving for Rome," Colonel Johnson said, "I'm going to take charge of the hunt myself."

    When Colonel Frank Johnson returned to his office, he was i...houghtful mood. He was playin...angerous game. There was no question about it. He had to find Commander Bellamy.

    ...
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