Lee Sheldon @77,500 words
Campbell sat with his legs crossed on the greasy stone
floor of the tiny room, working methodically. Oblivious to the
perspiration that streamed down his cut and bruised face, he
bent a thin strip of iron in an impromptu vise formed by the
corner of a cot. He strained to lever the band into shape with
hands scraped raw and bleeding. The blood mingled with sweat to
lubricate the metal so that it twisted like an eel in his grasp.
Piled on gummy, ragged bedding in the corner of the eight
by eight room were carcasses of the two metal cots he and Gus
Eckstein had dismembered. Behind the two men was a single barred
window, set in slimy brick walls, and covered by a scrap of
burlap that hung limply in the heavy humidity.
But they ignored this window, the strange feverish chanting
that swelled and echoed in the courtyard beyond it, and
concentrated on the immediate task before them.
Campbell was a tall man in his middle forties, his leathery
face etched with rugged lines by sun and wind. His hair was
thick and predominately black in color although here and there
were strands of pure white. Cold gray eyes were set deep in his
tanned face now crisscrossed with coagulated blood. He wore the
remnants of army fatigues painted in a camouflage pattern of
green and beige, and streaked with blood dried to a dark purple.
Campbell removed the strip of iron from the vise and held
it up for his companion to see. Eckstein nodded and his homely
face broke into an incredibly wide sloppy grin. He was older
than Campbell. How much older was anybody's guess. Campbell knew
he'd been in army demolitions during the Second World War, when
Campbell was still a boy scavenging amid the flaming ruins of
But Eckstein was tough, built like a bull: short, stocky,
no neck, great meaty hands. He carried a lot of weight for his
five foot seven inch frame, but Campbell knew most of it was
still hard muscle.
Eckstein had been attacked like Campbell by the mob out-
side, his fatigues almost torn from his body. Looking into his
friend's battered face, Campbell remembered that moment six
hours before when he, Eckstein, and the eleven other men had
been brought to the brick building with its wide, flat steps and
massive oak doors so warped and twisted by the moist air they
would not close.
The building was now called the People's Hall of Justice.
It had once been the British Embassy. The soldiers standing at
attention in a line on the lowest step were the People. And so
was the crowd that filled the courtyard and the street beyond
There had been hundreds of them then, and Campbell guessed
their ranks had swelled even more as news spread of his capture.
They were black Africans, victors in the short, savage war that
had ended only two weeks before. Now a Provisional Government
ruled in the former Portuguese colony renamed Muanda. That
government was meeting at this very moment, Campbell knew, in a
large chamber within the Hall of Justice.
When Campbell and the others had been dragged into the
cells, hastily converted from the embassy's servants' quarters,
the crowd had pushed and clawed at them. Some carried crudely
scrawled signs in Portuguese and English: DEATH TO THE MERCEN-
ARIES, DEATH TO THE CAPITALIST JACKALS.
Now the thirteen men were locked away behind the brick
walls and thick wooden doors in the People's Prison, convenient
to the People's Court, and the other brick wall in the field
beyond, the one pock-marked with bullet holes.
As Campbell worked, twisting a small bit of metal into a
loop, he could hear the crowd come alive again despite their
long vigil in the oppressive tropical heat.
"La luta tontinua! La luta tontinua!" they cried. This was
Portuguese, Campbell knew, for "The struggle continues."
Eckstein stretched his stiff spine and wiped the sweat from
the back of his neck with one of his huge hands.
"I tell ya her name was Marta from Marrakech," he said,
continuing a conversation that had lagged over an hour before.
"God, could I use a cigarette!"
Campbell smiled and his gray eyes lost some of their
coldness. "Marta from Marrakech Sounds like a song title," he
answered in his clipped British accent. "And if she can really
do all those things you say she can, at the same time, mind you,
then she should be in the British Museum or on tour with a
"Marta's shy." The beefy man groaned as he put all his
strength into bending a stout metal bar. "She don't get out much
"When would she have time? What bloody bullshit!"
Eckstein grinned as he inspected his work. "Maybe," he
continued. "Maybe it was Marta from Marrakech. Maybe it was
Myrna from Mozambique. I can't remember all the names, but it
was a night I'll never forget!"
"Here, let me have that." Campbell took the twisted piece
of metal from his companion.
"Or was it an afternoon?" The stocky man scratched at his
gray crew cut. "God, could I use a cigarette!"
Campbell took the twisted loop of metal and slid it down a
straight shaft. He then secured it with the bit of metal
fashioned into a homemade clip, and held the finished product
up. It was a dangerous looking approximation of a pickaxe.
He smiled. "Crude, but lethal, wouldn't you say?" Eckstein
grinned and nodded, but his eyes flicked briefly to the burlap
covered window, then back to Campbell. The chanting had ceased
abruptly. Something was about to happen.
Several miles to the east a large olive-drab military
helicopter without markings of any kind clattered low over the
dense Muandan forest and out across the farmlands that ringed
the capital city, Zatamba. Several farmers working in the fields
below didn't even glance up as it passed a few yards above their
heads, buffeting the heavy leafed tobacco plants. Such things
had become a daily part of their life.
In the helicopter's hold, a large empty space fitted for
troop transport, eight black men crouched in olive green
uniforms. Their leader, Adella, was very dark, tall and
muscular. His shaved head glistened with sweat. He wore
lieutenants' bars. Adella checked his watch, then gazed
impassively through the open sliding door at a small herd of
spindly cattle grazing on the side of a low hill.
Soon the helicopter reached the outskirts of the city,
roared low over the scattered huts, and the wide brown river
that meandered westward to the sea. It banked to the north and
began dipping and weaving between the taller buildings there,
sometimes only a few feet above the cracked and rutted dirt
From his vantage point at the tiny barred window Campbell
could see the steps lined with soldiers, part of the crushing
mass of people in front of them, and the huge oak doors of the
main entrance slouching to either side of the dark entranceway.
Cheers went up from the crowd as a small man wearing a
general's uniform, highly decorated with ribbons and medals,
stepped from the darkness of the hall. At his sides were two
aides in civilian clothes. He raised his arm to wave and the
cheers grew louder.
This, Campbell knew, must be General Ahndi, the Cuban
trained strategist that had led the attack on the Celeto River
stronghold in the southeast.
The general smiled and motioned for silence. The hush was
immediate and complete. One of the aides held out a sheet of
paper and began to read from it in Portuguese. He finished and
the second aide held up a similar piece of paper and began to
read the announcement in English to a small group of scruffy,
unshaven, perspiring reporters, standing to one side. The crowd
began once more to chant.
"La luta tontinua! La luta tontinua!"
"The People's Provisional Government of Muanda-" the aide
shouted to be heard above the din. "-has today decreed that the
thirteen mercenary murderers now confined within the People's
Prison will be given a fair and democratic trial to determine
whether or not they are guilty of the charges against them."
"What are the charges?" one of the reporters yelled. But
the aide ignored him and continued reading.
"This will be a trial for all the world to see that swift
and final justice is brought to those who would invade a
sovereign nation and make war against its people."
The aide lowered the paper and nodded to the general. He
smiled, waved again at the people, and turned to go back inside.
It was at that moment that the helicopter appeared and
hovered above the People's Prison, the sound of its rotors
drowned by the chanting of the crowd. But people became aware of
the helicopter and gradually the chanting died.
The general turned on his heels as the clattering became
audible, and followed pointing fingers to where it hung
suspended not more than ten feet above the prison roof.
From the opening in its side men began dropping on to the
The general screamed in rage and shouted at the line of
soldiers to open fire, but by the time the first shots began
crashing in the courtyard the helicopter had disgorged its
passengers and swung to cover behind the building. Instead, the
bullets, fired in haste, splattered against the brick walls of
the building and began ricocheting back into the crowd. There
was instant bedlam.
Inside the tiny cell Campbell leaped back as a bullet
pinged against one of the bars of his window.
"Jesus Christ!" Eckstein yelled. "I thought they lined ya
up at that wall out in the field!"
"I don't think it's the firing squad, old friend," Campbell
replied. He'd heard the helicopter, out of sight somewhere above
and behind him. Listening to the shouts and screams from the
courtyard, he reached for two hunks of iron bent at right angles
with jagged tips.
"Whatever is happening it would do to be ready."
Eckstein nodded and lifted the pickaxe.
Forcing open the roof access door, Adella led five of his
men down a flight of stairs at a run. Two remained on the roof,
maintaining a cover fire that sent General Ahndi and his aides
scrambling behind the reporters' jeep.
Inside the cell block a guard peeked apprehensively through
a small window at the confusion below. Behind him the door to
the stairs opened suddenly. He started to turn. Two of Adella's
men grabbed him. An arm around the throat and a knife thrust
through his shirt up under the ribcage into his heart cut short
his cry of alarm.
The lieutenant then led the five down the hall. He looked
through a small opening into the first cell. Two men in
camouflage fatigues sat against the wall and scowled at him. He
trotted to the next cell. Here he found two more cowering in the
corner. The third cell appeared to be empty except for the
jumbled bedding and the remains of two cots.
Adella motioned four of his men down the hall to guard the
other door. He waved at the fifth man, who carried an automatic
The man opened fire on the door. The lock shattered and it
popped open. But the cell still looked empty. Adella stood in
the hall, listening to the gunfire outside.
"Gentlemen," he began in a voice of quiet urgency. "Please.
In a few seconds the guards will be upon us. I have a helicopter
on the roof."
Inside the cell Campbell and Eckstein were flattened
against the wall. The stocky man held the crude pickaxe ready.
Campbell was crouched in the corner, the short bars of jagged
metal in each hand, ready to charge the door.
But the lieutenant didn't move. "I am Adella," he explained
impatiently. "I was Colonel Saxon's aide. I have orders to put
you on a plane. You must hurry!"
The two men in the cell looked at each other.
"I remember a guy with that name," whispered Eckstein. Then
he said loudly, "Just what shade are you, Adella?"
Adella scowled and glanced toward the door at the far end
of the hall through which his four men had run. Ragged gunfire
could be heard just on the other side of it.
"Black as your lungs, Eckstein. Come on. I have some
cigarettes in the copter."
Eckstein peered around the corner of the door, then stood
up and grinned.
"Lieutenant Adella! Old Pal!"
He dropped the pickaxe and joined Adella in the hall.
Campbell followed him, tossing the bars of metal on the bedding.
Adella glanced once at the weapons they'd discarded and nodded
grimly, remembering how dangerous these two men could be.
Just then the door at the end of the hall burst open and
two of Adella's men staggered through backwards, firing as they
Adella led his two charges down the hall. By this time the
other prisoners were all at the windows of their cell doors.
"Colonel Campbell!" one shouted.
Campbell turned to the black lieutenant. "Free these men,"
"Sorry, Colonel. My orders were to pick up you and
Eckstein. No one else."
The fighting at the far end of the narrow hall was
increasing. Stray bullets began whistling by. One of Adella's
rear guard fell back against the wall in a heap, as the other
tossed a grenade at their pursuers, dimly seen now through the
cloud of gunsmoke. The grenade's shattering roar was punctuated
by screams of agony from the outer hall beyond the door.
Campbell's men began shouting, pounding their fists against
the solid, unyielding wooden doors of their cells. Campbell
"I won't go without my men!"
"I'm afraid you have no choice," replied Adella, leveling
his pistol at Campbell. He hustled the two men out the door amid
cries of help from the other prisoners and the ringing of
On the roof, Adella motioned for his two men there to
defend the stairwell, then indicated with his pistol that
Eckstein was to climb the rope ladder dangling from the hovering
helicopter. Eckstein obeyed, fighting the wash from the ma-
chine's rotors that threatened to dash him on the roof. He was
yanked inside when he reached the top.
Adella waved the gun at Campbell and he put one boot on the
lowest rung of the ladder. He pulled himself to the second rung
of the ladder, then without warning kicked out at Adella's hand.
The lieutenant's gun went skittering away across the gravel.
Campbell leaped back down as Adella raced to retrieve his
The colonel sprinted to the roof door and looked down the
stairwell. The remaining five of Adella's men were rapidly
losing ground in a desperate holding action on the stairs. As
Campbell watched one was hit, his legs wrenched out from
underneath him, he toppled over the wooden rail to fall four
stories to the stone floor below. There was no way Campbell
could get to his men.
Adella was beside him again, waving the pistol angrily. He
shouted in Portuguese to the men and they retreated swiftly up
the stairs. Then he turned to Campbell, his eyes wide with
anger, and yelled above the clatter of the helicopter's rotors
and the gunfire.
"Colonel, I have no more time, no more patience, and no
more men to waste. You will get aboard the copter, or I will
kill you. They will have to settle for Eckstein."
Two of Adella's men dodged past them, began climbing the
rope ladder. The thunder of boots could be heard getting louder
on the stairs.
"We could've got my men out!" Campbell shouted right back
"Are you coming or will you die here?"
There was a quick burst from an automatic weapon and a yell
of pain one floor below them. In seconds Ahndi's men would come
through the roof door.
Campbell glared at Adella, then ran to the ladder, Adella
on his heels. He began climbing with the lieutenant right behind
him, as soldiers burst through the door onto the roof. The
helicopter pulled abruptly up and away with the two men still
dangling as bullets whizzed by on all sides.
Campbell struggled rung by rung up the crazily swaying
ladder until at last his fingers found the edge of the heli-
copter door. Strong hands jerked him inside and Adella was
pulled in after him.
The helicopter gained altitude rapidly and headed for the
coast. Inside Campbell found Eckstein puffing happily on a
cigarette. Adella looked at his two surviving men, his jaw
"Five men killed..." he said softly.
"And eleven of mine still trapped in that hell hole,
lieutenant. Whoever ordered this has some accounting to do to
Adella nodded. "To me also, Colonel."
Campbell studied him. "You said you. were Saxon's aide?"
Adella nodded, his face now a blank mask.
"Do you remember another lieutenant in that outfit? An
"That's the one," Campbell nodded. "Where is he?"
"Dead. Killed at the Coleto River."
Campbell took a deep breath and nodded. He seemed relieved.
Adella wondered at this, but said nothing.
"Where are you taking us?" Campbell asked him.
"One of the abandoned military airfields. A plane awaits
Adella shrugged. "Another war?"
Late the following day another helicopter headed toward the
Manhattan Island skyline carrying Campbell and Eckstein from
Kennedy International Airport. This one was sleek, painted in
blue and white swirls. On its side was a modishly abstract
corporate logo with the name ARCON in its center.
The air was crisp and the sky gray. There was snow on the
ground, but no new snow had fallen in several days and the
streets beneath them looked clear and dry.
Campbell gazed at the tall buildings without expression,
his thoughts returning to the People's Prison. He looked at his
hands, now cleaned and bandaged, and wondered about his men.
He'd seen a paper at the airport that had described the rescue
of two mercenaries from the Muandan prison, and realized with a
surge of hope that the presence of the reporters in Muanda could
very well mean that General Ahndi would have to go through with
the trial of the eleven remaining mercenaries as he had
announced. That meant Campbell would have a couple of weeks to
try and figure out how to rescue his men.
He looked at Eckstein smoking quietly beside him in the
comfortable seat. They had been provided with warm coats and had
been given rudimentary medical attention, but were both still
dressed in their tattered, bloodied fatigues.
Campbell looked across to the seat facing them and found
the young man in the tweed vested suit and tan overcoat staring
at him again. Campbell had caught him doing it every few minutes
since the young man had met them at the airport. Simpson was his
name, he remembered. And Campbell realized that Simpson was
frightened to death of them.
"What's the date?°
Simpson blinked stupidly at him. These were the first words
Campbell had spoken since leaving the airplane.
"The date? Uh, oh!" He checked his calendar watch. "The
tenth. January tenth..." he smiled weakly.
Eckstein grinned broadly at him. "Looks like we missed
"Uh, oh. That's too bad..." Campbell noticed that Simpson
tried to push himself back into the cushion of his seat to main-
tain the greatest possible distance between himself and his com-
"What did Santy Claus bring you, Mr. Simpson?" Eckstein
asked in a friendly voice.
Simpson shook his head, trying to center his thoughts on
the question, then even seemed to blush a little. He pulled back
the sleeve on his overcoat to show Eckstein a complicated-
looking digital watch.
"Say, that's a nice watch!" Eckstein beamed at him. "What
do they call those things anyway?"
"It's a diver's watch. There's an alarm and a stop watch,
"You must lead an exciting life!" Eckstein continued to
grin at him. Simpson shifted uneasily.
"Where are we going?" asked Campbell, looking out at the
buildings that now rose on all sides around them.
"I'm supposed to drop you at The Tower, then take Mr.
Eckstein to a hotel."
Simpson looked surprised. He thought everybody knew what
you meant when you said The Tower. "There." He pointed.
They were rising along the flank of a tall pinnacle of
mirrored glass. There was a landing pad on the roof with the
huge ARCON symbol covering it.
Two security guards in blue uniforms waited as the
helicopter set down and Campbell climbed out. He ducked beneath
the whirling blades and ran to meet them. They led him to a door
in the roof and for a moment he stood there watching the
helicopter rise slowly into the sky again. He had a brief flash
of the other helicopter rising from the prison roof in Muanda,
and him left behind at the mercy of the soldiers. He shuddered
and accompanied the two guards inside.
Inside the helicopter Eckstein was still grinning at a
"Can I have it?" Eckstein asked.
"I beg your pardon?"
"The fancy watch. Can I have it?"
"Ya see, I missed Christmas. Santy Claus don't deliver down
where I was. No chimneys. So I thought if ya gave me your watch,
why that'd be a nice gesture, and I would feel very good from
"Uh..." Simpson looked toward the pilot's cabin for help,
but the door was closed. Eckstein watched him deflate inside his
coat. Simpson carefully took off the watch, looked at it sadly,
then handed it over. The stocky man grinned back at him. He put
the watch in a pocket and lit another cigarette.
"Thank you, Mr. Simpson! Merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas," said Simpson, swallowing hard.
Campbell waded through a sea of evenly spaced metal desks
beneath white fluorescent lighting. He guessed there must be at
least fifty pale-faced women with a few men scattered among them
busy at their typewriters when he walked in flanked by the two
His heavy coat hung open and one by one the typists stopped
suddenly to stare open-mouthed at his ripped and bloodied
fatigues. When Campbell and his escort had reached the far end
of the vast room, a stunned silence was broken by an excited
chattering, the work momentarily forgotten.
A thickly carpeted wood paneled hall marked the end of the
common worker's domain and the beginning of executive comfort.
Here Campbell's boots bounced on the thick pile. Here all sound
was muted, colors subdued and tasteful. Here secretaries he
spotted through open doorways glanced briefly at the odd man
between the guards, then went back to their work as if the
appearance of such a man was an everyday occurrence.
At the end of the long hall was a set of walnut double
doors reaching to the ceiling. One of the guards knocked, opened
them and motioned Campbell inside.
For one brief moment Campbell had the urge to turn around
and walk back down the hall, past the typists, find an elevator,
and get the hell out of there. But he was tired and hungry and
the guards looked ready to discourage all movements not
preordained by the powers that obviously lay beyond the double
doors; and Campbell had a few things he wanted to say to those
powers. So he smiled to himself and entered the room.
The door was closed behind him, the guards remaining
outside. Campbell surveyed the room. Bookcases filled with
volumes that looked like they'd been chosen by weight, a
portable bar, a ring of comfortable looking leather furniture.
And in the middle of the room was a coffin shaped table of dark
A group of five shiny, pink faces looked up at him
expectantly from the padded chairs arranged around the table.
There were five men, no, Campbell quickly revised his first
impression. Four men and a woman. The woman was dressed in a
knit suit and had short brown hair. Her face was carefully made
up and powdered, definitely not shiny.
There was a lengthy silence as the five studied Campbell
and he returned their scrutiny. The man at the head of the table
was thin and pale, his hair thick and plentiful. He was dressed
in an expensive, conservatively cut gray suit. Campbell guessed
he was in his middle fifties, although there was only the
slightest trace of gray in the hair.
Even if he had not been at the head of the table, Campbell
would have recognized him as the man in charge. There was about
him a quality not of leadership, but ownership, as if he enjoyed
buying human beings instead of fancy cars. He sat, Campbell
decided, like a sartorially splendid spider in the center of his
power web. And Campbell saw his left hand move imperceptibly, as
he jerked the strand attached to a younger, more junior member
of the gathering.
This one, in his early forties, was dressed more stylishly.
He had blond, curly hair and blue eyes. Campbell would have
pegged him as a surfer or skier if he'd had any trace of a tan.
The blond man clucked his tongue in response to the other's
"Couldn't they... clean him up a little?" he frowned.
This could not have been the opening remark the spider
sought, yet he gave no sign of displeasure. Instead he smiled at
Campbell, his thin lips becoming longer, with just the trace of
an upward curl at each end.
"There wasn't time," he replied in a carefully modulated
voice. "Welcome to New York, Mr. Campbell. Or should I say
"You people have some explaining to do," Campbell said
An older, balding man, stout and seemingly collapsed in his
chair rather than sitting in it, looked at Campbell sharply.
"The least you could do is say thank you."
The older man's pink face became flushed. "We are re-
sponsible for your rescue, sir! A great deal of time and money
Campbell interrupted him. "Eleven of my men are still back
there in that brick oven, sir." he said bitterly. "You signed
their death warrants."
The man's face grew redder yet. "Why, that's absurd!" he
Campbell turned on his heel and headed for the door. There
was a lot to be done before he and Gus Eckstein could return to
Muanda and rescue his men. He'd been wrong to waste his time
arguing with a group of well-tailored imbeciles.
"Mr. Campbell, please! Wait!" the man at the head of the
table called after him. Campbell turned at the door.
"We seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot. Let's try
Campbell shook his head. "I'm going back to get my men."
There was a rustling of silk from the other side of the
table and Campbell glanced in that direction. The woman was
smiling at him. Easily the youngest member of the board,
somewhere in her late thirties, she was definitely attractive if
overly made up for Campbell's taste. And he didn't care for
short hair on women. But there was a hard-edged glint in her
eyes. Campbell saw in them a hungry aggressive burning and
suspected that here might be the match for the spider at the end
of the table. A token woman in this room she might be, but there
was no denying a commanding, assured presence she exuded like an
"We didn't realize this would be a problem," she began, her
voice low and firm. "We may be able to arrange for something in
"Now, Janice, that would be foolhardy," piped up the bald
She smiled at Campbell. "But, I suspect, necessary.
Correct, Mr. Campbell?"
"Right, Janice." She met his gaze steadily, challenging
The man at the head of the table nodded. "It could be made
part of the proposition."
Campbell considered for a moment. Somehow these people had
been able to arrange for a military operation to free Eckstein
and him. Another must be well within the realm of possibility.
He lowered himself into the thickly padded leather chair that
faced the spider down the length of the table.
"Make a phone call. I'11 wait.°"
The man's left hand twitched once more and the younger man
looked at him.
"Crawford," the spider asked. "Will you see to it?"
"Of course, Mr. Stapleton."
He left the room trying to look as if he were not hurrying.
The man he'd addressed as Stapleton now fixed his gaze on
"You understand it may take some time?"
Stapleton shrugged. "A matter of days. No more. Are you
prepared now to listen?"
"Excellent. Perhaps we should introduce ourselves first."
Stapleton nodded to the one person in the room who had yet to
speak, a tiny little man whose face seemed to disappear behind
thick glasses. He had spent the entire time shuffling some
papers in front of him and pecking at what looked like a Palm
"This is Mr. Garvey." Garvey shuffled papers.
He next acknowledged the bald man, still red and now
sweating profusely, and introduced him as Mr. Bickham. The woman
was Janice Eaton.
"And I," he concluded, "am Leonard Stapleton. We are for
our sins the board of directors of the Arcon Oil Syndicate. Do
you know what that is?"
Campbell rubbed at the polished top of the wooden table
with the thumb of his right hand, and scratched at the bandage.
"You the people who fix the price of petrol?"
Stapleton smiled. "We're the people who try to keep the
Campbell chuckled at this. "Oh..."
Stapleton glanced at Garvey, who blinked rapidly several
times, then fumbled with the PDA on the table in front of him.
It was actually some sort of remote control device because when
he pushed a button the lights dimmed. Garvey pressed another
button and a screen appeared out of the ceiling and slid down in
front of one of the bookcases. A third button and the lights
came back up. Everyone blinked.
"Oh! Sorry! Not quite used to this gadget yet!" Garvey
peered anxiously around.
The lights dimmed again and a map appeared on the screen.
It was a general map of the state of Alaska with major cities
and topographical features marked. The map was bisected by a
crooked line headed roughly south from the Arctic circle to the
Gulf of Alaska.
"The TransAlaska Pipeline, Mr. Campbell," Stapleton said
proudly. "We helped build it. We had other partners in several
major oil companies, of course, but without Arcon it would never
have become the reality it is today: eight hundred miles of pipe
from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, an ice free port on the Gulf of
Alaska. Those green and red dots are pumping stations. Thanks
to improved technology and oil additives we have been able to
close the stations you see there marked in red. The six green
ones are currently active.
Another slide appeared on the screen. This was a more
detailed relief map of a portion of pipeline in the desolate
Endicott Mountains of the Brooks Range.
"A little background is needed here," continued Bickham.
"At the time it was built the pipeline was the greatest private
construction project in the world. Completed in 1977 it took
three-and-a-half years to build. Since it was first announced
the pipeline attracted the attention of environmentalists with
justifiable concerns which we have vigorously addressed, and
various other groups with their own political agendas. Today
we're hard at work on our rights-of-way which must be renewed in
2004. And despite an aggressive Environmental Impact Study that
will take two years or more, political opposition activity has
increased. No one will deny the pipeline has had a few mishaps
over the years. But nowhere near what one might expect from
such a massive project.
"And we manage to move nearly twenty percent of domestic
oil production, over one million barrels a day, across three
mountain ranges, thirty-four major rivers and hundreds of miles
of arctic tundra from Prudhoe Bay up there, the largest oil
field in North America, to the terminus at Valdez.
The lights flicked back on. Campbell couldn't tell if it
was planned or an accident. He held out his hands. "I'm waiting
for the other shoe to drop, Stapleton," he said. "The tour's a
treat, but what does it have to do with me? I'm what you Yanks
might call a hired gun."
"Yes, we know. Mr. Garvey?"
Garvey fumbled at the papers and scattered them in all
directions. Squinting, he began to read.
"Campbell, Ian. Born into a working class family in London,
yet educated at Harrow and Cambridge. In 1977 you left your
chair in history at Cambridge after your wife and two young
daughters were killed in an automobile accident-"
"You can skip all that," Campbell murmured.
Garvey glanced at Stapleton and was rewarded with a nod.
Stapleton smiled at Campbell.
"The pertinent facts are these," he said. "Since 1981
you've made it a point to turn up, shall we say, in several of
the hot spots of the world. You then proceed to make them
hotter. Algeria, the Middle East, the Balkans, even Ireland, I
understand. You are apolitical. You are a mercenary, of course.
I hope that word does not offend you?"
Campbell looked at him, saying nothing.
"You are a specialist," continued Stapleton. "Exorbitant
sums are paid to you for specific assignments or targets within
a given conflict. You are almost unbelievably successful. This
most recent fiasco in Muanda being one of the few exceptions.
But the blame for that can hardly be laid on your doorstep. Your
superiors were, how shall I put it, not superior in any sense of
the word. They've paid for their stupidity.
"You managed to stay alive. And I suspect, given time, you
would have been able to extricate yourself and your men from the
dangerous situation in which you found yourselves. Unfortunately
time is one thing we do not have, hence your rescue. Am I
essentially correct so far?°
"Except for one thing. I'm not overpaid. I'm unique. Like
fine wine or beach property. You get what you pay for."
"I'm sure of that," Janice smiled at him.
Campbell looked at her with renewed interest. They were
going to talk about money, one of his favorite subjects.
"How much?" he asked her.
"Five hundred thousand dollars to be divided among however
many members of your team you require. Plus expenses."
"Plus the release of my men in Muanda?"
She didn't bother to glance at Stapleton. "Yes," she
"That's a great deal of money. To do what?"
Stapleton nodded at Garvey. The myopic little man pushed
another button on the gadget in his hand and from the direction
of the screen a youthful male voice, scratchy and fuzzed with
interference, began to speak.
"Soldiers of the Free Earth Liberation Army today secured
our first beachhead in the war against the unholy alliance of
the dictatorship of the United States of America and the
corporate pigs of the oil monopolies..."
Garvey stopped the tape, and Bickham, his face now having
reverted to its normal pink, spoke up.
"This... this FELA group has taken over one of our pump
The lights went out again and now a slide appeared of the
pumping station in question, located in a barren river pass.
"Pump Station E, Mr. Campbell," Bickham continued. "During
the winter months the arctic storms pretty much cut it off from
the rest of the world. The gravel road that follows the
pipeline route is impassable."
"Under the best of conditions," Janice Eaton added, "the
road, officially known as the Dalton Highway, is so bad the
drivers call it the Kamikaze Trail."
"Yes, uh..." The interruption appeared to disconcert
Bickham for a moment. Campbell suspected that he still had
trouble with the idea that a woman could be his equal in the
Arcon power structure. And Janice Eaton looked like she enjoyed
Another slide appeared. Somehow in the darkness Bickham had
stolen the remote control from Garvey.
This slide was an aerial view of a pump station, snowbound.
A jointed line of gray pipe, supported by trestles or pylons,
snaked its way through a trough-shaped pass, dark against the
snow. On the flattened tip of a ridge the station itself was
surrounded by a chain link fence.
A number of buildings were scattered about the site, all
painted in a dull, almost army green color. The pipeline entered
the fenced area, disappeared inside a long, shed-like building,
emerged on the far side and continued on its way, diving
underground before it reached the perimeter fence on the
opposite side. Smaller pipes connected various buildings and
three huge storage tanks along a third side.
An L-shaped building, somewhat separated from the rest of
the station had a parking lot out front and bumps of snow that
might hide vehicles underneath. There was a communications tower
and a couple more buildings with steam rising into the frigid
air. A single gate connected the camp to a road that disappeared
in the surrounding forest of spruce and pine.
Bickham's narration continued.
"This was taken from the air one week ago before the
weather closed in again. The station is in no real danger during
these storms. The men have supplies for a month or more even
though they only work two week shifts. And daily radio contact
is maintained. But on January 1st PSE missed its scheduled
broadcast. Our people in Wiseman tried to reach them, but there
was no reply. That is until two hours later when the message
you've just heard was received on the company's wavelength."
"Was that the entire message?" asked Campbell.
Bickham glanced nervously at Stapleton. The spider laughed.
"Hardly. It went on and on about how we'd manipulated the
oil shortage in '73 to bull through government approval of the
pipeline. How we've paid off politicians, cheated the Eskimos
and Indians, faked environmental impact reports. All couched in
the proper revolutionary invectives, of course."
Campbell smiled. "No truth in any of that?"
Stapleton smiled and shook his head.
"What do they want?"
The smile faded from Stapleton's face. "They want the
pipeline to go away, Mr. Campbell. All eight hundred miles of it
are to be torn up and hauled off. They've given us until noon on
January 21st to publicly announce that they are in control of
one of our stations and that we will comply. Or they'll begin
"It's insanity!" exclaimed Garvey, jerking forward to pound
a tiny fist on the table.
"They don't want money?" Campbell inquired.
"No," Stapleton answered him. "They claim their concerns
are ecological and political."
Bickham tossed the remote-control device on the table where
it landed with an audible crack. Garvey swept it up and examined
it, holding it close to his weak eyes.
"I wish I'd never heard of permafrost," Bickham complained.
"Or the caribou's migratory behavior. This country needs that
oil. Why can't these creeps face up to reality?"
"Looks to me like they are facing up to it, Mr. Bickham,"
responded Campbell, "if they are genuine. Talking didn't stop
Janice said, "You can't mean you agree with them?"
"Issues don't really interest me. I'm on the side that
"Ah, yes..." She sat back looking pleased.
"An operation like that must have cost quite a bit to set
up," Campbell mused. "I'm a bit rusty on US politics, but
aren't most of your whackos these days rightwing neo-Nazi types
and survivalists? Most of the fringe left is a bit less
radicalized, isn't it, or under-funded at least? Writing
passionate letters to Congress rather than blowing up things?"
Stapleton nodded. "Which is, I admit, why this attack
caught us so off guard. Believe me our security procedures will
undergo a complete review and overhaul. But that is for the
future. We need something else right now."
Campbell thought for a moment as the others waited.
"What about regular army troops? SWAT teams?"
"Twenty-eight of our workers are hostages of the FELA,"
Janice explained. "They've threatened to kill them if any
attempt is made to retake the camp. They have spies in contact
with them by radio. They accurately reported maneuvers at Fort
Wainwright near Fairbanks before we even knew about then. Any
unusual troop movement or police activity and our people die."
Campbell frowned. "Washington must have something to say
The board members looked at each other uneasily before
Stapleton answered him.
"We'd like to keep this one in the family. That's why we
arranged your liberation.°
"Oh, Christ!" Campbell stared at him, then looked at each
person at the table in turn. They looked serious. He laughed.
"You want to launch a secret paramilitary strike on United
"Perhaps you are unaware of the investment the major oil
companies put into the pipeline." Stapleton eyed him stonily.
"The initial construction coast was eight billion dollars, Mr.
Campbell. We'll spend two hundred million this year alone on
maintenance and upgrading systems to keep the oil flowing.
"Twenty percent of the nation's oil, Mr. Campbell. One
million barrels a day. If they shut us down for an hour we've
lost the equivalent of some nations' entire monetary supply.
And if the other groups opposed to the pipeline... if
Congress... if any of our partners gets wind of this, the damage
"How would you like to spend ten dollars a gallon for gas,
Mr. Campbell?" Janice Eaton asked.
"I don't own a car."
Bickham said, "And there is the naturally more immediate
concern for the welfare of those hostages. Not to mention what
the union would do to us, if any of them were hurt."
Campbell saw the steely look Stapleton gave the man.
Undaunted, Bickham plowed on. "The deadline is now less
than two weeks away. We must handle this as quickly and as
quietly as possible. You, Mr. Campbell, were mentioned to us as
the man who could do just that. We have to keep a lid on this.
But even now rumors are everywhere. Our present position is...
"I shouldn't be surprised," Campbell agreed.
Janice broke in. "We believe a small squad of mercenaries
posing as an independent geological survey expedition might be
able to move undetected into the area and retake PSE with a
minimal loss of--"
"Capital?" Campbell interjected.
"The word I was going to use was life."
"What do you think, Mr. Campbell?" asked Stapleton.
"I think you're all crazy." The room seemed to hold its
breath. "Why the FELA hasn't talked to media already, I don't
know," he went on. "But... there are eleven of my men in that
Muandan prison. And I'm not certain I can get them out on my
own. You've said you'll take care of that."
Stapleton nodded. "You have my word."
Campbell was silent for a moment, then added, "Five million
"What?" Garvey dropped the remote. It landed with a crack
on the table.
"You can bury it in your annual maintenance budget. No one
will ever miss it."
Stapleton exchanged a glance with Janice Eaton, then
Campbell looked at the map on the wall, now washed out by
the bright light.
"None of the people I'd want to hire have had any arctic
experience. And my knowledge of geology wouldn't fool anyone."
Stapleton nodded. "We've arranged for Mr. Harvard Lane, one
of our geologists, to train and guide you. He is a little
eccentric perhaps, but he's an authority on arctic survival. He
will know nothing about your true purpose, and will believe
himself to be in charge. Let him continue in that belief for as
long as possible. Will you help us?"
"Fine. Mr. Garvey will fill you in on all the details."
That sounded like a dismissal to Campbell, and he was
right. The board members, all looking considerably more relieved
than when he'd first entered the room, stood in unison. Campbell
rose, too, now that he was just one of the hired help, bought by
Garvey headed toward the door, clutching the remote control
like a wounded bird.
"Please come with me, Mr. Campbell."
After a last quick glance around the room, Campbell
followed him out.
Bickham took out a handkerchief and mopped at his brow as
soon as the door had closed on the mercenary.
"A most unpleasant man," he sighed.
"I rather like him," Janice laughed. "He is certainly a
change from most of the people one meets in this business."
Stapleton smiled at her. "Crawford should have some
preliminary information for him on his men in Muanda by this
evening. Why don't you drop it by his hotel?"
"Thank you, Leonard." Her eyes mocked him. "I'll be happy
"I think we should have told him about Hailey and his
militia," Bickham cut in.
Stapleton shook his head. "When you mentioned the union, I
thought you were going to. That would only have confused the
"Most likely they'll never come into contact with each
other," Janice agreed.
"But if they do!" persisted Bickham, now flushed once more.
"My God, it could be the start of another civil war!"
A red Dodge van bumped and shuddered over the packed snow
of a narrow, winding road, its oversized tires biting into the
hard crust and sending up a white spray behind.
Driving the van was a tall, slender young man, aged twenty,
named Ben. He slowed the van and parked it against a wall of
shoveled snow in front of a tiny cabin made from huge logs
plastered in place. He got out of the van and trudged through
the cleft in the wall of snow.
He was dressed in a fur-lined parka, heavy wool pants and
high leather boots. Smoke curled from the black pipe in the
cabin's roof. That meant the man he had come to see was around
somewhere and not off on one of his long excursions into the
Drifted snow reached almost to the roof of the cabin. Ben
knew it was left that way for most of the winter to provide
additional insulation. Winters got mighty cold in Twin Falls.
Ben had lived his entire life in Twin Falls. Located
at the end of a tiny spit of road running east from Labrador's
single railroad, the tiny town was a major jumping off place and
supply depot for prospectors and engineers who trekked across
the desolate central plateau of this Eastern Canadian province
in search of precious metals, minerals and oil.
The town got its name from two sets of rapids that churned
the Unknown River enough to keep a small stretch relatively ice
free even in the sub-zero temperatures that were the rule for
that part of Labrador's winters.
Ben marched up the cleared path to the door of the cabin
"Harvard?" he called out. "You in there?"
There was no reply so he flipped the latch on the door and
peered inside. The old Franklin stove was giving off almost
visible waves of welcome heat, but the main room was deserted.
He called again, but there was no response. If Lane had still
been in bed in the back room (a possibility Ben quickly
dismissed, it being nearly seven in the morning), he'd have
heard the young man call. People said Harvard Lane slept with
one eye open and an ear cocked.
Ben closed the door and looked around, scratching his head
through the hood of the parka. His breath escaped in great foggy
Listening carefully, he turned toward the sound of the
falls: a muted roar in the distance. There was another noise
there, too hard to make out against the falling water, but
definitely alien. Ben headed down another cleared path toward
He came around a stone outcropping and stopped dead on the
bank of the river. He stared. The alien sound could now be
identified: loud and exuberant singing.
Ben saw a lean, well-muscled man with several weeks' growth
of beard standing stark naked, waist deep in the fast rushing
water of the river, soaping himself and singing. He was in his
late thirties, which accounted for the song he was singing, if
not for his actions.
"I been through the desert on a horse with no name... it
felt good to be out of the rain..." he sang cheerfully, now
lathering his long curling hair with the bar of soap.
"Harvard!" the young man yelled. "You're crazy! Get out of
there! It's ten below!"
"Be just a minute," Lane laughed. "The pipes in my cabin
froze, Ben. A man's gotta keep clean."
"Yes, well the pipes in your body are gonna freeze and I'll
not be comin' in after ya!" Ben retorted in the soft Eastern
Canadian dialect that sounded almost Scottish.
Harvard Lane ducked under the water and came up shaking
himself like a seal, steam rising from his body. Ben grabbed a
blanket from a nearby rock and held it open for him. as he
climbed up onto the bank. Wrapping the blanket around himself,
Lane jogged up and down in place, his bare feet sinking into the
"Race you to the cabin, Ben!" he suddenly cried, sprinting
off up the path. But Ben just laughed and ambled leisurely after
In the cabin Ben made coffee while Lane toweled himself dry
and dressed in a flannel shirt, jeans, thick woolen socks, and
worn leather boots.
Ben always found Lane's cabin cozy and inviting. The main
room was heated by the Franklin stove, and there were powerful
space heaters in the bedroom and bath. The furnishings were
rough, but comfortable. In one corner of the front room that did
double duty as the kitchen was a heavily cushioned chair that
was incredibly worn looking, but made up for what it lacked in
looks in comfort. To its left was a tall reading lamp. Most of
the walls were covered with shelves.
On these shelves was housed a vast assortment of rocks and
minerals Lane had brought back from his wanderings. A11 were
carefully labeled with torn scraps of paper taped below each
one, but they were not in any particular order. Iron pyrite,
commonly known as fool's gold, sat right alongside a piece of
quartz veined with the real thing. On the shelves nearest the
chair was a huge collection of books ranging from geological
tracts to paperback murder mysteries.
The kitchen was small, but complete with a large modern
stove and refrigerator. Food supplies lined the shelves here and
were stacked in every available corner. It looked like enough
food to feed an army for a month, and it probably was.
But Ben knew Lane was like many of the men who lived their
lives in the wilderness. He'd adopted the feeding habits of the
animals themselves. Sometimes he would go for days without food.
But given the chance he could consume three inch thick steaks, a
half-dozen potatoes, and a quart of coffee, and then ask for
seconds. You just never knew where your next meal was coming
Ben poured them each a cup of coffee and they sat at the
round, unfinished wood table in the center of the room. Lane
took a sip of his coffee, then glanced speculatively at his
"What brings you out here, Ben?
"Got a radio message from Goose Bay for you."
Lane nodded. Ben worked at the lodge in Twin Falls. Besides
having the only telephone hookup for miles, the owner, Mort
Akely, maintained a twenty-four hour watch on the powerful short
wave radio for messages from stranded prospectors, weather
reports, and news from the outside world.
"Tell me," he said.
Ben took a crumpled piece of paper from inside his wool
shirt and smoothed it out on the table.
"It's from Mr. Crawford at Arcon Oil. He wants you to lead
a survey team."
"Goddamn it!" Lane roared. "How do they always know when I
need a stake? Here I am in the dead center of nowhere and they
He sighed and finished off the steaming coffee in two quick
gulps before continuing.
"You can run away and hide from the world for a little
while, Ben, but if they want you, they find you. What else?"
"The team will fly in the day after tomorrow."
"Not wasting any time, are they? Where?"
"Commercial connection from Montreal to Labrador City, then
Dave Adams'll fly them in to the river in his bush plane."
Lane scowled as he poured himself another cup of coffee.
"I coulda picked my own people. What's Crawford up to?" he
Lane had met Crawford face to face on only one occasion and
he had disliked the man immediately. He'd found himself looking
into eyes colored with a naked greed and cutthroat ambition that
the blond hair and hip clothes couldn't disguise. He knew
Crawford, as head of Arcon's Survey Operations Division, was low
man on the corporate totem pole. He also could tell that
Crawford didn't plan on things staying that way for very long.
Aloud he said, "They say where this survey's to take
"No, that's it."
"I hate these company things. Oh," he shrugged. "I suppose
a coupla months from now I can be back out in the wild again
hunting after that elusive golden gleam."
"Maybe you'll strike it this time."
"Maybe,°" Lane grinned. "But then what would I do?"
"Get rich!" Ben shouted enthusiastically, waving his cup.
"Wear a suit? Sit in an office?"
"Wouldn't you like to be rich?" Ben asked, puzzled.
"Ben," Lane looked at him with a stern look on his face,
but his eyes were humorous. "If a man just wanders around these
waste places up here, they call him crazy. If he's got a good
and proper reason like greed, well that's okay. Do you see the
moral irony in that?"
Ben laughed. "Sure, Harvard. You got a reason, but folks
still think you're loony!"
Lane joined his laughter.
Campbell entered the hotel lobby, ten thousand dollars for
expenses tucked safely away in an inside pocket. He got his room
key from the clerk. He'd been able to return to the hotel
earlier after his lengthy briefing by Garvey, a session that had
lasted most of the afternoon. He'd removed the bandages from his
now healing hands and taken a shower. The closets and bureaus
had been well stocked with sports clothes in both his and Gus
Eckstein's sizes, thoughtfully provided by their new employers.
Eckstein had left around three to see to what he
cryptically referred to as "errands." After Campbell had cleaned
up and eaten a late lunch in one of the hotel's dining rooms he
also left for two appointments of his own.
Renting a car with some of the expense money, Campbell had
first visited a certain bank. This was a regular pilgrimage he
made each time he was in New York. Its purpose was to check the
safe deposit box where he kept one hundred thousand American
dollars in emergency cash and two sets of documents: passports,
visas, etc., he had acquired several years earlier after an
incident in the Middle East. These papers, produced by a Dutch
craftsman of unparalleled genius, established for him two
fictitious identities: one British and one South African.
Just in case, he'd told himself. Just in case his past or
his profession one day began to catch up with him.
After having ascertained that all was as it should be at
the bank, Campbell had driven to the dock area on the East
River. There he'd been greeted in a shabby office piled high
with stacks of yellowing orders and receipts by a scrawny,
middle-aged Texan dressed in Stetson, hand-tooled boots, and a
suede sport coat with elaborate filigree stitching.
Although the name of the company was Nathan Aster and Sons,
International Freight, he called the man he spoke to "Nasty" for
short. This was the name by which the thin Texan had come to be
known in the shadowy circles in which Campbell sometimes had
occasion to move.
Nasty's freight business was a legitimate and highly
profitable enterprise, Campbell knew. But he and his plump son,
Bobby, supplemented it by a brisk business in arms and munitions
trading. There was another son in California somewhere, Campbell
remembered. He had something to do with women's fashions, but
Nasty never mentioned him.
Nasty and Bob prided themselves on supplying quality goods
at competitive prices to individuals, organizations, or
even countries, currently out of favor with the more mainstream
arms dealers like the United States Government. And
unfortunately such competition, even here in the capital of
capitalism, was frowned upon.
But Nasty took the view, and rightly so Campbell thought,
that the world balance of power, as volatile as it was, made it
possible that at any given moment those out of favor might
suddenly find themselves on top again. Nasty enjoyed having
friends in high places. Particularly if he helped put them
there. And if he could turn a tidy profit above and beyond his
reported tax base, a profit in excess of seven million dollars
per year, well that was just dandy too.
Nasty had greeted Campbell with effusive back slapping and
several shots of Chivas Regal neat. He'd readily agree to supply
Campbell with all the special hardware he would need.
Campbell had decided early on that the team would be
restricted to the fewest possible. A number that would include
himself, but exclude their guide.
Garvey had described Lane as a "nature lover with a streak
of misanthropic bitterness." Lane had left the United States
sometime in the mid-eighties for the wilds of Labrador, and
returned only occasionally when work required it.
Stapleton had called him "eccentric." Garvey found him a
"puzzling paradox." And I'm stuck with him, Campbell thought.
The perfect guide for a mercenary assault team on an extra-legal
military operation. He fervently hoped Lane would not discover
until it was too late exactly where he was guiding them and why.
Campbell settled finally on a team of four. This small
number reduced logistics such as food supplies, shelter
necessities, weapons and transport, to an easily handled mini-
mum. He made his requirements known to Nasty.
Since Gus was an explosives specialist, having learned his
trade in U.S. Army demolitions, recruiting was reduced to just
After he'd finalized the deal with Nasty over a last scotch
and made the down payment, Campbell made a call from a nearby
telephone booth, setting up an appointment for eight that
evening in a midtown Manhattan bar called Denny's Den. This
would give hint time to return to the hotel, have a leisurely
dinner, and talk over details with Gus.
When Campbell unlocked the door and went in he found their
hotel room was dark. Only the TV was on, its light shifting and
changing in the room. The sound was off. A cloud of smoke hung
in the air testifying to Eckstein's presence, even if Campbell
couldn't see him.
The twin beds against the right hand wall were both un-
occupied. The chairs on either side of the double bureaus were
empty. That left the couch facing the TV, which was sitting on a
small table between two windows in the far wall.
Campbell almost choked on the smoke as he closed the door
"Don't turn on the light." Eckstein's voice reached him
from the deep couch in front of the TV.
"Why are you sitting in the dark?" Campbell asked, shedding
his coat and crossing the room.
"Watchin' the tube," was Eckstein's reply. He was slumped
on the couch, lighting a fresh cigarette with the butt of his
last. There was a half-empty bottle of wild Turkey on the low
coffee table in front of him.
"May I open a window?" Campbell inquired. "You single-
handedly put New York's attempts at air pollution to shame."
Eckstein shrugged, not looking at him, so Campbell crossed
to the window to the right of the TV and tugged at it. It didn't
Eckstein sat up and poured three fingers of bourbon into
"They really expect me to believe that Indians had nothin'
better to do than ride in circles around wagons and get shot?"
he asked, swallowing the bourbon in one gulp.
"Bloody window's sealed shut." Campbell looked sadly at the
rim of frost on the pane, then turned to Eckstein.
"It'd be easier that way for the good chaps to win," he
said, answering his friend's question.
"You mean good guys. What good guys?"
Campbell abandoned the window and threw himself into a
nearby easy chair, wiping at his watering eyes.
"The hotel must have too many guests taking the quick way
"Sometimes the quick way is the best way. What good guys?"
his stocky friend persisted.
"Cowboys, I expect. It's your country."
"Maybe we shoulda gotta buncha wagons, made a circle and
let the Muandan Leftists run around them."
Campbell shook his head. "They were trained by Cubans.
Cubans don't run around wagons."
Campbell waved futilely at the dense smoke in the air, and
resolved to take as shallow breaths as possible.
"Why do you have the sound off?"
"I know what they're sayin'. It don't mean nothin'."
Campbell studied him. Eckstein at the best of times was
gruff, but there was something else in his manner now Campbell
hadn't seen before.
"You get your errands done?"
"Yeah, finished." He poured and downed another drink. "The
Eckstein looked up at him at last and grinned.
"Had a little trouble gettin' up some a them hills over in
Muanda. You know I'm fifty-seven years old?"
"You don't look a day over fifty-six to me."
Eckstein chuckled, but the sound was harsh. Campbell waited
"Thought I'd get me a checkup, Colonel. First one in years,
and I won the jackpot right off."
He stared at the TV for a minute before continuing.
"The Big C, ya know? Just like the surgeon general warned
me!" He tapped the cigarette pack. with his finger, still
puffing on the one in his mouth.
"I saw the X-ray. They didn't want me to, but I can be a
very persuasive fellow." He laughed. Campbell followed
Eckstein's gaze to the stocky man's wrist, where there was a
fancy looking watch. It seemed familiar, but he couldn't
remember having seen Eckstein wearing it before.
"Like somethin' from outer space," Eckstein went on.
"Tentacles, Christ... It's in here," he tapped his chest,
"eatin' me alive. I'm supposed to go back for tests. That's
bullshit. Tests? I saw it. It looked back at me and gave a big
grin and said 'Gotcha mother!' Shit."
He lit another cigarette, then added, "So how was your day,
Before Campbell could think of anything to say, there was a
knock on the door. Instead he asked Eckstein if he was expecting
anybody. Eckstein shook his head.
Campbell crossed quickly to his coat and pulled out a .45
caliber automatic, the first piece of the special hardware Nasty
Eckstein grinned. "Accessories for the well-dressed man. "
Campbell tossed the gun to Gus. He caught it easily and
sauntered into the bathroom. Campbell waited until the door was
closed, leaving a thin crack of darkness, then he went to the
hall door and spoke through it.
"It's Janice Eaton," was the muffled reply.
Campbell opened the door. She was dressed in expensive
evening clothes and a mink cape. She was tall. He hadn't noticed
that when she'd been seated behind the conference table at
Arcon. Even without the spiked heels she stood at least five
"You look much better when you're clean," she said.
Campbell just looked at her.
"May I come in?"
He stood aside to let her enter, but felt one of her
breasts brush his arm as she passed. Her perfume was strong
enough to battle the smoke in the room and not give an inch. He
closed the door and waited while she surveyed the room and
wrinkled up her nose.
"I wanted to tell you that your men are still alive. The
trial is set to begin the day after tomorrow with foreign press
attending. We're making arrangements to free them, but they
won't be out in time for this... is mission the right word? It
sounds so war-like."
"Yes, of course."
They stood there for a moment. Campbell made no move to
take her cape or show her to a chair. She reached out a gloved
hand and flipped the switch by the door. The overhead light went
"That's better... for the moment."
She took off her gloves and stuffed them in a pocket in the
lining of the cape, then she handed the mink to Campbell,
walking over to the nearest bed and testing it with her hand.
"I've been at the dreariest party. It was quite a relief to
When Campbell just stood at the door, cape over one arm,
watching her, she shivered.
"There's a chill in here. Would you offer the lady a
"I'm tired Ms. Eaton."
"Do call me Janice. You did this morning." She smiled and
turned her back to him.
"Could you get my zipper, please?°"
Campbell knew he'd be lying to himself if he said he didn't
want her. Needs, urges he'd buried deep down months ago in the
Muandan jungle stirred and came to life. Gus, lurking in the
dark bathroom was no problem. They could go somewhere else.
Another room in the hotel. Another bed...
She would be aggressive and insatiable. He could see her
face now in his mind's eye, looking down into his as she rode
him, her lips wet, her breasts heaving. But he'd also see her
eyes. Her flat, dead eyes. He felt his desire drain out of him
as swiftly as it had appeared.
She turned now to look over her shoulder at him. Assured.
Impatient. Perhaps wondering why his hands were not yet on her,
his words of thanks and promises whispering in her ear.
He said, "Perhaps some other time, Janice. I have to see a
She looked at him with a wry smile.
"A man... how interesting. I can make the visit... short?"
Goddamn it! She was so sure of herself, and him. "Is that
supposed to be a plus?" he asked.
Her eyes narrowed then. Campbell whistled softly and
Eckstein came out of the bathroom grinning, playing with the
.45. She was nearly a head taller than him.
"Oh!" Campbell could tell she was startled. Her left
shoulder jerked just a hair, but she didn't miss a beat.
"Howdy!" he waved the gun at her.
"How do you do?"
"Well, it is very kind of you to ask, Janice. Actually, I
was feelin' pretty horny tonight. And if Ian ain't interested in
what ya got to offer, I'd like to take a shot."
Campbell could now see minute cracks in the marble of her
"You're joking, of course."
Eckstein's grin faded as he looked her over very slowly.
"No, I ain't jokin'."
She shifted uneasily under his unblinking gaze and turned
back to Campbell.
"Really, this is becoming quite absurd. Why are you
treating me like this? I helped you today. It wasn't necessary
for us to help your men."
"You helped yourself." Campbell felt anger rising within
him where just a few short seconds ago there had been desire.
"You needed me, so you made a suggestion. I'll give you credit.
You saw it was the only way I'd agree."
"I see," she said, her lips tightening into a hard line.
"Right. And now you come sniffing around for your reward.
Perhaps trying to find out what it's like to go to bed with a
man who has killed hundreds, maybe thousands? What would you
call it, Gus? An Eva Braun complex?"
Her eyes alight with rage, her carefully powdered cheeks
flushed, she crossed swiftly to Campbell and slapped him hard
across the face. She wrenched the cape away from him, flung the
door open and stalked off down the hall.
Campbell closed the door gently and checked the lock.
Eckstein tossed the .45 on the bed beside him and sat back
down on the couch, reaching for the cigarettes.
"That was a little rough."
Campbell rubbed his cheek as he walked over to stand in
front of the couch.
"She's an empty lady, Gus. Must be the altitude of these
buildings around here. You have to drop too much ballast to get
to the top floor."
Eckstein lit another cigarette. Campbell watched him, then
began again, choosing his words carefully.
"About your situation--"
"I don't want to talk about it."
Eckstein looked up at him sullenly.
"Just this: don't get stupid. If you are planning on going
out in some blaze of fire-eating glory, I can't use you."
Eckstein laughed. "Think I got the death wish, Ian? More
than before?" He laughed louder. "More than you?"
Campbell turned away from him, went back to his coat, and
picked it up.
"Turn the lights off on your way out," Eckstein called
He flipped the switch by the door and went out. Eckstein
heard the rasp of the key in the lock and settled back on the
couch, watching the changing images on the silent TV.
Denny's Den was one long room, one hundred feet at least
from the front door to the tiny raised platform with the piano
at the back. The room could not have been more than fifteen feet
A tired-looking woman with a blond wig and long black dress
sang soft laments in a low contralto, accompanying herself on
the piano. There was a single yellow spot on her. The rest of
the place was almost pitch black except for a couple of dim red
bulbs over the bar and flickering candles in round red glasses
on the tables and in the booths. How Nelson, the bartender,
never made a mistake, Campbell could not figure out. Each drink
was just right.
Denny's Den was crowded, but not noisy. Many of the
customers listened respectfully to the singer, applauding po-
litely as she finished each number, and leaving tips in the big
glass snifter on the piano.
This was a bar for drinkers, not glad-handed salesmen with
their loud stories or swinging singles on the make for whichever
combination of sexes was currently in vogue. For this reason it
made a pleasant and. discreet rendezvous. Also, Campbell knew
the man who would be joining him soon liked the darkness.
Campbell sat in a dark booth. He lifted his glass from its
plain white napkin and took a sip. The liquor went down easily.
Campbell replaced the glass in the exact center of the napkin
and stirred it idly with the swizzle stick, listening to the
tinkle of the ice cubes. He thought about Gus, and he thought
Campbell had grown up in a stifling London slum, and there
death had been an ever-present part of each day. Since the age
of ten he had belonged to a gang. They were his true family. His
mother had died when he was still a baby. He could remember
nothing of her. His father alternately swore at her faded
photograph on the mantel or praised her as a "sainted lady." To
Campbell, she was more like a figment of his father's gin-soaked
imagination. If he felt something missing in his life, he knew
it was not his mother.
There had been eight of them in the gang. They called
themselves the Outcasts, and were led by a giant of a thirteen-
year-old named Carl. It was during the sixties, Campbell
recalled. British music was re-colonizing the globe for the
empire, and Britain was becoming a melting pot as former
colonies dumped their citizens on its shores.
How old was he then? Twelve? Yes, he must have been. A year
younger than Carl. Carl, with the slight foreign accent.
Campbell and the other boys had speculated on what
nationality Carl might be, but never came to any agreement, and
Carl swore he'd been born only a few blocks away. Carl was their
leader and they obeyed him without question.
The gang's headquarters was a burnt out warehouse on a
street of tumbled down buildings slated for urban renewal. From
there they would forage each night for the spoils of London,
looting shops and selling their plunder to an elderly pawnbroker
Vietnam was a meaningless name to them, or known only as
the source of new faces in the streets. The stories they would
overhear of the Americans stopped dead in their tracks by the
North Vietnamese were far less real than their war with a rival
gang called the War Dogs, whose territory bordered theirs on the
east a few blocks from the headquarters.
Here it was that Campbell was introduced to death. He
remembered the day clearly. Damp, overcast. He, Carl and the
youngest of the Outcasts, David, were lounging about in a
doorway, picking over an evening meal of bread and cheese. David
insisted he was ten, but he looked seven.
Four of the War Dogs came sauntering up the street. Taunts
were hurled back and forth and the taunts became threats. Carl
agreed to meet the leader of the War Dogs, a tall, dark-looking
boy with a livid scar on one cheek, in combat. Weapons were
chunks of twisted metal. Not unlike those he and Gus were pre-
paring to use in Muanda, Campbell realized.
At one point it looked as if Carl would win. They'd both
lost their weapons, but Carl had straddled his opponent and was
beating at him with his fists. The knife seemed to appear like
magic in the scarred boy's hand. The next minute Carl was dead.
Even the War Dogs seemed stunned for a moment. They had all
stood in a circle together staring down at the maimed bodies of
their comrades. A suspended moment in time, their war
momentarily forgotten. The moment passed. The other gang ran.
David and Campbell carried Carl's body to his father's
store and left him there on the doorstep to find the next
morning. They didn't see this as a cruel thing to do. They were
bringing Carl home and that was that.
Without Carl the others of the Outcasts looked to Campbell
to take over as the next oldest, but he refused. After a period
of months he had left the gang entirely and found a job as an
assistant gardener at a country estate miles from London.
Campbell remembered that when his new employer had asked
him about his family, he had lied and said his parents were both
dead. The man, Sir Edward Hart, was some sort of bigwig in the
Government. Having no children of their own, he and his wife
took Campbell under their wing. And while he was never offi-
cially adopted (their goodwill stopped short of bringing a
working class boy into the family), they were the ones who saw
to his education and upbringing.
It was while reading for his fourth in history at Cambridge
that Campbell met Mary Reston, a clerk in one of the town
stores. Their marriage pleased no one but themselves. But that
was all that mattered. Mary showed him a love and tenderness the
like of which he had never encountered before. The Harts had
been kind and, Campbell knew, felt considerable affection toward
him, but they kept themselves aloof, removed. When they smiled
at him it was as if they were looking at him from behind a pane
of glass. And Campbell knew that glass was a way of thinking, a
class barrier they could never bring themselves to breach. But
with Mary the warmth at last was there, was real, and lasting.
In 1973, with one daughter a year old, and a second baby on
the way, Campbell became a history tutor at a large private
school. Then in 1976 he won a junior seat in history at his old
alma mater, Cambridge, and returned there, his future bright and
secure, with his wife and two daughters: Emily, aged four, and
Melissa, aged three.
It was a rainy, fog shrouded night when Mary, having taken
the two girls with her shopping in town, was returning to their
small brick cottage in Morgan Lane. The car skidded and hit a
stone retaining wall. Thus, Campbell reflected, he and death had
renewed their acquaintance.
Campbell noticed his glass was empty and jiggled the ice in
it, trying to disperse his ghosts.
A hand suddenly reached into the red glass on the table and
with thumb and forefinger extinguished the candle. The little
finger was missing, as was the first joint of the ring finger.
What remained of the hand was puckered with strips of scar
tissue. The owner of the hand slipped into the shadows across
the table from Campbell.
"Hello, Lew," Campbell greeted him.
"Colonel Campbell..." The voice was harsh, guttural.
A bar maid approached when Campbell waved.
"Same again, please, love."
"That was JB rocks, right?"
She turned to his shadowy companion.
"Gimme some tonic water on the rocks."
"Gin and tonic?"
"Did I say gin, honey?" the voice rasped.
"Tonic water, sure."
She noted it down, then struck a match to relight the
candle. The man in the shadows blew it out.
"I'm an ugly son of a bitch, honey," he explained. "Better
off in darkness.°`
The bar maid shrugged and walked away.
"I need two friends, Lew," Campbell began. "One close in
and quiet, one long range."
"They must be in the air tonight."
Lew's laugh was more like a series of ragged coughs.
"That narrows the field. You left most of the guys in
"It's being attended to."
"Yeah, I heard a little. Lotsa bread being paid out.
Someone must want to do you a favor pretty bad."
Campbell smiled at him, and Lew laughed again.
"So I'll know in a week. I got my finger on the pulse, like
they say. I know just about everything that's going down these
days. I can wait."
The bar maid brought them their drinks and departed. They
sipped at them for a few moments, listening to the lady in the
blond wig singing soft and low.
"Who can you get for me?" Campbell asked as people
"Where do you want them to be tomorrow?"
"That's easy. Marcel lives there now. Got a big family to
support. He can use the bread."
Campbell paused only for a second before he said,
"Perfect," and asked about long range.
The scarred hand lifted the tonic water to shadowy lips,
then replaced the glass on the table. As Lew thought, Campbell
tried not to remember the face and body that went with that
hand. He'd glimpsed Lew full face only once in the half light of
a dim street lamp. He didn't know how Lew had become so horribly
disfigured, or how he became "the man who knew everything." He
didn't want to know.
"I got an individual in Miami Beach," Lew said at last.
"But there's a problem."
"Who is it?"
Campbell shook his head impatiently. "Who else?"
The dark shoulders shrugged.
"Pettison's in India somewhere."
"Olvaro?" asked Campbell.
"Dead. Nadja's the best anyway."
Campbell toyed with the drink, sliding it back and forth
between his hands on the napkin. Then he shook his head once
more. "She won't work with me again."
"Guess I can't help you then."
He finished his tonic water. "Double fee," offered
"There just ain't anybody, Colonel."
Campbell considered for a long moment, then sighed.
"Okay, let's do this: tell her five hundred fifty thousand
dollars, if she's in Montreal tomorrow morning. We'll meet her
at the airport. Vouch for the buyer, but no names."
He could feel Lew's eyes boring into him.
"Five hundred thousand dollars, Colonel?"
Campbell fished inside his jacket and brought out a thick
packet of bills.
"I've doubled your usual finder's fee. I hope that'll be
"More than generous. But five hundred thousand dollars?
Who are you starting your next war with?"
Campbell grinned. "You don't really expect me to answer
that, do you?"
"Anything else?" Lew sighed. "Hardware?"
"I saw Nasty this afternoon. He's fixing us up."
The shadowy head nodded. "Nice to have you back, Colonel."
Lew slid out of the booth and was gone. Campbell finished
his drink, and sat there, staring into his empty glass. Nadja.
It would complicate things enormously. Why had he agreed?
Because of the woman with the empty eyes who had offered herself
to him only a few hours ago? He wasn't sure. He only knew that
he had to see Nadja again.
He remembered the Arab, Rajeer, dogging his footsteps in
Africa, appearing behind closed doors, smoking in the shadows,
always watching. But when Adella had rescued him and Eckstein
from the Muandan prison, he'd said that Rajeer was killed.
No matter. If that were true, there'd be another to watch
and listen. Campbell had a notion who that might be, but there
was no time to do anything about it. And now Nadja.
He would have to be doubly on guard, if any of them were to
Campbell and Eckstein were lounging against a thick
concrete pillar at one end of the huge Air Canada ticket area.
Dorval International Airport in Montreal on that afternoon
of January 11th was still jammed with late returning Christmas
vacationers, or families bound for Florida for the season. There
was much commotion and a festive bustling about, while harried
employees of the airport struggled to take down decorations.
Campbell watched absently as two men on ladders unhooked a
long, green plastic string meant to simulate a single fir bough
that ran impossibly the entire length of the ticket booths.
Eckstein was blowing smoke rings with consummate skill and
"She's gonna take one look at you and hop right back to
Miami on the next plane," he observed.
"And give up fifteen thousand dollars, Gus?"
"She won't take your money," Eckstein chuckled. "But maybe
I was wrong. Yeah, she won't get right back on a plane.
She'll stay long enough to expertly place one bullet
through the middle of your foolish face."
"We need her. There's nobody else."
"Let me talk to her first then--" Eckstein suggested,
blowing a smoke ring and marveling at its perfection. "Maybe I
can--" The smoke ring was blown apart. "Jesus Christ!"
Both men jumped and swiveled around quickly. Then they
relaxed. There stood a pale little man sporting a thin mustache.
He had obviously been standing behind them for some time.
Campbell smiled at him. It was Marcel Lebeau. In actual
height he was no shorter than Eckstein, but Lebeau weighed
considerably less. Upon his compact, wiry frame the French
Canadian had draped neatly tailored sports clothes in a somewhat
bizarre mixture of bright colors. And around his neck, plunged
into the open shirt front was a rainbow-like cravat that
attempted to bring some sort of order to the ensemble. Campbell
thought it failed.
"Lebeau, you bastard!" Eckstein cried. "How long you been
Lebeau grinned at him and shook hands with Campbell. Over
his left arm was a heavy fur-lined coat, and in that hand was a
soft leather shoulder bag.
"Good to see you, Marcel," Campbell greeted him. "You look
Lebeau nodded happily, still grinning at Eckstein.
Here, thought Campbell, was a smile that could match in
gusto if not in size Eckstein's own.
"Just as talkative as ever," Eckstein observed.
He gave Lebeau a friendly, but solid punch, directed at the
small man's arm. It never landed. Faster than the eye could see,
Lebeau's free hand arced up and knocked Eckstein's ham-like fist
easily aside. He stood there, rock solid, not moving an inch.
Eckstein held up his hands and backed off.
"Oh no, I ain't takin' you on with all that fancy oriental
shit. One kick and I'd talk like Mickey Mouse!"
Lebeau nodded happily.
"But seriously, Marcel," Eckstein continued, his bushy
eyebrows narrowing. "I think you're losing your touch. I knew
you were there all the time."
"You are truly a liar, my slow, fat friend!" beamed Lebeau.
Eckstein turned to Campbell, a hurt look on his face.
"Why do I let him talk to me like that?"
Campbell laughed, then looked at Lebeau.
"All packed, Marcel?"
"Here in my Gucci bag!" he exclaimed, holding it aloft.
"And I have many major credit cards! Perhaps this time we go to
the place who accepts them? Holiday Inn?"
"Right," Campbell said, exchanging a look with Eckstein.
"Watch out, Canada's foremost consumer is on the loose again."
"How's the wife?" Eckstein asked him.
Lebeau grinned and shaped his arms into a bow in front of
"Again?" Eckstein laughed. "How many's that gonna make?"
"Only seven. But this is a significant and lucky number!"
"Announcing the arrival of Air Canada Flight 104 from
Toronto and Miami," boomed the P.A. system, first in French,
then English. "Now deplaning at Gate 43."
Campbell and Eckstein looked at each other. Eckstein
"Tell the Colonel the story of your life, Lebeau. I'll be
back in a couple minutes."
He stalked off, lighting another cigarette. Lebeau looked
at Campbell, a worried expression on his pleasant face.
"Mademoiselle Cooper?" he asked.
Campbell, realizing he'd overheard their conversation,
At Gate 43 Eckstein waited to one side as the long line of
disembarking passengers were met by family and friends. He
watched with interest as one man, similar enough to him in build
to be his brother, but dressed in a neat suit, was greeted by a
wife and several excited children of various sizes.
The kids swarmed over their father, laughing and all
talking at once. What had he brought them? Where? Where?
Eckstein wondered how the man could hold them all at once. He
followed the family with his eyes as they moved off, a bubbling
mass of energy.
He turned away suddenly, an unfamiliar coldness twisting
his stomach into a knot. He plucked the cigarette from his
mouth, looked at it for a long moment, then dropped it on the
floor, grinding it out savagely with his heel. Then he looked up
again, trying to shake the depression that had fallen over him.
The passengers were thinning out, and then he could see
Nadja Cooper coming up the carpeted ramp. His heart lifted.
Jesus, she was beautiful, he thought with something closely akin
to pride. Hers was a dark, exotic beauty: high cheekbones and
almond shaped eyes. Long black hair cascaded to her shoulders,
shimmering in the light. Her body looked like it was in top
condition. She moved with the easy grace of an athlete, carrying
a suitcase lightly in one hand.
She searched the crowd with her eyes. Eckstein took a step
forward so she would see him. She did at last, and her face lit
She ran to him, dropping the suitcase, and leaping into his
"Hiya, lovely. Christ, don't squeeze so hard!" he laughed.
There were tears in both their eyes. She released him at
last and stepped back to study him. He grinned foolishly, wiping
at his eyes.
"Shit..." he chuckled.
"You look fantastic, Gus! Like a proud beast!" she
exclaimed in heavily accented English.
His grin, impossibly, grew wider as he wiped at his crew
cut and blushed.
"But I thought you were in prison!"
"Our employers got me out."
She grabbed his arms and squeezed tightly, looking him
squarely in the eyes.
"Five hundred thousand dollars, Gus? On the level?"
"What can the assignment be? Are we invading Canada?"
"No, lovely," Eckstein laughed. "But you'll earn it."
Nadja nodded, frowning for the first time.
"I need this money."
"Somethin' wrong?" Gus inquired anxiously.
"My parents have been threatened. I must send them back to
Israel to live with my father's brother. This takes much money
"It was my decision to leave the regular army. In my
fashion I still fight for Israel. But it is hard when the
innocent suffer," she sighed, then added, "As they always seem
Eckstein swallowed the lump in his throat.
"Yeah," was all he said.
"But this job!" she said, brightening at once. "Are you in
Eckstein lowered his head.
"No, I'm not..."
"Do I know--" she began, then stopped, her eyes going hard.
He looked at her soulfully.
"No. You would not do this!"
"Lovely, I--" But he couldn't finish.
"So. It is that. Some dirty trick."
He shook his head. "The job's for real."
"What made you think I'd work with him again?" she asked
"You never heard all of it."
"I am not blind!" she cried, waving her arm. "His actions
told me the story his lies could not hide!"
"I thought you knew him better than that."
This reminded Nadja of how well she had known Campbell in
the old days and she faltered.
"We will not speak of it!"
"We need you on this one, Nadja," Gus pleaded. "Marcel
Lebeau's here, too."
"I cannot. I could never trust him." There were tears
forming in her eyes. The sight of them stabbed at Eckstein.
"Then trust me!" he pleaded. "This is the last one for me,
lovely. I... I'm gettin' old. I wanna retire. And your folks--"
"I cannot... I..."
And then Nadja saw him walking toward her with Lebeau. She
felt a wave of shock hit her like a slap in the face. She reeled
back, tasted the bile rising in her throat and knew that unless
she got away from there that instant she was going to vomit.
"Oh God!" she cried, putting a hand over her mouth and
stumbling away through the crowd, blindly pushing aside people,
knocking packages with brightly colored wrappings to the floor.
She saw a nearby door with FEMMES/WOMEN stenciled on it and
slammed it open, rushed inside.
The two men joined Eckstein and looked at the crooked trail
of outraged chaos Nadja had blazed to the swinging door of the
restroom as it sighed shut.
Eckstein turned furiously on Campbell. "Damn it!"
"We have to catch our plane."
Eckstein lit another cigarette. "I hate airports," he said.
Lebeau looked from Campbell to Eckstein and back again,
saying nothing. Campbell watched the door to the restroom.
Eckstein stared off into space. Several minutes passed, the
three men a silent island amid the resumed hustle and bustle.
Finally Campbell glanced at his watch.
"We're going to miss our plane."
"Colonel, Look!" exclaimed Lebeau.
Nadja had come back out of the restroom and was walking
erect, her eyes dry. She stopped in front of Eckstein, ignoring
the others and stared at him.
"Our employers are not Arabs this time? I have your word on
Campbell clenched his teeth.
"Yes," replied Eckstein.
Nadja gave a quick decisive nod of agreement, picked up her
suitcase, and stood waiting. The four moved off together.
Minutes later their tiny Air Canada jet was airborne and
headed northeast from Montreal toward the icy plateau of
Nadja stared from the window at the thick carpet of clouds
beneath them, and thought of her parents in the small house
outside of Miami. They were frightened, alone except for her and
her Uncle Abe in Tel Aviv. She would see to it that they were
not alone or frightened anymore. But when she thought of her
homeland, she couldn't keep her thoughts from the man sitting
next to Lebeau in the seat in front of her. The man who had
betrayed her and her country. A man without honor.
So, in spite of her resolve, the memories returned until
finally she gave up and let them flood into her.
Ian, she knew, was unsure of the precise sequence of events
that led him to become a mercenary, so naturally for her the
details were even more hazy. But he'd cried out to her as they
lay side by side in the narrow bunk in the tiny room at the
desert base in the Sinai. And in time she'd been able to piece
together something of the story.
He told her in ragged gasps and snatches of painful memory
of leaving the university after the death of what was to him the
last in a series of attempts at finding a family.
She knew about his father, still alive in a state-run
institution, and how Ian had searched desperately for him in the
months following the accident. Only to find him a catatonic
vegetable, his mind dissolved by drink.
She knew that he'd finally gone to Edward Hart, now Lord
Hart, who had put him into contact with certain people in MI6,
but British Intelligence wasn't the answer Ian was looking for,
and Lord Hart's only solution was to try another job, and then
Ian had left England then and traveled extensively until
his savings began to run out. And as he traveled he grew more
and more cynical. He noticed the great distance between the
haves and the have-nots of the world, a gap that ultimately led
to revolution and war and death. And he remembered his own
violent beginnings, and how he'd leapt that chasm, if only for a
In his own words he had explained to her that it was as if
the fates had toyed with him, had set up a life of happiness and
contentment and held it out to him like a carrot on a stick. Ian
had been foolish enough to reach out for that carrot, and they
had squashed him and kicked him back in the gutter where he
belonged. It seemed the fates had a class system all their own.
But even in the gutter he knew there was a hierarchy. And
if he was unfit for the one world, he was determined to reign
supreme in the other. When he'd been a member of the gang, Ian
knew he had survived, even prospered in a limited sort of way on
the spoils of war. He would do so again.
How from this dark philosophy built upon the ashes of his
life, on his aimless wanderings around the world, he had finally
set about putting his jumbled thoughts into action, Nadja wasn't
sure, but by the time they met at the secret training base in
the desert, Ian was a veteran of global warfare for profit.
He was in Israel, training an elite division of troops, she
remembered. Cold, aloof, his steel gray eyes seemed to look
right through her.
How had they finally become lovers? How had she finally
come to share his nightmare world? It seemed impossible to her
now, but at the time it was the most natural and inevitable
thing in the world. But she couldn't, wouldn't think now of the
betrayal that had followed.
Nadja turned away from the window and looked at Gus slumped
in the seat beside her, snoring softly. She smiled
mischievously, separated several strands of her long black hair,
and tickled him under the nose with them. Eckstein awakened with
a snort and grinned sleepily at her. In a very short time they
were laughing together.
Harvard Lane and Ben stood on the wide Twin Falls public
pier and watched as Dave Adams' bush plane made its approach
against a blue sky hung with white cotton clouds.
Here the Unknown River was wide and slow. Frozen solid for
much of the winter it served as an impromptu runway for the tiny
planes fitted with skis that were the fastest form of
The plane touched down, its single prop sputtering, skidded
slightly to the left, then began a long sliding turn that would
bring it close to the pier.
The plane's motor was switched off, and after a moment the
door on the passenger side opened and, one by one, four heavily
bundled figures climbed out, each carrying an olive green duffel
bag. They made their way carefully over the slick ice toward the
steps to one side of the pier.
Lane and Ben looked at each other.
"Sun tans for God's sake! And a woman! What's Crawford
trying to pull?" Lane asked angrily.
"She is pretty," Ben responded with a sigh.
Lane shook his head. "Geologists shouldn't be pretty, Ben.
It causes problems."
Campbell and the others scrambled up the icy steps to the
two men waiting for them. He put down his bag and held out his
hand. Lane grasped it firmly.
"Harvard Lane? My name is Campbell. This is Mr. Lebeau--"
"What accommodations, please?" Lebeau asked, frowning.
Lane blinked at him as they shook hands.
"Your finest hotel," Lebeau insisted. "Which way?"
Lane roared with laughter. "Oh! The hotel! I run it. We'll
be driving over there shortly."
"Do you take the American Express?"
It took Lane a few seconds to realize the little man meant
a credit card and not a train.
"Hell, shorty," he grinned. "I'll take your I.O.U.!"
Lebeau was nonplussed. This bearded giant was obviously
unfamiliar with the finer points of credit transactions.
Campbell introduced Nadja and Eckstein, and Lane shook
hands with each of them. Ben was wrong, he thought; she wasn't
pretty. She was exquisite, but his admiration was soon dampened
by a puzzled curiosity.
As Eckstein lit a cigarette, Campbell noticed that Lane was
upset about something.
"Anything wrong?" he asked.
"Thought I knew most of Arcon's geologists, is all."
"Our last assignment was Africa. We've never been up north
"Oh?" Lane asked, interested. "Whereabouts in Africa?"
"Muanda," growled Eckstein. "It was a lot hotter than
"Most places are," Lane agreed.
"Crawford has put us in your hands," Campbell told him.
"We've had no arctic training. We have four days to become
"Four days. As long as that?"
He looked at them shivering. But not all four, he noticed
with surprise. The little one, Lebeau, with the least meat on
his bones appeared to feel the cold the least. His eyes had a
faraway look to them.
"Say," suggested Eckstein. "Can we get this show on the
road. I'm freezing my tail off!"
Lane nodded. "Let's get your gear in the van."
As the van churned along the bumpy, snow-covered road, Lane
studied his passengers while Ben drove. They were certainly a
strange crew. He could see there was a great deal of tension
between the man Campbell and the woman with the foreign accent.
She even avoided looking at him.
The one who chain smoked, by all outward appearances was
the picture of solid strength, yet there was an odd hesitancy in
his bluster, as if he'd once learned his tough guy lines well,
but had no conviction in saying them anymore. Lane was already
choking on the thick clouds of blue smoke, and was gratified to
see Ben, despite the temperature, crack a side vent. That one
would have problems when the sub-zero air got at his lungs.
The small French Canadian was an enigma, too. He did not
talk that often, but when he did, his words were punctuated.
with brand names like a commercial on television.
Campbell was obviously the unofficial leader of the four,
and Lane expected he would have the most trouble with him. When
you were untold miles from the nearest human habitation, it was
best to establish once and for all who was in charge. Orders
must be obeyed instantly, without question, if everyone was
going to stay alive. Lane decided he had better put the question
of leadership to rest the first chance he got.
Yes, all in all a pretty weird bunch. And Lane was not
unaware of certain peculiarities in the arrangements the devious
Crawford had made. As they rode Campbell had explained to him
that Lane was to outfit them for their training in Labrador
(apparently Crawford had remembered Lane had equipment enough
for half a dozen), yet their clothing for the actual survey
would be sent on ahead of them to Fairbanks.
So Alaska was to be their destination. Then why all the
secrecy? Every oil company in the United States must have
geologists crawling all over the state since the Prudhoe Bay
deposits were discovered.
And there was one other thing, too. Most geologists,
petroleum or otherwise, whenever they got together, had a wealth
of stories to relate about expeditions they'd been on, and the
strikes they had made or missed. They enjoyed speculating about
what they would find on the upcoming journey. But not one of
these four had so much as mentioned a single encounter with
porous and impermeable sedimentary rock. A curious omission he
vowed to explore.
At Lane's cabin he watched as the four piled out of the van
and got their first look at his "hotel." To his surprise, there
was no comment. Even the little one shrugged philosophically.
Apparently, despite their appearance, this group was used to
roughing it. Well, he would see.
That night after dinner Lebeau was stretched out on his
sleeping bag in the main room of Lane's cabin, apparently
asleep. Nadja sat in the comfortable easy chair reading a murder
mystery. Campbell, Lane and Eckstein were seated at the rough
wood table studying a pile of maps and charts.
"The Endicott Mountains?" Lane roared. "In the middle of
the winter? Crawford must be insane!"
"A man named Penwarren made the initial tests," Campbell
explained, remembering Garvey's afternoon long briefing.
"Gravity tests? Magnetic? Or seismic?" Lane shot back at
"Both gravity and seismic," Campbell responded. "After
extensive geochemical analysis was made of the permafrost."
He paused, holding his breath, hoping he'd gotten it
"I know Dan Penwarren," Lane nodded. "He drinks, but when
he's sober he's a damn good geologist."
Campbell relaxed. "That's why we can't wait. Apparently
Penwarren did some drinking and some talking in a Fairbanks bar.
Atlantic Richfield and BP are already putting together their own
teams. But they only know the general area."
Lane tugged at his beard. "If there's such a rush, why did
Crawford saddle me with you four? You have no conception of what
it's like up there!"
"There was no one else available."
"I could've found somebody," Lane grumbled.
Eckstein exhaled a cloud of smoke. "You ain't very
"See this line?" Lane glared at him, pointing at the map.
"That's the Arctic Circle. We're going above that. Do you know
what that means?"
"Tell me," Eckstein grinned at him.
"Tell you?" Lane cried. "I can't tell you! Do you know it's
only fifteen below outside right now? Cold, isn't it? Well there
are recorded temperatures in those mountains of eighty below.
Add to that gale force winds driving ice particles at you like a
million tiny bullets. And a wind chill factor that can drop the
temperature past minus one hundred degrees. How can I train you
in four days to survive in that?"
"You bloody well better try," Campbell said to him.
Lane shook his head. "I won't do it."
"Crawford said you might say that. So I'm to tell you that
if you ever want another job, not just from Arcon, not just from
any oil company, but from any other firm that hires geologists,
forget it. He'll see to it that you are blackballed from here to
Antarctica. And he also said you know him well enough to realize
he can and will carry out his threat."
"I know him," Lane said quietly. "You're saying I have no
choice. Is that it?"
Campbell looked at him and smiled. Lane glanced at
Eckstein. He was grinning.
"You're suicidal. All of you."
Lane shrugged. "Oh hell. Labrador will probably kill you.
Then I can get my own team."
His grin grew as Eckstein's faded.
The sleeping arrangements for the first night had Lane and
Lebeau in the bunk beds in the bedroom. Campbell, Nadja and
Eckstein were stretched out in sleeping bags on the floor. Lane
had offered to let Nadja have the privacy of the bedroom to
herself, but she had refused politely in her precise accent. She
did however put Eckstein and as much floor space as possible
between her and Campbell.
When Lane climbed down out of the top bunk the next morning
at dawn, he discovered Lebeau was missing. Puzzled, but not
alarmed (he was fast becoming used to the eccentric behavior of
this team), he dressed quickly and warmly and strode into the
kitchen area, where he picked up a huge metal skillet blackened
with use and age. He began banging on the skillet with a spoon.
"Okay, everybody! Up and at 'em!"
Campbell, Eckstein and Nadja began to stir. Eckstein
coughed to loosen the night's accumulation of phlegm.
Lane looked around. "Where's the little guy?"
"Greeting the sun," answered Campbell, jerking his thumb at
the front door.
Lane went to the door and opened it. Silhouetted against
the rising sun Lebeau was slowly, methodically, and with great
concentration, moving in a weaving, dance-like pattern in a
circular space he'd cleared in the snow.
Nadja came up beside Lane in the doorway. He looked at her,
then back at Lebeau.
"What is that?" he asked.
"T'ai chi chuan," she answered simply.
Lane watched the small man dip and sway gracefully wearing
no coat or gloves, then closed the door, shaking his shaggy
head. He went back to the kitchen and began breakfast.
Several dozen pancakes and a couple quarts of coffee later
and the training had begun.
Lane led the way, wearing lightweight, but warm clothing
and carrying a backpack. He slid along the hard crust of a flat
expanse of snow and stopped to turn and inspect his charges.
Luckily they all seemed to be in pretty good shape, and once
they mastered the awkward sliding walking motion of the flat,
webbed snowshoes they would be able to make pretty good time.
How long they could keep it up was another matter entirely. The
intense cold could sap the strength from anyone in a remarkably
His plan was simple. Start them out on the basic stuff.
Show them what it felt like to be exposed to extreme cold for a
length of time. This sliding along on the flat snow was kid's
stuff, he knew, but it would give him an idea of what he could
expect in the way of stamina and discipline.
Then a return to the cabin for a last sleep in the warm
shelter it provided. The next two days and one night they would
spend in the rugged, lake dotted country to the northeast,
hiking until their bodies cried out for rest, then climbing
jagged clumps of rocks and hiking some more. He obviously
couldn't teach them all he knew about finding shelter and living
off the land. But he could teach them specific tasks in the
setting and striking of camps, preparing of meals, and the like,
that would ease his burden of actual labor.
They had been trudging dutifully through the snow behind
him since nine that morning. It was now two in the afternoon so
Lane called a short halt. He showed them how to squat down and
rest as comfortably as possible without removing their
snowshoes, and keeping their backs to a brisk, biting wind.
"Sixty below is the magic number," he began. "Any colder
than that and we stop, find shelter and wait it out."
"We won't have time to sit around," Campbell interjected.
"Time means nothing when you're dead," replied Lane. "And
that's exactly what you'll be if the moisture from your
breathing crystallizes and freezes in your lungs. If you had
been up there awhile you could have stood it for a half-hour or
so at seventy below, but we're going to be exposed for a lot
longer than that, believe me." He checked his watch. "Okay.
Fifteen minutes are up. Let's start back."
Lane watched as they rose without complaint. Only Eckstein
seemed to be really struggling. A dry, rasping cough seized him
for a few seconds. But he shook it off and they were on their
way. Perhaps the thought of the warm cabin made them reach into
their reserves of strength, because Lane observed that the pace
on the march back was almost as hard as the one he had started
them out on in the morning.
That night in the cabin Campbell and Lane went over the
list of supplies Crawford and Garvey had arranged to be shipped
to Fairbanks. The list included food for a month, insulated
arctic tents, heavy clothing, ski masks, and snowshoes. Plus the
surveying and mapping equipment Lane thought they would need. He
didn't know it, but Campbell planned to jettison that as soon
after they were on their way as possible.
Even so, each of them would be carrying close to forty
pounds attached to the aluminum frames on their backs.
Lane supplied everyone with a special rubdown oil of his
own concoction that contained lanolin to keep their skin from
drying out. And all evening long he kept pressing on them as
much water as he could, until finally Eckstein cried out in
dismay and threw a full mug across the room at him.
"I ain't thirsty, I tell ya! I'm gonna drown before I
freeze to death!"
"One of the biggest dangers of prolonged exposure in
extreme sub-zero temperatures," Lane explained, refilling the
mug to its brim, "is dehydration. It weakens you more than any-
thing else. At least with frostbite all you have to do is am-
putate the infected part, whatever it is."
He handed the mug to Eckstein, who took it sullenly. The
stocky man toyed with the mug, but when Lane continued to stand
over him he swore and gulped the liquid down.
At dawn the next morning Lane rose to find not only Lebeau
missing, but the others as well. He dressed rapidly and with a
sinking feeling hurried to the front door.
There in the snow Lebeau led the other three in the T'ai
chi chuan ritual. Nadja matched him move for move like a mirror
image. Campbell was a beat or two behind, aggressively attacking
each movement. Eckstein was off to one side waving his arms and
legs and jumping up and down in the snow. He appeared to be
making it up as he went along, but his face wore an expression
of grim determination.
Lane shook his head and closed the door on them.
"And people think I'm loony," he said to himself as he
began making coffee.
After breakfast they dressed in down-filled parkas like
those they would be using in the Brooks range. Their ski masks
had slits only for the eyes. Each person wore two pairs of pants
and a couple of shirts with insulated underwear beneath it all.
Boots, Lane had found, were the hardest fit. He had none in
sizes small enough for Nadja and Lebeau, and so they were forced
to wear several pairs of the heavy wool socks to take up the
Lane also distributed the tents, cooking utensils, climbing
gear, food and medical supplies equally between the five packs.
He considered only briefly short-weighting Nadja's pack, but
realized she would be angry with him if he did. For some reason
Lane found himself taking special care that he did nothing to
upset Nadja or make her think he was treating her differently
from the rest.
For this journey Lane added two rifles. One he kept for
himself, the other he handed to Campbell. But Campbell in turn
passed his on to Nadja.
He saw Lane's annoyed frown and smiled.
"I'm a terrible shot," he explained.
Lane considered forcing the issue to drive home the point
then and there about who was in charge. But he stopped himself,
afraid that he might offend Nadja, if he took the gun away from
her. Let her carry it if she liked, he decided; he'd be doing
any necessary hunting for tonight's meal. He handed her a box of
cartridges that she stowed, then they went outside.
There they strapped the snowshoes to their boots, pulled on
the heavy mittens and hefted their packs, helping each other to
adjust straps and distribute the twenty or twenty-five pound
loads to ride high on their shoulders. Finally he and Nadja
picked up the two rifles leaning against the wall of the cabin
and they started out, Lane again in the lead.
For the first few hours their line of march took them
across fairly level terrain similar to that they had traversed
the day before. Only an occasional hill or gully sprinkled with
clumps of low trees broke the monotony. But by mid-afternoon the
scattered trees had become a great pine forest and each hill
seemed only like a step up to the next higher one.
Among the trees they removed their snowshoes, strapping
them to their packs, and walked on a thick mat of pine needles,
lightly dusted with snow that had filtered down from the heavily
laden branches above their heads.
Beyond the forest the land again lay out flat before them,
a carpet of gray and white beneath a pale blue sky brushed with
thin tendrils of high, cold clouds. A fierce wind blew unchecked
by tree or hill, and the ground had been swept clean of snow
except for vast drifts that reminded Campbell of sand dunes
beneath the blazing Sinai sun.
He turned to look past Lebeau at Nadja. She was walking in
an easy, rhythmic gait, head slightly bowed. He saw Eckstein's
eyes on him, then they flicked to Nadja. Campbell turned back
and continued after Lane.
The terrain revealed itself to them mile after mile in a
patchwork of tiny lakes with gently sloping pebble beaches,
clusters of jumbled rocks and isolated stands of spruce and
pine. Some of the lakes were frozen solid, easily crossed. The
larger lakes showed patches of blue water reflecting the sky.
These they skirted.
The thing that struck Campbell most was the impenetrable
silence that lay across this desolate plateau. It settled around
them, absorbing the slight scuffling sounds of their boots on
the frozen ground. Even the wind had lost its voice. It was
almost as if they were deep-sea divers trudging slowly across
the ocean floor on lead weighted shoes. The weight of his
clothing and the pack added to the illusion of the pressure at
They were circling a lake shaped like a bass fiddle, half a
mile across and nearly a mile in length when Nadja's sharp eyes
spotted a flash of white in a blue patch of open water. She
called out and everyone stopped, following her pointing arm with
A low wall of movement was churning the water and borne on
the wind came at last a sound. A strange, eerie noise that for a
moment reminded Campbell of the background chatter of the
cocktail parties Sir Edward and his wife used to throw.
Suddenly the wall broke up and rose into the air. A dozen
pale white geese swooped low over the lake and circled there for
a moment, their honking and the beating of wings cutting through
the stillness. Then they spiraled downward again and settled
back into the water.
"Hey, Lane!" Eckstein shouted through his ski mask. "Those
birds make good eatin'?"
Lane nodded. "But we can't shoot them, no way to get out
there to retrieve them. We'll keep an eye out for a gaggle
He sensed, but couldn't see Eckstein's grin behind the
"A gaggle, you say?"
"That's the word," Lane nodded impatiently. "Save your
breath, and let's get moving."
The silence descended once more around them.
Hours passed, each one blurring into the next until the sun
was low on the horizon. They'd only stopped for two quick rest
periods and the fatigue was setting in. Even Lebeau lifted his
feet like they were encased in iron. They had not sighted
another living thing since the geese, certainly nothing
resembling supper. Lane was afraid they'd have to use the dried
beef and fruit he'd packed instead.
He finally halted when they'd reached a series of low but
steep cliffs and granite outcroppings, debris deposited by the
glaciers thousands of years before. He stood gazing up at the
sun, hanging low in the western sky, shielding his eyes. The
others, trudging wearily up beside him, stood gasping in the
frigid air, their breath filtered through the ski masks in gray
Campbell followed Lane's look, and guessed at what he was
seeing. There was a distinct halo around the sun. The wind was
from that direction. Moisture-laden air was heading their way.
"Storm?" he asked.
Lane nodded. "We've got three or four hours yet. It'll hit
after we've made camp." He turned tothe others. "Well, children,
you're in luck, you're going to receive an unexpected bonus in
Eckstein was hunched forward, bracing his hands on his
knees shaking his head slowly from side to side.
"Cut that children crap," he wheezed.
Nadja was looking off in another direction entirely. To the
Lebeau took the news stoically enough, as Lane had come to
expect. He was probably dreaming of drifting on a rubber
mattress in a heated pool at the Waikiki Hilton. Thanks to
frequent flyer discounts and the wonders of credit, of course.
"We'll circle this cliff to the north and make camp on the
lee side--" He was interrupted by the loud crack of a shot that
shattered the stillness. He turned to see Nadja lower her rifle.
"What the hell are you doing?" he demanded angrily.
"Supper." She pointed across an open space to a cluster of
trees more than a hundred yards away.
"Supper?! "Eckstein panted. "It'll take us till dark justa
hike over there!"
Lane could not see what she had shot. At that range, he
strongly doubted she could have hit anything. That old
Winchester of his that she was carrying fired up and to the left
making it pretty inaccurate for anything not close range. She
threw back the hood on her parka and pulled her ski mask off,
waiting for him to say something.
"Let's go take a look," he told them. As soon as he said
that, he thought he saw the briefest hint of a smile touch her
lips, but it was gone before he could be sure.
When they reached the copse of trees, Lebeau suddenly
bounded forward with a cry of delight and scooped a good-sized
rabbit up out of a red patch of snow. The others walked over to
him and examined the rabbit.
Nadja touched the wound in the animal's neck, then shook
her head in disgust.
"The rifle is no good. Up and to the left it shoots!"
The wind had picked up considerably and snow had begun to
fall by the time they made camp in a cleared space between two
giant boulders. Lane skinned and dressed the rabbit while
Campbell and Eckstein pitched the two low tents. Nadja and
Lebeau scouted up fuel and built a very respectable fire without
As they ate, the wind increased in intensity and the
snowfall became heavier. Eckstein, Lane noticed, was coughing
"How are the lungs?" he asked, watching Eckstein above the
flames of the fire.
"Better," Eckstein replied.
"If you didn't smoke so much they'd be fine."
Eckstein jumped to his feet and came quickly around the
"Keep off me..." he warned.
"Gus..." Campbell's voice cautioned as Lane stood to face
the burly man. Eckstein glared at Lane for a long moment, then
turned away and crawled into one of the tents.
Lane turned to Campbell. "I'm in charge here, Campbell. If
I need any help, I'll ask for it."
Campbell stared into the fire. "Right," he said.
By the next morning enough snow had fallen and drifted over
their tents. They had to dig themselves out. Nadja, Eckstein and
Lebeau pulled themselves from one tent, and Lane and Campbell
crawled out of the other. They set immediately about preparing
a light meal of dried beef and biscuits. There was no greeting
the sun that morning.
If the first day had been rough, this trek was ten times as
bad. Now they were facing almost directly into the wind-driven
snow and had to bend forward at an angle to keep from being
blown over. But as Lane cheerily explained, the temperature was
actually up around zero somewhere, and the wind was blowing no
more than twenty knots. In the Brooks Range they would pray for
weather like this.
They got back to the cabin just after sunset, bone-tired
and frozen stiff; their eyebrows, where they were unprotected by
the ski masks, were caked with ice.
After a big meal Nadja was extremely restless and asked
Lane if she could try his other rifle. After he had agreed she
found a flashlight and some tape and set off into the night
alone. The snow had tailed off, but the temperature was dropping
Lebeau sat down on his sleeping bag and began sifting
through his credit cards. Eckstein leaned back in the easy
chair, but left the light off, content to blow smoke rings from
the first cigarette he'd had that day. Campbell sat at the table
"Which will I have to use in Fairbanks, Colonel?" Lebeau
asked. "The American Express or the Master Charge?"
"Watch that Colonel stuff, Marcel," warned Eckstein.
"Don't worry, my friend," Campbell answered the little man.
"It's all taken care of."
"Alors," Lebeau shrugged. "I will buy the souvenirs for mes
Lane came out of the bathroom and Campbell looked up at
him. Something was different. It took Campbell a few seconds to
realize what it was. Lane had shaved. The beard was gone.
Eckstein saw his red, freshly scrubbed face and burst out
"What's the matter, Pard? Your beard freeze off?"
"Since I'm returning to civilization tomorrow, I thought
..." Lane's voice trailed off sheepishly. Then he scowled,
grabbed up his coat and mittens and headed for the door. He
turned and looked at Eckstein, about to say something more, but
Eckstein started laughing again and he stormed out.
Lebeau started chuckling, too, as Eckstein continued to
laugh, his body shaking. But then they saw the expression on
Campbell's face and they grew quiet. A few minutes passed and
they heard the rumble of a motor outside. There was a knock on
the door, and Ben stuck his head in.
"You got a long distance phone call at the lodge. I'll
drive you over in the van."
Campbell pushed back his chair and stood up.
"Be right with you."
He slipped on his parka and followed the young man out.
As Campbell and Ben headed for the van, they heard the
distant crack of a shot, then another. Ben looked at Campbell.
"Target practice," Campbell said quietly.
Ben nodded. They climbed into the van and drove off.
Above the rapids of the river where Lane had bathed, he
came upon Nadja crouched in the snow on one knee, firing across
the river at a denuded tree. She'd taped the flashlight to the
rifle barrel to illuminate her target.
Taking aim she squeezed the trigger and the tip of a branch
flew away into the night. Lane came up behind her quietly,
rubbing self-consciously at his naked jaw. She fired again and
another branch was gone.
"Nice shot," Lane admitted, then jumped back with a shout
of surprise as Nadja rolled to her feet, and came up with the
rifle pointed at the center of his chest. She saw who it was and
lowered the weapon.
"I did not hear you!" she frowned at him.
"Should you have?" he smiled in return.
"Yes, it is important, Mr. Lane."
Lane leaned against a rock.
"Call me Harvard."
"That is an odd name for a person."
"It used to be Howard."
She came over and sat down on the rock beside him, looking
across the river.
"You went to that school?" she asked. "Harvard?"
Lane shook his head. "Yale."
"I do not understand."
"I played football for Yale. Defensive end."
Nadja began loading the rifle again.
"What is that?"
"A position... uhm... on the field..." Lane tried to
explain. "Harvard and Yale are both members of the Ivy League.
You've heard of that?"
"Of course," she nodded emphatically. "Princeton, Smith,
"That's right. Well, Harvard and Yale have this football
rivalry. One year I missed a tackle. I was the only one between
the ball carrier and the goal line. I blew it, and Harvard
scored the winning touchdown. In appreciation they dubbed me
Harvard instead of Howard. Nobody at my school would let me live
it down. The name stuck."
"Where?" he echoed, trying to figure out if she was teasing
him. "Uhhh... hell, I don't know. I'm just trying to impress you
with my athletic abilities. You're in pretty good shape
"Thank you. I was in the Olympics. 1988 in Seoul."
Lane stared at her. "You sure get around. What event? How
did you do?"
"Eight hundred meter run. I placed sixth only."
"I'm still impressed. And where did you learn to shoot like
Nadja shifted uneasily, pushing the hair back away from her
face. There was no harm she decided in telling him this.
"In Israel. I was born there."
"Oh, so that's your accent."
Lane laughed. "Cooper doesn't sound like an Israeli name."
"Why not? When Israel was created, Jews came from all over
the world. Jews named Rabinowitz, Gold, Santos, Orsini, even
Smith. My parents were both born in the United States. They
wanted me to be raised in Israel. We moved there in 1971. I was
less than a year old. They... they returned to Miami to live
three years ago..." Her voice trailed off.
Lane watched her as she stood, raised the rifle to her
shoulder, and fired. On target again. She amazed and puzzled him
at the same time. At first he had planned to interrogate her to
see if he could find out what it was about this team that made
him so uneasy. But he told himself he hadn't shaved off his
beard for that reason. And that bothered him.
Ben led Campbell across the deserted lobby of the lodge to
the single telephone booth and left him there. Campbell went
into the booth, slid the door closed, and waited until Ben was
seated on a bench some distance away leafing through a magazine.
Then he picked up the phone.
"Rest of the hardware'll be waitin' in Fairbanks," Nasty's
voice drawled. "Creighton Storage and Transfer."
Campbell knew there had to be more than that. He waited
while there was silence at the other end. He could almost
imagine the thin Texan looking furtively over his shoulder then
hunkering down closer to the phone.
"Lew's been tryin' to get in touch with y'all."
"Don't know. You're to call him."
The number Nasty gave him was not Lew's business phone.
That in itself suggested something was up. Campbell did
recognize a centrally located Manhattan exchange. He thanked
Nasty and dialed the operator. Her voice was so faint she
sounded like she was on the far side of the moon. He gave her
the number and waited; the cold feeling in the pit of his
stomach he'd first noticed back in the Arcon boardroom had
On a nightstand beneath a dim bedside lamp were a phone and
a copy of The Wall Street Journal. The phone rang and Lew's
scarred hand picked up the receiver.
"Hello, Colonel," he rasped. "There is something I think
you ought to know..."
Lane sighted along the rifle and fired. In the circle of
light across the river the tip of a branch flicked off.
Nadja smiled. "So!"
He handed the rifle back to her and she raised it to her
"Why do you hate Campbell?" he asked suddenly.
The rifle barked and the shot went wide. She put down the
rifle, but didn't turn around to face him.
"I do not."
"I'm not blind, Nadja. You never speak to him. You never
even look at him."
Her dark eyes clouded with anger as she looked at him.
"You try to analyze me? You do this with all your
"No, but this group might be interesting."
She turned away from him and again aimed the rifle across
"I do not have to talk to you about what is personal to me.
Now go, please. I must practice."
He stood looking at her back, then started off down the
trail. She hadn't noticed he'd shaved.
In the main room of Lane's cabin, Lebeau was now lying on
his sleeping bag apparently asleep. Campbell had just returned.
He poured two cups of coffee and seated himself at the rough
wood table where Eckstein was smoking and playing solitaire.
Campbell put one of the cups in front of the burly man, but
he chose to ignore it. Something was on his mind, Campbell could
"I just had an interesting talk with Lew," he began. No
"We've run up against terrorists before, haven't we, Gus?"
"Sure," Eckstein shot out. "Like Jamshid Amat."
Campbell stared at him, caught completely off guard, his
coffee cup frozen in mid-air halfway to his lips.
"Gus... shut up..." he said at last.
"Tell her!" Eckstein cried at him, his homely face twisted
"What's the matter with you?"
"Nothin'! I just can't stand to see the two of you tear
each other apart!"
"Nadja's feelings are perfectly understandable."
"But she don't--"
"Shut up!" Campbell said tightly.
"Goddamn it, Colonel--"
"It is none of your business, Gus. I don't know what
brought this on, but forget it."
Eckstein started to open his mouth again.
Eckstein stopped himself and stared glumly at the steaming
black liquid in his cup. Campbell looked over at Lebeau. The
little man lay still, eyes closed, either asleep or very
prudently staying out of the conversation.
Campbell took a deep breath and tried again.\"Terrorists,
Gus. After they strike, what do they do?"
Eckstein shrugged. "They dance around waving their guns in
"And the newspapers and the telly are all over the story
the next day, right?"
"Sure," Eckstein agreed. "Terrorists need the press."
"So why has this Free Earth Liberation Army kept their
takeover of Pump Station E a secret between themselves and
Eckstein sat back, knitting his brow, his sullenness
vanishing as quickly as it had come.
"That is a little strange..."
"And how did they get up there in the first place?"
Campbell went on. "There are close to thirty men in that camp.
Did they simply sneak up on them out of nowhere?"
"Nobody saw 'em along the way?"
"I asked this chap Garvey that question at our afternoon
briefing. One road. A few company airstrips. But no one saw
them. How many terrorists are there? Quite a few, I'd imagine,
to take over and hold a camp that size. Yet no one saw them."
"Parachutes?" Eckstein suggested..
"In those mountains? During a storm? Bloody little chance
of success, if you ask me."
Lebeau chimed in, not opening his eyes. "The attack must be
timed to the storm. Comprenez? For that they could not be far
away. And such a providential storm!"
"Exactly," Campbell agreed. "Only one problem. There was no
place they could have been holed up for any length of time."
"Say," Eckstein studied him. "What did Lew tell you?"
"He knows now who is employing us, but not precisely why."
"He'll keep quiet," Eckstein observed. "What else?"
"Well, it seems Arcon Oil stocks are falling. There's a
story going around that the pipeline might be shut down
"That makes sense. Even though the FELA's takeover is
supposed to be a big secret, too many people know about it."
"Wait," Campbell urged him. "There's more. Because of these
rumors there has been quite a bit of panic selling on Wall
Street. Now I don't know how the Stock Exchange works, but Lew
says the stocks haven't fallen as far as the experts thought
"Take it slow," Eckstein cautioned.
"Right. Well, there is one brokerage house: Hill, Birney,
and Wedgeworth. While everybody else has been selling Arcon Oil,
this brokerage has been very slowly buying. And this
information, Lew insists, is not common knowledge. Far from it."
Eckstein still didn't see what all the flack was about.
"If there's a seller, there's gotta be a buyer," he pointed
Campbell nodded. "Apparently there are always some
speculators willing to buy a few shares. Hill, Birney, and
Wedgeworth has been buying more than would account for that, a
lot more, but slowly enough so that its effect on the market has
"Lew noticed!" Eckstein grinned.
"And he says it might be in our best interests to know who
that brokerage is representing." Campbell shook his head. "This
thing never felt right to me, Gus."
"What're ya gonna do?"
Lebeau opened his eyes.
"You and I are going to make a little side trip," Campbell
"Right now. That kid from the lodge is calling Adams, the
pilot that flew us in here. He'll have the plane at the Twin
Falls public pier in twenty minutes."
Lebeau leaped up. "I will purchase tickets with my good
After he had left Nadja, Lane walked around aimlessly,
trying to figure out what it was about her that confused him so.
Her relationship with Campbell, or rather the utter lack of one,
was weird. Why did they work together if they hated each other
so much? No, come to think of it, he had seen no sign that
Campbell felt the same way she did. In fact, Lane remembered,
there had been moments when he'd caught Campbell looking at her
with an expression of immense sadness on his face. And those had
been the only glimpses of emotion he had ever seen Campbell
All he could be sure of was that his own feelings were
getting way out of control, driving him to distraction. Some-
thing had to be done. Some resolution had to be found. He
couldn't go on like this.
There was one way to find out what was up between Campbell
and Nadja. If she wouldn't tell him, maybe Campbell would.
He trudged through the snow in the direction of the cabin.
As he neared the door he thought he heard the droning of a light
plane somewhere above the clouds. It was pretty late for Dave
Adams to be making a delivery, he thought. He opened the door
and went in.
Eckstein sat alone at the table, playing solitaire. Lane
glanced around the cabin.
"Where are Campbell and Lebeau?" he asked.
"They had an errand to run."
"What do you mean? Where did they go?"
The door behind Lane opened and he turned, but it was
Nadja, her face flushed with the cold. He faced Eckstein, who
turned another card nonchalantly and found a place for it.
"Where did they go?" Lane demanded, his anger increasing.
"Some problem with the equipment. They hadda go back to New
Nadja took off her coat and hat and shook out her hair,
listening. She went to the stove to pour herself a cup of
"New York!" Lane exploded. "Now?"
"They'll catch up with us in Fairbanks."
Lane paced back and forth in front of the table, steaming.
The plane he had heard, of course. There was no way of stopping
them now. He was helpless.
"I'm supposed to be in charge of this team!" he raged at
Eckstein. "Am I in charge or not?"
"You betcha!" Eckstein grinned. "Whadaya want me to do?"
"Fuck yourself!" Lane yelled at him and stormed into the
bedroom, slamming the door. Eckstein's grin slowly faded and
became a frown.
Nadja came over to him at the table and put a hand on his
shoulder. He patted it.
"He shouldn't outta talk to folks like that, lovely. Who
does he think he is? Big wilderness man, shit. We showed him a
thing or two marchin' in that blizzard today. He ain't so hot.
Why doesn't he loosen up a little?"
"He is confused, Gus. He does not understand," she smiled
down at him. "But it is okay. I will talk to him."
"You like that son of a bitch, don'tcha?"
She hesitated. "Yes... Why did they go? Is there trouble?"
"Let's say there's storm clouds on the horizon, lovely.
Maybe some hidden thunder the other side of the hill. Don't you
worry, though. The Colonel knows what he is doin'."
"I hope that you are right."
She turned toward the bedroom and he grabbed her hand.
"Don't do nothin' foolish just cause you and Ian--"
She wrenched her hand away and glared at him. He turned
back to his game.
"Sorry," he said quietly.
Nadja finished her coffee and went to the bedroom door. She
knocked. When there was no answer she opened the door and went
Lane was sitting on the edge of the lower bunk rubbing his
chin and staring morosely at the floor. Nadja closed the door
and leaned against it.
"You have shaved your beard," she said.
"You are angry."
"Every goddamn time I have to deal with--" he waved his
arm, "--the outside world, I guess you'd call it, something gets
screwed up. Why do I bother? I could walk out that door and
never see another human being again and be perfectly happy."
She crossed the room and sat on the bunk beside him.
"I don't believe that," she said. "In my country all are
very close. We must be. We need each other."
"Oh? Right wing? Left wing? How close are they?"
"We are all Israelis. Others overlook that. We are bound
to one another. To survive."
"I can survive fine alone."
"There are other reasons people need each other."
Lane said nothing. They sat silently like that for awhile
before Nadja spoke again.
"I want to apologize."
"I was teasing you before. It is true I have an accent, but
I understand English very well, I think. And I understand about
your football story. I have seen the Miami Dolphins play." She
smiled. "My father goes to every game and yells very loud.
He looked at her, feeling the nearness of her body,
smelling the faint sweet scent of her hair.
"Why pretend you didn't know what I was talking about?"
"To put you off. Is that the phrase? There are not many
women up here, I don't think. I could see that in you. You
shaved your beard. For me. Yes?"
"Pretty obvious, I guess. But you're right. Most of the
times I've been with women for, Christ, I don't know how long...
I've paid for them. I don't mean emotionally. I mean I paid with
cash. It's easier that way. No ties. But--"
"I, too, do not seek ties," she nodded. "In my pro-
fession..." she faltered, realizing she'd made a slip. "... a
geologist travels so much..."
"Why did you come in here?"
She nodded at a bottle of amber liquid on his dresser, her
"To apologize, and for the oil. My skin is cracking and
falling off in great hunks!"
"Oh." He had thought for just a second there, but, no, it
was impossible. He'd confused fantasy with reality. He tried to
think of something clever to say, but failed, feeling like a
freshman again the first time he'd had a girl in his Yale
He covered the lapse in conversation by standing and
crossing to the dresser. His heart felt like lead. She was
right. He was lonely, but so was she. He blurted out, "You with
all your people needing each other, and me, exactly where I want
to be; by myself. Why aren't we happy?"
He picked up the oil and turned. Nadia sat on the bunk
biting her lip, fighting a losing battle with tears that began
to trickle down her cheeks.
"I must not do this!" she stammered. "I... I am strong!"
Lane sat beside her, putting the oil on the floor by his
leg. Hesitantly he put his arm around her, and she gave up and
turned to sob quietly against his shoulder. They sat that way
for a long time, and at last Lane felt her body cease its shud-
dering. She began to sniffle.
He went to the dresser and found in a top drawer a gigantic
red paisley handkerchief. He returned with it to sit down again.
"Here, take this. I won't be robbing any banks this week."
She thanked him and blew noisily into the handkerchief,
then used another corner of it to wipe at her eyes.
Suddenly Lane realized that he was caressing her shoulder
through the work shirt, feeling its rough texture slide over the
flesh beneath. She moved slightly and he stopped, afraid that he
had done the wrong thing. But she had only moved to put the
handkerchief down. Then she raised her hand to her collar and
looked at him, her eyes red and moist. His breath caught in his
Slowly she began to unbutton the shirt, her eyes locked
with his. When she had finished she shrugged his hand off her
shoulder and let the shirt slide down her bare back. She nodded
at the bottle of oil near his leg.
Lane swallowed and picked up the bottle. He fumbled with
the cap. It went spinning away across the floor and he silently
cursed his clumsiness. But she didn't seem to notice. She half
turned away from him, her arms folded over her breasts.
Pouring a quantity of the thick, warm oil on one hand, he
carefully set the bottle on the floor. Thankfully it didn't tip
over. Then he rubbed his hands together to spread the oil and
reached out to touch her back. Slowly he began to massage the
oil into her skin, seeing it soften and begin to glow in the
Lane worked the oil into her shoulder blades, then kneaded
her spine, making sure he covered every bump and hollow. Next he
massaged the small of her back. With each part of her body he
touched he felt the muscles gradually relax as the tension
drained out of her. Curiously his own body felt as taut as a
Nadja sighed as his hands returned to her neck and lowered
her head, her long silky black hair settling in front of her
face and over her arms.
Lane reached down for more oil and began to massage her
shoulders then down along each arm until they glistened. Oil
caught between his palms and her skin made wet sucking sounds.
His hands moved beneath her arms to the tightly stretched skin
over her ribcage. Then hesitantly rubbing in gentle circles his
hands went around on either side of her to touch the soft swell
of her breasts.
She lay back then in his lap, staring up at him, as he
brushed her hair aside and stroked her breasts, the oil letting
his hands slide easily over them. As he watched, her dark nip-
ples hardened and he squeezed them lightly between thumb and
"The Eskimo women," he said softly, "cover their bodies
with grease from whales or seals to make themselves desirable.
Now I see why."
She smiled at him, saying nothing, and took one of his
hands in one of hers, guiding it downward. He stroked the flat,
firm muscles of her stomach to the edge of her jeans. Now the
entire upper half of her body shone like golden honey.
She released his hand and lay back, her eyes again closing,
her mouth parted. He reached for the metal button on her jeans.
His fingers were slippery, but he managed to twist it far enough
to one side and it came undone. Next he grasped the zipper and
pulled it down past the top of the white insulated long johns.
He paused for just an instant, holding his breath, then his
hand moved in its circular motion lower and lower, beneath the
long johns, finding the fringes of her curling pubic hair. A
soft moan escaped from her parted lips and she began to thrust
against his probing fingers.
He bent his head and kissed her on the mouth.
In the main room Eckstein lay on his sleeping bag, smoking
and staring at the closed door of the bedroom. Finally he
glanced at his new watch, put the cigarette out, rolled over,
and tried to go to sleep.
At Kennedy International Airport Campbell and Lebeau rented
a station wagon and drove to Nasty's warehouse. They had
chartered a private jet from a small company in Montreal the
previous night, and arrived in New York before eleven the next
morning. Before renting the car Campbell had called Nasty and
made their requirements known.
Because of the shortness of the notice, the rather unusual
nature of some of the equipment required, and an additional
service to be undertaken by Nasty's son, Bob, that afternoon,
Nasty cheerfully charged them double, before offering them each
a shot of Chivas Regal.
There was nothing they could do for several hours, so
Campbell checked them into a cheap uptown hotel where they could
catch up on their lost sleep. Before going to their rooms they
ate a huge breakfast and Campbell bought a copy of The New York
It wasn't front page news yet, but there was a story on the
second page about the possibility the pipeline might need to be
shut down for maintenance. This happened periodically, usually
for no more than a few hours. This shutdown, an unidentified
source suggested, might be much, much longer. There was no
mention of Pump Station E, or where the shutdown would occur.
But the story did say that the continuing rumors had sent the
Arcon Oil stocks, and those of the seven other companies
invested in the pipeline, heading down at a slow, but steady
Drowsily Campbell went over in his mind the details of the
night's plan of action, But as sleep finally took him, his last
thoughts were of Nadja.
At five o'clock that evening Campbell and Lebeau were
caught up in the crush of workers hurrying home from the short
financial canyon called Wall Street. The building they were
looking for was situated at one end of Wall Street, near Broad.
It was somewhat smaller than those surrounding it, but the same
height as the building directly across the street, as Lew had
promised Campbell the night before.
Checking the directory in the lobby, Campbell confirmed
that the offices of Hill, Birney, and Wedgeworth occupied the
entire top floor.
While he was doing this Lebeau was in the building across
the street making certain preparations. On the top floor of that
office building he found the door to the roof around a
convenient corner and out of sight of the last businessmen and
secretaries to leave the building. It was a simple job to slide
one of his credit cards between the door and the jamb, over the
latch and force it open. Then he quickly stuck a length of
electrician's tape over the latch to prevent the door from
locking automatically after it closed.
Trotting lightly up a short staircase to another door,
Lebeau found this one locked, but only so that it could not be
opened from the roof side. Another strip of electrician's tape
solved the problem of their return.
Lebeau next moved to the edge of the roof and looked across
Wall Street to the building opposite. That roof was actually
slightly higher, but this posed no real difficulty, and would
make the return trip, when speed might be most essential, all
the easier. Not once did he glance down at the street
twenty-five stories below.
Lebeau retraced his steps to the top floor, but instead of
taking the elevator, he chose the long walk down the stairs,
taking this opportunity to stretch his leg muscles, still sore
from the previous day's cross-country trek. Pushing open a door
marked LOBBY he found himself in a narrow corridor connecting
the main lobby with a rear service entrance. This entrance had a
steel fire door bisected by the push bar that opened it.
Anchored in the ceiling above his head was a TV camera pointed
at the door.
Heading toward the lobby he passed a group of cleaning
women who stared at his bright sport jacket and scarf. He smiled
and bowed to them. They curtsied and laughed. His last duty was
a brief chat with the day security guard seated at a metal desk
in the lobby. Expressing an interest in applyingfor such a job,
Lebeau learned that it was not all sitting at a desk and
watching a bank of TV monitors. Though the two guys on night
duty, he was assured, had it a lot easier.
Back on the street Lebeau met with Campbell and told him
the results of his reconnaissance. One guard sat at the front
desk while a second made rounds every hour. This continued for
four hours starting at six o'clock, then the two would switch
jobs. These were the only people in the building after the
cleaning ladies left around nine o'clock. There were alarms on
the two doors, and fire exits, plus TV cameras feeding the
monitors watched by the guard at the front desk.
Why, Lebeau wanted to know, with all these security
precautions, were they breaking into this building first, then
crossing to the other?
Campbell explained. "Last night Lew told me they'd hired
two extra security guards specifically for the Hill Birney, and
Wedgeworth offices at the brokerage's request. From where they
sit on the twenty-fifth floor they can see both the elevators
and the stairs. So even if we made it past the guards on the
first floor we'd be seen by the ones on the twenty-fifth. And
our goose is cooked if anyone even suspects we tried to get in."
Campbell steered Lebeau into a bar where Bob Aster was
waiting for them. Bob looked right at home among the brokers and
other businessmen gathered for a final drink or two before they
began their long commutes out of the city to their homes.
He was a pudgier man than his father. Dressed in his vested
wool suit, he looked like a prosperous banker. Bob, Campbell
knew, had gone to St. Lukes, a private school outside of Boston,
and from there to Harvard. So there was no trace even of Nasty's
twang. Bob spoke in fluent Easternese.
"All set?" Campbell asked as they joined Bob in his booth.
"The two packages you ordered are waiting."
"Properly gift wrapped?"
"Oh, yes, indeed. And quality merchandise, if I may say
Campbell counted out enough money from his expense envelope
to pay for the "packages", plus Bob's fee.
"Forgive me, Colonel," Lebeau said. "I see that we must
attempt another route. But what of the guards across the street?
The alarms, the cameras? With preparation, oui, I could do it,
of course, but tonight?"
"That's what Mr. Aster here has been working on for us,
"They will need to know the precise time," Bob noted.
Campbell had expected this. He explained that he and Lebeau
would station themselves first in the alley next to the Hill,
Birney and Wedgeworth Building, and study the guards' routine to
determine exactly at what point in every hour the one returned
to check in with the other at the front desk. Then they would
make their way to the alley in back of that building where Bob
would be waiting with their gear and the two young, expensively
decked out "packages" he had hired.
"Les femmes!" protested Lebeau. "These are the
merchandises?" Then his eyes widened with delight. "Ah! I see!
We do not go in the back door! We go in the front!"
Campbell grinned at him and nodded.
When ten o'clock that night rolled around the two guards
switched jobs, and the one who had been doing the walking for
the past four hours collapsed in a chair with a look of relief
visible to Campbell and Lebeau in the alley across the street.
By one o'clock in the morning, they had watched the second
guard return to the front desk (seen through the glass front
doors of the building), at fifty minutes past the hour three
times. His routine never varied. The two would sit there and
talk for ten minutes before he started out again. When they'd
changed assignments, there had even been a couple of extra
minutes. More than enough time.
Before the second guard returned from his last tour of
duty, they would be ready.
The short guard's name was Coleman. The tall one was Bixby.
Other than their heights and names, there was no way to
distinguish between them. They both wore the same weary scowl.
They both thought the same way about politics: "Forget it,"
sports: "The Mets would always take the Yankees," and life: "One
hell of a bore." They had never had much to say to one another
anyway, but since they agreed on everything, their relationship
had subsided to the point where a terse statement like one of
the above followed by a series of grunts or sighs was enough
conversation to while away those few minutes when they were
The rest of the time Coleman spent reading books with
titles like Lesbian Lovers, Spic and Spanked, and Teaching
Teacher. Bixby, when his turn came at the desk, read nothing. He
just sat and stared out the glass doors at the empty street,
thinking of absolutely nothing, either.
That is what he was doing and that is what he continued to
do when Coleman returned from his final rounds.
"Your turn, Bixby," the short man sighed.
Bixby grunted at him and started to turn away from the
street, then he swung back around in the swivel chair and leaned
"Hey, I thought somethin' moved across there in the alley."
Coleman squinted out the door.
"Just a rat," he decided, seeing nothing. Bixby grunted and
"Maybe..." he began, preparing to agree with his partner.
"No! Hell, look!"
This was the first time Coleman had heard his voice raised
in anything resembling excitement. He turned sharply and
followed Bixby's pointing arm.
Two women had emerged from the darkness of the alley
opposite and stood looking frantically up and down the street.
They were dressed in fur coats and evening gowns and appeared to
be in some distress.
"Classy lookin', huh?" Bixby stared at them.
"Naw, whores is all," Coleman said, his eyes falling to the
cover of Young and Randy, then flicking back up.
This was a momentous moment for them. They'd disagreed
about something. But their attention was so riveted by the
women, obviously good looking whomever they were, that they
"Wonder if anythin's wrong?" asked Bixby, hoping.
One of the women seemed to see them beyond the glass doors,
and pointed in their direction. But her companion hesitated and
then proceeded to faint on the sidewalk. The first waved at
them, then ran across the street to pound on the glass.
"Please!" she shouted, her eyes filled with tears. "Please!
A man is after us! Betty's fainted! Please help us!"
"Damn!" yelled Bixby to the other guard. He knew class when
he saw it. But he wasn't sure they should get involved. A call
to the police would put things right. But if he did help, he
might get a reward. All sorts of rewards immediately flashed
through his mind.
"Shit!" yelled Coleman back at him. Anyone could tell they
were whores. For that reason and because of the book he'd been
reading, he'd already skipped over the thought of calling the
police. And he knew exactly what reward he was going to ask for.
They were not disagreeing about anything now. Their minds,
as they stared at each other, then back at the woman in the fur
coat, were fused solid.
Together they raced to the door. Together they followed her
back across the street to where her attractive companion lay
sprawled on the sidewalk, a good deal of nylon exposed. Together
they missed Campbell and Lebeau leaning against the wall of the
building they had just quitted, then trotting silently through
the unlocked glass doors, knapsacks on their backs.
The two mercenaries, dressed in dark sweaters and pants and
black tennis shoes, swiftly climbed the staircase. Up, up, up.
The twenty-five floors were child's play compared to the rigors
Lane had been subjecting them to.
The electrician's tape was still in place and soon they
stood on the roof facing into a slight breeze. The temperature
was around twenty-five, Campbell guessed. It was not, he was
pleased to note, particularly uncomfortable. He leaned over a
metal railing at the roof's edge to see how things were
proceeding below. Both women were on their feet now and at least
one of the guards was glancing nervously at the door they had
The guards' reward came to just twenty bucks and a thank
you and Bixby was already resigning himself to returning to
their duties. He'd been right, of course. These were real
ladies. He shouldn't have expected anything else.
A cab stopped and the two women got in. As it pulled away
they waved goodbye to the guards, and then the two men went back
inside their building, securing the door after them. Neither of
them wondered at the fact that they had never seen a taxi cruise
Wall Street at that hour of the night.
When Campbell turned away from the edge of the roof he saw
Lebeau was locking the three-pronged steel grappling hook into
the barrel of the stubby rifle that fired it. Campbell nodded to
him and Lebeau squatted down on one knee beside the railing.
There was a hollow thump as the gas cartridge in the rifle
exploded. The hook arced up and over to the roof across the
street, its prongs blossoming. It landed with a faint clank.
Lebeau then pulled on the thin, but very strong, nylon line
attached to it. The hook dragged across the cinders on the roof
and caught against the far side of the low, ornamental stone
abutment. He tugged on the line, making sure it was fast, then
nodded to Campbell. They drew it tight and attached this end to
a nearby standpipe. Campbell took two leather harnesses,
dangling like little swings from steel clips, from his knapsack.
He leaned over the railing and hooked the clips to the nylon
Lebeau put his knapsack back on, and seconds later the two
dark figures were framed against the overcast sky, pulling
themselves along the line hand over hand. The light breeze made
them sway only slightly. About half way across, they paused as
the headlights of a car came down the street below them. It was
a police car. They waited as it moved slowly along the street.
But it never paused. Passing twenty-five stories beneath them,
it took a left onto Broad Street and was gone.
They continued, pulling themselves up the swaying, gently
inclined rope until Campbell's feet touched the ornamental
stonework on the other roof. A griffin, or was it a gargoyle,
grimaced at Campbell. He slipped out of the harness, put one
foot on its nose and climbed over the edge.
Lebeau followed right behind him, then secured the hook for
their return. Campbell took two smaller coils of nylon line from
his belt. One of these he handed to Lebeau, who looped it around
the prongs of the hook in such a way that a strong jerk on it
would wrench the prongs free. The other coil Campbell carried to
the side of the building facing the alley in which they had
crouched for so many hours earlier. He secured one end to a
standpipe as Lebeau shrugged off his knapsack.
Lebeau wrapped the rope beneath him, forming a rappelling
"seat," and lowered himself down the sheer face of the building
in a series of short, quick hops. He came to rest, his feet on
the sill of a narrow top floor window.
Suspended in space, holding himself there with his left
hand, he reached the other gloved hand inside his sweater and
came out with a credit card that had been tucked in the waist-
band of his pants. With his left hand he let a couple of inches
of rope slip beneath him. His legs bent beneath him, taking as
much weight as possible on the sill, as he reached for the bot-
tom of the window. He inserted the credit card in the crack
between the window and the sill and worked it sideways. The
catch clicked aside and he noiselessly slid the window open.
From the roof Campbell watched Lebeau push off from the
side of the building and swing feet first in through the open
window. Campbell touched the rope with his glove. There were two
quick tugs and he pulled the rope up. Forming his own rappelling
seat, he swung over the corner of the roof and moved swiftly
down the side of the building.
Campbell swung in through the window and dropped lightly
beside the little French Canadian. They each removed their
gloves, clipping them to their belts. Lebeau took off the
knapsack and found two pencil beam flashlights and two small,
rectangular flat cases inside. He gave one of each to Campbell,
then flicked his flashlight on, letting it swing over the rows
of desks in the long, dark room.
A movement caught the corner of Campbell's eye and he
hissed at Lebeau. The light disappeared. The shadow of a man
could be seen against the frosted glass of the main door, to
their left on the other side of the room. It stood there for a
moment, then seemed to shrink as its owner walked away from the
The two men made their way down a row of desks to a wall
directly ahead of them lined with file cabinets. They opened the
flat cases. Identical sets of skeleton keys and lock picks
gleamed briefly in flashes from the tiny lights. They set to
work opening the file cabinets and examining their contents.
Pausing only twice, once when the murmur of voices could be
heard beyond the main door, and once when the shadow of one of
the guards reappeared. They worked their way systematically from
one cabinet to the next, but Campbell could see that here at
least their search would be fruitless. These were more general
files concerning the day to day correspondence of the brokerage
with its clients. What they were looking for wouldn't be here
for anyone in the office to consult.
Beyond the files near the front door Campbell could see a
short hallway partially illuminated by the light filtering
through the frosted glass from the hall outside. He motioned to
Lebeau and they headed in that direction.
At the end of this hall was a steel grille. Behind that was
a massive safe. Lebeau took one look at it and shook his head.
If what they were after was in there, they were out of luck.
But as Campbell had explained to him earlier, while the
actual files dealing with Arcon stock purchases would be
securely locked away, random notes or memos that had yet to find
their way to the shredders might yield valuable information, if
they could be properly interpreted. The trick was to find out
which one of the partners was handling the arrangements.
So Campbell risked a brief flash of light at one of the
four offices that lined the short hall. The name on the door was
Jerome Birney. He gestured to Lebeau to try the next door and
turned the knob on Birney's office door. It wasn't locked.
Passing quickly through the outer secretary's office
Campbell opened another door and found himself in a sumptuous
office with a massive mahogany desk and thickly padded, com-
fortable looking furniture. Several original-looking oil
paintings adorned those walls not covered by imposing volumes on
stocks, bonds and the law. A ticker-tape machine and a paper
shredder stood side by side in a corner near the window.
In many ways the office reminded Campbell of the boardroom
at Arcon. And he suspected that the offices at the oil company
would look very similar to this one. He could almost picture
Jerome Birney in his mind. Were the business circles of this
city (or the world for that matter) really peopled with such an
identical breed of men and women, he wondered. Those who dressed
and acted and even thought so much alike that they were as
indistinguishable in a crowd as workers in a Birmingham steel
mill? He thought of Janice Eaton's empty eyes and shuddered.
He crossed to sit in the comfortable high-backed leather
chair behind the desk. He tried the drawers. None were locked.
This didn't bode well. If there were anything of the slightest
value in them, in a place like this, they would have been
Discouraged, he leafed through a large appointment book
lying open on the blotter. An inspiration struck him. On what
date had PSE been taken over? That was easy. The first of the
year. Campbell turned the pages to the front of the book.
January 1st was blank. That was understandable. So was January
2nd, a Sunday. He turned another page to the 3rd.
Here were several notations of appointments. Campbell ran
his finger down the list. At three thirty in that afternoon he
stopped. In what must be Birney's own careful printing were the
following letters: AOS - ARDC EDRAS. He flipped the pages and
found several similar notations each spaced several days apart.
A... 0... S... Arcon Oil Syndicate? He wondered.
In the hall outside the offices of Hill, Birney and
Wedgeworth, one of the uniformed watchmen was staring at a
magazine on his desk. The pages were being rustled slightly by
an unseen breeze.
"Larry?" he called quietly. The other, just coming down the
hall, walked over to him.
"You leave a window open somewhere? We'll catch hell if it
snows on somebody's desk."
"Not me," the second replied.
Just inside the frosted door Lebeau listened to the
exchange. He had just come out of Hill's office, and was sorely
disappointed with the results of his search.
There was the squeak of a chair. The first guard must have
stood up, he thought.
"Wonder where it's coming from."
A shadow appeared on the frosted glass and Lebeau flattened
himself against the wall. Then the shadow seemed to get shorter
and there was a rustling at the bottom of the door. Merde,
Lebeau thought, one of the watchmen had gotten down on his hands
and knees and was brushing his hand along the space at the
bottom of the door.
In Birney's office Campbell flipped through a Roladex card
file. He stopped at a card labeled: ALASKAN RESEARCH AND
DEVELOPMENT COMPANY. Below that was an address on Third Street
in Fairbanks, Alaska. He checked the notation in the appointment
book. The second group of letters, ARDC. He tapped the first
letter of each word in Alaskan Research and Development Company:
ARDC. Coincidence? Maybe, but it certainly fit. But he frowned
at the final group of letters in the appointment book. EDRAS.
Now what did that stand for?
Suddenly Lebeau was there in the room beside him, drawing a
finger across his throat. Campbell killed his tiny light and
followed him out into the short hall carefully closing the doors
They tiptoed past the frosted glass door. There was the
sound of brushing, then the jingling of keys. A key was inserted
in the lock and the door swung open as Campbell and Lebeau
ducked behind desks near the filing cabinets. The overhead
lights went on.
"See anything?" the voice of one of the watchmen asked.
"Some stupid son of a bitch left a window wide open!"
Campbell heard him cross toward it. The other watchman, he
judged, must still be standing in the doorway.
"Musta been open all that time, and I never noticed it. I'm
Campbell peered beneath the desks and saw the first
watchman's scuffed shoes walk past. He looked around the corner.
The man was looking out the window at the face of the building
next door. Campbell knew the rope dangled a few scant inches to
one side and felt his palms grow sweaty. If the watchman were to
lean out a little to look down into the alley...
But the man looked up at the sky, shivering, then pulled
the window shut and locked it.
"Looks like we'll be getting some snow before morning,
too," he observed.
He turned and Campbell ducked back out of sight. He watched
as the shoes retraced their path toward the door and out of his
range of vision. But the light didn't go off. The door didn't
close. Had they seen something? Or were they just surveying the
room for a last time? He held his breath in the silence that
stretched for interminable seconds, and knew Lebeau was doing
Finally one of the watchmen snorted. "I thought people in
this business were supposed to have brains."
The light clicked off.
"I wouldn't invest in stocks," the second one responded.
"Real estate's the safe bet."
The door closed, then the handle rattled. One of them
checking to make sure the lock had caught. Their muffled voices
discussed the relative merits of real estate as an investment.
Campbell took deep breaths, forcing his racing pulse to
slow down again. As they stood up, Lebeau looked at him ques-
tioningly. Campbell grinned, gave him a thumbs up, and nodded at
the window. Precisely what he had found out he wasn't sure, but
there were more clues and possibly a few answers waiting for
them in Fairbanks.
When Campbell had reached the roof, Lebeau again hung
outside the building and carefully slid the window closed. Then
he climbed quickly, hand over hand up the rope.
The ride back across was easy since it was slightly
downhill. They coasted. The tricky part came next. Lebeau had
attached the second line to the hook earlier so that it could be
retrieved after they were on the other roof. That was simple
enough, but once freed, the hook would swing down into space and
hit the building. If it hit stone, that was okay. The slight
clink would go unnoticed by anyone passing in the street far
below. But if it hit a window, not only would there be a loud
crash, but there would be evidence that something funny had been
going on. That broken window, coupled with the fact that they
were going to have to set off the alarm at the back door of this
building, plus the business with the open window at Hill, Birney
and Wedgeworth, just might be enough to make the wrong people
suspicious. Whomever the wrong people were, Campbell added as an
Lebeau was looking at him. He nodded. It had to be risked.
They had a plane to catch in a very few hours for Fairbanks.
The little man gave a tug and the hook flipped free. It
dropped rapidly and began its pendulum swing as Lebeau pulled
rapidly on the line. It clinked against the side of the building
a couple of floors below them. Lebeau gave a sigh of relief and
hauled it in.
They repacked their knapsacks and Campbell checked his
watch. They waited to be sure the two guards would be together
on the first floor before starting their descent. At ten minutes
of four they retrieved the electrician's tape from the doors,
and started down.
At the bottom of the stairs Lebeau trotted quietly to the
end of the corridor and glanced across the lobby. Both guards
were standing in front of the desk. Neither could see the TV
monitors. He nodded at Campbell and they raced for the rear
service door. They hit the bar lock simultaneously and were
safely away into the darkness of the alley before Coleman and
Bixby, shocked out of their wits by the clanging alarm, could
recover enough to look at the monitor.
By that time the door had closed again. When they
investigated and found the door locked with no signs of forced
entry they could only conclude that the alarm had shorted out.
Nothing very exciting, but they both agreed, as they did in all
things, that the night had been a little less boring than all
It was 3:30 in the afternoon of January 17th when the Pan
Am jet carrying Campbell and Lebeau approached Fairbanks
International Airport. It was pitch dark, night having fallen
almost an hour earlier. The city as seen for the first time when
the jet dropped below a heavy cloud cover was a small one. Where
its lighted city streets ended, the wilderness began.
As he looked out the window Campbell remembered some of the
background data Garvey had given him. Straddling the meandering
Chena River, Fairbanks' entire metropolitan population was less
than thirty-five thousand hardy souls.
It didn't look dangerous, Campbell reflected as the plane
began its final approach. In fact it looked almost peaceful. The
Chena River was frozen solid: a dark, winding corridor midst the
twinkling lights of the city. Everything was heavily blanketed
in snow. Why, he wondered, had Garvey paid so much attention to
Fairbanks in his briefing? They would be in and out of here in
less than twenty hours.
As Campbell and Lebeau stepped from the cold, but still
relatively comfortable terminal into the outside air, they
stopped dead as if struck by a physical blow. Even dressed in
their insulated jackets and stocking cap/ski masks they were
instantly chilled to the bone.
"Christ!" muttered Campbell. "This place makes Labrador
seem almost tropical!"
In front of them at the curb was a line of taxi cabs, all
running, their exhausts forming great clouds of noxious gas. The
front cabbie rolled down his window and grinned at the two men.
They hurried forward. Lebeau reached out a bare hand to
touch the door handle.
"Wait!" shouted the cabbie. He leaned over the back of the
seat and threw the door open.
"Don't touch that door without gloves," he warned them.
"Metal will take the skin right off!"
Campbell and Lebeau leaped in back. After determining they
had no baggage, the cabbie put the taxi in gear. It pulled away
from the curb and headed across the hard-packed snow of the
road, its chains humming.
Campbell could see the low skyline of the city several
The cabbie grinned in the rear-view mirror at his pas-
sengers huddled in the back seat, putting on their gloves.
"First time in Fairbanks, gents?"
"Now what made me suspect that?"
"How cold is it?" Campbell asked.
"Twenty-one below," the cabbie answered cheerfully.
"It is so dark!" protested Lebeau.
"Sunset was at 2:42 today."
"When did it rise?" Campbell inquired.
"Little before 9:30 this morning," replied the cabbie.
"Five hours..." mused Campbell.
Five hours of daylight. And the days would grow shorter as
they climbed above the Arctic Circle. This was something he had
been told, but he had not considered it until now. It meant good
cover if they could come upon the camp in darkness, but it meant
that much of their traveling would have to be done at night.
Lane had said there was a considerable drop in temperature
after dark. What if it went past the sixty degree mark? Could he
convince Lane they should continue? Would they be physically
able to? And to cross that rugged terrain with its multitude of
hazards masked by darkness... He was at last beginning to see
what Lane had been talking about. To prepare himself mentally
for the ordeal to come Campbell had been speculating on the
worst it could get. He realized now with a sinking feeling that
he had not even been close.
The cab passed a series of huge signs pointing toward the
river. CAPTAIN JOE COOLEY'S STERNWHEEL RIVERBOATS, the signs
proclaimed. From Memorial day to Labor Day, four-hour excursions
on the Chena and Tanana rivers were available. This trip, the
signs promised, would include a stop at a real Indian trapper's
A couple of miles further on and they turned off of the
road appropriately called Airport Way and on to Barnette Street.
Here began the city proper.
The air was thick with fumes. And Campbell saw why. All the
cars were running. Every single one of them, even those parked
and empty. Once stopped in this cold, he supposed, they might
not start again until the spring thaw.
He asked the cab driver if they were kept running all
night, and was told that if the cars were to be left for any
length of time at people's homes and so on, there were special
heaters that could be attached to the grilles to keep the
Campbell looked at Lebeau. The little man had sunk into the
corner, his eyes closed, letting his mind drift away to warmer
At last the cab made a right-hand turn onto First Street,
just south of the river, passed a long row of one drinking
establishment after another and pulled up in front of the Chena
River Hotel. Paying the driver, the two men hurried inside.
They crossed the lobby to the front desk, where an
immaculately dressed clerk with wet looking hair was making
notations in a ledger.
Campbell looked around. The only people in sight besides
the clerk were two men dressed in worn suits and overcoats
sitting on a nearby sofa like they owned it.
Built during the boom times of pipeline construction when
the city's population had swelled to over sixty thousand, the
hotel looked slightly shabby in its furnishings and,
surprisingly, considering its prices, in its clientele. It was
worn out, he decided, by the sheer numbers of human beings who
had in such a short space of time trod on its carpets, spilled
coffee on its cushions, or left cigarette butts smoldering on
the arms of its chairs.
It occurred to Campbell that this might in fact be what had
happened to the Fairbanks whose quiet existence had one day been
shattered forever. It had raced ahead on the excitement of the
pipeline--the wealth of the pipeline-- as if the entire town
were speeding on amphetamines, its metabolism growing faster and
faster. But now the pills were gone, the oil flow was slowing,
as was the city.
He brought his thoughts back to the moment with the
realization that the clerk was staring at him. He registered
while Lebeau centered his attention on the clerk.
"Does the Triple A approve this hotel?" he demanded to
"Three stars, sir."
"You accept the American Express?"
"You have movies in every room?"
"On demand, sir. And internet access."
Lane stepped out of the elevator. He saw the two men at the
desk and his face hardened.
"Campbell!" he yelled.
Campbell and Lebeau were given their keys and met him in
the center of the lobby.
"Where the hell have you been?" Lane demanded.
"New York." replied Campbell.
"Equipment problems?" He didn't try to disguise the sneer
of disbelief in his voice.
"It was here when we arrived!"
Lane noticed the two men on the couch staring at them. The
clerk was frowning with disapproval. He lowered his voice.
"We'll talk in my room."
While Lebeau went off to find Nadja and Eckstein, Campbell
followed Lane up in the elevator to the geologist's room. Once
inside Lane again confronted him.
Lane had decided long ago that things were getting out of
hand. He was damned if he was going to let Campbell just take
over whenever he felt like it. Now was the time to lay it on the
"Eckstein said you got a phone call," he began.
"That's right. It was one of our suppliers, Nathan Aster."
He crossed the room. and lowered himself wearily into a
"Never heard of him."
"Oh, he's very good. But according to his records he was
out of stock on the low arctic tents."
"We could've brought mine," Lane glared at him. "That's
what I mean. You just don't go off without first consulting with
"There was no time to tell you," Campbell explained
patiently. "I thought it would be best if Marcel and I went
ahead and took care of things. I knew you had enough on your
mind as it was."
Lane paced back and forth in front of him.
"It may come as a surprise to you, Campbell, but my mind is
capable of handling more than one thought at a time. Besides the
tents were here at the storage company on Third, along with
everything else. As ordered."
"You checked it yourself?" Campbell asked warily.
There were several boxes he'd just as soon Lane kept his
nose out of until it was too late.
"No," Lane hesitated. "Nadja... Ms. Cooper checked for me.
Don't you trust her judgment?"
"Of course." Campbell's voice was like ice. He'd caught
Lane's momentary pause. He had known the geologist was obviously
taken with Nadia even before he had shaved his beard. But what
had been her response? Instead of asking that, however, he tried
to calm things down.
"I'm sorry. You're right. As it turned out the supplier's
records were incorrect. We made the trip for nothing."
"And that's the only reason you left?" Lane asked
"Of course. I apologize."
He stood up, hoping that the discussion was at an end. Lane
shook his head as if to say Campbell wasn't out of the woods
"You know what you're trouble is, Campbell? You're too
plausible. You've got an answer for everything. The words may be
right, but you're hiding something. And believe me, if you're in
somebody else's pocket. If you're going to try and jump this
claim for some other oil company, I'm going to tear you limb
from limb and dance on the pieces."
Campbell looked at him for a long moment. He had to tread
very carefully here.
"Have you shared your suspicions with Arcon?" he asked
"I considered it."
"Why didn't you?"
"There's no love lost between that company and me."
"As far as I can tell," Campbell smiled, "there's no love
lost between you and anybody."
"Maybe not. But you know as well as I do that I can't
afford to lose this project."
"Neither can I."
Lane snorted. "Should I believe that?"
"I wish you would."
"For the moment I don't seem to have any choice. If they
knew I was having problems, they might just yank me and send in
the second string. But I'm in charge from here on. You don't
shit without my okay. Because I swear I'll blow the whole deal
if you try any more funny business."
"You said you knew what would happen to you and your
"Fuck it, Campbell. I mean it. I can only be pushed so far.
You got that?"
Campbell nodded. He did.
The entire team (could that word any longer apply, Campbell
wondered?) met for dinner that evening and the meal was an
uneasy affair to say the least. There were strong undercurrents.
Some Campbell caught and understood. Others worried him more
than he cared to admit.
The riff between Eckstein and Lane had grown noticeably
since Campbell had last seen them together. He could tell some-
thing had happened while he and Lebeau were in New York, but not
what. Eckstein in particular was morose and uncommunicative,
smoking one cigarette after another and guzzling bourbon after
bourbon as if the drinks were iced tea.
When they had sat down at the table, Lane had moved to sit
beside Nadja, but she'd slipped quickly between Eckstein and
Lebeau. This should have told Campbell that nothing was doing on
between her and Lane. But if that were so, why avoid him so
pointedly? Lane had acted hurt and surprised when she'd moved.
Damn, Campbell thought to himself. He'd told himself when
he'd finally agreed for Lew to call Nadja that whatever her
feelings against him, or his for her, he could concentrate on
the job. She was the best at what she did. There should not have
been any problem. They were professionals after all. Yet as he
looked at her across the table and saw her sad eyes and shining
hair, memories stirred within him that he could not smother.
Brief moments alone beneath bright desert stars. He'd bared his
soul to her. He'd almost been trapped once more into caring too
But then the PLO agent had contacted him and made the
proposition. Jamshid Amat, himself, wanted Campbell to work with
them. Campbell had remained noncommittal for awhile, trying to
make some sense out of his relationship with Nadja. He had
finally decided that it would be much better for her if he went
away. People close to him tended to have bloody bad luck staying
He had made a phone call to an unlisted number in Tel Aviv
that he had remembered from his brief stint with MI6. Luckily it
was still operative. He agreed that Amat's proposition was a
chance he could not pass up. One week later he had contacted the
Palestinian agent. That night when Nadja came to his room, she
found it empty. Campbell had vanished as completely as if the
desert sand had swallowed him up.
Campbell wrenched his thoughts back to the present and
stared at Lebeau. The French Canadian was complaining loudly
about the food. Even the normally unflappable Lebeau was tense
and nervous. Campbell steadied himself, sipping at his wine. The
wrong word now and the mission could collapse like a house of
cards. For the remainder of the evening he did his utmost to
lighten the atmosphere.
At eight o'clock the party broke up. Campbell watched as
Lane took Nadja aside, grabbing her by the elbow, and spoke
quietly to her. She shook her head a couple of times, then
finally nodded. Lane hurried out, talking to no one else.
Campbell told each of the others to meet him in his room in ten
The last to arrive was Eckstein, clutching an unopened
bottle of bourbon by the neck, and puffing on a cigarette. He
slumped into a chair, held up the bottle, and grinned.
Attention then focused on Campbell, and he related what he
and Lebeau had discovered in New York. After he had finished,
there was silence as Eckstein and Nadja digested this new
information. Then Nadja spoke up.
"You have an address for this Alaskan Research and
Development Company?" she asked Campbell.
He nodded. "On Third. A few blocks over."
"Our supplies are at a storage company on Third," she
"The extra boxes arrive safely?"
She nodded and gestured at a paper sack by her chair.
"The hand guns I removed."
"Good. You can distribute them in a few minutes."
Eckstein took a swig from the bottle and wiped his mouth on
his sleeve. "This Alaskan Research Company definitely deserves a
"Right," Campbell agreed. "And it must be tonight. The
Arcon plane leaves for Wiseman at first light."
"Happily this first light is not so early!" piped in Le-
beau, his humor somewhat restored.
"Yeah, but how do we keep our fearless leader on ice?"
"What's been happening with you two, Gus?" Campbell asked
Eckstein avoided his eyes, pretending to find the label of
his bottle of bourbon fascinating reading.
"Nothin', Colonel. He rubs me the wrong way is all."
"Well, keep your temper under control. Fe need him."
"Will do." He drank deeply.
"And put that bottle away. I need you alert tonight."
Eckstein gave him a mock salute, but put the bottle down.
"I... I'm having a drink with Lane at nine tonight," Nadja
broke in. "This early your movements would not be noticed
perhaps. Later the streets become deserted..."
She could feel Campbell's eyes boring into her, but she
refused to return his look.
Finally Campbell gave up and nodded.
"Okay, Nadja. That's a good idea."
There was no response. Instead she reached for the paper
bag and extracted from it three hand guns. She lined them up
neatly on the coffee table beside boxes of cartridges.
There were two .45 caliber automatics for Campbell and
Eckstein. Lebeau, who hated guns with a Gallic passion, and who
had to be threatened with bodily harm if he didn't carry one,
picked up the tiny .22 caliber pistol. It was so small it could
fit under his glove and snuggle against his palm.
When Nadja arrived in the cocktail lounge Lane was waiting
for her at a table near the window. She sat opposite him and
they ordered from the waitress.
"You look beautiful," he said.
"Where are the others?"
There was an awkward silence as their drinks arrived. Lane
sipped at his before he began again.
"Nadja, you can tell me it's none of my business, but I've
got a job to do. You don't know what it's like up in those
mountains in the winter. This team has to work as a single unit
or we could all get killed. This thing between you and
"Please!" she interrupted him. "There is nothing between
us!" She looked into his eyes. "Is this really why you wish to
know? For the job?"
"No, not entirely."
She took a swallow of her drink and gazed out the window,
"Damn it, look at me!" She turned. "I'm not used to talking
with anybody, let alone a woman; let alone a woman that I... oh,
hell..." his voice trailed off.
"You have had a very lonely life in Labrador."
"No! I grew up in New York City. There I was lonely. Too
many people there... the crowds... I don't like people, I
guess," he concluded simply.
He caught her look.
"As a species," he quickly added. "Some individuals I can
"But no close ties. This is what you said that night."
"Yeah, I did say that, didn't I? I'm not being very fair,
am I? It was a hell of a lot easier to say before I met you. Now
I don't know."
She started to say something, but he didn't give her the
"Nadja, I can't stand that look in your eyes. I want to
help you if I can. I want to hear you laugh. And anybody can
tell that Campbell has something to do with your... despair is
the word that comes to mind. Please. Tell me why you hate him."
He waited for her reaction and was surprised to see her
"The more you talk, Harvard Lane, the better you talk. Do
you notice this? You have been out of practice, I think."
He sighed. "Fat lot of good it does me."
"I will tell you... something," she relented. "Perhaps you
are right. It will help to tell someone. Ian--" As she said it
the name sounded foreign on her lips. "Ian and I worked on a...
a project together in the Middle East."
"You were in love?"
She started to shake her head, then shrugged.
"We were lovers for a time. I thought I knew him. But then
he... he betrayed the... team."
She faltered, her lips quivering, then took a deep breath
and tried again.
"He went to work for another company, a company that was
determined we should not have what is rightfully ours. He cares
for the money only! He must!"
Lane stiffened. "You think he's doing that now? Working for
"Gus gave me his word. I trust him."
Lane thought about this, still not satisfied. He knew he
wasn't hearing the whole story. He wanted to believe her, but
she was obviously holding a lot back, both about Campbell and
about herself. He tried a different approach, hating himself.
But he had to know the truth.
"Was that after you were in the army?"
"Why do you ask that?"
"You learned to shoot in the army, didn't you?"
"Of course. Everyone in Israel is in the army. We are all
the army. This is how we survive."
She looked at him questioningly.
"I was just curious about when you had time to study
geology. You're not very old."
But she wouldn't be drawn out.
"You asked me of Campbell. He cannot be trusted," was all
He had a sudden, horrible thought.
"You've never studied geology in your life, have you?"
She visibly flinched. He started to press home the attack,
but stopped suddenly. He casually raised his glass to his lips
and peered over the top of it out the window. Nadja was shaken,
her head bowed. She couldn't see where he was looking.
Campbell, Lebeau and Eckstein were all talking on the other
side of the street. Eckstein lit a cigarette and they walked off
toward Barnette Street.
Lane lowered the glass and regarded Nadja calmly.
"Oh, I believe Campbell can't be trusted. But what about
you?" he asked quietly.
The temperature hovered around twenty below as the three
mercenaries made their way carefully along the icy sidewalk.
They were dressed as lightly as possible for the greatest
maneuverability: light windbreakers with sweaters beneath,
boots, gloves (not mittens), and the stocking caps that could be
pulled down over their faces like ski masks.
They passed several bars along what once must have been a
pretty lively stretch of First Street. Several, Campbell
noticed, were boarded up now, but the others were still loud and
boisterous. They turned south on Barnette Street.
There were still quite a few people on the streets for 9:30
on a sub-zero weekday night. As he had noted earlier, all cars,
whether in motion, stopped, or parked, were running; their
exhaust fumes making the chill night air hazy.
Campbell shook his head in dismay. "It's like some great
scientific experiment," he observed. "See how much carbon
monoxide a city can take before the people start dropping."
"I don't smell anything," Eckstein said, puffing on a
They turned east on Third Street and stopped at last
opposite their destination. The address Campbell had obtained
from the Hill, Birney and Wedgeworth offices was a four story
building. The bottom floor was a branch of the Alaskan National
Bank. It was brightly illuminated, but closed. They could see
cleaning people moving about inside and a watchman leaning
against a long counter.
The three stepped aside to let a group of loudly arguing
men in work clothes pass by.
"Crowded, ain't it?" remarked Eckstein.
Campbell scanned the roofs of the buildings on either side
but they were both much taller. He caught Lebeau's eye. The
little man shook his head.
Campbell found himself stomping his feet to keep them warm
and noticed the other two doing the same. When they were
stationary, the cold seemed to be able to squeeze the heat right
out of their bodies.
"The suite number was 405," he said. "In your country that
puts Alaskan Research on the top floor."
"Fire escape?" Eckstein asked.
"I will look," replied Lebeau.
He waited for a car to rattle past, then crossed the wide
street, heading for the alley on the west side of the building.
At the corner of Third and Barnette a tall figure in a
heavy parka with a ski mask pulled down over his face stood
watching Lebeau cross the street. When the French Canadian
stopped at the mouth of the alley to see if his actions were
arousing any undue interest, the figure had already ducked back
out of sight in a store doorway.
Lebeau saw several parked cars and here and there a few
pedestrians, but no one seemed to be paying him the slightest
attention. Satisfied, he walked nimbly over the ice-covered
surface of the alley, past a cluster of garbage cans, until he
was standing beneath a fire escape. A good leap from his tall
Colonel would bring down the ladder separating it from the
ground. He smiled.
In a room on the sixth floor of the building across the
alley from the bank, a stubby man was drinking a cup of soup
from a thermos and looking down into the alley through a night
scope. To him the dark alley was ablaze with an eerie green
light. He watched the little mouse of a man smile and chuckled
to himself. The mouse didn't realize he had just stuck his nose
into a nasty big trap.
He looked over his shoulder at his partner, a gangly bean
pole of an old so-and-so with a grizzled beard. He was speaking
into a telephone.
"Yeah," he said. "This is March at ARDC. We got some
activity over here."
Campbell and Eckstein saw Lebeau give them a sign from the
mouth of the alley. They crossed the street to join him.
The ski-masked figure in the store doorway waited until
they entered the alley before walking briskly up the street
toward the bank building.
In the cocktail lounge at the Chena River Hotel Nadja sat
alone at the table. She glanced impatiently at her watch. Lane
had been gone over fifteen minutes. She waved at a passing
"My friend has been a long time in the men's room," she
said to the waitress. "Will you have someone check that he is
The waitress smiled and nodded.
Nadja watched her speak to the bartender. He headed for the
Campbell leaped and caught the bottom rung of the ladder
with his gloved hands. There was a metallic screech as he
dragged it to the ground. They looked around, listened, but
apparently no one had heard.
The stubby man watched through the night scope as the three
men started to climb the fire escape, then he lowered the scope
and turned to his companion.
The second man, March, spoke into the phone.
"Fourth floor, all right. Three of 'em. Tell Mr. Hailey
looks like we got ourselves that bonus!" He listened for a few
He hung up the phone. "This is it, Gordy!" he chortled. "A
squad's on the way!"
He grabbed a pump shotgun lying on the desk and began
loading it. Gordy put down the night scope and lifted a rifle.
He caressed its barrel lovingly.
Lebeau worked his credit card magic on the fourth floor
window and the three mercenaries slipped inside. They started
down the hall past a grouping of vinyl furniture outside two
Campbell smiled to himself. Whatever the furniture was
actually used for, he could clearly picture an accumulation of
very nervous people sitting there waiting for the plumbing to
unfreeze. What's got into you, Campbell?, he thought. He was
feeling remarkably at ease, eager to penetrate Alaskan
Lebeau motioned for the other two to wait. He retraced his
steps and closed the window, grinning at Campbell.
Campbell nodded. No sense in repeating their mistakes. With
any luck if all went right they would be in and out in a few
They stopped outside of Suite 405. On the door were the
words: ALASKAN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, JOHN EDRAS,
Edras. The last letters on the appointment book in Birney's
office. Now to find out what sort of game this Mr. Edras was
Gordy and March came out of a door into the alley and
locked it behind them. They held their guns ready as they headed
for the side door beneath the fire escape.
At that moment the tall figure in the heavy parka and ski
mask that had been shadowing Campbell and the others reached the
alley. He saw the two men with guns before they noticed him, and
flattened himself on the ice behind the cluster of garbage cans.
"Shouldn't we wait for the others?" the one called Gordy
"We'll just take a looksee," responded March.
He drew a ring of keys from his pocket, selected one and
unlocked the door. They glided quietly inside.
After picking the lock on the office, Lebeau had remained
on guard in the hall. Campbell and Eckstein passed through a
good-sized reception room into an inner office. There they took
off their gloves and started to work.
While Eckstein held a flashlight, Campbell opened a file
and began flipping pages. He stopped at a list covering half a
page. Eckstein scratched his crewcut with his free hand.
"What're all those other companies?" he asked.
"It appears as if Alaskan Research is a holding company,
Gus," Campbell explained. "It owns these others."
His finger skimmed down the list:
ARCTIC MINERALOGICAL SERVICES
ALASKAN LABOR ASSOCIATES
There were quite a few more, but Campbell couldn't see how
they might be connected with the matter at hand. What he needed
was some proof that Edras was the man buying Arcon Oil stock. He
continued to search other files.
"Where does that get us?" Eckstein wanted to know.
"I'm not sure. The president of Alaskan Research just might
be the lad who's buying up all that Arcon Oil stock on the sly.
This Mr. Edras must be a very rich man, Gus. We're talking about
thousands of shares. Unless..."
Before Campbell could answer Lebeau trotted to the door of
the office, his tiny gun clutched in his fist.
"Watchman?" Campbell asked him.
Lebeau shook his head, obviously puzzled.
"Two men. Shotgun and rifle.°"
Campbell stared at him. "Coming up here?"
"On the inside stairs."
Could spies of the FELA somehow have tracked them here?
That didn't make any sense. But Campbell had no time to ponder
the possibilities. They killed the light and moved fast through
the reception room into the hall.
The fire escape window was open. Lebeau stopped dead and
pointed at it, searching behind the vinyl furniture in the hall
with his eyes.
"Merde!" he hissed. "There was another somewhere!"
Campbell and Eckstein pulled out their guns.
"Who?" asked Eckstein, getting confused.
At that moment the door to the inside stairs began to edge
open. All three reacted instantly, diving for the open window.
Eckstein crouched behind a chair to give the other two covering
fire if necessary. And it was.
March peeked around the corner of the door in time to see
Campbell and Lebeau climbing out of the window. He jumped into
the center of the hall, not seeing Eckstein, and bellowed:
"Okay, assholes! Freeze!"
Eckstein's bullets etched a careful pattern in the wall
behind his head. March hit the floor with a jarring thud that
knocked the breath out of him, and the shotgun spun out of his
hands. Eckstein was out the window before Gordy's first rifle
bullet cracked through the glass above his head.
"Aw, shit, March! They're gettin' away!" Gordy cried.
"The hell they are!"
March retrieved his shotgun and they raced to the window.
The door of the Ladies' Room opened softly behind them and
Harvard Lane peered out, his ski mask now pulled up.
As he watched the two men fire out the window he tried to
figure out what in hell he had gotten himself into. When he had
seen the three men Nadja had said were resting go off up the
street, he had postponed his questions and excused himself. And
here he was hiding in another restroom! When he had seen where
they were headed, he had decided that Campbell and company were
nothing more than robbers using his team as a cover, as
farfetched as that sounded. Now he wasn't so sure. Who were
these two maniacs shooting at them anyway?
Campbell and Lebeau were already on the ground when
Eckstein landed behind them and executed a sloppy tuck and roll.
Bullets and buckshot from the window spattered the brick wall
beyond him. Lebeau opened up on the window.
March and Gordy ducked down. Lane saw them shaking with
what looked like equal parts fright and bluster. Their backs
were to him as they tried to peek over the window sill, so Lane
slipped into the hall, eased the restroom door closed behind
him, and cat-footed it down the hall away from them. He opened
the door to the inside stairs and risked one more glance in
their direction. They hadn't noticed him. He started down the
Campbell and Lebeau reached the mouth of the alley. Lebeau
fired again at the window and there was the tinkle of broken
glass. Campbell checked the street, feeling the cold already
beginning to numb the bare hand that gripped the gun. The other
hand he stuffed into his pocket.
Several bystanders, having heard the shooting, were
cautiously approaching the alley, trying to get a look at what
was going on. But when they saw Campbell they scattered and ran
for cover. He scanned the street. It looked deserted. He was
about to turn and tell the others that the coast was clear when
he heard the rumble of heavy engines and two big trucks came
sliding around the corners: one at Barnette Street, the other
three or four blocks down Third in the other direction.
They pulled across both lanes, blocking traffic, and
effectively sealing off that portion of the street. Then
Campbell watched incredulously as dozens of men, armed with a
wide range of weapons from shotguns to sledgehammers piled out
of the backs of the trucks.
Campbell pressed back against the brick wall out of sight
of the trucks, his mind racing, as the new arrivals began moving
warily toward the bank building from both ends of the street.
"What the bloody hell's going on?'° Campbell muttered.
Eckstein leaped behind the trash cans as the two gunmen on
the fourth floor risked another fusillade of shots.
"Colonel? Let's get hoppin'!"
But Campbell shook his head.
"We're trapped. It looks like an army of them!"
Some of the men in the street began firing randomly into
the alley. Encouraged by the sound of reinforcements Gordy
leaned out of the fourth floor window and drew a bead on the
little guy. Lebeau shot him neatly in the shoulder.
"Stupid amateurs!" he fumed, launching into a stream of
Gordy fell back into March's arms howling in pain.
Beyond the truck blocking Third Street at Barnette a crowd
was gathering. On the fringe of this crowd was Nadja. As she
watched, a police car screeched up and two uniformed officers
jumped out. Before they could get a word in, rifles were leveled
at them from all sides.
"Sorry, boys," one gunman told them as they were quickly
disarmed. The crowd of onlookers gasped in wonder.
"Are you Hailey's men?" one of the policemen asked him
"That's right, so just relax."
"You'll never get away with this!"
"We gotta protect ourselves! We got that right!" the gunman
yelled back at him. "And we got three a them A-rab terrorists
cornered in there and we're gonna take care of them, too!"
"Arab terrorists?" the officer turned to his partner.
"First I heard of it," was the baffled reply..
But on the edge of the crowd Nadja stood, stunned by what
she had just heard. She looked at the gunmen, and at the
officers, then past the truck to where the blaze of gunfire
echoed down the street. She turned to a big man in a heavy coat
and ear muffs standing next to her.
"Excuse me, please. Who is this Mr. Hailey?"
The man turned and saw the nice-looking lady standing
beside him. A little dark maybe, for his tastes, but not bad.
"He's a right fine man, lady," he told her. "He's the
president of the local Drivers' union. Or I suppose you could
say he's almost the president of Alaska!" he chuckled.
"These men with the guns are workers?"
"Yep, I got my card, too, though there ain't too much
drivin' left to do..." He looked her over carefully. Say, he
thought, she had kind of a funny accent, and was kind of
foreign-looking to boot.
"You're an A-rab, too, aren't you!" he accused her
She stared at him, taken completely by surprise. He grabbed
her arm and looked toward the gunmen, opening his mouth to yell.
She realized his intention at once and lashed out. A quick flat
punch to the stomach and the yell was only a weak gurgle of
pain. An elbow to the chin as it lowered in reaction to the
first blow put the big man on the ice before he knew what had
happened. He sat there, shaking his head groggily as the dark
lady slipped quietly away.
Campbell and Eckstein crouched behind a flimsy barricade
they had erected from the trash cans. Since the contents of the
cans was frozen solid they should have afforded adequate
protection. Unfortunately the pavement of the alley, like
everything else in the general vicinity was coated with a thick
layer of ice.
And they soon discovered that as a can was struck by a
bullet, it had a tendency to skim across the ice either into one
of the men hiding behind it or, what was worse, the can could go
careening away as if it were a pin hit by a bowling ball,
exposing one of the mercenaries, who then had to scramble for
Lebeau had his back to them, crouched behind his own can.
He concentrated on the fourth floor window from which he could
hear moans of pain.
Campbell quickly assessed their situation. It was decidedly
unpromising. Since the alley ended in a cul-de-sac they didn't
need to worry about attack from that direction, but there were
plenty of windows that looked down on them. And as soon as their
attackers realized that, their position would be indefensible.
The alley being a dead end also meant that it they didn't come
up with something pretty fast, they were pinned down for the
duration of the battle.
Lane reached the bottom of the stairs and found himself in
a hallway running from east to west the entire width of the
building. Beyond a partly open door at the west end of the hall
the sound of firing reached him. At the other end of the hall
was an identical door, closed tight. Ahead of him were double
glass doors leading into the bank proper. He charged through
them into the light.
Cleaning people, who had been crouching in terror behind
the desks and counters, thought they were now being attacked
from the rear and scattered, screaming. But at the end of one
counter a watchman stood, gun drawn.
"Hold it right there, mister," he warned.
Gunfire continued to rattle in the street and both he and
Lane, their feet bolted to the floor, cautiously crouched down
behind the counter, neither one taking his eyes off the other.
"Let me try to explain..." Lane began.
The watchman waited.
Lane thought for a moment, then shook his head and smiled
The watchman waved the gun and Lane slowly raised his
In the distance police sirens were wailing as the army of
gunmen was now spread out, inching from car to car, doorway to
doorway, converging on the besieged alley.
Eckstein fired as Campbell reloaded. The stocky man shook
"This is too much like Muanda, fellas. Who are these guys
"Whoever they are, they seem to own the city. So they're
definitely not the FELA," Campbell replied and fired again.
Lebeau watched the fourth floor window for any sign of
"At least one does not feel the cold when he is so
occupied!" he noted, shivering in spite of his words.
"We're almost out of ammunition," said Campbell, then he
remembered something. "Third Street. Our hardware's around here
someplace, isn't it?"
Eckstein's face lit up. "Four or five buildings east on the
other side of the street, Colonel! Just before the end of the
block! Shit!" he added, grabbing for the trash can that was
spinning away from him.
"That is a long distance on this street," Lebeau sighed.
Campbell turned and looked at the wall at the end of the
alley. No escape route had magically materialized since he had
last looked. Then his eyes fell on the door beneath the fire
escape. It was slightly ajar. The gunmen on the fourth floor had
given them a way out. Perhaps.
"Let's head back through the bank building and out into the
alley on the other side," he proposed, letting off a couple
shots that sent bodies flying for cover.
Eckstein frowned. "I don't remember that there is an alley
on the other side."
"Let's try it. We can't stop here much longer."
Eckstein and Lebeau both nodded. March fired at them from
the window. Eckstein snapped off two rounds, driving him back
inside. They fired a few more shots into the street to keep the
unknown army honest, then dashed for the door, and dove through.
The three mercenaries raced down the hall toward the door
at the far end, but at the glass double doors Campbell skidded
to a halt.
Through them he could see Harvard Lane, hands above his
head, crouching awkwardly behind a counter, covered by the
watchman. Campbell stared at him. Where the hell had he come
from? Campbell wondered.
"Eckstein and Lebeau stopped by the door at the other end
of the hall.
"Colonel!" whispered Eckstein frantically. "Come on!"
But Campbell held up his hand, motioning them to wait
there. As much as he might want to, he couldn't leave Lane
behind now. If they ever got out of this, he was still the only
man who could guide them.
A line of jagged gunfire stitched its way across the front
window of the bank, and the glass collapsed with a shattering
roar. A cleaning woman screamed. Lane saw her clutch at her side
where a flower of red was rapidly blooming. Then she fell,
knocking over a pail of soapy water. Her blood mixed with the
white water as it spread across the floor.
Lane felt helpless rage rise within him. Campbell was
responsible for this. He made a move to help the woman, but the
watchman made a warning sound deep in his throat and Lane froze.
Suddenly bullets thudded into the counter behind which they
were huddled. Both Lane and the watchman dove for cover,
distracted from their confrontation. When Lane looked up again
he saw Campbell beckoning to him through the interior glass
doors. He glanced at the watchman. The man was no longer looking
at him. In fact he had his eyes squeezed shut, and the gun was
nowhere to be seen.
All right, Campbell, he thought. Here I come. He hit the
glass doors in three strides and launched himself at the
Campbell ducked, but he was off balance and Lane's fist
connected with a jarring crack, slamming him back against the
wall. Another fist landed on his head before he could push Lane
away and level the gun at him.
"That way," he gestured. "Now."
He herded Lane down the hall to join the other two waiting
by the door.
Part of the army had reached the garbage can barricade.
Shoving the cans out of their way they went charging down the
alley, firing indiscriminately, and yelling war cries at the top
of their lungs.
March leaned out of the window and yelled down at them.
"Inside! They went inside!"
But with all the shouting and confusion, his wild, bearded
face sure looked like an A-rab terrorist. They opened fire.
March ducked down as bullets shattered what remained of the
"Jesus!" He turned to his partner.
"You okay, Gordy?"
"I'm dyin'!" Gordy wailed.
March pulled his hand away to examine the wound through the
torn and bloody shirt.
"It's just your shoulder, Gordy. I gotta go after them
He ran down the hall to the stairs.
"I'm dyin'!" Gordy shouted after him, but March was gone,
and he was alone.
The door to the bank building burst open. Eckstein and
Lebeau came out into the second alley fast, guns ready, but the
alley was deserted, a cul-de-sac duplicate of the first with one
tiny difference that Eckstein noticed right away.
"No more doors," he remarked sadly.
It was true. Not even a fire escape. They faced a solid
brick wall. Campbell and Lane followed them into the alley and
Campbell swung the heavy fire door shut behind them.
Lebeau looked at Lane, impressed. "You came through the
window. So quiet."
Lane said nothing.
"Looks as if it's the street," Campbell said.
"I'm surrendering," Lane decided. "I'm not involved in any
"Oh, you're not," Campbell nodded. "I see. And to whom do
you plan to surrender? Those clowns out there aren't the police.
"Who are they?"
"I don't know," Campbell admitted. "But I do know they'll
shoot you right out from under a white flag."
Suddenly the door flew open and March, off balance,
stumbled into their midst. Lebeau wrenched the shotgun out of
his hands, and Eckstein pinned his arms to his sides.
"We takin' prisoners, Colonel?" he asked seriously.
March looked from Eckstein to Campbell, fear clouding his
eyes. Things weren't going at all as he had planned.
"Yes," Campbell decided. Lane was giving him a funny look
and for a moment he thought the geologist was going to take
another swing at him.
But Lane was only trying to figure out why Eckstein had
addressed Campbell as "Colonel."
Campbell led the group to the end of the alley and looked
out into the street. In part they were lucky. Most of the army
had congregated in or near the alley on the western side of the
building. The immediate area looked clear. But the two big
trucks were still manned at either end of the block.
Down the street in the direction of Barnette a late model
station wagon was burning, sending a black, oily cloud skyward.
This reminded Campbell of something. Sure enough, parked at the
curb less than thirty feet away was an SUV, its motor running,
and its owner nowhere to be seen.
Campbell blessed the cold and turned back to the
"Marcel, you keep an eye on our prisoners." When he
said that last word he looked Lane straight in the eye to
make sure he understood. Then he went on.
"Gus, thirty feet east of here an SUV is parked at the
"Transport!" Eckstein grinned, and ran into the
street, keeping low.
The army was now starting to filter back out into the
street. There was a shout as someone saw Eckstein, and they
opened fire. Two blocks to the east, men guarding the
second truck opened up as well. Campbell couldn't believe
his eyes. Properly handled it might have been a murderous
crossfire, but the two groups were actually on a line with
each other. There were screams of outrage and agony as men
went down, shot by their own comrades.
Eckstein smashed the window on the passenger side of
the SUV with the butt of his .45, then he reached in and
unlocked the door. He jumped in and slid across the seat.
"Now!" Campbell yelled, as the car reversed, tires
spinning on the ice. It ploughed backward and lurched to a
halt directly in front of the alley.
Lebeau leaped in the back and Campbell roughly shoved
March and Lane in after him. Then he jumped into the
passenger seat and slammed the door.
Eckstein shifted gears and the car fishtailed away
from the curb. Bullets punched into the metal work and
starred the windshield. The others ducked, but Eckstein did
not wince, keeping his eyes locked on the road.
"Hang on!" he yelled.
The car made a swerving left turn, crossed the street,
and jumped the other curb, racing right at a huge wooden
garage door with the words, CREIGHTON STORAGE AND TRANSFER
CO. painted on it. The car hit the door solidly and the
wood splintered, but the door held.
Cursing, Eckstein jerked the transmission into reverse
and tore the smashed bumper free as steam began to pour
from under the hood.
The back wheels bounced down into the street as a
literal hail of bullets began pelting into the car.
Eckstein jammed the Chevy back into first gear. The back
wheels spun futilely in the gutter.
"Come on, ya goddamn pile a tin!" he roared. The tires
finally caught hold and the car lurched up over the curb
again, crashing into and this time through the garage door.
Inside the warehouse everybody piled out of the
demolished car. Eckstein gestured at several crates stacked
to one side and Campbell headed for them. Then Eckstein
covered March and Lane.
Lebeau, armed with March's shotgun, besides his tiny
pistol, hurried to the smashed door and began firing into
Lane leaned against the car and shook his head
When Campbell reached the crates he found that one of
them was already open. It had at one time contained two
Schutz and Larson high-powered hunting rifles which fired
the small six millimeter shells that Nadja preferred. One
of the rifles and its twelve-power Leopold scope were
Campbell attacked a square crate with a crowbar and
ripped the lid off. Packed carefully in Styrofoam pellets
were two-dozen hand grenades.
Gunmen stationed at the truck near Barnette Street
were now engaged in a pitched battle with newly arrived
forces of the law, crouching behind four police cars. The
crowd of onlookers had miraculously vanished. The ranking
police officer on the scene put in a call to Ft. Wainright
for National Guard reinforcements.
The rest of the gunmen were cautiously moving from car
to car toward the warehouse with the smashed door.
Lane watched, astounded, as Campbell opened a third
crate and lifted two AK-47 automatic assault rifles from
their grease-lined cloth. He then loaded curving magazines
from another box into both.
Campbell jogged over to the door and held one out to
Lebeau. The little man shrugged philosophically.
"If one must resort to such crudity," he beamed, "he
must at least have a weapon worthy of the name!" He tossed
the shotgun aside and pocketed the .22, holding out his
arms for the assault rifle.
Lane shifted his weight and Eckstein growled at him.
"Try something, please!" he begged.
Campbell left Lebeau in the door and walked over to
Eckstein with the second AK-47.
"At first I thought you were just a spy for another
oil company," Lane told him. "Then at the bank I thought
you were robbers, now... you're Mafia, right?"
March sneered. "Naw, they're A-rabs."
Campbell stared at the bearded man. Behind him Lebeau
was firing quick bursts into the street.
"Arabs?" Campbell repeated blankly.
"Do I look like an Arab, ya silly bastard!" Eckstein
yelled at March.
"I ain't sayin' nothin'."
"Gus, help Marcel," Campbell ordered, handing him the
second weapon. "There are extra clips in the crate."
Eckstein grabbed the rifle and trotted over to the
crates, scooping up an armload of loaded magazines. Then he
joined Lebeau at the door, still keeping one ear cocked on
Campbell turned to March.
"Who are you?"
Lane was startled. If Campbell didn't know who the guy
with the beard was and the guy with the beard didn't know
who ampbell was, why was everybody shooting at everybody
else? What was going on here?
"Who are you?" Campbell repeated.
"March, Max. 764... 29... 661."
"God," muttered Lane. "He's in the army!"
Eckstein fired a burst into the street and yelled over
"That ain't no army serial number! I was a goddamn
demolitions sergeant, for Chrissake!"
"It's my union card number," March admitted sullenly.
"But that's all I got to say."
Campbell stared at him uncomprehendingly, but Lane was
at last starting to make some sense out of what March was
"You're one of... what did I hear they called it?
Hailey's militia? It really exists?" he asked.
But March just pressed his lips tightly together like
a little boy who doesn't want to take his medicine.
Campbell looked at Lane. "You mind letting me in on
"It's supposed to be a sort of private vigilante army
formed to protect union workers and company property. I
thought it was just a story made up to scare off
Campbell couldn't believe what he was hearing. He
gritted his teeth.
"Do you mean you are playing at soldiers?"
Eckstein trotted back to the crates for fresh maga-
zines and a supply of hand grenades. March saw the grenades
and nearly choked.
"Those are my buddies out there!" he wailed.
Eckstein turned and grinned at him. "If ya don't know
how to swim, stay outta the water."
He lobbed a grenade into the street and a car
exploded, going up in a roar of flames. A half-dozen men
hiding behind it went racing for other cover, slipping and
sliding in the icy street. The first one fell and the
others stumbled into him. The whole bunch collapsed in a
pile of twisted limbs and shouted oaths.
Inside the warehouse Lane casually checked the damage
to the car as Campbell continued questioning March. Steam
rose from the crumpled radiator in thick clouds and a
sluggish lake of oil was spreading out from underneath.
"What about the police and the National Guard? Hell,
there are U.S. Army troops up here!" Campbell raged.
March snorted and spat on the floor.
"This is the frontier, Campbell," Lane explained. "The
Guard and the Army have no civilian jurisdiction unless
expressly ordered during a civil emergency."
"That's right!" March agreed. "And there ain't enough
police in the whole damn state! What're we supposed to do?"
Lane continued. "Right or wrong Hailey felt there
wasn't enough law and order. The story was he'd gotten the
oil companies' under-the-table approval to equip an extra
security force. Arcon probably financed it and slipped him
a little besides."
"That's a damn lie!" March sputtered. "Mr. Hailey
don't take no payoffs from nobody!"
"You call this disorganized band of hooligans a
security force?" Campbell wanted to know.
Lane shrugged. "They seem to have gotten a little
Campbell turned back to March. "But why were you
watching that bank? What does that have to do with
protecting union property?"
"Not the bank," the bearded man whined. "ARDC."
In the street the army was moving closer. One gunman
peeked over the top of a car. There was the crack of a
single shot and he was thrown fifteen feet backward through
a glass window.
On the roof of the Creighton Storage warehouse Nadja
lay in the prone position, scanning the street through the
After hitting the big ape who had grabbed her, she'd
made her way along Third, knowing that the others were
going to need additional fire power to get out of there
alive. Since the union army's attention was centered on the
bank building and the alley to the west of it, she had been
able to kick in a small door to the office of Creighton
Storage and slip inside unnoticed.
There she'd commandeered one of her prized Schutz and
Larsons and filled her pockets with ammunition as the
battle stormed in the street outside. At the back of the
warehouse she had found a ladder leading to a trap door in
the roof. She'd slung the rifle over her shoulder and
On the roof she had a clear view of the situation, but
by that time the mercenaries were no longer in the alley
behind the trash cans, so she waited to see what developed.
When they'd commandeered the car, she noted unhappily
that somehow Harvard had stumbled into the thick of things.
There was also a bearded man with them that she didn't
She was sure they would try to break through one of
the barricades. There was room for a car on the sidewalks.
But when they had headed for the building beneath her
instead, she understood. Ian wouldn't leave the supplies
behind. Their carefully laid plans might be crumbling, but
for Ian the mission would come first. He was improvising
now and despite herself, she approved.
Nadja fired and another soldier was picked up by the
high velocity bullet and tossed aside like a toy.
Eckstein saw the man go down and glanced at Lebeau.
"You hit him?"
Lebeau shook his head. There was the crack of another
shot and Eckstein identified its source. From the accuracy
of the shooting he knew who was up there, too.
"Nadja's on the roof!" he yelled at Campbell.
"Nadja?" Lane whispered the name. In the excitement he
had assumed she was still back at the hotel. How much time
had passed since they'd been sitting there together? But
now he realized his assumption was foolish. Whatever these
people were up to, she was a part of it. Her job had been
to keep him occupied. When he'd slipped out to follow the
three men he'd seen through the window, she'd waited a
short time, guessed what had happened and come after him.
And now she was up there on the roof shooting men as calmly
as she had shot the rabbit.
Campbell looked over the car, but Lane saw him and
shook his head.
Campbell searched the warehouse and spotted a heavy
truck parked against the back wall. He yelled to Eckstein.
"Gus! Get Nadja down here and load the supplies in the
back of that truck! Move!"
Eckstein ran toward a ladder that rose above the
crates and boxes at the back of the warehouse.
Campbell turned to March.
"Okay, why ARDC?"
"Don't you know?" March asked, surprised.
Campbell's patience was at an end.
"They own Alaskan Labor Associates, of course!
Everybody knows that!"
"I'm new around here. What is Alaskan Labor
"It's like an interstate employment agency. You know,
it places workers on the pipeline. Or did, anyway. And we
protect our own! It's one of the places we guard, that's
all, from Commies and A-rabs and stuff wantin' to shut down
the pipeline. Hell, there are terrorists everywhere these
days. Ya can't be too careful!"
He realized that he had been talking too much.
"I ain't sayin' nothin' else!" he added defiantly.
But Campbell was busy digesting the information he had
just learned. ARDC was becoming quite a Pandora's Box.
Eckstein had reached the top of the ladder. He stuck
his head through the trap door in the roof and shouted at
Nadja. She followed him back down the ladder, as he
explained what she was to do.
She raced across the warehouse to the crates and
replaced her rifle. Eckstein jumped in the cab of the
truck, found the keys on the floor beneath the driver's
seat, and turned the engine over. Nothing happened. He
tried again, taking care not to flood it. After a few
seconds the engine caught and shook itself awake. Eckstein
At the smashed door Lebeau, now without Nadja's
assistance, was fighting a losing battle, overwhelmed by
the sheer numbers of those against him, not their
expertise. He ducked down as a barrage of bullets barely
missed him, smacking into the boxes and crates that filled
"I cannot hold them much longer, Colonel!" he cried.
Lane stared at Campbell. There was that word "Colonel"
"Which army do you belong to?"
Campbell smiles at him grimly. "My own," he said.
Eckstein drove the big truck forward until its nose
lightly touched what was left of the SUV's grille. Leaving
its motor running, he jumped down. Nadja unhooked the back
doors, and threw them open. They began to load the
Lane watched her as she worked swiftly, moving boxes
to the back of the truck where Eckstein hoisted them
"Nadja?" he called.
She looked at him briefly, her sad eyes liquid, but
she was silent. She hurried to get another box. He turned
to find Campbell staring at him, a frown on his face. The
man's jealous, Lane thought. God, what a mess.
"Will you help us?" Campbell asked him.
"Who are you?"
"Those idiots outside are not the law. They will not
be asking any questions."
"I'm sure if they were, you'd have the answers," Lane
glared back at him.
"You're coming one way or the other."
Campbell raised his .45.
Lane exploded. "I'm getting so goddamn tired of people
pointing guns at me!"
"I'm trying to save your life!" Campbell bellowed.
Lane gestured at March. "What about him?"
"He stays here. Unharmed."
Lane kicked at the tire of the battered automobile. "I
don't seem to have much choice... again..." He turned to
Nadja, who was struggling with one end of the grenade
crate. Eckstein had the other.
"Nadja?" Lane asked her. "Do I trust him now? Should I
be one of Mr. Campbell's puppets?"
Eckstein looked for a moment like he would throw the
whole crate of grenades at Lane and be done with it once
and for all. Instead he grinned.
"If you don't, geologist, you're dead."
Lane waited, but Nadja remained silent. He turned back
to Campbell as she and Eckstein moved around to the back of
"Colonel!" Lebeau yelled. "Two minutes more and they
are on us!"
He was crouched behind a crate, raising the AK-47 over
his head and blindly spraying the street beyond the hole as
the door itself fell in chunks, shot away by the blistering
assault now leveled on it.
"In the morning we go to the authorities and get this
straightened out," Lane said to Campbell. "Agreed?"
There was a loud thud and then another from the rear
of the warehouse. Eckstein turned as he shoved the last
crate on the truck. Another thud, and he could see the back
door buckle and begin to split. He handed his assault rifle
to Nadja and she leaped agilely into the back. Eckstein
headed for the cab.
"All aboard!" he shouted.
March turned toward the truck and Campbell clipped him
solidly on the back of the head with his gun. The man
crumpled at his feet.
"You sadistic son of a bitch!" Lane hollered at him.
"It's for his own good," Campbell shouted back, unable
to hear himself above the increasing din in the warehouse.
"Now he won't be running around when they come busting in
From the back of the truck Nadja sprayed the rear door
with bullets and the battering ceased, but there were
shouts from the office area, where the gunmen had found the
door she'd kicked in.
Still seething, Lane climbed into the cab next to
Eckstein. Campbell slid in beside him.
"Marcel!" he yelled.
Somehow the little man heard him. "Ready!" he
responded, slamming a new magazine into place.
Eckstein put the truck in gear and slowly pushed the
car back through the shattered door into the street. As the
truck crashed through, enlarging the opening, Lebeau leaped
to one side and Nadja pulled him up into the back. The
open doors flapped back and forth.
She could see figures moving behind the crates stacked
near the office and she opened up on them. The crates
disintegrated under the onslaught, pieces flying into the
air. She heard someone scream.
The SUV rolled for a few feet, thumped off the curb
and smashed into a car parked directly across the street.
That car was burning out of control. Almost immediately the
SUV caught and went up in a whoosh of flames.
Eckstein spun the wheel and the truck slid sideways,
threatening to add itself to the conflagration, then its
tires gained purchase. Tires screeching and smoking, it
finally began picking up speed, heading in the direction of
Gunmen scattered in all directions, firing wildly and
shouting. A couple of stray bullets smacked through the
front windshield and embedded themselves in the back of the
cab inches from Campbell's head.
He pulled the pin on a grenade and tossed it out the
window at another parked car. There was a tremendous
concussion as the car became a shooting pyre of flames.
At the end of the street, the men there saw the truck
gather speed and head right for them. They left off
shooting at the police. Caught between the proverbial rock
and a hard place, they did the only sane thing they could.
They screamed and ran for their lives.
The truck leaped the curb and barreled along the
sidewalk. Its left wheels slipped back into the gutter, and
Nadja and Lebeau scrambled away from the shifting crates in
the back. Lane thought they were going to tip over.
But Eckstein turned into the street. For a moment they
wobbled on two wheels, then it slammed back down on all
four. It struck the union truck a glancing blow near the
front, slewing it around in a circle on the ice like a top.
Now it was the policemen's turn to run for safety as
the truck crashed through a narrow gap between the two
center cars. These crumpled up like tinfoil and ricocheted
off the outer two, creating a heap of twisted, smoking
Bullets whistling after him, Eckstein sent the truck
racing down Barnette in what was little more than a semi-
controlled skid. Soon the truck's thundering engine grew
faint to the policemen's ears and then it was lost
One look at their cars told the police that pursuit
was useless for the time being, so they turned to the task
of rounding up the thoroughly disorganized union militia.
After a short while they were finally joined by a convoy of
National Guard from Ft. Wainwright and the situation was
gradually brought under control.
Isolated fires still blazed here and there along the
street. But the fire department, battling water that froze
almost as soon as it left the nozzles of the hoses, managed
at last to subdue them. Rubble and wreckage still dotted
the ruined street. Scattered bodies were attended to
wherever they could be found.
The Battle of Fairbanks, as the newspapers were later
to call it, was over. Casualties were high: ten dead and
twenty-three wounded. Gordy and March both survived to
spend time in prison. Among the dead were eight members of
the union extra security force (three of them killed by
their fellow vigilantes), one policeman, and a cleaning
woman employed by the Alaskan National Bank of Fairbanks.