The deep crimson sunset filled the sky with its fingers, bathing the uppermost floors of the city's great glass towers with a faint red light. It was a harsh sunset, of the kind much beloved of film directors and visionary cameramen; the kind that poets were known to have written whole sonnets in the praise of, and hallucinating abusers of a myriad forms of illicit substances dreamt of, in that half-awake time of greatest dreaming. Tyrone Earl, who was watching it from the rooftop of a building in his home town of New York, was not concerned with any of the more romantic aspects of the evening - just in the gradual descent of a splendid bald eagle that was currently gliding across the magnificently descending sun. It screeched a welcome when it saw him, and he raised a hand in greeting; whereupon the bird dipped low its head, swooped down towards him, and performed a flawless landing on the floor at his feet. Tyrone grinned down at it, resisting the temptation to pat it on the head.

"Nice landing, pal." In answer he received a second shriek, followed by an insistent cawing sound that suggested the bird was trying to communicate with him on a more or less equal basis. The broad wings flapped, the head stretched up on its strong, feathered neck; and before his experienced, yet still marvelling eyes, the bird became a man. It wings narrowed and thickened all at once; its face broadened and widened and lost its distinctive, curved features; its sharp talons and scaled feet became the longer, rounder, expensively leather-clad feet of a human being. Brushing off his immaculate suit, Jonathon Chase straightened himself up, ran a hand through his neat, blond hair, and offered Tyrone a cheerful grin.

"Beautiful sunset," he observed merrily. Tyrone nodded.

"Sure is."

"Any messages?"

"The guy next door wants to know why he keeps hearing so many animal noises. I didn't like to tell him what you've got a license to keep in this place. Other than that, no."

"Jolly good." Straightening his tie, a process which required its precisely formed knot to be moved a bare millimetre to the right, Jonathon headed for the door. "Tea, in that case I think." Tyrone glared at his erect, neat, and stubbornly British back.

"You're not going to tell me, are you," he muttered, glowering quietly. "You're going to make me ask."

"My dear fellow I don't know what you mean." There was a teasing sparkle in Jonathon's eyes as he led the way down from the roof.

"Oh come on Jonathon. What did you see? Where did you go? Are we on to something here?"

"I followed her across town, to a little place I'd never seen before. A hotel called City Inn. Charming little establishment."

"Yeah, I know it." Tyrone led the way through the door heading back towards the living room. "The kind of place where they charge you per cockroach rather than per day. I spent the night there once, and it took at least a fortnight to recover from the experience." He frowned, as though suddenly thinking of something which had not occurred to him before. "What was she doing there?"

"She met with somebody." As they reached the lounge, Jonathon headed for the large white sofa which dominated a whole section of the room. He sat down, stretching out his long legs, staring up at Tyrone with the bright, intense stare that told his old friend they were about to embark on something interesting. "An older man, about fifty-ish at a guess. Something about him looked familiar."

"Familiar how? Familiar as in you-might-have-met-him-before familiar? Or you've-seen-his-face-on-the-news familiar?"

"More like I-think-I've-seen-him-on-a-wanted-poster familiar. There was something about him - like I'd seen him with a lot of numbers hanging on a card round his neck, but I just can't be sure. I suppose it calls for a visit from Brooke and her gallery of mug shots." He winced. "Not exactly my idea of an enthralling afternoon, but a man has to make these sacrifices occasionally."

"And when those sacrifices call for a little time spent alone with Brooke McKenzie, it all becomes a little easier to bear." Tyrone smirked to himself. "I've got to hand it to you, buddy. You never fail to smell a rat."

"It was you who made me suspicious. You were the one who pointed out that she's been hanging around outside some of the buildings along here." Jonathon rose to his feet, heading towards the kitchen area in search of something vaguely tea-like. He raised his voice slightly to continue with the conversation. "I had a talk with her actually, about a week ago. She's quite charming. Knows London rather well."

"Oh, well then obviously she can't be the criminal type." Tyrone grinned, taking up Jonathon's former position of contented prostration on the soft white sofa. He stretched his legs out. "Maybe it's you she's after. She's really a rival animal behavioural scientist, maybe from Princeton or Yale, and she's looking to take you out so she can win Animal Behavioural Scientist Of The Year. Or something."

"Yeah. Or something." Jonathon wandered back towards him, toying with a teapot. "It's weird. I know I've seen that guy before somewhere. I just can't figure out where."

"Don't worry about it. Brooke will come round tomorrow, you can go through the mug shots together, and you'll soon get your answer. Just goes to show that when in doubt of a suspicious neighbour, it's always a good idea to put a large bald eagle on her trail."

Jonathon grinned. "You think I should hire myself out?"

"You'd be a sure-fire hit at parties. And I would love to see the TV commercials."

"I'll bet." His tea and his teapot apparently forgotten, Jonathon slumped into the nearest chair, tipping his head back against the cushions in order to gaze thoughtfully at the ceiling. "I wonder who that guy was."

"It'll come to you." Tyrone didn't sound too concerned. "Hey, maybe we've hit on something really big. Think about it. 'Vigilant citizens uncover major international spying ring'."

"More like 'Bored citizens uncover major interior design ring'. I mean think about it. All that we've seen so far is a young woman gaining access to a lot of expensive housing. That doesn't mean that she's involved in anything untoward."

"That doesn't mean she isn't, either. Listen buddy, when your super animal senses start buzzing, I start sitting up and taking notice." Tyrone shrugged. "And anyway, even if it doesn't amount to anything, it's a whole lot more interesting than filling in tax returns and watching late night sports highlights. Plus it gives you the perfect excuse to spend a little time with Brooke; which, correct me if I'm wrong, is the reason you developed your abilities in the first place."

"Not quite." They shared a smile. Jonathon's on-off attempts to flirt with their beautiful police contact were a long-running joke between the two old friends, not least because the would-be lovers never seemed able to take their relationship much past shy smiles and knowing glances. As Tyrone was so fond of pointing out, it often seemed that the only time Jonathon was able to get a little time alone with Brooke was when the pair of them were tied up at the mercy of some gun-toting maniac with evil on his mind - and that was a long way to go to get a date.

"Whatever." Deciding that the tea was never going to get made at this rate, Tyrone dragged himself to his feet, snatched the teapot, and strode determinedly off towards the kitchen to do things himself. "I've got a feeling about this one; and there is no way that that girl is an interior designer."

"Maybe." Jonathon laced his fingers behind his head and closed his eyes, turning his mind back towards his hasty flight above the streets of New York, and his fleeting glimpse of an older man in a rundown, seedy hotel room. He definitely recognised that man. If he could only remember who he was, perhaps he would have the clue he needed. He was tired, however, and the house was warm. Memories of a gorgeous sunset lingered in his mind, wiping away all thoughts of old men and young women - all young women, that was, save Police Detective Brooke McKenzie. He began to wander off towards sleep, a half smile drifting across the refined lines of his face, and by the time that Tyrone returned with the readied teapot, his companion was dead to the world. Tyrone sighed, and set the teapot down on the nearby coffee table. It looked like it was going to be tax returns and sports highlights after all.


The impressive sunset had grown slowly, its colours gradually inking in the broad expanses of pale blue sky. The thin strips between the tall tips of the buildings traced lines of red and gold that led in long, straight pathways towards the sun, and the glass business towers glowed as their huge panes caught the full power of the descending rays. Whereas Tyrone Earl had been oblivious to the sight, however, caught up in waiting for the return of his form-changing friend, certain other citizens of New York were not so easy to distract. One of them in particular, a dark-haired young woman in a pale red trouser suit, was sprawled on a tattered and patched sofa in an old and damp-ridden hotel room. She was half listening to the sombre drawl of a much older man currently perched on the arm of a nearby chair, although her lack of enthusiasm for his words must have been readily apparent to him. He did not allow this to dampen his rhythm, however, and droned on in a steady, staccato monotone that was almost guaranteed to send the most dedicated of insomniacs into a deep and restful sleep. His prostrate audience did not look at him once during the course of his speech, and instead stared out through the nearby window. A large eagle circled in the coloured sky, its wings frilled silhouettes against the fire of the sunset. The young woman smiled, a lazy expression in a moment of glorious relaxation. It would be good to be an eagle right now, she thought. She could fly straight out of the window and into the deep reds and golds that filled the sky. She could keep on flying, and leave her terminally boring companion far behind her. The thought turned her smile to a smirk, but the older man on the chair arm did not seem to notice. His voice did not even waver.

"I think it's worth at least ninety thousand," he told her, apparently putting some approximate value on an object she had not yet heard him identify. She consequently had no idea what he was talking about, but nodded sagely nonetheless.

"At least," she agreed. Outside the window the eagle settled for a moment on the rusted rail of the balcony. There was a groan of indignant metal, but the railing held.

"I'd put a value of around a million and a half on the rest. That one piece is worth more than the others, but even though it's all fairly small stuff I think it'll be worth our while."

"Yeah, sure." She was still smiling at the eagle. It put its head on one side and stared in at her through the glass. After a second it turned its head to look towards her companion, and a look of almost human curiosity flickered through its eyes.

"Hello? Victoria?" Her companion was tapping her on the shoulder, trying to recall her attention to the matter at hand. Surprised, she blinked and glanced up at him.


"Are you listening to me?"

"Yeah. Of course I am." She sat up, offering him a rather weak smile. "Every word."

"Then do you want to outline the main points just to prove that?"

"Not really, no." She sighed. "Look, Edward, for goodness sakes. We've been through this a hundred times over the last few weeks. I know the plan, I know the drill. I know the risks, the back-ups, the contingency plans. I've been eating, drinking and breathing valuations for the past month. I know it all, okay?"

"Well make sure that you do." He straightened his tie and smoothed off his lapels. "And in that case, I think I'll leave you to your charming little apartment, since I have my own place to get back to. It's one without mildew on the wallpaper. Personally I prefer it that way."

"Yeah sure." She smiled at him, despite the distaste burning at her innards. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"You certainly will." He left, slamming the door behind him. Victoria scowled at his retreating figure, and kicked a piece of rotting skirting board.

"Pompous prat." Suddenly liberated by her unexpected solitude she turned towards the window, hoping to catch another glimpse of her winged admirer. Perhaps she could join it on the balcony - always supposing that the flooring was safe to stand on. Perhaps she could even try to spot where the bird had come from, or possibly who owned it. With a bit of luck it would be some eligible, playboy millionaire, who would sweep her off her feet and offer to shoot Edward. Maybe even disembowel him first. The thought made her smile, and it was with real enthusiasm that she took a step towards the window - but she was already too late, for the eagle had gone.


"Nope." Jonathon stifled a yawn, and turned over another page in the latest book of interminable mug shots. Sitting next to him, Lieutenant Nick Rivera smiled.

"Am I keeping you from something, Jonathon?"

"Of course not Lieutenant." Jonathon smiled back, a touch of apology lending colour to his face. "Sorry. It's just that there's so many of them."

"And they all seem so much more interesting when it's Brooke who's taking you through them." Nick nodded his understanding. "Sorry. We do run a police department here you know. Sometimes she has other cases to deal with. I know it's hard to believe, but that's the way it goes."

"Yeah. I know." Jonathon was still faintly red about the face. "And maybe this is a waste of time anyway. We don't even know if that woman was up to something. She might be perfectly innocent. There could be any number of explanations as to why she would be hanging around expensive residences at odd hours."

"Well there's no harm in making sure of that, is there. Jonathon, I appreciate the fact that you don't want to waste our time or yours, but the police department relies on the assistance of well-meaning citizens. We can't have official eyes and ears everywhere, so we have to rely on other people - and if you have a well founded suspicion, I'm happy to follow through on it."

"You've been making press statements again, haven't you." Jonathon's voice was dry. Rivera grinned.

"Does it show? I had to talk to the papers again first thing, about public relations and goodness only knows what else. So believe me, looking through mug shots is a god send. Anything beats talking to a herd of cub reporters and trainee photographers about our less than inspiring clean-up rate." He tapped a photograph on the current page. "What about this guy? He's about the age group you mentioned, and he got out of prison about a fortnight ago."

"No. That's not him." Jonathon turned over the page again. "I thought your clean-up rate was higher than it has been in years?"

"Depends. We've had a remarkable upsurge in efficiency lately, mostly in cases involving animals." They shared a smile. "But there are a lot of other cases we can't deal with nearly so easily. We're facing charges of police corruption again. Seems every month another reporter decides to try their luck with that one. And there are a whole lot of robberies on our books that are still unsolved." He shrugged. "So keep looking. With a bit of luck your mystery lady is behind a few of them. That'll make our statistics look good if nothing else."

"My pleasure." Jonathon turned over another page, found it was the last one, and closed the book with a snap. "Next."

"Here." Nick handed over the next book. "Make yourself comfortable, and I'll go and get us some more coffee."

"It had better be strong." With a much resigned sigh Jonathon opened this next book, and stared at the faces neatly arranged on the first page. Thirty pairs of still, photographed eyes stared back at him, in every hue from blue to grey to green to brown, along with everything in between. Some were black and white, the eyes and faces the same, uniform shade of grey as the clothes they wore, and the hair that framed their features. Others looked too bleary from drink or drugs for their eyes to be truly visible. Jonathon scowled. The faces were becoming one long blur, and he was rapidly getting to the stage where every ear and every nose looked just the same as the one before; and the two hundred before that. Every face was a blank, devoid of unique feature; every eye just a vague oval with little save colour to distinguish it from a hundred others. He stifled a yawn and took a moment to stretch his eyes, letting them run about over the room around him, staring at the bustle of activity. Police officers came and went, suspects sat handcuffed to chairs awaiting processing. A coffee machine hummed and a water cooler gurgled. The professor rubbed his eyes.

"Just sit down there and shut up." The voice came from so close to him that Jonathon jumped. He looked up, seeing a recalcitrant youth hovering nearby, a set of handcuffs dangling from one wrist. He had shoulder-length straight black hair that was bleached blond at the ends, and his clothes were a celebration of leather and ripped denim. A scarlet shirt peeked out from beneath a heavy black leather jacket, its lapels weighed down with badges of every imaginable design and hue. His heavily buckled boots glittered merrily as the hundred and one shining chains hanging from them moved and caught the light. The youth saw Jonathon's interest and scowled.

"What they get you for?" His accent was straight from the Bronx, but it somehow managed to give the distinct impression that it actually came from somewhere else, that was very much more respectable.

"I thought I told you to sit down and shut up." A heavy pair of hands knocked the boy's shoulders, and he sat down rather suddenly in one of the nearby chairs. There was the click as the spare handcuff was snapped onto the arm of the chair.

"You can't oppress me, man." The boy grinned and stretched his legs out, folding his arms. The other handcuff hung loose again. Jonathon couldn't help a smile.

"Just stay here and keep quiet." The policeman stormed away. Jonathon caught a glimpse of him as he left, seeing greying hair and a vaguely unkempt grey suit. There was something oddly familiar about him, but then he had seen these same policemen so often since falling in with Brooke McKenzie that it was hardly surprising he should recognise a few. He didn't know their names, or even their faces terribly well, but he was sure that he would know them if he ever saw them in the street.

"So what did they get you for?" the boy asked again. Jonathon gave an apologetic shake of the head.

"Nothing. I'm here to look at mug shots."

"You're a witness, huh." The boy nodded authoritatively. "I'm in for stealing cars. I've never been caught before, so I figure they'll go easy on me." He shrugged. "I wouldn't have been caught this time, but the car I was after turned out to belong to an off-duty cop. Talk about unfair - and it was such a beautiful machine too. Not the usual cop junk. This baby was a real beauty." He stared after the policeman who had brought him in. "Seems like sacrilege to leave a machine like that one in the hands of a jerk like him. He could never afford to look after her properly on his salary."

"Not so much a theft as a liberation." Jonathon wasn't sure that he should smile, but he couldn't help it. He slammed the book of mug shots shut. "Maybe you shouldn't mention that bit to the judge."

"Good call, man." The kid nodded his agreement. "I'll bear that in mind."

"I told you to keep your mouth shut." The policeman had returned, and stood between felon and witness with a pile of forms in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. His suspicious eyes turned to Jonathon. "Who are you?"

"Jonathon Chase." Turning away from the younger man, Jonathon looked up at the policeman to offer him a friendly smile. It froze on his lips. "I er... I'm helping Lieutenant Rivera with something."

"Oh." Looking as though some chance at a little fun had been taken away from him, the policeman turned his back and sat down heavily in a chair on the other side of the desk. He turned his glare onto the boy instead, and slammed the coffee down so hard that it slopped onto his pile of forms. "Fine. Now then. Name?"

"Raymond." The boy was watching Jonathon through half-closed eyes. "Jeffrey Raymond. I live in the Park Hotel, suite 226." The expressive, inquisitive face seemed to clear suddenly. "Say, I know you. You teach at the university, right?"

"Huh?" The policeman looked up from his forms, blinked, frowned, glared at Jonathon and then sighed. "Would you mind going somewhere else, sir? I've got to get this kid processed before I can go home."

"I beg your pardon?" Jonathon had jumped when the man had addressed him, and both the policeman and Jeffrey showed signs of clear suspicion at such a reaction. "Oh. Don't worry about it. I've finished here anyway."

"Great." After a second's hesitation the policeman turned back to his forms. "Fine."

"Yeah. If you see the lieutenant, tell him I had to go. I've, er - I've got a class in twenty minutes."

"Then you are the guy from the university." Jeffrey nodded in satisfaction. "Thought I recognised you. My sister's in one of your classes."

"Oh." Jonathon managed a smile of farewell, albeit a distracted one. "We'll er... we'll have to chat sometime."

"Yeah sure. If you want a deal on a car, just give me a call. All models, any colour. Just give me time to do a re-spray." Jeffrey was grinning at his joke, but Jonathon nodded.

"Yes. Yes quite. Thank you. Er... goodbye." He turned and left. Jeffrey frowned at his retreating figure.

"Now that is one weird guy." He smiled up at his remaining companion. "Something about you sure seemed to freak him out."

"Something about me?" The policeman sounded full of bluff and bluster, but he turned nonetheless to watch as Jonathon strode out of the room. "I wonder."

"Maybe he's up to something." Jeffrey folded his hands behind his head again, and leant back in his chair. "So what's the next question?"

"Huh?" The policeman stared at him for several moments as though his mind was elsewhere. "Oh... just get out of here, okay? Don't do it again, or I'll throw the book at you."

"You mean it?" Unable to believe his good fortune, Jeffrey rose to his feet. "Hey, no sweat man. I'm out of here." He pulled off the remaining cuff and threw it onto the desk. "Be seeing you."

"Not if I can help it." Jeffrey was almost gone before the policeman glanced up again. "Hey!"

"What?" Afraid that his fortunes were about to be reversed, Jeffrey stopped but did not look back. The policeman caught him up, speaking in a low tone as though he did not want to be overheard by his colleagues.

"That guy. A teacher, you reckon?"

"Yeah sure. He's a professor in animal behavioural science at the university. My sister goes on about him all the time." Jeffrey made a face. "I think she's got the hots for him, if you catch my drift."

"Yeah. Probably." The policeman clapped him on the shoulder. "Go on. Get going."

"Sure man." Without further ado, Jeffrey hastened to the exit. His unexpected benefactor stared after him, eyes narrowed.

"Jonathon Chase," he muttered under his breath. "Well I don't know what it was about me that got you so touchy, Professor Chase... but I aim to find out. I've got too much at stake here to risk blowing it on account of some jumpy college guy who might know more than is good for him." He threw his handful of forms into the nearest wastepaper bin, then headed off into the great outdoors after Jonathon and Jeffrey. He had to speak to Victoria. Maybe she knew Chase. If she did, then he wanted to know all about it.


"Hey Jonathon! Any luck?" Glancing up from his newspaper, Tyrone waved a salutation to his old friend, as the professor wandered over to his table in the little restaurant they so often made their meeting place. "Any word on who our lady is?"

"No, nothing." Jonathon sat down, picking up the menu and glancing through it without actually reading any of the words. "I wish I'd been able to hear what they were saying. At least then we might have a name to go on."

"You don't look like you didn't have any luck." Tyrone straightened, frowning at his partner-in-arms. "You've got that look again."

Jonathon looked the very picture of wounded innocence - although there was more distraction than true innocence in his bright and expressive eyes. "What look?"

"That 'there's-something-going-on-here-and-I'm-damned-well-going-to-find-out-what' look. You get it whenever we find out that somebody is up to something they shouldn't be. So what's the story this time?"

"I'm not sure. It's about the man that I told you about. The one I said I recognised?"

"The one you've spent all morning looking for in the police files?"

"Yeah. Well he wasn't in the books. I looked through them until I felt like my eyes were going to explode, and he wasn't anywhere in any of them... And then this policeman came in. A plainclothes guy."

"I'm not sure I like where this is going." Tyrone picked up his coffee cup, stared at the contents, swirled it around, and then set the cup back down again without drinking any of it. "You think this cop was our mystery man from last night?"

"No doubt. It was him alright. Same face, same everything."

"So what is it? A harmless meeting with an old friend? A legitimate undercover operation, or a meeting with an informant or something?"

"You know it's neither of those. We've both been too suspicious about that girl for it to be anything legal - and okay, that doesn't make him a dirty cop necessarily - but it turns out that he may be living above his means."

"Dirty money?" Tyrone whistled, then frowned. "How d'you know?"

"I talked to some kid he brought in. A car thief. Seems he was trying to steal our man's car, and he was very impressed with it. Never took it for a policeman's vehicle because it was way too expensive."

"That doesn't mean anything either."

"No." Jonathon nodded. "I know it doesn't. But add that to Nick Rivera's worries about police corruption, and the high numbers of unsolved thefts recently, and I think it's worth a closer look, don't you?"

"Yeah. I guess so." Tyrone clapped his hands together. "So where do we begin? A word with our mystery lady?"

"Yes. We can try the apartment I saw them in last night." Jonathon rose to his feet looking immediately businesslike, the air of distraction gone from his eyes and his face. "I only hope that she's willing to talk to us."

"And that she doesn't turn out to be some honest citizen with an old friend who happens to be a cop." Tyrone threw some money down onto the table and grabbed his coat from the next seat along. "Otherwise we're going to look pretty daft."

"No. There's more to it than that." Jonathon was never able to explain his instincts - he only knew that they were rarely wrong. Perhaps it was his close affinity with wild animals which had awakened some buried sixth sense, or perhaps it was just a basic knowledge of human nature. Either way he was sure that the policeman he had just met was up to something, and Tyrone knew him well enough to trust that belief. That only left them with the problem of proving their suspicions; and of convincing Brooke and Lieutenant Rivera that one of their colleagues might well be involved with a thief.


"I don't know him. I've never heard of him!" Jumping back several paces to avoid the blow she felt certain was coming, Victoria raised her arms to protect her face. "I've got no idea what you're talking about!"

"Don't talk rubbish. That man knew about me, I'm sure of it. If you haven't told him, how could he have known who I am?"

"I haven't told him anything. I've never heard his name before now." Backing away still further, Victoria shook her head violently. "I don't have a clue what you mean. Just because some guy acts a little strange when he sees you, doesn't mean he knows what we're up to. What's made you so paranoid all of a sudden?"

"There was something about this guy." Edward turned away for a second, then spun back very suddenly. "Maybe you were planning on letting me take the rap, so that you could keep all the money. Is that it?"

"Of course not. You're crazy." Victoria was still trying to back away, but all of a sudden came smartly up against the wall. She winced. "Edward for goodness sakes, you've trusted me up until now. If either of us had any cause to distrust the other, it was me who might have distrusted you. You're a policeman, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into, agreeing to work with you. You might have been working undercover for all I knew. But I didn't question you, did I. I didn't make any fuss. And now some teacher comes into the precinct, and looks a little shaken to see you there, and you automatically assume that I've told him everything. Don't you think that you're overreacting just a little?"

"Shut up." Taking three sudden strides forward, Edward lashed out with both fists at once, knocking the young woman to the ground with the force of his blows. She made no sound save the dull thud of her body hitting the floor, and stared up her associate with wide and angry eyes.

"What was that for?"

"Just tell me what you've told Chase."

"Nothing. I've never met the man." Victoria rose slowly to her feet. "I thought you said this Chase guy is a friend of your boss - what's his name - Lieutenant Rivera? I'm not going to be working with a guy who has friends like that, am I. Edward, remember who you're talking to here. If the police get wind of me, and who I am, I'm not just facing charges for the robberies we've been committing these last few months. There are outstanding warrants on me in three states, and I'm wanted as a suspected accomplice to a murder charge in Texas. You think that I'm willing to take risks on those odds, just to tell some university professor about a dirty cop I've been burgling houses with?" She shook her head. "You've been playing your dumb cop routine for too long, Edward. Maybe you're starting to believe it yourself."

"Maybe." Edward hesitated for a moment, biting his lip, then turned smartly on his heel and strode towards the door. "Just make sure that you remember what we've talked about here today, because if I find out that you have told Chase - or anybody else - about what we've been doing, or what we're planning--"

"Yeah, I know. You'll do more than just hit me next time." Victoria dabbed at a trickle of blood on her chin. "Don't worry Edward. I've got no plans to make you put yourself out like that." Her voice was tinged with irony and sarcasm. "And don't bother apologising."

"I wasn't going to." The policeman's voice was nasty. "I'll be seeing you." The door slammed behind him. Heaving a shaky, and much relieved sigh, Victoria leaned against this somewhat flimsy barrier and closed her eyes for a second. One day, she told herself without much conviction, she was going to have to find a new line of business.


"Nice place, isn't it." Drawing the car to a halt, Tyrone peered through the windscreen at the crumbling hotel in which Victoria and Edward's earlier meeting had been witnessed by Jonathon Chase. "I'm almost sorry I don't live here myself."

"I know the feeling." Climbing out of the car, Jonathon straightened his tie as he stared up at the side of the building, easily identifying the window through which he had watched the previous night's assignation. "I hope she's in."

"If she isn't maybe we can talk to her cockroaches instead." Tyrone led the way across the street. "Last time I was here the roaches had more going for them than half the residents. Certainly seemed to make better conversation." He winced. "They were bigger too."

Jonathon grinned. "You can stay outside if you'd rather," he commented teasingly. Tyrone scowled at him.

"No chance." They had reached the front door and the American looked through the grimy, cracked glass. "What do we do? We don't know her name, so we can't ask for her at reception."

"Isn't this the kind of establishment where questions aren't welcomed anyway?" Jonathon took another glance up the side of the building to check his orientation. "We know more or less which room she must be in. We might as well head straight for it, and forget about the man at the desk."

"Good point." Tyrone pushed the door open, not at all confident that it would not merely fall from its hinges and collapse into his arms. "We'd probably have to pay him for the privilege of asking the question anyway."

"Undoubtedly." They crossed reception quickly, just in case the man behind the desk showed any sign of objecting to their presence. Whether or not he was even aware of them was a matter for some debate, for he remained the whole while glued to a hissing TV set, upon which the vague, snowy figures of basketball players could vaguely be seen dodging one another. It was impossible to tell one team from another on the blurry, mostly grey screen, but the receptionist was apparently used to the idiosyncrasies of his set, for every so often he punched the air, and let out a yell of glorious satisfaction.

The stairs stood at the opposite end of the lobby, and Jonathon and Tyrone made for them, not at all surprised to see a large sign, hand-written in black poster paint on ragged cardboard, declaring the lift to be out of order. The stairs themselves seemed in much the same state, for the banister was broken in several places, the ancient carpet on the three landings was worn and torn, and the steps themselves were scuffed and tired out. Each one gave a creak of varying proportions as it was stepped upon, and one or two sounded as though they were screaming in wretched misery. Of the legendary cockroaches there was no sign, but a large rat ran across the second landing just as they reached it. Tyrone made a face of such deep disgust that it seemed almost to represent a new form of facial poetry.

"Can't you turn into a cat and do a little pest control while we're here?"

"Sorry. I make a point of never eating anything that hygiene experts are afraid of."

"You never get even the slightest yearning for a bit of rat? Even in your absolute most cattiest moments?" Tyrone was clearly in one of his joking moods, and Jonathon was happy to play along. He shook his head.

"The only yearning I ever got was when I last changed into a panther. You were looking so tasty that day, Ty..." He grinned. Tyrone glared, then finally smiled and smacked his companion on the shoulder.

"Jerk," he said affectionately. Jonathon smiled, then slowed abruptly to a halt.

"What is it? That rat suddenly take your fancy after all?"

"No..." Rolling his eyes at the on-going joke, Jonathon nodded at the nearest door. "This is the apartment we wanted."

"Oh." Tyrone looked it up and down, taking in the peeling paint and warped frame, the rat-sized holes and the yawning cracks. It looked fairly repugnant, particularly given the level of encroaching wet rot; but it was no worse than any of the other doors in the corridor. If anything it was better, for it looked as though somebody had recently made some vain attempt to scrub a little of the mould away. There were scratches where a scrubbing brush had been ineffectually applied, and the faint smell of disinfectant solution, which suggested that the cleaning process was an ongoing one. "Now what?"

"Now?" Jonathon's smile was an unnecessarily innocent one - sure proof that he had not considered their course of action past this point. "I thought that my winning smile might--"

"Your 'winning smile'? That the same one that nearly got both our heads shot off the first time we met?"

"That's the one."

"Then forget it." Tyrone reached out, knocking on the door with a hard, closed fist; three blows that set the door rocking in its frame and threatened to make the entire structure collapse. He winced, left with an urgent desire to wipe his hand, as though the mould had somehow attached itself to his fingers. "Boy, you'd think they'd close this place down."

"I'm rather glad they don't." The woman's voice took them both by surprise, coming as it did even before the door was opened. She peered out at them through a crack, although the door itself was scarcely barrier enough to prevent a child's entry, let alone two fully grown men. Coolly appraising blue eyes looked the pair up and down, and a calm, inquiring face formed a metaphorical question mark that was only partly interrupted by the swelling bruises increasingly forcing one of the eyes shut. The woman's questioning expression turned from curiosity tinged with apprehension to downright hostility. "Who are you? What do you want?"

"Um... Jonathon Chase, ma'am." As always Jonathon's manners were impeccable, and his bearing faultlessly correct. "My companion is Tyrone Earl. We'd like - that is if we may - to talk to you about--"

"Jonathon Chase?" There was a cold undertone to her voice. "What makes you think I want to talk to you, Professor Chase?"

"Professor Chase?" A neat eyebrow raised in gentle inquiry. "I don't remember saying--"

"You didn't need to. I know who you are." The sharp eyes gestured towards Tyrone. "Are you a do-gooding stand-in cop too?"

"Er..." Tyrone was unsure how to answer that one, and hesitated a fraction too long. The door began to close, but he quickly interposed his foot into the gap, holding the door open at the expense of several of his toes. They seemed to be insisting that they were broken, but he ignored them. "What happened to your face?"

"That's got nothing to do with you." Again she tried to shut the door, but this time Jonathon caught hold of the edge.

"Was it your friend? The one who told you that I'm a professor?" He sighed. "I'm sorry. Really I am. He must have realised that I knew who he was when we met downtown. I suppose he assumed that you'd told me something?"

"Yeah." For a second fury burned in the previously ice-cold eyes. "Yeah, he assumed. He came over here demanding to know what I was up to, and yeah he hit me. So thanks a lot, Professor Chase, but I don't really think that I want to talk to you. If Edward hears about it, next time he might really let loose." She touched gingerly at the side of her face. "Does it look very bad?"

"No." Tyrone's smile was so gentle and honest that the woman laughed in spite of herself.

"Liar." She sighed. "Look, I don't know what you two want, or what you think it is that you can gain from coming here, but I think that you'd better leave now. This isn't the most healthy of places to go snooping around in."

"We're not snooping, and we're not do-gooders, or 'stand-in cops', or anything else that you want to call us. We're just interested citizens." Jonathon sounded firm and immovable, but his one-woman audience did not look impressed. "You've been seen hanging around a lot, in the kind of places where people have all manner of things worth stealing. There have been a lot of robberies just lately, and a very great deal of them haven't been solved by the police. Your friend - Edward you called him? Well there's a lot about him that Internal Affairs might want to look at; even if it's just the assault on you. Is he helping you to rob places, is that it? You work together and share the takings? I'm willing to bet that the split isn't straight down the middle."

"I have a gun in here." Her expression had not changed a fraction during the course of his impulsive accusation, and her voice did not show any sign of belligerence - and yet there was something about the statement that was more than a mere threat. "So why don't the pair of you turn around and head on out of here, before I feel a sudden need to call for help. This may be an unfriendly neighbourhood, but if I shout 'cop' there isn't a single person in this hotel who wouldn't come running to my assistance."

"We're not cops." Tyrone sighed, beginning to feel as though their operation were falling into dust before their eyes. "Listen lady; we just came down here to talk, because we thought--"

"What? That a sweet little girl like me would be so very grateful to a couple of guys like you for offering me a way out? If I am a thief, and I can assure you that I have no intention of admitting anything one way or the other, I am not going to leap at the first person who tries to suggest that it's not an advisable career. So the pair of you can just turn around and walk out of here, preferably before Edward decides to come back and make a few more unfounded accusations." She pointed towards the ugly bruises on her face, with her eyes all the while fixed angrily on Jonathon. "These are your fault. I don't even know who you are, and you've already cost me a beating. I don't think that I need any more of that kind of assistance, do you?"

"We didn't come to offer you assistance." Jonathon had arched an eyebrow in response to this violent tirade, but otherwise he appeared as calm and as unruffled as ever. "We came because we wanted to talk. To find out if you really were involved in something untoward. I think that you've answered that question; which leaves us with a very obvious course of action."

"The police will never believe you. Edward is one of the most respected detectives on the force." She smiled, although the change of expression caused her to wince. "I really can't believe you two. What in heaven's name did you think you could accomplish by coming here? You haven't learnt anything, you haven't proved anything. And you won't."

"Oh I've learnt one thing." Jonathon's voice was almost gentle. "Before I came here I thought that I was being paranoid. Now I know that I'm not."

"You don't know anything." Her voice dripped with sarcasm. Tyrone almost felt like ducking, in case her eyes really were capable of throwing the kind of flames they appeared to be promising.

"I know that you like eagles." Jonathon smiled. "And that you like watching sunsets through the window that looks onto your balcony. And I know that you have a rather nice red suit that you like to wear when you're relaxing - the kind of suit that suggests you could get a much nicer apartment that this one, if you had a mind to." His polite smile became a much broader grin at her expression of unadulterated amazement. Tyrone smirked quietly, unwilling to interrupt now and risk spoiling his partner's flow. Jonathon, however, appeared to be finished. With a polite smile that was close to being a formal bow, he gave a crisp farewell and turned to walk away. His heels clicked smartly on the cracked flooring.

"Bye." Tyrone flashed the girl a grin that might have won the warmest of responses from somebody less cold - or just somebody rather less distracted. "Be seeing you, I guess."

"Who are you?" Her eyes were narrowed in an almost sinister demand for information. He shrugged.

"Can't tell you that now, can we. We're just concerned citizens." He turned to leave. "Give our love to Edward."

"Oh you can pass that on yourself. You're sure to be hearing from him." She slammed the door, setting the walls vibrating furiously. Tyrone hurried to catch up with his companion.

"You do realise they're going to be after us now, don't you?" he asked, as he fell into step beside the tall, and apparently unconcerned, Englishman. Jonathon nodded.

"Yes. I'd guessed that."

"And you don't really have a plan, do you."

"No, not really."

Tyrone nodded, a merry smile making his eyes dance in highly inappropriate amusement. "For some reason, I'm really not surprised."


"Let me get this straight." Detective Brooke McKenzie, who had, for her sins, been placed in charge of any and all investigations arising from the work of Jonathon and Tyrone, leaned back in her chair and stared at the two men standing before her. She considered putting her feet up on the desk as well, but she could see Nick Rivera watching her, and therefore quashed that impulse. "You saw a woman hanging around outside, and so you assumed she was a thief?"

"It wasn't quite that simple." Tyrone looked vaguely uncomfortable. "She was acting very suspiciously."

"How?" Brooke fixed him with a particularly withering frown, and he shifted about a little.

"She was there a lot. At odd hours sometimes, too, and in other places around the city. Everywhere where there were robberies recently."

"So were a lot of members of the press. And a lot of police officers - perhaps two of the most suspicious-looking groups of people available. Half of the New York police department look like crooks when they're out of uniform. The other half look like crooks when they're in uniform. Press people usually are crooks. There's sure to be a perfectly innocent explanation."

"But she's up to something." Wondering why Jonathon wasn't joining in with his own suspicions, Tyrone raised his voice just a fraction. "When we followed, we--"

"When you what?" Brooke's eyebrows raised almost to her hairline. "You followed her?"

"Well... Jonathon followed her." Tyrone sounded subdued now, and was staring at the floor. He glanced up suddenly, though, and grinned. "It paid off."

"I'm glad to hear it. Otherwise I'd have to consider arresting the pair of you. You can't just creep around watching people."

"I didn't creep." Entering suddenly into the conversation, Jonathon smiled at her, making faint flying gestures with one hand. "I er... flew."

"Well you would, really, wouldn't you." She sighed. "Okay. I just know that I'm going to regret asking this, but what did you see?"

"You're right. You're definitely going to regret it." Jonathon paused for a second, apparently communing with Tyrone through the power of thought alone. "I followed the lady in question to a little hotel, and she met this man there, who--"

"Was a known thief?"

"No, not exactly." Tyrone shifted his feet as he spoke. Brooke sighed.

"Somehow I knew that you were going to say that. I just thought I'd ask, in the hope that Lady Luck hadn't entirely passed me by this morning." She glared at them both. "Okay, so who did she meet? The police commissioner?"

"A policeman." Jonathon took a deep breath. "Ageing sort, acts very vague when he's about the office, but I don't think that he is. I met him here when I was talking to the lieutenant earlier. He's called Edward, and when I checked with the front desk they said there was only one plainclothes officer by that name, so--"

"You checked with the front desk?" Brooke sighed. "So not only do you now suspect one of my colleagues, but you also risked telling the rest of them that he's under suspicion. Don't you think that you maybe should have come to me first? I mean come on, Jonathon. Some girl acts oddly in a lobby? You see her hanging around a lot? And so, automatically, you assume that she's up to something, and that she's getting up to it with a crooked cop?"

"Brooke..." Such an outburst was a little unexpected, and for a second Jonathon looked hurt. "You've always trusted my instincts before. Rather more than I do in fact. Look, I know that we were a little foolish in our--"

"Foolish? More like downright stupid. And let's add paranoid while we're at it, shall we? Did you think that perhaps Edward was visiting his daughter, or his sister, or his niece? There are any number of explanations. Did you hear them discussing anything that might have been illegal?"

"No. I couldn't hear anything that they said." Jonathon was no longer looking at her, and instead was looking at the ground. "He's a friend of yours, isn't he."

"Edward Curtis saved my life, Jonathon. He's rather more than just a friend. I've known him ever since I first joined the department, and there's not a man I know who's more opposed to corruption. It's impossible to even consider that he might be mixed up in something, so if it really was him that you saw, it's all perfectly legal and above board. If you want, I'll give him a call, and you can talk to him yourselves. I'm sure that he can give you a decent explanation."

"No, that won't be necessary." Jonathon forced a smile that managed to look almost entirely genuine. "We'd better be going. If you say he's above board, I suppose we should believe you."

"Yes. You should." She sighed, seeming to relent a little. "I'm sorry, Jonathon. It's just that I have to work with these people. We depend on each other a lot, you know? And it doesn't do anybody any good to have unfounded rumours flying around. There's already enough ill-feeling and paranoia circulating here thanks to the press."

"Yes, of course." He smiled at her, then clapped Tyrone on the shoulder. "Come on. We'd better get back home."

"Looks like it." Tyrone followed him unquestioningly, but once the large office was left well and truly behind he slowed to a halt. Jonathon, wrapped up in his thoughts, did not notice at first, and Tyrone had to call out to him to make him stop. The professor glanced back at him, frowning, his mind evidently still elsewhere.

"What's wrong?" he asked. Tyrone walked deliberately slowly as he caught the other man up.

"Why didn't we tell her what her pal Edward did? He must have hit that girl real hard to have left bruises like those."

"I don't think telling her that would have helped our cause any, do you?"

"It might have got Brooke on our side."

"But it wouldn't have made her a terribly willing contributor, even if she did believe us. She'd just think that that girl was lying. There are any number of reasons why somebody living in a place like that would want to frame a policeman. All that telling Brooke would get us would be to have the whole thing forgotten about. The girl might be arrested for something, she might not. It all depends on whether or not she's got a record. There's nothing besides her word and our suspicions to tie dear Edward to anything; and there's nothing to tie the girl to anything either."

"You mean we're on our own." Tyrone did not sound very enthusiastic, although Jonathon was more than well aware that this was just for form's sake. His old friend liked to think that he was level-headed one, even if circumstances often proved otherwise. "I'm not sure that I like that idea."

"I know that I don't. But if this Detective Curtis is a crooked policeman, we have to do something about it. We can't just let him get away with all of this. This time he hit somebody who can take care of herself. Next time it might be somebody less capable who gets on the wrong side of him."

"More likely it'll be us." Tyrone sighed. "Okay, where do we start?"

"We follow dear Edward." Jonathon was already on the lookout for the policeman's car. "Or rather I'll follow Edward. You handle our lady friend."

"Brooke?" There was a hint of hopeful humour in Tyrone's question. Jonathon made a face.

"No. The other one."

"She won't be happy to see me hanging around."

"I know. But make sure that she does see you. Somebody's got to make a move if we're going to find out what's going on here, and I'd rather try putting the pressure on her than on a policeman whom we know has got something to lose."

"Right you are, buddy." Tyrone smirked. "So are you going to run through a revolving door, or find a convenient telephone booth to change in, or are you going to hide in the back of the car?"

"Actually I wasn't going to bother." Jonathon was already striding off on his latest mission. "I was hoping to stay low key."

"Oh. Right." Tyrone smiled. As he watched his tall, distinguished friend walking purposefully along the street he couldn't help thinking that he would be much more low key if he did mutate into an animal. As it was, he looked about as obtrusive as it was possible for anybody to be in the largely anonymous streets of New York. But then, Edward Curtis probably had other things on his mind. Tyrone slid into his car, switching on the ignition and turning his own mind to other things. He had his own mark to watch.


Victoria Cummins left her hotel after a late and very hasty lunch of cold pasta covered in a sauce of dubious origin. It had smelt dubious too, when she had taken in out of the fridge; but given that the fridge itself didn't actually work, that hadn't been much of a surprise. She had tried heating it to remove any doubt as to safety, but the oven hadn't been in much of a mood for working either, and had spluttered to an unpromising halt amidst a cloud of smoke and a worrying smell of gas. Victoria, torn between genuine hunger and well-founded unease, had decided to abandon her meal after the first few mouthfuls, and had chosen instead to spend some of the last of her dwindling resources on lunch at a nearby cafe. It annoyed her that her confederate, Detective Edward Curtis, was living and eating so well on his police salary, whilst she had nothing save the takings from her thievery; and even that she was forbidden by Edward to touch until they were sure of being able to fence it safely.

It was impossible to miss the sight of Tyrone Earl standing so stiffly at the street corner. Victoria stared at him. He appeared to be alone, but all the same his presence there worried her. What could he want? Why would he be standing there, so noticeably? Clearly he didn't care if she saw him - so was he trying to intimidate her? She told herself that it wouldn't work, and that, if that was what he wanted, he was going to be sorely disappointed. Victoria Cummins did not scare easily, and she certainly was not going to be frightened by a man that she knew nothing about.

Three hours later, after a hurried meal in a very cheap, run-down cafe, and an aborted window shopping trip around some of the most expensive clothes stores she could find, Victoria was beginning to change her mind. Her ever present shadow strolled along behind her, or coasted nearby in his car. Had she been able to afford a cab fare she would have tested his resolve a little further by challenging him to keep pace with a jaunt through the midday traffic - but as it was she had to content herself with merely walking. Tyrone did not seem to mind. He was behind her at every corner, lurking in every shop window. He waited for her when she went inside stores to look at items more closely, and she saw him through the glass, reading a newspaper, or pretending to, eyes bright and intent on their real subject. Several hours after deciding that she was not going to be unnerved by her shadow, Victoria had to conclude that she was just that. She was just beginning to think that she should give up with her excursion altogether, and risk the decidedly unhygienic surroundings of the City Inn as her only chance of retreat, when she realised that Tyrone was no longer in view. She frowned. Where could he be? He did not seem to be in any doorways, or lurking at the mouths of any alleys. She could not seem him pacing the pavements or reading his newspaper in a convenient alcove. He had vanished completely. She shook her head in faint amusement at her own sense of unmitigated relief, wiped an almost shaking hand across her brow, and stepped into the café she had found herself standing beside. A waiter was upon her in an instant, all smiles and obsequious duty.

"Good evening madam. Coffee?"

"Thanks." Was it really evening already? Now that she thought about it, it was not as bright or as warm as it had been earlier. She must have spent the best part of four hours trying to shake off her unwelcome companion.

"It'll be right with you, madam. Your friend is waiting for you." With that the waiter was gone. Victoria frowned at his retreating figure. Friend? What friend? She looked about, searching for Edward - the only person that she knew in the whole of New York - but he was nowhere to be seen. Instead, seated a few feet away with a smile of gentlemanly welcome on his face, was Tyrone Earl. He nodded a greeting, and Victoria felt her shoulders slump in dismay.

"What do you want?" She went over to him more through a sense of helpless frustration than through any desire to speak to him. He shrugged.

"You didn't eat much at lunchtime, and I got the impression that you would have liked something a little more substantial. What's wrong? Edward withholding your pocket money?"

"I don't know what you mean." Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, she smiled unpleasantly and sat down. "Alright then, since you offered, I'll have a large cheese and pickle sandwich with a side salad. A big side salad." Tyrone smiled, nodding at the nearest waiter. The shadowy figure promptly disappeared, vanishing away into whatever strange other dimension it was that he and his kind were wont to slip off into, in order to pass on the orders to the kitchen staff.

"So do I get to know your name?" Toying with his coffee cup as though sizing up its potential as a weapon should she start to act like a dangerous felon, Tyrone looked questioningly at his companion. She frowned slightly.

"Why do you want to know?"

"So that I can try and find out if you're wanted. So that I know what I'm up against."

"You're not a policeman, so you've got no access to the wanted files. And you don't have any police assistance on this either. If you did, you'd be safe at home and some professional would be the one trailing me." She smiled. "You told the police about me and Edward, didn't you. And they didn't believe you."

"You're good." There was real admiration in his voice, albeit of the grudging kind. Victoria smiled back.

"So are you. For an amateur." She sighed, smiling distractedly at the waiter as he delivered her coffee and food. "If you must know, my name is Victoria Cummins, and no, I'm not wanted. At least not in this state."

"Then why are you working with a jerk like Edward Curtis?"

"Because I wanted somebody on the inside. I wanted somebody who could get me details on the best places to rob, and who could be sure that I would never be arrested. Simple sense."

"Yeah, but with your... obvious ability you could be leading the high life by now. You could have retired after the first couple of jobs. Why are you still here, and why are you still living in that rat trap of a hotel?"

"Because I like it." There was enough pride in her voice to show that she was lying, but that she would never admit to it. "What's it to you? Your only interest in me is seeing me behind bars."

"I could do that pretty quickly too, if I were taping this conversation. All that I would need to do is take the tape to the police."

"Then I would say that I was joking. Edward would get me out of trouble, because for the time being he needs me. You've nothing to implicate him, and no reason to make the police listen to your suspicions. If you had, you wouldn't have spent the afternoon trying to intimidate me."

Tyrone grinned. "You really are good."

"Mmm." She glanced about as she drank her coffee. "So where's your friend? The professor."

"Following Edward."

"Really?" She smirked. "Then I hope he's better at staying out of sight than you are. Edward has eyes in the back of his head, and if he sees somebody following him, your friend will be seeing the inside of a mortuary the unpleasant way. Edward's not a man to cross."

"I don't doubt it." Tyrone did not seem too bothered, and Victoria frowned.

"You don't look as though you're terribly worried. Doesn't it matter to you that your companion could already be lying in an alley somewhere?"

"Not really." Tyrone smiled, finishing off his coffee and settling back to watch Victoria finish her meal. "When it comes to not getting seen, Jonathon's the master."

"Sneaky sort, huh?"

"No." There was really no way to describe Jonathon's talents adequately - not least because they were supposed to be secret - and so all that Tyrone could do was let his smile grow even bigger. "Let's just say that he knows one or two little tricks."


Jonathon Chase was beginning to enjoy shadowing Edward Curtis. The ageing detective, for all his apparent misdeeds, appeared to genuinely enjoy his job, and had a real flair for it that showed in his dealings with the public. There was no sign of the kind of temper that he had unleashed on his unsuspecting associate, and no sign that he was involved in anything else that might be in the slightest way corrupt. Instead he spent his day travelling about from place to place, largely on foot, talking to people, interviewing people, and generally making his presence felt. It reminded Jonathon of the altogether different style of policing in his own country, not at all that to which he had become so accustomed in New York. Curtis was beginning to change now in the professor's mind. Gone was the thuggish dirty cop, and instead there had appeared a complex man, with complex drives and complex motives. He spent three or four hours apparently working, in the greatest earnest, on the very robberies he himself had committed; and then expended just as much energy trying to help a teenaged boy recover his stolen bicycle. It was increasingly easy to see why Brooke had been so unwilling to believe anything bad of him. If the sort of people amongst which he spent the greater part of his day could be said to feel genuine liking for anybody connected to the police force, then clearly they felt that liking for Edward Curtis. There seemed no shortage of people ready to invite him in for coffee, and no shortage of small time hoods ready to talk to him. Whether or not they were passing on information, or were just passing the time of day, Jonathon couldn't tell; but he knew enough about them and their kind to be sure that not every police officer could talk to them as openly and honestly as did Edward Curtis. By the time that dusk had begun to swallow the heat from the city streets, the professor was beginning to think that Brooke was right; and that he had been very much mistaken.

As the darkness began to fall in earnest, Curtis took a quick look at his watch, checked it against the large clock on display outside a nearby Church, and then quickened his pace, hurrying now, where before he had only been walking casually. Jonathon quickened his own step in order to keep up, and began to notice that they were heading back towards one of the richer residential areas. When they were close to reaching it, as the buildings were just beginning to take on that more exclusive air, Curtis took an unexpected right turn, and vanished down a side road. Jonathon slowed, suspicious of a possible trap, and then followed. The road was wider than he had been expecting, and was filled with shops - fine arts, antiques, paintings and silks which gave the whole road a strangely late sixties feel. It was almost like entering a time warp, so great was the sensation of bohemian majesty, and hippie-dom. The faint, softly coloured lights in the shop windows illuminated hand-woven rugs and cushions, glittering glass beads and candles, peacock feathers and dyed ostrich feathers and incense sticks. The least flamboyant of the shops appeared to be that selling antiques; and it was into this last that Curtis disappeared, after first hammering hard on the glass of the front door. Jonathon hurried after him, but by the time that he himself reached the door, the handle was immovable. Clearly somebody had been swift to turn a key.

"Blast." The soft glow from the other windows, and the constantly moving flicker of the candles amidst their seas of rugs and cushions, did not quite seem to illuminate this part of the street, and in the darkness Jonathon was able to see little of the interior of the antiques shop. He could see his own eyes staring back at him from the glass, and beyond them the vague, shadowy shapes of statues and old wooden chairs and desks. He tried shading his eyes with his hands, but could see nothing more. He could hear nothing either, and was left wondering helplessly about what Curtis was up to. Who was he meeting? Were they talking about the thefts? Frustrated, he almost hit out at the door, but instead drew himself back into the shadows. Set into the door was a letterbox; a broad, inward opening flap that was, quite evidently, no means of entry for a man. It was a whole different game, however, for a snake. A cold, calculating look took over Jonathon's face, and as his eyes closed in concentration, the pattern of his breathing began to change. A ripple ran over his skin, setting the pulses in his temples beating wildly. Gradually at first, and then with increasing speed, his hair and ears slid inside his body, his arms and legs became a part of one, limb-less whole, and his skin erupted into a hard, elastic sheen of scaled strength. With steady purpose the snake slid forward, gliding up the front of the door and forcing its smooth form through the letterbox. Nobody saw it; nobody cried out in alarm as it slipped to the floor and glided through the confused jumble of furniture. As it moved, however, it heard voices nearby, and slowed its advance to be sure of remaining undiscovered. The voices increased in volume, and the snake moved stealthily forward, creeping quietly through a tasselled and beaded curtain that marked the boundary between the public and private areas of the shop. The bottommost beads swayed softly as the snake passed beneath them, but the voices did not change in rhythm or in volume. The conversation continued, and the snake, anxious to be sure of catching every word, slid itself into a little nook beneath the closest chair, and curled up to listen. Its tongue tasted the air every so often, almost as though it were trying to eat each word as well as listen to it, but the two men did not catch the tiny sounds of its gentle hissing. They believed that they were alone, and so they talked on; freely and without constraint; for the rest of the night.


Tyrone and Victoria took the longest route back to the hotel; and it was long past dark before they finally arrived there. Victoria was clearly nervous to be with Tyrone, and yet something about his presence was reassuring enough for her not to want to send him away. For Tyrone it was a strange experience, to be so amicably accompanied by the very woman he was supposed to be watching. He was almost too nervous to follow her up the stairs, concerned that the mysterious Edward might turn out to be waiting in one of the damp-ridden apartments. In the event the entire building appeared to be silent. No one moved on any of the landings, in any of the stairwells. No people were in evidence anywhere. Victoria unlocked her door and gestured inside her musty, badly decorated room.

"Do you want to come inside? It's got to be better than spending the night sitting outside watching the building."

"Thanks, but I'd rather not be here when your friend Edward drops by for a visit."

"He won't. Not tonight." She paused. "And he's not my friend."

"No?" He caught sight of the bruises again, softened only a little by makeup and sympathetic lighting. "No. I guess not."

"He's a means to an end, really. A necessary evil."

"You don't have to work with him."

"I can't do what I do alone. Not if I want to keep my low profile. And Edward knows rather too much about me to risk leaving him now. There's too much that he could tell too many people."

"You're wanted somewhere, is that it? And he knows all the sordid details."

"Yes, he does." She smiled sadly. "And they are pretty sordid, too."

"You could tell me. Maybe I wouldn't think they were so bad."

"Yes you would. Especially the way Edward tells it." She glanced away. "Are you supposed to be reporting in? I mean won't your friend be worried about you?"

"Jonathon?" Odd, but Tyrone had almost forgotten the professor, and their joint mission. "No, I doubt it. He'll have got caught up watching Edward. Probably doesn't even know what time it is."

"Edward will be talking to his fence. I'm not supposed to know anything about it, but I followed him once, and I saw where he went. He always goes there a few days after a job."

"Local guy?"

"Yeah. Burnt out hippie, did too much of something back in the Summer of Love - not that there's much love in him. Edward likes him, 'cause he's loyal. They go back a long way, apparently; at least, that's what it sounded like they were talking about the day I followed them. Korea I think."

"Edward's an army man, huh." Maybe that was why Jonathon had recognised him. Young though the professor might be, and his British nationality notwithstanding, he had had numerous contacts with the American Secret Service during the latter days of the Vietnamese conflict. It was quite likely that he had picked up names and faces and a lot of incidental detail along the way. He had a memory like a vacuum cleaner, which sucked up everything, and kept it shut away somewhere inside.

"It was a long time ago." Slowly Victoria wandered into her apartment, looking as though she were loath to be there on her own. "So what's it going to be - here or... there?"

"I think it had better be there." He smiled at her, trying not to look too regretful. "Jonathon will be wanting to go over everything we've learned today."

"Did you learn anything?"

"Yeah." He nodded slowly. "More than you think."

"I'll have to be careful what I say to you in future."

"Might be an idea." He hesitated, frowning. "Look, we can end this now. I can tell Jonathon that Edward's forcing you to do all of this, and then you can give us the information we need to put him away. He won't bother you again, and--"

"I don't want to end this." She put her hand on his, and even though there was a genuine tenderness behind the gesture, her touch was firm and determined as well. "This is who I am."

"But Edward--"

"I told you. Edward is a necessary evil. I can't tell on him without him telling on me."

"But we're going to put Edward away. Jonathon's made up his mind."

"And you'll help him, because that's who you are." She nodded. "I understand. As a matter of fact I'm quite looking forward to the challenge. You're welcome to follow me Tyrone. I enjoyed today. But you won't find it easy to keep up with me when there's a job in the offing. I won't let you get in my way."

"You're welcome to try and stop me." He shrugged. "Actually that bit might be fun."

"Goodnight Tyrone." There was an amused smile on her face. "Watch out for Edward."

"You too."

"Oh I will. Don't worry." She eased the door closed. "See you tomorrow?"

"Very likely." He waited until the door was shut, then called out, quietly. "Meet you for breakfast?"

"Nine o'clock, the same place we ate today." Her voice came through the door, hardly diminished at all by so flimsy a barrier. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight." He turned and walked away, wandering slowly down the stairs. Damn, but life was complicated. He could only hope that, wherever the day had taken him, Jonathon had been rather more successful.


It was dawn before the long, muscular form of the snake retired from the back room and made its retreat through the main area of the shop. It proved too difficult to open the letterbox from the inside, and certain of his safety Jonathon resumed his own shape, simply opening the door - taking care not to let the bell ring - and making his exit in the conventional way. Outside the street was cold, half-touched by the very early sun and still bathed mostly in shadow. The candles burning in so many of the shop windows had halved their size since he had last seen them. Some had even burned themselves out. Jonathon sunk his hands into his pockets, hunching his shoulders slightly as protection against the cold, and wandered back along the street to the turning which would take him to the main thoroughfare. He was thinking hard as he strolled along, his mind running back through all that he had heard in the little room behind the shop. Who Curtis had been speaking to he did not know, since he had been unable to see the man's face; but whoever he was, he clearly had a history with Edward Curtis. They had talked for hours, the conversation switching at irregular intervals between a more or less equal exchange of words and a very much more one-sided series of threats. Curtis had apparently made his visit in order to discuss the sale of his ill-gotten gains, and had talked for some time on that very topic; suggesting prices, arguing over deals, and generally driving a very hard bargain indeed. Satisfied by the discussion that he had been right in his suspicions, and that Edward was most certainly involved in the spate of recent thefts, Jonathon had turned an even closer ear to the conversation, and had heard things which interested him greatly. Every so often, when the twosome had been enjoying friendly chat for a good while, Edward's companion seemed to relax, and to fall into a state of vague confusion. He displayed many of the signs of a brain pushed to its limits, damaged beyond repair, most likely by extensive drug abuse; and in these periods of overt relaxation, when his guard was clearly down, he began to refer to incidents from a long way in both their pasts. Mention of such events seemed to antagonise Curtis - to frighten him, perhaps, but certainly to anger him. Why it should do so was unclear, but Jonathon was rather of the opinion that the things Edward's companion referred to were old crimes committed by the pair; things that Edward himself did not like to hear spoken of - most likely for fear of being overheard. Thus satisfied, Jonathon smiled to himself in contentment as he headed back towards the nearby residential area. It should be easy to find a taxi there, so that he could take a quicker way home.

He was making good progress, walking at a brisk and steady pace, and his mind was already turning to thoughts of home. A quick sandwich, some tea - maybe a shower before bed. He imagined Tyrone's anger over his failure to make contact, and smiled to himself. Perhaps he should find a phone and give his old friend a call now - put his mind at rest. That thought sparked another, and as the shape of a telephone booth loomed up out of the brooding shadows, Jonathon rummaged in his pockets for change and headed towards the half-covered box. He dialled a number quickly, gripping the heavy black receiver, and listening impatiently to the large dial as it rolled all the way back before he could put in the next number. He heard a long, almost interminable ringing through the receiver, and waited for Brooke to pick up her phone.

"Hello?" She sounded very sleepy, and Jonathon felt a burst of guilt. In his excitement he had quite forgotten the time.

"Brooke? I'm sorry to wake you--"

"Jonathon?" She sighed. "This had better be good."

"I hope that it is." He hesitated. "I need a favour."

"So long as it doesn't involve unfounded accusations against my colleagues, I'm all yours." She yawned again. "Although I don't see that it couldn't have waited."

"I'm sorry about what I said earlier. I didn't know that Edward Curtis meant so much to you." He scowled, wishing that he didn't have to worry about how much it was going to hurt his friend to find out the truth. "I need you to run a check on a name."

"Uh huh." There was the sound of scuffling, as though she were looking for a pen. "Okay, go ahead."

"Thanks. The name's Travis Honeycott." He hesitated, thinking back over the course that the conversation had taken. There had been much talk of Korea, and other military operations. "You might want to check out a military angle. I think Honeycott might harken from that kind of background."

"Thanks. I'll try that." There was a pause. "Can I see you tomorrow?"

"I certainly hope so." He smiled, and wished that she could see it down the phone. "I'll call by the precinct early in the morning if that's okay."

"Jonathon..." There was a faint groan behind her voice. "It's early in the morning now. Meet me for breakfast, okay? Usual place."

"Okay." He smiled again. "Thanks Brooke. Goodnight."

"Good morning," she corrected with mock ill-grace. He heard the sound of her hanging up, and broke the connection at his end as well.

"Odd time to be making phone calls." The voice was almost friendly, but there was an edge to it that was unmistakable; and Jonathon almost jumped. He managed to stop himself, keeping hold of his nerves only through a desire not to let his unexpected visitor see that he had been taken by surprise. A sudden hard pressure in his back stopped him in mid-step as he began to turn around, and Edward Curtis' deep, uninteresting voice echoed in his ears.

"I don't think you need to move just now, do you? Tell me who you were calling, and why, and then we can both walk on by."

"I was calling my stockbroker. He's been making some deals for me in Welsh gold. It's well into business hours back in Britain."

"Funny man." The rigid pressure of a gun knocked into his ribs once again. "Maybe we'd better forget the chat, and just head back to the store."

"Thanks, but I have to be getting home." Jonathon put as much casual ease into his words as he could. His only answer was a disparaging snort. "Perhaps we could take a rain-check?"

"I don't think so." A hard hand gripped his arm, and the gun changed places, pressing now into the back of his neck. "Just get moving, Professor Chase. Suddenly I think that we have a whole lot to talk about."


It was past noon when Tyrone and Victoria, arm in arm and yet still somewhat uncomfortable in each other's company, walked into the small cafe where they had met for breakfast earlier in the day. They sat down at an empty table, looking about at the almost deserted premises. Clearly the lunch crowd had not yet gathered. Victoria smiled a little nervously.

"Are you embarrassed to be seen with me or something?"

"No. Of course not." He frowned, smiling at the same time. "I guess I'm just looking about for Jonathon. He eats here a lot."

"I'm sure he's okay. If there was any trouble Edward would have called me."

"Yeah, I know." Tyrone did not like to suggest that Victoria might indeed have received such a call - but had decided to keep the news from him. He shrugged. "It's just not like him though, not to get in touch."

"He's probably busy." A waiter wandered over and they turned their conversation to other subjects, ordering at their leisure. Only when the servile presence of the black clad gentleman had faded from their table did they speak again of the matter which had brought them into each other company in the first place. Tyrone played with the plastic bottle of tomato sauce in the middle of the table, avoiding Victoria's eyes.

"If something did happen, what would you do?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, if Edward did call you, did tell you that something had gone wrong last night, and that he'd done something with Jonathon... what would you do?"

"Tell you." She leaned closer to him across the table. "I'm no killer Ty. I'm a thief, admittedly; and a good one too; but I'd never want to be involved in a murder. I don't make any secret of the fact that I don't like Edward a whole lot. He was the one who made contact with me when I first came to New York. He was the one who started this whole operation. I didn't need that much pushing to take part in the robberies, but it all boils down to the fact that I was blackmailed into doing them. It's not an equal partnership, and it never has been, so I certainly wouldn't be prepared to help dear old Edward do away with a friend of mine." Her smile grew, rather endearingly to Tyrone's way of thinking. "Well, a friend of a friend. Or a friend of a... a sort of friend."

"Thanks." He smiled too. "To hear you talk, though... I just find it hard to understand why you won't give us the information we need to put Edward away. He's a crooked cop, Victoria. He could be putting the thumbscrews on any number of people across the city, and not all of them are as capable as you are. Plus there's no telling how many other crimes he's committed over the years. At the station they think he's some kind of a hero. He's Mr Solid, the guy who doesn't look like there's much beyond the surface but has an incredible clean-up rate. For all we know, the cases he cracks, the people he arrests - they could all be set-ups. He could be using them to cover his own tracks, and he might be planning to do just the same thing to you. What happens when he's satisfied with the amount you've stolen for him? He's left with a lot of unsolved robberies, and it strikes me that that's one almighty high to go out on. He might just decide to turn you over to the authorities - and then where will you be? Your word against his isn't going to count for much."

"True." She turned away. "But I don't think that my word is going to count for a whole lot anyway. You said that your friend at the precinct wouldn't listen to you yesterday, and if a friend won't listen what makes you think that the rest of the world will? I have a record, Ty. A very long, impressive record. I'm wanted in three states." She smiled, and took a rather sharp intake of breath. "Can we forget that I said that last bit, please? The truth is, that the world won't care about the truth. A known criminal shouts corruption in an attempt to lighten her own sentence. It's an old story, Tyrone. Too many people have tried it too many times."

"Maybe you're right. But I'd listen to you, and Jonathon would listen to you. Pretty soon we'd find something to make other people listen too."

"Or maybe Edward would make sure that nobody got the chance to listen to any of us." She sighed. "We're just going round in circles here. Could we forget about it for a while and enjoy our lunch?"

"Yeah. I guess so." The waiter was returning from the kitchen, laden with coffee and hot rolls, and they waited until he had unburdened himself and retired. Tyrone smiled. "But this is a temporary withdrawal, not a declaration of defeat."

"Of course." She sighed, stirring rather too much sugar into her cup with the aid of a small plastic spoon. "You don't have much time to make your next assault, though. I have work to do."

"Another job?"

"Another job. The big one."


She laughed, a sound that set his heart racing; and such a reaction came as a shock. He had not realised how far and fast he was losing himself in all of this. "I'm not going to tell you that. You're supposed to be stopping me, remember?"

"Yeah." He flashed her a vaguely embarrassed smile. "I'd kind of forgotten that."

"I'd noticed. We both seem to have forgotten that we're meant to be on opposite sides."

"Opposites attract."

"They do seem to, don't they." An expression of vague puzzlement crossed her face, and he frowned at her sudden distraction. "Do you know a young woman; light hair, annoyingly attractive? Only she's trying to catch your attention."

"I don't--" He froze, and then turned suddenly, nearly spilling his coffee. "Brooke!"

"Your police officer friend?" Victoria winced. "I hope your pal Jonathon hasn't filled her in about my rôle in all of this."

"He won't have." Tyrone rose to his feet, gesturing for the young detective to join them. She came quickly, looking flustered.

"Hi Tyrone." She spared a brief moment to smile at Victoria, but that was all. "Have you seen Jonathon?"

"Not today, no." He indicated that she should sit, but she hesitated, and seemed to change her mind several times before finally accepting his invitation. A waiter homed in almost immediately, but she waved him away.

"I was supposed to be meeting him here, but he hasn't shown. It was supposed to be a breakfast arrangement. I've been trying to get in touch with him ever since."

"No answer from home?"

"Nothing. I've been trying the university too, but he hasn't been in today. Nobody's seen him." She looked suddenly earnest. "What's he working on, Ty?"

"I don't know." He shrugged extravagantly, unable quite to meet Victoria's look. "Have you spoken to him since our... meeting yesterday?"

"Yes." She had looked faintly abashed at his mention of their altercation, but recovered quickly. "He phoned me last night, very late - well, more this morning actually. He asked me to run a check on a name for him."

"What name?" Suddenly interested, Tyrone leaned forward. Brooke rummaged around in her bag for a pile of notepaper, which she spread out on the table between them.

"Travis Honeycott. Army man apparently. I've done the check, and I can only say that whatever Jonathon's involved in this time, I wish he'd come to me first. This Honeycott character has a record as long as the Grand Canyon; everything from forgery and fraud to theft and murder - and on quite a grand scale. He was arrested after a bunch of robberies he committed when he was in the army back in Korea, but he escaped and nobody's seen him since. He was thought to be dead. His records say that he was killed in a mortar attack somewhere near Kaesong."

"But Jonathon asked you about him yesterday?" Tyrone frowned, looking towards Victoria. "Could that be the fence?"

"He could be, but..." Her head-shake was a clear sign of uncertainty. "Like I said, the guy's a burnt out hippie. He was out in Korea for a while, certainly, but he was only there on sufferance. He spent most of his time trying to do small-time drug deals with the locals."

"I beg your pardon?" Her interest aroused, Brooke looked from Tyrone to Victoria and back again. "Would you care to elaborate, Tyrone?"

"It's complicated." He sighed, his eyes fixed on a point halfway between his own coffee cup and Victoria's. "The military angle is an interesting one though. Jonathon thought that he had seen Edward somewhere before, but I was beginning to think that was just because he'd seen him around the office when we were visiting you."

"Edward. What has Edward got to do with this?" Brooke had her no-nonsense face on, and Tyrone finally looked up to meet her gaze. There was hesitation writ large in his eyes, and she frowned as though to spur him on. "Ty..."

"You're not going to like it." He sighed. "Okay, look. We've been investigating him. Jonathon was convinced that he knew him from somewhere, and from what you've just said I think he was right. My guess is that he saw some of the files on Travis Honeycott when he was working for the military back in the seventies. You know all about that, right?"

"You know I do. It was when Jonathon was working for them that the two of you first met."

"Yeah, right. Well I'm betting that Travis has something to do with Edward." He saw the look of disparaging disbelief which was beginning to spread its mark across Brooke's face. "I know you don't want to hear this, but you've got to admit that it makes sense. Jonathon was following Edward last night, and that's got to be when Honeycott's name came up. Maybe somebody overheard his phone call. He could be in trouble."

"I can't believe that Edward is involved in anything to do with this Honeycott guy. I won't believe it." Brooke rose to her feet. "Wherever Jonathon is, he needs our help. It's not going to do any of us any good if you're running around on wild goose chases after my colleagues."

"It's not a wild goose chase." Victoria glanced up, holding Brooke's gaze. "I think you'd better sit down again, detective."

"Victoria..." Concerned about what she might be about to say, and how she might implicate herself, Tyrone reached for her hand. She smiled, and stopped him.

"It's okay. Trust me." She shrugged. "Besides, I've disappeared before. I can do it again."

"If you're going to tell me that you have proof Edward is a dirty cop I can tell you in advance that I won't believe you." Brooke sounded resolute. Victoria nodded, smiling as though she had already anticipated this.

"Don't worry," she said softly. "You'll believe it. Just get me a microphone with you two at the other end of it, and I'll show you what you need to hear."

"Who are you?" Suspicion showed clear in Brooke's voice. Victoria's smile grew increasingly sad.

"By the looks of it, somebody who's about to break your heart."


The little antiques shop in the curious street of apparent time warps was in silence. It was late, and yet the shop had not been opened - little matter since the street itself was a quiet one, and rarely did much business outside of the height of the tourist season - and the candles which had burnt in the windows during the night had all melted away. Whilst the rest of the street was opened up to the fresh air, and new incense spread its odour in the other doorways, the antiques shop remained locked. A heavy red curtain hung over the front door, and the lights were switched off. None of the other shopkeepers thought anything of it. The proprietor, Travis Honeycott, was well known as a long-term user of any substance he could get his hands on; and whilst the percentage of actual narcotics in the substances he used (as opposed to talcum powder, plaster of Paris, kitchen scourer and the like) was very small, he remained steadfastly addicted to them, along with anything else that he could smoke, inhale, inject, or otherwise take into his bloodstream. Lost weekends were nothing - lost weeks were not unheard of - and thus his neighbours were not at all concerned by his failure to open up on one specific morning. Instead they cast knowing glances at each other as they met about their general preliminaries. To imagine that their colleague was lost in conferences with a thief and a likely killer was too far from anything that seemed possible; and to think that he might be embroiled in matters of any consequence to anybody was even further from the imagination.

It was, therefore, in utter security that Edward Curtis paced out his increasing fury on the well-worn (and increasingly more so) floorboards of the room where he had met with Honeycott the previous night. His footsteps echoed on the hard wood, and his constantly moving, heavyweight shoes left long black scuff marks that showed no signs of removing themselves. Seated on the very chair he had spent the night beneath, Jonathon Chase watched the pacing policeman with mounting unease. It was all too easy to believe that so powerful and easily-annoyed a man such as this, would very soon lose what little patience he might have left.

"Who were you phoning?" It was at least the third repetition of that particular question in nearly as many minutes. Jonathon had soon realised that brevity was not the best way in which to answer Curtis's questions, and had soon abandoned any attempts at humour. Instead he said nothing. Curtis did not waver in his pacing, but still managed to turn his unceasingly piercing gaze towards his prisoner, seeming to hold him steady under the power of his eyes even when his back was turned.

"Who told you to watch me? Who told you I was coming here?"

"Nobody." Jonathon remembered only too well the bruises that his involvement had already put on the face of Curtis's young associate - and since Curtis obviously already suspected her, he did not want to risk causing her any further undeserved injuries. Anything that he could say to steer the man's suspicions away from her would make his conscience rest easier. Curtis, however, did not seem to believe him.

"Nobody." He gave a short laugh. "Was it Victoria?"

"Who?" Simple deduction told the professor that this was the name of the woman he had spoken with - the woman he had seen talking to Edward on the night when he had taken the form of the eagle in order to play the spy. He was, however, loath to display any such knowledge. Again his feigned innocence did not appear to fool his captor.

"Who." He repeated his short burst of laughter. "It doesn't matter now I suppose. By this time tomorrow it'll all be over anyway. I'll have everything that I wanted, and Victoria will be on her way to spending the rest of her life behind bars; either that or she'll be dead. You might think you were clever, finding out about my little... sideline... but you've done too little too late." His smile became darker and increasingly unpleasant. "And by the time anybody finds you, anything they do will be too little too late."

"You won't get away with it."

"You think somebody is going to stop me?" There was dry humour in Curtis's voice. "So somebody did put you up to this. There is somebody else who knows something."

"No." Jonathon saw the contempt in the other man's eyes, and felt its sting. "I'm in this on my own, but that doesn't matter. I know what you've been doing, and I know that you've been doing it for a long, long time - you and your sleepy friend over there."

"Then you do know about us." Curtis folded his arms, his figure and presence imposing. "How did you get in here last night? How did you manage to overhear?"

"Trade secret." He smiled, although he didn't feel particularly disposed to humour. "I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."

"Funny man." He turned away again, once more resuming his irritable pacing, and his eyes scanned the room in search of likely points of entry. There were three windows, all tightly shuttered; one door, over which he had held steady vigil all night; and four solid walls of wooden panelling. The door itself, covered as it was by a curtain of beads, was impossible to sneak through. Even if the intruder were not spotted, the corresponding wild dance of the beads was impossible to miss. He was sure that the infuriating Professor Chase could not have entered the inner room, and must therefore have listened in from the outer room - the main part of the shop - but that in itself presented further problems. The outer door was guarded by an alarm - secret so as not to alert any intruders - which caused a bright red light to flash in the inner room. Since this alarm was on a sealed circuit, and was battery powered, it was impossible to sabotage unless entry had already been gained. Chase clearly had not made any such preparations for a break in; not least because, presumably, he had been unaware of the shop's existence until that very night - had to have been unaware of it, or he would never have gone there alone. He certainly hadn't sabotaged the flashing light at any rate, since its warning glare had been what had alerted Curtis to his presence, and caused him to chase after the professor following his earlier retreat. Not knowing how he had got past this alarm on his way in galled Curtis, who had always prided himself on his attention to detail, and his skills with security.

"Maybe he tunnelled up from the sewers." Honeycott, laying in languid luxury on a heavily embroidered chaise-longue, looked almost dead to the world. His left arm trailed on the thick, plush carpet, and the other was folded behind his head. His eyes bore a suspicious glaze that was due only in part to the oft-refilled glass of whisky that stood on the floor beside his trailing hand. "I knew a man who tried to get into a bank that way."

"Yeah." His tone less than friendly, Curtis did not bother sparing his associate a glance. "Except that he took a wrong turning and wound up in the laundrette down the street."

"You knew him?" Honeycott sounded surprised. Curtis looked disgusted.

"Of course I knew him. He was your brother, you idiot."

"Damned right he was." Honeycott's smile had broadened into one of utter bliss. "I drew him the map. It was a work of art."

"It was a work of fiction." The words were spoken with enough force to indicate that the conversation was at an end. Curtis turned back to Jonathon. "You might as well tell me, you know. I will find out - not that it matters. By the end of the fortnight I'll be richer by more than two million dollars, and sweet Victoria Cummins will be taking the fall for me. I'll be heading for a new life in California, and no one will be any the wiser." He pointed a hard, angry finger at the professor, jabbing it in staccato fury into the unresisting air. "So you'd better tell me what I want to know, because I'm not going to let some teacher stand in my way. Who put you on to me, what roused their suspicions? And how did you know to follow me here, and how to get inside?" He jerked a thumb at Honeycott. "Are you working with him?" The suggestion was absurd, and Jonathon could not prevent a smile from crossing his face. Curtis, who clearly was not a man without a sense of humour, gave a snort and turned away again.

"He must have come through the keyhole." Giggling to himself as though far away in a world of his own, Honeycott emptied his whisky glass and let the empty tumbler fall onto the cushions beside him. "Or the letterbox."

"Will you shut up!" Curtis's anger came with such suddenness that Jonathon jumped - and so did the half dozen whisky bottles on the nearby desk, as the policeman's heavy fist crashed down among them. The glass vessels banged and rattled in a tuneless symphony, and one fell over with a loud thud. Curtis caught it up, but whether or not he was considering using it as a weapon was never to be revealed. His storm of rage blew itself out as quickly as it had grown, and after weighing the bottle in his hand for a moment he dropped it back down onto the desk.

"He's right you know." Jonathon kept his voice level, as usual the very epitome of the calm after the storm. "I did come in through the letterbox."

"Really." Apparently there was no more anger to be had, for a while at least. Instead Curtis smiled. "Then you should have no difficulty in leaving the same way. I have to be at work, before somebody gets it into their head to check up on me." He leaned in close. "But I won't be long. Have a think while I'm gone, professor. The river near here is full of people who got in my way, and there are always a couple of hundred patsies I can set up to take the blame. Don't forget that."

"I won't." They stared at each other for a while, the one angry and frustrated, the other angry and afraid. Curtis smiled.

"Good." With a sudden explosion of activity, as though his irritation were suddenly bubbling to the surface, he pulled his handcuffs from his pocket, hauled his prisoner to his feet, and linked his hands behind his back. "That should hold you for an hour or two. We'll talk when I get back."

"I'll look forward to it." The professor tried to stay on his feet, but a hard shove from Curtis sent him reeling back into his chair.

"So will I." He turned his eyes, abruptly, towards his confederate. "Watch him Travis. If he's not here when I get back, you'll be the one going for a swim. Got it?" There was no answer from Honeycott, who was apparently conducting some silent symphony, his hands weaving an intricate pattern in the air, his eyes shut tight. Curtis hurled one of the whisky bottles at him, but it fell short of its mark and made no sound at all as it hit the thick carpet and rolled, undamaged, beneath the chaise-longue. Honeycott did not so much as flinch.

"I heard you the first time." He sounded calm - too calm almost. "Just get to work."

"Sure." Curtis hesitated for a moment, then turned about and headed for the door. The beads leapt and danced as he pushed through them with unnecessary force, and seconds later the red light in the corner of the room flashed to illustrate his departure. At the same time the bell above the outer door sounded its own confirmation. Jonathon let out a long, quiet sigh of relief, and let his eyes move casually towards Honeycott. The older man had not moved a muscle, and still lay stretched out on his chaise-longue like some recumbent Roman emperor. His pale, discoloured lips were bent into a smile like that of a man long pickled by too many chemical combinations, and there was nothing at all about him to suggest that he might be a formidable guard dog. Very slowly Jonathon made as though to stand.

"Don't try it, son." The dreams had gone from Honeycott's voice, and although his eyes remained closed his body was suddenly tense and alert. "I may be drunk, but I've still got thirty pairs of eyes in the back of my head, and every one of them's looking straight at you."

"Curtis will betray you." It was a long shot, but Jonathon felt that he might just as well try it as not. Honeycott gave a short laugh.

"No he won't. He's lethal alright, and he'll kill any man soon as look at him. But he won't frame me. I know too much, and there's no way he can keep me silent. He knows that. I fried my brain twenty years ago, but I still know a few tricks. If I die, the police get a whole load of information on the pair of us."

"But if you know so much, why don't you go to the authorities?" Jonathon was on his feet now, but Honeycott merely turned to face him, every movement slow and laboured, and yet somehow vital beneath the surface veneer of hopeless confusion.

"You don't know as much as he thinks you do, do you. Why in hell would I want to turn him in?"

"To see justice done?"

"Justice." Honeycott laughed, the sound that of a man who was far gone indeed. When the spasm passed the old soldier reached into his jacket and withdrew a short, snub-nosed revolver. Its dark snout pointed straight at Jonathon, and taking the hint he sat back down. "Who cares about justice? I've been doing all this longer than he has, so don't try to appeal to my better nature, son; or to my sense of duty. All I care about is the money Edward pays me."

"Then I hope for your sake that you haven't underestimated him the way everybody else has." Jonathon glanced over towards the beaded curtain. "I meant what I said, you know. I really did come in through the letterbox."

"Sure son." Honeycott lay back down, the gun resting at his side. Already drifting once again in his secure world of dreams and semi-realities it was with only half an ear that he heard his prisoner's breathing become harder and more urgent. He smiled to himself. Obviously the professor was rather more afraid than he had so far let on. Amused, he opened one eye - and was just in time to see the last foot of a long snake as it slid beneath the strings of beads and made its escape into the shop. Letting out a shriek that was halfway between amazement and alarm, Honeycott leaped to his feet, his eyes wide, and pointed after the unexpected creature.

"Did you see that?!" Excitement coloured his voice beyond recognition. "Did you see that?" There was no answer, and he turned to look at Jonathon. Aside from a pair of handcuffs lying neatly on the seat, the chair was empty, and he gaped at it in uncomprehending stupefaction. The professor had gone - and he was completely alone.


"You're sure about all of this?" Leaning back into the embrace of a pine wood bench in a secluded park, Brooke McKenzie stared dolefully at the mound of paperwork before her. Tyrone smiled a sympathetic smile.

"We're sure." He glanced over the papers one last time, and eyed Victoria with a reproachful look. "Of course, if I'd been able to take a look at this earlier..."

"Sorry." She grinned at him, entirely without remorse. "I don't hand out sensitive secrets to everybody who buys me a meal." She tapped a photograph which was uppermost in a pile of similar pictures. All were five by eight enlargements, black and white as though from newspaper records. "This guy here is Eddie Bennett. You can check that with your police records. He's a lifer, sent to prison in 1978 on a murder charge. Your friend Curtis arrested him and came up with all of the evidence. It was quite a big case from his point of view - it tied in with half a dozen other loose ends your department was trying to deal with at the time." She hesitated, perhaps looking for confirmation from Brooke that she should continue, or perhaps just collecting her thoughts. "Bennett was put away for the murder of a drug dealer, except that at the time of the murder three or four people saw him at a night-club at the other end of the city. On the day of his trial, two of those people were found shot dead in an alleyway. Curtis - and don't ask me how, 'cause it sounds pretty crazy - managed to come up with the evidence to convince the state to press charges against Bennett for the murder of those two witnesses as well. The claim was that they weren't going to back him up the way he thought they would, by confirming the story of his innocence; that they'd suddenly got an attack of righteousness and decided to tell the so-called truth after all. So he had them shot."

"I remember the case." Brooke nodded. "At least, I remember Edward telling me about it. He's very proud of the work that he did."

"That's no surprise. Edward killed that drug dealer, and he killed the two men who could prove that Eddie Bennett didn't."

"Hearsay." Brooke didn't quite meet Victoria's gaze, and the other woman smiled.

"Yeah, I guessed you'd say that. Truth is, detective, that I probably wouldn't believe me either. I've seen what Edward can be like. He charmed me too, when we first met. I wouldn't have worked with him if he'd been just some normal guy - but he isn't. He could charm a snake just by flashing a smile at it." She gestured to the bruises that were still so noticeable on her face. "But he's the real snake."

"Where did you get all of this information from?" Brooke glanced through the pile of photographs, recognising some faces, wondering even more about the ones she had never seen before. There was so much information in the file, so many names, so many dates. It seemed impossible to discount it all as a smear campaign, and yet she very much wanted it to be just that - even if it meant that Tyrone was involved in it too.

"I'm very thorough. I don't agree to work with somebody without knowing a little bit about them." She shrugged. "He has enough on me to send me away for a long time, and I decided that the least I could do was try and get the same kind of information on him. Lot of good it's likely to do me, since it's a fair bet nobody will believe my word over his. But I figured I had to try - maybe give myself a fighting chance if it ever came to court."

"Who told you all of this? You can't have got it all from hearsay, or from street rumours." Tyrone, despite being firmly on her side, still sounded suspicious. Victoria smiled at him, guessing how strongly he felt towards Brooke, and how unwilling he was to be a party to causing her so much pain.

"There are a lot of people who are scared of Edward Curtis - a lot of people who know full well that they could be the next ones to get fitted up for crimes they didn't commit. Every time he does something likely to draw a bit of attention - like when he wiped out that drug dealer - he sets up somebody else to take the blame. Word on the street is that there are at least twenty-five people in prison for crimes Edward committed. Nobody wants to say anything to the authorities because they know that they'd never be believed; but they were happy to talk to me, once I'd got their trust."

"Once you'd let them know you were one of them." Brooke's tone was still faintly accusing, as though she found it impossible to throw off the police instinct, and to see Victoria as anything other than a potential enemy. "Supposing you tell us what it is that Edward supposedly has on you? You told Tyrone that you weren't in any position to go public about what sort of a man Edward is, because he has information that could put you in a very difficult position. If you want me to trust you, I think you should tell me what that information is."

"I thought you'd say that." All of a sudden Victoria's eyes were everywhere, staring at everything from the nearby saplings to the distant joggers; anything other than Brooke and Tyrone. "It's complicated."

"We already know that you're a thief. The whole reason that we're here is that Tyrone and Jonathon saw you hanging around, and thought that you were up to something."

"I was checking out potential targets. Edward was involved in investigating some robberies. He had to go into a lot of fancy apartments, and he saw a lot of stuff - jewellery, paintings, expensive furniture. He was in a perfect position to take inventories of all the things he fancied. A friend of his valued it all for him, and told him which were the best pieces to go for. I don't know who the friend was, but it was probably Travis Honeycott."

"It certainly looks likely." Tyrone was not unaware of the blatant question-dodging Victoria was trying to get away with. Brooke looked annoyed, but he had more important things on his mind. "I'm getting some definite ideas where Jonathon might have been last night, when he found out about Honeycott, and his connection with Edward. It bothers me that he hasn't been in touch again since his phone call. I vote that we go find the fence."

"Maybe." Brooke stared long and hard at Victoria. "But I think it's Edward we should be speaking to first. If your lady friend isn't going to answer my questions, maybe he will."

"You think we've got enough to go to him?" Tyrone rose to his feet, already eager to go, but Brooke did not follow suit immediately. Neither did Victoria.

"It has to be enough. It's all that I've got, and you won't find anyone else willing to blow the whistle. I'm not sure that I'm prepared to make any of this official." Victoria was staring at him in a way that begged to be understood, but Tyrone's mind was already on other things. Brooke stood up quickly, and grabbed the file and the photographs.

"It'll be enough. With this we can pressure Edward, and make him tell us the rest - if he really is guilty, that is. I'm not saying yet, whether I believe all this or not." She smiled rather coldly. "If we want to be sure, maybe we should try Victoria's suggestion, with the microphone and a little unscheduled conversation."

"Hey, I was joking about that. That was my selfless moment, when Tyrone was worried about his professor friend. I didn't really mean that I would--"

"Save it." Brooke gestured that she should join them in rising, then took her arm. "I think you might as well consider yourself under arrest from now on. Whatever it is that Edward has on you, I'm charging you with it now, got it?"

"I've got it." Victoria stared at the ground. "This is what you get for trying to be a good citizen."

"No, this is what you get for messing around with the NYPD." Brooke handed the file to Tyrone so that she could be sure of keeping one hand near to her gun. "If this works out, I might just be looking the other way at the vital moment. But if Jonathon is anything less than one hundred percent well and healthy, you and Edward - or whoever you're really working for - will be going away for a long, long time. Understood?"

"Understood." Victoria looked at the ground. "We'd arranged a meeting at my place for three o'clock this afternoon. My guess is that that's the place to pick him up."

"Thank you." There was a genuine smile in Brooke's eyes, but the face around it was hard and resolute. "And when I see Edward, I'm going to ram that smug smile of his down his throat."

"Get in line." Tyrone was already striding ahead. Victoria stared after him, her expression wavering between unease and genuine distress.

"Shouldn't we call for reinforcements?" she asked rather plaintively. Brooke shook her head.

"We don't have enough evidence to make this official yet. Not when it's still your word that we're relying on."

"Lucky me. I always did want to be the star of the show."

"Yeah. Lucky you." Brooke pushed her ahead, and together the pair hurried after Tyrone. "Just remember that lover boy up ahead is counting on you. It might be an added incentive."

"I'm really not the reliable type." Victoria was glad that she could not see Tyrone's face. He was counting on her, she knew that with painful certainty. She only hoped that, if the probable became the inevitable, he would understand that she had only one course of action. She wasn't going to risk arrest. She couldn't; and if that meant betraying Tyrone to Edward, then that was just what she was going to have to do. She didn't have any other choice.


Nobody noticed the stray dog as it ran at full speed down the streets of New York. Nobody gave a second thought to the anxious-looking eagle, which circled half the city in a desperate sweep in search of its friends. Fewer still took heed of the small, sleek rat, with its inquisitive, intelligent eyes, which huddled in a corner in the back of the local radio news office, listening for anything that might be of interest to it. It twitched its tail, anxious to know why its friends were not at their respective homes or places of work, and why they could not be found at any of their other usual haunts; the cafés, bars and restaurants which had become so much a part of the circle of their lives together. If the owner of Jake's bar - who was, paradoxically, not called Jake at all, but was rather less fittingly known as Martina - had seen the black raven sitting on her windowsill she might well have screamed and made everyone sit up and take notice; but then she had been afraid of ravens since a visit to the Tower Of London when she was three years old. In the event she did not see the bird anyway, and was looking in another direction entirely when it peered in through the glass in search of its friends, before rising into the air in evident exhaustion, and beating a slow and steady retreat back to its first port of call.

It was a decidedly dishevelled Jonathon Chase who stood at the foot of the fire escape at Victoria Cummins' hotel and tried to recover his breath. It had been a long and so far fruitless search, and he could not understand his inability to at least find word of his friends. He had started by trying Victoria's apartment; but there had been no sign of Tyrone's car, and the apartment itself had been empty, and so he had decided to go elsewhere. There had been no answer from Brooke's phone, nobody had seen her that day at the precinct; nobody had seen Tyrone either, although that wasn't quite so unusual. It seemed as though the pair of them had vanished off the face of the Earth - and that was not an accomplishment for which Jonathon had much admiration at that precise moment. He was afraid for his friends, and for what might have happened to them. If he had spent the first part of the day in Edward's custody, where might they have spent it? Did Edward consider them to be a threat? Had he told his beautiful young associate to remove Tyrone from the scene? Frustrated, not to mention beginning to feel rather lonely, Jonathon glanced up to the top of the fire escape and began to climb.

It was a rickety ladder, the brackets holding it to the wall being at once both rusted and worn - in some cases so much so as to be practically non-existent. Jonathon began to wonder if it mightn't have been a better idea to have attempted the ascent in a different form - one with wings, preferably - but with so many windows the chances of being seen were too high, and he was not willing to risk a change now. Some time previously - years ago now, when he thought about it - an old enemy had threatened to push him from the roof of a tall building, and had taunted him about whether or not he would be able to change in time to save his life before he hit the ground. It was a question he had never yet had cause to answer, and was quite happy with his ignorance on that one particular point - but the idea came back to him now, as he stumbled up the last few half dozen steps, and the whole of the ladder swayed indignantly beneath his feet. He scrambled onto the more solid platform beside the ladder on Victoria's floor, and peered in through the window of the door. An empty corridor greeted him, and turning away his head he slammed his arm against the glass. There was the sound of a violent splintering, accompanied by a cacophony of raining glass splinters on the metal escape ladder; but afterwards came silence. There was no sound of shouting; no pounding of feet as neighbours came to see what was going on. The entire hotel appeared to be deserted, and after gaining entry, Jonathon found it easy to make his way to the right room. He thought that he could hear the sound of voices inside, but it was too hard to make out specific words, or to be sure whose voices they were. At a loss he leaned against the wall, needing a moment to catch his breath. He needed rest after his morning's excursions, but he knew that he could not rest now. Gathering his strength he forced himself to concentrate; made himself see the picture of an animal inside his mind. He focussed his energies onto the animal, holding it, breathing with it, becoming it; closing his mind upon it to the exclusion of all else. In the long and deserted hotel corridor, the form of Jonathon Chase gradually slipped away; and seconds later the silent form of a snake slipped away likewise, sliding its sleek form beneath the door and into the room beyond. Its fluid motion easily brought it through one of the larger holes in the warped and scarred wood, and it slid with a natural grace and silence into the apartment. Four human figures stood in the room, all with their backs to the door, and none of them noticed the snake as it moved across the room and slid beneath the large sofa dominating one half of the floor space. Just as, on the previous night, it had curled itself up beneath a chair to listen to a conversation, so now it rested itself, watching and waiting, listening carefully, its tongue flashing incessantly back and forth from inside its mouth. In the darkness beneath the sofa it was the tongue alone that moved; and in the light of the world beyond there was little more that showed any sign of motion. The four humans talked, and argued, and their voices rose and fell in threats and curses; but the only one of them who seemed inclined to move was a young woman in a scarlet suit, who edged imperceptibly towards the door, and all the while kept her eyes fixed on her three companions. The tide was beginning to turn, and Victoria wanted to be sure which way to turn with it.


Edward had arrived as expected, and on the dot of three o'clock. Victoria let him in eventually, after listening to him hammering irritably on the door until it threatened to break loose from its hinges and collapse altogether. He stormed in as soon as the door was open, pushing past his associate as though he were some heavily frustrated king, and she were the lowliest of his subjects. She made no sound of protest, and instead smiled pleasantly.

"Good morning Edward."

"Good. Huh." He paced up and down for a while, and then sat down. "Have you finished your survey?"

"Everything is on schedule." She sat down on the arm of the settee, and frowned at him. "Are you okay? You're usually the calm one. I'm starting to feel like we've swapped rôles."

"I'm fine." He continued to stare at the threadbare carpet, watching his left knee bounce thoughtfully up and down. "Just got a few problems to sort out. One or two little loose ends."

"Such as?" Victoria's conversation with Tyrone and Brooke earlier left her fairly convinced as to the nature of these loose ends, but she wanted Edward to say it aloud. She wanted her two eavesdroppers to hear it all from his own mouth. Perhaps such evidence would not be admissible in court - but who cared? Someone would hear it, and then somebody at least would know what Edward Curtis was really about.

"Jonathon Chase." He spat the words out, each syllable a curse. "The guy I told you about."

"The professor, yeah. You accused me of working with him." She touched the tender skin by her eye and managed a smile, determined to act as though there were no hard feelings, as if his violence towards her was understandable, and perfectly acceptable. "What about him?"

"I caught him snooping around first thing this morning. He knows... certain things about me. I don't know how he found them out, and I don't know what in heaven's name he was doing snooping around in the first place, but I've got him now."

"He alive?" She voiced the question as innocently as she could, but all the same he stared at her for a second, as though wondering just why she should be interested.

"Yeah, he's alive. A friend of mine is keeping an eye on him. I was going to deal with him a little later on, but I'm not so sure that it's that simple anymore."

"Why? He's just a civilian, right? It's not like you've never killed before."

"True." He smiled at her, the expression one of infinite nastiness and calculating menace. "But when I called in at the precinct this morning, and threw this guy's name round a bit, it turned out that he's not just some university professor after all. He's a friend of the lieutenant's, helps out on a lot of cases. Rumour has it that there might be something going on between him and another of the detectives at the department - Brooke McKenzie. She's the eager-beaver type; really dedicated. I saved her life a while back; thought it might look good on my record. Ever since then she's been hanging on my every word at the slightest opportunity. If her pal Chase turns up dead there's no way she's going to let it ride. And I've got a funny feeling she might just be the one Chase telephoned last night, right before I grabbed him."

"He telephoned somebody?" Pleased with her new-found ability to feign innocence, Victoria whistled. "You mean that he might have passed on some information about us to the cops? Maybe we'd better lie low for a bit."

"We'll lie low when we've finished what we set out to do." Edward leapt to his feet, beginning to pace frenetically up and down the small room. "We've got nothing to worry about. Nobody has any proof about what we've been up to."

"I do." She smiled at him, batting her eyelashes, a frown cancelling out the pleasantness of her initial expression. "I'm a thief, Edward, and I don't care who knows that. Not when we're about to finish our work here and move on. But I'm not a killer, and I don't want to be a part of any of this new stuff. So what if some college professor knows what we're up to? Who's going to believe him? Do you think he'd have gone after you on his own if he could get anybody to believe him? Why would he work alone if he really is a friend of your lieutenant? He's got no proof, Edward. Nobody believes him. Nobody cares. Just let him go."

"He can make life difficult for all of us, Victoria. And when life gets difficult for me it gets difficult for you too, remember that. All I need to do is make one phone call - hell I don't even need to do that much. All I have to do is tell my colleagues about your career history, and you'll be heading back to Texas in a prison van. Accessory to murder is a serious charge, honey." He took her hands, forcefully and without any suggestion of affection or gentility. "You'd be lucky to see the free world again before you reach retirement age. Add a few of those other charges you've been hiding from for so long, and you won't even get off that easy. You'll die on the other side of those bars."

"Maybe." She looked away. "But I don't want to have Chase's death on my conscience. You're planning to send me down no matter what happens, aren't you. You're not planning on having us both get out of this. I do ninety percent of the work, and you're going to walk off with one hundred percent of the proceeds." She shook her head, and pulled her hands away from his, standing up and pushing past him to head towards the window. "No deal Edward. I'm not interested in your blackmail or your plans anymore. I've got a new deal."

"You've been to the police." He spoke it as though it were a joke, and a smile of clear amusement lit up his eyes. "You really think that you can get something out of this. You honestly believe that you can come out of this on top." He shook his head, then reached inside his jacket and drew his gun. "Honey, I've told you before that you should never underestimate me. I am not who you think I am."

"And who do we think you are, Edward?" Brooke McKenzie made no fanfare about her entrance, but merely pushed the bathroom door gently, and strolled out into the living room with her gun already drawn. "How about a crooked cop, who fits other people up for his own crimes, and goes on laughing at the rest of the force behind their backs?" She came to an abrupt halt several paces away from him, and levelled her weapon. "How about a man with years worth of crimes waiting to answer for, including kidnapping a friend of mine?"

"Well..." He offered her his usual smile of cheerful welcome. "Everybody needs a little sideline, Brooke. I hear yours is helping the good professor with his research. Suddenly take an interest in animal welfare did you?"

"Jonathon is far more than just a professor. If you spent a little more time in the office, and a little less time running about the city framing innocent citizens, you might know a little something about that."

"Innocent citizens?" Edward began to laugh. "I've never framed a single innocent citizen in my life. They all deserved it, and if they hadn't gone down then, they pretty soon would have. I was doing the city a favour, helping to clean up its streets."

"I doubt that the DA would see it that way." Pulling out her handcuffs, Brooke rattled them in the air. "I think you know how to put these on, Edward. Kindly spare me the trouble."

"You don't want to do that." He folded his arms, letting his own gun swing casually from his fingertips. "It was very clever of you, Brooke, coming here, getting Victoria to help you." He nodded at Tyrone, who was standing stolidly in the background, his presence a surety that nothing untoward should happen. "Figuring out what I was up to in the first place was a great piece of detective work - or a great piece of luck. Either way it doesn't matter. You two, on your own - a detective hardly out of uniform and a civilian - do you honestly think you can take me in? That you can make any kind of charges stick? Once we get back to the office they'll be laughing so hard that the pair of you won't be able to see a straight face for months. Do you know who your friend here is? Do you know the real Victoria Cummins?"

"Edward, forget it. They don't care about that. They know all about you." Victoria's voice was soft, but there was a plaintive edge to it. Edward laughed at her.

"They don't, do they. What did you tell them, honey? That you were a thief I just happened to fall in with? You didn't tell them, then, about the half-crazed woman I found wandering on the outskirts of town. The woman who had practically run the whole way from Texas, to escape that little murder charge? The woman who abandoned her husband and her three little children, because the police were going to pull her in along with her rich boyfriend, after a pair of kids were found murdered?" He shook his head, clearly greatly amused. "You two really don't know anything about that? See, these two kids - college hopefuls, both of them - found out about the affair going on between Victoria here and this rich guy she'd been doing some work for. They tried to blackmail the guy, and he killed them both; shot them down in cold blood. Victoria claimed she was nowhere near the place at the time, but half a dozen witnesses put her right there, at her boyfriend's house, at the time that the gunshots were heard. Then that's before we even get to the twenty-four separate counts of robbery and armed robbery which have been following her around the country since she was seventeen years-old. And this is your star witness? Brooke, my dear, you really had better put that gun down and walk away from this, or you are going to have so much egg on your face you could give every chicken farm in the eastern states a run for their money." His smile vanished abruptly. "And your friend Professor Chase is as good as dead."

"Where is he?" Tyrone started forward as he asked the question, and Edward glanced up at him, clearly not at all bothered by the threat that the younger man might present.

"Safe. Like I said, a friend of mine is looking after him."

"Travis Honeycott?" Victoria smiled, enjoying the look on his face. "See, we do know one or two other things, Edward. Travis might well be prepared to fill in one or two little holes; and even if he isn't, what does it matter? The army has files on you both, and I'm sure they'd be happy to pad out the case against you a little."

"No they won't. That was far too long ago. Nobody remembers it now." He grinned. "Try again, honey. You're still treading water, and pretty soon you're going to have to give up and drown."

"You're the one who's drowning." Tyrone sauntered closer. "Your friend Travis is more than enough of a trump card. A man with his problems should be an easy nut to crack."

"Shame we'll never get to find out." Edward's expression had not wavered in the slightest. "Because if anything happens to me - and that includes being arrested - you'll never see your friend Chase again."

"You forget." Brooke was smiling in a merry sort of triumph, which might have been expanded upon had she known that her friend had just made his typically unorthodox entrance, and was currently positioning himself beneath the sofa over to her right. "We know where he is. Victoria knows all about Travis. She knows where to find him."

"But will she tell you? You see, the thing is..." He smiled, his eyes positively brimming over with good cheer. "Victoria, much as she may like you - much as she may want to do what's right... well let's just say that she won't. Will you Victoria." His words were looking at her even if his eyes were not, and the beautiful young thief, caught halfway towards the door, froze in her tracks. She hesitated.

"I don't know what you mean."

"I mean, my dear, that no matter what you do for the police - no matter how much you co-operate with the authorities - the charges that stand against you can't just be erased. Your friends here can speak up for you, give eloquent speeches about how grateful they are to you - but at the end of the day, Texas will charge you with being an accessory to murder. Maybe more than that - they might even try to charge you with murder itself. There's no telling how desperate your boyfriend is to talk by now, after having spent the last few months in that jail cell of his. He'd be just about ready to say anything, I figure. So don't go thinking that these nice, friendly do-gooders here can get you off scot-free. You go with them, and you'll be going away for a very, very long time."

"He's bluffing, Victoria." Brooke was trying to keep her eyes fixed on Edward, but could not resist the tiniest glance towards the young woman by the door. Edward saw the gesture and laughed. Victoria frowned.

"Tyrone?" It was a direct plea, but her would-be suitor, eyes downcast, merely shook his head. He had no idea what would happen. Edward's painting of the likely future seemed convincing to him, and he didn't know what else to say. The young woman smiled sadly, and nodded. "That's what I thought."

"I'm sorry." He looked up then, and their eyes met. She shrugged.

"You're not the one who needs to apologise. I am." She reached inside her jacket, and pulled out a small, automatic revolver. "But apologising isn't going to change anything, is it."

"You can't do this, Victoria. You can't trust him." Brooke did not sound scared, but her eyes showed a fair sprinkling of fear. Unable to keep both enemies under her gun, she lowered her weapon slightly. Edward still did not bother raising his. "He'll betray you."

"Maybe." She shrugged. "But it's that old conundrum, isn't it. The definite or the possible. If I throw in my lot with you, I'll definitely go to jail. If I stay with Edward I probably will. There's not much to choose between the two, but it's enough to throw the balance in his favour."

"He'll kill you." Tyrone sounded as though that meant a lot to him. Victoria favoured him with the tiniest and most tragic of smiles.

"Do you really still care?"

"I guess so."

"Then I suppose I should be apologising all the harder." She gestured with her gun. "Move towards Miss McKenzie, and keep your hands where I can see them."

"Whatever you say." He moved easily, casually almost, and sat himself down on the sofa. Something long and solid brushed against his leg and he froze, memories of all his jokes about giant cockroaches flooding back to haunt him. Brooke sat down beside him, her gun lying uselessly on her lap. There seemed little point now in trying to maintain it as a threat.

"What now?" she asked calmly. Edward sat down on the arm of the nearest chair, staring at her intently.

"Believe it or not, I don't actually want to kill you. I was a good cop, Brooke, and I genuinely liked my associates in the force. Just say the word and you're out of here; you can be wherever you want to be."

"What's the word?"

"Just say yes when I ask you to come with me. I have to hand it to you, Brooke - you're good. You're one of the best detectives I've ever met, and I've been on the force a long time. I've worked with the best, but you and I... we could make a great team."

"And Jonathon and Tyrone?"

A shrug, not of the reassuring kind. "An irregularity, a few charges here and there, and Chase would be flying back to Britain in the blink of an eye. He needn't be a threat. And Tyrone here wouldn't be a problem." He smiled at the younger man, in a manner that was almost matey. "Would you."

"Yeah. I would." Their eyes met and held each other, and a thousand different expressions and colours raced across Edward's face. Finally he stood up, and levelled his gun straight at Tyrone's head.


"Edward, no." Victoria was at his elbow, but he pushed her aside with no more effort than if she had been made out of feathers. She stumbled, but did not fall, instead levelling her own gun at him. "You can't shoot them."

"Can't I? Is that what you said to your boyfriend, before he shot those two boys back in Texas? You keep acting like you care something for this guy, and he's certainly staring at you like you're something special. What would your boyfriend say to that, Victoria? What would your husband say to that, and your kids?"

"My boyfriend wouldn't bat an eyelid. There was never anything between us." Her hands were shaking, spoiling her aim. "And for three years, my husband has been more interested in his sister-in-law than he ever was in me. The only reason we never got a divorce was because his grandfather is a Catholic, and threatened to cut him out of his will if he even thought about doing that a second time. My kids..." She glanced from Edward to Tyrone and back again. "They aren't really mine, although I would quite like them to be. They're my husband's, from his previous marriage, and at any rate they're better off with their father. Much though I'd like to plead my innocence in every case that stands against me, I can't claim that I didn't commit those twenty-four robberies you mentioned - and others besides. If I don't die here, and if I don't wind up in prison for everything I've done so far, I'll have to spend the rest of my life on the run."

"You don't have to do that." Brooke's voice was still calm. Edward's gun swung sharply to point at her.

"Shut up." He glanced back to Victoria, his face filled with taunts and slights. "What happened to all your determination, Victoria? What happened to fighting the system? You've got to make up your mind about which side you're on. You have to decide which is more important - being free, or saving them." His gun switched its aim back to Tyrone. "Three gunshots, that's all it'll take. One each for these two, and one more for their friend back at the shop. Then it'll all be over, we can do what we planned, and all of that money will be ours."

"Yours." Tyrone was trying to keep his voice as steady as Brooke's, but his anger and his desperation to appeal to Victoria's better nature were fighting to be heard. "He's not including you in any of this, Victoria. Please listen to me."

"No." She pointed her gun at him, her eyes bright and hot. "What are you offering me, Ty? The rest of my life in prison? I can't do that. I won't do that. I won't let anybody get in the way of my second chance." She took a deep breath, trying to blink away the sweat that was suddenly getting in the way of her vision. "I've honestly never killed anybody before. I've never even seen somebody die. I really was miles away when those two boys were shot, and I have no idea why so many people said they'd seen me at the scene of the crime. Nobody's going to believe that, though. They never do."

"So you're going to shoot us? You really think that's the answer?" Quite aware that he was literally staring death in the face, Tyrone tried to keep her eyes captured in his. She didn't seem able to look away, although clearly she wanted to. "I thought that we had an understanding? I thought that we--"

"You think too much." She took a small, shambling step forward, so that her gun was no more than a few inches from his forehead. "I'm sorry, Tyrone. I really, really am. But some things mean more than-- well, than all of this." The light in her eyes changed, and he saw that she was about to pull the trigger. Words echoed in his head, but none of them seemed worth saying. In the corner of his eye, he saw that Edward was beginning to smile.

"I think that you're all forgetting something." Brooke was staring at something off to one side of the room, but neither Edward nor Victoria seemed willing to take the risk of turning away to look at it themselves. "You think that we came here alone today, but we didn't."

"They did." Victoria sounded certain. "I brought them here, and they came on their own."

"Technically speaking, yes." Brooke allowed herself a smile. "But we do have one or two little cards still to play."

"You're bluffing." Edward smiled at her, and a strange and icy coldness took over his face. "It won't work with me."

"But maybe that will." She gestured with her eyes and with her head, but he did not look in the direction that she was indicating. Instead he laughed.

"You must think that I was born yesterday."

"Edward?" Victoria's voice sounded strangely pinched. "Edward, I don't think they're bluffing."

"Don't be a fool. Just shoot them and shut up." He still did not look at her, and her voice rose in pitch.

"Edward!" He glanced at her then, for the briefest, tiniest second; and when he had looked he did not believe what he had seen. He backed off slightly, trying to put some distance between himself and his two prisoners, and then turned his head for a clearer, better look at Victoria - and this time he did see, and his mouth opened wide in amazement.

Victoria stood stock still, her whole body on the verge of collapse through sheer stiffness and tension. Her gun was still in her hand, but clearly there was no likelihood of her firing it. She did not seem at all capable of moving her hand - for coiled around her body, and making its steady, inexorable way towards the weapon, was a long cobra. It seemed larger than was usual for its kind - longer, and more powerful, and infinitely more deadly. Its hood was open, and its wicked little eyes flashed with a malice that seemed very real, and all-too human. It moved along her arm, the tip of its tail still lying against one leg, and began to slide its beautiful body across the bare skin of her wrist.

"Shoot it." She spoke as a whisper, frightened and almost entirely voiceless. "Please Edward. Shoot it. Help me."

"I can't shoot it without shooting you." He smiled a cruel smile. "Which isn't an altogether unattractive prospect."

"You need me." Her voice quivered. "At least until after tonight."

"You can't shoot it." Brooke was on her feet in seconds, but Tyrone held her back. Edward's gun wavered between the two of them, but settled down when it became clear that neither was going to try anything. The snake hissed menacingly, and Edward levelled his gun at it, clearly indecisive. Finally he smiled, as though suddenly reaching some kind of a conclusion.

"You." His gun gestured at Tyrone. "Get it off her."

"Are you kidding?" The younger man stared at the reptile with ill-disguised dislike. "I hate snakes. They're long, and - and snaky."

"Just do it." The gun turned back to point at Brooke. "Or I shoot her."

"You're going to shoot her anyway."

"Very likely true. But this way there's a chance I might be grateful enough to let one of you live." The crooked policeman's smile showed that this was unlikely; but nevertheless Tyrone took a deep breath, made a face, and advanced slowly on the snake.

"It's okay Tyrone." Brooke's voice was filled with confidence, and he gave her a rather vague nod in response.

"Sure it is." There was a false note, somehow, to the confidence the detective was displaying, and it did little to improve Tyrone's mood. He stared Victoria in the eyes.

"Don't move," he told her, with as much drama and authority as he could muster. She wanted to nod an answer, but her head didn't seem capable of moving, and her vocal chords were apparently seizing up too. Instead it was the snake that moved, turning its head at the sound of Tyrone's voice, staring up at him with beady little eyes that flashed above its darting tongue. Its impressive hood billowed, and a ripple of muscle showed down its great length. Tyrone managed an unhappy smile, and as he reached out for the snake, his heart wanted to quiver. "Oh boy," he muttered, to nobody in particular, and let his voice sink down to a range that was practically beyond human hearing. "This had better be you, Jonathon."

Victoria felt the strong hands on her arm, and felt Tyrone's fingers move with the snake, touching her hand, trying to get a grip on the reptile. It hissed, and she felt its muscles tense - was just about to shout a warning to Tyrone - when she felt those strong fingers close on her hand, and in a single, smooth movement, tear the gun away from her. At that she really did let out a cry, and the snake, in an instant, was around her neck, its feather-like tongue touching her cheek with its every breath. Her cry faded to a desperate, terrified whimper and her eyes snapped shut. She heard the sound of feet - heard a yell - heard a cry of rage followed by a gunshot. Then there was silence. Very slowly, with an air of warning, the snake slid away from her and was gone. All the same she didn't dare to breathe, and the only movement she made was that of her gently quivering shoulders, marking each shallow breath with desperate fear.

It was Tyrone's voice which made her open her eyes in the end. She opened first one and then the other, to look up into his open, trustful, honest face. He was smiling, but not in a way that seemed at all insulting or unpleasant. She let her eyes drift past him, to Brooke, standing over Edward with her gun in her hand; to Edward, staunching the flow of blood from his left forearm with the tight, angry grip of his right hand. She looked around for the snake, but there was no sign of it - and instead, standing over at the far side of the room by the door, was Professor Jonathon Chase. He looked exhausted, and the immaculate suit he had been wearing when last they had met was now creased and torn and decidedly past its best. He was smiling, however, and with an air of real triumph.

"Where did the snake go?" She wasn't sure that she wanted to hear the answer. Tyrone laughed.

"Jonathon took care of it. He has a way with animals."

"But where did he come from?" She stared at the young professor, too confused to be afraid or worried about what was to come next. "He's supposed to be with Honeycott."

"His conversation was too limited." Jonathon straightened up, apparently having recovered a little of his energy. "Although one thing that he did tell me was that he has detailed information on just about every crime he and Edward have committed."

Edward glared up at him. "He won't say anything. He'll be damning himself too."

"True. But then you see, he's hardly fit to stand proper trial. It's quite clear that he's, er..." He tapped his head and shrugged. "He'd be looking at medical care, not jail. He could claim that anything he's done has been to keep up his supply of narcotics from you. It might not be true, but it'll keep him safe from the kind of sentence you're looking at." He beamed around at everybody in the room. "All in all, not a bad result."

"Not bad given that we thought they were a team of interior designers," threw in Tyrone. Jonathon laughed.

"Put on the pressure, and whether you have any proof or not, a criminal will tend to demonstrate criminal behaviour." He raised his eyebrows at Edward. "We really didn't know what you were up to. If you hadn't left those bruises on the lady's face we'd probably never have thought anything else of it, especially after Brooke told us that you were such a valued associate."

"After all, all we had was the word of an eagle." Tyrone looked up, seeing a faint smile in Victoria's eyes. She shook her head.

"I saw that eagle. It looked at me through the window. How do you know about that?"

"The eagle hangs out with the snake. They're best mates." Taking her arm, Tyrone began to steer her towards the door. She gave no resistance. "There's a story behind it, but it's classified."

"I'd like to hear it someday."

"Maybe you will." They had reached the corridor, and began to head towards the stairs. Behind them they heard Brooke's voice on the telephone, as she called for an ambulance and a police escort. "One day."


Jonathon Chase lounged around in his grandiose home, stretched luxuriously upon one of the large sofas that dominated the living room. He was drinking orange juice as though it were champagne, and listening to the gentle strains of The Planet Suite, coming softly over the invisible speakers positioned all over the room. He wasn't sure which planet his space odyssey was currently in the region of, but it was lulling him to sleep, and for that he was eternally grateful. After long hours and even longer days of giving statements, signing statements, writing statements, and generally making all of his knowledge regarding Edward Curtis official, signed and sealed, he could do with a rest. Perhaps it was time to take a holiday - to take on the form of a great, white albatross, and float gently out to sea on the crest of an updraft.

"Hey Jonathon." Tyrone and Brooke, entering unannounced as usual, strolled in just as sleep was about to take him. He struggled manfully towards a sitting position, but gave up halfway and sprawled instead; definitely the way to receive guests in his opinion. The Romans had had the right idea there.

"Hello." He gestured to the large jug of orange juice on a nearby coffee table, standing sentry over a gaggle of glasses and a bowl of ice cubes. In the heat of the room the latter were beginning to melt, and were starting to make their bowl overflow. The gentle drip, drip was just audible over the sound of the music. "Anything new?"

"No." Tyrone threw himself into the nearest chair. "Still no trial date set for Curtis, and the DA isn't sure that it's worth making Honeycott stand trial." He smirked. "The poor guy is still reeling over what happened in his shop. He swears blind that a snake ate you."

Brooke grinned. "And Edward is making a fuss as well. It seems that when he was lying on the floor after he was shot, he saw a snake with a man's head run - run, that is, on human feet - across the room. The DA thinks that the pair of them are snake-obsessed."

"You don't think he saw anything really?" Jonathon straightened up, but Tyrone waved a disparaging arm.

"No, he didn't see anything - doesn't believe that he did anyway. He's put it all down to pain. Funny though."

"What about Victoria?" Jonathon asked the question gently, aware only too well of his partner's fondness for the young thief. He shrugged.

"She didn't see anything."

"No. I meant how is she? How does it look for her?"

"Oh." Tyrone didn't answer, but instead looked to Brooke. She shrugged.

"Ty has made a big deal of how we'd probably never have got Edward if it hadn't been for her assistance. That's probably not strictly true, but it'll stand her in good stead. Edward is trying to make life tough for her though. He keeps spouting more and more about the old charges she still has to face in other states. It's not looking all that good. Even with my testimony and Ty's, and anything you can add, I don't hold much hope of her walking away from this one." She gave another shrug, more philosophical this time. "Maybe she shouldn't. There are a lot of charges still to face."

"And Edward makes every one of them sound worse than they are. The DA thinks she's public enemy number one. She left her husband, her kids... nobody seems to care that they're not her kids, and that he's not much of a husband." He scowled. "Besides, I don't care if she is a thief. I like her, and I don't want to see her spend the rest of her life in prison."

"Have you seen her yet?" Jonathon tried to ask the question gently. Tyrone shook his head.

"They sent her back to Texas this morning. By the time I managed to get permission to talk to her, she'd already gone." He tried to look fatalistic. "It's okay. I don't mind." His two friends did not bother to comment, and instead Brooke sat down and poured herself some orange juice, searching for a way to change the subject.

"Lieutenant Rivera's happy. Sixteen robberies, apparently, are down to Edward - and that's just the last eighteen months. It's doing wonders for our clean-up rate. We've recovered a fair amount of the things that were stolen, and got a line on a good deal of the rest. Internal Affairs are happy that it was just Edward involved, and the suspicion they were starting to level at the department has all gone. All thanks to you two - and special thanks because you never said 'I told you so'."

Jonathon grinned. "I told you so. Seriously... I'm sorry. I know he meant a lot to you."

"He saved my life." She shrugged. "I can say the same of both of you, so it's not as though it's anything especially unique. I just can't believe that we were all so wrong about him. Talk about embracing a snake."

"Hey." Jonathon shot her a mock-glare. "I resent that. Snakes are kind, thoughtful and extremely friendly."

"Some of them are." She threw a cushion at him. "Although it's always nice to know when they're real snakes, and when they're Englishmen in disguise."

"What are you complaining about? It was me who had to risk being bitten." Tyrone pretended to shudder. "I really do not like snakes. Er... present company excepted."

"Huh." Jonathon caught up the cushion that Brooke had thrown at him, and sent it spinning over towards Tyrone, scoring a direct hit on the top of his old friend's head. Tyrone jumped to his feet, arm raised to send the missile flying back, only to stop abruptly as the music still coming over the speakers reached just as sudden a halt. The clipped tones of a newsreader came to their ears instead.

"Police say that there is still no further information about the bizarre accident that occurred on the freeway earlier today. Nobody was injured, but it does now appear that there is somebody missing. The police vehicle involved in the crash was carrying a prisoner; a woman being taken to Texas to answer numerous charges. She is not thought to be particularly dangerous, but members of the public are being warned not to approach. This is Martin Kain on NYCR, your favourite station for classical music. Now back to the listed programme."

"Oh." Tyrone's arm, upraised with cushion poised for flight, fell suddenly back to his side. "Oh well."

"You look almost disappointed." Brooke was smiling, although she wasn't entirely sure why. She had hardly known Victoria, and what she had seen hadn't exactly filled her with feelings of sympathy and comradeship. Tyrone shrugged.

"I guess I..." He was smiling too now, but also didn't seem to be quite sure why. Jonathon got to his feet and went to his friend's side.

"You want to go and look for her? I can see a lot from the air."

"No." Tyrone smiled at him. "She'll be okay. They'll never catch her, and I think it's best if we leave it at that."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. I'm sure." They shared a grin for a moment, looking out of the window over the city. Brooke glared at them both.

"I'm glad you're happy."

"Lighten up." Jonathon took the cushion back from Tyrone and threw it at her. "I'm sure you'll get another shot at her, if you're that determined. She'll be back."

"You think?" Tyrone didn't seem so sure, but Jonathon clapped him on the shoulder and nodded hard.

"I know. She's got unfinished business here."


"Maybe. But there's also the matter of a major robbery she spent a lot of time planning. She'll definitely be back."

"Oh joy." Brooke joined them at the window. "Why do I get the feeling I'm the only one worried about this?"

Tyrone spared her a smile that might have been meant as a sign of contrition or sympathy - but failed to be either. "Because you're the only one who's a cop."

"Of course. Stupid me." She frowned. "She did try to kill us you know."

He nodded. "I know."

"And she wanted to turn your best friend into a handbag."

"I know that too."

"And you still want to see her again?"

"What can I say?" He shrugged. "I'm a sucker for a beautiful face."

"No." Jonathon flashed him a grin and dropped an arm around his shoulders. "Basically, you're just a sucker."

"Yeah." Tyrone nodded, but still could not lose the grin. "But I'm a sucker with one hell of a girlfriend." And with that he turned about and headed for the coffee table, pouring himself a glass of orange juice with which to toast the room - and presumably the absent Victoria. Jonathon sighed.

"Oh well. So long as it's not this place they were planning to turn over."

"I'll second that. It'd be something of a conflict of interests if I had to help out with that case."

"I should say so, yes." Jonathon smirked, refilling his own glass and clinking it with Tyrone's. "But it would be a beautiful conflict of interest. Which is the deciding factor, I think you'll agree."

"I give up." Brooke sighed and raised her glass. "To Victoria, wherever the hell she might be. And wherever it is, may it be a long way from here for quite some time to come."

"Victoria." Tyrone grinned in a sort of triumph - and a long way away, where she was safely esconsed upon a makeshift bed in a northbound freight train, Victoria folded her arms behind her head, stretched out her legs and turned her mind back to New York. Soon, she promised herself. Just as soon as she was sure that Edward Curtis was in jail, she would go back; for the next time that she watched an eagle soar through a spectacular sunset, she would be watching it with Tyrone - and she would be standing on the balcony of a suite at the Ritz.