Read Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger Online

Authors: Stella Rimington

Tags: #Mystery, #Espionage, #England, #Memoir

Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger (35 page)

BOOK: Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger
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Gendarmerie had been recruited from as far as Marseilles to search the mainland ferry port and the nearby town of Hyères. The CRS had sent a platoon to go through the empty houses and hotels on the island, and the navy had been patrolling a two-mile sea perimeter around the island. But the results for all these seekers, on land and at sea, was so far the same: no Milraud.

As Liz sat in the naval base canteen in Toulon the next afternoon, watching through the window the daily life of the base going on outside, she gave a silent prayer of thanks for the hundredth time that Dave had survived. Although Martin Seurat was furious that Milraud seemed to have escaped, Milraud had not been her priority.

She’d been to see Dave that morning in the base hospital. He was drowsy with morphine but he’d given Liz a weak smile as she came in. ‘I’ll be fine again sooner than you know,’ he’d declared, and Liz had refrained from sharing with him what the doctor had told her the day before – a half-inch higher, and the bullet fired by Gonzales would have killed him. A close call then, but Dave would be well enough to be flown back to hospital in London the next morning. As it was, he had a deep gunshot wound, two broken ribs, and a persisting concussion to show for his involuntary stay in the Ile de Porquerolles. Liz wondered if he’d be sent back to Belfast after recuperating, and hoped so. Life there would not be the same without him.

‘I suppose I’ll be in trouble when I get back,’ Dave had said ruefully. ‘Judith warned me not to go back to Milraud’s shop and she was right. I can’t think what I was doing.’

‘Don’t worry, Dave. Everyone will just be delighted you’re alive.’

‘Do we actually know what Piggott and Milraud were trying to achieve?’

She’d given him a look of mock-sternness, like a ward sister with a recalcitrant patient. ‘There will be lots of time for that. Right now, you just concentrate on getting better.’

‘Okay, okay. But I can’t do that till I know what it was all about. Why did they bring me all the way down here if they were going to end up shooting me? Did they have a plan?’

‘Hard to say. Our French colleague Martin Seurat thinks they panicked and made it up as they went along. His guys found two laptops in the farmhouse. They’d been sending emails to somebody. They may tell us what the plan was, but it will take a bit of time to unscramble it all. And that’s all I’m telling you now. Go back to sleep; I’ll see you in the UK.’

Now as she watched some workmen erecting a grandstand on the parade ground, her mind still on the dramatic events of the day before, she felt a hand on her shoulder and a voice asked quietly, ‘Where are we now?’ Martin Seurat sat down at the table opposite her.

‘I was just thinking about our mysterious Monsieur Milraud. How did he get away and where has he gone?’

‘There’s some news about that. We’ve been conducting a house-to-house search on the island – and it appears that a summer cottage on the outskirts of the village has been broken into. Nothing’s been taken, but some food from the freezer was heated up in the kitchen. We’ve also just heard from the harbour master that a resident in the village reported his skiff’s been stolen from a small jetty near the harbour.’

‘When was this?’

‘The owner can see the skiff from his house, but he was off the island yesterday. When he got back this morning, it wasn’t there. We think Milraud may have taken it some time yesterday, before the cordon round the island was in place. They’re looking for it now along the mainland coast.’

‘Where would Milraud head for?’

‘He could go anywhere, especially since I think he had help once he reached the mainland. I’ve just come back from his house in Bandol – Annette Milraud has disappeared as well. We had surveillance outside the house but she fooled them. We found her maid tied up in the kitchen.’

‘The maid?’

‘She’d been there since last night –
mon dieu
, was she cross! Especially as she was in her underwear.’

‘What?’ asked Liz, laughing.

‘Annette made her take her clothes off, then she put them on herself, before driving away in the maid’s car. Our surveillance thought she was the maid going home and didn’t stop her. They are very embarrassed – I’m not surprised. They should have been onto a trick like that.’ He frowned and shrugged. ‘But it’s too late now. She’s gone.’

‘Presumably the car will be stopped soon.’

‘It’s been found already. Parked in Cannes. We think they must have a safe house there. Knowing Milraud, he’ll have a set of false documents too.’

‘So where do you think they’ll go?’

‘Somewhere far away – like South America. Or perhaps one of the former Soviet Union states. But Milraud will pop up again – give him time. Annette will grow dissatisfied with life in a backwater, and the lure of the arms trade will have Antoine back in circulation. He’ll need the money too. I would say my hopes of catching him have been deferred, not destroyed.’

Seurat brushed his chin thoughtfully with one hand. ‘You know, it’s a very strange feeling, sitting here talking like this – I mean, after so much é
vénement
only yesterday. It seems slightly unreal.’

Liz nodded. ‘I know. I feel the same.’

‘I was considering taking a few days off. If only to readjust oneself to the obvious fact that life goes on.’

Liz laughed. ‘That sounds like a good idea. What are you thinking of doing?’

Seurat paused, then said lightly, ‘There’s a little hotel I know. Not far from here, up in the hills – a beautiful setting, though the hotel itself is nothing fancy. Still, it has excellent food, and the walks are simply wonderful. At this time of year, you’re beginning to see the first signs of spring. It starts early in the south.’

He turned and looked at her, and Liz realised it was not his intention to stay at the hotel alone. Her heart began to beat a little faster but she waited until his meaning was absolutely clear. Not that she had many doubts.

Then Liz’s mobile phone rang.

It was a London number, which seemed familiar. The name came up on the screen:
Charles
. How funny that she hadn’t immediately remembered a number that she used to know so well.

‘Liz, it’s Charles. Are you all right?’

‘I’m fine, thanks. And so is Dave – or at least he’s going to be.’

‘So I gather. Michael Binding’s over here and he’s been keeping us informed. You’ve all had quite a time of it, I gather.’

‘Quite exciting,’ she said dryly. ‘Unfortunately there’s one loose end – Milraud the arms dealer seems to have got away.’

‘I wouldn’t worry much about that. Piggott was by far the greater threat, and you’ve taken care of him – and his organisation. As well as his Spanish hit man. A job well done by any standard.’

That was true, and she wished she could take more satisfaction from it. The cost had been high – and Dave was very lucky to have survived with his life. She knew that if she’d been more on the ball and had reported straight away from Paris instead of lunching with her mother and Edward, and forgetting to switch her phone back on, she could have stopped Dave from rushing in. They would in time have managed to put Piggott away.

He would never have given up peacefully, though. He’d have fought to the end, and more people might have been hurt, even killed, in trying to arrest him.

‘But that’s not the reason I’m calling,’ Wetherby was saying, jolting Liz out of these post-mortem thoughts.

‘Oh,’ she said cautiously, wondering what was up.

‘DG wants you to call in at Thames House before you go back to Belfast. He wants a full report on everything that’s happened.’

‘OK,’ she said, slightly puzzled. She’d expected to report back to Binding in Belfast.

Liz glanced at Seurat, and found his dark eyes watching her intently, appraisingly. She found herself starting to blush like a schoolgirl. How ridiculous, she thought furiously, which only made her blush more. ‘Am I needed immediately?’ she managed to say.

‘Are there things you have to do there?’ Wetherby paused. He sounded nervous, thought Liz. What about?

‘Because it would be very nice to see you over the weekend,’ he said suddenly. ‘I was thinking we could have lunch. Or dinner. You could come out to the house perhaps.’

Liz didn’t know what to say. What has happened to the everhelpful Alison? she wanted to ask. Another part of her was simply astonished. Pleased? Yes, of course: how could she not be, when for years she had hoped for just what she was getting now – a signal that he cared for her and was at last willing to show it.

But she didn’t feel as excited as she should have done. And that surprised her. She felt oddly detached. How strange, since here she was, hearing what she had wanted to hear for so long. Yet now it almost seemed unreal. Or, if not that, at least something removed from the present, something that belonged to the past. To the days before Gonzales had pointed a gun at her and she had known with certainty that she was about to die.

Was that what was making her feel so ambivalent, as Charles waited on the line for her reply? Perhaps, though, it was also a strong sense that she had to get on with life now, that there was no point in retreating yet again into the patchwork of code that had characterised her relationship with Charles for so long.

She looked up at Martin and smiled, then said to Charles, not unkindly, but in a voice that was entirely certain, ‘Actually Charles, I was thinking of staying on here for a few days. Spring is just about to start in the south.’

BOOK: Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger
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