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Authors: Chris Pavone

The Expats (33 page)

BOOK: The Expats
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Kate leaned over, avoiding Julia’s gaze, which Kate knew would have been calling bullshit. But if Bill knew about Kate, then Julia knew about Kate. And Bill and Julia probably both knew who Kyle was, or some approximation of it. And they were either going to confront Kate now, or they weren’t.

She was calling their bluff, in this transparent bit of playacting, leaning on a chair in an empty dining room. Kate dallied, unsnapping her boot slowly, waiting for Julia to move on, worried that she wouldn’t. Then she did.

“SHHHH,” KATE HISSED, inclining her head toward the ladies’ room. “She’s in there.” Kate tugged Kyle down the hall, away from the doors. “Quick.”

“They think he stole money.”

Kate’s eyes were drawn to the goggles around Kyle’s neck, which made her wonder about hidden microphones, though she couldn’t imagine how anyone could gain anything from eavesdropping on her now.

“How much?”

“Fifty million.”

Kate could barely prevent herself from staggering. “How much?”

“Fifty million euros.”

SHE SPLASHED HER face, stared at herself in the mirror, dripping wet.

The things unsaid between Kate and Dexter were large beyond
comprehension. They’d been growing every day for months, for
, for their entire relationship. But now the lies and secrets were accelerating. The growth was exponential.

How could she not tell this to her husband?

On the other hand, how could she tell him? How could she explain her suspicions, her actions, her contacts? Would she tell him about breaking into Bill’s apartment? Would she tell him about Hayden in Munich and the agent-chauffeur in Berlin and Kyle right out there, sitting at the table? With the children? How would she explain any of this without admitting that she was CIA? Without opening that bottomless can of worms?

She was trapped—she had trapped herself—under an oppressive veil of silence.

“WHAT YOU HAVE to do—what I have to do—is try to put myself in the mind of the attacker, the hacker. What would I do if I were trying to break into a system?”

Dexter was leaning back in the banquette, unshaven and snow-burned and wild of coif and not exactly steady of eye, explaining his job to Kyle, of all people.

“So I have to poke around, to find the weaknesses. Is it the system architecture? The firewall? The software-update protocols? Or is it the physical plant—the office layout, the mainframe access, the confusion of a lunchtime rush? Or is it social engineering that’s going to be too easy? Are the employees trained, at all, to be aware of security issues? Are there sufficient procedures for choosing and changing and protecting their passwords?”

Kate glanced at the kids, obliviously eating, ravenous, digging into their thick soups like escaped prisoners, devouring fries and baguette between hearty slurps. Jake paused for water, came up gasping, and set upon his soup again.

The children were red-faced and chapped-lipped, and the buxom waitress wore a low-cut gingham blouse, and the maître d’ was a picture of jolly rotundity. The people all looked like they’d been painted into the scene, itself set-designed with vintage sleds and wooden ski poles hanging on the walls, a person-high stack of wine bottles, a towering fire in the stone fireplace. Thick planks for tabletops, pots of fondues and bowls of potatoes.

Dexter pushed aside the remainder of his
, another meal in
shades of white, and took a long pull of beer from a huge mug, then continued pontificating. “The best hacker isn’t merely expert at the technical aspects of systems design and engineering, of ports and code and software vulnerabilities. No. That’s what makes a good programmer. What makes a good hacker is the devious social engineer who can identify and exploit the greatest weakness in every system, every organization: human frailties.”

Kyle was rapt.

“And once I’ve figured out a way for a hacker to get in, I have to think about how he plans to get out without being detected.”

Julia and Bill exchanged a quick look that Kate barely noticed.

“There are a lot of ways to get caught extracting anything from anywhere. Just ask the bank robber doing thirty years in a federal pen. Getting in and getting the money are the easy parts. The hard part, always, is getting out. Especially undetected.”

KATE HAD TAKEN a deep breath and rapped—carefully—on the door, a soft polite
, like a room-service waiter, or a considerate spouse.

This was the type of operation that needed to take less than a half-minute, quickly in and immediately out, completely reliant on the element of surprise. A hard knock on the door would’ve ruined the surprise.

She counted the seconds—six, seven—while fighting the urge to knock again, another way to cede the surprise—eight, nine—until the handle turned, and the door opened a mere crack, and Kate threw all her weight into it, shoulder first, knocking Torres away.

He stumbled backward into the suite’s sitting room, trying to avoid completely losing his balance and falling on his ass, while also coming to the horrifying realization that he had erred gravely. That somehow, of all the mistakes he’d made in his adventurous, eventful, and satisfying fifty-seven years, of all the many people—hundreds of them, thousands—he’d pissed off, it was astoundingly this
who was finally going to kill him, right now. He should have never hired that photographer to take those pictures through her living-room window in Washington. Should never have printed up those glossies of the mother and her little boy, reading a book on the sofa. Should never have laid that picture on the table in the hotel lounge. Should never have made that implicit threat on her life, on the safety of her family.

He opened his mouth to plead for his life, but didn’t get the chance.

It was when Torres was still falling to the floor—two sound-suppressed bullets in the chest, one in the head, no way to not be dead—that Kate heard the baby cry, and looked up to see the young woman walking through the door from the bedroom.



“Kate! Hello!”

Carolina is waving as she approaches. Another expat woman on another narrow Parisian sidewalk, smiling, this one a Dutch mom from school. Another woman who owns a large set of matching luggage, purchased somewhere within a mile of where they stand in the rue de Verneuil, a hundred yards from the somber Pont Royal that crosses the Seine to the Louvre and the Tuileries.

Carolina starts talking, a gushing stream of enthusiasms and exclamations. She’s an excitable woman, socially ambitious and hyper-friendly, nearly pathologically outgoing, producing a constant stream of invitations across a broad swath of the Left Bank expat community. The Dutch, Kate has found, are very outgoing.

Kate can’t quite pay attention to the chitchat, watching Carolina’s mouth but barely understanding the monologue, something about the refurbished café around the corner in the rue du Bac, and when they’d have their first moms’-night-out of the school year, and there was a new American from New York—had Kate met her?

Kate stands there grinning and nodding at her friend, at this woman she has known for a year, this woman she sees nearly every day, sometimes two or three times per day, at the school’s giant green door in the cobblestoned street, and at the café next door and the restaurant up the block, at the
and the
, in the playgrounds and parks, in the Musée d’Orsay and playing tennis and drinking coffee, shopping for children’s clothes and red wine, for shoes and handbags, curtains and candlesticks, talking about babysitters and housekeepers and the legroom on transatlantic flights, and ten-piece sets of matching luggage.

This woman whom Kate may never see again, this conversation their last. This is the expat life: you never know when someone you see every day is going to disappear forever, instantly transmogrifying into a phantom. Before long you won’t be able to remember her last name, the color of her eyes, the grades that her children were in. You can’t imagine not seeing her tomorrow. You can’t imagine you yourself being one of those people, someone who one day just vanishes. But you are.

“I’ll see you tomorrow?” Carolina asks. She thinks this is a rhetorical question.

“Yes,” Kate answers, a thoughtless assent, but she realizes that in actuality she’s deeply agreeing with something else entirely, committing herself to a plan that has been batting around her brain for the past hour.

Kate knows now she will not be needing the weekend bags packed for the forty-fourth time, nor the gassed-up Audi. Her family will not be going anywhere. Not tonight, nor tomorrow.

There’s another life that Kate can live, here. And she now knows how to make it happen.



Kate spun, startled by the sound of another cork yanked out by Cristina, who was too rushed and maybe too drunk to twist it out slowly, instead just yanked the thing, letting the liquid effervesce into a towel, wiping down the bottle, pouring the wine quickly, sloppily, spilling. There must have been a lot of empty bottles lying around the kitchen.

Tonight was their first social occasion since skiing and dinner with the so-called Macleans, a week ago. They’d returned to Luxembourg yesterday.

Cristina refilled Kate’s glass, a heavy crystal. Did these people really own dozens of crystal flutes? A thousand dollars’—more?—worth of glassware? For New Year’s Eve?

Kate noticed Julia in the next room. The last they’d spoken had been standing in the flurries outside the restaurant at the resort, cold fake cheek kisses, distracted by the tired children and the surprisingly agreeable company of Kyle and the new knowledge that these FBI agents suspected her husband of stealing approximately seventy-five million dollars.

Kate still hadn’t said anything about it to Dexter.

The most common language at this party was English; everyone here spoke it. But since the hosts were Danish, there was a lot of that buzzing around too, indistinguishable to Kate from Swedish and Norwegian, barely separable from Dutch and German. Kate could deal with Romance languages; she could communicate in all of them, even in a pinch Portuguese, which had some wigged-out sounds. But these northern tongues? Gibberish.

BOOK: The Expats
10.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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