Ashley walked over to that screen, as if the number she saw on it were an optical illusion that would instantly disappear if she shifted her perspective.
“No more than two hours,” the Client had said about the length of time between his getting the goods and his sending the money.
It had been almost three since the drop.
The failure of the money to turn up could have been entirely meaningless, a breakdown in communication somewhere along the line. Something trivial snarling the process, something already unsnarled so that any minute now . . .
But Ashley knew that wasn’t the only possibility. Far from it. It was possible the money wasn’t coming at all.
She sat down. It wasn’t impossible that the Client was simply stiffing them, that he’d actually intended to do so from the start. After all, a proper exchange had her get the money at the same time that she parted with the disc, not afterward, like in the arrangement he’d made with her. But even if the possibility had occurred to her as soon as he told her his terms, she hadn’t been in a position to quibble over such details. And anyway she didn’t think he was desperate to save a few bucks.
That left the other big category of possibility, that the Client regarded her as not having kept up her end of the deal.
“But I got him the disc,” she said aloud. And she was sure she hadn’t damaged the goods in doing so. She’d skydived and been shot at and climbed through barroom windows getting back to the safe house, but going through the disc the night before Logan would have noticed if anything was the matter with it, wouldn’t he? And nothing the least bit hazardous to the disc happened on the way to the park—
It was possible the Client’s people knew that she’d looked, just as Logan had warned her. But telling her about the risk Logan gave her the impression that it would take anyone who suspected such a thing time to prove it. Could they have done it in the few hours since she gave them the disc? She had no idea. Could Logan have made things easier for them by making a mistake during the copying process? Again, she had no idea.
But another, more obvious possibility occurred to her—
“You gave your contact the disc, after which he had to get it to his boss,” Logan said. “And maybe he didn’t do that, for one reason or another. We can of course try and find out from the Client himself.”
The Client had supplied Ashley with an e-mail address she could use to send a message in the event of a contingency they had not planned for, and where they would send her any messages they felt they had to get to her in the same eventuality. If there had been an issue with payment, perhaps they had sent word about it.
Ashley got out her cell phone, logged online, checked the box. It was empty, no attempt made to contact her since the exchange. Again she thought that it didn’t necessarily mean anything, and again she told herself that the money might have been on its way.
She looked from the cell phone’s little screen to the big plasma, waited for the sum in the box to change from $0.00 to $500,000.00.
One long moment passed, and then another, and then another without its changing the whole while, while her e-mail box stayed just as empty, and that whole host of things that might have gone wrong continued to swirl around inside her head with increasing velocity, like the winds of a gathering storm.
“What is it?” Logan asked.
She couldn’t just sit there. She had to try to find out more.
“Go to Googolplex News,” she said. “I want to see the New York area stories.”
“Okay,” Logan said, calling the site up on a different screen. “What are you looking for?”
“I’m not sure,” she admitted. “Anything to do with the park, maybe. Anything—”
“That’s a start.”
He typed the keywords “Central” and “Park” into the search engine, and the words “SHOOTING LEAVES ONE DEAD NEAR CENTRAL PARK” caught her eye.
Logan clicked on the headline, putting the story on the screen.
New York, NY—Police are searching for a man in connection with a fatal shooting that happened today near Central Park.
The shooting happened around 12:30 PM near the intersection of Monroe Avenue and 72nd Ave.
The NYPD said officers responding to an emergency call about a shooting found Peter Colby, 42, dead at the scene from a gunshot wound to the chest.
The alert said police are searching for a white man in a brown jacket who was seen arguing with Colby shortly before the shooting, and then afterward running from the scene.
Anyone who has information about the shooting is asked to . . .
Ashley stopped reading there, then went back and revisited the relevant details.
The shooting happened after twelve-thirty—after she left, and probably enough time for the man she gave the disc to have made his way to that intersection, on the opposite side of the park from her.
There was no mention of a motive, but people had seen the suspect arguing with the victim. There was no mention of his taking anything, but Ashley didn’t see anything to preclude the possibility either.
An entirely unrelated crime like that happening in that part of the city in the middle of the day right at that time would have been a very big coincidence, of which there were already too many.
Ashley returned to the name of the victim, Peter Colby—perhaps the name on a driver’s license in his wallet. It was not very much in itself; a fake name did not seem impossible under the circumstances. Still, it was all she had to go on for now, and Ashley decided to go with it.
She turned back to Logan.
“I think he might be the pick-up man at the park.”
“Peter Colby?” Logan asked. “So I guess you’d like to get a picture? See if he really was the one you saw there?”
“I know a guy,” Logan said. That was how he always characterized them, “a guy,” never a name, Logan ever vague about these kinds of connections. “If the cops have a photo of this Colby in their computer, he should be able to get it to us.”
“That’d be great.”
Logan got out his own phone, placed the call.
“Hi . . . Yeah, it’s me . . .”
Logan and his associate communicated in a shorthand indicating long familiarity, and the practiced exercise of discretion, with the result that even standing next to him listening to his half of the conversation the talk seemed entirely opaque, their prior conversation the only explanation. Five minutes later, though, Logan logged into another e-mail account on the terminal and found a new message awaiting them, complete with an attachment that he opened.
“Oh my God,” Ashley said, as if, after everything, she hadn’t expected to see the gray-suited man’s face filling the screen in front of her.