Logan’s deal with Lloyd completed, there was nothing for him or Ashley to do but wait in their suite, while taking turns discretely zipping out of the suite to pick up their meals. In the meantime they continued to follow the news, looking for word about the odd incident of the Midtown skydiver, of the shooting near Central Park, of the doings of Harold Northrop.
Nothing of interest turned up.
It was not very much to keep them busy. Logan did his best to be good company, but there was no getting away from the speculation that was as sterile as it was unavoidable when they actually knew so little. There was also no getting away from the tension of the waiting game they were playing, and it was not long before Ashley was looking and acting like a person under house arrest.
So Tuesday ended, and Wednesday passed, and Thursday morning too, until the chime of Logan’s computer at eleven A.M. announced the arrival of a message in the e-mail account he created to enable Lloyd to write him. He promptly reached for his laptop, clicked on the box, read what popped up.
Hey Davis. Remember that car Mitch wants to sell? He can see you about it today if you come by the Courtland Mall food court on his lunch hour.
Logan had told Lloyd that he’d be at the meeting place an hour after getting the message, which meant the appointment was for twelve noon. Logan looked up the Courtland Mall’s location (he’d seen the place on a city map earlier, but didn’t remember its location exactly), and then checked the subway schedule. He calculated that he could get there in a half hour or so, which left him with a margin of safety in case he ran late. But only if he got going right away, so he turned off his laptop, put it in a tan duffle bag, then notified Ashley, departed the hotel and took the subway to the mall.
The Courtland occupied most of an exceptionally large city block, and had multiple entrances. The most convenient for him was the one through the big Hadley’s department store (perfumed air, one of Cheryl Holt’s poppy love ballads playing over the P.A.), which he entered from the street. At the back, the shop opened to the main hallway bisecting the mall’s first floor.
Inside Logan strolled about for a bit, strengthening his familiarity with the layout, and keeping an eye out for signs of a tail. Ten minutes before noon, satisfied that he wasn’t being followed, he made for the food court’s northern entrance. The court was in the middle of the mall’s first floor, in an atrium on which people could look down from the second and third floors. That made him a bit uncomfortable. It was all too easy for someone, or many someones, to watch him from up on those floors without his knowing it. Still, the court was far from empty, and he expected that any onlooker would take him for an office worker catching a bite on his lunch hour.
For the moment he acted the part, wondered what to get. Chinese from Bamboo Express? Not in the mood. Tex/Mex at Taco King? No, not quite up for that either. He ended up going with pizza from the Godmother’s outlet, ordering a large pepperoni slice and an equally large styrofoam cup of Pepsi, then taking his tray to a four-seat table near the center of the court. When he sat down he set his tray on the tabletop and put the duffle in the seat next to him.
Logan started on his pizza slice, soaking in his surroundings as he chewed. A group of women at the table behind him was talking animatedly about some movie they’d recently seen. At the table next to his a man his age was reading a book with, of all people, Harold Northrop on the cover. He read the title. Just as he’d expected it was Take Command! Leadership Lessons From America’s Most Celebrated CEO.
Logan would have groaned if he hadn’t had a piece of pizza going down his gullet.
Halfway through his meal Lloyd turned up in front of him, wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses with his casual Friday-like blue dress shirt and khakis, carrying a briefcase in one hand. His other hand supported a tray bearing a chicken burrito and a mango freeze from the Taco King Logan passed up earlier.
Lloyd sat on the other side of the same table, one seat over, like he was some stranger sharing the table instead of someone who’d come to meet him. Not an implausible choice given the crowding of the area at the moment.
Lloyd didn’t waste any words on greetings. He just set his briefcase on the table next to him and got out his laptop, which he turned on. He also produced a disc case and a cell phone, which he raised to the side of his face as if he were taking a call.
“We got lucky,” he said just loudly enough for Logan to hear him. “Caught an error, worked from there. Still, it’s only a partial decrypt.”
With his other hand he slid the disc case to him across the table, a large, sturdy one containing two discs: the one Logan provided, and the one with the decrypted version of the disc’s file Lloyd was giving him. He slipped the second disc into his laptop’s disc drive and opened the file inside a window on his screen.
What appeared in front of him was a white card with three words written on it in great black letters:
WE’RE BEING WATCHED.