The alertness Logan had brought to the meeting instantly turned into a startled wariness that made him feel like he could distinguish every sound near him—the individual voices of the women at that table, familiar as if they were old friends; the reader’s flipping of each page in his book. The physical presence of others behind him as they passed between the cluster of tables at which he and Lloyd were sitting, and the table at which the women were having their lunch.
It took considerable self-control on Logan’s part to not look away from that screen, to not look at Lloyd and scan his surroundings. To keep on reading the rest of the words on that card.
DON’T LOOK AROUND. JUST ACT LIKE EVERYTHING’S NORMAL. AND THEN WHEN WE COMPLETE THE DEAL, BE READY TO RUN LIKE HELL.
Logan’s mind raced. Who was watching them? Why? Lloyd didn’t say. Perhaps he didn’t know himself, and perhaps he was simply wrong, and perhaps he was being intentionally deceptive. But no, Logan didn’t think he was lying, or wrong. What he suspected, from the fact that the warning had been slipped into the disc, was that those watchers had got a hold of him somehow, so that this was the only way he felt he could get away with warning him about the fact.
Even if he didn’t dare look up or around he thought again of the insecurity of the food court as a site for such a meet, of all those eyes that might have been looking down at them from above. Did those people who’d got to Lloyd tell him to suggest this place, look over his shoulder as he wrote that e-mail while moving their people into place all around it?
That suggested exactly the two possibilities Logan had hoped not to face here at this meeting—the Client, and Northrop. It didn’t seem to matter now which of them was responsible for Lloyd’s predicament. What seemed more significant was that Lloyd here was telling him to run and save his own skin—and leave him to face any blowback himself. The idea revolted Logan, but there didn’t seem a way to communicate with him without alerting those watchers and bringing on exactly the outcome he feared.
And it wasn’t just about the two of them, either. Ashley was the reason that he was at that meeting in the first place. If he didn’t get back to her . . .
Logan told himself that this time around he just had to trust in Lloyd, trust that he knew what he was doing, and take his advice. So Logan continued performing his original task of appraising the goods, scrolling down through that file. He noted that fully decrypted sentences were rare, while completely encrypted pages were not at all rare. Confusing matters further was the abundance of obvious code names. “Project Athena” and so forth, colorful but to him utterly opaque. Just as Lloyd had said. But perhaps there was a clue in there, somewhere. Even if there wasn’t, this would have to do.
“All right,” Logan said into his own cell phone as he pretended satisfaction. “I’ll make the transfer now. If necessary, I’ll be in touch.”
He moved the money to Lloyd’s account and let him see that the money was there. After that they said no more to each other, just finished their meals. Lloyd pocketed his cell and packed up his laptop, then walked away with his briefcase and his tray in the direction of the north exit. Logan slipped the laptop and the disc case inside his duffle, then slipped the duffle’s strap over his left shoulder and picked up his tray with his left hand (he was deliberately leaving his right arm unencumbered), emptied it in the nearest refuse bin, and headed for the food court’s opposite, southern exit.
The southern exit, he remembered, led back out into the north-south corridor running the mall’s full length, to the building’s southern exit—but well before he reached it he knew he would hit another, east-west corridor intersecting with it at its middle. That corridor’s east end led to the parking structure, the west end to the mall-side entrance to the big Abernathy & Hitch that opened to the street.
The latter seemed his best bet for a quick exit from the building. But he saw in his way a large man, six-three at least and broad through the shoulders. A big, excessively moussed block of a head on top of those shoulders, with dark glasses that kept him from seeing the man’s eyes. They made his face seem completely expressionless, and along with the white shirt, black tie, black dress pants and that black jacket draped over his arm made him look just like the man who’d poked through Ashley’s apartment Monday afternoon.
Logan suspected that that jacket concealed a gun, a gun the MIB meant to shove into his ribs.
A kidnap attempt, one that would be unnoticed by onlookers, and leave him very little chance of extricating himself.
Logan kept on walking toward him nonetheless, as if he were oblivious to his presence, while palming the stun gun in his pocket. Just as the two men closed in on one another he abruptly went to the MIB’s left, putting him on the wrong side for the dark-suited man to pull his move, and used the stun gun as he passed him, and didn’t look back as he heard the weight of the big man hitting the floor, heard people reacting to the sight.
Out the exit now, going as quickly as he could without breaking into a run. Because the last thing he needed was to be seen running from the spot where a man very publicly collapsed after what would quickly be recognized as a physical attack.
But all the while he kept looking back over his shoulder lest another of the man’s associates pop up behind him, intent on still more aggressive action as he continued moving among the displays and stands and clusters of seats and flowerpots made the corridor into an obstacle course along which anyone could have been behind anything, while the people he could see were suspect enough in themselves. Every man in a suit seemed suspect, every bulge in a person’s clothing a concealed gun.
Logan looked back again as he passed a Championship Cup sporting goods store offering a special on hockey gear. This time he saw another man in a dark suit and sunglasses emerge from behind a stand selling cinnamon pretzels, moving with the same briskness as Logan in the very same direction. That was enough to set off the alarms not already blaring in Logan’s head, and then when the man reached a hand into his jacket—