As Ashley walked away from the hotel she texted Logan again and asked for a pick-up. He suggested the parking lot of an Eight-Eleven four blocks west and two blocks east of where she was. Ashley got to the meeting place first, settled on a bench outside the shop, and suddenly realized how thirsty and famished she was, how long it had been since she last drank or ate anything—before she got on the bus to Sunset Terrace, at least. She took a sip from her bottle and ate an energy bar while she waited. As she crumpled the wrapper she saw a Nissan pull into the lot.
The car drove right up to where she was sitting, at which point Logan leaned over and opened the door.
“Hurry up and get in,” he said.
She wasted no time doing that, after which Logan drove out into the street and circled the block, looking out for a tail, just in case she’d been followed.
“You’re killing me,” Logan said. “You do know that?”
“Yes,” she said.
“When you didn’t show up . . . and then finding out you’d actually gone and got captured . . .
“What the hell happened?”
Ashley wondered about the thought Logan didn’t finish, but this wasn’t the time or the place to talk about that.
“They got me on my way out of Sunset Terrace,” she said. “The Client’s people. But it’s over. Well, their part in this anyway.”
“Their words, or your guess?”
“And you believe them?”
“Well, they never really had a reason to come after us, did they?” Ashley asked. “I made a deal and kept up my end of it. They just didn’t realize it at the time. Now they do.” They even had the benefit of the investigations they’d made on their own time, Ashley thought.
“I hope you’re right,” Logan said. “Still, I do wonder how they knew to find you there in the first place. We’d barely been in Mexico a few hours . . . and no one knew you were going to be there.
“But maybe . . .”
“Your computer,” Logan said.
“What do you mean?”
“You spent some time online researching Ensenada, didn’t you?” Logan asked.
“So these people know several of your e-mail accounts,” Logan said. “The one at which they contacted you, the accounts connected with the gallery back in New York. Which you have checked since that time, right?”
“Yes, of course.”
“They could have got into your laptop through them, slipped in a keystroke logging program,” Logan said. “They wouldn’t know where you were . . . but they could have guessed that you were going down to Ensenada to see someone at Sunset Terrace. And done that early enough to be waiting for you when you showed up.
“We’ll have to check both our laptops. In the meantime . . . see if there’s an electronics store in the area.”
Ashley located a Computer Shack in the city.
“Good enough for me,” Logan said. “Anyway, we’re done here, right?”
She’d done what she came to Ensenada to do. “Right.”
She gave Logan the Shack’s address, and he turned at the corner.
“You said you were picked up on your way out of Sunset Terrace. So you did get to talk to Vieira?”
“Find out anything new?”
They came up on the Shack and parked in its lot. Logan exited the car and entered the shop alone. He came back with another laptop, then walked around to the front passenger-side door. Ashley scooted over into the driver’s seat. She’d drive while he dealt with their troublesome electronics, setting up Internet access on the third computer, then going through their other Internet-capable devices looking for signs they were compromised, starting with her laptop.
Just as he’d guessed, her computer had been infected with a keystroke logger.
“I’m getting rid of it now, but do you mind if I format the thing, just to be on the safe side?”
She hadn’t put anything essential on the machine. “No, go right ahead.”
Logan wiped the device’s memory clean, then proceeded to check her phone. It turned out to have escaped infection. (“Your phone isn’t vulnerable to this particular program, but it’s still best to be safe,” he told her.) Next he turned on their third laptop, and installed their accompanying software.
“Internet’s working,” Logan said. “When did the Client say we’d have the money?”
“It should already be there. Since he already had the chance to judge the things we gave him.”
“All right then,” Logan said and checked the designated account. Ashley flicked her glance over at the laptop’s screen and saw that the figure in the box now read $750,000.
The bonus bumped their total payment twenty-five percent above the fee they’d agreed on initially. It didn’t feel like fair compensation for the troubles of the past month, but it did at least confirm that the Client really was satisfied. And diminish their losses on this job.
That left as their principal worry Northrop’s interest in her—and what she could do about it with the information she had. It seemed to Ashley that she could try to make Northrop think she knew more than she really did. Or that those interested in her information were more numerous or powerful than they really were. If Northrop really had penetrated the Client’s operation, he must have known the man’s identity (which was more than she knew, certainly). But Northrop didn’t necessarily know everything about what he was doing.
Given how nebulous Ashley’s picture of the situation was, she knew it would not be easy to play on such uncertainties. But in the absence of better options she had to try. And hope that it would be enough to get back something that she was sure didn’t mean much to Harold Northrop: her life.
After clearing the border Ashley checked the time on her cell and calculated for the difference between San Diego and New York, where Northrop was based, if not always present. It seemed to her that on Friday night he was as available as he was ever likely to be. So she suggested they park the car and Logan look up the number of Northrop’s personal phone, and his various active e-mail addresses—some of the many pieces of information they had come by in the preparations for her break-in at his office.
“I want each one of those e-mail addresses to get a copy of the Athena file,” Ashley said. Logan saw to that. When he was done Ashley took a deep breath, keyed Northrop’s number into her phone, and then heard his phone ringing on the other end.
She had no intention of leaving a message and waiting for him to get back to her. She needed an actual conversation with the man himself, and meant to get it one way or another—
“Who are you?” Northrop snapped on the other end. “How did you get this number?”