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Authors: Rebecca York

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BOOK: In Search of the Dove
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The Falcon pushed back his chair and stood up. Leaning heavily on his silver-headed cane, he walked to the perch in the corner where his favorite parrot, Cicero, sat watching the exchange. For a few moments he didn’t speak as he affectionately rubbed the bird’s large beak. Finally he turned back to Connie.

“When I asked you to check out Jessica Duval last night, I didn’t want to bias your report or have you look for evidence that would support a particular conclusion, so I didn’t give you a transcript of Michael Rome’s phone report.”

“But you’re going to tell me something about it now, I take it.”

“Yes. Michael was quite angry, really. He told me Jessica Duval had been interfering in his investigation, claiming that she was trying to find out what drug her brother had overdosed on. She contended that she had picked up several leads ’psychically.’”

“And Michael Rome, being the well-trained, no-nonsense, down-to-earth investigator that he is, didn’t believe her explanation.”

“Correct.” The Falcon sighed. “When it comes to digging out facts and charming his way into someone’s confidence, Michael’s the best we’ve got. But he hasn’t made very much headway by himself on this case.” He paused. “I believe Jessica Duval can help him.”

“So you’re going to order him to work with her?”


“Even though you know Michael’s hang-ups about working with women?”

“I’m well aware of Michael’s hang-ups. I’d say it’s time he got over them.”

Chapter Six

s the dark-blue motorbike approached, Jed Prentiss uncurled his athlete’s body and stood up. Under the shade of the fig tree, his wind-ruffled hair was fairly dark. But once he stepped out into the late-afternoon sun, it would pick up the golden highlights that, along with his broad shoulders and burnished tan, made him look more like an off-duty lifeguard than the experienced intelligence agent he was. Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, he usually worked a Latin American beat.

But Amherst Gordon had pulled him out of El Salvador for a short-term assignment on the Caribbean island of Royale Verde. His initial instructions had been to play tourist and pick up what he could about local politics and power. But he’d known the Falcon had something more specific in mind.

He’d quickly discovered that all was not sweetness and light in this tropical paradise where tourists who appreciated a low key vacation lazed on the beaches, bartered at the native bazaars, and took advantage of the incomparable fishing and water sports. Jackson Talifero, the director of a ritzy sanitarium called the Blackstone Clinic on the far end of the island, apparently had serious and rather unsavory political ambitions.

That wasn’t so unusual in itself, but Talifero had consolidated his power base so rapidly that it could only have been through highly illegal means. The man seemed to have a cozy relationship with every local government agency. Once Jed had started asking questions, the chief of police, Louis Barahona, had assigned two undercover men to keep tabs on him—presumably on Talifero’s orders. At first he hadn’t bothered to shake the surveillance since it would give Barahona a false sense of security to know what he was doing. But tonight, as on several occasions, it was necessary to move without a shadow. So he’d spent the late afternoon in Queenstown’s favorite watering spot and waited for the happy-hour crowd to jam the place. Under cover of the boisterous confusion, he’d slipped out the back door.

The motorbike pulled to a stop, and Jed dusted the sand off his green cotton twill slacks. The equipment he was going to need was sealed in a waterproof knapsack that rested against the trunk of the tree. Slinging the thirty-pound kit over his shoulder as if it were a picnic lunch, he ambled over to the side of the road.

The dark-skinned boy from Royale Rental grinned, showing a mouth full of white teeth. “With a full tank of petrol like you asked for,” he related in the ubiquitous island singsong.

“Thanks.” Jed reached into his pocket and deposited a handful of coins into the outstretched palm. “Sorry to make you walk back to town.”

“No problem, mon. I’m used to walking.”

“I’ll return the bike tomorrow.”

“No problem. No problem.”

After securing the pack to the luggage rack in back, Jed kicked the pedal and gave the small machine some gas. He headed down the road a half mile, then turned back and started for a dirt lane that led to a small bay where he’d hired a motorboat for some night fishing. The owner didn’t seem to care what he was fishing for, and that suited Jed just fine.

A week and a half of inactivity was about all he could stand, Jed thought as he stowed his rented rod and tackle and checked the engine.

“You sure you don’t want a guide?” The owner tried once more, his hand on the rope that moored the sturdy little craft to the dock. “Very cheap.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I prefer to go out alone.”

“You sure you know the area?”

“I’ve got a good map.”

“Boss, you know where Devil’s Point is?”

Jed unfolded the map and pointed to a jagged promontory.

“You stay away from it.”

“Don’t worry.” The Blackstone Clinic was located just south of Devil’s Point. But there was no reason to broadcast his destination.

“Take care of my boat, mon.”

“You know it.”

Jed steered slowly out of the harbor and then opened the throttle. As the little craft picked up speed, it began to bounce along the crests of the deep-blue waves, sending a shower of salty spray over the lone helmsman. Jed lifted his face into the sea breeze and grinned. If orders hadn’t come through from the Falcon to check out the Blackstone Clinic, he would have put it on his “must see” list anyway.

But he hadn’t needed to take the initiative. When Jed had been covering the airport several days ago, something very interesting had turned up in the person of Franco Garcia, who’d cleared customs with a Brazilian passport. He was allegedly there to invest in a sugar plantation and was staying in Jed’s hotel. Jed’s curiosity had been aroused by the man’s European accent—even before he’d hired a cab to take him out to Blackstone. While Garcia was visiting the clinic, Jed had surreptitiously checked his room and found a fountain pen that did double duty as a stiletto and a cheap-looking pocket radio that was really a short-wave receiver. A concealed weapon and disguised communications equipment weren’t absolute proof of covert activity. Garcia might be there inspecting the clinic with an eye to committing his crazy mother. But Jed didn’t think so, particularly since he recognized the knife as a model that was hand-crafted in the Soviet Union.

A coded query to the Falcon along with a set of Garcia’s smudged fingerprints taken from a glass in the bathroom had brought a surprisingly swift reply. There was an excellent possibility that Franco Garcia was a Soviet agent named Feliks Gorlov who’d had a recent run-in with another Peregrine agent in Madrid.

A KGB operative, Gorlov had been involved in some extracurricular drug dealing. So whether he was there in his official capacity or on his own time was anybody’s guess. But the Falcon wanted to know why the man was on Royale Verde and why he was meeting with Jackson Talifero.

Now, as Jed approached the cape called Devil’s Point that sheltered Blackstone’s private bay, he cut the engine and got out his fishing equipment. He wasn’t going to risk getting any closer until after dark.

* * *

the phone, closed her eyes, and sagged back into the padded armchair. Though she still couldn’t visit Aubrey in the hospital, she talked to Dr. Frederickson every day. Her terrifying encounter with Lonnie had at least produced the name of the drug Aubrey was probably on. But when she’d relayed it to the doctor, he’d reported back that the street name wasn’t in his computer data base.

For a while it was almost as if she’d held the Dove in her hand. But it had fluttered away again, and she was left clutching air. To make matters worse, that afternoon Dr. Frederickson had gently introduced the idea that Aubrey might do better in a private clinic. She counted that as a very concrete indication that the staff at City Hospital wasn’t expecting any miracles.

Her brother’s lack of progress was depressing and made her want to take some action. Deep down she couldn’t shake the belief that she might have the power to solve the puzzle of what had happened to Aubrey. On the other hand, she’d been badly frightened by the vicious way Lonnie and his friend had drugged her. If Michael Rome hadn’t come along, she would almost certainly have ended up in worse shape than her brother.

It was equally disturbing to think about the cool DEA agent who had rescued her, yet her thoughts kept returning to him.

Her clearest visual image of Michael Rome was the way he’d looked sitting in the kitchen with his large hands wrapped around a coffee mug. It was inevitably replaced with more tactile memories of his hands wrapped around her body. She knew her frantic arousal had triggered a strong response from Michael. But he’d been very reluctant to turn the situation to his own advantage.

Clenching the arms of the chair, she wished for the hundredth time that none of it had happened. But she’d never been able to deny facts. One of them was that she’d reacted to Michael Rome not just as a convenient target for her sexual frustration but as an individual. Once she’d made the decision to trust herself to his safekeeping, her anxiety level had diminished considerably.

Though he was a man who needed to appear tough on the outside, in her heightened state of awareness she’d sensed the hidden warmth and sensitivity of his personality and responded to it. In fact, she realized that her very defenselessness had melted the hard shell that encased his real emotions.

That had pulled her to him. But she’d also felt an instinctive recognition that they had something important in common. While he’d held her in his arms, she’d been too caught up in her own frustration to analyze what that was. Since then she’d probed at the insight like someone with a chipped tooth who can’t keep her tongue away from the jagged edge.

Finally it had come to her—as perceptions often did—that there was something in the past that had hurt and frightened him very deeply. It was a vulnerability that he kept well hidden, yet it was a strong component in his personality. What’s more, he was afraid to take the chance of getting hurt again.

Jessica shook her head. From the way Michael Rome had stomped out of her apartment, it was unlikely that she was ever going to see the man again. Rather than continue to think about him, it would be more profitable to start going through Aubrey’s apartment again looking for clues to his connection to Lonnie.

In the top of his closet was a shoe box with letters and notes. Bringing it to the kitchen table, she went through everything carefully, sometimes pausing to smile when she encountered her own letters and remembered some of the funny stories she’d relayed to Aubrey. But they certainly weren’t relevant now. Nothing in the box was. Next she went through his briefcase. That netted her a folder full of test papers he’d never graded. When the obvious places yielded nothing, she began thinking more creatively.

She had just pulled up the edge of the mattress when there was a knock at the front door. She wasn’t expecting anyone. Had Lonnie tracked her down to finish the job he’d started? Unconsciously she clutched the neck of her Indian cotton shift.

There was another loud rap at the door. Hesitantly she tiptoed down the hall and slipped the chain on the door, aware that whoever was on the other side could certainly hear the metal links rattling even if he couldn’t see her trembling hands.

“Who is it?”

“Michael Rome.”

A wave of relief washed over her. It was followed by anticipation that she shouldn’t be feeling.

“Just a second.” She threw open the door, and they stood looking at each other cautiously. From the expression on the DEA agent’s face, she could tell he wasn’t glad to be there.

She noticed that Aubrey’s T-shirt was folded neatly over his arm. It appeared to be freshly laundered.

“Thanks for the loan,” Michael said, extending the garment toward her. She’d only seen him in T-shirts and jeans. Today he was dressed quite differently, in a blue Oxford cloth shirt, dark slacks, and a pair of expensive-looking western boots. The effect was more civilized, but it didn’t fool her. No matter what this man wore, she would always see the toughness under the clothing—and the compassion that was buried below the hard exterior.

“You’re welcome. But you didn’t come here just to return a shirt.”


Stepping aside, she ushered him into the apartment. In the living room, she took a seat on the sofa. After hesitating for a second, he lowered his rangy frame into an easy chair opposite her.

“I didn’t expect to see you again,” she observed quietly.

He nodded. “My supervisor thinks you may be able to help me with the investigation.” The tone of his voice suggested he didn’t agree.

“So you’re acting under orders.”

His jaw tightened. “Frankly, I wasn’t being very professional when I left. I should have given you a number where you could get in touch with me if you thought of anything important.” He handed her a scrap of paper with his hotel name and extension. “And there were some more questions I should have asked you,” Michael added.

Why was she disappointed that he was here just on business? Jessica wondered.

“And I did want to know whether you were all right.”

“Did you?”

He looked down at the hard-edged hands clasped in his lap. “Yes.”

The syllable was so low, she wondered if she’d imagined it.

“I’m all right, Michael.” She shouldn’t have used his first name. It had simply slipped out.

Their gazes collided then flicked away. They would have to go on pretending that they were nothing more than polite strangers. But the night they had spent together was burned into both their memories. Though it might have been drug induced, they had both reacted to a power stronger than the drug. Because of the circumstances that had brought them together, their mutual attraction was something neither of them dared bring out into the open. Nevertheless, it hung in the air between them like the musky scent of lovemaking the morning after.

BOOK: In Search of the Dove
12.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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