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all capable oflosing  not a winner in the group.
"Daddy's home!" he exclaimed, and beamed a smile that was perfectly horrible.
He then pointed a Beretta at dear Aunt Judi's chest.
"Don't make a sound, Judi, not a one. Don't give me the slightest excuse to
pull this trigger. It would be so easy, and such a great pleasure. And yes, I
sincerely hate you, too. You remind me of a fat version of your beloved
sister.
"Hello, children! Say hello to your dear old dad. I've come a long ways to
see you. All the way from America."
His twin girls, his sweet daughters, started to cry, so Shafer did the only
thing he could think of to restore order: he pointed his gun straight at
Judi's tear-stained face and walked closer to her. "Make them stop whining and
screeching. Now! Show me you deserve to be their keeper."
The aunt bent low and pressed the girls to her chest, and while they didn't
actually stop crying, the sound was at least muffled and subdued.
"Judi, now listen to me," Shafer said as he moved behind her and pressed the
barrel of the Beretta to the back of her head. "As much as I would like to,
I'm not here to fuck and murder you. Actually, I have a message for you to be
passed on to the home secretary. In a strange, ironic twist, your absurd,
pitiful life actually matters for now. Can you believe it? I can't."
Aunt Judi seemed confused, her natural state as far as Shafer could tell.
"How would I do that?" she blubbered.
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"Just call the sodding police!Now shut up and listen. You're to tell the
police that I came to visit, and I told you that no one is safe anymore. Not
the police, not their families. We can go to their houses, just like I came to
your house today."
Just to make sure she got it, Shafer repeated the message twice more. Then he
turned his attention back to Tricia and Erica, who interested him about as
much as the ridiculous porcelain dolls covering the mantel in the room. He
hated those silly, frilly porcelain doodads that had once belonged to his wife
and that she had doted on as if they were real.
"How is Robert?" he asked the twins, and received no reaction.
What is this?The girls had already mastered the hopelessly lost and confused
look of their mother and their blubbering auntie. They said not a word.
"Robert is yourbrother! " Shafer yelled, and the girls started to sob loudly
again. "How is he? How is my son? Tell me something about your brother! Has he
grown two heads? Anything!"
"He's all right," Tricia finally simpered.
"Yes, he's all right," Erica repeated, following her sister's lead.
"He's all right, is he? Well, that's all right, then," Shafer said with utter
disdain for these two clones of their mother.
He found that he was actually missing Robert, though. He rather enjoyed the
mildly twisted lad at times. "All right, give your father a kiss," he finally
demanded. "I am your father, you pitiful twits," he added for good measure.
"In case you've forgotten."
The girls wouldn't kiss him, and he wasn't permitted to kill them, so Shafer
finally had to leave the dreadful house. On the way out, he swept the
porcelain dolls off the mantel, sending them crashing to the floor.
"In memory of your mother!" he called back over his shoulder.
Chapter 59
The most commoncomplaint from soldiers serving in Iraq is that they feel that
everything around them is absurd and makes no sense. More and more, this is
the way of modern-day warfare. I felt it now myself.
We were past the deadline and living on borrowed time. That's how it seemed
to me. Feeling as if I hadn't been able to catch my breath in days, I was on
my way to London with two agents from our International Terrorism Section.
Geoffrey Shafer was in England. Even more insane, he wanted us to know he was
there. Someone did.
The flight into Heathrow Airport arrived at a little before six in the
morning and I went straight to a hotel just off Victoria Street and slept
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until ten. After that short rest, I made my way to New Scotland Yard, just
around the corner, on Broadway. It was great to be so near Buckingham Palace,
Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament.
Upon arrival, I was taken to the office of Detective Superintendent Martin
Lodge of the Met. Lodge told me, modestly enough, that he kept the Anti
Terrorist Branch, called SO13, running smoothly. On our way to the morning's
briefing he gave me a thumbnail sketch of himself.
"Like you, I came up through the police ranks. Eleven years with the Met
after a stint with SIS in Europe. Before that I trained at Hendon, then a
constable on the beat. Chose the detective track and was moved into SO13
because I have a few languages."
He paused, and I spoke at the first break. "I know about your AT squad the
best in Europe, I've heard. Years of practice with the IRA."
Lodge gave me a thin smile, a veteran trouper's smile. "Sometimes the best
way to learn is through mistakes. We've made plenty in Ireland. Anyway, here
we are, Alex. They're all waiting inside. They want to meet you very much. Get
ready for some incredible bullshit, though. MI5 and MI6 will both be here.
They fight over everything. Don't let it get to you. We manage to sort it all
out in the end. Most of the time, anyway."
I nodded. "Like the Bureau and the CIA back home. I'm sure I've seen it
before."
As it turned out, Detective Superintendent Lodge was right on about the turf
wars, and I figured that the feud was probably hurting progress in London,
even under the present crisis circumstances. Also in the room were a few
Special Branch men and women. The prime minister's chief of staff. Plus the
usual crowd from London's emergency services.
As I took a seat I groaned inside another goddamn meeting. Just what I didn't
need.We're past the deadline they're blowing up things! I wanted to yell.
Chapter 60
The large beach houseoutside Montauk on Long Island didn't belong to the
Wolf. It was a rental, forty thousand a week, even in the off-season.A
complete rip-off, the Wolf knew, but he didn't mind so much. Not today,
anyway.
It was quite an impressive place, though Georgian style, three stories rising
above the beach, immense swimming pool shielded from the wind by the house
itself, pebbled driveway lined with cars mostly limousines, muscular drivers
in dark suits congregating around them.
Everything here,he thought with some bitterness,paid for with my money, my
sweat, my ideas!
They were waiting for him, several of his associates in the Red Mafiya. They
were gathered inside a library/sitting room with panoramic views of the
deserted beach and the Atlantic.
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