Tess Gerritsen: In Their Footsteps

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Tess Gerritsen In Their Footsteps
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    In Their Footsteps
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In Their Footsteps: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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The quiet scandal surrounding her parents' deaths 20 years ago sends Beryl Tavistock on a search for the truth from Paris to Greece. As she enters a world of international espionage, Beryl discovers she needs help and turns to a suave ex-CIA agent. But in a world where trust is a double-edged sword, friends become enemies and enemies become killers.

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Tess Gerritsen


In Their Footsteps

© 1994

To Misty, Mary and the Breakfast Club


Prologue

Paris, 1973


She was late. It was not like Madeline, not like her at all.

Bernard Tavistock ordered another café au lait and took his time sipping it, every so often glancing around the outdoor café for a glimpse of his wife. He saw only the usual Left Bank scene: tourists and Parisians, red-checked tablecloths, a riot of summertime colors. But no sign of his raven-haired wife. She was half an hour late now; this was more than a traffic delay. He found himself tapping his foot as the worries began to creep in. In all their years of marriage, Madeline had rarely been late for an appointment, and then only by a few minutes. Other men might moan and roll their eyes in masculine despair over their perennially tardy spouses, but Bernard had no such complaints-he’d been blessed with a punctual wife. A beautiful wife. A woman who, even after fifteen years of marriage, continued to surprise him, fascinate him, tempt him.

Now where the dickens was she?

He glanced up and down Boulevard Saint-Germain. His uneasiness grew from a vague toe-tapping anxiety to outright worry. Had there been a traffic accident? A last-minute alert from their French Intelligence contact, Claude Daumier? Events had been moving at a frantic pace these last two weeks. Those rumors of a NATO intelligence leak-of a mole in their midst-had them all glancing over their shoulders, wondering who among them could not be trusted. For days now, Madeline had been awaiting instructions from MI6 London. Perhaps, at the last minute, word had come through.

Still, she should have let him know.

He rose to his feet and was about to head for the telephone when he spotted his waiter, Mario, waving at him. The young man quickly wove his way past the crowded tables.

“Monsieur Tavistock, there is a telephone message for you. From madame.

Bernard gave a sigh of relief. “Where is she?”

“She says she cannot come for lunch. She wishes you to meet her.”

“Where?”

“This address.” The waiter handed him a scrap of paper, smudged with what looked like tomato soup. The address was scrawled in pencil: 66, Rue Myrha, #5.

Bernard frowned. “Isn’t this in Pigalle? What on earth is she doing in that neighborhood?”

Mario shrugged, a peculiarly Gallic version with tipped head, raised eyebrow. “I do not know. She tells me the address, I write it down.”

“Well, thank you.” Bernard reached for his wallet and handed the fellow enough francs to pay for his two café au laits, as well as a generous tip.

“Merci,” said the waiter, beaming. “You will return for supper, Monsieur Tavistock?”

“If I can track down my wife,” muttered Bernard, striding away to his Mercedes.

He drove to Place Pigalle, grumbling all the way. What on earth had possessed her to go there? It was not the safest part of Paris for a woman-or a man, either, for that matter. He took comfort in the knowledge that his beloved Madeline could take care of herself quite well, thank you very much. She was a far better marksman than he was, and that automatic she carried in her purse was always kept fully loaded-a precaution he insisted upon ever since that near-disaster in Berlin. Distressing how one couldn’t trust one’s own people these days. Incompetents everywhere, in MI6, in NATO, in French Intelligence. And there had been Madeline, trapped in that building with the East Germans, and no one to back her up. If I hadn’t arrived in time…

No, he wouldn’t relive that horror again.

She’d learned her lesson. And a loaded pistol was now a permanent accessory to her wardrobe.

He turned onto Rue de Chapelle and shook his head in disgust at the deteriorating street scene, the tawdry nightclubs, the scantily clad women poised on street corners. They saw his Mercedes and beckoned to him eagerly. Desperately. “Pig Alley” was what the Yanks used to call this neighborhood. The place one came to for quick delights, for guilty pleasures. Madeline, he thought, have you gone completely mad? What could possibly have brought you here?

He turned onto Boulevard Bayes, then Rue Myrha, and parked in front of number 66. In disbelief, he stared up at the building and saw three stories of chipped plaster and sagging balconies. Did she really expect him to meet her in this firetrap? He locked the Mercedes, thinking, I’ll be lucky if the car’s still here when I return. Reluctantly he entered the building.

Inside there were signs of habitation: children’s toys in the stairwell, a radio playing in one of the flats. He climbed the stairs. The smell of frying onions and cigarette smoke seemed to hang permanently in the air. Numbers three and four were on the second floor; he kept climbing, up a narrow staircase to the top floor. Number five was the attic flat; its low door was tucked between the eaves.

He knocked. No answer.

“Madeline?” he called. “Really now, this isn’t some sort of practical joke, is it?”

Still there was no answer.

He tried the door; it was unlocked. He pushed inside, into the garret flat. Venetian blinds hung over the windows, casting slats of shadow and light across the room. Against one wall was a large brass bed, its sheets still rumpled from some prior occupant. On a bedside table were two dirty glasses, an empty champagne bottle and various plastic items one might delicately refer to as “marital aids.” The whole room smelled of liquor, of sweating passion and bodies in rut.

Bernard’s puzzled gaze gradually shifted to the foot of the brass bed, to a woman’s high-heeled shoe lying discarded on the floor. Frowning, he took a step toward it and saw that the shoe lay in a glistening puddle of crimson. As he rounded the foot of the bed, he froze in disbelief.

His wife lay on the floor, her ebony hair fanned out like a raven’s wings. Her eyes were open. Three sunbursts of blood stained her white blouse.

He dropped to his knees beside her. “No,” he said. “No.” He touched her face, felt the warmth still lingering in her cheeks. He pressed his ear to her chest, her bloodied chest, and heard no heartbeat, no breath. A sob burst forth from his throat, a disbelieving cry of grief. “Madeline!”

As the echo of her name faded, there came another sound behind him-footsteps. Soft, approaching…

Bernard turned. In bewilderment, he stared at the pistol-Madeline’s pistol-now pointed at him. He looked up at the face hovering above the barrel. It made no sense-no sense at all!

“Why?” asked Bernard.

The answer he heard was the dull thud of the silenced automatic. The bullet’s impact sent him sprawling to the floor beside Madeline. For a few brief seconds, he was aware of her body close beside him, and of her hair, like silk against his fingers. He reached out and feebly cradled her head. My love, he thought. My dearest love.

And then his hand fell still.

One

Buckinghamshire, England

Twenty years later


Jordan Tavistock lounged in Uncle Hugh’s easy chair and amusedly regarded, as he had a thousand times before, the portrait of his long-dead ancestor, the hapless Earl of Lovat. Ah, the delicious irony of it all, he thought, that Lord Lovat should stare down from that place of honor above the mantelpiece. It was testimony to the Tavistock family’s sense of whimsy that they’d chosen to so publicly display their one relative who’d, literally, lost his head on Tower Hill-the last man to be officially decapitated in England-unofficial decapitations did not count. Jordan raised his glass in a toast to the unfortunate earl and tossed back a gulp of sherry. He was tempted to pour a second glass, but it was already five-thirty, and the guests would soon be arriving for the Bastille Day reception. I should keep at least a few gray cells in working order, he thought. I might need them to hold up my end of the chitchat. Chitchat being one of Jordan ’s least favorite activities.

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