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Dead Sleep

Dead Sleep

Dead Sleep 12


  Bowles whistles from his desk.

  “The French can’t extradite him from Cayman, because at some point he established residency in Quebec and obtained Canadian citizenship. Canada and the Caymans have no extradition treaty. We can extradite from Cayman, but de Becque has committed no crime on U.S. soil. He’s immune to pressure from us.”

  “As far as we know,” says Bowles, “if we got enough evidence to issue an arrest warrant on conspiracy, we could go in and bring him back under the new laws.”

  “That’s not an option at this time, Pat,” says Baxter.

  Kaiser unexpectedly voices my thought for me. “What does all this have to do with Jordan Glass?”

  Baxter turns to me again. “Monsieur de Becque has made a very unusual proposition. He personally told me that he would allow his Sleeping Women—that’s how he refers to them, as though they’re real women—he would allow them to be photographed—not forensically examined, mind you—but only if the photographer was Jordan Glass.”

  The room goes silent, and cold apprehension climbs my spine.

  “Why in the world would he ask for me?”

  “I was hoping you could shed some light on that,” says Baxter.

  “Maybe de Becque is the killer,” suggests Bowles. “He killed Jane Lacour, and now he’s discovered she has a twin sister. He wants to do her as well. Make a set.”

  In a voice dripping with disdain, Lenz says, “Please confine your theories to subjects with which you’re familiar. Like bank robbery.”

  “Arthur,” Baxter warns.

  Bowles is so red he looks ready to pop a blood vessel. “De Becque is seventy years old,” says Baxter. “He falls well outside all profiles for serial murder.”

  “This may not be serial murder,” says Kaiser, earning odd looks from the other men. “And de Becque could easily be behind the selections. We need to find out if he’s come to New Orleans in the past eighteen months, and if so, how often.”

  “De Becque owns his own jet,” says Baxter. “A Cessna Citation.”

  Kaiser’s eyebrows go up.

  “We’re trying to trace its movements now.”

  Lenz focuses on Kaiser. “Do you really think a murderer—or a kidnapper—who’s been so careful up to this point would invite his next victim to his lair through the medium of the FBI?”

  “He might,” says Kaiser, “as a joke. A final joke. He’s getting old. He knows we’ve discovered the link between his victims and the paintings. He killed Wingate, or ordered his death, so his marketing conduit’s shut down. One way or another, he knows he hasn’t got much time. So he decides to immortalize himself by the way he goes out. Murder-suicide with a celebrity.”

  Despite the antipathy between Kaiser and Lenz, the psychiatrist seems to be weighing this theory. “If he’s the suicidal type, why bother to kill Wingate at all?”

  “Knee-jerk response. Like people who kill every snake they see. He perceived a threat and neutralized it before fully exploring how it would affect his situation.”

  Lenz purses his lips in thought. “Did de Becque’s jet fly to New York yesterday?”

  “No,” says Baxter. “It was on Grand Cayman for the past twenty-four hours. We’ve confirmed that. We are checking commercial carriers.”

  “You can forget that,” mutters Lenz.

  “De Becque says he’ll send his jet to pick up Ms. Glass and her equipment,” says Baxter. “The catch is, she has to go alone.”

  Kaiser looks incredulous. “You’re not actually considering this.”

  “John, we have to look at—”

  Kaiser whirls on Lenz. “How long have you known about de Becque?”

  “I heard what you did, when you did,” Lenz says quietly. Which is not exactly a denial.

  “I’ll do it,” I tell them.

  The room goes quiet again.

  “If you do,” says Baxter, “it won’t be under de Becque’s conditions.”

  “Under no conditions,” says Kaiser. “We have no control down there.”

  “We have to see those paintings, John.”

  “If she took one of our planes,” says Bowles, “we could put the Hostage Rescue Team inside. She goes in wired, and if it starts going south, they can bust in and bring them both out—Glass and de Becque.”

  “If it starts going south?” echoes Kaiser. “You mean like if de Becque shoots her in the head? Then HRT, which is at the airport, starts for the estate?”

  “Don’t waste your breath,” scoffs Lenz. “He’s talking about invading a foreign country.”

  “We’d talk to the Brits first,” says Bowles. “Cayman is still a British colony.”

  “Good God,” mutters Lenz, as though rendered speechless by the ignorance around him. Either the psychiatrist has forgotten whose territory he’s on, or he feels that Baxter’s patronage makes him bulletproof.

  “Let me get this straight,” I say to Kaiser. “You think a seventy-year-old man is going around New Orleans kidnapping women in their twenties and thirties? Without leaving a trace? My sister ran three miles a day and worked out with weights. She could kick the crap out of most seventy-year-old men, pardon my French.”

  “Seventy isn’t that old,” says Lenz, playing devil’s advocate. “There are seventy-year-old men in excellent health.”

  “And you’re forgetting the taser wound on the Dori gnac’s victim,” says Kaiser. “But if de Becque is behind it, I see him commissioning the paintings. Paying one or more men to take the women for him, and one artist to paint them. A guy like that? A wanted expatriate? He probably has all kinds of bodyguards on his property. Retired Israeli commandos. Ex-Paras or -Foreign Legion. Maybe even GIGN.”

  “An elegant scenario,” says Lenz.

  “You think de Becque could paint them himself?” asks Bowles.

  “He’s a collector, not a painter.” Lenz sighs dismissively. “But if he commissions them, why does he only own five paintings? Why wouldn’t he have them all?”

  “He could be selling them,” says Baxter.

  “A guy worth fifty million?” asks Bowles.

  “An elaborate hoax,” suggests Kaiser. “Turning the art world upside down. For kicks. For some twisted fantasy we don’t yet understand.”

  I can’t tell who’s arguing for what. Though Lenz and Kaiser dislike each other, they clearly respect each other’s opinions, and Baxter respects them both, because he’s letting them run with the ball. As they bat it back and forth, something occurs to me.

  “Wingate told me de Becque bought the first five Sleeping Women,” I tell Baxter. “So how did you test the first painting for talc?”

  “The paintings didn’t sell in the order they were painted,” he replies. “We tested the first one painted. One of the more abstract ones. It was the realistic ones that sold first and started the phenomenon.”

  “His Nabi period,” says Lenz.

  “The Nabis,” I echo. “Wingate mentioned them. Hebrew for ‘the Prophets.’ ”

  “Just so.”

  “Did de Becque know I’m already involved with you?” I ask.

  “He seemed to,” says Baxter.

  “How the hell would he know that?” Kaiser asks.

  “I don’t know, John.”

  Kaiser turns to Bowles. “How tight have you kept this?”

  The Irishman’s lips tighten. He is, after all, Kaiser’s boss. “If there’s a leak, it’s not our people.”

  Kaiser doesn’t look convinced. Neither does Lenz.

  “So, what are we going to do?” asks the SAC.

  “I’m going to Grand Cayman,” I tell them. “One way or another.”

  Lenz nods approval, but Kaiser gives me a hard look.

  “This isn’t some jaunt through Somalia with a press pass in your pocket.”

  Now my face is red. “I’m flattered by your desire to protect me, Agent Kaiser, but I don’t think it’s going to advance this investigation.”

  “She’s right,” says Lenz.

  ?
??What we’re going to do,” Baxter says in a conclusive tone, “is let Ms. Glass go about her business. We know her wishes. It’s up to us to decide what strategy makes the most sense.”

  “She needs protection,” says Kaiser. “We have no idea what’s going on in this case, no idea about motive. De Becque could have people in New Orleans right now. They could snatch or kill her anytime.”

  “Agreed,” says Baxter. “Patrick, could you put one of your agents with Ms. Glass until we contact her?”

  Bowles nods assent.

  “Ms. Glass,” Baxter says, “I appreciate your willingness to go through with this. And if Agent Kaiser knew you like I do, he’d know there’s no point in arguing with you.”

  Bowles looks at Kaiser. “Take her outside and find her some protection, John. Somebody you’ll be satisfied with.”

  Kaiser gets up and walks out without a glance in my direction.

  I stand and say, “Gentlemen,” with the panache I’ve developed over twenty years working in a profession dominated by men, then follow him out.

  Kaiser is waiting in the hall, his jaw tight.

  “Your work has dulled your ability to assess risk,” he says. “You think because you’ve tromped through a few battlefields, a visit to the Cayman Islands is nothing. But there’s a difference. In a war zone, a journalist’s enemy is bad luck. You might take a stray bullet or a piece of shrapnel, but nobody’s trying very hard to kill you. De Becque may have nothing else on his mind but killing you. Do you get that? You could walk in the front door, and he could stick a knife in your throat and laugh in your face.”

  “Are you through?”

  “Not if you still think you’re going. We can get pictures of those paintings some other way. You have no business taking that kind of risk.”

  “Do you have a sister, Agent Kaiser?”

  “No.”

  “A brother?”

  “Yes.”

  “So why are we arguing?”

  He sighs and looks at the floor. I start past him, but he takes hold of my shoulder.

  “What about the protection?”

  “Find me somebody who’s not a robot, and I’m fine with it.” I touch him lightly on the elbow. “I’m not stupid, okay?”

  “What do you plan on doing this afternoon?”

  “Buying presents for my niece and nephew. I’m supposed to stay with them tonight. My brother-in-law’s house.”

  “That’s where your sister disappeared. The Garden District.”

  “Which proves no neighborhood’s safe, right? Unless you move across the lake with all the white flight. Where do you live?”

  “Across the lake. Most of the agents here do.”

  “What does that say about your crime-fighting efforts?”

  Kaiser turns and starts toward the elevators, and I follow. “Homicides don’t fall under our jurisdiction,” he says.

  “Except very special ones.”

  “Right.”

  “I don’t guess you’re available to guard me this afternoon?”

  He chuckles. “No. I’ve got someone good in mind, though.”

  “Is he tough?”

  “Why do you assume it’s a man?”

  “Okay, is she tough?”

  “Her hobby’s competitive pistol shooting. She’s a member of our SWAT team.”

  “Is she going to make a pass at me?”

  Kaiser frowns, but his eyes are smiling. “If you were in the Bureau, you’d be disciplined for that remark.”

  “But I’m not.”

  “Are you suggesting that aggressive career women are sometimes gay?”

  “I’ve run across it in my time.”

  He pauses in the corridor and looks me up and down. “You fit that category pretty well yourself, Ms. Glass.”

  “I do, don’t I?”

  Now he’s looking at my left hand. It takes men longer to wonder about the marriage state. Seeing no ring, he raises his eyebrows. I can’t help but smile. “Don’t worry, Agent Kaiser. I like my bread buttered on the traditional side. Now introduce me to my bodyguard.”

  He walks past the elevators and into the stairwell.

  “We need the exercise?” I ask.

  “The elevators are painfully slow.”

  I follow him down one floor, and we emerge into a beehive of activity, a wide-open cube farm of glass-windowed partitions with well-dressed men and women hurrying between the workspaces. Ten seconds into the room, I realize something they managed to conceal upstairs: The New Orleans FBI office is a building under siege. The agents’ faces look hunted, their smallest movements marked by frustration. The air-conditioning is running full blast, but it can’t drive out the reek of desperation. For a year and a half—two sweltering summers—these men and women have labored in vain as an ever-growing string of victims generated fear and then panic in a city that in the early nineties grew inured to the highest murder rate in the nation. Outside this building, my sister is a dim memory, a blurred element of the free-floating paranoia tainting the streets of this usually laid-back city. But here, in this seemingly corporate cube farm, Jane is remembered. Here the shame of impotence weighs heavily on civilian soldiers who have no idea who their enemy is. As I move through the room at Kaiser’s side, the looks I get run the scale from awe to resentment. There she is, they say to themselves. The one who found the paintings. The photographer. The one whose sister got it. The one who was in the fire. . . .

  In the corner of the huge room is an office with four real walls and an open door. Kaiser leads us inside, where a man in shirtsleeves sits behind a desk, talking on the phone. His office is a quarter of the size of the SAC’s upstairs, but his voice carries the weight of authority. When he hangs up, he winks at Kaiser.

  “What’s up, John?” he says, his eyes ready for anything.

  “Bill, this is Jordan Glass. Ms. Glass, Bill Granger, head of the Violent Crimes Squad.”

  Granger leans forward and shakes my hand. “I’m sorry about your sister, Ms. Glass. We’ve been doing everything we can.”

  “Thank you. I understand.”

  “The SAC wants to put an agent with Ms. Glass for a few hours,” says Kaiser. “Maybe for the night. There’s no imminent threat, but we want someone armed with her. I was thinking of Wendy Travis. Can you spare her?”

  Granger bites his bottom lip, then nods and picks up the phone. “I think we can spare her for a few hours.” He taps his fingers on his knee, then says, “Could I see you for a moment? . . . Thanks.” When he hangs up, he gives Kaiser a knowing look. “I heard we’ve got a Quantico shrink upstairs, and Baxter himself may be flying down. You guys have a plan?”

  “Working on one.”

  “Anything for my people to do?”

  “I sure as hell hope so.”

  There’s a knock behind us, and I turn to see a young woman a couple of inches shorter than I, but twice as fit. She’s attractive in a well-scrubbed American way, dressed in a navy skirt, cream blouse, and a matching jacket that looks like Liz Claiborne. She could be an accountant for a Big Five firm, but for the pistol I see through the opening in her jacket.

  “Ms. Glass,” says Granger, “this is Special Agent Wendy Travis. Agent Travis, Jordan Glass. I’d like you to spend the day with her. It’s a protective detail.”

  Agent Wendy gives me a pert smile and offers me her hand. When I take it, she shakes with a firmness two levels above that of most female professionals.

  “Let me get my purse,” she says. “And I’m ready to go.”

  I expect her to leave, but she remains in the doorway, her eyes on John Kaiser.

  Kaiser smiles and says, “Thanks, Wendy. I knew you were the one for this.”

  Practically glowing with pleasure, Agent Wendy nods and walks briskly toward one of the glass cubes. When I turn back to the desk, Kaiser is blushing, and Bill Granger is smiling wryly and shaking his head.

  8

  I’M SITTING ON St. Charles Avenue in my rented Mustang, trying to work
up the courage to knock on my brother-in-law’s door. I parked a little way up from the house in case my niece and nephew are watching through the windows. My female bodyguard is standing thirty yards away, beneath a spreading oak, her hands hanging loosely at her sides. Agent Wendy has turned out to be all right, and I feel safer than I have in years. Wendy would think Jane was a lightweight for running only three miles a day. It’s not hard to imagine her standing on a shooting range next to 250-pound men annoyed that a “goddamn girl” is outshooting them. She entered the FBI Academy in 1992, which tells me she’s probably one of the “Starlings” who signed up for the Bureau after seeing Jodie Foster’s inspiring portrayal of a fictional agent trainee in The Silence of the Lambs. I’m not knocking her. After I saw Annie Hall, I walked around in floppy pants, a man’s necktie, and a hat for three weeks. At least Wendy picked something worthwhile to emulate.

  She also kindly followed me around town while I searched for presents for my niece and nephew. Henry is eight, and named after the father of my brother-in-law, Marc Lacour. Lyn is six, and named after my mother. I’ve only seen them once since I left New Orleans eleven months ago. I promised myself I would visit more often, but that was a hard promise to keep. The reason is simple: I look exactly like their missing mother. And no matter what their father says to prepare them for my visits, they end up confused and crying.

  Wendy is staring at the Mustang, willing me to get out. She knows I’m nervous about the visit. An hour ago I persuaded her to take me to a funky little bar on Magazine. She didn’t drink, but I had two gin-and-tonics. To keep my mind off what was coming, I asked her about the New Orleans field office. She started with SAC Bowles, who initially found the ambiguities of Louisiana crime and politics—at one time virtually the same industry—a bit slippery. But now he has trials pending against a former governor and assorted other luminaries. The interesting thing was the way Wendy talked about John Kaiser. She didn’t volunteer information; I had to ask. And her self-conscious glances told me she was trying to gauge the nature and level of my interest.

  Kaiser, it seems, is the resident hunk of the office. All the assistants and secretaries flirt shamelessly with him, but he has never asked one for a date, patted a rump, or even squeezed a shoulder, which impresses Agent Wendy to no end. Kaiser’s biography is interesting, too. He was sheriff in Idaho when Daniel Baxter was called in by a neighboring sheriff to consult on a string of murders that overlapped Kaiser’s county. With Baxter’s help, Kaiser ultimately caught the killer, proving exceptionally adept at interrogating suspects and extracting a confession. Duly impressed, Baxter encouraged the young sheriff to apply to the FBI Academy. Against the odds, the country boy from Idaho won admission, and after serving in the Spokane, Detroit, and Baltimore field offices, Kaiser was tapped by Baxter for the Investigative Support Unit. His record there was stellar until he snapped under the pressure. When I told Wendy I knew that part of the story, she couldn’t hide her suspicion. How, she wondered, had I learned something in one day that it had taken her weeks to discover?