CHAPTER ELEVEN

HIS QUICK EYES


East in the West was an Indian restaurant which stayed open late. Diana and I used to go there several times, daring each other to eat the hottest curries. When we went there with Alexandra we ordered the milder dishes. Alexandra ordered nothing.

"Are you sure?" Diana asked politely.

Alexandra nodded. "All right," Diana said, then turned to the waiter. "That'll be all." The waiter nodded and went with our order to the kitchen. If he saw anything strange about his customers, he was too professional to show any unease. We were the only customers there, so nobody was looking at us.

We were all sitting at a small white table. Indian music played over the speakers. As we waited for our dishes, Diana said, "I take it you are the woman whom Jacob found at The Wall of Sleep."

Alexandra nodded again.

"And you were there at 817 when Jacob was almost killed."

Another nod. Alexandra no longer had the bouncy posture she had gotten at the Slapjack Theater. She was remote again, her face and body giving away nothing.

"I guess Jacob doesn't blame you for that. And you didn't feel threatened by him, because this time you came to him without your bodyguard."

Alexandra tilted her head slightly to the left. Glimmers of interest in Diana could be seen past her reserved attitude.

"I'm assuming that's what happened." She looked at me. "Because I told Jacob not to leave the apartment. Right, Jacob?"

I squirmed on my chair.

"Please interrupt me anytime you want to," Diana said to both of us. "I don't want to rely on just my guesses here."

Neither Alexandra or I said anything.

"Well," she continued, "I came back to the apartment and found it empty. I guessed that Jacob would be at the concert, knowing that he's such a fan of the Dropkick Murphys. I hoped that's where he was and not doing something even more stupid. So I went to the Slapjack Theater, used my investigator ID to get in and found him. I wasn't expecting to find you, Alexandra, but...well, here we are now." She paused, then said, "I suspected there was something Jacob wasn't telling me -- something about the woman he followed. I'm still not sure what that is."

"Can't you see it?" Alexandra said. I jerked my head toward her, surprised to hear her speak.

"No," Diana answered. "Should I?"

"You have a gift. You can see into the lives of others."

Diana stared long and hard at those black scarves around Alexandra's face. She was wondering about more than the face under the mask. She wanted to analyze the mind of this woman who had -- inadvertently or not -- brought so much trouble to me. She wanted to know why I still trusted Alexandra.

"I'm more concerned with the reprecussions of this meeting," she said. "Your bodyguard almost killed Jacob. What if he tries to do it again?"

"He won't. My father has ordered him not to harm Jacob."

"Your father -- that's Edward Bradbury?"

"Yes."

"He's the one who ordered the hit on Russ Garner."

"No, no," I said. "It's this Crown guy. He acted without Bradbury's permission."

"So Mr. Bradbury is going to turn him over to the police?"

I bit into my lip. Here I was, taking Alexandra for a night on the town and forgetting what she represented. Why was it so easy for me not to see that?

"I'm afraid," Alexandra said, "that Crown remains too valuable to my father...and to others."

"What others?"

The white table top was reflected in Alexandra's glasses as she lowered her head. "My father is a member of a very powerful group," she said softly. "That's all I can say."

Diana glanced at me, then looked back at Alexandra. "He's not your real father, is he?"

"He found me when I was a baby. But he raised me for fifteen years. He's as much my father as Vincent is Jacob's."

Diana's cool expression broke. "You know about..." Her gaze whipped toward me. "Did you tell her?"

"No!" I insisted. "She...she figured it out on her own."

"It is my gift," Alexandra said, her voice still soft and her head still lowered. "It is like yours, but much stronger.  But don't be afraid. I have told no one about Jacob's identity."

Diana stared at both of us, then that quietly angry expression returned. "You two," she said, "need to stop acting like Romeo and Juliet, and start thinking about the people around you."

"We're not Romeo and Juliet!" I snapped.

"Popeye and Olive Oyl, then. The fact is that we're all in the middle of a dangerous situation, and I still don't know who is the ene..."

Diana cut herself off when I jerked my head to the left, toward the door. I had heard someone enter the restaurant, and my senses were crying 'Trouble!"

Standing only a dozen feet away was Crown. His colorless eyes looked at me with the same faint curiosity as on the night he stabbed me. Alexandra had been right. He could track her easily.

But it wasn't him who had triggered my senses. Crown still remained off my radar. It was the man at his side who had gotten my attention. The first thing I noticed about him was his suit. It was elegant without being ostentatious. From his polished shoes to the jacket which hung perfectly on his body, his clothes spoke of a man who knew how to look good and feel good.

The face above the suit was considerably more rumpled. I thought that he was in his sixties. I found out later that I was off by twenty years. The oldest thing about him was his eyes. They spoke of one weary day after another as they looked at Alexandra.

"It's time to come home," he told her.

I quickly looked at Alexandra. Her erect posture told me all I needed to know. The man with Crown was Edward Bradbury.

I spent the next second looking at Diana. My eyes told her that the large man was the guy who had stabbed me.

She pressed a hand on the lapel of her jacket. That told me she had brought her gun.

So I got impulsive. I stood and said, "I don't think she's ready to go back yet."

Bradbury gave me his tired look. Crown didn't seem to be looking at anyone in particular, and his hands dangled at his side. I wasn't fooled by the casual stance, but I figured that Diana's gun gave me an advantage.

Or does it? I thought. What if Crown had a gun? I had seen what he could do with a knife. What could this man do with a firearm? And what if there were more henchmen outside...

Jacob, you dolt, don't get Diana killed with you.

At this point the waiter returned with our order. He stopped halfway to our table, looking at me standing defiantly before the new people. The waiter stayed frozen at his spot, giving me one more thing to worry about.

For a few seconds the only sounds were the sizzle of tandoori chicken and the thumping of Indian music on the speakers.

Then Bradbury said, "Let's compromise. Both of you come with me." Before I said anything, he lifted a hand for silence. "I promise that you won't be harmed." He motioned his chin toward Diana. "I also promise that she'll be left alone."

I looked at Crown and realized that I was as helpless as I had been on that night at Fifth Avenue. I could do nothing to protect Diana, the waiter or myself. Bradbury only had to give the word and we would be dead. In fact, Crown might not have been even waiting for the word...

A gloved hand curved itself around my shoulder. I turned to Alexandra who -- first for the time -- had reached out to touch me.

"Trust him," she said. "Trust me."

I looked at Diana. She had come to the same conclusion as me -- we really didn't have a choice.

"All right," I said to Bradbury.

He released a long sigh punctuated by the word "Good."

Alexandra lifted herself from the chair. Any sign of the joy she had experienced at Slapjack was obliterated. She was now just a shadow, hiding from the world, hiding from me.

"My car is outside." Bradbury motioned to the door.

Alexandra and I walked toward there. I abruptly stopped near Crown. I looked into those colorless eyes and said, "If anything happens to Diana, you're dead."

Crown just responded with a mild look, knowing that he had heard the emptiest of threats.

Two cars were parked outside -- a limo and an ordinary car. Crown took the plain one while a limo driver took Alexandra, Bradbury and me away from the Indian restaurant. We left behind Diana and a very confused waiter.

 


Continued in Chapter 12