The American consulate in Marseille deals mostly with stranded sailors, lost passports, and with keeping track of seamen who are jailed for fighting, petty theft, or public drunkenness. There is no ambassador in residence – that is what makes the difference between a consulate and an embassy. No treaties are negotiated there and there is little espionage. Occasionally a tourist gets robbed and needs help getting more money from home, but excitement is not a normal state of affairs.
It must have been something of a break in the boredom for the staff to find that Raven’s attackers had followed her to Marseille and tried again.
I had left Raven under the protection of the fishermen while I went to a pay phone. I hid my sliced and quickly bandaged hand inside my shirt. The bloody rag would have brought police inquiries that my limited French could not have coped with. The duty officer was Malcolm Hamlin, called Maui. He called the consul, probably because a state senator’s daughter was involved, and then called Will and Evan Cummings.
Will and Evan showed up together in Will’s Renault, with a French doctor squeezed into the back seat. He took one look at the bloody bandage, shook his head, and went to work. It was an ugly wound, cutting clear across the back of my right hand. He told me to move my fingers. I could see the tendons working like little hard white snakes in an oozing pool of red. He led me to the sink and poured half a bottle of Betadine over the wound. Sweat popped out on my face and my legs got rubbery. Then he slipped on rubber gloves, took out some forceps, and broke open a prepackaged needle-and-thread.
Maybe medical customs are different in France and maybe he just forgot. Or thought I was tough. He didn’t use anesthetic. I sat chewing on my lip while he took three dozen neat little stitches.
Raven watched it all. She sat pale and stiff with one hand folded in her lap and the other holding my left one in a death grip. She looked scared and sickened, but she never turned away. I was proud of her.
The doctor stripped off his gloves and packed his gear. I could hear soft voices beyond the hatch conversing in French, and saw the vague silhouette of a uniformed figure on the deck. The doctor went up and the police came down. There were two of them. They sat on opposite transoms. Evan Cummings stood in the hatch to translate. There wasn’t room below for Will.
It took nearly an hour to satisfy them. I would not have wanted to tell that story without Will and Evan standing by for support. I don’t think they completely believed us, but they agreed to circulate a description of Davis and his partner.
After they left, Will joined us in the cabin. Evan said, “I have two questions, one major and one minor. The minor first: how did those two know Raven had survived, and how did they know where she was? Who knew?”
Raven said, “I told my father and his secretary, but I didn’t swear anyone to secrecy. Chances are everyone in my father’s office knew in ten minutes, and one of them could easily have leaked it to the news media. Sacramento is like a little Washington; everybody knows everybody, and a favor today is an investment against tomorrow. Anyone wanting to get in good with the media would see this as juicy and harmless. They could leak it without feeling disloyal. Stan Atkinson probably read it on the six o’clock news.”
Evan shook his head, but did not voice his disappointment or disapproval. Appropriately diplomatic, as a foreign service officer should be. He said, “Question two – the big one. Wouldn’t you be safer if you got on the next plane for Sacramento?”
“Would she?” I asked. “If we can assume anything from what we know, it would be that the attack was ordered from there. She would be sticking her head back into the lion’s mouth.”
“The other alternative would be for Ms. Cabral to move into the consulate where she could have a Marine guard.”
Raven shook her head. “Prison, you mean.” more tomorrow