“I’m here to pick up some unclaimed luggage.”
“Let me call someone to help you.”
A natural delay, or a calculated one? I couldn’t decide.
Minutes dragged by, scurrying nervously, looking over their shoulders at the door. Finally a balding, fiftyish man in a blazer with the company logo on the breast came up and asked for identification. Instead, I handed him a letter on Raven’s personal stationary authorizing me to pick up her luggage. The signature was quite authentic looking. Ed had a talent for forgery. He read the letter briefly, then said, “May I see your ID.”
“I don’t have any on me. I didn’t know it would be such a federal case!”
The word play was lost on him. He said, “If you don’t have any personal identification, I really don’t see how I can give you Ms. Cabral’s luggage, even if you do have a letter from her.”
I shrugged. “OK, no sweat. I’ll get my ID and come back.” I held out my hand.
“That’s all right. I’ll keep the letter.”
That removed all doubt.
I snapped my fingers, but he just said, “No, I insist.”
I made a long arm over the counter and snagged his wrist. I pulled him sharply and painfully against the counter and retrieved the letter. His eyes were wide with shock. I was half way to the door when he staggered back and shouted, “He’s getting away.”
I didn’t look back to see who he was calling to. The sound of the front door slamming open brought Ed upright behind the wheel. He had the motor roaring when I went across the hood in a sliding dive, and the car spat gravel before I could get the door closed.
* * *
We ditched the car, took a subway, then a bus, then another subway, and ended up at our hotel. Twenty minutes and several phone calls later we picked up a second rental and headed south to Pittsburgh. There we caught the first of several flights that eventually brought us into San Francisco the next morning.
The flight on the Concorde had been a novelty and the views had been arresting. I had found myself moving in a kind of vacuum, acting too quickly on my decision to wonder if it was all a good idea. The flight from Pittsburgh to San Francisco gave me time to sort things out.
As Senator Cabral had said, there was nothing I could do for Raven in Europe until she surfaced again. She needed for her troubles to be traced to their source and ended. The question was, “Why me?”
From the Senator’s viewpoint, I was an ideal candidate. He could not call on official help without endangering his career. I was a known quantity and I had experience.
From my viewpoint?
Well, why not me? I could tell myself that I was putting to rest a piece of unfinished business so that I could get on with my life, but it would be a lie. I was having too much fun for that to be the real reason.
I hadn’t enjoyed the search for Raven, because the pain of her leaving was still too fresh. But since I ran from the cruise line office, everything had been different. I felt alive for the first time in weeks. The adrenaline rush had washed all the doubts out of my system. more tomorrow