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PARIS JULY 2, 1992
POLICE SERGEANTS PIERRE CAPRETZ AND EUGENE GALLIMARD watched as the Air Service panel truck bumped toward them along the dusty ILS access road. In the distance to the east, runway 08 was flattened in perspective because of a slight rise in the ground level, and because of the thin haze that had hung over Paris and her environs for the past two days. Farther in the distance, windows in the Orly Airport terminal building glinted and sparkled in the morning sun.
The stink of burned kerojet was on the breeze because an Air Inter L-1011 had just taken off for Montpellier with a tremendous roar that rattled the windows of the maintenance gate guard hut. The silence in the aftermath was so deafening that Capretz had to shout.
"He's not on the schedule."
Gallimard shrugged, but as he watched the van through narrowed eyes his left hand went to the strap of the Uzi slung over his shoulder. A driver, but no one else so far as he could see. The van was familiar, or at least the logo on its side was, but they'd been warned about a possible terrorist attack on a European airport within the next ten to twelve days, and he was nervous.
"Call Central," he said.
"Right," Capretz replied, but for a moment he stood where he was watching the approaching van.
"Pierre," Gallimard prompted:
"Mais oui," Capretz said. He turned and went into the hut, where he laid his submachine gun down on the desk. He picked up the phone and dialed 0113 as the van pulled up to the gate and stopped.
Gallimard stepped around the barrier and approached the driver's side of the van. The driver seemed young, probably in his mid- to late-twenties. He had thick blond hair, high cheekbones, and a pleasant, almost innocent smile. His white coveralls were immaculate. He was practically un enfant, and Gallimard began to relax.
"Bonjour. Salut," the young man said, grinning. There was something wrong with his accent. He was definitely not a Frenchman, though the nametag on his coveralls read: Léon.
"Let me see your security pass."
"Yes, of course," Léon said pleasantly. He reached up and unclipped his badge from the sun visor and handed it out. "You need to see the work order?"
"Yes," Gallimard said, studying the plastic security badge. It seemed authentic, and the photograph was good, yet something bothered him. He glanced back at the hut. Capretz had his back to the window, the phone to his ear.
Léon handed out the work order for an unscheduled maintenance check on one of the ILS transmitters. The inner marker. The document also seemed authentic.
"You were not on our schedule," Gallimard said. "And we have been warned about a possible terrorist attack."
Léon laughed. "What, here? Maybe I've got a bomb in the back and I mean to blow up some runway lights."
"Maybe I'll just take a look in the back, if you don't mind."
"I don't care. I get paid by the hour."
Gallimard stepped back as Leon got out of the van, and together they went around back where the young man opened the rear door.
"Take a look."
Gallimard came closer and peered inside the van. Nothingseemed out of the ordinary. Tools, some electronic equipment, and what appeared to be bins and boxes of parts.
A metal case about five feet long and eighteen inches on a side caught his eye. "What's in the big box?"
"A VHF antenna and fittings."
Gallimard looked at him. "I'll open it."
Gallimard climbed into the van and started to unlatch the two heavy clasps on the box when a movement behind him distracted him. He looked over his shoulder, as Léon raised what looked to be a large caliber handgun with a bulky silencer screwed to its barrel.
"Salopard ..." Gallimard swore as the first shot hit him in the left side of his chest, pushing him backward, surprisingly without pain. And the second shot exploded like a billion stars in his head.
Léon ducked around the side of the van and looked over tc where the other security guard was still trying to get through on the phone. He'd apparently seen or heard nothing. Concealing the nine-millimeter Sig-Sauer behind his leg he started waving and jumping up and down.
"Hey, you! Inside there! Help!"
Capretz turned around.
"Help me!" Leon shouted.
Capretz came to the door, a puzzled look on his face that turned to concern when he didn't see Gallimard.
"It's your partner. He's down. I think he's had a heart attack."
The Orly terminal was a madhouse. July and August were the traditional months when Parisians took their vacations, and they streamed out of the city in hordes.
No one paid any particular attention to the three men who entered the main departures hall and went up to the offices on the mezzanine level. Two of them, Bob Roningen and Dor Cladstrup, were field officers from the CIA's Paris Station. Beyond the fact they were both bulky, well-built men in their mid-forties, there was very little to distinguish them from theverage businessmen. Nor, apparently, was anything bothering them at the moment. They were doing something totally outine.
The third man, however, was extremely nervous, glancing over his shoulder from time to time as if he suspected someone was following them. He was Jean-Luc DuVerlie, an electro-mechanical engineer for the Swiss firm of ModTec, GmbH, and he was frightened that the information he'd come to Paris to give the CIA would cost him his life. He was aving second thoughts about it.
They went down a short corridor, and at the far end Cladstrup knocked at the unmarked door.
DuVerlie looked back the way they had come, and Roningen shook his head.
"There's no one back there. We came in clean."
"But it is not your life at risk," the Swiss engineer said, his English good, but heavily accented. He was barrel-chested with a square face and extremely deep-set eyes beneath thick, ushy eyebrows. He looked like a criminal, or an ex-boxer who'd been beaten too many times in the ring.
"You came to us, remember?" Cladstrup said evenly.
DuVerlie nodded. "Maybe this was a mistake."
"Fine," Roningen said, holding out his hands. "Why don't we just call it quits here and now? You go your way and we go ours."
"They would kill me. Within twenty-four hours I would be a dead man. I have explained this. You don't know these people."
"Neither do you."
"I know what they are capable of doing. I told you, I saw it with my own eyes."
"When you show us, we'll go from there," Cladstrup said, as the door was buzzed open. They went inside where they turned over their plane tickets and passports to the French passport control officer behind a desk. A second policeman, armed, stood to one side.
"You're booked on flight 145 for Geneva, is that correct?" the passport officer asked stamping the exit visas.
"That's right," Roningen said.
The cop looked up at DuVerlie with mild interest, then handed back their documents. "It leaves in thirty minutes. There is coffee and tea in the waiting area. Maurice will show you the way and he will stay with you until it is time to board. You will be the last on the aircraft. And please do not try to leave the waiting area until you are told. Comprenez-vous? Do you understand?"
"Yes, thank you," Roningen said, and they followed the second officer out where they took another corridor nearly the length of the terminal building to a small but pleasantly furnished VIP lounge. The windows overlooked the flight line where the plane they would board would be pulling up momentarily. No one else was using the lounge this morning.
A telephone on the wall buzzed, and the cop answered it.
"After you have seen their weapons cache, as I have, ther you will have to believe me," DuVerlie said.
"It'll be a start," Roningen said. "And the body."
"It's there unless the police have discovered it. Leitner was an important engineer. Perhaps the best at ModTec."
"What was he giving those people?" Cladstrup asked, looking over toward the cop who was still talking on the phone.
"First I will prove to you that they mean business. Anc then we will discuss what you will do for me."
"You know they killed him because he was stupid. He threatened to go to the police unless they gave him more money. But the police couldn't help him."
"So he told you instead."
"We were friends," DuVerlie said. "I was supposed to be his insurance."
"Right," Roningen said wearily. Already he was getting tired of the man, but Langley thought DuVerlie's story was interesting enough for at least a preliminary follow-up. Depending on what they found or didn't find in Lausanne, they would decide what to do next. But the Swiss engineeringfirm built, among other things, electronic triggers for nuclear weapons.
Capretz had the presence of mind to grab his weapon from the desk before he rushed across to the van. Something was drastically wrong but he couldn't put it together. The phone was out of order; no matter what number he dialed he was connected to a recording asking him to wait. And now this.
Thumbing the Uzi's safety to the off position he came around to the open door at the rear of the van. Léon was a couple of yards off to his right.
Gallimard was down and not moving inside the van. Something was definitely wrong. "Eugène," Capretz called out. He didn't know what to do.
"Something happened to him and he just collapsed," Léon said, excitedly. "Maybe it's his heart. Do you know CPR?"
"He has nothing the matter with his heart."
"Well, I don't know. He didn't say anything. He just fell down."
"Eugène," Capretz called and stepped closer. There was something on the side of Gallimard's head, but the interior of the van was in relative darkness and Capretz couldn't make it out. But he understood that he was going to have to call for help somehow.
He turned to ask the Air Service man if there was a two-way radio in the van in time to see a large pistol suddenly materialize in the man's hand. The first shot hit him in the right arm, driving him nearly off his feet. He started to bring the Uzi around, when a thunderclap burst in his head.
Shoving the pistol in the belt of his coveralls, Léon safetied the Uzi, laid it in the back of the van and then hefted the security guard's body in the back as well.
Closing the door, he scuffed dirt over the bloodstains on the road so that if anyone came along they would not notice that anything had happened here.
Around front he raised the road barrier, then went into the hut where he took the phone off the hook, listened, then replaced it. He wore thin leather gloves so that he wouldleave no fingerprints, and the patterns in the soles of his boots were common. He'd purchased the boots at Prisunic, a discount store in Paris, five days ago. They were untraceable, as was the van which was nevertheless legitimately registered to Air Service here at the airport, though the company did not own it.
He drove beyond the barrier, then went back and lowered it.
Behind the wheel he checked his watch before he headed the rest of the way to the ILS installation just off the end of the main east-west runway. He had twenty-eight minutes to go.
Copyright © 1992 by David Hagberg
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