Line of Descent chapter 10
Krupmeyer checked out of the hotel and left Coole early the following morning. He had considered driving to Belfast to catch a flight to London but had instead elected to make the longer drive to Dublin to catch a flight from there. He was under no illusions. The prospect of seeing Helen again had made the decision for him, and he had acquiesced cheerfully. The drive down was uneventful and he arrived well in time for lunch at the restaurant they had agreed to meet at.
The reunion was happy. They discussed his progress in finding Canfield, ending up with his telling her that he would be flying over to England the next morning. A shadow passed over her face when she heard that. Helen, despite her public persona, was not quite as flirtatious as she acted. What affairs she had, had been carefully entered into and just as carefully ended. They had always turned out to lack a something she could not exactly put her finger on. A solidness, a feeling of comfortable permanence, in which she still had space for he natural exuberance. Her relationship with Krupmeyer had it from the start and she was not about to let him drift away. He was too good a find. The meal ended with her giving him the keys to the flat. She would see him tonight.
Krupmeyer spent the afternoon there. He used the phone to book a flight to London for the next morning and started preparing the evening meal he had promised her. Like most long-term bachelors, he had been obliged to learn to cook and to his own surprise had grown to enjoy it. He picked his way through the meagre supply of materials he found in the kitchen. There was not much to choose from. Helen did like to eat out. He found some mince in the fridge and resorted to an old stand‑by, spaghetti with a sauce. He hoped she would be pleased and like it, a certain quietness had crept into her at lunch time that worried him. By the time she came home, it was ready.
It turned out OK. They sat eating it and discussed London. Helen had worked a summer there when she was a student and amused them both with her series of misadventures as an innocent teenager in Sin city. He matched her stories with recollections of his greatest disasters as a rookie in the police. He began to wonder how he had ever survived that period in his life. She asked him if he had seen this afternoon’s news on the television, there had been a murder in London. No, he’d been busy preparing the meal, he told her. She handed him the evening paper she had brought home with the wine.
The front page contained an account of the assassination of Sir Horace Vinton, billed by the paper as a master spy. He read the article and quickly lapsed into thought, the happy mood of the meal vanishing. The Provisionals had claimed it but was it Canfield’s doing, he wondered. Was that why he had gone to London? If so, his task had just become horribly more complicated. If Canfield had done it, then Krupmeyer stood little chance of getting him back to the States. Even if he managed that, there would still be problems. Would he still be at the address Krupmeyer had been given by the man in Coole? He wished suddenly he had taken the lunch time flight from Belfast.
Helen was quick to see the effect the article had on him and pressed him for explanation. He considered her carefully for a while before coming to a decision to tell her all of the story. He was tired of lying to her and had been feeling increasingly guilty as their affair had developed. He told her the whole story, from the meeting in the Washington diner to the interview with the terrorist kingpin. She listened patiently as he told her who Robert Conner really was and why he was looking for him. There wasn’t any wife in the States pining for her kid in Ireland. All Canfield’s family lay buried in that windswept graveyard in Coole. When he finished, she sat quietly, head bowed, not saying a word.
‘I should have been honest with you from the start. It was a mistake. I’m sorry’ he said and waited for a reaction. She said nothing.
‘It’s just that everyone has some sympathy, but when it comes right down to it, they don’t want to get involved. They get scared, have second thoughts, start worrying.’ He paused, at a loss for a way of continuing, wondering at how much he had hurt her.
‘I couldn’t take the chance’ he said at last and reaching across the table, put his fingertips under her chin to lift her head.
She smiled. He was such a fool, she though. She did not care about the deception, she had simply been moved by the story. She had always known he had not been completely honest with her and was pleased that he had finally trusted her with the truth. It confirmed her best impressions of him. For such a big brute of a man, he was really a kitten, she thought. She reached across the table, and resting her hands behind his neck pulled him gently towards her. They kissed.
They discussed Vinton’s death as they washed up after the meal. ‘Do you really think it was Canfield?’ she asked. handing him a drying up cloth. He thought so but could not say for sure. Canfield had certainly gone after Bingham, if the man in Coole was to believed. And then he went to London after arranging for a weapon drop. It looked like he was after someone. Vinton was the head of the security service that had killed his family. Motive, means, opportunity ‑ he had the lot. The only often overlooked requirement was the nerve. Canfield would have the nerve all right. No problem.
The question was whether he could get to him first, get him out and back to the States before he was hunted down by the authorities. Krupmeyer did not care if he had murdered Vinton or not. There was a rough biblical justice about it. What was important, was using him as a lever to prise the government into action on the POWs. The security people would be pulling out all the stops on this one. Big people like Vinton are not supposed to get killed, that only happens to little people like the Harkins. With the manpower they would throw at the investigation, he had no doubt they would revisit the Coole incident eventually. It might not be soon, if Canfield had not left an obvious trail, but they would get there eventually through a process of brute elimination and then Canfield was doomed. He had to find him as soon as possible.
He rang the airport to try and get a place on the evening flight. It was full and there was already a long stand‑by queue. He resigned himself to having to wait for the flight he had booked for the following day.
The next morning they said good-bye and it was sad for both of them. She was not tearful but he could see they were not very far from the surface. It was like a lot of the things in his life that he had cared for, somehow squeezed aside by events and only recognised in retrospect for the good things they were. But this time he knew it. This time, it would be different, he promised himself. He would make the room and the time and grab something for himself alone and Helen was where he was going to start. One way or another, this was the last job. He’d be back he told her and promised to ring from London that evening. He drove off to the airport where he returned the hire car, paying the bill in cash and boarded the plane. It arrived at London within an hour.
He walked through the arrivals area to the queue of idling taxis outside, and got into one, telling the driver to take him into London. As they drove off, he gave the cabby the name of the hotel that Helen had recommended. She said it was central but not too far from the area where Canfield’s safe house was supposed to be. As they drove out of the airport, he failed to notice the car that had pulled in behind them. It followed them all the way into London. When the taxi dropped him outside the hotel, it drove past and parked around the corner.
There were three men in it. One of them got out and walked quickly back to the hotel. He was in time to see Krupmeyer complete the booking in procedure. He positioned himself nearby, leaning on the reception desk with one elbow as if waiting his turn. It was a big hotel and the lobby was crowded. When Krupmeyer left to take the lift to his room, the man neatly slid into his place and asked the receptionist about the availability and prices of rooms for a group of visitors he was expecting in two months time. He spoke with a soft Irish accent. He noted down carefully the information she gave him but he had already overheard what he was after ‑ Krupmeyer’s room number. He thanked her with an impish smile and leaving the hotel, walked back to the car.
After a brief discussion they all emerged from it and walked back to the hotel. They crossed the crowded lobby unnoticed and caught the lift to the floor Krupmeyer’s room was on. They walked down the corridor and stopped outside his door, where one of them knocked. Krupmeyer had been unpacking when he heard it. He crossed the room and opened the door, thinking absently it was someone from the hotel. As soon as he turned the catch, it was pushed open violently, throwing him backwards onto the floor. One of the men landed on top of him, knocking the wind out of him and pressing a gun cruelly into the side of his neck. The other two entered the room, one stopping to close the door while the other knelt down on one knee beside Krupmeyer. His face pushed into Krupmeyer’s.
‘We’re here to stop you’ he said. ‘I can tell him to stop you right this moment.’ His eyes flicked over to the man holding the pistol and back to Krupmeyer.
‘Dead or alive, it doesn’t matter which.’ He let Krupmeyer think it over for a while before continuing.
‘If you want to live, you do as you’re told. Any trouble, any fancy stuff, we blow you away. It’s as simple as that.’
Krupmeyer believed him. He nodded. The man with the gun clambered off his chest, all the time keeping the gun on him. The other two moved away, careful to stay out of his line of fire. Krupmeyer got to his feet, slowly and carefully.
‘We’re going downstairs, across the lobby and into the street and you’re going to keep your mouth shut. Then we’re going to walk around the corner to a car and get in. You deviate from that plan and he shoots you on the spot. There and then, no second chances. Understand?’
Krupmeyer nodded again. They left the hotel and walked to the car. Not a word was spoken. Krupmeyer followed the spokesman’s orders, there wasn’t any choice. All the time, the man with the gun walked behind, covering him and he looked like he knew what he was doing.
Krupmeyer sat in the back, wedged between the two goons with his hands rammed into his trouser pockets and a bag over his head. They held him bent down, his head between his knees. He recognised the technique. The man in Coole had obviously changed his mind. Canfield was suddenly looking like a better investment. Too good to be stopped. If he needed a confirmation that Canfield had hit Vinton, this was it. Suddenly Krupmeyer was the loose cannon and he knew what happened to them.