Authors: James Hadley Chase
Table of Contents
aptain O’Halloran parked his Jeep in one of the bays in the courtyard of the United States Embassy, picked up a black leather briefcase on the seat beside him, slid his big frame out of the Jeep and walked briskly up the steps leading into the Embassy.
He nodded to the man behind the reception desk, took the elevator to the second floor, walked down a corridor, climbed six stairs to another level as a tall, well-built woman of thirty-five or six came hurrying towards him. She was Marcia Davis, P.A. to the Head of the Paris Division of the C.I.A. Her face lit up with a smile as O’Halloran paused. Her grey eyes ran swiftly over him.
His red, fleshy face, his shapeless nose, his light blue eyes and hard mouth always gave her a slight sinking feeling. She often speculated what it would be like to be gripped in those thick, muscular arms.
“Hello, Tim,” she said. “What are you doing here?”
“The old man in?” O’Halloran asked, also speculating how this attractive redheaded woman would react if he were ever lucky enough to get her into his bed.
“When isn’t he?” she returned. “You’ll find him . . . come the day you don’t. Have you had your vacation yet?”
“Vacation? What’s that?” O’Halloran asked, grinning. “I’ll be lucky if I get Christmas off. How about you?”
“September . . . I’ve booked on a Cruise. See you, Tim,” and with a flashing smile, she hurried on.
O’Halloran looked back and watched the challenging swing of her hips, put on, he shrewdly guessed, for his own special benefit.
Then jerking his mind back to business, he continued on down the corridor to a door on which was inscribed in gold lettering:
Central Intelligence Agency
Divisional Director John Dorey.
The lettering was sparklingly new and O’Halloran grinned, shaking his head in awed admiration. So finally Dorey had made it, he thought. There had been a time, not so very long ago when the Division had been running a sweepstake on Dorey’s chances of survival. That was when Washington had sent Thorley Warely over as Head of the Division and Dorey, after thirty-eight years of service at the Embassy, had been relegated to second place but now Warely was back in Washington and Dorey, although over sixty years of age, had taken on a new lease in life. He was a man O’Halloran admired and liked: a man who took risks, short cuts and had vision.
O’Halloran rapped, opened the door and walked into the comfortable office where Dorey was sitting at a vast desk, reading a file.
Dorey was a small bird-like man, wearing rimless glasses.
Always immaculately dressed, he looked like a successful banker rather than the Director of the C.I.A. He dropped the file on his desk, eased back his executive chair and looked at O’Halloran over the tops of his glasses.
“Hi there, Tim. I haven’t seen you in weeks. Something come up?”
O’Halloran kept the door open and jerked his thumb at the gold lettering.
Dorey smiled a wintry smile.
“Thank you. Shut the door and sit down.” He picked up a gold fountain pen and studied it as he went on, “Everything comes to those who play the right cards at the right time.”
“I must remember that, sir.” O’Halloran took off his service cap and sat down in one of the big lounging chairs grouped in front of Dorey’s desk.
“I was heading for retirement,” Dorey went on as if talking to himself, “then Robert Henry Carey appeared on my landscape and that altered things.” He lifted his shoulders. “A stroke of fate. Sometimes we get the right card . . . more often not.” He laid down the pen and looked directly at O’Halloran. “Well, Tim, what is it?”
“I had a handout from the Sûreté this morning, O’Halloran said, zipping open his briefcase. He took out a file and laid it on his knee. “I thought you should hear about it.”
Dorey rested back in his chair. He put the tips of his fingers together and formed his hands into the shape of an arch. This was his favourite listening stance.
“Two nights ago, evening of the 4th, a man, parking his car on the Quai de la Tournelle, saw a woman lying in the shadows. He called a gendarme who was passing. The woman was in a coma. An ambulance was called and she was taken to St. Lazare hospital. They were full up. The woman was wearing a scarf decorated with the Stars and Stripes and a coat with a Macy label. This was excuse enough for her to be loaded back into the ambulance and taken to the American hospital.” O’Halloran paused to consult the file.
“So far this doesn’t particularly interest me,” Dorey said with a note of impatience in his voice.
“The woman was found to be suffering from an overdose of barbiturates,” O’Halloran went on in his gravelly cop voice, ignoring Dorey’s interruption. “She was treated and put into a ward. She surfaced the following day and was found to be suffering from acute amnesia. She has no idea who she is, where she lives . . . a complete memory blank. She speaks fluent English with an American accent and is in a distressed, nervous condition. Hers is not a unique case, of course. Quite a number of people get some form of amnesia. Dr. Forrester who is in charge of her ward was anxious to get rid of her. Beds are in demand at the hospital. He gave a description of the woman to the Sûreté who thinking it possible she was either Swedish or Norwegian contacted those embassies without success.”
“What made them think she was either Swedish or Norwegian?” Dorey asked.
“Apparently she looks as if she comes from Scandinavia: blonde, tall . . . a typical type.”
“She had no papers with her?”
“No. She didn’t even have a handbag.”
Dorey moved impatiently. “Well?”
“I received the usual Sûreté handout about her this morning.”
O’Halloran looked at the open file on his knee. “Here is her description: blonde, exceptionally good-looking; blue eyes, heavily suntanned, height five foot seven, weight 126 lbs.” He paused, glanced up at Dorey. “Marks of identification: small mole on her right forearm, and three Chinese symbols tattooed on her left buttock.”
Dorey stared at O’Halloran, then picking up his fountain pen, he rubbed the gleaming gold against his thin nose.
“That’s right. Three Chinese symbols.” O’Halloran put the file on the desk. “Well, sir, there is a file somewhere in your Division which came around to me about ten months ago for information. Its subject was Feng Hoh Kung, the top rocket research man in Pekin. I remember, amongst a lot of useless information, it was stated that this guy is a little crazy in the head. He likes to put his initials on everything he owns. It is said his initials are on his house, his car, his horse, his dogs, his cooking pots, his clothes, his shoes . . . and the women who serve him. Remember too it was said that a year ago he acquired a Swedish mistress. He has three initials. There were three symbols that could be his initials on this woman’s bottom. So . . .” O’Halloran stretched his massive frame and smiled at Dorey. “I thought you should hear about it.”
Dorey sat motionless.
“Who else has this handout?”
“The British Embassy, the Scandinavian Embassies and
was a newspaper he loathed. If there was any hint of trouble, any germ of scandal this paper invariably made capital out of it.
“Did the Sûreté give the handout to the press?”
“I stopped them in time.”
O’Halloran took a newspaper from his briefcase and handed it across the desk.
“They have it,” he said.
On the second page was the headline:
Do You Know This
Below the caption was a badly reproduced photograph, taken by an uninspired police photographer of a blonde woman who could be any age from twenty to thirty who stared fixedly out of the smudgy newsprint. But in spite of the crudeness of the reproduction, her beauty came through.
Dorey grunted as he read:
Chinese symbols, as yet to be translated, have been found tattooed on the mystery woman’s body.
“How did they get hold of this?” he demanded angrily.
O’Halloran lifted his shoulders.
“How does a vulture find a meal twenty miles away?”
Dorey leaned back in his chair. He thought for a brief moment, then he said slowly, “This could mean nothing I suppose: a lot of women . . .” He stopped and shook his head. “Three Chinese symbols! No, this is too much of a coincidence.” He sat upright. “Tim, we’ll treat this as a top level operation. If we are wrong, we are wrong, but if this woman . . .” He drummed on the desk.
“What action have you taken so far?”
O’Halloran settled more comfortably in his chair.
“I have taken precautions.” He spoke with the confidence of a man who knows his job. “It so happens General Wainright is in the hospital for a check-up so that gave me the excuse to put a guard in the corridor. Wainright and this woman are on the same floor. I have called Dr. Forrester and warned him she might be a security risk and no nurse unless known to him should attend to her. The guard has instructions to let only the nurse in the woman’s room. I have alerted the reception desk to refuse any visitors calling on her.”
“Nice work, Tim. Okay, you can leave this to me. The first move is to find out just what these symbols are on the girl’s body. If by some extraordinary bit of luck she is Kung’s mistress, she becomes more than a V.I.P., and we’ll be answerable for her. Get out there, Tim. Make sure nothing goes wrong while I get this organised.”
O’Halloran got briskly to his feet.
“We could be wasting our time, sir.”
“But if we aren’t?” Dorey smiled. “I’m lucky to have a man like you working for me. Get moving. I’m starting something this end.”
As O’Halloran left the office, Dorey thought for a moment, nodded to himself and reached for the telephone.
* * *
In a dingy courtyard off Rue de Rennes, there is a small restaurant called
Le Temple du Ciel.
It is not to be found in any guidebook although it serves the best Chinese food in Paris.
Should any tourist discover the restaurant, he would be told with a sorrowful smile that all tables had been reserved.
Le Temple du Ciel
was strictly for the Chinese.
While Dorey was talking to O’Halloran, Chung Wu, the owner of the restaurant was sitting behind the cash desk, supervising his team of waiters as they served lunch to a couple of dozen or so habitudes, hidden behind high silk screens that surrounded each table. The clatter of Mah-Jongg tiles, the raised voices and the blare of swing music made a deafening noise without which the Chinese feel isolated and unhappy.
The telephone bell shrilled. Chung Wu picked up the receiver, listened, spoke softly in Cantonese dialect, laid down the receiver and walked to a table where Sadu Mitchell was about to begin his lunch.
Sadu’s chopsticks were hovering over a dish of King-sized prawns done in a light, golden batter as Chung Wu appeared around the screen. Chung Wu bowed, then turning slightly, he bowed to the Vietnamese girl who sat by Sadu’s side.
“Regrets, monsieur . . . the telephone . . . immediate,” Chung Wu said in his atrocious French.
Sadu uttered an obscenity that made his companion giggle. He threw down his chopsticks and waved Chung Wu away. ‘
Sadu Mitchell was tall, slim and thin-faced. His jet black hair was taken straight back, his clothes were immaculate, his almond-shaped eyes were as hard as jet beads. He was the illegitimate son of an American missionary who, thirty years ago, had been a conspicuous failure in Pekin. When he finally came to realise that he was making no impression on his so-called flock, he found consolation in whisky and an attractive Chinese girl who considered it her duty to help relieve the stress and strain of his unsuccessful fight to convert the heathen. The result of her administrations was Sadu - half-Chinese, half-American - who resented his illegitimacy so bitterly that he had come to regard the United States of America as his personal enemy.