Read The Killing Game Online

Authors: Iris Johansen

The Killing Game (35 page)

BOOK: The Killing Game
10.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“Nothing's happening. The ocean is unforgiving. You can never tell when I'll make a mistake and never—”

“Phil.”

“I've written it all down. It's on the
Last Home
.”

“Good. Then you can read it to me when we're on our way back to the island.”

“That may not be possible.” He paused. “I've been trying to get in touch with Jed Kelby. He's not been answering my calls.”

“Bastard.”

“Maybe. But a brilliant bastard. I've heard he's a genius.”

“And where did you hear it? His publicity agent?”

“Don't be bitter. You've got to give the devil his due.”

“No, I don't. I don't like rich men who think they can make toys of everything in the whole damn world.”

“You don't like rich men. Period,” Phil said. “But I need you to contact him. I don't know if I'll be able to reach him.”

“Of course you will. Though I don't know why you think you have to do it. You've never called in help before.”

“I need him. He's got the same passion I have and the drive to make it happen.” He paused. “Promise me you'll get him for me, Melis. It's the most important thing I've ever asked of you.”

“You don't have to—”

“Promise me.”

He wasn't going to give up. “I promise. Satisfied?”

“No, I hated to ask you. And I hate being in this spot. If I hadn't been so stubborn, I wouldn't have had to—” He drew a deep breath. “But that's water under the bridge. I can't look back now. There's too much to look forward to.”

“Then why make out your last will and testament, dammit?”

“Because they didn't get a chance to do it.”

“What?”

“We should learn from their mistakes.” He paused. “Go home. Who's taking care of Pete and Susie?”

“Cal.”

“I'm surprised you're letting him do it. You care more about those dolphins than anyone on two legs.”

“Evidently I don't, if I'm here. Cal will take good care of Pete and Susie. I put the fear of God in him before I left.”

He chuckled. “Or the fear of Melis. But you know how important they are. Go back to them. If you don't hear from me in two weeks, go get Kelby. Good-bye, Melis.”

“Don't you dare hang up. What do you want Kelby to do? Is this about that damn sonic device?”

“You know it's never really been about that.”

“Then what is it about?”

“I knew it would upset you. Ever since you were a child, you've always had a thing about the
Last Home
.”

“Your ship?”

“No, the other
Last Home
. Marinth.” He hung up.

She stood there, frozen, for a long moment before she slowly closed her phone.

Marinth.

My God.

The
Trina
VENICE, ITALY

“What the hell is Marinth?”

Jed Kelby stiffened in his chair. “What?”

“Marinth.” John Wilson looked up from the pile of letters he'd been scanning for Kelby. “That's all that's written in this letter. Just the one word. Must be some kind of prank or advertising gimmick.”

“Give it to me.” Kelby slowly reached across the desk and took the letter and envelope.

“Something wrong, Jed?” Wilson stopped sorting the letters he'd just brought on board.

“Maybe.” Kelby glanced at the name on the return address of the envelope. Philip Lontana, and the date stamp was over two weeks old. “Why the hell didn't I get this sooner?”

“You might have, if you'd stay in one place more than a day or two,” Wilson said dryly. “I haven't even heard from you in two weeks. I can't be held responsible for keeping you current if you don't cooperate. I do my best, but you're not the easiest man to—”

“Okay, okay.” He leaned back and stared down at the letter. “Philip Lontana. I haven't heard anything about him for a few years. I thought maybe he'd quit the business.”

“I've never heard of him.”

“Why should you? He's not a stockbroker or banker, so he wouldn't be of interest to you.”

“That's right. I'm only interested in keeping you filthy rich and out of the clutches of the IRS.” Wilson set several documents in front of Kelby. “Sign these in triplicate.” He watched disapprovingly as Kelby signed the contracts. “You should have read those. How do you know I didn't screw you?”

“You're morally incapable of it. If you were going to do it, you'd have taken me to the cleaner ten years ago when you were tottering on the verge of bankruptcy.”

“True. But you pulled me out of that hole. So that's not really a test.”

“I let you flounder for a while to see what you'd do before I stepped in.”

Wilson tilted his head. “I never realized that I was on trial.”

“Sorry.” His gaze was still on the letter. “It's the nature of the beast. I've not been able to trust many people in my life, Wilson.”

God knows that was the truth, Wilson thought. Heir to one of America's largest fortunes, Kelby and his trust fund had been fought over by his mother and grandmother from the time his father died. Court case had followed court case until he'd reached his twenty-first birthday. Then he'd taken control with a cool ruthlessness and intelligence, jettisoned all contact with his mother and grandmother, and set up experts to manage his finances. He'd finished his education and then taken off to become the wanderer he was today. He'd been a SEAL during the Gulf War, later purchased the yacht
Trina
and started a series of underwater explorations that had brought him a fame he didn't appreciate and money he didn't need. Still, he seemed to thrive on the life. For the past eight years he'd lived hard and fast and dealt with some pretty unsavory characters. No, Wilson couldn't blame him for being both wary and cynical. It didn't bother him. He was cynical himself, and over the years he'd learned to genuinely like the bastard.

“Has Lontana tried to contact me before?” Kelby asked.

Wilson sorted through the rest of the mail. “That's the only letter.” He flipped open his daybook. “One call on the twenty-third of June. Wanted you to return his call. Another on June twenty-fifth. Same message. My secretary asked what his business pertained to but he wouldn't tell her. It didn't seem urgent enough to try to track you down. Is it?”

“Possibly.” He stood up and walked across the cabin to the window. “He certainly knew how to get my attention.”

“Who is he?”

“A Brazilian oceanographer. He got a lot of press when he discovered that Spanish galleon fifteen years or so ago. His mother was American and his father Brazilian, and he's something of a throwback to another age. I heard he thought he was some kind of grand adventurer and sailed around looking for lost cities and sunken galleons. He discovered only one galleon, but there's no doubt he's very sharp.”

“You've never met him?”

“No, I wasn't really interested. We wouldn't have much in common. I'm definitely a product of this age. We're not on the same wavelength.”

Wilson wasn't so sure. Kelby was no dreamer, but he possessed the aggressive, bold recklessness that typified the buccaneers of this or any other century. “So what does Lontana want with you?” His gaze narrowed on Kelby. “And what do you want with Lontana?”

“I'm not sure what he wants from me.” He stood looking out at the sea, thinking. “But I know what I want from him. The question is, can he give it to me?”

“That's cryptic.”

“Is it?” He suddenly turned to face Wilson. “Then, by God, we'd better get everything clear and aboveboard, hadn't we?”

Shock rippled through Wilson as he saw the recklessness and excitement in Kelby's expression. The aggressive energy he was emitting was almost tangible. “Then I take it you want me to contact Lontana.”

“Oh, yes. In fact, we're going to go see him.”


We're?
I have to get back to New York.”

Kelby shook his head. “I may need you.”

“You know I don't know anything about all this oceanography stuff, Jed. And, dammit, I don't want to know. I have degrees in law and accounting. I wouldn't be of any use to you.”

“You never can tell. I may need all the help I can get. A little more sea air will do you good.” He glanced down at the envelope again, and Wilson was once more aware of the undercurrent of excitement that was electrifying Kelby. “But maybe we should give Lontana a little advance warning that he shouldn't dangle a carrot unless he expects me to gobble it with one swallow. Give me his telephone number.”

         

She was being followed.

It wasn't paranoia, dammit. She could
feel
it.

Melis glanced over her shoulder. It was an exercise in futility. She wouldn't have known who she was looking for on the crowded dock behind her. It could be anyone. A thief, a sailor eager for a lay . . . or someone who was hoping she'd lead him to Phil. Anything was possible.

Now that Marinth was involved.

Lose him.

She darted down the next street, ran one short block, ducked into an alcove, and waited. Making sure you weren't being paranoid was always the first rule. The second was to know your enemy.

A gray-haired man in khakis and a short-sleeved plaid shirt came around the corner and stopped. He looked like any casual tourist who frequented Athens this time of year. Except that his annoyed attitude didn't match his appearance. He was definitely irritated as his gaze searched the people streaming down the street.

She was not paranoid. And now she would remember this man, whoever he was.

She darted out of the alcove and took off running. She turned left, cut into an alley, and then turned right at the next street.

She glanced behind her in time to see a glimpse of a plaid shirt. He was no longer trying to blend in with the crowd. He was moving fast and with purpose.

Five minutes later she stopped, breathing hard.

She had lost him. Maybe.

Christ, Phil, what have you gotten us into?

Excerpt taken from
Flight to Arms
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Translated from the French by Lewis Galantière.
Harcourt Brace & Company.

THE KILLING GAME
A Bantam Book

PUBLISHING HISTORY
Bantam hardcover edition published September 1999
Bantam mass market edition published May 2000
Bantam reissue edition / September 2003

Published by
Bantam Dell
A Division of Random House, Inc.
New York, New York

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved
Copyright © 1999 by I. J. Enterprises, Inc.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 99-20999
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. For information address: Bantam Books, New York, New York.

Visit our website at
www.bantamdell.com

Bantam Books and the rooster colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Published simultaneously in Canada

eISBN: 978-0-553-89824-8

v3.0

BOOK: The Killing Game
10.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Force of Fire (The Kane Legacy) by Boschen, Rosa Turner
Visiting Professor by Robert Littell
My Wicked Vampire by Nina Bangs
1636 The Kremlin Games by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, Paula Goodlett
Sprout Mask Replica by Robert Rankin
Thief of Dreams by John Yount
The Officer and the Secret by Murray, Jeanette
Vitalis Omnibus by Halstead, Jason
A Seamless Murder by Melissa Bourbon