Read Nothing Lasts Forever Online

Authors: Roderick Thorpe

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Nothing Lasts Forever (9 page)

BOOK: Nothing Lasts Forever
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Now he thought he probably had made a mistake, not killing the two in the elevator. They expected him to try to use the radio, and if he allowed them to learn that he had made his way to the roof they would see that much more clearly how cautious they had to be with him.
It would have been better if the elevator car had arrived on the fortieth floor with three corpses in it. In the confusion, he would have had that much more time to get a message out.
Sure, they would have heard the shots, but if he had been thinking, if he had been willing to take the chance, he could have cut deeply into their numbers, drop back into the car, stop it, and get off before it reached the fortieth floor.
He shuddered, and it made him wonder if he was going into shock. He could still feel that boy's neck breaking. He couldn't let himself think about it. If he caved in, it would be only a matter of time before they caught and killed him. He could not be mistaken about that: if they caught him, they would kill him.
He found an open door in the southwest corner. Inside was a large room containing fluorescent lamps for the sign around the roof, and a staircase going down to the fortieth floor. The door below probably opened on the corridor he had followed around the building before he had seen them kill Rivers. If Leland understood the way these people worked, sending Karl downstairs left only one man on the fortieth floor. It was 10:25 now — it had taken him almost ten minutes to find his way down from the elevator tower. How many floors had the other two been able to search? Leland wanted to know what they were doing in the executive suite, but getting a message out was more important. He went back out onto the roof.
The radio had five channels, which someone had helpfully numbered. The selector switch was set on channel twenty-six. Leland flipped the radio on.
" you see it is quite pointless to continue. Unless you surrender to us by ten-thirty, we are going to start shooting hostages. Who knows perhaps we will shoot someone you know and love..."
Bullshit. Little Tony Gruber was taking a shot in the dark. He wanted to keep the hostages calm. He wasn't going to do that by shooting them. He didn't even know if Leland was listening. Of course, if Leland acknowledged the transmission, everything would change, and not in Leland's favor. Something bothered him about this. Even given the fact that he was loose with a submachine gun, why would the guy devote so much time and energy to him?
They weren't ready to go public. They needed what Rivers had refused to provide. On the fortieth floor.
At 10:28 P.M., Leland turned the radio on and pressed the "Talk" button.
"You run your mouth so damned much, I can't get a word in. I want to make a deal with you. Are you listening?"
"Yes. Go ahead."
"Let me send the girl down. She's done nothing and she's afraid something's going to happen to her. Let me send her down in the elevator. I want your word on that."
"Yes, of course, you have my word. Summon an elevator and put her aboard..."
Leland wasn't listening. He put the radio down on the table in the law library and stepped quickly into the long corridor leading down to the two bodies and the executive suite. Leland figured he had about a minute — long enough for them to realize that he had distracted them for his own purposes. Who among them was alone? Leland wanted them terrified of him, if that was possible. He was beginning to look terrifying anyway, covered head-to-foot with grease from the elevator cable.
As he reached the end of the corridor, the lights in the suite went out.
Leland froze. He heard a clicking sound, far off around the corner — someone trying to turn a doorknob quietly. Leland took two steps back, then turned and ran. Now he heard them coming. He stopped, turned back, got low, and fired a burst. In the dark he could see nothing, and the roar of the Thompson had him deafened, but he had a sense of the tremendous damage the weapon was doing, tearing through the paneled partition on the far side of the room and the heavy glass plates beyond.
They had figured it out — they had gotten wise to where he was. He backed farther up the corridor toward the library door, and fired another, longer burst. He was shaking now, sure he was going to be shot in the back as he tried to get inside. He ran, stumbling as he reached the door itself, and fell inside.
He was scrambling to his feet, his shoulder going numb from hitting a chair, when the corridor filled with a returning burst of fire. Kalashnikovs — you could recognize their sound anywhere. He had to get his hands on one of those guns. The muzzle flash lit the corridor its entire length, and Leland could hear the damage being done in the rooms on the south side of the building. He was not going to fight it out with them. For all he knew, they were coming around the other way, too. He needed the radio. Given the way the partitions were being torn to pieces, he had to keep low. He scuttled through the far door, the radio slung over his shoulder. He felt like Robinson Crusoe escaping the cannibals.
Across the south side of the building, he tried to keep below the level of the desks, across one small room after another. Three single shots rang out — they were at the library. He kept going, even though he was afraid he was heading right into them again. How had they guessed it? He had done something wrong, but he didn't know what it was. The whole floor was indefensible. If he could get around to the northwest staircase, he could disappear into the floors below.
He held back at the corridor on the west side. Its lights, too, were out. They had been lit before. They were driving him like a deer around the building. This was the bottleneck. They were going to catch him halfway to the northwest stairs, and cut him in half. He wondered if they had learned anything about him from anyone downstairs. There was Ellis, Stephanie's boss. Sure, Stephanie had yet to learn the lesson of her life.
Leland was going to die here, if he didn't get moving.
He took another look into the corridor. The door to the roof was twelve feet away, which was too far, with the radio, shoulder bag, and the Thompson weighing him down. He rapped on the partition separating him from the office opposite the door leading upstairs. Wood, probably three-eighth-inch paneling over a hollow core. If he had the time, he could kick his way through it like a rat chewing through a plasterboard wall.
He looked up: by moving the urethane ceiling panels, he could go over the top.
If he moved fast enough.
On the other side, he had to hang from the metal support and drop the last foot and a half to the floor. He had wanted to replace the ceiling panels, but he had been able to see that they would realize quickly enough what he had done. His shoulder was throbbing now. It would be immobile tomorrow. Firing a Thompson wasn't going to help. He had fired one once before, during an FBI course, and it had felt like trying to tackle Larry Csonka.
The door to the corridor was locked from the outside. He stepped back. He had hoped that he would be able to step from one doorway to the other, but now he couldn't even see the other. When they reached the adjoining room, they would see the hole in the ceiling and understand what he had done to himself.
He had put himself in a box. It was like one of those garden mazes the English loved so much. He was in it and they could blast away until they were sure they'd killed him. Dick Tracy did it all the time.
Unlike the great Chicago detective, Joe Leland had gotten it backwards — and the bad guys had his kid, too, like old Lucky Lindy himself. He wanted to kill them, he thought for the first time. Oh, yes, now he wanted to.
The locking mechanism was covered with that hefty-looking brushed aluminum plate. He had to hope that the ammunition wasn't short-loaded. All he needed was bullets ricocheting around the room, and then the job he would have done on himself would be complete. He moved to the side and squeezed off a long burst. The door swung inward like something out of a ghost story.
Leland decided he wasn't being morbid. Now that he had revealed his position, he had to guess if they were waiting for him at the end of the corridor, or if they had arrived at the next room — or even if they were waiting for him on the staircase to the roof.
Even if he got to the roof, he did not know if he would be able to keep them from coming up after him. In any case, he had no time to think about it. He took a running dive across the corridor, and what sounded like a Browning automatic rifle went off five times, about a foot over Leland's head.
He got up running for the stairs. More shooting. They had enough ordnance to hold off a company of marines, considering the position they held. At the top of the stairs, Leland got low and fired the last of the clip through the open doorway below, trying to buy the time to get out onto the roof. He couldn't hear anything but the roar of the gunfire now. His ears felt like they were crammed with cotton. It would take too long to get another clip on the Thompson. The man with the B.A.R. reached the lower door before Leland got out onto the roof, and for a moment Leland was silhouetted against the pallid sky. Leland dived again, but the man tried to anticipate him, and Leland felt two of the shots pass within inches of his eyes.
...10:40 P.M., PST...
How many? There could have been as few as two on the fortieth floor. In his panic, Leland had been thinking at least three. Now it didn't matter. They had him treed like a cat.
He was back on the cool, metal catwalk inside the elevator tower. He'd hoped that he would be all right once he'd gotten to the roof, but it had been nothing for them to ascend the enclosed stairs and cover their own passage onto the roof. By then he had made it around to the iron ladder outside the elevator tower, and when they finally saw him, he was halfway through the door above. Now they could not climb the ladder without exposing themselves, and he had nowhere to go. The elevator that had been on the fortieth floor was headed down. When Leland had peered into the shaft, he had been able to see that they had opened the roof hatch of the car. They had figured out everything, were so close behind him that he had not escaped, he had been delivered.
Leland turned the radio selector switch past channel nineteen to channel nine. He was drawn up in the corner next to the door to the roof, where he would be able to hear them outside as well as watch what was going on in the elevator shaft, for the little it was worth. All they had to do was move their activities to the other bank of elevators, and they had him neutralized. He pressed the "Talk" button.
"Mayday," he whispered. "Mayday. Tell police foreign terrorists have seized the Klaxon Oil building on Wilshire Boulevard. Many hostages. Repeating. Mayday..." And he went through it again. When he released the "Talk" button, the radio began receiving.
"I doubt that that will be effective. Can you hear me? We know where you are. Will you acknowledge this transmission, please?"
Leland pressed the button. "What do you want?"
"I want to strike a bargain with you, a
bargain. These little radios are not very powerful, by the way, so broadcasting alarms from inside an iron cage is probably futile. Are you listening?"
"Stay where you are. We want no more bloodshed. Stay where you are and keep out of our business. We can come after you if we have to. Ah, and you know it won't be possible for us to deal with you lightly."
Leland thought he heard something. "How did you get on to me?"
"You did it to yourself," Gruber said cockily, "when you said you wanted to send the girl down. You heard me say that at the elevator, and you thought I would be quick to believe there was a girl.
"The conversation I referred to in English about the clothing we found — your clothing, I presume — never took place. Possibly it makes no sense to you, but I have found it useful to act on such obscure little impulses. However, now that I consider it, I judge that you do understand. After all, it was you who thought to climb to the roof of the elevator car. Who are you? You are a bold man..."
Why the stalling? Leland had taken the hesitation before the remark about not dealing with him lightly as an indication that the brother of the dead man was asserting himself in unpleasant ways — not exactly a break in discipline, but perhaps a sign. They seemed to have time to burn. 10:50. In an hour and ten minutes it would be Christmas. 3 A.M. in New York. 10 A.M in Europe. The Pope always had a Christmas message — did he appear in public? The biggest nightmare of the Italian police was an assassination attempt against the Pope. But what did the Pope have to do with an oil company building a bridge in Chile?
Leland rubbed his eyes. He had been awake for the start of "Good Morning, America" in St. Louis, 7 A.M. central standard time. In that time zone it was ten minutes to one, Christmas morning. Eighteen hours. If he'd slept on the plane, he would have missed Kathi Logan, who might be home by now, wondering if her telephone recorder had failed. He couldn't waste time hoping she would make something out of a broken connection. They'd kissed like kids. He wanted to get out of here and kiss her again.
Maybe they were only trying to make him think he was safe. In anticipating him, they'd drawn their perimeter at the fortieth floor. They had been ready for the man who had revealed his presence to them.
Q.: What had he told them about himself?
A.: That he thought he was capable of dealing with them.
Proceeding from that assumption, and the possibility that he was not overestimating himself, they would have to defend what was most important to them. It had taken the leader just seconds to tell the others on the fortieth floor that he was headed toward them. This while he'd been talking to Leland on channel twenty-six. So they had other working channels. Leland was going to have to keep his head up. So far, they didn't know he understood German, however poorly. The radio might become as important as the Thompson.
BOOK: Nothing Lasts Forever
3.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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