Double Crossed: A Spies and Thieves Story (Page 6)

“Macey?” a voice cried through the room.

“Daddy?” Macey called, but the man in the Clinton mask yelled, “Stop right there!”

And for maybe the first time in her life, Macey did as she was told.

She thought of the masked man’s gun and the rapid burst of bullets.

She thought of Hale lying on the floor.

She thought of the mission she hadn’t had the time to finish.

And Macey yelled louder, “Daddy?” Her voice cracked. Macey saw the senator moving her way, through the ballroom.

“What was that shooting?” the senator demanded. “What have you done to my daughter?”

The masked man whirled and sent the beam of his flashlight across the crowd until it shone on the tall man in the back of the room.

But Clinton just pointed his gun at Macey’s head and said, “Stay where you are.”

The man in the Bush mask was coming toward them. “Reagan needs you in the other room,” Bush said, but Clinton shook his head.

“Found this one out in the hall,” Clinton told Bush. “Her and her little friend. I handled them, though. Didn’t I, sweetheart?” He ran a finger down the side of Macey’s cheek and she shivered but didn’t fight.

It wasn’t the time, Macey told herself. It wasn’t the place. She’d have her chance later, but right then all Macey wanted to do was run into her father’s arms. She tried to push past Bush, clawed against his arms and his sides, but he held her in place, not moving.

“Please,” she said. “Please. I won’t try to sneak out again. I promise.”

“No,” Clinton snapped, and pulled Macey away. “You think we’re gonna trust you?” His drawl was obviously fake and sickly sweet. He didn’t sound like a former president. He sounded like a psychopath.

“You think we’re gonna let you go back to your daddy after what you did?” The man fingered the side of his neck—a place that was still bleeding from an earlier blow.

“Please,” Macey said, but Clinton just grabbed her arm.

“Come here.”

“No!” the senator shouted.

“Bill,” Bush said, “Reagan needs you in the other room.”

“She’s coming with me,” Clinton yelled over his shoulder.

He marched Macey to the farthest, darkest corner of the room, where he made a great show of tying her to a chair, and the man in the Bush mask went back to walking slowly among the hostages and holding his weapon.

If he had felt the hand that reached into the messenger bag he kept strapped across his chest, he didn’t show it.

If he thought it strange that Clinton had made such a scene of securing his hostage himself, he didn’t question it.

And when Macey whispered, “Okay, Kat. You’re on,” the fake President Bush didn’t appear to hear a thing.

In fact, in the darkness, none of the hostages seemed to notice when the air vent at the back of the ballroom slid slowly up. In fact, not a soul appeared to see the small girl who dangled out of the opening, her black hair and clothes disappearing in the shadows of the room.

“We missed our flight for Rome,” the upside-down girl said.

The Clinton mask eased up and the boy behind it gave her a smile. “I own the jet, remember? It’ll wait.”

“Hi,” Kat said, shifting just a little to the girl at her boyfriend’s side.

“Macey”—Hale gave a very Hale-ish grin—“may I introduce Kat Bishop?”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Macey said.

The upside-down girl grinned and took a small package from Macey’s hand. A moment later she was gone, into the air vent and scurrying away, perfectly at home in the black.

Macey shook her head. “Someday I’ve got to introduce her to Cammie.”

Chapter 8

NO ONE EVER KNEW WHO PULLED THE FIRE ALARM. No one ever really knew why. The men in the masks assumed it was either a glitch in the Athenia’s system or the authorities trying to distract them, gain the upper hand. The authorities assumed the gunmen had tripped some kind of alarm, made a little mistake. But no matter who had caused it, the effects were still the same.

In the ballroom, the hostages huddled together a little tighter, grew a little more anxious. In the Calloway apartment, the men dropped the Jaws of Life and ran back to the ballroom to check with their superiors.

“Shut that off!” Reagan yelled to the others. But the men looked at each other, dumbfounded, until, just like magic, the piercing sirens stopped, leaving the hotel in a silence that was now entirely too loud.

“What did you do?” Reagan asked.

“Nothing,” Bush said.

Reagan looked around the dimly lit ballroom. The hostages sat huddled on the floor, tuxedo jackets resting around the shoulders of a few of the women. The professional bodyguards were zip-tied to pillars, and everyone was away from the windows.

It looked like everything and everyone were exactly where they were supposed to be. But something in Reagan’s posture was too rigid, like a man for whom time—or maybe just patience—was running out.

He shifted, scanning the ballroom until he was looking directly at the old woman with the white hair. To her credit, Mrs. Calloway didn’t even blink when the man pointed a finger in her direction and said, “Get her.”

“Let me try the drill again,” Obama said.

“We don’t have time. Now get her!” Reagan shouted loud enough for all the room to hear. And then Bush walked across the ballroom floor and pointed to the little old lady who owned the big yellow diamond.

“Mrs. Calloway,” Bush said. “Come with me.”

“No!” Mrs. Calloway’s son shouted. He jumped to his feet and stood between the white-haired woman and the men. “Where are you taking my mother? You can’t—”

But before he could finish, Reagan struck him across the face with the butt of his weapon. “We’re not taking orders from you,” Reagan snapped, and the son fell silent. No one said a word as the old woman was pulled from the ballroom.

They walked down the hall, Bush dragging the old woman beside him. “Where are you taking me?” Mrs. Calloway demanded. “What do you want?”

“No need to worry, ma’am,” Reagan told her. “We just need to have a little conversation.”

But a conversation about what, no one ever got to ask, because as soon as they turned the corner that led to the Calloway residence, they heard Obama running toward them.

“What is it?” Reagan snapped.

Obama came to a sudden stop and looked between the masked men and the old woman. His voice was soft, almost reverent, when he said, “It’s open.”

“What are you talking about?” Reagan snapped, pushing past Obama and into the Calloway apartment.

The tools were still on the coffee table. The Jaws of Life lay exactly where the men had placed it. Only one thing was different when the men returned to Mrs. Calloway’s formal living room, and for that reason they never had to ask her a single question.

Because the safe on which they had been working for hours now sat with the door propped open, revealing the largest yellow diamond that any of them had ever seen.

In the ballroom, things were changing, though no one really knew what. Or how. But the air was no doubt different when Mrs. Calloway strolled in, unharmed but obviously confused. The men were gathering their bags of loot and moving around the room with renewed purpose, making sure they were leaving nothing important behind, their work finally finished.

“Looks like your girl delivered,” Macey said through the unit in her ear. Across the room, she saw Hale shift toward her.

“She always does,” he said, his mouth invisible behind the Clinton mask he kept pulled down.

But then Obama dropped a bag on the floor and shouted something in a language Hale didn’t understand.

“What did he say?” Hale asked.

“It’s time for Clinton to go check on the elevator,” Macey translated.

Hale smiled. “Glad to.”

But Macey was already slipping out of the ties Hale had never tightened around her wrists. She was already taking off her broken shoe.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Hale asked. He stopped. He looked at her.

And even in the darkness there was a spark in Macey’s eyes when she told him, “To end it.”

The SWAT team was careful in coming up the stairs, slowly clearing corners and making their way in the dark. It was a good thing, it turned out, or else they might have tripped over the man in the Obama mask, who sat handcuffed to the railing of the emergency exit stairs.

When the team reached the Athenia’s industrial-sized kitchen, they found the man who had started his evening in a Clinton mask bound and gagged and lying in a large walk-in refrigerator, right where Macey McHenry had left him.

But it wasn’t until the team finally breached the corridor that ran along the back of the ballroom that they heard banging and found Carter, Bush, and Reagan in a freight elevator that had been (in the SWAT team’s professional opinion) booby-trapped, locking the men inside, a simple note taped to the outer doors, reading “We were not the brains.”

There was a satchel inside, filled with jewels and wallets, watches and the assorted valuables that the finest members of New York society had chosen to bring to the party. Only one thing was missing, it turned out. And that was the big yellow diamond. That, it seemed, was gone for good.

The hostages were interviewed. The room was searched. But despite the best efforts of the NYPD and the FBI, it seemed the Calloway Canary had flown out of the ballroom that night and into the cold winter air, never to be seen again.

The most beautiful ballroom in all of Manhattan was nothing but a maze of overturned chairs and broken dishes, a table full of European antiques and luxurious vacations that didn’t seem quite as important or valuable as before, there at the end of the party.

No, in the end, all that really mattered were the questions.

“I’m very sorry to keep you here, Mrs. Calloway,” Abby said. She walked to where the older woman was sitting, patiently waiting to be set free, looking at the cops and federal officers that filled the room as if she’d just traded one set of gun-wielding captors for another. “We just have a few questions,” Abby said. “Routine things, really. Like was the necklace insured?”

“Of course.” Mrs. Calloway practically huffed at the notion that there could be any doubt. “In fact, the insurance people were the ones who insisted I have a fake made. They have rules about these things, you see.”

“And the fake is what you wore to the party?” Abby asked.

“It was. According to my policy, I either have to wear the fake or hire a guard whenever I wear it and that seemed like a lot of trouble. But when I saw those men and their guns…well, it was the first time I was ever grateful for insurance companies and their silly rules. But when those men pointed their guns at me and took me away…”

The woman’s face went whiter as she recounted the evening. “I didn’t know what to expect. I would have given them the safe combination.” She trembled slightly. “I would have given them anything. But when we reached the apartment, I saw my safe was already open.…How was my safe open?”