Gone for Good Page 82

“Your brother would not agree to meet his attorney,” the Ghost said. “I believe he suspected a trap. We set up another IM appointment, though. We are very much hoping that you can persuade him to meet with us.”

“And if I can’t?”

He held up the rope. There was a handle attached to the end. “Do you know what this is?”

I did not reply.

“It’s a Punjab lasso,” he said as if beginning a lecture. “The Thuggees used it. They were known as the silent assassins. From India. Some people think they were all wiped out in the nineteenth century. Others, well, others are not so sure.” He looked at Katy and held the primitive weapon up high. “Need I go on here, Will?”

I shook my head. “He’ll know it’s a trap,” he said.

“It’s your job to convince him otherwise. If you fail”—he looked up, smiling—“well, on the positive side, you’ll be able to see firsthand how Julie suffered all those years ago.”

I could feel the blood leaving my extremities. “You’ll kill him,” I said.

“Oh, not necessarily.”

I knew it was a lie, but his face was frighteningly sincere.

“Your brother made tapes, gathered incriminating information,” he said. “But he has not shown any of it to the feds yet. He’s kept it hidden all these years. That’s a good thing. It shows cooperation, that he is still the Ken we know and love. And”—he stopped, thinking—“he has something I want.”

“What?” I asked.

He shook me off. “Here’s the deal: If he gives it all up and promises to disappear again, we can all go on.”

A lie. I knew that. He’ll kill Ken. And he’ll kill us all. I had no doubt about that. “And if I don’t believe you?”

He dropped the lasso around Katy’s neck. She let out a small cry. The Ghost smiled and looked straight at me. “Does it really matter?”

I swallowed. “I guess not.”


“I’ll cooperate.”

He let go of the lasso; it hung from her neck like the most perverse necklace. “Don’t touch it,” he said. “We have an hour. Spend the time staring at her neck, Will. And imagine.”


Mc Guane had been caught off guard.

He watched the FBI storm inside. He had not foreseen this. Yes, Joshua Ford was important. Yes, his disappearance would raise eyebrows, though they had made Ford call his wife and tell her he’d been called out of town on a “delicate matter.” But this forceful a reaction? It seemed like overkill.

No matter. McGuane was always prepared. The blood had been cleaned with a newly developed peroxide agent, so that even a blue-light test would reveal nothing. The hairs and fibers had been taken care of, but even if a few were found, so what? He would not deny that Ford and Cromwell were here. He would happily admit it. He would also admit that they had departed. And he could offer proof: His security people had already replaced the real surveillance tape with the digitally altered one that would show both Ford and Cromwell departing the premises on their own accord.

McGuane pressed a button that automatically erased and reformatted the computer files. Nothing would be found. McGuane automatically backed up via email. Every hour, the computer sent an email to a secret account. The files thus stayed safely in cyberspace. Only McGuane knew the address. He could retrieve the backup whenever he wanted.

He rose and straightened his tie as Pistillo burst through the door with Claudia Fisher and two other agents. Pistillo pointed his weapon at McGuane.

McGuane spread his hands. No fear. Never show fear. “What a pleasant surprise.”

“Where are they?” Pistillo shouted.


“Joshua Ford and Special Agent Raymond Cromwell.”

McGuane did not blink. Ah, that explained it. “Are you saying that Mr. Cromwell is a federal agent?”

“I am,” Pistillo barked. “Now, where is he?”

“I’d like to file a complaint then.”


“Agent Cromwell presented himself as an attorney,” McGuane went on, his voice even as could be. “I trusted that representation. I confided in him, assuming that I was protected by attorney-client privilege. Now you tell me that he is an undercover agent. I want to make sure that nothing I said is used against me.”

Pistillo’s face was red. “Where is he, McGuane?”

“I don’t have the slightest idea. He left with Mr. Ford.”

“What was the nature of your business with them?”

McGuane smiled. “You know better than that, Pistillo. Our meeting would fall under attorney-client privilege.”

Pistillo wanted so very much to pull the trigger. He aimed at the center of McGuane’s face. McGuane still showed nothing. Pistillo lowered the weapon. “Search the place,” he barked. “Box and tag everything. Place him under arrest.”

McGuane let them cuff him. He would not tell them about the surveillance tape. Let them find it on their own. It would have that much more impact that way. Still, as the agents dragged him out, he knew that this was not good. He did not mind being brazen—as mentioned earlier, this was not the first federal agent he’d had killed—but he could not help but wonder if he had missed something, if he had left himself somehow exposed, if, at long last, he had made a crucial mistake that would cost him everything.


The Ghost stepped into the woods, leaving Katy and me alone. I sat in my chair and stared at the lasso around her neck. It was having the desired effect. I would cooperate. I would not risk having that rope tighten around the neck of that frightened girl.

Katy looked at me and said, “He’s going to kill us.”

It was not a question. It was true, of course, but I still denied it. I promised her that she would be okay, that I would find a way out, but I don’t think I assuaged her worries. Little wonder. My throat was feeling better, but my kidney still ached from the punch. My eyes moved about the room.

Think, Will. And think fast.

I knew what was coming up. The Ghost would have me set up the meeting. Once Ken showed up, we were all dead. I thought about that. I would try to warn my brother. I would try to use some kind of code maybe. Our only hope was that Ken would smell a trap and surprise them. But I had to keep my options open. I had to look for a way out, any way out, even if it meant sacrificing myself to save Katy. There would be an opening, a mistake. I had to be ready to exploit it.

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