“Sure. So what happens now?”
Harry studied the illuminated dial of his watch. “Thirty-five minutes?” he asked a shadow near him.
The shadow replied, “They entered U.S. airspace forty-six minutes ago. ETA thirty-seven minutes.”
“What happens now is that in thirty-seven minutes we are going to scoop up the Entrepreneurs and the Family Boyz and the Russians and approximately two dozen cases of automatic weapons and ammunition left over from the Cold War and put them in our pocket.”
I shut my eyes and shook my head against it all. “Gentlemen, you should have told me, you really should have told me.”
“It was strictly need-to-know,” Alec said. “You didn’t.”
“Maybe so. But if you had told me all this yesterday, I wouldn’t have tried to trap Casselman tonight and he and his pals wouldn’t have taken a woman prisoner. She’s with them now.”
“My God, that’s why you’re here,” Alec realized.
“I changed my mind,” Harry said. “I want my ten bucks back after all.”
“I told you he bluffs too much,” Harry reminded his partner.
Alec didn’t disagree. “Fuller?” he called.
“Deploy your men.”
Quickly, silently, the agents dispersed and disappeared into the night, Alec with them.
I pivoted toward Harry. “I want my gun.”
“Get serious. All we need is for a civilian to shoot up the place.”
“I’m not staying here.”
Harry handed me a windbreaker with FBI in large, white letters both front and back. I wore it over my tuxedo, zipped to my throat.
“We’ll try to look out for your girl,” Harry said. “But we can’t change our plans now. When the plane lands, we go.”
Harry squatted next to me at the edge of the clearing. I couldn’t see his face but I could hear his breathing. It was deep and regular. Mine was shallow and coming fast and I wondered if this was what it had been like in ’Nam, sitting in the jungle, waiting for heavy rain.
The forest was quiet and still. The moon disappeared behind a slow-moving cloud bank and I could see nothing except what was happening below the lamp. I soon convinced myself that Alec’s people had gotten lost, had surrounded the wrong shed and Harry and I were going to jump out of the woods and shout “Don’t move, you’re under arrest” and Stalin would laugh at us. I had participated in several raids in my time, only none like this, none where I couldn’t see my backup.
We waited for what seemed like an eternity after moving into position, yet it was only about ten minutes. Where was the damn plane? Finally, I could hear the soft drone of engines. The noise grew louder but I couldn’t see the aircraft that created it. A moment later two ribbons of landing lights rolled out from the metal shed like dominos, the ribbons about thirty yards apart and two hundred and fifty yards long. Maybe longer. It was hard to tell from where I squatted next to a fir tree. The plane dropped down from the sky, flying without lights, and followed the ribbons at tree top level ’til it reached the end of the runway, where it banked sharply and once again disappeared into the night. I could still hear it and then I saw it again, coming in low and steady from the opposite direction, its landing gear engaged. The plane was a single-prop job with a huge cargo bay—it looked like a truck with wings. It was silver and maroon—its ID numbers had been masked. Beyond that I can tell you nothing about it. I don’t know planes. The fact they can even get off the ground never ceases to amaze me.
The plane touched down at the far end of the runway without so much as a bounce and rolled toward the shed even as it decreased in speed. When it reached the near end of the runway it stopped and pivoted to face the direction from which it came. The ribbons were extinguished, plunging the runway back into darkness. The lamp that hung from the pole now seemed like a candle compared to the light that had been shining. Harry reached over and took my arm. He squeezed it tight. “Easy, easy,” he whispered, only I don’t think he was talking to me.
The plane engine was feathered. The propeller stopped twirling. A dozen men emerged from the hangar and moved quickly toward the plane. Casselman stood under the lamp. The plane’s portside door opened and a stepladder was extended. Geno Belloti stepped out and waved.