While he waited for Ben to call from the plant, Paul called the hospital. After some confusion, he reached the E.R. and Marsha came on the phone. "Yes?" Her voice was a shaky whisper.
"It's Paul. How is Pete?"
"He has a concussion. They just rushed him through X-Ray and there's no skull fracture or anything. No sign of trauma to the brain. Just a hugely ugly swelling on the back of his head. He's sleeping now. I guess we'll spend the night here."
"I'll be up to see you, but I'm working with the police on this, and there's a little something I have to take care of."
Around midnight, Paul was in the passenger seat of the FBI cruiser.
Mandigar drove. "Maybe your real calling in life was to be a cop. You might just be on to something, Owens."
"I hope so. It would kind of dot the i's and cross the t's a bit."
"It would tie things up pretty neatly for me if your hunch is correct. Sorry I've been a dick."
"It's your job."
"I'm a dick all the time."
"Okay, so you're on the job all the time."
"Without the hair, you're not so bad."
"Can we have a little variation in our society?"
Mandigar didn't reply. Maybe the idea of individual freedoms was pushing it a bit too far for him, Paul thought, but he gave the guy credit for trying despite a bad upbringing. After a 40 minute drive, they pulled off the freeway into a well-to-do Los Angeles suburb.
"So," Mandigar said. "If you're right, we should be able to push a few buttons and watch your toy fly around, and that will tell us exactly where to raid if that's what we want to do." He looked in some papers. "Hey, the guy who owns the house here is someone named Alex Fitch. Now why does that ring a bell?"
"Speaking of dicks," Paul said. "Just hover around the corner. Don't drive by, not even once. This place may be cold as ice, but if it is hot, it will be red hot."
"I agree," Mandigar said, turning off the engine. He rolled down the windows automatically, and cool night air filled the car. "Don't see anybody."
Paul looked diagonally across the street, down the block, and thoroughly hated the quaint red-brick colonial style home there, with its manicured lawn and green Jaguar in the driveway. He could have asked Marsha, but he didn't want to upset herbecause it was a wild hunch anyway.
"Look," Paul said suddenly, spotting another car. "That big black square looking car? I think that's the car that the two guys were driving the first time I was burglarized." He reached into the back seat and pulled out the control box for Condor III. He licked his lips nervously and applied sweaty fingers to the controls, just barely touching them, while they were still off. "This is only a wild card."
"I know, I know," Mandigar said, eyeing the toy. "But it's worth the effort. I'm intrigued. What the hell you guys from that plant don't do with your goddamn time, I'll never understand."
A light went on in the house, spilling yellow shine onto the lawn.
It was very quiet in the house. No raucous laughter.
Aw hell, Paul thought, I'm making a fool out of myself.
"We are going to be noticed if we sit here too long," Mandigar said.
Then Mandigar gripped Paul's arm. "Listen."
They heard the swish of a car, and sure enough, another mean-looking black sedan pulled into the driveway. Three men got out and knocked on the door. Alex Fitch, wearing dark clothes, admitted them and quickly closed the door.
"If my guess is right," Paul said, "he'll have it sitting on the living room table or something."
"Don't try to recover it. Make the kid another one. I want to track these clowns."
"No problem. You ready?"
In answer, Mandigar started the engine. He left the lights off. The big car had a quiet, whispering engine.
"Here goes." Paul took a deep breath.
There was enough light for him to see the controls in the panel clearly.
He made fists, wiggled his fingers, then set his hands to the task.
First he turned on the power.
"Jesus," Mandigar said, "you hear that?"
They heard a sound like three tiny lawnmowers.
"Quick now," Paul said to himself. He pressed the hover bar up, and he estimated that the saucer would now be about three feet in the air. He upped it, in case it was on the floor.
They heard a muffled shout.
Paul feathered the 3% differential on the left rear engine. "Wherever it is, it should be spinning around the room in circles now."
They heard more shouts.
Paul saw the saucer bump against the window.
Great. There it was.
He knew what to do.
First he backed it away from the window.
Then he ran it toward the window again.
"Screw it, enough," Mandigar said. "We've got what we need. Let's not blow it."
The saucer came crashing through the window in a shower of glass.
Paul cut the power and the saucer dropped with a clatter.
The door opened, and Fitch came running out, a figure of desperate confusion.
Paul made fists and laughed triumphantly. Then he remembered Pete, and his malevolent wishes toward Fitch dissolved in a cloud of regret.
Mandigar, dour as ever, backed the car down the street quietly for several blocks, flying along at 30 or 40 miles per hour, to an intersection, where he let the car back up in a Y turn, then put it in Forward and accelerated down the street.
"Thanks," Mandigar said as they cruised along the freeway back to Burbank. "One of these days I'm going to bust that guy hard. But first we'll find out who all his pals are. Might be quite a catch a year or two down the road."
Paul thought: And the Soviets will lose a year at least, or maybe they'll just ignore Ufimtsev even more thoroughly.
After Mandigar dropped him off, Paul called the hospital.
A night clerk answered and told Paul that Marsha was fast asleep in a cot next to Pete's bedand that Pete was doing better. Paul asked the clerk to leave a note for Marsha to call him at home. He called the plant and left a note with the night guard that he would be in late tomorrow.
Then he swigged down two beers to calm his nerves, and fell asleep fully dressed lying on his back on the livingroom couch.
A repeated knocking noise woke Paul.
He groaned and sat up, blinded by shaft of sunlight that had been attempting to bore a hot hole through his forehead for at least twenty minutes.
Hearing Marsha's voice, he stumbled through the kitchen. She stood at the back door, looking very girl next door in a long print dress and tennies. Her long dark hair was tied back in a pony tail, giving her face a pert look.
He opened the door and she hugged him.
"How's Pete?" He stroked her neck, her back, ran his fingers through over her hair.
"He's sleeping. He's okay, but I don't want to leave him alone for a second. Want to come over and visit?"
"Yes. Let me splash some water on my face, shave, shower..."
She drew imaginary figures on his T-shirt, over his heart. "Why don't you bring your things and do that... a little later? I have designs on you."
"Oh. You bet."
She hurried back to her house, looking nervously left and right, as if more violent felons were about to pop out of the shadows and harm her son. Paul shook his head, realizing last night's events had not helped his cause with her.
He washed up and strode across the lawn.
She was in the kitchen, fixing something to eat, and looked up with a little cloud of confusion. "Didn't you bring your shaving things?"
He laughed. "Honey, I live next door. It's not like I have to drive ten miles to my house."
She laughed and made a blowing motion, tossing some loose hair up over her forehead. "I see. That makes sense. I'm making you some breakfast."
He went to her, stood behind her, wrapped his arms around her as she fussed by the stove. He pulled her to him, and she complied, fitting her body to his as if they had been molded together, made for one another. She murmured: "Are you hungrier for food or for me?"
"You," he said into her ear.
She giggled. "Your breath tickles." She turned and put her arms around his neck. Her lips rose to meet his, and his heart beat faster as he immersed himself in a long kiss. His hands roved down her body, encountering only the thin material of her long dress. She was wearing absolutely nothing underneath. She sensed his quickening breathing and whispered in his ear, so that her breath was hot and moist: "I wanted to surprise you."
No more words. They walked hand in hand to the bedroom at the other end of the house and closed the door. She was more passionate than she'd ever been.
It was a timeless hour, though she tiptoed out after their second lovemaking to check on Pete, who was locked in his bedroomand she carried the key. Paul realized later he should have seen the tip-off. But he didn't. She returned to the master bedroom and climbed on top of him, lifting her dress as she did, arranging her knees on either side of him, pressing him with her firm thighs as she seated herself and began to rock. He could only writhe with pleasure.
Exhausted, they lay lazily together in a brine of afternoon sunlight.
"I could go on and on like that forever," he said as they lay entwined.
She stroked his hair and smiled. Her eyes looked big and dark and moist and full of affection and humor.
"I'm going to make a new Condor for Pete and send it up to you."
"That would be nice." She touched his nose with her fingertip.
"Maybe you'll come to visit."
She put her hand over his mouth. "Let's not talk at all about that today." She pulled him closer to her and soon they were dozing drowsily.
The phone rang, waking them up. Marsha answered and then handed the phone to Paul. It was Steve Rossi. "How are you doing?"
Paul did not even want to guess how Steve had figured out where to reach him. "I think we're all doing fine now."
Marsha tiptoed back out, key in hand, to see Pete.
"Good job last night. Hey, take the day off."
"I was going to come in for a while this afternoon."
"You deserve a break. Come in early in the morning and we'll have a meeting with Ben. We have a lot of exciting stuff coming up."
Paul thanked him and they rang off.
Marsha came back with Pete, who stumbled sleepily. His eyes had slight shiners, and there was a bandage wrapped around his head.
"You poor fellow," Paul said, kneeling down. He held out his arms and Pete embraced him, still grunting sleepily.
"Thanks," Pete said.
"That was a scary business," Paul said.
"Yeah. And my saucer is gone."
"I'm gonna make you a newer and better one this month. We'll call it Condor IV. How's that?"
Pete smiled. "Yeah. That will be okay. We leave Sunday and."
Marsha interrupted. "That will be enough, Peter. We agreed to not talk about that at all for today. Sunday is still almost a week away, so let's not spoil our time together."
"Paul, I'm going to throw your eggs out and start over. They're cold."
"Your eggs are hot," he whispered in her ear.
She nudged him away with her hip. "Stop it."
After their early supper, they went to see a funny family movie. Marsha held Paul tightly with her arm around his and her shoulder pressed against his. Pete sat on the other side of Paul. This must be what being married was like, Paul thought, glowing inside, though the glow had that distant rim of approaching loss and pain.
That night, Marsha was more ardent than ever.