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.But as I considered these possibilities, I was surprised to find I didn’t really want to be alone.“All right!” Dox said, taking my hesitation as a yes.“We can get dinner, hit a few bars, talk to the ladies, who knows.Hey, you like jazz, right? I know a new place on Silom that’ll be right up your alley.I tend to favor the discos myself, but I know you’re a man of sophisticated tastes and I’m willing to indulge you.”I nodded in capitulation.“All right.”The grin got wider.“You made the right decision, Mr.Rain, and I promise you won’t regret it.You checked into the hotel yet?”We were staying at the Sukhothai, which offered the right combination of high class and low visibility.Something like the Oriental had plenty of the first but none of the second; innumerable Bangkok hotels would have offered the opposite combination.But the Sukhothai had been built for both beauty and discretion.The property, with its acres of flower gardens and lotus ponds; its long, symmetrical lines and soft lighting; and its traditional accents of Thai architecture and art was certainly a triumph of form.But from my perspective, the hotel was also highly functional: its small, intimate lobby was utterly unlike the grand, bustling thoroughfares that greeted visitors at, say, the local Four Seasons, which was well designed for people who wanted to see and be seen, but uncomfortable for those who favored invisibility instead.“I got an early check-in this morning,” I told him.“You?”“The same.Nice place, too.I like those big bathtubs.You can get three people in one of them, did you know that? With all those mirrors, you can have a lot of fun.This one time.”“Why don’t we meet in the lobby, then?” I said.He grinned at the interruption.“All right.Twenty-hundred?“You need to rest up first?”“No, son, I need to go out and buy you that double dose of Viagra.”Trying to get the better of Dox was a losing proposition.I signaled the waiter for the check and said, “Eight o’clock, then.”SIXJIM HILGER never got upset.It wasn’t that he didn’t show agitation; he simply didn’t experience it.The crazier things became around him, the calmer he felt at his center.The quality had made him one of the best combat shooters in the Third Special Forces during the first Gulf War.When someone was firing at him, it felt almost as though his personality had floated out of his body, leaving a machine to handle things in its place.He knew that, had he lived in the age of dueling, he would have been fucked with by nobody.He knew, too, that his imperturbability was a useful leadership skill.In combat, when his men saw how calm and deadly he was, they became calm and deadly, too.And now, in his new role, he had found that his flatlined demeanor gave him power over the people he managed.The more upset they became in a crisis, the more his temperature dropped, cooling the people around him in the process.It was as though people assumed he must know something they didn’t; otherwise, he would be coming unglued, too.In fact, he doubted that he really knew more than others.It was just that he had come to rely on his own coolness, to believe that his coolness was the one thing he could count on to get him through, as it always had before.He didn’t believe in anything more than that.When Manny had called him the day before, nearly hysterical with rage, Hilger’s calmness had been put to the test.“Just tell me what happened,” Hilger had repeated while Manny had fulminated and threatened.It took a little while, but eventually he had brought Manny around.And Jesus, a little hysteria almost seemed to be in order.Someone had tried to hit Manny in Manila, and Calver and Gibbons, two of Hilger’s best men, men from his Gulf War unit, had been killed in the process.A critical first meeting with an asset, which Hilger had been trying to set up with Manny’s help for over two years, and which Calver and Gibbons had gone to Manila to take care of, had been aborted.The whole thing was a mess.As Manny had hyperventilated the news to him, Hilger automatically shifted into problem-solving mode.“Where is VBM?” he asked, using the cryptonym they had established for the new asset.“I don’t know,” Manny told him.“I don’t have an immediate way of contacting him.He probably went to the meeting site, and when we didn’t show up, he left.”Shit.Not quite the first impression Hilger had been hoping for.“Can you reestablish contact?” he asked.“Set up another meeting?”That produced a minor explosion.“Another meeting? Someone just tried to kill me! In front of my family!”Hilger realized he wasn’t demonstrating the proper priorities.All right, one thing at a time.“Look, there’s not much we can do over the phone,” he told Manny.“We need to meet.You’ll give me every detail.And then we’ll figure out what to do.”“But how do I know I can trust you,” Manny had whined.“How do I know you weren’t behind this?”“Those were my people who were killed,” Hilger told him.“I can’t give you better proof than that.”Manny wasn’t being rational.He said, “Maybe it was a trick, maybe it was a trick.”Hilger sighed.He said,“Let’s work together and we can solve this problem the way it needs to be solved.”There was a long pause.Hilger’s heart rate was slow and steady.Manny said, “All right, all right.”“Good.Where do you want to meet?” Giving Manny the choice would help ease his ridiculous suspicions.“Not in Manila.I can come to.” He paused, and Hilger knew he had been about to say Hong Kong and then had thought better of it.Hong Kong was Hilger’s home base, where he lived his financial-adviser cover.Manny didn’t want to offer him any advantages just now, and, probably because he felt spiteful, was glad to deny him any convenience, as well.“Jakarta,” Manny said.“I can come to Jakarta.”Hilger didn’t want to fly to Jakarta [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]