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"Senator," Traskel's executive assistant said, looking through the door. "There's a Mr. Jenkins here to see you. He's ..."

"Quite insistent," Mike said, shoving the door open and then shutting it in the secretary's face. "Hi, John."

"I thought you'd have the good sense to not meet me here," the senator said, picking up the phone.

"Oh, I think we can dispense with those games, Senator," Mike said, walking over to the desk and slamming the phone, and the senator's hand, down on the desk so hard they both broke.

"Jesus!" the senator roared, pulling his hand back furiously. "I"ll have you arrested for that ..."

"Oh, I don't think so," Mike said, sitting down and tossing a packet on the desk. "You see, I found Natalya. And the bastard you sent to kill her. Who was stupid enough to talk about it. All of it, Senator. Top sheet is a partial transcript."

The senator leaned forward and gingerly opened the manila envelope with his unbroken hand, then started to read the transcription.

"There's no proof there," he said, hoarsely.

"There's enough to matter," Mike said. "The news media would be all over it like stink on shit, even if you are their fair-haired boy. Wilson Three-Names was a former aide. He's been definitely identified by a first-hand source as the man who both murdered a girl in Macedonia and attempted to frame Senator Grantham for it. And despite the voice changer, you can get a partial match. Between that and the confidential notes when you covered for him after that incident in Nigeria, which are easy enough to leak, you're toast. Don't even begin to try to fight this or you'll be facing charges as well as being out of government service."

"What do you want?" the senator whispered.

"You're leaving government service," Mike said. "Old war wound will do. You don't play around behind the scenes, either. No fundraising, no support for candidates, no quiet little deals, no lobbying. You are out. O-U-T. Out. Go teach or something, you're perfect for academia. And you don't have to work for your salary. Your wife will support you. But one glimmer of a hint that you're back in the power broker business and that entire file gets forwarded to every single news outlet on the planet."

"Fuck you," the senator snapped. "There's no way ..."

"The Senate leadership have already seen that file," Mike said, grinning. "If you don't go, you're going to be removed from office. And then it will be all over the news. I'd imagine the President's party would even be able to pick up your seat after that debacle. Hell, I doubt that your party would be able to keep New Jersey. As it is, your party can appoint an interim and he'll probably be reelected."

"What are they going to do about Wilson?" the senator asked, deflating. "He'll talk. He's too much of a coward not to."

"He's already dealt with," Mike said, standing up. "He had a little accident in the Balkans. Bandits and such, you know how troubled it is over there. And if you try to fuck with me or mine, Senator, overtly or covertly, you'll be dealt with the same way. Oh, and you owe me five mil," he added. "The number for the bank account is in the file. Don't be slow on the payments. You don't want to deal with my collections department."

* * *

"What was the take from the whorehouse?" Pierson asked.

He and Mike had agreed to meet in a Georgetown bar after Mike's meeting with Senator Traskel. Mike had known he was going to need at least one drink afterwards. Although, the meeting with the Senate leadership had been more of a ballbuster all things considered.

"Damn near six mil," Mike said, shaking his head. "It turned out that the club was the central clearing house for most of the Balkans for that clan. Who ever knew that hookers could generate so much cash?"

"Not just hookers," Pierson said. "The gang was deep in the heroin business, apparently. Interpol sent us a very carefully worded but hearty thank you."

"Nice to know we're appreciated," Mike said, shaking his head. "And I kinda figured that when we found over six hundred pounds of the damned stuff in the safe. Which was why most of the Semtek and incendiaries were on top of it."

"Where are you going to start?" Pierson asked, changing the subject.

"Japan, I think," Mike replied. "They've got the most files after the U.S. You know I'm going to be the one most hated son of a bitch on earth after this. Shoot the messenger doesn't even begin to cover it. The U.S. Senate would love to bury me under the Capitol. Both parties. The leadership meeting was a real show of bipartisanship."

"You're also going to be one of the most feared," Pierson pointed out, chuckling. "The people in the know in those nations—and we're talking about every really major nation on earth—are not going to want to piss you off. Not after this. Forget saving Paris. The general outline of what you and the Keldara did is already making the rounds of the intelligence and military services, at least the high-level TS sections. As is the news about the files. And, believe you me, people are shitting their pants as they wait for you to turn up. Especially the ones that don't know, yet, if they're going to be getting a visit. Frankly, I'm not sure if they're more afraid of the files, or you personally."

"Well, I doubt they will ever love me. Most of them are hypocritical PC motherfuckers with not an ounce of brains between them. Bear witness that the French threw me out on my ass after saving their sorry asses. I'm never going to be well liked by 'the high and mighty' of Traskel's stripe." He stood up and tossed back his bourbon, then rolled the empty shot glass thoughtfully between thumb and forefinger. "Enough, I suppose, that they fear me."

"You, and your Mountain Tigers."


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