The Terminal Man
by Philip Turner
Chapter 17

KLARA WAS WHISKED OFF to tackle a legal job. Helm received the rest of the day off and a payment of 15,000 drachmas for his efforts with the hypnotist. Being given a little cash for every slight service was demeaning, he found. He felt rich enough to charge for just major jobs now. The incidentals could be written off as favours. Makronotis was tipping him as automatically as he would tip a waiter and asking for his opinion less frequently. He was being treated like a general-purpose blunt instrument – rather than a precision instrument – and it was the lack of consultation that rankled most.
   The receptionist waved to him as he was leaving the hotel for the second time. Someone had telephoned a message for him. It ran: 'Lunch at the Café Kassimasti at one. Eva.' Helm recalled that he had not yet disposed of her letters but he was heading for the Monastiraki district anyway.
   He took a taxi to Molivi Street and window-shopped on the way to see Thiroros, dealer in Nazibilia. He saw a dark green cap farther down the street, which struck him as strange. The wearer looked about Roger Gladwin's height and build, but Helm had been told that Gladwin had gone back to his base in Corinth, within easy reach of his two mistresses. According to Klara, he was seeing a bar-owner in Loutraki as well as the journalist in Periyiali.
   Helm stepped into a doorway when the green cap slowed down. He was unable to see the face when the wearer turned a full circle to look up and down the street. The green cap was gone when Helm stepped back into the street. He hurried to its last position – a jeweller's shop. The man in the green cap was standing at the counter with his back to the door.
   Helm pretended to admire a display of watches in the doorway as he squinted sideways into the shop. The man in the green cap opened a briefcase and took out a characterless statue of a man on a horse. Helm had seen the foot-high jade figure before – in the van that he had commandeered at the villa the previous night. It had been poking out of some cotton wool packing in one of the cartons in the back of the vehicle.
   Helm moved down the street to a café. He spent a quarter of an hour with a cup of coffee and a sticky bun. Then he returned to the jeweller's. The briefcase was standing on the counter but there was no sign of its owner. Helm crossed the street to another jeweller opposite.
   The owner spotted a victim, came to the door of his shop, established Helm's nationality and dragged him inside. Old Kleftos across the street would swindle him rotten, he learned. The rival's prices were much more reasonable. After five minutes' looking, Helm selected a $245 silver dolphin brooch for Klara.
   Roger Gladwin's dark green cap went past the front display window at that moment. Helm glanced at his watch. If he was going to get to the Café Kassimasti in time for his luncheon appointment, he wouldn't be able to see the Nazibilia dealer. The jeweller sold him a silver dragonfly brooch, gave him his change from a $1,000 dollar bill in dollars, and phoned for a taxi. He was obviously used to dealing with dollar-rich jet-setters.
   As he headed for a more exclusive part of the city, Helm wondered how much Gladwin had been paid for the stolen statue while marvelling at his audacity. It was a perfect crime, which could be blamed on the crooks in perfect safety. The insurance company would be the only loser – along with everyone who paid premiums to it. Given the choice, Helm felt sure that anyone with good taste would rather have the money than that statuette.
   Eva von Arlberg looked very cool and collected in the air-conditioned café, which felt positively chilly after the tropical heat of Spangos Square. Her greeting was warm and her appetite healthy. She demolished a plate of hors d'oeuvres, pulled a charming face when Helm suggested octopus for the next course and accepted his recommendation of a swordfish steak.
   "I heard some interesting news just before I left," she remarked after the waiter had taken their order. "Your friend Morgenstern had an accident this morning. He tried to drive under a trailer with a container on it. The top of his car was sliced right off."
   "At least he died happy," said Helm. "Any help from you and your father?"
   Eva smiled innocently. "Daddy was most upset. He wanted to sue the old fool for libel after the stories he spread about Nazis in our cryostore."
   "You mean it was Morgenstern's relatives who did away with him? They finally got fed up of paying for lawyers?"
   "A libel action would have cost them at least one million dollars, if not more. Now, he cannot waste any more of their inheritance on silly adventures. The strange thing is they could not find his head in the car."
   Helm smiled across the table. Eva was playing her games again. He refused to let her put him off his lunch. At the same time, he did wonder if someone had frozen Sigismund Morgenstern's head so that he could say hello to Adolf Hitler if someone managed to bring the great dictator back to life to rule in the next millennium. The waiter danced around them, delivering food and topping up wine glasses, putting a break point in the conversation.
   "How's your swordfish?" Helm said after Eva had toured her plate.
   "Well cooked and well presented – as I would expect in a café with three stars," she replied. "Did you sell my letters?"
   "Not yet. Thiroros only offered three thousand five hundred on Wednesday so I told him I had another potential customer. I was planning to go back this afternoon to see if he was feeling more reasonable."
   "You mean you still have them?"
   "In a safe place, yes."
   "Good. He offered them to someone else for eleven thousand five hundred yesterday. I thought he had them already."
   "He told me he might have to hang on to them for months before he found a buyer. But he would, wouldn't he? Has Daddy noticed you pinched my ten grand out of his safe?"
   "I took fifteen," smiled Eva. "I needed some money very quickly to buy a painting. Then I let him force me to admit you are blackmailing me. Naturally, I refused to say over what. Which saved having to think of something."
   "Actually, I do have something to blackmail you with," Helm realized.
   "Oh, what?"
   "I'll show you when we collect the letters. You're not carrying a gun, by any chance?"
   "No, why?' smiled Eva.
   "It's a high class bank and I think they have a metal detector round the door, like the ones in airports."
   "Talking of metals, I brought a present for you."
   The envelope contained thousand-dollar bills. The black presentation case looked the right size to contain a cigarette lighter. Non-smoker Helm found a flat, gold box inside. He pressed the spring catch automatically.
   "The original use is for a book of matches," said Eva. "Most people keep contraceptives in them now."
   "So I see. Is this in case the lady doesn't have a packet in her SS uniform?" Helm closed the gold box quickly as their waiter approached. "My present for you is purely ornamental."
   "How lovely." Eva seemed genuinely pleased with her silver dragonfly. She kept the waiter waiting while Helm pinned it to her blouse, then she ordered a sticky-sweet, fruit salad dish for desert.
   Eva paid the bill with international plastic. The silvery credit card made no impression on Helm but it sent the waiter away with an even more respectful expression. They stepped straight into a taxi on leaving the café. Helm became invisible in the bank where he had his deposit box. The men admired Eva while the women worked out how much her elegant silk suit had cost. Helm returned her letters in the examination room of the deposit vault, then he showed Eva the plan of the cryostore complete with her written comments.
   "It was no joke about blackmail?" she said thoughtfully, no longer smiling.
   "I posted it here from Zürich," said Helm. "I was going to use it to frighten Daddy if he got me back to the family seat to shake me down for more of my earnings."
   "It would cost him all the insurance money if you would prove I helped to destroy the cryostore."
   "They might send you both to gaol for attempted fraud," grinned Helm. "Now you know why I asked you if you had a gun."
   "And you would use this?"
   "I might, if I had to," Helm said grimly.
   "So how much do you want for it? Shall I start the bidding at one hundred thousand dollars?"
   "I was thinking more of half a million."
   "Daddy will faint when I tell him that."
   "He's more likely to disown you and let you take the full blame. Think you'll enjoy prison food?"
   "What makes you think I would stay to be arrested?" Eva said defiantly.
   "Right," said Helm with a nod of approval. He would have enjoyed teasing Graf Maximillian von Arlberg with the loss of his insurance pay-out but he knew that he couldn't take a swipe at the count without hitting his daughter too. He was also on the threshold of his final dangerous mission – playing decoy duck for Phileros Makronotis again. The plan of the cryostore was too dangerous to leave lying around and liable to fall into the wrong hands.
   There was a large ashtray of volcanic glass on the table. Helm tore the incriminating plan into strips. "I think we can have a small bonfire without setting the fire alarm off. Have you got a light? I don't seem to have any matches in my little box."
   Eva took a gold lighter out of her handbag and lit one of the strips before he could change his mind. "You play this game like an expert, Johnny. You had me really worried. This will cost you a lot of money."
   Helm shrugged. "You don't miss what you never had. And I don't think they'd let you take your maid and a Ferrari to gaol. And what do I care if your dad's screwing some Gnomes of Zürich? What did they ever do for me? Now we're quits for you saving me from being robbed and shot by bloody Avvi at the clinic on Tuesday night."
   Eva burned the last strip of paper, then wrapped a tissue round her index finger to crush the curled ashes. Her smile had returned to full strength. Helm sensed that there was a thoughtful edge to it.
   "You're not going to tell Daddy we burned the evidence," he divined.
   "Daddy is such an old miser," smiled Eva. "And he can afford to be blackmailed a little bit."
   An attendant took the empty deposit box back to its shelf. Helm saw Eva to a taxi and kissed her goodbye. She was fun in small doses but her rules for the game of life involved betrayal whenever it became convenient for her. They had begun the week as rivals, with Eva pointing a gun at him. They had become partners in arson and fraud on an international scale. It was best to part as friends before they became enemies. Betrayal was inevitable sooner or later if they stayed in touch.
   Helm took his Australian passport to another bank, one that Eva didn't know about, where he rented another deposit box for a month as Bruce Dundee. The English-speaking clerk asked him if he was related to Crocodile Dundee. Helm gave him a patient smile, playing the part of a man confronted yet again with an old and unwelcome joke.
   When his collection of $1,000 bills from the late Sigismund Morgenstern was safely locked away, Helm bought a thick, manilla business envelope for the passport, addressed it to Bruce Dundee, sealed it with an excess of tape and lodged it in the poste restante section at the main post office. If John Scott was about to become a target for a gang of Greek kidnappers and big league thieves, he felt safer with an escape fund that was a secret from both Eva von Arlberg and the Makronotis organization.

Helm was intercepted as soon as he stepped out of the lift on the Hotel Renga's third floor. The man who rushed him along the corridor to room 310 looked like Sergeant Bilko without the glasses and talked like Ronald Reagan. The stranger introduced himself on the move as Craven Kaiser, the American security advisor and Tsai's boss. Helm had trouble taking in what he said at first. He kept expecting Bilko's hectoring, action-packed delivery, not a breathy, Californian draw. Kaiser seemed used to the problem and accustomed to repeating himself.
   "Enjoy your lunch?" Kaiser said when they were sitting on opposite sides of the conference table in room 310.
   "Yes, thanks." Helm tried to hide any guilt behind a note of defiance.
   Kaiser tossed a Polaroid photograph onto the table. It showed Eva saying hello to Helm at the Café Kassimasti with a kiss. She had her arms round his neck and her whole body said that she was giving him much more than a polite peck. "What's your relationship with Eva von Arlberg?" said Kaiser.
   "Over, I think." Helm put the photograph in his pocket.
   "No hard feelings for dragging you into her father's insurance swindle?"
   "Nope." Helm assumed Kaiser had questioned Klara.
   "Did you sleep with her?"
   "I don't think that's any of your damn business."
   "I'll take that as an affirmative. Dangerous adventures turn her on. You have no further plans with her?"
   "She wanted me to sell some letters but the bloke didn't offer enough. I think she's got another buyer now, because she wanted the letters back. So I returned them and off she went. End of relationship."
   "Okay, I'll buy that," said Kaiser. "How do you feel about the up-coming operation?"
   "I haven't been told all the details, so I haven't agreed to do it. And no one's even mentioned a fee."
   Kaiser flicked through the papers on his clipboard. "Ten per cent of the insured value of the goods you saved from the villa is the price."
   "You mean a hundred and eighty thousand dollars?" gaped Helm.
   Kaiser glanced back at his clipboard. "Correct."
   "Sounds a bloody dangerous job if it's worth that much."
   "The price is related to the value of goods recovered, not the risk factor of the job."
   "Oh!" Helm wasn't reassured. "What's anyone planning to do with the crooks when you catch them?"
   "The boss favours a bomb to give them a taste of their own medicine."
   "I'd vote for that." Helm remembered the women in the café, whose legs had been blown off. "Is Tsai in on this?"
   "She's in Paris. Visiting her parents."
   "Doing what?" frowned Helm.
   "Someone told you Mr. Makronotis is her father?" Kaiser said with a slow smile. "Her old man's a U.S. Treasury agent on permanent assignment to Interpol in Paris. Her mother's from a Vietnamese family that settled in France."
   "So it's not true Tsai's mother is dead? Or the boss is the father of one of Eva von Arlberg's sisters?"
   "No and no comment."
   "I'll take the latter as an affirmative. So French is Tsai's first language? Next to Vietnamese?"
   "It sure as hell ain't Greek or English."
   "I don't know, she manages to make herself understood." Applying a cynical insight to a security officer's conduct, Helm realized that Gladwin had made him wary of talking freely to Tsai by implying that she was a direct channel to Makronotis. Through his caution, Helm had also denied himself a means of cross-checking things that Gladwin had told him.
   "So how come you're in charge of this operation," Helm added. "Did old Erlich get the push, or something?"
   "There may be a leak. Deliberate or accidental. Which is why my team is running a closed operation. This information is confidential, okay?"
   "Right," nodded Helm. "I suppose Erlich's the main suspect? He's the man on the spot in Athens, and there's his social connections in Germany and Austria, which could include the von Arlbergs. That was a major cock-up, the one over the jewellery delivery."
   "I guess the first step is to get you out of sight." Kaiser ignored Helm's speculation. "You remember the café where Tsai picked you up after you bugged out of the Hotel Batiris? When the guy tried to knife you last week?"
   "I remember going to a café," shuddered Helm. "I've got no idea where it is, though."
   "I'll give you some directions. Basically, what you do is change into something casual and wait at the café."
   "To be picked up by Gladwin, as usual?"
   "He's back in Corinth as of this morning, so you can forget any side trips to clubs for entertainment on the way."
   "He only seems to know female impersonators. Some entertainment."
   "A contact known to you will take you to your hideout. You'll wait there until the trap closes."
   "Getting down to the real basics, how dangerous is it? How much of a chance do I have of collecting my fee? Or spending it, rather, as I assume it comes in advance so my next of kin will get the benefit of it if I don't?"
   "The danger factor is better than any of the other jobs you've done."
   "Of course, you wouldn't tell me anything else," said Helm cynically.
   "The timetable will be: we notice you haven't come back to the hotel tomorrow morning. The word goes out you took the loot before lunchtime. You can expect your visitors as soon as it gets dark."
   "How close will your people be?"
   "The less you know about the operation, the better."
   "I'll take that as a 'not very', shall I?"
   "Your job is to sit at your hideout and wait for your mythical buyer to contact you, okay?"
   "Okay." Helm shrugged. There was no other answer. "One last question, is it true your father was in the FBI?"
   "Yes," said Kaiser.
   "What about the Ku Klux Klan?"
   "Are you kidding me?" demanded Kaiser.
   "No, but I think some bugger's not been kidding me all the time." By seasoning his disinformation with truth, Gladwin had left Helm not knowing what to believe, as intended.

Changed into jeans and a pale blue sweatshirt, and carrying an anorak with his wallet zipped into a pocket, Helm strolled out of the Hotel Renga and into the relatively cool, shaded side of the Elousis Square. The café lay six minutes' walk away. Helm settled down with a bottle of beer, a sticky bun and one of his books. He had touched Craven Kaiser for 25,000 drachmas for expenses. He was quite well off but the bulk of his portable wealth, cash and traveller's cheques, was in dollars and he enjoyed pushing his luck for more Greek money.
   A stranger sat down at his table just after four o'clock, when he had been in the café for half an hour. The black wig and wraparound sunglasses were an effective disguise but Klara Amercott's New Yorker accent and intimate manner gave her away at once. And there were other clues.
   "Hi, are you ready to go?" she murmured, leaning close to him.
   Helm glanced up from his book. "Sorry, love, I'm waiting for someone." He glanced at his watch. "Unless you can make it a real quickie."
   "It's me, you clown, not a hooker!" Klara protested, lifting her sunglasses for a moment.
   "Does that mean I don't get my quickie?" grinned Helm.
   "How did you recognize me?" Klara's tight jeans and baggy shirt were a complete contrast to her normal, tidy self.
   "You mean my present isn't a recognition signal?"
   Klara glanced down at her silver dolphin brooch. "It was a lovely surprise when I found it in my room. Thanks, John."
   "And there's your red nail varnish. And your perfume. Naughty Nights is a bit too exclusive for café hookers."
   "It's called Nautical Nights. It's supposed to make you think of ocean cruises."
   "I know, you told me," said Helm. "Are we off?"
   Helm glanced over his seat into the back of the van as Klara moved out into the afternoon traffic. The untidy jumble of packing materials mixed with paintings, silverware and valuable odds and sods had been replaced by neatly stacked cardboard boxes. Helm wondered if there was anything in them.
   The cartons were sealed with grey parcel tape but the one that he tried to lift felt heavy enough to be full of characterless jade statuettes. One carton was open. It contained food, bottled water, soap, towels, a battery-powered shaver and some spare clothing for the next day.
   Klara headed out toward the villa at first. Helm noticed that the rubble of the collapsed apartment building had been shoved off the road, but it still blocked the pavement. Klara turned left to head north – first on a fairly decent road, and then on a winding, dusty track. They had reached their destination before Helm realized where they were going.
   Klara drove through the open wooden door and parked in Demosthenes Taxacaris' cave workshop. When he opened the back doors, Helm noticed that the bullet holes in the van had been filled and painted over. He carried the carton of supplies over to the stone hut. There was no sign of the old sculptor, which was just as well. Helm assumed that another pawn in the game of chess played with human beings had been moved to another part of the board.
   "How many stars has this jernt got?" Klara exaggerated her New Yorker accent comically. "Minus four or five?"
   "If you get here soaked to the skin when it's pissing down outside, and there's a roaring fire inside, it's got all the stars you need." Helm realized that the hut was looking a lot cleaner and tidier than he remembered. He assumed that a Makronotis organization cleaning crew had been through it as part of the usual facilitation procedures.
   "You've been here before?"
   "Remember when Sophia was kidnapped? Whenever that was?"
   "It was only last week, John."
   "It feels more like last year now. Anyway, I ended up here after I got away from the kidnappers. And they know they lost me around here. If someone told them I found this place back then, well, it's a great place to hide now."
   "Craven Kaiser could put an army round here and you'd never see them," agreed Klara.
   "Are you with me for the duration?"
   "Would you like me to stay?"
   "Of course. But it that's the plan, we're going straight back to Athens to tell Kaiser to think again. It could get pretty hairy here tomorrow."
   "So you don't reckon I should take the same risks as a man?" said Klara aggressively.
   "You're not going all sexist on me?" groaned Helm. "Or are you getting paid a hundred and eighty thousand bucks too?"
   "Jesus!" Klara stared at him with big, round eyes.
   "I'll take that as a negative."
   "You sound like Kaiser, John. No, he told me to stay here till it starts to get dark, then use the BMX bike in the garage to go two and a half miles south of here to a rendezvous. I'm here for another three hours."
   "Does that mean you've got time for a cup of coffee?"
   "I guess so. Did you enjoy your lunch?"
   "Does everyone in Athens know I had lunch with Eva von Arlberg? Bloody good job I wasn't trying to keep it secret."
   "John, she's a dangerous person to have a relationship with."
   "I suppose Kaiser showed you his famous photo? Well, I'm not having a relationship with her. In fact, we exchanged parting gifts. I don't expect to see her again."
   "What did you give her?" Klara looked down at her dolphin brooch.
   "A silver dragonfly. Which cost thirty bucks less than your present."
   "What did she give you?"
   "It's in my coat. I shouldn't look if you're easily embarrassed." Helm poured boiling water into a jug containing ground coffee.
   Klara perched on the bottom bunk and went through the pockets of Helm's anorak. She found the gold box and accepted the challenge of opening it. "Was she trying to embarrass you, John?" she chuckled.
   "I think she wanted to know what I'd do if I dropped German johnnies all over the table just as the waiter arrived. Life's just a big game to her. I bet she stuck a pin in them."
   "No, they look all right."
   "There's only one way to find out for sure," said Helm.
   "And we've got another three hours together," said Klara thoughtfully.

Helm made an early start to his solitary Saturday morning. He was up at seven-thirty on another boringly hot day, which was hot already and getting hotter. He wished that Klara had stayed the night so that he would have someone to talk to as he made himself a bacon sandwich for lunch. Minus his luggage, he missed another iron capsule.
   He and Klara had known each other for just a week, but time seemed to have expanded for a man living as if each day could be his last. They seemed compatible to an amazing degree, and he had kept few secrets from her. Sketching his life history had taken very little time. He had presented his medical history as a motive rather than a sentence of death.
   Klara knew his real name and nationality, and that he had enjoyed a one-night stand with Eva von Arlberg after his brush with death at her father's clinic. Helm had even told her about seeing Gladwin disposing of one of the valuables that they had salvaged from the villa.
   Klara had told him about life in Buffalo and New York City. She still felt wounded by her ex-husband's desertion, and glad that he had ended up in gaol. At the same time, she was a little ashamed at gloating over another's misfortune – but not much.
   Helm had met her two days after strolling in on Demosthenes Taxacaris out of the only rainstorm locally in a couple of months. He was reduced to listening to the BBC World Service again on Taxacaris' new radio. His new life was all rush and rest, living at an accelerated pace of danger and then sitting on airliners for hours on end, reading a book and brooding about what the hell he was doing to himself.
   He was on his last job for Phileros Makronotis now. One more charge through the Valley Of Death, then he was off to spend a lot of money. Or he was heading for an early grave before he got his jet-setting done. Speculating about what he and Klara could do about their flourishing relationship, if everything worked out for him, was a harmless way of passing the time.
   He finished his current book through the morning and took an early lunch. A sudden rush of movement at the door took him by surprise as he was thinking about washing up. The man who entered the hut was wearing camouflage gear and a dark green beret.
   "You're supposed to be in Corinth," said Helm.
   "I know," grinned Roger Gladwin.
   "Why aren't I surprised you're here? Are you some sort of bodyguard?"
   "You could say I'm here to take care of you."
   "What's the timetable?"
   "The opposition know where you are. They're planning to move in about half-nine, when the Moon goes down and it's properly dark. Kaiser's mob begin distant surveillance at fifteen hundred this afternoon, and move to their ambush positions at eighteen hundred."
   "Why don't the bad guys move in right away?"
   "Because the only fence big enough to handle your haul is in Turkey until tomorrow, so there's no rush.
   "So I should be out of here by ten this evening?" said Helm.
   "Wrong." Gladwin took a revolver out of his belt holster and pointed it across the hut. "You'll be out of here in a quarter of an hour."

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