I like intellectual reading. It's to my mind what fiber is to my body.

Grey Livingston

 
 
 
 
 
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Chapter 32
he picturesque village of Alkmaar, on the northwest coast of Holland facing the North Sea, is a popular tourist attraction, but there is a quarter in the eastern section that tourists seldom visit. Jeff Stevens had vacationed there several times with a stewardess from KLM who had taught him the language. He remembered the area well, a place where the residents minded their own business and were not unduly curious about visitors. It was a perfect place to hide out.
Jeff's first impulse had been to rush Tracy to a hospital, but that was too dangerous. It was also risky for her to remain in Amsterdam a minute longer. He had wrapped her in blankets and carried her out to the car, where she had remained unconscious during the drive to Alkmaar. Her pulse was erratic and her breathing shallow.
In Alkmaar, Jeff checked into a small inn. The innkeeper watched curiously as Jeff carried Tracy upstairs to her room.
"We're honeymooners," Jeff explained. "My wife became ill--- a slight respiratory disturbance. She needs rest."
"Would you like a doctor?"
Jeff was not certain of the answer himself. "I'll let you know."
The first thing he had to do was try to bring down Tracy's fever. Jeff lowered her onto the large double bed in the room and began to strip off her clothes, sodden with perspiration. He held her up in a sitting position and lifted her dress over her head. Shoes next, then pantyhose. Her body was hot to the touch. Jeff wet a towel with cool water and gently bathed her from head to foot. He covered her with a blanket and sat at the bedside listening to her uneven breathing.
If she's not better by morning, Jeff decided, I'll have to bring in a doctor.
o O o
In the morning the bedclothes were soaked again. Tracy was still unconscious, but it seemed to Jeff that her breathing was a little easier. He was afraid to let the maid see Tracy; it would lead to too many questions. Instead, he asked the housekeeper for a change of linens and took them inside the room. He washed Tracy's body with a moist towel, changed the sheets on the bed the way he had seen nurses do in hospitals, without disturbing the patient, and covered her up again.
Jeff put a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door and went looking for the nearest pharmacy. He bought aspirin, a thermometer, a sponge, and rubbing alcohol. When he returned to the room, Tracy was still not awake. Jeff took her temperature: 104 degrees. He sponged her body with the cool alcohol, and her fever dropped.
An hour later her temperature was up again. He was going to have to call a doctor. The problem was that the doctor would insist Tracy be taken to a hospital. Questions would be asked. Jeff had no idea whether the police were looking for them, but if they were, they would both be taken into custody. He had to do something. He mashed up four aspirins, placed the powder between Tracy's lips, and gently spooned water into her mouth until she finally swallowed. Once again he bathed her body. After he had finished drying her, it seemed to him that her skin was not as hot as it had been. He checked her pulse once more. It seemed steadier. He put his head to her chest and listened. Was her breathing less congested? He could not be certain. He was sure of only one thing, and he repeated it over and over until it became a litany: "You're going to get well." He kissed her gently on the forehead.
Jeff had not slept in forty-eight hours, and he was exhausted and hollow-eyed. I'll sleep later, he promised himself. I'll close my eyes to rest them a moment.
He slept.
o O o
When Tracy opened her eyes and watched the ceiling slowly come into focus, she had no idea where she was. It took long minutes for awareness to seep into her consciousness. Her body felt battered and sore, and she had the feeling that she had returned from a long, wearying journey. Drowsily, she looked around the unfamiliar room, and her heart suddenly skipped a beat. Jeff was slumped in an armchair near the window, asleep. It was impossible. The last time she had seen him, he had taken the diamonds and left. What was he doing here? And with a sudden, sinking sensation, Tracy knew the answer: She had given him the wrong box--- the box with the fake diamonds--- and Jeff thought she had cheated him. He must have picked her up at the safe house and taken her to wherever this place was.
As she sat up, Jeff stirred and opened his eyes. When he saw Tracy looking at him, a slow, happy grin lit his face.
"Welcome back." There was a note of such intense relief in his voice that Tracy was confused.
"I'm sorry," Tracy said. Her voice was a hoarse whisper. "I gave you the wrong box."
"What?"'
"I mixed up the boxes."
He walked over to her and said gently, "No, Tracy. You gave me the real diamonds. They're on their way to Gunther."
She looked at him in bewilderment. "Then--- why--- why are you here?"
He sat on the edge of the bed. "When you handed me the diamonds, you looked like death. I decided I'd better wait at the airport to make sure you caught your flight. You didn't show up, and I knew you were in trouble. I went to the safe house and found you. I couldn't just let you die there," he said lightly. "It would have been a clue for the police."
She was watching him, puzzled. "Tell me the real reason you came back for me."
"Time to take your temperature," he said briskly.
"Not bad," he told her a few minutes later. "Little over a hundred. You're a wonderful patient."
"Jeff---"
"Trust me," he said. "Hungry?"
Tracy was suddenly ravenous. "Starved."
"Good. I'll bring something in."
o O o
He returned from shopping with a bag full of orange juice, milk, and fresh fruit, and large Dutch broodjes, rolls filled with different kinds of cheese, meat, and fish.
"This seems to be the Dutch version of chicken soup, but it should do the trick. Now, eat slowly."
He helped her sit up, and fed her. He was careful and tender, and Tracy thought, warily, He's after something.
As they were eating, Jeff said, "While I was out, I telephoned Gunther. He received the diamonds. He deposited your share of the money in your Swiss bank account."
She could not keep herself from asking, "Why didn't you keep it all?"
When Jeff answered, his tone was serious. "Because it's time we stopped playing games with each other, Tracy. Okay?"
It was another one of his tricks, of course, but she was too tired to worry about it. "Okay."
"If you'll tell me your sizes," Jeff said, "I'll go out and buy some clothes for you. The Dutch are liberal, but I think if you walked around like that they might be shocked."
Tracy pulled the covers up closer around her, suddenly aware of her nakedness. She had a vague impression of Jeff's undressing her and bathing her. He had risked his own safety to nurse her. Why? She had believed she understood him. I don't understand him at all, Tracy thought. Not at all.
She slept.
o O o
In the afternoon Jeff brought back two suitcases filled with robes and nightgowns, underwear, dresses, and shoes, and a makeup kit and a comb and brush and hair dryer, toothbrushes and toothpaste. He also had purchased several changes of clothes for himself and brought back the International Herald Tribune. On the front page was a story about the diamond hijacking; the police had figured out how it had been committed, but according to the newspaper, the thieves had left no clues.
Jeff said cheerfully, "We're home free! Now all we have to do is get you well."
o O o
It was Daniel Cooper who had suggested that the scarf with the initials TW be kept from the press. "We know," he had told Inspector Trignant, "who it belongs to, but it's not enough evidence for an indictment. Her lawyers would produce every woman in Europe with the same initials and make fools of you."
In Cooper's opinion, the police had already made fools of themselves. God will give her to me.
He sat in the darkness of the small church, on a hard wooden bench, and he prayed: Oh, make her mine, Father. Give her to me to punish so that I may wash myself of my sins. The evil in her spirit shall be exorcised, and her naked body shall bef fagellated.... And he thought about Tracy's naked body in his power and felt himself getting an erection. He hurried from the church in terror that God would see and inflict further punishment on him.
o O o
When Tracy awoke, it was dark. She sat up and turned on the lamp on the bedside table. She was alone. He had gone. A feeling of panic washed over her. She had allowed herself to grow dependent on Jeff, and that had been a stupid mistake. It serves me right, Tracy thought bitterly. "Trust me," Jeff had said, and she had. He had taken care of her only to protect himself, not for any other reason. She had come to believe that he felt something for her. She had wanted to trust him, wanted to feel that she meant something to him. She lay back on her pillow and closed her eyes, thinking, I'm going to miss him. Heaven help me, I'm going to miss him.
God had played a cosmic joke on her. Why did it have to be him? she wondered, but the reason did not matter. She would have to make plans to leave this place as soon as possible, find someplace where she could get well, where she could feel safe. Oh, you bloody fool, she thought. You---
There was the sound of the door opening, and Jeff's voice called out, "Tracy, are you awake? I brought you some books and magazines. I thought you might---" He stopped as he saw the expression on her face. "Hey! Is something wrong?"
"Not now," Tracy whispered. "Not now."
The following morning Tracy's fever was gone.
"I'd like to get out," she said. "Do you think we could go for a walk, Jeff?"
They were a curiosity in the lobby. The couple who owned the hotel were delighted by Tracy's recovery. "Your husband was so wonderful. He insisted on doing everything for you himself. He was so worried. A woman is lucky to have a man who loves her so much."
Tracy looked at Jeff, and she could have sworn he was blushing.
Outside, Tracy said, "They're very sweet."
"Sentimentalists," Jeff retorted.
o O o
Jeff had arranged for a cot to sleep on, placed next to Tracy's bed. As Tracy lay in bed that night, she remembered again how Jeff had taken care of her, tended to her needs, and nursed her and bathed her naked body. She was powerfully aware of his presence. It made her feel protected.
It made her feel nervous.
o O o
Slowly, as Tracy grew stronger, she and Jeff spent more time exploring the quaint little town. They walked to the Alkmaarder Meer, along winding, cobblestone streets that dated from the Middle Ages, and spent hours at the tulip fields on the outskirts of the city. They visited the cheese market and the old weighing house, and went through the municipal museum. To Tracy's surprise, Jeff spoke to the townspeople in Dutch.
"Where did you learn that?" Tracy asked.
"I used to know a Dutch girl."
She was sorry she had asked.
As the days passed Tracy's healthy young body gradually healed itself. When Jeff felt that Tracy was strong enough, he rented bicycles, and they visited the windmills that dotted the countryside. Each day was a lovely holiday, and Tracy wanted it never to end.
Jeff was a constant surprise. He treated Tracy with a concern and tenderness that melted her defenses against him, yet he made no sexual advances. He was an enigma to Tracy. She thought of the beautiful women with whom she had seen him, and she was sure he could have had any of them. Why was he staying by her side in this tiny backwater of the world?
Tracy found herself talking about things she had thought she would never discuss with anyone. She told Jeff about Joe Romano and Tony Orsatti, and about Ernestine Littlechap and Big Bertha and little Amy Brannigan. Jeff was by turns outraged and distressed and sympathetic. Jeff told her about his stepmother and his Uncle Willie and about his carnival days and his marriage to Louise. Tracy had never felt so close to anyone.
Suddenly it was time to leave.
One morning Jeff said, "The police aren't looking for us, Tracy. I think we should be moving on."
Tracy felt a stab of disappointment. "All right. When?"
"Tomorrow."
She nodded. "I'll pack in the morning."
o O o
That night Tracy lay awake, unable to sleep. Jeff's presence seemed to fill the room as never before. This had been an unforgettable period in her life, and it was coming to an end. She looked over at the cot where Jeff lay.
"Are you asleep?" Tracy whispered.
"No..."
"What are you thinking about?"
"Tomorrow. Leaving this place. I'll miss it."
"I'm going to miss you, Jeff." The words were out before she could stop herself.
Jeff sat up slowly and looked at her. "How much?" he asked softly.
"Terribly."
A moment later he was at her bedside. "Tracy---"
"Shhh. Don't talk. Just put your arms around me. Hold me."
It started slowly, a velvet touching and stroking and feeling, a caressing and gentle exploring of the senses. And it began to build and swell in a frenzied, frantic rhythm, until it became a bacchanal, an orgy of pleasure, wild and savage. His hard organ stroked her and pounded her and filled her until she wanted to scream with the unbearable joy. She was at the center of a rainbow. She felt herself being swept up on a tidal wave that lifted her higher and higher, and there was a sudden molten explosion within her, and her whole body began to shudder. Gradually, the tempest subsided. She closed her eyes. She felt Jeff's lips move down her body, down, down to the center of her being, and she was caught up in another fierce wave of blissful sensation.
She pulled Jeff to her and held him close, feeling his heart beat against hers. She strained against him, but still she could not get close enough. She crept to the foot of the bed and touched her lips to his body with soft, tender kisses, moving upward until she felt his hard maleness in her hand. She stroked it softly and slid it into her mouth, and listened to his moans of pleasure. Then Jeff rolled on top of her and was inside her and it began again, more exciting than before, a fountain spilling over with unbearable pleasure, and Tracy thought, Now I know. For the first time, I know. But I must remember that this is just for tonight, a lovely farewell present.
All through the night they made love and talked about everything and nothing, and it was as though some long-locked floodgates had opened for both of them. At dawn, as the canals began to sparkle with the beginning day, Jeff said, "Marry me, Tracy."
She was sure she had misunderstood him, but the words came again, and Tracy knew that it was crazy and impossible, and it could never work, and it was deliriously wonderful, and of course it would work. And she whispered, "Yes. Oh, yes!"
She began to cry, gripped tightly in the safety of his arms. I'll never be lonely again, Tracy thought. We belong to each other. Jeff is a part of all my tomorrows.
Tomorrow had come.
o O o
A long time later Tracy asked, "When did you know, Jeff?"
"When I saw you in that house and I thought you were dying. I was half out of my mind."
"I thought you had run away with the diamonds," Tracy confessed.
He took her in his arms again. "Tracy, what I did in Madrid wasn't for the money. It was for the game--- the challenge. That's why we're both in the business we're in, isn't it? You're given a puzzle that can't possibly be solved, and then you begin to wonder if there isn't some way."
Tracy nodded. "I know. At first it was because I needed the money. And then it became something else; I've given away quite a bit of money. I love matching wits against people who are successful and bright and unscrupulous. I love living on the cutting edge of danger."
After a long silence, Jeff said, "Tracy... how would you feel about giving it up?"
She looked at him, puzzled. "Giving it up? Whys"
"We were each on our own before. Now, everything has changed. I couldn't bear it if anything happened. Why take any more risks? We have all the money we'll ever need. Why don't we consider ourselves retired?"
"What would we do, Jeff?"
He grinned. "We'll think of something."
"Seriously, darling, how would we spend our lives?"
"Doing anything we like, my love. We'll travel, indulge ourselves in hobbies. I've always been fascinated by archaeology. I'd like to go on a dig in Tunisia. I made a promise once to an old friend. We can finance our own digs. We'll travel all over the world."
"It sounds exciting."
"Then what do you say?"
She looked at him for along moment. "If that's what you want," Tracy said softly.
He hugged her and began laughing. "I wonder if we should send a formal announcement to the police?"
Tracy joined in his laughter.
o O o
The churches were older than any Cooper had ever known before. Some dated back to the pagan days, and at times he was not certain whether he was praying to the devil or to God. He sat with bowed head in the ancient Beguine Court Church and in St. Bavokerk and Pieterskerk and the Nieuwekerk at Delft, and each time his prayer was the same: Let me make her suffer as I suffer.
o O o
The telephone call from Gunther Hartog came the next day, while Jeff was out.
"How are you feeling?" Gunther asked.
"I feel wonderful," Tracy assured him.
Gunther had telephoned every day after he had heard what had happened to her. Tracy decided not to tell him the news about Jeff and herself, not yet. She wanted to hug it to herself for a while, take it out and examine it, cherish it.
"Are you and Jeff getting along all right together?"
She smiled. "We're getting along splendidly."
"Would you consider working together again?"
Now she had to tell him. "Gunther... we're... quitting."
There was a momentary silence. "I don't understand."
"Jeff and I are--- as they used to say in the old James Cagney movies--- going straight."
"What? But... why?"
"It was Jeff's idea, and I agreed to it. No more risks."
"Supposing I told you that the jab I have in mind is worth two million dollars to you and there are no risks?"
"I'd laugh a lot, Gunther."
"I'm serious, my dear. You would travel to Amsterdam, which is only an hour from where you are now, and---"
"You'll have to find someone else."
He sighed. "I'm afraid there is no one else who could handle this. Will you at least discuss the possibility with Jeff?"
"All right, but it won't do any good."
"I will call back this evening."
When Jeff returned, Tracy reported the conversation.
"Didn't you tell him we've become law-abiding citizens?"
"Of course, darling, I told him to find someone else."
"But he doesn't want to," Jeff guessed.
"He insisted he needed us. He said there's no risk and that we could pick up two million dollars for a little bit of effort."
"Which means that whatever he has in mind must be guarded like Fort Knox."
"Or the Prado," Tracy said mischievously.
Jeff grinned. "That was really a neat plan, sweetheart. You know, I think that's when I started to fall in love with you."
"I think when you stole my Goya is when I began to hate you."
"Be fair," Jeff admonished. "You started to hate me before that."
"True. What do we tell Gunther?"
"You've already told him. We're not in that line of work anymore."
"Shouldn't we at least find out what he's thinking?"
"Tracy, we agreed that---"
"We're going to Amsterdam anyway, aren't we?"
"Yes, but---"
"Well, while we're there, darling, why don't we just listen to what he has to say?"
Jeff studied her suspiciously. "You want to do it, don't you?"
"Certainly not! But it can't hurt to hear what he has to say...."
o O o
They drove to Amsterdam the following day and checked into the Amstel Hotel. Gunther Hartog flew in from London to meet them.
They managed to sit together, as casual tourists, on a Plas Motor launch cruising the Amstel River.
"I'm delighted that you two are getting married," Gunther said. "My warmest congratulations."
"Thank you, Gunther." Tracy knew that he was sincere.
"I respect your wishes about retiring, but I have come across a situation so unique that I felt I had to call it to your attention. It could be a very rewarding swan song."
"We're listening," Tracy said.
Gunther leaned forward and began talking, his voice low. When he had finished, he said, "Two million dollars if you can pull it off."
"It's impossible," Jeff declared flatly. "Tracy---"
But Tracy was not listening. She was busily figuring out how it could be done.
o O o
Amsterdam's police headquarters, at the corner of Marnix Straat and Elandsgracht, is a gracious old five-story, brownbrick building with a long white-stucco corridor on the ground floor and a marble staircase leading to the upper floors. In a meeting room upstairs, the Gemeentepolitie were in conference. There were six Dutch detectives in the room. The lone foreigner was Daniel Cooper.
Inspector Joop van Duren was a giant of a man, larger than life, with a beefy face adorned by a flowing mustache, and a roaring basso voice. He was addressing Toon Willems, the neat, crisp, efficient chief commissioner, head of the city's police force.
"Tracy Whitney arrived in Amsterdam this morning, Chief Commissioner. Interpol is certain she was responsible for the De Beers hijacking. Mr. Cooper, here, feels she has come to Holland to cgmmit another felony."
Chief Commissioner Willems turned to Cooper. "Do you have any proof of this, Mr. Cooper?"
Daniel Cooper did not need proof. He knew Tracy Whitney, body and soul. Of course she was here to carry out a crime, something outrageous,. something beyond the scope of their tiny imaginations. He forced himself to remain calm.
"No proof. That's why she must be caught red-handed."
"And just how do you propose that we do that?"
"By not letting the woman out of our sight."
The use of the pronoun our disturbed the chief commissioner. He had spoken with Inspector Trignant in Paris about Cooper. He's obnoxious, but he knows what he's about. If we had listened to him, we would have caught the Whitney woman red-handed. It was the same phrase Cooper had just used.
Toon Willems made his decision, and it was based partly on the well-publicized failure of the French police to apprehend the hijackers of the De Beers diamonds. Where the French police had failed, the Dutch police would succeed.
"Very well," the chief commissioner said. "If the lady has come to Holland to test the efficiency of our police force, we shall accommodate her." He turned to Inspector van Duren. "Take whatever measures you think necessary."
o O o
The city of Amsterdam is divided into six police districts, with each district responsible for its own territory. On orders from Inspector Joop van Duren, the boundaries were ignored, and detectives from different districts were assigned to surveillance teams. "I want her watched twenty-four hours a day. Don't let her out of your sight."
Inspector van Duren turned to Daniel Cooper. "Well, Mr. Cooper, are you satisfied?"
"Not until we have her."
"We will," the inspector assured him. "You see, Mr. Cooper, we pride ourselves on having the best police force in the world."
o O o
Amsterdam is a tourist's paradise, a city of windmills and dams and row upon row of gabled houses leaning crazily against one another along a network of tree-lined canals filled with houseboats decorated by boxes of geraniums and plants, and laundry flying in the breeze. The Dutch were the friendliest people Tracy had ever met.
"They all seem so happy," Tracy said.
"Remember, they're the original flower people. Tulips."
Tracy laughed and took Jeff's arm. She felt such joy in being with him. He's so wonderful. And Jeff was looking at her and thinking, I'm the luckiest fellow in the world.
Tracy and Jeff did all the usual sightseeing things tourists do. They strolled along Albert Cuyp Straat, the open-air market that stretches block after block and is filled with stands of antiques, fruits and vegetables, flowers, and clothing, and wandered through Dam Square, where young people gathered to listen to itinerant singers and punk bands. They visited Volendam, the old picturesque fishing village on the Zuider Zee, and Madurodam, Holland in miniature. As they drove past the bustling Schiphol Airport, Jeff said, "Not long ago, all that land the airport stands on was the North Sea. Schiphol means 'cemetery of ships.' "
Tracy nestled closer to him. "I'm impressed. It's nice to be in love with such a smart fellow."
"You ain't heard nothin' yet. Twenty-five percent of the Netherlands is reclaimed land. The whole country is sixteen feet below sea level."
"Sounds scary."
"Not to worry. We're perfectly safe as long as that little kid keeps his finger in the dyke."
Everywhere Tracy and Jeff went, they were followed by the Gemeetepolitie, and each evening Daniel Cooper studied the written reports submitted to Inspector van Duren. There was nothing unusual in them, but Cooper's suspicions were not allayed. She's up to something, he told himself, something big. I wonder if she knows she's being followed? I wonder if she knows I'm going to destroy her?
As far as the detectives could see, Tracy Whitney and Jeff Stevens were merely tourists.
Inspector van Duren said to Cooper, "Isn't it possible you're wrong? They could be in Holland just to have a good time."
"No," Cooper said stubbornly. "I'm not wrong. Stay with her." He had an ominous feeling that time was running out, that if Tracy Whitney did not make a move soon, the police surveillance would be called off again. That could not be allowed to happen. He joined the detectives who were keeping Tracy under observation.
o O o
Tracy and Jeff had connecting rooms at the Amstel. "For the sake of respectability," Jeff had told Tracy, "but I won't let you get far from me."
"Promise?"
Each night Jeff stayed with her until early dawn, and they made love far into the night. He was a protean lover, by turns tender and considerate, wild and feral.
"It's the first time," Tracy whispered, "that I've really known what my body was for. Thank you, my love."
"The pleasure's all mine."
"Only half."
They roamed the city in an apparently aimless manner. They had lunch at the Excelsior in the Hôtel de l'Europe and dinner at the Bowedery, and ate all twenty-two courses served at the Indonesian Bali. They had erwtensoep, Holland's famous pea soup; sampled kutspot, potatoes, carrots, and onions; and boerenkool met worst, made from thirteen vegetables and smoked sausage. They walked through the walletjes, the redlight district of Amsterdam, where fat, kimono-clad whores sat on the street windows displaying their ample wares; each evening the written report submitted to Inspector Joop van Duren ended with the same note: Nothing suspicious.
Patience, Daniel Cooper told himself. Patience.
At the urging of Cooper, Inspector van Duren went to Chief Commissioner Willems to ask permission to place electronic eavesdropping devices in the hotel rooms of the two suspects. Permission was denied.
"When you have more substantial grounds for your suspicions," the chief commissioner said, "come back to me. Until then, I cannot permit you to eavesdrop on people who are so far guilty only of touring Holland."
o O o
That conversation had taken place on Friday. On Monday morning Tracy and Jeff went to Paulus Potter Straat in Coster, the diamond center of Amsterdam, to visit the Nederlands Diamond-Cutting Factory. Daniel Cooper was a part of the surveillance team. The factory was crowded with tourists. An English-speaking guide conducted them around the factory, explaining each operation in the cutting process, and at the end of the tour led the group to a large display room, where showcases filled with a variety of diamonds for sale lined the walls. This of course was the ultimate reason visitors were given a tour of the factory. In the center of the room stood a glass case dramatically mounted on a tall, black pedestal, and inside the case was the most exquisite diamond Tracy had ever seen.
The guide announced proudly, "And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the famous Lucullan diamond you have all read about. It was once purchased by a stage actor for his movie star wife and is valued at ten million dollars. It is a perfect stone, one of the finest diamonds in the world."
"That must be quite a target for jewel thieves," Jeff said aloud.
Daniel Cooper moved forward so he could hear better.
The guide smiled indulgently. "Nee, mijnheer." He nodded toward the armed guard standing near the exhibit. "This stone is more closely guarded than the jewels in the Tower of London. There is no danger. If anyone touches that glass case, an alarm rings--- en onmiddellijk!--- and every window and door in this room is instantly sealed off. At night electronic beams are on, and if someone enters the room, an alarm sounds at police headquarters."
Jeff looked at Tracy and said, "I guess no one's ever going to steal that diamond."
Cooper exchanged a look with one of the detectives. That afternoon Inspector van Duren was given a report of the conversation.
o O o
The following day Tracy and Jeff visited the Rijksmuseum. At the entrance, Jeff purchased a directory plan of the museum, and he and Tracy passed through the main hall to the Gallery of Honor, filled with Fra Angelicos, Murillos, Rubenses, Van Dycks, and Tiepolos. They moved slowly, pausing in front of each painting, and then walked into the Night Watch Room, where Rembrandt's most famous painting hung. There they stayed. And the attractive Constable First-Class Fien Hauer, who was following them, thought to herself, Oh, my God!
The official title of the painting is The Company of Captain Franc Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch, and it portrays, with extraordinary clarity and composition, a group of soldiers preparing to go on their watch, under the command of their colorfully uniformed captain. The area around the portrait was roped off with velvet cords, and a guard stood nearby.
"It's hard to believe," Jeff told Tracy, "but Rembrandt caught hell for this painting."
"But why? It's fantastic."
"His patron--- the captain in the painting--- didn't like the attention Rembrandt paid to the other figures." Jeff turned to the guard. "I hope this is well protected."
"Ja, mijnheer. Anyone who tries to steal anything from this museum would have to get by electronic beams, security cameras, and, at night, two guards with patrol dogs."
Jeff smiled easily. "I guess this painting is going to stay here forever."
Late that afternoon the exchange was reported to Van Duren. "The Night Watch!" he exclaimed. "Alstublieft, impossible!"
Daniel Cooper merely blinked at him with his wild, myopic eyes.
o O o
At the Amsterdam Convention Center, there was a meeting of philatelists, and Tracy and Jeff were among the first to arrive. The hall was heavily guarded, for many of the stamps were priceless. Cooper and a Dutch detective watched as the two visitors wandered through the rare-stamp collection. Tracy and Jeff paused in front of the British Guiana, an unattractive magenta, six-sided stamp.
"What an ugly stamp," Tracy observed.
"Don't knock it, darling. It's the only stamp of its kind in the world."
"What's it worth?"
"One million dollars."
The attendant nodded. "That is correct, sir. Most people would have no idea, just looking at it. But I see that you, sir, love these stamps, as I do. The history of the world is in them."
Tracy and Jeff moved on to the next case and looked at an Inverted Jenny stamp that portrayed an airplane flying upside down.
"That's an interesting one," Tracy said.
The attendant guarding the stamp case said, "It's worth---"
"Seventy-five thousand dollars," Jeff remarked.
"Yes, sir. Exactly."
They moved on to a Hawaiian Missionary two-cent blue.
"That's worth a quarter of a million dollars," Jeff told Tracy.
Cooper was following closely behind them now, mingling with the crowd.
Jeff pointed to another stamp. "Here's a rare one. The one-pence Mauritius post office. Instead of 'postpaid,' some daydreaming engraver printed 'post office.' It's worth a lot of pence today."
"They all seem so small and vulnerable," Tracy said, "and so easy to walk away with."
The guard at the counter smiled. "A thief wouldn't get very far, miss. The cases are all electronically wired, and armed guards patrol the convention center day and night."
"That's a great relief," Jeff said earnestly. "One can't be too careful these days, can one?"
That afternoon Daniel Cooper and Inspector Joop van Duren called on Chief Commissioner Willems together. Van Duren placed the surveillance reports on the commissioner's desk and waited.
"There's nothing definite here," the chief commissioner finally said, "but I'll admit that your suspects seem to be sniffing around some very lucrative targets. All right, Inspector. Go ahead. You have official permission to place listening devices in their hotel rooms."
Daniel Cooper was elated. There would be no more privacy for Tracy Whitney. From this point on, he would know everything she was thinking, saying, and doing. He thought about Tracy and Jeff together in bed, and remembered the feel of Tracy's underwear against his cheek. So soft, so sweet-smelling.
That afternoon he went to church.
o O o
When Tracy and Jeff left the hotel for dinner that evening, a team of police technicians went to work, planting tiny wireless transmitters in Tracy's and Jeff's suites, concealing them behind pictures, in lamps, and under bedside tables.
Inspector Joop van Duren had commandeered the suite on the floor directly above, and there a technician installed a radio receiver with an antenna and plugged in a recorder.
"It's voice activated," the technician explained. "No one has to be here to monitor it. When someone speaks, it wi automatically begin to record."
But Daniel Cooper wanted to be there. He had to be then It was God's will.
If Tomorrow Comes If Tomorrow Comes - Sidney Sheldon If Tomorrow Comes