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...8:56 P.M., PST...

He was running barefoot on the carpet. It sounded as if the elevator was going up, and at the least, Leland wanted to be sure of that much.

Here on the thirty-third floor the elevator bank was lit as though for business hours. He had no problem hearing the elevator, and he got his ear to the door just in time to hear the door of the car rumble open high overhead.

Forty stories. Seven flights to the top. Figuring ten feet to each floor, seventy feet. Four hundred feet from the street to the top of the building. He was in good condition, he thought; he did ten minutes of sit-ups every morning, and made sure he walked as much as possible, all the year around. He hadn't smoked since he quit drinking. What he knew for a fact about the fortieth floor was that Rivers's office was up there and the other top executives' offices, too, presumably.

He was in the northwest stairwell again, figuring he would hear the elevator if it started back down. At every floor, he stopped and made a note of its plan. The more information he could gather, the better. That was the least. What was the most he could do? Free the hostages. He stopped at the thirty-eighth floor, which was another with an open plan, to rest.

He could disrupt them. He could see that they were public before they planned. As the doorman pointed out, there were damned few officers of the LAPD on duty tonight, perhaps as few as two or three hundred over the whole city. SWAT was supposed to be ready on a moment's notice, but the team members had to be called individually. The LAPD would need more than SWAT and a captain for this anyway. Leland knew the procedure: within three hours, a deputy chief would be in charge.

And until that time, assuming that Leland had left the building to notify the police, the hostages would be completely at the mercy of the terrorists. Assuming that his continued presence inside would constitute some kind of pressure.

What couldhe do?

If he waited for the elevator to start downward again, then pressed the call button, the car would stop and the doors would open before the terrorists would know where they were, or that Leland was waiting for them.

Even if there were as few as two of them on board, Leland, with his Browning, would have a less than even chance against their automatic weapons.

Suppose he took them, two of them. And got their weapons. The others would figure out from the wounds that it had been one against two.

They'd know Leland had a pistol, as well.

The less they knew about him, the greater his chances for survival. The longer he'd live.

It occurred to him that his chances were best if he did nothing at all, if he just stepped out of it and let events run their course.

But he coulddisrupt them. He couldget out a signal from inside the building. He couldforce them to direct their attention to him, or whatever they thought he was.

He had that going for him.

And the Browning, with its baker's dozen rounds. They would assume that he was not armed. In fact, the longer he could conceal the existence of the Browning, the bigger it would grow in his arsenal.

At the thirty-ninth floor he stopped to make note of what he had found on the floors below. He had picked the appropriate floor for the storage (and later retrieval) of information. The thirty-ninth contained the Klaxon computer complex, a whole, surgically clean floor of data banks and terminals.

Leland made a little chart, based on observation and deduction.

40 Exec, suitehow lux?

39 Computers

38openall desks

37N: pvt. offices / S: openword processing

36cubicleswalls and half walls



33cubicles and officesTV sets


Valuable information, but none of it was worth a damn if he could not get a message out. Leland could see that he was as good as dead if he thought of this as anything less than war. For instance, these people had had someone working on the inside. They had moved on the signal that the last of the arrivals was safely upstairs. Leland was certain that their overall control of the situation reflected nothing but advance information, even if only from a duped secretary, like the one Leland had overheard in the hall.

And that meant the gang knew who was important, and who wasn't. The question was, how muchdid they know? Leland had to assume the worst.

He went up the rest of the way to the top. The stairwell door opened onto a hall that was narrower than those below, paneled with rosewood, and softly, comfortably carpeted. The lights were on. Leland could hear the hiss of the air conditioning, but nothing more. The floor had to be a maze of outer and inner offices, conference, dining, and board rooms, and probably even a small but fully equipped gymnasium.

Leland did not move. What else?

The model of the bridge.

What else connected with the bridge?

Leland had been assuming that all of them were German, or European. What did a Chilean youngster look like? The military junta ruling Chile was the most repressive in the Americas, as committed to torture and murder as Duvalier of Haiti at his most lunatic.

Now Leland heard an elevator again. He was so close to the roof and the elevator machinery up there that he could tell that it was not the elevator that had stopped on this floor, but another, probably coming up. Another question answered: they had not shut down the elevators yet.

The elevator came all the way up to the top. Leland pushed the door open a little more.

"Wo sind sie?" It was the voice Leland knew.

"Durch diese Turen, ganz da hinten."

Leland's own German was good enough for that: Little Tony wanted to know where "they" were, and he was told to go "all the way to the back." Leland decided to take a chance. He stepped out into the hall and headed in what he thought was the other direction.

The floor was a huge playground of executive privacy and privilege. Leland could see that it was going to be more difficult to find the stairwells on this floor than on those down below.

Leland was on the south side of the building. The president's office, and the chairman's, would be on the north side, out of the direct sun. Given his importance, Rivers's office would be on that side, too. Leland was learning to get his bearings from the lights outside the windows, swimming out from underneath him toward the horizon.

He may have come up a blind alley, Leland realized. He was in a private office, but narrow, small, and windowless, on the inside of the building. The other door was a massive, solid-looking affair. Leland had the Browning out again.

The door was unlocked, the room on the other side unlit. The crack under the door on the far side was as bright as a strip of neon bright enough to let him see that he was in some kind of reading room, with a table and chairs. The corporate law library. Given what he knew about major corporations, Leland could almost calculate the distance in inches to the president's office.

He could hear something on the other side, at a distance, he thought. The doorknob on this side was fitted with a twist lock. He opened the door slowly, and sure enough, the first things he saw were the raised letters on the other side of the door identifying this room as the library.

He was looking down a long corridor it ran the length of the building, almost a block, all the way to Wilshire Boulevard. He had come all the way around the elevator bank. He was almost beginning to feel at home in the building.

He had the door open fully when something made him stop and get back inside. At the end of the corridor, a light came on. Leland's heart was pounding again. He must have seen a shadow, he thought. He was going to have to learn to trust himself. Now two men, one of them Anton Gruber, stepped into view and started talking. They were wearing kit bags slung over their shoulders. Leland held his breath so he could hear them. Still, they were so far away that their voices sounded like they were coming over a telephone on a pillow halfway across a room.

"Besteht eine Moglichkeit, dass er uns helfen wird?"

"Ich glaube nicht. Der weiss doch, dass wir ihn umbringen werden, sobald er uns gibt, was wir wollen."

They were talking about Rivers.

"Ich mag das Toten nicht."

"Je schneller wir ihn umlegen, umso leichter wird uns das Toten in der Zukunft fallen, wenn es notwendig wird. Dieser Mann verdient den Tod. Bring ihn jetzt her und wir erledigen das."

Leland waited a moment, then looked out. The feeling was strange beyond all believing. Through the looking glass. Leland had been thinking it all evening, since when? Gruber had a Walther. He wanted to kill somebody, like a kid that much the briefings had right. He had Rivers in front of him, and Rivers was it. Gruber dusted imaginary lint off Rivers's shoulders. Rivers didn't believe it he didn't exactly know what was going on. Gruber put the muzzle of the Walther on Rivers's lapel and pulled the trigger. Rivers had a split-second of incredulous horror as the shot was fired, and then he was dead, sitting down and sprawling back with a little bounce, like a load of wash.

Now Leland was running for his life.

He stopped when he got to the thirty-fourth floor he wanted a wide-open floor. Through the looking glass, like it or not. The city floated out below him, serene and twinkling on Christmas Eve, with Rivers dead on the fortieth floor, his heart looking like a piece of stew beef. The shock, they said, stunned you senseless before you hit the floor. Hunters said that. A deer hit the ground as if it had been thrown off a truck.

Through the looking glass: he had thought it first in St. Louis, at Lambert Field succumbing to the snow. Officer Lopez, who should have been in Los Angeles. Leland hadn't found the marshal on the airplane, just Kathi Logan. He'd wanted to get back on the plane. You never listened to yourself.

Leland had seen it on Rivers's face. He'd had a fraction of a second to realize what was going to be done to him. After Rivers was Ellis, then Stephanie. What Ellis was worth depended on how long it took him to realize that Rivers was dead. Ellis couldn't help them upstairs anyway: his office and presumably his authority was on the thirty-second floor.

It was 9:11.

Gruber and friends had been in the building over an hour.

Taking stock, making a plan: Leland couldn't send a signal without expecting to be detected, which meant that he would be drawing one or more of them toward him. Could he make them underestimate him? Then what? If they made one mistake, could he draw them into making another? If he could, would he be able to capitalize on that, too?

And he would be proceeding without knowing if his original signal had gotten out in the first place.

He was trying to devise a strategy that would give him not just the advantage, but the momentum. He knew what all the floors looked like, and if he forgot, he had them noted on his piece of paper, like a college crib sheet.

And if he got past the first step, he would have another means of communication at his disposal not to mention destruction. He wanted to get his hands on one of those Kalashnikovs.

Later for that: now he would settle for a knife.

He wasn't going to find a knife, but, probably in the first desk he opened, a pair of scissors. No flashlight that would be in the basement, or in a supply closet. Every floor had fireaxes. And hoses. He wondered if he could check the pressure. There were other things as well he sensed his imagination warming to the problem. Oh, yes, the looking glass. He had not taken the step. It had been taken for him, on the fortieth floor, by a gladhanding asshole named Rivers.

A pair of scissors. He wanted to cut some electrical wire.

...8:19 P.M., PST... | Nothing Lasts Forever | ...9:27 P.M, PST...