Chapter Thirty-One: Two Professionals

"Damn that girl!" Rugged Mark Ryder kicked a chair and flung the tabloid newspaper after it. The cheap folding chair fell over with a loud bang, while the big sheets of newsprint fluttered slowly and quietly to the office floor.

"Dear boy, what did you expect?" Emma Cadbury sipped her tea, looking very cool and crisp and professional. "Louise is used to being paid for all sorts of dirty deeds. Why should lying for money be any different from having sex for money?"

"It's not the lying that bothers me," Mark growled. He glanced at the seemingly refined but brutally efficient English agent who had mentored him in all the deadliest forms of espionage. "It's the total lack of gratitude. We got her out of France, we saved her life when every terrorist in Paris was after her. We brought her safely to England, gave her a new start, introduced her to her new husband . . . and in return she gives an interview to the gutter press saying I'm some sort of sex-crazed American loser who has to kidnap girls in order to get any romance at all!"

"It seems to me you're taking all this a bit too personally," Emma said quietly. The veteran agent with the aristocratic manner and silver-blonde hair gave her flushed and agitated American partner a knowing look. "Perhaps the problem is on your side, Mark. Perhaps you thought all that love-making meant more than it really did. Remember, Louise was a professional prostitute when you first met her."

"This was different," Mark muttered, running his big hands through his rumpled, slightly curly brown hair. "From the very first night we met, Louise and I . . . well, both of us were professionals. But right from that first night it was more than a job. A lot more."

"Right, this is what the job does to us," Emma told him, laying one hand over her heart while being careful not to wrinkle either her elaborate white lace neck cloth or her elegant caramel brown suit. "It makes us cold inside. We have no time for our families, and not a friend in the world we can talk to about our work. Inevitably our emotions come out when we're on the job. You've been working on this case for too long, Mark. Why not forget about Louise for a while? Why not go back to America and take a rest?"

"I don't like it," Mark muttered. "Louise would never have told her story to the tabloids without someone behind the scenes doing a number on her. Someone needs to keep an eye on what's his name, that fat husband of hers. Sir Holland Dozier-Holland! I'll bet he ends up killing her, just like that no-good partner of his tried to do months ago. Look at how she says in the paper that he's sending her off to the Caribbean 'for a long rest'. Is that a set up or what? If you ask me, Sir Holland is just as bad as Sir Gerald Pettibone. That bastard got exactly what he had coming. I'm just sorry Louise had to be the one who pulled the trigger!"

"Yes, well, one can certainly see why the poor girl might see the two of us as the cause of all her misery." Emma Cadbury studied her hulking American partner with amusement before reverting to a warmer, almost motherly tone. "Now Mark, don't make yourself miserable about all of this. Louise has very plainly made her choice. Why not fly back home for a week, and let some other lucky young girl have a chance. With all that athletic American sex appeal, you must have dozens of eager young beauties all lined up - and a few older ones too!"

"Huh?" Mark had been so wrapped up in thoughts of Louise that he hardly noticed how the very attractive older woman was looking at him. Now he suddenly felt Emma's cool gray eyes traveling over his athletic body with appreciation. Something made him blush. "I guess you're right, Emma. I'll get my bag packed and see if I can catch a diplomatic flight back to America."

"That's a good boy," Emma purred. "What you need, darling, is a long rest."

Something seemed funny to Mark Ryder. He was halfway across London before he figured out what it was. Louise talked about being sent away for a long rest in the paper, and Emma Cadbury had just used the exact same words to him. How long had Emma Cadbury and Sir Holland Dozier-Holland known each other? Was something going on between them?

Mark knew what he had to do.