“So what do we do? How do we find him and get him back?”
Harris didn’t answer for so long I wasn’t sure if he’d heard me. “I’m not sure. Number-one priority right now is to get you somewhere safe while I figure out a plan. The problem is, that chateau was supposed to be a safe house. It was purchased through a ridiculously complicated series of fronts and subsidiary companies. If Gina or her father or whoever it was could find you two there? I’m not convinced that any of our preexisting properties are going to be safe. The Karahalios reach is enormous. That man I just disposed of is only one of many. Probably the first one sent after you. There will be more. When he doesn’t report back, more will come. And soon.”
I let a few minutes pass, watching the landscape slide by the window. Eventually I had to ask. “So where are we going now?”
“And then I make some phone calls.”
Harris drove us to Marseilles, and we arrived late in the afternoon. He seemed to have a particular destination in mind, because he wove through the narrow streets without hesitation. He stopped on a street that sloped steeply down toward the sea, parked the Aston Martin and set the handbrake, then popped the trunk and slid out. Harris closed the trunk, my backpack over one shoulder, and jerked his chin at me, indicating that I should follow.
In other circumstances, I would have loved to have taken a few moments to appreciate the beauty of Marseilles. It was the Old World at its finest, ancient buildings rolling low over the hills in their march down to the Mediterranean, bathed in golden sunlight. The sea sparkled cobalt in the distance, white sails dotting the bay. As it was, I spared only a moment, and then I followed Harris through a low, narrow doorway into a dark cafe. There was a short length of bar on one wall, an aged slab of scratched, scarred, pitted, and polished wood with a brass foot-rail underneath running at ankle height. A few small round tables were scattered in a random pattern, each one empty. An old man stood behind the bar, a pipe held to his mouth, billowing sweet-smelling smoke. He had white hair, a neatly trimmed white beard, dark, deep-set eyes, and tanned, weathered skin, the wrinkles on his face etched so deeply that they looked like scars in his skin. His gaze raked over me, assessing me, and then he said something in low, rapid French.
“Just long enough to make some arrangements,” Harris responded in English. “Couple hours, if that. Thanks, Henri.” He pronounced the name the French way, Anhrrrree. The old man nodded, and Harris handed me my backpack, pointed at a stool. “Have a seat, Miss St. Claire.” I sat, and he leaned against the bar beside me. “I’ve got to make some arrangements. See a few people. You’ll stay here with Henri. I won’t be more than an hour or two, hopefully, and then we’ll be on our way.”
“Wait, you’re leaving me here? Alone, with him?” I hated how panicked I sounded. “What if—what if they followed us? Or they find me?”
“God help them, in that case,” Harris said, the ghost of a smirk on his lips.
Henri clamped the pipe between his teeth, puffed a plume of smoke toward the ceiling as he reached under the bar and came up with a massive shotgun. I didn’t know much about guns, but I knew this one wasn’t a typical hunting shotgun. It was long and black, with a single wide-mouthed barrel and a shortened stock, making it resemble a machine gun or assault rifle. Another reach under the counter produced a box of shells, and Henri began calmly inserting them into the shotgun, and then into a series of loops on the side of the weapon. Then he lined up a dozen more shells on the bar top.
“Oh. Oh. Okay.” I swallowed and stared at the wicked-looking weapon.
Henri twitched the corner of his mouth in a flash of a smile. “Safe. No worries.” His accent was so thick the words twisted and curled in on themselves.
“I’ll be back. Just sit tight, okay? Don’t leave Henri’s sight.” Harris moved toward the door, then stopped and turned back to me. “You got a cell phone with you?”
“Yeah, of course.” I lifted my shoulder to indicate the backpack. “In my purse.”
“Turn it off and give it to Henri.” He stood, waiting, and I realized he meant right away.
I slung my bag around to my lap, unzipped it, and dug in my purse for my iPhone. I held the power button and swiped the phone off, then handed it to Henri, who turned and tossed it into the sink, which was full of soapy water.
“Um. All right.” I sighed wistfully.
“Tracking a cellphone is the easiest thing in the world. Most people know this as a kind of abstract fact, having seen it on movies and TV or whatever, and for most people, under most circumstances, it doesn’t matter. You have nothing to hide, no reason to care. But you, in these circumstances? It matters. Karahalios has the resources to track you that way, trust me. Hopefully, he hasn’t already.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess that makes sense.”
Harris left, and I watched him go with a twinge of trepidation. I sat on the bar stool in silence as Henri smoked his pipe, seemingly content to merely wait.
After what felt like half an hour of dead silence, no TV above the bar, no music playing, no conversation, Henri glanced at me. “Drink?”
I shrugged and nodded. “Sure. Thanks.”
Henri twisted in place, grabbed a dusty brown bottle from a shelf and two wine glasses. He uncorked the bottle, and poured a generous measure of deep ruby liquid into each, then slid one glass toward me with a finger. He lifted his glass toward me in a silent toast and took a sip. I matched his toast and drank my own, and felt the rich, slow burn of a dry, expensive merlot.
We drank in silence.
I tried not to think or worry or conjecture. But it was useless. My brain whirled and spun, and the wine, even with as little as I drank, left me heady and loose. I pictured Valentine tied to a chair, being beaten, or tortured. The more I tried to block the image, the more it kept coming back, until it was all I could think about. All I could see, every time I blinked.
Valentine was missing and presumed kidnapped, if Harris was right, by a violent crime lord. And I was sitting in a bar in Marseilles, drinking wine?
An hour passed somehow. Another. So much waiting. I hated waiting. I’d always hated waiting.
Tires squealed outside in the street, brakes protesting, an engine roared. Instantly, Henri was in motion, grabbing me by the sleeve and pulling me around behind the bar, shoving me down into a crouch. His hand on my shoulder, holding me down, was huge and hard, rough as concrete. I could see the shelf underneath the bar, and it was stocked with all kinds of things. A green rotary phone. Several boxes of shotgun shells. A huge silver pistol. A machete. A smaller black pistol, several other boxes full of rounds for the handguns, I assumed, as well as a stack of spare clips, some glinting with rounds, others empty. Bottles of alcohol, a pack of cigarettes, books of matches and ashtrays and a packet of pipe tobacco.