While ambulances were speeding to Dupont Circle and rescue workers were digging through the ghastly mine of bodies in the Metro station, Gilbert Havel walked toward City Hall, two miles away.
At the corner of Fourth and D, beside a sleeping maple tree, Havel paused and opened the envelope he carried and read the note one last time.
Mayor Kennedy --
The end is night. The Digger is loose and their is no way to stop him. He will kill again -- at four, 8 and Midnight if you don't pay.
I am wanting $20 million dollars in cash, which you will put into a bag and leave it two miles south of Rt 66 on the West Side of the Beltway. In the middle of the Field. Pay to me the Money by 1200 hours. Only I am knowing how to stop the Digger. If you apprehend me, he will keep killing. If you kill me, he will keep killing.
If you don't think I'm real, some of the Diggers bullets were painted black. Only I know that.
This was, Havel decided, about as perfect an idea as anybody could've come up with. Months of planning. Every possible response by the police and FBI anticipated. A chess game.
Buoyed by that thought, he replaced the note in the envelope, closed but didn't seal it and continued along the street. Havel walked in a stooped lope, eyes down, a pose meant to diminish his six-two height. It was hard for him, though; he preferred to walk tall and stare people down.
The security at City Hall, One judiciary Square, was ridiculous. No one noticed as he walked past the entrance to the nondescript stone building and paused at a newspaper vending machine. He slipped the envelope under the stand and turned slowly, walking toward E Street.
Warm for New Year's Eve, Havel was thinking. The air smelled like fall -- rotten leaves and humid wood smoke. The scent aroused a pang of undefined nostalgia for his childhood home. He stopped at a pay phone on the corner, dropped in some coins and dialed a number.
A voice answered, "City Hall. Security."
Havel held a tape recorder next to the phone and pressed PLAY. A computer-generated voice said, "Envelope in front of the building. Under the Post vending machine. Read it now. It's about the Metro killings." He hung up and crossed the street, dropping the tape recorder into a paper cup and throwing the cup into a wastebasket.
Havel stepped into a coffee shop and sat down in a window booth, where he had a good view of the vending machine and the side entrance to City Hall. He wanted to make sure the envelope was picked up -- it was, before Havel even had his jacket off. He also wanted to see who'd be coming to advise the mayor. And whether reporters showed up.
The waitress stopped by his booth and he ordered coffee and, though it was still breakfast time, a steak sandwich, the most expensive thing on the menu. Why not? He was about to become a very wealthy man.
Copyright © 1999 by Jeffery Deaver
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