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unhappy?"

"If that 'friend' is who I think you mean, he's not someone either of
us wants to see unhappy, do we?" He sipped solemnly at his beer.

"Speak for yourself," Vance replied, and drank again. "But to continue,
what if this hypothetical guy had decided to try and simplify the
situation, get news back to Tokyo about a way to solve everybody's
problem? Then he'd need an information conduit. One that's tried and
true."

Nogami reached for a tray of peanuts, took a small handful and shook
them in his fist before popping one into his mouth. He chewed for a
second, then smiled. "One way might be to have a drink with an old,
shall we say, acquaintance, in hopes he might be able to help with some
communication."

"Sounds like we're making headway here." He paused. "Say this
hypothetical guy wants to talk a deal."

"What sort of deal?" Nogami chewed on more peanuts, his eyes
noncommittal.

"For instance, if Tokyo'll lay off, he'll see what he can do about some
laundered funds our friend's been waiting for. He's in a position to
make it happen. But if they keep on with the muscle, the deal's off. In
other words, no play, no pay."

"Supposing I know the individual in Tokyo you mean, as things stand now
you've quite possibly come to the wrong man." He sighed. "This isn't
the old days, my friend. I'm not wired in like I used to be. Times have
changed, thank God. I'm out. I run an honest merchant bank, at least as
honest as you can in this new day and age. And I like it that way."

"Ken, don't start the runaround." Vance tried to keep his tone easy.
"You're not talking to some bank examiner now. In Japan connections
last forever. We both know that."

"You were never more correct." Nogami examined his lager. "Obligations
remain, even though influence wanes. Which is, in fact, one of the
reasons I wanted to see you today. Michael, if I do you this favor,
could you perhaps do one for me in return?"

"Is it legit?"

"I suppose that depends," he laughed. "Look, of course I'd be more than
happy to send a secure telex, if that's all you want. Heaven knows I
owe you that much." He paused to sip from his mug. "But I'll sound
rather a fool if I don't know the first thing about the situation.
Can't you at least give me some idea?"

"Tokyo'll understand. And the less you know, the better for everybody."

"All right. But my position right now is . . . well, I may not be able
to help as much as I'd like."

"I don't like the sound of that."

"It's the problem I mentioned to you. That 'individual' is calling in
favors with me now, not the other way around. So this could be a trifle
awkward, if you see what I mean."

"Ken, have you forgot I took care of you once? Remember the Toshiba
milling-machine sale to the Soviets? All the posturing back in the
U.S.? It could have been a lot worse for your team politically.
Afterwards you said you owed me one."

"Yes, and I still appreciate what you did, tipping me off about the
French, the fact they'd already sold such machines to the Soviets years
ago. It helped us dampen the fires of moral indignation on Capitol
Hill." He took another sip. "I got a lot of points with the right
people in the LDP."

"I just got fed up with all the bullshit. No harm done." He leaned
back. "But now it's your turn."

"Fair enough." He gazed around the crowded, smoke- filled pub.
"Michael, I don't know if we really should be talking here. Care to
take a walk, down to the Thames? Get a bit of air. Maybe hope for some
sunshine?"

"All right." Vance tossed down a five-pound note and reached for his
overcoat, draped across the stool next to them. "Weather's nice. At
least for London."

Nogami nodded as they pushed through the crowded doorway and into the
street. "Don't say what you're thinking. Don't say you can't imagine
why I moved here."

"Never crossed my mind." Vance took a breath of the fresh air,
expelling the residual smoke from his lungs. The lunchtime mob elbowed
them from every side.

"You know the reason as well as I do. It's all part of our overall
strategy. Japan is a world player now, Michael. I'm part of the
vanguard that's going to do to financial services worldwide what we did
to semiconductors and electronics. You just watch and see."

"I already believe it." He did. Japan's dominance of the world money
scene was just a matter of time.

They navigated their way through the midday throng. On every side
lunchtime shoppers were munching sandwiches, lining up for knick-knacks
to take back to the office. They strolled past the rear of the tubular-
steel Lloyds building, then headed down a cobblestone side street to-
ward the river.

"But we had to come here and buy our base in order to be part of the
financial game in Europe," Nogami continued, not missing a beat. "We
expect to be major players before long."

"I'd say you're already one. When the Plaza Accord sliced the greenback
in half, it doubled the value of Japan's bankroll. Every yen you had
was suddenly worth twice as many dollars, as if by magic."

"We can't complain." He paused to inhale the gray, heavy air. "Of
course the locals here in London are constantly enlisting their 'old
boy' regulators to make up new rules to hamper us, but Tokyo invented
that little ploy. It almost makes this place feel like home."

"Word is you play all the games. I hear Westminster Union now handles
more Eurodollar deals than anybody."

"We pull our weight." He smiled and dodged a red double-decker bus as
they crossed Lower Thames Street. "You name a major currency, we'll
underwrite the debt offering."

"Lots of action."

"There is indeed. Sometimes perhaps too much. Which is why I wanted to
talk down here, by the river. Shall we stroll out onto London Bridge?"

"Sounds good."

Spread before them now was the muddy, gray expanse of London's timeless
waterway. Shakespeare had gazed on it. Handel had written music to
accompany fireworks shot over it. Today a few tugs were moving slowly
up the center channel, and a sightseeing boat was headed down to
Greenwich. Cranes of the new Docklands development loomed over the
horizon downriver.

"So what's the problem?" Vance turned to study his face. There was
worry there, and pain.

"Michael, that 'individual' you spoke of. He has, in the famous phrase,
'made me an offer I can't refuse.' He wants me to handle a debt issue,
corporate debentures, bigger than anything this town has ever seen.
Anything Europe has ever seen."

"You should be ordering champagne."

"Not this time." He turned back to study the river. "The whole thing
stinks."

"Who're the players?"

"It's supposedly to raise capital for the Mino Industries Group. I've
been 'asked' to underwrite the bonds, then unload them with minimal
fanfare and keep a low profile." He looked back. "But it's almost
fraud, Michael. I don't think there's anything behind them at all.
Nothing. The beneficiaries are just phony Mino Industries shadow corpo-
rations. Only nobody will know it. You see, the bonds are zero-coupons,
paying no interest till they mature ten years from now. So it will be a
full decade before the buyers find out they've acquired paper with no
backing."

"Won't be the first time the sheep got sheared by a hustler."

"Michael, I'm not a hustler," he snapped. "And there's more. They're
so-called bearer bonds. Which means there's no record of who holds
them. Just one more trick to keep this thing below the radar."

"Typical. 'Bearer bonds' always sell like hotcakes in high-tax locales
like the Benelux countries. That mythical Belgian dentist can buy them
anonymously and screw the tax man."

"Yes, that's part of what makes Eurocurrency ideal for this, all that
homeless money floating around over here. No government is really
responsible for keeping track of it. In fact, every effort has been
made to ensure that these debentures appeal to greed. Their yield will
float, pegged at two full points above the thirty-year British
government bond, the gilt. As lead underwriter I'll have the main re-
sponsibility, but I'm also supposed to form a syndicate of Japanese
brokerage houses here - Nomura, Daiwa, Sumitomo, the others - to make sure
the offering goes off without a hitch. But that precaution will hardly
be necessary. At those interest rates, they should practically fly out
the door." He sighed. "Which is a good thing, because . . . because,
Michael, the amount I'm being asked to underwrite is a hundred billion
dollars."

"And that's just for the first year, right?"

Nogami looked up, startled. "How did you know?"

"Call it a lucky guess." He took a deep breath. So that's where the
funding stipulated in the protocol was going to come from. European
suckers. My God, he thought, the play is superb.

"Michael, nobody could float an offering like that and have it covered
with real assets. Nobody. Taken all together that's enough money to
capitalize a dozen world-class corporations." He paused. "Of course, I
won't be offering it all at once. The debentures will dribble out over
the period of a year, and then the next year, it starts all over again.
For five years."

"So you're supposed to raise five hundred billion dollars in the
Eurobond market over five years. Not impossible, but it's a tall
order."

"Especially since the ratings will be smoke and mirrors. It is, in
effect, an unsecured loan." He looked away, down at the swirling brown
surface of the Thames. "You know what it really means? He wants me to
sell _junk bonds_. And I can't refuse." His voice came close to a
quaver. "Just when I was well into earning the esteem of the European
banking community, I'm suddenly about to become the Drexel Burnham of
Eurobonds. I'll be operating the investment equivalent of a shell
game."

"Ken, why are you telling me all this?" Vance had never seen him this
upset.

"Because I have to find out what this is all about. What the money's
going to be used for."

"I take it the Tokyo _oyabun's_ not talking."

"Michael, no one dares question him. You know that." His voice grew
formal. "It's the Yakuza way."

"Well, you're in London now. A free man."

"It's not that simple. You may not know - it's a very well-kept secret -
that he capitalized my takeover of the Westminster Union Bank here. He
put together a consortium of private financiers for me. A lot of the
money was actually his. The whole thing had to be low profile, since
none of our banks dared have its name associated with a hostile
takeover in London. Our institutions are still squeamish about such
things. They all cheered me on in private, but in public they didn't
know anything about it."

"Maybe he had this little return favor in mind all along."

"To tell you the truth, I've since wondered that myself. Anyway, now
he's calling in my obligation. We Japanese call it _giri_. I have to
play. But either way I'm ruined. If I do it, I'll become a pariah in
the European banking community. If I don't . . . well, the consequences
are almost unthinkable."

"Ken, I don't know how to say this, but there's a chance this whole
scenario is bigger than anything you can imagine."

Nogami turned to stare. "What do you know?"

"Let's just say I hear things. But first we need to strike our deal."

"Of course. As I said, I'll send a telex, from my secure trading room,
for what good it may do. But you've got to help me too. Please." He
turned back to the river. "You know, Michael, I like my life here. More
and more. Even given all that's going on here these days, the pace is
still much more civilized than Tokyo. For all our prosperity back home,
I think we've traded something very valuable. Call it our soul perhaps.
Here I feel almost free from the old days, part of a real, legitimate
world. I hated all the money laundering, the shady deals. These days I
can look myself in the face."

"I was temporarily changing professions myself, until about a week ago.
Then this problem came up." He waved to a pleasure boat slowly motoring
up the river. It was only a thirty footer, but the lines reminded him
of the _Ulysses_. It made him suddenly homesick for real sunshine and
real air.

"Michael, what's going on? We need to work together."

"I'll just say this. I think the godfather's got a big surprise
cooking. Maybe we're both caught in the middle."

He smiled. "If that's true, we can help each other out. Though I can't
push too hard." He took a deep breath and gazed at the murky London
sky. "But still . . . I'll tell you the truth. I'm very seriously
thinking I may just refuse to touch the whole thing. Tanzan Mino - yes,
why not name names? He's even made vague threats against my family. The
man has pushed me too far this time. Somewhere it has to end."

"You're a brave man. He still runs some very persuasive muscle. Better
have your life insurance paid up."

"I'm well aware. But I don't want to jeopardize everything I've built
here. My whole new life. So that's why I need you. If you could find
out what's behind all this, I could decide whether I should risk
everything and go ahead with the offering. Or just stand up to him at
last. Otherwise . . ."

"What's the timing?"

"I have to list the first offering with the Issuing House Association
day after tomorrow. We've already put together the paperwork, just in
case."

"Pretty tight."

"Michael, I'll see what I can do about your problem. And if there's
anything else, you know I'll try my best."

"Depending on whether my message gets through, I could be needing
somebody to handle some cash. A reasonably substantial sum. Maybe as
part of our little quid pro quo you could arrange it."

"Is this money . . .?" He paused awkwardly. "Well, you understand my
question."

"It's laundered. Clean as a hound's tooth."

"Where is it now?"

"Don't worry," Vance smiled. "It's liquid."

"And the sum?"

"Hang on to your bowler hat. It's around a hundred million U.S."

"Is that all?" he laughed. "That figure is barely a blip on the screen
these days. For a minute there I thought you were talking real money."

"Seems a reasonably substantial sum."

"It's scarcely more than walking-around money in our business, as you
well know. Over two hundred billion passes through the foreign exchange
markets every day, a large amount of it right here in London."

"Well, there could be a small complication, if the KGB gets into the
action."

"KGB?" He pulled up sharply. "What in bloody hell do they - ?"

"It's a long story."

"But why would Soviet intelligence be involved? They're supposed to be
keeping a lower profile these days."

"Rumor has it they let this one get past them. The money left home
without a passport and now they look like fools for letting it happen."

"I see." He grew silent, then glanced at his watch and pulled his
overcoat tighter. "Well, perhaps I should send that cable now. Before
Tokyo tucks in for the night."

"The sooner the better."

"And the matter of concern to me?"

"Let me think it over." Vance spoke slowly. "But in the meantime, I'd
strongly advise you to hold off with the offering."

"You're not telling me what you know. Is that fair?"

"No. But who said the world's got to be fair? There's a play about to
go down. I know about part of it, not all. But before I'm through,
well, let's just say that when somebody starts using muscle on me, I
sort of lose my sense of proportion."

"Is it that bad?" His stare carried alarm. "What am I supposed to do?"

"Sit tight on the offering. Don't say yes or no, just find a way to
postpone it. And send that telex. I'll dictate it for you. After that,
you can reach me at my hotel. Strand Palace."

"The Strand Palace? Michael, you?" He smiled. "Hardly up to your usual
standards."

"I don't do as much freelance these days as I used to. So I have to
learn to live closer to my means."

"I'll believe that when I see it," he said with a laugh. "You're not
telling me the truth. About anything."

"You're right. And it's for your own good. You just stall on the
offering and let me play this my way. If things aren't straightened out
in a day, two tops, we're both in a lot of trouble."

"Two days?"

"It has to happen by then. Too much is going on."

"Now you're really starting to make me alarmed."

"You should be."

Because if this isn't settled in two days, he thought, somebody's
probably going to be dead.





















CHAPTER ELEVEN



Monday 8:05 P.M.



She checked her watch, then took a last look around the spacious
room. It was time. Her bag lay on the bed, packed and waiting to be
sent later. The part of her luggage that mattered was the vinyl flight
bag by the door, containing the Zenith.

With a sigh she rose, threw on her light tan raincoat, and grabbed the
bag. This was the part she'd been dreading, and she'd done her best to
try and look inconspicuous - a dressy beige outfit and a few silver
accessories. She'd also washed her hair, which always made her feel
better.

The carpeted hallway was clear as she closed the door, tugged to be
certain it was secure, then took a deep breath, turned, and headed
toward the elevator. She hadn't been outside the room for almost
twenty-four hours. This, she told herself, must be what house arrest
feels like.

It was about to be over. All she had to do now was make her way through
the Savoy lobby, walk diagonally across the Strand, then through
another lobby, another elevator, and she'd be with Michael.

The more she allowed herself to think about the whole situation, the
angrier she got, at all the bean-counters at NSA who wouldn't listen to
her, at the entire American intelligence establishment. How could
everybody have missed what was happening?

Maybe, she thought, the air outside would help cool her off. She
definitely needed to get out of the Savoy, if only to counter the
claustrophobia. Stretch your legs, sweetheart, and think.

The elevator chimed and the doors slid open. The crisp, shiny,
expensive fashions greeted her, the iridescence of diamonds; the night
people of London were headed out for dinner and the clubs. A cross
section of the jet set and the bored rich. Nobody seemed to be having
fun.

She looked at them as she stepped in, wondering what they would think
if they knew what was in her vinyl bag. Michael used to say the only
thing people like these were interested in was impressing headwaiters.
He was probably dead right.

The LOBBY light flashed above the doors, and they slid open to reveal
muted wood paneling, English antiques, and sparkling mirrors. Gray-
suited bellboys carrying baggage and opening elevator doors mingled
with the bustling evening throng. It was a world unto itself.

Not pausing, she strode past the pink marble columns and glowing
chandeliers, then headed for the glassed entrance. Outside, the traffic
on the Strand, the glitter of London at night, all of it beckoned.

Being in Crete again had really made her think, about a lot of things.
Mostly though, she'd thought about Michael Vance, Jr. Ex-archaeologist,
ex-spook, ex- . . . God knew what. Still, she'd seen plenty worse . . .
the paunchy assistant-this and vice-that, all divorced and paying
alimony and whining. But in this man-short time, with hungry divorcees
flocking the bars, they didn't have to bother keeping up appearances.
Middle-aged decay was their inalienable right. Mike, whatever else you
said about him, still looked as good as he had a decade ago. He was
showing some mileage, sure, but on him it didn't look half bad. Maybe
it was the tequila.

Could they start over again, that new beginning he'd hinted about?
Maybe it was at least worth a try.

She moved on through the milling mob in the lobby, trying to be casual,
to blend. He'd said she should get out of the Savoy as soon as
possible, just send her things and move in with him. But why didn't he
come over and stay with her? she'd asked. The Savoy was more romantic,
more like the old days. That's when he'd abruptly switched the subject,
saying they couldn't discuss it on the phone.

Probably he had something working. Well, she had a few surprises too.
She'd spent the day hacking away at the protocol, and she'd learned a
lot more. It was even worse than she'd imagined.

As she pushed through the revolving doors and into the driveway, the
clack-clack of London taxi motors and the rush of cold air brought back
all the adrenaline of that moment in Iraklion when she had first seen
Alex.

She grasped the flight bag more firmly and moved on down the left-hand
sidewalk, past the National Westminster Bank at the corner and toward
the street. Almost there. Just across waited the Strand Palace and
safety.

In her rush, she'd missed an important event. Mingled in among the
lobby crowd was a couple she'd failed to notice. They'd been over on
her left, by the desk. The man, in a rumpled brown jacket, was haggard,
with bloodshot eyes. His beard was untrimmed, but it did disguise the
bruises on his face. Unseen by Eva he'd suddenly raised his hand and
pointed at her. Nor did she see the woman with him - dark coiffure,
elegant makeup, Oscar de la Renta cocktail dress - though she wouldn't
have recognized her in any case.

Only moments after Eva Borodin walked up the Savoy driveway, the woman
was speaking into the radio she'd had in her shiny evening purse.



Monday 8:08 P.M.



He glanced at his watch, then looked out his smudgy hotel window and
down at the Strand. Two more minutes and there should be a knock on the
door.

Would she believe him? That he'd set up the play? Maybe he couldn't
quite believe it himself, but still, they had the biggest share of
poker chips now. They were about to take control of the game.

It was almost, almost time to relax.

Then he saw her, moving briskly across the Strand while furtively
looking left and right. Good. After he watched her disappear into the
lobby down below, he turned back from the window and walked to the bar.
Time to crack open the Sauza Tres Generaciones, Tequila Anejo - Mexico's
well-aged contribution to the well-being of all humankind. Hard enough
to come by anywhere, it was virtually unobtainable here in London, but
his search had succeeded. He lifted it out of its tan box, admiring the
coal black bottle, then gave the cork a twist and sniffed the
fragrance, fresh as nectar, before settling it back on the bar. Next he
removed a bottle of rare Stolichnaya Starka vodka from the freezer and
stationed it beside the Sauza. This, he knew, was Eva's favorite, made
with water from the Niva River and flavored with pear leaves and
Crimean apples as well as a touch of brandy and a dash of port.

A few moments later he heard a light knock on the door, and with a
feeling of relief he stepped over.

"Michael," the voice was a muted whisper, "hurry."

He swung it inward and there she was. Without a word she moved into his
arms.

"Are you okay?" He touched her face, then lifted her lips to his. They
were cold, tight.

"Yes. I . . . I think so. God, what a day. I kept wanting to call you,
darling."

"I was out."

"I assumed that. I can't wait to show you my translation."

"Hey, slow down." He kissed her again. "Let's have a celebration drink
first. Just you and me."

"Michael, don't talk nonsense. We've got to think."

"I got a bottle of your native wine, a little Tequila Anejo for me.
Never hurt the mental processes. Come on, what do you say?" He turned
and headed for the bar.

She was unzipping the vinyl flight bag. "How can you . . .?" Then she
caught herself and laughed. "It better be frozen, Like ice-cold syrup."

"Cold as Siberia. It should go down well with the latest news item.
We've now got a deal on the table with Tokyo."

"What kind of deal?" She glanced over.

"I told them if they'll call off the gorillas, I'll see about
lightening up their money problems. The Alex Novosty imbroglio."

"You're not really going to do it?"

He laughed. "What do you think?"

"Darling, whatever you're planning, it's not going to stop them."

"Why don't we wait and see?"

"I've seen enough already."

"Stay mellow." He was handing her a tall, thin glass of clear liquid,
already frosting on the sides. "Make any progress on the protocol?"

"Nobody in the world is going to believe it. This is just too big. I
almost wonder if a newspaper would touch it, at least until we have
more than we have now." She'd set down her drink and was opening the
flight bag. Out came the Zenith, and moments later a text was on the
screen.

"How much farther did you get?"

"Only another page or so. This is tougher going than I thought. But



Online LibraryThomas HooverProject Daedalus → online text (page 15 of 30)