Lisa glanced back to him, her eyes more sharply pained. "It's more than the drugs."
Monk sensed this was the first time she admitted this to herself. It was stated with dread and hopelessness. He also saw how much she suffered for it. Her reaction was more than just a concerned doctor or a worried friend. She cared for Painter and plainly struggled to hold her emotions in check, to guard her heart.
Painter appeared in the doorway. He waved Monk over. "I have Kat on the horn."
Monk rose quickly, checked the sky for choppers, and crossed to Painter. He accepted the satellite phone, covered the mouthpiece, and nodded to Dr. Cummings. "Boss, I think the woman could use some company."
Painter rolled his eyes. They were bloodshot, splotchy with hemorrhages in the sclera. He shaded his sore eyes and crossed toward the woman.
Monk watched from the doorway and lifted the phone. "Hey, babe."
"Don't babe me. What the hell are you doing in Africa?"
Monk smiled. Kat's scolding was as welcome as lemonade in the desert. Besides, her question was rhetorical. She had surely been debriefed.
"I thought this was supposed to be a babysitting assignment?" she continued.
Monk merely waited, letting her vent.
"When you get home, I'm locking you…"
She continued for another long, scrambled minute.
Finally, Monk got a word in edgewise. "I miss you, too."
A blustering sound subsided into a sigh. "I heard Gray is still missing."
"He'll be fine," he assured her, while hoping the same.
"Find him, Monk. Do whatever it takes."
Monk appreciated her understanding. He intended to do just that. She asked for no promise of caution. She knew him too well. Still, he heard the tears in her next words.
"I love you."
That was caution enough for any man.
"I love you, too." He lowered his voice and slightly turned away. "Both of you."
"Try to stop me."
Kat sighed again. "Logan is paging me. I must sign off. We've a meeting scheduled for zero seven hundred with an attache at the South African embassy. We'll do what we can to put pressure on from here."
"Give 'em hell, babe."
"We will. Bye, Monk."
"Kat, I—" But the line had disconnected. Damn.
Monk lowered the phone and stared at Lisa and Painter. The two leaned together, talking, but Monk sensed it was more the need to be close than any real communication. He stared down at the phone. At least Kat was safe and sound.
"They were taking me to an internment cell down below," Dr. Marcia Fairfield said. "For further questioning. Something must be worrying them."
The three of them were back up in the room on the first-floor landing. The guard who had manhandled Fiona still lay unconscious on the floor, blood dribbling from his nostrils.
Dr. Fairfield had quickly related her story, how she was ambushed in the field, attacked by the Waalenbergs' pets, dragged away. The Waalenbergs had learned through channels about a possible role she had with UK intelligence. So they staged her kidnapping as a fatal lion attack. Her wounds certainly still looked swollen and raw. "I was able to convince them that my companion, a game warden, had been killed. It was all I could do. Hope he made it back to civilization."
"But what are the Waalenbergs hiding?" Gray asked. "What are they doing?"
The woman shook her head. "Some macabre version of a genetic Manhattan Project. That's as much as I can tell. But I think there is some other scheme in the works. A sideline project. Maybe even an attack. I overheard one of my guards talking. Something about a serum of some sort. Serum 525, I heard them say. I also heard Washington, D.C., mentioned in the same context."
Gray frowned. "Did you hear of any timetable?"
"Not exactly. But from their laughter I got the impression whatever was going to happen would be soon. Very soon."
Gray paced a few steps, knuckling his chin. This serum…maybe it's a biowarfare agent…a pathogen, a virus… He shook his head. He needed more information—and quickly.
"We have to get into those basement labs," he mumbled. "Find out what's going on."
"They were taking me to that internment area," Dr. Fairfield said.
He nodded, understanding. "If I pose as one of your guards, that might be our ticket down there."
"We'd have to hurry," Marcia said. "As it is, they must be wondering what's keeping me."
Gray turned to Fiona, ready for an argument. It would be safest if she stayed hidden in the room, out of sight. It would be hard to justify her presence alongside a prisoner and a guard. It would only arouse suspicion and attention.
"I know! No place for a maid," Fiona said, surprising him yet again. She nudged the guard on the floor with her toe. "I'll keep Casanova here company until you get back."
Despite her brave words, her eyes shone with fear.
"We won't be gone long," he promised.
"You'd better not be."
With the matter settled, Gray grabbed his rifle, waved Dr. Fairfield toward the door, and said, "Let's go."
In short order, Gray marched Marcia at gunpoint into the central elevator. No one accosted them. A card reader restricted access to the subterranean levels. He swiped Ischke's second key card. The lighted buttons for the sublevels changed from red to green.
"Any idea where to start?" Gray asked.
Marcia reached out. "The greater the treasure, the deeper it's buried." She pressed the bottommost number. Seven levels down. The elevator began to descend.
As Gray watched the floors count down, Marcia's words nagged.
An attack. Possibly in Washington.
But what type of attack?
6:41 a.m. EST WASHINGTON, D.C.
Embassy Row was only two miles from the National Mall. Their driver turned onto Massachusetts Avenue and headed toward the South African embassy. Kat rode with Logan in the backseat, comparing final notes. The sun had just risen, and the embassy appeared ahead.
Its four stories of Indiana limestone shone brilliantly in the morning sunlight, highlighting its gables and dormers typical of the Cape Dutch style. The driver pulled up to the residence wing of the embassy. The ambassador had agreed to meet them in his private study at this early hour. It seemed any issues concerning the Waalenbergs were best dealt with out of the public's eye.
Which was fine with Kat.
She had a pistol in an ankle holster.
Kat climbed out and waited for Logan. Four fluted pilasters supported a carved parapet with the South African coat of arms. Beneath it, a doorman noted their arrival and opened the glazed front door.