Tom Ley stalked along with Barry and Ray to Central Park—the three of them loosely assembled and fading into other New York pedestrians. Rain doused the city, and her inhabitants accordingly scuttled along with heads bowed under umbrellas and anoraks. Let it fall, Tom mewed.
As he walked, Tom believed foul weather advantageous to their expedition, the success of which depended on anonymity and hiding in plain sight. As Callie had described it, she was scheduled to meet her handlers at the top end of the greenway, in the neighborhood of the North Woods. She averred no specific knowledge of the rendezvous' purpose, but guessed at a small payment and further instructions from those who had bought her and Eifling off. For his part, Ley could not see much point in tailing Callie to the drop, since it needlessly placed him, Barry, and whoever Ray was into potentially direct contact with dangerous individuals. There had to be a better way, Tom argued to an immutable Tommy Craggs. "There isn't, Tom," the editor had stated flatly, "Now get the hell out of here and do this."
Ley turned from under the hood of his slicker and caught Barry's eye. What're you thinking? he asked silently, to which Barry shrugged and nodded up toward Ray. Ahead of them, slinking easily among other pedestrians, Ray was all eyes and ears. Periodically he glanced back at Ley and Petchesky, if only to make sure he hadn't lost the sportswriters. "The first rule of surveillance," Ray had proffered in the elevator, "is to know if you're being surveyed yourself." Tom and Barry had looked at each other equally amused and confused, yet Tom kicked himself now for not requesting at least some introductory tips in that vein. Are they watching us? And who is they?
Before departure, Ray had drawn up a plan of observation for their arrival at Central Park proper. It was here, Ray insisted, that they needed to maintain a not-too-distant triangle of sightlines around Callie, whereby Ray would always be in front of her, Barry to her right, and Tom to her left. That way, according to the ex-CIA man, the three of them could box her in and thus see everyone either exiting or—more importantly—entering the triangle. The geometric approach to surveillance, continued Ray, allowed them to see what was in front, behind, and on either side of their target at all times. "The box," he concluded, "moves invisibly with and around her; there's no better way to perform urban reconnaissance."
At the corner of 97th Street and Columbus Avenue, Ray turned back to Ley and Barry and flashed a triangular signal with his hands. He moved to the south side of Columbus, half-ran down the sidewalk to get in front of Callie, and crossed Central Park West before her. Barry and Tom crossed Central Park West on opposite sides of Columbus and fell in to step along her flanks with perhaps 40 yards between them. The triangle was in place.
Callie moved deliberately, if slowly. Her polka-dotted umbrella provided an easy point of reference, and Ley knew Petchesky's and Ray's black and blue jackets respectively. Periodically, he glanced behind and to his left for counter-surveillance, though he knew not what to look for. Are they watching?
Callie entered the North Woods and stopped. She looked about her, sidled over to a bench, and sat. She retrieved a cigarette from her bag and lit it. I don't recall her smoking, Ley mused, but then again there was much he didn't know about Callie Beusman. The quiet, red-haired, literary type with an inexplicable attraction to Eifling's dopey ass. Eifling, Tom spat, give me five good minutes with Eifling …
A lone, bowler-clad figure appeared across the clearing from Callie, holding a newspaper and blue umbrella. He waved and held up a hand to keep her from standing. That's odd, Tom wondered. He looked across toward Barry's position and froze. Petchesky had disappeared altogether. Stay visible to one another, Ray had said, and Barry was either fucking up badly or being badly fucked up. Ley scanned over to where Ray should have been and saw the mechanic shaking his head, backpedaling, and drawing a hand across his throat. It's over, man, get the hell out of here.
Tom turned to run and felt a clothesline slam him to the grass. He landed hard on his back—his head goddammit—and felt rain in his eyes. Hands from unseen arms grabbed his collar and hauled him to his feet. A similarly disembodied fist delivered the most nauseating punch to the gut Tom had ever felt. He doubled over heaving, only to be relieved by a knee to the bridge of his nose. White-hot pain blasted into his temples and brain stem, voiding any thoughts of self-preservation or defense. Christ, he seethed as blackness closed around him.
In the twilight of awareness, he felt himself hooded, half-dragged, half-carried, and eventually tossed like a rag doll into an idling van. Is this a van? he wondered dumbly. Not one of his assailants had said a word. They were professional, no doubt, and had betrayed not a shred of information about their identity, origin, or aim.
Ley groaned and winced and whimpered as he lay there. He felt the floor vibrate as it gained speed … to where? The thought was fleeting, however, as Tom finally succumbed to the fatigue that always follows a thorough shit-kicking.