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  "And how had she spent her day?" Ashley inquired. Ryan was certain that they had this information already.
   "Shopping, mainly. Cathy's been over here a few times, and likes to shop in London. She was last here about three years ago for a surgical convention, but I couldn't make the trip."
   "Left you with the little one?" Ashley smiled thinly again. Ryan sensed that Owens was annoyed with him.
   "Grandparents. That was before her mom died. I was doing comps for my doctorate at Georgetown, couldn't get out of it. As it was I got my degree in two and a half years, and I sweated blood that last year between the university and seminars at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. This was supposed to be a vacation." Ryan grimaced. "The first real vacation since our honeymoon."
   "What were you doing when the attack took place?" Owens got things back on track. All three inquisitors seemed to lean forward in their seats.
   "Looking the wrong way. We were talking about what we'd do for dinner when the grenade went off."
   "You knew it was a grenade?" Taylor asked.
   Ryan nodded. "Yeah. They make a distinctive sound. I hate the damned things, but that's one of the little toys the Marines trained me to use at Quantico. Same thing with the machine-gunner. At Quantico we were exposed to East Bloc weapons. I've handled the AK-47. The sound it makes is different from our stuff, and that's a useful thing to know in combat. How come they didn't both have AKs?"
   "As near as we can determine," Owens said, "the man you wounded disabled the car with a rifle-launched antitank grenade. Forensic evidence points to this. His rifle, therefore, was probably one of the new AK-74s, the small-caliber one, fitted to launch grenades. Evidently he didn't have time to remove the grenade-launcher assembly and decided to press on with his pistol. He had a stick grenade also, you know." Jack didn't know about the rifle grenade, but the type of hand grenade he'd seen suddenly leaped out of his memory.
   "The antitank kind?" Ryan asked.
   "You know about that, do you?" Ashley responded.
   "I used to be a Marine, remember? Called the RKG-something, isn't it? Supposed to be able to punch a hole in a light armored vehicle or rip up a truck pretty good." Where the hell did they get those little rascals – and why didn't they use them . . .? You're missing something. Jack.
   "Then what?" Owens asked.
   "First thing, I got my wife and kid down on the deck. The traffic stopped pretty quick. I kept my head up to see what was happening."
   "Why?" Taylor inquired.
   "I don't know," Ryan said slowly. "Training, maybe. I wanted to see what the hell was going on – call it stupid curiosity. I saw the one guy hosing down the Rolls and the other one hustling around the back, like he was trying to bag anyone who tried to jump out of the car. I saw that if I moved to my left I could get closer. I was screened by the stopped cars. All of a sudden I was within fifty feet or so. The AK gunner was screened behind the Rolls, and the pistolero had his back to me. I saw that I had a chance, and I guess I took it."
   "Why?" It was Owens this time, very quiet.
   "Good question. I don't know, I really don't." Ryan was silent for half a minute. "It made me mad. Everyone I've met over here so far has been pretty nice, and all of a sudden I see these two cocksuckers committing murder right the hell in front of me."
   "Did you guess who they were?" Taylor asked.
   "Doesn't take much imagination, does it? That pissed me off, too. I guess that's it – anger. Maybe that's what motivates people in combat," Ryan mused. "I'll have to think about that. Anyway, like I said, I saw the chance and I took it.
   "It was easy – I was very lucky." Owens' eyebrows went up at that understatement. "The guy with the pistol was dumb. He should have checked his back. Instead he just kept looking at his kill zone – very dumb. You always 'check-six.' I blindsided him." Ryan grinned. "My coach would have been proud – I really stuck him good. But I guess I ought to have had my pads on, 'cause the doc says I broke something up here when I hit him. He went down pretty hard. I got his gun and shot him – you want to know why I did that, right?"
   "Yes," Owens replied.
   "I didn't want him to get up."
   "He was unconscious – he didn't wake up for two hours, and had a nasty concussion when he did."
   If I'd known he had that grenade, I wouldn't have shot him in the ass! "How was I supposed to know that?" Ryan asked reasonably. "I was about to go up against somebody with a light machine gun, and I didn't need a bad guy behind me. So I neutralized him. I could have put one through the back of his head – at Quantico when they say 'neutralize,' they mean kill. My dad was the cop. Most of what I know about police procedures comes from watching TV, and I know most of that's wrong. All I knew was that I couldn't afford to have him come at me from behind. I can't say I'm especially proud of it, but at the time it seemed like a good idea.
   "I moved around the right-rear corner of the car and looked around. I saw the guy was using a pistol. Your man Wilson explained that to me – that was lucky, too. I wasn't real crazy about taking an AK on with a dinky little handgun. He saw me come around. We both fired about the same time – I just shot straighter, I guess."
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   Ryan stopped. He hadn't meant it to sound like that. Is that how it was? If you don't know, who does? Ryan had learned that in a crisis, time compresses and dilates – seemingly at the same time. It also fools your memory, doesn't it? What else could I have done? He shook his head.
   "I don't know," he said again. "Maybe I should have tried something else. Maybe I should have said, 'Drop it!' or 'Freeze!' like they do on TV – but there just wasn't time. Everything was right now – him or me – do you know what I mean? You don't . . . you don't reason all this out when you only have half a second of decision time. I guess you go on training and instinct. The only training I've had was in the Green Machine, the Corps, They don't teach you to arrest people – Christ's sake, I didn't want to kill anybody, I just didn't have a hell of a choice in the matter." Ryan paused for a moment.
   "Why didn't he – quit, run away, something! He saw I had him. He must have known I had him cold." Ryan slumped back into the pillow. Having to articulate what had happened brought it back all too vividly. A man is dead because of you. Jack. All the way dead. He had his instincts, too, didn't he? But yours worked better – so why doesn't that make you feel good?
   "Doctor Ryan," Owens said calmly, "we three have personally interviewed six people, all of whom had a clear view of the incident. From what they have told us, you have related the circumstances to us with remarkable clarity. Given the facts of the matter, I – we – do not see that you had any choice at all. It is as certain as such things can possibly be that you did precisely the right thing. And your second shot did not matter, if that is troubling you. Your first went straight through his heart."
   Jack nodded. "Yeah, I could see that. The second shot was completely automatic, like my hand did it without being told. The gun came back down and zap! No thought at all . . . funny how your brain works. It's like one part does the doing and another part does the watching and advising. The 'watching' part saw the first round go right through his ten-ring, but the 'doing' part kept going till he went down. I might have tried to squeeze off another round for all I know, but the gun was empty."
   "The Marines taught you to shoot very well indeed," Taylor observed.
   Ryan shook his head. "Dad taught me when I was a kid. The Corps doesn't make a big deal about pistols anymore – they're just for show. If the bad guys get that close, it's time to leave. I carried a rifle. Anyway, the guy was only fifteen feet away." Owens made some more notes.
   "The car took off a few seconds later. I didn't get much of a look at the driver. It could have been a man or a woman. He or she was white, that's all I can say. The car went whippin' up the street and turned, last I saw of it."
   "It was one of our London taxis – did you notice that?" Taylor asked.
   Ryan blinked. "Oh, you're right. I didn't really think about that – that's dumb! Hell, you have a million of the damned things around. No wonder they used one of those."
   "Eight thousand six hundred seventy-nine, to be exact," Owens said. "Five thousand nine hundred nineteen of which are painted black."
   A light went off in Ryan's head. "Tell me, was this an assassination attempt or were they trying to kidnap them?"
   "We're not sure about that. You might be interested to know that Sinn Fein, the political wing of the PIRA, released a statement completely disowning the incident."
   "You believe that?" Ryan asked. With pain medications still coursing through his system, he didn't quite notice how skillfully Taylor had parried his question.
   "Yes, we are leaning in that direction. Even the Proves aren't this crazy, you know. Something like this has far too high a political price. They learned that much from killing Lord Mountbatten – wasn't even the PIRA who did that, but the INLA, the Irish National Liberation Army. Regardless, it cost them a lot of money from their American sympathizers," Taylor said.
   "I see from the papers that your fellow citizens –"
   "Subjects," Ashley corrected.
   "Whatever, your people are pretty worked up about this."
   "Indeed they are, Doctor Ryan. It is rather remarkable how terrorists can always seem to find a way to shock us, no matter what horrors have gone before," Owens noted. His voice was wholly professional, but Ryan sensed that the chief of Anti-Terrorist Branch was willing to rip the head right off the surviving terrorist with his bare hands. They looked strong enough to do just that. "So what happened next?"
   "I made sure the guy I shot – the second one – was dead. Then I checked the car. The driver – well, you know about that, and the security officer. One of your people, Mr. Owens?"
   "Charlie was a friend of mine. He's been with the Royal Family's security detail for three years now . . . " Owens spoke almost as though the man were still alive, and Ryan wondered if they had ever worked together. Police make especially close friendships, he knew.
   "Well, you guys know the rest. I hope somebody gives that redcoat a pat on the head. Thank God he took the time to think it all out – at least long enough for your guy to show up and calm him down. Would have been embarrassing for everybody if he'd stuck that bayonet out my back."
   Owens grunted agreement. "Indeed it would."
   "Was that rifle loaded?" Ryan asked.
   "If it was," Ashley replied, "why didn't he shoot?"
   "A crowded street isn't the best place to use a high-powered rifle, even if you're sure of your target," Ryan answered. "It was loaded, wasn't it?"
   "We cannot discuss security matters," Owens said.
   I knew it was loaded, Ryan told himself. "Where the hell did he come from, anyway? The Palace is a good ways off."
   "Clarence House – the white building adjoining St. James's Palace. The terrorists picked a bad time – or perhaps a bad place – for their attack. There is a guard post at the southwest corner of the building. The guard changes every two hours. When the attack took place, the change was just under way. That meant that four soldiers were there at the time, not just one. The police on duty at the Palace heard the explosion and automatic fire. The Sergeant in charge ran to the gate to see what was going on and yelled for a guardsman to follow."
   "He's the one who sounded the alarm, right? That's how the rest of them arrived so fast?"
   "Charlie Winston," Owens said. "The Rolls has an electronic attack alarm – you don't need to tell anyone that. That alerted headquarters. Sergeant Price acted entirely on his own initiative. Unfortunately for him, the guardsman was a hurdler – the lad runs track and field – and vaulted the barriers there. Price tried to do it also, but he fell down and broke his nose. He had a devil of a time catching up, plus sending out his own alarm on his portable radio.
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   "Well, I'm glad he caught up when he did. That trooper scared the hell out of me. I hope your Sergeant gets a pat on the head, too."
   "The Queen's Police Medal for starters, and the thanks of Her Majesty," Ashley said. "One thing that has confused us. Doctor Ryan. You left the military with a physical disability, yet you evidenced none of this yesterday."
   "You know that after I left the Corps, I went into the brokerage business. I made something of a name for myself, and Cathy's father came down to talk to me. That's when I met Cathy. I passed on the invitation to move to New York, but Cathy and I hit it right off. One thing led to another, and pretty soon we were engaged. I wore a back brace then, because every so often my back would go bad on me. Well, it happened again right after we got engaged, and Cathy took me into Johns Hopkins to have one of her teachers check me out. One was Stanley Rabinowisz, professor of neurosurgery there. He ran me through three days of tests and said he could fix me good as new.
   "It turned out that the docs at Bethesda had goofed my myelogram. No reflection on them, they were sharp young docs, but Stan's about the best there is. Good as his word, too. He opened me up that Friday, and two months later I was almost as good as new," Ryan said. "Anyway, that's the story of Ryan's back. I just happened to fall in love with a pretty girl who was studying to be a surgeon."
   "Your wife is certainly a most versatile and competent woman," Owens agreed.
   "And you found her pushy," Ryan observed.
   "No, Doctor Ryan. People under stress are never at their best. Your wife also examined Their Royal Highnesses on the scene, and that was most useful to us. She refused to leave your side until you were under competent medical care; one can hardly fault her for that. She did find our identification procedures a touch longwinded, I think, and she was quite naturally anxious about you. We might have moved things along more quickly –"
   "No need to apologize, sir. My dad was a cop. I know the score. I understand you had trouble identifying us."
   "Just over three hours – a timing problem, you see. We had your passport out of your coat, and your driving license, which, we were glad to see, had your photograph. Our initial request to your Legal Attache was just before five, and that made it noon in America. Lunchtime, you see. He called the FBI's Baltimore field office, who in turn called their Annapolis office. The identification business is fairly straightforward – first they had to find some chaps at your Naval Academy who knew who you were, when you came over, and so forth. Next they found the travel agent who booked your flight and hotel. Another agent went to your motor vehicle registration agency. Many of these people were off eating lunch, and we reckon that cost us roughly an hour. Simultaneously he – the Attache – sent a query to your Marine Corps. Within three hours we had a fairly complete history on you – including fingerprints. We had your fingerprints from your travel documents and the hotel registration, and they matched your military records, of course."
   "Three hours, eh?" Dinnertime here, and lunchtime at home, and they did it all in three hours. Damn.
   "While all that was going on we had to interview your wife several times to make sure that she related everything she saw –"
   "And she gave it to you exactly the same way every time, right?" Ryan asked.
   "Correct," Owens said. He smiled. "That is quite remarkable, you know."
   Ryan grinned. "Not for Cathy. Some things, medicine especially, she's a real machine. I'm surprised she didn't hand you a roll of film."
   "She said that herself," Owens replied. "The photographs in the paper are from a Japanese tourist – that's a cliche, isn't it? – half a block away with a telephoto lens. You might be interested to know that your Marine Corps thinks rather highly of you, by the way." Owens consulted his notes. "Tied for first in your class at Quantico, and your fitness reports were excellent."
   "So, you're satisfied I'm a good guy?"
   "We were convinced of that from the first moment," Taylor said. "One must be thorough in major felony cases, however, and this one obviously had more than its share of complications."
   "There's one thing that bothers me," Jack said. There was more than one, but his brain was working too slowly to classify them all.
   "What's that?" Owens asked.
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   "What the hell were they – the Royals, you call them? – doing out on the street with only one guard – wait a minute." Ryan's head cocked to one side. He went on, speaking rather slowly as his mind struggled to arrange his thoughts. "That ambush was planned – this wasn't any accidental encounter. But the bad guys caught 'em on the fly . . . They had to hit a particular car in a particular place. Somebody timed this one out. There were some more people involved in this, weren't there?" Ryan heard a lot of silence for a moment. It was all the answer he needed. "Somebody with a radio . . . those characters had to know that they were coming, the route they'd take, and exactly when they got into the kill zone. Even then it wouldn't be all that easy, 'cause you have to worry about traffic . . . "
   "Just an historian. Doctor Ryan?" Ashley asked.
   "They teach you how to do ambushes in the Marines. If you want to ambush a specific target . . . first, you have to have intelligence information; second, you choose your ground; third, you put your own security guys out to tell you when the target is coming – that's just the bare-bones requirements. Why here – why St. James's Park, The Mall?" The terrorist is a political creature. The target and the place are chosen for political effect, Ryan told himself. "You didn't answer my question before: was this an assassination or an attempted kidnapping?"
   "We are not entirely sure," Owens answered.
   Ryan looked over his guests. He'd just touched an open nerve. They disabled the car with an antitank rifle-grenade, and both of them had the hand-thrown kind, too. If they just wanted to kill . . . the grenades would defeat any armor on the car, why use guns at all? No, if this was a straight assassination attempt, they would not have taken so long, would they? You just fibbed to me, Mr. Owens. This was definitely a kidnap attempt and you know it.
   "Why just the one security officer in the car, then? You have to protect your people better than that." What was it Tony said? An unscheduled trip? The first requirement for a successful ambush is good intelligence . . . You can't pursue this, idiot! The Commander solved the problem for Jack.
   "Well, I believe we covered everything rather nicely. We'll probably be back tomorrow," Owens said.
   "How are the terrorists – the one I wounded, I mean."
   "He has not been terribly cooperative. Won't speak to us at all, not even to tell us his name – old story dealing with this lot. We've only identified him a few hours ago. No previous criminal record at all – his name appeared as a possible player in two minor cases, but nothing more than that. He is recovering quite nicely, and in three weeks or so," Taylor said coldly, "he will be taken before the Queen's Bench, tried before a jury of twelve good men and true, convicted, and sentenced to spend the remainder of his natural life at a secure prison."
   "Only three weeks?" Ryan asked.
   "The case is clear-cut," Owens said. "We have three photographs from our Japanese friend that show this lad holding his gun behind the car, and nine good eyewitnesses. There will be no mucking about with this lad."
   "And I'll be there to see it," Ryan observed.
   "Of course. You will be our most important witness, Doctor. A formality, but a necessary one. And no claim of lunacy like the chap who tried to kill your President. This boy is a university graduate, with honors, and he comes from a good family."
   Ryan shook his head. "Ain't that a hell of a thing? But most of the really bad ones are, aren't they?"
   "You know about terrorists?" Ashley asked.
   "Just things I've read," Ryan answered quickly. That was a mistake, Jack. Cover it. "Officer Wilson said the ULA were Maoists."
   "Correct," Taylor said.
   "That really is crazy. Hell, even the Chinese aren't Maoists anymore, at least the last time I checked they weren't. Oh – what about my family?"
   Ashley laughed. "About time you asked, Doctor. We couldn't very well leave them at the hotel, could we? It was arranged for them to be put up at a highly secure location."
   "You need not be concerned," Owens agreed. "They are quite safe. My word on it."
   "Where, exactly?" Ryan wanted to know.
   "A security matter, I'm afraid," Ashley said. The three inquisitors shared an amused look. Owens checked his watch and shot a look to the others.
   "Well," Owens said. He switched off the tape recorder. "We do not wish to trouble you further the day after surgery. We will probably be back to check a few additional details. For the moment, sir, you have the thanks of all of us at the Yard for doing our job for us."
   "How long will I have Mr. Wilson here?"
   "Indefinitely. The ULA are likely to be somewhat annoyed with you," Owens said. "And it would be most embarrassing for us if they were to make an attempt on your life and find you unprotected. We do not regard this as likely, mind, but one must be careful."
   "I can live with that," Ryan agreed. I make a hell of a target here, don't I? A third-grader could kill me with a Popsicle stick.
   "The press want to see you," Taylor said.
   "I'm thrilled." Just what I need, Ryan thought. "Could you hold them off a bit?"
   "Simple enough," Owens agreed. "Your medical condition does not permit it at the moment. But you should get used to the idea. You are now something of a public figure."
   "Like hell!" Ryan snorted. "I like being obscure." Then you should have stayed behind the tree, dumbass! Just what have you got yourself into?
   "You can't refuse to see them indefinitely, you know," Taylor said gently.
   Jack let out a long breath. "You're correct, of course. But not today. Tomorrow is soon enough." Let the hubbub die down some first, Ryan thought stupidly.
   "One cannot always stay in the shadows. Doctor Ryan," Ashley said, standing. The others took their cue from him.
   The cops and Ashley – Ryan now had him pegged as some kind of spook, intelligence or counterintelligence – took their leave. Wilson came back in, with Kittiwake trailing behind.
   "Did they tire you out?" the nurse asked.
   "I think I'll live," Ryan allowed. Kittiwake thrust a thermometer in his mouth to make sure
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   Forty minutes after the police had left, Ryan was typing happily away on his computer-toy, reviewing notes and drafting some fresh copy. Cathy Ryan's most frequent (and legitimate) complaint about her husband was that while he was reading – or worse, writing – the world could end around him without his taking notice. This was not entirely true. Jack did notice Wilson jumping to attention out the corner of his eye, but he did not look up until he had finished the paragraph. When he did, he saw that his new visitors were Her Majesty, the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. His first coherent thought was a mental curse that no one had warned him. His second, that he must look very funny with his mouth hanging open.
   "Good morning, Doctor Ryan," the Queen said agreeably. "How are you feeling?"
   "Uh, quite well, thank you, uh, Your Majesty. Won't you, uh, please sit down?" Ryan tried to sit more erect in his bed, but was halted by a flash of pain from his shoulder. It helped to center his thoughts and reminded him that his medication was nearly due.
   "We have no wish to impose," she said. Ryan sensed that she didn't wish to leave right away, either. He took a second to frame his response.
   "Your Majesty, a visit from a head of state hardly qualifies as an imposition. I would be most grateful for your company." Wilson hustled to get two chairs and excused himself out the door as they sat.
   The Queen was dressed in a peach-colored suit whose elegant simplicity must have made a noteworthy dent even in her clothing budget. The Duke was in a dark blue suit which finally made Ryan understand why his wife wanted him to buy some clothes over here.
   "Doctor Ryan," she said formally, "on our behalf, and that of our people, we wish to express to you our most profound gratitude for your action of yesterday. We are very much in your debt."
   Ryan nodded soberly. He wondered just how awful he looked. "For my own part, ma'am, I am glad that I was able to be of service – but the truth of the matter is that I didn't really do all that much. Anyone could have done the same thing. I just happened to be the closest."
   "The police say otherwise," the Duke observed. "And after viewing the scene myself, I am inclined to agree with them. I'm afraid you're a hero whether you like it or not." Jack remembered that this man had once been a professional naval officer – probably a good one. He had the look.
   "Why did you do it. Doctor Ryan?" the Queen asked. She examined his face closely.
   Jack made a quick guess. "Excuse me, ma'am, but are you asking why I took the chance, or why an Irish-American would take the chance?" Jack was still ordering his own thoughts, examining his own memories. Why did you do it? Will you ever know? He saw that he'd guessed right and went on quickly.
   "Your Majesty, I cannot speak to your Irish problem. I'm an American citizen, and my country has enough problems of its own without having to delve into someone else's. Where I come from we – that is, Irish-Americans – have made out pretty well. We're in all the professions, business, and politics, but your prototypical Irish-American is still a basic police officer or firefighter. The cavalry that won the West was a third Irish, and there are still plenty of us in uniform – especially the Marine Corps, as a matter of fact. Half of the local FBI office lived in my old neighborhood. They had names like Tully, Sullivan, O'Connor, and Murphy. My dad was a police officer for half his life, and the priests and nuns who educated me were mostly Irish, probably.
   "Do you see what I mean, Your Majesty? In America we are the forces of order, the glue that holds society together – so what happens?
   "Today, the most famous Irishmen in the world are the maniacs who leave bombs in parked cars, or assassins who kill people to make some sort of political point. I don't like that, and I know my dad wouldn't tike it. He spent his whole working life taking animals like that off the street and putting them in cages where they belong. We've worked pretty hard to get where we are – too hard to be happy about being thought of as the relatives of terrorists." Jack smiled. "I guess I understand how Italians feel about the Mafia. Anyway, I can't say that all this stuff paraded through my head yesterday, but I did kind of figure what was going on. I couldn't just sit there like a dummy and let murder be committed before my eyes and not do something. So I saw my chance and I took it."
   The Queen nodded thoughtfully. She regarded Ryan with a warm, friendly smile for a few moments and turned to look at her husband. The two communicated without words. They'd been married long enough for that, Ryan thought. When she turned back, he could see that a decision had been reached
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   "So, then. How shall we reward you?"
   "Reward, ma'am?" Ryan shook his head. "Thank you very much, but it's not necessary. I'm glad I was able to help. That's enough."
   "No, Doctor Ryan, it is not enough. One of the nicer things about being Queen is that one is permitted to recognize meritorious conduct, then to reward it properly. The Crown cannot appear to be ungrateful." Her eyes sparkled with some private joke. Ryan found himself captivated by the woman's humanity. He'd read that some people found her to be less than intelligent. He already knew they were far off the mark. There was an active brain behind those eyes, and an active wit as well. "Accordingly, it has been decided that you shall be invested as a Knight Commander of the Victorian Order."
   "What – er, I beg your pardon, ma'am?" Ryan blinked a few times as his brain tried to catch up with his ears.
   "The Victorian Order is a recent development intended to reward those persons who have rendered personal service to the Crown. Certainly you qualify. This is the first case in many years that an heir to the throne has been saved from almost certain death. As an historian yourself, you might be interested to learn that our own scholars are in disagreement as to when was our most recent precedent – in any event, you will henceforth be known as Sir John Ryan."
   Again Jack thought that he must look rather funny with his mouth open.
   "Your Majesty, American law –"
   "We know," she interrupted smoothly. "The Prime Minister will be discussing this with your President later today. We believe that in view of the special nature of this case, and in the interest of Anglo-American relations, the matter will be settled amicably."
   "There is ample precedent for this," the Duke went on. "After the Second World War a number of American officers were accorded similar recognition. Your Fleet Admiral Nimitz, for example, became a Knight Commander of the Bath, along with Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, and a number of others.
   "For the purposes of American law, it will probably be considered honorary – but for our purposes it will be quite real."
   "Well." Ryan fumbled for something to say. "Your Majesty, insofar as this does not conflict with the laws of my country, I will be deeply honored to accept." The Queen beamed.
   "That's settled, then. Now, how are you feeling – really feeling?"
   "I've felt worse, ma'am. I have no complaints – I just wish I'd moved a little faster."
   The Duke smiled. "Being wounded makes you appear that much more heroic – nothing like a little drama."
   Especially if it's someone else's shoulder, my Lord Duke, Ryan thought. A small bell went off in his head. "Excuse me, this knighthood, does it mean that my wife will be called –"
   "Lady Ryan? Of course." The Queen flashed her Christmas-tree smile again.
   Jack grinned broadly. "You know, when I left Merrill Lynch, Cathy's father was madder than – he was very angry with me, said I'd never amount to anything writing history books. Maybe this will change his mind." He was sure that Cathy would not mind the title – Lady Ryan. No, she wouldn't mind that one little bit.
   "Not so bad a thing after all?"
   "No, sir, and please forgive me if I gave that impression. I'm afraid you caught me a little off balance." Ryan shook his head. This whole damned affair has me a lot off balance. "Might I ask a question, sir?"
   "Certainly."
   "The police wouldn't tell me where they're keeping my family." This drew a hearty laugh. The Queen answered.
   "It is the opinion of the police that there might exist the possibility of a reprisal against you or your family. Therefore it was decided that they should be moved to a more secure location. Under the circumstances, we decided that they might most easily be moved to the Palace – it was the least thing we could do. When we left, your wife and daughter were fast asleep, and we left strict instructions that they should not be disturbed."
   "The Palace?"
   "We have ample room for guests, I assure you," the Queen replied.
   "Oh, Lord!" Ryan muttered.
   "You have an objection?" the Duke asked.
   "My little girl, she –"
   "Olivia?" the Queen said, rather surprised. "She's a lovely child. When we saw her last night she was sleeping like an angel."
   "Sally" – Olivia had been a peace offering to Cathy's family that hadn't worked; it was the name of her grandmother – "is a little angel, asleep, but when she wakes up she's more like a little tornado, and she's very good at breaking things. Especially valuable things."
   "What a dreadful thing to say!" Her Majesty feigned shock. "That lovely little girl. The police told us that she broke hearts throughout Scotland Yard last evening. I fear you exaggerate, Sir John."
   "Yes, ma'am." There was no arguing with a queen.
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Chapter 3
Flowers and Families

   Wilson had been mistaken in his assessment. The escape had taken longer than anyone at the Yard had thought. Six hundred miles away, a Sabena flight was landing outside of Cork. The passenger in seat 23-D of the Boeing 737 was entirely unremarkable; his sandy hair was cut medium-close, and he was dressed like a middle-level executive in a neat but rumpled suit that gave the entirely accurate impression of a man who'd spent a long day on the job and gotten too little sleep before catching a flight home. An experienced traveler to be sure, with one carry-on flight bag. If asked, he could have given a convincing discourse on the wholesale fish business in the accent of Southwestern Ireland. He could change accents as easily as most men changed shirts; a useful skill, since TV news crews had made the patois of his native Belfast recognizable the world over. He read the London Times on the flight, and the topic of discussion in his seat row, as with the rest of the aircraft, was the story which covered the front page.
   "A terrible thing, it is," he'd agreed with the man in 23-E, a Belgian dealer in machine tools who could not have known how an event might be terrible in more than one way.
   All the months of planning, the painstakingly gathered intelligence, the rehearsals carried out right under the Brit noses, the three escape routes, the radiomen – all for nothing because of this bloody meddler. He examined the photo on the front page.
   Who are you, Yank? he wondered. John Patrick Ryan. Historian – a bloody academic! Ex-Marine – trust a damned bootneck to stick his nose where it doesn't belong! John Patrick Ryan. You're a bloody Catholic, aren't you? Well, Johnny nearly put paid on your account . . . too bad about Johnny. Good man Johnny was, dependable, loved his guns, and true to the Cause.
   The plane finally came to a stop at the Jetway. Forward, the stewardess opened the door, and the passengers rose to get their bags from the overhead stowage. He got his, and joined the slow movement forward. He tried to be philosophical about it. In his years as a "player," he'd seen iterations go awry for the most ridiculous of reasons. But this op was so important. So much planning. He shook his head as he tucked the paper under his arm. We'll just have to try again, that's all. We can afford to be patient. One failure, he told himself, didn't matter in the great scheme of things. The other side had been lucky this time. We only have to be lucky once. The men in the H-blocks weren't going anywhere.
   What about Sean? A mistake to have taken him along. He'd helped plan the operation from the beginning. Sean knows a great deal about the Organization. He set that worry aside as he stepped off the aircraft. Sean would never talk. Not Sean, not with his girl in her grave these past five years, from a para's stray bullet.
   He wasn't met, of course. The other men who had been part of the operation were already back, their equipment left behind in rubbish bins, wiped clean of fingerprints. Only he had the risk of exposure, but he was sure that this Ryan fellow hadn't got a good look at his face. He thought back again to be sure. No. The look of surprise on his face, the look of pain he'd seen there. The American couldn't have gotten much of a look – if he had, an identikit composite picture would be in the press already, complete with the moppy wig and fake glasses.
   He walked out of the terminal building to the parking lot, his travel bag slung over his shoulder, searching in his pocket for the keys that had set off the airport metal detector in Brussels – what a laugh that was! He smiled for the first time in nearly a day. It was a clear, sunny day, another glorious Irish fall it was. He drove his year-old BMW – a man with a business cover had to have a full disguise, after all – down the road to the safehouse. He was already planning two more operations. Both would require a lot of time, but time was the one thing he had in unlimited quantity.

   It was easy enough to tell when it was time for another pain medication. Ryan was unconsciously flexing his left hand at the far end of the cast. It didn't reduce the pain, but did seem to move it about somewhat as the muscles and tendons changed place slightly. It bothered his concentration however much he tried to shut it out. Jack remembered all the TV shows in which the detective or otherwise employed hero took a round in the shoulder but recovered fully in time for the last commercial. The human shoulder – his, at any rate – was a solid collection of bones that bullets – one bullet – all too easily broke. As the time for another medication approached it seemed that he could feel every jagged edge of every broken bone grating against its neighbor as he breathed, and even the gentle tapping of his right-hand fingers on the keyboard seemed to ripple across his body to the focus of his pain until he had to stop and watch the wall clock – for the first time he wanted Kittiwake to appear with his next installment of chemical bliss.
   Until he remembered his fear. The pain of his back injury had made his first week at Bethesda a living hell. He knew that his present injury paled by comparison, but the body does not remember pain, and the shoulder was here and now. He forced himself to remember that pain medications had made his back problem almost tolerable . . . except that the doctors had gotten just a little too generous with his dosages. More than the pain, Ryan dreaded withdrawal from morphine sulphate. That had lasted a week, the wanting that seemed to draw his entire body into some vast empty place, someplace where his innermost self found itself entirely alone and needing . . . Ryan shook his head. The pain rippled through his left arm and shoulder and he forced himself to welcome it. I'm not going to go through that again. Never again.
   The door opened. It wasn't Kittiwake – the med was still fourteen minutes away. Ryan had noticed a uniform outside the door when it had opened before. Now he was sure. A thirtyish uniformed officer came in with a floral arrangement and he was followed by another who was similarly loaded. A scarlet and gold ribbon decorated the first, a gift from the Marine Corps, followed by another from the American Embassy.
   "Quite a few more, sir," one uniformed officer said.
   "The room isn't all that big. Can you give me the cards and spread these around some? I'm sure there's people around who'd like them." And who wants to live in a jungle? Within ten minutes Ryan had a pile of cards, notes, and telegrams. He found that reading the words of others was better than reading his own when it came to blocking out the ache of his damaged shoulder.
   Kittiwake arrived. She gave the flowers only a fleeting glance before administering Ryan's medication, and hustled out with scarcely a word. Ryan learned why five minutes later.
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   His next visitor was the Prince of Wales. Wilson snapped to his feet again, and Jack wondered if the kid's knees were tiring of this. The med was already working. His shoulder was drifting farther away, but along with this came a slight feeling of lightheadedness as from a couple of stiff drinks. Maybe that was part of the reason for what happened next.
   "Howdy." Jack smiled. "How are you feeling, sir?"
   "Quite well, thank you." The answering smile contained no enthusiasm. The Prince looked very tired, his thin face stretched an extra inch or so, with a lingering sadness around the eyes. His shoulders drooped within the conservative gray suit.
   "Why don't you sit down, sir?" Ryan invited. "You look as though you had a tougher night than I did."
   "Yes, thank you, Doctor Ryan." He made another attempt to smile. It failed. "And how are you feeling?"
   "Reasonably well, Your Highness. And how is your wife – excuse me, how is the Princess doing?"
   The Prince's words did not come easily, and he had trouble looking up to Ryan from his chair. "We both regret that she could not come with me. She's still somewhat disturbed – in shock, I believe. She had a very . . . bad experience."
   Brains splattered over her face. I suppose you might call that a bad experience. "I saw. I understand that neither of you was physically injured, thank God. I presume your child also?"
   "Yes, all thanks to you. Doctor."
   Jack tried another one-armed shrug. The gesture didn't hurt so much this time. "Glad to help, sir – I just wish I hadn't got myself shot in the process." His attempt at levity died on his lips. He'd said the wrong thing in the wrong way. The Prince looked at Jack very curiously for a moment, but then his eyes went flat again.
   "We would all have been killed except for you, you know – and on behalf of my family and myself – well, thank you. It's not enough just to say that –" His Highness went on, then halted again and struggled to find a few more words. "But it's the best I can manage. I wasn't able to manage very much yesterday, come to that," he concluded, staring quietly at the foot of the bed.
   Aha! Ryan thought. The Prince stood and turned to leave. What do I do now?
   "Sir, why don't you sit down and let's talk this one over for a minute, okay?"
   His Highness turned back. For a moment he looked as though he would say something, but the drawn face changed again and turned away.
   "Your Highness, I really think . . ." No effect. I can't let him go out of here like this. Well, if good manners won't work – Jack's voice became sharp.
   "Hold it!" The Prince turned with a look of great surprise. "Sit down, goddatnmit!" Ryan pointed to the chair. At least I have his attention now. I wonder if they can take a knighthood back . . .
   By this time the Prince flushed a bit. The color gave his face life that it had lacked. He wavered for a moment, then sat with reluctance and resignation.
   "Now," Ryan said heatedly, "I think I know what's eating at you, sir. You feel bad because you didn't do a John Wayne number yesterday and handle those gunmen all by yourself, right?" The Prince didn't nod or make any other voluntary response, but a hurt expression around his eyes answered the question just as surely.
   "Aw, crap!" Ryan snorted. In the corner, Tony Wilson went pale as a ghost. Ryan didn't blame him.
   "You oughta have better sense . . . sir," Ryan added hastily. "You've been through the service schools, right? You've qualified as a pilot, parachuted out of airplanes, and even had command of your own ship?" He got a nod. Time to step it up. "Then you've got no excuse, you damned well ought to have better sense than to think like that! You're not really that dumb, are you?"
   "What exactly do you mean?" A trace of anger, Ryan thought. Good.
   "Use your head. You've been trained to think this sort of thing out, haven't you? Let's critique the exercise. Examine what the tactical situation was yesterday. You were trapped in a stopped car with two or three bad guys outside holding automatic weapons. The car is armor-plated, but you're stuck. What can you do? The way I see it, you had three choices:
   "One. You can just freeze, just sit there and wet your pants. Hell, that's what most normal people would do, caught by surprise like that. That's probably the normal reaction. But you didn't do that.
   "Two. You can try to get out of the car and do something, right?"
   "Yes, I should have."
   "Wrong!" Ryan shook his head emphatically. "Sorry, sir, but that's not a real good idea. The guy I tackled was waiting for you to do just that. That guy could have put a nine-millimeter slug in your head before you had both feet on the pavement. You look like you're in pretty good shape. You probably move pretty good – but ain't nobody yet been able to outrun a bullet, sir! That choice might have gotten you killed, and the rest of your family along with you.
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   "Three. Your last choice, you tough it out and pray the cavalry gets there in time. You know you're close to home. You know there's cops and troops around. So you know that time is on your side if you can survive for a couple of minutes. In the meantime you try to protect your family as best you can. You get them down on the floor of the car and get overtop of them so the only way the terrorists can get them is to go through you first. And that, my friend, is what you did." Ryan paused for a moment to let him absorb this.
   "You did exactly the right thing, dammit!" Ryan leaned forward until his shoulder pulled him back with a gasp. It wasn't all that much of a pain medication. "Jesus, this hurts. Look, sir, you were stuck out in the open – with a lousy set of alternatives. But you used your head and took the best one you had. From where I sit, you could not have done any better than you did. So there is nothing, repeat nothing, for you to feel bad about. And if you don't believe me, ask Wilson. He's a cop." The Prince turned his head.
   The Anti-Terrorist Branch officer cleared his throat. "Excuse me. Your Royal Highness, but Doctor Ryan is quite correct. We were discussing this, this problem yesterday, and we reached precisely the same conclusion."
   Ryan looked over to the cop. "How long did you fellows kick the idea around, Tony?"
   "Perhaps ten minutes," Wilson answered.
   "That's six hundred seconds, Your Highness. But you had to think and act in – what? Five? Maybe three? Not much time to make a life-and-death decision is it? Mister, I'd say you did damned well. All that training you've picked up along the line worked. And if you were evaluating someone else's performance instead of your own, you'd say the same thing, just like Tony and his friends did."
   "But the press –"
   "Oh, screw the press!" Ryan snapped back, wondering if he'd gone too far. "What do reporters know about anything? They don't do anything, for crying out loud, they just report what other people do. You can fly an airplane, you've jumped out of them – flying scares the hell out of me; I don't even want to think about jumping out of one – and commanded a ship. Plus you ride horses and keep trying to break your neck – and now, finally, you're a father, you got a kid of your own now, right? Isn't that enough to prove to the world that you've got balls? You're not some dumb kid, sir. You're a trained pro. Start acting like one."
   Jack could see his mind going over what he'd just been told. His Highness was sitting a little straighter now. The smile that began to form was an austere one, but at least it had some conviction behind it.
   "I am not accustomed to being addressed so forcefully."
   "So cut my head off." Ryan grinned. "You looked like you needed a little straightening out – but I had to get your attention first, didn't I? I'm not going to apologize, sir. Instead, why don't you look in that mirror over there. I bet the guy you see now looks better than the one who shaved this morning."
   "You really believe what you said?"
   "Of course. All you have to do is look at the situation from the outside, sir. The problem you had yesterday was tougher than any exercise I had to face at Quantico, but you gutted it out. Listen, I'll tell you a story.
   "My first day at Quantico, first day of the officer's course. They line us up, and we meet our Drill Instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Willie King – humongous black guy, we called him Son of Kong. Anyway, he looks us up and down and says, 'Girls, I got some good news, and I got some bad news. The good news is, if you prove that you're good enough to get through this here course, you ain't got nothin' left to prove as long as you live.' And he waits for a couple of seconds. 'The bad news is, you gotta prove it to me!' "
   "You were top in your class," the Prince said. He'd been briefed, too.
   "I was third in that one. I tied for first in the Basic Officer's Course later on. Yeah, I did okay. That course was a gold-plated sonuvabitch. The only easy thing was sleeping – by the time your day was finished, falling asleep was easy enough. But, you know, Son of Kong was almost right.
   "If you make it through Quantico, you know you've done something. After that there was only one more thing left for me to prove, and the Corps didn't have anything to do with that." Ryan paused for a moment. "Her name is Sally. Anyway, you and your family are alive, sir. Okay, I helped – but so did you. And if any reporter-expert says different, you still have the Tower of London, right? I remember that stuff in the press about your wife last year. Damn, if anybody'd talked that way about Cathy I'd have changed his voice for him."
   "Changed his voice?" His Highness asked.
   "The hard way!" Ryan laughed. "I guess that's a problem with being important – you can't shoot back. Too bad. People in that business could use some manners, and people in your business are entitled to some privacy, just like the rest of us."
   "And what of your manners, Sir John?" A real smile now.
   "Mea maxima culpa, my Lord Prince, you got me there."
   "Still, we might not be here except for you."
   "I couldn't just sit there and watch some people get murdered. If situations had been reversed, I'll bet you'd have done the same thing I did."
   "You really think so?" His Highness was surprised.
   "Sir, are you kidding? Anybody dumb enough to jump out of an airplane is dumb enough to try anything."
   The Prince stood and walked over to the mirror on the wall. Clearly he liked what he saw there. "Well," he murmured to the mirror. He turned back to voice his last self-doubt.
   "And if you had been in my place?"
   "I'd probably just've wet my pants," Ryan replied. "But you have an advantage over me, sir. You've thought about this problem for a few years, right? Hell, you practically grew up with it, and you've been through basic training – Royal Marines, too, maybe?"
   "Yes, I have."
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   Ryan nodded. "Okay, so you had your options figured out beforehand, didn't you? They caught you by surprise, sure, but the training shows. You did all right. Honest. Sit back down, and maybe Tony can pour us some coffee."
   Wilson did so, though he was clearly uneasy to be close to the heir. The Prince of Wales sipped at his cup while Ryan lit up one of Wilson's cigarettes. His Highness looked on disapprovingly.
   "That's not good for you, you know," he pointed out.
   Ryan just laughed. "Your Highness, since I arrived in this country, I nearly got run over by one of those two-story buses, I almost got my head blown off by a damned Maoist, then I nearly get myself shish-kabobed by one of your redcoats." Ryan waved the cigarette in the air. "This is the safest damned thing I've done since I got here! What a vacation this's turned out to be."
   "You do have a point," the Prince admitted. "And quite a sense of humor, Doctor Ryan."
   "I guess the valium – or whatever they're giving me – helps. And the name's Jack." He held out his hand. The Prince took it.
   "I was able to meet your wife and daughter yesterday – you were unconscious at the time. I gather that your wife is an excellent physician. Your little daughter is quite wonderful."
   "Thanks. How do you like being a daddy?"
   "The first time you hold your newborn child . . . "
   "Yeah," Jack said. "Sir, that's what it's all about." He stopped talking abruptly.
   Bingo, Ryan thought. A four-month-old baby. If they kidnap the Prince and Princess, well, no government can cave in to terrorism. The politicians and police have to have a contingency plan already set up for this, don't they? They'd take this town apart one brick at a time, but they wouldn't – couldn't – negotiate anything, and that was just too bad for the grown-ups, but a little baby . . . damn, there's a bargaining chip! What kind of people would –
   "Bastards," Ryan whispered to himself. Wilson blanched, but the Prince suspected what Jack was thinking about.
   "Excuse me?"
   "They weren't trying to kill you. Hell, I bet you weren't even the real objective . . . " Ryan nodded slowly. He searched his mind for the data he'd seen on the ULA. There hadn't been much – it hadn't been his area of focus in any case – a few tidbits of shadowy intelligence reports, mixed with a lot of pure conjecture. "They didn't want to kill you at all, I bet. And when you covered the wife and kid, you burned their plan . . . maybe, or maybe you just – yeah, maybe you just threw them a curve, and that blew their timing a little bit."
   "What do you mean?" the Prince asked.
   "Goddamned medications slow your brain down," Ryan said mainly to himself. "Have the police told you what the terrorists were up to?"
   His Highness sat upright in the chair. "I can't –"
   "You don't have to," Ryan cut him off. "Did they tell you that what you did definitely – definitely – saved all of you?"
   "No, but –"
   "Tony?"
   "They told me you were a very clever chap. Jack," Wilson said. "I'm afraid I can't comment further. Your Royal Highness, Doctor Ryan maybe correct in his assessment."
   "What assessment?" The Prince was puzzled.
   Ryan explained. It only took a few minutes.
   "How did you arrive at this conclusion. Jack?"
   Ryan's mind was still churning through the hypothesis. "Sir, I'm an historian. My business is figuring things out. Before that I was a stockbroker – doing essentially the same thing. It's not all that hard when you think about it. You look for apparent inconsistencies and then you try to figure out why they're not really inconsistent." He concluded, "It's all speculation on my part, but I'm willing to bet that Tony's colleagues are pursuing it." Wilson didn't say anything. He cleared his throat – which was answer enough.
   The Prince looked deep into his coffee cup. His face was that of a man who had recovered from fear and shame. Now he contemplated cold anger at what might have been.
   "Well, they've had their chance, haven't they?"
   "Yes, sir. I imagine if they ever try again, it'll be a lot harder. Right, Tony?"
   "I seriously doubt that they will ever try again," Wilson replied. "We should develop some rather good intelligence from this incident. The ULA have stepped over an invisible line. Politically, success might have enhanced their position, but they didn't succeed, did they? This will harm them, harm their 'popular' support. Some people who know them will now consider talking – not to us, you understand, but some of what they say will get to us in due course. They were outcasts before, they will be outcasts even more now."
   Will they learn from this? Ryan wondered, if so, what will they have learned? There's a question. Jack knew that it had only two possible answers, and that those answers were diametrically opposed. He made a mental note. He'd follow up on this when he got home. It wasn't a merely academic exercise now. He had a bullet hole in his shoulder to prove that.
   The Prince rose to his feet. "You must excuse me. Jack. I'm afraid I have rather a full day ahead."
   "Going back out, eh?"
   "If I hide, they've won. I understand that fact better now than when I came in here. And I have something else to thank you for."
   "You would have figured it out sooner or later. Better it should be sooner, don't you think?"
   "We must see more of each other."
   "I'd like that, sir. Afraid I'm stuck here for a while, though."
   "We are traveling out of the country soon – the day after tomorrow. It's a state visit to New Zealand and the Solomon Islands. You may be gone before we get back."
   "Is your wife up to it. Your Highness?"
   "I think so. A change of scenery, the doctor said, is just the ticket. She had a very bad experience yesterday, but" – he smiled – "I think it was harder on me than on her."
   I'll buy that, Ryan thought. She's young, she'll bounce back, and at least she has something good to remember. Putting your body between your family and the bullets ought to firm up any relationship. "Hey, she sure as hell knows you love her, sir."
   "I do, you know," the Prince said seriously.
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