فصل 10

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فصل 10

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CHAPTER TEN

Meeting Crocker

At 10.45 that evening Latto and Sylvia Koning climbed the steps from the street up towards Latto’s room in the Ocean View Motel. They had had dinner at Casey’s, talking about films and books they liked, places they had visited, people they knew - everything, thought Latto, except the last two days. It had been a lovely evening, but Latto couldn’t help thinking about what Martinez had said. Martinez must be wrong, he thought. Koning couldn’t know anything about what was going on.

As they reached the top of the steps, Martinez came round the corner. Seeing Sylvia Koning, he looked questioningly at Latto.

‘Hi, Martinez,’ said Latto. ‘We’ve just been having dinner.’ He turned to Koning, taking her hand in his. ‘Listen, Sylvia,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go and help Martinez for an hour or so. Do you want to wait here in my room and we can have a drink or something when I get back? Or I could meet up with you tomorrow?’

Koning looked from Latto to Martinez and back. If she felt surprise, she kept it out of her voice. She just put her arms round Latto and pulled him close.

‘Don’t be long,’ she said. ‘I’ll wait here.’

‘OK.’ Latto gave her his key. ‘We’ll be an hour - two at the most.’

Latto and Martinez walked up to the car park, got into Martinez’ Jeep Grand Cherokee and drove off. They didn’t see Koning run to her Suzuki soft-top, jump in and follow them out.

As Latto and Martinez turned left into 2nd Street, Martinez spoke. ‘I found out something interesting about Crocker.’

‘Oh yes?’ replied Latto.

‘He goes to the same boat club as my boss, Becker.’

‘Interesting,’ said Latto.

‘Yes, I thought so too,’ agreed Martinez.

The drive to the arboretum only took about ten minutes. Martinez stopped the car just outside the gates and got out. He took a large key out of his pocket and opened the gates. He drove inside and parked behind a tree on the left of the entrance. Then he got out and closed the gates again, but didn’t lock them.

There was a full moon so it wasn’t too difficult to see what they were doing. Martinez opened the back door of his car and started taking things out. First he took out two guns. He put one in his jacket pocket and offered the other to Latto.

‘Here, take this,’ said Martinez.

‘No, thanks,’ said Latto.

‘Come on. Crocker’s sure to have one,’ said Martinez.

‘I’d really prefer not to,’ replied Latto.

‘OK.’ Martinez didn’t look happy about it. ‘It’s up to you.’ Next he took out a small microphone and put it just inside the front top pocket of Latto’s jacket.

‘That’s the microphone,’ he explained. ‘I’ll be able to hear all of your conversation. And, of course, I’ll record it as well.’ He showed Latto the recorder on the back seat of the car. Then he took a second microphone and hid it inside the front of Latto’s jacket.

‘If he searches you and finds one microphone, he’ll probably think that’s all there is.’

‘OK,’ said Latto.

Martinez gave Latto a torch and took one for himself. Then he took the recorder out of his car and closed the back door. Turning on their torches, they started up the hill. They passed a small wooden building on their left. Latto’s torch lit up some information on the side of the building. He read, ‘Danger - Mountain Lions’. Below that it told you what to do if you met a mountain lion.

‘Don’t worry about that,’ said Martinez. ‘Lions come out of the countryside into the arboretum all the time, but we’ll be staying close to these buildings. They won’t come down here.’

At the top of the hill, Martinez looked down and to the left.

‘The theatre’s down there,’ he said. ‘You wait for Crocker there. Remember - get him talking when he arrives. When I think he’s said enough, I’ll come out.’

‘Where will you be?’ asked Latto.

‘Over there, behind those trees. I’ll keep well hidden until I’ve heard enough,’ replied Martinez.

Latto found an old chair in the open-air theatre and sat down. He looked at his watch. He had twenty minutes to wait. Time passed slowly. Latto thought back over the last three days. It all seemed completely unreal. Three days ago he had set off from Britain to find a new way to help some of his patients. Now he was trying to catch a man who had ordered a number of crimes, possibly including murder.

Shortly before midnight, Latto heard a sound. Then there was quiet. Complete quiet for a long time. Suddenly there was a noise behind him. Latto stood up and turned round. A man was standing there, a gun in one hand, a bag in the other.

‘Matthew Crocker?’ asked Latto.

‘Yes.’

‘I don’t think there’s any need for that,’ said Latto, nodding at the gun. ‘I had hoped we could do this without guns.’

‘Sit down,’ ordered Crocker. His voice sounded ugly.

‘I hope you’re not thinking you can kill me as well,’ said Latto.

‘Where’s the CD?’ asked Crocker.

Latto put a hand against his side pocket.

‘Let’s see it,’ said Crocker.

Latto took a CD case slowly from his pocket. ‘Where’s the money?’ he asked.

‘Here.’ Crocker put the bag on the ground.

‘Could you open it, please,’ said Latto. ‘I’d like to see it.’

‘How do I know that’s the only CD?’ asked Crocker once more.

‘I told you. You don’t,’ replied Latto. ‘You’ll just have to believe me when I say it is. You should realise that I don’t want to end up like Deborah Spencer, so you’ll find I’m telling the truth.’

‘Throw it over here,’ said Crocker.

‘The money,’ said Latto.

Keeping his gun on Latto, Crocker went down on one knee and opened the bag. It was full of US bank notes. He stood up again. He moved away from the bag.

‘Throw the CD over here and you get the money,’ he said.

Latto threw the CD. Crocker picked it up and put it in his pocket.

Latto moved towards the money.

‘Stop!’ Crocker’s voice was hard and loud.

There was a noise from the top of the hill. Latto saw someone in the moonlight, coming down towards them. As the person came closer he realised who it was. The man with the ear-ring.

‘All clear,’ he said to Crocker.

‘Thanks, Max,’ said Crocker. He looked at Latto again. ‘I’m glad to hear that you came alone, Dr Latto. However, I’m afraid this is the end for you.’

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