He met her gaze evenly. "I don't know about you, honey," he said, "but I know he can...if he puts his mind to it."
She looked to Kahn. "Then you tell him we can't do it"
Kahn silenced her with a look. "Where is the girl being kept?"
A sly smile spread across Hayes' face. "The Japanese Embassy, on Park Avenue," he said. "Right in the middle of Manhattan. I figured you'd enjoy the challenge."
"When we get her out, then what?" Kahn asked.
Hayes shrugged. "We fly her to the Chinese embassy in Hawai'i. From everything I heard in Chicago, it sounds like you could stand to get away from things for a while anyway."
Kahn leaned back in chair, his eyes narrowed in concentration. After a moment, he said, "Hetty, tell Dugan to take on all the fuel we've got left, and make what repairs he can to the zep in the meantime. Then tell Pete he's got some more painting to do. Looks like we're heading to the Empire State."
Hayes beamed. "I knew I could count on you, Johnny-boy! When do we leave?"
The pirate leader checked his watch. "In three hours."
Now it was Hayes' turn to look shocked. "Three hours? Don't get me wrong, Johnny, but this is Manhattan we're talking about. Are you sure you aren't being too hasty?"
Kahn shrugged, but there was a manic gleam in his eyes. "The sooner we get the girl, the sooner you and I are even," he said. "And I pay my debts. One way or another."
The aerotaxi dropped down out of a snowy sky and made a perfect landing on the roof of the Park Avenue Plaza hotel. The autogyro's rotors kicked up swirling clouds of ice that hung in the late-night air, causing the hotel's doorman to duck and clutch at the collar of his overcoat as he rushed out and opened the door for the taxi's passengers. Kahn and Hayes stepped out into the wintry maelstrom, gloved hands pressed to their fedoras, and headed for the edge of the roof.
Below them Park Avenue buzzed with activity, despite being well past midnight. Revelers made their way back from Broadway, or set out from hotels and stately apartment buildings to dance the night away in jazz halls or speakeasies. Kahn rested a polished shoe on the roof's stone parapet and pulled out a cigar. Wearing a dark oilskin overcoat and wool trousers, he was the image of a captain of industry, surveying his Manhattan playground. In fact, he had eyes only for the somber gray building just across from the hotel.
"Built like the old Federal Reserve," he growled as he studied the Japanese Embassy up close.
The embassy building was built to ward off a small army. It was four stories tall, its walls made of massive granite slabs. The windows on the ground floor were small and the close-set frames made of bronze-colored iron, each pane barely wide enough to fit a hand through. There were no fire escapes, he noted.
He saw a service entrance on the right side of the building and a grand main entrance that opened on a fountain bordered by a circular asphalt drive. A granite wall ten feet high, topped with decorativebut dangerousiron spikes, surrounded the building and its grounds. The wrought-iron main gate was closed, and he could just see the outline of a guardhouse just past the gate.
Artemus Hayes hunched his shoulders against the cold. Like Kahn, he, too, had donned a business suit. "You still haven't told me how we're getting in there," he said nervously. "More importantly, you haven't told me how the hell we're going to get out again."
Kahn leaned forward slightly and surveyed the sidewalk below. "You sound like I've got a plan or something, Artemus. I've never even seen this building before."
"See, this is what I was talking about." Hayes said. "Why don't we get a room here at the Plaza and spend a couple days casing the joint? We don't want to go into this half-cocked."
The pirate leader eyed Hayes. "Where's all that bravado you had at the farmhouse? You're the one who came all the way from Hong Kong to get this girl out, and now you're getting cold feet? Besides, the Machiavelli can't keep circling LaGuardia airfield claiming engine problems for days on end. At sunup, the airfield will send a tug to bring her in, and then the jig's up." He shook his head. "We go tonight, or not at all." Kahn gave him a wolfish smile. "Relax, Artemus. I have a plan."
They made their way to the hotel's rooftop elevator, and down through the lobby. Once they were outside, they crossed the icy street and walked slowly down the sidewalk, alongside the Embassy walls. As they passed the gate, Kahn noticed that there were two guards keeping warm inside the guardhouse, their bayonet-tipped rifles close at hand.
The embassy sat at the corner of Park Avenue and East 48th Street. Kahn led them around the corner, then across 48th, and into a nearby alley. He pointed to a call box a few yards away. "That's the fire box for this corner. Go and pull the lever."
Hayes eyed him dubiously, but did as he was told. Kahn watched calmly as Artemus picked up the metal bar, broke the little glass pane, and pulled the alarm lever, before scurrying back to the alley.
Kahn looked up at the embassy. "How long do you figure it'll take the fire department to get here?"
"On Park Avenue? Five minutes, tops," Hayes said. "But Johnny, there's no fire. When the firemen check out the place, they'll tip off the Japanese that something isn't jake."
The pirate glanced at Hayes with a slight smile. Kahn reached into his jacket and drew a bulky, black pistol from his coat pocket. He carefully took aim, cocked the hammer...and fired.
The flare hissed across the street and punched through one of the embassy's second-floor windows. A red glow blazed behind the curtains as the magnesium ignited, then familiar flickers of yellow-orange firelight.
"There's your fire. " Kahn replied. "Now let's go be good little Manhattan rubberneckers and gawk at the pretty lights for a bit."
They crossed the street again and waited at the corner. Shouts went up from the building's entrance, and soon the wail of sirens could be heard down Park Avenue. "Where do you think they're keeping the girl?" Kahn asked.
"It'd have to be someplace they can keep her out of sight." Hayes answered. "There's too many people that move in and out of there. I'd guess she's in the basement."
Fire engines howled out of the darkness and pulled up in front of the embassy. Already fire and smoke were pouring from several upper-story windows. The guards pulled open the gates, waving to the firefighters. "That's our cue," Kahn said, and headed for the gate.
As they passed one of the fire engines, Kahn snagged a pair of firemen's helmets and passed one back to Hayes. In the dark, their oilskin coats looked very similar to the ones the firemen themselves wore. The Japanese guards waved them through with the rest, shouting frantically.
Pandemonium reigned inside the building. Kahn was surprised at the number of late-night workers still present, running and shouting through the grand foyer, clutching boxes or folders of important files.
Kahn and Hayes shoved their way through and moved to the elevators which, mercifully, were empty. Hayesscanning the Japanese characters on the lift buttonsquickly sent the elevator down.
They stepped off the elevator and into a small stone room that smelled of diesel oil and mildew. There was a table in one corner, adjacent to a big steel door that was better suited to a jail cell than an embassy.
There were four men in the room, talking back and forth in frantic voices. Each wore a Japanese army uniform, Kahn noted, and the most senior man carried a odd, slightly curved sword at his hip. They saw Kahn and Hayes, and the sword-carrying man shouted at them angrily.
Hayes shouted back in a long string of Japanese. The guards' eyes went wide, and they bolted for the elevator. As they disappeared from sight, Kahn turned to Hayes. "When did you learn Japanese?"
"What do you think they speak in Asia? Italian?" Hayes ran to the desk. There was a kind of log book sitting there, its pages crammed with dense lines of Japanese script. "Okay...here! They brought in a woman and put her in room 418. That's got to be her."
The iron door was locked. Kahn rifled the desk, and found the key ring in the top drawer. The doors in the hall beyond were all marked in Japanese. Hayes took the lead, calling out the numbers. "421..420...419...here!"
The heavy wooden door was locked. None of the keys on the ring fit. "The hell with it," Kahn said, then pulled a .45 automatic from his waistband and shot out the lock.
The room beyond was little better than a linen closet, with no furniture other than a small chamber pot. A small figure huddled in the far corner, wearing only a torn satin chemise. Her arms and legs were covered with bruises, and when she looked up at the two men her eyes seemed to stare right through them. A bullet holeKahn's shot through the lockwas evident in the wall, just above the girl's head.
"She's in shock," Hayes said grimly. "Can you carry her?"
Kahn bent and hefted her unresisting form over his shoulder. "Let's go!" he said.
The two men raced back down the hall. Kahn could see through the open doorway of the elevator room, only a few yards away. Suddenly, the call light on the elevator blinked. He heard the elevator open and a young Japanese officer in a dark blue uniform stepped out, followed by a group of rifle-toting guards.
The blue-uniformed man took in the room with a single glanceand saw Kahn and Hayes in the corridor beyond. His lean face twisted in anger, and his hand flew to the curved sword at his side. He drew the weapon in a fluid blur, light flashing off the blade. The soldier pointed the sword at Kahn and roared an order to the guards, who reached for their weapons.
Kahn didn't understand the officer's words, but the meaning was perfectly clear.