Brian Freemantle

Thomas Dunne Books

Claudine Carter wasn't worried. There was no reason to be. No one else knew about the note, Or ever would. So there was no possibility of embarrassment. Which was all it would have seemed anyway: the thoughtless impulse of someone not supposed to make mistakes - definitely not to be thoughtless - but perfectly understandable in the circumstances.
All right, she was a highly specialized psychologist - the best in her particular discipline, which was why she'd got this new appointment - but that didn't make her Superwoman. She was allowed personal feelings and personal mistakes. What she'd done didn't reflect upon her ability to perform her job. And the job was all that mattered.
The sudden announcement from London of a meeting without any given reason or agenda was intriguing, though. There could be a dozen explanations, none of them connected with Warwick's death. But why was someone coming to her? Why wasn't she being asked to go there? Because, she supposed, she wasn't officially part of an English government department any more. She was working - although working was hardly the description - for a European organization governed by European directorship, with whatever responsibility she had to London entwined in the upper labyrinths of European Union politics and diplomacy. There was, of course, no reason why she shouldn't ask London what it was all about. Logical that she should, even. But she held back from doing so. Psychologically it was better to leave things as they were, with someone coming to her. It put her in control of the encounter.
Claudine acknowledged that she'd been stupid about thenote. She hadn't understood it all - although enough to feel the guilt and the failure - and it had been instinctive to keep something so private to herself. But she shouldn't have done it. Or lied to the police about its existence. But she had and that was that. It was over. Done with. She'd actually put it out of her mind - except perhaps the guilt - until the London message. And there couldn't be any connection, so she had to put it out of her mind again. It was intrusive, confusing, and Claudine didn't professionally like confusion. She liked things logically compartmented. And at the moment there were too many conflicting, overlapping stray ends.
She had a lot to get into proper order. Her whole future, in fact. A new life in a new country, the old one closed for ever: even reverting to her maiden name.
It wouldn't be a problem to be on her own again. It hadn't been before Warwick and it wouldn't be now. Claudine Carter had never felt lonely when she was alone: never known the need for anyone else. Of course she'd loved Warwick, if love was deciding to be with someone for the rest of her life and trusting him completely and thinking of him as her best friend and enjoying the sex: she wouldn't have married him if there hadn't been all of those things.
But she'd never surrendered herself absolutely. Maybe not ever, sexually. There'd always been a part Claudine had kept back. Her part, an inner knowledge that despite being joined to someone else she remained an independent person, needing no one else, relying on no one else. She'd actually, positively, thought about it while Warwick was alive: wanted to re-assert her personal definition from her own objective self-analysis. The teaching that remained constant in her mind from all the psychology lectures and all the bizarre professional experiences that followed was Plato's creed to know oneself. And there was no one whom Claudine Carter believed she knew more completely and more successfully than herself. Or had believed. Now she wanted to regain the belief. To feel absolutely sure of herself again. More than that, even. Become what she'd been before her marriage, acomplete, contained, confidently functioning independent person. She wanted to think - to believe - that she'd never stopped being that.
But most of all she was determined to be the supreme professional. That's how - and why - she'd got this appointment. She deserved it and without conceit knew no one could do it better, this job she'd worked so single-mindedly - perhaps too single-mindedly - to achieve. She couldn't allow any personal doubt about that.
She'd been the youngest ever professor - just thirty-three - to get the Chair in forensic and criminal psychology at London University, and the Home Office's first choice after the British government officially acknowledged the science of profiling - identifying a criminal mind before traditional investigators found a face or a name - as a qualified branch of criminal investigation.
And she was here, now, in The Hague, Britain's officially appointed forensic and criminal psychologist to Europol, the European Union's FBI.
About which, Claudine uncomfortably admitted to herself, she was far more uncertain than she was about a sad suicide note safely locked in the safe on the other side of the office in which she now sat. She was a consummate professional but not at this moment, allowing too many competing thoughts at one time.
Europol appeared to have everything. The nations of the European Union had each seconded their investigators and specialists, creating a crime-fighting capability as extensive as - maybe even more extensive than - the copied American Federal Bureau of Investigation. They had state-of-the-art headquarters here at The Hague, with state-of-the-art forensic and photographic laboratories and unrivalled computer facilities: to Claudine's bemusement there was even, in her own discipline, a visiting American criminal psychologist from the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI's violent crime analysis centre at Quantico, Virginia.
What no one had anticipated - or rather, what everyonerefused to anticipate - was the degree of political and professional opposition to a pan-European organization legally able to cross any national border and take over an investigation from that country's police force. Opposition which, from what she understood so far, was total.
Which did nothing to help her personally. Until there was a complete change in political will or a crime so awesome it overwhelmed national capability - and she managed to become involved in it - Claudine felt herself in limbo, still too occupied by the past. And Claudine Carter didn't want to live there any more. It was over, a compartment that had to be permanently sealed.
Without any conscious thought she got up and made her way across the room towards the safe.
Ironically it was at the end of the week in which the terror began that Claudine Carter moved into her permanent apartment: it was more expensive than she'd budgeted for but there was a distant view of the Vijver lake which the agent had considered a vital selling point.
It might have been wiser if she hadn't carried the new-life philosophy to the extreme of disposing of so much of her life with Warwick. The only thing that could be considered furniture - but wasn't - was the incredible spread of electronic equipment filigreed along one entire wall, which hadn't yet been rigged through the necessary transformer, together with Warwick's even more incredible lifetime collection of jazz memorabilia, records and CDs.
Apart from that there were just personal, intimate things. Their marriage certificate and wedding photograph; his sheaf of academic honours: his proudly smirking graduation pictures; the membership cards to various jazz clubs in London and a lot of tickets to concerts and festivals they'd been to; a pot of keys, few of which she could identify or remember now why she'd kept at all; a broken keyring with the Cambridge motif. Hesitantly she picked out the wedding photograph, setting it up on a shelf close to where she intended the stereoequipment to go. But as she worked, moving back and forth arranging and re-arranging everything, the photograph seemed, irrationally, to dominate the room, her only focus of attention, and towards the end of the Sunday evening she took it down and put it away in a bureau drawer along with all the other hidden things.
An entirely new life, she decided. Unless, that is, there was a difficulty she couldn't anticipate from the following day's encounter with the man from London.
MIND/READER. Copyright © 1997 by Brian Freemantle. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.