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...10:00 A.M., PST...

"I'm listening," he said, heading downstairs again, kicking his left leg out in front of him, almost hopping. With three left, whether they knew it or not, they were like a monster with its arms at the top and bottom of the building, and its head on the thirty-second floor. He had to go for the head. This was the last chance for the hostages to get away.

He was so frightened for Steffie that he wanted to cry. She had identified herself. She must have, trying to save her own children. He had only needed two more minutes, less than he would have had if the police had been willing to go along with him on the television scheme earlier. He was at the door to the thirty-second floor. "Come on, you wanted to talk. Let's hear what you have to say."

"Don't bully me, Mr. Leland. I have every intention of talking with you." The transmission was very clear, and it made Leland cautious. "Ah, silent now? I know you're nearby. Does it surprise you that I know that?"

Leland moved back from the door.

"Please, Mr. Leland, you're not going to admit that you're afraid of us at this time. I know you've been through an ordeal, but surely you don't believe you've proved your point. Hannah was more right about you than she realized. You're more than a trained dog. You live in a world of appearances and illusions designed to give your life the semblance of meaning. What do you think you've accomplished with all this?"

Leland stayed silent. He had his hand on the knob of the door.

"You're determined to make a fool of yourself," Little Tony said. "You don'tknow what you've done, do you? You've been guarding millions of dollars stolen from the destitute people of Chile, protecting the property of the biggest thieves the world has ever known, and trying to keep secret the most disgusting marriage of power and greed. Your daughter? Your daughter knows all about it. You are going to be hard-pressed to prove that you did not know it yourself."

Leland had the door open. The corridor was empty. To his left was Steffie's office; around to his right, the big room in which he had seen the gang herd the hostages. He had to try something.

"You haven't said anything real so far."

"A little more patience."

A strange thing to say, but at least Leland knew that Tony was not within the range of ordinary hearing which meant, too, that he could be as close as the elevator banks.

Now, from upstairs, a sharp, loud report; the building shook slightly, and from around on the right, he heard people gasp and begin to cry. The gang had not given up; with only three left, they had finally managed to blow the safe. But at the same time, they had confirmed their deployment. Leland grinned and moved around to the right.

The crowd of people looked not nearly as fresh as last night. The men were in their shirt-sleeves, and the women had gotten out of their uncomfortable shoes. They were sitting or lying on the floor, most of them facing the far door. One of the women looked up at him and put her hand to her mouth. He pointed to his badge and then put his finger to his lips.

"Tap your friend on the shoulder," he mouthed, going through the motions. She did, and he beckoned them to stand. The message spread quickly through the room, but not before one woman screamed.

"Get down! Get down!"

Leland pushed his way through the people falling to his left and right. He heard something on the radio. A shadow moved on the wall outside, and Leland fired at it. The Kalashnikov had no more than six rounds left. Tony's shadow withdrew it had to be Tony, with Stephanie. If he drove Tony back for a moment, the rest of the hostages could get to the stairs the other way.

"Go back!" he yelled. "Go back and go downthe stairs! Go slowly, there's no one after you!"

Tony poked the muzzle of his machine pistol around the corner and fired a burst, hitting a woman in the stomach. Leland returned the fire, then moved forward. People were running now, screaming.

"Grandpa!"

"Get your brother out of here, Judy!" He couldn't turn around to look at her.

"What about Mommy? He said he was going to kill us all. That's when she stood up."

Tony had threatened everyone because of Leland. "You go ahead. I'll take care of your mother."

"We thought you were one of them at first."

He turned around: now that her face was changing, Judy was beginning to resemble her dead grandmother.

"Go on! Go on!"

Tony stuck the muzzle around again. Leland fired. Tony's burst tore into the ceiling panels. Leland pressed the "Talk" button. "The hostages are free and coming down the stairs. Now you can take the bottom of the building. Do you copy?"

"We copy. How many are left?"

"No more than one downstairs. See you later." Outside, people began cheering. The Kalashnikov had two rounds left. A man was trying to pull the wounded woman out of the line of fire.

"Help me, she's my wife."

"He has my daughter!"

"Look at yourself! You're covered with blood!"

Leland showed his teeth. "Damn little of it is mine."

The man turned away, saying something to himself. Leland looked behind him. Not everyone had got out. There was a man's body in the corner, and near the exit, a second woman was on the floor, holding her leg and writhing. The cheers outside were louder, almost loud enough to obscure the sound of the elevator. Leland spoke into the radio again. "We have wounded on the thirty-second floor."

"How many?"

"Three, maybe more, maybe one dead."

"What's happening in there now? What was that explosion?"

"Tony can tell you as well as I can. Talk to him yourself."

"No, Mr. Leland, it's you to whom I will talk." You could hear the crackle of the elevator motor in his transmission. "What have you done here tonight but perpetrate the most bloody, unspeakable crimes?"

"You killed Rivers first. I saw you shoot him in cold blood."

"History will be the judge of that," Tony said.

Leland was moving as he listened, crossing the building to Steffie's office. "Mr. Leland, how many people have you killed tonight?"

"For a little while longer, Tony, that will stay classified."

"You're not ashamed of yourself, are you?"

"Nah." Steffie's office had been ransacked. It took him a while to recognize his jacket, but not because of the mess surrounding it. His pants were no longer the same color. He went into the bathroom.

"The world should know what a savage you are," Tony shouted. "You broke a boy's neck. You threw a man off the roof."

"Listen, you jive-ass son of a bitch!" Taco Bill roared. "Let go of that man's daughter!"

"Stay out of it, Bill," Leland said.

"The man's daughter, as you call her, is an adult largely responsible for seeing that one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world remains armed and in control of millions of helpless peasants. Are you listening, Mr. Leland? What are you doing, Mr. Leland?"

"Taking a couple of aspirins. I have a headache."

He had already done that. He had decided not to try to wash his face again, for he was liable to get something in his eyes. He was coated with grease, soot, and brown, dried blood from the top of his head down to the blackened, encrusted towels on his feet. He could scrape grease and dried blood out of his hair like cream cheese from a slice of bread. He opened the medicine cabinet again, trying to think ahead. Something was nagging him, something added. He took off the harness.

"Mr. Leland, for whom do you work?"

"I'm self-employed." He was hefting the Browning. The dirtier he was, the better. He had eleven shots. "Look, Tony, you've turned this around on me. Let's do a deal, you and I. A straight trade. You need a hostage. Take me instead of my daughter."

"Of course. You read my mind."

Leland practiced the move for the first time. Terrific it was going to work. "Now, how do you want to do this?"

He heard gunfire below. That was right: one below, number two was Tony, three was defending the roof. Three left, including a woman. It took Leland a moment to remember how he knew that: the voice on the radio reading the words and numbers. He practiced the move again. Adhesive tape wasn't going to bother him.

"You know where I am," Tony said. "I want you to take the elevator here, unarmed. When you present yourself, your daughter can enter the elevator, free to do as she wishes."

"Sounds swell."

"Don't go for it, Joe."

"Bill, this has been what I've been working for all night."

"Joe, we're entering the bottom of the building," Al Powell said. "We want you to use your head."

"You tell me when you're inside. In the meantime, I've got to play ball with this guy. What choice do I have?"

"Joe," Bill said, "according to the TV, the cops aren't in the building yet. In fact, somebody's really pouring it on."

"Let me tell him," Al Powell said. "They have fortified positions on the third floor that give them fields of fire to the north and south, which is all they need."

Leland was quiet. Was Tony upstairs with Steffie alone?Leland didn't think whoever just blew the safe could get downstairs that quickly. Either way was all right. Tony and Leland were wise to each other. Tony wanted him thinking he was on the fortieth floor. What Leland did not like was the idea that Tony was trying to pull on Leland a stunt Leland had tried unsuccessfully on the gang. You get in an elevator, you don't know where it's going to stop next. It was too simple. He picked up the radio.

"Al, you've got seventy-five people coming down the stairs. You've got to occupy the bottom of the building now."

A helicopter swung in on the building, which rung with the sound of returning heavy automatic fire. There was still one upstairs. He wondered how long it was going to take the police to get wise to the situation down below, one guy running back and forth between two positions.

"I want it known that we still have the weapons to knock the helicopters out of the sky!" Tony screamed. "The people on the staircases will be permitted to descend to street level. We want no further bloodshed. Mr. Leland, are you ready?"

Leland was already climbing the stairs. "What do you want me to do?" One down, one up, and Tony he couldn't have been able to fire at the helicopter and maintain a hold on Steffie at the same time.

"Get in the elevator."

"I'm starting from my daughter's office, and my feet are cut."

"I understand."

"It's a bad deal, Joe," Bill said.

"I want him to talk. Let him have his say."

"What we were going to do, Mr. Leland, if you had not interfered and caused all this bloodshed, was demonstrate to the world that your daughter and her partners, Rivers and Ellis, were doing what your own government now expressly forbids, that is, selling arms to Chile. One of the mistakes made by the capitalist press is the perpetuation of the idea that we are stupid people. We are not stupid people."

Leland was on the thirty-fourth floor. He thought he could go one more before he had to call an elevator. He didn't give a shit about Rivers or Ellis or their guns. Smart guys. Assholes. Stephanie hadn't even been sure of her bonus. They'd kept her tied in knots. How smart were they now, on their way to the autopsy room? He thought of what he had done to Rivers's body more bad luck. If you could not wear a dead man's shoes, you could not mutilate his body, either. He thought of his daughter again and had to wonder what kind of a human being she had become. He wondered if all this would even make a difference to her, a difference in the way she thought of life.

Tony was on the air again, talking to the world.

"We have been aware for a long time of the secret elements of the contract just concluded between Klaxon Oil and the murderous regime in Chile. Under the terms of the contract made public, for one hundred fifty million dollars, almost all of it borrowed from the United States and its puppet international lending agencies, Klaxon Oil is to build a bridge in Chile. One hundred and fifty million for a single, unimportant bridge in a country where millions live in unimaginable squalor. That itself would be bad enough, but there's more. For the next seven years, Klaxon has promised to supply the Chilean fascist, military regime with millions upon millions in arms. Arms with which to hold their illegal power, power that they seized through well-documented American intervention."

Leland was on the thirty-fifth floor, hailing an elevator. Tony was not so in love with the sound of his own voice that he would not recognize the starts and stops of the elevator for what they were evidence that Leland was coming after him. What Leland had in his favor was the fact that Tony was on the air. If he tried to punish Stephanie for what Leland was doing, Tony would lose whatever audience sympathy he was trying to develop. He knew it. Leland had no doubt that everything Tony was saying was true. Tony's tragedy was that he didn't see that he was as much a factor a result of the problem as the woman he was threatening with a gun.

The elevator arrived; Leland banged the "40" button and shuffled toward the stairs. He would be able to hear what happened. More gunfire from below. Good. Anything to make Tony think the situation was changing. Leland was at the stairs when the elevator stopped again and the shooting began almost at once and stopped. Leland got on the radio.

"Tony, you're feeling the strain. I tried that trick an hour ago, and it didn't work for me. I'm disappointed with you."

Tony sighed. "Mr. Leland, how do you know that your daughter is not already dead?"

Taco Bill boomed. "You touch that woman, I'll kill you myself, you son of a bitch!"

"That's how I know," Leland said. "Let her go if you want to fight me." He kept climbing: the length of time the elevator had been in motion made him think Tony was on the thirty-eighth floor. It was an open floor plan up there, with the outside windows in view on all sides. You'd better figure out what you're going to do, kiddo.

"Mr. Leland, your problem is that you don't know what battle you're fighting, or even what century you're in. Your chivalric notions have no relevance here. You are not Robin Hood and that fool with his radio is not Little John. Your daughter is one of the principals in this illegal transfer of weapons. You seem to know something of the real strength and status of multinational corporations. There are arms stockpiles here in the United States and in warehouses all over the world, where the most lethal weapons are traded on commodities exchanges, as if they were pork bellies or grain futures. We can document the transfers of funds, the money laundering, the attempts to conceal, obscure, and confuse the record. Even as I speak, on your precious, stupid holiday, ships are in international waters, bound for Chile, supposedly carrying farm equipment and machine tools, but in fact laden with automatic weapons, rockets, and other assorted arms. They set sail yesterday morning because the first payment was delivered to this building promptly at nine o'clock, and the signal was given. Six million dollars six million of the people's money. It has been in the safe here all this time, Mr. Leland. It is our intention to return it to the people. This six million is evidence of Klaxon's disregard for life and human rights in its pursuit of wealth and power. In our redistribution we are going to demonstrate the power of the grip corporations like Klaxon have on all of you. We are going to show how you all dance to their tune."

"Blow it out your ass," Taco Bill said.

"I think he was saying he was going to throw it out the window," Leland said.

"Yes, indeed," Tony said. "At noon. Do you have any objections, Mr. Policeman?"

Leland was thinking of something else, the remark Judy had made about him looking like one of them. Leland was above the thirty-seventh floor, going slowly. He was going to be two weeks in the hospital. All he had to do was live. "Tony, you have an odd sense of social justice. I don't think you'd be as thrilled with the idea of redistributing the wealth if you weren't involved. You'd probably be looking for a secret motive, wondering if somebody was getting a bigger cut than you. That's the way you are most people listening to you know that already. You made a point before of telling us that you weren't stupid. The most stupid thing people like you do is believe you understand the rest of us. You're not selling revolution, you're just trying to grab a piece of the action for yourself, on your own terms. No sale."

Leland was still thinking of Judy's remark. Tony rarely had been off the thirty-second floor. In the glimpse of him Leland had had moments ago, he had looked reasonably clean, even groomed. Leland looked like one of them? None that he had killed, not Tony, and not the girl who was still alive.

Karl. Karl was the one downstairs. Maybe he had lived through the elevator explosion. He was some tough son of a bitch.

Leland opened the stairwell door slowly. He was on the east side, still believing in Billy Gibbs's advice. He wanted to tell Tony that he hadn't known about Klaxon's and his daughter's involvement in the clandestine arms trade. But he knew about the arms trade itself, and everything Tony had said about it was true. Anything that was possible, some human beings were willing to try, apparently including Stephanie. He would be able to explain her behavior when someone was able to explain humanity to him.

Leland got down on his hands and right knee, and pulled himself toward the windows of the east side of the building. The Browning, as big as it was, taped up high between his shoulder blades, gave no sign of coming loose.

Leland and his daughter lived on opposite ends of the continent and saw each other once a year or so. They talked on the telephone every month, when they remembered, or when he was in a hotel room somewhere alone. In Atlanta or Boston, with the day already over in the East, he could call Santa Monica where it was still early evening, and say hello to everybody. He knew Steffie loved him, and knew, too, that sometimes she grew tired of him. Whether he wanted to believe it or not, the passage of time had made him old-fashioned. She had not had an easy life, and in some measure he was responsible but how much responsibility did he bear for an Ellis in her life, or the compromises she had made with herself to get so involved in this?

Leland wasn't thinking about guilt, he was thinking about distance, the distance between people. In spite of his success, money, and privilege, Leland could be in Atlanta or Boston at the end of a day as lonely as a bum sleeping in the park. When people knew who he was, what he had done, and where he had been in the world, they enviedhim without ever bothering to inquire about his interior life. What was true for him was true for millions of others. Face-to-face, Taco Bill, whoever he really was, probably couldn't sustain a conversation for more than five minutes, unless it was about radios or drugs, sex, or rock and roll. Over the air, though, why, this was living!

"Mr. Leland," Tony cooed, "I thought you were going to meet with me."

Leland had the volume low. "I'm still on the stairs."

"I know, I know. You're not so talkative."

"I've talked to killers before. You have nothing to teach me."

"There you go again. Rivers was an international criminal. A crime is being committed here, Mr. Policeman don't I have the obligation of a citizen to try to stop it? Do you claim that what you have done is morally different from, or superior to, trying to alert the world that another of your great multinationals is up to its elbows with human blood? And as for your daughter, what can a trained dog sire but a blood-thirsty bitch?"

Tony meant to kill her, too. Leland was moving along the east side of the building, still even with the elevator banks. He had been sure that Tony would be between them, but if that had been true, by now Leland would have picked up his voice in the room. Leland pressed the "Talk" button.

"You're getting scared, Tony. You were all right when you were in control, but now you're losing your grip." Leland was still moving. "What makes that, do you think? You ought to have more confidence, figuring how right you are. Or maybe it's because I'm so close to you now. You told me to come up here unarmed and then you blast the elevator you thought I was riding in. You're hiding behind my daughter with a machine pistol and you're shaking in your boots. Where's the Walther you shot Rivers with? That's all anybody needs to know about this. You're the one who brought the machine guns into the building. We were unarmed."

"Are you unarmed?"

"That's what you wanted."

"Well, then, stand up, please. I can hear you without the radio. Turn it off."

Leland turned it off before Taco Bill or anyone else could protest. He still didn't know Tony's location. It didn't matter not yet, anyway: Leland wanted to be sure Stephanie was well clear before he went for the Browning.

"I'm standing up!"

"Hands in the air!"

As Leland raised his arms, slowly, making a show of the pain he really felt, Little Tony emerged from behind the desks on the Wilshire Boulevard side. Leland took a step; he wanted Tony to see him dragging his leg. Tony motioned Stephanie to her feet. She reacted when she saw her father, and Tony grabbed her arm.

"I'm all right, honey," Leland called.

"Very noble, Mr. Leland," Tony said. "Over here, please. You look like a corpse already. Come on. What is the matter with your leg?"

Leland didn't answer. He was making a show of it, listing heavily to the right, which tilted his hand a bit closer to his head. Tony and Steffie were eight to ten feet from the windows, with Leland still too far away to be any kind of shot with the thing Tony carried, still too far to be an easy shot with Leland's Browning. He had always been an excellent marksman; there was some psychological theory about it, having to do with one's sense of self. Stephanie was watching him, but not because she expected him to do something. She started to break down. The last time she had seen him, he had looked human.

"I'm sorry I did this to you, Daddy!"

"The avenger," Little Tony snorted. "Implacable. Your father is a man of infinite illusions. He has a pistol in his collar. The policeman tried to make believe he was unarmed, and now he thinks he is going to be able to save you. He's such a fool. Why should he want to?"

"Out of the way, Steffie!"

"It will give me pleasure to kill both of you," Tony said.

Steffie did not pull away; she threw herself against Tony. It gave Leland the chance to hop forward a few feet more. He wanted her to get clear. This was his job. "Out of the way!"He still had the sun behind him. The pistol came out of position just as he'd planned, tape swirling around it. Tony had his eyes on him as he struggled against Steffie. Leland was close enough. He turned and offered his profile, shooting the way he had been taught decades ago, the old-fashioned way, bringing his arm down smoothly, aligned, a piece of machinery. The first shot was the one most pure, unaffected by recoil, and Leland wanted to hit Tony amidships, where the impact would do the most good.

"Kill him, Daddy! Kill him!"She swung at Tony, hitting him in the face. He was turning the machine pistol toward her when Leland fired, hitting him in the right nipple. He looked at Leland incredulously as Leland's second shot hit him in the shoulder, wrenching him back. Stephanie swung at him again.

"Get clear, baby! I got him and he knows it! "Tony shot her once in the lower abdomen, not letting go of her wrist. She turned to Leland as Tony tried to aim the machine pistol at him.

"Shoot him! He told me he was going to do this!"She pushed against Tony again. Leland shot a third time and missed. Eight left. Tony backed up, holding Stephanie. Leland reset himself and started shooting again. The first hit Tony in the stomach, three inches above the navel. Leland squeezed another, driving Tony back against the glass. The third shot was between the other two, and went clean through him, turning the window white. Tony was still clinging to Stephanie, falling backward. Leland fired three more times, not missing, almost cutting him in half.

Tony fell against the window, pushing it out with his back, holding onto Stephanie by her wrist, then hooking her wristwatch with a ringer, falling out, pulling her out with him. He was already dead; Leland heard Stephanie scream all the way down.

Outside, people shouted and cheered. Leland screamed, too, holding Stephanie's cry long after it would have disappeared from the earth forever.


...8:42 A.M., PST... | Nothing Lasts Forever | ...10:38 A.M., PST...