The smoothly tarred surface of the road abruptly stopped and became dirt. At this point on the small peninsula the township’s responsibility ended and the area of private property began. According to the United States Post Office, South Greenwich, Connecticut, the delivery route was listed on the map as Shore Road, Northwest, but to the carriers who drove out in the mail trucks it was known simply as High Barnegat, or just Barnegat.
And the carriers drove out frequently, three or four times a week, with special-delivery letters and certified-receipt-requested manila envelopes. They never minded the trip, because they received a dollar each time they made a delivery.
Eight acres of ocean property with nearly a half-mile bordering directly on the sound. Most of the acreage was wild, allowed to grow unhampered, untamed. What seemed contradictory in spirit was the compound—the house and grounds seventy yards up from the central beach. The long rambling house was contemporary in design, great expanses of glass encased in wood looking out over the water. The lawns were deep green and thick, manicured and broken up by flagstone paths and a large terrace directly above the boathouse.
It was late August, the best part of the summer at High Barnegat. The water was as warm as it would ever be; the winds came off the sound in gusts which made the sailing more exciting—or hazardous—depending on one’s point of view; the foliage was at its fullest green. In late August a sense of calm replaced the hectic weeks of summer fun. The season was nearly over. Men thought once again of normal weekends and five full days of business; women began the agonizing process of selection and purchase that signaled the start of the new school year.
Minds and motives were slowly changing gears. Frivolity was ebbing; there were more serious things to consider.
And the steady flow of house guests diminished at High Barnegat.
It was four-thirty in the afternoon, and Phyllis Trevayne reclined in a lounge chair on the terrace, letting the warm sun wash over her body. She thought, with a degree of satisfaction, that her daughter’s bathing suit fitted her rather comfortably. Since she was forty-two and her daughter seventeen, satisfaction could have turned into minor triumph if she allowed herself to dwell on it. But she couldn’t because her thoughts kept returning to the telephone, to the call from New York for Andrew. She had answered on the terrace phone, because the cook was still in town with the children and her husband was still a small white sail far out on the water. She’d nearly let the phone ring unanswered, but only very good friends and very important—her husband preferred the word “necessary”—business associates had the High Barnegat number.
“Hello, Mrs. Trevayne?” had asked the deep voice on the other end of the line.
“Frank Baldwin here. How are you, Phyllis?”
“Fine, just fine, Mr. Baldwin. And you?” Phyllis Trevayne had known Franklyn Baldwin for several years, but she still couldn’t bring herself to call the old gentleman by his first name. Baldwin was the last of a dying breed, one of the original giants of New York banking.
“I’d be a lot better if I knew why your husband hasn’t returned my calls. Is he all right? Not that I’m so important, God knows, but he’s not ill, is he?”
“Oh, no. Not at all. He’s been away from the office over a week now. He hasn’t taken any messages. I’m really to blame; I wanted him to rest.”
“My wife used to cover for me that way, too, young lady. Instinctively. Jumped right into the breach, and always with the right words.”
Phyllis Trevayne laughed pleasantly, aware of the compliment. “Really, it’s true, Mr. Baldwin. Right now the only reason I know he’s not working is that I can see the sail of the catamaran a mile or so off-shore.”
“A cat! God! I forget how young you are! In my day no one your age ever got so damned rich. Not by themselves.”
“We’re lucky. We never forget it.” Phyllis Trevayne’s voice spoke the truth.
“That’s a very nice thing to say, young lady.” Franklyn Baldwin also spoke the truth, and he wanted her to know that. “Well, when Captain Ahab bounds ashore, do ask him to call me, will you, please? It’s really most urgent.”
“I certainly shall.”
“Good-bye, my dear.”
“Good-bye, Mr. Baldwin.”
But her husband had been in touch with his office daily. He’d returned dozens of calls to far less important people than Franklyn Baldwin. Besides which, Andrew liked Baldwin: he’d said so a number of times. He’d gone to Baldwin on many occasions for guidance in the tangled webs of international finance.
Her husband owed a great deal to the banker, and now the old gentleman needed him. Why hadn’t Andrew returned the calls? It simply wasn’t like him.
The restaurant was small, seating no more than forty people, and situated on Thirty-eighth Street between Park and Madison avenues. Its clientele was generally from the ranks of the approaching-middle age executives with suddenly more money than they’d ever made before and a desire, a need, perhaps, to hold on to their younger outlooks. The food was only fair, its prices high, and the drinks were expensive. However, the bar area was wide, and the rich paneling reflected the soft, indirect lighting. The effect was a throwback to all those collegiate spots from the fifties that these drinkers remembered with such comfort.
It was designed precisely with that in mind.
Considering this, and he always considered it, the manager was slightly surprised to see a short, well-dressed man in his early sixties walk hesitantly through the door. The man looked around, adjusting his eyes to the dim light. The manager approached him.
“A table, sir?”
“No. . . . Yes, I’m meeting someone. . . . Never mind, thank you. We have one.”
The well-dressed man spotted the person he was looking for at a table in the rear. He walked abruptly away from the manager and sidled awkwardly past the crowded chairs.
The manager recalled the man at the rear table. He’d insisted on that particular table.
The elderly man sat down. “It might have been better to meet someplace other than a restaurant.”
“Don’t worry, Mr. Allen. No one you know comes here.”
“I certainly hope you’re right.”
A waiter approached, and the order was given for drinks.
“I’m not so sure you should be concerned,” said the younger man. “It strikes me that I’m the one taking the risk, not you.”
“You’ll be taken care of; you know that. Let’s not waste time. Where do things stand?”
“The commission has unanimously approved Andrew Trevayne.”
“He won’t take it.”
“The feeling is that he will. Baldwin’s to make the offer; he may have done so already.”
“If he has, then you’re late.” The old man creased the flesh around his eyes and stared at the tablecloth. “We heard the rumors; we assumed they were a smokescreen. We relied on you.” He looked up at Webster. “It was our understanding that you would confirm the identity before any final action was taken.”
“I couldn’t control it; no one at the White House could. That commission’s off-limits. I was lucky to zero in on the name at all.”
“We’ll come back to that. Why do they think Trevayne will accept? Why should he? His Danforth Foundation is damn near as big as Ford or Rockefeller. Why would he give it up?” Allen asked.
“He probably won’t. Just take a leave of absence.”
“No foundation the size of Danforth would accept a leave for that length of time. Especially not for a job like this. They’re all in trouble.”
“I don’t follow you. . . .”
“You think they’re immune?” asked Allen, interrupting. “They need friends in your town. Not enemies. . . . What’s the procedure? If Baldwin has made the offer. If Trevayne accepts?”
The waiter returned with the drinks and both men fell silent. He left, and Webster answered.
“The conditions are that whoever the commission selects receives the President’s approval and is subject to a closed hearing with a bipartisan committee in the Senate.”
“All right, all right.” Allen raised his glass and swallowed a large portion of his drink. “Let’s work from there; we can do something there. We’ll disqualify him at the hearing.”
The younger man looked puzzled. “Why? What’s the point? Someone’s going to chair that subcommittee. I gather this Trevayne’s at least a reasonable man.”
“You gather!” Allen finished his drink rapidly. “Just what have you gathered? What do you know about Trevayne?”
“What I’ve read. I did my research. He and his brother- in-law—the brother’s an electronics engineer—started a small company dealing in aerospace research and manufacturing in New Haven in the middle fifties. They hit the motherlode seven or eight years later; they were both millionaires by the time they were thirty-five. The brother-in-law designed, while Trevayne sold the hell out of the products. He cornered half the early NASA contracts and set up subsidiaries all over the Atlantic seaboard. Trevayne pulled out when he was thirty-seven and took on a job with the State Department. Incidentally, he did a whale of a job for State.” Webster raised his glass, looking over the rim at Allen. The young man expected to be complimented on his knowledge.
Copyright © 2015 by Robert Ludlum. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.