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(page 4, continued)

The sound of crunching gravel made her turn, and she panicked to see her cab speed off, showering her suitcase with dust.  You’re a psychologist, she reminded herself, you know how to deal with intimidation . . . 

Grabbing her bag, she called over to the men, “I’m late for a meeting, they’re expecting me.” And hurried on. 

They shouted back, “Pare!” 

She ignored them, willing the door open. It was, and she slammed it behind her, finding herself in a dingy, ill-lighted stairwell. She climbed, relieved to hear no pursuit.

At the top was a windowless door, no sign, number or bell.  She placed an ear to it. Strange beeping and voices. Not Ian’s, no one she recognized. Two men and a woman speaking English, each with different accent. Asian? Russian? French? She could make out only phrases.

“Seven degrees . . . Eee-ee-gee zero . . . Cardio zero . . .”

She tried the knob. Locked. Then gave the door a rap, and the voices ceased as the beeping continued. But no answer. She banged her fist, shouting with authority, “I’m here to see Ian Baringer. Let me in.”

A pause, and she heard the Asian-sounding man at the door, voice tense, “Private property. You trespass. Go.”

“I know he’s here—let me in or I’m calling the police!”

Muffled talk, argumentative. Then the Russian accent, “That’s it—terminate.”

More argument. Finally the door cracked, a man of slight build peering out. Asian, late thirties, medical gown, surgical mask dangling round his neck, eyes squints of fear. 

“Who you?”

“Ian’s fiancée.”

Farther back in the room, the woman’s voice, “Luc Dow, you idiot. What ze hell you do?”

(continued . . .)