memories of midnight-Page 32

Atanas Stavich was feeling terribly aroused. Taking care of a contract always did that to him. He made it a rule to have sex with his victims, male or female, before he killed them, and he always found it exciting. Now he was frustrated because there had been no time to torture Catherine or to make love to her. Atanas looked at his watch. It was still early. His plane didn't leave until eleven o'clock that evening. He took a taxi to Shepherd Market, paid the driver, and wandered into the labyrinth of streets. There were half a dozen girls standing on street corners calling out to the men passing by.

"Hello, love, would you like a French lesson tonight?"

"How about a little party?"

"Are you interested in Greek?"

None of the women approached Atanas. He walked up to a tall blonde wearing a brief leather skirt and blouse and stiletto-heeled shoes.

"Good evening," Atanas said politely.

She looked down at him, amused. "Hello, little boy. Does your mother know you're out?"

Atanas smiled shyly. "Yes, ma'am. I thought if you weren't busy..."

The prostitute laughed. "Did you, now? And what would you do if I wasn't busy? Have you ever made love to a girl before?"

"Once," Atanas said softly. "I liked it."

"You're the size of a minnow," the girl laughed. "I usually throw the little ones back, but it's a slow night. Have you got ten bob?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"All right, love. Let's go upstairs."

She led Atanas through a doorway, and up two flights of stairs to a small one-room apartment.

Atanas handed her the money.

"Well, let's see if you know what to do with it, love." She stripped off her clothes and watched Atanas undress. She looked at him in astonishment. "My God! You're enormous."

"Am I?"

She got into bed and said, "Be careful. Don't hurt me."

Atanas moved toward the bed. Ordinarily, he enjoyed beating up whores. It increased his sexual satisfaction. But he knew that this was no time to do anything suspicious or to leave a trail that the police might want to follow. So Atanas smiled down at her and said, "This is your lucky night."

"What?"

"Nothing." He climbed on top of her and closed his eyes and plunged into her, hurting her, and it was Catherine screaming for mercy, begging him to stop. And he pounded her savagely, harder and harder, her screams exciting him until finally everything exploded and he sank back satisfied.

"My God," the woman said. "You're unbelievable."

Atanas opened his eyes and he wasn't with Catherine. He was with some ugly whore in a dreary room. He got dressed and took a taxi to his hotel room, where he packed and checked out.

When he headed for the airport, it was nine-thirty. He had plenty of time to catch his plane.

There was a small line at Olympic Airways. When Atanas reached the head of the line, he handed the clerk his ticket. "Is the flight on time?"

"Yes." The clerk looked at the name on the ticket, Atanas Stavich. He looked up at Atanas again, then glanced at a man standing nearby and nodded. The man walked over to the ticket counter.

"May I see your ticket?"

Atanas handed him the ticket. "Is anything wrong?" he asked.

The man said, "I'm afraid we've overbooked this flight. If you'd like to come into the office, I'll try to straighten everything out."

Atanas shrugged. "All right." He followed the man toward the office, filled with a feeling of euphoria. Demiris was probably out of jail by now. He was too important a man for the law to touch him. Everything had gone perfectly. He would take the fifty thousand dollars and put it into one of his Swiss numbered accounts. Then a little vacation. The Riviera perhaps, or Rio. He liked the male prostitutes in Rio.

Atanas walked into the office and stopped, staring. He turned pale. "You're dead! You're dead! I killed you!" It was a scream.

Atanas was still screaming when they led him out of the room and into a police van. They watched him leave, and Alan Hamilton turned to Catherine. "It's over now, darling. It's finally over."