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Chapter 90: "We're not robbers."

Almost a week had passed since John and Hope had received Kim's list of dates and still nothing.  They had tried thousands of combinations of words and numbers without success, but she was undeterred.  Hope remained confident, though.  John had created a program on his laptop to generate different passwords using combinations of three or four words and dates.  Sooner or later, one of them would work.  Hope was sure of it.

She actually wished she was still in the communications bunker punching in codes, rather than standing in the cold rain, outside an English pub at 9 p.m.  Hope stuffed her hands into her pockets and looked at John, whose eyes were fixed on the door.

"Are you really sure this is the right place?" she asked.

"Yes," he said for the third time.  Before she could reply, the pub door opened and a tall, lanky man in his mid-50s stepped out.  He wore a dark trench coat and a tweed hat.  "That's him," John said.  "Let's go."

The man opened an umbrella and began walking down the road.  Hope and John followed at a discrete distance, with John wrapping an arm around her shoulder.  To anyone passing by, they would look like any other tourist couple returning home from dinner or the pub.

Hope still wondered about John's plan.  He seemed pretty convinced that the lead about Drew Donovan was a fake, but still insisted on following up on it.  Hope had asked John if he thought it might be a trap, but he had shaken his head.  There was a reason why Homeland Security or the ISA was interested in Drew and, with Shane missing, John wanted to find out why and give Drew a warning.

The man, who John had told her was named Geoffrey Harris, turned on to a foot-bridge that crossed over the Avon.  They followed.

"He's on to us," John whispered, as they reached the midpoint of the bridge.  She had seen nothing to indicate the man was suspicious, but then John grabbed her and pulled her into a tight embrace.  "Just pretend," he said in her ear, as she glanced out the corner of her eye to see that the man had stopped at the end of the bridge.  Although he was facing the water, she could tell he was watching them.

Hope joined in the pretense, faking a kiss.  "I won't mention this to Marlena if you don't," she whispered.

"You'd better not."  John let her go with a slight shove, then added, "Harris turned toward the house.  You know what to do now?"

"Yes.  You only told me five times."  Hope felt her pocket, making sure her service revolver was still there.  She began sprinting down the bridge toward the street on the opposite side.  John took a shortcut.  He ran to the point where the bridge came over the bank and jumped over the side.

By the time Hope turned the corner onto the street, she could see their man walking quickly back toward the bridge.  John must have cut off his path to the house.

The man saw Hope and froze, obviously uncertain of the way to run.  She ran toward him, pulling her gun from her pocket.  He immediately raised his arms.

"Take what you want," he said.  "I don't have much, but you can take it all."

John caught up, just as the man finished speaking.  "Trust us, Mr. Harris, we don't want your money."  He pushed the man's arms down and took hold of one.  "We'll explain when we get to your house."

"My house?" he said, obviously surprised.  "You're going to rob my house?"

"We're not robbers," Hope tried to assure him, but he did not seem appeased as they walked about a half-mile.  They finally reached a small house and the man opened the gate.  He took another few steps, but John stopped him.

"Now just take it easy as you turn off the defenses," John cautioned.

The man looked at John in surprise.  "How did you--"

"We'll explain once we're inside.  But I promise we don't want to hurt you or Ralph."  John kept his distance from the front door as Hope came to a stop next to him.  They watched Harris open a small panel door in the whitewashed wall next to the front door.  It so matched the wall of the house that Hope would not have even known it was there.  Harris glanced at them furtively.

Hope gave him what she hoped was a calming smile.  "We really are here to help."  He looked at the gun in her hand and took a deep swallow.   She could understand why he might not believe her.

"Nervous type, isn't he?" John muttered.

Eventually, Harris punched the final code and the door clicked open.  "Uh . . . why don't you come in?"

"Don't mind if we do," Hope said, still smiling.  She pushed past Harris and checked to see if there were any signs of life or other defenses inside.  She saw nothing.  Behind her, John waited for Harris to step inside before he followed and pulled the door closed. 

Hope found a light switch and flipped it on.  The light revealed that they were in a small living room, with a sofa and a couple of chairs set in front of a fireplace.  On the mantle, much like at Donovan Manor, sat numerous photographs.

"Please take a seat."  John motioned toward the sofa. 

As Harris complied, Hope walked over to the mantle and studied the pictures.  With the exception of one lone photo, anyone studying the pictures would have thought that occupants of the house began life in their 30s.  The one exception was a black-and-white picture of two young men -- or one man twice, given how the two men were identical.

"Nice to see Drew kept this," Hope said.  She had seen the same photo at Donovan Manor.  She turned back to see Harris watching her, his eyes wide.

"You know?" he stammered and then covered his mouth.  Hope saw tears welling in his eyes.  "Please don't take him.  He's no threat to you."

Hope and John exchanged glances, before John said, "We don't want to take Drew."

"But . . . but Ralph said . . ."

"What did Ralph -- I mean Drew -- say?" John asked.

Harris looked at both of them, obviously confused and yet still terrified.  "He said that you'd come, that you'd find him eventually."

"Who was 'you'?"  Hope stepped closer to the couch.

"Oh, God, I can't believe I forgot it . . . Ralph said he was looking for him and he'd find him sooner or later.  I always thought it was just one of his stories -- like those stories he told about being in the ISA.  Now what was it . . . It was some Italian-sounding name."

"Stefano?" Hope said.

"That's it.  Stefano.  Don't know how it escaped me."  He suddenly seemed to remember that he was supposed to be scared.  "You're working for him, aren't you?"

This time, the looks John and Hope exchanged were quite amusing.  "No," John said.  "Not even close.  We're friends of Drew's brother, Shane."

"Shane?"  He eyed them carefully and then crossed his arms.  "Barely know the bloke."

John laughed.  "Yeah, but Drew does."  He began to step backwards, moving closer to the door.  Hope got the distinct impression that something was going on, but figured that if John wanted her to know, he would have said something.

"Yes, we're friends of Shane from the old days," Hope said, speaking in a slightly louder voice than before.  "So it sounds like you've met him."

"Um . . . well, a couple of times . . ."  Harris seemed intent on not looking at the door.  Hope got ready to turn.

Behind her, John jerked open the door.  Hope spun around just in time to see a rather rotund man fall to the ground at John's feet.  John looked him over.

"Hello, Drew.  Long-time, no-see."

The man on the floor looked up and shook his head as in disbelief.  "Oh, it's you," he said disdainfully.  "And here I thought Geoffrey was in trouble."  He pulled himself to his feet and brushed himself off.  He was bald, with a trim grey beard, and Hope could see a definite resemblance to Shane.  He walked into the living room, stepped behind the couch, turned, and put both hands on Harris' shoulders.  "So, what brings you to this side of the pond, Roman?  Don't tell me that my dear brother has gone and got himself into a spot of trouble."