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It had taken the engineer just a few minutes to take the water dispenser apart. Now he reached inside and carefully disengaged a slim glass vial from a tangle of wires and circuit boards.

“Built into the filter,” he said. “There’s a valve system. Very ingenious.”

He passed the vial to a stern-looking woman who held it up to the light, examining its contents. It was half filled with a transparent liquid. She swirled it around, smelled it, finally applied a little to her index finger and tasted it. Her eyes narrowed.

“Librium,” she announced. She had a clipped, matter-of-fact way of speaking. “Nasty little drug. A spoonful will put you out cold. A couple of drops, though … they’ll just confuse you. Basically knock you off-balance.”

The restaurant, and indeed the entire Millennium Building, had been closed for the night. There were three other men there. John Crawley was one. Next to him stood a uniformed policeman, obviously senior. The third man was gray-haired and elderly, wearing a Wimbledon tie with dark green stripes. Alex was sitting to one side, feeling suddenly tired and out of place. Nobody apart from Crawley knew that he worked for MI6. As far as they were concerned, he was just a ball boy who had somehow stumbled onto the truth.

Alex was dressed in his own clothes now. He had telephoned Crawley, then taken a shower and changed, leaving his ball boy uniform back in his locker. Somehow he knew that he had worn it for the last time. He wondered if he would be allowed to keep the shorts, shirt, and sneakers with the crossed rackets logo embroidered on the tongue. The uniform is the only payment Wimbledon ball boys receive.

“It’s pretty clear what was going on,” Crawley was saying now. “You remember, I was worried about that break-in we had, Sir Norman.” This to the man in the striped tie. “Well, it seems I was right. They didn’t want to steal anything. They came here to fix up the water dispensers. In the restaurant, in the lounge, and probably all over the building. Remote control … is that right, Henderson?” Henderson was the man who had taken the water dispenser apart. Another MI6 operative. “That’s right, sir,” he replied. “The dispenser functioned perfectly normally, giving out iced water. But when it received a radio signal-and that’s what our friend was doing with the fake cellular phone-it injected a few milliliters of this drug, Librium. Not enough to show up in a random blood test if anybody happened to be tested. But enough to destroy their game.” Alex remembered the German player, Blitz, leaving the court after he had lost his match. He had looked dazed and out of focus. But he had been more than that. He had been drugged.

“It’s transparent,” the woman added. “And it has virtually no taste. In a cup of iced water it wouldn’t have been noticed.”


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