By John R. Maxim
Published by William Morrow & Co
March 2003; 0-060-00584-X; 390 pages
From the site he had chosen, the rebel commander could see sixty miles of coastline. The place was Angola on West Africa's coast. Its capital, Luanda, lay below him. Beyond was the shimmer of the South Atlantic Ocean, set ablaze as the sun neared the horizon.
The rebel commander was called Alameo. He was a tall man, somewhat gaunt, with an intelligent face whose normal expression was the hint of a smile, but many days had passed since he'd last smiled. He was dressed in green-and-brown mottled fatigues that bore no insignia of rank. His only distinguishing badge was his cap. It was a Frenchstyle kepi, flat on top, blue in color, with fabric that draped to his shoulders.
He was known throughout Angola by that cap.
He had chosen this site, near the great waterfall, because it was easily defended. Only two winding roads snaked their way up the bluffs that marked the beginning of the inland plateau. Each road had a number of hairpin turns, all of which were within easy range of his mortars.
An attacking force on the ground would be slaughtered. Nor did he fear an attack from the air. A canopy of forest protected his encampment from visual sightings by attack helicopters. And they would be within range of his missiles.
But his mind on this day was not on defense. When darkness fell he would descend the bluffs with only his captain and a few handpicked men. The Israelis, his advisers, had begged him not to risk it. Their leader, named Yoni, said, "You're not thinking straight. We can't afford to lose you over this."
Alameo answered, "He tortured her, Yoni."
The Israeli grimaced. "We know what he did."
"He cut Sara to pieces. He dismembered her, Yoni. And he kept her alive until the last cut. What she suffered was still on her face."
This last was not true, thought the man known as Yoni. He had seen her face himself. It was swollen, but vacant. She had indeed suffered greatly, but her face gave little sign of it. All they knew was that Savran Bobik had Sara for what must have been three terrible days. He then sent Alameo what was left of her.
The Israeli reached his hands to the taller man's shoulders.
"Alameo . . . my friend . . . you must listen to me. I know that Sara was special to you. But she was one of us long before she met you. I trained her myself. And I loved her myself. Your claim is not greater than ours."
"Bobik sent her to me. Not to you."
The Israeli said, "Yes, but we sent her to him. Do you think I don't wish we never asked her to do it? I would give both my eyes to have her back."
"I want Bobik's."
The Israeli gestured toward the city of Luanda. Its lights had begun to blink on. He said, "Let us do this for you. We can move about freely. We're Mossad, but most of us have embassy status. The worst they can do if we're caught is expel us. You, they will shoot or much worse."
"You can have Savran Bobik when I'm finished with him. I intend to have him for three days."
The Israeli gestured toward a nearer set of lights. They came from a large biochemical complex surrounded by razor-wire fencing. It covered at least four kilometers square. Even so, only part of the facility could be seen. It was said to go four, perhaps five stories down. The main building bore the name VaalChem.
Yoni asked, "Is he there? That place is guarded like a fort. How can you hope to get out alive?"
Alameo shook his head. "He won't be at VaalChem. Not tonight."
"At a warehouse that he uses. He'll be there in two hours. He's preparing another of his shipments of death. It will be his last. That, I promise."
"You are reliably informed?"
He nodded. "I am."
"By whom, Alameo? Who down there can you trust? Has it crossed your mind that this might be a trap? That he's waiting for you? That he's ready?"
"It has. He thinks he is. I'm not a stupid man, Yoni."
"If you take him," asked Yoni, "what then?"
"I told you. Three days. He will answer for Sara. And Bobik has much to tell us both about VaalChem."
"Well, do me one favor. Hold on to that thought. Savran Bobik is a sadist and an all-around pig, but VaalChem may have killed many hundreds to his one and they've died just as horribly as Sara."
"Not the same," said Alameo. "They all thought they were sick. They weren't strapped down while someone tore at their flesh."
A sigh. "Okay, agreed. Promise me I'll get to question him."
"You can have him on the third day."
Artemus Bourne had been expecting the shipment, but not for another few days at the least. The three red-and-white containers, resembling picnic coolers, bore the logo of one of the companies he owned, a biotech firm in West Africa. He would have Winfield's hide for this stupidity.
His instructions were explicit. They had all been ignored. The containers were to have been shipped most discreetly to another of his firms in Virginia. In plain language, they were to be smuggled. They were to have taken a circuitous route from Angola, to Lisbon, to Grand Cayman, to Virginia. They were then to be driven to Briarwood, his estate. Unopened, uninspected, and untraceable.
And yet here they were, expressed directly to his home, not only with those logos announcing their source, but with his name, in bold letters, emblazoned on the label and written in Winfield's own hand. The writing seemed a bit shaky, but definitely Winfield's. The damned fool must have fallen off the wagon...Copyright © 2003 John R. Maxim
Reprinted with permission.
The chillingly prescient subject of New York Times bestselling author John R. Maxim's remarkable new thriller -- which anticipates the development of unstoppable viral weapons -- is reassuring in at least one regard: It has threatened and angered Paul Bannerman.
The story begins not in Westport, Connecticut, where Bannerman and a group of his deadliest operatives have been trying to live otherwise normal lives, but in a fortified estate outside Washington, D.C., where the billionaire sociopath Artemus Bourne has taken delivery of a package. It was supposed to contain samples of horrific bio-weapons that one of his offshore firms created. Instead, the package held three severed heads. One belonged to the scientist who'd developed those weapons. The other two belonged to men who'd tested the virus on humans.
Bourne knows who sent him the three heads and why; it is an act of vengeance by a man long thought dead. He is out of Bourne's reach, but Bourne knows that man's one weakness -- a woman who is the great love of his life. If Bourne can find her, his problem might be nipped in the bud.
But Bourne's solution puts him at odds with Paul Bannerman, himself a friend of this woman. And Bannerman has a number of "ghosts" of his own, so-called because they, too, are thought to be dead and beyond the reach of the living. But none of them are beyond the reach of Artemus Bourne's deadly viral weapons. If Bannerman does not agree to stand down, anything in Westport that breathes will die.
Bannerman adventure, long awaited and much requested, is a heart-stopping
tale ripped from today's headlines. It is also a tale of loyalty, of honor,
and of a love that transcends life and death.
John R Maxim was born and raised in Manhattan (New York City). He graduated from Fordham University and went into advertising, working on Madison Avenue. He rose to the title of Senior VP and moved to Greenwich, CT, and later Westport, CT. One night, while commuting home in the bar car of his train, he decided to quit and try writing. Platforms was sold within six months (without even using an agent), and the rest is history.
He and his wife live on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.