DEATH TRAP FOR KILLMASTER
It was just another expensive call girl operation, catering to Washington's elite. Until AXE realized that too many of the high-ranking customers were beginning to die. A senator. A cabinet officer. A congressman. Suddenly dead — and all of natural causes.
It was one of Killmaster's hottest assignments. It called for a false identity, and lots of field work with the willing women in the dead men's lives.
But each encounter ended with an attempt on Nick's life. The "accident" on the deserted highway... the bullet whistling past his head...the sharp-honed knife in the hands of a butchering assailant. The assignment was heating up!
Nick knew what he had to find. The Chicom agent behind the whole terrifying set-up. The man who trained beautiful women into exquisite sex machines; the man who blackmailed top American officials into treason after his girls finished with them; the man who killed those who refused to co-operate — like Nick Carter.
Hood of Death
Dedicated to The Men of the Secret Services of the United States of America
Ten seconds after he turned off Route 28 he wondered if he had made a mistake. Should he have brought the girl to this isolated area? Was it necessary to leave his weapons out of reach in the hidden locker under the car's rear deck?
Headlights had raced on their tail all the way from Washington on U.S. 66. You expected that on the busy superhighway, but the twin glares had stayed with them on Route 28, which was less logical. He thought they belonged to the same car. It was there now.
"Funny," he said, trying to feel whether the girl in his arms tensed at the remark. He felt no change. The lovely soft body remained deliciously pliant.
"What?" she murmured.
"You'll have to sit up a moment, darling." He moved her gently upright, spread his hands evenly on the wheel at three-and-nine-o'clock and put the throttle to the floor. A minute later he skid-turned into the familiar side road.
He had puttered with the tuning of the new engine himself and felt personal satisfaction as the 428 cubic inches growled out acceleration without a stumble on the rev up. The Thunderbird whipped through the S-turns of the two-lane Maryland back road like a hummingbird banking between trees.
"Exciting!" Ruth Moto levered herself away to give him arm room.
Smart girl, he thought. Smart, beautiful.
He knew the road well. The odds were they didn't. He could outrun them, slip away to safety and a promising evening. That wouldn't be doing the job. He sighed and let the Bird slow to a moderate speed and checked his back trail on a rise. The lights were there. They didn't dare put them out at these speeds on winding roads. They'd crack up. Mustn't let that happen — they might be as valuable to him as he would be to them.
He slowed to a crawl. The lights came closer, bobbled as if the other car were braked, and then they went out.
He smiled in the gloom. After the first chill of contact there was always the thrill and the hope of accomplishment.
Ruth leaned against him, the aroma of her hair and subtly delightful perfume pleasant again in his nostrils. 'That was fun," she said. "I like surprises."
Her hand was on top of the hard, solid muscles of his thigh. He couldn't tell if she pressed down slightly or the feeling was caused by the sway of the car. He replaced his arm around her and added a discreet hug. "I wanted to try those turns. The wheels were balanced last week and I haven't had a chance to bend her in town. She corners perfectly now."
"I think — everything you do is aimed at perfection, Jerry. Am I not right? Don't be modest. I get enough of that when I'm in Japan."
"I suppose so. Yes... perhaps."
"Of course. And you're ambitious. You want to be with the leaders."
"You're telling fortunes. Everybody wants perfection and leadership. Just as a tall dark man will appear in every woman's life if she lasts long enough."
"1 waited a long time." The hand pressed his thigh. It was not car motion.
"You're making a snap decision. We've only been together twice. Three times if you count meeting at Jimmy Hartford's party."
"I'm counting that," she whispered. Her hand rubbed his leg, very slightly. He was surprised and pleased at the sensual warmth that the simple caress aroused in him. It sent more tingles up his spine than most girls generated when they fondled his naked flesh. It's so true, he thought, the physical is fine for animals or a quickie, but to raise a really high temperature you need the emotional rapport.
In part, he supposed, he had sold himself on Ruth Moto when he watched her at the Yacht Club dance and a week later at Robert Quitlock's birthday dinner. Like a boy peering through a store window at a shiny bicycle or a mound of temptingly displayed candy, he gathered impressions that fueled his hopes and longings. Now that he knew her better, he was convinced his tastes were excellent.
Among the expensive gowns and dinner jackets at parties where men in the money brought the most beautiful women they could find, Ruth shown like an incomparable jewel. She had inherited height and long bones from her Norwegian mother and dark coloring and exotic features from her Japanese father, forming a Eurasian blend which produces the most beautiful women in the world. By any standards her body was amply perfect, and when she moved through a room on her father's arm every pair of male eyes flicked after her or followed her, depending on whether some other woman was watching them or not. She aroused admiration, desire and, in simpler minds, instant lust.
Her father, Akito Tsogu Nu Moto, provided a fitting escort. He was short and blocky, with smooth ageless skin and the calmly serene expression of a patriarch sculptured in granite.
Were the Motos what they seemed? They had been checked by the most efficient intelligence arm of the United States — AXE. The report was clean but the probe would go deeper, right back to Matthew Perry. David Hawk, AXE's top officer and Nick Carter's one superior in the chain-of-command had said, "They may be a blind alley, Nick. Old man Akito made a few million in Japanese-American ventures in electronics and building products. He's typed as hard as nails but straight. Ruth behaved at Vassar. She's a popular hostess and moves in good Washington circles. Follow other leads ... if you have any."
Nick suppressed a grin. Hawk would back you with his life and career, but he was deft with the inspirational needle. He replied, "I have. How about Akito as another victim?"
Hawk's thin lips showed one of his rare smiles, forming wise-and-weary wrinkles about his mouth and eyes. They had rendezvoused for their last talk just after dawn in a secluded dead-end at Fort Belvoir. The morning was cloudless, the day would be hot. The crisp rays of the sun lanced through the air above the Potomac and illuminated Hawk's strong features. He watched the boats starting out from the Mt. Vernon Yacht Club and Gunston Cove. "She must be as beautiful as they say she is."
Nick did not quiver an eyelid. "Who, Ruth? One of a kind."
"Personality plus sex appeal, eh? I must have a look at her. She comes over nicely in the pictures. You can have a look at them at the office."
If the name wasn't such a perfect fit I'd suggest
He said, "I prefer the real thing. She smells so nice. Unless — pornographic?"
"No, nothing like that. She checks out as a typical girl of decent family. Maybe an affair or two but if so discreetly hidden. Perhaps a virgin. There's always the
in our business. But don't buy them on this first check, Nick. Be careful. Don't relax for an instant."
Time and again Hawk had, with words of caution and extra foresighted action, literally saved the life of Nicholas Huntington Carter, N3 of AXE-US.
"I won't, sir," Nick replied. "But I have the feeling I'm not getting anywhere. Six weeks of Washington parties have been fun, but I'm getting bored with the good life."
"I can imagine how you feel, but stay with it. This case gives one a sense of helplessness, with three important men dead. But we'll get a break and it will burst wide open."
"No more help from the autopsy conferences?"
"The best pathologists in the world agree that they died by natural causes —
They give themselves that small out Natural? Yes. Logical? No. A senator, a cabinet official and a key banker in our monetary complex. We'll find the method or the link or the why. I have the feeling..."
Hawk's "feelings" — based on his encyclopedic knowledge and reasoned intuition — had never, as far as Nick could remember, been wrong. He had discussed details of the case and possibilities with Hawk for an hour and they had parted. Hawk to command — Nick to his role.
Six weeks ago Nick Carter had slipped almost literally into the skin of "Gerald Parsons Deming," Washington representative for a West Coast oil company. Another tall, dark and handsome young executive who was invited to all the best official and social gatherings.
He fitted the part. He should; it had been created for him by the master technicians in the Documents and Editing Divisions of AXE. Nick's hair became black instead of brown, the tiny blue hatchet inside his right elbow concealed with skin paint Where his deep tan wasn't enough to mark him as a genuine brunet, his skin was darkened. He stepped into a life which a double had established in advance, complete with papers and identification perfect even to hairline detail. Jerry Deming, man-about-town, with an impressive country place in Maryland and an apartment in the city.
The flicker of headlights in the mirror brought him back to the moment. He
Jerry Deming, fitting himself into the fantasy, forcing himself to forget the Luger and stiletto and tiny gas bomb so perfectly hidden in a compartment welded under the rear of the Bird. Jerry Deming. On his own. Decoy. Target. The man sent out to make the enemy move. The man who sometimes got the casket.
Ruth said softly, "Why are you in such a changeable mood tonight, Jerry?"
"Had a hunch. I thought a car was following us."
"Oh, dear. You didn't tell me you're married."
"Seven times and loved every one." He chuckled. It was the kind of a joke Jerry Deming would make. "No-o-o, sweet. I've been too busy to get deeply involved." That was the truth. He added a fib, "Don't see those lights any more. Guess I was mistaken. You gotta watch it. Plenty of stickups on these back roads."
"Be careful, dear. Perhaps we shouldn't have come away out here. Is your place terribly isolated? I'm not — scared, but my father is strict. He has a horror of publicity. He's always cautioning me to be careful. His old-country prudence, I suppose."
She eased back against his arm. If it's an act, Nick thought, it's great Since he had met her she had behaved precisely like the modern but conservative daughter of a foreign businessman who had discovered how to amass millions in the U.S.A. A man who considered his every move and word in advance. When you found the golden cornucopia you shunned any notoriety that might disturb your shoveling. In the world of war contracts and bankers and brass, publicity is as welcome as a slap on a red raw sunburn.
He found a luscious breast with his right hand, without any protest from her. It was about as far as he had gone with Ruth Moto, slower progress than he liked, but it fitted his methods. Schooling women, he had learned, was akin to training horses. The qualities for success were patience, one small advance at a time, gentleness — and experience.
"My place is isolated, dear, but there's an automatic gate on the drive and the police patrol the area regularly. Nothing to worry about."
She snuggled against him. "That's good. Have you owned it long?"
"Several years. Ever since I began spending a lot of time in Washington." He wondered if her questions were casual or well planned.
"And you were in Seattle before you came here? That's lovely country. Those trees in the mountains. The even climate."
"Yes." She couldn't see his small grin in the darkness. "I'm really a nature boy. I'd like to retire to the Rockies and just hunt and fish and — things like that."
"No. You can't hunt and fish all winter. And then there are rainy days."
She giggled. "Those are wonderful plans. But will you? I mean — maybe you'll put it off like all the rest and they'll find you at your desk at the age of fifty-nine. Heart attack. No hunting. No fishing. No winter or rainy days."