Authors: William Diehl
Tags: #Detective and mystery stories, #Police, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Psychological, #Suspense, #Thrillers, #Fiction - Psychological Suspense, #Fiction
Italy, 1944: A squad of American soldiers on a dangerous secret mission is ambushed and slaughtered . . . and a fortune in gold vanishes.
Hong Kong, 1959: An aging American colonel, haunted by his wartime past, is brutally murdered in a luxurious brothel.
Atlanta, 1975: The last survivor of the fatal World War II ambush in Italy is executed at point blank range in a parking lot.
Blowing away a crazed, gun-wielding drug dealer on a crowded city bus gets police detective Sharky bounced from the narc squad into the dreaded dregs of the department-vice. That's where he stumbles on a high-priced call girl and her pimp who are fleecing rich johns in an even higher-priced blackmail scam. Together with his "machine" of hard-bitten vice squad veterans, Sharky closes in for a big sting. He doesn't count on falling for Domino, his alluring target. Or falling into the middle of the murderous design she's a part of-involving a hot presidential candidate, the shadowy multimillionaire who's backing him, and the ice-cold assassin they're using to wipe out the past . . . before it blows their future to hell.
"Every chapter crackles with sex, violence, and corruption."
-The Washington Post
"Fast-paced, attention-holding, hard-hitting."
"A slam-bang ending that should shock the most jaded thriller reader."
-The Associated Press
VICTOR DELAROZA is the ruthless multi-millionaire kingmaker who caters to the whims and pleasures of the super-rich and the super-powerful..
DONALD HOTCHINS is the senator who wants power
the ultimate power in the land
unaware that the woman he loves and the man whose money he needs, hide scandals so devastating that they could break him forever
ARKY is the gritty cop from the Vice Squad who hears some shockingly obscene tapes that draw him into a world of lethal secrets and dangerous seductions
And they all have a fatal weakness for
DOMINO, ravishing, fascinating companion of millionaires and politicians
America’s most bizarrely skilled and exclusive ca
It started one continent and three decades away
is the superb, solid-bullion action-thriller that pulls it all together. Here is a world of stunning violence, outrageous sex, sinister intrigue and heart-stopping intercontinental
, announcing the mega
thrill explosion of a new major thriller-writing talent.
Also by William Diehl in Warner Books:
First published in Great Britain by
Hutchinson& Co (Publishers) Ltd 1978
Published by Sphere Books 1979
Reprinted 1979, 1982 (twice), 1983, 1985, 1986,
1987, 1988, 1990
Reprinted by Warner Books 1994
Copyright © 1978 by William Diehl
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any
form or by any means, without the prior
permission in writing of the publisher, nor be
otherwise circulated in any form of binding or
cover other than that in which it is published
and without a similar condition including this
condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Printed in England by Clays
St Ives pie
ISBN 07515 1369
A Division of
Little, Brown and Company (UK)
London WC2E 7EN
For my wife, Candy, with love and affection always
To these special people for their love, encouragement, and
support before and during the writing of
to my mother and father; to my children, Cathy, Bill, Stan, Melissa, and Temple; to Carol, Temp. and Julie; to my dear friends, Marilyn and Michael Parver, Carole Jackowitz, Mardie and Michael Rothschild, Leon and Judy Walters, DeeDee Cheraton and Ira Yerkes, Arden Zinn, and Larry and Davida Krantz for ‘The Nosh’; to three generous and indulgent editors from the past, Al Wilson, Howard Cayton, and especially Jim Townsend; to Delacorte’s Helen Meyer, a legendary woman; and my new
, Ross Claiborne and Bill Grose for their dazzling enthusiasm; to my editor, Linda Grey, whose warmth and kindness made it easy and whose brilliance made it better; but znost of all, to my dynamic and unerring agent, and
friend, Freya Manston, who made it all come true.
Our deeds will travel with us from afar,
And what we have been makes us what we are.
NORTHERN ITALY, 1944
It had been dark less than an hour when Younger and the two sergeants finished loading their equipment on the three mules and prepared to head north towards Torbole and the rendezvous with La Volte. The young captain was excited, his eyes flashing as they smeared boot black on their faces. He was like a football player just before the first whistle blows, charged up, fiery with nervous energy. Harry Younger was perfect for this kind of cloak and dagger stuff; it was like a game to him. You could almost bear the adrenalin pumping through his veins. When they had the mules ready, Younger took out his map one more time and spread it on the side of an ammo box strapped to the flank of one of the miles and held his flashlight close to it. He went over the details once more and everybody nodded. The paisanos stood back from the group and smoked American cigarettes and said nothing.
When he was finished, Younger smacked his hands together and then ran one band through his crew cut several times and pulled his cap down over his head. Then he took Corrigon by the arm and led him away from the group, off by himself.
‘How ya doin’, buddy-boy?’ he asked Corrigon.
‘Four-o,’ Corrigon said, but there was an edge in his voice.
‘Sure you’re okay?’
‘Yeah, yeah, fine, sir.’
‘You’re not gonna choke up on me, are you, chum?’
Corrigon smiled. ‘I wouldn’t dare,’ he said.
‘That’s m’boy. Look, it’s a piece of cake, Corrigon. I’ve done this, shit, half a dozen times. You been in here for two days, right? Not a sign of a fuckin’ Kraut anywhere around. Don’t think about what might go wrong, think about how simple it’s gonna
‘Yeah, sure,’ Corrigon said.
Will you knock off the pep
alk, for Christ’s sake!
‘I’ll make you a bet. I’ll bet we all come outa this with Silver Stars. I know this La Volte, see. He’s got every fuckin’ paisano guerrilla in north Italy up his sleeve. It’ll be a little Second Front, up here. They’ll kick the Krauts in the ass and we’ll be across the Po before Christmas.’
‘Yeah, right, right.’ Corrigon tried to sound enthusiastic.
‘You know why I picked you for this end, Corrigon? Hunh? Because Pulaski and Devlin there, they been slug- gin’ it out all the way since Anzio. If anything goes wrong, we’re between you and the Heinies, if there are any. And we been in here now two days and not a sign, not even any recons overhead. Hell, buddy, God lost his galoshes in here. Nobody’s gonna bother us.’
Corrigon was beginning to feel a little better. You oughta be a coach, he thought.. You’d have the whole team playin’ with broken legs.
Corrigon nodded. ‘I’m okay, Captain. Believe me.’
Younger laughed, his all-American smile flashing through the blackface. ‘What the hell am I pumping you up for? Look, two days, we’ll be back in Naples. I’ll swing a seven-day pass for all of us out on Capri and the drinks’ll be on old Bud Younger.’
‘You’re on,’ Corrigon said.
Younger slapped him on the arm. ‘Don’t break radio silence until you’re set up. You won’t hear from us unless there’s trouble. When you’re ready, give us a call and we’ll be back at you. We won’t be a anile away from you when they make the drop.’
Younger walked back to Pulaski and Devlin and said, ‘Okay, let’s saddle up.’ They started off to the north into the black night.
‘See you in a couple hours,’ Younger said jauntily and then the darkness swallowed him up. Corrigon didn’t move for a couple of minutes. He felt suddenly lonely. Fear tickled his chest. Then finally he turned to the two paisanos and swung his arm and they started off towards the lake. Fredo led the way with Sepi bringing up the rear, a tight little group walking almost on each other’s heels. In less than an hour they reached the bluff overlooking di Garda. They lay on their stomachs on top of the ridge and Corrigon
could hear the wind sighing across the lake and feel its cool breeze on his cheeks. Somewhere down below, a hundred yards away perhaps, water slapped against a shore.
‘Garda,’ Fredo whispered, pointing down the opposite side of the slope. ‘Yeah, Si,’ Corrigon whispered. It would have been nice, he thought, if just one of these Eyeties could say something in English besides ‘cigarette’ and ‘chocolate.’ But then, why should he complain? The only Italian be knew was ‘fig-fig’ and a couple of cusswords.
Typical army. Three guys behind the German lines and they can’t even talk to each other.
Corrigon took out his binoculars and scanned the darkness. Here and there small diamonds of reflected light shimmered on the rough surface of the big lake. A wave of fear washed over Corrigon and then it went away. He reached into the breast pocket of his field jacket, took out the rice-paper map, and spread it on the ground beside him, holding a tiny penlight over it. Fredo looked at it for a moment or two and nodded vigorously, smiling with a row of broken teeth, and pointing to a spot on the northeast shore of Lago di Garda. It was almost exactly on the perimeter Younger had laid out for him.
‘Phew,’ Corrigon murmured with relief.
‘Buono?’ Fredo asked. Corrigon nodded. ‘Si, very buono. Uh, the flares, uh, la flam, flame, uh...’
‘Ahh, si,’ the guerrilla answered and nodded again as he reached into the khaki duffel bag and took out one of the railroad flares. He was a nodder, this Fredo. The flare was eight inches long with a short spike attached to one side and a pull fuse on the bottom. There were twelve in the bag. Fredo and his companion, Sepi, knew exactly what to do. They had been rehearsing all afternoon, ever since Captain Younger had dropped in and made contact with La Volte. Fredo tapped Corrigon’s shoulder and pointed down at his wrist.
‘Ten to eight,’ Corrigon said.
Fredo puzzled with it a minute and then smiled again. ‘Den, den,’ he said, wriggling ten fingers in the corporal’s face.
‘Yeah, right, si, ten more minutes.’ He pointed to the duffel bag and then down the hill towards the lake and Fredo and Sepi moved out without a sound. Corrigon
listened for a full two minutes and heard nothing. They were good, no doubt about that, like cats tiptoeing on sand.
He snapped open the khaki cover on the radio and cranked it up, then spoke softly into the headset.
‘Spook One, this is Spook Two. Do you read me. Over.’ The radio crackled to life, much too loud, and Corrigon quickly turned the volume down. Sweat broke out in a thin kne across his forehead, smearing the black shoe polish on his face. His hands were wet. And they were shaking.
‘Spook One to Spook Two. Reading you loud and clear.’
‘Spook One, we’re set up. No trouble so far,’ Corrigon said.
‘Roger, Spook Two, and we’re affirmative also. Any signs yet?’
‘Negative. We got’ — he looked at his watch again — ‘seven minutes.’
‘That’s roger and we’re in synch. Out.’
‘Out,’ Corrigon said and cradled the headset. He was lying on his stomach, chewing unconsciously -on his thumb, wondering what the hell he was doing there, when he heard a sound beside him. An electric shock of fear shot through his chest and he reached for his .45 and turned on the penlight. Fredo grinned back at him.
Corrigon sighed with relief. ‘All set? Uh, okay?’
He snapped off the light and lay with his eyes closed, listening. He thought, What the hell am I worried about? It’s a fairly simple operation and these guys do it all the time. The sector was isolated, no major roads anywhere near. Why would there even be any Germans around? He began to relax.
At first it was hardly a sound. It was a low rumble, like distant thunder, then it built, growing into the deep, solemn throb of four engines, coming in from the south.
‘Now,’ he whispered sharply and Fredo and’ Sepi were gone. The roar grew and then burst overhead, so low he could almost feel the slipstream of the B-24 as it passed overhead.
Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, one after another the flares sizzled to life as Fredo and Sepi ran along the two lines they had set, pulling the fuses, marking a twenty-yard strip between Corrigon and the lake. Corrigon threw the shoulder strap of the radio over his shoulder and ran down the hill after them. The plane wheeled hard and started back down the run towards him, its engines whining at full speed. It was then Corrigon realized the wind wasn’t coming off the lake at all. It was coming from behind him, blowing streams of smoke from the flares out over the lake.
‘Holy shit!’ he cried aloud. The plane was almost on top of them, roaring down the lakeside. He was vaguely aware of the engines backfiring as he slid the radio off his shoulder and knelt beside it, frantically cranking up the generator.
‘Spook Two, this is Spook Two to Angel. Go around, go around, the wind’s...’
Too late. The bomber rumbled overhead. A second later he heard the faint fump as the first chute opened, then another and another...
It was then that Corrigon became painfully, terrifyingly aware that he had not heard the engines backfiring. It was gunfire. Gunfire from Spook One’s position half a mile uplake.
There were flashes jarring the black sky, the rapid belch of a German burp gun, a faint agonized scream, the hollow crack of a grenade. Fredo and Sepi, etched in the ghoulish red glare of the flares, turned sharply and ran back down the line, kicking over the flares and throwing sand on them.
The first parachute, a grey ghost with its heavy load swinging below it, plopped into the lake. It sank immediatçly.
‘Spook One, Spook One, what the hell’s going on?’ Corrigon yelled into the radio.
‘Bandits, we got band...’
An explosion cut off the transmission. Fire swirled up into the black sky and vanished. Then a machine-gun chattered, no more than twenty yards away, and Fredo, running, leaped suddenly into the air. His back arched. Tufts flew from his ragged jacket. He fell on his face, arms outstretched in front of him, rolled over on his back, and lay still, his feet crossed at the ankles. Sepi turned and started back towards Fredo.
‘No!’ Corrigon cried. It was too late. The machine-gun chattered again. Bullets stitched the ground around Sepi’s feet, snapping his legs out from under him. He screamed and fell, skittered along the ground, started to get up to his knees, and was blown back into the air, dangling for an instant like a puppet, then dropping in a heap as the earth around him burst into geysers of death.
There were still flares burning behind Corrigon, but there was no time to bother with them now. Farther up the shore more explosions rent the night, more flames licked the sky. A burst of gunfire tore the radio to pieces. Corrigon veered, started running, hunched over, towards the safety of darkness. He slung the tommygun under his arm, firing several bursts behind him as he ran. He was almost to the top of the hill, almost outside the shimmering red orbit of the flares, when he felt something tug at his shirt, felt fire enter his side, boring deep and burning his insides.
He staggered but did not fall, dove to the ridge, and rolled over the top as a string of bullets chewed up the crest of the hill behind him. Pain flooded his body, seared his lungs, filled his chest.
‘AHHHH, G-O-D D-A-A-A-M-N!’ he screamed and crawled back to the ridge, laying the tommygun on the ground, pulling it against his cheek. Below him, shadowy figures moved towards the remaining flares. He squeezed the trigger. The gun boomed in his ear, shook him, jarred the pain deep inside him, but he kept firing and screaming. One of the figures whirled and fell, then another. A third turned and ran back towards the darkness, and Corrigon swung the gun, saw the bullets strike, saw the figure dance to his death. He kept firing, raking the three bodies until the barrel was so hot he couldn’t hold it anymore. He struggled to his feet, pulled the rice-paper niap from his pocket, and stuffed it in his mouth, feeling it dissolve in saliva as he started to run.
He did not know how long he ran, only that each step was worse than the last and the pain in his side seared deeper with each one. Vomit flooded his mouth; he spat it out and kept going. His mind wandered back in time and seized on an old chant from his Boy Scout days, ‘Out goes the bad air, in comes the good,’ and it became a cadence that kept him going.
Darkness gobbled him up. He tripped, staggered, fell, felt cruel stones bite into his knees, and ignored them. ‘Out goes the bad air, in comes the good,’ lurching back to his feet and running on. ‘Out goes the bad air, in comes the good,’ running through a black void with his eyes closed and then he smacked headlong into a wall and his forehead burst open like a tomato and he bounced backward and landed in a sitting position and madness seized him. He pulled his .45 automatic from the holster and in a rage fired over and over again at the wall, and then for no reason at all he started to giggle. Sitting there with his side shot apart and his head split open and a pistol jumping in his hand, lost in the middle of an alien land and alone, totally alone, with death snapping at his ankles, Corrigon laughed and the laughter turned to sobs. Once more he got to his feet, felt the wall, staggered along it to a corner and, turning, felt the gritty rust of a latch. He lifted it and went through the door, and leaned on it, closing it behind him.
Silence. And it was blessed. He felt for his penlight, but it was gone. Then his fingers touched the cold metal of his Zippo lighter. He took it out, snapped the flint, and held it high over his head. He was in a shed of some kind, abandoned except for spiders busily weaving webs in the corners. He walked to the opposite side of the small room and sat against the wall, facing the door.
The pain in his side hit him in waves, subsiding, then washing back through him and subsiding again. He heard himself groaning and he snapped the carriage on his .45 and ejected a bullet into his lap and put it between his teeth.
You’re crazy, Corrigon, crazy as shit, sitting here in the dark actually biting on a bullet.
But it helped and finally, as he leaned against the wall trying to make peace with the fire inside him, he passed out.
When he regained consciousness, he was bathed in sweat, the bullet still between his teeth. He looked at his watch. Ten-o-five. Two hours.