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Authors: Donald Hamilton

The Devastators

BOOK: The Devastators
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Also by Donald Hamilton

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About the Author

Also Available from Titan Books

Also by
Donald Hamilton
and available from Titan Books

Death of a Citizen
The Wrecking Crew
The Removers
The Silencers
Murderers’ Row
The Ambushers
The Shadowers
The Ravagers
The Betrayers
(June 2014)
The Menacers
(August 2014)
The Interlopers
(October 2014)
The Poisoners
(December 2014)
The Intriguers
(February 2015)
The Intimidators
(April 2015)
The Terminators
(June 2015)

The Devastators
Print edition ISBN: 9781783292882
E-book edition ISBN: 9781783292899

Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP

First edition: April 2014
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Copyright © 1965, 2014 by Donald Hamilton. All rights reserved.
Matt Helm® is the registered trademark of Integute AB.

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 written permission 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 being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

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I made my bride’s acquaintance at Kennedy Airport, formerly Idlewild, just in time for us to commence our honeymoon by catching the ten p.m. jet to London. It wasn’t the first time I’d acquired a wife in the line of duty, but it was the first time I’d done it sight unseen.

I’d been informed that the girl’s code name was Claire, and that she was small—five-two, one-oh-five—and blonde and tanned and competent. It had been explained to me that they were hauling her back from the Far East somewhere to do this job with me, and that she was coming straight through, briefed and costumed and inoculated on the way, so there would be no opportunity for advance introductions.

“We needed a female agent who had never operated in Europe,” Mac had told me in his Washington office on the second floor of an obscure building in an obscure street, never mind the name. “I do not think she will be recognized there. I hope not.”

“I’ve operated in Europe, sir,” I said.

He looked at me across the desk. It was hard to read his expression for the sunlit window behind him—not that his expression is ever easy to read, whatever the direction of the light. I’d known him a long time, and if his hair was gray, it was no grayer now than when I’d first met him. His eyebrows were still startlingly black. Maybe he dyed them for effect. It was, I knew, a matter for speculation among the younger members of the outfit. As far as I was concerned, his eyebrows were his own business. I wasn’t about to ask. I’ll buck him on something important, but not on eyebrows.

are supposed to be recognized, Eric,” he said, using my code name for emphasis.

“I see,” I said, although that was a slight exaggeration.

“You are the stalking-horse,” he said. “You will travel under your own name, openly. You are Matthew Helm, a U.S. undercover agent—but ostensibly you are off duty for the moment. You have just married a lovely young girl after a whirlwind romance, and you’ve been given a month’s leave for honeymoon purposes.”

It was more or less what I’d expected after the buildup he’d given the unknown girl—he doesn’t pass out words like “competent” lightly—but that didn’t make me like it any better.

“All right, I’m a horse,” I said. “Who’re we stalking and how, playing the honeymoon couple seeing the sights of Europe. It doesn’t seem like a very promising gambit to me.”

What I really meant, I suppose, was that the matrimonial approach, while it has certain advantages, also has certain drawbacks for the personnel involved. Playing house with a fellow agent of the opposite sex, even a good-looking one, isn’t my idea of fun and games. It’s hard to act appropriately tender toward a little lady you know can throw you across the room; and I kind of like to have some say about whom I sleep with. However, I didn’t tell him this directly. Where a job is concerned, our likes and dislikes are considered quite irrelevant.

Mac ignored my indirect protest, if you could call it that. He said, “Well, there’s a casual visit you will make in London. Your motivation will ostensibly be quite innocent, in line with your bridegroom cover, but the mere fact of your contact with a man who is under surveillance will call you to the attention of the other team, or teams. After they have identified you as one of our people, I think we can safely count on nature taking its more or less violent course.”

“Teams, plural?” I grimaced. “You sound as if you expected a battle royal over there, sir. How many other outfits do you figure we’ll be taking on?”

“At least three, maybe more,” he said. “The man in whom we’re really interested—not the subsidiary figure you’ll see in London—has a fairly large and efficient organization of his own, or it has him. We don’t quite know the relationship there. Of course the British are interested, since he is using their country for a base of operations. And of course the Russians are trying to turn the situation to their own advantage.”

“Sure,” I said. “This base of operations you mentioned, sir. Do we know where it is?”

“If we did, your play-acting would not be necessary. We think we have the area narrowed down to Scotland, probably northwestern Scotland. Your itinerary has been arranged accordingly.”

“I’m under the impression that’s a rugged country for a honeymoon,” I said. “At a hundred and five pounds, my bride’s a little light for real tough going.”

“Don’t worry about Claire. If she can survive the jungles of southeast Asia, she can presumably survive the Scottish Highlands.”

“Well, it’s not quite the same thing, sir, but I see your point.”

“Of course, you can expect to be under very close observation, by one party or another, from the moment you make your first contact in London. You will govern yourselves accordingly.”

“Yes, sir,” I said. “Once we’ve tripped the trigger, so to speak, we’ll assume we’re getting the full treatment: mikes in the room, bugs on the phone, electronic gadgets stuck to the car with Alnico magnets, and little lip-reading men with big binoculars hiding in the bushes. We’ll even keep up the act in the john, if you like.” I made a face. “Not to mention, I suppose, in bed.”

“That will be fine,” he said calmly. The facts of life are pretty much taken for granted around that office. He went on: “There is really no doubt that
will be spotted, Eric. You are in their files, and in a sense you are expected—you, or someone like you.”

I said, “I won’t thank you for the compliment, sir, until I’m sure it is one.”

“What I mean is,” he said, “that it’s a matter of record that we’ve used you as a troubleshooter before, when a job went sour on us. We’ve just lost the man who was handling this assignment. Actually, he wasn’t ours, but we’ve been asked to replace him. The British authorities are delaying public identification of the body for reasons of their own, but they passed the word in private.”

I frowned thoughtfully. “Which brings up a ticklish point, sir. The British authorities. What is the official line?”

Mac said without expression, “Officially, you will cooperate with the British authorities, and give them full respect and consideration.”

“Yes, sir,” I said. “And unofficially?”

He sighed. “Eric, you are being tiresome. Unofficially, you will of course do the job assigned to you the way it was assigned, regardless of who may attempt to interfere. The British still, apparently, have hopes of accomplishing this mission in a genteel and civilized way. After a number of failures, we have given up such hopes. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir,” I said. “Does this man I’m replacing have a name? I mean, did he have a name?”

“His real name doesn’t matter. You didn’t know him. He was calling himself Paul Buchanan, posing as an American tourist interested in tracing his Scottish forebears. That is the only lead we have, at present, to the person we are seeking—I’ll give you the details in a moment—and Buchanan was working on it. He started, as you will, in London, traveled north to Scotland, and disappeared into the Highlands. He was found dead near a small town called Ullapool, on an inlet of the west coast, pretty far up.”

“Dead how?” I asked.

“The preliminary report we have, courtesy of the British, states only that he seems to have died of natural causes.” Mac’s voice was toneless.

“Sure,” I said. “And just what was friend Buchanan doing way to hell and gone up there?”

“We don’t know.” After a moment Mac frowned. “What do you mean, Eric?”

I said, “To the best of my recollection, that’s Mackenzie and MacDonnell territory up there, sir. The Buchanans come from farther south, not much above Glasgow. Why would anyone tracing them take off into the remote western Highlands?”

Mac said, “Maybe that was the mistake that betrayed him. As I told you, he was not one of ours, and I don’t know how good a briefing he had, or how good an actor he was. He obviously blundered badly enough, somehow, to get himself caught and killed.” Mac eyed me sharply. “And how do you know so much about the families of Scotland? You don’t happen to have an ancestor who came from there?”

I shrugged. “I can probably scare one up if he’s needed.”

“I thought your family was strictly Scandinavian.”

It was nice to catch him on something he didn’t have in the files. “Whose family is strictly anything?” I asked. “Quite a few Scots migrated to Sweden at one time or another, sir. This was a guy named Glenmore. He had a claymore for hire and times were tough at home, so he went over a few hundred years back to swing his blade for a royal personage named Gustavus Adolphus, who happened to have employment for gents handy with edged weapons. Apparently he married and stayed on after the wars were over. I don’t remember the exact date or the place in Scotland he came from, but it’s in a pile of stuff I’m paying storage charges on. My mother always claimed we were distantly related to some old Scottish dukes or barons.”

“Modest people, the Scots,” Mac said dryly. “I never met an Irishman yet who’d admit to being descended from anything less than a king. I want you to dig up as much family information as you can, Eric. It will give you an excuse for following Buchanan’s trail through the wilderness of Scottish genealogy.”

“Yes, sir,” I said. “Let’s hope my family tree grows up Ullapool way. If not, I suppose I’ll have to bend it slightly. And then what?”

“By that time, I hope, you will have attracted enough attention from enough people to make the next move obvious. What form the attention will take is something we cannot predict. That is why Claire is being assigned to you.”

BOOK: The Devastators
10.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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