Authors: Lawrence Sanders
THE LOVES OF
First published by
AGAINST THE MIDDLE
—wanted by both sides in a savage undercover war, he was the target of twin tentacles of seduction
—the blond specialist in sex whose assignment was to enslave Harry Dancer’s senses with every trick of her erotic expertise
—the female operative assigned to use every wile that females have employed since Eve to capture Harry’s heart and control his loyalty. But as both sides learned, seduction can be a double-edged sword when the man in the middle is determined to come out on top…
THE FIRST DEADLY SIN.
THE SECOND DEADLY SIN
THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT
Now phenomenal bestselling author Lawrence Sanders tops even his own sensational successes with a new novel about seduction, betrayal and murder…a novel that plunges you into the depths of desire, and into the dark heart of a hunted man who must turn the tables on terror.
The Loves of Harry Dancer
Berkley books by
THE ANDERSON TAPES
THE CASE OF LUCY BENDING
THE FIRST DEADLY SIN
THE FOURTH DEADLY SIN
THE LOVES OF HARRY DANCER
THE MARLOW CHRONICLES
THE PASSION OF MOLLY T.
THE PLEASURES OF HELEN
THE SECOND DEADLY SIN
THE SEDUCTION OF PETER S.
THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT
THE TANGENT FACTOR
THE TENTH COMMANDMENT
THE THIRD DEADLY SIN
THE TOMORROW FILE
new building, ten stories high, on Federal Highway south of Commercial Blvd., in Fort Lauderdale. Sheathed in glass tinted so dark a green that denizens look out on a watery world, imagine themselves fish gaping from an aquarium.
Top two floors leased to Narak Exporting Co., specializing in hellish gimcracks, including miniature Statues of Liberty with bulbs in the torch, Venus de Milos with electric clocks stuck in their bellies, small chromium sailboats afloat on blue mirrors.
Outer offices presided over by a lanky Florida blonde with sun-streaked tresses down to her buns, and a small, chubby Lebanese with skin like felt on a billiard table. They actually export the geegaws on display—and make a nice penny out of it, too.
At the rear of Narak’s offices, a locked door of pickled pine—veneer over an inch of bulletproof steel alloy. A peephole at eye level. A small TV camera focuses on visitors. Monitor within on the desk of an armed guard.
Granted entry through that vaultlike door (electric lock:
), you come into a wide working area of desks, whirring computer tapes, ringing phone banks, stuttering Teletypers, flickering TV screens. On the interior wall, an enormous map bearing the legend
, showing states of Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama.
Color-coded pushpins in the map indicate activities of the Department: white for state headquarters, blue for large city branches, green for smaller satellite offices in the boondocks. Red pins show sites of current actions.
Temperature in this enormous room, unbroken by walls or room dividers, is a constant 72° F. Air smells always of wild cherry disinfectant. Desks and machines are staffed by men and women in their twenties and thirties. Supervisors are older. Three shifts of workers keep the operation humming twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Wide, carpeted staircase in the rear leads to the upper executive level. There, offices are private, with walls to the ceiling, and closed doors. Voices are never raised; the only sounds are clicking of typewriters, lulling drone of the rooftop air conditioner.
The Regional Director’s office is a suite of three chambers: secretary’s office, large enough for leather couch, several chairs, computer console, L-shaped desk; a door leads from this open room to the Director’s private office; next to that, via double doors, is a conference room with a table long enough to seat twenty.
On the afternoon of April 17, 1985, a Wednesday, Norma Gravesend, the Regional Director’s secretary, sits before her IBM Selectric, working rapidly on a stack of personal correspondence. Her typing is precise, accurate. The only mistake she makes—habitually—is to put the “i” before “e” in “weird.”
Gravesend is a woman of forty-four, of a thinness almost anorexic. She is all bone, muscle, tendon. Parchment skin of her face stretches tightly. Scanty gray hair, hard and wiry, is gathered back in a small knob, secured with hairpins.
Still…not totally without charm. Eyes are a warm brown, gaze direct and understanding. Her laugh can be mischievous. There is gossip about her and the Director—rumors that circulate in executive suites of every large corporation—but nothing has ever been proved, and never will be.
She is interrupted at her work by a young woman in a tailored suit of ashy linen. Carrying an attache case of maroon calfskin. Gravesend looks up from her typing.
“Yes? May I help you?”
“I’m Sally Abaddon from the Atlanta office.” Tentative smile. “I have an appointment with the Director at three o’clock. I’m a few minutes early.”
“Of course, Miss Abaddon. Please have a seat. I’ll see if he’s ready for you.”
Secretary knocks once on the inner door, then enters. She is back in a moment.
“The Director will see you now.” Then moves closer to the visitor, sniffing. “You’re not wearing perfume, are you, dear?”
“Just the approved. And very little of that.”
“Good. The Director is allergic to other scents. This way, please.”
A big man, thick through neck and shoulders. Snowy hair elaborately coiffed. Rubicund complexion. Teeth like tiny tombstones. He is wearing a black three-piece suit of raw silk. Woven into his tie is the Department’s logo: a blood-red rowel.
Standing, knuckles down on his desk, leaning forward. Abaddon comes close in case he wishes to shake hands. He does not. They smile, exchange greetings. He motions her to the armchair alongside his desk.
“That Miller case—” he says abruptly. “Was the violence necessary?”
“Yes, Director, it was.”
“We have an unwritten agreement with the other side. We don’t eliminate them; they don’t eliminate us.”
“Except in certain cases,” Abaddon reminds him. “We were well within the guidelines. Miller’s life was threatened. They would have had him before we had a chance. Their agent was quite ruthless. We did what we had to do.”
“You did it?”
“No. My case officer, Briscoe.”
“Very well, I’ll accept that. In any event, Miller defected. So all’s well that ends well. You’ve never been in Florida before?”
“Good. We need a stranger to handle a local case. Florida agents might be recognized. The subject is a recent widower. Harry Dancer. Not Henry or Harold. Just Harry. Our informant is a friend and neighbor. From what he tells us, I believe we have a good chance of turning Harry Dancer. Your case officer will be Shelby Yama. Do you know him?”
“No, sir, I don’t.”
“I’ll introduce you in a few moments. He’ll brief you. Meanwhile, I think we should become better acquainted.”
He picks up the phone.
“Miss Gravesend,” he says, “please hold my calls.”
hat night Norma Gravesend leaves her Pompano Beach apartment. Carries a small white shopping bag. Within, two books.
In the library on Atlantic Boulevard she looks about casually. Spots her contact. A man she knows only as Leonard. They move back into the shelves.
“Have you read this?” she asks. Takes a book from her bag. Charles Dickens’
“Interesting?” Leonard says.
“Very,” she replies.
An hour later Leonard is home with
. Uses a simple book code. Transcribes Gravesend’s message. Converts it into a series of five-digit numbers.
Switches on his radio transmitter. Begins sending. He is careful with the name “Dancer.” A slight mistake will transform it to “danger.”
eadquarters of the Corporation are in a nondescript building on Northwest H Street, Washington, D.C. Tarnished brass plaque reads:
SOCIETY FOR UNIVERSAL COMITY.
Radio room on top floor logs in Leonard’s transmission at 1:24 a.m., April 18, 1985. Tape recording is hand-delivered to night code-clerk at 1:43. Transcription is brought to Chief of Operations when he arrives at his desk at 8:00 a.m.
Small, shrunken man. Face crisscrossed with worry lines. Wispy hair combed sideways on balding skull. Fussy, afflicted with dyspepsia. Wears tweed suit too heavy for fragile frame.
Reads the decoded message from Leonard in Florida. Chief doesn’t like Department’s Director of Southeast Region. Man has won too often. Assignment of Sally Abaddon to case of Harry Dancer is a challenge.
Moves to his computer complex. Connects to personnel files of active agents. Punches in physical, intellectual, emotional requirements. Printer starts chattering. Three names. By two o’clock that afternoon, Evelyn Heimdall is in the office of the Chief of Operations.
He is brusque. Wastes no time.
“Have you ever operated in Florida?”
“No, Chief, I have not.”
“Good. The subject is there. A recent widower named Harry Dancer. Your case officer will be Anthony Glitner. He’ll brief you. Get down to Florida as soon as possible.”
“Chief,” Evelyn says, “I have vacation time coming in August.”
“No problem. Harry Dancer will be won or lost before that.”
arry Dancer. Grief gnaws at his gut like a rat. Joy is gone. Sleep escapes him. Injustice! A thing so small it can only be seen through a microscope. Yet powerful enough to bring that splendid woman down.
Worse, his anguish is fading. Shredding around the edges. Pain remains, but dissolving into memory. How long can a man bleed? He remembers her beauty but must look at old photos. Good times. Laughs. But recollection dilutes sorrow. He tries to hang on to his woe. Hug it. But he cannot.
“Life goes on,” Jeremy Blaine tells him solemnly.
A slap. The world should have come to an end. But it did not.
He functions. Eighteen hours after the funeral he is at his desk. Dancer Investment Management, Inc. Listens to condolences. Nods. Then, whey-faced, picks up the phone. Goes on. Lives.
Friends try. Invitations. Dinners. Cocktail parties. Barbecues. Introductions to other women. Rejects all. Rattles around a beach home south of Boca Raton that wasn’t big enough for two, and is too large for one.
Alcohol doesn’t work. Nor pills. Nor pot. The ocean helps. Shimmering there. Swim down the moonpath to forever. Let go and sink. Mouth open. Bubbles lazing up. But always he returns to shore. Leans against the undertow. Plods through sand to his empty house. Empty world.
Taut man. Muscled. Dark eyes and coppery skin. Stern features. Weathered by tragedy. Moves with tennis grace. Determination dulled now. But there, waiting. Everything his for the grasping.
“I want it all!” he had told his wife.
But it has spilled away. No need. No want. Now he moves sluggishly through a life without savor. Pollution is in him. He decays.
“Hey, old buddy,” Jeremy Blaine says, “we’ve got to snap you out of this. Let’s you and me go out for a night on the town.”
“No,” Harry Dancer says.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
“You think that’s what I’m doing?”
“Of course. It’s all self-pity.”
“All right,” Dancer says, “let’s go.”
They drink. Drive up to West Palm Beach for grilled pompano. Drink. Drive back home. Stopping at old places and new places to drink more. Shout. Sing. And Dancer hates himself. Betrayal.
After midnight. Somewhere around Lighthouse Point. Jeremy Blaine, a mouthy guy, says:
“Whoop-de-do! Hey, old buddy, there’s a new topless and bottomless joint in the county. What say we check it out?”
“What the hell for?” Dancer says. “I’ve seen skin before.”
“Come on! Don’t tell me you don’t get a surge out of a young chick sticking her bare ass in your face. We’ll have a drink or two, stay like maybe a half-hour, hour at the most, have a few laughs.”
“Hour at the most,” Dancer says. “I’ve got a seminar in Miami in the morning.”
Called Tipple Inn. Barn of a place with tables no larger than bandannas. Stand-up,bar. Three raised stages. Two girls at a time on each stage. Dancing for fifteen minutes to a four-piece rock combo. Replaced by another shift of dancers.
Primly dressed waitresses. For contrast. They order.
“Oh man!” Blaine says. Touching a knuckle to rusty mustache. “Look at Miss Boobs over there on the left. It’s a wonder she doesn’t fall on her face.”
Set ends. Dancers leave the stages as a new crew comes on. Patrons beckon. Girls leaving the stages come over to climb onto tables, perform private gyrations. Wearing a single garter to hold their tips.
“They’re good for three or four hundred a night,” Blaine says. “Tax-free. How does that grab you?”