Assassinby Ted Bell, John Shea
In an elegant palazzo on the Grand Canal, an American ambassador's tryst turns deadly. In the seamy underbelly of London, a pub-crawling killer is on the loose. And in a storybook chapel nestled in the Cotswolds, a marriage made in heaven turns to hell on earth. Isolated incidents? Or links in a chain of events hurtling towards catastrophe? So begins Assassin, the… See more details below
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In an elegant palazzo on the Grand Canal, an American ambassador's tryst turns deadly. In the seamy underbelly of London, a pub-crawling killer is on the loose. And in a storybook chapel nestled in the Cotswolds, a marriage made in heaven turns to hell on earth. Isolated incidents? Or links in a chain of events hurtling towards catastrophe? So begins Assassin, the tour de force thriller that heralds the return of every terrorist's worst nightmare, Alex Hawke.
A shadowy figure known as the Dog is believed to be the ruthless terrorist who is systematically and savagely assassinating American diplomats and their families around the globe. As the deadly toll mounts inexorably, Hawke, along with former NYPD cop and Navy SEAL Stokely Jones, is called upon by the U.S. government to launch a search for the assassin behind the murders.
Hawke, who "makes James Bond look like a slovenly, dull-witted clockpuncher" (Kirkus Reviews), is soon following a trail that leads back to London in the go-go nineties, when Arab oil money fueled lavish, and sometimes fiendish, lifestyles. Other murky clues point to the Florida Keys, where a vicious killer hides behind the gates of a fabled museum. And to a remote Indonesian island where a madman tinkers with strains of a deadly virus and slyly bides his time.
Hawke must call upon resources deep within himself. He must enter a race against time to stop a cataclysmic attack on America's most populous cities and avenge the inexplicable and horrific crime that has left him devastated.
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By Ted Bell
AtriaCopyright © 2004 Theodore A. Bell
All right reserved.
The late afternoon sun slanted through the tall windows opening onto the Grand Canal. There were silken peacocks in the velvet draperies and they stirred in the salty Adriatic breeze. These warm evening zephyrs sent sunstruck motes of dust swirling indolently upward toward the vaulted and gilded ceiling.
Naked, lying atop the brocade coverlet of the grand canopied bed, the Honorable Simon Clarkson Stanfield rolled over and impatiently stubbed out his cigarette in the heavy crystal ashtray beside his bed. He lifted his keen grey eyes to the windows and gazed intently at the scene beyond them. The timeless and ceaseless navigation of Venetians had never lost its fascination for him.
At this moment, however, the vaporetti, water taxis, and produce-laden gondolas plying their way past the Gritti Palace were not the focus of his attention. Nor were the fairy-tale Byzantine and Baroque palazzi lining the opposite side of the canal, shimmering in the waning golden light. His attention was directed toward a sleek mahogany motorboat that was just now working its way through the traffic. The beautiful Riva seemed to be heading for the Gritti's floating dock.
He swung his long legs over the side of the bed and stood,sucking in the beginnings of an unfortunate gut reflected from far too many angles in the mirrored panels between each of the windows. He'd recently turned fifty, but he worked hard at staying in shape. Too much good wine and pasta, he thought patting his belly. How the hell did these local Romeos stay so thin? He was sliding across the polished parquet floors in his leather slippers, headed for the large open balcony when the telephone jangled.
"Signore, prego," the concierge said, "you asked to be called, subito, the moment la Signorina arrived from the aeroporto. The Marco Polo taxi is coming. Almost to the dock now."
"Grazie mille, Luciano," Stanfield said. "Si, I can see her. Send her up, per favore."
"Va bene, Signore Stanfield."
Luciano Pirandello, the Gritti's ancient majordomo, was an old and trusted friend, long accustomed to the American's habits and eccentricities. Signore never used the hotel's entrance, for instance. He always came and went through the kitchen, and he always took the service elevator to the same second floor suite. He took most of his meals in his rooms and, save a few late night forays to that American mecca known as Harry's Bar, that's where he stayed.
Now that he was such a well-known personage in Italy, il Signore's visits to Venice had become shorter and less frequent. But Luciano's palm had been graced by even more generous contributions. After all, the great man's privacy and discretion had to be ensured. Not to mention many visiting "friends" who had, over the years, included a great number of the world's most beautiful women, some of them royalty, some of them film stars, many of them inconveniently married to other men.
Shouldering into a long robe of navy silk, Stanfield moved out under the awning of the balcony to watch Francesca disembark. Luciano stood in his starched white jacket at the end of the dock, bowing and scraping, extending his hand to la Signorina as she managed to step deftly ashore without incident despite the choppy water and the bobbing Riva. Sprezzatura, Francesca called it. The art of making the difficult look easy. She always behaved as if she were being watched, and of course she always was.
Not only Stanfield watched from the shadows of his balcony, but also everyone sipping aperitifs or aqua minerale and munching antipasti on the Gritti's floating terrace stared at the famous face and figure of the extravagantly beautiful blonde film star in the yellow linen suit.
Luciano, smiling, offered to take her single bag, a large fire-engine-red Hermes pouch that hung from her shoulder by a strap, but she refused, pushing his hand away abruptly and snapping at him. Odd, Stanfield thought. He'd never seen Francesca snap at anyone, especially Luciano, the soul of beneficent charm. Foul humor? She was six hours late. Hell, six hours of sitting on your backside at Rome Fiumicino Airport would be enough to put anyone in a bad mood.
Stanfield watched the top of Francesca's blond head disappear beneath his balcony balustrade and took a deep breath, inhaling both the scent of damp marble within the room and the smell of springtime marsh that came in off the canal. Soon, his room would be filled with the scent of Chanel Number 19. He had known she would not dare look up and catch his eye and he had not been disappointed. He smiled. He was still smiling, thinking of Francesca's backside, when there came a soft knocking at the heavy wooden door.
"Caro," she said as he pulled it open to admit her. "I'm so sorry, darling. Scusa?"
Stanfield's reply was to gather her up into his arms, inhale her, and waltz her across the floor. There was a champagne bucket full of mostly melted ice, two upside down glasses, and a half-empty bottle of Pol Roger Winston Churchill standing by the window. Putting her down, he plucked a single flute from the bucket and handed it to her, then filled the glass with the foaming amber liquid.
She downed it in one draught and held the glass out for more.
"Thirsty, darling?" Stanfield asked, refilling her glass and pouring one for himself.
"It was, what do you call it, a fucking nightmare."
"Si, un fottuto disastro," Stanfield said with a smile. "All part of the glamour of the tryst, the illicit liaison, my dear Francesca. The endless obstacles the gods delight in placing between the two venal lovers. Traffic jams, rotten weather, the suspicious spouse, the vagaries of Italian airlines - what happened to you, anyway? You were invited for lunch."
"Caro, don't be angry with me. It was not my fault. The stupid director, Vittorio, he would not let me leave the set for two hours past the time he promised. And, then it was a vagary with the stupid Alitalia. And then -"
"Shh," Stanfield said, putting a finger to her infinitely desirable red lips. He pulled a small gilded chair away from the window, sat, and said, "Turn around. Let me look at your backside."
Francesca obeyed and stood quietly with her back to him, sipping her third glass of champagne. The dying rays of light off the canal played with the taut curve of her hips and the cleft of her celebrated buttocks.
"Bella, bella, bella," Stanfield whispered. He emptied the balance of the cold wine into his glass and, without taking his eyes off of the woman, picked up the phone and ordered another bottle.
"Caro?" the woman asked after the click of the receiver in its cradle had punctuated what became a few long moments of silence.
"Tiptoes," he said, and watched the fetching rise of her calf muscles as she giggled and complied. He had taught her the word tiptoes soon after they'd met and it had become one of her favorite words. She flung her blonde hair around, twisting her head and gazing down at him over her shoulder with those enormous brown doe eyes. Eyes which, up on the silver screen, had reduced men the world over into quivering masses of helpless, dumbstruck protoplasm.
"I have to pee," she announced. "Like a racecourse."
"Horse," Stanfield said, "Racehorse." He smiled and nodded his head and Francesca walked across to the bathroom, pulling the door closed behind her.
"Christ," Stanfield said to himself. He got to his feet and walked out onto the balcony and into the gathering twilight. He found himself breathing rapidly and willed his heartbeat to slow. He saw this emotion for exactly what it was. Unfamiliar, yes, but still recognizable.
He might actually be falling in love with this one.
A phrase from his plebe year at Annapolis floated into his mind as he stared at the familiar but still heartbreaking beauty of the Grand Canal at dusk. An expression that the pimply cadet from Alabama had used to describe the path of his alcoholic father's personal ride to ruin.
My daddy, he was in a hot rod to Hell with the top down.
She could bring it all tumbling down, this one could, like one of those devastating Sicilian earthquakes. His thirty-year-old marriage, his hard-fought place on the world's political stage, his -
The Campanile bell tower in the nearby Piazza San Marco tolled seven times before he turned and went to her.
Pale blue moonlight poured through the windows. Francesca feigned sleep as her lover slipped from the bed and went toward the dim yellow light of the bathroom. He left the door slightly ajar and she watched him perform his usual rituals. First he brushed his teeth. Then he ran two military brushes through his silver hair until it swept back in perfect matching waves from his high forehead. She admired his naked back and the muscles bunched at his shoulders as he leaned forward to inspect his teeth in the mirror.
He then pulled the door softly shut. She couldn't see him but she knew precisely what he was doing. He'd be lifting the seat to urinate, then putting it back down. Then he'd take a hand towel and wash himself, down there. His grey trousers, white silk shirt and cashmere blazer were all hanging on the back of the door. Reaching for them, he -
It would all take five minutes, easily. More than enough time to do what she had to do.
She'd deliberately left her shoulder bag on the floor just under her side of the bed, shoving it there with her foot while he was admitting the room service waiter. She rolled over onto her stomach and reached for it, pulling the drawstrings apart. She reached into the bag, slipping two fingers inside a small interior pouch. She found the tiny disc and withdrew it. She then backhanded the heavy bag under the bed again so that he wouldn't step on it when, as was his custom, he bent to kiss her before slipping out for his traditional solo nightcap.
She rolled over to his side of the bed and reached for the alligator billfold on his bedside table. She held it above her face, opened it, and ran her index finger lightly over the gold monogrammed letters S.C.S. Then she carefully slipped the encrypted micro-thin disc into one of the unused pouches on the left side, opposite the credit cards and a thick fold of lire on the right. The thin disc was made of flexible material. The odds of his discovering it were nil. She put the wallet back on the bedside table, exactly as he'd left it, then rolled over onto her back.
A soft shaft of yellow light expanded on the ceiling as the bathroom door was opened and Simon padded quietly around the foot of the bed. Eyes closed, her bosom rising and falling rhythmically, Francesca listened to Stanfield slip his cigarette case, billfold, and some loose change into the pockets of the beautiful black cashmere blazer she'd bought for him in Florence.
He came around to her side of the bed and stood silently for a moment before bending to kiss her forehead.
"Just going over to Harry's for my nightcap, darling. I won't be long, I promise. One and done."
"Ti amo," Francesca whispered sleepily. "This is for you, caro," she said, handing him a small red rosebud she'd plucked from the vase on her bedside table. "For your lapel, cosi non lo dimenticherete, so you won't forget me."
"Ti amo, too," he said, and, after inserting the stem of the rose into the buttonhole in his lapel and stroking a wing of her hair away from her forehead, he left her side. "Ciao."
"Ritorno-me, caro mio," she said.
A moment later, the bedroom door closed softly behind him and Francesca whispered in the dark. "Arrividerci, caro."
Stanfield took the service elevator down to the ground floor, turned to his right and proceeded down the short hallway that led to the kitchen. Il facchino, the ancient hall porter named Paolo, was dozing with his chair tilted back against the tiled wall. Stanfield placed the tasseled key to his suite on the folded newspaper in the old fellow's lap.
"La chiave, Paolo," he whispered.
"Con piacere. Buona sera, signore," he said as Stanfield passed. He's been through this routine so often he now says it in his sleep, Stanfield thought.
Stepping through the kitchen's service door and out into the empty Campo Santa Maria del Giglio, a smile of pleasure played across Stanfield's features. It was his favorite time of night. Very few people about, the enchanted city now turned many shades of milky blue and white. He started walking across the plaza, the recent memories of Francesca still blooming in his mind like hothouse flowers, the lush scent of her still lingering on his fingers.
Yes. Her ivory skin, whiter in those places where the most delicate articulations of the joints showed through; and her lily fingers which danced upon his body still, to some mystic memory of music.
And now, the small perfection of a quiet stroll over to Harry's for a large whiskey, straight up, an appropriate cigar, the Romeo y Julieta, and some time to reflect on his incredible good fortune. He'd always enjoyed wealth, been born with it. But he'd played his cards right and now he'd reached the point where it was time to see what serious power felt like. Now he knew. A thoroughbred pawing the turf in the starting gate.
And, he's off! called the announcer in his mind, and indeed he was.
He turned right on the Calle del Piovan, then crossed the little bridge over the Rio dell'Albero. It was only a quarter of a mile to Harry's, but the twisting and turning of the narrow streets made it -
What the living hell?
There was a strange, high-pitched chirping sound behind him. He turned and looked over his shoulder and literally could not believe his eyes. Something, he could not imagine what, was flying straight towards him! A tiny red eye blinking, blinking faster as whatever the thing was headed rapidly for him, and he realized that if he just stood there it would, what, hit him? Knock him down? Blow him up? Breaking into an instant sweat, he turned and started running like a madman.
Insanity. No longer out for an evening stroll, Simon Stanfield was now running for his life.
Feeling the surge of adrenaline, he sprinted down the Calle Larga XXII Marza, dodging passersby, flying past the darkened shops, headed for the Piazza San Marco where maybe he might just lose this apparition. A quiet drink at Harry's would just have to wait. He'd shake off this thing somehow, and what a story he'd have to tell Mario when he got there! No one would believe it. Hell, he himself still couldn't believe it.
Stanfield was a man who took care of himself. He was, at fifty, in impeccable physical condition.
Excerpted from Assassin by Ted Bell Copyright © 2004 by Theodore A. Bell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Meet the Author
Ted Bell is the former chairman of the board and worldwide creative director of Young & Rubicam, one of the world's largest advertising agencies. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Hawke, Assassin, Pirate, Spy, and Tsar. He is also the author of a series of young adult adventure novels Nick of Time and The Time Pirate. He lives in Florida and Colorado.
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This novel was a nice step up and a good follow up to the original, Hawke. I thoroughly enjoyed this read. I can't wait to read Pirate.
If you enjoy nodding off with a head full of adventure, you'll enjoy this one. Exotic locales, hairpin plot turns and twists, bleeding edge technology, fancy cars, haute couture, gourmet eatting, hot men and women -- all adds up to an excellent use of reading for relaxation time. The only caveat I add is to those with sensitive natures, the plot includes some execrable details of killing wildlife. Consider yourself warned, and enjoy the ride!
This is the second Alex Hawke adventure I've read (first was called simply Hawke) and this series is for real. The character, the writing, and the stories break the thriller mold (a good thing as some are getting a little tired) and get a choke hold on the imagination. First rate effort. I'm hoping another installment is on the way. Just superb from start to finish.Do not miss this new arrival.
Alex Hawke is the reincarnation of Bond & Q & Jack Aubrey all together. Like Hawke, this book seems frightenly believable. Don't think 'President Kerry' would handle things this insensitively!
Assassin is an incredible book that keeps you involved, excited, and interested from start to finish. Easy to read, Assassin teleports you into a colorful new world full of evil plots, twisted lies, action, adventure, and surprise. Anyone who does not love this book has a serious mental issue. Like his previous books Hawke and Nick of Time, Mr. Bell yet again seems to captivate his readers with his seamless writing, intriguing story line, and his powerful knowledge of the subject mater. I highly recommend this book to everyone!
Alex Hawke leaps off the pages and emerges as THE HERO you've always hoped would come along. He's just great. And he's just getting started. Great news for thriller fans like me. Don't miss it.
great story, good plot,lots of action. It was hard to put it down. Hawke is a totally absorbing character. Let's hope we hear more adventures of him.
This novel strikes so close to home (literally) that its frightening. You're inside the mind of a terrorist and you start to imagine the unthinkable. Absorbing, enthralling, and breathtakingly told. Five stars easy.
This would make a great action-hero movie, which may be what Ted Bell is aiming for. Lots of action but the heroes are super-heroes and the villains are super villains. Not as plausible as Tom Clancy. To sell the big implausible stuff a writer has to get the small details right, which Bell sometimes fails to do. Special effects will overcome that on the big screen.
Alex Hawke is the real deal.Tough as rock outside, real as steel inside. A brain. And, this is a first, a sense of humor. I was breathless from the experience. And exhilerated. Do not miss this one!!
What a ride! Grab your rabbits foot, your prayer beads, take a deep breath and climb on board! You'll be shaken and you'll be stirred and you'll be glad you took the trip. One word. Wow.
If you like Clancy and Cussler, you'll find yourself jumping from chapter to chapter as fast as you can. Bell utilizes historical events, current headlines and fears of future terrorist acts to weave together a storyline that will grab you by your lapels and force you to pay attention! Your thoughts will constantly tell you that these things could truly happen. As you get sucked into the characters and begin to identify with each of them, their dangerous journey to the truth will have you on the edge of your seat. Make sure you have food and drink and choose a comfortable recliner, you're not going to be going anywhere once you start reading.
American Ambassador to Italy, Stanfield goes out for a late drink after a tryst with his mistress, but is killed by a smart missile that specifically targeted him. Alex Hawke and Dr. Victoria Sweet exchange ¿I Dos¿ when a sniper kills the bride. In Saudi Arabia, American Ambassador Butch McGuire drops dead from having his internal organs fried. Secretary of State Consuelo de Los Reyes asks the grieving Hawke to join Jack Patterson on investigating the assault on the United States diplomatic corps. Hawke agrees. However, in the meantime in Maine a female teen babysitter slaughters Deirdre Slade and her two preadolescent children; the victims are the loving family of a diplomat.---- The Sweet killing evidence points to Cuban exile Scissorhand while the ambassador murders look like the work of bin Wazir. Though he prefers to go to ¿Little Havana¿ to confront Scissorhand, Hawke lets friends handle that while he tries to stop further assassinations from occurring even as the intrepid ambassador to France Duke Merriman dies from phosphorus fire.---- ASSASSINS is an exciting action-packed and nonstop tale starring a terrific series of heroes and an even better band of killers. The story line is chilling in many ways as the assassins are pretty women who one would never suspect as killers yet their loyalty is to bin Wazir or his superior, his father-in-law the Emir, a believer in a Moslem only world. The satirical spoofing of the first novel (see HAWKE) never occurs, as this is more of a straight shooter. The dual plots come together although the Sweet murder seems overkill and pale vs. the more clever kills. Action-adventure readers will enjoy this testosterone vs. estrogen thriller.----- Harriet Klausner
There's lots of action and an unexpected group of killers. However, Hawke & all the other "good guys" are simply not believable. These books will be perfect TV movies. by aj west
Good Book Great Series!!!
Suicide bombers in every little village and vale. Well darn it… I started reading a series out of order again. First I read Pirate (book three) followed by Assassin (book two), completely skipping Hawke (book one). I suppose you could start this series with any book, but as they go along you’re going to want to know the backstory as well as the increasing number of satellite characters which show up from time to time. Besides, there are some great plot twists that you don’t want ruined by a brief summation in the following novel - so don’t you be like me, do it right! If you’ve made it to book three legitimately, then congratulations! This is a worthy series. I especially enjoy the buddy-cop/mentor relationship between our hero Alex Hawke and Ambrose Congreve, lover of all things Sherlock Holmes. This story starts out with a shock (How much more shocked would I have been if I had read the previous novel? The world will never know) which really makes me think that all bets are off and that anything can happen, which it kind of did. While this isn’t my favorite Alex Hawke novel, it is great, and really makes me appreciate an author whose characters continue to grow and evolve over time. These things that happen to Hawke leave scars, inside and out. These stories aren’t just a bunch of adventures, but a chronicle of Alex Hawke’s entire life, and I don’t want to miss a beat (from now on).