The Face of the Assassinby David L. Lindsey, Dick Hill
"He reconstructs the faces of the dead. But nothing has prepared him for the true face of fear. Now one man must confront the frightening puzzle of his own personality while navigating a treacherous, hidden world where that which is alien becomes familiar, and the familiar is shrouded in mystery." "The faceless are Paul Bern's business. As a forensic artist in Austin,… See more details below
"He reconstructs the faces of the dead. But nothing has prepared him for the true face of fear. Now one man must confront the frightening puzzle of his own personality while navigating a treacherous, hidden world where that which is alien becomes familiar, and the familiar is shrouded in mystery." "The faceless are Paul Bern's business. As a forensic artist in Austin, Texas, Paul painstakingly reconstructs the likenesses of unfortunate souls whose features have been obliterated by crime or accident. As macabre as his vocation may be, it has become a comfortable and lucrative routine - until the day a mysterious woman arrives at his studio. The visitor brings two gifts. The first is a human skull she has smuggled out of Mexico. The second is a staggering secret that brings him eyeball to eyeball with a past he never knew he had." "Suddenly, Paul's own government blackmails him into cooperating in a clandestine mission against a Middle Eastern terrorist group that has made the drug jungles of South America its staging ground. By using his own face as bait to lure the enemy, he will become all too intimate with the underworld of violence that he seeks to destroy, while thousands of lives hang in the balance of his intricate and dangerous deception." Paul's only guide will be a beautiful young girl with a strange and miraculous talent for seeing the unseeable. His chief nemesis will be an ingenious terrorist so brazen he refuses to mask his real identity from his pursuers. And his most stunning discovery will be the dark impulses that had always waited dormant in his own unwitting heart. Ultimately, the master of faces will never look at a face, his or others', the same way again - if he survives.
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The Face of the Assassin
By David Lindsey
Warner BooksCopyright © 2004 David Lindsey
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMexico City
"Something's going on." These were the first words out of Mingo's mouth, and he could hardly wait to say them. Even in the shadows of the park, the other man could feel his anxiety.
"What's the matter?" The other man's voice was calm, softened by a Texas accent. In his late thirties, he was a decade older than Mingo and far more seasoned. Even so, he was caught off guard by the younger man's agitation. "Khalil's been gone three days. Don't know where. When he came back two days ago, the first thing he did was meet with a guy I'd never seen before. This guy's staying in a rented room in Tacubaya, not far from Khalil. I've seen them huddling together in a pastelería."
"What's he look like?" "Uh, balding, maybe early forties, not athletic, kind of puffy-looking. Office type. Very serious. Never relaxed. Then this moring, same pastelería, they met with Ahmad."
"The three of them?" "Yeah."
This was contrary to their own strict rules of operational discipline. Mingo was right to report it. "Okay."
"Afterward, everybody was tense, edgy. Things looked different. Something big has happened."
They had met where the broad sidewalk bisected the long, narrow park across the middle of its length, between the statues of Lincoln on one side and Martin Luther King, Jr., on the other. It was just after dusk in the rainy season, and the sidewalks of the park were still glistening from the evening shower that came every summer day at this hour to cool the air and tamp the city's suffocating smog.
The younger man had fallen in behind his slightly older companion as they began walking, ignoring each other as they turned onto the sidewalk that ran along the perimeter of the park. They headed toward the clock tower at the western end of the park. The man in front hadn't slowed down so that the other one could come up abreast of him until they had reached the point where Calle Lafontaine intersected the park to their right.
"What else?" the Texan asked. What the younger man had to say was interesting, something to factor into the overall picture, something to keep in mind. But it wasn't news. They were supposed to meet face-to-face only if there was news-and news meant something that significantly affected the operation.
"I think I spotted your man." The Texan didn't even break the rhythm of his casual pace. Eagerness was a mistake. Always.
"Who is that, exactly?" "My boys watching your place last night, they picked up a guy in Parque México. He stayed there an hour and a half. He was watching your place. He was using night vision binoculars. Thomas went down there with his telephoto night lens and got a shot of the guy. Just one shot. It sure as hell looks like Baida to me."
Mingo handed an envelope to the Texan. "Check it out for yourself," he said.
This was it. The point of all the months of hard work. The point of so much patience and effort and planning and risk.
"Do you have any other information about him being here?" the Texan asked, putting the envelope into his pocket and forcing a calm tone into his voice. "He's never showed up anywhere else, if that's what you mean."
"This was last night?" "Yeah. Nine-thirty to eleven o'clock." "They try to follow him?" "No."
Good. Good. Mingo was worth the money. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, and he didn't do a bit more. He had been trained well. Follow instructions precisely.
Even when you can do more, don't. That way, everyone knew exactly where you stood and where the operation stood.
"You think this is him?" the Texan asked. "Yeah, I do."
Though the park was in the middle of tranquil streets, the city's traffic rumbled in the surrounding gloom. In fact, the Paseo de la Reforma, the city's main boulevard, was only blocks away. But besides that, 22 million people simply made a lot of noise.
They rounded the corner and crossed the end of the park under the clock tower. He was surprised that Baida had been watching his place. He would have thought they would have spotted him at Ahmad's first. That would have made more sense. But then, making sense would make too much sense. If any of this had made sense, he wouldn't be doing what he was doing. And he wouldn't spend so much time in fear's claustrophobic little rooms, in the dark, air-starved cubicles of his own imagination.
"You've got nothing else?" the Texan asked. "Just this ID?" "Yes, just this ID."
He caught Mingo's emphasis. "No, you've done a fine thing, Mingo."
"Good, then." "Check your pay drop the day after tomorrow." "Bueno."
"The next time he shows up," the Texan said, "push it just a little further. Be careful. There's nobody better. He'll spot your boys the second one of them loses concentration. If they glance at a woman ... just that quick, we're screwed. Of course, the pay goes up, too."
"And so does the risk." "Listen, you're getting paid a hell of a lot more than I am."
"But when you're through," Mingo said, "you can go home to Texas. You've got U.S. government benefits waiting for you."
Right now, all of that seemed half a world and a thousand lies away. It seemed remote, and that remoteness had begun to eat at him in the last couple of years.
"Yeah," the Texan said. "Those benefits." He looked over Mingo's shoulders at the two figures moving toward them from the other end of the park. A couple, huddled together, breathing each other's breath. Lovers. He did not think or fear that they were anything other than what they appeared to be, but they reminded him that it was time to be moving on.
"Keep in touch," he said.
Mingo was used to the abrupt departures, and he nodded good-bye. The Texan was already walking away.
Excerpted from The Face of the Assassin by David Lindsey Copyright © 2004 by David Lindsey. Excerpted by permission.
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