The Lisbon Crossingby Tom Gabbay
Summer 1940. With Europe in the iron grip of Hitler's war machine, stuntman Jack Teller arrives in neutral Lisbon on the arm of international screen legend Lili Sterne. The German-born actress has given Jack the job of finding her childhood friend, Eva Lange, who escaped Berlin one step ahead of the Nazi terror. But he's not the first to come looking for Eva. The… See more details below
Summer 1940. With Europe in the iron grip of Hitler's war machine, stuntman Jack Teller arrives in neutral Lisbon on the arm of international screen legend Lili Sterne. The German-born actress has given Jack the job of finding her childhood friend, Eva Lange, who escaped Berlin one step ahead of the Nazi terror. But he's not the first to come looking for Eva. The man who preceded him—top Hollywood detective Eddie Grimes—ended up dead . . . on the night he found Eva.
Following leads that take him from the glittering nightclubs of the Estoril coast—where he rubs elbows with the likes of Edward, Duke of Windsor, and his scheming wife, Wallis Simpson—into Lisbon's dank and seedy backstreets, Jack searches for answers among the deceptions and lies of the dangerous city. A shattering discovery along the way takes him to the perilous boulevards of occupied Paris and propels him into the heart of a nightmare, where his actions could change the course of the war.
Read an ExcerptThe Lisbon Crossing A Novel
By Tom Gabbay William Morrow Copyright © 2007 Tom Gabbay
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Chapter One Looking back across the stern from my solitary post on the promenade deck, I lit a Lucky, leaned into the clean, white railing, and watched the last splash of crimson spill across the western horizon. 9:17 p.m., mid-Atlantic time. Back in Hollywood they'd be polishing off their three-martini lunches and slipping behind dark glasses as they stepped out into the blinding afternoon heat. I felt a twinge of regret. Tinseltown wasn't all it was cracked up to be, not by a long shot, but it had given me a good run for my money, and leaving hadn't been in my plans. I told myself it was just a tactical retreat, but deep down I guess I knew the party was over.
It was my own damn fault, of course. Falling in with Mrs. Charlie Wexler wasn't the smartest move I ever made, but then one look at her and common sense went straight out the window. She was what you call "drop-dead gorgeous," and if I'd stuck around L.A. much longer I would've been the one doing the dropping. Oh, I'd been in hot water with jealous husbands before, but Charlie Wexler wasn't your average outraged mister. To begin with, he was a bona fide psychotic. Anywhere else in the world he would've been doing a life term in the loony bin, but this was Hollywood, so he was head of production at Metro, making him one of the most powerful lunatics in the business. The kind of powerful that could walk into any restaurant or nightclub in town, empty a .38 into my back, then stop at the bar for a whiskey sour, secure in the knowledge that every so-called witness in the place would suffer from sudden, catastrophic loss of memory. No one in Hollywood was dumb enough to fuck with Charlie Wexler. Except for me, of course.
I flicked the remnant of my Lucky, watched it float out across the cool night air like a lost firefly until it ran out of steam and arched downward, swallowed up by the darkness as it headed for burial at sea. I straightened up and buttoned my dinner jacket against the chill. Lili would still be holding court at the captain's table and wouldn't miss me if I disappeared into a bottle of scotch.
The cabin-class smoking lounge was a strange mix of Surrealist paintings, brightly colored armchairs, Oriental carpets, and odd Gothic touches like the two gargoyles that grinned down from above the cast-iron fireplace. Scattered around the room were small groups of well-heeled travelers, all men, sitting under dense clouds of cigar fumes, arguing the business of politics and war in the whispered tones of a half-dozen languages. I headed for an empty spot at the back where the barman set me up with a bottle of Highland malt and a crystal tumbler. He poured a double dose, neat, and left the bottle on a silver tray. I rolled the glass around in my hands for a minute, savoring the anticipation, then tossed it back. It was a relief, after all that frosty dinner champagne, to feel the smoky liquor melt into the back of my throat and infiltrate my brain. Slumping into the soft leather, I lit another smoke and went to work on getting thoroughly stewed.
I woke up feeling surprisingly fresh in spite of the empty bottle lurking by the side of my bed-the difference between a good single malt and the two-dollar blend I'd gotten too used to soaking up. I stretched out under the cool white linen and surveyed my surroundings. First class. It's the way to travel, all right. I'd been up and down enough times in my twenty-five years to know the difference, but I also knew it was a mistake to get too comfortable in the lap of luxury. You start thinking you deserve the good life and one day you wake up to find yourself staring at the inside of a boxcar. That was my experience anyway.
I felt like staying put for a while and there was no reason not to. It wasn't even eight yet and Lili never appeared before ten-thirty, sometimes not until noon.
Hollywood didn't make them any bigger than Lili Sterne, although her star didn't shine quite as brightly as it had five years earlier. They'd called her "Germany's secret weapon" then; now they whispered "box-office poison." Lili pretended not to care, but as much scorn as she poured on Hollywood, the truth was that she needed it more than it needed her, and she could feel it slipping away. It wasn't fair, of course-Lili was still stunningly beautiful and she was pure magic on the screen-but nobody cared about fairness. Leading ladies just don't turn forty.
I'd met her the previous year on the set of Ride the Wild Wind, a misguided attempt by Warners to match her up with Errol Flynn in a western. I didn't see how a Tasmanian Don Juan and a former showgirl from Berlin teaming up to save Dodge City would add up to box-office gold, and the great American public agreed-they stayed away in droves. It didn't help that Lili and Flynn hated each other's guts, to the point where they wouldn't even stand in the same room together. The director ended up having to shoot each star delivering his or her lines to an off-camera extra, then put it all together in the cutting room. The result didn't work out too well, especially for Lili, who was pretty much reduced to a cameo.
In fact, I probably had more screen time on that picture than either one of them. I'd been stunting for Flynn (who couldn't so much as look at a horse without breaking a bone) since Robin Hood a couple of years earlier. The money was better than daily work, and when you're doubling a star some of the perks rub off, so ...
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