The Shot

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Overview

The year is 1960. Psycho is playing in movie houses. Business is booming at Hugh Hefner's Playboy Club. And on black-and-white television sets, America is watching the Nixon-Kennedy debates. While the world turns, some people share a staggering secret: the Mob, the CIA, and the next president of the Unites States are all in bed together with a hit man and a plan—to kill Fidel Castro.

Tom Jefferson kills for a living, and he's very good at his job. Fresh off a ...

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Overview

The year is 1960. Psycho is playing in movie houses. Business is booming at Hugh Hefner's Playboy Club. And on black-and-white television sets, America is watching the Nixon-Kennedy debates. While the world turns, some people share a staggering secret: the Mob, the CIA, and the next president of the Unites States are all in bed together with a hit man and a plan—to kill Fidel Castro.

Tom Jefferson kills for a living, and he's very good at his job. Fresh off a one-hundred-and-fifty yard takedown of a Nazi in Buenos Aires, Tom has now walked into a room full of wise guys and Company men in Coral Gables. The mobsters want Cuba back. Presidential candidate Jack Kennedy has promised they'll get it. Because Mob boss Sam Giancana has fixed the November election, he knows JFK will be in a position to deliver. And because the Mafia has incriminating tapes of Jack's sexual escapades, they know he'll keep his promise.

Tom is the man they all want for the shooting of Castro. And he couldn't care what his clients' motives are. Tom has a good life, a beautiful wife, and the perfect fall guy for the Castro hit. But as Tom gets ready for his trip to Cuba, a corrupt FBI acquaintance lures him to a safe house where he's exposed to explosive information. Now, the perfect hit is turning into the perfect nightmare for the Mob, the CIA, and the United States. That's because cook, murdering Tom Jefferson has gone missing—and the word is out that he's no longer gunning for Fidel Castro, but for Jack Kennedy...

From the brilliant midn of Philip Kerr, The Shot is a wild roller-coaster ride through the cultural, political, and social landscape of the 1960s—a mesmerizing thriller that elevates conspiracy theory into a hugely entertaining art form and sheds an eerie light on the events in 1963 Dallas. With its cast of fictional and real characters—icons from DiMaggio to Monroe—Kerr's masterful new novel captures a Cold War, black-and-white society on the verge of a decade of dizzying, confusing Technicolor.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
Our booksellers were "offended by the vulgar language" of this roller-coaster ride through the cultural, political, and social landscape of the early 1960s as the Mob, the CIA, and the U.S. government conspire to kill Fidel Castro.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671041403
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 4/1/2000
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Kerr
Philip Kerr

Philip Kerr is the author of nineteen previous novels, including A Philosophical Investigation, and five bestselling children's books.

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Read an Excerpt

One: In the Kingdom of the White Caesars

Helmut Gregor feared the sound of his real name as another man might have feared the name of his worst enemy. But thanks to the generous support of his family and the agricultural business that continued to thrive in Günzberg, Bavaria, he managed to live very comfortably in Buenos Aires. An old but attractive capital -- it is a well-named city of good airs -- Buenos Aires has many fine boulevards and an excellent opera house, and on a cool July afternoon in 1960, the middle-aged German doctor could still think himself in his beloved Vienna, before the war -- before the defeat of Germany had necessitated such a protracted period of exile. For almost ten years he had resided in a quiet country house in the predominantly English suburb of Temperley. At least he had until now. After what had happened to Adolf Eichmann, Helmut Gregor considered it safer to move into the city center. And until he could find a suitable apartment in the microcentro, he was currently staying at the elegant and modern City Hotel.

Other old comrades, alarmed by the audacity of the kidnapping -- Eichmann had been snatched from his own house in San Fernando by Israeli intelligence agents and spirited away to Jerusalem -- had fled across the Río de la Plata to Uruguay and the city of Montevideo. The cooler Helmut Gregor, noting the world's condemnation of Israel's violation of international law and the possibility that the Israeli embassy in Argentina might be forced to close down -- not to mention the rather satisfying wave of anti-Semitic violence that had recently occurred in Buenos Aires as a result of the illegal Israeliaction -- had reasoned that in all probability Buenos Aires was now the safest city in all of South America. For him and others like him, at any rate. There seemed little chance of the same thing happening to Helmut Gregor as had happened to Eichmann. Especially now that sympathetic friends in the right-wing Argentinian government had arranged for him to have twenty-four-hour police protection. It was Gregor's opinion that by living in the middle of nowhere and lacking the kind of money that would have bought some protection, Adolf Eichmann had made it easy for his Israeli enemies. Even so, he had to admit that the Jews had carried off the operation with considerable flair. But he did not think they would, or could, snatch him from the biggest hotel in Buenos Aires.

Not that he stayed skulking indoors all day. Far from it. Like Vienna, Buenos Aires is a city made for walking; and like the ancient capital of Austria, it boasts some excellent coffee houses. So every afternoon at around three o'clock, and accompanied by the melancholic, swarthy-featured policeman who was his afternoon bodyguard -- but for the man's piercing blue eyes, Gregor would have said he looked more Gypsy than Spanish -- the German doctor would take a brisk walk to the Confiteria Ideal.

With its elaborate brass fittings, marble columns, and, in the late afternoons, an organist who played a medley of waltzes and tangos, the Ideal café, just off Corrientes, seemed a perfect evocation of old Austrian Gemütlichkeit. After drinking his usual cortado doble and eating a slice of delicious chocolate cake, and having closed the cold dark eyes that had seen his own hands inflict a whole Malabolgia of horrors, it was quite possible for the doctor to imagine himself back in Vienna's Central Café on Herrengasse, anticipating a night at the Staatsoper or the Burgtheater. For a while anyway, until it was time to go. As he and his bodyguard collected their coats and left the Ideal at the usual time of a quarter to five, it would have been quite impossible for Helmut Gregor to have imagined himself in any way worse off than Adolf Eichmann. And yet he was. It would be another twenty-three months before Eichmann would meet the hangman in Ramleh Prison. But judgment was rather closer at hand for the doctor. Even as he was leaving the Ideal, one of the waiters, himself a Jew -- of whom there are a great many in Buenos Aires -- had ignored the doctor's generous tip and was calling the Continental Hotel.

"Sylvia? It's me. Moloch is on his way."


Sylvia replaced the hotel room's telephone receiver and nodded at the tall American who was lying on the big bed. He threw aside the new Ian Fleming he had been reading, stubbed out his cigarette, and, having climbed up on top of the large mahogany wardrobe, adopted a prone position. Sylvia did not think this behavior eccentric. Rather she admired him for the efficient professional way he approached his task. Admired him but feared him, too.

The Continental Hotel, on Roque Saenz Pena, was a classic Italian-style building, but it reminded the American of the Flatiron building in New York. The room was on the fifth-floor corner and through the open, double-height window, he could see right up the street to the corner of Suipacha -- a distance of over one hundred and fifty yards. The wardrobe creaked a little as he leaned toward the Winchester rifle that was already carefully positioned there between a couple of pillows. He always disliked poking a rifle out of an open window, preferring the comparative anonymity of a makeshift marksman's platform constructed inside the shooting position. Moving the wardrobe away from the wall by six or seven feet had created the perfect urban hide, rendering him virtually undetectable from the street or the office building opposite. Now all he had to worry about was the unsuppressed noise of the .30 caliber rifle when he squeezed the trigger. But even that, he hoped, had been taken care of: Sylvia was already signaling to a car parked on the other side of the street. The black De Soto, a popular car in Buenos Aires, was old and battered, with a tendency to backfire and, seconds later, there came a report, as loud as any rifle shot, that scattered the seagulls and pigeons like a handful of giant-sized confetti from off the ledge outside the window.

Not much of a ruse, thought the American, but it was better than nothing. And anyway, B.A. wasn't like his hometown of Miami where the locals weren't much used to the sound of firecrackers, or gunfire. Here there were plenty of public holidays, always celebrated at maximum volume, with cherry bombs and starting pistols, not to mention the odd revolution. It was only five years since the Argentinian air force had strafed the main square of the city during the military coup that had overthrown Perón. Loud bangs and explosions were a way of life in Buenos Aires. And sometimes death.

Sylvia collected a pair of field binoculars and stood with her back against the wardrobe, immediately underneath the barrel of the rifle. More powerful than the 8X Unertl scope mounted on the American's rifle, the binoculars were to help her ensure that among the many pedestrians who passed along the length of Roque Saenz Pena, the target was properly spotted and a kill detected. Sylvia glanced at her watch as, in the street outside, the De Soto backfired once again.

Even with some cotton wool in her ears to stop her being deafened when the American finally pulled the trigger, the echo chamber effect of the backfire between the tall buildings of Cangallo and Roque sounded more like a bomb going off.

Having achieved a solid body position, the American took hold of the rifle butt with his nonshooting hand and pressed it firmly against his shoulder. Next, he clasped the grip, slid his forefinger through the trigger guard, and positioned his cheek against the smooth wooden stock. Only then did he check the eye relief through the scope. The sight was already zeroed, following an uncomfortable 350-mile round-trip the previous weekend, to the valley of the Azul River, where the American had shot several wild goats. But even with a correctly bore-sighted rifle, this promised to be a much more difficult target to hit than a goat. There was a considerable amount of traffic along Roque Saenz Pena and across Cangallo, to say nothing of the confusing effect of the ancient seaport's many cross winds. As if to confirm the difficulty of sniping in an urban environment, a colectivo -- one of the red Mercedes buses that served the city -- obscured his practice view through the scope just as he had been positioning the cross hairs of the reticle on an old porteño's wide-brimmed hat.

"Moloch should be coming into view any second now," Sylvia said loudly, because, like her, the American was also wearing ear protection.

The American said nothing, already concentrating on his breathing cycle: before making a shot he had been trained to exhale normally, and then hold his breath for just a fraction of a second before squeezing the trigger. He had no doubt that Sylvia would correctly identify the target when he hove into view. Like the rest of the local Shin Bet team in Buenos Aires, she knew Moloch's face almost as well as she had come to know Eichmann's. And if the American did have a concern about her it was that he was relying on someone who had never before seen someone shot dead in cold blood to confirm that he had hit, or missed, his target. Any rifle's recoil prevented the shooter from seeing if he had hit his man. Especially when the target was standing more than a hundred yards away and in a crowd of people. At that kind of distance a shooter needed a spotter like a pitcher needs an umpire behind home plate, to call balls and strikes on the batter. The least amount of squeamish hesitation on her part and they risked losing the opportunity for a second shot. Observing bullet impacts was easy. Detecting a miss -- even the best marksman could miss -- and describing where the bullet went was the hard part.

The American held no opinion of his professional skills except to say that he was able to command a high fee for his services. It wasn't the kind of business where you could claim to be the best. Or indeed where others could legitimately claim that distinction for you. Moreover, he disliked that kind of reputation as much as he eschewed inflated claims of his own excellence. For him, discretion and reliability were the two defining features of his way of life and the fewer people there were who knew about what he did and how well he did it, the better. The most important part of the job was getting away with it, and that necessitated the kind of quiet, unassuming, unsigned behavior that was characteristic of only the most self-effacing of people. In none of this, however, did he consider himself to be at all atypical of anyone in that particular line of work. He knew there were other marksmen out there -- Sarti, Nicoli, David, Nicoletti, to name but a few -- but other than their names he knew very little about them, which told him that they aimed to be as anonymous as he was himself. His name was Tom Jefferson.

There was one thing he knew was quite unusual about his own situation, however, and this was that he was married, and to a girl who knew exactly what he did for a living. Who knew what he did and approved of it.


Mary accompanied Tom on the trip to Lake Tahoe to pick up the contract. That had been the plan anyway: things happened a little differently when they finally arrived in Lake Tahoe.

They flew Bonanza Air from Miami to Reno, and from there they drove to the Cal-Neva Lodge on the North Shore's Crystal Bay, at the invitation of a man named Irving Davidson. Mary, a second-generation Chinese, had never been to Tahoe, but she had seen the Cal-Neva's advertisements in the magazines -- "Heaven in the High Sierras" -- and she had read about how the resort was part-owned by Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford, and how Marilyn Monroe was a frequent visitor there, as were members of the Kennedy family. Mary, as interested in the Kennedys as she was a fan of Monroe's, was keen to stay in such a glamorous spot.

And she took to the place as soon as she saw it. Or rather as soon as she saw Joe DiMaggio and Jimmy Durante having a drink in the Indian Room. But there was something about the Cal-Neva Tom didn't like. An atmosphere. Something indefinably corrupt. Perhaps it was because the operating philosophy of the place seemed to be that money could buy you everything. Or perhaps it was because the resort had been built by a wealthy San Francisco businessman with the express purpose of circumventing California law. Located on the state line dividing California and Nevada, the resort comprised a central rustic lodge with an enormous fireplace, a cluster of luxury chalets, and a casino that, because of the laws banning gambling in California, was located on the Nevada side of the border. The state line ran right through the middle of the swimming pool, enabling bathers to swim from one state to another. Tom was glad that, as things turned out, he only had to spend one night in the place.

Soon after their arrival it became clear that their host and potential client would be unable to join them. Telephoning the discreet chalet where Tom and Mary were relaxing together in the large hot tub, Irving Davidson explained the situation.

"Tom? May I call you Tom? I'm afraid that some business is going to detain me here in Las Vegas for a while. Look, I'm very sorry about this, but I'm not going to be able to come up there and join you. That being the case, for which once again you have my apologies Tom, I was wondering if I could prevail upon your time and patience a little further. I was wondering if you would mind driving down here to meet me and my associates here in Vegas. It's about four hundred and fifty miles down Highway 95. You could leave just after breakfast and be here late afternoon. It's a nice drive. Especially if you're in a nice car. Living in Miami, I bet you drive a convertible, Tom. Am I right?"

"Chevy Bel Air," confirmed Tom.

"That's a nice car," said Davidson. "Well, there's a Dual Ghia at your disposal while you're in Nevada, Tom. That's a really beautiful car. But here's the kick. It belongs to Frank Sinatra. How does that sound? And when you arrive in Vegas you can stay in the suite Frank has here at the Sands. Everything is fixed. What do you say, Tom?"

Tom, who had never much cared for Sinatra's music, was silent for a moment. He sensed that the suite was for him alone. "What about my wife?" he asked.

"Let her enjoy herself where she is. Listen, she's got everything she needs right there. A drive through the desert with the hood down, she doesn't need. Her hair doesn't need it. Her complexion doesn't need it. There's a pretty good beauty salon in the lodge. I've booked her a whole morning in there. And I've arranged for her to have five hundred dollars' worth of chips to play with in the casino. She needs anything else, all she's got to do is pick up the phone and Skinny'll fix it for her. That's Skinny D'Amato. The general manager? He knows all about how you and Mary are my special guests. I believe that some celebrity guests are coming in tomorrow. Eddie Fisher and Dean Martin. I can have Skinny introduce her if she wants. So what do you say, Tom?"

"Okay, Mr. Davidson. It's your party."

Early the next morning, Tom left Mary very excited about the possibility of meeting Dean Martin and drove Sinatra's expensive convertible to Vegas, as requested. On the way down he listened to a country music radio station and, by the time he arrived, he thought he must have heard Hank Locklin sing "Please Help Me I'm Falling" as many as a dozen times. Tom preferred Jim Reeves. Not just his most recent record, "He'll Have to Go," but also because he sometimes fancied he looked a little like a younger, slimmer version of the singer.

It was around five when he turned off I-95 onto Las Vegas Boulevard and saw the Strip, which was always a picture to warm the heart of any magazine picture editor. He checked into the Sands and went up to a suite that was the size of the Fuller Dome. On the Formica free-form coffee table was an enormous basket of fruit, a bottle of bourbon, and a card inviting Tom along to Davidson's own suite for drinks at ten o'clock. So he lay down on the bed and dozed a little, then took a bath, ate a banana, put on a clean shirt, and walked around the Strip for a while. Tom did not gamble. He did not even play the slots. He had little time for the old Vegas saying that the more you bet, the less you lose when you win. But he did like to look at bare-breasted girls, of which the Strip had a plentiful supply. The Lido show at the Stardust's chic Cafe Continental was good, and so were the Ice-cubettes at the Thunderbird's Ecstasy On Ice review. He liked to see breasts, lots of them, too, but most of all he liked to see a woman's ass, and for that you had to go to Harold Minsky's harem headquarters at the Dunes, where there was more bare flesh on display than any other show in Vegas. A winning pile of chips on a craps table was nothing to look at compared with a good piece of ass in a spangled G-string. When he'd seen enough, he went back to the hotel, took another shower, and then knocked at Davidson's door.

It was Davidson himself who answered.

"Tom, come on in." He was a smooth, sharply dressed little George Raft of a guy who was possessed of a politician's easy manner. "Here, let me introduce you to everyone."

Three men stood up from an ersatz leopard-skin couch that curved around the Lucullan suite's rough stone walls. The drapes were pulled over the silver screen-sized window, as if privacy was of paramount importance.

"Morris Dalitz, Lewis Rosenstiel, and Efraim Ilani. Gentlemen, this is Tom Jefferson."

Even before he'd greeted everyone, Tom had guessed he was the only gentile in the room.

"Pleased to meet you, Tom," said Morris Dalitz.

His was the only name Tom recognized. A big man with a fleshy, large-nosed face like a coarser version of Adlai Stevenson, the guy crossing the thick pile rug to shake Tom's hand was Moe Dalitz, the godfather of Las Vegas. Or so the Kefauver Committee had said a few years back. All Tom could say about Rosenstiel, catching sight of the man's fancy diamond cufflinks as he, too, shook Tom by the hand, was that he looked rich. Which was the only way to look in Vegas. The third guy, Ilani, wearing a plain white short-sleeved shirt and open-toed sandals, and who looked as poor as Rosenstiel looked rich, just lit a cigarette and nodded. For the first few minutes it was Davidson who did most of the smooth talking. That seemed to be what he was good at.

"Get you a drink, Tom? We're all having martinis."

Tom saw that everyone didn't include Ilani, who was drinking ice water.

"Thanks, I'll just have a Coke."

"Keep a clear head for business, huh? I like that. It's the only way to survive in this town." Davidson poured the drink himself off a drinks trolley that was shaped like an airplane wing, and handed it over with the kind of big-shot swagger that made Tom think he didn't often mix the drinks. "Suite okay?"

"When I've been all the way round it, I'll tell you."

Davidson smiled. "And the drive down from Lake Tahoe?"

"The landing and takeoff were okay."

"That's a nice car, the Dual Ghia."

"Yeah, it's a swell car," agreed Tom. "Real smooth. Like the owner, I guess."

"Is that an American car?" asked Rosenstiel.

"It's a fucking Chrysler," Moe Dalitz told him.

"Yeah? Sounds more Italian," said Rosenstiel.

"Sinatra's got one," said Davidson. "Peter Lawford, too. Tom drove Peter's car down here for us."

Tom smiled quietly, wondering which of the two stars the car really belonged to, if either. Not that it mattered any to him.

"Hey," he said, sitting down on the sofa and sipping some of his Coke, "for all I care about such things, Elizabeth Taylor could have driven naked across America in the car and not wiped the seat when she was through with it. I'm here, so let's talk business."

"Sure, sure," Davidson said smoothly. "We're all businessmen. The four of us you see here now represent a variety of business backgrounds, Tom. But Morris, Lewis, and myself are meeting you in our capacity as members of the American Jewish League Against Communism. And in our desire to help Mr. Ilani. This particular matter does not involve any Communists, you understand, but Fascists."

"Makes a pleasant change," chuckled Dalitz.

"Mr. Ilani is concerned with the pursuit and punishment of Nazi war criminals. I take it you've heard of Adolf Eichmann, Tom."

"I read the newspapers."

"Since Prime Minister Ben-Gurion told the Israeli parliament that Eichmann was in his country's custody, Israel's been in pretty bad odor with the international community. To say nothing of the very severe diplomatic difficulties that now exist between Israel and Argentina. The whole affair has left Mr. Ilani here with some unfinished business back in Buenos Aires. Someone he'd like to have seen in Israel, standing trial alongside that bastard Eichmann. Only Mr. Ilani and his people can't go back, for obvious reasons."

Tom sneaked a glance at Ilani. With his pale skin, hairy body, and heavy glasses, Ilani looked more like the chairman of the local chamber of commerce than someone who worked for Shin Bet or Mossad.

"At least not right now. Not for a while, maybe. So, the next best alternative would be to have this second man, himself an important war criminal, brought immediately to book and subjected to an extreme penalty without the visible benefits of legal process, as the people of Israel would of course prefer."

"In other words," added Moe Dalitz, "we want this Nazi bastard hit."

Tom nodded slowly, and addressed his next remark Ilani's way.

"I used to have an English friend," he said. "A British army officer, stationed in Jerusalem. This was twelve years ago -- 1948. Anyway, this friend got himself killed. Shot in the head with a 6.5 millimeter Mannlicher Carcano rifle at eight hundred yards." Tom pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows. "Center forehead at eight hundred yards," he repeated. "Helluva shot."

"Are you saying you don't want this contract, Mr. Jefferson?" This was Ilani speaking. To Tom's ears his accent sounded more Spanish than Israeli. "You have something against the State of Israel, yes?"

"I don't give a fuck one way or the other about the State of Israel. What I'm saying, Mr. Ilani, is that you have some pretty fine marksmen back in Israel. I can't see why you need my services."

"In view of the delicate state of relations between Israel and Argentina," explained Davidson, "it would be best if a professional was brought in to handle the contract. Someone who isn't Jewish. Our information is correct, isn't it, Tom? You're not Jewish, are you?"

"Me? Hell no. I'm a Roman Catholic. At least that's what it says on my army record. It's been a while since I went through the church doors, mind you. God and me haven't talked in a long while. You might say it's an occupational hazard."

"I've read that," said Ilani. "Your army record. U.S. Marine Corps. You speak several languages, including Spanish. Served in Guadalcanal, Okinawa. Ended World War II with the rank of gunnery sergeant, and with twenty-three kills. Attached to the UN from 1947 to 1949, and a member of U.S. Armed Forces in Korea when North Korean troops crossed the thirty-eighth parallel. Captured Pork Chop Hill January 1953. Repatriated August 1953. Honorable discharge. Several decorations, etcetera, etcetera. It's very impressive."

"You're pretty cute yourself, Mr. Ilani," smiled Tom. "All that information without so much as a note in front of you. A regular Charles Van Doren, that's what you are, sir. I'll bet you could answer twenty-one about anybody in this damn room."

Moe Dalitz, who had got up to fix himself another drink, snorted loudly. "As long as the man doing the asking isn't Bobby Kennedy, I really don't mind how many fucking questions it is."

Rosenstiel laughed uproariously and lit a large cigar. "Maybe we should ask Tom to fix Bobby too," he said. "Two rats for the price of one."

Tom lit a Chesterfield and let them carry on with this line of conversation for a minute or so before drawing them back to the contract that was on the table.

"You said this man who lives in Buenos Aires is a Nazi war criminal. What's his name and what did he do?"

"Dr. Helmut Gregor," said Ilani. He unzipped a cheap plastic briefcase and took out a file that he handed over to Tom. "That's the name he lives under now. You'll find everything you need to know about him in this dossier. I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to tell you his real name. But to be quite frank with you, few people have ever heard of this man. It is enough to say that he tortured and killed thousands of people, but mostly children."

"Even we don't know his real name, Tom," said Davidson.

"Won't the Argentinian government guess that Israel is behind this operation?" said Tom.

Ilani shrugged. "Since the Argentinian government denies that this man is in their country at all," he said, "it is unlikely that they will wish to draw attention to the fact of his having been there by complaining about his assassination. In all probability they'll sweep the whole matter under the rug. This is to your advantage, Mr. Jefferson. You should be able to leave the country without too much trouble. Of course, supposing you take the contract, you will be assisted by a local team of Argentinian Jews. They've been keeping Gregor under surveillance since the arrest of Eichmann. They will supply you with everything you need on the ground. A suitable rifle, transport, hotel accommodation. With the help of the American Jewish League against Communism I will supply you with a U.S. passport and a suitable cover story."

"What about a visa?"

"Visitors of U.S. nationality are admitted on a passport without any consular visa."

"You'll be traveling as Bill Casper, a Coca-Cola sales director from Atlanta," explained Davidson. "It so happens that I'm a registered lobbyist for Coca-Cola among others. I've escorted teams of soft drink executives, including the real Mr. Casper, on missions all over the world. Incidentally, the real Bill Casper is currently vacationing in Brazil. Enjoying the spas of Southern Minas Gerais. When you get to B.A., you can hand out some Coke, make the hit, and then fly home." He shrugged as if to say that was all there was to it.

Tom nodded, holding off a smile as he held two of these images in his head: Drink Coca-Cola and make the hit. Simple. Maybe some Madison Avenue type could get an ad campaign out of that. The hit that refreshes. Only the Israeli was shrewd enough to spell out the reality of what was being proposed.

"Of course it won't be that easy," he said. "Otherwise..."

Tom gave into the smile, relieved that there was at least someone who recognized the existence of a few potential problems.

"Otherwise," said Tom, "you wouldn't be prepared to pay me twenty-five thousand dollars."

"Damn right," said Rosenstiel.

Tom wondered if it was Rosenstiel who was putting up the money for the contract. It was no longer just the diamond cufflinks that made Tom think he was loaded. By now he'd added on the Duoppioni label inside the coat of Rosenstiel's silk suit, the Italian tasseled loafers, the Rolex watch, and the Dunhill gold lighter.

"Since Eichmann's arrest, Gregor is well guarded," said Ilani. "He has some powerful friends in the military government. Officials he has bribed with large sums of money."

"While we're on that subject," said Tom. "My terms and conditions include fifty percent of the consideration, in advance, in cash."

"No problem," said Moe Dalitz.

"Then we have a deal," said Tom. He had been wrong about Rosenstiel. It was the casino that was going to put up the money for the contract. That was okay. They'd probably let him win at roulette or something. Just as long as they didn't expect him to take his money from a slot machine. He handed Davidson a sheet of paper.

"My bank is Maduro and Curiel's in Curaçao," he said. "That's the cable address and my account number. When the service has been rendered, I'll telephone to let you know so you can deposit the balance of my fee."

"There is one more thing," said Ilani. "We'd prefer it if you could go to Argentina immediately on your return to Miami." He handed Tom a ticket. "There's a Braniff flight from Miami to Buenos Aires this Friday. We'd like you to be on it. It's just possible Gregor may yet disappear altogether."

"I understand," said Tom. "I can be on that flight. But can you do the passport by then?"

"You'll have it by tomorrow morning," said Ilani.

"Then there's just the deposit."

"Sure, sure," said Dalitz. "Ever play keno, Tom?"

"I'm more of a golfer than a gambler."

"Keno was the national lottery in ancient China. Funds acquired from the game were used to build the Great Wall of China. Which ought to tell you that the house percentage is bigger than on any other casino game. Maybe in Disneyland they win money at keno, but anywhere else it's the original hard-way bet. Damned if I know why it's about the most popular game in the joint. But Vegas loves a winner, Tom. And tonight, my friend, you're it."

Moe Dalitz handed Tom a keno form. It was divided horizontally into two rectangles. The upper half was numbered 1 through 40 and the lower half 41 through 80. Fifteen numbers had already been marked with a thick black crayon, and in the right-hand corner of the form was the price of the ticket: $100.

"Hand this in at the keno lounge desk," Dalitz told him. "Pay for the bet. The lady will give you back a ticket with the number of the game you're playing. Then watch the keno board. After twenty numbers have appeared turn in your ticket and collect your money. Only don't hang around before the next game, otherwise you'll forfeit your winnings. All thirteen grand of it."

Grinning affably, Dalitz toasted Tom and said: "Congratulations. You're leaving Vegas with a small fortune. To do that most people usually have to arrive in Vegas with a large one."

It was the first time Tom ever played keno. And in view of the ease with which the fix had gone in, he thought it would be the last time, too. The whole experience confirmed Tom's belief that luck was something that only suckers believed in. Like God. And Justice. Perhaps there were those who might have seen some kind of nemesis in what was about to befall Helmut Gregor. Tom was not one of these, however. He had no illusions with regard to what he was doing. However heinous the man's crimes, this was plain murder. And plain murder was what Tom was good at. The way some guys were good at pitching a baseball or playing a saxophone. Not much of a talent, maybe, but enough to make a good living. Tom would have put a bullet through Walt Disney's head if someone had come up with the twenty-five grand.

For considerably more than that -- a cool $250,000, to be precise -- a consortium of embittered Cubans, angry at Eisenhower's lack of support for their now exiled president, Fulgencio Batista, had contracted Tom to assassinate Ike during his state visit to Brazil, back in March. Had the Cubans managed to stay out of jail -- all of them were now imprisoned in the notorious Isle of Pines -- and come up with even half of the money, it might have been the easiest of jobs: On the newsreels he'd seen Ike riding the length of Río's mile-long Avenida Río Branco sitting right up on the back of the open-top limousine so that the crowd with its ticker-tape welcome could get a better view of him. It had been a rare opportunity. The car had been traveling at just eight miles an hour. Usually, American presidents were not so easy to kill.


"Moloch. There he is," Sylvia reported. The biographical charm bracelet she wore on her wrist clinked noisily as she rocked up and down excitedly.

Her scent was in his nostrils. Something nice. Better than the stink of gunpowder that was to come.

"I see him." Tom's voice was calm, even appreciative, as if he was observing a rare bird or a girl undressing in front of an open window. The man who had just rounded the corner looked respectable enough and like someone Tom had once known. Tall and dark-haired, Gregor cut a well-dressed, handsome figure and hardly seemed German at all. More like a typical porteño male: dressed with the care of a Frenchman and possessed with the attitude of an Englishman. Joseph Goebbels in a gray suit with two good feet and an extra six inches. Tom could easily see how, for over ten years, the German had managed to fit right in.

He took aim, which was another kind of concentration, choosing the exact spot he wished to hit. It was an old sniper's trick: pick a point of impact that was the same size as your bullet. When shooting at the side of a man's head, Tom favored the tip of the ear. Shooting from the front, as in this case, he always aimed at the philtrum, the little groove in the target's upper lip. Either way you were certain to hit the brain stem. And at less than 150 yards, teeth and bones were hardly likely to deflect a 7.62 millimeter bullet. Tom could shoot groups of one inch at a range of one hundred yards. For a precise shot to the central nervous system, that was really his maximum range. So, keeping the scope's reticle steady on the man walking toward him, and his aiming spot, he waited for Sylvia to report that the target was clear of other pedestrians and traffic. It was like watching a silent movie, except that the picture he could see was in color.

For almost thirty seconds a horse-drawn carriage obscured his view of the target. Then, the driver, wearing a tweed cap and blue suit, cracked his whip and the single horse broke into a trot and turned the corner of Cangallo, leaving Tom with what Sylvia confirmed excitedly was now a good clear shot.

Slowly he started to gather the trigger under the tip of his forefinger, taking just the slack out of it, until he felt the heavier resistance of the sear, and, gathering his breath once more, pulling back only to the point of release. He was only a second away from firing when Gregor turned his head and glanced behind him as if to reassure himself that his police bodyguard was still in tow. Seeing that he was, Gregor looked to his front again, smiling now, and then slowed as he approached the street corner, ready to cross over Cangallo. He did not seem to have a care in the world. Or a conscience.

"You're clear to fire," repeated Sylvia. "There's nothing coming either -- "

A For almost thirty seconds a horse-drawn carriage obscured his view of the target. Then, the driver, wearing a tweed cap and blue suit, cracked his whip and the single horse broke into a trot and turned the corner of Cangallo, leaving Tom with what Sylvia confirmed excitedly was now a good clear shot.

Slowly he started to gather the trigger under the tip of his forefinger, taking just the slack out of it, until he felt the heavier resistance of the sear, and, gathering his breath once more, pulling back only to the point of release. He was only a second away from firing when Gregor turned his head and glanced behind him as if to reassure himself that his police bodyguard was still in tow. Seeing that he was, Gregor looked to his front again, smiling now, and then slowed as he approached the street corner, ready to cross over Cangallo. He did not seem to have a care in the world. Or a conscience.

"You're clear to fire," repeated Sylvia. "There's nothing coming either -- "

A split second before she heard the gunshot above her, she saw the German reach up for his mouth as though he had felt the sharp pain of a sudden toothache; and his head was momentarily surrounded with what looked like a circle of crimson light as the back of his skull blew off. Both the bodyguard and a pedestrian walking to the rear of Helmut Gregor were splattered with blood and brain coming toward them. Even to Sylvia's untrained eye it was plain to see that Gregor had suffered a fatal head shot. But swallowing her horror she followed his poleaxed body down onto the sidewalk and continued to report the silent scene visible through the binoculars. Her first thought was that it seemed incredible that Gregor could have been killed from such a distance.

"It looks as though you blew the nose right off his face," she said.

Tom bolted the rifle and relocated his target now lying in the gutter. This time he aimed at the throat, just below the lower jaw.

"And I think also the back of his skull," she added. "He must be dead. No, wait. I think his leg moved a little."

Tom thought it was probably just a spasm, but he squeezed off a second shot anyway, to make quite sure.

"Jesus," exclaimed Sylvia, hardly expecting that Tom would have bothered to fire again. Still watching through the binoculars, she caught sight of Gregor's jaw fly off like a piece of broken pottery. Shaking her head, she threw the binoculars onto the bed, and added that the man was now dead for sure. Then she took a deep breath and sat down heavily on the floor with her back against the bed and dropped her head between her knees, almost as if she herself had been shot. The cruelty of what she had seen appalled her. The cold-bloodedness of it, too. She had only a vague idea of the dead man's crimes; that he had done things of unspeakable cruelty. She hoped so. She took no pleasure at all in having participated in this man's death, however wicked he might have been. Her only source of consolation was that for Helmut Gregor, the invisible hand that had killed with such detached precision had struck him like the fist of God. Not that the man climbing down from the top of the wardrobe looked much like an angel of the Lord. Except to say that there was something about the American's face that made her feel uncomfortable. No laugh lines around the mouth, not even the line of a frown on the high forehead, and as for the eyes...it wasn't as if they were dead or anything grotesque like that, it was just that they were always the same, with the right eye -- the one he used to peer through the sniper scope -- permanently narrowed, so that even when he was looking at her he appeared to be choosing some feature on her face as his next aiming point.

Tom slid the rifle into a tournament-size golf bag, disguising the barrel end with a numbered head cover. He added the clubs, hoisted the bag onto his shoulder, and then checked his appearance in the wardrobe's full-length mirror. There were a number of excellent golf courses in the suburbs of B.A. -- the Hurlingham, the Ranelagh, the Ituzaingo, the Lomas, the Jockey, the Hindu Country Club -- and, dressed in a pair of dark blue flannels, navy blue polo shirt, and matching windbreaker, Tom thought he looked to all the world like a man with nothing more lethal on his mind than the dry martinis he might consume at the nineteenth hole. And, but for the fact that it was late in the afternoon and would soon be dark, he might even have played. He was a keen golfer and often used a bag of clubs to disguise the fact that he was carrying a rifle. He had brought this particular bag and the cheap set of Sam Sneads it contained with him from the pro shop at the Miami Shores Country Club where he usually played -- not so cheap when he remembered the ad valorem they'd charged him at the airport -- and he planned to give them to Sylvia's father after he had disposed of the rifle. The old man was a member of the club at Olivos, close to where Eichmann had been living until rabbit farming took him to San Fernando and the house on Garibaldi Street from which he had been kidnapped.

"You're just going to carry it out the front door of the hotel?" asked Sylvia, closing the bedroom window.

"Sure. You got a better idea?" He thought she was looking a little green around the gills. Probably never seen anyone shot in color before. Probably just a few old SS newsreel shots of Jews getting it in the back of the head. Not the same thing at all.

She shook her head. "No, I guess not," she admitted.

"You look like you need a cup of mate," said Tom, who'd developed quite a taste for Argentina's national drink himself. An herbal alternative to coffee, mate was a refreshing drink as well as being considered a great remedy for mild stomach upsets.

"How can you do that?" she whispered. "How can you kill someone like that? In cold blood."

"Why do I do it? Why do I take down contracts?" Tom considered the question for a moment. It was one he'd been asked many times before, mostly in the army, when he'd been more up front about being a shooter. Somehow it never seemed to satisfy people merely to say that it was all a matter of training. Not that he usually felt much of a need to explain himself. But during the three or four days he had spent with Sylvia he had come to like her. There was something about this girl that made him want to tell her that he wasn't filled with hate any more than he was some kind of psycho. That he was just a man doing what men were always best at, which was killing other men. Never very articulate, Tom searched for a form of words that she might understand; and in doing so he shrugged, pursed his lips, bobbed his head one way and then the other, and took a deep breath through his nose before finally answering her.

"I go to the movies a lot. I'm in a lot of strange towns, killing time, y'know?" He smiled wryly as he reflected on that particular choice of words. "One movie I saw, Shane, with Alan Ladd. Pretty damn good movie. It's about this stranger who arrives in a little Wyoming town who tries to forget his previous life with a gun. Only you know he won't be able to do that. He'll try and he'll fail and that's all there is to it. Which means that right from the moment the bad guy, Jack Palance, appears on-screen, you know he's going to be shot. And that Shane is going to be the one to kill him. The guy's a walking dead man and he doesn't even know it. Just waiting to fall into his grave. It's the same with these guys I kill. When I take the contract, they're dead already. If it wasn't me who killed them, it'd be someone else. The way I see a contract is that it's better for them it's me because I'm good at what I do. Better for them: a clean shot. Better for me: I'm well paid for what I do. If it wasn't for the money I'd probably still be in the army. Money's the how and the why of just about everything in this world. Whether it's cutting a man's hair, pulling his teeth, or shooting him dead."

Sylvia was shaking her head. There were tears in her eyes.

"You're young," he said. "You still believe in shit. In morals. In an ideal. Zionism. Marxism. Capitalism. Whatever. You think that stuff's any less corrosive to society than what I do for a living? Let me tell you, it's not the people who believe in nothing you gotta worry about, it's the people who believe in stuff. Religious people. Political people. Idealists. Converts. They're the ones who are going to destroy this world. Not people like me: the people who pay lip service to no creed or cause. Money's the only cause that will never let you down and self-interest's the one world philosophy that won't try to bullshit you. There's a dialectic for you that'll always make sense."

Tom smiled and shifted the golf bag onto his other shoulder. There were times when he almost convinced himself with his own bullshit. And if that wasn't politics then he was the man in the Hathaway shirt.

"Now let's get the hell out of here before someone smells our gunpowder."

Copyright © 2000 by Philip Kerr

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First Chapter

Chapter One: In the Kingdom of the White Caesars

Helmut Gregor feared the sound of his real name as another man might have feared the name of his worst enemy. But thanks to the generous support of his family and the agricultural business that continued to thrive in Günzberg, Bavaria, he managed to live very comfortably in Buenos Aires. An old but attractive capital -- it is a well-named city of good airs -- Buenos Aires has many fine boulevards and an excellent opera house, and on a cool July afternoon in 1960, the middle-aged German doctor could still think himself in his beloved Vienna, before the war -- before the defeat of Germany had necessitated such a protracted period of exile. For almost ten years he had resided in a quiet country house in the predominantly English suburb of Temperley. At least he had until now. After what had happened to Adolf Eichmann, Helmut Gregor considered it safer to move into the city center. And until he could find a suitable apartment in the microcentro, he was currently staying at the elegant and modern City Hotel.

Other old comrades, alarmed by the audacity of the kidnapping -- Eichmann had been snatched from his own house in San Fernando by Israeli intelligence agents and spirited away to Jerusalem -- had fled across the Río de la Plata to Uruguay and the city of Montevideo. The cooler Helmut Gregor, noting the world's condemnation of Israel's violation of international law and the possibility that the Israeli embassy in Argentina might be forced to close down -- not to mention the rather satisfying wave of anti-Semitic violence that had recently occurred in Buenos Aires as a result of the illegal Israeli action -- had reasoned that in all probability Buenos Aires was now the safest city in all of South America. For him and others like him, at any rate. There seemed little chance of the same thing happening to Helmut Gregor as had happened to Eichmann. Especially now that sympathetic friends in the right-wing Argentinian government had arranged for him to have twenty-four-hour police protection. It was Gregor's opinion that by living in the middle of nowhere and lacking the kind of money that would have bought some protection, Adolf Eichmann had made it easy for his Israeli enemies. Even so, he had to admit that the Jews had carried off the operation with considerable flair. But he did not think they would, or could, snatch him from the biggest hotel in Buenos Aires.

Not that he stayed skulking indoors all day. Far from it. Like Vienna, Buenos Aires is a city made for walking; and like the ancient capital of Austria, it boasts some excellent coffee houses. So every afternoon at around three o'clock, and accompanied by the melancholic, swarthy-featured policeman who was his afternoon bodyguard -- but for the man's piercing blue eyes, Gregor would have said he looked more Gypsy than Spanish -- the German doctor would take a brisk walk to the Confiteria Ideal.

With its elaborate brass fittings, marble columns, and, in the late afternoons, an organist who played a medley of waltzes and tangos, the Ideal café, just off Corrientes, seemed a perfect evocation of old Austrian Gemütlichkeit. After drinking his usual cortado doble and eating a slice of delicious chocolate cake, and having closed the cold dark eyes that had seen his own hands inflict a whole Malabolgia of horrors, it was quite possible for the doctor to imagine himself back in Vienna's Central Café on Herrengasse, anticipating a night at the Staatsoper or the Burgtheater. For a while anyway, until it was time to go. As he and his bodyguard collected their coats and left the Ideal at the usual time of a quarter to five, it would have been quite impossible for Helmut Gregor to have imagined himself in any way worse off than Adolf Eichmann. And yet he was. It would be another twenty-three months before Eichmann would meet the hangman in Ramleh Prison. But judgment was rather closer at hand for the doctor. Even as he was leaving the Ideal, one of the waiters, himself a Jew -- of whom there are a great many in Buenos Aires -- had ignored the doctor's generous tip and was calling the Continental Hotel.

"Sylvia? It's me. Moloch is on his way."


Sylvia replaced the hotel room's telephone receiver and nodded at the tall American who was lying on the big bed. He threw aside the new Ian Fleming he had been reading, stubbed out his cigarette, and, having climbed up on top of the large mahogany wardrobe, adopted a prone position. Sylvia did not think this behavior eccentric. Rather she admired him for the efficient professional way he approached his task. Admired him but feared him, too.

The Continental Hotel, on Roque Saenz Pena, was a classic Italian-style building, but it reminded the American of the Flatiron building in New York. The room was on the fifth-floor corner and through the open, double-height window, he could see right up the street to the corner of Suipacha -- a distance of over one hundred and fifty yards. The wardrobe creaked a little as he leaned toward the Winchester rifle that was already carefully positioned there between a couple of pillows. He always disliked poking a rifle out of an open window, preferring the comparative anonymity of a makeshift marksman's platform constructed inside the shooting position. Moving the wardrobe away from the wall by six or seven feet had created the perfect urban hide, rendering him virtually undetectable from the street or the office building opposite. Now all he had to worry about was the unsuppressed noise of the .30 caliber rifle when he squeezed the trigger. But even that, he hoped, had been taken care of: Sylvia was already signaling to a car parked on the other side of the street. The black De Soto, a popular car in Buenos Aires, was old and battered, with a tendency to backfire and, seconds later, there came a report, as loud as any rifle shot, that scattered the seagulls and pigeons like a handful of giant-sized confetti from off the ledge outside the window.

Not much of a ruse, thought the American, but it was better than nothing. And anyway, B.A. wasn't like his hometown of Miami where the locals weren't much used to the sound of firecrackers, or gunfire. Here there were plenty of public holidays, always celebrated at maximum volume, with cherry bombs and starting pistols, not to mention the odd revolution. It was only five years since the Argentinian air force had strafed the main square of the city during the military coup that had overthrown PerÓn. Loud bangs and explosions were a way of life in Buenos Aires. And sometimes death.

Sylvia collected a pair of field binoculars and stood with her back against the wardrobe, immediately underneath the barrel of the rifle. More powerful than the 8X Unertl scope mounted on the American's rifle, the binoculars were to help her ensure that among the many pedestrians who passed along the length of Roque Saenz Pena, the target was properly spotted and a kill detected. Sylvia glanced at her watch as, in the street outside, the De Soto backfired once again.

Even with some cotton wool in her ears to stop her being deafened when the American finally pulled the trigger, the echo chamber effect of the backfire between the tall buildings of Cangallo and Roque sounded more like a bomb going off.

Having achieved a solid body position, the American took hold of the rifle butt with his nonshooting hand and pressed it firmly against his shoulder. Next, he clasped the grip, slid his forefinger through the trigger guard, and positioned his cheek against the smooth wooden stock. Only then did he check the eye relief through the scope. The sight was already zeroed, following an uncomfortable 350-mile round-trip the previous weekend, to the valley of the Azul River, where the American had shot several wild goats. But even with a correctly bore-sighted rifle, this promised to be a much more difficult target to hit than a goat. There was a considerable amount of traffic along Roque Saenz Pena and across Cangallo, to say nothing of the confusing effect of the ancient seaport's many cross winds. As if to confirm the difficulty of sniping in an urban environment, a colectivo -- one of the red Mercedes buses that served the city -- obscured his practice view through the scope just as he had been positioning the cross hairs of the reticle on an old porteño's wide-brimmed hat.

"Moloch should be coming into view any second now," Sylvia said loudly, because, like her, the American was also wearing ear protection.

The American said nothing, already concentrating on his breathing cycle: before making a shot he had been trained to exhale normally, and then hold his breath for just a fraction of a second before squeezing the trigger. He had no doubt that Sylvia would correctly identify the target when he hove into view. Like the rest of the local Shin Bet team in Buenos Aires, she knew Moloch's face almost as well as she had come to know Eichmann's. And if the American did have a concern about her it was that he was relying on someone who had never before seen someone shot dead in cold blood to confirm that he had hit, or missed, his target. Any rifle's recoil prevented the shooter from seeing if he had hit his man. Especially when the target was standing more than a hundred yards away and in a crowd of people. At that kind of distance a shooter needed a spotter like a pitcher needs an umpire behind home plate, to call balls and strikes on the batter. The least amount of squeamish hesitation on her part and they risked losing the opportunity for a second shot. Observing bullet impacts was easy. Detecting a miss -- even the best marksman could miss -- and describing where the bullet went was the hard part.

The American held no opinion of his professional skills except to say that he was able to command a high fee for his services. It wasn't the kind of business where you could claim to be the best. Or indeed where others could legitimately claim that distinction for you. Moreover, he disliked that kind of reputation as much as he eschewed inflated claims of his own excellence. For him, discretion and reliability were the two defining features of his way of life and the fewer people there were who knew about what he did and how well he did it, the better. The most important part of the job was getting away with it, and that necessitated the kind of quiet, unassuming, unsigned behavior that was characteristic of only the most self-effacing of people. In none of this, however, did he consider himself to be at all atypical of anyone in that particular line of work. He knew there were other marksmen out there -- Sarti, Nicoli, David, Nicoletti, to name but a few -- but other than their names he knew very little about them, which told him that they aimed to be as anonymous as he was himself. His name was Tom Jefferson.

There was one thing he knew was quite unusual about his own situation, however, and this was that he was married, and to a girl who knew exactly what he did for a living. Who knew what he did and approved of it.


Mary accompanied Tom on the trip to Lake Tahoe to pick up the contract. That had been the plan anyway: things happened a little differently when they finally arrived in Lake Tahoe.

They flew Bonanza Air from Miami to Reno, and from there they drove to the Cal-Neva Lodge on the North Shore's Crystal Bay, at the invitation of a man named Irving Davidson. Mary, a second-generation Chinese, had never been to Tahoe, but she had seen the Cal-Neva's advertisements in the magazines -- "Heaven in the High Sierras" -- and she had read about how the resort was part-owned by Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford, and how Marilyn Monroe was a frequent visitor there, as were members of the Kennedy family. Mary, as interested in the Kennedys as she was a fan of Monroe's, was keen to stay in such a glamorous spot.

And she took to the place as soon as she saw it. Or rather as soon as she saw Joe DiMaggio and Jimmy Durante having a drink in the Indian Room. But there was something about the Cal-Neva Tom didn't like. An atmosphere. Something indefinably corrupt. Perhaps it was because the operating philosophy of the place seemed to be that money could buy you everything. Or perhaps it was because the resort had been built by a wealthy San Francisco businessman with the express purpose of circumventing California law. Located on the state line dividing California and Nevada, the resort comprised a central rustic lodge with an enormous fireplace, a cluster of luxury chalets, and a casino that, because of the laws banning gambling in California, was located on the Nevada side of the border. The state line ran right through the middle of the swimming pool, enabling bathers to swim from one state to another. Tom was glad that, as things turned out, he only had to spend one night in the place.

Soon after their arrival it became clear that their host and potential client would be unable to join them. Tele-phoning the discreet chalet where Tom and Mary were relaxing together in the large hot tub, Irving Davidson explained the situation.

"Tom? May I call you Tom? I'm afraid that some business is going to detain me here in Las Vegas for a while. Look, I'm very sorry about this, but I'm not going to be able to come up there and join you. That being the case, for which once again you have my apologies Tom, I was wondering if I could prevail upon your time and patience a little further. I was wondering if you would mind driving down here to meet me and my associates here in Vegas. It's about four hundred and fifty miles down Highway 95. You could leave just after breakfast and be here late afternoon. It's a nice drive. Especially if you're in a nice car. Living in Miami, I bet you drive a convertible, Tom. Am I right?"

"Chevy Bel Air," confirmed Tom.

"That's a nice car," said Davidson. "Well, there's a Dual Ghia at your disposal while you're in Nevada, Tom. That's a really beautiful car. But here's the kick. It belongs to Frank Sinatra. How does that sound? And when you arrive in Vegas you can stay in the suite Frank has here at the Sands. Everything is fixed. What do you say, Tom?"

Tom, who had never much cared for Sinatra's music, was silent for a moment. He sensed that the suite was for him alone. "What about my wife?" he asked.

"Let her enjoy herself where she is. Listen, she's got everything she needs right there. A drive through the desert with the hood down, she doesn't need. Her hair doesn't need it. Her complexion doesn't need it. There's a pretty good beauty salon in the lodge. I've booked her a whole morning in there. And I've arranged for her to have five hundred dollars' worth of chips to play with in the casino. She needs anything else, all she's got to do is pick up the phone and Skinny'll fix it for her. That's Skinny D'Amato. The general manager? He knows all about how you and Mary are my special guests. I believe that some celebrity guests are coming in tomorrow. Eddie Fisher and Dean Martin. I can have Skinny introduce her if she wants. So what do you say, Tom?"

"Okay, Mr. Davidson. It's your party."

Early the next morning, Tom left Mary very excited about the possibility of meeting Dean Martin and drove Sinatra's expensive convertible to Vegas, as requested. On the way down he listened to a country music radio station and, by the time he arrived, he thought he must have heard Hank Locklin sing "Please Help Me I'm Falling" as many as a dozen times. Tom preferred Jim Reeves. Not just his most recent record, "He'll Have to Go," but also because he sometimes fancied he looked a little like a younger, slimmer version of the singer.

It was around five when he turned off I-95 onto Las Vegas Boulevard and saw the Strip, which was always a picture to warm the heart of any magazine picture editor. He checked into the Sands and went up to a suite that was the size of the Fuller Dome. On the Formica free-form coffee table was an enormous basket of fruit, a bottle of bourbon, and a card inviting Tom along to Davidson's own suite for drinks at ten o'clock. So he lay down on the bed and dozed a little, then took a bath, ate a banana, put on a clean shirt, and walked around the Strip for a while. Tom did not gamble. He did not even play the slots. He had little time for the old Vegas saying that the more you bet, the less you lose when you win. But he did like to look at bare-breasted girls, of which the Strip had a plentiful supply. The Lido show at the Stardust's chic Cafe Continental was good, and so were the Ice-cubettes at the Thunderbird's Ecstasy On Ice review. He liked to see breasts, lots of them, too, but most of all he liked to see a woman's ass, and for that you had to go to Harold Minsky's harem headquarters at the Dunes, where there was more bare flesh on display than any other show in Vegas. A winning pile of chips on a craps table was nothing to look at compared with a good piece of ass in a spangled G-string. When he'd seen enough, he went back to the hotel, took another shower, and then knocked at Davidson's door.

It was Davidson himself who answered.

"Tom, come on in." He was a smooth, sharply dressed little George Raft of a guy who was possessed of a politician's easy manner. "Here, let me introduce you to everyone."

Three men stood up from an ersatz leopard-skin couch that curved around the Lucullan suite's rough stone walls. The drapes were pulled over the silver screen­sized window, as if privacy was of paramount importance.

"Morris Dalitz, Lewis Rosenstiel, and Efraim Ilani. Gentlemen, this is Tom Jefferson."

Even before he'd greeted everyone, Tom had guessed he was the only gentile in the room.

"Pleased to meet you, Tom," said Morris Dalitz.

His was the only name Tom recognized. A big man with a fleshy, large-nosed face like a coarser version of Adlai Stevenson, the guy crossing the thick pile rug to shake Tom's hand was Moe Dalitz, the godfather of Las Vegas. Or so the Kefauver Committee had said a few years back. All Tom could say about Rosenstiel, catching sight of the man's fancy diamond cufflinks as he, too, shook Tom by the hand, was that he looked rich. Which was the only way to look in Vegas. The third guy, Ilani, wearing a plain white short-sleeved shirt and open-toed sandals, and who looked as poor as Rosenstiel looked rich, just lit a cigarette and nodded. For the first few minutes it was Davidson who did most of the smooth talking. That seemed to be what he was good at.

"Get you a drink, Tom? We're all having martinis."

Tom saw that everyone didn't include Ilani, who was drinking ice water.

"Thanks, I'll just have a Coke."

"Keep a clear head for business, huh? I like that. It's the only way to survive in this town." Davidson poured the drink himself off a drinks trolley that was shaped like an airplane wing, and handed it over with the kind of big-shot swagger that made Tom think he didn't often mix the drinks. "Suite okay?"

"When I've been all the way round it, I'll tell you."

Davidson smiled. "And the drive down from Lake Tahoe?"

"The landing and takeoff were okay."

"That's a nice car, the Dual Ghia."

"Yeah, it's a swell car," agreed Tom. "Real smooth. Like the owner, I guess."

"Is that an American car?" asked Rosenstiel.

"It's a fucking Chrysler," Moe Dalitz told him.

"Yeah? Sounds more Italian," said Rosenstiel.

"Sinatra's got one," said Davidson. "Peter Lawford, too. Tom drove Peter's car down here for us."

Tom smiled quietly, wondering which of the two stars the car really belonged to, if either. Not that it mattered any to him.

"Hey," he said, sitting down on the sofa and sipping some of his Coke, "for all I care about such things, Elizabeth Taylor could have driven naked across America in the car and not wiped the seat when she was through with it. I'm here, so let's talk business."

"Sure, sure," Davidson said smoothly. "We're all businessmen. The four of us you see here now represent a variety of business backgrounds, Tom. But Morris, Lewis, and myself are meeting you in our capacity as members of the American Jewish League Against Communism. And in our desire to help Mr. Ilani. This particular matter does not involve any Communists, you understand, but Fascists."

"Makes a pleasant change," chuckled Dalitz.

"Mr. Ilani is concerned with the pursuit and punish-ment of Nazi war criminals. I take it you've heard of Adolf Eichmann, Tom."

"I read the newspapers."

"Since Prime Minister Ben-Gurion told the Israeli parliament that Eichmann was in his country's custody, Israel's been in pretty bad odor with the international community. To say nothing of the very severe diplomatic difficulties that now exist between Israel and Argentina. The whole affair has left Mr. Ilani here with some unfinished business back in Buenos Aires. Someone he'd like to have seen in Israel, standing trial alongside that bastard Eichmann. Only Mr. Ilani and his people can't go back, for obvious reasons."

Tom sneaked a glance at Ilani. With his pale skin, hairy body, and heavy glasses, Ilani looked more like the chairman of the local chamber of commerce than someone who worked for Shin Bet or Mossad.

"At least not right now. Not for a while, maybe. So, the next best alternative would be to have this second man, himself an important war criminal, brought immediately to book and subjected to an extreme penalty without the visible benefits of legal process, as the people of Israel would of course prefer."

"In other words," added Moe Dalitz, "we want this Nazi bastard hit."

Tom nodded slowly, and addressed his next remark Ilani's way.

"I used to have an English friend," he said. "A British army officer, stationed in Jerusalem. This was twelve years ago -- 1948. Anyway, this friend got himself killed. Shot in the head with a 6.5 millimeter Mannlicher Carcano rifle at eight hundred yards." Tom pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows. "Center forehead at eight hundred yards," he repeated. "Helluva shot."

"Are you saying you don't want this contract, Mr. Jefferson?" This was Ilani speaking. To Tom's ears his accent sounded more Spanish than Israeli. "You have something against the State of Israel, yes?"

"I don't give a fuck one way or the other about the State of Israel. What I'm saying, Mr. Ilani, is that you have some pretty fine marksmen back in Israel. I can't see why you need my services."

"In view of the delicate state of relations between Israel and Argentina," explained Davidson, "it would be best if a professional was brought in to handle the contract. Someone who isn't Jewish. Our information is correct, isn't it, Tom? You're not Jewish, are you?"

"Me? Hell no. I'm a Roman Catholic. At least that's what it says on my army record. It's been a while since I went through the church doors, mind you. God and me haven't talked in a long while. You might say it's an occupational hazard."

"I've read that," said Ilani. "Your army record. U.S. Marine Corps. You speak several languages, including Spanish. Served in Guadalcanal, Okinawa. Ended World War II with the rank of gunnery sergeant, and with twenty-three kills. Attached to the UN from 1947 to 1949, and a member of U.S. Armed Forces in Korea when North Korean troops crossed the thirty-eighth parallel. Captured Pork Chop Hill January 1953. Repatriated August 1953. Honorable discharge. Several decorations, etcetera, etcetera. It's very impressive."

"You're pretty cute yourself, Mr. Ilani," smiled Tom. "All that information without so much as a note in front of you. A regular Charles Van Doren, that's what you are, sir. I'll bet you could answer twenty-one about anybody in this damn room."

Moe Dalitz, who had got up to fix himself another drink, snorted loudly. "As long as the man doing the asking isn't Bobby Kennedy, I really don't mind how many fucking questions it is."

Rosenstiel laughed uproariously and lit a large cigar. "Maybe we should ask Tom to fix Bobby too," he said. "Two rats for the price of one."

Tom lit a Chesterfield and let them carry on with this line of conversation for a minute or so before drawing them back to the contract that was on the table.

"You said this man who lives in Buenos Aires is a Nazi war criminal. What's his name and what did he do?"

"Dr. Helmut Gregor," said Ilani. He unzipped a cheap plastic briefcase and took out a file that he handed over to Tom. "That's the name he lives under now. You'll find everything you need to know about him in this dossier. I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to tell you his real name. But to be quite frank with you, few people have ever heard of this man. It is enough to say that he tortured and killed thousands of people, but mostly children."

"Even we don't know his real name, Tom," said Davidson.

"Won't the Argentinian government guess that Israel is behind this operation?" said Tom.

Ilani shrugged. "Since the Argentinian government denies that this man is in their country at all," he said, "it is unlikely that they will wish to draw attention to the fact of his having been there by complaining about his assassination. In all probability they'll sweep the whole matter under the rug. This is to your advantage, Mr. Jefferson. You should be able to leave the country without too much trouble. Of course, supposing you take the contract, you will be assisted by a local team of Argentinian Jews. They've been keeping Gregor under surveillance since the arrest of Eichmann. They will supply you with everything you need on the ground. A suitable rifle, transport, hotel accommodation. With the help of the American Jewish League against Communism I will supply you with a U.S. passport and a suitable cover story."

"What about a visa?"

"Visitors of U.S. nationality are admitted on a passport without any consular visa."

"You'll be traveling as Bill Casper, a Coca-Cola sales director from Atlanta," explained Davidson. "It so happens that I'm a registered lobbyist for Coca-Cola among others. I've escorted teams of soft drink executives, including the real Mr. Casper, on missions all over the world. Incidentally, the real Bill Casper is currently vacationing in Brazil. Enjoying the spas of Southern Minas Gerais. When you get to B.A., you can hand out some Coke, make the hit, and then fly home." He shrugged as if to say that was all there was to it.

Tom nodded, holding off a smile as he held two of these images in his head: Drink Coca-Cola and make the hit. Simple. Maybe some Madison Avenue type could get an ad campaign out of that. The hit that refreshes. Only the Israeli was shrewd enough to spell out the reality of what was being proposed.

"Of course it won't be that easy," he said. "Otherwise..."

Tom gave into the smile, relieved that there was at least someone who recognized the existence of a few potential problems.

"Otherwise," said Tom, "you wouldn't be prepared to pay me twenty-five thousand dollars."

"Damn right," said Rosenstiel.

Tom wondered if it was Rosenstiel who was putting up the money for the contract. It was no longer just the diamond cufflinks that made Tom think he was loaded. By now he'd added on the Duoppioni label inside the coat of Rosenstiel's silk suit, the Italian tasseled loafers, the Rolex watch, and the Dunhill gold lighter.

"Since Eichmann's arrest, Gregor is well guarded," said Ilani. "He has some powerful friends in the military government. Officials he has bribed with large sums of money."

"While we're on that subject," said Tom. "My terms and conditions include fifty percent of the consideration, in advance, in cash."

"No problem," said Moe Dalitz.

"Then we have a deal," said Tom. He had been wrong about Rosenstiel. It was the casino that was going to put up the money for the contract. That was okay. They'd probably let him win at roulette or something. Just as long as they didn't expect him to take his money from a slot machine. He handed Davidson a sheet of paper.

"My bank is Maduro and Curiel's in Curaçao," he said. "That's the cable address and my account number. When the service has been rendered, I'll telephone to let you know so you can deposit the balance of my fee."

"There is one more thing," said Ilani. "We'd prefer it if you could go to Argentina immediately on your return to Miami." He handed Tom a ticket. "There's a Braniff flight from Miami to Buenos Aires this Friday. We'd like you to be on it. It's just possible Gregor may yet disappear altogether."

"I understand," said Tom. "I can be on that flight. But can you do the passport by then?"

"You'll have it by tomorrow morning," said Ilani.

"Then there's just the deposit."

"Sure, sure," said Dalitz. "Ever play keno, Tom?"

"I'm more of a golfer than a gambler."

"Keno was the national lottery in ancient China. Funds acquired from the game were used to build the Great Wall of China. Which ought to tell you that the house percentage is bigger than on any other casino game. Maybe in Disneyland they win money at keno, but anywhere else it's the original hard-way bet. Damned if I know why it's about the most popular game in the joint. But Vegas loves a winner, Tom. And tonight, my friend, you're it."

Moe Dalitz handed Tom a keno form. It was divided horizontally into two rectangles. The upper half was numbered 1 through 40 and the lower half 41 through 80. Fifteen numbers had already been marked with a thick black crayon, and in the right-hand corner of the form was the price of the ticket: $100.

"Hand this in at the keno lounge desk," Dalitz told him. "Pay for the bet. The lady will give you back a ticket with the number of the game you're playing. Then watch the keno board. After twenty numbers have appeared turn in your ticket and collect your money. Only don't hang around before the next game, otherwise you'll forfeit your winnings. All thirteen grand of it."

Grinning affably, Dalitz toasted Tom and said: "Con-gratulations. You're leaving Vegas with a small fortune. To do that most people usually have to arrive in Vegas with a large one."

It was the first time Tom ever played keno. And in view of the ease with which the fix had gone in, he thought it would be the last time, too. The whole experience confirmed Tom's belief that luck was something that only suckers believed in. Like God. And Justice. Perhaps there were those who might have seen some kind of nemesis in what was about to befall Helmut Gregor. Tom was not one of these, however. He had no illusions with regard to what he was doing. However heinous the man's crimes, this was plain murder. And plain murder was what Tom was good at. The way some guys were good at pitching a baseball or playing a saxophone. Not much of a talent, maybe, but enough to make a good living. Tom would have put a bullet through Walt Disney's head if someone had come up with the twenty-five grand.

For considerably more than that -- a cool $250,000, to be precise -- a consortium of embittered Cubans, angry at Eisenhower's lack of support for their now exiled president, Fulgencio Batista, had contracted Tom to assassinate Ike during his state visit to Brazil, back in March. Had the Cubans managed to stay out of jail -- all of them were now imprisoned in the notorious Isle of Pines -- and come up with even half of the money, it might have been the easiest of jobs: On the newsreels he'd seen Ike riding the length of Río's mile-long Avenida Río Branco sitting right up on the back of the open-top limousine so that the crowd with its ticker-tape welcome could get a better view of him. It had been a rare opportunity. The car had been traveling at just eight miles an hour. Usually, American presidents were not so easy to kill.


"Moloch. There he is," Sylvia reported. The biographical charm bracelet she wore on her wrist clinked noisily as she rocked up and down excitedly.

Her scent was in his nostrils. Something nice. Better than the stink of gunpowder that was to come.

"I see him." Tom's voice was calm, even appreciative, as if he was observing a rare bird or a girl undressing in front of an open window. The man who had just rounded the corner looked respectable enough and like someone Tom had once known. Tall and dark-haired, Gregor cut a well-dressed, handsome figure and hardly seemed German at all. More like a typical porteño male: dressed with the care of a Frenchman and possessed with the attitude of an Englishman. Joseph Goebbels in a gray suit with two good feet and an extra six inches. Tom could easily see how, for over ten years, the German had managed to fit right in.

He took aim, which was another kind of concentration, choosing the exact spot he wished to hit. It was an old sniper's trick: pick a point of impact that was the same size as your bullet. When shooting at the side of a man's head, Tom favored the tip of the ear. Shooting from the front, as in this case, he always aimed at the philtrum, the llittle groove in the target's upper lip. Either way you were certain to hit the brain stem. And at less than 150 yards, teeth and bones were hardly likely to deflect a 7.62 millimeter bullet. Tom could shoot groups of one inch at a range of one hundred yards. For a precise shot to the central nervous system, that was really his maximum range. So, keeping the scope's reticle steady on the man walking toward him, and his aiming spot, he waited for Sylvia to report that the target was clear of other pedestrians and traffic. It was like watching a silent movie, except that the picture he could see was in color.

For almost thirty seconds a horse-drawn carriage obscured his view of the target. Then, the driver, wearing a tweed cap and blue suit, cracked his whip and the single horse broke into a trot and turned the corner of Cangallo, leaving Tom with what Sylvia confirmed excitedly was now a good clear shot. Slowly he started to gather the trigger under the tip of his forefinger, taking just the slack out of it, until he felt the heavier resistance of the sear, and, gathering his breath once more, pulling back only to the point of release. He was only a second away from firing when Gregor turned his head and glanced behind him as if to reassure himself that his police bodyguard was still in tow. Seeing that he was, Gregor looked to his front again, smiling now, and then slowed as he approached the street corner, ready to cross over Cangallo. He did not seem to have a care in the world. Or a conscience.

"You're clear to fire," repeated Sylvia. "There's nothing coming either -- " A split second before she heard the gunshot above her, she saw the German reach up for his mouth as though he had felt the sharp pain of a sudden toothache; and his head was momentarily surrounded with what looked like a circle of crimson light as the back of his skull blew off. Both the bodyguard and a pedestrian walking to the rear of Helmut Gregor were splattered with blood and brain coming toward them. Even to Sylvia's untrained eye it was plain to see that Gregor had suffered a fatal head shot. But swallowing her horror she followed his poleaxed body down onto the sidewalk and continued to report the silent scene visible through the binoculars. Her first thought was that it seemed incredible that Gregor could have been killed from such a distance. "It looks as though you blew the nose right off his face," she said.

Tom bolted the rifle and relocated his target now lying in the gutter. This time he aimed at the throat, just below the lower jaw.

"And I think also the back of his skull," she added. "He must be dead. No, wait. I think his leg moved a little."

Tom thought it was probably just a spasm, but he squeezed off a second shot anyway, to make quite sure.

"Jesus," exclaimed Sylvia, hardly expecting that Tom would have bothered to fire again. Still watching through the binoculars, she caught sight of Gregor's jaw fly off like a piece of broken pottery. Shaking her head, she threw the binoculars onto the bed, and added that the man was now dead for sure. Then she took a deep breath and sat down heavily on the floor with her back against the bed and dropped her head between her knees, almost as if she herself had been shot. The cruelty of what she had seen appalled her. The cold-bloodedness of it, too. She had only a vague idea of the dead man's crimes; that he had done things of unspeakable cruelty. She hoped so. She took no pleasure at all in having participated in this man's death, however wicked he might have been. Her only source of consolation was that for Helmut Gregor, the invisible hand that had killed with such detached precision had struck him like the fist of God. Not that the man climbing down from the top of the wardrobe looked much like an angel of the Lord. Except to say that there was something about the American's face that made her feel uncomfortable. No laugh lines around the mouth, not even the line of a frown on the high forehead, and as for the eyes...it wasn't as if they were dead or anything grotesque like that, it was just that they were always the same, with the right eye -- the one he used to peer through the sniper scope -- permanently narrowed, so that even when he was looking at her he appeared to be choosing some feature on her face as his next aiming point. Tom slid the rifle into a tournament-size golf bag, disguising the barrel end with a numbered head cover. He added the clubs, hoisted the bag onto his shoulder, and then checked his appearance in the wardrobe's full-length mirror. There were a number of excellent golf courses in the suburbs of B.A. -- the Hurlingham, the Ranelagh, the Ituzaingo, the Lomas, the Jockey, the Hindu Country Club -- and, dressed in a pair of dark blue flannels, navy blue polo shirt, and matching windbreaker, Tom thought he looked to all the world like a man with nothing more lethal on his mind than the dry martinis he might consume at the nineteenth hole. And, but for the fact that it was late in the afternoon and would soon be dark, he might even have played. He was a keen golfer and often used a bag of clubs to disguise the fact that he was carrying a rifle. He had brought this particular bag and the cheap set of Sam Sneads it contained with him from the pro shop at the Miami Shores Country Club where he usually played -- not so cheap when he remembered the ad valorem they'd charged him at the airport -- and he planned to give them to Sylvia's father after he had disposed of the rifle. The old man was a member of the club at Olivos, close to where Eichmann had been living until rabbit farming took him to San Fernando and the house on Garibaldi Street from which he had been kidnapped.

"You're just going to carry it out the front door of the hotel?" asked Sylvia, closing the bedroom window.

"Sure. You got a better idea?" He thought she was looking a little green around the gills. Probably never seen anyone shot in color before. Probably just a few old SS newsreel shots of Jews getting it in the back of the head. Not the same thing at all.

She shook her head. "No, I guess not," she admitted.

"You look like you need a cup of mate," said Tom, who'd developed quite a taste for Argentina's national drink himself. An herbal alternative to coffee, mate was a refreshing drink as well as being considered a great remedy for mild stomach upsets.

"How can you do that?" she whispered. "How can you kill someone like that? In cold blood."

"Why do I do it? Why do I take down contracts?" Tom considered the question for a moment. It was one he'd been asked many times before, mostly in the army, when he'd been more up front about being a shooter. Somehow it never seemed to satisfy people merely to say that it was all a matter of training. Not that he usually felt much of a need to explain himself. But during the three or four days he had spent with Sylvia he had come to like her. There was something about this girl that made him want to tell her that he wasn't filled with hate any more than he was some kind of psycho. That he was just a man doing what men were always best at, which was killing other men. Never very articulate, Tom searched for a form of words that she might understand; and in doing so he shrugged, pursed his lips, bobbed his head one way and then the other, and took a deep breath through his nose before finally answering her.

"I go to the movies a lot. I'm in a lot of strange towns, killing time, y'know?" He smiled wryly as he reflected on that particular choice of words. "One movie I saw, Shane, with Alan Ladd. Pretty damn good movie. It's about this stranger who arrives in a little Wyoming town who tries to forget his previous life with a gun. Only you know he won't be able to do that. He'll try and he'll fail and that's all there is to it. Which means that right from the moment the bad guy, Jack Palance, appears on-screen, you know he's going to be shot. And that Shane is going to be the one to kill him. The guy's a walking dead man and he doesn't even know it. Just waiting to fall into his grave. It's the same with these guys I kill. When I take the contract, they're dead already. If it wasn't me who killed them, it'd be someone else. The way I see a contract is that it's better for them it's me because I'm good at what I do. Better for them: a clean shot. Better for me: I'm well paid for what I do. If it wasn't for the money I'd probably still be in the army. Money's the how and the why of just about everything in this world. Whether it's cutting a man's hair, pulling his teeth, or shooting him dead."

Sylvia was shaking her head. There were tears in her eyes.

"You're young," he said. "You still believe in shit. In morals. In an ideal. Zionism. Marxism. Capitalism. Whatever. You think that stuff's any less corrosive to society than what I do for a living? Let me tell you, it's not the people who believe in nothing you gotta worry about, it's the people who believe in stuff. Religious people. Political people. Idealists. Converts. They're the ones who are going to destroy this world. Not people like me: the people who pay lip service to no creed or cause. Money's the only cause that will never let you down and self-interest's the one world philosophy that won't try to bullshit you. There's a dialectic for you that'll always make sense."

Tom smiled and shifted the golf bag onto his other shoulder. There were times when he almost convinced himself with his own bullshit. And if that wasn't politics then he was the man in the Hathaway shirt.

"Now let's get the hell out of here before someone smells our gunpowder."

Copyright © 2000 by Philip Kerr

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not Bernie Gunther!

    If you have read the last 3 Bernie Gunther novels by the same author, you might be looking for more of the great storytelling seen in those books. You'll find it- to a point. The Shot starts out well enough, but by the time a woman who had had sex with JFK dies, the story takes a different turn, and it's downhill from there. Kerr does not keep the level of interest the same as he shifts the story. So, let's wait for Bernie- book #7 must be in the works!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2005

    Explosive!

    I came across The Shot by accident and almost didn't want to read it, somehow I did and loved every minute of it. Even though the end was rather anti-climatic to me, I still loved the characters that were so real you felt their breaths on your face as you turned the pages. The ex-FBI guy, Nimmo, Tom the killer, Goldman, Giancana, all turn this book into one bloody masterpiece! Philip Kerr at his finest!

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Entertaining JFK assassination tale

    In 1960 Coral Gables, Florida the mob, CIA, and the next president of the United States John Kennedy meet to discuss the removal of Castro from Cuba. The mob wants to regain the lucrative businesses they lost when Communism took over the island. The CIA wants to eradicate Communism from the hemisphere. The future President sees the expulsion of Castro as a means of paying back the mob for stealing the White House for him. <P>Everyone agrees that hit man Tom Jefferson has the right stuff to do the job and take the fall. However, Tom listens to a tape that the mob made of JFK and Marilyn Monroe sharing a romantic rendezvous, but the only problem is the woman with Kennedy is Tom¿s wife Mary who soon turns up dead. Tom vanishes into the night with mob chief Giancana¿s money and a revised plan. He begins stalking Kennedy not Castro. <P>THE SHOT is an exciting historical fiction that blends real events and sixties¿ rumors into a taut political thriller. The story line is filled with action although non-baby boomers may tire of the era¿s tidbits that flood the plot and anchor it to the decade. With real persona and the deadly Tom, Philip Kerr shows why his previous novels like ESAU and A FIVE-YEAR PLAN are so popular by reinventing the Kennedy assassination with a new intriguing conspiracy theory. <P>Harriet Klausner

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