Murder cuts both ways . . .
Scott Nolan wants vengeance. One wintry Dublin morning a hit man took out not only his medical career and rising profile as a campaigner against drug abuse but also his beautiful wife, Laura.
Fuelled by guilt, grief and revenge, Scott enters into an uneasy alliance with Laura’s brother, Detective Mark Higgins. Together they embark on a highly controversial covert mission to track down the killer. Using secret US army interrogation compounds and breaking almost every law in the land, the duo finally close in on their target.
And as Ambush moves towards its violent climax, Paul Carson takes the reader on a white-knuckle ride of treachery, double-crossing and murder in this incredibly powerful thriller.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|File size:||319 KB|
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By Paul Carson
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2004 Paul Carson
All rights reserved.
They arrived early, just as the first greyish streaks of daylight broke through a Dublin skyline.
'Shift it.' Sean Kennedy tapped on the driver's side of a black Toyota Corolla and the window slid open. The car was fogged from cheap French cigarettes and Kennedy waited until the air cleared and the two chain-smoking Russians inside stopped coughing. 'I'll cut in front of you at the end of the road. Keep about a five-minute gap between us so I can find a parking space. When I pull out you drive in and wait until I give the word.' Kennedy knew the men only by their first names, Alex and Matthe, and reckoned they were in their mid forties. Alex understood English better so Kennedy spoke mostly to him. 'Stay in constant contact.' Alex translated all this to his partner who was leaning across from the passenger side, his face a mixture of confusion and edginess. His expression didn't change as the instructions were explained.
They were in the driveway of a Georgian house at one end of a quiet road in an affluent south city suburb. Behind its bolted doors a middle-aged bank executive, his wife and three children were bound and gagged, and struggling to get free. But they were roped securely together in a bedroom and out of sight of any windows.
'Does Matthe know exactly what to do?' Kennedy loathed working with outsiders and this duo was worrisome. Their English was poor, they looked shifty and suspicious, and dressed like gypsies. But they were experienced killers and had brought a small arsenal of handguns, smoke bombs and explosive grenades.
Alex leaned his right hand out of the window and flicked a dead cigarette butt on to a sad-looking flowerbed. He fixed on Kennedy and held his gaze, his breath frosting in the chill morning air. 'He understands, Mr Kennedy. I have explained it to him like you said.' The engine was gunned alive and the Toyota edged away from the house, then turned right towards rush hour traffic already gathering on a main road five hundred yards ahead.
Fuck you, thought Kennedy as he limped past a silver Saab coupé, its engine running to thaw ice clinging to the windscreen. The trussed-up banker owned both cars and by giving up the keys without too much of a struggle had protected his youngest daughter from a second lit cigar being ground into her face. Kennedy shivered as the cold penetrated, grabbed at the lapels of his overcoat and dug his chin deep for cover. He stopped at the gateway and looked up and down, then returned to the Saab, satisfied no one was watching.
The street was a mixture of terraced Georgian houses and grand, high, narrow-roofed detached villas. The area reeked of money and style, with electronically controlled gates protecting entrances and CCTV cameras recording all internal movements. There were trees along the pavements; the gardens were well-groomed and tidy, without debris, unusual in a city notorious for its litter. The residents were mainly well-to-do business types, barristers, surgeons and senior embassy personnel. Lights glowed in bedroom windows as other occupants stirred for the day ahead and already one top-of-the-range black Mercedes had crunched across gravel and out on to the main road before picking up speed and heading towards the city centre. It was five minutes past six on the morning of 10 February and a cold, crisp day, with a hint of snow you could almost smell in the air. The weather bureau had predicted heavy falls along eastern counties of Ireland, with black ice on inland country roads. By now, dark and angry-looking clouds were rolling in from the north, and temperatures were dropping, ice and frost clinging to every surface.
Harry Power, the fifty-eight-year-old Minister for Justice in the Irish government, was already up and dressed in his own spacious town house, halfway along the same street. He was a tall man, six three in his bare feet, with a broad frame and thick, coarse hands. He had cauliflower ears and a crooked nose from his rugby-playing days, yet a ruggedly handsome face despite these imperfections. Power was married to a woman twelve years younger and one inch shorter, making them an eye-catching couple whenever they ventured out on the Dublin social scene, which wasn't often as the government Minister detested small talk and gossip, preferring to be at home with his family or at work doing something useful.
Journalists nicknamed him 'the bruiser' but this had more to do with manner than appearance as he had a reputation of giving tough press briefings. He could scowl correspondents into submission or pull the legs from under them with a well-chosen caustic comment. There was general agreement he'd hardened recently, was now even less tolerant, snapping and snarling and cutting people short when they bored or bothered him with trivial matters.
Alex drove slowly, checking rear-view and side mirrors for any unusual activity, any sign he was being followed. He was tall and bald, with a thick, bushy moustache that covered his flared nostrils. He wore denims and walking boots, with an oversized roll-neck and in between cigarettes chewed gum aggressively, as if frightened his jaws might lock if he stopped.
The traffic crawl on the two-lane artery was steady and the Russians soon cruised past shuttered shops, then a petrol station bustling into activity, with cartons of milk and that day's newspapers piled near the entrance. A youth of Oriental appearance yawned as he struggled to drag gas canisters on to the forecourt. Gradually it became a stop-start journey, with brake lights glowing intermittently along the lines of cars in front. Cyclists in protective headgear zipped past, legs pumping like pistons, dodging and weaving between vehicles. Alex negotiated a particularly dangerous roundabout, then cut through to the single city-bound intersection and another tailback. His mind began to drift until a sudden dig in his ribs focused his attention. Ahead a silver Saab coupé was stopped in a park-and-ride slipway, its sidelights flashing. 'Yeah, that's him,' he grunted and flicked the Toyota indicator, edging the car closer to the right. Now he could see Sean Kennedy, his head craned to check who was following. As the Saab moved out, Alex turned into the vacant spot and killed the engine. He glanced at his sidekick, noticing he was sweating despite the cold. 'Bud gatovi [Get ready],' he said, then grabbed a hand reaching into a side pocket. 'Ja chatu videt [No cigarettes. I want to be able to see].' He wetted his moustache with the tip of his tongue and unwrapped a fresh packet of Wrigley's, looking around to familiarise himself with the area.
To his right was a park surrounded by black railings and thick hedging. To his left, on the other side of the road, was an untidy group of shops including a dry-cleaners and pharmacy. There was little activity, with only an occasional pedestrian hurrying against the cold. 'This is good,' he muttered, 'very good.' Matthe nodded as he too checked the locale. Matthe was small and swarthy, with an untidy mop of dark hair, long side locks and twisting hairs coiled in both ears. He was an uneasy man, brown eyes darting nervously from side to side, fingers fidgeting without a cigarette to occupy them.
Eighteen months previously Justice Minister Harry Power's only son Michael, a sixteen-year-old boy with a bright future, had been found dead in a filthy downtown toilet, a syringe sticking out of a vein in his left arm. By the time the door was kicked in rigor mortis had locked the boy's frame and he had to be eased out of the cubicle and transported to the city morgue as discovered. And the tousle-haired Michael was still in that same half-bent, crouched position when his father came to identify the body lying on a white marble autopsy table surrounded by police officers who didn't know where to look. Harry Power stood over his son and wept. He grasped a cold and waxen hand, and tried desperately to straighten the curled-up fingers. Then he squatted on his hunkers and stared into the lifeless eyes of the boy who happily had said 'cheerio' some twenty-four hours earlier, claiming he'd be back soon, that he was only going into town for a few hours. Yet somewhere along that final journey Michael had scored enough heroin to kill himself. No one knew who the dealer was and none of Michael's friends would admit any knowledge of his secret life or where he got money to buy drugs, or who had led him into that underbelly of society. Weeks later and Power was no wiser, breaking his heart even more. He could grieve, and did so openly and emotionally, but could get no understanding of his son's death. What was missing in his life that he needed heroin? He was young and talented, a straight As student, popular among his peers and a keen sportsman.
Sean Kennedy drove the silver coupé to the next set of traffic lights, then turned right and cruised for half a mile before swinging right again. He was on open road and against the flow of traffic, and put his good foot to the accelerator, pushing to fifty in a thirty-speed zone. All he could see was frosted rooftops, icy pavements and lights glowing in windows. No one was on the street. Fifteen minutes later he made another right and criss-crossed three narrow sidetracks until he was back in the driveway at the top end of the quiet road with its red-brick Georgian terraced houses and expensive detached villas. He checked his watch. Six thirty-five. Close, but still on time. Twenty-nine-year-old Kennedy was a native Dubliner and originally from a respectable middle-class suburb close to the city centre. He was six two, with blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, ice-blue eyes and tight, narrow lips. His left leg dragged, the result of an old knife injury that had severed a major nerve.
Harry Power's crusade began ten weeks after he buried his son. He was now a man driven by anger and revenge, determined to make an impact on the country's growing narcotics trade. He forced a series of measures through the Irish
Parliament, including the decriminalisation of soft drugs such as cannabis, while possession of hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine carried a fifteen-year prison term.
Trading in or selling any compound, soft or hard, was increased to a mandatory twenty-year-without-parole sentence. However, Power's main targets were the criminal gangs who controlled the importation and supply routes. Using anti-terrorist legislation, the word of a senior police officer under oath was enough to convict traffickers and guarantee a life stretch. And life meant life, with no hope of release except in a coffin. Power later defended his policy at press briefings. 'These scum will be treated like the terrorists they've become. The burden of proof has shifted and they will no longer intimidate or threaten witnesses, or hire expensive lawyers for protection. They will no longer hold whole communities to ransom.'
Ireland's police force, the Garda Siochana, was galvanised into action. For years they'd been constrained by insufficient evidence to clinch convictions against known drug barons. Witnesses would often retract statements at the last minute, or not turn up for court cases, or simply disappear off the face of the earth. Now, dawn raids became a common occurrence, with petty criminals and their associates lifted for questioning. Intelligence gathering showed five main groups involved in narcotics and within weeks many were either under arrest or had fled the country.
Sean Kennedy spoke briefly with Alex by cellphone, double checking position and readiness. His Russian henchmen were still parked in the slipway of a double-lane, one-way city-bound road. However, one track was strictly for taxis and buses, forcing other traffic into a narrow line. His Saab parked in the front driveway of the banker's house, Kennedy kept the engine running with the heater on and opened a briefcase that lay on the passenger seat beside him. It was full of paperwork and pens, and a pocket calculator with figures on its display. He played idly with the keypad. With his ponytail tucked firmly underneath the lapels of his camelhair overcoat he looked just another business type starting his work as soon as he'd closed the front door. Underneath the pages rested a Heckler & Koch handgun, its safety catch off. At his feet lay two AN-M8 smoke grenades and a spare magazine of 9mm bullets. He loosened his shirt collar and ran a finger round his neck for comfort, then flicked the car heater to his feet where he felt the chill penetrate. Dark clouds now covered the city and any early morning brightness was turning to gloom.
Harry Power kissed his wife lightly on the cheek as she fussed around the kitchen table, preparing breakfast for their twin ten-year- old daughters moving about upstairs. She was red-haired, with high cheekbones and full lips, at that hour of the morning still in her night attire and wearing floppy slippers. 'Jane, I'll try to get home early,' he said, snatching at a bread roll and nibbling the corner before stopping as crumbs flaked on to his suit. Jane brushed the front of his jacket, straightened his tie and leaned up to peck his lips. Then she held his gaze severely. 'The girls are expecting you at the concert. Don't disappoint them, please.' Power slapped his brow and grimaced. He knew how important such events were to the twins, knew how much Jane was working to restore a normal family life. His wife had been a rock after their son's death, keeping everyone occupied and maintaining daily routines. Now he noticed her face tighten angrily. 'I'll cancel the last press conference and be back no later than six,' he promised. Jane's expression changed to a warning frown. 'You better be here or there'll be hell to pay later.' Power ran through the day ahead in his mind.
There was a Cabinet briefing at eight where he would present interim results of his anti-drug campaign. Later he would offer the same data to the press corps, then the rest of his diary was full with meetings, conferences and a planned visit to the courts mid afternoon for a photo call and TV interview with Sky news. His campaign had caught the world's attention and other police forces were watching developments with keen interest, quietly wondering how they might incorporate some of the controversial Irish legislation into their own criminal laws. 'I'll make it,' he promised, fleeing an even more threatening glare. He picked up a phone in the hallway and punched a ten-digit code. 'I'm ready.' His usual gravelly voice sounded hoarse and he cleared his throat.
Sean Kennedy edged the Saab slightly out of the gateway and stopped. He watched as an unmarked police car pulled up outside the Justice Minister's house and counted two passengers plus driver; each of whom he knew to be armed. Power's anti-drug war had made him enemies and a target for retribution. So every day before he opened his front door he contacted his bodyguards for clearance before leaving. There were also armed detectives on duty throughout the night. While the family slept, two shadowy figures patrolled the downstairs and garden.
Kennedy checked his watch: 6.45 a.m. Bang on time, changeover. He flicked the car heater full to windscreen and a light mist disappeared. Now he had a clear view of the frosted road and all that moved. 'They should be leaving within the next few minutes.' Kennedy spoke slowly and quietly into his cellphone. There was no reply and he glanced at the handset in case the battery was dead. But there was no warning light and this time he barked into the mouthpiece, 'Can you hear me? Where the fuck are you?' He felt his heart race.
Then a thick drawl eased his fears. 'I hear every word, Mr Kennedy. We are waiting.'
Now Kennedy noticed one of the detectives walking up and down the pavement, his gaze taking in the surroundings, then settling on the Saab. He was in a long open trench coat with a beige scarf draped round his neck and his hand reached inside the coat. Kennedy froze as he watched him dial on his mobile phone and felt underneath the pages in the briefcase until he touched the comforting steel of his handgun. Then he leaned back in his seat, cellphone to right ear as if in conversation. The bodyguard still stared in his direction, then suddenly turned round. Kennedy couldn't see what was happening and shifted forward in his seat, eyes darting nervously. Now the large frame of Harry Power bustled into view, carrying a briefcase in one hand and a heavy coat in the other. Kennedy slowly let out a deep breath as he watched the detective put his mobile away. In the cold morning air the exhaust from the police car blocked his vision but he heard doors slam and the vehicle pulled out, heading towards the main artery ahead. 'They're in a blue Ford Mondeo with dark tinted glass and two aerials on the roof. The registration is 03 98192736. There are four inside and our target is sitting behind the driver.'
Excerpted from Ambush by Paul Carson. Copyright © 2004 Paul Carson. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dr. Scott Nolan and his wife Laura leave America for him to practice medicine Dublin. They are a loving couple and look forward to a long life together. Everything collapses when Laura is killed during an errant shot, which targeted Ireland's anti-drug Justice Minister, Harry Power. --- Serene before he became a widower, an angry grieving Scott wants vengeance against the chief assassin. His also upset brother-in-law, Irish Police Officer Mark Higgins agrees to help him uncover the identity of the chief plotter who arranged the murder of an innocent out of avarice. Senior police officer, Commissioner Peter Cunningham and Power agree to blink while Nolan and Higgins abduct drug dealers so that the former can use his medical skills to extract information leading to the kingpin. --- This is an exciting thriller that will remind readers of Clancy¿s Patriot Game. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action from the moment the innocent Laura is gunned down and never slows down until a final confrontation with a major twist on the way to the altercation. Although a stretch wider than the Blarney Stone, this is a fun thriller in which the end justifies the mean. --- Harriet Klausner