There are very few people international assassin John “Chant” Sinclair trusts, and even fewer who know his secrets. When his friend, Roman magistrate Vito Biaggi, is violently killed, Chant knows that what Italian authorities are calling a random assault is anything but.
With Chant’s help, Biaggi had been investigating an international cabal of businessmen who were funding terrorists. Only three weeks prior, he’d revealed the conspiracy’s existence and was on the brink of exposing its powerful players. But now Biaggi is dead, and Chant is determined to hunt down the ones responsible.
His search exposes a shocking trail of corruption and death, ultimately leading Chant into a secretive world ruled by a madman, where he must face the only adversary he’s ever failed to defeat.
Code of Blood is the 3rd book in the Chant Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
It was a typically cold, rainy English day but in the great library of the Elizabethan manor that belonged to the man known as Sir Gerald Coughlin, a bright, cheerful fire burned In an armchair by the fire sat a towering man with iron-colored eyes and close-cropped, iron-colored hair.
Few here in England knew the true identity of this man, who years before in Vietnam had been Captain John Sinclair and was now known more frequently to both friends and enemies simply as Chant John Sinclair was the Most Wanted Man on the hit lists of everyone from the CIA and the KGB to Interpol and the FBI, not to mention a hundred or so local police departments around the world. He therefore found it preferable while in England to pose as wealthy and influential Sir Gerald Coughlin.
The man who fussed with a pile of newspaper clippings on a desk in one corner of the room was one of the few who knew all of Chant's real identities; he was Alistair Powers, valet, butler, chauffeur, personal secretary, and researcher to Chant It was his duty to collect file clippings from newspapers around the world, collate information, and suggest possible future operations At this moment, he was in the process of winding up the paperwork on a successful operation Chant had recently finished — eliminating an old-age-home scam in Florida.
As Alistair worked, he would occasionally glance up idly at the television near his desk, whose images flickered silently on an all-news channel He was about to look away, when a picture on the silent screen caught his eye — and suddenly he felt his breath catch in his throat He just managed to stifle an exclamation of shock and sorrow.
On the screen, in stark close-up, was the bloody, bullet-riddled body of a gray-haired, aristocratic-looking man whose face was now clenched in a grotesque death grimace It was a face Alistair knew very well, for he had admitted the man many times through the gates of this very house — served him drinks and dinner, talked with him It was the face of a man who had known Alistair's secrets, as well as John Sinclair's, and whom Alistair had liked very much.
The camera slowly panned a few feet away to the corpse of a second, bearded man dressed in ragged clothes, and Alistair received his second shock.
Alistair knew that his employer, whose back was to the television, could not see the images on the screen, and he quickly turned up the volume on the set, rather than waste any time alerting Chant The camera cut to a montage of Rome.
"— after pursuing some of the most powerful and dangerous men in Europe, there is perhaps more than a touch of terrible and bitter irony in the fact that Vito Biaggi finally met his death at the hands of a down-andout, crazed American ex-convict who undoubtedly did not even know who Vito Biaggi was In what Italian authorities agree was a senseless killing —"
There were a few minutes more of the same, but the newscast was nearly finished, and the television soon switched to coverage of the busy London social scene Alistair looked up from the television to see Chant once more staring into the fire, but he knew that his employer had heard and seen the shocking news. He sat back himself and stared at the ornate ceiling as his mind turned back to the bloody images on the television set, the announcer's voice, and thoughts of the gentle, bearish Italian magistrate who had been one of the few people entrusted with secrets that could destroy and kill John Sinclair.
Alistair had never understood the process by which his employer chose the men and women he would confide in. There were large rewards offered by organizations on both sides of the law for information leading to the capture, or death, of John Sinclair; yet he, with what seemed to Alistair casual disregard for his own safety, continued to offer to certain people he had decided to trust the secret of his real identity. Alistair, of course, was one of the select few, yet he did not understand why he had been chosen. He knew only that John Sinclair had changed his life, given him more than he had ever hoped to have in his life, and that he would gladly give his life for the enigmatic man with the iron-colored eyes and hair who offered life and justice to some, while delivering quick, often gruesome, death to others.
Alistair had never been told how John Sinclair and Vito Biaggi, a man sworn to uphold the law, had become friends He did know that the Italian magistrate had been involved for more than a year in an intense and thorough investigation which attempted to unmask the identities of certain Europeans he suspected of channeling funds through Italian banks to terrorist groups around the world. Alistair also knew that the information Biaggi had acted upon in launching his investigation had been provided by John Sinclair, who had unearthed it in the course of an unrelated operation. The document John Sinclair had found and given to Vito Biaggi had hinted at the existence of an international cabal of amoral, apolitical businessmen who, in an attempt to purchase a kind of "terrorist insurance," provided a significant amount of funds to both left and right-wing terrorist groups, in exchange for assurances that, in the event of the overthrow of certain governments, the interests of the funders would not be harmed.
Patiently but persistently, the Roman magistrate had taken the kernels of information that John Sinclair had provided and doggedly investigated, piecing together more bits of information and tracking down rumors Only three weeks before, Vito Biaggi had announced that he could prove the existence of a global conspiracy that had already cost the lives of hundreds of people; indictments were imminent, and Biaggi had warned that the names of some very prominent people in the European Common Market would eventually surface.
Now, Alistair thought, Vito Biaggi was dead, at the hands of an expatriate street criminal; the Italian had been hunting monsters in the European forests, and he'd been killed by a maggot that had crawled out of the American criminal justice system, a man Alistair had once known.
Alistair sat still for a long while, then finally broke the silence "Do you want me to make arrangements for you to attend Mr. Biaggi's funeral, sir?"
"I'm not going to the funeral," Chant said softly as he looked up from the fire "You'll extend my regrets to Bianca, and tell her that I'll be in touch. I'm going to make some inquiries into Vito's death, and I want to start before too much time passes."
"Sir, I know the man who shot Mr Biaggi."
The iron-colored eyes flicked in Alistair's direction "Where do you know him from?"
"His name was Tyrone Good, and we were in San Quentin together. He was a lifer, like me, and we must have been together fifteen, sixteen years."
"Were you friends?" Chant asked evenly.
"Not likely. Good was a real pain in the ass; we just shared the same prison, and it's pretty hard in prison for long-termers not to get to know each other. He must have been paroled six or seven months after I was, and he must have heard of the Fortune Society in New York City That's where I saw him again, at one of their meetings. It was just a few months after that when you —" Alistair turned away and wiped at his eyes; it was impossible for the old man to speak of what John Sinclair had done for him without tears coming to his eyes.
"Go on, Alistair," Chant said softly.
Alistair swallowed hard, found his voice "There really isn't anything else After you wiped out the Salieri family and saved my granddaughter from them, you asked if I'd like to come and work for you. I never saw Tyrone Good again. That was better than two years ago."
"Was this Tyrone Good Mafia?"
Alistair shook his head. "No way. I know what you're thinking; that the people Mr. Biaggi wanted to nail might have hired a hitter to kill him. Tyrone Good wouldn't have been the man, too stupid. You saw yourself: he got himself blown away."
"Indeed," Chant said in a slightly distant tone. "It would take a monumentally stupid man —"
"That was Tyrone."
"— to try and rob another man on the street in broad daylight, when the man was surrounded by three or four bodyguards."
Alistair nodded. "When I say Good was stupid, Mr. Sinclair, I mean like retarded. He also had a mean streak a mile wide, real psycho. After all the years I spent in San Quentin, I know something about Mafia types; some of them may be stupid, but they're highly disciplined — and they're not suicidal. I don't think Good was working for anyone, Mr. Sinclair. He was crazy, and he just did a crazy thing."
Chant sipped thoughtfully at his coffee. "And what do you suppose this crazy man was doing in Rome?" he asked softly.
Alistair thought about it, shook his head. "Good question, Mr. Sinclair. I don't think Tyrone even knew there was such a place as Europe, and if he had there would have been no reason for him to go there. As a matter of fact, I can't imagine where the hell he got the money; he was on welfare when I saw him in New York, and the only time I ever knew him to have more than five bucks in his pocket was when he and I both picked up a quick C-note by taking part in some weird college research project where they were studying ex-convicts" Alistair paused, again shook his head "How Good got to Rome is a puzzle, all right, but I still don't see him being hired as a hitter by anyone who could afford better — and, from what I understand, the people Mr Biaggi was after can afford to hire the best Besides, Tyrone had his share of street smarts, he'd kill anyone for the fillings in their teeth — but not if there was a chance he'd be killed I still think he just wigged out."
"Alistair," Chant asked slowly, "do you know, or have you ever heard of, a man by the name of Axle Trent?"
"Nope, can't say that I have Who's Axle Trent?"
"Another American ex-convict Seven months ago, in Geneva, Trent shot down a British diplomat who was a key figure in ongoing truce negotiations between two waning factions in the Sudan Like Good, Axle Trent took it into his head to try to mug his victim in broad daylight, on a busy street, the police considered Trent, like Good, a most unlikely assassin, and they wrote off the murder as a senseless act by a psychopath with a long record of violent behavior."
"Was this Trent killed by the police?"
"He bashed out his own brains on the bars of his holding cell an hour after he was arrested. The police never found his passport, and nobody could explain what he was doing in Geneva. I remember the incident, because I happened to be in Geneva at the time; the killing was widely publicized."
"You think there could be a connection, sir?" "I'm not sure yet," Chant said slowly, and lapsed back into silence, staring intently into the fire.
Alistair knew better than to interrupt him.
Finally Chant looked up again "I'll be flying to New York tonight," he said "Can you call British Airways and arrange for tickets?"
"I'll do that, sir, and I'll also call Mrs. Biaggi for you, as you asked."
Chant nodded "Express condolences for both of us, tell her I'm sorry I can't be with her right now She'll understand. Don't mention anything about our conversation concerning Tyrone Good and Axle Trent."
"You're going to New York to talk to Tony Black, aren't you?"
Again, Chant nodded "Yes, I am, Alistair," he said
"Thanks for all your help You did well noticing that news broadcast when you did. I trust you to do all that's right in Italy."
"Thank you sir," said the old man, quietly and with dignity.
His legs always hurt in cold, wet weather — the legacy of an old prison injury — and Tony Black paused at his desk to reach down and massage his thighs. After a minute or two the pain began to ease, and he went back to the pile of paperwork on his desk — applications for state and federal funding grants, correspondence with prisoners, requests for information and interviews, all the kinds of administrative details the ex-convict had learned to cope with since he had assumed the post of President of the Fortune Society almost a decade before.
He had not heard the downstairs door open, nor footsteps on the wooden stairway leading up to his second-floor office. However, suddenly he felt a presence in the room with him. He looked up and was mildly startled to see a big man, with longish red hair and a thick, droopy mustache, leaning in the doorway, looking at him. The man wore a three-quarter-length gabardine topcoat against the December chill, and in his right hand he held a sturdy walnut cane. Black leaned back in his swivel chair, ran the fingers of his left hand through his thinning blond hair, pushed his thick bifocals up on the bridge of his nose, and stared back at the man. He knew no one with fiery red hair who walked with a cane, but there was something about the presence of this big man with the thick shoulders, slim waist, and powerful thighs that seemed familiar.
"That you, Chant?"
Chant smiled, put aside the cane, and walked across the office. "Hello, Tony. How are you?"
Black rose, hurried around the desk, and embraced the man with whom he shared a friendship that had begun in the blood-soaked jungles of Vietnam. "Damn, Chant, it's good to see you."
"And you, Tony, How are the legs?"
"They hurt like hell in weather like this, but just the sight of you makes them feel better. It's been a long time, my friend. Too long."
"You want a drink?"
"You still have my bottle?"
"Of course I still have your bottle. It's been sitting there gathering dust since the last time you were in the city."
"It only improves with age."
Tony Black limped across the room, closed the office door, and pulled a shade down over the window. Then he went to a large filing cabinet, opened the bottom drawer, and took out a bottle of Scotch and one of fine, imported saki. He removed a tiny china cup from a plastic bag, filled it with saki. Holding the cup by its rim with his fingertips, he passed the flame of a cigarette lighter four times across its bottom before handing it to Chant, who accepted the cup with a slight bow from the waist. Black poured himself a small tumbler of Scotch, lifted his glass to Chant, sipped. Then he went back to his chair, leaned back, and studied his friend.
John Sinclair had often remarked that ceremony could enhance the pleasure of many things, yet Black was still struck by many of the small things his friend did, such as the ritual he went through in consuming the tiny amount of saki in his cup. The ex-convict knew that Chant would take as much as fifteen minutes to drink the saki, and during this time he would not wish to speak. Sitting straight in his chair with both feet on the floor, Chant would take tiny sips of the rice wine as he stared straight ahead, his eyes slightly out of focus. The expression on his face would be distant, as though the smell and taste of the saki were evoking memories of ... Tony Black did not know what.
And then his own memories began to flow.
Black recalled how he had met John Sinclair many years before, at a boot camp in Georgia, where they had become friends; yet now, when he thought about it, he was amazed at how little — virtually nothing — he knew of the other man's life before it had intersected with his own Indeed, it had not even occurred to him until many years later — when there were no longer bullets flying through the air, and he had only the demons in his mind to contend with, and he had lots of time to reflect in his prison cell — that John Sinclair had never spoken of his background, where he had been or what he had done, before joining the Army at the age of twenty-three.
Black had always assumed that Chant had been born and raised in the United States, now, as he watched the man go through his ritual of drinking saki, he questioned this assumption. Not that it made any difference. The mystery surrounding John Sinclair did not bother Black now any more than it had when they were together in Southeast Asia The only thing that had mattered there was whether or not a man could be trusted and could fight John Sinclair had always been trusted by everyone whose opinion was worth anything. And he was the best fighter — with any weapon, from antitank gun to his bare hands and feet — Black had ever seen, before or since. Upon entering the Army, John Sinclair had already been a consummate master of the martial arts, and no one, at least not to Tony Black's knowledge, had ever learned how or where the twenty-three-year-old had acquired his skills.
Excerpted from "Code of Blood"
Copyright © 2017 George C. Chesbro.
Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.