When a mysterious woman arrives at the home of Paul Bern, a forensic artist who lives in Austin, Texas, she brings him two things: a human skull that she smuggled out of Mexico and an incredible secret that brings Paul face to face with the unimaginable.
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The Face of the Assassin
By David Lindsey
Warner BooksCopyright © 2004 David Lindsey
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMexico City
"Something's going on." These were the first words out of Mingo's mouth, and he could hardly wait to say them. Even in the shadows of the park, the other man could feel his anxiety.
"What's the matter?" The other man's voice was calm, softened by a Texas accent. In his late thirties, he was a decade older than Mingo and far more seasoned. Even so, he was caught off guard by the younger man's agitation. "Khalil's been gone three days. Don't know where. When he came back two days ago, the first thing he did was meet with a guy I'd never seen before. This guy's staying in a rented room in Tacubaya, not far from Khalil. I've seen them huddling together in a pastelería."
"What's he look like?" "Uh, balding, maybe early forties, not athletic, kind of puffy-looking. Office type. Very serious. Never relaxed. Then this moring, same pastelería, they met with Ahmad."
"The three of them?" "Yeah."
This was contrary to their own strict rules of operational discipline. Mingo was right to report it. "Okay."
"Afterward, everybody was tense, edgy. Things looked different. Something big has happened."
They had met where the broad sidewalk bisected the long, narrow park across the middle of its length, between the statues of Lincoln on one side and Martin Luther King, Jr., on the other. It was just after dusk in the rainy season, and the sidewalks of the park were still glistening from the evening shower that came every summer day at this hour to cool the air and tamp the city's suffocating smog.
The younger man had fallen in behind his slightly older companion as they began walking, ignoring each other as they turned onto the sidewalk that ran along the perimeter of the park. They headed toward the clock tower at the western end of the park. The man in front hadn't slowed down so that the other one could come up abreast of him until they had reached the point where Calle Lafontaine intersected the park to their right.
"What else?" the Texan asked. What the younger man had to say was interesting, something to factor into the overall picture, something to keep in mind. But it wasn't news. They were supposed to meet face-to-face only if there was news-and news meant something that significantly affected the operation.
"I think I spotted your man." The Texan didn't even break the rhythm of his casual pace. Eagerness was a mistake. Always.
"Who is that, exactly?" "My boys watching your place last night, they picked up a guy in Parque México. He stayed there an hour and a half. He was watching your place. He was using night vision binoculars. Thomas went down there with his telephoto night lens and got a shot of the guy. Just one shot. It sure as hell looks like Baida to me."
Mingo handed an envelope to the Texan. "Check it out for yourself," he said.
This was it. The point of all the months of hard work. The point of so much patience and effort and planning and risk.
"Do you have any other information about him being here?" the Texan asked, putting the envelope into his pocket and forcing a calm tone into his voice. "He's never showed up anywhere else, if that's what you mean."
"This was last night?" "Yeah. Nine-thirty to eleven o'clock." "They try to follow him?" "No."
Good. Good. Mingo was worth the money. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, and he didn't do a bit more. He had been trained well. Follow instructions precisely.
Even when you can do more, don't. That way, everyone knew exactly where you stood and where the operation stood.
"You think this is him?" the Texan asked. "Yeah, I do."
Though the park was in the middle of tranquil streets, the city's traffic rumbled in the surrounding gloom. In fact, the Paseo de la Reforma, the city's main boulevard, was only blocks away. But besides that, 22 million people simply made a lot of noise.
They rounded the corner and crossed the end of the park under the clock tower. He was surprised that Baida had been watching his place. He would have thought they would have spotted him at Ahmad's first. That would have made more sense. But then, making sense would make too much sense. If any of this had made sense, he wouldn't be doing what he was doing. And he wouldn't spend so much time in fear's claustrophobic little rooms, in the dark, air-starved cubicles of his own imagination.
"You've got nothing else?" the Texan asked. "Just this ID?" "Yes, just this ID."
He caught Mingo's emphasis. "No, you've done a fine thing, Mingo."
"Good, then." "Check your pay drop the day after tomorrow." "Bueno."
"The next time he shows up," the Texan said, "push it just a little further. Be careful. There's nobody better. He'll spot your boys the second one of them loses concentration. If they glance at a woman ... just that quick, we're screwed. Of course, the pay goes up, too."
"And so does the risk." "Listen, you're getting paid a hell of a lot more than I am."
"But when you're through," Mingo said, "you can go home to Texas. You've got U.S. government benefits waiting for you."
Right now, all of that seemed half a world and a thousand lies away. It seemed remote, and that remoteness had begun to eat at him in the last couple of years.
"Yeah," the Texan said. "Those benefits." He looked over Mingo's shoulders at the two figures moving toward them from the other end of the park. A couple, huddled together, breathing each other's breath. Lovers. He did not think or fear that they were anything other than what they appeared to be, but they reminded him that it was time to be moving on.
"Keep in touch," he said.
Mingo was used to the abrupt departures, and he nodded good-bye. The Texan was already walking away.
Excerpted from The Face of the Assassin by David Lindsey Copyright © 2004 by David Lindsey. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As always, David Lindsey did not diaappoint me with this book. It was excellent and kept you on the edge of your seat throughout the whole book - definitely a stay up late and read because you can't put the book down.
Adopted as an infant, Austin, Texas widower Paul Bern lives a contented quiet life earning a living as a highly regarded forensic resurrection expert, who recreates visages of severely damaged accident or criminal victims. Client 'Becca Haber arrives at his home bringing with her a skull she purchased from a street kid in Mexico City. She wants him to recreate the face. Paul is hardly into his effort when he already recognizes the countenance staring back at him as one he sees whenever he looks into a mirror............................... Not long afterward, the call comes confirming what an unsettled Paul theorized: that the skull he holds is his twin. The caller Vincente Mondragon informs him that the sibling he never knew existed was recently murdered CIA field agent Jude Lerner. Vincente insists that Jude¿s operation affects national security so without the superstar the country is in trouble. The civilian Paul is expected to perform as Jude so that the scenario is completed in a favorable manner........................................ Though the twins never met theme feels ancient, David Lindsey keeps his thriller fresh due to a wonderful out of place hero who belongs more in an academic background than in the midst of a deadly operation. The action-packed story line is filled with plenty of twists that will keep the audience guessing as to what happens next to Paul and by whom. His teen neighbor is an interesting support character suffering from a cognitive-disconnect disorder caused by an accident, but she enables the reader to see deep into what kind of person Paul is. Twins aside, readers will enjoy this fine civilian in the cold thriller................................... Harriet Klausner