|Publisher:||Penguin Group (USA)|
|Product dimensions:||4.28(w) x 6.74(h) x 0.89(d)|
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SUNDAY, JULY 20TH, MAYFAIR, LONDON
Geoffrey Haversham reached for the 1972 volume of the All England Law Reports from the bulging bookshelf. Wearily, he slumped back into the green leather chair and opened the heavy manual. He quickly located the case he wanted: Regina v. Fitzpatrick. It was the sixteenth he'd read that evening concerning extradition treaties. Haversham was tired; it had been a long but ultimately satisfying weekend. The next day the government should accept his advice, and a long-sought-after drug baron sheltering in Guatemala would be on the receiving end of a nasty package for a change.
He rapidly read through the judgment, making notes on a yellow legal pad in his tiny, neat handwriting. Another fifteen minutes were lost in concentration before a soft mournful whimpering from the corner of the study interrupted him. He checked the eighteenth-century carriage clock and was surprised to see that it was a little after eight.
"Two ticks, old boy," he whispered over his shoulder, but he knew that Frazer, his chocolate-brown Labrador, wasn't renowned for his patience come walk time. It was a well-rehearsed routine: first the whimpering, then the rattling of his silver lead and, if that didn't precipitate a response, an irritating low groan usually did the trick.
Reluctantly, Haversham replaced the top on his treasured gold Mont Blanc, a gift from his younger brother, and placed his files in the red leather briefcase embossed with the gold crest of high office. Just as he was rising from thedesk he heard Frazer dragging his lead across the beech-wood flooring heading for the door.
"All right, all right, I'm coming." Haversham paused for a moment and eyed the black leather medical kit perched on the window ledge warily, reached toward it, then retracted his hand, he wouldn't be long; no need. Ten minutes later the duo were taking their favorite route alongside the lake. Haversham lit a cigar and watched Frazer scamper around the edge of the Serpentine. The summer sun was low in the sky but the Hyde Park flowerbed displays were alive with color: deep red begonias and snow-white alyssum contrasting with cool blue lobelia. A few people were still scattered around the grassy areas, picnic hampers packed and children finishing their games. He heard the soulful whine of a harmonica player blowing his blues from a nearby bench. They could have been playing for Dr. Jenny Fox, the defendant in the case he had been prosecuting for the last month. Haversham had little doubt what the jury's verdict would be and where the eco-terrorist would spend the rest of her life. But, as the old legal chestnut said, "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime."
As they rounded the corner of the Serpentine gallery heading for the bridle path, Frazer's ears suddenly pointed to the sky. Haversham looked ahead and noticed one of those confounded kids Rollerblading toward him. A ludicrous flash of technicolored Lycra hurtled fast and low out of the setting sun, about a hundred meters away: head down swaggering from side to side, one arm locked behind its back, the other swinging in front, knuckles almost scraping the floor in a pendulous motion. Haversham made a quick, churlish, mental note to get on their case: he would ban the activity altogether if he could. Such a tiresome nuisance; as if the footpaths of this great space were made for anything other than walking. Surely there was an ancient by-law he could invoke. At that speed Haversham couldn't tell if the Rollerblader was male or female, and he couldn't see the figure reaching into the pouch strapped around a slim waist. He took a firm hold on Frazer's collar and reluctantly moved to the side of the walkway.
Twenty yards and closing, still he didn't register the gunthe sound of wheels sizzling across the tarmac were louder than the spit of the barreland a nanosecond later the Attorney General of England and Wales crumpled to the ground clutching frantically at he dart embedded in his neck.
Frazer barked furiously but Haversham couldn't hear him nor did he register the wet tongue licking his face: he couldn't move or speak. His head lolled indolently to one side, cheek flat against the ground as paralysis set in. Seconds later he saw the molded plastic skates circling his head before halting inches from his face. His hand offered no resistance as it was pulled away from his neck and the dart ripped from his flesh. From the corner of his eye he could see the face of a woman bearing down upon him; she checked the vein in his neck for a pulse. Tight features, slight sweat across her brow, olive skin and dark brown curls framing an angular jaw with pencil-thin lips. Haversham tried, couldn't see her eyes behind the mirrored wraparounds, could only see his own pathetic reflection as she dispassionately rolled him onto his back.
From nowhere two more faces appeared, kinder faces carrying the frown of genuine concern. Haversham tried but failed to tell them anything with his-eyes as his kidnapper assumed control. Suddenly he registered the blue strobe light flashing somewhere to his left, but knew that its response was too fast to be an authentic London ambulance. He made one last attempt to open his mouth but it was useless; his throat was desert dry and his jaw wheelclamp locked. Ironically, he couldn't even prevent the friendly passersby unwittingly assisting in his abduction. He was maneuvered onto the stretcher by a less than careful and clearly bogus paramedic.
As soon as the doors to the ambulance closed he felt a mask being strapped to his face and wondered for the first time whether he would ever see the light of day again.
MONDAY, JULY 21ST
Alex Parrish was bone-weary of murder. This was the twentieth time. There were three of them: two burly men brandishing assault rifles, and a svelte woman, all in tight black ski-suits and masks. The victim wore a once-white lab coat, now crimson, which flapped behind him as he crawled away from their ferocious attack, squealing like a scalded toddler. Alex watched in morbid fascination as the victim's face leaked blood onto the research center's sterilized flooring, which his scrambling elbows smeared like a sidewinder in the Sahara; and still he squeaked and whimpered.
The three followed, faces hidden by their woollen masks, the men lashing out with heavy black combat boots at the victim's face. The womanself-possessed, calm personifiedfollowed behind, tenderly cradling a powerful handgun.
When Dr. Charles Easterman, the corpse in waiting, reached the end of the corridor, he inched his back up against its aluminium wall and covered his battered face with his hands. Alex exhaled deeply; it would be the killing time soon.
The woman gestured languidly with a roll of her left wrist: her compatriots each took an arm and flipped Easterman onto his stomach. Alex felt his bile rise. The woman sat down astride the slender spread of his back, legs tucked under his shoulders, her groin hard against the back of his neck.
"Jesus," Alex muttered under his breath, though he should have been well used to it by now.
Her companions watched her actions intently, hungrily. The dull nose of her weapon was placed delicately against the base of his skull. There was no struggle from Easterman; he seemed to freeze, as if he knew true futility.
The first high-velocity bullet entered his brain and ended his life. The following pair, one to either side of his shattered cranium, were vicious overkill, but Easterman wasn't complaining.
Then she stood and rolled her hand again; her accomplices complied once more. The bullets had peeled the front of his skull away: a once-brilliant man reduced to mashed pomegranate. She reached down with her hand to his lips, which she took with her thumb and forefinger and pushed into a grisly grin.
The men laughed, but a stern turn of her head silenced them immediately. She walked briskly away from the execution; the men followed behind. Dr. Charles Easterman smiled stupidly for the video camera.
A click later and the screen of the monitor transformed to white noise and video blurring. A court usher solemnly turned off the apparatus. Alex and the other eleven members of the jury returned their attention to the trial judge.
"The prosecution claim that the woman in the video was the defendant, Dr. Jennifer Fox, and I have reminded you at some length in this summing up of the evidence, some might say compelling evidence, that drives, you to that conclusion."