Operative David Morton accompanies the US president on an antipollution campaign in an effort to infiltrate and foil an international conspiracy.
About the Author
He has been a widely syndicated foreign correspondent and was a writer and producer for three flagship BBC programs: Man Alive, Tomorrow's World, and Horizon. He contributes regularly to Facta, a respected monthly Japanese news magazine. Thomas was the lead expert for a twelve-part series on international intelligence for Ian Punnett's Coast to Coast, the most listened-to overnight radio broadcast in North America, with three million weekly listeners. He has recently appeared on Euronews (available in ten languages and three hundred million households) and Russia Today.
He has received numerous awards for his reporting, including an International Television Award and two Mark Twain Society Awards. Shipwreck won an Edgar Award.
Four of Thomas's books—Voyage of the Damned, Ruin from the Air, The Day the Bubble Burst, and The Day Their World Ended—have been made into feature films starring such A-listers as Paul Newman, Billy Crystal, Robert Vaughn, and Jacqueline Bisset. The Day Guernica Died is currently under option.
Thomas's most recent bestseller is Gideon's Spies: Mossad's Secret Warriors. Published in sixteen languages and forty countries, Gideon's Spies is known throughout the world as the leading resource on Israeli intelligence. It was made into a major documentary for Channel 4 in Britain, which Thomas wrote and narrated, called The Spy Machine. The Observer called The Spy Machine a “clear” picture of Israeli intelligence operations, and the Times called it “impressive” and ”chilling.”
A member of the London Speaker Bureau and Macmillan Speakers, Thomas continues to grow his already-impressive platform, lecturing widely on the secret world of intelligence. He also regularly provides expert analysis on intelligence for US and European television and radio programs.
Read an Excerpt
A David Morton Novel
By Gordon Thomas
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1996 Gordon Thomas
All rights reserved.
In the safety of the tunnel Bodor pulled up the sleeve of his expensive grey jacket, seeking a vein for the cocaine to do its work. He tried not to hurry, having discovered that the longer he waited, the more pleasurable the effect.
His nose continued to identify smells: the damp, the mould from the mortar and, closer, the more pleasant one of mothballs, a reminder of how long since he'd worn the jacket. Its foreign cut once marked him as one-of-those-allowed-to-travel, a person at the pinnacle of his profession. He'd worn the jacket as an honoured guest of the Old Order in the Kremlin, and later of its successors who had briefly installed themselves in the Moscow White House.
Like so much else they had disappeared, vanished with the same swiftness as the cocaine would streak through his body. As a scientist he knew all its pharmacological pathways, and that this one shot would make him feel powerful again. Able to do anything. Just like the old days.
Then his very name — Sergei Mikhailovich Bodor — had been spoken with the awe befitting one of Soviet Communism's leading scientists: the youngest member of the Academy of Sciences, the holder of so many medals and prizes that he had needed a special room in his dacha to display them.
Now, in this dank and cold tunnel, he'd become a common thief.
The Arranger had said that at this hour there would be no one in the building. But, just in case, wear your best clothes. Russians still respected the way a person dressed.
Mostly, they liked to ape American habits: eat their hamburgers, gulp their soft drinks, wear their flashy clothes. Even the organised criminals called themselves the mafiya. He'd rejected the possibility that the Arranger worked for one of those gangs. But he worked for somebody. You could tell that by the way he'd organised matters. In one of the jacket pockets was Bodor's new Swedish passport with its exit visa, stamped customs declaration, a wad of American dollar bills and Kroner travellers cheques, together with an assortment of papers showing he was a resident of Stockholm — a city he had never visited. You needed to be part of a large organisation to arrange all that.
Although the Arranger spoke like a true Muscovite, and his manner suggested someone who had spent his time pushing paper in some obscure government department, it hadn't been in Moscow. He was as certain of that as he was that the Arranger was not a Russian.
Bodor inspected his arm carefully under the tunnel's lighting; the skin was pock-marked with needle tracks. He began to rapidly open and close his fingers to make the veins more prominent, allowing his thoughts to drift ...
Bodor had started to inject himself after the Third Russian Revolution. People had this stupid habit of telling each other where they were that October night in 1993 when it started. Like those in the West who still insisted they knew what they were doing when the American President, Kennedy, was killed.
Even before the revolution he had not fooled himself he still had a future in Mother Russia. First Gorbachev, then Yeltsin, had weakened her sinews. The new New Order completed the process, leaving her too broken to make use of his latest weapon. You needed another Stalin for that.
The idea had come to him in what he now realised had been the last glorious year of Soviet Communism when he'd visited the United States and experienced a Los Angeles smog. For those two days in his downtown hotel he'd looked out on the result of reckless lack of control over pollution. In half a dozen other American cities he'd seen the same evidence of damage caused by car exhausts and industrial effluent. There had to be a way to exploit this militarily.
On the long flight back to Moscow he had jotted down his first ideas. Six months later they became formulae, based upon the behaviour of ozone in the upper stratosphere. He'd turned the formulae into blueprints. A year later he had a mock-up of an Ozone Layer Bomb. Prototypes were continually improved. Finally, no bigger than a conventional artillery shell, the OLB was shielded by a detection-free casing made from a new kind of plastic his chemists had created. Even its small nuclear trigger was undetectable.
For another year he conducted lab tests on cadavers. What he learned from the dead enabled him to conduct his own field test on the living. Using the unsuspecting crew of a Soviet bomber had needed the personal sanction of the Chief of Air Staff, thankfully a general with old-fashioned priorities. The pilot's last radio message said they were in an electrical storm — the ideal condition to test the OLB.
Nikita Vassiley's post-mortem examination revealed that the crew had all suffered massive haemorrhaging. By then he was himself in the terminal stages of AIDS and obsessed with which one of any of the dozens of infections his condition made him prone to would, in the end, kill him. It turned out to be pneumonia. Looking back, Vassiley's death was a precursor.
In the Kremlin there had developed a sickening mood of appeasement towards the West. Bodor's plea to be allowed to continue his work was coldly rejected. The New Order said it was essential to destroy anything that would threaten its plans. His secret research centre, like so many others, was bulldozed. Gone forever was the five years' work which he was convinced would have turned the balance of power once more in Russia's favour. All that had survived were his earlier blueprints. The hiding place he'd chosen for them would ensure their preservation.
That night he had injected himself for the first time. The cocaine gave him a new clarity. To work for any government again was to risk further disappointment. Political masters had their own agendas: he had been useful only as long as he served their purposes.
The next time he'd injected himself he had seen even more clearly the reality of his betrayal, only this time it had been accompanied by a whispering to be patient, to wait. That somewhere there was somebody who needed him, would know how to appreciate him. After the drug once more lost its effect, the fear that he was going mad touched him like a dark shadow. He read all he could find about cocaine-related experiences and realised this was a normal side-effect.
From then on he planned with meticulous care. He fed the rumour mills of Moscow with hints that he had been working on a revolutionary new weapon. The few details would have been sufficient to arouse curiosity, perhaps even scepticism. He wanted no one to be quite sure how far he had gone, or where he now was. News spread that he had left the country, destination unknown. That he had suffered a breakdown and was in some private hospital, location unknown. That he was dead, burial plot unknown. The mills did the rest, sowing confusion and uncertainty. Exactly what he intended.
In utmost secrecy he returned to the village of his birth far beyond the Urals. And waited. Regular injections reassured him that his patience would be rewarded. Then, as his supply dwindled and the prospect of a trip to Moscow to obtain replenishment daily came closer, the stranger had come to the door. The man had stood in the earth-floored kitchen and said it was good to be here at last. As if it was the most natural thing in the world, he added that people called him the Arranger. His face would have been pleasant if it weren't for his eyes. The two little black pebbles suggested a reptilian quality. But Bodor had immediately sensed he was dealing with someone of substance.
They had talked long into the night and, by dawn, it was clear the chemistry between them worked. They were both loners and contemptuous of the pack. Encouraged, he allowed his own anger at the New Order to boil over. The Arranger listened, his eyes heavy from red wine. Finally he explained how that justifiable rage could be turned into something worthwhile.
In the weeks that followed, they had dined in several of those discreet establishments created by the black market where money could buy anything. Afterwards, a different woman was always provided for him. It was a tribute to the Arranger's careful research that he understood Bodor's sexual requirements.
Yet, when the Arranger's first offer came, he was wary of accepting it too eagerly. In the deep-shadow world he had inhabited for so long, experience had enabled him to avoid all the many pitfalls which could have delayed promotion, sent him to a labour camp or an asylum for the sane into which many a colleague had disappeared. The Arranger returned with another offer. Bodor considered it coolly, and negotiated a further substantial increase. For the merest of moments it seemed as if old age had descended upon the Arranger, as if he could see the future. He had sat there, cradling his plum brandy, his eyes deep alleys of darkness.
'Everyone will be very pleased with your decision. Let me be the first to congratulate you,' the Arranger had said.
It had sounded like a benediction long prepared.
The Arranger had proved his credentials by paying a substantial sum into a new bank account opened for him in Zurich. Enough to continue financing Bodor's drug habit.
Bodor looked over his shoulder towards the curve in the tunnel. Nothing. Even the rats had been hunted from here; nowadays the starving ate anything. The sound of his leather shoes on the concrete was loud in his ears. When he paused beneath another of the low-wattage bulbs set in the ceiling, there was nothing except the silence.
Reassured, he fished in his pocket for the sheathed needle and loaded syringe. His movements were cast in shadow against the tunnel wall. He looked at his watch. Two forty in the morning. The syringe shook in his hand. It was colder than he'd remembered in this repository for the unclaimed dead.
He and the Arranger had gone over the final plans, taking the Metro out across the Moscow River to the Lenin Hills. The walkways had teemed with churki, people of the swamp, as northern Russians invariably referred to those from the south.
The Arranger had delivered a final reminder. 'Make sure your packet is intact. If it has been tampered with, leave at once. If everything is in order, bring the packet with you. After that you will have nothing further to do. From then on everything will be done for you.'
Once more the Arranger had sounded as if what he said was not subject to the whims of fate.
Bodor shivered again. He could not wait any longer. Removing the sheath from the needle, he worked it into a vein and depressed the plunger.
In his mind's eye he could see the cocaine molecules surging through his bloodstream, sweeping over the cholinesterases, the plasma enzymes which were the first line of defence his immune system provided. Desperately trying to separate the invading molecules into tiny physiological fragments for easier destruction, the cholinesterases would dissipate their own power, become weakened and succumb. Even as he completed the injection, the molecules were racing into the right side of his heart, through the lungs, and back into the network of arterial veins. Already the pharmacological effect of the drug was ringing all kinds of chemical alarms in his body as the cocaine surged along the carotid arteries and burst through the blood — brain barrier. He had ensured the shot would be sufficiently large for that.
As he crushed the syringe under his shoe, the cocaine began its pleasurable work. Circuits of nerve cells fell under its spell. Part of his brain still tried to wage war against the invaders. But the drug soon vanquished everything it touched. Each victory created further excitement in his central nervous system. Once more he believed everything was possible as he strode purposefully down the tunnel to the elevator used to carry the bodies, and rode up to the fourth floor.
Emerging into a short corridor, he paused. He began to breathe deeply, forcing his mind to stop its racing. Gradually the thoughts and feelings, which a moment ago had been too swift for him to grasp, came under control. It was all a matter of calculation. So much; no more. Just enough to maintain this rapturous feeling.
He checked his watch again. On time. The Arranger had said it was vital to keep to the timetable. At this moment he would be driving into Kalnin Prospekt.
Bodor walked slowly down the corridor to the solid steel door. From a pocket he fished a key, which hadn't left his possession since his betrayal. He opened the door. The ceiling strip-lights automatically came on and he blinked to adjust to the brightness. The room was filled with metal containers mounted on castors for easy movement, with a temperature gauge and a number stencilled in red. The container he wanted was numbered 17. Its gauge was set, like all the others, at –190C. At that temperature all biological activity stopped.
He walked to the alcove where the protective clothing was kept. Dressed in a one-piece suit and his face shield secured, he looked like a firefighter about to tackle a chemical blaze. From a pegboard he selected a ratchet key and returned to the container. He inserted the key in the hole on the lid. There was a hiss of a vacuum seal being released and the lid swung silently upwards on cantilevered hinges.
A small cloud of liquid nitrogen engulfed him. When it cleared, he peered inside at the body bag heavily coated in ice on a metal tray. He used a gloved hand to press a button and the bag rose slowly under hydraulic power.
The bag was secured by frozen webbing. On each tie was a push button. He pressed them and the straps snapped open with a sound of breaking ice. He pulled a toggle on the bag, and it slowly unzipped itself.
The body of a naked young woman was visible, pale, the bright blue eyes covered with a film of frost that also encrusted her fair wavy hair. She looked as freshly dead as when he'd last opened her shroud.
From under her buttocks his hand extracted the envelope in its thick plastic covering. When he removed the packet and saw the seal was unbroken, he gave a low chuckle of relief. Placing the packet in his pocket, he returned the bag to its place.
After he had screwed down the lid he fetched one of the cylinders at the far end of the room and attached its nozzle to a valve on the side of the container. There was a sharp hiss as the container's liquid nitrogen was replenished. He returned the cylinder and replaced his protective clothing. At the door he looked around one more time. There was no trace of his visit. He locked the door and pocketed the key again.
Bodor took the elevator back to the tunnel and reached the building's exit door. He looked at his watch. Two fifty-nine. He opened the door and climbed the stairs to the street. A moment later the Zhiguli turned a corner and pulled up.
'Successful?' asked the Arranger, opening the door for him. He had the soft voice of a lettered man.
'Excellent.' The Arranger might have been pronouncing on the food at one of the restaurants where they'd dined.
The car drove on down the street.
From the entrance to a run-down pre-revolutionary building, a woman dressed like a babushka followed the tail lights with sharp eyes. It had been too dark to identify the driver. But there was no mistaking the passenger.
Sergei Mikhailovich Bodor.
Mischa Kalenkov smiled briefly to herself. She had never quite believed when everybody had said he was either dead, institutionalised or had fled the country. From the West they had come looking for him: the head-hunters with their promise-the-world contracts, the intelligence teams posing as businessmen. The Arabs, the Africans, the Asians. They had all come, and left empty-handed. Sergei Mikhailovich had vanished as if he had never existed. But she had never given up looking. Now here he was, coming out of a house of the dead in the middle of the night, and being driven away in a car which only the very rich or powerful used nowadays.
Excerpted from Poisoned Sky by Gordon Thomas. Copyright © 1996 Gordon Thomas. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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