Robert Ludlum's The Moscow Vector: A Covert-One Novel

Robert Ludlum's The Moscow Vector: A Covert-One Novel

by Robert Ludlum, Patrick Larkin

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429906753
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 04/01/2007
Series: Covert-One Series , #6
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 629
File size: 671 KB

About the Author

Robert Ludlum was the author of 25 thriller novels, including The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum—the books on which the international hit movies were based—and The Sigma Protocol. He was also the creator of the Covert-One series. Born in New York City, Ludlum received a B.A. from Wesleyan University, and before becoming an author, he was a United States Marine, a theater actor and producer.

Patrick Larkin is the author of The Tribune, as well as the co-author of five best-selling thrillers with Larry Bond, including Red Phoenix and The Enemy Within. A graduate of the University of Chicago, he lives in northern California with his wife and two children.

Robert Ludlum (1927-2001) was the author of 25 thriller novels, including The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum--the books on which the international hit movies were based--and The Sigma Protocol. He was also the creator of the Covert-One series. Born in New York City, Ludlum received a B.A. from Wesleyan University, and before becoming an author, he was a United States Marine, a theater actor and producer.
Patrick Larkin is the author of Robert Ludlum’s The Lazarus Vendetta and The Tribune, as well as the co-author of five bestselling thrillers with Larry Bond. He lives in northern California with his family.

Date of Birth:

May 25, 1927

Date of Death:

March 12, 2001

Place of Death:

Naples, Florida


B.A., Wesleyan University, 1951

Read an Excerpt

The Moscow Vector

A Covert-One Novel

By Robert Ludlum, Patrick Larkin

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2005 Myn Pyn LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0675-3


February 15 Prague, the Czech Republic

Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan "Jon" Smith, M.D., paused in the shadowed arch of the ancient Gothic tower at the eastern end of the Charles Bridge. The bridge, nearly a third of a mile long, had been built more than six centuries before. It crossed the Vltava River, linking Prague's Staré Mesto, the Old Town, with its Malá Strana, the Little Quarter. Smith stood quietly for a long moment, carefully scanning the stone span before him.

He frowned. He would have preferred a different location for this meeting, one that was busier and had more natural cover. Wider and newer bridges carried the Czech capital's motorized traffic and its electric trams, but the Charles Bridge was reserved for those crossing the Vltava on foot. In the dreary half-light of late afternoon, it was largely deserted.

For most of the year, the historic bridge was the centerpiece of the city, a structure whose elegance and beauty drew sightseers and street vendors in droves. But Prague now lay shrouded in winter fog, a thick cloud of cold, damp vapor and foul-smelling smog trapped along the winding trace of the river valley. The gray mist blurred the graceful outlines of the city's Renaissance and Baroque-era palaces, churches, and houses.

Shivering slightly in the frosty, dank air, Smith zipped up his leather bomber jacket and moved out onto the bridge itself. He was a tall, trim man in his early forties with smooth, dark hair, piercing blue eyes, and high cheekbones.

At first his footsteps echoed faintly off the waist-high parapet, but then the sounds faded, swallowed by the fog rising from the river. It flowed slowly across the bridge, gradually hiding both ends from view. Other people, mostly government workers and shop clerks hurrying home, emerged from the concealing mists, passed him without a glance, and then vanished back into the haze as quickly as they had come.

Smith walked on. Thirty statues of saints lined the Charles Bridge, silent, unmoving figures looming up out of the steadily thickening fog on either side. Set in opposing pairs on the massive sandstone piers supporting the long crossing, those statues were his guides to the rendezvous point. The American reached the middle of the span and stopped, looking up at the calm face of St. John Nepomuk, a Catholic priest tortured to death in 1393, his broken body hurled into the river from this same bridge. Part of the age-blackened bronze relief depicting the saint's martyrdom gleamed bright, polished clean by countless passersby touching it for good luck.

Moved by a sudden impulse, Smith leaned forward and rubbed his own fingers across the raised figure's.

"I did not know that you were a superstitious man, Jonathan," a quiet, tired-sounding voice said from behind him.

Smith turned around with an abashed grin. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained, Valentin."

Dr. Valentin Petrenko came forward to join him, holding a black briefcase gripped tightly in one gloved hand. The Russian medical specialist was several inches shorter than Smith and more solidly built. Sad brown eyes blinked nervously behind the pair of thick glasses perched on his nose. "Thank you for agreeing to meet me here. Away from the conference, I mean. I realize this is not convenient for you."

"Don't worry about it," Smith said. He smiled wryly. "Believe me, this beats spending another several hours rehashing Kozlik's latest paper on typhoid and hepatitis A epidemics in Lower Iamsodamnedlostistan."

For a moment, a look of amusement flickered in Petrenko's wary eyes. "Dr. Kozlik is not the most scintillating speaker," he agreed. "But his theories are basically sound."

Smith nodded, waiting patiently for the other man to explain why he'd been so insistent on this surreptitious rendezvous. He and Petrenko were in Prague for a major international conference on emerging infectious diseases in Eastern Europe and Russia. Deadly illnesses long thought under control in the developed world were spreading like wildfire through parts of what had once been the Soviet empire, breeding in public health and sanitation systems ruined by decades of neglect and the collapse of the old communist order.

Both men were deeply involved in confronting this growing health crisis. Among other things, Jon Smith was a skilled molecular biologist assigned to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Maryland. And Petrenko was a highly regarded expert in rare illnesses attached to the staff of Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital. For several years, the two men had known each other professionally and had developed a respect for each other's abilities and discretion. So when a plainly troubled Petrenko pulled him aside earlier in the day to request a private conversation outside the confines of the conference, Smith had agreed without hesitation.

"I need your help, Jon," the Russian said at last. He swallowed hard. "I have urgent information that must reach competent medical authorities in the West."

Smith looked closely at him. "Information about what, Valentin?"

"The outbreak of a disease in Moscow. A new disease ... something I've never seen before," Petrekno said quietly. "Something I fear."

Smith felt a small chill run down his spine. "Go on."

"I saw the first case two months ago," Petrenko told him. "A small child, a little boy who was just seven years old. He came in suffering aches and pains and a persistent high fever. In the beginning, his doctors thought it was only a common flu. But then, and quite suddenly, his condition worsened. His hair began falling out. Terrible, bleeding sores and painful rashes spread across most of his body. He became severely anemic. In the end, whole systems — his liver, kidneys, and ultimately, his heart — simply shut down."

"Jesus!" Smith murmured, imagining the horrible pain the sick boy must have endured. He frowned. "Those symptoms sound an awful lot like high-level radiation poisoning, Valentin."

Petrenko nodded. "Yes, that is what we first thought." He shrugged. "But we could not find any evidence that the boy had ever been exposed to any radioactive material. Not in his home. Not at his school. Not anywhere else."

"Was the kid infectious?" Smith asked.

"No," the Russian said, shaking his head emphatically. "No one else around him became ill. Not his parents or his friends or any of those who treated him." He grimaced. "None of our tests turned up signs of a dangerous viral or bacterial infection and every toxicology exam came back negative. We could not detect any traces of poisons or harmful chemicals that might have done so much damage."

Smith whistled softly. "Very nasty."

"It was terrible," Petrenko agreed. Still clutching his briefcase, the Russian scientist took off his glasses, polished them nervously, and then pushed them on again. "But then others began showing up at the hospital, suffering the same horrible symptoms. First, an old man, a former Communist Party apparatchik. Then a middle-aged woman. And finally a young man — a sturdy day laborer who had always been as healthy as a horse. All died in agony in a matter of days."

"Just those four?"

Petrenko smiled humorlessly. "Those four that I know of," he said softly. "But there may well have been others. Officials from the Ministry of Health made it clear that my colleagues and I were not supposed to ask too many questions, lest we risk 'provoking an unnecessary panic' among the general population. Or stir up sensationalist reports in the news media.

"Naturally, we fought the decision to the highest levels. But in the end, all of our requests for an expanded inquiry were denied. We were forbidden even to discuss these cases with anyone beyond a very small circle of other scientists." The sadness in his eyes intensified. "A Kremlin official actually told me that four unexplained deaths were trivial, 'mere statistical background noise.' He suggested that we instead focus our efforts on AIDS and the other illnesses that are killing so many in Mother Russia. In the meantime, the facts surrounding these mysterious deaths have been classified as state secrets and buried in the bureaucracy."

"Idiots," Smith growled, feeling his jaw tighten. Silence and secrecy were the bane of good science. Trying to conceal the emergence of a new disease for political reasons was only more likely to lead to a catastrophic epidemic.

"Perhaps," Petrenko said. He shrugged. "But I will not take part in a coverup. That is why I have brought you this." The Russian gently tapped the side of his black briefcase. "It contains all the medical information relevant to the four known victims, as well as samples of their blood and selected tissues. I only hope that you and others in the West can learn more about the mechanisms of this new illness before it is too late."

"Just how much hot water are you going to be in if your government finds out that you've smuggled this data out?" Smith asked.

"I do not know," the Russian admitted. "That is why I wanted to give you this information in secret." He sighed. "Conditions in my country are deteriorating rapidly, Jon. I'm very much afraid that our leaders have decided that it is safer and easier to rule by force and fear than by persuasion and reason."

Smith nodded his understanding. He had been following the news out of Russia with increasing concern. The nation's president, Viktor Dudarev, had been a member of the old KGB, the Soviet Committee for State Security, stationed in East Germany. When the USSR crumbled, Dudarev had been quick to align himself with the forces of reform. He had risen fast in the new Russia, first taking charge of the FSB, the new Federal Security Service, then becoming prime minister, and finally winning election as president. All along the way many had wanted desperately to believe he was a man sincerely committed to democratic norms.

Dudarev had fooled them all. Since taking office, the ex–KGB officer had dropped the mask, revealing himself as a man more interested in satisfying his own ambitions than in establishing a genuine democracy. He was busy drawing more and more of the reins of power into his own hands and those of his toadies. Newly independent media companies were muzzled and then brought back under government control. Corporations whose owners opposed the Kremlin were broken up by official decree or had their assets confiscated in trumped-up tax cases. Rival politicians were coerced into silence or smeared into oblivion by the state-run press.

Satirists had dubbed Dudarev "Czar Viktor." But the joke had long ago worn thin and now seemed well on the way to becoming a harsh reality.

"I'll do what I can to keep your name out of it," Smith promised. "But somebody in your government is bound to trace this information back to you once the news leaks. And it will leak at some point." He glanced down at the other man. "Maybe you should come out with the data. It might be safer."

Petrenko raised an eyebrow. "Seek political asylum, you mean?"

Smith nodded.

The scientist shook his head. "No, I do not think so." He shrugged. "For all my faults, I am a Russian first and forever. I will not abandon the motherland out of fear." He smiled sadly. "Besides, what is it the philosophers say? For evil to triumph, all that is necessary is for good men to do nothing? I believe that to be true. So I will stay in Moscow, doing what I can to fend off the darkness in my own small way."

"Prosím, muzete mi pomoci?" The words came floating toward them out of the mist.

Startled, Smith and Petrenko turned around.

A somewhat younger man, hard-faced and unsmiling, stood just a few feet away with his left palm held out as though begging for money. Beneath a tangled mane of long, greasy brown hair, a tiny silver skull dangled from his right earlobe. His right hand was hidden inside a long black overcoat. Two other men, similarly dressed and equally grimy, stood close behind him. They too wore small skull-shaped earrings.

Reacting on instinct, Smith stepped in front of the smaller Russian scientist. "Prominte. Sorry," he said. "Nerozumím. I don't understand. Mluvíte anglicky? Do you speak English?"

The long-haired man slowly lowered his left hand. "You are American, yes?"

Something about the way he said it raised Smith's hackles. "That's right."

"Good," the man said flatly. "All Americans are rich. And I am poor." His dark eyes flickered toward Petrenko and then came back to Smith. He bared his teeth in a quick, predatory grin. "So you will give me your friend's briefcase. As a gift, yes?"

"Jon," the Russian muttered urgently from behind him. "These men are not Czech."

The long-haired man heard him. He shrugged blithely. "Dr. Petrenko is correct. I congratulate him on his acuity." The folding knife he'd been concealing inside his coat came out in one, smooth motion. He flicked it open. Its blade looked razor-sharp. "But I still want that briefcase. Now."

Damn, Smith thought, coldly watching the three men starting to fan out around them. He backed up slightly — and found himself penned against the waist-high parapet overlooking the Vltava River. This is not good, he told himself grimly. Caught unarmed and outnumbered on a bridge in the fog. Really not good.

Any hopes he might have had about being able to just hand over the briefcase and walk away unharmed had vanished when he heard the other man use Petrenko's name so casually and confidently. This was not a run-of-the-mill mugging. Unless he missed his guess, these guys were professionals and professionals were trained not to leave witnesses behind.

He forced himself to smile weakly. "Well, sure ... I mean, if you put it like that. There's no need for anyone to get hurt here, is there?"

"No need at all, friend," the knife-wielder assured him, still grinning cruelly. "Now, tell the good doctor to hand over that case."

Smith drew in a single, deep breath, feeling his pulse accelerate. The world around him seemed to slow down as adrenaline flooded into his system, speeding his reflexes. He crouched. Now! "Policii! Police!" he roared. And then again, shattering the fog-laden silence. "Policii!"

"Fool!" the long-haired man snarled. He lunged at the American, stabbing upward with his knife.

Reacting instantly, Smith leaned aside. The blade flickered past his face. Too close! He chopped frantically at the inside of the other man's exposed wrist, hacking at the nerve endings there.

His attacker grunted in pain. The knife flew out of his suddenly paralyzed fingers and skittered away across the paving. Still moving fast, Smith spun back around, slamming his elbow into the long-haired man's narrow face with tremendous force. Bones crunched and blood spattered through the air. Groaning, the man reeled back and fell to one knee, fumbling at the red ruin of his shattered nose.

Grim-faced, the second man pushed past his fallen leader, thrusting with his own blade. Smith ducked under the attack and punched him hard, angling up to come in right under his ribs. The man doubled up in sudden agony, stumbling forward. Before he could recover, Smith grabbed him by the back of his coat and hurled him headlong into the stone parapet of the bridge. Stunned or badly injured, he went down on his face without a sound and lay still.

"Jon! Watch out!"

Smith turned fast, hearing Petrenko's shout. He was just in time to see the shorter Russian scientist drive the third man backward with desperate, uncontrolled swipes of his briefcase. But then the wild glee in Petrenko's eyes faded, replaced by horror as he looked down and saw the knife buried up to the hilt in his own stomach.

Suddenly, a single shot rang out, echoing across the bridge.

And a small, red-rimmed hole opened in the middle of Petrenko's forehead. Pieces of shattered bone and brain matter flew out the back of his skull, driven by a 9×18mm round fired at point-blank range. His eyes rolled up. Then, still clutching his briefcase, the dying Russian staggered and fell backward over the parapet, toppling into the river below.

Out of the corner of his eye, Smith saw the first attacker scrambling back to his feet. Blood ran red across the man's face, dripping off his unshaven chin. His dark eyes were full of hatred and he held a pistol, an old Soviet-model Makarov. One spent cartridge rolled slowly across the uneven pavement.

The American tensed, knowing already that it was too late. The other man was too far away — well out of his reach. Smith whirled around and threw himself off the bridge, diving headfirst into the fog. Behind him, more shots crashed out. A bullet tore right past his head and another ripped through his jacket, sending a wave of white-hot pain searing across his shoulder.


Excerpted from The Moscow Vector by Robert Ludlum, Patrick Larkin. Copyright © 2005 Myn Pyn LLC. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.

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Robert Ludlum's The Moscow Vector (Covert-One Series #6) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Moscow Vector is continues the Covert One series by Robert Ludlum, but this books was actually written by Peter Larkin after Ludlum's death. The plot focuses on germ warfare, with Lt Col. Jon Smith under deep cover in Eastern Europe and Russia. There's a lot of political intrigue too, with a revived Russian Empire 'shades of Putin' planning to annex former Soviet Bloc nations. The character development was OK, but a little over the top at times. I did enjoy reading it though, and look forward to reading more books in this series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
wow this book is a step up from the Lazurus Vendetta!! Patrick Larkin did an excellent job. you could have sworn mr. ludlum himself wrote it. i enjoyed it very much. i started out quick and never stopped. i counldn't put the book down!
ZoharLaor on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Having read all of Ludlum's books, this was the first "inspired by" novel that I read. The novel starts slowly, and keeps on going a bit faster, and ends very fast paced. I liked the book and it does keep with the Ludlum spirit. From some reason it simply took me a very long time to read.If you enjoy Ludlum's novels you will enjoy this one also, albeit maybe not each and every word.
PointedPundit on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Don¿t bother; it is not worth the TimeAt first, the deaths thought to be insignificant. Then a pattern is recognized. Someone is killing the top Russian specialists in every Western intelligence agency--England¿s MI6, Germany's BND, France's DGSE and our CIA.A special virus, Hydra constructed directly with the intended victim's DNA, is the cause. Throw in a few disgruntled Soviet dinosaurs who want to return Russia to its Communist glory days and you have the foundation for a clichéd, predictable tale. I finished it, but found myself wishing I had left this book on the library shelf.
johnwillie More than 1 year ago
Very supenseful
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MitchRapp36 More than 1 year ago
I have become a Robert Ludlum fan over the last few months and have been reading the Covert One series and thoroughly enjoy them. If you like a good thriller, this one is for you.
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