Kelly Ormont sprints down the narrow streets of Paris. When a car pulls up and a man points a gun at her, life as she knows it is over. Within days, this beautiful congressman’s daughter will be in the Middle East, where some of the wealthiest men in the world will bid to make her their slave. Only the Scorpion can save her now.
An American raised among the Bedouin, the Scorpion is the CIA’s top agent in the Arabian peninsula. To save Kelly, he slips into the sinister underworld of human trafficking, where the kidnapped girl’s trail leads him to a Saudi prince with fanatical global ambitions. When the Scorpion discovers a link between the prince and the Russians, Kelly will not be the only person who needs a savior.
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By Andrew Kaplan
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1985 Andrew Kaplan
All rights reserved.
It was an old nightmare, as terrifyingly familiar as the darkness of sleep itself. She was running for her life down the dark empty streets of the Latin Quarter, the sound of her footsteps echoing in the silent night. The streetlights reflected wetly on the pavement, still damp from the afternoon rain. The cafés and shops were closed and shuttered as firmly as the eyelids on a corpse. There was no help anywhere. As in a dream, there was that nameless terror of the shadowy man relentlessly pursuing her. Dreamlike too was that horrible feeling that flight was useless. Sooner or later he would catch her and kill her. Except that it wasn't a dream.
At the corner of the rue de Seine, Kelly paused to catch her breath in the shadow of a kiosk plastered with posters advertising the Théâtre Odéon. Her breath came in great, heaving sobs and she wondered whether if she screamed it would bring lighted windows and help, or whether it would just make it easier for him to find her. Her chest heaved and she tried to scream, but nothing came out. Her throat was blocked by a burning lump, as though she had swallowed hot wax. She sucked in desperate gasps of night air and tried to think of what to do, but nothing came. The air tasted of the night and fear. It smelled like wet clothes.
A wave of nausea rippled through her and she was sick again. When she stopped heaving, she found herself on all fours, moaning softly like an animal. She gagged at the smell and from somewhere came the irrelevant thought that her dress and stockings were ruined. Imagine worrying about that now, she thought wildly. A hysterical laugh began to bubble out of her and then she froze at the soft purr of the Mercedes, its lights out, as it slowly prowled next to the curb. Her beautiful eyes went flat with terror, like a rabbit caught by a car's headlights, and there was nothing but the fear.
Then the Mercedes stopped and she heard the sound of the car door opening and then being carefully closed. The sounds of his footsteps came closer and she pressed her face against the hard embrace of the kiosk, curling her body into a tight ball, wishing she could shrivel away and disappear in the shadows. The footsteps stopped nearby and she could hear his breathing as he stood there, listening. Without realizing it, she was making soft whimpering sounds, like a whipped puppy. He came closer and his teeth glowed in his dark face as though they were phosphorescent. A ray of streetlight glowed with a pearly sheen from the metal as he motioned with the gun for her to get up. She shook her head, her long blond hair rippling with the movement.
"Please," she whimpered.
He grabbed her hair and harshly pulled her to her feet. His smile had more in common with an animal baring its teeth than a human expression. He twisted her face to his and put the muzzle to her temple, gripping her hair as if he wanted to pull it out by the roots. They stood there like lovers, close enough to kiss.
"Let's not have any more of this nonsense, chérie," he whispered.
She nodded dumbly and walked stiffly beside him to the Mercedes. He shoved her in from the driver's side and told her to cross her wrists behind her. Then he tied her hands and started the car. The cords were too tight and it was very painful. She could feel the knots digging into her skin and told him so.
"Ça m'est égal," he shrugged with icy indifference, but there was a harsh note in his voice and a gleam in his eye that might have been hatred, or perhaps just the greenish reflection of the dash lights. He was enjoying her pain, she thought, and began to feel queasy again. It reminded her of the ferocious resentment she had once heard in her father's voice after a quarrel with her mother. The ice cubes in his highball tinkled like wind chimes as he stared at her, damning her for the irrevocable crime of being female. That was when he first got into politics. Her parents had quarreled a lot in those days.
"A woman's main purpose in life is showing men how noble women are compared to the male beast," her father had said, that bitter edge in his voice.
She thought he meant that he didn't love her.
They sped down the Porte Maillot and headed out towards the périphérique, the autoroute almost empty in the three o'clock darkness. Every once in a while, he glanced over at her, a thin curious kind of smile on his handsome face. But there was nothing sexual in the smile and she shuddered. She kept thinking that he was certainly going to a lot of trouble if all he wanted to do was to rape her and then the bitter taste of bile was at the back of her throat, because she didn't think that he would be satisfied with just raping her. Tears stung her eyes and she tried to think over the pounding in her temples. Perhaps if she seduced him, let him think that he could have her now and any time he wanted, he would let her live. If she could just survive tonight, she'd make it somehow, she told herself.
"You don't have to do this, you know," she said, surprised at how calm, even seductive her voice sounded. Inside, she was quivering like a leaf in a high wind. "I'm terribly attracted to you. I'll do things for you no woman ever has," she whispered.
He looked at her with contempt, as if she were the sleaziest whore in Pigalle. She recoiled, her face flushed with embarrassment. Again, for some bizarre reason it reminded her of her father and the time she had worn make-up for the first time on a date. When she had walked into the living room, he had called her "a cheap slut" in front of Brad and sent her back upstairs to wash it all off. She ran up the stairs, humiliated, knowing it would be all over the school the next day. That night, when Brad parked the car, she let him take her panties off for the first time. And when he put his hand between her thighs, all she could think of was not sex, but how much she hated her father.
"You don't have to force me. I want to," she whispered, her eyes dry and calculating. His lip curled with disgust.
"Shut up," Gerard snapped, his eyes gleaming in the dashboard light.
The taste of bile burned the back of her throat and she thought she was going to throw up again. Her stomach heaved and she begged him to please pull over for a minute.
"So you can run away again, pas encore," he growled.
"I'm sick, can't you see?"
"Tant pis," he shrugged and it came with a rush that he was really going to kill her. She was going to be one of those articles in the paper, the details of her body described in humiliating detail, something people glance at for a moment over their morning coffee and mutter some pious platitude about the crime rate before going on to the crossword.
She glanced down at the door and thought about jumping, but the car was going too fast and it was locked anyway. There was absolutely nothing she could do and she felt like crying, except that it seemed silly because she couldn't believe it was happening. That sense of unreality, as if it was all a bad dream, had returned. It couldn't be happening to her. None of it was real, except for the cool vibrating surface of the car window as she rested her head against it. Soon she would wake up and tell Lori about this horrible dream she'd had. It would be all right, this was happening to her dream self, not her. Except that she had fallen down a macabre rabbit hole, flying through the tunnel of light carved by the car's headlights, and she wasn't even sure who she was any more.
She glanced at the car window. The vague dark shapes of fields and houses slid silently through the reflection of her face in the glass. He had turned off the périphérique to the A-6 Autoroute Sud towards Lyons. Wake up Kelly, she urgently told herself, but there was only the pain in her hands and the pain told her with a horrible certainty that it wasn't a dream.
She had spent her life living in a fool's paradise, she told herself bitterly. One moment everything was just as it had always been and suddenly, it was as if she had taken a single step off a curb and the gutter had turned out to be a dark and bottomless pit. It was all the more shocking because the day had begun so well ...
It had been one of those rare sunny days in Paris when the city seems to shimmer with light, when the flowers in the Tuileries sparkle with color and when even the taxi drivers manage a smile now and then. She and Lori wanted to take advantage of the light and spent the morning snapping photos of the barges and flower stalls along the pea-green Seine from the Ile St. Louis. In the afternoon it had rained on and off. Strands of drops hung like pearls from the café awnings, each of them a tiny miniature of the street. In Paris, the summer rain is warm and teasing, like a brief flirtation.
They went shopping for an umbrella at the Galeries Lafayette near the Opéra. It was still raining when they came out and they stopped off for a kir at the nearby Café de la Paix to wait it out. She remembered how they laughed when an American woman at a nearby table had slipped the Dubonnet ashtray into her purse, self-righteously assuring her husband that "they expect you to take it."
When the contact came, it wasn't at all what she'd expected. They met Randy, a long-haired American in jeans searching for the ghosts of '68 at the café. He was with Jean-Paul, a good-looking would-be actor. They went to the Bois and passed around some joints and wound up at Ondine's. The crowded chrome-plated club on the rue de Ponthieu was one of the places that everyone went to, if only to say they'd been there. Later, they all climbed into Jean-Paul's battered Renault and went to a party on a private barge moored near the Pont d'Iena.
The party was packed with people shouting in a dozen languages and soon the barge began to glide down the river. There was a stereo blasting in the salon and couples danced, while women wearing originals from the rue Sainte Honoré shrieked as they greeted each other, as though they hadn't seen each other in twenty years. The air reeked of perfume and the unique smell of Paris, that unmistakable melange of garlic, Gauloise smoke and café au lait. Lori and Randy disappeared and Jean-Paul was taken in tow by Angela, an attractive blonde, in her forties at least, Kelly thought cattily, who had once appeared in a Truffaut film.
Kelly wished someone would ask her to dance, but the men seemed afraid to approach her, somehow intimidated by her classic blond beauty. She wondered if she would always feel that way. Once, when she was a teenager, her father had said, "Beauty can be as much of a burden as ugliness, kiddo." In school, the boys who had always been so brash, would fall silent and nudge each other when she went by. As she passed, she could feel their hot eyes on her body. She remembered how Brad would always stammer, "You're so beautiful" in the car, before they began their nightly tussle.
"Beauty is only skin deep," she had snapped, when she finally realized that all he was after was to brag that he had screwed the prettiest girl in the school.
"Who wants more ... a cannibal?" he had retorted with a silly grin, and he couldn't understand why she had began to cry.
She stepped outside the salon and found a spot not occupied by the embracing couples. Beauty didn't merely snare those attracted to it, it trapped its owners forever, she thought.
She stood at the rail, holding a glass of wine and watching reflections of the city lights shattered like glass on the surface of the Seine. The light breeze of the boat's passage ruffled her hair and she could hear the sounds of the stereo in the salon, thumping its way through an old Beatles tune. She was still annoyed because of the way Jean-Paul was acting. He was dancing with Angela, his slim tan body tightly pressed against hers, and he was murmuring something that made Angela's eyes burn as though with fever. Just an hour before, at the club, he had told Kelly that she was brilliant, truly "éclatante" and now he was probably telling Angela the same thing. He couldn't be the one, she thought. The boat was approaching the Pont de la Tournelle and ahead she could see the spotlighted towers of Notre Dame, bathed in white light. She remembered thinking that it was so beautiful and somehow sad too and her eyes began to water.
"Vous êtes triste, mademoiselle?" a modulated masculine voice said and she turned and saw him standing there. He was tall and dark, with soft brown eyes in a handsome triangular face. He was wearing an expensive blue suit, obviously cut by a London tailor who knew what he was doing. His dark curly hair was cut short and neat and she felt her heart flutter like a bird ruffling its feathers.
"What was that?" she stammered in English and her glance involuntarily shot over at Jean-Paul and Angela.
"He is handsome, yes, but he is also a fool," he said with a wry smile, following her glance.
"What makes you say that?" she asked.
"Mon chèr papa used to say that the true fool smiles even as he exchanges gold for brass," he replied in a musically accented English. He told her his name was Gerard. They stood at the rail, chatting about nothing and watching the city lights as the barge slid silently down the river.
It wasn't until later, after he had brought her the champagne, that she had begun to feel sick. She had thrown up twice in the toilette by the time the barge tied up near the Pont Neuf. Suddenly she straightened, as the realization hit her. He had drugged her! It was the champagne! He had planned it all along, she realized miserably. At the time she thought he was being generous, offering to drive her back to the hotel in his gleaming white Mercedes. Lori had offered to come back with her, but she hadn't wanted to spoil it for Lori, who was clearly taken with Randy and it seemed silly not to go with Gerard. Besides, she was too miserable to argue. She had felt so awful that she hadn't really paid attention to where they were going until, instead of turning up the rue de Chateaubriand to the hotel, he entered the whirl of lights around the Etoile. When they recrossed the Seine to the Left Bank, she knew something was terribly wrong.
The first time she told Gerard he was going the wrong way, he simply ignored her. His profile stared fixedly at the windshield. She repeated herself, raising her voice and he viciously slapped her face with the back of his hand. Something exploded inside her and she clawed at him, yelling for him to let her out. He hit her again and showed her the gun and her world blew apart like a house of feathers in a strong breeze, just like that.
Her mind raced. She knew she had to get away before he took her out of the center of town. There must be some people still awake she thought desperately. She told him she was going to be sick again and he carefully pulled over. Given the way she felt, it was hardly a lie. Fortunately, the door wasn't locked then and she opened it and bent over as if to throw up. But instead, she rolled head over heels the way she used to in high-school gym and was momentarily blocked from his view by the wing. She desperately scrambled on all fours around a parked car and began to run, her spine tensed for the impact of a bullet. She ran wildly, terrified that she might slip because of her high heels. When she rounded the corner into the shadows of the rue de Seine, she briefly thought she might make it. But she never really had a chance, she realized dully.
They turned off the autoroute near Fontainebleau and drove down a country road overhung with dark and ancient trees. It felt as if they were entering a primordial forest. Every so often Gerard glanced over at her, his eyes dark and calculating. Mercifully, her hands had gone numb, but she felt a terrible urge to urinate. She squeezed her legs together to hold it in, like a child. Then he pulled into a dark driveway and left the car to open an old metal gate. She briefly thought of running again, but how and where? She was helpless.
He drove the car past the gate, then went and locked it. She felt a warm flush between her thighs and wondered if she had wet herself. Then he drove up to a dark house, with a single light in one of the windows. He hauled her out of the Mercedes and unlocked the front door. There was a murmur of voices coming from what appeared to be the living room. Then a small dark-skinned man peered from the doorway. Kelly was about to beg him to help her, when she realized that he didn't seem in the least surprised to see her.
Excerpted from Scorpion by Andrew Kaplan. Copyright © 1985 Andrew Kaplan. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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