by Charles Knief

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466810433
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 06/01/2001
Series: John Caine Novels , #4
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
File size: 428 KB

About the Author

Charles Knief is a former airborne soldier, pilot, and engineer. He has traveled widely and lived in Hawaii for a number of years. His first John Caine adventure, Diamond Head, won the SMP/ PWA contest for Best First Private Eye novel in 1995. He and his wife currently live in Irvine, California.

Charles Knief is a former airborne soldier, pilot, and engineer. He has traveled widely and lived in Hawaii for a number of years. His first John Caine adventure, Diamond Head, won the SMP/ PWA contest for Best First Private Eye novel in 1995. He and his wife currently live in Irvine, California.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Chawlie picked his way through the sparse crowd, carefully treading a narrow path between the limousine and the place reserved for him at the corner of Green and Columbus. Daniel's men had cleared the space and no one on the street seemed to object. If they did, they didn't express it. One look at the serious young men tended to dissuade all but the most foolhardy. Their presence proclaimed power. Here was importance, it said. Here was hurt. If you didn't like it, the best thing to do was to hunch your shoulders and hit the cinders. Do not trespass. This part of the street belonged to someone with juice.

    Despite a distant sun shining off the brass instruments of the band in the street, and notwithstanding that the month was May, I still shivered beneath my raw silk sports coat. A chill breeze blew in off the Pacific, reminding me of what Mark Twain had once remarked about the place, that the coldest winter he had ever spent had been a summer in San Francisco.

    It sure wasn't Honolulu. In a way I was glad to be off the island for a few days. The Islands were changing again. A new type of violence had visited and I hoped it would not stay. Bomb threats had repeatedly closed Hanauma Bay, even before the summer season began. The main gate at Pearl Harbor had been the target of a drive-by shooting. A group of radicals had posted leaflets around Waikiki warning visitors that they had entered a tourist-free zone and could be killed with impunity according to the rules of warfare. Some group wanted the tourists and the military to leave and they weren't subtle about their wants and wishes. Honolulu is a small city, and it was becoming a war zone, if the zealots could be believed. California seemed somehow peaceful by comparison.

    The sky was a pale robin's egg blue. The only trace of the famous fog was the curling gray blanket wrapped around distant peaks, poised like some invader ready to ride down into the lowlands to conquer us all.

    Spicy fragrances of Chinatown surrounded us. Whenever the breeze shifted, a new spectrum of aromas drifted our way. My stomach rumbled. The morning had been too busy to include breakfast. Only the coffee perked in the hotel room during my hasty shower and a granola bar from the honor bar had sufficed.

    Once this was over Chawlie would treat us to lunch. I hoped for Szechwan. He would probably insist on Italian.

    The band, dressed in white-feathered shakos and red Eisenhower jackets with bright brass buttons, milled around the middle of Green Street while they fine-tuned their instruments and smoked one last cigarette before the procession. A few of the older band members glanced over their shoulders at the black Cadillac convertible and the hearse beyond. This group had been leading funerals in Chinatown for years. They knew their clientele. They'd seen their share of going away parties. But I'd bet large that they had never seen anything like this one. They had to be acutely aware of the violent potential that floated around them like autumn leaves.

    I followed Chawlie closely through the crowd, lagging less than a step behind. If it disturbed his regular bodyguards that his haole friend had the primary responsibility for keeping the old man alive, they didn't show it. Maybe they thought I was doing penance. Certainly they knew of the stolen Colombian emeralds purloined by Chawlie's mistress, and my failed efforts on his behalf. They may have thought my presence here a punishment, a requirement of my continued friendship.

    If they thought that they didn't know Chawlie and they didn't know me. I was here as a favor for an old friend. Nothing could wedge me from my island sanctuary unless I wanted to go.

    I was here only because of my love for the old man.

    Daniel and his men were certainly aware that I occupied the most dangerous position. If trouble happened, I would be glued to the target. It was my responsibility to protect Chawlie, regardless of the consequences, unmindful of the means or the methods.

    As I said, they might have thought I was doing penance.

    They might have known or guessed many things about the arrangement, but that one fact may have allowed them to actually enjoy their position of distance from the old man. We had invaded the realm of another Triad. That Chawlie had come on a peacekeeping mission, paying his respects to the family of a deceased rival, didn't matter. The Triad boss had reportedly died from a massive myocardial infarction in his office, alive one moment, dead the next, gone so quickly he collapsed without a sound. They said it was as if someone had turned off a switch.

    Empty space now filled the top of the San Francisco Triads. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the young men had already proclaimed their intent to take out the remaining old ones who kept them from rising in the clan.

    Chawlie had come to align himself with the sanctioned successor, another old, warm personal enemy. A lover of calm continuity, Chawlie thought a tong war bad for business. A simultaneous show of force and solidarity might cause those with ambitions to have second thoughts.

    So it was that I kept my eyes on the crowd and my body close to Chawlie. The band began taking their places, tossing half-smoked butts, adjusting their hat straps, tugging on their jackets. The tuba player tried to retie his shoelace. I watched him briefly struggle with his instrument before giving it up as a bad idea.

    Six stout young men carried the casket from the funeral home and solemnly placed it into the back of the silver hearse. They pushed it home and fanned out around the convertible, an honor guard or a bodyguard, their postures ramrod straight, their eyes on the crowd.

    I scanned the rooftops, any of the high perches a gunman might favor. Nothing seemed out of place, but I could not see behind parapets and hoped either the local Triad or the cops would have the roofs covered. The sun was behind the buildings across the street. Anyone up there would have the advantage. I watched the crowd, attentive to a potential threat. I eyed the band, reminding myself that it was a funeral, and that the sole reason for Chawlie's attendance was to preserve the peace.

    Yeah. Right.

    I also remembered that Chawlie and I had bribed the funeral director the night before. All the man had to do was look the other way while we examined the deceased. A simple enough task, and one for which he had been well paid. Chawlie wanted to open the casket while nobody else was present. He wanted to make sure that his old rival was really dead. He wanted to stick pins in the forehead to see if the corpse flinched.

    It didn't move.

    I caught him sticking pins in the waxy flesh even after he was certain, a small, satisfied smile dancing on his lips.

    I hustled him from the funeral parlor before rumors could start about my old friend.

    A slim young woman with long, silky black hair stood up in the convertible and released a cloud of golden confetti. The bright paper squares scattered down the street, suddenly propelled by a brisk sea breeze. Some found refuge in the band, plastering their flimsy mass against white shako hats and black polyester-clad legs. It was the signal to begin the funeral march.

    The bandleader nodded and they began to play a dirge, marching slowly in place.

    A policeman blew his whistle and stopped traffic on Columbus. He raised his arm and signaled the band with a come-along motion. The funeral director closed the back of the hearse and hurried to the driver's side, glanced at the roof of his building, and got in. He seemed to be a worried man. From a hundred feet away I could sense his tension and wondered if he had cause. If the man would take bribes from Chawlie, he would take payment from Chawlie's enemies. No poker player, the funeral director knew a disturbing secret and was having a difficult time hiding his knowledge of it.

    I moved a step closer to Chawlie.

    The day had a bad feeling about it. People who should have moved quickly slowed down. Those who should have moved carefully stumbled. It was as if we collectively acknowledged that something evil was about to happen and there was nothing any of us could do but consign ourselves to the inevitable.

    The band marched to the corner, closely followed by the convertible.

    Across the street a teenage boy in a black suit lighted a string of firecrackers and tossed them among the band members' feet. The tuba player hit a sour note as he leaped out of the way. He jumped sideways and crashed into the trombonist. They stopped directly in front of us, and the rows of musicians behind them stopped, too. It took them several seconds to get organized again, and by then the shooting had started.

    Glass shattered in the coffee shop behind us.

    I threw myself on Chawlie, pulling him down behind a young street sapling. The crowd shrank away, leaving Chawlie and me in the open, the slender trunk our only cover. My .45 was in my hand before I thought of taking it from its holster, and I scanned the street. The band scattered in all directions, the tuba player tripping over his shoelace, going down in a moment of bright brass and noise.

    Another shot ricocheted off the concrete, striking a fleeing woman with a meaty slap. She fell beside us and lay still.

    A third shot hit Daniel in the neck and he went down.

    I could not find a target. I had Chawlie covered. Not very well, and only by my body, but covered. I searched for a way to hit back. The bullets struck only in our immediate vicinity. That told me that the gunman probably used a handgun, not a rifle, and that he was somewhere on one of the roofs across the street, the best location to bring fire down upon us. That also told me that Chawlie was the target. I needed to get him under better cover.

    Bright cold sunlight covered the shooter, giving him all the advantage. From our position we had to look directly into the sun.

    A silhouette of the gunman popped up and fired down at us, a specter only visible in the peripheral. His aim was high and the plate glass window behind us caved in completely. I fired back, a burst of three quick rounds, sending bits of shingles flying into the air next to his shoulder. He dropped back down, out of sight behind the structure.

    Glancing back, I saw an opportunity.

    I fired at the roofline below the spot where he had vanished, the big 230-grain bullets punching through the light structure. As I fired, I dragged Chawlie toward the coffee shop. A low wall, about two feet high and finished in rock-hard terrazzo, stood below the shattered opening. It might not protect us from high-velocity rifle rounds, but the polished stone surface should provide refuge from slugs fired from a handgun.

    I saw movement again on that same roof, but held my fire. Daniel's men had finally pulled themselves together and were peppering the roof with their pistols. The security team by the hearse had disappeared, along with the passengers in the convertible.

    "Are you hit?" I whispered to Chawlie, who lay silent and unmoving beneath me.

    He mumbled. "Ask me if I am hurt."


    "Ask me if I am hurt."

    "Are you hurt?"

    "With big haole on top of me, shoved into broken glass on hard floor, you ask if I am hurt?"

    "You're not hurt. Want to get up?"

    Another bullet slammed into the sidewalk in front of us, ricocheted against the wall and screamed away into the distance.

    "Chawlie stay here."

    Sirens were approaching. I put my gun away, rolled off the old man and pushed him as close to the low wall as I could. "Don't move."

    He nodded.

    With Chawlie under cover and the threat neutralized by Daniel's men, I leaped over the wall, keeping low. The woman was dead, sightless almond eyes staring into the beyond. An empty cloth shopping bag lay by her body. The bag was embroidered with a red dragon, the Chinese symbol for good luck. An innocent, she had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and had paid the maximum price. Her luck had run out.

    Leaving her, I crawled over to my young friend, his body sprawled in a growing pool of blood. Dark fluid welled from the vein in his neck. That was the good news. Had the bullet hit an artery he would have already been dead. The bad news was that the wound was through and through, the vein nearly severed. He was losing a lot of blood.

    Grabbing Daniel's collar, I dragged him through the broken glass into the relative safety of the coffee shop. Bullets pocked the stainless steel cook line behind the counter. Blood flowed freely from his neck, leaving a long stain on the sidewalk. I reached into the open wound and pinched the vein together with my fingers, trying to keep the ends closed, trying to keep them from losing too much of his vital fluids.

    "Daniel!" Chawlie had started to rise when he saw Daniel's wound.

    "Stay down!"

    "My son!"

    "Call nine-one-one for an ambulance! Tell them where we are. Tell them we've got a man with a gun firing at a crowd from a rooftop. Several people hit. At least one dead. Tell them we've got one man with a severe neck injury. I'm holding him together, but we need help now!"

    Chawlie opened his cell phone and stared hard at Daniel and me, then handed the phone to another young man who had materialized out of the chaos on the street. The kid punched in three numbers and spoke rapidly.

    More shots came from another roof across the street, this time from a different angle. Most of them penetrated the wooden counter and plowed through the padded counter stools.

    One hit me low in the back.

    The shock of the bullet knocked the legs out from under me. The pain was instant and exquisite, an all-consuming, almost alive entity of white-hot energy that tore through my body and nearly took control of my existence. I fought the pain and the shock and the terror, focusing my total concentration on keeping my fingers in Daniel's wound, trying to prevent his bleeding to death. My fingers desperately wanted to desert their post and fly to my own wound. I forced them to remain where they were, my will stretching itself to its limits.

    I focused on the hole in Daniel's neck, concentrating on holding those warm, rubbery, slippery tissues together. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else existed.

    Except the pain.

    The pain resided as an overwhelming element, a sharp violation. I refused to allow my thoughts to go to the place where they always went when I'd been shot before—"Oh my God, I've been holed!"—and to keep at bay the terror of what permanent damage might have been done.

    Even as the final shots spattered against the pavement, I held on. Even as the sirens wound down in the street in front of the coffee shop, I held on. Even as one of Chawlie's men helped him to his feet, pausing to remove the .45 from my belt before disappearing into the crowd. Even as the paramedics found us stretched side by side on the tile floor like suicidal lovers, bathed in each other's blood, I held on, willing Daniel to live. They were bright boys and girls. They saw my fingers deep inside his neck, nodded to each other, and decided to leave well enough alone until we reached the hospital. We rode in the ambulance on the same stretcher.

    Only until the Code Three toboggan ride ended at the hospital and we were rolled into the emergency room, and competent medical fingers took over for my own clumsy digits, did I release my charge of the young man's life and let go.

    They wheeled Daniel from the emergency room on their way to surgery, a desperate carnival of noise and efficiency, leaving me alone in the corridor.

    I rolled off the gurney, stretched briefly, felt dizzy for a moment, and then allowed the crushing pain to come. I bent over, steadied myself for an instant, one bloody hand on the stainless steel railing, and then watched with a kind of strange detachment as the blood-stained vinyl floor lazily rose up and hit me in the face.

Excerpted from SILVERSWORD by CHARLES KNIEF. Copyright © 2001 by ILDI Co.. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I became a ¿die-hard¿ fan of Charles Knief last year when I read the first three ¿John Caine¿ books (SAND DOLLARS, EMERALD FLASH & DIAMOND HEAD) back to back. Now, with his newest novel, SILVER SWORD, Mr. Knief continues his winning streak with another skillfully written thriller that has John Caine facing his greatest fear. Acting as a bodyguard for his friend, Chawlie Choy, while on a visit to San Francisco to negotiate a truce with a rival Tong organization, Caine is seriously wounded during a shootout that leaves an innocent bystander dead. The San Francisco Police Department, as well as the local judicial system, thinks that Caine should be held responsible for the killing, even though he¿s innocent of any wrongdoing. Out of gratitude for saving his life, Chawlie hires the best lawyer that money can buy to represent his friend, and Caine is allowed to return temporarily to Hawaii, knowing that he may eventually be charged with first-degree murder. As he begins to recuperate from his gunshot wound and contemplate the possibility of spending several years in prison, Caine is asked by his old friend, Lieutenant Kimo Kahanamoku of the Honolulu Police Department, to help protect a young graduate student who has discovered the tomb of an ancient Hawaii king, as well as a ton of Spanish treasure. There are those who¿d like to get their hands on both the treasure and the remains of King Kamehameha, and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve this goal. Needless to say, John Caine will have his hands full, especially when Chawlie warns him about a ¿contract¿ that has been taken out on his life by the San Francisco Chinese Tongs in retaliation for the part he played in protecting his friend during the gun battle. SILVER SWORD is almost twice as long as any of the three previous novels. Because of this, Mr. Knief is able to explore with more depth the close friendships that Caine has with both Kimo and Chawlie. We¿ve able to see the strong bond that joins these three men together, and the respect that begrudgingly develops between Kimo and Chawlie Choy. Of course, as Caine considers the prospect of jail and what it will mean to be locked away from the things he holds most precious, the reader grows to understand this man with more clarity, catching brief glimpses of his fears, his needs, and his desire to make the most out of life while he still has time. Though suspenseful and multi-faceted, SILVER SWORD isn¿t as fast-paced as the other ¿Caine¿ novels. There aren¿t any big action sequences that allow our hero to strut his stuff. Due to the gunshot wound in his side, Caine is more passive here and has to let others take the lead. Still, there are moments of intense action when he must fight for his life and kill those that would harm him and his closest friends. SILVER SWORD is an excellent addition to the series and will have the reader hoping that Charles Knief continues to write about John Caine for many years to come.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anyone know when the paperback will be coming out and when Mr. Knief's next book will be published?