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The Watchmen

The Watchmen

5.0 1
by Brian Freemantle

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Only a miracle-and faulty workmanship-prevents a germ-packed warhead from exploding when a terrorist missile slams into the United Nations building in New York. The lettering on the side of the rocket is Russian, which presents the West with its worst nightmare: a direct link between a fanatical U. S. terrorist group and Russian gangsters with access to the


Only a miracle-and faulty workmanship-prevents a germ-packed warhead from exploding when a terrorist missile slams into the United Nations building in New York. The lettering on the side of the rocket is Russian, which presents the West with its worst nightmare: a direct link between a fanatical U. S. terrorist group and Russian gangsters with access to the germ warfare arsenal of the former Soviet Union.

This potentially devastating attack reunites the FBI's Russian expert William Cowley and Moscow's Organized Crime Director Dimitri Danilov. Their task: to penetrate and destroy the unknown group claiming responsibility before they can strike again.

And as the Superpowers teeter on the brink of diplomatic meltdown, Cowley and Danilov make another nightmare discovery. The terrorists are being cleverly financed by ultra-sophisticated hackers looting U. S. banks, breaking into law enforcement and Pentagon computers, and keeping themselves always one click ahead of the frantic pursuit.

The Watchmen is a spine-chilling chase that strikes at the heart of our fears of terrorism and its prevention.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Freemantle, the prolific British espionage specialist best known for his Charlie Muffin series, always knows just how to kick a story into gear. Here, the problem is how to keep it going. The action unfolds with characteristic impact: a rocket, shot from a boat in New York harbor and carrying a deadly mix of anthrax and sarin, slams into the United Nations tower. The warhead fails to detonate and explosives experts identify the missile as Russian-made, yet the Kremlin steadfastly denies any knowledge of the terrorist attack and promises to cooperate fully in the investigation. That reunites William Cowley, the FBI's Moscow expert, and Dimitri Danilov, the head of Russia's Organized Crime Bureau. Over the next several weeks, similar attacks occur at the Washington Monument and the American Embassy in Moscow, and are attributed to a mysterious organization called the Watchmen. Traveling back and forth between the United States and Russia, Danilov and Cowley, assisted by fellow FBI agent and Cowley love interest Pamela Darnley, struggle to unmask the terrorists and identify their next target. The middle-aged Cowley and Danilov, who also appeared in Freemantle's No Time for Heroes, make for an impressive investigative team, yet they're a rather dour duo, lacking the nimble mind play and engaging personality of Muffin. Too much of the plot's punch gets lost in the minutiae of the chase, eventually grinding down to a sudden, unsatisfying ending, with Freemantle never adequately revealing what the terrorists are after. (Mar.) Forecast: In an author's note, Freemantle reveals that this novel was completed several months before the events of September 11, with a few references to the day added at the proof stage. Readers will make the connection, in any case, and jacket art blurrily suggesting the World Trade Center towers underscores the link. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Freemantle hits pay dirt as the UN Secretariat Tower is hit by a missile that's shoulder-launched from the East River and loaded with sarin and anthrax. The plot brings back alcoholic FBI investigator William Cowley, head of the Bureau's Russian Desk, and puts him in harness again with Dimitri Danilov, now head of Moscow's Organized Crime Bureau. Danilov worked with Cowley to bring down villains in 1993's The Button Man and 1995's No Time for Heroes, and, while he's now relatively sober, he still measures his Scotches with care. The missile lies unexploded in the Chinese level of the Secretariat building (the structure is an international territory), but, exploded or not, it has raised havoc, killed five people, and caused Manhattan to be evacuated (54 dead in the big rush outta town). Some Freemantle New Yorkers, thinking themselves at the end of the world-as in On the Beach-loot stores or raid the Tavern on the Green for a drunken dance of death in Central Park. When Cowley and a team of bomb disposal experts recover the warhead, they identify it as made from a Russian biological warfare plant in Gorki. Obviously, the Russians didn't mail it. The bomb was stolen from the Russian plant-and how many more do The Watchmen, the murderous US terrorists who financed this operation, have, and what do they plan to do with them? Thinly drawn info-characters feed the story while Cowley is hospitalized (a booby-trapped boat explodes) and Danilov finds his wife in bed with another man. Then, while explosives proliferate around the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, a hacker message on FBI computers reveals that The Watchmen think that Russia is our enemy. Soon Cowley is off to Gorki withDanilov, tracking lost warheads, then in Chicago pursuing the General of The Watchmen. Painstaking detail within a lively plot, all in Freemantle's familiar formula.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.58(w) x 8.64(h) x 1.39(d)

Read an Excerpt


There is never a moment of the day or night when the United Nations' buildings between New York's East River and First Avenue are completely unoccupied, but just after dawn, when the missile hit, the green-glassed, skyscraper Secretariat Tower, is one of the emptiest periods, which was fortunate. What was later to be described as a miracle was not immediately recognized.

Five people — three night-duty clerks and two cleaners — died instantly when the missile smashed into that level of the tower at which China has its secretariat.

By the diplomatic treaty under which the United Nations complex came into being in 1947, the land upon which its three buildings are constructed is international, not American. And does not, therefore, come under American jurisdiction or legal authority. Initially the Chinese refused any New York emergency service access to what was technically Chinese territory, not even to confirm the deaths or remove the bodies. The impasse was broken when the incumbent secretary-general, an Egyptian, pointed out to China's UN ambassador in an outside corridor confrontation that the deaths and damage so far had apparently been caused only by the impact of the device, not by the detonation of its warhead, which could presumably occur at any moment. The ambassador still insisted that two totally unprotected members of his staff accompany an armor-suited NYPD bomb disposal team into the wrecked area.

It is standard operating procedure for such teams to work with live television and audio equipment, for their every action and movement to be permanently recorded for analysis in the event of a devastating mistake, which was how the image of the missile came to be instantly relayed beyond the shattered offices even before the unit assembled itself and its other paraphernalia. The main television monitor was in the control truck far below in the flag-bedecked forecourt fronting First Avenue. The intermediary link in the outside corridor, being watched by both the secretary-general and the ambassador, was operated by a nervous police technician named Ivan Bykov, who could read and speak the Russian language of his immigrant grandparents and whose potential catastrophe-limiting contribution was never recognized.

The virtually intact missile had come to rest against the wall of the fourth office in from the East River with the lettering on it toward the approaching camera. Bykov's lips moved as he read the Cyrillic script, which he did twice before experiencing the first panicked awareness that he could already be dying. The words wouldn't come at his first effort but then he managed: "Stop!" although too weak for it to register through the headsets of the disposal team. Then the panic took hold and the warning came out as a scream. "Stop! For fuck's sake stop! Get back out of there!"

The camera — and the squad — stopped. The unit commander said, "What?"

Bykov said, "The third word in, on the top line. It says poison, in Russian. The next word is agent. It's a biological or chemical warhead. If it's fractured, it's leaking already."

The unit commander said, "Fuck. We're dead," and when the recording was replayed later, he couldn't believe he'd sounded as calm as he did. He couldn't remember, either, leaving the camera focused on the broken-necked missile, although he later publicly claimed it had been a positive decision.

The secretary-general realized at once that if microbiological agents were already leaking from the warhead, his life couldn't be saved and reacted with a selfless bravery that was later to be internationally acknowledged. He issued instant although probably futile orders for the Secretariat Tower to be totally evacuated for the first time in its history, remaining himself on the possibly infected floor because it was quicker to use the telephones there than go to his own suite. From an office that had functioned as the Chinese delegation mailroom, he spoke, in carefully considered order of priority, to New York's mayor, for Manhattan first to be closed to early-morning commuter traffic; then its residents and already arrived workers had to be cleared off the island. Having done that, he spoke directly to the American secretary of state and the president. The Russian ambassador to the UN was the second representative of the five permanent UN members nations to whom he spoke: China's earlier obstructive envoy was by then urging his driver to go faster to the already backed-up Hudson River tunnel to reach New Jersey.

On the direct instructions of the FBI director, the helicopter carrying the microbiological scientists from Fort Detrick, Maryland, detoured to Andrews Air Force Base to pick up William Cowley, head of the bureau's Russian Desk. As Cowley hurried aboard, head bent, James Schnecker, the leader of the scientific unit, said, "You think it's happening all over again?"

"At the moment I don't know what to think," said Cowley. For once there wouldn't have been any guilt in taking a drink. He wished he had one.

Patrick Hollis gazed in numbed disbelief at the scenes being relayed on the breakfast nook television, his stomach in turmoil. It should have been only a game — was a game — the sort he played on the war sites most nights. Not this. Not real. The General had tricked him. Told him that's what a quartermaster's function was, to guarantee supplies, and persuaded him to disclose how a campaign could be financed. Not a problem, Hollis decided, in relieved self-assurance. That's what his pseudonym was, anonymously to roam and hack wherever he chose, unknown and unsuspected by anyone else. The Quartermaster. A soldier. Not Patrick Hollis, manager of loans and securities. He could never be caught. Found out.

"It couldn't reach us here at Rensselaer, could it?" Hollis physically jumped at his mother's voice, from the stove.

"No," he said. "We're safe." Where had the General gotten it? How? People didn't actually die in war games. Not a game, not anymore.

"There's more waffles."

"I'm not hungry."

"You've got to keep your strength up; you're not strong."

"No more, thank you."

"You sure we've safe?"

"Quite sure."

"I really wouldn't know what to do without you, Patrick."

"You're never going to need to find out, are you?"


The protective suits had been developed from those designed by NASA for space and moon walks, completely isolating and insulating the wearer from all outside environment. There was internal temperature control, with oxygen provided by built-in backpacks. The head domes had a dual relay voice system, for every conversation between them to be simultaneously recorded and monitored.

Schnecker ordered his three-man team to suit up very soon after the helicopter's liftoff from Andrews, predominantly to acclimatize Cowley. Schnecker took the FBI man through the operating procedure, repeatedly insisting that the protection was total, providing the suit skin was not punctured.

"And from the look of it there's a lot of sharp-edged crap to avoid," warned the bearded scientist, indicating the uneven, sometimes broken pictures from the abandoned bomb squad television camera that were being patched into the helicopter during the flight. "How's it feel?"

Cowley was a big man, six foot two and with neglected college football muscle taking him just over 200 pounds. He shrugged the suit around him, tensing his shoulders, and said, "OK, I guess."

Schnecker said, "Make sure you see where you're going before you move. And when you do, do it slowly."

Neil Hamish, the team's ballistic expert, looked up from the manual he had been comparing with the TV pictures and said, "Nothing like it here. Looks like a double delivery. Binary principle, maybe." He looked sideways at Cowley and in a molasses-thick Tennessee accent said, "You make out the writing on the side?"

"The word's definitely poison. And agent," replied Cowley.

"Like to know what I'm asking the meters to detect," complained the third scientist, Richard Pointdexter. He had two devices with calibrated dials tethered by individual straps to his wrist.

"Me, too," said the fourth man, Hank Burgess, attaching a matching detector to his arm.

"All we can do is play the field for the obvious," judged Schnecker.

"Jesus George Christ!"

The pilot's voice brought them away from their protective preparations and the picture-split television monitor. New York was on the absolute horizon. Between them and the faraway view was a surreal, tidal-wave imagery of vehicles of every type and description surging along every road and highway but all in the same direction, away from the jagged-toothed Manhattan skyline. In too many places to count, as they flew over and against the one-way movement, there were jams and bulged blocks of collided cars and trucks, the obstructions swollen by the frantic but failed efforts of following drivers to detour through adjoining fields and properties.

Hamish said, "Like Orson Welles and War of the Worlds all over again."

Schnecker asked, "What's the current wind direction?"

The pilot said, "Southeast, tending northerly. Slow."

Schnecker said, "None of them down there are in the slightest danger. If it's been released, it's going over Brooklyn."

"What about Brooklyn?" Cowley asked.

"Until we identify what it is, we won't know how containable it is," the leader of the microbiological team replied.

"The only man in the bomb disposal team to be showing any respiratory affect is asthmatic," Burgess, a qualified doctor, reminded them. "They were in the proximity of the warhead for precisely three minutes and forty seconds; that's long enough to have picked up something,"

"We don't know the warhead: how it's programmed to operate," Hamish pointed out.

"Or who launched it," said Cowley.

"Your problem, buddy, not ours," said Schnecker.

"We get the easy part," said Pointdexter.

"Will you look at that!" demanded the pilot, who had flown far to the west of New Jersey to skirt any airborne contamination, finally approaching Manhattan from the north, from upstate New York to keep the wind behind them.

Cowley decided he was perfectly dressed for the sterile moonscape that was his immediate impression of the city below them. There was movement — there were emergency units at the island side of the Triboro and the Brooklyn bridges and a swarm of media helicopters infesting the sky overhead — but the gridlocked streets below appeared as eerily deserted but as haphazardly traffic-blocked by panic-abandoned vehicles as any Hollywood depiction that Cowley had ever seen of a nuclear attack. And then as Cowley gazed down more intently — continuing the Hollywood script — he picked out more isolated pockets of people, presumably playing out the end of their world.

A group were dancing in what appeared to be a street party by Columbus Circle, and there was another partying gathering outside the Tavern on the Green in Central Park. Tables had been pulled out from a restaurant or café and set up in a gap of abandoned traffic on Broadway. Cowley counted twelve people sitting around bottles of looted wine, apparently determined to die drunk. One man was already lying full length and motionless in the gutter. As they passed overhead, two women looked up and waved. One inexplicably lifted her sweater to expose her braless breasts. Some still-burning movie and theater lights added to the party atmosphere. A lot more looting was visible as they finally turned to cross town, although most of the loot — from Macy's in Times Square and along 42nd Street — seemed quickly to have been discarded outside the stores from which it had been stolen. One man was determinedly pushing a cart loaded with television sets and microwave ovens up Lexington Avenue, whirling his free hand in dismissal to the fluttering machines overhead.

Schnecker checked William Cowley's suit and said, "Everything OK?"

Cowley nodded without replying, conscious of other helicopters coming in on them as their own slowly descended. He was surprised there was sufficient space to land directly in front of the UN complex.

Looking at the other camera-sprouting helicopters swarmed above them, Hamish said, "Here's our fifteen minutes of fame."

Schnecker said, "Let's keep the conversation to its regulated essentials. Count-off time. Cowley?"







"Let's see what we've got."

Although also protectively suited, the pilot didn't turn off the rotors, so they left the machine bent forward and in single file, Schnecker leading. Everyone except Cowley carried various pieces of equipment, some unseen in oddly shaped containers. Directly out of the downdraft they stopped, at Schnecker's gesture. Pointdexter and Burgess stared down at the dials of the calibrated meters held in front of them, like temple offerings. Pointdexter said, formally, "The time is nine of ten. There is negative register at ground level."

Burgess said, "I confirm."

Cowley hadn't expected to be able to move so easily. His sweat, he supposed, was nervousness, not a malfunction of the suit's temperature control. He didn't consciously feel nervous. Neil Hamish moved slightly to one side, operating their own shoulder-held television camera to track their every movement. Cowley acknowledged that their film, as well as their every verbal comment — like the earlier footage and remarks of the NYPD bomb disposal unit — was for corrective assessment if the five of them were overcome and died. He wished he could think of something profound to contribute; so far his only sound had been noisy breathing of his oxygen. He wondered if Pauline was watching a television relay from one of the overhead helicopters. The voices of the others were distorted, with a metallic echo, and he didn't expect she'd recognize his if he spoke. He certainly wouldn't be identifiable encompassed in his moon suit and didn't expect the bureau to name him. They would, if he died.

They huddled around Pointdexter and Burgess directly inside the Secretariat Tower vestibule. Maintaining formality, Pointdexter said, "Nine-fifteen. Still negative register."

"Confirm," said Burgess, bent over his meter.

"Let's take our time," coaxed Schnecker. "Repeat the full check."

Both monitoring scientists did so without protest. Pointdexter said, "I repeat, nothing."

There was a moment of uncertainty before Schnecker said, "Electricity's still on, so let's use the elevators," and then at once raised a warning hand. "Too many for one car in these suits and with all this equipment. Me, Hamish, and Pointdexter in one, Burgess and Cowley in the other."

Cowley didn't feel himself sweating anymore. Hamish filmed their exit from the second elevator. The first three men weren't waiting as a courtesy gesture, Cowley guessed; procedure probably required confirmation of no chemical or biological agent from Burgess's meter, which the man gave at once.

Schnecker said, "I'm beginning to think everyone's been lucky."

"I don't know the type of warhead," reminded the ballistics expert. "Maybe what's inside it is new to us, too."

They didn't need the floor plan, which was Cowley's FBI contribution. Through a gaping hole that spread from a distorted window frame, the East River was clearly visible to their right, where the corridor that bands the skyscraper at every level curled away. The wrecked offices were ripped open for examination on their left. Two internal walls were collapsed, their remains barely supporting the falling-in ceiling, which looked to have burst an outside wall. An internal door was bowed but unbroken by the pressure of debris from above. Another door had disappeared, leaving only its buckled frame. The wind, which hadn't seemed strong at ground level, whined through the gaps in the outer wall, constantly swirling papers and documents, many of which were slowly leaking out to drift over the river. All five men jumped at the sound of a telephone from one of the open-doored offices behind them.


Excerpted from "The Watchmen"
by .
Copyright © 2002 Brian Freemantle.
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.

Meet the Author

Brian Freemantle is the author of over thirty books, which have sold more than ten million copies worldwide. He lives in Winchester, England.

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The Watchmen 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The rocket is fired from the nearby East River striking the UN Building in the China sector, killing a few workers by its impact though the explosion did not occurr. However, the bomb detonation experts realize that the warhead contains biological poisons and is leaking so that any person who has already come in contact will be dead shortly. Though the lettering on the warhead is Russian, the Kremlin denies that this warhead was part of its inventory.

Still the two countries cooperate as FBI Moscow expert William Crowley and the Russian Organized Crime Bureau Chief Dimitri Danilov begin a joint investigation. Other attacks follow with credit for the assaults claimed by a previously unknown group, THE WATCHMEN. William and Dimitri wonder how to stop the watchmen who apparently consist of American finance and computer gurus with Russian criminals?

THE WATCHMEN is an exciting espionage thriller that never slows down on the cat and mouse chase that spans two continents. The lead duo is engaging but morose, a pair who have seen too much in their respective lives; their gloomy personalities actually add dark tension to the dynamic story line. Brian Freemantle never quite slows down to provide the demands of THE WATCHMEN so that the audience is left with an exhilarating thrill ride that will please the action adventure reader, but also leave fans with a ¿huh¿ that asks why they committed the deeds?

Harriet Klausner