Sunny Mode   Night Mode

     The Road to Gandolfo: A Novel

       part  #1 of  Road to Series  by  Robert Ludlum / Thrillers & Crime / Humor
1 2 3 ... 32
The Road to Gandolfo: A Novel

THE ROAD TO GANDOLFO

A cast of outrageous characters in even

more outrageous situations.

THE ROAD TO GANDOLFO

Will rivet you to the edge of your chair—

when you’re not falling off laughing.

THE ROAD TO GANDOLFO

It is Robert Ludlum writing maniacally in a labyrinth of suspense and hilarity.

THE ROAD TO GANDOLFO





This edition contains the complete text of the original hardcover edition.

NOT ONE WORD HAS BEEN OMITTED.

THE ROAD TO GANDOLFO

A Bantam Book / published by arrangement with the author

Bantam Export edition / April 1982

Bantam edition / June 1982

Bantam reissue / March 1992

All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1975 by Michael Shepherd.

New epilogue copyright © 1992 by Robert Ludlum.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

For information address: Bantam Books.

eISBN: 978-0-307-81392-3


Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036.



v3.1_r1





Contents


Cover

Title Page

Copyright

A Word From the Author



Part I Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six



Part II Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen



Part III Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three



Part IV Chapter Twenty-Four

Epilogue



Dedication

Excerpt from The Bourne Identity

Other Books by This Author

About the Author





A WORD FROM THE AUTHOR


The Road to Gandolfo is one of those rare if insane accidents that can happen to a writer perhaps once or twice in his lifetime. Through divine or demonic providence a concept is presented that fuels the fires of his imagination. He is convinced it is truly a staggering premise which will serve as the spine of a truly staggering tale. Visions of one powerful scene after another parade across his inner screen, each exploding with drama and meaning and … well, damn it, they’re just plain staggering!

Out come reams of paper. The typewriter is dusted and pencils are sharpened; doors are closed and heady music is played to drown out the sounds of man and nature beyond the cell of staggering creation. Fury takes over. The premise which will be the spinal thunderbolt of an incredible tale begins to take on substance as characters emerge with faces and bodies, personalities and conflicts. The plot surges forward, complex gears mesh and strip and make a hell of a lot of noise—drowning out the work of true masters like that Mozart fellow and what’s-his-name Handel.

But suddenly something is wrong. I mean wrong!

The author is giggling. He can’t stop giggling.

That’s horrible! Staggering premises should be accorded awed respect … heaven knows not chuckles!

But try as he may the poor fool telling the tale is trapped, bombarded by a fugue of voices all repeating an old ars antigua phrase: You’ve-got-to-be-kidding.

Poor fool looks to his muses. Why are they winking? Is that The Messiah he’s hearing or is it Mairzy-Dotes? What happened to the staggering thunderbolt? Why is it spiraling out of whack in a clear blue sky, hiccuping its way to a diminished … giggle?

Poor fool is bewildered; he gives up. Or rather, he gives in because by now he’s having a lot of fun. After all, it was the time of Watergate, and nobody could invent that scenario! I mean it simply wouldn’t play in Peoria. At that point-in-time, that is.

So poor fool plunges along, enjoying himself immensely, vaguely wondering who will sign the commitment papers, figuring his wife will stop them because the oaf does the dishes now and then and makes a damn good martini.

The oeuvre is finally presented and, most gratefully for poor fool, the closeted sound of laughter is heard. Followed by screams of revolt and threats of beyond-salvage termination with extreme-prejudice.

“Not under your name!”

Time mandates change, and change is cleansing.

Now it’s under my name, and I hope you enjoy. I did have a lot of fun.

Robert Ludlum

Connecticut Shore, 1982





A LARGE PART OF THIS STORY TOOK

PLACE A WHILE BACK. AND QUITE A BIT OF IT TOMORROW.

SUCH IS THE POETIC LICENSE OF

LITURGICAL DRAMA.





Part


I


Behind each corporation must be the singular force, or motive, that sets it apart from any other corporate structure and gives it its particular identity.

Shepherd’s Laws of Economics:

Book XXXII, Chapter 12





PROLOGUE


The crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Thousands upon thousands of the faithful waited in hushed anticipation for the pontiff to emerge on the balcony and raise his hands in benediction. The fasting and the prayers were over; the Feast of San Genarro would be ushered in with the pealing of the twilight Angelus echoing throughout the Vatican. And the bells would be heard throughout all Rome, heralding merriment and good feeling. The blessing of Pope Francesco the First would be the signal to begin.

There would be dancing in the streets, and torches and candlelight and music and wine. In the Piazza Navonna, the Trevi, even sections of the Palatine, long tables were heaped with pasta and fruit and all manner of home-produced pastries. For had not this pontiff, the beloved Francesco, given the lesson? Open your hearts and your cupboards to your neighbor. And his to you. Let all men high and low understand that we are one family. In these times of hardship and chaos and high prices, what better way to overcome but to enter into the spirit of the Lord and truly show love for thy neighbor?

For a few days let rancors subside and divisions be healed. Let the word go forth that all men are brothers, all women sisters; and all together brothers and sisters and very much each others’ keepers. For but a few days let charity and grace and concern rule the hearts of everyone, sharing the sweet and the sad, for there is no evil that can withstand the force of good.

Embrace, raise the wine; show laughter and tears and accept one another in expressions of love. Let the world see there is no shame in the exultation of the spirit. And once having touched, having heard the voices of brother and sister, carry forth the sweet memories beyond the Feast of San Genarro, and let life be guided by the principles of Christian benevolence. The earth can be a better place; it is up to the living to make it so. That was the lesson of Francesco I.

A hush fell over the tens of thousands in St. Peter’s Square. Any second now the figure of the beloved Il Papa would walk with strength and dignity and great love onto the balcony and raise his hands in benediction. And for the Angelus to begin.


Within the high-ceilinged Vatican chambers above the square, cardinals, monsignors, and priests talked among themselves in groups, their eyes continuously straying to the figure of the pontiff seated in the corner. The room was resplendent with vivid colors: scarlets, purples, immaculate whites. Robes and cassocks and head pieces—symbols of the highest offices in the Church—swayed and were turned, giving the illusion of a constantly moving fresco.

And in the corner, seated in a wing chair of ivory and blue velvet, was the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francesco I. He was a plain man of wide girth, and the strong yet gentle features of a campagnuolo, a man of the earth. Standing beside him was his personal secretary, a young Black priest from America, from the archdiocese of New York. It was like Francesco to have such a papal aide.

The two were talking quietly, the pontiff turning his enormous head, his huge, soft brown eyes looking up at the young priest in serene composure.

“Mannaggi’!” whispered Francesco, his large peasant hand covering his lips. “This is crazy! The entire city will be drunk for a week! Everyone will be making love in the streets. Are you sure we have it right?”

“I double-checked. Do you want to argue with him?” replied the Black, bending down in tranquil solicitousness.

“My God, no! He was always the smartest one in the villages!”

A cardinal approached the pontiff’s chair and leaned forward. “Holy Father, it is time. The multitudes await you,” he said softly.

“Who—? Yes, of course. In a minute, my good friend.”

The cardinal smiled under his enormous hat; his eyes were filled with adoration. Francesco always called him his good friend. “Thank you, Your Holiness.” The cardinal backed away.

The Vicar of Christ began humming. Then words emerged. “Che gelida … manina … a rigido esanime … ah, la, la-laa—tra-la, la, la-laaa….”

“What are you doing?” The young papal aide from the archdiocese of New York, Harlem district, was visibly upset.

“Rodolfo’s aria. Ah, that Puccini! It helps me to sing when I am nervous.”

“Well, cut it out, man! Or pick a Gregorian chant. At least a litany.”

“I don’t know any. Your Italian’s getting better, but it’s still not so good.”

“I’m trying, brother. You’re not the easiest to learn with. Come on, now. Let’s go. Out to the balcony.”

“Don’t push! I go. Let’s see, I raise the hand, then up and down and right to left—–”

“Left to right!” whispered the priest harshly. “Don’t you listen? If we’re going on with this honkey charade, for God’s sake learn the fundamentals!”

“I thought if I was standing, giving—not taking—I should reverse it.”

“Don’t mess. Just do what’s natural.”

“Then I sing.”

“Not that natural! Come on.”

“All right, all right.” The pontiff rose from his chair and smiled benignly at all in the room. He turned once again to his aide and spoke softly so that none could hear. “In case anyone should ask, which one is San Genarro?”

“Nobody will ask. If someone does, use your standard reply.”

“Ah, yes. ‘Study the scriptures, my son.’ You know, this is all crazy!”

“Walk slowly and stand up straight. And smile, for God’s sake! You’re happy.”

“I’m miserable, you African!”

Pope Francesco I, Vicar of Christ, walked through the enormous doors out onto the balcony to be greeted by a thunderous roar that shook the very foundations of St. Peter’s. Thousands upon thousands of the faithful raised their voices in exultation of the spirit.

“Il Papa! Il Papa! Il Papa!”

And as the Holy Father walked out into the myriad reflections of the orange sun setting in the west, there were many in the chambers who heard the muted strains of the chant emerging from the holy lips. Each believed it had to be some obscure early musical work, unknown to all but the most scholarly. For such was the knowledge of the erudito, Pope Francesco.

“Che … gelida … manina … a rigido esanimeee … ah, la, la-laaa … tra-la, la, la … la-la-laaa …”





CHAPTER ONE


“That son of a bitch!” Brigadier General Arnold Symington brought the paperweight down on the thick layer of glass on his Pentagon desk. The glass shattered; fragments shot through the air in all directions. “He couldn’t!”

“He did, sir,” replied the frightened lieutenant, shielding his eyes from the office shrapnel. “The Chinese are very upset. The premier himself dictated the complaint to the diplomatic mission. They’re running editorials in the Red Star and broadcasting them over Radio Peking.”

“How the hell can they?” Symington removed a piece of glass from his little finger. “What the hell are they saying? ‘We interrupt this program to announce that the American military representative, General MacKenzie Hawkins, shot the balls off a ten-foot jade statue in Son Tai Square’?—Bullshit! Peking wouldn’t allow that; it’s too goddamned undignified.”

“They’re phrasing it a bit differently, sir. They say he destroyed an historic monument of precious stone in the Forbidden City. They say it’s as though someone blew up the Lincoln Memorial.”

“It’s a different kind of statue! Lincoln’s got clothes on; his balls don’t show! It’s not the same!”

“Nevertheless, the White House thinks the parallel is justified, sir. The President wants Hawkins removed. More than removed, actually; he wants him cashiered. Court-martial and all. Publicly.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, that’s out of the question.” Symington leaned back in his chair and breathed deeply, trying to control himself. He reached out for the report on his desk. “We’ll transfer him. With a reprimand. We’ll send transcripts of the—censure, we’ll call it a censure—to Peking.”

“That’s not strong enough, sir. The State Department made it clear. The President concurs. We have trade agreements pending—–”

“For Christ’s sake, Lieutenant!” interrupted the brigadier. “Will someone tell that spinning top in the Oval Office that he can’t have it on all points of the compass! Mac Hawkins was selected. From twenty-seven candidates. I remember exactly what the President said. Exactly. ‘That mother’s perfect!’ That’s what he said.”

“That’s inoperative now, sir. He feels the trade agreements take precedent over prior considerations.” The lieutenant was beginning to perspire.

“You bastards kill me,” said Symington, lowering his voice ominously. “You really frost my apricots. How do you figure to do that? Make it ‘inoperative,’ I mean. Hawkins may be a sharp pain in your diplomatic ass right now, but that doesn’t wash away what was operative. He was a fucking teen-age hero at the Battle of the Bulge and West Point football; and if they gave medals for what he did in Southeast Asia, even Mac Hawkins isn’t strong enough to wear all that hardware! He makes John Wayne look like a pansy! He’s real; that’s why that Oval Yo-yo picked him!”

“I really think the office of the presidency—regardless of what you may think of the man—as commander in chief he—–”

“Horse—shit!” The brigadier general roared again, separating the words in equal emphasis, giving the crudity of his oath the sound of a military cadence. “I’m simply explaining to you—in the strongest terms I know—that you don’t publicly court-martial a MacKenzie Hawkins to satisfy a Peking complaint, no matter how many goddamned trade agreements are floating round. Do you know why, Lieutenant?”

The young officer replied softly, sure of his accuracy. “Because he would make an issue of it. Publicly.”

“Bing-go.” Symington’s comment sprang out in a high-pitched monotone. “The Hawkinses of this country have a constituency, Lieutenant. That’s precisely why our commander in chief picked him! He’s a political palliative. And if you don’t think Mac Hawkins knows it, well—you didn’t have to recruit him. I did.”

“We are prepared for that reaction, General.” The lieutenant’s words were barely audible.

The brigadier leaned forward, careful not to put his elbows in the shattered glass. “I didn’t get that.”

“The State Department anticipated a hard-line counter-thrust. Therefore we must institute an aggressive counterraction to that thrust. The White House regrets the necessity but at this point in time recognizes the crisis quotient.”

“That’s what I thought I was going to get.” Symington’s words were less audible than the lieutenant’s. “Spell it out. How are you going to ream him?”

The lieutenant hesitated. “Forgive me, sir, but the object is not to—ream General Hawkins. We are in a provocatively delicate position. The People’s Republic demands satisfaction. Rightly so; it was a crude, vulgar act on General Hawkins’s part. Yet he refuses to make a public apology.”

Symington looked at the report still in his right hand. “Does it say why in here?”

“General Hawkins claims it was a trap. His statement’s on page three.”

The brigadier flipped to the page and read. The lieutenant drew out a handkerchief and blotted his chin. Symington put down the report carefully on the shattered glass and looked up.

“If what Mac says is true, it was a trap. Broadcast his side of the story.”

“He has no side, General. He was drunk.”

“Mac says drugged. Not drunk, Lieutenant.”

“They were drinking, sir.”

“And he was drugged. I’d guess Hawkins would know the difference. I’ve seen him sweat sour mash.”

“He does not deny the charge, however.”

“He denies the responsibility of his actions. Hawkins was the finest intelligence strategist in Indochina. He’s drugged couriers and pouch men in Cambodia, Laos, both Vietnams, and probably across the Manchurian borders. He knows the goddamned difference.”

“I’m afraid his knowing it doesn’t make any difference, sir. T
1 2 3 ... 32
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment