Chameleon, p.1William Diehl
STORY MERCHANT BOOKS
Table of Contents
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
"COMBINES TWO PARTS ROBERT LUDLUM
WITH A PINCH OF THE NINJA...
Diehl spares nothing once he gets into gear...
excitement and adventure combine for a slick read!"
"AN EXPLOSIVE BLEND OF SEX, VIOLENCE,
AND THE OLD TRIPLE-CROSS...
A fast-paced and outlandish thriller!"
"ONCE IN A VERY LONG TIME
THERE COMES A BOOK THAT IS A TRUE
MILESTONE IN THE ESPIONAGE GENRE...
Is a complex story of industrial espionage
with violence as exciting and sex as titilating
as any I have ever read...
will keep you on the edge of your chair!"
"A MAVERICK OF A BOOK,
PROBABLY BECAUSE WILLIAM DIEHL
IS A MAVERICK OF AN AUTHOR...
There's little danger of any reader
putting the book aside before it's over."
The Cincinnati Inquirer
'A SUPERBLY SLICK WRITER...
HARD TO PUT DOWN."
"ONE OF THE MOST
ABSORBING SUSPENSE NOVELS
TO COME ALONG IN MANY A YEAR!"
A SIZZLING ENTERTAINMENT!"
"HAS GONE FROM LITERARY CONTENDER
TO CHAMPION OF HIS DIVISION!"
New York Daily News
"A MASTERPIECE OF MENACE...
A ROLLER-COASTER RIDE...
THE NARRATIVE GALLOPS ALONG
AT A HEADLONG PACE,
AND NO PAGE IS WITHOUT ITS PROD
TO TURN TO THE NEXT!"
John Barkham Reviews
Copyright © 2012 by the Estate of William Diehl. All rights reserved.
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 the express written permission of the author.
Story Merchant Books
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And the poetry of her spirit
To Mom and Dad, Cathy and John, Stan, Bill and Melissa.
To Temple and little Katie.
To Michael and Marilyn, Michael and Mardi, Irving and
Sylvia, Carole, Don and Rose, David, Mitch and Cobray,
DeSales, Bobby Byrd, Missy, Joel, Ira and DeeDee, Peter
and Cathy, and Betty and Dr. Sam Gray.
To George, Eddie, James, Chuck, Paul, and the News
department of Channel Five, Atlanta.
To Betsy Nolan, Tommy, Ed, Sidney Sheldon and Burt.
To Marc Jaffe and Random House, and Nat Lefkowitz
and William Morris.
To an inspiring editor, Peter Gethers.
A wondrous agent, Owen Laster.
And finally in loving memory of the old bear, Townsend:
So long, Stromboli, wherever you may be.
History is an account,
which are brought about by rulers,
HE HAD BEEN WATCHING her for almost an hour. She was absolutely stunning as she moved gracefully through Bloomingdale's, carefully pondering each gift before buying it, then checking it off her list before moving on to the next department. An elegant and exotic creature, tallish, trim, chic, wonderfully stylish in black Jordache jeans, Lucchese cowboy boots, a pale-blue silk blouse and a poplin jacket lined with rabbit fur.
The clincher was the hat, a black derby, cocked almost arrogantly over one almond-shaped eye with just a grace of black veil covering her face.
He moved with her, a counter or two away, fifty feet or so behind her. She methodically did the store. Her shopping bag was full by the time she reached the first floor, and as she stepped off the escalator, suddenly picking up speed, heading toward the Lexington Avenue entrance. In a few more moments she would be outside. And that would be that. If he was going to make a move, now was the time.
He slipped into his leather coat as he hurried along a row of blinking Christmas trees, past a red and white banner that said: "Merry Christmas, from all your friends at Bloomingdale's" (and under it, a commercial prod: "only 4 more shopping days left"), down the stairs from the mezzanine and below a balcony where a group of timid high school carolers were almost whispering their version of "The Little Drummer Boy." Then he almost lost her. An army of resolute shoppers, fleeing before the wind and wet snow, charged through the revolving doors, forging relentlessly into the store. He was a temporary victim, caught up in the momentum of the rude assault.
He side-stepped and angled his way through the mob, shouldered his way free, lurched forward, and almost ran into her. They were face to face, almost touching, and then, just as suddenly they were apart again. Her move away from him was so graceful he sensed rather than saw it. Before he could apologize, she recovered her composure and quickly appraised him. An older man, forty-five or so, and handsome, although his face was beginning to show the strains of the good life and his brown hair was peppered with gray. His dress was impeccable: tweed jacket, slate-brown wool slacks, a wide-striped shirt and Cardin tie.
He stared straight back at her, smiled, motioned her into the door and gave it a shove when she entered the glass triangle. Was she Oriental? Polynesian?
Outside, cold wet snowflakes raked Lexington Avenue, dancing over the subway grates before the harsh crosstown wind swirled them up Fifty-ninth Street. They flagged the same cab, dodged the same shower of slush as it pulled up, and since most of the cabs had either vanished or gone to lunch at the first sign of bad weather, they decided to share it.
That was the start of it.
He suggested a drink. She stared at him for a moment from under the rakish brim of the derby and, to his surprise, nodded. They stopped at the Pierre and she played it just right. One drink and she was gone. While he was paying the bill, the maître d' came to the table and handed him a note. Her phone number was scribbled across the slip of paper.
They had lunch the next day at La Côte Basque, spent part of the afternoon browsing through a new exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, had a drink at Charley O's and went ice-skating at Rockefeller Plaza. She went home to change and met him later at the Four Seasons for dinner. She was wearing a severe black suit with a white silk Victorian blouse trimmed in Irish lace, its high collar tucked just under her chin and always a hat, its veil adding a constant touch of mystery. She said very little, and when she did speak, the conversation was impersonal. As it often goes with fledgling love affairs, they skirted personal questions, keeping the mystery alive as long as possible. After dinner, caught up in the spirit of the season, they listened to the Christmas carolers in front of Rockefeller Plaza and they window-shopped along Fifth Avenue.
It began to snow again but the wind had died down and the thick powder began to drift on the sidewalk. Several cabs went by with their "Off Duty" lights on. Then the street was bare except for an errant carriage that had strayed several blocks from the Plaza at Central Park, its horse clopping forlornly through the snow while the driver, a young woman wearing a stovepipe hat with a silk rose in the band, huddled under a blanket. He flagged her down, in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and she agreed to take them to Sixty-third Street.
They huddled under a warm blanket too, and he put his arm around her, drawing her to him, moving her face up toward his with a gentle nudge from the back of his hand and she, responding, kissed him very lightly, the tip of her tongue tracing the edge of his lower lip. They kissed again. And then again, exploring each other's faces with their fingertips, their tongues flirting, back and forth.
Fifth Avenue was empty when they got to her apartment. The wind had blown itself out and the snow was falling almost straight down, filling the ruts in the street. A gentle hush had settled over everything. He gave the driver three ten-dollar bills, jumped out of the cab and gallantly swept his lady out over the soggy curb and under the apartment awning, and she took his hand and led him into the lobby. Behind them, the crack of the young woman's whip was swallowed up by the snowdrifts. When they entered her apartment she immediately excused herself and went into the bedroom.
Her apartment, which was on the fourth floor overlooking the Park, was a small but tastefully decorated one-bedroom flat with an open fireplace in the living room. But there was something missing, and it was a few moments before he realized there were no personal effects in the room. No pictures, no mementos. It was almost as if the room were a showcase in a department store.
He stood and appraised the apartment for another moment or two, then stepped into the guest bath and closed the door. He lowered his pants. A leather belt was strapped high on his left thigh with a sheath on the inside of his leg. The handle protruding from the sheath had been planed until it was flat and narrow, and then it had been grooved out to fit his fingers. He wrapped them around the handle and drew out a wood chisel, the kind used by sculptors. He inspected it. The curled edges of its gutterlike shaft gleamed with evil promise. The blade had been cut off about five inches from the handle and honed to a needle point. He tested the point with a forefinger, barely touching it before it broke the skin. He sucked a bauble of blood from his fingertip, pulled his pants back up, and reached around his back, slipped the awl into his belt. He checked himself out in the mirror and returned to the living room.
A radio was playing softly in the bedroom. She called to him and he went in. The lights were out, the only illumination coming from a half-dozen candles flickering in the room. She was seated in the middle of the bed, leaning forward with her head lowered, her long black hair cascading down almost to her lap, a lacy gown thrown over her shoulders. He squinted his eyes, trying to make out details in the dark room.
No mirrors behind him.
Approaching the bed, he slipped off his jacket and threw it over a chair, unbuttoned his shirt and started to pull out his shirttail, moving his hands around his belt, freeing the shirt.
As his hands moved around to his back, she sat up abruptly and shrugged her shoulders. The gauze gown fell away. The sight startled him and he hesitated for an instant and as he did, she swung her right arm up and held it straight out in front of her.
She moved so fast that he didn't see the gun, only the brilliant flash from the muzzle, and he felt the awful blast of heat on his face a moment before the bullet blew his brains out.
As Colin Bradley fell, he gasped a single, final word:
Murder may be done by legal means, by plausible and profitable war, and by calumny, as well as by dose or dagger.
IT WAS STILL DARK when Marza awoke—that last minute or two before dawn when the sun was still caught behind the church spire out on Venezia and the first sanguine fingers of the day stretched out between the buildings and reached across the lagoon toward them. His wife lay beside him, asleep on her side, her flaming red hair fanned out on the yellow satin pillowcase, and for several minutes, his eyes half open, he admired her as she slept.
Hey, Marza, you lucky bastard, he thought. You have it all and this time it is all working. It is a good time for you, the best time of your life.
His eyes caught a glimpse of the silk nightgown lying on the floor where she had thrown it the night before, and he laughed very quietly to himself. They had been married for ten years, and she still surprised and delighted him with her recklessness in bed. Milena de la Rovere, the tempestuous actress, the red-headed tigress who had driven every director in Europe and Hollywood crazy, yet with him, after ten years, she was still his temptress and his lover.
Looking at the tattered nightgown, he remembered her kneeling over him on the bed, yelling raucously, at the top of her lungs, all the English "feelthy words" he had taught her, and then popping the thread-thin straps at her shoulders and pulling the champagne silk gown down slowly, painfully slowly, over her breasts, until finally they could be held no longer and burst free, the nipples erect and waiting for him as she continued taunting him, patiently wiggling out of the gown and letting it drop around her knees, swinging one leg free and straddling him with it, then tearing the gown from the other leg and throwing it carelessly across the room.
"Three hundred thousand lire," he had bellowed, laughing, "and she treats it like a Holiday Inn towel!"
"The sheet Holeeday Eenn," she yelled back and started to laugh too. Then she leaned over Marza, and taking one of his nipples between her teeth, she began to move very slowly around, and he felt it get erect in her mouth before she began to suck it and then she looked at him.
"Va bene?" she asked mischievously.
"Molto bene ..."
She slowly ran her tongue from his nipple down to his navel, ringing it with her tongue. "E permesso ... ?"
It was a whisper, and she concentrated on his stomach while awaiting the answer.
Marza groaned and then said, almost as quietly, "Don't mention it."
He lay on his back and smiled at her for a long time, feeling the tips of her fingernails, as light as butterfly wings, stroking his abdomen. Then her tongue, just as vague, a sense rather tha
"Il tempo si è fermato per me"—"A small death," he breathed. "Time has stopped for me."
And she answered, muffled, "Time does not exist."
And then there was no more talking, and finally, when he felt he was about to explode, he slid down, pulling her up toward him as he did, and he ran his hand lightly down her stomach, felt her hair, then he squeezed her between two fingers and began moving his hand in slow circles and then both of them were moving and she was stroking him, still, drawing him closer and closer to her until he felt her fire envelope him. Her arms slid around his back and clutched him and as he was about to burst inside of her he chanted, over and over, "I give it up ... give it up ... give it up ..." and finally, "I love you."
When they were married, the international gossips had given them a few months, a year at best. She was twenty and had been one of Italy's brightest movie stars since she was seventeen. Marza was thirty-eight and was making a comeback. He had just won his third race in a row after having been written off as a washout by most of the sports writers and sponsors in the business. For three years he had been considered unbankable, a failed driver at thirty-five.
Then Noviliano, the great automobile maker, had come to him and offered him a fresh shot. A new car, experimental, temperamental, but insanely fast and stable. "It needs a man of experience," Noviliano told him. "I cannot trust this machine to some youngster."
Chameleon by William Diehl / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes