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Edge Excerpt

June 2004

The Rules of Play

The man who wanted to kill the young woman sitting beside me was three-quarters of a mile behind us, as we drove through a pastoral setting of tobacco and cotton fields, this humid morning.

A glance in the rearview mirror revealed a sliver of car, moving at a comfortable pace with the traffic, piloted by a man who by all appearances seemed hardly different from any one of a hundred drivers on this recently resurfaced divided highway.

“Officer Fallow?” Alissa began. Then, as I’d been urging her for the past week: “Abe?”

“Yes.”

“Is he still there?” She’d seen my gaze.

“Yes. And so’s our tail,” I added for reassurance. My protégé was behind the killer, two or three car lengths. And he was not the only person from our organization on the job.

“Okay,” Alissa whispered. The woman, in her mid-thirties, was a whistle-blower against a government contractor that did a lot of work for the army. The company was adamant that it had done nothing wrong and claimed it welcomed an investigation. But there’d been an attempt on Alissa’s life a week ago and — since I’d been in the army with one of the senior commanders at Bragg — Defense had called me in to guard her. As head of the organization I don’t do much fieldwork any longer but I was glad to get out, to tell the truth. My typical day was ten hours at my desk in our Alexandria office. And in the past month, it had been closer to twelve or fourteen, as we coordinated the protection of five high-level organized crime informants, before handing them over to Witness Protection for their face-lifts.

It was good to be back in the saddle, if only for a week or so.

I hit a speed dial button, calling my protégé.

“It’s Abe,” I said into my hands-free. “Where is he now?”

“Make it a half mile. Moving up slowly.”

The hitter, whose identity we didn’t know, was in a nondescript Hyundai sedan, gray.

I was following an eighteen-foot truck, with Carolina Poultry Processing Company painted on the side. It was empty and being driven by one of our transport people. In front of that was a car identical to the one I was driving.

“We’ve got a two miles till the swap,” I said.

Four voices acknowledged this, over four very encrypted com devices.

I disconnected.

Without looking at her, I said to Alissa, “It’s going to be fine.”

“I just . . . ” she said in a whisper. “I don’t know.” She fell silent and stared into the sideview mirror as if the man who wanted to kill her were right behind us.

“It’s all going just like we planned.”

When innocent people find themselves in situations that require the presence and protection of people like me, their reaction more often than not is as much bewilderment as fear. Mortality is tough to process.

But keeping people safe, keeping people alive, is a business like any other. I frequently told this to my protégé and the others in the office, probably irritating them to no end with both the repetition and the stodgy tone. But I kept on saying it because you can’t forget, ever. It’s a business, with rigid procedures that we study the way surgeons learn to slice flesh precisely and pilots learn to keep tons of metal safely aloft. These techniques have been honed over the years and they worked.

Business . . .

Of course, it was also true that the hitter who was behind us at the moment, intent on killing the woman next to me, treated his job as a business too. I knew this sure as steel. He was just as serious as I was, had studied procedures as diligently as I had, was smart, IQ-wise and street, and he had advantages over me: His rules were unencumbered by my constraints — the Constitution and the laws promulgated there under.

Still, I believe there is an advantage in being in the right. In all my years of doing this work I’d never lost a principal. And I wasn’t going to lose Alissa.

XO Reviews

“Deaver’s infernal puzzle mysteries invariably inspire words like devious, diabolical, and devilish, all of which apply to XO. It’s Dance’s toughest case, and one of Deaver’s best books.”
— New York Times

“Deaver’s excellent third novel featuring Kathryn Dance…. Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs, the leads of Deaver’s other series, make cameo appearances in a novel sure to please fans of both series.”
— Publishers Weekly, * Starred Review

Fans of Deaver’s celebrated sleuthing marathons will wait with bated breath as this onion is peeled to disclose multiple layers of deception, betrayal and triple crosses.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“Written with Deaver’s usual keen eye for dialogue and character and featuring his customary right-angle plot twists, the novel will be a sure-fire hit with not only his legion of fans but also with readers who have yet to sample a Deaver novel. And Deaver fans who have felt that the Dance novels aren’t quite as sharp as his Lincoln Rhyme series might have to think again. This may be the most compelling of the Dance books.”
— Booklist

“Deaver is a master of manipulation. “XO” delivers more twists than a bag of pretzels, and just when readers believe they have everything figured out, another surprise awaits them. Fans of Deaver’s other series featuring paraplegic Lincoln Rhyme will be excited to see him make a cameo appearance.”
— Jeff Ayers, Associated Press

“In his new thriller, “XO,” Jeffery Deaver gives his readers triple or quadruple their money, with more twists, turns, and doglegs than an East Tennessee back road.”
— Knoxville News Sentinel

The Bond Books

Over 100 million Bond books have been sold and over half the world’s population has seen a Bond film!

Ian Fleming wrote 14 James Bond books: Casino Royale (1953); Live and Let Die (1954); Moonraker (1955); Diamonds Are Forever (1956); From Russia with Love (1957); Dr. No (1958); Goldfinger (1959);  For your Eyes Only (1960); Thunderball (1961); The Spy Who Loved Me (1962); On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963); You Only Live Twice (1964); The Man With The Golden Gun (1965) and Octopussy and the Living Daylights (1966)

Fleming’s other works include the children’s favourite, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1964), which was made into a film and stage musical, The Diamond Smugglers (1957) and a collection of travel writings called Thrilling Cities (1963)

The Ian Fleming centenary was celebrated on 28th May 2008 with the publication of Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks. This publication formed the centrepiece to a year of celebrations which included a star-studded gala at the London Palladium, a BBC documentary presented by Joanna Lumley, an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum and a charity golf tournament held in aid of the British Heart Foundation

Charlie Higson is author of the Young Bond books which are published by Puffin

Samantha Weinberg, writing as Kate Westbrook, is the author of the Moneypenny Diaries

Other previous authors of official James Bond novels include Kingsley Amis, John Gardner and Raymond Benson

Read all about James Bond at IanFleming.com.

Carte Blanche Excerpt

Sunday
The Red Danube

Chapter 1

His hand on the dead-man throttle, the driver of the Serbian Rail diesel felt the thrill he always did on this particular stretch of railway, heading north from Belgrade and approaching Novi Sad.

This was the route of the famed Arlberg Orient Express, which ran from Greece through Belgrade and points north from the 1930s until the 1960s. Of course, he was not piloting a glistening Pacific 231 steam locomotive towing elegant mahogany-and-brass dining cars, suites and sleepers, where passengers floated upon vapors of luxury and anticipation. He commanded a battered old thing from America that tugged behind it a string of more or less dependable rolling stock packed snugly with mundane cargo.

But still he felt the thrill of history in every vista that the journey offered, especially as they approached the river, his river.

And yet he was ill at ease.

Among the wagons bound for Budapest, containing coal, scrap metal, consumer products and timber, there was one that worried him greatly. It was loaded with drums of MIC — methyl isocyanate — to be used in Hungary in the manufacture of rubber.

The driver — a round, balding man in a well-worn cap and stained overalls — had been briefed at length about this deadly chemical by his supervisor and some idiot from the Serbian Safety and Well-being Transportation Oversight Ministry. Some years ago this substance had killed eight thousand people in Bhopal, India, within a few days of leaking from a manufacturing plant there.

He’d acknowledged the danger his cargo presented but, a veteran railway man and union member, he’d asked, “What does that mean for the journey to Budapest . . . specifically?”

The boss and the bureaucrat had regarded each other with the eyes of officialdom and, after a pause, settled for “Just be very careful.”

The lights of Novi Sad, Serbia’s second-largest city, began to coalesce in the distance, and ahead in the encroaching evening the Danube appeared as a pale stripe. In history and in music the river was celebrated. In reality it was brown, undramatic and home to barges and tankers, not candlelit vessels filled with lovers and Viennese orchestras — or not here, at least. Still, it was the Danube, an icon of Balkan pride, and the railway man’s chest always swelled as he took his train over the bridge.

His river . . .

He peered through the speckled windscreen and inspected the track before him in the headlight of the General Electric diesel. Nothing to be concerned about.

There were eight notch positions on the throttle, number one being the lowest. He was presently at five and he eased back to three to slow the train as it entered a series of turns. The 4,000-horsepower engine grew softer as it cut back the voltage to the traction motors.

As the cars entered the straight section to the bridge the driver shifted up to notch five again and then six. The engine pulsed louder and faster and there came a series of sharp clangs from behind. The sound was, the driver knew, simply the couplings between wagons protesting at the change in speed, a minor cacophony he’d heard a thousand times in his job. But his imagination told him the noise was the metal containers of the deadly chemical in car number three, jostling against one another, at risk of spewing forth their poison.

Nonsense, he told himself and concentrated on keeping the speed steady. Then, for no reason at all, except that it made him feel better, he tugged at the air horn.

 

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