USA Today bestselling author Ward Larsen's Assassin's Run revives globe-trotting, hard-hitting assassin David Slaton for another breathless espionage adventure.
When a Russian oligarch is killed by a single bullet on his yacht off the Isle of Capri, Russian intelligence sources speculate that a legendary Israeli assassin, long thought dead, might be responsible. However, David Slaton—the assassin in question—is innocent. Realizing the only way to clear his name is to find out who’s truly responsible, he travels to Capri.
While he searches, a web of disparate events unfolds across the Middle East. Three ships, owned by the group of Russians, deliver a mysterious cargo to the shores of the Arabian Peninsula. In Morocco, a Russian aerospace company begins flight testing an innovative new drone.
From Switzerland to the Red Sea to Morocco, Slaton gradually uncovers a conspiracy of monumental scope. It is a plot that will change the world strategic order—and one that goes straight to the top of the Russian government.
David Slaton Novels
#1 Assassin's Game
#2 Assassin's Silence
#3 Assassin's Code
#4 Assassin's Run
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
Release date: August 21, 2018
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Print pages: 384
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It was just as well Pyotr Ivanovic didn’t realize he was about to die. As a man who comprehensively enjoyed a good meal, his last on this earth would be free of any misgivings regarding his soon-to-be-issued digestif.
He glanced out the starboard window at a night-shrouded sea, the occasional breaker highlighted in dim moonlight. Lovely as the panorama was, it was far less compelling than what rested before him on the white-linened table. His new chef had outdone himself tonight. The steak before Ivanovic was a choice cut, thirty ounces of grain-fed beef flown in from Australia and seared to perfection. Against that, the potatoes Lyonnais were but an afterthought, the haricots verts no more than garnish. The bottle of Bordeaux, he allowed, did the steak justice, one of the best from his extensive shipboard collection. Thankfully, the new man had learned quickly. Ivanovic did not count calories. He courted them openly, throwing himself upon the culinary altar of any chef who could do them well. Tonight’s meal, as it turned out, was more special than most. It was a celebration of sorts, marking the beginning of the most ambitious undertaking of his career.
Which made it very ambitious indeed.
The head of his security detail came through the salon door, bringing a gust of wind with him. October had arrived full force on the Tyrrhenian Sea, the opening volley of winter’s campaign. Ivanovic looked up in annoyance, but he knew there was no use in berating the man—that was life at sea.
The ship was called Cassandra—ship because no vessel 190 feet long could be referred to as a boat, and Cassandra as a prod at his late mother. He still laughed inwardly at that: the ship had already been around the world once, while her namesake, as far as he knew, had never in her life traveled more than ten miles from the miserable Ukrainian village in which she’d been born.
The yacht had been built to his demanding specifications by a man who, if not the finest marine architect in Greece, was certainly the most expensive. The mahogany planking beneath his feet was inlaid with gold trim, and every fitting and furnishing was of the highest quality. Marble floors and columns predominated, so much weight that the poor architect had warned the boat might capsize. Another three million had allayed the man’s worries, something to do with stabilizers and ballast to keep the ship upright, and causing Ivanovic to jest that her keel had been laid not in lead but gold. Ultimately, however, he had what he wanted—not a refuge for the odd vacation, but rather a stage, a platform from which all manner of business and pleasure might be consummated.
His thickset security chief padded across the salon. He was dressed in his usual ill-fitting suit, and his only visible accessory—sourced not from Gucci or Hermès, but rather Beretta—bulged obviously beneath a wrinkled lapel. The man handed over a communications printout. “This just arrived,” he said in Russian.
Ivanovic took a ten-page printout in hand and removed his reading glasses from a pocket. “Is the loading complete?” he asked.
“Yes. The ship will sail shortly after midnight from Sebastopol.”
Ivanovic skimmed the report, which contained an official manifest purporting what was being carried and where it was being taken. He chuckled at the creativity involved, and with some effort extracted the few truths. The destination was listed as Mumbai, which covered things nicely. Argos, a ship his new subsidiary had acquired only last month, was to leave Crimea for the Black Sea, then run a gentle slalom through the Bosporus Straits, followed by a left turn into open water. There she would disappear into the Mediterranean’s river of commerce.
“Bring me any new updates,” Ivanovic said dismissively.
His security man disappeared and he readdressed his steak, his eyes still scanning the paperwork page by page. He was remorseless in his attack, his hands sawing hunks of flesh and plugging them into his mouth. At the other end of the twelve-foot table a young woman sat ignored, but that was nothing new. It had long been Ivanovic’s custom to work through dinner—he’d always felt he was at his best behind a good meal, his senses at their most heightened.
“You are not eating,” he said distractedly, his eyes pinned on a cargo manifest.
Ursula, the new blonde from a tiny village in Siberia, twirled her fork through a salad.
“It is too much for me,” she replied.
He measured a lewd reply, but the sport of it escaped him. He was already growing tired of this one. She was young and rail thin, eyes as blue and empty as a cloudless midday sky. She’d spent the day shopping on the island of Capri, now three miles off the starboard beam. Ivanovic had no doubt she’d spent every dollar of the ten thousand he’d allotted. What had to be a new dress clung like shrink wrap, and the bracelet flopping on one of her wrists looked like a diamond-studded handcuff.
“When will we leave for Saint-Tropez?” she asked.
Ivanovic ignored the question, sensing a bit of negotiating capital for later use in his suite.
He finished his steak, and with barely a pause the cook appeared with a massive crème brûlée in one hand and a torch in the other. In a flourish of culinary stagecraft, the cook lit his flame and soon had the topping caramelized into a crust that looked positively volcanic.
Ten minutes later, his great belly full, Ivanovic stepped out onto the wide aft deck, which doubled as a helipad, and prepared his customary cigar. Fighting a brisk wind, he managed to light it, and stood in survey of his surroundings. In the distance Capri rose from the sea, and a string of amber to the east outlined the Amalfi Coast.
Earlier today, viewing the harbor of Capri, he’d seen one other ship in Cassandra’s league. Ivanovic had checked the ship’s registry, and was surprised to find that it wasn’t owned by a Russian, but rather a Greek. Probably that bastard marine architect, he mused. Twenty years ago it would have been a Saudi, before that a Brit. Today, however, across the Med, the competition was largely between the oligarchs. Men who wore their wealth as a badge in the face of invariably humble beginnings.
Ivanovic himself was a case in point. The son of a Ukrainian pig farmer, he had always known he was destined for more than his muck-booted elder. How much more had surprised even him. He’d walked out of the foothills of the Carpathians at fifteen, and within two years found himself in Moscow doing small favors for third-tier mobsters. In time, the grade of both his dealings and the crooks he associated with rose in parallel. And now the bar had risen one last time. To a point that could go no higher.
He heard footsteps behind him, and turned to see his security man again.
“Is there something new?” Ivanovic asked.
“No sir. I just wanted to mention … I think it might be safer inside.”
“You worry too much.”
The security man, whose name was Pavel, and who was the closest thing Ivanovic had to a friend, nearly said something. Instead he stood down.
Ivanovic said, “They tell me Abramovich’s new ship will be nearly a hundred meters.”
Pavel shrugged. “I wouldn’t know.”
“A hundred meters. That’s a very round number—someone should do it.”
Pavel eyed Ivanovic’s cigar, clearly calculating how much longer it had to burn. Ivanovic went to the starboard rail as a wayward cloud blotted out the moon. He pulled a long draw on his Cohiba, then flicked a bit of ash into the wind-driven water below.
* * *
From a distance, the sinewy young man looking through his scope saw a fragment of white-hot ash flutter down to the sea. The burning cigar itself was bright, like a beacon atop the rotund lighthouse that was Pyotr Ivanovic. He saw another man on deck, yet had no trouble distinguishing which of the two to target. The Ukrainian stood out in any crowd, his height and girth at the limits of human potential.
The shooter was still getting used to the new scope, a synthetic hybrid of optical and infrared imagery, and he was pleasantly surprised. Technology in armaments had never been a Russian strength—manufacturers there had long leaned toward simplicity and robustness. The picture before him was unusually sharp, if a bit undermagnified.
The story behind his equipment had been explained to him by a pair of engineers, this in itself a departure from long-held practices. They told him the scope was not a Russian design, but had in fact been “acquired” from America’s leading edge research facility, the Sandia National Laboratories. This was nothing new. Russia had long ago stopped trying to keep pace with the West, realizing it was far more economical to let them do the expensive research, development, and testing, then simply steal the results. It had been going on for decades, going back to the Cold War. In those heady days, virtually every new American airplane was followed within a few years by a curiously similar Soviet twin. A time lag had been unavoidable then, Soviet developers forced to work largely from photographs, which necessitated considerable guesswork and reverse engineering. Now the internet age had simplified things greatly—today Russia simply hacked into computers and filched proven blueprints, shortening the “time to shelf” considerably.
The assassin checked the scope’s calibration one last time, then verified the synchronization. It was the first time he’d used this system in the field—even his practice had been limited to tightly controlled simulations. The rifle was at least familiar, which gave a degree of confidence. Best of all, his level of personal risk on this mission was less than on any he’d ever undertaken.
A gust of wind brushed the shooter’s cheek. On any other day it would have got his attention, but tonight he ignored it entirely. His finger began to press the trigger and his breathing slowed, the habits of eight years taking hold. It couldn’t hurt. Finally, in what could only be termed a playful impulse, he jerked his finger through the final half inch of travel.
The big gun answered, bucking once and belching a tongue of flame. All as expected. The bulky suppressor helped, but there was no dampening the supersonic round. The killer resettled the scope for what seemed an interminable amount of time. He was almost ready to admit a miss when Ivanovic jerked violently.
He saw the Russian’s head slam forward on a neck carrying its last neural transmissions to the limbs below. His massive body seemed to hesitate for a moment, like a felled tree deciding which way to drop. Then he cartwheeled over the ship’s rail and into the sea.
The splash was momentous.
It was all the confirmation the killer needed. Job done, he tidied up his gear, surveyed carefully his course of egress, and blended into the night.
Copyright © 2018 by Ward Larsen
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