Someone wants Gabriel Wolfe to suffer,
Just when life deals SAS veteran Gabriel Wolfe a decent hand, his best friend is murdered. And Gabriel’s in the frame for the crime. Struggling to come to terms with her death, he finds his world collapsing around him. The woman calling herself Erin Ayers is rich, powerful, and very, very deadly.
Erin is out for blood. Gabriel’s, mainly. But first she wants to destroy everything – and everyone – he loves. She’s hired an assassin Gabriel last met in Hong Kong to help her.
Nobody is safe from Erin Ayers and her fury. But who is she? Why does she hate Gabriel Wolfe so much? And how can he discover her true identity? The clock is ticking…
A high-octane thriller that never lets up
This break-neck action thriller is the fifth novel in Andy Maslen’s Gabriel Wolfe series.
The story moves from Gabriel’s home in the English countryside to central London, Kazakhstan, Zurich, Venice, Manhattan, upstate New York and Hong Kong.
With a rising body count, and enough military and improvised hardware to start a small war, this story is not for the faint-hearted.
Alongside his fight to defeat his latest enemy, Gabriel must battle his PTSD, which invades his mind at the worst possible moments.
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Release date: June 3, 2017
Publisher: Tyton Press
Print pages: 498
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The woman who called herself Erin Ayers didn’t feel like riding in the back of the white Rolls Royce Phantom this evening. She motioned Guy, the chauffeur, to close the rear coach door, stalked round to the other side of the car, and climbed into the passenger seat.
“How was the dinner, ma’am?” Guy asked as he settled himself beside her and buckled in.
“For a start, you can knock off the ma’am bit. I’m not the fucking queen. You can call me Erin or boss, I don’t care which. And since you ask, it was a fucking train wreck. That smug bitch Simone Berrington told me moneymaking was one thing, but that ‘politics is best left to those who know what we’re doing’.” Erin’s mimicry of the foreign secretary’s Home Counties accent was wickedly accurate, even down to the trace of a lisp her party-appointed speech therapists had all but erased.
“I’m sorry to hear that, M—boss.”
“She even gave me her card in case I ever want to talk about donating to the party.”
“There must be others you could approach.”
“Oh, don’t you worry. Berrington will rue the day she turned me down.”
They cruised through the streets of Mayfair, quiet now evening had fallen.
Erin looked idly out of the window to her left at the artworks and designer dresses displayed in the windows. Suddenly, the Rolls jerked to a stop and Guy swore under his breath as a Lycra-clad cyclist swerved in front of them. The lights ahead changed to red, and they drew alongside the cyclist, who turned out to be a middle-aged, bearded man bearing a hostile scowl. Rather than taking a foot out of his pedal clips, he stretched out his right hand and rested it on the car’s roof.
Erin buzzed her window down and spoke.
“Get your fucking hand off my car, you moron. And while you’re about it, learn some manners.”
The cyclist whipped his head round and down,
and spat into the open window.
“How’s that for manners, you Tory cunt?” he shouted. Then he gave her the finger and jumped the light across to the next quiet stretch of road leading towards Park Lane.
Guy looked sideways at Erin, eyebrows lifted fractionally.
She nodded back. He returned his eyes to the road and once the lights turned to green, accelerated smoothly across the junction, using the full might of the car’s V12 engine to catch the cyclist. He drew level and slowed to match the man’s speed. Then, with a sudden wrench left of the steering wheel, he slammed the two and a half tonnes of car into the cyclist’s right side, crunching man and bike into the side of a removals van, parked for the night.
He pulled into the next available space. Erin got out of the car and walked back towards the fallen cyclist, her high heels clicking on the tarmac. He was unconscious, his legs twisted beneath him at unnatural angles. Two bright shards of bone protruded through the flesh of his right calf muscle, and blood was pooling beneath his head.
She stooped and placed a small rectangular card with a Foreign and Commonwealth Office crest on his fluttering chest, then sauntered back to the Rolls.
“Home, James,” she purred. “And don’t spare the horses. We have to be in Manhattan tomorrow and I haven’t packed.”
A sheet of pale-blue, lined notebook paper swirled high above Central Park’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, snatched by the wind from a home office desk by an open window in the Fifth Avenue penthouse belonging to Erin Ayers. Written in elegant, sloping calligraphy was a partially completed list:
A gust of gritty, fume-laden air rose up from the street and carried the list south. It whirled away, over the spire of St. Paddy’s, then shifted eastwards onto Park Avenue. Caught in a vortex of air moving around the stainless-steel cladding of the Chrysler Building’s terraced crown, it fluttered over and over, traveling southwest towards Mott Street in Chinatown. A downdraft like a cold, wet hand pushed it out of the thermals so that it dropped from the grey sky into a cobbled alley running between a vacant lot and the back of a row of Chinese restaurants. It landed in a puddle of week-old cooking oil. Moments later, a rat darted out from a pile of rotting cabbage stems, sniffed at the paper and, perhaps deciding it would make good nesting material, sank its long, yellow incisors into it and pulled it free from the oil before trotting off to a grating and disappearing. The list had vanished. Its consequences would begin two weeks later.
In the kitchen of a flat in Chiswick, West London, Gabriel Wolfe and Britta Falskog were drinking Pol Roger champagne. She held the flute in her left hand; her right was bandaged.
“So, what’s the special occasion?” Britta asked.
Gabriel raised his glass to his lips, sniffed the stewed apple aroma of the wine and took a brief sip.
“There’s something I want to ask you.”
“What is it? If it’s a trip anywhere except to bed, the answer’s no.”
He smiled and shook his head.
“I want to ask you if you’ll marry me.”
Her blue eyes popped wide with surprise. She put her glass down. Then she turned to face him. His breathing was steady, but as she opened her mouth to speak, his heart was racing. He didn’t bother slowing it.
“It would be tough on our kids, you know,” she said.
It wasn’t either of the answers Gabriel Wolfe had been playing in his mind.
“What?” the ex-SAS Captain asked. “What kids? You’re not …?”
“No, idiot! But can you really see us as a cosy married couple with a couple of, what is it, ankle-biters? Daddy off to kill bad men in Africa for the British government’s black-ops hit squad, Mummy going undercover to defeat a terrorist plot? I mean, it’s not exactly home sweet home, is it?”
Gabriel scratched the back of his head and ruffled his short, black hair into spikes. He had just proposed and somehow hadn’t been expecting a logical analysis of the pros and cons. More fool him for not knowing how the redheaded Swede standing opposite him would react.
“No, I guess not. But we don’t have to have kids.” He noted her eyes flashbulb in surprise, the whites showing all the way round the irises. “Not straight away, anyway. Do we? We could just be … unconventional.”
“Well, for one thing,” Britta drained her champagne and started counting off points on her fingers. She’d picked up the habit from Gabriel, who in turn had adopted the mannerism from his boss at The Department and former CO in the SAS, Don Webster. “Yes, we do have to have kids. Otherwise, what’s the point of getting married? Two, unconventional doesn’t really begin to cover it, does it? Children need stability. You of all people should know that.” Gabriel’s eyes fell, and his mouth compressed into a thin line. “Oh, Jesus, sorry, my darling. I didn’t mean about Michael.”
Michael Wolfe was Gabriel’s younger brother. Had been. Until very recently, Gabriel would have sworn he was an only child. Then a series of events had led him to realise that not only was that untrue, but he had been responsible for his brother’s death, by drowning, when Michael had been just five years old.
“It’s OK,” Gabriel said, then smiled a small, sad smile. “You’re right. Kids need a stable home. Somewhere safe. But couldn’t we provide that? Surely, there’s a way? And why can’t you give an answer to the main question? It’s not the most romantic way to respond to a proposal of marriage.”
She closed the two-foot gap between them and wrapped her arms around his waist. “Okay. Answer time. I can’t think of anything I’d like more. So, yes, please. But,” she added hurriedly as his face broke into a wide grin and his dark-brown eyes crinkled at the corners, “it’s a ‘yes, please’ with conditions.”
“Fine! Tell me. SAS and Swedish Special Forces guard of honour with fixed bayonets? Knife throwing at the reception? Tell me.”
“Give me till the end of the job they’re sending me on next. Just to work out some of the practicalities.”
The gondola seemed like a tourist cliché, but the assassin was happy enough to trail her fingers in the cold water as her muscular gondolier poled them along. She looked up at him. You look good enough to eat, she thought, a smile on her black-cherry lips. He caught her expression and smiled back, puffing his chest out a little further and sucking in his stomach. That’s my boy. Maybe I’ll invite you back to my hotel after we’re through. A buzz on her left hip switched her frame of mind back to business. She had few friends, and those she did have never contacted her on this phone.
She pulled the phone from her pocket and glanced at the display. Unknown caller. Well, this should be interesting. Not one of her regulars.
“Sasha Beck,” she said. Then waited.
“Ms Beck, my name is Erin Ayers. I have a job for you, but I don’t know whether I should come to you or have you flown out to meet me here. I’m in Manhattan.”
Sasha looked up at the gondolier, who had adopted a comically macho pose – all bulging biceps and jutting jaw that almost made her laugh – then turned away from him so that she was facing in the opposite direction. “Well, Mizz Erin Ayers, you’re going a little too fast. If you don’t mind, we’ll slow things down. One, I’m a Miss. Two, nobody flies me anywhere, unless I tell them to. Three, I don’t know you from Adam, or Eve for that matter, and I want to know how you got this number.”
“I’m so sorry, Miss Beck.” The caller’s clipped English accent laid heavy emphasis on the title with unmissable sarcasm, further piquing Sasha’s curiosity. “Let me begin again. I was given your number by a Kazakh gentleman named Timur Kamenko. He spoke very highly of you. And, of course, I should be quite happy to come to you. Wherever that might be. Is that splashing I hear in the background? Are you on the water? Ooh, church bells. And those acoustics – all that stone and water. You must be in a gondola. I do love Venice.”
“Bravo. So you’re a distant relative of Sherlock Holmes, and you know Timur. Meet me at Caffè Florian at eleven o’clock the day after tomorrow.
If you’re late, you won’t find me waiting.”
“Very well. I’ll pack extra euros – my treat.”
Assuming that anyone with the connections necessary to gain access to her business number would also have no problems making the rendezvous or recognising her, Sasha ended the call and smiled hungrily up at her gondolier.
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