A killer proves he can penetrate the world’s finest security systems, and an undercover op must come out of retirement before the President enters the crosshairs
$25,000 a week buys an impressive security system, and America’s billionaires have the best they can get. Round-the-clock guards, electrified fences, and bulletproof glass protect their mansions—but they are no longer enough. Three of the nation’s most powerful businessmen have died in seemingly impossible ways: one electrocuted, one blown up in his sleep, and the third hacked to death in an impenetrable room. The security service chief contacts an old special-forces colleague, Jared Kimberlain, who quit the life when he lost his taste for clandestine ops. He’s spent the last years trying to undo the wrongs he did when he lived without a conscience. Kimberlain doesn’t care about the troubles of billionaires, but their security was as good the President’s—and he could be next. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Jon Land including rare photos from the author’s personal collection.
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The Eighth Trumpet
By Jon Land
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1989 Jon Land
All rights reserved.
"GATE, THIS IS CENTRAL. Convoy is approaching."
"Roger that, Central. I can see their headlights."
At the central monitoring station in the mansion's front foyer, Nelson leaned closer to one of the three screens that provided a complete view of Ridgepoint Circle, the only access road to the Lime estate. He could see the limousine clearly now, squeezed between a pair of trailing cars and single leading one. His earpiece filled with the heavy wop-wop-wop of a helicopter an instant before a new voice came over it.
"Central, this is Sky Chief. All clear to the rear."
"That you, Nellie? What's up, pulling a double shift?"
"Other guy called in sick. Just call me lucky."
"I'll think of you when I'm home and warm."
Nelson sneered, and his eyes turned to the view from the front gate camera, which was just now picking up the limousine's approach. Under close observation from the chopper, the convoy's journey from midtown Manhattan into the wooded heart of northern Greenwich, Connecticut had proved uneventful. Nelson had planned to be home in bed himself by now until orders came down assigning him to spend the night with a bank of twenty closed-circuit monitoring screens.
One thing about high-tech security, Nelson reckoned, after watching a pair of armed guards usher Jordan Lime through the foyer and up the spiral staircase, was that it totally removed anything even remotely resembling privacy. Hell, three of the twenty screens before him broadcast views of the man's bedroom. The billionaire couldn't even take a shit without being eyeballed the whole way.
Of the remaining cameras, four provided pictures of other areas within the mansion while ten tirelessly watched the grounds beyond. In addition to the standard lens, each of the cameras was equipped with an infrared optic nerve that received signals from transmitters worn by the dozen guards who patrolled at all times. That way, if an intruder managed to somehow bypass the eight-foot-high electrified fence that enclosed the estate, the camera would trigger an alarm and proceed to follow his path, automatically passing him on to the next camera when the grid changed. There was no room for human error. Amazing what $25,000 a day could buy you.
Nelson sat before the monitoring board and watched Jordan Lime make his way to his third-floor bedroom. Two guards followed close behind. The stairway camera had given way to the one mounted on the corridor, and Nelson focused on another pair of Pro-Tech guards standing outside the electronically sealed chambers. Lime approached, greeted them, and inserted a flat, square pad into the slot tailored for it. There was a click, and the door parted from its seal. Once Lime was inside, the door could be opened again only by him or by the monitor on duty—in this case, Nelson—who possessed the sole other access card. This was to protect clients against the possibility their enemies would retain Pro-Tech's own personnel to do away with them. Human greed had been programmed out, along with human error.
On the screen that broadcast the picture from inside the bedroom, Nelson watched Lime toss his tuxedo jacket onto the back of a Chippendale chair halfway to the bay windows. He crossed toward the bathroom, passing the fireplace on the way. On the chance that a killer might choose this as a route for entry, an electrified field had been set up along the outer entrance to the chimney. It would stun an intruder senseless while simultaneously setting off an alarm. And on the chance that this and other precautions were rendered void by a power failure, a generator capable of running all systems with no decline in service had been installed in the basement.
Nelson settled back in his chair for what promised to be a very boring night.
He tried to keep his eyes off Lime as the billionaire went about his nighttime rituals in the bathroom, feeling he was invading the man's privacy. But that was what Pro-Tech was being paid $25,000 a day for, so he made himself watch at least sporadically, his eyes otherwise occupied with the screens that covered the grounds. He paid particular attention to the gardens, which contained the likeliest possible hiding places.
Lime, now clothed in satin pajamas, turned off the bathroom lights and padded softly across the luxurious Oriental carpet. Before climbing into bed, he slid his bay windows open and hit a switch that sent a set of glass curtains, bulletproof as well as electrified, into place before them, so his penchant for fresh air could not lead to his overnight demise. From his bed seconds later, Lime flicked a switch above the headboard which plunged the room into a darkness impenetrable to all but infrared cameras. Nelson watched as Jordan Lime began the slide toward totally protected sleep.
The next hour passed innocently, as Nelson tried not to nod off. The earpiece that relayed sounds from Lime's bedroom broadcast only snoring. What Nelson really wanted was to be home in his own bed enjoying a similar repose—minus the cameras.
Suddenly Nelson's earpiece registered the sound of glass breaking. Shocked wide awake, he leaned toward the screens. The pair of cameras sweeping Lime's bedroom had stopped. In the next instant their screens on the monitoring board filled with garbled interference.
"What the hell "
He was about to call up to the guards at Lime's door when screams filled his right ear. Two tours in Nam, and he had never heard anything like this high-pitched wailing that curdled the blood in his veins. Through the ragged interference, Nelson made out something splashing against one of the camera lenses.
He was out of his chair by then, striking the panic button before him with a trembling hand. A piercing shrill split the quiet of the night, but Nelson's right ear was still locked on the screaming coming from Lime's bedroom, screaming that now gave way to rasps and gurgling, along with the harsh sound of something being torn. All this came through his transistorized earpiece while he hurdled up the stairs, joined by guards converging from all angles. Logic told him whatever was happening in the bedroom was impossible. Lime was safe and alive, and all this was a terrible mistake.
Outside the mansion the helicopter cut unceasing patterns through the night. Its huge halogen floodlights illuminated every crack and crevice to reveal nothing amiss on the grounds. The alarm continued to shriek.
In Nelson's ear there was only a dripping sound.
He sprinted down the third floor corridor to find guards working futilely at the electronically sealed door.
Drip drip drip
"Out of the way!" Nelson jammed his access card into its slot without a fumble. The door parted from its seal, and he threw his shoulder against it, the professional in him still issuing the proper orders.
Drip drip drip
And then he was inside: Jordan Lime's eyes glared up at him, open and bulging. From the rug. Where his head had been separated from his body.
The dripping sound now came in twisted stereo—electronically in his right ear and live in the left. The dripping was blood. And the blood was everywhere.
Nelson leaned over and retched. Vomit spilled up his throat and drenched the already sodden rug. He mopped the excess from his mouth as his eyes struggled to focus on the scene. The remnants of Jordan Lime's headless torso lay half on and half off the bed. A severed arm was near the pillow. A leg hung over a chair next to the bed.
Jordan Lime had been torn apart limb from limb.
The door and window seals had not been broken. No penetration alarm had sounded.
Then how? Nelson wondered, as the floor seemed to waver beneath him. How?CHAPTER 2
"IT'S THAT RIGHT JUST up ahead," David Kamanski told his driver.
"That's not a road," the man said.
"It's not paved, but it'll do just fine."
They had been driving for three hours from an airfield carved out of the Vermont forest. Kamanski had directions, but in Vermont it was difficult to tell where one town ended and another began. They'd been doing fine until they got off Route 3 and entered a maze of roads with few markings.
The Ford sedan thumped and stumbled down the narrow dirt road, branches scraping at both sides. An hour before, they had stumbled upon Lindenville quite by accident. They'd stopped at a diner to ask directions, and it turned out to be Miss Lindenville's, in the very town they sought.
The Ford took a hump badly.
"Easy," Kamanski instructed, as he tried to decipher the final scribble of instructions. "Okay, this is far enough."
"Pull over. I'll walk the rest of the way."
"Any reason why?"
"Because he doesn't know you. If he sees you first, he may shoot, and he never misses." Kamanski tilted over to check himself in the rearview mirror. The part in his hair kept dipping lower and lower as more and more strands disappeared. God, he looked old. His eyes could pass for sixty, and he was barely two-thirds of that. "Hell," he told his driver, opening the door now, "he might even shoot me."
Kamanski leaned over the backseat to grab his overcoat and headed on down the road.
It ended another hundred yards away. Kamanski thought of his Italian loafers and turned reluctantly onto a foot trail through the woods. Ten minutes in he caught the scent of wood smoke, and not long after, the cabin came into view—a one-story, sturdily built structure whose slight imperfections added to its rustic appeal. Kamanski crossed a bridge over a bubbling stream to reach it. Christ, this was really the middle of nowhere. Not even a power line for the last five miles. A man could die out here and it would be ten years before anyone bothered to come look for him.
He reached the front of the cabin and noticed a jeep parked alongside. Four steps brought him onto the porch. He hesitated slightly, then knocked on the door.
"Hello?" he called when there was no response. He knocked again, then called out louder.
His hand slipped to the knob and turned it. The door squealed open. Cautiously, drinking in breath, Kamanski stepped inside.
And found himself face to face with John Wayne, as big as life, sitting on a horse with the reins in one hand and a shotgun in the other.
The whole trip to Vermont, Kamanski had replayed his first meeting with Jared Kimberlain. The stockade cell was grubby and stank of ancient urine. There was no window.
"Good morning, Private," he said to the man seated on the single cot.
"Since you're not in uniform, I don't know how to address you," the man replied in a voice as chilling as his steel-blue eyes.
Kamanski looked him over and knew his instincts had been correct. The man was big and strong enough to rip another apart with his bare hands—that much was certain. But there was more. Beneath the surface, Kamanski discerned a suppressed tension and an undercurrent of violence coupled with the will to use it. This man was almost too dangerous.
"I don't wear a uniform, but I can get you out of here just the same." Kamanski gazed about the cell's narrow confines. "Not much of a place to spend the next twenty years."
"You've got my attention."
"Then I'll come right to the point. You have skills that are perfectly suited for a special group I represent."
"You've never heard of us. Very few have. We're called The Caretakers. Capital T, capital C. No fancy initials for the boys on Capitol Hill."
"And what exactly do you do?"
"We take care," said Kamanski. "Of the country. And I mean that quite literally ."
He went on to explain that the group had been formed to safeguard the U.S. at any cost. That task, once ably performed by more traditional groups such as the FBI and CIA, could no longer be entrusted to them because of restraints affected by recent scrutiny of the intelligence community. The government had suddenly found itself more concerned with the Qaddaffis and Khomeinis of the world than with the Soviets and Chinese. A single hydrogen bomb in the hands of a fanatic could start a chain reaction of untold damage. And beyond this there were resources to be protected. Oil had been most important for a while, more recently it had been food, and down the road almost certainly water and maybe even air would be in danger. In all cases national safety and prosperity depended on the continued maintenance of all precious resources and the elimination of potential threats to them. In this respect, the world was composed of an incredibly small number of individuals whose actions determined the fate of the rest. Thus, these actions needed to be monitored, kept in check, and altered or redirected when necessary. Through any and all means available.
The Caretakers, Kamanski had explained that day, was an idea whose time had come. All field operatives were limited to a single three-year term to avoid burnout. There was no rank, no pecking order to ascend. There were just field operatives and conduits, and the latter were merely the glorified delivery boys of whom Kamanski was in charge. If a man survived the three years, he would be financially set for life.
Kimberlain had gone for the proposal with little thought, not quite enthusiastically but not reluctantly either. He really had no choice, and Kamanski had walked out of the stockade prepared to report to the shadowy blind leader of The Caretakers that he had found the man destined to become the best of them all.
"I'm willing to die trying to keep 'em. Question is, are you willing to die trying to take 'em?" John Wayne challenged the townfolk who were gathered on the other side of the stream. With that, he vanished, and the living room of the cabin returned to normal.
"It's called multidimensional television," a familiar voice announced. "A friend of mine rigged it up for me. Nothing like it will be on the market for years."
"Over here, Hermes."
Hermes Kamanski hadn't been called by his Greek anonym in years. Jared Kimberlain, on the other hand, had never been able to shed his, the Ferryman, after Charon, the Greek boatman who delivered the dead to their final resting place across the River Styx. Kimberlain himself had done plenty of delivering—more than any man Kamanski had ever known.
Kamanski turned toward his voice: he could have sworn it came from the corner but he found the corner empty. He located Kimberlain finally on the opposite side of the room, and as he approached the dark, hulking shape he made sure the Ferryman could see his outstretched hand.
"Been a long time, Jared."
"Not long enough."
Kimberlain took the hand cursorily and squeezed just hard enough to let Kamanski sample his strength.
"Hell of a place you got here, Jared."
"You should have let your driver join you."
"I was afraid you'd kill him."
"I tied him up instead. Don't worry, he's comfortable."
Kamanski's mouth dropped open.
"That same friend of mine rigged up a high performance defense system. I was waiting in the bushes when you pulled over. You're getting old, Hermes."
"I was never a field man."
"But you used to keep better company. That kid in the car might have a college degree and a forty-dollar haircut, but I wouldn't want him watching my back."
"Times have changed."
"If that were true, David, you wouldn't be here."
Kimberlain stepped further out of the shadows toward the oddly shaped holographic video machine and pressed the eject button. Some stray light through the partially open cabin shutters caught his face. It was the same face as the last time they had met, Kamanski reckoned, no different even from the first time he had laid eyes on Kimberlain in the stockade. A pleasant face that was somehow too soft for the man who owned it, too tailored, too fine. Eyebrows perfectly groomed. Dark, heavy eyelashes reaching outward. Not a single furrow on the brow or sag beneath the eyes. The thick hair showed no signs of receding, which sent pangs of jealousy through Kamanski. And the eyes. Oh, those eyes. Crystal blue and piercing, sharper than any knife. They didn't fit the face at all, but they were the one feature that fit the man.
Kimberlain placed the Wayne tape back in his huge video library.
"I never knew you were such a movie buff," Kamanski said, moving closer to inspect the titles. The library was surprisingly diverse; from Capra to Hitchcock, from Wayne to Ladd to Eastwood to the Mad Max series. James Bond, too.
"I need you, Jared," Kamanski said suddenly, standing so that the Ferryman couldn't help but notice him.
"I've heard that before," Kimberlain said emotionlessly. "About three years ago, wasn't it? Not much more than two years after I left The Caretakers."
"There was a murder Sunday night. An industrialist named Jordan Lime."
"And here it is Tuesday morning and you haven't found the killer yet. You must be slipping, Hermes."
Excerpted from The Eighth Trumpet by Jon Land. Copyright © 1989 Jon Land. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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