|Product dimensions:||6.50(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
P.T. Deutermann is the author of four previous novels, including Official Privilege and Sweepers. He served in the Navy for 26 years before retiring in Georgia. He is currently at work on his seventh novel.
Read an Excerpt
THURSDAY, THE DEFENSE REUTILIZATION AND MARKETING OFFICE (DRMO), ATLANTA, GEORGIA, 9:00 P.M.
Wendell Carson sat at his desk in the manager's office wondering if he should go out to his truck and get his gun. He just knew Lambry was coming in to shake him down for more money. Should he confront Lambry, see if he could scare him into backing off? Or just play along and figure some way out of it later?
He swiveled around in his chair. Bud Lambry was an Alabama hillbilly: a long, lanky, tobacco-chewing, mush-mouthed, mean-eyed sumbitch. He'd been Carson's spotter in the warehouses for eight years, and Andy White's before that. Let's face it, he thought, Bud Lambry isn't going to scare so good, so use your damn brains: Play along with whatever he wants, then run some kind of con on him. Lambry can't know what the cylinder is worth, so keep him in the dark. Agree to more money--anything--to keep him quiet for just a few more days until the deal goes through. After that, he didn't care what Lambry might say, think, or do. Wendell Carson, erstwhile manager of the Atlanta DRMO, would have a million bucks in his pocket and would be down the road and gone. That said, he wouldn't mind having his .38 in his middle drawer just now.
He looked at his watch and then heard someone coming down the main hallway of the admin building. A moment later, Bud Lambry let himself in, his suspicious eyes sweeping the office to make sure they were alone.
"Evening, Bud," Carson said, not getting up. "You said we needed to talk?"
"Yeah, we do," Lambry said, going over to the window and taking a quick look through the venetian blinds into the parking lot. Then he turned around and gave Carson a hard look. "That thang, that red thang, how much they gonna give fer it?"
"I don't know yet, Bud," Carson lied. "They're excited about it, but they're a little antsy, too, seeing what it is."
"But they gonna deal?"
"Oh, I think so. If they don't, I'm not sure what the hell we can do with it. But what's the problem now?"
"Problem's money," Bud said, a crafty gleam in his eye. He walked over to the desk and shook his arms out, as if he were preparing to take some kind of physical action. He leaned down, putting both his hands on the desk. Carson could smell him, an amalgam of sweat and tobacco. "That thang's gotta be worth a whole shitpot full a money."
Carson smiled. "And let me guess--you want a bigger cut, seeing this thing's special. And you're the one who found it."
"Damn straight. We ain't never lifted nothin' like this'n before."
Carson nodded, pretending to think about it. Then he nodded again. "I agree, Bud. This thing's going to be worth a small fortune. In fact, it's so big that I'm thinking about just clearing the hell out of here once the deal goes through. First, because the money is going to be major, and second, because the heat is going to be major once the Army finds out it's missing."
"Yeah," Bud said, relaxing a little. "Reckon I might do likewise."
"How's half sound, Bud? After all, you were the one who found it."
Lambry blinked. He had obviously planned to ask for half and settle for whatever he could get. Carson had surprised him. But then Lambry's eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"Okay," he said. "An' I wanna be there, it goes down."
"No problem, Bud. In fact, I need you there. For the money this thing's going to bring, I wouldn't mind some backup, you know what I mean?"
Bud straightened back up. "All right, then," he said. "You lemme know. Them boys give us enny bullshit, I'll fix 'er asses good. I got me some guns.
"They've never stiffed us before. No reason to think they will now."
Lambry looked at him, trying to figure out what Carson's angle was. I've been too agreeable, Carson thought. Should have haggled a little. Lambry looked down at the floor for a second, and then back at Carson, a hard look in his eyes.
"And yew," he said, "don't yew be thinkin' you cin run enny damn tricks, Carson. I want whut's mine."
"I'm going to make the arrangements tomorrow," Carson said as smoothly as he could. Lambry had a violent streak that had gotten him in trouble twice before down in the warehouses. He was known to carry a knife, and he wasn't shy about pulling it.
Carson got up to indicate this little farce was over. He already had an idea of how to dupe Lambry. "I'll catch you on the late shift in demil tomorrow night. Let you know what they decide. But remember now, not a word to anyone."
Lambry snorted. "Ain't never run my mouth, and that's a damn fact." Then he left, slamming the door.
Carson exhaled and sat back down. Fucking Lambry had been getting bolder and bolder lately. He would have to do something, although he wasn't sure what that would be. Wendell Carson was no Andy White. Big Andy would have ambushed Lambry with a two-by-four down in the warehouses one afternoon and beat the shit out of him.
He gave Lambry ten minutes to clear the building, and then he got up and locked his office door. He adjusted the blinds and checked the parking lot, but his truck was the only vehicle left out there. Then he walked over to the wall-length bookcase and reached up behind the three-ring binders on the top shelf. He withdrew the prize: a heavy red plastic tube, four feet long, about four inches in diameter, and covered with stenciled lettering, all U.S. Army alphabet soup. There were four stainless-steel snaps at each end of the tube. Inside was the actual cylinder, itself also stainless steel, and sealed at each end with wide knurled caps. The whole assembly weighed about fifteen pounds.
Carson stared down at it. He had no idea what all the nomenclature meant specifically, but when he'd read it over the phone to Tangent, his client in Washington, and told him where the cylinder had come from, Tangent had reacted as if he'd been hit by a brick. Tangent had gotten back to him in literally five minutes, offering $1 million in cash. Just like that. And now Brother Bud thought he was going to get half.
In your dreams, Cracker, Carson thought. This thing right here is the holy grail. Wendell Carson's main chance. Who'd have thought it? he mused as he put the red tube carefully back up on the bookcase. After all these years of skimming the surplus auctions, he'd hit the jackpot with a cylinder of nerve gas.
Zero Option. Copyright (c) 1998 by P.T. Deutermann. Published by St. Martin's Press, Inc. New York, NY.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I like P.T. Deutermann as an author, but this outing is not one of his best. Zero Option is an interesting, and even plausible, exercise about chemical and biological weapons gone wrong, but the book is way too long, the novel equivalent of a two and one-half hour movie that should have been ninety minutes. The "hero," Stafford, is a pathetic loser who makes the wrong moves more often than even chance and stupidity would allow for. At the beginning, I cheered for Stafford. At the end I did not care whether he died or not. My recommendation is that you only purchase this as a paperback to minimize your investment, and so you can speed through it. The audiobook would drag you interminably along enough to bore you from Boston to past Chicago. It just goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on. I've read everything Mr. Deutermann has written-this one is his one and only clunker. The only character I really liked in this book was an Army one star general. As usual Mr. Deutermann is at his best when working within the military, and his primary character officers are almost always worthy of praise. At the end of this book I just said, "Oh, Brother," and went on to other things.