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Read by Jeremy Irvine
Read by Olga Koch
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An invitation from an old friend draws Jack Morgan into a deadly conspiracy in this action-packed P.I. thriller.
On a cold January morning, Jack Morgan stands inside the New York Stock Exchange with his former US Marine comrade whose company is being launched onto the market, eagerly awaiting the opening bell.
But before the bell rings, a bullet rips through the air and finds its mark.In the aftermath of the murder, the victim's wife hires Jack to find the killer. As the head of Private, Jack has at his disposal the world's largest investigation agency. What he discovers shakes him to his core. Jack identifies another murder in Moscow that appears to be linked. So he heads to Russia, and begins to uncover a conspiracy that could have global consequences.
With powerful forces plotting against him, will Jack Morgan make it out alive?
“REMEMBER DUNKER TRAINING at Pendleton?”
There was a smile pinned to Karl Parker’s face, but his eyes made a liar of his mouth. Something was wrong and, as we waited for our breakfast to arrive, I wondered when he was going to share the real reason he’d contacted me after so many years.
“Yeah, Hudson almost drowned,” I replied, recalling the helo underwater egress training we’d undertaken at Camp Pendleton, just outside San Diego. The Marine Corps had a chopper fuselage in a deepwater pool at Pendleton that was designed to be almost impossible to escape. It was intended to train Marines how to survive a crash at sea, but with an escape rate of less than 10 percent, it just hammered home the very real prospect of dying if your bird dunked.
“You looked like you were crying, but you were so wet, it was hard to tell,” Karl said.
“I swallowed half the pool, so a little water might have leaked out of my eyes.”
“Leaked!” Karl’s laugh was genuine, but it only served to accentuate the shift of mood that followed. His smile fell away and he looked as though he was plucking up the courage to tell me something.
Karl Parker had been my Marine flight instructor and was one of the straightest shooters I’d ever known. The kind of guy who’d not only confess to chopping down the tree, but who’d also tell you exactly how many cherries he’d eaten from it first. Whatever he had to say was clearly troubling him. The towering, strong, jovial African American I’d looked up to as a newly minted leatherneck had been replaced by a jaded man with haunted eyes and hunched shoulders. The smile returned, but it was a politician’s grin, the kind worn by a senator when he’s been caught cheating on his wife, flickering, hesitant, as though it might shatter at the slightest touch of truth.
I tried to make it easier on him. “It’s great seeing you again, but you didn’t invite me to New York to reminisce about old times. What’s up?”
The vulnerability I’d sensed vanished and his smile broadened. “Up? Nothing’s up. I wanted one of my oldest friends here to celebrate. Remind me just how far I’ve come.”
Karl’s business, Silverlink International, was one of America’s most successful telecoms companies, and today it would be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Karl had been invited to ring the opening bell to mark the occasion. It seemed strange that he’d chosen to start this momentous day with me rather than his wife Victoria, his son Kevin or any of the thousands of people who worked for him. We were old friends, but I’d lost count of the number of years that had passed since we’d last seen each other.
“Come on, Karl,” I said. “I know up from down.”
“You didn’t in that helo training tank,” he tried, but the attempted joke fell flat. His smile vanished and he looked away, troubled. “Jack Morgan, war hero, superstar detective, patriot.” Was there a hint of sarcasm in his voice? “You always were a smart one. I should’ve known I couldn’t put anything past you.” He fixed me with sad eyes. “I’ve run into some trouble, Jack. I need someone to watch my back.”
I was puzzled. Karl had a four-man security detail stationed in the lobby of Augustine, the upmarket brasserie in the Beekman Hotel where we’d met for breakfast. His back was well watched.
“Someone I can trust.”
“You want to tell me what’s going on?” I asked.
He bit his lip and opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, but before he could respond, a member of his security detail approached and discreetly interrupted us.
“Mr. Parker, it’s time, sir.”
WE WALKED THE short distance along a snow-covered Nassau Street to the intersection with Wall Street, where we were searched by Exchange security in a large heated tent before being allowed into the building. Once inside, Karl was greeted by Rachel Glennie, the President of the New York Stock Exchange. She gave me a cursory hello—I wasn’t the billionaire—and led us onto the Exchange floor, where dozens of financial movers and shakers milled around the trading stations.
“We can have a maximum of sixteen on the podium,” Rachel said, indicating Karl’s security detail.
The men waited at the foot of a stone staircase, while Karl and I followed Rachel. We climbed the steps to a podium where Karl’s wife, Victoria, a beautiful, accomplished woman, ten years his junior, waited with their bored-looking seventeen-year-old son, Kevin, and a dozen Silverlink executives, lawyers and bankers who’d advised on the deal. I was introduced to everyone, but I didn’t absorb their names. I was still puzzling over why, on this, one of the biggest days of his life, Karl had invited me for breakfast rather than spend it with his family and friends. I couldn’t shake the feeling he’d planned to tell me something, but had balked at the last moment.
Standing on a rostrum high above the booths and clusters of screens that cluttered the trading floor, I could sense the anticipation of those around me. The lawyers, bankers and executives stood to make millions, but Karl, Silverlink’s majority stockholder, stood to pocket more than twenty-five billion from the listing, making him one of the richest men in America. Maybe there was some truth in his having invited me to remind himself just how far he’d come. Karl was from humble beginnings, and the busy trading floor, packed with financial movers and shakers, was about as far as it was possible to get from Clarion, Iowa, the small town where he’d grown up.
It was almost 9:30 a.m. and Karl stepped away from Rachel Glennie to take his place by the oversized gavel and sounding block. Next to them were a control panel and the large button that activated the New York Stock Exchange’s famous rotary bell.
“You ready for this?” I asked.
Karl looked at me with sad eyes, and an even more forlorn smile. “Of course.” But I knew he was lying.
And then, suddenly remembering the eyes of the world were on him, honest Karl was replaced by the grins-and-chuckles fake.
“You going to hit this thing?” He waved the oversized gavel at his son, and Victoria ushered the reluctant teenager forward. “Give it a good smack,” Karl said as he handed the giant hammer to the boy.
The clamor in the marble hall rose a pitch as traders gathered around the podium. Rachel Glennie checked the time, and as she stepped forward, many of the traders closest to us stopped what they were doing and looked up.
“Good morning, ladies and gentleman,” Rachel said. She was wearing a suit that looked as though it cost more than most family cars. She exuded refined elegance, but her voice carried like the cry of a New Jersey market trader. “We’d like to celebrate the listing of Silverlink International by inviting the founder and chief executive, Karl Parker, to ring the opening bell.”
Karl placed his hand on the large button and kept his eyes on the clock. An image of the rostrum was broadcast on screens throughout the vaulted hall, and the traders applauded and cheered. Men and women in suits gathered around the J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs booths that were immediately to the left and right of the rostrum, clapping and yelling their congratulations. Silverlink’s stock was a new product, and more product meant more money.
“Ten, nine, eight,” Karl said, counting down the seconds. “Here goes.” He raised his hand theatrically.
It never touched the button again. A gunshot echoed off the marble walls, silencing the cheers, and Karl tumbled back with a single smoking hole in his skull.
VICTORIA SCREAMED AND rushed to Karl’s side. Kevin dropped the gavel, which tumbled onto the trading floor twelve feet below. He froze and looked in horror at his father’s lifeless body. Karl’s team of bodyguards raced to the stairs that would bring them to the podium.
“Get down!” I yelled, tugging Kevin behind the marble balustrade that lined the perimeter of the rostrum.
Karl’s colleagues followed my lead, while the trading floor erupted in pandemonium as millionaire financiers and their employees fought each other for the quickest route to the exits. I was numb with shock, but years of training kicked in, and part of my mind swiftly adjusted to the new reality. Someone had just shot my friend with a small caliber firearm, which meant they had to be close. I suppressed my rising grief, peered over the balustrade and focused on pinpointing and neutralizing the danger.
I scanned the trading floor and, amidst the noisy panic of the stampede, I saw one man standing perfectly still, his cool eyes on the rostrum. He wore the navy blue uniform of an Exchange security guard, but his trousers and jacket didn’t fit right, and unlike the guards who’d searched me in the tent, he wore heavy boots instead of smart shoes. He just stood there watching and waiting. And then it hit me. Karl’s body had fallen behind the balustrade, which was wrapped in a New York Stock Exchange banner. An assassin couldn’t be certain of a kill until a third party gave some kind of confirmation. This man was waiting to be sure his bullet had struck its intended target.
He must have sensed me watching him, because at that moment his gaze shifted and he stared directly at me. His face seemed out of proportion, as though his features had been changed by prosthetics. Only his eyes told the truth, and I’d encountered enough stone-cold killers to know when I was looking at one.
I jumped over the balustrade, and the assassin started running the moment my feet hit the marble trading floor. I pushed past panicked traders and up ahead I saw the assassin doing likewise. Men and women were knocked to the floor as the desperate killer tried to outrun me.
I followed the assassin through the crowd and saw him burst through the doors onto Broad Street. He sprinted toward the security tent and shouted something at the two guards who were on their way to deal with the growing crowd of evacuees.
“He’s the shooter!” I yelled as the guards turned toward me.
I pointed at the assassin who ran south along Broad Street, but the guards weren’t interested in the man. Instead they tackled me, and drove me into the drift of gray snow that was piled beside the entrance.
“We’ve got the suspect in custody,” the older guard said into his radio as the real killer sprinted away.
“YOU’RE LETTING HIM escape!” I yelled.
The assassin was halfway along Broad Street, about eighty feet from a roadside booth and security barrier that marked the perimeter of the New York Stock Exchange.
The younger guard made the mistake of trying to pin me by the shoulders. I shrugged him off, and smacked him on the chin. He collapsed in the snowdrift and the older guard tried to draw his sidearm, but wasn’t fast enough. I tackled him, knocked him down, and was on my feet, running, before he’d even managed to catch his breath.
Pushing through the chattering crowd of evacuees, I made it to the street, and the cold air burned my lungs as I sprinted to the barricade. I glanced back to see the men I’d knocked down on their feet, running after me.
“Stop!” the older guard commanded. “Stop or I will shoot!”
I took my chances, and the old guard did me a favor when he drew his weapon. The passers-by who thronged Broad Street scattered the moment they saw the gun, and my path was cleared. I could see the assassin no more than two dozen feet from the barricade.
The sound of a high-powered motorbike echoed off the surrounding grand towers, and a motorcyclist zoomed out of Exchange Place. He made a right onto Broad Street and the engine growled as he raced toward the barricade. Two guards stepped out of the booth and yelled at the biker and signaled him to stop, but he ignored them, swerved round the wedge barricade and opened the throttle, on an intercept course with the assassin.
I was no more than fifty feet from the shooter when the bike skidded on the square cobbles and came to a stop in front of him. He jumped on the back, looked my way and fixed me with his dead eyes, before tapping the motorcyclist’s helmet. The rear wheel spun on the icy cobbles before it found purchase and the bike shot forward. I heard a noise to my right and turned to see another Exchange security guard sprint from a fire exit. He got the jump on me, and the wind was knocked from my lungs when we both hit the deck.
I watched the bike swerve back past the barricade, but there was no way I was going to let it escape. As we struggled, I flipped the catch on the guard’s holster and snatched his pistol. Afraid I was going to shoot him, he recoiled instantly, leaving me clear to target the speeding motorcycle. Lying on my side in the snow, I snapped off a shot and hit the motorcyclist in the shoulder. The motorcyclist grabbed the wound with his other hand, and the bike fishtailed and skidded across the street, before colliding with a lamppost. The assassin was flung clear, but the motorcyclist was tossed into the air like a doll and hit the metal pole with a resounding crack. As the motorcyclist fell to the ground motionless, the assassin staggered to his feet, drew his pistol and opened fire on the two guards by the barricade.
The crack of gunshots scattered nearby onlookers and a number of people screamed when the two guards went down wounded. The shooter set off down Exchange Place on foot.
Realizing I wasn’t a threat to him, the guard who’d tackled me grabbed his weapon and tried to restrain me.
“Get off me!” I yelled. “Help them.” I indicated his fallen colleagues. “I’m going after the shooter.”
THE GUARD DIDN’T resist when I pushed him away.
“Help them!” I repeated, getting to my feet.
“Come on, Taylor,” a voice said.
It was the older guard who’d first tackled me. He and his younger colleague were coming up Broad Street. The third guard, Taylor, started toward the two others who’d been shot. Passers-by had already clustered around the men and were trying to help them.
Sprinting, I soon made it to the corner of Exchange Place, a narrow cut that linked Broad Street and William Street. High buildings loomed either side, shrouding the street in almost constant shadow. Snow was heaped against the buildings and steam rose from a long vent. The assassin was about a hundred yards ahead and moving quickly. I pushed harder and my lungs burned with the effort as my legs rose and fell like pistons. Adrenalin and training were replaced by grim determination. This man had murdered my friend.
Parking was restricted on the narrow street, and the only vehicle in sight was a solitary US Postal Service truck that idled beside giant stone columns that marked the entrance of a huge skyscraper. The assassin jumped off the sidewalk and made straight for the driver’s door. As he approached the vehicle, he glanced back, saw me and opened fire. I ducked into a doorway as bullets whipped the air in front of me and buried themselves in the stonework to my rear. When I peered out, the assassin was pulling a female postal worker from the truck. He tossed her onto the street, jumped into the vehicle and drove away.
“Help!” the woman yelled as she got to her feet. “Someone help me!”
She shook her head with resignation as the stolen truck took a right onto William Street.
“Call the cops,” I said breathlessly as I sprinted past her.
When I reached the corner of William Street, I saw the postal truck no more than a hundred yards away, fighting head-on traffic as it tried to drive the wrong direction down a one-way street. It was just after nine thirty, but New York is a city where it’s always rush hour, and the traffic had been made worse than usual by the heavy January snowfall.
He gave up trying to clear a path through the traffic and the truck suddenly lurched up onto the curb and started tearing along the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians to jump clear.
I cast around and settled on a yellow cab waiting for a fare. The driver was watching two guys exchange farewells outside a coffee shop on the corner, and his impatient fingers tapped on the steering wheel. He didn’t notice me until I pulled his door open.
“What the—” he said, but my hands were already on the collar of his sheepskin jacket, and I yanked him out.
“I need your vehicle,” I told him as I pushed him away and jumped in.
His fare was finally done with his goodbyes and tried to open the rear door as I pulled a U-turn. I saw his perplexed expression in the wing mirror as he watched his ride race away with the cab driver sprinting alongside, banging on the window and cursing with every step. I swung right, mounted the sidewalk and lost the driver as I picked up speed.
Up ahead, snow sprayed everywhere as the truck smashed through the piled drifts. Pedestrians dived out of the assassin’s way, which gave me a clear run. I stepped on the gas, and the cab surged forward, closing the gap between the two vehicles. The postal truck turned a bend and caught a patch of black ice, which sent it fishtailing out of control. The back end swung wildly and fell off the sidewalk, clipping a car that was waiting in traffic. The collision cost the truck its back bumper and the assassin lost valuable momentum. It gave me the chance to get within yards of him before he got going again. The driver of the car he’d hit got out of his vehicle and turned the air blue with angry shouts, but the postal truck lurched back onto the sidewalk and raced on.
When it reached the intersection with Beaver Street, the truck hopped off the curb and almost collided with an oncoming cab. The truck veered across the intersection and mounted the sidewalk on the east side of William Street. I followed, and crossed Beaver Street in front of the startled cab driver before steering my vehicle onto the west sidewalk. I stepped on the gas and drew level with the assassin, the two of us racing each other on opposite sides of the street. I kept my hand on the horn in an attempt to warn oncoming pedestrians, and they leaped into doorways or onto the street.
The assassin took more risks than me and didn’t care about hitting anyone, but the truck was slower than the cab, so we were pretty evenly matched. Up ahead I saw a delivery truck double parked, blocking the northbound traffic on William Street, and realized it presented me with an opportunity. Angry drivers were honking at the delivery driver who was waving at them to be patient, but his vehicle had created a gap in the traffic. I stepped on the accelerator, swung left between two parked cars, crossed the street, and drove the cab into the assassin’s stolen truck. The crash sent our vehicles smashing into a store window and we came to a shuddering halt when the postal truck collided with a structural support.
My airbag deployed, blocking my view, and the cab filled with a thick cloud of smoke and silicate powder.
I WAS WINDED but otherwise uninjured. I gasped in a lungful of air, pushed the airbag away and jumped out of the cab. The man I was chasing staggered out of the postal truck, dazed and disorientated, but as I started toward him, his flight instinct kicked in and he started running. I followed, and within moments he’d shaken off the worst of the collision and we were both sprinting at full pelt. My chest was sore as I ran along William Street and came to Hanover Square, but adrenalin kept the worst of the pain at bay. The shooter darted between slow-moving cars, vaulted a line of low railings and raced across the tiny square, which was covered in thick snow. I followed, crunching through ice-crusted powder, matching him stride for stride. Up ahead, the building line opened out a little and I saw gray clouds hanging low in the gaps between the skyscrapers. We were near the river.
The assassin jumped the railings on the south side of the square and ran across the street, earning a horn blast from a startled driver. I followed and chased him down Old Slip, a narrow road that ran down to South Street and the river. I collided with a man and woman coming out of the New York City Police Museum, housed in the old First Precinct. I skirted past the fearful couple and sprinted on. The shooter ran across South Street, forcing an eighteen-wheeler to a halt, and sprinted beneath FDR Drive, the four-lane overpass that followed the riverfront. I raced under the busy highway. The sound of the traffic rumbling overhead was almost deafening and it masked my pounding steps, so the assassin wasn’t aware how close I was until I was on him. I’d got within striking distance when the man suddenly turned and swung his pistol at me. I parried the weapon as the gun went off, and the bullet sliced the air a few inches from my ear, and the loud gunshot set my head ringing.
The assassin stood his ground, and up close I could see the seams and folds of the prosthetics that masked his true identity. He tried to bring the gun round for another shot, but I swung a punch and caught him on the chin. His gun arm flailed and I knocked it down, sending the weapon flying. It clattered across the sidewalk and skidded beneath the eighteen-wheeler. The driver was ignoring the horn blasts of the angry motorists backed up to his rear, and had his phone out filming us.
The shooter came at me with a combination of punches that made me realize I was dealing with a skilled combatant. I stepped back, ducking and blocking each blow, but one slipped my guard: a right cross that caught me on the cheek. Then came the flash of white familiar to every fighter who’s ever taken a powerful head blow, and for an instant I was blind. I covered up, tucking my head into my forearms, and absorbing his assault.
My eyesight returned and I stepped back as he swung a roundhouse. His foot swiped the air in front of me, and when it landed he was turned slightly, offering me a shot at his kidneys. I went in with a left and right that made him buck with pain, and as he crouched to cover the spot, I swung a fist into his face. The prosthetic rubber flattened, and so did the man’s real nose. He had no nasal bone, so there was nothing to break.
A gunshot rang out from the other side of the road and echoed beneath the overpass. I glanced in the direction of the sound and saw a man in jeans and a thick leather jacket trying to target me with a pistol. He shot again, and this time wasn’t too far off hitting me. I put the assassin between us, and ran for cover behind the eighteen-wheeler. The driver ignored me and kept his phone pointed at the shooter who was trying to pick me off.
I heard the bullets hit the trailer as I took cover behind it. The driver must have thought things were getting too hot, because the truck shifted into first and an instant later it lurched forward. As I watched my cover drive away, I desperately searched for an alternative, but when the trailer cleared my line of sight, there was no sign of the assassin or his accomplice. I ran beneath the highway and reached a cycle path on the bank of the East River. I looked right and saw the two men slow to a walk as they approached a chopper at the Manhattan Heliport. The red Bell 407 was on one of the pads on the jetty that protruded into the river, and its blades were turning. The moment the assassin and the guy in the leather jacket climbed aboard, it took to the sky.
I stopped running and caught my breath as the chopper followed the river in front of me. I saw the assassin watching me from inside the aircraft, and made myself a silent promise.
We would meet again.
I WAS SHIVERING by the time I reached Broad Street. My coat was in the Exchange cloakroom and my Balani custom fitted suit didn’t offer much protection against the bitter chill of a New York winter. My chest was sore from the car crash and, after all the exertion, each breath was like inhaling jagged shards of ice.
Two ambulances were at the intersection with Exchange Place, and teams of paramedics were administering first aid to the guards who’d been shot. The calm, measured air of the medics suggested serious, but not critical, injury. I hurried behind the gathered crowd and headed south along Broad Street before the trio of security guards who’d tackled me noticed my return. They were standing with a group of thirty or so onlookers, many of whom had their phones out and were filming the ongoing medical treatment.
I walked toward a police cordon that had been established fifty yards from the Exchange’s Broad Street entrance, and flashed my credentials at one of the uniformed cops.
“Jack Morgan, Private,” I said. “The victim, Karl Parker, was a friend.”
The cop nodded me through and I walked toward chaos. A couple of hundred traders and support staff who’d been in the Exchange at the time of the shooting had been corralled in a space by the entrance. People were growing disgruntled, and uniformed cops were shouting instructions, telling everyone they had to wait to be interviewed by one of the detectives working the crowd. The mood was turning ugly as many of those evacuated from the building weren’t dressed for the freezing cold. Coats were being brought out, and blankets provided, but not quickly enough for the most vocal members of the crowd.
- On Sale
- Jun 13, 2023
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