Recent Titles by Graham Masterton available from Severn House
The Sissy Sawyer Series
TOUCHY AND FEELY
The Jim Rook Series
TOOTH AND CLAW
FACES OF FEAR
FEELINGS OF FEAR
FORTNIGHT OF FEAR
FLIGHTS OF FEAR
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First world edition published in Great Britain 2007 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey SM1 1DF.
First world edition published in the USA 2007 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS INC of
595 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10022.
Copyright © 2007 by Graham Masterton.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
1. Stunt performers – Fiction 2. Cuneiform inscriptions –
Fiction 3. Suspense fiction
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-120-0 (epub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6536-6 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-023-5 (paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
‘Small changes in initial conditions produce large changes in the long-term outcome.’
‘Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos! is restored!’
he late-afternoon sun was already nibbling at the summit of the Rock and Richard Bullman’s temper was starting to fray.
‘We’re going again!’ his sharp British voice crackled in Noah’s ear. ‘And this time make sure that you don’t catch up with him so bloody soon! I want to see much more of that carving across his wake! More spray! More of that bouncing up and down! More bloody
, for Christ’s sake!’
Noah gave him a wave of acknowledgement and brought the Yamaha jet ski around in a wide, lazy circle. Sitting behind him, Silja leaned forward and said, ‘What is it? He wants another take?’
‘He wants more bloody drama.’
‘What?’ she said, in her stilted Finnish accent. ‘I thought it was bloody action he was wanting, not bloody
! Maybe we should do this in bloody Shakespearean costume! Oh, well . . .
They returned to their first position, close to a fluorescent orange buoy that was anchored thirty-five yards off the beach. Noah throttled back the four-cylinder engine to a low, sulky burbling, with occasional blips. Then he took a pack of Marlboro out of his shirt pocket, lit two of them, and passed one back to Silja.
‘You ever work with Vittorio Gallinari?’ he asked her.
‘Gallinari? No. But I was told that he is
‘Finickety? Gallinari made me throw myself out of a semi seventeen times over, in one afternoon. Didn’t like the way I rolled along the blacktop. “Why you flap-a you arms and you legs so much? You look like turkey!”’
Silja laughed. This was only their second week shooting in Gibraltar but Noah had already decided that he liked her. What was even more important, he trusted her, too. She was 5’ 11” tall, broad-shouldered and long-legged, although the long black wig she was wearing to double for Rayleigh Martin didn’t really suit her watery Scandinavian complexion. She was very feminine, but she was as strong as most men he had ever worked with, and her ‘air-sense’ was almost miraculous. And she liked off-colour jokes.
Noah would have been the first to admit that he was too old and battered for her. He had celebrated his thirty-eighth birthday last Tuesday, while Silja was only twenty-four. At least he was taller than she was – a rangy, loose-limbed man with an iron-grey buzz cut and iron-grey eyes and a weathered, angular face. He didn’t have to wear a wig for this part: he was stunting for Lee Kellogg, who was just as grey as he was.
He leaned forward on the jet ski’s handlebars and relaxed. It was late afternoon, but the temperature was still in the high seventies, and the sea was purple. Behind them, the Rock was growing increasingly dark, a massive fang of prehistoric limestone over four hundred metres high. Five or six seagulls bobbed on the swell close beside them, as if they had accepted the jet ski as a surrogate parent.
Off to their right, two hundred yards along the greyish sands of the Eastern Beach, a long black Fountain powerboat was moored to the end of the jetty. Three mechanics were working on it, and now and again its engines would start up, then helplessly cough like two old smokers having an argument, and fall silent again. This was the express cruiser in which the evil genius Karl Mordant was supposed to be trying to escape from secret agent Jack Brand and his feisty assistant Morning Glory.
,’ Silja repeated, contemptuously, tossing her cigarette butt into the sea. ‘To jet-ski or not to jet-ski, that is the bloody question!’
‘Maybe you could stand up two or three seconds earlier,’ Noah suggested. ‘You could spread out your arms, too, like a bareback rider.
would be dramatic.’
‘Oh, sure. Especially if I fell top-over-bottom into the ocean.’
‘I could gun the engine a bit more, just as you get up on to your feet. Bring the nose up, too, so that you can steady yourself against my back.’
‘OK. If you want to try it, I’m game. The worst thing I could do is splat into the side of the powerboat at eighty kilometres an hour. Eat out your heart, Wile E. Coyote.’
They waited with the supreme patience of people who spend most of their working lives waiting. They smoked another cigarette. Every now and then, a plane would take off from Gibraltar’s single landing strip, only two hundred yards to their left, and rise up, sparkling, into the late-afternoon sky. Jack Brand and his feisty assistant Morning Glory were supposed to have pursued Karl Mordant by dropping out of the rear doors of a twin-engined transport plane, just as it lifted off over the ocean, riding astride their jet ski as if it were a flying horse.
Noah hadn’t bothered to protest that – in reality – the water was so shallow that both of them would have been killed, or at least broken most of their bones. He was a stuntman, not a script editor.
The powerboat’s engines had been silent for a long time now and Richard Bullman eventually stalked to the end of the jetty to find out what was wrong. Noah clearly heard the word ‘bloody’ at least twenty-five times.
‘I don’t know why he doesn’t call it a day,’ said Silja.
‘Forecast says hazy cloud tomorrow. Besides, we have to be in Agadir by Friday afternoon.’
Suddenly, the powerboat’s engines bellowed into life. Richard Bullman stalked back along the jetty and climbed back into his crane. In his pink T-shirt and his flappy white shorts, he looked like a very cross toddler.
’ he shouted. ‘And –
The two actors playing Karl Mordant and his bodyguard Drillbit came sprinting along the jetty, pursued by plain-clothes police. The police were firing their pistols, but Drillbit turned around and sprayed them with an Uzi. Three of them staggered and cartwheeled into the water.
Mordant and Drillbit clambered into the powerboat and cut the mooring lines. With a masculine scream, the powerboat leaped away from the jetty and headed out to sea, immediately followed by two more powerboats, both carrying camera crews.
Noah revved up the jet ski and waited for his signal. When it came, he let out the throttle and the jet ski surged forward, its hull bumping and blurting on the water. It felt as though they were speeding along a cobbled street on a motorcycle with no tyres.
They quickly caught up with the powerboat’s wake – two deep furrows of white foam. This time, Noah slewed the jet ski violently from side to side, criss-crossing from one furrow to the other, so that they were hurled up into the air and slapped back down again. His spine was jolted again and again, and as they came closer to the stern of the powerboat, the water was churning so ferociously that the jet ski almost nosedived under the surface.
Through the spray, he could see Karl Mordant gripping the rail around the sun deck, scowling and gesticulating at them, and Drillbit pointing his machine pistol at them, two-handed. A cameraman with a hand-held Arriflex was dodging between them.
The jet ski and the powerboat were making too much noise for Noah to be able to hear the gunfire, but he could see snatches of smoke being carried away by the wind. He ducked his head from side to side as if he were trying to avoid bullets.
Drillbit had to reload, and this was Noah’s signal to push the jet ski right up to the powerboat’s stern. He twisted the throttle as far as it would go, and the jet ski surged forward, its nose rearing up like Jaws.
Silja climbed to her feet, holding on to Noah’s shoulders until she found her balance. He could feel her knees against his back, and he could see by her shadow that she was spreading her arms wide, so he gunned the jet ski again. It collided with the powerboat just as Silja sprang up on to his shoulders and performed a forward somersault in mid-air.
She landed exactly where she was supposed to land, in the middle of the sun deck, but Noah had given her far too much momentum. She helter-skeltered across the powerboat, colliding with the cameraman. Both of them rolled over the portside railing and splashed into the sea.
’ screamed Richard Bullman, right in Noah’s ear. ‘Cut-cut-cut-bloody-cut! What the bloody hell was that all about?’