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Authors: Jon Land

Labyrinth

BOOK: Labyrinth
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Labyrinth

Jon Land

For Camp Samoset

Contents

Prologue

Part One: Washington, Monday Afternoon

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Part Two: Paris and London, Thursday Morning

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Part Three: Cadgwith Cove, Friday Morning

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Part Four: Liechtenstein and Austria, Saturday Afternoon

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Part Five: Schaan, Monday Morning

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Part Six: Florence and San Sebastian, Tuesday Afternoon

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Part Seven: Rome and London, Wednesday Morning

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Part Eight: Geneva and Austria, Thursday Morning

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Part Nine: Washington and Keysar Flats, Sunday Afternoon

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Part Ten: San Sebastian, Monday Morning

Chapter 35

Epilogue

A Biography of Jon Land

Acknowledgments

A Sneak Peek at
Strong at the Break

Prologue

LUBECK HELD THE BINOCULARS
up to his eyes. Sweat from his brow coated the glass with a thin mist, forcing him to swipe at the lenses with his sleeve. The South American sun beat down on his exposed dome. He could almost feel his flesh shriveling but paid little attention. Resting the binoculars again on the bridge of his nose, Lubeck wondered if the men near the trucks might be watching him as well.

He turned the focusing wheel and the picture sharpened. Three trucks now, one obviously having been abandoned, left behind for the sun to broil. The troops from the abandoned truck must have crowded into the others. The complement of men and weapons was just as it had been in Florencia.

The men stood with rifles slung over their shoulders, passing cigarettes and gulping water. Lubeck ran his tongue along the parched inside of his mouth, fingering his canteen. He had precious little water left, none to be wasted on a whim. Down below men in green army garb swished gallons around their mouths and spat them out near their combat boots. Lubeck's flesh crawled.

It was a miracle he had found them. His jeep had given out some ten miles back. Walking straight across the land without rest, he had somehow managed to meet up with the convoy again. His shoes held a pair of feet blistered raw beyond pain, while the sun had stripped him of his bearings. He knew he was still in Colombia, though, probably near the southeastern tip where the country joined Peru and Brazil not far from the Putumayo River. Just what an armed convoy representing no particular country was doing there, Lubeck couldn't figure. It made no sense, just another fragment of a story that contained only parts and no sum.

One of the men below seemed to gaze up at him. Lubeck hunched lower on his elbows, squeezing the binoculars with both his right hand and the steel pincers he had instead of a left. Amazing how well the things worked, an absolute wonder of modern science. The accident had kept him out of Nam but not out of intelligence and later the field. He became the best because people underestimated him, pitied him. His was a cripple's lot, although he never considered himself a cripple. If anything, his substitute hand was a plus, the pincers when pressed together forming a deadly weapon always ready and waiting.

Always.

Lubeck recalled the first time he had made them work, years ago—fifteen maybe—in Brussels. He was sitting across from an Eastern Bloc agent in a bar discussing terms for a turn. The man was quick with a gun, one of the best. The conversation had not gone well. The tone and timing were off. Lubeck sensed something was wrong even before the man's eyes froze and his hand started for his famous lightning draw. Lubeck realized he had been set up an instant before he jabbed his pincers across the table, digging into the legend's throat before his gun had cleared its holster.

The pincers cut flesh like butter. Lubeck mastered their use, became the best at fighting in close. Guns, knives, hands—nothing rivaled his pincers. His mind had drifted back to the damn accident that had led to their insertion in the first place, when the sight of the troops squeezing back on their trucks snapped him alert again. The engines rumbled in protest, shook, then finally caught.

The trucks were on their way.

The going was slow there along a road barely wide enough to accommodate their passage. Lubeck found himself almost able to keep pace if he trotted. But he tired quickly in the wrenching heat, drained some of his water and resigned himself to just maintaining eye contact with the convoy until it reached its destination.

It had started in London with a routine security assignment that had bothered him for its very banality. When you reached Lubeck's level, your superiors couldn't very well pull you out of the field cold turkey. They had to ease you out, get you used to the inevitable before it happened. Retirement was nonexistent. Instead of a gold watch, you got to be station chief in some lush, tropical country with lots of rum where no one could get to you and you couldn't get to anyone. For Lubeck, London promised to be the start of the easing process. Trouble was, he didn't think he was ready, which meant he had something to prove.

Then the Colombian diplomat had come to him with an incredible story. Lubeck started digging, uncovered a trail filled with dead ends and detours, his only signpost being a shadowy phrase that held no substance:

Tantalus …

Lubeck would have been laughed out of the section if he called in the reserves based on what he had. So he'd followed the trail that led to South America and eighty fully equipped combat soldiers. He had picked up their movements in Bogotá and had followed them across Colombia in the jeep that had died under him hours before. Soon he would know why they had come and the pieces would fall together. He was getting close to the answer; he could feel it.

Lubeck shifted his pack from the left shoulder to the right. Thank God the radio he'd obtained at the Bogotá station was small, compact, microchip-based. He had checked in there and remained vague about his purpose. The station chief had listened intently, obliged his whim with a promise he'd be standing by, and had gone back to his rum.

Down below, the trucks shifted about uneasily on the dirt road. Its unevenness forced the drivers to slow to a crawl, and Lubeck drew up with them. He might have used the radio then had he known his position. He knew this area of the country was dotted with small, backward towns whose people were mostly farmers out of a different age. Why, then, the troops? Lubeck's nerves were starting to get to him. He wiped his brow again but his sleeve was so thoroughly soaked the effect was negligible. The sweat stung his eyes. His steel pincers ached with phantom pain.

The trucks rolled around a corner out of sight. Up ahead, the hillside he'd been traveling on swerved in the other direction, meaning he would have to descend now and take his chances on level ground. Lubeck stepped up his pace, wanting to check the convoy's position before he made his move. Fifty yards ahead he drew the binoculars up to his eyes, holding them with only his pincers.

The trucks had stopped. Men who must have been the leaders were conferring. A battered sign with rain-ripped letters was nailed to a post on the side of the road:
SAN SEBASTIAN
.

The wood was rotting, the name faded, but Lubeck made it out clearly enough. A small farming town obviously. Could this be the convoy's destination?

A jeep hurtled down the road from the town's direction, carrying three passengers. Lubeck turned his binoculars on them. The driver was just another soldier dressed the same as the rest, but the man to his right looked to be more, though he too wore the same uniform. The man's hair was long and neatly styled, his features dark with a pair of liquidy black eyes. The man had an air of authority about him Lubeck could feel even from four hundred yards away.

The jeep pulled to a halt near the trucks, facing them. Lubeck moved the binoculars onto its third occupant and felt his blood run cold. The man stepped out from the back of the jeep, shadowing the steps of the dark-eyed leader. He was a giant, nearly seven feet tall, and wide as well. He wore a white suit that looked totally out of place with the temperature stretching over a hundred. His eyes were narrowed into almond-shaped slits; an Oriental, obviously—the biggest Lubeck had ever seen. The giant's hair was slicked straight back behind his ears. His flesh was rich brown; Chinese, Lubeck guessed. He wore a thin mustache across lips held in a perpetual half smile.

The dark-eyed man moved toward the troop leaders with the giant right behind. Nods were exchanged, not handshakes or salutes. Lubeck tried to focus on the dark-eyed man's lips for reading but the distance was too great. The leaders were listening intently to him, nodding their acknowledgment. The exchange was brief. The dark-eyed man headed back to his jeep, the leaders to their trucks. The jeep's driver swung the vehicle back around to lead the convoy forward. The trucks started on their way again.

In the back of the last one, Lubeck could see men checking the clips of their weapons. He felt the pull of fear now, and welcomed it, for it would give him the edge he needed to keep going.

The trucks had slowed to a walking pace. He descended to level ground and hung a few hundred yards behind them. He flirted with the idea of radioing the Bogotá station but dismissed the notion until he had something concrete to say.

Lubeck climbed another hillside and moved parallel with the convoy. The town of San Sebastian came into view. Dust whipped up from the poorly paved street and blasted the shuttered windows of the town's buildings. A church steeple dominated the town's center, and a bell could be heard chiming softly as windblown pebbles cascaded against it. Lubeck reached for his binoculars.

More military-style vehicles dotted the dusty street. Men in uniforms held their weapons tight and paraded freely, all watching the trucks entering the town's perimeter. But where were the townspeople?

The grip of fear held Lubeck tight. Something was very wrong here all right. San Sebastian, a simple farming community … His mind kept coming back to that.

The trucks squealed to a halt. Troops piled from the back of all three, arranging themselves in groups, fanning out. The dark-eyed man was barking orders in heavy Spanish. Enough of his words traveled in the wind for Lubeck to string them into context.

“Check the houses! I want them emptied! Lofts too and outhouses! Check every room, every inch! Get to it! Get to it!”

Three quarters of the troops started off.

“Watch for stragglers!”
the dark-eyed man shouted after them. He nodded to another phalanx, which moved for the church.

Lubeck let the binoculars dangle at his chest and started running, trying to better his angle. His mouth was dry and he knew all the water in Colombia could do nothing about it. He sensed now what was about to take place, but the why still eluded him.

He stopped on a hill even with the church. He was just a hundred yards from the town now. A group of soldiers was unloading large silver cans from each of the trucks and packing them onto the backs of jeeps. When ten cans had been loaded on them, the jeeps tore off, a man at the back of each working on the cans' spouts. Lubeck swung his binoculars back around.

BOOK: Labyrinth
8.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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