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Authors: Alistair MacLean

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Puppet on a Chain

BOOK: Puppet on a Chain
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Puppet on a Chain
FML Volume 02 [1]
Alistair MacLean
FML Books (1994)
Tags:
www.freemegalink.com
Review

'With this book Alistair MacLean will make another killing' Sunday Mirror

Product Description

From the acclaimed master of action and suspense. The all time classic. Paul Sherman of Interpol's Narcotics Bureau flies to Amsterdam on the trail of a dope king. With enormous skill the atmosphere is built up: Amsterdam with its canals and high houses; stolid police; psychopaths; women in distress and above all -- murder.

MacLean, Alistair - Puppet on a Chain

Feb 2003 v1.1 Proofed (xyz) from uc html

ALISTAIR MACLEAN

Puppet on a Chain

FONTANA / Collins

PUPPET ON A CHAIN

Paul Sherman of Interpol's Narcotics Bureau lands at Schiphol Airport. As far as he is aware no one but Jimmy Duclos knows of his arrival in Amsterdam. Duclos is there to meet him—and four men are there to meet Duclos. Sherman has to recognize that the gang of heroin smugglers he was out to smash know his movements as well as he does.

Backed by Amsterdam's police, Sherman tries to outwit the genius behind the drug ring, a master-puppeteer who knows how to manipulate the underworld so that his own tracks are obliterated at every step.

The action moves from the back streets of Amsterdam to a barge on the Zuider Zee, from an island whose inhabitants specialize in making costumed puppets, to the crypt of a missionary sect's church. Not until the very last minute is the master-puppeteer revealed —- and by then he is in possession of a puppet of such value and beauty that it taxes all Sherman's ingenuity and courage to prevent this-one, too, from swinging on a grisly chain . . .

Available in Fontana by the same author

The Guns of Navarone

Force 10 From Navarone

South by Java Head

The Last Frontier

Night Without End

Fear is the Key

The Golden Rendezvous

Ice Station Zebra.

When Eight Bells Toll

Where Eagles Dare

H.M.S. Ulysses

The Dark Crusader

The Satan Bug

First published by Wm. Collins 1969 First issued in Fontana Books 1971 Second Impression August 1971

TO FRED AND INA

CONDITIONS OF SALE

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

Š Alistair MacLean 1969

Printed in Great Britain

Collins Clear-Type Press: London and Glasgow

CHAPTER ONE

'We shall be arriving in Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, in just a few minutes.' Mellifluous, accentless, the Dutch stewardess's voice could have been precisely duplicated on any of a dozen European airlines. 'Please fasten your seat-belts and extinguish your cigarettes. We hope you have enjoyed your flight: we are sure you will enjoy your stay in Amsterdam.'

I'd spoken briefly to the stewardess on the way across. A charming girl, but given to a certain unwarranted optimism in her outlook on life in general and I had to take issue with her on two points: I hadn't enjoyed the flight and I didn't expect to enjoy my stay in Amsterdam. I hadn't enjoyed the flight because I hadn't enjoyed any flight since that day two years ago when the engines of a DC 8 had failed only seconds after take-off and led to the discovery of two things: that an unpowered jet has the gliding characteristics of a block of concrete and that plastic surgery can be very long, very painful, very expensive and occasionally not very successful. Nor did I expect to enjoy Amsterdam, even though it is probably the most beautiful city in the world with the friendliest inhabitants you'll find anywhere: it's just that the nature of my business trips abroad automatically precludes the enjoyment of anything.

As the big KLM DC 8 -- I'm not superstitious, any plane can fall out of the sky -- sank down, I glanced round its crowded interior. The bulk of the passengers, I observed, appeared to share my belief in the inherent madness of flying: those who weren't using their finger-nails to dig holes in KLM's upholstery were either leaning back with excessive nonchalance or chattering with the bright gay animation of those brave spirits who go to their impending doom with a quip on their smiling lips, the type who would have waved cheerfully to the admiring throngs as their tumbril drew up beside the guillotine. In short, a pretty fair cross-section of humanity. Distinctly law-abiding. Definitely non-villainous. Ordinary: even nondescript.

Or perhaps that's unfair -- the nondescript bit, I mean. To qualify for that rather denigrating description there must exist comparative terms of reference to justify its use: unfortunately for the remainder of the passengers there were two others aboard that plane who would have made anyone look nondescript.

I looked at them three seats behind me on the other side of the aisle. This was hardly a move on my part to attract any attention as most of the men within eyeing distance of them had done little else but look at them since leaving Heathrow Airport: not to have looked at them at all would have been an almost guaranteed method of attracting attention.

Just a couple of girls sitting together. You can find a couple of girls sitting together almost anywhere but you'd have to give up the best years of your life to the search of finding a couple like those. One with hair as dark as a raven's wing, the other a shining platinum blonde, both clad, albeit marginally, in mini-dresses, the dark one in an all-white silk affair, the blonde all in black, and both of them possessed as far as one could see-and one could see a great deal-of figures that demonstrated clearly the immense strides forward made by a select few of womankind since the days of Venus di Milo. Above all, they were strikingly beautiful, but not with that vapid and empty brand of unformed good looks which wins the Miss World contest: curiously alike, they had the delicately formed bone structure, the cleanly cut features, and the unmistakable quality of intelligence which would keep them still beautiful twenty years after the faded Miss Worlds of yesterday had long since given up the unequal competition.

The blonde girl smiled at me, a smile at once pert and provocative, but friendly. I gave her my impassive look, and as the trainee plastic surgeon who had worked his will on me hadn't quite succeeded in matching up the two sides of my face, my impassive expression is noticeably lacking in encouragement, but still she smiled at me. The dark girl nudged her companion, who looked away from me, saw the reproving frown, made a face and stopped smiling. I looked away.

We were less than two hundred yards from the end of the runway now and to take my mind off the near-certainty of the undercarriage crumpling as soon as it touched the tarmac, I leaned back, closed my eyes and thought about the two girls. Whatever else I lacked, I reflected, no one could claim that I picked my assistants without regard to some of the more aesthetic aspects of life. Maggie, the dark girl, was twenty-seven and had been with me for over five years now: she was clever to just short of the point of being brilliant, she was methodical, painstaking, discreet, reliable and almost never made a mistake -- in our business there is no such thing as a person who never makes mistakes. More important, Maggie and I were fond of each other and had been for years, an almost essential qualification where a momentary loss of mutual faith and interdependence could have consequences of an unpleasant and permanent nature: but we weren't, so far as I knew, too fond of each other, for that could have been equally disastrous.

Belinda, blonde, twenty-two, Parisian, half French, half English, on her first operational assignment, was an almost totally unknown quantity to me. Not an enigma, just unknown as a person: when the Surete lend you one of their agents, as they had lent Belinda to me, the accompanying dossier on that agent is so overwhelmingly comprehensive that no relevant fact in that person's background or past is left unmentioned. On a personal basis all I had been able to gather so far was that she was markedly lacking in that respect -- if not unstinted admiration -- that the young should accord to their elders and professional superiors, which in this case was myself. But she had about her that air of quietly resourceful competence which more than outweighed any reservations she might hold about her employer.

Neither girl had ever been to Holland before, which was one of the main reasons why they were accompanying me there: apart from which, lovely young girls in our unlovely profession are rarer than fur coats in the Congo and hence all the more unlikely to attract the attention of the suspicious and the ungodly.

The DC 8 touched down, the undercarriage remained in one piece, so I opened my eyes and began to think of matters of more immediate urgency. Duclos. Jimmy Duclos was waiting to meet me at Schiphol Airport and Jimmy Duclos had something of importance and urgency to convey to me. Too important to send, even though coded, through normal channels of communication: too urgent to wait even for the services of a diplomatic courier from our embassy in The Hague. The probable content of the message I did not concern myself with: I'd know it in five minutes. And I knew it would be what I wanted. Duclos's sources of information were impeccable, the information itself always precise and one hundred per cent accurate. Jimmy Duclos never made mistakes -- not, at least, of this nature.

The DC 8 was slowing down now and I could already see the crocodile disembarkation tube angling out from the side of the main building ready to line up with the plane's exit when it came to a halt. I unfastened my seat belt, rose, glanced at Maggie and Belinda without expression or recognition and headed for the exit while the plane was still moving, a manoeuvre frowned upon by the airline authorities and certainly, in this case, by other passengers in the plane whose expressions clearly indicated that they were in the presence of a big-headed and churlish boor who couldn't wait to take his turn along with the rest of long-suffering and queueing mankind. I ignored them. I had long ago resigned myself to the realization that popularity was never to be my lot.

The stewardess smiled at me, though, but this was no tribute to either my appearance or personality. People smile at other people when they are impressed or apprehensive or both. Whenever I travel aboard a plane except when on holiday -- which is about once every five years -- I hand the stewardess a small sealed envelope for transmission to the plane's captain and the captain, usually as anxious as the next man to impress a pretty girl, generally divulges the contents to her, which is a lot of fol-de-rol about complete priority under all circumstances and invariably wholly unnecessary except that it ensures one of impeccable and immediate lunch, dinner and bar service. Wholly necessary, though, was another privilege that several of my colleagues and I enjoyed -- diplomatic-type immunity to Customs search, which was just as well as my luggage usually contained a couple of efficient pistols, a small but cunningly-designed kit of burglar's tools and some few other nefarious devices generally frowned upon by the immigration authorities of the more advanced countries. I never wore a gun aboard a plane, for apart from the fact that a sleeping man can inadvertently display a shoulder-holstered gun to a seat companion, thereby causing a whole lot of unnecessary consternation, only a madman would fire a gun within the pressurized cabin of a modern plane. Which accounts for the astonishing success of the sky-jackers: the results of implosion tend to be very permanent indeed.

The exit door opened and I stepped out into the corrugated disembarkation tube. Two or three airport employees politely stood to one side while I passed by and headed for the far end of the tube which debouched on to the terminal floor and the two contra-moving platforms which brought passengers to and from the immigration area.

There was a man standing at the end of the outward-bound moving platform with his back to it. He was of middle height, lean and a great deal less than prepossessing. He had dark hair, a deeply-trenched swarthy face, black cold eyes and a thin slit where his mouth should have been: not exactly the kind of character I would have encouraged to come calling on my daughter. But he was respectably enough dressed in a black suit and black overcoat and -- although this was no criterion of respectability -- was carrying a large and obviously brand-new airline bag.

But non-existent suitors for non-existent daughters were no concern of mine. I'd moved far enough now to look up the outward-bound moving platform, the one that led to the terminal floor where I stood. There were four people on the platform and the first of them, a tall, thin, grey-suited man with a hairline moustache and all the outward indications of a successful accountant, I recognized at once. Jimmy Duclos. My first thought was that he must have considered his information to be of a vital and urgent nature indeed to come this length to meet me. My second thought was that he must have forged a police pass to get this far into the terminal and that made sense for he was a master forger. My third thought was that it would be courteous and friendly to give him a wave and a smile and so I did. He waved and smiled back.

BOOK: Puppet on a Chain
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