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Authors: Jack Higgins

Tags: #Intelligence Officers, #Dillon, #Fiction, #Suspense, #Sean (Fictitious character), #Thrillers, #Espionage, #Secret service, #Dillon; Sean (Fictitious character)

The Killing Ground

BOOK: The Killing Ground
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T H E J A C K H I G G I N S

K I L L I N G G R O U N D

G . P . P U T N A M ’ S S O N S

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N E W Y O R K

T H E K I L L I N G G R O U N D

A L S O B Y J A C K H I G G I N S

Without Mercy

Cold Harbour

Dark Justice

The Run to Morning

Bad Company

Memoirs of a Dance-Hall Romeo

Midnight Runner

A Season in Hell

Keys of Hell

Night of the Fox

Edge of Danger

Confessional

Day of Reckoning

Exocet

Pay the Devil

Luciano’s Luck

The White House Connection

Touch the Devil

Flight of Eagles

Solo

The President’s Daughter

Day of Judgment

Year of the Tiger

Storm Warning

Drink with the Devil

The Eagle Has Landed

Angel of Death

A Prayer for the Dying

Sheba

The Last Place God Made

On Dangerous Ground

Dillinger

Thunder Point

To Catch a King

Eye of the Storm

The Valhalla Exchange

The Eagle Has Flown

T H E J A C K H I G G I N S

K I L L I N G G R O U N D

G . P . P U T N A M ’ S S O N S

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N E W Y O R K

G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS

Publishers Since 1838

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA • Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) • Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi–110 017, India •

Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) •

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:

80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Copyright © 2008 by Harry Patterson

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

Published simultaneously in Canada

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Higgins, Jack, date.

Killing ground / Jack Higgins.

p.

cm.

ISBN: 1-4295-9196-X

1. Intelligence officers—Fiction. I. Title.

PR6058.I343K55

2008

2007033701

823'.914—dc22

Book design by Stephanie Huntwork

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Now the field of battle is a land of standing

corpses; those determined to die will live; those who hope to escape with their lives will die.

— w u c h ’ i

f o r h e n r i e t t a w i t h l o v e

T H E A M E R I C A N

E M B A S S Y L O N D O N

1 BLAKE JOHNSON WAS RECEIVED WITH COURTESY AT THE

American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, as befitted President Jake Cazalet’s most important security adviser, the head of a secret White House operation known simply as the Basement. An aide took him to the Ambassador’s office, a fine young Marine captain in dress uniform bearing medals from Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The Ambassador’s hosting a cocktail party, mostly for those who weren’t invited to Brussels for the conference.”

“And who would that be?” Blake asked.

“The dregs of every embassy in London, Major.”

“I know the feeling. And it’s not ‘Major’—Vietnam was a long time ago.”

“Once a Marine always a Marine, Major. My dad was in Vietnam, and my grandfather was in North Africa and in Normandy on D-Day.”

“They must be proud of you. That Navy Cross speaks for itself.”

“Thank you, sir. I’ll alert the Ambassador.” He went out. Blake helped himself to scotch from a decanter on the sideboard and moved to the window at the terrace and looked into Grosvenor Square, the roads shining in the streetlights, rain pounding down.

He stood under the canopy, inhaling the freshness, savoring his drink, and the door opened behind him. He turned and it was the Ambassador, Frank Mars, a friend of many years’ standing. As little more than boys, they’d served together in Nam. Mars shook his hand warmly.

“It’s good to see you, Blake, but also a bit of a surprise. I thought you were in Brussels with the President.”

“Well, at first I wasn’t going, but the President decided that his meet-

4

J A C K H I G G I N S

ing with the Prime Minister and President Putin might veer into my ter-ritory, so he decided he wanted me in Brussels anyway. I’m meeting Charles Ferguson tonight and we’re flying over together.”

Ferguson was the head of the group of special operatives often referred to as the Prime Minister’s private army. Blake had run many operations with him, and the tempo had only picked up of late.

Mars topped up their glasses and they stood there, looking into the square. “All the years I’ve known this place and now I have to look down at those great ugly concrete blocks protecting us. The terrorists have accomplished what two world wars could not.”

“Not to mention the Cold War,” Blake said. “Still, it all helped lead to this, those years of strife, the atomic submarines, the cancer of communism, East versus West.”

“We got it wrong with Berlin in 1945,” said Mars, “allowing Russia to take the city. That’s when they first sensed they could roll over us. I remember the first trip I made behind the Wall in Berlin. It chilled the soul.”

Blake gestured to the left of the square to the statue of Eisenhower on its plinth. “What do you think he’d make of it? After all, it was he, Roosevelt and Winston Churchill who were responsible.”

“I’d remind you that Joseph Stalin had something to do with it,”

Mars pointed out.

Blake nodded thoughtfully. “And now we have Vladimir Putin. Think the Cold War is on its way back?”

Frank Mars put a hand on his shoulder.

“Blake, old friend, it’s not on its way, it’s arrived. From the moment Putin became President of the Russian Federation, he had an agenda.

We’ve seen it unfold bit by bit, and he’s got the money to back it up, all that gas and oil. I think he’s capable of anything. And there’s something else about him that’s very dangerous indeed.”

“And what would that be?”

“He’s a patriot.” Mars swallowed his drink. “But enough of that.

Come and let me introduce you to my guests.”

T H E K I L L I N G G R O U N D

5

M O S T O F T H E G U E S T S were not too important, mostly minor attachés of one kind or another; the big fish were either in Brussels already or on the way there. After a little bit of talk, Blake stood in the corner, and soon Mars joined him.

“So, if you’re flying off tonight, you’re not staying at the embassy house off South Audley Street.”

“Right. My luggage is there, though, and I’m expecting Sean Dillon and Billy Salter to pick me up and deliver me to Farley Field to join Ferguson.”

“So Ferguson’s promoted young Salter to be an agent in the Secret Intelligence Service, I understand.”

“Yes. Mind you, Ferguson had to obliterate Salter’s criminal records from the files to get him in. But he and Dillon make quite a team.”

“You could say that. An East Ender gangster and the most fearsome enforcer the Provisional IRA ever had. Quite a combination!”

As they talked, Blake noticed someone observing them, a man with Slavic features, an excellent suit and an eager smile. He was going heavy on the vodka and, as Blake watched, took another from a waiter’s tray.

Mars half-turned and murmured to Blake, “Colonel Boris Lhuzkov, senior commercial attaché for the Embassy of the Russian Federation.

Of course, he’s actually head of station for the GRU. They’re all
something
else over there. Would you like a word?”

“If I must.”

Mars waved and Lhuzkov gulped another vodka and rushed over, smiled ingratiatingly and shook hands. “A great pleasure, Mr. Ambassador.”

“Why, Boris, I thought you’d be in Brussels.”

“That is reserved for those more important than I.” He glanced inquiringly at Blake.

Mars said, “Mr. Johnson is on his way to Brussels this evening. It seems the President can’t talk to your boss without him.”

6

J A C K H I G G I N S

“Blake Johnson? Mr. Johnson, your reputation goes before you.”

Lhuzkov shook hands and his hand was damp and trembled a little.

“Yes, well, just another day at the office,” Blake said, and suddenly had had enough. “You’ll excuse me. I must thank you for the offer of the embassy house, Frank. I’ll stop over another time.”

“Of course.”

Lhuzkov watched as Blake went to fetch his raincoat, then immediately went into a corner and called a number on his mobile phone. “He’s on his way now, to the embassy house. Yes. Do it now,” and he switched off and went down to the cloakroom.

B L A K E R E F U S E D A C A R and accepted an umbrella, went down to the steps into the square and walked down toward South Audley Street. He made a brief call on his mobile and was answered by Sean Dillon in the passenger seat of Harry Salter’s Aston Martin. Billy was driving.

“Where are you?” Sean demanded.

“Moving down to the embassy house. I felt like the walk, the rain, all that stuff. The romance of a great city.”

“You damn fool. You know you’re a marked man. Anybody special at the embassy?”

“As a matter of fact, yes, a guy called Boris Lhuzkov, station head of the GRU, apparently.”

“Idiot,” Sean said. “You know the moment you landed here, the GRU

were on to you, don’t you?” He switched off.

“Where is he?” Billy demanded, pulling his hat down.

“Near the embassy house. Make it fast. Pass him, as a matter of fact.

Go straight up that little side lane. Turn in there. Whoever’s up to no good is probably parked by the house. I’ll bail out fast and you can join me. Are you tooled up?”

“What do you think?”

Billy moved out to pass three parked cars and then Blake, the umbrella over his head. They ignored him, moved into the turning by the

T H E K I L L I N G G R O U N D

7

house and noticed a small sedan. Billy slowed, and Dillon pulled a Walther PPK with a silencer from his raincoat pocket, opened the door of the slow-moving car and rolled out. The car carried on. He pulled open the door of the waiting sedan and menaced the two men waiting inside. One of them was just clutching the driving wheel, but the other had a Browning, which Dillon wrenched from his hand. Billy arrived a moment later, opened the car door and relieved the driver of a Colt .25

from his waistband.

“Here, what is this?” the driver protested. It started, the usual bluster.

“I hate people being stupid,” Billy said. “Don’t you?”

“Absolutely,” Dillon told him, and at that moment Blake turned the corner and approached.

“What’s going on?” he demanded.

“Just go and get your luggage and we’ll be on our way, idiot,” Dillon told him. “Get moving.”

“Did I have company? Ah well, I knew I could rely on you two.” Blake laughed and went to the front door of the house.

“Assume the position, both of you,” Dillon said, which they did with reluctance. Billy went through their pockets, did a quick check and found a wad of fifty-pound notes. “Two thousand,” he said, counting.

BOOK: The Killing Ground
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