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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Dietz William C.
 

«Hitman: Enemy Within», William Dietz

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Many thanks to Thomas Howalt, Jesper Donnis, Peter Fleckenstein, Keith Clayton, Tim Mak, and Steve Saffel for their help and guidance in putting this book together. It would have been impossible without you!

CHAPTER ONE

THE RHINE RIVER VALLEY, NEAR COLOGNE, GERMANY

It was a beautiful summer day as Aristotle Thorakis walked out of the castle’s gloomy great room onto the sun splashed terrace, and looked down into the Rhine River valley. The air smelled sweet and sunlight glittered like gold on the water as heavily laden boats churned past, headed in both directions. Many of the river craft were owned by families who lived on board, evidence of which could be seen in the playpens that occupied what little deck space there was and the gaily colored laundry that fluttered from lines rigged for that purpose.

It was an idyllic scene, and for one brief moment the international shipping magnate wished he were down there, standing behind the wheel of a heavily loaded freighter headed for Basel or Amsterdam. Such a life would be simpler, and in some ways more enjoyable, than the one he was living. His was a high-profile existence in which he was forever doomed to walk the slippery slopes of international finance while trying to protect both his lifestyle and the business empire founded by his grandfather.

But sweet though the river life might appear from a hundred feet above, Thorakis knew how hard such an existence could be, and had no desire to give up the luxuries to which he and his family were accustomed.

“A penny for your thoughts,” Pierre Douay said as he appeared at the Greek’s elbow. The approach had been silent, notably so, and Thorakis gave an involuntary start.

“It’s a beautiful day,” the shipping magnate replied neutrally.

Douay nodded. The castle was the Frenchman’s, and though Thorakis had inherited his wealth, he knew that Douay was a self-made man. Wealthy though the Greek was, it was he who had come begging, and Douay who would decide the shipping magnate’s fate.

“What do you think of it?” Douay inquired, as the other man took his first sip of the chilled Riesling.

“It’s dry,” Thorakis observed, “and crisp. Which is to say perfect for a day such as this.” The fifty-two-year-old business tycoon had black hair streaked with gray, and a tight, “sculptured” face. Though he had been something of an amateur athlete in his younger days, the Greek had put on some extra pounds over the last few years—weight that a baggy black shirt was unable to conceal. Khaki pants and a pair of Gucci loafers, sans socks, completed the look.

Douay, by contrast, was ten years younger, rapier thin, and in excellent shape. With the exception of a thin black leather belt and the black sandals on his feet, the Frenchman was dressed entirely in white.

“I’m glad you like it,” he replied. “It comes from the Moselle valley, rather than the Rhine. It’s the slaty soil that makes the difference.”

Thorakis had no idea what that meant, nor did he care, but didn’t say so as he sought a way to open the conversation that both men knew was coming.

“Some years are better than others,” the Greek observed thoughtfully. “For wine and for shipping.”

“Yes,” Douay agreed soberly. “Who could have predicted that one of your tankers would run aground off Portugal, that a cruise liner would be lost to pirates, and that your CFO would be arrested? All in less than a year? It defies imagination! Come. Lunch is ready and we will have plenty of opportunity to talk about wine, women, and shipping.”

A linen-covered table had been set in the shade provided by a large canopy made out of blue and white striped canvas. The canopy rustled gently as a breeze blew down the Rhine and caressed the castle’s stone walls.

Thorakis studied the table carefully. Though frequently given to excess where food was concerned, he had a severe allergy, and was therefore particular about what he ate. That was why a personal chef prepared most of the Greek’s meals when he was home, accompanied the shipping magnate wherever he went, and stood guard in the kitchen when Thorakis ate in restaurants. Having noted that the sleek-looking chef was there, standing a discreet distance away, the businessman knew the food would be safe as he took the chair opposite Douay.

“To a long and profitable relationship,” the Frenchman said as he raised his glass. Yet rather than the bonhomie he might have expected to see in Douay’s eyes, Thorakis saw something else instead. Something hard and calculating.

“Yes,” the Greek agreed, raising his own glass of Riesling. “Here’s to a long and profitable relationship.”

The glasses made a gentle clinking sound as they met, and there was a brief flurry of activity as Douay’s servants hurried to serve the food. The first course consisted of chilled shrimp served on a bed of leafy greens and accompanied by a basket of crusty bread.

Rather than toying with Thorakis, Douay went right to the point. “So,” the Frenchman began, as he buttered a piece of bread. “I hope you won’t be offended by my directness…but how much money would be required to take care of your present difficulties?”


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