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Tác giả: David Baldacci
Thể loại: Trinh Thám
Nguyên tác: The Whole Truth
Biên tập: Dieu Chau
Upload bìa: Dieu Chau
Language: English
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Chapter 6
HERE IS ALWAYS A DAMN Tunisian, Moroccan, or Egyptian involved. Always. Shaw said this to himself. One slip with these gents and they’d rip your gonads off and force-feed them to you and say that Allah had told them to do it if they bothered to give you a reason at all. See you in paradise, infidel. Serve me well for eternity, filthy pig. He knew the speeches by heart.
He clenched the heavy suitcase in his right hand and held the left out from his side as the wiry Tunisian, eyes red, features grim, and teeth bared, patted him down.
Six men other than Shaw stood in the small upstairs room. It was a typical flat situated on a minor canal. High up, it was narrow as a snake hole, with knotted rope pulls in lieu of stair rails to enable the climber to make the near-vertical assault. One could easily become winded merely going from the first to the second floor of an Amsterdam canal residence.
The reason was historical, Shaw had learned. Centuries ago all these homes had been merchants’ places of business. And back when they’d been constructed the only carpenters available were ship’s carpenters. These men, logically, had decided that what was good for a boat was good for a house and had built the stairs nearly straight up as was the practice on space-challenged ships. That’s also why most such homes had a steel beam like a ship’s prow jutting out from the top floor. They once had been used to haul up goods for sale and now were employed to hoist in furniture because there was no way in hell you’d get even a modest-sized couch up the stairs.
The night before, Shaw had left the red-light district, returned to his hotel, and informed the front desk that he was checking out. The clerk on duty there was undoubtedly in the pay of people who wanted to keep tabs on his movements and would relay this intelligence to them. Men would be dispatched to follow him as soon as he left the Intercontinental.
Since Shaw didn’t particularly want the extra company he left his bag and clothes behind and exited the hotel via the basement. That was why he’d stayed at the large Intercontinental, with its numerous exits; he needed to get away without being seen. Using the memorized information he’d gotten from the old man in the hooker’s digs, he rode in the back of an old farm truck to a destination outside the city where the land was broad and green and there was no water for at least a good ten feet. He made a few phone calls and the next evening took possession of the suitcase that the Tunisian was now attempting feverishly to wrest from his grip.
The far bigger Shaw suddenly wrenched the satchel free, sending the smaller man tumbling headfirst to the floor. The Tunisian rose, blood dripping down his nose, a knife clasped in his muscular hand.
Shaw turned to the leader of the pack, an Iranian who sat in a chair—his miniature throne, Shaw could see—and was eyeing him steadily.
“Want me to show you the merchandise?” Shaw asked. “Then call off the hyena.”
The slender Persian, clad in crisply pressed knit slacks and a loose-fitting white long-sleeved shirt, waved his hand and the Tunisian’s knife disappeared, but the snarl remained.
“You managed to lose my men last night,” he said to Shaw in a British accent.
“I don’t like company.”
He set the suitcase on the table, input two separate digital codes, slid his thumb through a scanner, and the titanium locks sprang free. Shaw closely observed the man from Tehran’s reaction to the little present lurking inside. The Iranian’s expression was clear: Christmas, ironically, had come early to Holland for the Allah worshiper from the Middle East.
Shaw announced, “Officially, this is an RDD, radiological dispersal device, otherwise known as a suitcase nuke or dirty bomb.” He said all this in Farsi, which got an eyebrow hike from the Iranian.
The men gathered around. The Iranian gingerly touched the device with its wires, metal carcass, stainless steel tubes, and multiple LED readout screens.
“How dirty?” the Iranian asked.
“Gamma radiation core with a nice dynamite kicker.”
“Enough to kill how many? An entire city?”
Shaw shook his head. “This isn’t a weapon of mass destruction. It’s what we call in the trade a weapon of mass disruption. It’ll kill some folks near the detonation site. And the radiation will nail some people too. The farther away from ground zero, the less damage.”
The Iranian looked displeased. “I was under the impression this device would kill thousands, knock down buildings.”
“This is not a mushroom cloud boom-maker. If you want that you can go get plans off the Internet. But you’ll find yourself stuck for necessary ingredients like highly enriched uranium. But what this baby will do is scare the shit out of an entire country, shut down the economy, and make people afraid to leave their homes. In a way, just as effective as the mushroom cloud, without all the mess. And a helluva lot cheaper to you.”
This seemed to appease the Iranian. He turned to Shaw after giving the bomb one last affectionate pat. “The price?”
Shaw stood straighter towering over all of them. “The same as the one on the term sheet we sent.”
“That was your opening offer, I assumed. I now want to negotiate.”
“You assumed incorrectly. The price is firm. If you don’t want it, there’re a lot of other people who do.”
The Iranian took a step forward. His men did likewise. “You will negotiate.”
Shaw tapped the contents of the suitcase. “This is a gamma bomb, not a set of knives, not a diamond for the missus. I’m not running a special, no two-for-ones tonight.”
“And the reason we cannot simply take it from you now? For nothing?”
The Tunisian must’ve been a mind reader because he already had his knife back out and his eyes were burning, no doubt with the thought of sticking the blade to the hilt in Shaw’s thick neck.
“And kill you,” the Iranian finished, quite unnecessarily, for Shaw had already gotten the point.
Shaw motioned to a slit on the side of the dirty bomb that resembled a DVD intake slot. “That’s the import drive for the accompanying software package that has the automatic detonation codes and generally makes this thing go boom and the radiation go sizzle. You try to do it without the software the only thing that gets fried is your ass.”
“And where is this package?”
“Nowhere near here, that’s for damn sure.”
The Iranian slapped the suitcase. “So this is useless to me!”
“As the term sheet clearly said,” Shaw began in a weary voice, “you get the hardware with fifty percent down and the software when the other half is received in the designated account.”
“And I must simply trust you?” the Iranian said, a nasty undertone to his words.
“Just like we have to trust you. We’ve been doing this a long time, and never had a disappointed customer yet. You know that or you wouldn’t be here.”
The Iranian hesitated.
Come on, you maggot. Sacrifice a little lost face in front of your boys to get the golden egg. You know you want it. Think about how many Americans you can zap with this shit.
“I will have to call someone first.”
Shaw said in an annoyed tone, “I thought you had the authority to act.”
The Iranian shot nervous glances at his men, the embarrassment clear on his finely cut features. “One call,” he said quickly. He pulled out his phone.
Shaw held up a hand. “Hold it! Interpol crashing our little party does not figure into my vacation plans.”
“I won’t be on it long enough for anyone to trace.”
“You’ve been watching too many Dirty Harry movies. That’s not healthy in our line of business.”
“What are you talking about?” snapped the Iranian.
“I know you guys are really into the ninth century and all, but you need to get with the twenty-first century if you want to stay off death row. They don’t need you yakking on a rotary dial phone for two days to trace you. They need exactly three seconds for a satellite to track the digital fingerprint, run a triangulation, isolate the cell towers, burn a signal mark to within ten feet, and deploy the strike team.” Shaw was speaking mostly crap but it sounded good. “Why do you think bin Laden lives in a cave and writes his orders down on frigging toilet paper?”
The Iranian glanced at his phone as though it had just stung him. Shaw reached slowly in his pocket, mindful of the bloodthirsty Tunisian, and withdrew his own cell phone, which he tossed to the terrorist leader.
“State-of-the-art scrambler and signal diffuser. That sucker even has photon light burst encoding capability, so not even a quantum computer, in the event anyone has actually invented one, can crack the bytes packet. So dial away, my friend. The minutes are on me.”
The man made the call, facing the wall so Shaw could not hear him or read his lips.
Shaw turned his attention to the Tunisian. In a language he was reasonably sure neither the man nor any of the others spoke he said, “You like to hump little boys, don’t you?”
The baffled Tunisian simply stared at him, unable to comprehend a Chinese dialect from a tiny province in the south of the communist country. Shaw had spent a year of his life there, almost died twice, and only managed to get out with the help of a peasant farmer and his ancient, belching Ford. With all that, he figured learning the language might come in handy, though he never saw himself going back there, at least voluntarily.
The Iranian handed the phone back to Shaw, who flipped it into his pocket.
“It is agreed,” he said.
“Glad to hear it,” Shaw replied as his fist crushed the nose of the Tunisian. In the same motion he swung the heavy suitcase around, catching two other men flush on the temples. They toppled to the floor either dead or damn near it.
An instant later the door burst open and a half dozen figures clad in body armor and hefting submachine guns crowded in, screaming at people to put their hands up and their weapons down and not necessarily in that order if they didn’t want a new eye in the middle of their foreheads.
Then the Iranian did the unexpected. Hands over his face, he crashed through the window and flew out into space.
Shaw raced to the window, convinced he would see the man end his life as a bloody splat on the street below.
“Shit!” The man’s momentum had carried him just far enough out that he’d landed right in the canal.
Shaw glanced at two of the armored men, who stared back at him, stunned. “Somebody get a tetanus shot lined up. My last one was a long time ago.”
He tossed his phone to one of the men, snatched up the Tunisian’s knife, and muttered a curse. He perched on the windowsill for an instant, briefly mulled the insanity of what he was about to do, and then sprang out into nothing but fine Dutch air.
The Whole Truth The Whole Truth - David Baldacci The Whole Truth