Peking & The Tulip Affair
Hawk stood at the window of his office and watched the morning sky as a bolt of lightning tore through it in zigzag fashion. Then the sky opened up and the heavy rain gushed down, drenching the streets of Washington, D.C. There were more bolts of lightning, swording through the heavens, ripping the sky with a vengeance. The claps of thunder were heavy and deafening.
The sky was alive and crackling, opening up at uneven intervals with the thrusts of the lightning bolts. It looked as though the world had gone mad.
If the end of the world ever came, Hawk thought, it would look something like this.
Hawk stood there, fascinated by the scene. He lost all track of time. Then, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. The sky was normal and the sun was trying to come out.
The chief of AXE looked at his watch. Almost half an hour had passed. And Nick Carter was due.
It was ironic, Hawk thought, the way something always came up when Carter was getting too involved with a woman. Now it was a senators daughter. He had seen her picture in the papers too many times to suit him. But she was truly beautiful. Beautiful and spoiled.
In the street below, Nick was getting out of his car. Hawk turned away from the window, walked behind his desk, sat down and waited for his man….
She was young. Nick Carter like that. She was Chinese. Nick liked that, too. She was naked from head to foot. Nick liked that even better.
He was looking at a snapshot.
"Okay," Nick said. "She looks good." With a forefinger he passed the snapshot back across the desk to the man who had tossed it to him a second after he had sat down. "I believe you have a purpose for showing me a naked Chinese girl. Or rather, damn it, a snapshot of her. You're usually not that indulgent unless you have a good reason."
Hawk turned the snapshot over. Not that the sight of a nude girl offended him. But he didn't want to be distracted by anything. His cold eyes surveyed Killmaster, his top agent. "Are you packed?"
Nick grinned without humor. I'm always packed."
"Let's talk about the girl. Her name is Sim Chan and she's twenty-five. Born in the Kirin Province in China. Smart, shrewd, quick — you name it. An opportunist Took up with a top Commie when she was twenty and dumped him later for a general, who was purged by the Red Guard about a year ago. Now she's in Peking, the mistress of Walther Kerner." Hawk stopped and waited for the reaction.
Nick's heart almost skipped a beat. He stiffened slightly. "Kerner. One of Bormann's men."
"Right," Hawk said gruffly. "And where you'll find Kerner you'll find Martin Bormann." He watched Nick light a gold-tipped cigarette. "We also know what Bormann and his crew are working on." This brought an even sharper reaction from Nick. Hawk's leathery face twisted into a grin. "Kerner is a scientist, specializes in drugs. That's a well-known fact. Sim Chan, his mistress, is also a scientist, also specializes in drugs. But that
Nick made a shrewd guess. "Sim Chan s job is to spy on Kerner. The Chinese Reds don't trust anyone, even their so-called allies. And the best way for Sim Chan to get close to Kerner is to become his mistress."
"It has to be," Hawk said.
"What else can you tell me?"
"Kerner is working on a drug. It's a synthesis of a list of substances capable of producing a model psychosis."
"Simplify, please," Nick pleaded.
"A synthetic drug," Hawk said. "Kerner is calling it Agent Z. The drug is related to belladonna, a plant extract. Depending on dosage, it causes giddiness to hallucinations. It's a mind-altering drug, and once it's perfected it can do anything, even to changing the thinking and personality of a man. Our own scientists have been trying to perfect such a drug. We've used marijuana and mescaline but had to rule both drugs out because they required very heavy dosages. We're now experimenting with lysergic acid siethylamide, better known as LSD, but haven't received the results hoped for."
Nick looked at the glowing end of his cigarette before killing it in the ashtray. "Agent Z would make a powerful weapon for any country," he said tonelessly.
"Your job is two-fold — stop the experiments, and get Bormann."
Nick had crossed swords with Martin Bormann before and each time the Nazi had eluded him. Nick prayed silently that this would be their last encounter and Bormann would end up dead at his feet.
Hawk asked Nick if he had any questions.
Nick nodded his head. "How did you find all this out?"
The information had come from an AXE agent stationed inside the Imperial Palace in Peking. He had reached his contact before he had been slain. Hawk was sure the contact's cover was still good — but one could never be sure about anything.
"You'll go in as Harry Toombs of the Toronto Wire Service," Hawk added. "A Canadian. You'll also leave your toys behind. Newspapermen don't carry guns and knives."
"Yes. You'll stop off at Hong Kong first and see a man named Hans Danzig at the Peninsula Hotel. Hell give you all the dope you'll need on Agent Z."
"Never heard of him " Nick said.
"Very few people have," Hawk said. "That's why he's so valuable to me."
Nick's eyebrows knitted in surprise. "Keeping secrets from me?"
"You're always out in the field," Hawk said softly, "so how can you possibly know everything? Of course, if you'd like a desk job…"
Nick uncoiled slowly, like a cobra coming out of its basket home, getting to his feet. "What does Danzig look like?"
Hawk described the man.
When Nick turned to leave, Hawk said: "One more thing. We've just perfected a drug named Store. It puts a man to sleep for a week without a trace of a heartbeat There's an antidote in case you want your… uh… victim to recover quickly. It may come in handy. Talk to the boys in Editing before you leave."
Nick reached over to flip the snapshot and once again gazed at the naked Sim Chan. "Just wanted to refresh my memory."
"Get the hell out of here," Hawk growled.
Selina Stanton was a vivacious redhead with a stunning figure who had been a constant source of embarrassment to her senator father. Her wild escapades had gained her much notoriety in the newspapers, but lately she had toned down because her latest lover seemed averse to publicity.
For the first time in her twenty-four years Selina Stanton was in love. Selina had never known anyone like Nick Carter. Nick was handsome and intelligent, and she had fallen head over heels in love with the bronzed giant.
He was a close-mouthed bastard; he never talked about himself or asked about her former boy friends. She didn't know too much about him except that he worked for the government. The fact that he shied away from publicity had made her curb her impulsive, wild nature.
In nile-green lounging pajamas, she walked to the portable bar and built herself a drink.
She had always got what she wanted — but now? She didn't have Nick. She couldn't fool herself. She knew she loved Nick — but he didn't love her. Not really. She knew she meant more to him than just a roll in the hay, but the deep affection he felt for her was definitely not love.
Selina knew that someday there would be a break. It wouldn't be a clean break, either. It would be jagged and rough because she was too emotional to take something like that lightly.
She gulped down part of her drink and her thoughts vanished as the doorbell sounded. She put down her glass and walked slowly to the door, not wanting him to know how eager she was. Selina opened the door and he walked in.
She closed the door and leaned her back against it. "You're late."
He made for the bar and poured rum into a tall, frosted glass. "I'm sorry, Selina." He turned to face her, making his voice contrite. "It couldn't be helped." He offered no other explanation. He watched her come away from the door and saunter toward him. He saw the way her high breasts swayed under the pajama coat and knew she wasn't wearing a bra.
She was close to him now, and her eyes glowed with unconcealed passion. She forgot everything except that he was here, and she wanted him. There was an ache in her loins, and it would go away only after a session with the man in front of her.
She took his glass and put it aside. She moved even closer and her arms snaked around his neck. They kissed, and her eager body was tight against his.
He breathed in the perfume of her warm, pliant body and wanted her very badly. It would be their last fling till he got back — if he got back. Nick knew how she felt about him, which was why he wanted to break away from her, but there was something magnetic about Selina. He knew the affair couldn't last. He would have to find a way to stop their relationship without hurting her. It was going to be difficult. With a wry grin, which she couldn't see, he realized that there was one sure way to end the affair — to get himself killed.
She finally pulled away and took his hand and led the way into the bedroom. She took off her pajamas and climbed into bed ...