Assault on England
It was one of those days for Henry Wellsey, Britain's 55-year-old Chancellor of the Exchequer. It started at breakfast when his wife brought up the subject of a holiday again.
"You must have a proper holiday, you haven't had one in over a year. Weekends at Bayberry Hall simply don't count…"
Bayberry Hall, his mother's estate in Yorkshire, didn't count for much with Milicent anyway, he knew.
"You want someplace warm and relaxing. Spain, perhaps, or Italy. Or Yugoslavia… they say the Dalmatian Coast is marvelous."
"They'd probably say I was defecting," Wellsey said dryly, sipping his cocoa.
"Don't be absurd," his wife snapped. "Now don't try and put me off, Henry. You must see about a holiday. I warn you, if you don't, I'll speak to the Prime Minister myself!"
She would too, Wellsey thought glumly, sitting in the back of his Rolls 30 minutes later, and the P.M. was not in a holiday mood. It wasn't going to improve either. There was a special cabinet meeting that morning at the Prime Minister's residence and Wellsey was going to be late. A gray Jaguar and a lorry, arguing — fatally — over the right of way, had the London-bound traffic all tied up. It was liable to be another hour before the police cleared the accident scene.
Wellsey didn't miss all of the cabinet meeting; it dragged on through lunch. The Chancellor left Number 10 Downing Street feeling frustrated, as he so often did lately. International issues always seemed to take precedence over domestic ones. On impulse, he stopped at Cook's for some travel brochures. Maybe Milicent was right; maybe it
Back at his office, he'd just settled down at his desk when his secretary came in with the mail.
"Could you bring me some tea, Miss Tanner? I know it's a bit early but…"
"Certainly, sir." Miss Tanner, not too young, not too pretty but efficient, smiled.
Wellsey picked up the top letter and a letter opener — he liked to open his mail himself — but he put them down again and took out the brochures he'd collected at Cook's instead. He leaned back in his chair, studying them. Spain… the Costa Brava… Very nice, he understood, and not crowded at this rime of year, the man at Cook's had said. Italy… Rome… Venice… sinking into the sea supposedly. He shook his head. "Tour the Greek Islands." Now, that was a thought. He'd been to Athens but never to the islands. Mykonos… Lelos… Rhodes… Lovely…
The last thing Henry Wellsey saw in this world was the smiling face of a pretty young Greek girl holding an armful of red, red roses. The high-powered 7mm rifle bullet that entered the back of his head at the base of the skull made a fairly neat entry hole, considering it had to pass through the closed window first, but it smashed on through bone and tissue and when it exited, Wellsey's face disintegrated.
He slumped forward, his blood blending with the red of the roses of Rhodes.
Miss Tanner came in with the tea and found him and could not stop screaming…
The night was sticky-hot and airless on the Luxor docks. On one side loomed the wharf buildings, squatting heavily in the blackness. On the other, the Nile slipped soundlessly by on its journey to Cairo and the sea. Beyond the river stretched the desert, a lighter strip between the oily black water and the star-pocked sky.
Waiting on that desolate black waterfront I touched Wilhelmina, the 9mm Luger I carry in a special shoulder holster, to reassure myself. A crawly feeling at the back of my neck warned me I might need her tonight.
I was there on Hawk's orders to contact a small-time smuggler and gambler named Augie Fergus. Fergus had sent a wire from Luxor to the Prime Minister of England saying he had information for sale that might shed light on the brutal assassination of Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Henry Wellsey. Since the British didn't have an agent in the area at the moment, Hawk had volunteered my services.
Fergus had told me on the phone that he would meet me on the docks at midnight. I glanced at my watch; it was already fifteen minutes past. That alone was enough to make me wary, and I was thinking about leaving when I heard a sound in the darkness.
I glanced quickly at a small door leading into the warehouse behind me. It had opened and now a man came out. He was of medium height and growing bald. He wore a grey suit that looked like it had been slept in for a week. But the thing about him that I noticed immediately was his eyes. They were opened wide, bloodshot, and darted furtively left and right, missing nothing. I'd seen those eyes before, on hundreds of men. They were the eyes of someone frightened out of his wits, of someone a step ahead of death.
"Carter?" he whispered, afraid that the night would hear him.
He swung the door wider and motioned me inside. As I entered he pulled a string and the room was flooded with light from a naked bulb that hung from the ceiling. It was a small room, and the only furniture in it was a cracked, stained washstand in the corner and a soiled mattress on the floor. Strewn about were crumpled newspapers and empty brown bags. The heady aroma of garlic and onions permeated the air.
Augie Fergus withdrew a pint bottle of liquor from his jacket pocket and with trembling hands managed to uncap it and drink long, and hard. When he finished, he had calmed down somewhat.
"The information, Fergus," I said impatiently. "What is it?"
"Not so fast," he countered. "Not until I get 5,000 pounds and a private flight to Khartoum. When I get there safely, you'll get your bloody information."
I thought about it, but not for long. Five thousand pounds is a damn cheap price to pay for what he had to offer. I could have London wire the British consulate in Luxor instructing them to give me the money. And hiring a private plane wouldn't be too hard. I agreed to his terms, but warned him what would happen to him if he tried anything funny.
"It's on the up-and-up, mate," he whined.
"Okay," I said. "I'll have the money tomorrow afternoon. I'll fly you out then."
Fergus shook; his head. "Tomorrow night, this time. 'Ell, the whole bloody city's crawling with bastards after me. In broad daylight I'll be spotted."
"Who's after you, Fergus, and why?"
"None of your business," he shot back. "It's got nothing to do with the killing in London. It's personal. Just be here tomorrow night with the money and a way out of here."
"If that's the way you want it…" I shrugged and turned to leave.
"Carter," Fergus called out as I reached the door, "one more thing. If anything should happen to me, go to the Grand Hotel bar in Tangiers. Someone will contact you there with the information."
"How will I know him?"
"Don't worry/ he said, "my person will know you. Just hand over the money and you'll get what you want."
I nodded and left.
I had to wait until morning for the telegraph office to open. When it did, I wired London for the money. Three hours later I got my reply. The consulate had been instructed to release 5,000 pounds to me. After collecting the money I reserved a charter plane at the airport. There were still eight hours left before my meeting with Fergus. I returned to my room, showered, ordered a gin and tonic. Then I went to sleep.
I was awakened by my alarm clock at eight in the evening. I dressed, gathered up the attaché case of money and took a cab to Fergus' hideout.
This time the door was opened by a stranger. He was a short, rather thin Arab wearing a white tropical suit and a red fez.
He said nothing to me but grinned and motioned toward the open door with his left hand; his right, I noted, was stuck in his jacket pocket.
Another man came out, a large heavy Arab wearing the traditional desert garb of kaffiyeh, robe and sandals.
"Mr. Carter?" he said. "Mr. Nick Carter?"
I had not used a cover name with Augie; there had seemed little point. "That's right," I said.
"You have come to meet Augie Fergus."
He wasn't asking, he was telling. I squinted, trying to see better in the darkness. "Right again," I said, watching the thin man with his hand in his pocket. "Where is he?"
The fat man smiled. "He is here, Mr. Carter. You will see him. In the meantime, let us introduce ourselves. I am Omar ben Ayoub." He watched me closely, obviously expecting some reaction. "And this is my associate, Gasim."
"If Fergus is here," I said, ignoring the introductions, "where is he?"
Ayoub, in turn, ignored my question. "You would assist Augie Fergus in cheating his colleagues, would you, Mr. Carter? You would help him leave Luxor without paying his debts."
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about," I snapped at him. "But I want to see Augie and I want to see him now."
Ayoub's smile disappeared. "All right, Mr. Carter," he said grimly. "You shall see him."
He snapped his fingers and two more Arabs appeared in the black doorway, big husky men in western suits. They were dragging something, the limp body of a man. They dragged it to within a few feet of me and dropped it unceremoniously on ...