Warren Murphy: Timber Line

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Warren Murphy Timber Line
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    Timber Line
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  • Жанр:
    Боевик / Иронический детектив / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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Timber Line: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Tulsa Torrent, America's biggest lumber company, is stumped when a couple of its key scientists are axed. Seems the deceased were part of a team developing an oil-producing tree, and a lot of interested parties have been looking to grease their palms. Before anyone else is pulped, Remo and Chiun are planted to see the project out of the woods. But danger sprouts at every turn, and when the environmentalist High Sierra Society enters the picture, determined to make Tulsa Torrent take a hike, the project rests on pines and needles. Somebody's barking up the wrong tree, and Remo and Chiun must get to the root of the matter before the unknown hatchet man mulches America's energy future into one big compost heap...

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Warren Murphy

Timber Line

For Chrissie, and the Eternal House of Sinanju

P.O. Box 1454

Secaucus, NJ 07904

Chapter One

The younger man did not sweat. Even here in the steamy, putrid depths of a Matto Grosso night, the younger man did not sweat.

That is what Karl Webenhaus hated most about him. He hated it even more than the fact that Roger Stacy was noisily, joyously making love to Webenhaus's wife in the open-flapped tent next to his. He hated the non-sweating even more than the fact that Stacy was going to kill him and claim for himself all the glory and the money from the discovery of the magic oil tree, which Webenhaus had worked and struggled and sweated after for so long. Roger Stacy had never sweated after anything. That was what Webenhaus hated most about him.

Webenhaus stretched and groaned. He put down his fountain pen and got up from the camp table and stretched again. His report was done.

He stretched one last time, then scratched his ample stomach. Fifteen years ago, he thought, that stomach had not been there. Fifteen years ago, he had been beautiful. So had Helga. She still was; but he wasn't, not anymore.

And why should he be? First, there had been all the long years of sabotaging Hitler's Third Reich while pretending to be a loyal follower of the lunatic; that would age anyone. Then there was the predawn flight with Helga to the United States, arranged by his American contact, a thin, lemony man who never smiled. Then there had been the years of hard work, establishing himself in America, working as a researcher for Tulsa Torrent, the world's largest lumber company. And then the many years of trying to find the legendary oil tree. And, just before this last trip to the Brazilian jungle, the word from the doctor that some of Webenhaus's burgeoning stomach had nothing to do with food. It was cancer, inoperable and deadly.

With the clock ticking inexorably toward his death, Webenhaus had worked like a madman, driving himself and everyone around him, digging deeper and deeper into the Matto Grosso. And finally he found it: the copa-iba tree.

His life was almost over, but he had made it worthwhile.

Webenhaus wondered how Stacy would kill him, and the thought of a dying man being murdered made him laugh aloud. For a second the grunts and moans in the next tent stopped. But only for a second. Gott, Webenhaus thought, they've been at it � he stopped to look at his watch � for over an hour already. He laughed again. Stacy hadn't been able to get her off. Poor Helga was still straining for release, and poor Stacy was still determinedly plugging away; both of them trying too hard and working too hard at something that was meant to be pleasurable.

There was a sound from the dark far corner of the tent.

Karl Webenhaus tilted the shade of the lantern that sat on his worktable so that it dimly lit the place the sound had come from. There was a small mosquito-netted cot there.

He crossed the room to the cot, parted the netting, and bent over the tiny figure snoring gently inside.

"Ah, Liebchen, Liebchen," he said softly. "What will become of you, eh? But Mama will love you enough for the two of us. And your papa, he just wants to be buried here near these trees he looked for so hard and so long."

Webenhaus hesitated for a moment, then gently kissed the child on the cheek. She stirred slightly and he pulled back. He let the netting fall shut and stood there for a moment, silently watching her. "

He nodded to himself, went back to his worktable, and took up his pen.

"Dear Comrade," he wrote. "It has been many years, but once again I must ask your help. We will not ever meet again, but I must ask you to watch over little Joey..."

Suddenly there was a stirring in the next tent and then the hushed hissing of an argument. Helga was telling Stacy what she thought of his alleged sexual prowess and that he was not even half the man that old, fat broken-down Herr Doktor Webenhaus was. Webenhaus nodded; he had overheard these conversations before, in other places and with other young men.

Stacy tried to respond, but nothing he said seemed adequate. Helga was right. He had not performed.

The old German heard Stacy storm out of the tent and start wandering around in the dark outside. Then Webenhaus heard his young associate start toward his tent.

He hastily scrawled the name of the lemony man he had known for many years onto an envelope, stuffed his partly written letter inside, and inserted both into the packet that contained his report to the company. Then he opened his thick copy of Modern Ideas in the Chess Opening and began setting up the chessmen for opening variation 1066 of the Sicilian Defense.

Webenhaus's tent flap parted, and Roger Stacy stooped in through the opening. He was tall and lean with thick black eyebrows and a strong mouth. He moved with an easy grace.

"Well, you old tub, you have succeeded."

Webenhaus took his time looking up from the chessboard. The two men's eyes locked for a long moment before Webenhaus responded with just a nod of his head.

A little glint of hate flashed in Stacy's eyes. "Have you written your report to the company?" he asked.

"Of course."

"Have you signed it? With your own name?"

Webenhaus answered immediately, without hesitation. "I signed it with all our names. Yours, mine, and Helga's. We are a team."

"Good," Stacy said. "That saves me the trouble of having to write it over again under my own name." He paused. "It's a pity you're not going to live to enjoy your success."

Webenhaus looked down at the board and hesitated for several seconds before moving his black queen's bishop.

"Did you hear me, old man?" Stacy asked.

Webenhaus said nothing.

Stacy's eyes bulged slightly. "Old man," he repeated.

Webenhaus looked at him again and smiled slightly. "Yes?"

"Did you hear me?"

"I heard you, Herr Stacy."

"You're going to die," Stacy said.

"We will all die," Webenhaus replied softly.

"I'm going to kill you, you fat old kraut."

"I know."

"And?"

Webenhaus turned back to his chessboard. "This is a most interesting problem," he said, and castled the white pieces on the queen's side. "There seems to be no way out."

Roger Stacy clenched his fists and stepped toward the chessboard.

Webenhaus moved the black king's knight and began to whistle something almost Mozartean.

Stacy unleashed a powerful, clumsy kick that sent Webenhaus sprawling across his table, scattering the chessmen and clattering the board to the plywood floor of the tent.

"I'll be back for you, you bastard," Stacy said, pushing his way through the tent flap. Webenhaus lay on the floor, looking like an off-center stuffed owl. In the corner of the tent, the child began to stir.

* * *

The company seaplane that was to take Webenhaus's party back to civilization did not come the next day as it was supposed to. Nor the day after. Nor the day after that. It could not come for more than a week because of the rains, and then it was delayed for another week because the stream that ran by the camp was too swollen and wild for the plane to land.

When the plane finally arrived, the camp had been burned. Cartons were strewn everywhere. Wisps of f smoke still drifted toward the sky. The pilot's name was Jesus, and as he circled overhead he uttered, "Holy Mary, mother of God." He crossed himself twice and began to fly off.

"Down," ordered his passenger.

"There are many things in the Jungle, senor, that one should not see too closely," Jesus said.

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