Warren Murphy: The Last Monarch

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  • Название:
    The Last Monarch
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    Детективная фантастика / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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CURED Thank's to Chiun's "emptying basin" technique, past U.S. presidents remember nothing about CURE, America's most secret defense organization. Now a former head of state believed to have lost his mind suddenly finds it - and calls Dr.Harold Smith to say hi. But before Remo and Chiun can redo their amnesia trick, the old guy is kidnapped by bumbling eco-terrorists eager to sell him to a desert despot with a grudge. As the ex-Mr.President doggedly tries to outwit his captors and single-handedly save the Middle East from extinction, Remo and Chiun pick up the trail, and a worried Dr.Smith fingers his cyanide pill, convinced that this is the end. For Remo, it will be...unless Chiun drops the altitude he's adopted over a certain fiasco involving his Hollywood screenplay, and the world's most deadly assassin's end up killing each other before they can save anyone else.

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He was trying to decide who would make the best first target when a limousine roared up the street. It squealed up to the curb near Minister Shittman.

The passenger in the rear didn't even wait for the driver to run around from the front. The door sprang open, and a familiar figure popped into view.

She was six feet tall and dressed in a pair of black jeans tight enough to launch her femur marrow up into her pelvis. Her white lace blouse was chopped at her sternum to expose a perfectly flat stomach.

Remo recognized Cheri, the unimonikered rock singer and Academy Award-winning movie star, the instant she got out of the limo. He'd had the misfortune of seeing part of one of her films a few years earlier. As far as he was concerned, as an actress, she made a great singer. Unfortunately, the opposite was equally true.

In a desperate and futile attempt to remain youthful in perpetuity, Cheri had spent more time in operating rooms in the past two decades than on movie sets or in recording studios. Behind her back, friends joked that she could no longer sit next to an open fire lest she run the risk of puddling. As the years of plastic surgery took their toll, her face began to take on the elongated shape of an Easter Island statue.

Remo remembered reading somewhere that she'd had the muscles in her face paralyzed to avoid wrinkling. It had the effect of turning her immobile features into a living death's-head mask.

"Get out of my way! Out of my way, dammit!" Cheri yelled. Her warbling, whining voice rose past lips that didn't twitch a millimeter.

For Remo, her timing couldn't have been better. "Wait your turn," a man groused.

He was an actor who had starred in The Search for Pink November, a movie about a defecting Russian submarine captain. In the denouement of that film, the titular sub had been able to perform acrobatics more appropriate to an aerial dogfight than an undersea battle. The only two things Remo really remembered about the movie were the ludicrous battle scene at the end and the wooden actor's flaring nostrils.

The angry star was flanked by his three untalented thespian brothers.

"I was first!" Cheri shouted. "My agent phoned ahead."

Neither the actor nor his three dull-eyed siblings seemed particularly impressed by her claim. As Cheri groused, they promptly offered her their broad backs.

It was the chance Remo had been waiting for. Across the street, he gave his thumb a simple flick. The quarter, which had been balanced on his cuticle, rocketed forward. Only Remo saw it as it zoomed at supersonic speed across the street.

The English Remo had put on the coin made it wobble from its deadly flat trajectory somewhere midstreet. Once it reached the curb at the far side, it had slowed considerably and was zipping along heads side first.

By the time the coin struck the submarine movie actor between the shoulder blades, it had no more force than a rough shove.

The actor was launched forward into one of his brothers. They both toppled over onto the stairs. "Hey, watch it, dude," the younger actor snarled, pushing his older brother away. He had been in the process of picking up another handsome young man. The older brother seemed shocked. As he got to his feet, he pointed back at Cheri.

"She pushed me," the actor insisted, nostrils stretching to heretofore unrealized expanses of indignation.

"What?" Cheri's ventriloquist's dummy mouth asked. "Eat shit, you asshole."

As she spoke, she suddenly lurched forward. Arms thrown wide, she collapsed onto the falling form of the stunned actor. No one heard the clatter of coin on pavement.

"Get off me, you freaking mummy!" the actor screamed.

As he yelled, a commotion broke out in the next line.

Apparently, one of the noncelebrities in the crowd had shoved Susan Saranrap's lover. Tom Roberts had scrambled to his feet and pushed the man back. Not recognizing Roberts's standing among the unassailable glitterati, the man had promptly socked the actor in the nose.

There was blood everywhere.

Someone unseen rammed one of the ex-mayors in the back. As he fell, the man's tennis racket accidentally swatted his predecessor at city hall in the bald head. The other former mayor promptly went into cardiac arrest.

It went downhill from there.

Fistfights erupted up and down the stairs. Men screamed and swore. One man was pushed over the railing and landed with a splat on the sidewalk.

Cheri was livid as she punched and kicked the submarine movie actor. So angry was she, her eyes nearly twitched.

Minister Shittman had been propelled onto Mace Scree. Only the trademark hat of the diminutive director was visible beneath the great, wobbling purple velour mound.

For some reason, the fattest of the submarine movie actor's brothers had stripped off every last stitch of clothing. Screaming, he raced naked up and down the street.

As the riot grew, a few people begged the police to do something. Unarmed, the best they could do was read loudly cautionary advice from their pamphlets on making racist assumptions about the intentions of mobs.

Without any nudging from Remo, the protestors on the other staircase began rioting, as well.

And on the sidewalk, through it all, news cameras dutifully recorded the brawl that had broken out among the peace-loving protestors.

Remo pushed away from the fire hydrant against which he'd been leaning. The remaining coins jangled merrily in his pocket. In all, it had cost him only $2.50 in quarters.

"Now that's a mob," he pronounced.

While the cameras captured the true nature of the men and women on the steps of the police precinct, Remo turned away from the wrestling crowd.

He was feeling so good, maybe he'd rent a movie on the way home. Because of Chiun, he hadn't done so in ages.

Hands thrust deep into the pockets of his Chinos, he began strolling, whistling, down the sidewalk. The August sun was warm on his face.

Chapter 3

The somber brick building with its ivy-covered walls hunched warily amid the chirping woods and clawing night shadows. Lights from shore and the waxing moon sent ripples of shimmering silver across the undulating black waves of nearby Long Island Sound.

At the rear of the big building, one lonely light shone out from the darkness. The dull yellow glow spread thinly across the damp, midnight-black lawn that stretched to the lapping waters of the Sound.

The window through which the light spilled was made of one-way glass. Beyond the thick pane, away from the prying eyes of the outside world, a solitary figure sat at a lonely desk in a Spartan office.

Although it was well after hours, Dr. Harold W. Smith had completed his day's work only twenty minutes before.

To anyone in the outside world who might note Smith's schedule, this would not have seemed unusual. More often than not, as director of Folcroft Sanitarium in Rye, New York, Smith worked late.

However, all but a handful of people would have been surprised to learn that the work that occupied him was unrelated to sanitarium business.

Harold Smith led a dual life. To the public, he was the taciturn administrator of Folcroft, a bland man with a bland job. But in private, he was director of the supersecret government agency known only as CURE.

CURE was not an acronym, but a dream. A wish by a President-long dead-to heal the ills of a wounded nation.

At its inception, the agency was to work outside the tricky confines of the Constitution in order to protect it. A most illegal means to reach a most noble end.

Smith had toiled as director of Folcroft for the better part of his adult life. It was an irony not lost on the aging New Englander that the greatest lawbreaker in American history was also the nation's greatest defender.

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