Warren Murphy: The Eleventh Hour

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    The Eleventh Hour
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It's always darkest before the end Things weren't exactly looking bright for Remo and Chiun. Not to mention for the entire world. From an evil inferno the ancient almighty god of destruction had risen to possess the Destroyer's body and soul. Meanwhile Remo's Oriental master, Chiun had been betrayed by the U.S. President himself, and was now a weapon of the U.S.S.R. Smith, their unflappable superior in C.U.R.E., planned to take the easy way out-commit suicide. But for Remo and Chiun, the solution wasn't going to be quite so simple and not nearly as painless..

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Destroyer 70: The Eleventh Hour

By Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Chapter 1

Right up until the moment he sold America out, Sammy Kee would have laughed at anyone who called him a traitor to the United States.

Was it treason to love your country so much that you fought to improve it? "And God knows it needs improvement," he would say.

After all, everybody knew that America was a fascist, racist country.

Everybody knew that anyone in jail in America was a political prisoner.

Everybody knew that there was no atrocity committed anywhere in the world so bad that America hadn't committed a worse one.

Everybody knew that there would be peace in the world if only America would stop building nuclear weapons.

Sammy Kee had never been formally schooled in these positions. He had figured them out simply by watching the television network news. Would television lie?

So he repeated all his slogans and he marched against aid to the Nicaraguan contras and he bought every record by Peter, Paul, and Mary and he was still unhappy.

He was unhappy because all three major television networks had refused to hire him as a roving correspondent, even though he had sent each of them, as an audition piece, a fifteen-minute videotape sample which had been his senior project at the UCLA film school and which had earned him the unprecedented mark of A-double-plus.

The tape was a dimly lit, slightly out-of-focus series of interviews with prostitutes, drug dealers, and muggers, all of whom earnestly stated for the camera that Reaganomics had driven them to crime.

The network rejections had left him despondent for two days. Then he decided that the problem wasn't his; it was the problem of the three television networks. First, they weren't ready yet for his hardhitting brand of independent journalism; and second, they were increasingly under the control of the evil government in Washington, D.C.

Figuring out a way to blame his joblessness on Ronald Reagan instantly made Sammy Kee feel better and it was then that he had his master idea. If the networks would not hire him to prove how bad America was, he would make himself an overseas correspondent and prove how good other countries were. Same church, different door.

And now Sammy Kee had just such a story. All he had to do was to get it home and it would make him the biggest name in television since Geraldo Rivera. Even bigger than Rivera because Sammy had found something more important than empty bottles in Al Capone's old closet.

But first he had to get back to the United States, and he was beginning to think that might not be so easy.

He had tried to reach the airport but the beautiful Asian capital city had been ringed by guards and only an official pass would satisfy them. Kee did not have a pass. All he had was a white cotton blouse and dirty trousers tied at the cuff with ragged blue ribbons in the peasant style. But peasants were not welcome in the capital and they had turned him away without even asking for his nonexistent pass.

So he had ducked under an old vegetable truck waiting at the south-road checkpoint and ridden the axle into the city.

He had not expected the city to be so beautiful. He had been told that it was completely flattened by American bombers thirty-five years ago but it had been rebuilt from the dirt up. It sparkled. There were skyscrapers and massive government buildings, scrubbed as if new, and heroic statues stood in every square. The bland, flat face of the Great Leader stared down from posters and billboards like some sort of benign pancake god.

But the city was also soulless, Sammy Kee discovered after crawling out from under the vegetable truck. Few people walked the streets. Little traffic hummed in the roads. Shops and restaurants were stagnant from lack of trade. Even the neon signs lacked color. And there were the soldiers with the hard boyish faces and almond-shaped eyes that one saw everywhere in this corner of Asia. Only they were more numerous here.

If only he could have slipped past the soldiers, huddled on every corner in their green overcoats and fur caps, Sammy Kee might have found a way out of the country. But two of the soldiers spotted his peasant garb near the Koryo Hotel and shouted to him to stop. Sammy immediately took flight.

He did not know where he ran, only that he took every corner he came upon. The heavy sound of their running boots dogged his path, but Sammy ran faster because they were motivated by duty, but he by fear.

On Turtle Street he saw a familiar emblem on the gate. A flag fluttered on a pole. It was red. And behind the gate, the massive white marble of the Russian embassy sat in the darkness like a sullen ghost.

Sammy ran to the gate. He looked back over his shoulder.

There was no sign of the soldiers. Sammy Kee felt his lunch, some rancid kimchi he had found in a garbage can, rise in his esophagus. For the thousandth time he brushed a dirty hand against his trouser leg, feeling the reassuring hard plastic box under the white cotton. What was in that plastic would buy his life, his freedom, and make him a star. lf he could get home.

He hesitated before the gate. Then the sound of a military whistle filled the neighborhood. Sammy forced himself to press the buzzer. Only the Russians could protect him, an American in Pyongyang, the capital of the People's Democratic Republic of Korea, where no American had walked free since the Communists took over forty years earlier.

Sammy wiped a tear from his eye as he waited. There was a man in a green uniform coming to the gate. He looked white, which reassured Sammy Kee, even though he himself was not white, but of Korean descent. Sammy had been born in San Francisco.

"What do you want?" the uniformed man said in stiff, formal Korean. He was slight, blondish, like a minor bureaucrat who had been drafted into military service. His most outstanding feature was a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. He was so nondescript that people always remembered the glasses but not the face behind them.

"I want political asylum," Sammy Kee said in English. "I am an American."

The Russian looked as if he had been shot. The shock of hearing Kee's accent tightened his face. He pressed a hidden switch and unlocked the gate. "Quickly," the Russian said, and when Sammy Kee hesitated, he yanked the American who looked like a dirty Korean peasant into the compound with such force that Sammy Kee hit the pavement like a tackled halfback.

"Fool," the Russian said, taking Sammy by the arm and lifting him bodily. "If any of my Korean comrades had caught you, I could not have stopped them from having you shot as a spy."

"I want to see the ambassador," said Sammy Kee.

"Later. First, you will answer questions. Who knows you are in this country?"

"No one."

"I mean, what Americans know?"

"No one. I came on my own."

The Russian led Sammy Kee into the basement of the Soviet compound. They went in through a side door obviously used for rubbish disposal. Somewhere a furnace issued a dull roar. The corridor was lined with stone. But the doors were of wood. They looked more substantial than the stone. The Russian pushed Sammy through one of them, locking it behind them.

It was an interrogation room. That was obvious. A simple table sat under a cone of harsh too-white light. The chairs were of uncomfortable wood.

Sammy Kee, surrendering to the situation, sat before he was told to sit.

"I am Colonel Viktor Ditko," the Russian said, and immediately Sammy Kee knew that the man was KGB.

Sammy Kee started to volunteer his name, but the colonel snapped a question first.

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