Now in the postCold War present, Isaiah Hawkins, chief of a U.S. intelligence agency, discovers that the Amber Room is being offered for sale. In a quest to influence the world's political stage, Hawkins sets out on a mission to capture the Room and the power it holds. In a whirlwind of intrigue and suspense, Hawkins' team, including a street-smart blackmailer and a sexy but dangerous agent who seemingly has nothing to lose, must outsmart devious and exotic competitors to seize the Amber Room and find what matters to them most.
Jonathan Harris weaves a tight and gripping plot with a grand love story. And just when the tension reaches a boiling point, Harris delivers an ending that drops the reader through a series of unexpected trap doors.
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Ivo Jenkins shifted his weight, 288 pounds according to the hotel room scale, his new diet doing no good at all. His goal was 260, so that he would look good in a new tux for his baby girl's wedding. But dropping the pounds would have to wait: even if he had promised his wife and even if he was looking more and more like a black Sydney Greenstreet. His business being so often about the waitingGod favoring the patient and all that. Even if God maybe hadn't meant to apply that particular rule to him. He picked up the phone and called room service, contemplating something rare.
It was nearly eleven on a warm summer night in the nation's capital. He slid over to the heavy suitcase that he'd let the bellhop carry up to the room and removed a metallic box the size of a stereo receiver. Dangling from its back were a jumble of cords and cables, too many for Ivo's taste. He preferred the old ways. But a man had to keep up with his profession: after all, slow buffalo got shot.
He placed the box on a cheap veneer dresser and plugged the thinnest of the wires into a power outlet, bending the prongs slightly so as to fit them into the much-abused socket. Then he ran a coaxial cable from the box to the room's television set. A small green light blinked on in the center of the box's power button, which Ivo depressed slowly with his thumb.
From the darkness of the television screen emerged a pixelated image of a bored late night newscaster. The newscaster reading scripted words from a teleprompter about an upcoming presidential election in Russia, with pictures of the candidates drifting across the screen. Seemed the Russian electorate had a choice between an old time commie with a new style western haircut, and a new style western-educated reformer with an old time bad Russian suit. Neither one of them looked to Ivo like they went much for the ladies. But you never knew, and Ivo figured that somewhere in Russia there might have been a kindred soul, a member of the professional brotherhood, who might have been interested.
Ivo personally liked to work closer to home, and he switched to the blank screen of channel 3, lowered the lights and settled back into a plaid armchair to wait, staring at the emptiness.
He sat there without moving for thirty minutes until, at exactly midnightGod how he loved punctual peoplehe heard a quartet of footsteps reach a pause not twenty feet from him, in front of the door to the neighboring room.
The lock opened with the click of an electronic keycard and, driven by an automated demon of its own, the television screen simultaneously flicked on in front of Ivo. In 21-inch color, a distinguished-looking white man in his early fifties stepped onto the screen and into a room identical to Ivo's own, right down to the plaid armchair. The man was lean and muscular, with silver gray hair, a square movie star jaw and a smile. A Charlton Heston type, wearing a two-thousand-dollar, hand-tailored, blue pinstripe suit. Soon enough Charlton was joined by another type altogether, a thin girl of maybe fifteen. She had long straight hair, light skin, and an oval face that belonged to a Modigliani portrait. Had Modigliani painted black girls.
Charlton took his clothes off first, carefully and methodically: his pants draped with a perfect crease over a hanger, the jacket added and the set hung in the closet, his shirt and tie meriting a hanger of their own, well-shined shoes placed together under the foot of the bed, socks neatly folded and laid on a chair where they were thereafter joined by his white jockey shorts. All done in a manner that was meticulousthe manner of a man who had regular habits, who believed in an ordered world and his place in it.
As the girl slid off her own skirt, she stole a single glance at Charlton standing there naked. She turned and offered a self-conscious glance in a mirror, then just looked away.
They did more than enough. Did it twice, maybe a hat trick. After a while, Ivo closed his eyes and stopped watching. The girl was still a child, her body not fully developed, her breasts and hips more sharp than full. Charlton gave it to her best he could and when he was finally done, he dried his dick off with a tissue, stepped back into his fine clothing, handed the girl a couple of hundreds and went out the way he'd come in. Smiling.
In return, Ivo Jenkins allowed himself the thinnest of possible smiles. Like its blood relatives, politics and sex, blackmail is a dark art of the possible. And Charlton was about to learn just how very possible blackmail could be.
* * *
An unlabeled videocassette arrived via messenger the next afternoon at the still distinguished man's well-ordered office. A typed Post-It note suggesting, helpfully, that perhaps it would be best to view the tape in private.
And so it was only that evening, watching in his living room as the first frame of the tape rolled, his wife an unlocked door away in the next room, that he realized the facts of his situation, and fear and anger took hold of James Washington Lancaster.
Excerpted from Seizing Amber by Jonathan Harris. Copyright © 2001 by Jonathan Harris. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.