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As Ron Costello saw it, the nighttime media party in Edgartown provided him a wide-open window of opportunity--one he could make the most of. For he was frustrated and fed up, and what he badly needed was to satisfy a basic human need, the need for some kind of physical release. Chasing the Clintons around the resort island of Martha's Vineyard, looking on as a cracker First Family acted out its vacation in front of millions, was not just tiring for him, but unnecessary. When a family--even the First Family--went golfing, boating, and horseback riding, it was hardly newsworthy. And Costello was, after all, the chief White House correspondent for the powerful Global News Network, not some travel narrator, for Christ's sake. But here he was, on a GNN assignment he hated, reporting on President Clinton and family eating barbecue.
The jazzy voice of the singer Sade wafted through the humid night air, and Ron Costello pursed his thin lips and sized up the situation. Already in his sights was a pretty camerawoman light-headed from too much vodka. Costello felt he had a real chance with this young woman, who was now walking toward the makeshift bar located in the corner of the front porch. Surely this babe was impressed with his resume. He had been a correspondent with GNN for twenty-six years. The power and prestige of his job brought him big-time perks, like the attention of young women eager to advance in the arbitrary world of television news. That Costello's wife and kids usually stayed in D.C. during his presidential travels heightened his risk-reward ratio considerably.
Perhaps fifty people attended the party, which was being tossed in an old Colonial home overlooking Edgartown harbor. GNN had rented the house for the summer and it was the perfect executive retreat. For thirty years, Martha's Vineyard had attracted rich and powerful media personalities. Walter Cronkite owned a multi-million dollar home on the outskirts of Edgartown. Mike Wallace had a summer house on the island, as did Katharine Graham of the Washington Post.
Scores of lesser known writers and television reporters also owned small beach houses, usually on the Vineyard's south side. It was considered a prestigious place to be, and to many in the media, prestige was an intoxicant more powerful than opium.
Ron Costello himself suffered the prestige addiction, but his judgment was not entirely clouded by it. With his extended belly and thinning hair, he knew he was no Tom Cruise, and therefore no threat to GNN anchorman Lyle Fleming, a man who held serious power. Costello got plenty of coveted air time on GNN's daily broadcast of The News Tonight, chiefly because he was competent and bland--a perfect journalistic soldier who did exactly as he was told, and kissed the butts of the executives who did the telling.
All of that made Ron Costello an angry, bitter man. Despite his obvious limitations, he thought he deserved to be in the first echelon of broadcasting stars. He wanted a lead role, more fame and, especially, more power. Because he had not achieved any of those three ambitions, Costello vented his frustrations upon the rank and file below him at the network. That they universally loathed him bothered Costello not at all. In fact, he never even thought about it. His energy was directed toward getting as much as he could of what he wanted. And tonight he wanted this freelance GNN camerawoman named Suzanne. He wanted her in a big way.
So he turned his gaze toward Suzanne, who was slowly meandering back toward him, her hips discreetly swaying. His intense sexual hunger was apparent to anyone who bothered to notice. And someone was noticing. From the shadows across the street, a man dressed in dark clothes stood perfectly still. Had he entered the party, many would have known him. But he did not want to be recognized. The man staring at Costello wanted complete anonymity.
The ferry from Woods Hole, on Cape Cod, had carried this observer to Vineyard Haven just three hours prior. He checked into a small bed and breakfast house a few yards from the ferry terminal and, soon after, took a cab to the media center, located in an elementary school just outside of Edgartown.
Telling the cabby to wait, the man circled the media center while staying close to the wall. He wanted no one to see him. Then he was handed his first stroke of luck. On the door outside the center, a posted sign told of that evening's party in Edgartown. Knowing how Ron Costello operated away from home, he suspected Costello would be there.
The man now lurking in the shadows was about to do something he had never done before. It had taken him more than a year to decide to act. But now he was both determined and apprehensive.
Costello himself had no idea he was being stalked. The thought would never have occurred to him. He knew he had enemies, but he lived in a world of rules and entitlement. He was protected by law and position. Never in his life had he personally felt the horror of violent crime.
The man in the shadows watched patiently as Costello began speaking to a well built brunette. Though much too far away to hear the conversation, he sensed what was going on.
"Let's get out of here. I have some really good weed back at the hotel."
"Ron, you know I don't smoke. Besides, what would your wife say?"
"She's in D.C. and I'm here. That's separated, Suzanne."
The young woman silently sighed, her brown eyes darting to the floor. She wanted no part of the disagreeable Ron Costello. Her friends at GNN had warned her about the lecherous correspondent. His wire-like lips gave him a perpetually cruel expression. And that belly hanging over his belt! No way she was buying into this. Lyle Fleming--that might be another matter.
Costello, armed with a predator's instinct, sensed it wasn't going well. So he did what he usually did when gratification eluded him--he got unpleasant.
"Listen, luv, I'm giving you a great opportunity here. You could be back in New York doing ambush interviews for the tabloid shows. Instead, you're on this beautiful island with the First Family. But that could end very fast."
"Are you threatening me, Ron?" the woman asked, suddenly a bit more sober.
"Not at all--just reminding you of your good fortune."
"Excuse me, Ron." And with that Costello's fantasy girl for the evening walked away for good.
Ron Costello's posture now changed considerably. As the brunette briskly left the front porch and headed inside the house, his shoulders slumped and he grew agitated. For his stalker, this was good. The bastard would be preoccupied.
Costello's night was ruined, and he was royally pissed off. Goddamn bitch. She'll be sorry. Goddamn Clinton and his stupid family. What the fuck am I doing here? With those black thoughts ricocheting around his brain, Costello drained his beer, said a few insincere goodbyes, and headed for his hotel. From a safe distance, the man watching Costello followed.
He knew exactly where the correspondent was going. For years, the stalker had been coming to the Vineyard. He could thoroughly describe the island--from the wilds of Chappaquiddick, where Edward Kennedy had abandoned a trapped and struggling Mary Jo Kopechne in a car filling with sea water, to the stately homes of Chilmark, the chic area where the self-destructive John Belushi was buried. The stalker knew that Ron Costello was heading back to his suite at the Whaler's Inn, where most of the network correspondents stayed while on assignment.
The streets of Edgartown were done up in the colonial style. White-shingled homes lined both sides of the main avenue, many adorned with lanterns and elaborate gables. Picket fences surrounded some of the larger homes, giving the small town the traditional New England look that tourists love. Although a chill was rolling in from the sea, it was an easy, comfortable stroll following Ron Costello as he wove his way toward the hotel.
All the rooms at "the Whaler," as it was known, could be reached from outside terraces overlooking Edgartown Harbor. As Costello climbed the stairs to his room, the man below slowly removed a pair of surgeon's gloves from the pocket of his denim jacket and put them on. He then took a long-stemmed spoon from his back pants pocket, checking it closely. The spoon was stainless steel, the kind used for stirring drinks in tall glasses. The stem of the spoon was exactly eight inches long. The man put it back in his pocket.
In the last moments of his life, Ron Costello did the following: flicked on the TV, stripped off his clothes, urinated, and donned a bathrobe with a blue crest on the chest pocket. Then he heard the knock.
What the fuck? Costello thought. It's almost midnight.
"Mr. Costello, this is the night manager. We have a hand-delivered message from a young woman for you. I thought it might be important."
Ron Costello's eyes lit up. Maybe the little bitch has come to her senses.
Costello opened the door and immediately felt excruciating pain. Something hit him in the chest, taking his breath away. As he doubled over, he felt a blunt object smash into his nose, breaking it. Stunned by what turned out to be a blow from his assailant's knee, Costello hit the floor, bleeding profusely.
The assailant quietly closed the door and stood over the prone correspondent. As with most assault victims, Costello was completely disoriented and terribly afraid. Everything had happened so fast. The correspondent was having so much trouble breathing he couldn't have screamed if his life depended on it. And it did.
The man knelt beside Costello, careful not to get any blood on his clothing. He was outwardly calm, but inside he was raging. He hated Costello. Hated him beyond words, beyond reason.
"Look at me, Costello. Do you know me?"
The struggling correspondent looked up, trying to focus his eyes. Because breathing through his broken nose was now impossible, he gasped for air through his mouth.
"You do know me. For a lot of years, remember?"
A glint of recognition shone in Costello's eyes, but he still wasn't sure who his attacker was. His hearing was intact, but his broken and swelling nose blurred his vision.
"No network can help you now," he heard a deep, soft voice say. "Nobody can help you, Costello. You are an evil person. You hurt and use people. And now you are going to leave us in a rather painful way."
Costello knew he was in mortal danger, but he wouldn't accept the thought that he could lose his life. His mind struggled to find words that might save him. He believed someone would intervene. This is absurd, he thought. This can't be happening. He was Ron Costello, GNN's chief White House Correspondent. Costello tasted the salty flavor of blood running into his throat. He gagged, struggling to speak. Finally, the correspondent's last words on Earth left his mouth: "Why, why are you doing this to me?"
The intruder responded by savagely grabbing Ron Costello's windpipe with his left hand and squeezing hard. Costello gasped, his mouth opening wide, blood trickling down his chin. The assailant's right hand, now holding the oval base of the spoon, rocketed upward, jamming the stainless stem through the roof of Ron Costello's mouth. The soft tissue gave way quickly and the steel penetrated the correspondent's brain stem. Ron Costello was clinically dead in four seconds.
Finally came the response the White House correspondent had asked for: "For Argentina, that's why."
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
The policemen were clearly frightened. Their fascist powers were being brazenly challenged. Standing directly in front of the police were nearly ten thousand very angry Argentine citizens screaming curses and revolutionary slogans:
ALa gente unida venceramos!
AMuera la Junta!
GNN News Correspondent Shannon Michaels translated the chant and wrote it into his notebook: "The people, united, will never be defeated! Death to the Junta! Death to the dictator Galtieri!" Shannon and his video crew stood behind the police, five hundred strong crowded together in a massive show of force. Their assignment was to guard the presidential palace, called the Casa Rosada--the Pink House--and to protect President General Leopoldo Galtieri. But the crowd was getting more and more aggressive, pushing toward the large metal gate that provided access to the palatial grounds. Shannon saw that The Plaza de Mayo, the huge square in front of the Casa Rosada, was now filled to capacity. Something very ugly was going to happen, Shannon thought, and happen soon.
The sky was clear, but clouds were assembling in the west. Shannon ran his fingers through his thick mane of wavy brown hair. His teal blue eyes were locked on the agitated crowd. It was his eyes that most people noticed first--a very unusual color that some thought materialized from a contact lens case. But Shannon, the product of two Celtic parents, didn't go in for cosmetic enhancements. His 694 frame was well toned by constant athletics, and his pale white skin was flawless--another genetic gift. Shannon's looks, which he thoroughly capitalized on, made him a natural for television.
As the mob continued its boisterous serenade, Shannon slowly shook his head. Most wars were foolish, he thought, but this one was unusually idiotic. The Argentine Junta, a group of military thugs led by General Galtieri, had ordered an invasion of the British-administered Falkland Islands on April Fool's Day, 1982. The government claim was that the islands, which the Argentines called the Malvinas, became a part of Argentina through a Papal declaration in 1493. The British disagreed. So, nearly five hundred years after the grant of land, the Argentine Army swarmed ashore, startling eighteen hundred British subjects and tens of thousands of bewildered sheep.
A small British garrison of sixty defenders put up a spirited fight for three hours, killing seven Argentines and wounding fifteen others. But on April 2, 1982, the Argentine flag finally flew over the rocky, wind-whipped islands in the remote, freezing South Atlantic.
The islands, of course, were of importance only to the Junta. Things were not going well in Argentina. Inflation had destroyed the economy and the only way the military government could control the disenchanted population was to brutalize dissenters. Argentine citizens were routinely kidnapped and murdered by the Junta's German-trained secret police. So that no evidence could be found, some of the murdered bodies were tossed out of military planes flying over the Atlantic.
Argentine dissatisfaction with the government grew unabated, so Galtieri and his cutthroats needed a major nationalistic diversion--and preferably a big win--to bring the population to their side. They thought the invasion of the Falklands might provide it.
During his seven-year career as a TV news correspondent, Michaels had seen rank stupidity, but this moronic government strategy boggled the mind. Anyone who read a newspaper knew that the British Parliament, and especially Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, would never allow British honor to be besmirched. It took the Brits just three months to thoroughly humiliate the Junta, further angering the Argentine citizenry. No wonder they were now filling the streets in passionate demonstration against the Galtieri government.