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Authors: Warren Murphy

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BOOK: Remo The Adventure Begins
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Chiun smiled. Any fool would know that whatever an emperor did was the law itself. The dark-skinned white man was hinting at imperial ineptitude. There was a plot afoot in this land of many houses.

“So sometimes special measures need to be taken. Things must be done outside the law. And they have to be very secret because we can’t afford to admit our laws just don’t work in protecting us. We do the special things; me, and Smith, and the man you will train named Remo.”

Chiun nodded. An emperor only had to be secretive when planning to betray another emperor. But if it pleased this servant of the emperor to concoct fairy tales until the true motives were admitted, Chiun could accept that.

The Master of Sinanju had already been paid. The emperor’s truth was now Chiun’s truth, as well—at least until his job was done.


he face in the mirror was not his face. The name on the bed chart was not his name. He would have thought he was going crazy if not for the scar from the baseball bat. He had been hit with the bat on the pier, and the blows broke skin. Despite the pain of the plastic surgery, he could feel the pull of the stitches that closed the wound.

And all that told Sam he had been set up on the wharf for this thing that he had been shanghaied into. All those psychological tests, and even being kept on the shift two hours longer so that he would be there in the squad car when the first man fled from the other two. Of course all three were part of the same team, setting up his death.

The nurse called him Remo, and Con McCleary called him Remo, and this morning somebody was going to tell him what it was all about.

“I am not Remo Williams,” he told the nurse before McCleary got there.

“I understand, Remo,” she said. “Concussions can do that.”

She had light brown hair, a full bosom stretching her white uniform, and a presence that let him know if he weren’t on his back nude in bed, she might be.

“Look, sweetheart, would it shock you if I told you my name is Sam Makin? I am a policeman who was killed . . . I guess two days ago. I don’t even know what day it is.”

“It’s Wednesday, Remo.”

“Would it shock you if I told you that I wasn’t Remo but someone who was killed in New York City?”

“No. That is a natural response to escaping death. A sense of guilt for having survived so intense that you identify with someone who didn’t. It’s quite natural, Remo. And you’ll get over it.”

“Can I have my clothes?”

“You don’t need your clothes, Remo. You’re recovering.”

“All right then, what did you do with my clothes? Don’t you see, I am being kept a prisoner here without clothes.”

“I assure you, Remo, you will get over those feelings of being a prisoner.”

“Nurse. Get me some clothes or the sheet comes off,” he said. She laughed. He ripped the sheet off his body and stood nude facing her.

“You seem to forget, I’m a nurse,” she said.

He shrugged. She was right.

“But let me give you my phone number,” she said, looking over his body. “I am also a woman.”

“Get me a pair of pants,” he said. “I’ll take them off in your apartment.”

She laughed. “Remo, you’re a card.”

It dawned on him then that as Remo Williams, the man who didn’t exist, he could punch her in the back of that laughing head and not commit a crime. Dead men did not commit crimes. They couldn’t. And suddenly a large part of the whole scheme came clear to him. As Remo Williams he could kill without committing a crime. This was the advantage he’d been given, the advantage somebody wanted him to have. Badly. But if he could physically kill this grinning man who so happily claimed he set up the whole thing, McCleary, then there would be no charge against Sam Makin. Sam Makin was dead.

All right, he would be Remo Williams for a while. To kill if he had to.

He was smiling when Con McCleary returned that afternoon, saying he had been busy that morning picking up someone off the coast.

“How are you doing, Remo?”

“Fine,” said Remo. The name did not feel half bad once he got used to it. Of course, the once was still a while away. “Today is the day you tell me what this is all about.”

“You seem more cheerful today.”

“What have I got to lose?” said Remo. He smiled.

McCleary smiled. “Pretty abrupt turnabout. Your psych profile said you would come over, but not this fast. But I say to hell with psych profiles, right?”

“Right,” said Remo. He could see that under McCleary’s plaid jacket was a tip of a shoulder holster. He could grab that gun, shoot McCleary in the face and then run. They couldn’t charge the man who didn’t exist. Remo offered McCleary all that remained of his hospital lunch—Jell-O. McCleary shook his head.

“You’re here because America is in trouble. Too many of our cops are corrupt. Too many of our judges, corrupt. Too many of our politicians are for sale.”

“So what else is new?” said Remo.

“That’s where you come in. You’re going to be the eleventh commandment. Thou shalt not get away with it.”

“I see. So you created a man who can kill without committing a crime. A man who doesn’t exist.”

“For an organization that doesn’t exist, Remo. But that’s another story. You get well first.”

“Let me ask you smother question. Who gave you your name?”

“My name’s always been McCleary. It’s my father’s name.”

“How come you get to keep your name?”

“Because I am nothing special. You are going to be the deadliest white man ever to set foot on this earth. You are going to be our killer arm. There is a lot of work for you, laddie.”

Remo was quiet.

“But you’re not deadly now. You’re just a New York cop with a changed face, and some smarts. Right now I am tougher and smarter than you are, laddie. So lay back. Enjoy the food. Bang that busty nurse if you want, and wait for the good things.”

“What could be better than being drowned?” asked Remo.

McCleary laughed and gave him a little playful punch in the shoulder. McCleary’s hand felt funny. Stiff.

“Say, what’s the name of this place anyway? Where am I?”

“You’re in good hands, Remo,” said McCleary. And he laughed. “Fear not the valley of death, Remo. Because you are going to be the toughest sonuvabitch in it.”

Remo laughed too. If that should ever happen, McCleary was going to be the first to regret it.

He found out from the nurse that the hospital was in New York State, thirty miles north of the city. He found out they did operations, and had a large convalescent wing. He noticed his window was barred. She said that was some sort of clerical error. This was a mental-patient wing and he was obviously not mental. While she couldn’t give him street clothes, she certainly could provide a hospital gown. Did Remo want her to put it on for him?

He said yes. She locked the door. Then she showed him a very interesting way to dress a patient. She put the gown on him with her lips and tongue. It took thirty minutes.

“Was it good for you?” she asked.

He said it was. He wondered how she did with overcoats and slacks, and socks and shoes. She giggled. When she left, Remo waited until it was dark, until the first bedcheck, and then quietly, in bare feet, walked out into the corridor. The problem was clothes. If he lifted some from a patient he ran the risk of being caught. On the mental ward that could become unpleasant. But the operating room, where doctors dressed in hospital gowns . . . Where there were surgeons, there were unused slacks, shirts and jackets, and maybe even shoes.

He stole a mask from a fresh pile of laundry, and with mask over face found the surgeons’ lounge, then strolled in as though he had every right to be there. One trusting soul, apparently saving someone’s life in a nearby operating room, had left his locker open. He had a fine suit, with a good silk shirt, and the best tie Remo ever had around his neck. He left the watch. Even though he couldn’t legally commit a crime, he still didn’t believe in stealing.

He left the hospital through the front entrance, and waited for an ambulance. One arrived just as he needed it. The stars were smiling on him. When the driver hopped out to assist an elderly wheelchair patient out of the rear, Remo hopped in. The driver shut the door. Remo floored the accelerator and sped out of the hospital compound. He was giddy with success. He almost laughed. What incredible freedom. He could go anywhere. Do anything. Be anything. He was the freest man ever created.

Right up until the snub-nosed .38 pressed against his ear.

“Hi, Remo,” said McCleary. “You’re right on time. Make a left turn at the next intersection.”

“You wouldn’t kill me after you went to all that trouble to get me,” said Remo.

“What else could we do with you if you won’t work for us?” said McCleary. The man might not be nice, but he was reasonable.

Remo made the left turn at the next intersection. There was a sign indicating they were heading for New York City.

“You are not yet the toughest sonuvabitch in the valley, Remo.”

“When I am, you’re dead, McCleary,” said Remo into the barrel of the snub-nosed pistol.

“Ah, laddie. You’re going to have to wait on line. And there’ll be a line waiting for you, too. Don’t worry. It happens when you’re on the side of the good.”

Remo spit at the gun. McCleary didn’t fire. He laughed and holstered the weapon under his shoulder.

Traffic at two
was scarce anywhere, but in the financial district of New York City, where McCleary guided him, it was nonexistent. The giant buildings of commerce were as still as tombstones. Remo, on McCleary’s instructions, parked in front of a fifty-story bank with lots of dark glass, stretching upward with all the creative imagination of a box.

“A bank?” said Remo. “You rearranged my face so I can work for a bank?”

“Hell no. Some of them are the biggest crooks.”

“Then what are we doing here? Are you going to open up an account for me?”

“Come on. Inside. You’re going to find out everything here.”

The room Remo was supposed to find out everything in was filled with computers. A lemony-faced man in a vest with rimless glasses and pursed lips sat at a terminal, though his version of sitting defied the definition of the word. There was no relaxation in his position. His back was ruler straight, his neck rigid, his hands tense. It was as though he was arm-wrestling the terminal.

“Where’s his boss?” said Remo.

“That is the boss,” said McCleary. “Harold W. Smith.”

Smith did not turn around.

“Then why is he at the computer? Bosses sit behind desks.”

“Not this one. And these are not just any computers.”

Remo glanced over the man’s shoulder. Pictures appeared on the screen. Pictures of police files, an agricultural bulletin, IRS reports. And on closer scrutiny Remo noticed something else of interest. Each of the messages being transmitted was destined for some department bigwig. The IRS was reporting to a district office. The police sending information thought they were addressing the FBI. An agricultural report appeared to be going to some undersecretary. These reports were being filed as though they were just routine office procedures. Because that’s what the lackeys who sent them believed they were.

“They don’t know who they are reporting to, do they?” said Remo.

“No,” said Smith. The word was even sharper than usual, cut with the hard vowels of New England. “They don’t.” He nodded to the computers. “This is who we are. We oversee operations and make little adjustments. You would be surprised at how good these programs are at spotting it when something is fishy. Then we notify the proper people to investigate. It’s the added little help the country needs.”

“And who is notified when someone is kidnapped, operated on to change his face, and faked in death? Who is notified then?” said Remo.

“We really didn’t have much other choice in recruiting,” said Smith.

“Recruiting? You dumped me in the river and reshuffled my face and you call it recruiting?”

“Would you have volunteered?”

“Hell no.”

“Well, then consider it being drafted in a time of national emergency. And America is in an emergency, Mr. Williams. Let me show you how we work.”

“I’ve seen the way you work. You run black-bag operations. You kidnap people. You beat the shit out of them, and nobody holds you accountable.”

“Oh, we’re accountable, son.”

“Let me guess,” said Remo. “To the President?”

“To this one as well as the five before him,” said Smith. Remo noticed Smith’s vest wasn’t even wrinkled. The green-and-black tie was tight under Smith’s neck and it might have been that way since dawn the previous day. Only the eyes showed the strain.

“Good. Then tell them you made a mistake in your draft.”

“Your profile says we haven’t. But I am not here to argue with you. I am going to go through this once, Mr. Williams, and then . . . and then I expect you will understand.”

Smith removed a pipe from the inside of his gray jacket that matched his gray vest and his gray pants, set beneath that lemony face that mirrored his obviously gray soul. Smith stoked the pipe with tobacco, lit it, and then nodded to the computer terminal.

“We live under the greatest social document the world has ever known. The United States Constitution. It protects citizens as no document protects citizens. Unfortunately, years ago, it became apparent that the country was going through troubled times. It might not survive, not while adhering to the wonderful document that really is America, the Constitution. What to do? Remove the rights of people? Possibly. But then we become like every other country that has gone down the drain in an effort to establish law and order. And then a President, now dead, had an idea. Instead of taking away citizens’ rights, why not create an organization that could infiltrate the personal sector to oversee the areas of strategic importance to the country? Yes, it would violate the laws, but it would not be acknowledged. It would never have official sanction. And it would only exist for the few dangerous years and then quietly slide into oblivion. Are you following me?”

Remo was quiet. He glanced at McCleary. McCleary was watching him, but this time there were no sensors attached to Remo’s wrists.

BOOK: Remo The Adventure Begins
4.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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