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Authors: Donald Hamilton

The Annihilators

BOOK: The Annihilators
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Also by Donald Hamilton

Title Page




































About the Author

Also Available from Titan Books

Also by
Donald Hamilton
and available from Titan Books

Death of a Citizen

The Wrecking Crew

The Removers

The Silencers

Murderers’ Row

The Ambushers

The Shadowers

The Ravagers

The Devastators

The Betrayers

The Menacers

The Interlopers

The Poisoners

The Intriguers

The Intimidators

The Terminators

The Retaliators

The Terrorizers

The Revengers

The Infiltrators
(April 2016)

The Detonators
(June 2016)

The Vanishers
(August 2016)

The Demolishers
(October 2016)

The Annihilators
Print edition ISBN: 9781783299850
E-book edition ISBN: 9781783299867

Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP

First edition: February 2016
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Copyright © 1983, 2016 by Donald Hamilton. All rights reserved. Matt Helm® is the registered trademark of Integute AB.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

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The airlines lost or misplaced a plane in New York, the one that was supposed to take me on to Chicago. It took them four hours to find it, maintaining the breathless suspense by announcing its imminent arrival every half hour. One of these days I’m going to invent a transportation device that runs on rails and call it a railroad. It may not operate on time, either, but at least I won’t have to worry about what made it late that might cause it to fall out of the sky after I’m on board.

During the delay I managed to phone Eleanor Brand at her Chicago apartment and let her know that there was really no way of predicting how long it would take them to get the big bird to flap its wings properly so she’d better not try to meet me at that sprawling insane asylum known as O’Hare Field. I’d just take a taxi up to the Near North Side, as Chicagoans call it, whenever I finally got in.

She said that she’d be waiting with something nice for me to drink, eat, and screw. As a lady reporter—journalist—she didn’t always talk like a lady was supposed to talk. Come to think of it, I never did meet a real lady, even the certified aristocratic variety, who talked like a lady was supposed to talk; supposed to by people who weren’t ladies.

It was past eleven at night when I walked through the door of the building. The doorman knew me by this time, of course; but his attitude still said that, while he wouldn’t presume to approve or disapprove morally, he thought that a bright and attractive young career person like Miss Brand in 504 should have been able to do better for herself than a tall, skinny nonentity like me, occupation unspecified. Well, he had a point. When I got out of the elevator and rang the doorbell, to save myself the trouble of digging out the key she’d given me, nobody answered.

I hadn’t expected that. She’d said she’d be there; and when she said so, she usually was. It was like being in a sports car, caught in the wrong gear by a sudden grade; the temperamental machinery lugged and bucked a bit before I could get it shifted down into the proper working ratio. I mean, I’d just finished a job. I’d left it all behind me, I thought, way over there in Europe. I was tired after the long flight. I was out of the spook business for a while. I was a human being again, well, as human as we ever let ourselves get. All I wanted was to relax and pick up where Elly and I had left off a couple of months earlier in this apartment, when she’d handed me the phone and told me Washington was on the line.

There had been no reproach in her voice. That was part of the unspoken, unwritten deal we had. We had a good time together, a very good time together. Then the phone rang and she had an assignment or I did—in our different fields of endeavor—and we didn’t see each other for a while. So far, for over a year, it had worked quite well on an unofficial (some stuffy people might prefer the word illicit) basis.

It was understood between us that it could go either way eventually. Marriage wasn’t outside the realm of possibility, although we were neither of us particularly good matrimonial material. On the other hand, for the time being, either party was free to terminate the relationship at will, no explanations required, no questions asked. But if she hadn’t wanted me to come to her now, she’d have said so. She wouldn’t have left me standing outside her door fumbling for the key, particularly not after answering the phone with every indication of pleasure at hearing my voice, and after promising to be waiting to welcome me appropriately whenever I managed to get here. I heard the telephone start to ring behind the closed door. Nobody answered it.

I swallowed something in my throat and, having found the elusive key, hesitated, wishing I had a gun—but the airport X-ray machines make a secret agent’s life very difficult these days. It hadn’t seemed worthwhile to have somebody waiting at O’Hare to slip me a weapon, not in a city I was just visiting to see my girl. I told myself not to be paranoid; she was probably just in the bathroom with the water running or in the kitchen with the dishwasher running. But the phone was still ringing in there, nobody was doing anything about it; and you do not disregard the unexpected in my line of work.

I unlocked and opened the door and went through it fast, the way they teach us in the spook-factory-and-repair-shop we maintain out in Arizona, known as the Ranch—although they do keep changing those ballet routines on us from time to time, and I wasn’t quite certain that I was employing the latest, improved door-penetration technique. As it turned out, it didn’t matter, since there was nobody hostile waiting inside. There was nobody waiting inside. The phone had stopped ringing. I picked myself up and made my way cautiously into the bedroom and got out the snubnosed .38 Special revolver I’d left with her—for a spare, and because I don’t feel that a woman living alone should be unarmed these violent days, particularly when she has a close friend, if you want to call it that, with as many enemies as I have. I checked the loads: full house.

Then I brought in my suitcase and closed the hall door. The apartment felt very still and empty. I looked through it carefully. It was small and very neat and not particularly feminine; she wasn’t a frilly-curtains girl. The electric typewriter in the corner was tidily covered; and the pages on the table, an article she’d been working on, were precisely stacked, weighted down with an ashtray containing one crushed-out last-minute cigarette. She was a very terrible little person by modern standards; she smoked. The faint residual odor of tobacco did funny things to my throat. I wished to God she were there turning the air blue with her lousy carcinogenic fumes, just so she was there.

Drink materials were set up on the little bar in the living room. There was stuff on the stove in the diminutive kitchen; but all the burners had been turned off and no residual warmth remained. The bathroom was clean, and the big double bed in the single bedroom had been turned back for immediate occupancy, but there was no occupant. I knew a limited sense of relief. It wasn’t too many years ago that I had entered an apartment in another country to find the champagne ready to be popped, the roast ready to be carved, and the lady of the place lying dead by the window in her prettiest negligee.

At least here the clock was still running, or could still be running. I wished I knew how much time was left on it, if any. I could be drawing falsely optimistic conclusions from the lack of blood. Or I could, of course, be jumping to falsely pessimistic conclusions because of Eleanor’s simple absence. In my line of work we do tend to expect the worst, always. I told myself that she could have run out on a last-minute errand and been delayed by some quite innocent and innocuous circumstance. She might come through the door at any moment, flustered and apologetic because she hadn’t been here to greet me. Or she could call to tell me that she was stuck somewhere with a flat tire…

As if in answer to my thought, the telephone started to ring again. I let it jangle three times and picked it up with a small prayer, which was not answered. The voice that spoke in my ear, although feminine, was not Elly’s. It was a younger voice and strongly accented.

“Señor Helm?”

“This is Matthew Helm,” I said.

The girlish voice said, “You are about to have a visitor, señor. You have the reputation of being a hasty man. If you value a certain lady’s life, please restrain yourself. Negotiations are only possible in an atmosphere of restraint. Violence will be met with violence, do you understand?”

“Send in your boy, or girl, señorita,” I said. “Just remember what you said: Violence will be met with violence. And I’ve probably been dealing in that merchandise a hell of a lot longer than you have, whoever you are.”

“We are quite aware of that,” the assured young voice said. “In fact that is why we are approaching you. We require an expert in violence and we have reason to believe that you are the best. The messenger will explain, señor.”

“Give me his name so I can tell the doorman to let him come up.”

“Her name is Dolores Anaya, señor.”

The girl at the other end of the line replaced the telephone gently, severing the connection. I called downstairs; then I sat frowning grimly at the undeserving instrument. Not Cuban, I thought. Not really Mexican, although that was closer. Farther south. Guatemala wasn’t quite right and neither was Colombia; but I’d heard that particular Latin-American accent before, although not that particular voice. But educated, no wetback she. Elly, what the hell have you got yourself into? What have I got you into?

But that was a stupid question. I knew exactly what we were into, and I was coldly aware of the standing orders governing this particular situation. They were not very pleasant orders. But I was given no time to consider how unpleasant they really were. Somebody was knocking on the door.

BOOK: The Annihilators
3.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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