Authors: Colin Forbes
Tags: #Fiction, #Action & Adventure
Colin Forbes served with the British Army during the war, mostly in the Mediterranean zone, and after the war had various occupations. He wrote his first book in 1965 and within two years of its publication he left the business world to become a full-time writer.
His books have been translated into fifteen languages and all have been published in the United States as well as in Britain.
Avalanche Express has been filmed and film rights have been sold for Tramp in Armour, The Heights of Zervos, The Palermo Ambush, Year of the Golden Ape, and The Stone Leopard, all of which, with Target Five, The Stockholm Syndicate and Double Jeopardy are available in Pan.
His main interest, apart from writing, is foreign travel, and this has taken him to the United States, Asia, Africa and most West European countries. Married to a Scots-Canadian, he has one daughter.
Pan Books in association with Collins
First published 1984 by William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd
This edition published 1985 by Pan Books Ltd,
Cavaye Place, London SW10 9PG
in association with William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 987
Cohn Forbes 1984
ISBN 0 330 28813 X
Printed'and bound in Great Britain by
Cox & Wyman Ltd, Reading
This book is sold subject to the condition that it
shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold,
hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior
consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which
it is published and without a similar condition including this
condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
For Jane — who holds the fort
Swiss clinics are among the finest and most advanced medical establishments in the world. They provide a standard of care without equal. The Berne Clinic, which plays a prominent part in this novel, does not exist. All characters are creatures of the author's imagination.
terminal — most concise form of an expression; fatal illness; point of connexion in electric circuit; railway or airway terminus...
The Concise Oxford Dictionary
No night should have been as cold as this one. No woman should have to endure what Hannah Stuart endured. She ran screaming down the snowbound slope — screaming when she wasn't choking and coughing her lungs out. Behind her she heard the snarling and barking of the ferocious Doberman dogs coming closer.
Wearing only a nightdress, over which she had thrown her fur coat, her feet shod in rubber-heeled sensible shoes which gripped the treacherous ground, she stumbled on towards the wire fence surrounding the place. As she ran, she tore the `thing' off her face and head, dropping it as she took in great gulps of icy air.
The night was dark but the whiteness of the snow showed her where she was going. Another few hundred yards and she would reach the fence which bordered the highway, the outside world — freedom. Now she could breathe the night air she wondered if it were even worse than the 'thing' she had discarded. With the temperature below zero it was like breathing in liquid ice.
`Oh, my God, no!' she gasped.
Something had landed just ahead of her, a shell-like projectile which quietly burst with a hissing sound. Desperately she tried to hold her breath while she ran through what billowed ahead. It was impossible. She absorbed more lungfuls of the filthy stuff and started choking again.
Behind the dogs they had released ran men in military-style uniforms, their heads and faces hideously disfigured by weird apparatus. Hannah Stuart didn't look back, didn't see them — she just knew they were coming for her.
At the point she was heading for a large wire gate bisected the fence. It was closed but she knew that under her feet lay the snow-covered road leading to that gate. It made her progress faster — such as it was. Still choking, she reached the gate, her hands clawing at the wire as she struggled to haul it open.
If only a car would come up the highway, if only the driver saw her. If only she could get this goddamned gate to open she might even survive. So many 'if s...' The panic she fought to hold in check was welling up. Frantically, she stared up and down the deserted road for sight of a pair of headlights. In the dark nothing moved. Except the dogs which were nearly on top of her and the men who, fanned out in an arc military fashion, came up behind the animals.
She gave one last choking gulp. Her hands, bleeding now as she went on clawing at the gate, lost their grip. Smears of red blood coated the ice-encrusted gate as she slipped down, and then fell the last few feet. The iron-hard ground smashed her face a savage blow.
She was dead when they reached her, eyes sightless, her complexion already showing signs of cyanosis poisoning. Two men with a stretcher took her back up the slope. The dogs were leashed. One man took out a piece of surgical gauze to remove all traces of blood from the gate, then followed his companions.
This was in Switzerland in the year 1984. On the gate a metal plate carried an engraved legend. KLINIK BERN.
BERNE CLINIC. Guard Dog!
Tucson, Arizona. 10 February 1984. 75
. A sizzling tremor of heat haze. In the shimmer the harsh, jagged Tucson Mountains seemed to vibrate. Behind the wheel of her Jaguar, newly imported from England, Dr Nancy Kennedy let her frustration rip, ramming down on the accelerator.
Expertly, she corrected a rear wheel skid as she swung off Interstate Highway 10 and headed up the hairpin bends towards Gates Pass. Her passenger alongside her, Bob Newman, did not appreciate the experience. Clouds of dust from the road enveloped them and he began choking. He felt like yelling — even screaming.
`Do you have to drive your latest toy as though you're racing at Brands Hatch?' he enquired.
`Typical British understatement?' she asked.
`Typical American way of handling a new car. You're supposed to run it in,' he commented.
`That's what I'm doing...'
`What you're doing is ripping the guts out of it. Just because you're worried about your grandfather in that Swiss clinic you don't have to kill us...'
`I sometimes wonder why I got engaged to an Englishman,' Nancy snapped.
`You couldn't resist me. Christ, it's hot...'
Newman, forty years old, had thick, sandy-coloured hair, cynical blue eyes of a man who has seen too much of the seamy side of the world, a strong nose and jaw and a firm mouth with a droll, humorous expression. He knew it was 75
: he had seen the temperature register on a digital sign outside a bank as they left Tucson. He wore fawn slacks, an open- necked white shirt and his jacket with a small check design was folded in his lap. He was already sweating profusely. The dust was adhering to the sweat. It was eleven o'clock in the morning and they had just finished one row. Maybe it was time for another. He risked it.
`Nancy, if you want to check on why your grandfather was rushed off by air to that place in Switzerland you're going the wrong way. This road does
lead to the Berne Clinic...'
She rammed her foot on the brake and he would have gone through the windscreen but for the fact they both wore safety belts. A second earlier she had swung off the road into a lay-by. Flinging open the door, she stormed out of the car and stood with her back to him, arms folded, standing by a low wall.
He sighed. She had, of course, left the engine running. Turning off the ignition, he pocketed the keys and joined her, his jacket over one arm. He studied her out of the corner of his eye.
Twenty-nine years old, Nancy Kennedy was at her most attractive in a rage. Her smooth skin was flushed, her raven hair falling to her shoulders. He loved exploring that dense mane of hair, soothing the back of her neck, and then nothing could stop them.
Five feet eight, four inches shorter than Newman, she had legs your fingers itched to stroke and a figure which caused all men's eyes to stare when they walked into a restaurant. Angry, she tilted her head, emphasizing her superb bone structure, high cheekbones and pointed chin expressing self- will.
It constantly amazed him. He had seen her in a white coat practising her profession, supremely competent and self-controlled — but in her private life Nancy had the temper of a she-devil. Often he suspected it was the contrast which attracted him — apart from her physical assets.
`What does the famous foreign correspondent have in mind?' she enquired bitingly.
`Looking for facts — evidence — instead of flying off into the wild blue yonder...' He looked at the staggering view and corrected his description. 'The dirty grey yonder...'
Beyond the wall the road began to descend again in an even more terrifying series of twists and bends. Beyond that it looked like the mountains of Hell — a pile of gigantic cinder cones without a trace of green vegetation on the scarred rock faces.
'We were going to have a lovely day at the Desert Museum,' she pouted. 'They have a beaver lodge underground. You can go down a staircase and see the beavers nestled in the lodge...'
`And all the time you'll be worrying and talking about Jesse Kennedy...'
'He raised me after my mother and father were killed in a car crash. I don't like the way Linda secretly had him moved to Switzerland while I was at St Thomas's in London. There's an odd smell about the whole business...'
'I don't like Linda,' he remarked.
`You like her legs — you never stop looking at them...'
'I'm a connoisseur of good legs. Yours are almost as good...'
She thumped him, turned round and leaned against the wall, her expression serious. 'Bob, I really am worried. Linda could have phoned me when they diagnosed leukaemia. She had my number. I'm not happy at all. She may be my older sister but she's no right to take the law into her own hands. Then there's her husband, Harvey...'
'Don't like Harvey either,' he said easily, twirling an unlit cigarette in his mouth. 'You realize the only way to check this? Not that I think for a moment there's anything wrong — but you won't settle until I convince you...'
'So, convince me, Mr World Foreign Correspondent who speaks five languages fluently.'
'We proceed systematically as though I was checking out a big story. You're a doctor and a close relative of the man we're enquiring about — so the right people will have to talk to me as long as you're present. The family doctor is on my list — but first we interview the specialist who took the blood tests that showed it was leukaemia. Where do we find him?'
'A man called Buhler at Tucson Medical Center. It's in the city. I insisted on Linda telling me all the details — I say
because I had to drag the information out of her...'
'Doesn't prove a thing,' Newman commented. 'Knowing you're a doctor she might have been worried she hadn't done it your way. She might also have resented your questioning..
`We seem to be doing it backwards,' she objected. 'I can't see why you don't talk to Linda first, then our doctor, then the specialist at the Center...'
`Deliberately backwards. That way we get testimony and check what the others say later. It's the only technique which will show up any discrepancies. I still think it's a wild goose chase but...' He spread his hands. `... I just want to settle your mind and then we can get on with living.'
`It's queer — Linda not phoning me while I was doing my post-graduate work at St Thomas's..
`You said that before. Let's get some action. Specifically, let's get to the Center before Buhler goes to lunch. And no argument — I'm driving. Hop in the passenger seat...'
`Didn't you know, Nancy? No, of course not — you were away in London when Buhler was killed...'
They were at the Center talking to a slim man of fifty wearing a sweat shirt and slacks. Dr Rosen had taken them to his private office and Newman sat watching him and drinking coffee. Rosen had an alert, professional manner and was clearly glad to help Nancy in any way he could.