Read Choke Point Online

Authors: Jay MacLarty

Choke Point

“SIMON LEONIDOVICH HAS EARNED HIS
PLACE IN THE THRILLER PANTHEON RIGHT
ALONGSIDE CUSSLER’S DIRK PITT, CLANCY’S
JACK RYAN, AND LUDLUM’S JASON BOURNE.”

 

—Brad Thor, bestselling author of
Takedown

 

THE COURIER

“A perfect thriller. There is no putting this book down once it’s opened.”

—Bookreporter.com

 

“An edgy debut…. Leonidovich is a fascinating character…. A taut, enjoyable ride.”


Publishers Weekly

 

BAGMAN

“Razor sharp…equal parts Dashiell Hammett and James Patterson…. Heart-pounding, brilliantly paced…. An unmatchable, edge-of-your-seat thriller.”

—Brad Thor

 

“MacLarty’s writing is crisp and colorful. All of his characters, especially Simon, are carefully drawn with depth and complexity.”


The Oakland Press

 

“Well-rounded and compelling. [
Bagman
] has all the elements of a great thriller—and MacLarty balances these components expertly…. Simon [is] a character worth following.”


Publishers Weekly

 

LIVE WIRE

“Intricate, fast-moving and…a whole lot of fun.”


The Oakland Press

 

Also by Jay MacLarty:

 

Live Wire

Bagman

The Courier

An
Original
Publication of POCKET BOOKS

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2007 by Jay MacLarty

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-3830-1
ISBN-10: 1-4165-3830-5

POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Visit us on the World Wide Web:
http://www.SimonSays.com

This book is dedicated to:

 

Miles & Ian
my daughter’s best work to date.

Acknowledgments

 

The author wishes to thank the following people for their help with this novel:

 

John Hill
a great writer, with big ideas,
and a willingness to share.

 

Lew Nelson
for his review of all things aeronautical, and for his
ability to cry silently when I pull out my literary
license and fly around the edges.

 

Jill Kelly & Marc Horowitz
they know why.

 

And always, my literary compatriots,
who never fail to offer good and honest advice.
Gene Munger
Louise Crawford
Mark and Sunny Nelsen
Vic Cravello
Holly McKinnis

 

C
HOKE
P
OINT

 

C
HAPTER
O
NE

 

The Pacific Pearl, Taipa Island, Macau

 

Wednesday, 27 June 16:22:51 GMT +0800

 

“Everything is now better,” Quan said, turning over another page of blueprints. A slight man in his mid forties, rather formal in manner, with high cheekbones and saffron-colored skin, he was dressed in a custom-tailored linen suit and soft leather brogues. “Much better.”

Better!
Patience was not one of Jake Rynerson’s virtues and it took all his willpower just to remain seated at the table while Li Quan methodically recounted everything that was being done to accelerate the pace of construction.
Better
wasn’t good enough, not when a new world order hung in the balance.

As he continued, Quan delicately smoothed down the large dappled sheet of paper. “Interior work should be back on schedule within ten days.” He spoke with an unusual accent, not quite Chinese, not quite English, a by-product of his Oxford education. “As you see—” His voice echoed through the cavity of unfinished space, a revolving cocktail lounge two hundred feet above the casino floor. “We have tripled our workforce.” He motioned toward the teakwood balustrade, an intricately carved serpentine of dragons.

Though Jake hardly needed anyone to point out the obvious, he realized his attention was expected, and glanced down at the beehive of workers and craftsmen swarming over his masterpiece, and what he now feared would be his albatross. The main tower was a typical John Portman design—a huge open atrium with plants hanging off the indoor balconies—except nothing about the Pacific Pearl was
typical.
Every suite offered two breathtaking views: outward, over the Pearl River Delta, and inward, over five acres of green felt tables. It was by far the most spectacular of all the new resorts in Macau, exceeding even his own lofty expectations, but he was already late to the party, the last of the large gaming corporations to open in what was predicted to be the new Mecca of gambling. If he hoped to lure the high rollers away from the other resorts, he needed to open with a splash…and if he hoped to save the Pacific Rim Alliance, he needed to open on time, something that no longer seemed possible.
Holy mother of Texas!
—he couldn’t imagine the ramifications. The hotel booked to capacity…Streisand coming out of retirement to open the showroom…the collapse of a yearlong secret negotiation between China, Taiwan, and United States.

“Three shifts,” Quan continued, “working twenty-four hours a day.”

Nothing Jake didn’t already know. He would have cut the man off, but the Chinese were different from Westerners, they didn’t understand his mercurial temperament, and he couldn’t afford to offend his general manager a month before the scheduled opening. Billie, sitting between the men like a bridge between East and West, dipped her chin, acknowledging her husband’s unusual restraint, her subtle way of telling him to keep his yap shut. He took a deep breath, then let it out long and slow, all the way to the bottom, trying to control his anxiety. How could he have been so confident? The secret was too big, the time too short. All those bigger-than-life headlines must have turned his brain into bullcrap.

 

B
IG
J
AKE
R
YNERSON, BUSINESSMAN AND BILLIONAIRE
,
TAKES ON SOCIALIST
C
HINA
.

 

 

V
EGAS COWBOY RIDES INTO
M
ACAU—CAN HE DELIVER
?

 

 

Yup,
that was it, his balls had finally outgrown his brain. He had clearly succumbed to the myth of his own infallibility. What did he know about Chinese politics? About Chinese superstition? How was a dumb ol’ West Texas cowboy supposed to
appease the Gods, blow away the bad spirits, and sooth the sleeping dragons?
Of all the stupid things he’d done in his life, this had to be the worst—not counting wives two, three, and four—three acts of lunacy he preferred not to think about. At least he’d been smart enough to marry his first wife twice—he gave Billie a little wink—the
best
decision he ever made.

“Of course,” Quan went on, “much depends on the weather.”

Jake swiveled toward the windows—a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree panorama overlooking the Chinese mainland, the islands, and the South China Sea—a spectacular view if not for the onslaught of rain hammering away at the glass, a two-day downpour that showed no signs of retreat.

“It won’t last,” Billie said, sounding more hopeful than confident. “We’re going to make it.”

Jake nodded, trying to put on a good face, but he didn’t believe it; it was the beginning of typhoon season, the time of black rain, and the onslaught could last for days.
Weeks maybe,
and if the problems continued…they were already $82 million over budget…but that was only money,
that
he could handle…it was all the political bullshit…the set-in-stone timetable established by some feng shui master…that’s what he couldn’t handle.

Li Quan stared at the rivulets of water streaming down the glass, then turned over his hands, a gesture of helplessness. “Very bad joss.”

Jake kept his eyes fixed on the gray horizon, barely able to restrain his desire to grab the man by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. Quan was an excellent administrator, but his Chinese mind-set, his propensity to blame all problems on
bad joss,
was almost too much. Luck had nothing to do with it. Too many things had gone wrong.
Big things
: a crane buckling under the weight of an air-conditioning unit and crushing two welders; a misplaced wrench tearing out the guts of the hotel’s grand escalator, a curving triple-wide mechanical marvel that cost over eight million dollars; the sudden collapse of a construction elevator that killed four workers; and two days ago—only hours after the security netting had been removed from the tower—a building inspector had somehow gotten past the retainment barrier and fallen off the roof. Problems that were costing him a fortune to keep out of the press, and far too many to be written off as
bad joss.
“No, Mr. Quan, I don’t believe luck has anything to do with it. Someone’s behind this.”

A wave of confusion rolled across Li Quan’s face. “Behind this…?” He turned to the window, obviously wondering how
someone
could control the weather. “I don’t—”

Billie, who had an aggravating and somewhat mystic insight into exactly what her husband was thinking, interrupted. “Excuse me, Mr. Quan—” She glanced at her watch, a gold, wafer-thin Gondolo by Patek Philippe. “But I think it’s time for the uniform review.” She nudged Jake’s boot with her foot, a reminder that Li Quan knew nothing about the secret negotiations, the proposed alliance, or the true significance of the opening date.

“Right,” Jake said, more in answer to Billie’s unspoken warning than to what she had said. “Let’s get that over with.”

“Hai,”
Quan responded, a relieved lift in his voice. “We should not keep them waiting.” He snatched up his two-way radio and began chattering away in rapid-fire Cantonese, the most common dialect within the province. It was that single talent—Li Quan’s ability to communicate with the Macanese staff—that kept Jake from making an immediate management change.

Within minutes people began streaming out of the crystal-domed glass elevators that ascended silently along one side of the atrium. There was a male and female employee from each department: bellhops and parking valets, hosts and hostesses, janitors and maids, dealers and croupiers, bartenders and cocktail servers, and at least a dozen more. As Li Quan began lining everyone up along the front of the balustrade, Billie leaned over and whispered, “You have to be careful, Jake, you can’t afford to offend the man. We need him.”

He nodded, not about to argue, but knowing what he really needed was a hard-charging ballbuster like Caitlin Wells to get the place open.

“And,” Billie added, “you can forget about Caitlin. She can’t speak the language.”

Damn woman,
he was starting to think she could read his mind. “Give me a little rope, darlin’, I ain’t senile yet.”

“Besides, you need her in Vegas. She’s got enough to handle with the expansion of the Sand Castle.”

As if he needed to be told. “I know that, Billie.”

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