Colin Forbes Rhinoceros Pa

ISBN 13: 9781416502814

Rhinoceros Pa

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9781416502814: Rhinoceros Pa
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About the Author:

Colin Forbes is the author of twenty-nine thrillers which are now published into thirty languages. He writes a novel every year.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One
Lisa woke for the fifth time and it was daylight. She had felt exhausted when she had flopped on the bed in her clothes. After sleeping an hour she had decided to explore her room. Not daring to switch on the light again, she had crept over to the curtained window, cautiously pulling aside one curtain. What she had seen gave her the horrors.

Outside the window was a fire escape leading down into the wide alley where she had parked her car. She could see the vehicle a few yards away below her. Anyone who had managed to follow her could have mounted the fire escape and climbed into her room. She no longer felt safe.

Checking the feeble catch that locked the window, Lisa risked turning on the light. Working quickly, she hauled three cheap wooden chairs to the window, turned them on their sides, scattered them. At least that way she might have a warning of danger.

She thought of taking a shower and a wave of fatigue swept over her. Before she flopped on the bed again she tucked her Beretta automatic under the damp pillow, fell asleep. It was seven in the morning when daylight, penetrating the flimsy curtains, woke her again. She decided to get up.

She thought once more of taking a shower in the tiny bathroom, then reluctantly dismissed the idea. If someone came up the fire escape she'd be helpless, caught in the shower. She washed quickly, brushed her mane of red hair, put on a little make-up, felt better. The phone rang.

She nearly jumped out of her skin but reacted quickly. Lifting the receiver, she said 'Yes' in a soft voice. It was the old besom who had stood behind the reception counter when she arrived.

'Thought I'd better warn you. Coupla men are on the way up to your room. Said they was police. Rude sods, they are...'

'Thank you.'

She realized the woman had warned her because she'd resented the way they'd spoken to her. And she had obviously had doubts whether they were police, so they weren't in uniform. As a precaution -- and due to her weariness when she'd arrived -- she had opened the lid of her case but had taken nothing out except her cosmetics bag. She ran into the bathroom, grabbed the bag, shoved it back into her case, closed the lid.

Lisa had the window open, had rested her case on a metal tread outside, lifted one leg over the sill, when she heard the hard rapping on the locked door to the corridor.

'Police. We know you're in there. Open up. Police...'

The voice was hard, demanding. The rapping resumed. She started down the fire escape, not hurrying for fear she'd have an accident. She heard the savage splintering of wood. They were breaking down the door.

Two men had rushed into the room. Both wore dark business suits. One was of medium height, fat, and his black eyebrows, matching his hair, met over the bridge of his boxer's nose. His companion was small, slim with Slavic cheekbones, ponytail hair, a cruel narrow face and sideburns. He held a large knife in his right hand. The order had been it should be a quick quiet job.

'Not in bathroom,' the small man reported.

'Panko, the bloody window.'

Eyebrows rushed across, peered out. As he did so Lisa, who had reached the bottom steps, looked up, saw him clearly, ran to her car. Eyebrows swore.

'She's got transport. I'll get the car, you go after her. Pick you up in the jalopy...'

Lisa kept her cool, carefully inserted her ignition key as Panko tore down the fire escape. She had the engine going as he reached the bottom, stood in the middle of the wide alley. Without hesitation she drove straight at him. He jumped aside, brandishing his knife, pressing himself against the wall.

Lisa pressed her foot down, but travelling across the cobbled surface of the alley slowed her down. In her rear-view mirror she could see a large blue Ford pause at the foot of the fire escape. The little man jumped aboard, then the Ford was coming after her.

'Those aren't detectives,' she said to herself. 'Not when one of them is waving an evil-looking knife about. Girl, you're in real trouble...'

She decided to head for Waterloo station, but soon ran into heavy commuter traffic. The real danger loomed when she was approaching the bridge crossing the Thames. An amber light, which she hoped the car ahead would beat, turned red, it stopped. She braked.

`Well, I'm surrounded by cars with people,' she comforted herself.

Glancing again in the mirror, her brief release from fear vanished. She clenched her teeth. The small man had left the stationary Ford six cars behind her and was wending his way between the traffic towards her. The car she was inside was an old model and there was no mechanism she could use to lock all the doors.

All Skinny had to do when he reached her was to open her door, then ram home his butcher's knife. She reached for her Beretta, jammed behind her belt under her coat. Couldn't get to the damned thing. She alternately checked her mirror, gazed at the red light.

'Green!' she prayed. 'For Christ's sake, turn green...'

Skinny was coming closer and closer. The light obstinately remained at red. Skinny was now one car behind her, sidling forward fast. She still couldn't get her hand on the Beretta. In any case, that would be a disaster. If she did manage to shoot him it would be a police case, probably keeping her out of action for ages. Skinny was grinning now. Had his right hand under his windcheater.

'Oh, please!'

Skinny had now arrived at the rear of her car, his hand half outside the unzipped windcheater. She could see the triumph in his evil eyes, the look of devilish anticipation. The lights changed to amber, to green. The traffic surged forward and she surged with it. She had a glimpse of him caught up in the melee of traffic.

'Run the bastard down,' she said aloud between her teeth.

Lisa parked the car in an underground garage near the station. Carrying her case, she walked rapidly to Waterloo, confident she had lost them. The large concourse was a swirl of people, hurrying to work after leaving their trains, which suited her. You were easily lost in a crowd.

Spotting a row of phone booths, she went inside one that had empty booths on both sides. Her first call was to the car hire company. She told them where she'd parked the car, that she wouldn't need it again. They'll be happy, she thought as she prepared to make another call -- she had paid for another two weeks' hire.
Taking out the card Tweed had given her from her handbag, she pressed numbers. A woman's voice answered.
She spoke quickly.

'This is Lisa Trent. I need to speak to Mr Tweed. I met him at a party. He told me to call him so we could meet urgently.'

'I'm sorry, but Mr Tweed is out of the office keeping an appointment. He may not be back for a while.'

'In that case could I speak to Paula Grey? I met her at the same time.'

'I am sorry about this. Miss Grey accompanied Mr Tweed to the same appointment. Could you give me a message?' Monica suggested.

'Not really. It is Mr Tweed I have to talk to. I'll call back later in the day. Please tell him I phoned because I know he'll want to see me...'

Lisa put down the phone and turned round, then froze. Eyebrows and Skinny were marching purposefully across the concourse. They were heading in her direction.

Monica was typing furiously on her word processor when Harry Butler came into the room, parked himself on the arm of a chair. He removed the scarf that had protected him from the bitter cold outside.

'Well, Monica, I've put the hatchback in for repair. Took it to a pal who won't be reporting to the police the bullet holes in the windows. Tweed didn't want that. My car was just too far behind them for me to spot the old bus -- otherwise I'd have nabbed the killers. What are you typing?'

'Tweed's report on the so-called suicide of Jeremy Mordaunt.' She had removed her earpiece. 'He dictated it on to the recorder, said he can think more quickly using the machine. Want to hear his verdict?'

'Guess you'll tell me anyway.'

Butler was a short man with wide shoulders, a man of great physical strength. He had a round head and an expressionless face. Normally he used words frugally, as though they were money.

'Tweed has no doubt Mordaunt was murdered. He dismisses the idea that he committed suicide as ludicrous. Why does the phone always go when I'm explaining something?'

'General & Cumbria Assurance...' She began. 'Oh, it's you, Professor Saafeld. I'm afraid Tweed is out but he's anxious to have your report on the autopsy...'

'Is that Monica?' the abrupt voice asked. 'My report is now ready -- several copies.'

'I'll send a courier over to collect them immediately.' She hesitated. 'Can you give me an inkling of your conclusion?'

'Cold-blooded murder. Not a shadow of a doubt. The report has technical data. That's what I'll say at the inquest.'

He broke the connection and Monica used the phone to send one of their couriers over to Saafeld's mansion in Holland Park. Then she printed out the report for Tweed, talking as she worked.

'Nobody can fault Tweed now. Saafeld said it was cold-blooded murder. He doesn't normally use such strong language.'

'Copies of the reports going to someone?'

'Yes. Gavin Thunder for one. He'll throw a fit.'

Harry stood up. 'I've been thinking about who ordered Tweed to be killed. Newman told me where Tweed had been. Have you a file on Lord Barford?'

'Yes. In the safe. Combination is 87, 24, 95. Why?'

'Just curious.'

Harry walked over to the large safe recently installed in a corner of the room. His nimble fingers operated the combination, swung open the heavy door. A number of metal drawers were stacked with top secret files. He checked the A-to-Bs, found Barford's file, closed the safe and resumed his perch on the chair arm.

'Lord Barford is one of the most distinguished men in Britain,' Monica protested.

'So was Maxwell. For a time.'

Monica was intrigued. She knew Butler never trusted or was impressed by anyone. Not until their integrity had been proved up to the hilt. He skimmed the file rapidly.

'Monica, could you take down these extracts as I call them out? Right. Here goes.'

[e]Brigadier Bernard Barford. Served Gulf War as Officer in charge Communications. Awarded MC. Rumoured to later act as liaison with obtaining lucrative armament contacts with Middle Eastern and Asiatic countries. Indonesia was mentioned in the rumours, a state to which Britain has supplied large quantities of military hardware. Nothing was ever confirmed concerning these rumours. Before the Gulf War Barford was a colonel in the Signals Corps. He commutes from his manor to London City Airport by Sikorsky helicopter.
'That's it,' said Butler. 'Just extracts I find interesting. And why did the government create a Ministry of Armaments -- taking it away from the Ministry of Defence?'
'Politicians trying to be crafty. It deflects criticisms of the arms trade from the Foreign Office. And all of that stuff about Barford is rumour.'

'Except the bit about his helicopter.'

'Why is that significant?'

'Because a chopper followed us all the way from the Downs.'

'But,' Monica objected, 'Paula said this weird man, Rondel, also has a helipad and a chopper was sitting on it.'

'I was in the following car. I got the impression the chopper lifted off from somewhere near the Barford estate. Can't be sure,' he emphasized. 'And where have Tweed, Newman and Paula buzzed off to?'

'It was Tweed's idea -- to go and call on Jeremy's widow, Mrs Mordaunt. She lives in Eaton Square. He wouldn't let me phone her to say they were coming.'
Copyright (c) Colin Forbes, 2000

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