From the bestselling, Edgar Award-winning author James Patterson comes a classic thriller.
Cool and glamorous, they could be a successful couple on a holiday. But Damian and Carrie Rose are psychopathic murderers for hire. Their new venue is a picture-perfect vacation island. Their adversary will be Peter Macdonald, the dashing young American who forsakes a life of leisure for a confrontation with cold-blooded terror. And risks everything only to discover that he alone suspects the hideous truth about the...Season of the Machete.
Damian theorized that within fifty years man would move onto and into the sea. San Dominica was only a very small beginning. An exploratory expedition. Kid stuff. The people who engineered it didn't understand their own inner motivation . . . three-fifths of the world is water. and that was about to be fought over on a staggering scale....
The Rose Diary
February 24, 1979; Lathrop Wells, Nevada
As the stupid, piggy Chevrolet Impala floated through buzzard-infested desert, Isadore "the Mensch" Goldman was thinking that he was slightly surprised there really was a state of Nevada.
Every so often, though, the Chevrolet passed a tin road sign with PROPERTY OF THE STATE OF NEVADA stamped into it by some convict at Washoe County Jail.
Once, Goldman even saw some Nevadans: a woman and small children with frayed ankle boots, turquoise jewelry, faces the color of pretzel sticks.
Somewhere out here they tested H-bombs, the old man was thinking. At Mercury, Nevada.
Then the seventy-four-year-old's mind went walking.
He remembered something itchy about the still-not-to-be-believed Bay of Pigs invasion. Then a very brief, fuzzy association he'd had with Rafael Trujillo that same year: 1961.
Goldman's history. All leading up to February 24, 1979. The biggest day of the old man's life.
A man named Vincent "Zion" Tuch was patting Isadore's gray-striped banker's trousers at one baggy knee. Death spots were all over Tuch's unsteady hand.
"Bizee Izzee, what are you thinkin'?" Tuch rasped. "You thinkin' this is a big-fashion setup, Izzie? That's what I'm thinkin'."
"Aahh . . . I'm getting too damn old to think all the time." The consigliere casually dismissed the powerful old capo. It was a typically stupid, if well meant, Mustache Pete question.
Old Tuch told him to go make shit in his own pants–which was also typical.
Also typical was the fact that the caporegime smelled of cheap hair tonic spilled over twenty year-old dandruff.
Goldman had flatly predicted that the final meeting at Lathrop Wells would be ridiculous beyond human belief. Even he was surprised. It had the consistency of Silly Putty. It looked like the opening scene of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
To begin with, both sides arrived at the farm in the most absurd "anonymous-looking" automobiles.
Goldman watched and counted bodies through the green-tinted windows of his own Impala.
There were nine chauffeurs driving such cars as Mustangs, Wildcats, Hornets, Cougars–even a Volkswagen Beetle.
There were seven bodyguards, out-and-out Buster Crabbe types.
Eleven actual participants besides himself and the shriveling zombie Tuch.
Somebody had remarked at the last meeting that they didn't want to have another Appalachia at Lathrop Wells: twenty Cadillac Fleetwoods suddenly arriving at some deserted farmhouse. Drawing attention from locals or the state police.
So there were none of the usual big black cars at the meeting in the Nevada desert.
All of the twenty-seven men wore dark business suits, with the exception of one Gucci-Pucci fag and Frankie "the Cat" Rao of Brooklyn, New York. Rao wore a black-and-white-checked sports jacket, a sleazy open-necked electric blue shirt, white Bing Crosby shoes.
"Dirty azzbole," old Tuch said. "Azzhole with all of his pinky rings."
"All very predictable," Isadore Goldman muttered. The old man lit up his first cigarette in more than eight months. Then he headed inside, through hot, heavy air that smelled like horses.
Inside the farmhouse it was air-conditioned, thank God.
A Fedders was blowing dust and what looked like cereal flakes all around the rustic, low-ceilinged rooms.
Goldman noticed the other side's head man whisper something to a younger man–his aide-decamp. The younger man looked a little like the Hollywood actor Montgomery Clift.
His name was Brooks Campbell, and he would be going to the Caribbean for them.
The older man, their side's main spokesman, was Harold Hill. Harry the Hack to the trade.
Harold Hill had spent nearly ten years in Southeast Asia, and he had a certain inscrutable look about him. Something intangible. Isadore Goldman suspected that Hill was a pretty good killer for such an obvious loser type.
Within ten minutes the thirteen important negotiators had settled down comfortably around a wide beam table in the living room. Characteristically, they had taken opposite sides at the big wooden table.
Dark, slightly European-looking men on one side.
All-American football-player types on the other.
"By way of a brief introduction"–Goldman began the meeting after allowing just a snitch of small talk–"it was agreed at the last meeting–January seventeenth–that if Damian and Carrie Rose were available, they would be satisfactory contract operators for everybody concerned.. .. "
Goldman peeked over his silver-rimmed eyeglasses. So far, no objections.
"Consequently," he continued, "the Roses were contacted at a hotel in Paris. The St. Louis, it's called. An old gun sellers' hangout through several wars now.
"The Roses were given one month to prepare an outline for a plan that would achieve results agreeable to both sides at this table. They declined making an appearance at this meeting, however."
The consigliere looked up again. He then began to read from twenty-odd pages sent to him by the Roses. The pages outlined two rough plans for the proposed operations. One plan was titled "Systematic Government Assassinations," the other was simply called "Machete."
Also included in the brief was a list of pros and cons for each plan.
In fact, what seemed to impress both sides gathered around the table–what had impressed Goldman himself–was the seriousness with which both theoretical plans had been approached and researched.
They were referred to specifically as "rough," "experimental," but the outline for each seemed obsessively airtight. Typically Damian Rose.
"The final bid they put in for this work," Isadore Goldman reported, "is one point two million. I myself think it's a fair estimate. I think it's low, in fact.... I also think this man Damian Rose is a genius. Perhaps the woman is, too. Gentlemen?"
Predictably, Frankie Rao had the first word on the plans.
"Is that fuckin' francs or dollars, Izzie?" he shouted down the wooden plank table. "It's fuckin' dollars those loonie tunes are talking about, isn't it?"
Goldman noticed that their man, Harold Hill, seemed startled and upset by the New York mobster.
The young man who looked like Montgomery Clift broke into a toothpaste smile, however. Brooks Campbell . Good for you, Isadore Goldman thought. Smart boy. Break the goddamn tensions down a little.
For the first time since the meeting began, most of the men at the long wooden table laughed. Both sides laughed like hell. Even Frankie Rao began to howl.
As the laughter died down, Goldman nodded to a dark-haired man who sat very quietly at the far end of the table. Goldman then nodded at their side's chief man, Harold Hill.
"Does the figure include all expenses?" was Hill's only question. The young man at his side, Campbell, nodded as if this were his question, too.
"It includes every expense," Isadore Goldman said. "The Roses expect this to take approximately one year to carry out. They'll have to use twenty to thirty other professionals along the way. A Who's Who of the most elite mercenaries."
"Dirt cheap." The quiet, dark-haired man suddenly spoke in a deep, Senate floor voice. The man was Charles Forlenza, forty-three-year-old don of the Forlenza Family. The boss of bosses.
"You've gotten us a good price and good people, Isadore. As I expected.... I can't speak for Mr. Hill, but I'm pleased with this work myself."
"The price is appropriate for this kind of guerrilla operation." Harold Hill addressed the don. "The Roses' reputation for this sort of complex, delicate work is excellent. I'm happy. Good."
At this point on February 24, 1979, the United States, through a proprietary company called Great Western Air Transport, entered into one of the more interesting alliances in its two-hundred-year history: a large-scale working agreement with the Charles Forlenza Family of the West Coast. The Cosa Nostra.
For both sides it meant that they could immediately farm out some very necessary dirty work.
Neither the United States nor the Forlenzas wanted to soil their hands with what had to be done in the Caribbean during 1979.
That was why they had so very carefully sought out Damian and Carrie Rose. Les Dements, as the couple was once called in Southeast Asia. The Maniacs.
Two hours after the meeting in southwestern Nevada–on the way back to Las Vegas–a silver gray Buick Wildcat stopped along a long stretch of flat, open highway. The youthful chauffeur of the car got out. He went to the back door of the sedan and opened it. Then Melo Russo politely asked his boss to get out of the car.
"Who the fuck do you think you're talking to?" Frankie Rao said to his driver, a skinny young shark in reflector sunglasses.
"All right, so fuck you, then," Melo said.
He fired three times into the backseat of the Buick. Blood spattered all over the rear windows and slowly misted down onto the light silver seat covers. Then Russo dragged Frankie the Cat's body outside and put it in the trunk of the car.
It had been quietly decided at the farmhouse meeting that Frankie Rao was an unacceptable risk for Harold Hill and the nice young man who looked like Montgomery Clift.
"Typical," Isadore Goldman muttered somewhere out on the Nevada desert.
Copyright © 1977 by James Patterson
Read by Lou Diamond Phillips
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