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robert ludlum
The Apocalypse Watch

The Apocalypse Watch

The Apocalypse Watch


The Alpine pass, high in the Austrian Hausruck, was swept by the winter snow and assaulted by the cold Tnorth winds, while far below, a valley sprouted crocuses and the jonquils of early spring.

This particular pass was neither a border checkpoint nor a transfer post from one part of the mountain range to another. In fact, it was not on any map issued for public scrutiny.

There was a thick, sturdy bridge, barely wide enough for a single vehicle, that spanned a seventy-foot gorge several hundred feet above a rushing offshoot of the Salzach River. Once crossed, and passing through a tree-notched maze, there was a -hidden road cut out of the mountain forest, a steep, twisting road that descended well over seven thousand feet to the isolated valley where the crocuses and the jonquils grew. The much warmer flatland was dotted with green fields and greener trees .. . and a complex of small buildings, the roofs camouflaged by slashing diagonals of painted earth colors, undetectable from the skies, merely a part of the mountainous,terrain. It was the headquarters of Die Briiderschaft der Wacht, The Brotherhood of the Watch, the progenitors of Germany's Fourth Reich.

The two figures walking across the bridge were dressed in heavy parkas, fur hats, and thick alpine boots; each turned his face away from the blasts of wind and snow that buffeted him.

Unsteadily, they reached the other side and the traveler in front spoke.

“That's not abridge I'd care to cross too often,” said the American, slapping the snow off his clothing and removing his gloves to massage his face.

“But you will have to on your return, Herr Lassiter,”

countered the late-middle-aged German, smiling broadly under the protection of a tree, as he, too, brushed off the snow.

“Not to be annoyed, mein Herr. Before you know it, you will be where the air is warm and there are actually flowers. At this altitude it is still winter, below it is springtime.. .. Come, our transportation has arrived. Follow me!”

There was the sound of a gunning engine in the distance; the two men, Lassiter behind, walked rapidly, circuitously, through the trees to a small clearing, where there stood a jeep-like vehicle, only much larger and heavier, with balloon tires of very thick rubber, deeply treaded.

“That's some car,” said the American.

“You should be proud, it is amerikanisch! Built to our specifications in your state of Michigan.”

“What happened to Mercedes?”

“Too close, too dangerous,” replied the German.

“If you care to build a hidden fortress among your own, you don't employ the resources of your own. What you will see shortly is the combined efforts of numerous nations their more avaricious businessmen, I grant you, merchants who will conceal clients and deliveries for excessive profits Of course once the deliveries are made, the profits become a loaded gun; the deliveries must continue, perhaps with more esoteric merchandise. It is the way of the world.”

'41 bank on it," said Lassiter, smiling while he removed his fur hat to relieve the hairline sweat. He was a shade under six feet, a man of middle years, his age attested to by streaks of gray at his temples and crow's-feet at the edges of his deep-set eyes; the face itself was narrow, sharp-featured. He started toward the vehicle, several steps behind his companion. However, what neither his companion nor the driver of the outsize vehicle saw was that he kept reaching into his pocket, subtly withdrawing his hand and dropping metal pellets into the snow-swept grass. He had been doing so for the past hour, since they had stepped out of a truck on an alpine road between two mountain villages. Each pellet had been subjected to radiation easily picked up by handheld scanners.

At the point where the truck had stopped, he had removed an electronic transponder from his belt, and feigning a fall, had shoved it between two rocks. The trail was now clear; the honing device of those following would reach the top of its dial at that spot, accompanied by sharp, piercing beeps.

For the man called Lassiter was in a high-risk profession. He was a multilingual deep-cover agent for American intelligence, and his name was Harry Latham. In the sacrosanct chambers of the Agency, his code name was Sting.

The journey down into the valley mesmerized Latham. He had climbed a few mountains with his father and his younger brother, but they were minor, undramatic New England peaks, nothing like this. Here, as their steep descent progressed, there was change, obvious change--different colors, different smells, warmer breezes.

Sitting alone in the backseat of the large open truck, he emptied his pocket of every hot pellet, preparing himself for the thorough search he anticipated; he was clean. He was also exhilarated, his excitement under control from years of experience, but his
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