Authors: Buck Sanders
A WORLD-CLASS ARAB ASSASSIN named Rashid Haman has reportedly sneaked inside the good ol’ U.S. of A. to train a band of in-house
American terrorists. “Perfect,” Slayton tells himself. “That’s all we need—another bunch of bomb-throwing half-wits, too lazy
to stand in the employment line.”
Then, he hears a new rumor. The maniac’s mission is to eliminate the President with deliberate speed.
BEN SLAYTON, T-Man, isn’t making cracks anymore. This is serious business, the kind of scheme he knows how to fight.
BEN SLAYTON: T-MAN #1
A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER
BEN SLAYTON: T-MAN #2
STAR OF EGYPT
WARNER BOOKS EDITION
Copyright © 1981 by Warner Books
All rights reserved.
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New York, NY 10017
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First eBook Edition: September 2009
The Washington, D.C. police cruiser made the ’52 Nash-Healy as it slewed out of the solid rope of traffic jamming the inbound
artery. In fact, the sportster had jockeyed to the right in an astounding display of gear-shifting and pilot timing, and was
zipping along the breakdown lane pretty as you please when the police flashbar came to life and the cop behind the wheel tore
out in pursuit.
“Goddam Georgetown hoity-toities,” snarled Officer Max Michaels. He held his own wheel in a death grip, and was itching to
use up some of his accumulated offensive-driving repertoire. “Money always thinks it’s immune to the law.”
“Take a look at her, though,” said his partner for the shift, Officer Bran Craddock. “That baby is in A-1 condition.” The
chrome on the Nash-Healy winked brightly back at them as they gained. The driver could now see the police car in his rearview
mirror, yet paid it absolutely no attention.
“Asshole keeps driving it that way, it ain’t gonna be in any kind of shape for long,” said Michaels.
Craddock ignored his partner, tending instead to business. “I need wants and warrants on Virginia license Victor—Xray—Charlie
three-three-six.” He waited through the police-band static as, to their left, the cars on the highway crawled along at ten
per. They blurred past as though parked.
The cruiser ate up the remaining slack between it and the speeding automobile. “Get on the horn and tell the idiot to pull
it over and full stop,” said Michaels. “Shit.”
Craddock had lifted the mike to his lips when the driver of the Nash-Healy acknowledged their presence by looking at his mirror
and waving his right hand. “What the hell—?”
And then it was gone.
The cruiser careened past the gap in the traffic, and Michaels, cursing, laid on the brakes. A Continental with an overheated
radiator had choked off the center lane, while on the right a tow truck had inched up about a car-length and a half. Amazingly,
the Nash-Healy had ducked into the gap and slashed across the open space into the far lane without even dropping speed. The
police car came to a halt in a fishtailing slide of gravel, stranded on the shoulder.
“Son of a bitch!” shouted Michaels, slamming on the wheel and instantly jacking the vehicle into reverse. Craddock’s mouth
was hanging open, and he still held the mike. “Get on that thing,” yelled Michaels. “Have him cut off at the junction!”
The right-lane gap had closed up with the slow inexorability of a glob of gunk in a lava lamp. The two officers were trapped
in the breakdown lane, for ahead of them sprawled a Winnebago with two flat tires. Michaels, sweating, florid, unleashed a
chain of profanity that caused two elderly women in a Volkswagen directly across from them to roll up their windows in indignation.
“Beautiful car, though,” mused Craddock.
Five minutes later the cruiser, chipping out slow progress on the artery that a few miles back turned into Highway One, was
informed that its APB on a 1952 two-seater Nash-Healy sports car, license number VXC-336, had been cancelled, orders-from-headquarters
style, and Michaels exploded again.
Benjamin Justin Slayton angled into his private parking slot with nostalgia. He knew he was late—he was practically always
late, or as Ham Winship would put it in his ineluctable fashion, “habitually, pathologically, terminally, and irrevocably
late.” Exclamation point.
But the nostalgia concerned Slayton’s brief days on the stock car circuit. It was the thrill of driving fast, the sheer
, in all senses, that had kept him from giving in to the logical need to stop and explain to the police that his schedule
had priority over a simple traffic jam. A flash of the ID cards, a quick clearance, and the mad dash toward Washington would
have been sanctioned.
That was too much like playing it safe. No dare.
The Nash-Healy was a finely tuned extension of his body. He had cut his driving teeth on the competitive stock tracks, where
everything was allowed and structural integrity counted for as much as driving skill and sheer reckless guts. He floored the
Nash in the breakdown lane, and for a second, was back on the stock rink, pushing for the winner’s circle clearance.
It was during this freewheeling period in his life he had met Jean Marie. After that, the memories became painful.
Now there was Washington, and a change of skins. Now meant shedding the grubby Levi’s, leaving his latest half-rebuilt engine—this
one, the powerhouse from a 1912 Caddy—behind on the Mount Vernon farm, and losing a five-day growth of beard.
Now, suited, shaven, at a glance no different from the many well-cut denizens of D.C., Ben Slayton was geared for Treasury
Department business. It had taken a single name, uttered by his immediate superior, Hamilton Winship (a name that by itself
usually provoked a thoughtful pause among the Georgetown gentry), to bring him driving up from Virginia in a singularly humorless
state of mind. The slot-car race with the local heat had been a distraction, nothing more.
Now Ben Slayton was thinking in terms of his chances for killing. He was not eccentric, or sadistic, or mad, for that matter.
He recognized, with a chilling kind of pragmatism, that in the course of Treasury Department affairs one often runs afoul
of individuals a cut above the norm in wiliness and extralegal aspirations—and frequently those individuals might try to kill
a government employee who might be less alert, less aware.
This could easily be discounted as paranoia, he thought, as he gathered up his coat and briefcase. But the special division
founded in the Treasury Department by Winship a few years previously had been established with a keen eye toward that which
was usually dismissed as “cuckoo conspiracy theories.” In a sense, a kind of paranoia—paranoia realized—was essential to their
work in this suborganization.
The Irish Republican Army dealt in paranoia. The Mau-Mau dealt in paranoia. Black September, ditto. All were the worst type
of urban terrorists; all dealt professionally in death.
Slayton was pragmatic. Like it or not, urban terrorism had come to America as well, and as he himself had put it months before,
“America had damned well be ready to deal with it, just as professionally.”
He was alone in the shadows of the subsurface garage. The name that Winship had primed him with also meant paranoia, and death.
Slayton felt the peculiar, humming tension zipping along his muscles, tightening up his frame. It was the same way before
each new assignment. He jammed his coded card into the elevator slot: the access bar blinked green, and the steel doors slid
In five brisk minutes he had run the upstairs security gauntlet. In two more he found himself staring across a vast expanse
of lacquered oak desk at his superior, Hamilton Winship. Winship’s direct, administrative gray eyes, under their slightly
bushy white brows, met Slayton’s brown ones.
He dropped the dossier folder he had been examining on the desk top, and it made a loud
in the utter silence of the room.
“What do you know about Egyptology?”
“Good morning, sir,” Slayton said, at roughly the same time Winship spoke. Winship neither flinched, nor blinked, remaining
immobile behind the desk.
After a beat Slayton picked up the ball and sprinted. “Well, sir, I know the difference between Horus and Anubis and Amen-Ra.
I know Horus was the son of Isis, and Osirus; that Isis was, among other things, Osiris’ sister. Seth was something of a pain.”
He paused, but did not fritter. “I was a big fan of the Mummy when I was a kid.”
Methodically, Winship revolved the dossier and slid it across the desk top, toward Slayton. “Become as intimate with that
as you can,” he said. “God knows I’ve tried.”
“To what end, sir?” Slayton was still standing with his hands clasped behind his back. The heavy, stilted atmosphere of Winship’s
lair, exactly like an old British gentleman’s club, always managed to put Slayton just a touch ill at ease. The furniture
was mostly overstuffed red leather; the accoutrements included the usual framed photos of Winship posing with every President
since Truman; and the air forever carried the faint tang of rough-cut pipe tobacco. Winship always went for his pipe when
blueprinting strategies, and he fished it out of a punchbowl-sized ashtray now.
“In two days an American ship of Egyptian registry—the
Star of Egypt
, in fact—will dock in Baltimore. It will be loaded down with artifacts from the pyramids, notably items from the recent digs
at Giza and new finds from the Seth-Olet tombs uncovered last year.” He fired up the pipe and the air was immediately clouded
in dense webs of smoke.
“This will be structured very much like the King Tut tour,” he continued, “save that the debut is being reserved for Washington,
a high-level kickoff at which the President will officiate, opening the show to the United States, so to speak. The overseers
of the tour are a pack of principally British scientists and archeological types, plus Egyptian and Arab workers. The company
bulks out at twenty or so people.”
His eyes moved up to meet Slayton’s again. “We have reason to suspect that one of these people is Rashid Haman.” It was the
name that had brought Slayton up from Mount Vernon.
Slayton picked up the dossier.
“There’ll be quite a lot of speechmaking and lip-service to cultural exchange, that sort of thing….”
“All of which is road-smoothing for more armament deals and other juicy items the American public isn’t as interested in as
Egyptian artifacts,” Slayton concluded. “It figures.”
“There are détente angles, petroleum angles, and, politically speaking, the whole thing could be loaded with gunpowder, if
Haman really is part of the entourage.”
“A bunch of priceless and irreplaceable artifacts,” mused Slayton. “If anything was to get scratched, the whole country loses
face. The President knows, of course, he may be stepping into a pair of cross-hairs if Haman is around?”
“Yes. Strict security precautions are mandatory. The CIA is handling some of the particulars.”
“The CIA is also the bunch that botched the trap for Haman in 1974,” said Slayton. “Is the photo in here?” He indicated the
dossier, and Winship nodded, almost imperceptibly.
Slayton riffled through it and found a glossy blowup, the only photograph the entire covert resources of the United States
had been able to produce of Rashid Haman. It was black and white, incredibly grainy, and, to Slayton, obviously taken by a
tyro who did not know enough about telephoto lenses. Shown turning in profile was a man of medium height, heavily bearded,
wearing dark wrap-around sunglasses. Totally useless. Even money the beard was fake; two-to-one odds that Haman was aware
of the photographer at the time. Haman was dangerously good.
“Shit,” he breathed.
“I’m aware of the limitations of our sister services,” said Winship, knocking out the bowl of his pipe. “That is why you are
“This whole mess is a setup, ripe for a symbolic coup of some sort,” said Slayton. “You know that, surely. So does the President.
It’s so obvious, especially given the factor of Haman.”
“What other reasons would Haman have for coming to America?” said Winship.
Slayton shuffled absently through the remainder of the folder. “The only reason I can come up with that holds water isn’t
very nice. Haman did a gig for the I.R.A. once; and certainly his concerns are global. He’s about as devout a Sunni Moslem
as the Pope. He needs a lot of capital to grease the escape wheels for his extranational operations. Enough money will send
him anywhere—he’d probably kill
if there was enough
in it.” He dropped the folder on the desk, more as punctuation than anything. “If he’s not here to go after the President,
then he’s here as a teacher. He could train a cadre of urban terrorists that would make the CIA look like college sophomores