Authors: Daniel Silva
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense, #Adventure
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
The English Assassin
A SIGNET Book / published by arrangement with the author
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2002 by Daniel Silva
This book may not be reproduced in whole or part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and could subject the infringer to criminal and civil liability.
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Electronic edition: June, 2003
ALSO BY DANIEL SILVA
The Kill Artist
The Marching Season
The Mark of the Assassin
The Unlikely Spy
To Phyllis Grann, finally,
and as always, for my wife, Jamie,
and my children, Lily and Nicholas.
any of a race of small, misshapen, dwarflike beings, supposed to dwell in the earth and guard its treasures
“Suppressing the past is a tradition in Switzerland.”
was digging in her garden because of the secrets she’d found hidden in her husband’s study. It was late to be working in the garden, well past midnight by now. The spring thaw had left the earth soft and moist, and her spade split the soil with little effort, allowing her to progress with minimal noise. For this she was grateful. Her husband and daughter were asleep in the villa, and she didn’t want to wake them.
Why couldn’t it have been something simple, like love letters from another woman? There would have been a good row, Marguerite would have confessed her own affair. Lovers would have been relinquished, and soon their home would return to normal. But she hadn’t found love letters—she’d found something much worse.
For a moment she blamed herself. If she hadn’t been searching his study, she never would have found the photographs. She could have spent the rest of her life in blissful oblivion, believing her husband was the man he appeared to be. But now she knew. Her husband was a monster, his life
a lie—a complete and meticulously maintained lie. Therefore she too was a lie.
Marguerite Rolfe concentrated on her work, making slow and steady progress. After an hour it was done. A good hole, she decided: about six feet in length and two feet across. Six inches below the surface she had encountered a dense layer of clay. As a result it was a bit shallower than she would have preferred. It didn’t matter. She knew it wasn’t permanent.
She picked up the gun. It was her husband’s favorite weapon, a beautiful shotgun, handcrafted for him by a master gunsmith in Milan. He would never be able to use it again. This pleased her. She thought of Anna.
Please don’t wake up, Anna. Sleep, my love.
Then she stepped into the ditch, lay down on her back, placed the end of the barrel in her mouth, pulled the trigger.
THE girl was awakened by music. She did not recognize the piece and wondered how it had found its way into her head. It lingered a moment, a descending series of notes, a serene diminishment. She reached out, eyes still closed, and searched the folds of the bedding until her palm found the body which lay a few inches away. Her fingers slipped over the narrow waist, up the slender, elegant neck, toward the graceful curved features of the scroll. Last night they had quarreled. Now it was time to set aside their differences and make peace.
She eased from the bed, pulled on a dressing gown. Five hours of practice stretched before her. Thirteen years old, a sun-drenched June morning, and this was how she would spend her day—and every other day that summer.
Stretching the muscles of her neck, she gazed out the window at the flowering garden. It was a melee of spring color. Beyond the garden rose the steep slope of the valley wall. High above it all loomed the snowcapped mountain peaks,
glittering in the bright summer sun. She pressed her violin to her neck and prepared to play the first étude.
Then she noticed something in the garden: a mound of dirt, a long shallow hole. From her vantage point in the window she could see a swath of white fabric stretched across the bottom and pale hands wrapped around the barrel of a gun.
“Mama!” she screamed, and the violin crashed to the floor.
SHE threw open the door to her father’s study without knocking. She had expected to find him at his desk, hunched over his ledgers, but instead he was perched on the edge of a high-backed wing chair, next to the fireplace. A tiny, elfin figure, he wore his habitual blue blazer and striped tie. He was not alone. The second man wore sunglasses in spite of the masculine gloom of the study.
“What on earth do you think you’re doing?” snapped her father. “How many times have I asked you to respect my closed door? Can’t you see I’m in the middle of an important discussion?”
“And put on some proper clothing! Ten o’clock in the morning and you’re still wearing only a housecoat.”
“Papa, I must—”
“It can wait until I’ve finished.”
“No, it can’t, Papa!”
She screamed this so loudly the man in sunglasses flinched.
“I apologize, Otto, but I’m afraid my daughter’s manners have suffered from spending too many hours alone with her instrument. Will you excuse me? I won’t be but a moment.”
ANNA Rolfe’s father handled important documents with care, and the note he removed from the grave was no
exception. When he finished reading it, he looked up sharply, his gaze flickering from side to side, as if he feared someone was reading over his shoulder. This Anna saw from her bedroom window.
As he turned and started back toward the villa, he glanced up at the window and his eyes met Anna’s. He paused, holding her gaze for a moment. It was not a gaze of sympathy. Or remorse. It was a gaze of suspicion.
She turned from the window. The Stradivarius lay where she had dropped it. She picked it up. Downstairs she heard her father calmly telling his guest of his wife’s suicide. She lifted the violin to her neck, laid the bow upon the strings, closed her eyes. G minor. Various patterns of ascent and descent. Arpeggios. Broken thirds.
“HOW can she play at a time like this?”
“I’m afraid she knows little else.”
Late afternoon. The two men alone in the study again. The police had completed their initial investigation, and the body had been removed. The note lay on the drop-leaf table between them.
“A doctor could give her a sedative.”
“She doesn’t want a doctor. I’m afraid she has her mother’s temper and her mother’s stubborn nature.”
“Did the police ask whether there was a note?”
“I see no need to involve the police in the personal matters of this family, especially when it concerns the suicide of my wife.”
“And your daughter?”
“What about my daughter?”
“She was watching you from the window.”
“My daughter is my business. I’ll deal with her as I see fit.”
“I certainly hope so. But do me one small favor.”
“What’s that, Otto?”
His pale hand patted the top of the table until it came to rest on the note.
“Burn this damned thing, along with everything else. Make sure no one else stumbles on any unpleasant reminders of the past. This is Switzerland. There is no past.”
firm of Isherwood Fine Arts had once occupied a piece of fine commercial property on stylish New Bond Street in Mayfair. Then came London’s retail renaissance, and New Bond Street—or New Bondstrasse, as it was derisively known in the trade—was overrun by the likes of Tiffany and Gucci and Versace and Mikimoto. Julian Isherwood and other dealers specializing in museum-quality Old Masters were driven into St. Jamesian exile—the Bond Street Diaspora, as Isherwood was fond of calling it. He eventually settled in a sagging Victorian warehouse in a quiet quadrangle known as Mason’s Yard, next to the London offices of a minor Greek shipping company and a pub that catered to pretty office girls who rode motor scooters.
Among the incestuous, backbiting villagers of St. James’s, Isherwood Fine Arts was considered rather
good theater. Isherwood Fine Arts had drama and tension, comedy and tragedy, stunning highs and seemingly bottomless lows. This was, in large measure, a consequence of its owner’s personality. He was cursed with a near-fatal flaw for an art dealer: he liked to possess art more than to sell it. Each time a painting left the wall of his exquisite exposition room, Isherwood fell into a raging blue funk. As a result of this affliction he was now burdened by an apocalyptic inventory of what is affectionately known in the trade as dead stock—paintings for which no buyer would ever pay a fair price. Unsellable paintings. Burned, as they liked to say in Duke Street. Toast. If Isherwood had been asked to explain this seemingly inexplicable failure of business acumen, he might have raised the issue of his father, though he made a point of never—
And I mean never, petal
—talking about his father.