Excerpt of The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer
(Page 2 of 5)
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I need a break, Tom.
Itll be like a vacation. Angela Yates is your contactshe works
out of Dawdles office. A familiar face. Afterward, stay around and
enjoy the water.
As Grainger droned on, outlining the job with minimal details,
his stomach had started to hurt, as it still did now, a sharp pain.
If the one immutable law of existence is to exist, then does that
make the opposite some sort of crime?
No. Suicide- as- crime would require that nature recognize good
and evil. Nature only recognizes balance and imbalance.
Maybe that was the crucial pointbalance. Hed slipped to some
secluded corner of the extremes, some far reach of utter imbalance.
He was a ludicrously unbalanced creature. How could nature smile
upon him? Nature, surely, wanted him dead, too.
Sir? said a bleached, smiling stewardess. Your seat belt.
He blinked at her, confused. What about it?
You need to wear it. Were landing. Its for your safety.
Though he wanted to laugh, he buckled it just for her. Then he
reached into his jacket pocket, took out a small white envelope full
of pills hed bought in Düsseldorf, and popped two Dexedrine. To
live or die was one issue; for the moment, he just wanted to stay
Suspiciously, the Swiss businesswoman watched him put away
The pretty, round- faced brunette behind the scratched bulletproof
window watched him approach. He imagined he knew what she
noticedhow big his hands were, for example. Piano- player hands.
The Dexedrine was making them tremble, just slightly, and if she
noticed it she might wonder if he was unconsciously playing a sonata.
He handed over a mangled American passport that had crossed
more borders than many diplomats. A touring pianist, she might think.
A little pale, damp from the long flight hed just finished. Bloodshot
eyes. Aviatophobiafear of flyingwas probably her suspicion.
He managed a smile, which helped wash away her expression of
bureaucratic boredom. She really was very pretty, and he wanted her to
know, by his expression, that her face was a nice Slovenian welcome.
The passport gave her his particulars: five foot eleven. Born June
1970thirty- one years old. Piano player? NoAmerican passports
dont list occupations. She peered up at him and spoke in her unsure
accent: Mr. Charles Alexander?
He caught himself looking around again, paranoid, and gave
another smile. Thats right.
You are here for the business or the tourism?
Im a tourist.
She held the open passport under a black light, then raised a
stamp over one of the few blank pages. How long will you be in
Mr. Charles Alexanders green eyes settled pleasantly on her.
For vacation? You should spend at least a week. There is many
things to see.
His smile flashed again, and he rocked his head. Well, maybe
youre right. Ill see how it goes.
Satisfied, the clerk pressed the stamp onto the page and handed
it back. Enjoy Slovenia.
He passed through the luggage area, where other passengers
from the Amsterdam- Ljubljana flight leaned on empty carts around
the still- barren carousel. None seemed to notice him, so he tried to
stop looking like a paranoid drug mule. It was his stomach, he knew,
and that initial Dexedrine rush. Two white customs desks sat empty
of officials, and he continued through a pair of mirrored doors that
opened automatically for him. A crowd of expectant faces sank when
they realized he didnt belong to them. He loosened his tie.
The last time Charles Alexander had been in Slovenia, years
ago, hed been called something else, a name just as false as the one
he used now. Back then, the country was still exhilarated by the
1991 ten- day war that had freed it from the Yugoslav Federation.
Nestled against Austria, Slovenia had always been the odd man out
in that patchwork nation, more German than Balkan. The rest of
Yugoslavia accused Slovenesnot without reasonof snobbery.
Excerpted from The Tourist
by Olen Steinhauer. Copyright © 2009 by Olen Steinhauer. Excerpted by
permission of St. Martin's Minotaur, a division of Macmillan, Inc. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.