Excerpt of The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer
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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, TO
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
Four hours after his failed suicide attempt, he descended toward
Aerodrom Ljubljana. A tone sounded, and above his head the seat
belt sign glowed. Beside him, a Swiss businesswoman buckled her
belt and gazed out the window at the clear Slovenian skyallit
had taken was one initial rebuff to convince her that the twitching
American shed been seated next to had no interest in conversation.
The American closed his eyes, thinking about the mornings
failure in Amsterdamgunfire, shattering glass and splintered wood,
If suicide is sin, he thought, then what is it to someone who
doesnt believe in sin? What is it then? An abomination of nature?
Probably, because the one immutable law of nature is to continue
existing. Witness: weeds, cockroaches, ants, and pigeons. All of natures
creatures work to a single, unified purpose: to stay alive. Its
the one indisputable theory of everything.
Hed dwelled on suicide so much over the last months, had examined
the act from so many angles, that it had lost its punch. The
infinitive clause to commit suicide was no more tragic than to eat
breakfast or to sit, and the desire to snuff himself was often as
strong as his desire to sleep.
Sometimes it was a passive urge drive recklessly without a seat
belt; walk blindly into a busy street though more frequently these
days he was urged to take responsibility for his own death. The
Bigger Voice, his mother would have called it: Theres the knife; you
know what to do. Open the window and try to fly. At four thirty that
morning, while he lay on top of a woman in Amsterdam, pressing
her to the floor as her bedroom window exploded from automatic
gunfire, the urge had suggested he stand straight and proud and face
the hail of bullets like a man.
Hed spent the whole week in Holland, watching over a sixtyyear-
old U.S.- supported politician whose comments on immigration
had put a contract on her head. The hired assassin, a killer who
in certain circles was known only as the Tiger, had that morning
made a third attempt on her life. Had he succeeded, he would have
derailed that days Dutch House of Representatives vote on her conservative
How the continued existence of one politicianin this case, a
woman who had made a career of catering to the whims of frightened
farmers and bitter racistsplayed into the hands of his own
country was unknown to him. Keeping an empire, Grainger liked
to tell him, is ten times more difficult than gaining one.
Rationales, in his trade, didnt matter. Action was its own reason.
But, covered in glass shards, the woman under him screaming
over the crackling sound, like a deep fryer, of the window frame
splintering, hed thought, What am I doing here? He even placed a
hand flat on the wood- chip- covered carpet and began to push himself
up again, to face this assassin head- on. Then, in the midst of all
that noise, he heard the happy music of his cell phone. He removed
his hand from the floor, saw that it was Grainger calling, and shouted
into it, What?
Riverrun, past Eve, Tom Grainger said.
Learned Grainger had created go-codes out of the first lines of
novels. His own Joycean code told him he was needed someplace
new. But nothing was new anymore. The unrelenting roll call of cities
and hotel rooms and suspicious faces that had constituted his life
for too many years was stupefying in its tedium. Would it never
So he hung up on his boss, told the screaming woman to stay
where she was, and climbed to his feet . . . but didnt die. The bullets
had ceased, replaced by the whining sirens of Amsterdams finest.
Slovenia, Grainger told him later, as he drove the politician
safely to the Tweede Kamer. Portoro, on the coast. Weve got a
vanished suitcase of taxpayer money and a missing station chief.
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.