"What happened to Dracula?" Blake asked.
Russo frowned. "Dracula? What is this?"
"Never mind." Two men were lounging by the fire, Rossi and Cameci; he'd seen their faces on the computer, more Solazzo family hoods.
Falcone pushed Blake forward. "Hey, I'm with you. Christopher Lee was the best. I loved those Hammer movies."
Russo opened another black oak door. Inside was a room with a high ceiling, another log fire on a stone hearth, candlelight and shadows, and behind a large desk shrouded in darkness, a shadowy figure.
"Bring Mr. Johnson in, Aldo. By the fire. He must be cold."
Falcone took Blake to the fire and pulled a chair forward. "Sit."
The man in the shadows said, "Brandy, I think. A large one would seem to be in order."
Blake sat there while Russo went to a side table and poured brandy from a decanter and brought it to him. It burned all the way down and Blake coughed.
"Now give him a cigarette, Aldo. Like all of us, Mr. Johnson is trying to stop, but life is short, art long, and experiment perilous. There's Latin for that, but I forget how it goes."
"Oh, didn't they teach you that at Harvard Law School?" Blake took the cigarette and light from Falcone.
"As a matter of fact, no. But clever of you. You obviously know who I am."
"Hell, why carry on like this? Of course I know who you are. Jack Fox, pride of the Solazzo family. So why don't you turn up the light?"
A moment passed, and it did go up and Fox sat there; the dark hair, the devil's wedge of a face, the mocking smile. He took a cigarette from a silver case and lit it.
"And I know you, Blake Johnson. You came out of Vietnam with a chestful of medals, joined the FBI, and saved President Jake Cazalet from assassination when he was still a Senator. Shot two bad guys and took a bullet. Now you run the Basement, downstairs at the White House, as a kind of private hit force for the President. But unfortunately, Blake"- he paused to take a puff -"I don't think Cazalet can save you now."
Blake snapped two fingers at Falcone. "Another brandy." He turned to Fox.
"There's an old Sicilian saying, which you might appreciate, since I know you have a Sicilian mother. When you have sinned grievously, the devil is waiting." Fox laughed. "Would your devil be you or Sean Dillon?"
"Take your pick. But God help you if it's Dillon," Blake told him.
Fox leaned closer. "Let me tell you something, Johnson. I hope it's Dillon. I've been waiting a long time to put a bullet in his brain. And in yours."
Blake said, "You killed my wife."
"Your ex-wife," Fox said. "But it wasn't personal. She got too close, that's all. I wish you could have understood that." Fox shook his head. "You've caused me a lot of grief. Now you'll have to pay for it." Fox smiled. "I hope Dillon is stupid enough to come. Then I'll have you both."
"Or we'll have you."
Fox said to Falcone, "Take him back."
He turned down the light, and Russo punched Blake in the belly. Blake doubled over and they took him out between them, feet dragging.
Reprinted from DAY OF RECKONING by Jack Higgins by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2000 by Jack Higgins. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
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