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Blackjack

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Blackjack

A Cross Novel
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TO: UNIT 3 ChicagoFROM: DIRECTORIMPORTANCE: CriticalSUBJECT: Specimen RetrievalTARGET: Shadowy hunter-killer teams, ID'ed via signature kills worldwide. Identifiable only by skull-spine removal from...
TO: UNIT 3 ChicagoFROM: DIRECTORIMPORTANCE: CriticalSUBJECT: Specimen RetrievalTARGET: Shadowy hunter-killer teams, ID'ed via signature kills worldwide. Identifiable only by skull-spine removal from...
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Description-
  • TO: UNIT 3 Chicago
    FROM: DIRECTOR
    IMPORTANCE: Critical

    SUBJECT: Specimen Retrieval

    TARGET: Shadowy hunter-killer teams, ID'ed via signature kills worldwide. Identifiable only by skull-spine removal from victims. No witnesses, no forensics, no particular race targeted. On rare occasions, scraps of what appear to be playing cards found at murder sites.

    OBJECTIVE: Locate and capture any member of such teams. MUST be taken alive for study and observation.

    AUTHORIZATION APPROVED FOR USE OF OUTSIDE CONTRACTOR: Individual ID'ed only as "Cross" and his team. A pure mercenary outfit, well known throughout criminal underworld--no inside informants available. Ruthless, undeterred by risk, rumored never to fail, but UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES to be trusted. No known political or social objective, but has proven treacherous when retained by government in the past.

    UPDATE: Cross and his team claim to have identified a pattern to the signature-kills, and believe they can predict a forthcoming strike. They are prepared to personally confront-and-capture, but financial arrangement alone not sufficient. What you describe as a "Get Out of Jail Free" card is hereby APPROVED.

Excerpts-
  • Chapter ONE

    THE LION'S full-maned magnificence filled the glass of the high-power telescopic sight. Accustomed to domination of all he sees, the beast was unaware that what he does not see was now holding him captive.

    His captor dialed in with great care--only a perfectly placed shot would preserve the trophy he had paid so much to take. The lion was no menacing figure to the human cradling the rifle--he regarded himself as the king of a very different jungle, one much more vicious and far less forgiving.

    To this man, the lion was a mere objet d'art: destined to become still another symbol of his elite standing, its value enhanced by difficulty of acquisition. Any man can buy things; only those of a special breed may grant themselves permission to take things. And what better way to illustrate the difference than to display those trophies they have taken with their own hands?

    The title "King of the Jungle" had been reduced to ultimate irony. The lion's multi-generational belief that he was master of all he surveyed had become an illusion. In reality, he was nothing but a mere target for an impending hostile takeover.

    The sight's crosshairs intersected on the lion's vital organs--a head shot would destroy the trophy. The scope was mounted on a custom-built .458 Weatherby Magnum, the rifle itself bolted onto a tripod with its own click-adjustment capability. A separate range-finder--and--windage-meter combination was mounted within its housing. The rifle's heavy, non-reflective barrel protruded through a mesh netting covering the open sunroof of a khaki-and-beige Land Rover.

    If the lion knew an enemy was approaching, he would follow the natural sequence of his breed: first warn, then attack. But he had no such knowledge. Instead, he rested comfortably in the restorative sun, waiting for the female members of his pride to make a kill. The beast remained unaware that he had been reduced to a potential trophy from the moment the hunter's kill-shot had been dialed in.

    The hunter was dressed in couture jungle gear: knee-high black boots and matching cartridge belt topped with a leopard-banded bush hat. He stood frozen behind the scope, visualizing as would any artist picturing in his mind what he would create on the blank canvas before him. As always, this master artist's preferred medium was blood.

    "Isn't he perfect?" the artist gloated. "Here, take a look for yourself."

    A woman's head slowly emerged through the opening. A pink chiffon scarf covered her long blonde hair; another protected her throat. She was well aware that every asset she possessed was depreciating, so she guarded them all with extreme care, knowing that plastic surgery would, eventually, become self-mockery.

    She slid closer to the man, calculating every movement, knowing her role was to be another of his trophies, always on display. Delicately, she peered through the scope, taking care not to let it actually touch her extended eyelashes.

    "Oh, he is a beauty. I'll bet he has his pick of the whole herd."

    "Pride."

    "What?"

    "Pride. That's what they call a herd of lions, a pride."

    "Oh."

    "You have to understand the culture of this area, Celia," the artist pontificated. "That's the only way you can truly appreciate the thrill of the hunt."

    "I see..." she murmured, gently placing her hand on the man's forearm arm as she gazed adoringly into his eyes. These seemingly spontaneous moves had been practiced and polished since her early teens, and perfected well before her first marriage.

    Two natives squatted on the ground, grateful for the...

About the Author-
  • Andrew Vachss is a lawyer who represents children and youths exclusively. His many novels include the Burke series and two collections of short stories. His books have been translated into twenty languages, and his work has appeared in Parade, Antaeus, Esquire, Playboy, and The New York Times, among other publications. He divides his time between his native New York City and the Pacific Northwest.

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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

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A Cross Novel
Andrew Vachss
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Andrew Vachss
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