Thriller Thursdays—THE BONAPARTE SECRET + Giveaway (part 1)

Today, we’re previewing the first chapter of The Bonaparte Secret by Gregg Loomis. The fifth in the series, this book brings the return of your favorite spy, Lang Reilly, and promises new cities, new adventures, and new thrills!

If you haven’t yet heard of the Lang Reilly series, now’s your time to jump on board, folks! These books offer globe-spanning search and suspense in the classic Da Vinci Code style. Publishers Weekly says that  “Loomis’s convincing protagonist possesses the intelligence and emotional depth to carry the reader…[Readers] looking to repeat The Da Vinci Code experience will be satisfied.”

So carry on, dear readers, and delve into the first half of the first chapter below! As you read, ponder this question: if Lang Reilly asked you to accompany him on his next mission, where would you want to go, and what is it you’d want to be searching for? Post your answer in the comments section below and you’ll be in the running to win a copy of The Pegasus Secret, the first book in the series! Check in each Thursday this month for consecutive chapter previews and a chance to win books 2, 3, and 4.

Thrill on,

Hannah Wolfson

Marketing & Promotions Coordinator

CHAPTER ONE

Pétionville, Port- au- Prince, Haiti

November of last year

Chin Diem, undersecretary for foreign relations of the People’s Republic of China, admired the view. Spread out below the mansion’s picture window was the city, its lights cradled below the mountain like a handful of jewels. Fortunately, far below. Far enough that the stench of open sewers, uncollected garbage and burning charcoal that had assaulted his nose upon his arrival could not reach him. Neither could the flies and mosquitoes that seemed the country’s most populous fauna. Up here the residences were multimillion dollar mansions on multiacre lots. Their owners shopped regularly in Paris or Milan. The residents of Pétionville owned over 90 percent of what little wealth Haiti possessed. And that had come largely from offshore, untraceable investments originally funded mostly from foreign aid, money that had seen the beginnings of schools, the foundations of hospitals, projects never finished as funding trickled into well- connected pockets.

There was no din of hucksters up here, selling everything from carved figures with grotesquely enlarged penises to flyridden food to black market– discounted gourdes, the national currency, which proclaimed itself to equal twenty- five cents American but was actually without value outside the country.

The night and distance also blotted out the movement. Port- au- Prince was a city in constant action. No Haitian, from naked children to shirtless men to skirt- wearing women, young or old, was ever still. Not unless they were squatting beside the ubiquitous charcoal fires on which they prepared every meal on the filthy, noisy streets in front of rickety shacks or apartments.

Or, perhaps, were dead.

But Chin Diem had not come to this diminutive country for socioeconomic observations. His government jet had intentionally arrived after dark, when the prying eyes of what few foreign news correspondents remained in this povertyridden corner of the Caribbean would be unable to see who was disembarking. A Mercedes with darkly tinted windows had met him on the tarmac and he had been whisked here rather than to the alabaster capitol building in downtown Port- au- Prince. Had anyone been curious enough to check the aircraft’s number against flight plans, a process made ridiculously easy by the Internet, they would have ascertained the aircraft, registered to a Swiss company, had departed Geneva, its previous stop.

Nothing more.

Secrecy was imperative if his visit to this humid, stinking place was to be successful. Secrecy and a great deal of diplomacy, for he was dealing with a madman, a leader of a country, every bit as volatile, egotistic and unpredictable as that lunatic China could barely control in North Korea. Fortunately, though, Tashmal duPaar, another in the dreary and endless pro cession of Haiti’s “presidents for life,” lacked power outside his tropical domain. He had but a small army and no nuclear weapons. In short, he lacked what Diem was prepared to provide.

It was not particularly remarkable that duPaar had managed to seize power from the duly elected president. He had been the senior officer of the country’s military. As such, he simply marched a dozen men armed with outdated but deadly U.S. Army– surplus rifles into the capitol building and dismissed the president, his cabinet and the sitting parliament. It had been an all- too- familiar move in Haiti and one of which the rest of the world, particularly America, had grown weary. Demands that the United Nations peacekeeping force withdraw were complied with in an eager expeditiousness that bespoke the futility with which the international community viewed the country. A condemning resolution ricocheted around the halls of the UN, the world’s most useless debating society. The former Haitian ambassador to the United States, along with his UN counterpart, had sought sanctuary rather than return home, and the matter had died a short and unproductive death. Countries that exported little other than their own citizens tended to attract little attention. As for the people of Haiti, they were far more concerned about the next meal than the next politician to occupy this sumptuous home above Port- au- Prince.

Diem’s thoughts scattered as an Uzi- carrying bodyguard entered the room, followed by a small black man in a uniform literally sagging with the weight of medals— duPaar.

Diem turned from the window and bowed deeply. “Mr. President.”

The president for life acknowledged him with a wave of the hand before sliding behind a mammoth, gilt- edged Boulle partners desk that made him look even smaller. “Good evening, Mr. Secretary.”

Since duPaar spoke no Chinese and the Chinese diplomat certainly knew no Creole, the blend of mangled French and West African dialects that is the language of Haiti, the men would converse in English.

Diem nodded toward the armed guard. “My understanding was that this meeting would include only us.”

DuPaar shrugged. “My enemies will do anything to get at me, even a suicidal attempt. The man is deaf. He will hear nothing to repeat.”

Chin Diem refrained from pointing out that even his casual appraisal of the presidential palace on arrival had revealed security befitting the leader of a country under siege. Nothing less than an armored or airborne division could penetrate the walls, gun emplacements and security cameras he had seen. He assumed there was a lot he had not seen, too. Instead, he indicated a French wing chair, one of a pair upholstered in blue silk that was showing both stains and its age. He raised an eyebrow in a question.

“Yes, yes, of course. Please sit.”

Chin did so, reaching into a pocket inside his black silk suit. Instantly, he was looking down the muzzle of the guard’s  Uzi. Gingerly, he removed his hand, holding a pack of American Marlboros. “May I?”

In reply, duPaar opened a desk drawer and produced an ashtray with the words Fontainebleau Hotel Miami Beach on two sides. He smiled slyly as he slid it across the desk’s inlay top. “As you can see, I, like you, have traveled widely.”

Once again, Diem said nothing as he busied himself with lighting a cigarette.

Then, nodding to a painting behind duPaar’s head, he asked, “That is a Bazile, is it not?”

For the fi rst time the president for life smiled, showing teeth the color of old ivory. “You know Bazile?”

“I know of several of your country’s painters. Bazile reveals himself by his use of several shades of green, more green than all other colors combined.”    DuPaar produced a cigar from somewhere, bit off the end and spit out the tip. He spoke between puffs as he applied a wooden match. “The green mirrors the lushness of the country.”

Not if the pictures of Port- au- Prince’s neighboring countryside Chin had seen were accurate. The surrounding mountains were eroded dirt, the trees having been long ago stripped away to make charcoal. “I see.”

DuPaar leaned back in his chair, his feet on the desk. Chin noticed his short legs barely reached. “Well? You did not come this distance to speak of artists.”

Chin’s inhale nearly turned into a choke on the smoke of his cigarette. Most diplomatic conversations started with a compliment to the host or his country, meandered through the participants’ families and their comparative health, took a leisurely stroll along a simple outline of the problem to be addressed, all before the business at hand was even mentioned.

DuPaar’s feet hit the fl oor as he snapped forward. “I am a busy man, Mr. Secretary. Please come to the point.”

Chin Diem could not remember being addressed in such a manner, but he swallowed his indignation. His mission was to come away with what he wanted, not put this pennyante tyrant in his place.

“My country has long wished to expand its business interests to this hemisphere. We would like to begin in Haiti . . .”

DuPaar was leaning forward, feet firmly planted on the floor, his hands clasped on the desktop. He spoke around the cigar clamped between his teeth. “You have already begun. The company that operates the Panama Canal is owned by your government. Specifically, your army.”

The man might be crazy but he was no fool.

“True,” Chin conceded, “but the Canal Zone is quite small. Our international competitors, the Russians, for example, already are forming alliances with Venezuela, Nicaragua, even preparing to return to Cuba.”

“Countries where the United States is disliked by those in power. Chavez in Venezuela, for instance, would do business with the devil to stick his thumb in the Americans’ eyes.”

Chin shifted in his chair. “My country is more interested in economic expansion than sticking fingers in eyes. I am authorized to propose opening manufacturing plants in your country.”

“Manufacturing what?”

“Clothes, textiles, light manufacturing to begin with.”

He definitely had duPaar’s attention. “And then?”

“And then we will see.”

DuPaar made a steeple of his fingers and rested his chin on it. “And what would I get?”

“Get?” Chin pretended to be puzzled, knowing full well what the president for life meant. “You would have employment for a number of your people, money they lack today.”

DuPaar made a guttural sound, a sound of dismissal. “Do not play me for an idiot, Mr. Secretary. You know precisely what I mean.”

Chin took the opportunity to stub out his cigarette. “Well, for starters, as our American friends would say, I would anticipate five or six thousand Chinese soldiers would be stationed here to protect my country’s investment, prevent any further, er, abrupt changes in government.”

DuPaar shook his head. “The Americans would never allow Chinese soldiers on their doorstep.”

Chin smiled. “The Monroe Doctrine, the policy that the United States would tolerate no country out of this hemisphere to meddle in the affairs of a country in the Western Hemisphere, died in 1962 when Kennedy agreed not to invade Cuba again if the Russians would remove their missiles from the island. Their present president believes talk, not action, is the solution to all problems. In the end, the Americans will do nothing.”

DuPaar’s eyes narrowed. “These troops, who would command them?” Now came the time for the vagueness that characterizes the accomplished diplomat.

“They would, of course, serve under their own officers. But who commands the officers . . .” He trolled the idea implicit in the unfinished sentence like a baited hook.

DuPaar leaned back in his chair again, puffed out his chest. “You will not be surprised to know I am well versed in military command. Not only did I serve as my country’s highest- ranking officer, I have read all the military works, the campaigns of Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Frederick the Great, Stonewall Jackson, Rommel, Patton . . .” DuPaar inhaled deeply. “There are those who say I am the embodiment of those men. I believe I am their souls reincarnated in one body.”

Either the president for life had been smoking something other than his cigar or he was farther down the road to insanity than Chin had been informed. But then, mental problems had historically been an issue here. François “Papa Doc” Duvalier had believed the dogs and cats in the streets informed on his enemies, and acted accordingly. Crazy or not, if this fool thought the People’s Republic of China was going to trust him to command Chinese troops . . . Well, he was thinking just what Diem had been instructed to make him think. By the time he found out to the contrary, China would have a foothold within a few hundred miles of the American coast, a base from which its aircraft and navy could reach any place in the Caribbean, a sea that the Americans regarded as their own lake.

“Such a command would restore the glory of my country,” duPaar continued, “reminiscent of Toussaint L’Ouverture . . .”

“The former slave who defeated Napoleon’s brother- inlaw and chased the French out of Haiti forever.” Along with a hefty helping hand from yellow fever, to which the indigenous population had some degree of immunity.

DuPaar smiled again. “You are acquainted with my country’s history. You see the similarity between me and the great Toussaint.”

More like his successor, Henri Christophe, tyrant and self- crowned emperor who ruled as Henri I. Believing he was too great a man to die a normal death, he shot himself with a silver bullet rather than be torn apart by a mob. It was he who started the practice that would ultimately make Haiti the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere: subdividing already- small parcels of arable land to distribute to his supporters. The predictable result was that few Haitians owned more than tiny plots, hardly enough to feed their families. He also bestowed empty titles, among which were the Duke of Marmalade and the Viscount of Beer.

But Diem said, “My superiors are aware of the parallel.”

Both men were silent for a moment, duPaar basking in imagined glory before he spoke. “I will agree to your proposal, but I need a sign of your country’s good faith first.”

Diem had been prepared for this. His government had authorized a bribe of up to ten million dollars to be paid into the president for life’s Swiss bank account. “And that would be?”

“I will need you to retrieve a very special object for me, one that will symbolize my might and grandeur, something that will proclaim my status to the world.”

Diem swallowed hard. He dared not think what this madman had in his twisted mind. The Holy Grail?

DuPaar was staring at him. “Did you know Haiti and the Dominican Republic were the same country in colonial days? It was known as Saint- Dominigue. It is my ambition to reunite us.”

The sudden change of subject caught the Chinese diplomat off guard. It took him a second to realize the tourist and agricultural industries of Haiti’s neighbor were worth billions of dollars, a good part of it from investors in the United States. If anything could provoke the American president into military action, this would be it.

“You have reason to believe the Dominicans wish such a reunion?”

DuPaar snorted. “When they see Haiti’s might, when they see the great symbol of military prowess you are going to bring me, they will have no choice.”

Military prowess. Diem relaxed a little. That would seem to exclude the Holy Grail. “What is this object you desire?”

DuPaar told him.

Shock stripped away the diplomat’s facade of calm. “But no one knows where such a thing is to be found. Or even if it still exists!”

DuPaar stood, took two steps toward the door through which he had entered and stopped. “When you have it, come back and we will discuss the terms under which you may build your factories and where you may construct such military facilities as you desire.”

He left the room without another word. The guard gave Diem a blank stare and followed. The Chinese diplomat sat for a full minute, sorting through the most unusual negotiations in which he had ever participated before getting up and heading for the waiting Mercedes.

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8 Responses to Thriller Thursdays—THE BONAPARTE SECRET + Giveaway (part 1)

  1. Linda B says:

    HOW ABOUT CHICAGO OR ST. LOUIS?

  2. JackieW says:

    I would want to go to Miami and search for the Fountain of Youth.

  3. Joan OToole says:

    I would like to go to Australia.

  4. JOYE says:

    Let’s go to Rio and search for a chest that has a clue in it.

  5. Mark Fisher says:

    Perhaps a trip to Ajaccio on the Island of Corsica, birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte and then onward to France where he ruled as Emperor.

  6. Mark Fisher says:

    Better yet, a journey to search for a sunken treasure. Off the coast of Indonesia, the Portuguese ship Dourado sank with a cargo of priceless treasures from the Holy Land! Perhaps one of those priceless treasures is the secret of …?

  7. Christy H. says:

    How about Chile? I don’t care WHAT we search for, I just want to go to Chile. 😉

    • Allison Carroll, Editorial and Web Coordinator says:

      I think I’m ready for a vacation after reading everyone’s responses! Thanks to everyone for jumping in on the discussion. I hope you enjoyed the sneak peak at The Bonaparte Secret. Remember—we’ll be previewing it every Thursday during the month of May, so be sure to check out this week’s post.

      I’m here to announce the winner of the giveaway. Congrats to Christy H.! You’ve been randomly selected to receive a free copy of The Pegasus Secret, the first Lang Reilly thriller. Christy, you have a choice between a paperback or an e-book copy of the book. Please email contests@dorchesterpub.com and specify which format you want. Please include your shipping address.

      Cheers,
      Allison Carroll
      Editorial and Web Coordinator

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