CHAPTER ONENew York
Antonio Cavalli stared intently at the Arab, who he considered looked far too young to be a Deputy Ambassador.
"One hundred million dollars," Cavalli said, pronouncing each word slowly and deliberately, giving them almost reverential respect.
Hamid Al Obaydi flicked a worry bead across the top of his well-manicured thumb, making a click that was beginning to irritate Cavalli.
"One hundred million is quite acceptable," the Deputy Ambassador replied in a clipped English accent.
Cavalli nodded. The only thing that worried him about the deal was that Al Obaydi had made no attempt to bargain, especially since the figure the American had proposed was double that which he had expected to get. Cavalli had learned from painful experience not to trust anyone who didn't bargain. It inevitably meant that he had no intention of paying in the first place.
"if the figure is agreed," he said, "all that is left to discuss is how and when the payments will be made."
The Deputy Ambassador flicked another worry bead before he nodded.
"Ten million dollars to be paid in cash immediately," said Cavalli, "the remaining ninety million to be deposited in a Swiss bank account as soon as the contract has been carried out."
"But what do I get for my first ten million?" asked the Deputy Ambassador, looking fixedly at the man whose origins were as hard to hide as his own.
"Nothing," replied Cavalli, although he acknowledged that the Arab had every right to ask such a question. After all, if Cavalli didn't honor his side of the bargain, the Deputy Ambassador had far more to lose than just his government's money.
Al Obaydi moved another worry bead, awarethat he had little choice-it had taken him two years just to get an interview with Antonio Cavalli. Meanwhile, President Clinton had settled into the White House, while his own leader was growing more and more impatient for revenge. If he didn't accept Cavalli's terms, A Obaydi knew that the chances of finding anyone else capable of carrying out the task before July the Fourth were about as promising as zero coming up on a roulette wheel with only one spin left.
Cavalli looked up at the vast portrait that dominated the wall behind the Deputy Ambassador's desk. His first contact with Al Obaydi had been only days after the war had concluded. At the time the American had refused to deal with the Arab, as few people were convinced that the Deputy Ambassador's leader would still be alive by the time a preliminary meeting could be arranged.
As the months passed, however, it began to took to Cavalli as if his potential client might survive longer than President Bush. So an exploratory meeting was agreed.
The venue selected was the Deputy Ambassador's office in New York, on East 79th Street. Despite being a little too public for Cavalli's taste, it had the virtue of proving the credentials of the party claiming to be willing to invest one hundred million dollars in such a daring enterprise.
"How would you expect the first ten million to be paid?" inquired A Obaydi, as if he were asking a real estate agent about a down payment on a small house on the wrong side of the Brooklyn Bridge.
"The entire amount must be handed over in used, unmarked hundred-dollar bills and deposited with our bankers in Newark, New Jersey," said the American, his eyes narrowing. "And Mr. Obaydi," Cavalliadded, "I don't have to remind you that we have machines that can verify --"
"You need have no anxiety about us keeping to our side of the bargain," interrupted Al Obaydi. "The money is, as your Western cliché suggests, a mere drop in the ocean. The only concern I have is whether you are capable of delivering your part of the agreement."
"You wouldn't have pressed so hard for this meeting if you doubted we were the right people for the job," retorted Cavalli. "But can I be as confident about you putting together such a large amount of cash at such short notice?"
"It may interest you to know, Mr. Cavalli," replied the Deputy Ambassador, "that the money is already lodged in a safe in the basement of the United Nations building. After all, no one would expect to find such a vast sum deposited in the vaults of a bankrupt body."
The smile that remained on Al Obaydi's face indicated that the Arab was pleased with his little witticism, despite the fact that Cavalli's lips hadn't moved.
"Me ten million will be delivered to your bank by midday tomorrow," continued Al Obaydi as he rose from the table to indicate that, as far he was concerned, the meeting was concluded. The Deputy Ambassador stretched out his hand and his visitor reluctantly shook it.
Cavalli glanced up once again at the portrait of Saddam Hussein, turned and quickly left.
When Scott Bradley entered the room there was a hush of expectancy.
He placed his notes on the table in front of him, allowing his eyes to sweep around the lecture hall. The room was packed with eager young students holding pens and pencils poised above yellow legal pads.
"My name is Scott Bradley," said the youngest professor in the lawschool, "and this is to be the first of fourteen lectures on constitutional law." Seventy-four faces stared down at the tall, somewhat disheveled man who obviously couldn't have noticed that the top button of his shirt was missing and who hadn't made up his mind which side to part his hair on that morning.
"I'd like to begin this first lecture with a personal statement," he announced. Some of the pens and pencils were laid to rest. 'There are many reasons to practice law in this country," he began, "but only one which is...
Spring, 1994, Washington, D.C. -- While the Clinton Administration grapples with its domestic policies, a sinister plot is being masterminded six thousand miles away in Baghdad. By using $100 million as bait and spinning a deadly web of corruption, forgery, and terror, Saddam Hussein seeks to embarrass the U.S. with the ultimate revenge: to steal a treasured historical document and then destroy it before the world's media -- on July 4, 1994.
As the countdown to Independence day begins, two agents stand in the way of his nearly flawless plan: Scott Bradley, a rising star in the CIA who is desperate to prove his patriotism, and Hannah Kopec, the stunning Mossad operative who has already lost so much that she fears nothing and trusts no one. Their unrelenting quest to prevent what would undoubtedly be the most humiliating day in U.S. history takes them across four continents and climaxes in a dramatic, triple-twist ending.
Ingeniously plotted and as up-to-the-minute as today's headlines, Honor Among Thieves resonates with the brilliant pace that is the trademark of master storyteller Jeffrey Archer.