The Saberdene Variations - Thomas Gifford - ebook

The Saberdene Variations ebook

Thomas Gifford

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A powerful lawyer's most famous opponent comes back to kill him. On his first day at Harvard, working-class student Charlie Nichols is instantly charmed by the debonair rake Victor Saberdene. While Nichols earns tuition playing football, Saberdene's wealth and charm rocket him to the top of Harvard's impenetrable social pyramid and beyond - to become the most feared defense lawyer in the country, a man who uses his charisma to manipulate juries. Nichols becomes an international crime reporter. He hasn't thought of his old friend Saberdene in years when he reads of the Anna Thorne killing. A beautiful young Massachusetts stagehand disappears after a fling with the handsome, dangerous Carl Varada - who might have escaped had Anna not been Saberdene's sister-in-law. Saberdene puts Varada behind bars, but years later the killer earns early release. When Varada sets his sights on the great lawyer's family, no amount of charisma can stop him. Review Quote: "A powerful story." - Newsday Biographical note: Thomas Gifford (1937-2000) was a bestselling author of thriller novels. Born in Dubuque, Iowa, he moved to Minnesota after graduating from Harvard. After eight years as a traveling textbook salesman, he wrote Benchwarmer Bob (1974), a biography of Minnesota Vikings defensive end Bob Lurtsema. The Wind Chill Factor (1975), a novel about dark dealings among ex-Nazis, introduced John Cooper, a character Gifford would revisit in The First Sacrifice (1994). The Wind Chill Factor was one of several books Gifford set in and around Minneapolis. Gifford won an Edgar Award nomination for The Cavanaugh Quest (1976). The Glendower Legacy (1978), a story about an academic who discovers that George Washington may have been a British spy, was adapted for the film Dirty Tricks (1981), starring Elliott Gould. In the 1980s Gifford wrote suspense novels under the pen names Thomas Maxwell and Dana Clarins. In 1996 he moved back to Dubuque to renovate his childhood home. He died of cancer in 2000.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Prologue

Part one

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Part Two

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Part Three

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Epilogue

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About the Book

A powerful lawyer’s most famous opponent comes back to kill him.

On his first day at Harvard, working-class student Charlie Nichols is instantly charmed by the debonair rake Victor Saberdene. While Nichols earns tuition playing football, Saberdene’s wealth and charm rocket him to the top of Harvard’s impenetrable social pyramid and beyond - to become the most feared defense lawyer in the country, a man who uses his charisma to manipulate juries.

Nichols becomes an international crime reporter. He hasn’t thought of his old friend Saberdene in years when he reads of the Anna Thorne killing. A beautiful young Massachusetts stagehand disappears after a fling with the handsome, dangerous Carl Varada - who might have escaped had Anna not been Saberdene’s sister-in-law. Saberdene puts Varada behind bars, but years later the killer earns early release. When Varada sets his sights on the great lawyer’s family, no amount of charisma can stop him.

Review Quote:

“A powerful story.” - Newsday

About the Author

Thomas Gifford (1937–2000) was a bestselling author of thriller novels. Born in Dubuque, Iowa, he moved to Minnesota after graduating from Harvard. After eight years as a traveling textbook salesman, he wrote Benchwarmer Bob (1974), a biography of Minnesota Vikings defensive end Bob Lurtsema. The Wind Chill Factor (1975), a novel about dark dealings among ex-Nazis, introduced John Cooper, a character Gifford would revisit in The First Sacrifice (1994). The Wind Chill Factor was one of several books Gifford set in and around Minneapolis.

Gifford won an Edgar Award nomination for The Cavanaugh Quest (1976). The Glendower Legacy (1978), a story about an academic who discovers that George Washington may have been a British spy, was adapted for the film Dirty Tricks (1981), starring Elliott Gould. In the 1980s Gifford wrote suspense novels under the pen names Thomas Maxwell and Dana Clarins. In 1996 he moved back to Dubuque to renovate his childhood home. He died of cancer in 2000.

The Saberdene Variations

Thomas Maxwell

 

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

Copyright © 2014 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

For the original edition:

Copyright © 2012 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

Copyright © 1987 by Thomas Maxwell

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Michael Vrana

E-book production: Jouve Germany GmbH & Co. KG

ISBN 978-3-95859-304-6

www.luebbe.de

www.bastei-entertainment.com

All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this e-book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

For Elizabeth

Prologue

ONE

VICTOR SABERDENE USED TO SAY that everything always looked innocent at the beginning. But nothing ever turned out that way. The endings were never innocent.

He used to say that when you started looking closely the illusion of innocence began to disintegrate, scrutiny destroyed it, and the truth—which was almost always even worse than you’d imagined—was revealed. It wasn’t a particularly appealing attitude but Victor was young then, full of youthful cynicism, a budding tough guy. And, too, you might say he was on the other side of the law in those days. By that I mean that he was a prosecutor, an assistant D.A. up in Massachusetts. Like everything else, the job was part of his plan.

Victor always had plans, of course. Growing old as an underpaid guardian of the public weal was not one of them. Prosecuting the bad guys was only the first step. He said it was just like learning to be a good tax man. You always wanted to hire a guy who’d worked for the IRS at the start of his career. Those were the guys with the two key qualifications. First, they were killer sons of bitches or the Feds wouldn’t have signed them on to begin with. Second, they’d been on the inside, they knew perfectly well how the IRS tried to fuck, maim, and murder every living soul it could get its hands on. Those guys, Victor would say, were absolutely even-handed: they’d torture and squash a little old lady who’d muddled her return with every bit of the merciless zeal they’d once brought to bear on Al Capone. They were equal-opportunity bastards. The thing was, you wanted one of those sociopaths on your side when the sky fell on you.

The same principle came into play in the law. Victor knew that the big rewards—money, fame, power, sexy women—lay in defending rich and powerful citizens against a variety of charges, most of which doubtless fit like elastic gloves. But no matter how villainous his clients might be, and occasionally they weren’t villainous at all, Victor swore they were saints compared to the system that plucked them out of the hat and ticketed them for destruction.

Victor hated the system just the way he hated the IRS. “They’re all criminal bastards out there but some of them have got the law on their side,” he’d say. “The point is, Charlie, it really is a jungle. Civilization is a membrane stretched pretty thin, trying to hold in the pus, trying to keep the evil under control. And it’s springing leaks. Everybody’s a bad guy at heart. Some guys just never get the chance to prove it. The ones I hate are the guys who’ve got licenses to be bad.”

Victor really did hate the system, so, naturally, he went to work for it as a prosecutor, finding out exactly how it worked so that later on, in the name of justice for all, he could blow it to pieces. He became a defense attorney, one of the very best, because he’d spent his time in hell being a prosecutor.

As it happened, I wasn’t a cynic. Morally, I thought Victor was either a poseur or simply full of shit. On the other hand, if I were ever accused of murder—and more important if I were ever guilty of murder—I’d want Victor setting fire to the system for me. Anyway, he thought I was naive and I thought he enjoyed playing the role of amoral cynic and it didn’t make any difference to either of us. We were friends. We went way back together. I was glad to see his plan working for him. I really was.

TWO

There was something else Victor Saberdene was fond of saying which always stuck in my mind. I’m not sure what lay behind it but he was a great student of the patterns of the lives of his clients and their alleged victims. Maybe he was just offering me the result of his observations when he said: “Charlie, there is no immutable law of human behavior that you as a writer ought always to keep in mind. We all have only one life to live and the trouble is we have to keep living it again and again until the final variation kills us. Maybe you could call it fate. I call it Saberdene’s Law.” When I recorded that conversation in my diary I gave it a name of my own. Saberdene’s Variations.

While it sounds like glib phrasemaking at first, I don’t think it was. He meant what he said. He was not given to the sort of banter that a man uses to try out his passing ideas. When he said things, they’d passed well beyond the banter stage. In that sense, he was a serious man. And, really, wasn’t he just saying that we all keep making the same mistakes throughout our lives, that we never seem to learn much from them?

I’ve always thought that my own mistakes had served the useful purpose of frightening me into a state of cowardice, but that’s another story and runs contrary to the conventional wisdom—namely that mankind is in the regrettable habit of just never learning. Victor saw us all like nothing so much as the Bourbon kings, forever struggling in the grip of history, condemned to repeat our follies until we repeated them once too often.

THREE

All these recollections came back to me in slapdash fashion while I was recovering from the wounds that just about did me in. It had taken a year for my memory to get itself in working order following the events up at the lake. The doctors had told me not to worry about all the blanks, that they would fill in sooner or later. One of these medicine men likened the remains of my memory, or rather the demolition of it, to a bad wound. The bullet had not only blown a hole in what had always been a perfectly serviceable head: it had also lacerated the bits of my brain that had contained large chunks of my memory bank. This was not irreversible damage, he had told me with a cheery smile, or at least not necessarily so. He said my memory had been badly bloodied and then grown a kind of thick scab. When it had recovered, rejuvenated itself, the scab would flake away and fall off. And there would be my memory perfectly healthy again. Probably.

Probably, I yelled at him. Probably? What kind of shit was that? Still, as it turned out, he knew what he was talking about. The scab analogy was a pretty good one. All my recollections of Victor Saberdene were, I suppose, equivalent to the itching you feel beneath the scab when the healing process reaches a certain point.

And when it started to return it came back with a rush, the memories tumbling over one another like drunks trying to get out of a burning flophouse. It took a while to sort them out, get them into the proper order. I had to make sure the turning points were all in place, those pivots on which the story turned so delicately. I thought about the shotgun at Purdey in London, and poor Abe Braverman, and the man standing in the rain under the streetlight just across Seventy-third Street … and I remembered how important it had seemed that I wasn’t an insomniac like Victor …

It’s funny how most of the stories which make up our lives tend so often to hinge on little things. For instance, the whole lamentable saga of the Saberdenes might have turned out differently if I, like Victor, had been a chronic insomniac. But I sleep like the dead. Two minutes after my head’s on the pillow, it’s curtains. I was once married to an insomniac and even she couldn’t keep me awake, which was little short of miraculous. She hated me for my easy repose. She impulsively tried to shoot me once while we were grouse hunting in Scotland. Victor saved my life by pushing me out of the way, knocking me down actually, as my wife, Lady Hilary, blazed away in my direction. She couldn’t believe that I’d been in the slightest danger at all, an attitude not shared by a beater standing next to me who was dusted with passing buckshot. The way life works, seldom does anyone save your life. But Victor had saved mine. And that was one more bond between us that the mere passage of time could never lessen … Anyway, the fact is I’m a sound sleeper and there might not be a story about the Saberdenes if I weren’t. Though maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part.

Why am I telling the story now?

Because I’m sure it’s finally over. And I’d better tell it while I can.

But why tell it at all?

I suppose, for one thing, it’s because I’m the only one left who can tell it. And for another, it’s an interesting story. At least it is for anyone curious about women. And men, too, of course. And marriage. And anyone interested in passion and, let’s face it, anyone interested in murder.

So why not pull up a chair, throw another log on the fire, fasten down that banging storm window, settle in for the long night. Top off your glass with the good twelve-year-old single malt. Light up, if you’ve a mind to. Caution to the winds. Who wants to live forever?

My name’s Charlie Nichols.

Let me tell you a story.

Let me tell you about the Saberdenes.

PART ONE

Chapter One

ONE

HE CAME OUT OF LOCK like an advertisement for the goods within, stood in the fresh damp glow of watery sunshine adjusting a straw boater on his massive square head. They must have had the very hell of a time fitting it to him, perfect oval on that block of granite. But he settled it firmly with the palms of his hands on the brim’s edge, tilted it rakishly. He’d chosen the green and purple band of Wimbledon. He was wearing a pale tan linen suit, a purple-and-white-striped shirt, tan reversed calf wing-tips. I recognized the shirt because I’d had Turnbull and Asser make up a couple for me years before at the height of the sixties. He was tall as ever and had put on a bit of bulk since I’d last seen him, gaining weight and fame simultaneously. He stood there satisfied with his new hat, lighting a thin cheroot while the traffic purred by in St. James’s. I didn’t even consider passing him by: he was the closest friend I’d ever had. I was heading upstream toward the Burlington Arcade and the Royal Academy and pulled the absurd but nonetheless magnificent little car over to the curb. The top was folded down and I gave him a wave above the windscreen.

“Victor,” I called, shaking my head. “Stop posing. The jury has long since retired to its deliberations.”

He smiled with the bottom part of his long, large-featured face. His eyes never smiled. He said it was simple heredity. “Coincidence is the mother of probity and providence, Charlie.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Who cares?” He shrugged. He gave the XK-140 a long, quizzical look. “Jaguar never intended this sky-blue shade—”

“More of a robin’s egg according to the man in Devon who did the paintwork—”

“Leave it to you to find a blind painter, Charlie. I weep.” He opened the low padded door with its lip of fresh tan leather. “I’m too tall to fit—”

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!