For over thirty years, Robert Ludlum has been acknowledged as the master of international suspense and intrigue. In 2000, Ludlum managed to raise the bar yet again with his widely acclaimed bestsellersThe Prometheus Deception and The Hades Factor, the first novel in his exciting Covert-One series. Now Covert-One is back, in a novel that could only have come from the imagination of the world's greatest storyteller.
"What they're going to do, I never would have believed it. It's insanity!" They were the final words spoken by Yuri Danko, an officer in the medical division of Russia's security service, before his body was ripped apart by a spray of assassins' bullets. In possession of Danko's classified papers, Covert-One operative Jon Smith and CIA undercover agent Randi Russell have unearthed a terrifying global conspiracy that threatens to unleash a plague of immeasurable proportions. A Serb terrorist has been dispatched from Russia to spirit hazardous vials of deadly bacteria into the United States. His mission: deliver it to an unknown American government agent-- a shadowy figure whose own motives for acquiring the bioweapon are made all the more unfathomable when both men are found murdered, and the strain is stolen. Now Smith and Russell must track it down, find the madman who possesses it, and stop him before he holds a defenseless world hostage with the power to render the human race extinct.
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St. Martin's Griffin
March 01, 2002
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Excerpt from Cassandra Compact by Robert Ludlum
The caretaker stirred when he heard the crunch of tires on gravel. There was barely any light left in the sky, and he had just made coffee and was reluctant to get up. But his curiosity got the better of him. Visitors to Alexandria seldom ventured into the cemetery at Ivy Hill; the historic town on the Potomac had a brace of other, more colorful attractions and amusements to offer the living. As for the locals, not many came out on a weekday; fewer still on a late afternoon when the April rains lashed the sky. Peering through his gatehouse window, the caretaker saw a man get out of an ordinary-looking sedan. Government? He guessed that his visitor was in his early forties, tall and very fit. Dressed for the weather, he had on a waterproof jacket, dark pants, and workman's boots. The caretaker watched the way the man stepped away from the car and looked around, taking in his surroundings. Not government-military. He opened the door and came out under the overhang, observing how his visitor stood there, gazing through the gates of the cemetery, oblivious to the rain matting his dark hair. Maybe this is his first trip back, the caretaker thought. They were all hesitant their first time, loath to enter a place associated with pain, grief, and loss. He looked at the man's left hand and saw no ring. A widower? He tried to remember if a young woman had been interred recently. ``Hello.' The voice startled the caretaker. It was gentle for such a big man, and soft, as if he'd thrown the salutation like a ventriloquist. ``Howdy. If you're fixin' to visit, I got an umbrella I can let you have.' ``I'd appreciate that, thank you,' the man said, but he didn't move. The caretaker reached around the corner into a stand made from an old watering can. He gripped the handle of the umbrella and stepped toward the man, taking in his visitor's high-planed face and startling navy blue eyes. ``Name's Barnes. I'm the caretaker. If you tell me who you're visiting, I can save you wandering around in this mess.' ``Sophia Russell.' ``Russell, you say? Doesn't ring a bell. Let me look it up. Won't take but a minute.' ``Don't bother. I can find my way.' ``I still gotta have you sign the visitors' book.' The man unfurled the umbrella. ``Jon Smith. Dr. Jon Smith. I know where to find her. Thank you.' The caretaker thought he detected a break in the man's voice. He raised his arm, about to call after him, but the man was already walking away, his strides long and smooth, like a soldier's, until he disappeared into the gray sheets of rain. The caretaker stared after him. Something cold and sharp danced along his spine, made him shudder. Stepping back into the gatehouse, he closed the door and bolted it firmly. From his desk, he removed the visitors' ledger, opened it to today's date, and carefully entered both the man's name and the time he had arrived. Then, on impulse, he turned to the back of the ledger, where the interred were listed in alphabetical order. Russell...Sophia Russell. Here she is: row 17, plot 12. Put into the ground...exactly one year ago! Among the three mourners who'd signed the register was Jon Smith, M.D. So why didn't you bring flowers? Smith was grateful for the rain as he walked along the road that wended its way through Ivy Hill. It was like a shroud, strung across memories that still had the power to cut and burn, memories that had been his omnipresent companions this past year, whispering to him in the night, mocking his tears, forcing him to relive that terrible moment over and over again. He sees the cold white room in the hospital at the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Maryland. He is watching Sophia, his love, his wife-to-be, writhing under the oxygen tent, gasping for breath. He stands, only inches away, yet powerless to