Sea Hawke

Sea Hawke

by Ted Bell


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Alex Hawke is sailing into trouble when an around-the-world journey becomes a fight against terror in the latest exciting adventure from New York Times bestselling novelist Ted Bell.

After saving the kidnapped heir to the British throne, gentleman spy and MI6 legend Alex Hawke is due for some downtime. He’s got a new custom built sailing yacht and a goal: to get closer to his son Alexi during an epic cruise across the seven seas.
But fate and the chief of MI6, Lord David Trulove, have other plans.

There’s an unholy alliance of nations who are plotting to attack Western democracies. The wily intelligence leader plans to use Hawke to drive a knife into the heart of this conspiracy. From an island base off Cuba to a secret jungle lair deep in the Amazon, on the land and the seas, the master spy and his crew of incorrigibles are in for the fight of their lives—the fight for freedom.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593101230
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/07/2021
Series: Alex Hawke Series , #12
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 23,272
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Ted Bell is the former chairman of the board and creative director of Young & Rubicam, one of the world's largest advertising agencies. He is the New York Times bestselling author of the Alex Hawke series as well as the YA adventure novels Nick of Time and The Time Pirate. He has recently been writer-in-residence at Cambridge University (UK) and visiting scholar at the Department of Politics and International Relations.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Hawke, lighting yet another Marlboro, lay back with his curly black head resting against the red leather cushion, pausing to digest what he'd read so far. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to fantasize about that first meeting coming up. The one wherein all the MI6 lads from the third floor would be summoned to C's conference room to be debriefed on all the available intel on the Tang Dynasty known to man. And when they'd wrapped it all up, Hawke, ever the hero to the rescue, would arise at the table and, smiling, would begin to debrief the lads from the third floor!

He read on, deep into the rainy night. And deep into the murky mists of times long past.

Now General Deng Xi Tang withdrew a white stone from his lacquered Go ke and held it lightly twixt the tip of his middle finger and the nail of his index. Passing strange how cool to the touch the smooth stones always felt. Some minutes passed in silence, but his concentration was not on the game, which, in its 176th gesture, had begun to concrete toward the inevitable. The general's dark and deep-set eyes came to rest on his handsome young opponent, who, for his part, was completely absorbed by the patterns of black-and-white stones on the pale yellow board.

General Tang found himself distracted and conflicted. He had decided, sadly, that the young boy, his dear son and the brilliant legitimate scion of the Tang Triad, must be sent away to Japan as soon as possible. Preferably to Kyoto, where his Japanese mother had gone home to her family estate to live out her remaining days before the cancer finally triumphed in the epic battle raging within her frail person. In a stroke of luck, General Tang had once more been ordered into combat. The Japanese were coming. An invasion was coming. War was coming. Tonight, his dear son, Tommy Tang, would have to be told of his own imminent departure.

But not just now. It would spoil the flavor of the game, and that would be unkind because, for the very first time, the young man was winning. He would be told the news after supper, after he'd had a chance to savor his victory at the 2,500-year-old game of Go. Tommy would depart on the morrow.

After the game, despite emerging victorious, Tommy found that he was unsettled; something in his father's darting eyes and restless hands had raised alarms. Secrets were being kept in this house. Tommy was peering through the curtain at shifting shadows of things he could not see. Things were not at all as they seemed. He'd been sensing all this for some time now. He needed fresh air. This vast old house full of musty furniture and dusty draperies was all too much with him. He needed to be out among his street friends. Out of the house where he sometimes suffocated and into the evening melee where he thrived and breathed and breathed!

After his mother had fled to Japan to die in the bosom of her family, young Tommy Tang, age twelve, was put at the mercy of a series of English nannies who followed one another through the household, so English joined French, Russian, and German as the languages of the crib, with no particular preference shown, save for the general's expressed conviction that several languages were best for expressing certain classes of thought. One spoke of love and other romantic trivia in French; one discussed tragedy and disaster in Russian; one did business in German; and one addressed servants in English.

Because the children of the servants were his only companions, Chinese was also a cradle language for the boy, and he developed the habit of thinking in that language alone, because his greatest childhood fear was that his mother could read his thoughts-but, being Japanese, she knew no Chinese! And thus, the many secrets in the dark chamber of the boy's heart remained his alone.

"I'm going out for a walk, Father," he said suddenly, not pausing to kiss his father's cheek as was his usual wont whenever he left the house. Beyond, the sounds of the streets beckoned to him, calling him out into the real world of movement and vivid color and rank smell and harsh reality. He pushed out into the world and was soon lost within it.

The more practical aspects of young Tang's social education-and all of his fun-came from his practice of sneaking away from the house and wandering with street urchins through the narrow alleys and hidden courtyards of the seething, noisome, noisy, and even noxious city.

Dressed in the universal loose-fitting blue overblouse, his close-cropped hair under a round cherry cap, he would roam alone or with friends of the hour and return home to admonitions or punishments, both of which he accepted with great calm and an infuriating elsewhere gaze in his bottle-green eyes as he endured the lash reluctantly wielded by his father.

Down at the docks, young Tang watched sweating stevedores dogtrot up and down the gangplanks of metal ships and wooden junks with strabismic (in modern usage, cross-eyed) images painted on their prows. In the evening, after they had already worked eleven hours, chanting their constant, narcotizing hai-yo, hai-yo, the stevedores would begin to weaken, and sometimes someone would stumble under his load. Fall. Then the Gurkhas would wade in with their blackjacks and iron bars, and the lazy would find new strength . . . or lasting rest.

The perceptive child had quickly learned to recognize the secret signs of the "Greens" and the "Reds," who constituted the main of the world's largest secret societies and whose protection and assassination rackets extended from beggars to politicians at the very top. Chiang Kai-shek himself was a Green, sworn to obedience to the gang. And it was the Greens who murdered and mutilated young university students who attempted to organize the Chinese proletariat.

Tang was by now a keen observer. He knew how to tell a Red from a Green simply by the angle at which a fellow held his cigarette, by the way he snapped his fingers and whistled when he walked, and even by the way he spat.

And so it goes and so it went. During the long days of his seemingly endless boyhood, he had learned from a succession of piano teachers and the endless tutors hired at great expense by his father: mathematics, classical literature, and philosophy. In the evenings he learned from the streets: commerce, politics, enlightened imperialism, and the humanities-and the mysteries of relative moralism.

And at night, in the days before she had left him for Japan, he would sit beside his mother. To his eyes, she was always a glittering ornament in this grand house, as she floated from room to room and entertained the cleverest of men, who controlled Shanghai. She'd picked up highly secret information from them and then wrung them all dry! Got them tossed out of their clubs and the commercial houses of the Bund. What the majority of these men thought was a radiant shyness in Tommy Tang, and what the brightest of them thought was mere aloofness, was in fact stone-cold hatred for the British, for their insufferable shopkeepers, their merchants and merchant mentality in general.

And then, at last, in its imperceptible fall, the loitering sun sank low, and from glowing white changed to a dull red without rays and without heat, as if it were about to go out suddenly. Stricken by the touch of gloom brooding over the lives of those below, it finally set behind the French Concession, on mainland China.

Lanterns were lit in the old walled city, and now the smell of thousands of cooking suppers filled the narrow, tangled streets. Along the banks of the Whangpoo River and up the meandering Soochow Creek, the sampan homes of the floating city came alive with dim lights as old women with blousy trousers tied at the ankle arranged stones to level cooking fires on the canted decks, for the river was at low tide and the sampans were heeled well over, their bloated wooden bellies stuck fast in the yellow mud.

Even Sassoon House, the most elegant facade on the Bund, seemed stuck in the mud. Built on profits from the opium trade, it had finally been demoted to the mundane task of housing the various headquarters of the occupation forces. The greedy French, the swaggering British, the pompous Germans, the craven, opportunistic Americans-they were all gone. Now the Japanese were coming.

Above, a strikingly pretty girl with lustrous black hair and flashing dark eyes sat in an opened window, barely balancing on the sill, but whilst she was hanging out of an opened second-floor window of the once-grand building, she smiled and heartily wished the young man standing below a very good evening.

"What's good about it?" Tang asked, pausing for a moment, hands on hips, to stare up at her. "Shanghai is now under the control of the Japanese," young Tang added with a sharp pinch of anger in his voice. "We're at war! Or hadn't you noticed as much from your ivory tower?"

He saw how her face fell and at once regretted his spitefulness.

"Oh! Sorry!" she said, her soft voice barely audible now.

She clasped her hands to her lovely face and dropped back into the shadows of her candlelit rooms, wounded by the beautiful boy whom she'd admired for months now but had never dared approach before.

Unseen, she peeked through the window and watched him disappear into the morass of seething humanity. She felt a chill shiver up her spine. The thought that she might never gaze upon him again had seized her mind and held it in a death grip.

Any passerby, upon encountering him, would have thought that he looked very young for his twelve years. Only the frigidity of his too-green eyes and a certain firm set of his mouth kept his face from being too delicate, too finely formed for a male. A vague discomfort over his physical beauty had prompted him from an early age to engage in the most vigorous and combative of sports. He trained in classic, rather old-fashioned jiujitsu, and he played rugby with the international side against the sons of the British taipans-or merchants of death, as his mother had called them-with a stoicism and effectiveness that bordered on brutality, not to say cruelty, such was his disposition toward them.

Although he understood the stiff charade of fair play and sportsmanship with which the British have historically protected themselves from real defeat, he much preferred the responsibilities of victory to the comforts of losing with grace. In truth, he did not really like team sports, preferring to win or lose by virtue of his own unique skill set and toughness. And his emotional toughness was such that he almost always won, purely as a matter of will.

It was 1935. War was in the air. War was on the wind. War was in the light at the windows, leaving on the evening tide, and all along the humming wires strung between vast forests of poles. It was in the eyes of the children, the citizens, it was in the dark hearts of the Japanese soldiers intent upon taking Shanghai, in the wakes of the Japanese warships as they delivered payloads of death and moved on farther up the Whangpoo.

That night was the only time Tang had a brush with death. When the squadrons of Japanese Nakajima bombers came roaring overhead, he was with other street urchins in the district of the city's two great department stores, the Wing On and the Sincere, when one of the common "mistakes" brought the enemy bombers in a steep dive, now way too low over the densely packed Nanjing Road. It was the supper hour. And the milling crowds were thick when the Sincere received the first direct bomb hit, and one whole side of the Wing On was cleaved away in a brutal instant.

Ornate ceilings caved in upon the faces of people staring up in horror. The occupants of a crowded elevator screamed in one voice as the cable was sheared in two by an explosion, and it plunged six floors down into the basement. An old woman who had been facing an exploding window was stripped of her flesh in front, while from behind she seemed untouched. The old, the lame, and children were crushed underfoot by those who stampeded in a blind panic.

Tang, who had remained outside in the street below, paralyzed with horror, looked at the boy who'd moments ago been standing next to him. Now he grunted and sat down heavily in the middle of the street. The boy was dead; a chip of stone had pierced his chest. As the thunder of the bombs and the war tide of collapsing masonry ebbed, there emerged through it an unbearably high-pitched scream from thousands of voices, hurled up into the heavens, unified in human desperation.

At the Wing On, a stunned shopper whimpered and sobbed as she searched through shards of glass that had been a glittering display counter. She was an exquisite young woman clothed in the Western "Shanghai" mode: an ankle-length dress of emerald green silk, provocatively slit to above the knee, with a stiff little white collar standing around her curved porcelain neck.

Her extreme pallor might have come from the pale rice powders fashionable with the daughters of rich Chinese merchants, but it did not. She was searching the debris not only for the ivory figurine she had been examining at the instant of the bombing, but, yes, also searching in vain for the severed hand in which she had been holding the pretty porcelain figure.

A young girl in the bloom of health!

It was heartbreaking. Tommy Tang turned away to banish the horror of the moment and disappeared into the milling throng of the terrified mob.

Suddenly, he missed his father, and the solidity of his home. He was a strong runner, and now, pushing himself to the outer limits, he ran for home as fast as ever he had.

"My son, my life, come here to me," the general said as he entered the hall, gesturing to him with a beckoning finger. "We must talk." The general began to collect his stones and return them to the Go ke. "What do you say to a cup of tea, boy?"

His father's major vice was his habit of drinking strong, bitter tea at all hours of the day and night. In the heraldry of their affectionate but reserved relationship, the offer of a cup of tea was the signal for a chat. While the general's batman prepared the tea, they walked out into the cool night air of the veranda, both wearing yukatas. The garment was a casual version of the kimono, purple in color and made of cotton wrapped loosely around the body.

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