[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

Dark Ambition
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2002


Jeb Hines glanced down to the bottom of the cul de sac and watched a man in a tan trench coat walking up the court. A typical Washington lawyer, Hines thought contemptuously. This city would be a helluva lot better if half of them—no, make that three fourths—were buried at the bottom of the Potomac River. This one had a suit and tie under his dirty tan Burberry trench coat, black horn rimmed glasses, and a briefcase clasped in one of his brown leather gloves. On his head, he wore a flat round gray cap that gave him an effeminate look.

Hines had been an agent in the U.S. State Department's Office of Diplomatic Security one week, and already he hated it. Having spent four years as a part of the Secret Service detail that guarded the president, he had jumped at the State Department job, which promised higher pay and frequent travel around the world as part of secretary of state Robert Winthrop's personal entourage. Too late, Hines realized he had been better off in his former job. At least when the president was at home, he could lounge in the warmth of the White House. Now, he was sentenced to spending most of his time on Linean Court, in front of the Secretary's house, as he was on this Saturday in mid November with a bitter west wind whipping through the trees and across Washington, D.C.

A rustling noise behind him caused Hines to wheel around quickly. It was only Clyde Gillis, the Winthrops' gardener, struggling with another huge pile of leaves in a piece of burlap. His black forehead was dotted with perspiration that made the large scar above his left eye glisten. Gillis twisted his short, stocky torso to unload the pile in the back of his truck without letting many leaves scatter onto the ground, where he would have to rake them a second time. When the burlap was empty, Gillis tossed it over his shoulder and trudged wearily toward the back yard. Jesus, that fucker works hard, Hines thought. Gillis had been raking nonstop for almost three hours, dressed only in a blue denim shirt and jeans.

Hines tapped on the window of the navy Ford Crown Vic to get the attention of Chris MacDonald, his partner, sitting inside to warm up, while studying the sports page of the morning Washington Post. With a yellow legal pad in his hand, MacDonald scrambled out of the car.

"Hey Mac, it must be the secretary's two o'clock," Hines said.

Mac scanned the first page of the pad, which had the secretary's schedule for the day. The only visitor for this afternoon was at two o'clock. "George Nesbitt, State Department business."

"So what did you decide about tomorrow's game?" Hines asked.

"I'll take the Skins and ten and a half."

"Dallas is only a seven point favorite."

"But you'll give me ten and a half 'cause you love them asshole Cowboys."


The man in the tan coat approached the end of the driveway, where Hines and Mac maintained their vigil. Close up, he looked younger, in his thirties, Hines thought.

"Can I help you?" Hines asked.

Without saying a word, the man reached into his jacket pocket and extracted a black leather billfold. It was expensive shiny leather with the Gucci insignia embossed in gold. It figures, Hines thought. A bunch of God damn parasites.

With a gloved hand, the man took a California driver's license from the wallet and held it out to Hines, who glanced at it quickly. The photo i.d. was for George Nesbitt. The picture matched the man standing in front of him—minus that stupid hat, of course.

Hines nodded to Mac, who picked up the cell phone resting on the hood of the Crown Vic and hit the one and five buttons, connecting them to the house. As he expected, the Secretary, home alone, picked up. "Mr. Secretary, George Nesbitt is here."

"Send him right up," Winthrop said.

Hines nodded to Nesbitt. "He's expecting you."

Slowly the visitor put away the driver's license, then climbed the flagstone stairs at the end of the driveway that led to the front door.

"Talkative fellow, isn't he?" Hines said to Mac.

"I don't care what he says. I'm interested in what you're going to say. Will I get those ten and a half points or not?"

"Eight and a half."

"Nine and that's my last offer."

"You've got it for nine. Twenty bucks. And I win on a tie."


Hines glanced up the stairs. Nesbitt was approaching the front door. He even walks like a damn woman, Hines thought. Suddenly he felt tired. It was his turn to get into the car and out of the cold. He might even take a short nap.

* * *

Inside the house, Robert Winthrop was trembling with excitement, as he had been since the call came this morning from Alexandra in New York, telling him to expect a surprise at two o'clock today. It was an absolutely perfect Saturday afternoon. The maid had the weekend off, and Ann wouldn't be back for another couple of hours. Eagerly, he climbed the stairs from his lower level study to the front entrance hall. Dressed in charcoal gray slacks and a blue oxford button down shirt, he opened the door as soon as the bell rang.

"We're going downstairs," he said to his visitor. Then he proceeded to lead the way down the dark blue-carpeted stairs to the two rooms below. The first functioned as his study, with a huge green leather topped antique desk in the center that held a red phone, running direct to the White House. He wasn't worried that the phone would ring this afternoon. Philip Brewster, the President, was at Camp David for the weekend. Today, the agenda was domestic policy, and Philip was working with Jim Slater, his chief of staff, trying to reshape the administration's proposal for a tax reduction in light of congressional opposition. With only twelve months until the voters decided on his re-election bid, Philip desperately needed to find some way to stimulate the economy, and he was pinning his hopes on a retroactive tax reduction, if he could pull it off in Congress early next year. Tomorrow morning, the presidential helicopter would be taking Winthrop down to Camp David to meet alone with the President for a broad ranging review of pressing foreign policy issues. It had been a struggle, but Winthrop had managed to exclude Marshall Cunningham, the Secretary of Defense, from tomorrow's meeting. Winthrop had known Brewster a lot longer than Cunningham. He was getting damn tired of Cunningham wanting to run everything in Washington the way he had run Blue Point Industries in Dallas.

In one corner of the room, a television set was broadcasting a Notre Dame football game. He decided to leave it on to drown out any noise.

The other room in the back was a library with three of the walls overflowing with books that he had begun collecting in his Exeter and Princeton student days. Against the fourth wall was a brown leather sofa that opened into a king sized bed. The spacious back yard, dotted with trees, mostly hickory and oak, was on the other side of the window behind the sofa, but Winthrop had drawn the drapes. Through the window, he heard Clyde Gillis's bamboo rake brushing against the ground.

At the bottom of the stairs, Winthrop said to his visitor, "We only have an hour. The bed's in the other room. Why don't you go in there and get ready? I'll find some money for you."

The visitor's mouth opened. The sound that came out was a woman's voice, soft and enticing. "I understood that Alexandra was paid direct."

He laughed. "She always is, but you wouldn't refuse a little gratuity."

She removed the cap, then a man's black wig. After that, she shook her head until long blond tresses fell to her shoulders. "Tips are always welcome. Give me a minute to go into the other room and change clothes. I'll call you when I'm ready. I promise, you won't be disappointed."

Still carrying her briefcase, with Winthrop's eyes riveted on his rear end, she disappeared into the other room. When there was nothing left to leer at, he walked over to the credenza against the wall and opened the third drawer on the right side containing several red file folders, the first two of which were crammed with diplomatic papers. He untied the third one, then reached inside, groping around until he found what he was searching for, a roll of hundred dollar bills and a box of three condoms.

For several minutes he paced, waiting for Laurie to return. She would be well built, he knew that, with large round breasts that he could bury his head in and a firm tight ass because Alexandra knew that was what he liked. Ah, Alexandra, he thought. No matter what he paid her, it was never enough. In his current position, he needed someone like Alexandra to work for him, and she had contacts all around the world from her Upper East Side apartment in Manhattan. He had been delighted when Laurie called him this morning an hour after Alexandra, on his private number that Alexandra had. "I'm the surprise," she had said. "I'm visiting from New York. I'll be there at two o'clock."

"It might be difficult," he had replied.

"I can dress as George Nesbitt, and I have a California i.d. to match," she had said in a soft, sensual voice.

God, what a voice. He had felt a stirring in his loins even then on the phone. Still he had hesitated. "I don't know."

"Alexandra tells me that you're special. If you have an hour, I'll make it worth your while. If you doubt me, call her. She'll tell you how good I'll be for you."

He had quickly yielded. Now he tried to visualize what she looked like when she stripped off that man's shirt, suit and tie. He didn't have long to wait.

"Robert," she called to him from the other room, "you can come in now."

She was standing next to the couch, dressed in black leather gloves, a black leather g-string, crossing a sea of blond pubic hair, and nothing else. Her breasts were round and full, the nipples jutting out like little peaks. Her legs were long and sinewy with powerful calf muscles evidencing long hours spent jogging. She stood, legs spread, rubbing her tongue over her lips, while she stroked her right hand over the front of the g-string. She moaned softly, then slipped her hand inside and cupped it over her vagina.

"I told you that you wouldn't be disappointed," she said.

"Why the gloves?" he asked nervously.

"I'm in to leather. Haven't you noticed?"

"Not S and M."

"Of course not. Only pleasure for you, Robert. No pain."

He could feel his penis stiffen in his pants. He reached into his pocket, took out the roll of bills and pealed off ten one hundreds. "A thousand altogether," he said.

She walked over to him. With her left hand she took the money, and with the tips of the fingers of her right, she touched him gently on the top of his erection. His whole body trembled.

"That's a preview," she said. "I'm going to put the money in my briefcase. You stand here with your eyes closed, and let me take care of everything else."

Winthrop planned to do exactly what she said, but he peeked slightly, when she was leaning over the briefcase resting on the couch, with her rear facing him. The back strap of her g-string had ridden up in her crack. She was so beautiful from this view. He couldn't wait to take her from the rear. He would put her up on the bed on all fours, and he would...

"Remember, eyes closed," she ordered. "I'm in charge of the fun."

He closed them tightly.

"You can look now," she said softly.

Quickly he opened his eyes—and gaped. She was gripping a .380 Walthar PPK automatic pistol with a Sionics suppressor in her gloved hand. Rays of late afternoon sunlight cut through a narrow opening in the curtains and reflected off the metal of the weapon.

Stunned, Winthrop cried out, "Hey, what is this?"

In response, she squeezed once on the trigger, sending a bullet into Winthrop's chest and driving him up off his feet. She squeezed again. This time Winthrop collapsed on his back on the oriental carpet. Blood oozed from his chest, saturating his blue shirt and spilling freely onto the carpet.

Still clutching the gun, she cut across the room to Winthrop's body, then reached down to check his pulse. His body gave one final shudder, and his hand clutched for her head, grabbing her hair for an instant, then dropping helplessly to the floor.

After returning the gun to her briefcase, she reached into his pants pockets and extracted the rest of the money, mostly hundreds. She also removed the package of condoms. The Mark Cross wallet came next. Inside, there were more hundreds. She took those, then tossed the black leather wallet on the floor in the pool of blood. Most of the money and all of the condoms went into her briefcase. Glancing at the antique grandfather clock in a corner of the room, she saw that she had been in the house for half an hour. No point rushing. Slowly and methodically, she put on her man's suit, and tie, the wig and the cap.

Fully dressed, she walked toward the staircase that led up to the first floor. Halfway up the stairs, she scattered half a dozen hundred dollar bills, trying to make them appear as if they had fallen from her hand or her pocket. She wasn't worried about fingerprints. The gloves had never left her hands. Calmly she walked out, not wanting to seem out of breath to those two bozo guards in front of Winthrop's house.

* * *

Clyde Gillis finished raking the last pile of leaves into his large piece of burlap, slung it over his right shoulder and forced his tired body to carry it to the front of the house. Only this one, he thought with relief. He tossed the leaves along with the burlap into his truck and then walked around back to gather up the rest of his equipment.

Raking on a windy day like this was a lot tougher than normal, and Clyde would have preferred to have skipped today. The difficulty was that he didn't like missing a Saturday because that was the one day of the week either Mr. or Mrs. Winthrop was usually at home. Then they handed him a check for the week's worth of gardening. If they weren't home, he had to leave a bill and wait for the check to arrive in the mail. Mrs. Winthrop was real good about paying promptly, but he needed to take that check to the bank every Monday morning.

Clyde's fourth child, and first boy, Clyde Junior, now seven years old, had been diagnosed last year as having a rare kidney disease. That meant dialysis on a weekly basis, which was expensive and insurance didn't pay all of it. The medical bills had already taken every cent he had saved in the twelve years since he had moved his family to Washington from southern Mississippi, and he had no other way to make more money. He worked every daylight hour, but he couldn't make enough. Once, when he was thinking about it, he began crying. Mrs. Winthrop had asked him what was wrong. He had worked at this house before the Winthrops bought it when they moved to Washington from New York three years ago, and he had always found Mrs. Winthrop to be a kind person. So, he told her about Clyde Junior. She wanted to lend him money, but he knew he could never pay her back. "Consider it a gift," she had said. He couldn't do that. It was a matter of pride. That night, at home, Lucinda had told him he was crazy to turn down Mrs. Winthrop's money, but he refused to change his mind. If a man doesn't have pride, he doesn't have anything at all. So he toiled, he squeezed his money, and he prayed.

Behind the house, Clyde picked up his rakes. Then he approached the back door, put everything down and rang the bell. He waited. There was no answer. So he rang again. Still no answer.

Before leaving the house, Mrs. Winthrop had told him that the back door would be unlocked and that he should come right in if no one answered the bell. "You find Mr. Winthrop in the house," she had said. "He'll have your check."

Clyde heard the football game on the television set downstairs. At the top of the stairs, he called, "Mr. Winthrop, it's Clyde Gillis."

He waited. There was no answer.

Cautiously, he wandered down the stairs. "Mr. Winthrop," he called again.

He saw hundred dollar bills scattered on the stairs. Alarmed, he drew back and stopped. Then he continued walking. He needed that check. He had to get it to the bank Monday morning.

Still no answer. He was detecting a powerful odor from the other room. With hesitation, he walked toward the doorway. Seeing Winthrop's body, he stopped and screamed. Instinctively, he knelt down and placed his hand against Winthrop's heart. He felt Winthrop's wrist for a pulse. The man was clearly dead.

Gillis was perspiring heavily and trembling, enveloped by panic. He wanted to race up the stairs, out the front door, and tell those two guards what he had found. That was the right thing to do. He knew it. But it also would lead to trouble for him, lots of trouble, answering questions and explaining. They would try to blame him. The same way that sheriff had grabbed his daddy when somebody raped a white girl back home in Hattiesburg. He was only six at the time. But his daddy had been gone for a whole month. They beat his daddy almost to death until a white man raped somebody else, and they caught him and charged him with both crimes. Sure, this was Washington. It wasn't Mississippi, but he couldn't take a chance. He decided to take the safe way out. He retraced his steps to the back door, pretending he had never seen a thing.