In an old town in the former Soviet Union a man takes his own life rather than allow his pursuers to take him alive. Another man’s life slowly ebbs away as he makes his own escape. But not before he dispatches the secret he carries.
Do you love a good story? Do you like a fast-paced thriller to keep you awake at night? Do you want to be taken on a journey where the borderline between fact and fiction is hidden somewhere deep in the folds of an intricate, helter skelter plot? - then The Doomsday Legacy should be on your bedside table.
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Offical Website of writer Neil Howarth
What would you do if you held the key to the world's salvation - or to its darkest nightmare?
International war photographer, Mason Bradley is caught in the middle, when his uncle, a retired CIA agent, turns up dead on a train in Eastern Europe. What was he carrying? Where is it now? Everyone suspects that Bradley knows the answer, and his life seems to be worth little as factions of the CIA, the Russian Mafiya, and wealthy industrialists struggle to possess it. Only Bradley doesn't have it, and the only way to survive is to find it and use it as a bargaining chip for his life.
The action moves from the eastern seaboard of the United States, through Europe, to St. Petersburg, and the heart of the Russian Mafiya, then to the far north, to the frozen wasteland of Siberia, to a secret, still held long after the demise of the Soviet Union. Bradley struggles to stay one step ahead of his pursuers, as one by one, every avenue of escape becomes closed off to him. His only companion on the journey is the lovely Katya Kaminski. Is she, like him, a victim, or is she part of the plot?
Set against a backdrop of security obsessed America and Russian social and political turmoil, what chance does one man have in this shady and secret world, where money, greed, and deception, are the deadly currency in the battle for ultimate power, and where life can be snuffed out with the snap of unseen fingers.
But perhaps they have overlooked the fact that Mason Bradley may just have some dark secrets of his own
Eastern Europe, former Soviet Union
There was a strange comfort in the rain, despite the incessant soaking and the bone chilling cold. Somehow, it had always been a special place, somewhere to be alone, a step away from the rest of the world. In a life that had known little but confinement, surveillance, and scrutiny, the rain had been his refuge, his friend, confessor, and sanctuary, his own private place to contemplate his somewhat tenuous survival. And ultimately, somewhere to wrestle with the compromises, the defeats, and inevitably the betrayals he had made along the way - a place to stand in solitude, while the rainfall scrubbed away patiently at his soul.
The years had not been kind to Lev Semovski. The journey had been long and arduous and the fatigue hung like a great weight on his body. He knew this would be the final stage of his trek, yet there was to be no peace, those who sought him were never far behind. At any moment he expected the tap on his shoulder, the unseen hands to pluck him from the street. Their pursuit was relentless but then so was his resolve. They were getting closer, he knew that, but then he didn’t have far to go.
The rain seeped through the soaked woolen hat he wore, pulled down tight over his ears. It trickled in tiny rivulets across the creases of his forehead and divided across the bridge of his generous nose, disappearing into a grey, unkempt stubble. He turned his face up to the darkened sky, letting the raindrops spatter cold but cleansing against his skin.
His nostrils caught a familiar odor, heightened by the deluge, and a long forgotten memory flooded back. Every town had its smell, particularly an old town. The man inhaled a deep, damp breath, it had been many years since he had last been in this old town, but he still remembered its smell.
He looked out across a small, cobbled square. A solitary streetlight at the center cast a pale yellow glow. Nothing stirred but the rain. For the moment the solitude seemed real, but he knew it to be merely an illusion, those who pursued him were not far behind. Since starting out on his journey he had barely managed to stay more than one step ahead. Earlier that evening they had missed him by seconds. He had seen the car, seen up close the faces of the men seeking him, watched as they scanned the people who hurried along the pavements and searched the shadows and recesses of the shop doorways. This time chance had favored him and they had driven on by. But then for Lev Semovski, a Russian and a Jew, life had always been about keeping that one step ahead. And on that journey, one that covered more scars and painful memories than miles, you learned to take what luck you could get and move on.
He stepped out from the shelter of the doorway into the bite of the wind, and the rain hit him full on. He bent his head against the elements and struggled on, moving with an odd shambling gait, his right leg dragging slightly as he shuffled across the cobbles. He had carried the bad leg with him most of his life, like a reflection of its struggle, but tonight it would not prevent him from reaching his destination.
He hurried on, as quickly as his old legs would allow, ducking into a narrow alley between two ancient buildings. A stone stairway ran upwards into the darkness, part of a series of steps that led up to the summit of the town. Water from the incessant rainfall tumbled down towards him in a swift narrow river that over the years had worn a hollow in the center of the stairs. He climbed awkwardly, his left hand groping for handholds in the darkness, trying to keep to one side, out of the running water. But his leg banged on each step, dragging through the deluge, as he moved upwards. Not that it mattered, he was soaked already.
By the time he reached the top, his breath came in fast labored wheezes. It was far too many years since he had been a fit man, and he knew he was pushing himself to the limit. He paused to rest in the shadow of a stone doorway, a brief respite from the rain, before venturing on. He blew vigorously into his clenched hands in an attempt to warm them, but the old woolen gloves he wore, the kind with the fingertips missing, were sodden and served only to chill his scrawny hands to the bone. He pulled the up-turned collar of his greatcoat closer around his face, like him, it had seen better years. He glanced towards the sky. This would be year’s last rain. It would be snow by morning.
He peered out onto an old town square. The place was in darkness apart from the pale glow of the odd streetlight. The shops and cafes that ran around each side, sat quiet and deserted, as if silently observing him. He hurried out onto a flat cobbled square, moving at his best pace, seeking the refuge of the darkness at the far side. He heard the car, somewhere off in the distance, its engine laboring up the hill. He shuffled even faster seeking his destination and found it in the shadows. An old wooden bench, one that brought back many memories, but now was not a time for sentimental contemplations, he had little time and the next few moments were vital, if his whole journey was not to be wasted. He slipped out a small package from the depths of his greatcoat and squat down in front of the bench. He felt beneath it for the recess he knew was there. His fingers felt it in the darkness, cut beneath the slats of the bench, barely wide enough to take his precious cargo. He pushed the package into the recess, patting it securely into place and stood up.
The noise of the car engine was much closer now. He knew he had only moments. He shuffled hurriedly back across the square moving as fast as his leg would allow. He was still yards from the shadows when the car swept into the square, illuminating him squarely in its headlights. Tyres shrieked as the car accelerated towards him. The shuffle turned to a scramble as he covered the final yards and plunged into the darkness of an alley. He heard the screech of brakes, the slamming of car doors and then the hurried clatter of pursuit. He took a left turn, and then another, an uneven paving stone caught his already unsteady foot and pitched him to his knees. For a moment he huddled there on the cobbles, gulping desperately for air, heart racing wildly in his chest, unable to move. He could hear them calling to each other, searching for him in the darkness, moving closer. He struggled unsteadily to his feet and staggered forward, alley after alley, working his way along the maize of narrow thoroughfares between the old buildings. It had been many years, but this was still a town he knew.
He reached the end of a narrow alley, ignoring the dull pain in his chest, and looked out onto a deserted street. It sloped upwards as the hill rose to the peak of the old town. He stepped out and began to climb. On his left, the old city wall ran high at this point, but as he approached the brow of the hill, it dropped relative to the road and his head became exposed to the lash of the wind and rain, causing him to duck below it again for protection.
The road flattened briefly at the top, then dropped rapidly away, turning hard to the right, back into the heart of the old town. Down below him, he could see the lights of a car parked at the bottom. A man stood leaning against it, another made his way up the hill towards him. Lev pulled back into the shadows, keeping close in to the wall. He glanced back, but the street behind him was still deserted. A short stone buttress extended out from the base of the wall. Beyond it, the road fell away again to run down the hill and the wall was no longer accessible. He grabbed hold of the buttress, using it as a step up point and scrambled up into a lying position on the top of the wall.
He pushed himself up into a kneeling position and scrambled forward on all fours, the wind slapping at his face, whipping in the rain from out of the night. He swayed dangerously, his frozen fingertips scrabbling at the stonework to gain stability. He heard a cry below him. He risked a look down to his right, to the street winding its way up from the town. The man was standing about twenty feet below him. He had backed across the street to get a better view.
“Ostanovites!” the man demanded in Russian. “Ili ja budu streljat!” He pulled out a gun underlining the threat.
Lev leaned back from the edge and looked out in front of him. He could see the vague outline of the round tower marking the corner of the town wall. A glow from an upper window gave him a bearing. He scrambled on, edging his way forward on his hands and knees as fast as he could. Out to his left there was only darkness, but he knew that far below, the river tumbled in a fierce torrent, swollen by the downpour.
He risked a look back. The man had reached the buttress where Lev had climbed up on to the wall and was already clambering up towards him. Lev pushed himself shakily to his feet and began edging his way forward as quickly as he could. Suddenly the wind dropped and the rain eased, an eerie calm falling on the troubled night, like an oasis in the center of the storm. Lev stopped, the man was still moving towards him. Lev took a deep breath and steadied himself. His fingers felt deep into his pocket, locating what he sought. He took it out. It was almost as old as he was. An old embroidered prayer cap, his mother had stitched it herself for his Bar Mitzvah when he was thirteen years old. He pressed it to his lips and placed it firmly on his head. It was now far too small but still able to serve the purpose. Suddenly it was as if the cold night had receded, and the warm glow of the family living room had replaced it, the smiling faces of his family all around him.
Another shout brought him back to cold reality. The man was close now, holding the gun out in front of him. Lev ignored him, looking straight ahead, out into the night. The wind began again to tug at his clothing, but now he was no longer afraid. Lev Semovski had one last vision of his beautiful Tanya. She was out there waiting for him. He smiled and stepped out into the darkness.