Air Force One is down
Mister Smith's watch had long since been taken from him, so he logged
the passing seconds in his head. Not all of them, but enough to keep him
in touch with reality.
No natural light penetrated the cell, for he was a Category "A" convict,
rating a top-security tomb. No everyday sounds of the world outside
reached his ears through the solid old walls of Fresnes Prison.
In three years, even during his twice-daily canters round the exercise
yard, not a single aeroplane engine had Smith heard, nor the dying snarl
of a lorry, nor the aimless twittering of a sparrow.
His hearing had become abnormally and selectively acute, sifting the
melange of man-made, purposeful noises for the odd accidental one to
disturb the relentless pattern of normality. But these were few,
scattered like grace notes through an otherwise pedestrian score. Yet
still, and obsessively, Smith listened - for the catch in the footfalls of
his guards that meant a broken step, for the clang of a dropped key and
the curse that always followed it, for the scraping of a match as a
warder unknowingly bestowed on Smith the priceless gift of lighting a
cigarette outside hiscell.
These sounds, after a while, slotted subliminally into his mind, and were
used by Smith to fuel his determination to avoid mental stagnation in his
solitary confinement. He owned one of the truly original criminal minds of
the century, and had no intention of letting it rust into disuse.
He exercised his body ruthlessly to keep his muscles finely toned, and
drilled his brain no less fanatically with complex chess and bridge
problems committed to memory. And when he had dispatched these, he
would reconstruct in perfect detail the greatest achievements of his
long career, and go on to plan those yet to happen.
That they wouldhappen, Smith never doubted. He had known with a cold
certainty on the day that the forces of the United Nations Anti-Crime
Organisation defeated his commando army on the Eiffel Tower, that no
prison could hold him beyond his calculated tolerance.
Now he had tolerated Fresnes Prison for long enough. Smith had rarely
spoken, still more rarely smiled, during his incarceration. But as he sat on
his bunk and squinted at the naked light-bulb which he had come to think
of as a trusted friend, the ghost of a grin touched his lips.
While his brain schemed at a feverish pitch, he dropped his eyes and
absent-mindedly sketched with a fingernail on the palm of his hand the
ragged outline of an aeroplane. And he whispered a name.
Dunkels was Smith's creature, dragged from the gutters of Berlin.
Smith had made Dunkels rich, and fear of Smith kept the German loyal.
The time had come for Dunkels to repay his master, to be the catalyst of
Smith's freedom, and of the crime he would perpetrate and which would
rock the Western world.
'Dunkels,' Smith breathed again, drawing comfort from the sound, for
sounds were precious to him. Dunkels would not let Mister Smith down.
No one ever did that.
The Swissair DC-9 started its lazy descent into Zurich airport. The "No
Smoking" sign came on in the first-class compartment, and Siegfried
Dunkels obediently mashed his cigarette into pulp with elegantly
He teased a flake of ash from the crease of his blue mohair trousers and
glanced out of the cabin window. White puffs of cumulus danced on the
snow-topped Alpine peaks, basking in their Christmas card complacency
under an otherwise china-blue sky. His thin lips twisted. Dunkels
detested the smug Swiss, but envied and feared them, too, for their
effortless success and smooth financial brigandry. He had been bested,
cheated, by Swiss money-men in the past; it would not, he vowed, happen
No Zurich gnome had ever beaten Mister Smith. Dunkels mused; and he
was in Switzerland on Mister Smith's business. Nothing must go wrong.
On Dunkels' life, nothing must go wrong.
A pert stewardess, confidently pretty, stopped by his seat and glanced
meaningfully at his lap through lowered lids. She was merely checking
that his seat-belt was fastened, yet she made it seem like an invitation.
'I trust,' Dunkels said in German,'that your Swiss doctors are more
amenable than your bankers.'
'I beg your pardon?' said the girl.
'You have it,' Dunkels rejoined, stretching his mouth into a smile.
Fawn-coloured sunlight flooded into the aircraft as the pilot turned on to
his final approach. A priest in the window seat struggled with the mini-
blind, and Dunkels reached across him to flick it expertly down and mask
the sudden glare. The priest bowed his thanks. Men of God, Dunkels
thought, should not travel first class. It did not demonstrate a proper
humility, though he doubted whether one such as his companion, clearly a
bishop, would even bother to affect an attitude of humility.
The tension of the landing mounted in the cabin, and was reflected by
seasoned travellers like Dunkels who steeled themselves for the touch-
down. A sigh of relief escaped from the bishop when the DC-9's wheels
rode safely on to the tarmac. The prelate crossed himself, and started
to say something to Dunkels, who pretended, with an exaggerated
pantomime, to be deaf.
Later, Dunkels hefted his alligator-skin case from the baggage-carousel
and strolled past the deferential Swiss douaniersto the automatic exit
doors. A uniformed chauffeur standing by a black Mercedes signalled to
him with a gloved hand. The driver indicated the front passenger seat,
but Dunkels pointedly waited for the rear door to be opened. Just as
pointedly, he insulated himself from the possibility of small-talk on the
journey by leaving the limousine's plate-glass partition closed.
Dunkels did not look through the tinted window at the breath-taking
scenery, but into it at his own reflection. He saw, and admired, a square-
jawed, firmly fleshed face with a slightly kinked nose jutting
aggressively under his deceptively mild brown eyes. The chin was
adequately cleft and the forehead broad and bland. His eyebrows, like
his hair, were ash-blond. The hair was kept short and sculpted by an
Italian barber who was an artist with a razor. Dunkels drew a comb from
his pocket and ran it across his scalp. In its wake, the individual hair
follicles snapped smartly back into place like Prussian guardsmen.
A fleeting shadow intruded on his self-absorption. Dunkels frowned, and
peered more closely. Then he grinned. It was an aeroplane. A Boeing 707.
The undulating silhouette was not unlike the shape Smith had traced on
his hand in the Fresnes Prison.
The dignified italic script on the sign said "Edelweiss Clinic" in English,
and Dunkels mentally switched to English for the period he was to stay
there; a short time, he hoped. Like Smith, Dunkels was an accomplished
linguist - though without Smith's encyclopaedic command of esoteric
tongues. Dunkels had known Smith to range languidly through the
alphabet from Albanian to Xhosa purely for mental stimulus.
Gravel crackled beneath the wheels of the Mercedes when it left the
main road and turned into the clinic's long drive. Edelweiss, Dunkels
assumed, would be an unwelcome intruder into the probably regimented
sterility of the clinic, which at last came into view through the front
window. It was a newish, chalet-style complex nestling in a fold of the
mountain, and built out from it to overlook the vertiginous drop to a
rock-strewn valley. Patients of Doctor Richard Stein who were unable to
afford his treatment, or failed to benefit from it, could solve their
problems simply by walking off his expensive terracing, Dunkels thought.
He spread his long, spare body over the rear seat of the Mercedes and
waited for the chauffeur to release him. A white-coated figure came out
through the swing-doors and descended the steps towards him.
Doctor Richard Stein looked old for his years. He was an acknowledged
front-runner in the treatment of rheumatoid-arthritic complaints among
the elderly and rich, as well as a gifted psychiatrist. He was also (but
less acknowledged) probably the most skilful plastic surgeon in
Switzerland. It was a fortunate aptitude to possess in a land where a
secret access of fortune often demanded a consequential change in
Richard Stein oiled rusting joints, cleared cobwebbed minds, and
restructured dangerous faces with the same impartial expertise. He was
small, dark and frail-seeming, with a prominent aquiline nose. His
shoulders were bent, and Dunkels, who towered over him, saw the
permanently crooked upper half of his body swivel from the waist as
Stein extended a bony hand in greeting. 'Physician, heal thyself,' Dunkels
'Mr Dunkels, I presume,' Stein said in German.
Dunkels ran his tongue along his strong, square teeth and grinned.
'There's an answer to that, I believe,' he replied in English,'though I
never learned what it was. Doctor Stein: it's good to meet you at last.'
He gripped Stein's hand with careless strength, but released it when the
Swiss grimaced in pain. 'Sorry,' Dunkels said, 'I wouldn't hurt your hands
for all the money in Zurich.'
'Even withall the money in Zurich, I doubt that you'd be able to buy
their equal,' Stein remarked, in excellent, though accented, English. He
rubbed his abused fingers ruefully and added, 'I'll lead the way, then,'
turning as fluidly as a man afflicted with apparent arthritic curvature of
the spine can rotate.
The Mercedes slid away, and Dunkels followed the little Swiss doctor
along two uniformly pristine corridors until they came to an oak-panelled
door bearing the single word "Director". Stein's office was functional G-
plan, with a picture-window framing the valley and mountains like an
adjustable holiday-snap. Stein settled himself behind the desk and
seemed to grow in stature now that he was exercising his own territorial
imperative. He waved Dunkels into a comfortable low hide chair.
'You have the photographs and the anatomically detailed descriptions?'
Stein asked, breaking the silence.
Dunkels nodded. 'You have the candidate?'
Stein nodded. Dunkels waited for the exposition, but none came Finally
he sniffed loudly and said, 'Name?'
Stein linked his fingers and laid them on the desk, leaning forward and
gazing intently at Dunkels as if he were on the point of revealing a state
secret. 'Jagger. Cody Jagger.'
Dunkels pursed his lips. 'It has a somewhat theatrical ring,' he mused.
'It's his real name,' Stein supplied confidentially.
Dunkels sat up and leaned in towards Stein. 'He's here now?'
Stein inclined his impressive head. 'Would you like to see his picture?'
Dunkels indicated that he would.
It was an ordinary enough face gazing out at him from the first page of
the manilla folder which Stein shot across the polished mahogany desk.
The ordinariness, Dunkels knew, was a bonus. It was also a strangely
pliable-looking face… no highlights or promontories, no points of
interest or focus; it could have been moulded from plasticine for all the
definition it carried. Another bonus. Dunkels stared hard at the face,
then closed his eyes and tried to visualise its contours; and failed. He
grinned, and smacked his lips approvingly.
Stein smiled too. 'I knew you'd like him. Good basic building-material.
There are, additionally, certain similarities already between Jagger and
the subject, and for total conversion… well, at the very least
Jagger's physiognomy creates no obstacles, as you can see. The
colouring, incidentally, is identical, and his height and weight match the
subject's almost exactly.'
'Each man is six feet two inches tall, but Jagger is eight pounds heavier
than the subject. This is not a problem, since my clinic specialises in
'Among other things.'
'As you say,' Stein acknowledged, among other things
Dunkels flipped through the remaining pages of the Jagger file, and
granted in amusement. Stein regarded him questioningly. Dunkels snapped
the file shut and remarked, 'Not exactly a model citizen, our Cody, is
Stein replied, 'You didn't tell me you wanted a circuit preacher.' Dunkels
grinned. 'It makes no difference what he is,' he conceded, 'as long as he
is the man he claims to be. If he checks out, he'll do.'
'He'll have to,' Dunkels said, leaving the implicit warning unstated.
Stein unlaced his fingers and spread them wide in apparent
consternation. 'I've never let Smith down before, have I?' he demanded.
'MisterSmith,' Dunkels corrected icily.
'MisterSmith, I'm sorry,' Stein apologised. 'But all the same, I've always
delivered. Even when it was Mister Smith's own face. I made him
Javanese, if you recall. And Swedish and Peruvian. No complaints? No.'
Stein's fingertips agitated like the hands of a blue-rinse matron drying a
full house of painted nails.
'I gave him his present face,' he protested,'the aristocratic look, that's
what he wanted - top-drawer English. And that's what he got. He could
pass for a Duke at Buckingham Palace.'
'He did,' Dunkels interposed drily.
'There you are, then,' Stein exclaimed,'though of course Mister Smith's
face is marvellously - eh - malleable. And unmemorable, too. He tells me
he's quite forgotten what he originally looked like.'
That, Dunkels admitted, rising from the hide chair, was true. 'OK, Stein,'
he said brusquely, 'I'll put Jagger through the mincer, and if he comes
out kosher, he's it.' Dunkels prided himself on his idiomatic English.
They lunched expansively in Stein's penthouse which afforded an even
more staggering panorama of Switzerland's greatest natural asset. When
they had finished eating, Stein inquired tentatively whether Dunkels
really thought they could get away with the impersonation.
'What do you think?' Dunkels replied. 'You're doing the important part.'
Stein explained that the assumption of the subject's physical identity
was not difficult. He had made people into other people before.
'Naturally,' he went on, 'I'll be able to offer a more qualified opinion on
Jagger's chances when you tell me a little more about our subject. At
present, all you've given me is his face in six different poses, for which
I'm grateful, plus the information that he's connected with the
American forces, though which branch I don't know.'
Dunkels cracked his knuckles and drew a baleful glance from Stein. 'His
name is Joe McCafferty,' Dunkels said slowly, as if grudging every word.
'He's on secondment from the United Nations Anti-Crime Organisation -
UNACO to the elite Secret Service Corps forming the American
President's bodyguard. Currently, McCafferty has been re-seconded to
head the security force aboard Air Force One, which is, as you know
'Yes,' Stein interrupted, 'I know what Air Force One is. The Boeing -
707, isn't it? — used by the President as a sort of aerial White
House. So…' he dragged the conjunction out admiringly, and
whistled,'so McCafferty's an important man.'
Then you'd better come along and see him,' Stein twinkled. 'I mean, of
course, his potential doppelganger, his look-alike, his - other self.' Stein
paused and added, half to himself, 'How unpleasant it will be for
McCafferty to discover that he has suddenly become two people.'
Smith's computer "mincer", located thirty miles north of the Brazilian
city of Sao Paolo, was extraordinarily swift and adept. It placed its
imprimatur on Jagger's credentials while Dunkels was still waiting for his
coffee to arrive. A courteous waiter handed him the telex, and Dunkels
himself took the good news to Jagger, who was billeted in a room at the
end of a wing that was private even by the reclusive character of the
He introduced himself and told Jagger, 'You'll be seeing a lot of me from
now on.' The ringer stood up and clasped Dunkels' hand. He grinned
crookedly and said, 'Cody Jagger - and this is probably the last you'll
ever see of me as I look now.'
Four hours later, Dunkels left the clinic in the same Mercedes that had
brought him there. His close interrogation of Jagger had endorsed the
computer's verdict: that Cody Jagger was indeed Cody Jagger. Dunkels
was also satisfied, by his own and Smith's high standards, that Jagger
was psychologically as well as physiologically adjusted to becoming one
Joseph Eamonn Pearse McCafferty, Colonel USAF, presently Head of
Security Operations, Air Force One, and seconded to the 89th Military
Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, USA.
The Alpine peaks were almost purple in the waning light when Stein
knocked at Jagger's door, and entered without an invitation. The ringer,
who was standing before a back-lit shaving mirror saying goodbye to his
face, remarked tersely. 'He's hooked.'
'Excellent,' Stein beamed. 'So Smith will be hooked too. Moscow should
be very, very pleased.'
'So they ought to be,' Jagger retorted. 'This thing could be bigger than
either we or they thought.' He lapsed into silence, then added, 'Are you
sure Smith will buy it?'
'Tut, tut, tut,' Stein said, waving an admonitory finger at him,
'MisterSmith if you don't mind. That, Jagger, is your first lesson.'
Smith listened to the days going by. Dunkels' last message had been
affirmative. The ringer was perfect. The caper was on. His freedom lay
barely a week away; then the world of sound, sight and scent would
assume its normal proportions.
But strangely, that mattered less and less to Smith as the elongated
hours passed. What was important was the crime he had planned to
celebrate his return to life - the big one. which would destroy the
credibility of UNACO and its commander, Malcolm Philpott. Smith deeply
hated the man who had condemned him to the scarcely endurable
catalepsy of imprisonment but this time hewould triumph and UNACO
Dunkels would not let him down. Nor would Jagger; nor would Stein.
Failure, as always with Mister Smith, was unthinkable. He had felt
President Warren G. Wheeler squirming in his hands once before; and he
would do so again.
Smith's mind conjured up anew the vision of the converted Boeing 707
that was, to Warren G. Wheeler, Air Force One. 'Oh dear,' he
murmured, 'has the nasty man taken your toy away?'
And for the first time in three years, four months and eighteen days,
genuine, unforced laughter filled the lonely prison cell, so near to his
beloved Paris that Smith could almost smell the drains.["chapter_two"]
Over the next four days, Cody Jagger survived the mental and physical
agony of losing his persona.
He could not, though, have been in more skilful or patient hands. Stein's
operating theatre, in which he was joined by only two members of his
staff, wholly dependent on him for money and drugs, was set out like a
society photographer's salon.
Every inch of wall space was given over to huge blow-up pictures of
McCafferty's face taken from six different angles, including a shot of
the back of his neck, showing the precise set of his flat, trim ears.
The operating table was surrounded by a forest of tripods bearing multi-
bracketed floodlights, adjustable vertically and in their angles of
concentration. Stein, bent over the table which glowed under its own
bank of arc-lamps, constantly barked instructions to his minions to
sharpen or illuminate particular features of the subject.
Then, squinting fiercely at the pictures that charted McCafferty's face
with the fine detail of an Ordnance Survey Map, Stein wielded his scalpel
on the unconscious Jagger to trade cheek for cheek, jowl for jowl, nose
With total detachment, and a square centimetre at a time, Stein sliced
away slivers of Cody Jagger and moulded them into jigsaw pieces of Joe
McCafferty, like Lego bricks of flesh, the common denominators of a