Tuesday Sampler: Killing Plato by Jake Needham
August 25, 2015
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Tuesday’s Sampler is an excerpt from Killing Plato, a thriller by Jake Needham.
As one reviewer said: In between the lines of his plot, Needham’s provocative views about Asian culture jump at you from almost every page. The gritty and taut KILLING PLATO is 100 per cent unadulterated attitude.
Jack Shepherd was a well-connected Washington lawyer until he traded the fierce intrigues of politics for the quiet life in Thailand. Then one day he walks into a bar on the jet-set island of Phuket and finds the world’s most famous fugitive waiting for him.
Plato Karsarkis was rich and famous, an international celebrity straight out of the pages of Vanity Fair, when a New York grand jury indicted him for smuggling Iraqi oil and charged him with racketeering and money laundering. There was also the matter of a woman he may or may not have murdered to cover it all up. Karsarkis goes on the run, fleeing the United States and disappearing, and the world’s media goes wild.
Karsarkis is waiting in that Phuket bar to hire Shepherd. He wants a presidential pardon so he can return to America and he knows Shepherd’s connections to the White House can get it for him. But the U.S. Marshals are in Phuket, too. They’re there to kidnap Karsarkis and they want Shepherd to help them set a trap. Shepherd just wants both of them to go away and leave him alone.
At least he does until he discovers a chilling secret which plunges him into a violent spiral of friendship and betrayal and hurls him straight back into the life he thought he had left behind in Washington.
The Marshals aren’t really in Phuket to arrest Plato Karsarkis at all.
They’re there to kill him.
IT STARTED THE way a spy story should start. On a misty night in Phuket. In a little bar. I recognized him the moment I walked in. He was standing by
himself holding a tiny stainless steel telephone to his ear. His body was turned slightly away from me, his elbows resting on the polished teakwood of the bar top, and he was gazing out toward the ocean, nodding his head occasionally, listening more than he was talking.
Plato Karsarkis could not be here of all places, casually leaning on a bar in Phuket, a resort island off the eastern coast of Thailand. There was plainly no way in the world that could be.
Yet, just as plainly, there he was.
Anita and I had spent the day exploring. A warm drizzle began to fall late in the afternoon and we decided to call it a day and have an early dinner at a place called the Boathouse that is right on the sand at Kata Beach. I parked the jeep and Anita stopped at the ladies room while I went in to get us a table. The girl at the hostess stand said she would have one free in fifteen or twenty minutes, so I left my name and went into the bar to wait.
The bar was laid out in the shape of a large C. Plato Karsarkis was leaning on the side nearest the ocean and so I took a stool on the opposite side that offered both a striking panorama of the Andaman Sea and the opportunity to stare at Karsarkis without being too obvious about it. I ordered a Heineken and wondered what Anita’s face would look like when she came out of the ladies’ room and saw him.
Anita had designated this trip to Phuket as our official honeymoon and she had been obsessive about making every detail of it perfect. We were both well into our forties—I somewhat more so than she—and we had been living together for almost two years before we got married so I really couldn’t understand why she was making such a big deal out of having a honeymoon now. Still, Anita had her own ways, and I had absolutely no intention of risking a quarrel by volunteering my thoughts on the subject.
Anita was an artist, a painter whom European art circles had clasped to their bosom as a harbinger of what the critics were calling a new wave of post-feminist revisionism, whatever that meant. Even when her behavior didn’t make complete sense to me, I always tried to remember Anita had an ability to see the world in ways that I could not, ways that were continually surprising and frequently illuminating.
I shifted my weight on the stool to cover the turn of my body and glanced back toward Karsarkis.
He seemed taller in person than he had on television, although I had always heard it was supposed to be the other way around. His forehead was quite high, his nose rounded in that way that some people call Roman, and his curly gray hair trimmed closely against his skull. He wore a tight black T-shirt tucked into black chinos cinched with a narrow belt, also black, and although he must have been in his fifties, maybe even older, he looked pretty able-bodied. The whole effect was something like a cross between Giorgio Armani and Richard Nixon.
What he did not look like, leaning nonchalantly there on the bar and talking into his shiny little telephone, was the world’s most famous fugitive. Which was funny, because that was exactly what he was.
“That was a Heineken,” the bartender said, breaking into my reverie. “Right?”
I pulled my eyes away from Karsarkis. “Right,” I said.
The bartender placed a tall glass still frosty from the cooler on a blue and white striped square of cotton and poured my beer from the familiar green bottle. When he was done, he rapped the empty bottle smartly on the bar top, nodded, and walked away.
As soon as he did, my eyes flicked right back to Plato Karsarkis.
Karsarkis had put away his mobile phone and now he was just leaning against the bar on his forearms, doing nothing in particular. Oddly, it almost seemed as if he was looking at me. So unlikely was that it took several seconds for me to register that he really was looking at me. Worse, when Karsarkis saw the realization of it in my eyes, he raised his right index finger and shook it at me in an exaggerated gesture of mock irritation.
I flashed a hasty and very self-conscious smile and, thoroughly embarrassed, looked down at the bar. I was reaching for my glass again just to have something to do when Karsarkis called out to me.
“Are you Jack Shepherd?”
My first thought of course was that I had misunderstood him. Plato Karsarkis could not have been speaking to me or have the slightest idea who I was. So I kept my eyes forward and said nothing.
“Pardon me,” Karsarkis called out again. “You’re Jack Shepherd, aren’t you?”
Christ, I had heard him right. Karsarkis was speaking to me, and he did know who I was. With what I’m certain was a look of utter bafflement, I lifted my eyes back to Karsarkis. He shook his finger at me again, and then he stood up and started around the bar.
The world’s most famous fugitive was not only alive and well and having a drink at the Boathouse in Phuket, right now he was walking straight toward me, his hand thrust out to shake mine.