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Leslie Charteris' Capture The Saint
By Burl Barer

This exclusive excerpt of "Capture The Saint" is published here by permission of the author, Mr. Burl Barer, and is Copyright © 1996 by Burl Barer and The Estate of Leslie Charteris. All Rights Reserved. It may not be reproduced electronically or otherwise without express, written permission.

The Saint Club is proud to present Leslie Charteris' 'Capture The Saint' by Burl Barer. This all-new full-length Saint novel was approved by the Estate of Leslie Charteris, and advance ordering is now available for the October 1997 publication. Written by the Edgar Award winning author, Burl Barer, 'Capture The Saint' is a wonderful tribute to Leslie Charteris' roaring adventurer, The Saint.

This Special Collector's Edition, published by The Saint Club, will consist of only 500 signed and numbered copies.


Capture The Saint Capture The Saint

Chapter 1

"Why are you still alive, Mr. Templar"

Simon Templar, alias the Saint, was only momentarily taken aback by the one unreherarsed question posed by perky television talk-show host Connie Cain during the live afternoon broadcast of Seattle, Washington's most popular local program.

"Mythological characters such as myself seldom age at the going rate," responded the Saint cheerfully. "And if survival is the topic," offered Simon, "I have been shot at, shackled, handcuffed, gassed, and interviewed by trained broadcast journalists -- the relative degree of danger inherent in each being open to debate."

The small studio audience laughed warmly and applauded with approval as the mildly bemused and professionally coiffed hostess signaled for a commercial break.

"You are very good at this, Mr. Templar. Do you do a lot of television?" Her question seemed curiously genuine in contrast to the alternately sanguin and sacharine couching of her on-air delivery.

"I find precious little on television worth watching," stated Simon with disarming honesty. "But this is more fun than being either shackled or gassed, although I was once grilled for information under lights almost as intense as these."

"Did you talk?"

"Not a word," confided the Saint in hushed tones of mock severity. "Of course, the unsavory individual asking the questions was sadly bereft of your charm, grace, and intrinsic allure." Simon may have been overdoing the charm, but the studio audience enjoyed the banter.
"When we come back from commercial," Ms Cain did her best to avoid a slight blush, "we'll talk about the movie."

The movie to which she referred was about to have its auspicious Seattle premier, and while the career of Simon Templar was once as well known as any celluloid adventure concocted for any contemporary hero, it was not a fictionalized version of the Saint's life that had received the Hollywood treatment.

The simple truth is that Barney Malone, semi-retired Hollywood producer and established acquaintance of the Saint, spent a year on his knees and several hours in a bar convincing Simon Templar to sell him the movie rights to The Pirate, the Saint's singular excursion into the world of adventure fiction. Written decades earlier and now creaking with age and bending under the weight of unintentional anachronisms, the novel was at best a derivitive pot-boiler distinguished only by the romantic escapades of its Hispanic hero.

The intial sales of The Pirate had been more than respectable, an adjective phrase never utilized in the descriptive prose published by the world's press when documenting the extra-legal activities of its youthfull author who, at the time of its original publication, was earning his international reputation as the Robin Hood of Modern Crime.

The fact that a tag-team of screenwriters had rendered the plot and characters of Templars' original story unrecognizable did not surprise him.

"I lost faith in films about the time of The Falcon," admitted the Saint to Malone in only half jest. "I have far more faith in the stability of the dollar and the morality of Monarchs."

The dollars Simon Templar was earning from Malone's cinematic adaptation were more than enough to prompt the Saint to sit under the hot lights of a television studio, banter with entertainment page pundits, and spend a few pleasant days traveling the West Coast at Malone's expense to promote the film's debut.

To those who follow the career of Simon Templar, it may seem tragic that the exploits of the Twentieth Century's Brightest Buccaneer would be relegated to the entertainment pages rather than dominating the headlines. The Saint was perfectly pleased to be absent from the latest Seattle headlines -- a front page story detailing the death by gunfire of a weasle-like miscreant who most often utilized the moniker Salvadore Alisdare. Simon Templar, the affable and entertaining talk-show guest was the exceptionally singular twist in the story; the one missing piece police were never able to place.

Simon Templar was not the last man to see Alisdare alive. That doubtful honor was reserved for the individual who, luring him into a Madison street alley in morning's wee hours, puntuated the climax of their distateful conversation by puncturing Alisdare's lungs with several slugs from a .38 revolver. The Saint saw both men prior to their eventful convergence, knew the outcome of their meeting long before reporters detailed the events in print, and was not the least surprised to read of Alisdare's death nor the subsequent arrest of the cold blooded killer.

While it should be noted that the Saint seriously considered killing both Mr. Alisdare and his murderer, Simon Templar neither encouraged nor arranged the demise of Salvadore Alisdare. What the Saint had arranged was slightly more creative -- a birthday surprise for Barney Malone.


An action packed sequence from later in the book

The vibration under Simon's feet and the intense heat at his back gave him no reason to doubt the effectiveness of his incendiary inventiveness. He needn't look back for verification of the meth lab's vaporization, nor for confirmation that Alisdare's domicile was engulfed in a maelstrom of destruction. There was only the clear path before him, the blacktop beneath him, and the bright brake lights of the BMW as his immediate goal.

Vi, however, knew what the Saint did not: a smoking form emerged from the dust, flailing its arms in wild concentric circles, throwing itself at the 4X4 whose paint blistered from the intense heat generated by the twin blasts. Milo, propelled past the brink of madness, felt no pain when grasping the red hot door handle and throwing himself behind the wheel. He pawed the driver's side visor and an ignition key plopped into his scalded palm.

Viola Berkman leapt from her car, waving and yelling warnings at the Saint. Simon couldn't hear her, but her body language bore sufficient augury. The Saint turned to witness the big wheel's twin beams blast through the smoke and see the spin of enormous tires on gravel.

The Saint ran towards Vi's car, she raced to the passenger side, and Milo slammed a seared foot on the accelerator. The 4X4 lurched, spun, and charged towards the blacktop, its heavy tread seeking and finding sure footing on the hard, dark pavement. Through heat baked vision and dirt caked windshield, Milo considered Simon Templar as a miniscule figure fleeing from certain death.

"Under my wheels!" Yelled Milo, "Under my wheels!"

The Saint could not hear Milo's rants, and had he heard them he would not have been impressed. What Milo perceived as Simon's unavoidable doom, the Saint considered simply another of the evening's avoidable inconveniences.

The BMW idled in anticipation, Vi secured her seat belt, and well before Milo was halfway down the blacktop, the Saint was behind the wheel, in command, and projecting an air of irrefutable confidence.

For Viola, the sight of the monster truck bearing down on them served as adequate impetus for anxiety, and the ease with which the Saint launched the BMW from warmed standstill to tachometric intensity did little to alleviate her understandable internal tension.

The dark road vanished under their headlights with increasing rapidity, but Milo's massive tires and lead footed approach to night driving gave his pursuit a roaring dragonian ambiance of such ferocity that Viola could almost sense the sinister hiss of an overheated radiator steaming at her neck.

The Saint's fingers skimmed the black steering wheel with deft precision and characteristic disregard for inferences of danger. A signature whistle melodically eased thorough his lips and his piratical visage was wreathed in smiles.

"He wants to kill us, you know," noted Vi as if offering a friendly reminder.

"He won't live that long," stated the Saint optimistically, "and don't look back, it only encourages him."

Vi looked back anyway; the truck was gaining. She turned to the reckless and unperturbed gentleman piloting her conservative family car as if qualifying for a stock car competition. She had no choice but to surrender her trust to his rakish features and the amazingly clear and mocking blue eyes gleaming like chips of crystal. If she retained any hope for a happy ending to the night's shenanigans, such faith was best invested in the durable desperado with the might of angels aligned in his favor.

"Before I forget," said the Saint conversationally, "I want to tell you how impressed I was with your performance back there. Had you not become a public spirited rescuer of abandoned off-spring, you could have had a career in theatrical improvisation."

"I minored in drama," she admitted with distraction. Her fingers trembled, and her voice quavered. The night's avalanche of relentless anxiety was not the stuff of which her evenings traditionally consisted, and for her to maintain an attitude of relaxed nonchalance while being pursued by a madman would be expecting a bit much.

Indeed, the ground pounding 4X4 with the singed and sinister driver weaved wildly behind them from lane to lane, attempting to gain advantage and pull either in front or along side.

The Saint shot the BMW through the intersection where the Woodinville/Duvall road met the miniscule heart of the second city and pumped it full throttle. The sizzling saboteur in the hydraulically heightened road beast banged a peeling fist on the dash board as if violence in the cab translated into increased speed on the road. There was some truth to this superstition, for the high-riding vehicle was cutting the distance between itself and the import. This fact of unfortunate logistics was not lost on the Saint.

"He must have one hell of an engine or German engineering isn't what it used to be," said Simon dryly and Vi felt obligated to offer a weak, if not particularly comforting explanation.

"Maybe I'm past due for a tune-up."

Simon cocked an eyebrow at her self- deprecating comment, squinted at the reflection of Milo's headlights in the side mirror, and eased his foot off the gas peddle. The BMW slowly decelerated as the truck accelerated. Milo, enthused at his high-speed progress, expelled a smokey whistle through his ugly gapped teeth and aimed his charred grill into the oncoming lane. In a moment he would be along side, determined to fling his 4X4 full force against the sleek sheet metal of the German import. Even though the mighty vehicle was not his personal possession, he was familiar enough with it to be aware of its more unique accessories. He reached down under the driver's seat and snapped up a decidedly illegal and fully loaded sawed-off shotgun.

He laughed a crazed coughing cackle and spat black grit on the dashboard. The road ahead was clear, and a spasmodic jerk of his scorched head allowed him an inspiring view of the glowing red stain spreading like a billow of spilled blood on the night sky's black velvet backdrop.

The Saint monitored every miniscule movement of Milo's high-rise motorized would-be weapon, calculating speed, distance, and strategy. Milo's madness was factored into the equation, along with his stupidity and forgetfulness.

For Milo, it was if the enormous tires were infused with demonic power -- each tread a rapacious talon grasping hungrily at the asphalt, every inch of rubber a hard-skinned reptile -- seeking their prey with remorseless resolve. He was riding the back of the beast, a pilot of death wielding fire and retribution. He could hear the distant howl of hell-hounds rising in his ears, see the swirling pyres of Hades licking the road ahead.

The Saint perceived the same audio and visual cues as Milo, but decoded them accurately -- the distant howl, an approaching siren; the swirling pyres, a Snohomish County firetruck. Simon eased the hatchet out of his belt, lowered the window, and checked the side mirror to ascertain Milo's proximity.

The two vehicles screamed around another bend, Vi did the same, and when the 4X4 pulled along side, Simon saw manifest madness, armed and dangerous, behind the wheel.

Milo extended his blistered arm full length towards the open window, his charred fingers tightening on the trigger. In one abrupt movement, the Saint threw the hatchet and slammed on the brakes. Although Simon Templar was more experienced in the art of hatchet throwing than the average Seattle tourist, the particular hatchet in question was neither of perfect balance nor was it manufactured with throwing in mind. It is adequate testimony to the Saint's strength and aim that the hatchet, while not directly terminating Milo's existence, sailed through the truck's cab with sufficient force to painfully slice away the topmost portion of Milo's right ear before disappearing out the opposite window.

The sudden shock had a profound effect on the 4X4's erratic pilot. For a brief moment, the wild fog around his eyes and the swirling mist inside his head seemed to evaporate in a bright crimson light. For the first time since the meth lab burst into flames, the gap-toothed lackey saw things as they were. Sadly, they were not to his liking -- most especially the enormous oncoming firetruck .

There was one icy moment of panicked indecision before Milo's left hand desperately cramped the steering wheel far to the right.

The truck's speed, the narrow road, and the sudden swerve united in a coldly coordinated conspiracy to capsize Milo's metallic monster. The squeal of tires and screams of sirens drowned out similar noises made by Milo himself as the 4X4 tipped treacherously on its wheels, left the road in a sideways launch, and crashed end over end. Before the first horrorific impact with terra firma, a relatively small, bright flash illumined the cab's interior. The shotgun in Milo's grip followed the same over end trajectory as the vehicle itself. When Milo saw himself looking down the wrong end of the weapon, he wondered who could possibly by trying to shoot him. In an understandable act of intended self-defense, Milo pulled the trigger.



Burl Barer (adoraburl@yahoo.com) is the Edgar Award winning author of
The Saint--A Complete History in Print, Radio, Film, and Television. You can visit Burl's web site at http://www.burlbarer.com/.

You can order the following Burl Barer books from Amazon.com, Inc.

You can order this book from Book Stacks Unlimited, Inc.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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