Michelle Maxwell has just wrecked her promising career at the Secret Service. Against her instincts, she let a presidential candidate out of her sight for the briefest moment and the man whose safety was her responsibility vanished into thin air. Sean King knows how the younger agent feels. Eight years earlier, the hard-charging Secret Service agent allowed his attention to be diverted for a split second. And the candidate he was protecting was gunned down before his eyes. Now Michelle and Sean are about to see their destinies converge.
Drawn into a maze of lies, secrets, and deadly coincidences, the two discredited agents uncover a shocking truth: that the separate acts of violence that shattered their lives were really a long time in the making--and are a long way from over
About the Author
Date of Birth:August 5, 1960
Place of Birth:Richmond, VIrginia
Education:B.A. in Political Science, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1982; J.D., University of Virginia, 1986
Read an Excerpt
By David Baldacci
Copyright © 2003
Columbus Rose, Ltd.
All right reserved.
EIGHT YEARS LATER
The motorcade streamed into the tree-shaded parking lot, where it
disgorged numerous people who looked hot, tired and genuinely
unhappy. The miniature army marched toward the ugly white brick
building. The structure had been many things in its time and
currently housed a decrepit funeral home that was thriving solely
because there was no other such facility within thirty miles and the
dead, of course, had to go somewhere. Appropriately somber gentlemen
in black suits stood next to hearses of the same color. A few
bereaved trickled out the door, sobbing quietly into handkerchiefs.
An old man in a tattered suit that was too large for him and wearing
a battered, oily Stetson sat on a bench outside the front entrance,
whittling. It was just that sort of a place, rural to the hilt,
stock car racing and bluegrass ballads forever.
The old fellow looked up curiously as the procession passed by with
a tall, distinguished-looking man ceremoniously in the middle. The
elderly gent just shook his head and grinned at this spectacle,
showing the few tobacco-stained teeth he had left. Then he took a
nip of refreshment from a flask pulled from his pocket and returned
to his artful wood carving.
The woman, in her early thirties and dressed in a black pantsuit,
was in step behind the tall man. In the past her heavy pistol in the
belt holster had scraped uncomfortably against her side, causing a
scab. As a solution she'd sewn an extra layer of cloth into her
blouses at that spot and learned to live with any lingering
irritation. She'd overheard some of her men joke that all female
agents should wear double shoulder holsters because it gave them a
buxom look without expensive breast enhancement. Yes, testosterone
was alive and well in her world.
Secret Service agent Michelle Maxwell was on the extreme fast track.
She was not yet at the White House detail, guarding the president of
the United States, but she was close. Barely nine years in the
Service, and she was already a protection detail leader. Most agents
spent a decade in the field doing investigative work before even
graduating to protection detail as shift agents, yet Michelle
Maxwell was used to getting to places before other folks.
This was her big preview before almost certain reassignment to the
White House, and she was worried. This was an unscheduled stop, and
that meant no advance team and limited backup. Yet because it was a
last-minute change in plan, the plus side was no one could know they
were going to be there.
They reached the entrance, and Michelle put a firm hand on the tall
man's arm and told him to wait while they scoped things out. The
place was quiet, smelled of death and despair in quiet pockets of
misery centered on coffins in each of the viewing rooms. She posted
agents at various key points along the man's path: "giving feet" as
it was called in Service parlance. Properly done, the simple act of
having a professional with a gun and communication capability
standing in a doorway could work wonders.
She spoke into her walkie-talkie, and the tall man, John Bruno, was
brought in. She led him down the hallway as gazes from the viewing
rooms wandered to them. A politician and his entourage on the
campaign trail were like a herd of elephants: they could travel
nowhere lightly. They stomped the earth until it hurt with the
weight of the guards, chiefs of staff, spokespersons, speechwriters,
publicity folks, gofers and others. It was a spectacle that if it
didn't make you laugh would at least cause you considerable worry
about the future of the country.
John Bruno was running for the office of president of the United
States, and he had absolutely no chance of winning. Looking far
younger than his fifty-six years, he was an independent candidate
who'd used the support of a small but strident percentage of the
electorate fed up with just about everything mainstream to qualify
for each state's national ballot. Thus, he'd been given Secret
Service protection, though not at the staffing level of a bona fide
contender. It was Michelle Maxwell's job to keep him alive until the
election. She was counting the days.
Bruno was a former iron-balls prosecutor, and he'd made a great
number of enemies, only some of whom were currently behind bars. His
political planks were fairly simple. He'd tell you he wanted
government off the backs of the people and free enterprise to rule.
As for the poor and weak, those not up to the task of unfettered
competition, well, in all other species the weak died and the strong
prevailed, and why should it be any different for us? Largely
because of that position, the man had no chance of winning. Although
America loved its tough guys, they weren't ready to vote for leaders
who exhibited no compassion for the downtrodden and miserable, for
on any given day they might constitute a majority.
The trouble started when Bruno entered the room trailed by his chief
of staff, two aides, Michelle and three of her men. The widow
sitting in front of her husband's coffin looked up sharply. Michelle
couldn't see her expression through the veil the woman was wearing
but assumed her look was one of surprise at seeing this herd of
interlopers invading hallowed ground. The old woman got up and
retreated to a corner, visibly shaking.
The candidate whirled on Michelle. "He was a dear friend of mine,"
Bruno snapped, "and I am not going to parade in with an army. Get
out," he added tersely.
"I'll stay," she fired back. "Just me." He shook his head. They'd
had many such standoffs. He knew that his candidacy was a hopeless
long shot, and that just made him try even harder. The pace had been
brutal, the protection logistics a nightmare.
"No, this is private!" he growled. Bruno looked over at the
quivering woman in the corner. "My God, you're scaring her to death.
This is repugnant."
Michelle went back one more time to the well. He refused yet again,
leading them all out of the room, berating them as he did. What the
hell could happen to him in a funeral home? Was the eighty-year-old
widow going to jump him? Was the dead man going to come back to
life? Michelle sensed that her protectee was really upset because
she was costing him valuable campaign time. Yet it wasn't her idea
to come here. However, Bruno was in no mood to hear that.
No chance to win, and the man acted like he was king of the hill. Of
course, on election day the voters, including Michelle, would kick
his butt right out the door.
As a compromise Michelle asked for two minutes to sweep the room.
This was granted, and her men moved quickly to do so while she
silently fumed, telling herself that she had to save her ammo for
the really important battles.
Her men came out 120 seconds later and reported everything okay.
Only one door in and out. No windows. Old lady and dead guy the only
occupants. It was cool. Not perfect, but okay. Michelle nodded at
her candidate. Bruno could have his private face time, and then they
could get out of here.
Inside the viewing room, Bruno closed the door behind him and walked
over to the open coffin. There was another coffin against the far
wall; it was also open, but empty. The deceased's coffin was resting
on a raised platform with a white skirting that was surrounded
waist-high with an assortment of beautiful flowers. Bruno paid his
respects to the body lying there, murmuring, "So long, Bill," as he
turned to the widow, who'd returned to her chair. He knelt in front
of her, gently held one of her hands.
"I'm so sorry, Mildred, so very sorry. He was a good man." The
bereaved looked up at him from behind the veil, smiled and then
looked down again. Bruno's expression changed and he looked around,
though the only other occupant of the room was in no condition to
eavesdrop. "Now, you mentioned something else you wanted to talk
about. In private."
"Yes," the widow said in a very low voice. "I'm afraid I don't have
much time, Mildred. What is it?" In answer she placed a hand on his
cheek, and then her fingers touched his neck. Bruno grimaced as he
felt the sharp prick against his skin, and then he slipped to the
Excerpted from Split Second
by David Baldacci
Copyright © 2003 by Columbus Rose, Ltd..
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As a retired cop I was a little hesitant to start this series about federal cops but I found this very believable and a great read.
It reads incredibly fast. The ending is what just killed me. Everything was tied together in about two pages it seemed like. Plus the ending itself was surprisingly horrible. Still worth reading though I couldn't put it down till I was finished.
I wasn't sure I would like this author but I am now an avid fan. Good plot, good timing and a good story. What more can you ask for?
Audiobook version. Scott Brick's New York accent so thick you could spread it on a bagel is annoying and irritating. He must be an unhappy man because his reading depicts the characters are very combative and not nice people in general. Wish I'd bought the abridged version with someone else reading. Great story though. I recommend the book, just not this audio version.
I enjoyed the action from the start all the way to the finish. Sometimes, Balducci bestsellers are to neatly wrapped up in the end, but I enjoyed the story line and characters.
I have not read any of his books where I was let down or found myself putting the book down to do something else. It is always from start to finish, don't let go, continue the reading.
I have read all of David Balcacci's books and can say I am a fan. All of his books fall into the category of "Hard to put down". Split Second is no different.
This introduction to the King and Maxwell series starts off in great fashion winding two tales together causing the main characters to interwine - fate is a strange mistress indeed. The story clips along at a good pace with some believable side characters. However, the conclusion felt rushed with even weaker character development at the end. Also, very, very predictable villian (Really, a tennis ball?). Baldacci has got a good duo here even if the plot development is extreme including final character revelations and plot developments that are a little disjointed from the previous even flow of the story. If you will just remember that anything is possible where politics are concerned, you'll have a good time with this odd couple and will be looking forward to the next installment.
I loved this book! I used the audio book and couldn't wait to get back in my car to listen to it! I usually don't read Baldacci but this sounded so interested I decided to try it.
Great story line and fast paced. If you like action. This is your book!
I got my hands on an advanced copy of this one last week and just couldn't put it down! Baldacci, already recognized for several other great thrillers, has really outdone himself this time around. Excellent plot, intense thrills, awesome characters: This one will top the bestsellers in no time!
Great book. As usual spell binding, really enjoyed.
I started reading this because a friend recommended it. I wasn't sure what I would think, but I got hooked within the first two chapters! I would describe it as a thriller, crime, and mystery type of novel. Just when you think you got it all figured out, a twist turns it around. At the end, the pieces are put nicely together and everything becomes incredibly clear. The books becomes fast paced at moments, but not overwhelmingly so. It really puts you into the mind of the killer, as well as the main characters. They are all unique and their character developed nicely. The writing style is not over-bearing either. It is detailed but not to the point that skimming over becomes a habit. Instead, only the necessary details are added and clearly written. It is not something easily put down once started. Once you read it, you will become a fan of the series, if only to feel the rush and excitement while reading about crazy chases, gun shoot outs, and crazy clues that make your head spin (in a good way).
I love David Baldacci's books and this one certainly lived up to his books' reputation. Gripping from the very first chapter, I culdn't put it down. Highly recommend!
Fast paced, & interesting, will have to add my list of series' to read
I mistakenly read "Simple Genius" in this series first, and absolutely loved it. Just finished this, and while I'm pleased that I now know King and Maxwell's history/beginning, I was ever so slightly disappointed in the brevity of this novel. Overall, a decent read.
Good read. Lots of twists. Would recommend.
One of my favorite authors . Gripping story line AAA
love the King and Maxwell series. have read them before and now I am putting them on my Nook.
This series is awesome, must read if you like crime drama without the gory, senseless violence.
Loved the characters. Spent wonderful hours around the hotel pool with this book. I am looking forward to more in the series.
If you like like contemporary mysteries with a tough, dominant women and a cerebral, thoughtful man trying to outwit (him) and out muscle (her) a cast of Southern good old boys, conniving belles, and at least one genius serial killer you will enjoy Split Second. David Baldacci, the crown prince of airport book store thrillers, combines his talent for convoluted plot development and an ear for lively dialogue to create a cast of interesting characters involved in life and death struggles with contemporary forces of evil.
This isn't the first book I have read from the series and I'm glad I read it. Mr Baldacci develops the story line and keeps the pace up throughout the entire book. I look forward to reading the rest of the books in the series.
Im going to download the next book asap!