The Admiral’s Mark is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

A 2012 Ballantine Books eBook Original

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Berry

Excerpt from The Columbus Affair copyright © 2012 by Steve Berry

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

BALLANTINE and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

eISBN: 978-0-345-53440-8

Cover design: Marc J. Cohen and Scott Biel




Title Page


Eight Years Ago

About the Author

Excerpt from The Columbus Affair


Cotton Malone hated funerals. The only thing worse was a wedding. Both events involved an expected display of emotion, and both sparked memories better left forgotten. He’d attended only a handful of either since leaving the navy six years before and working full-time for the Justice Department. Today’s funeral was further complicated by the fact that he hadn’t particularly liked the man in the coffin.

Scott Brown had been married to Ginger, his wife, Pam’s, sister. Scott had never held a real job, was always pitching some risky venture to investors, most of the schemes borderline illegal. Two years ago Malone had to intercede with Texas authorities and smooth over one that involved a few hundred thousand dollars and a lot of angry ranchers. Luckily, Scott still had the money and its return made everything go away.

This time things had turned out different.

Scott Brown was dead.

Killed in a diving accident off the coast of Haiti. What he was doing there was anybody’s guess. Haitian officials could not have cared less. They fished him from the Caribbean, labeled the death accidental, and shipped him home for burial.

One less problem they had to worry about.

One more for Malone.

“You have to go to Haiti,” his wife said to him. “Ginger is devastated.”

Pam’s sister was two years younger, ten years less mature, and liked the bad boys. Scott was her third husband. Of the crop, he was probably the cream, which wasn’t saying much. Handsome, he’d been a talkative soul, never met a stranger, which had certainly helped with his cons. His problem came from not knowing, to quote the song, “when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, and when to walk away.” He just couldn’t resist the lure of an easy buck. Thankfully, there were no children of the union, and Ginger worked a solid job that paid the bills.

“And why do I have to go to Haiti?” he asked. “Scott drowned. Case closed.”

A report had accompanied the body. It explained everything the locals knew—which wasn’t much—and was signed by a police inspector in Cap-Haitien.

“Scott called Ginger a day before he died. He sounded like he was in trouble. He said people were after him.”

“He’s a pathological liar, and he was always in trouble.”

He spotted the look on her face. The one that said, You can argue all you want, but you’re going down there to see what happened. So he decided to try, “I’m off for the next week. I thought you wanted me home to spend more time with you and Gary?”

His son was eight and growing up fast. First the navy had kept him away, now it was his job with the Magellan Billet. He’d missed most of Gary’s childhood, a sore spot between him and Pam.

Their marriage was in trouble. And they both knew it.

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