/ Language: English / Genre:thriller / Series: Presidential agent


W Griffin

W E B Griffin



[ONE] Danubius Hotel Gellert Szent Gellert ter 1 Budapest, Hungary 0035 1 August 2005

When he heard the ping of the bell announcing the arrival of an elevator in the lobby of the Gellert, Sandor Tor, who was the director of security for the Budapester Neue Tages Zeitung, raised his eyes from a copy of the newspaper-so fresh from the presses that his fingers were stained with ink-to see who would be getting off.

He was not at all surprised to see that it was Eric Kocian, managing director and editor in chief of the newspaper. The first stop of the first Tages Zeitung delivery truck to leave the plant was the Gellert.

The old man must have been looking out his window again, Tor thought, waiting to see the truck arrive.

Tor was a burly fifty-two-year-old with a full head of curly black hair and a full mustache. He wore a dark blue single-breasted suit carefully tailored to conceal the Swiss SIGARMS P228 9mm semiautomatic pistol he carried in a high-ride hip holster.

He looked like a successful businessman with a very good tailor, but he paled beside Eric Kocian, who stepped off the elevator into the Gellert lobby wearing an off-white linen suit with a white shirt, a white tie held to the collar with a discreet gold pin, soft white leather slip-on shoes, a white panama hat-the wide brim rakishly up on the right and down on the left-and carrying a sturdy knurled cane with a brass handle in the shape of a well-bosomed female.

Kocian was accompanied by a large dog. The dog was shaped like a boxer, but he was at least a time and a half-perhaps twice-as large as a big boxer, and his coat was grayish black and tightly curled.

Kocian walked to a table in the center of the lobby where a stack of the Tages Zeitung had been placed, picked up a copy carefully-so as not to soil his well-manicured fingers-and examined the front page.

Then he folded the newspaper and extended it to the dog.

"You hold it awhile, Max," he said. "Your tongue is already black."

Then he turned and, resting both hands on the cane, carefully surveyed the lobby.

He found what he was looking for-Sandor Tor-sitting in an armchair in a dark corner of the lobby. Kocian pointed his cane at arm's length at Tor, not unlike a cavalry officer leading a charge, and walked quickly toward him. The dog, newspaper in his mouth, never left Kocian's side.

Six feet from Tor, Kocian stopped and, without lowering the cane, said, "Sandor, I distinctly remember telling you that I would not require your services anymore today and to go home."

A lesser man would have been cowed. Sandor Tor did not. As a young man, he had done a hitch in the French Foreign Legion and subsequently had never been cowed by anyone or anything.

He pushed himself far enough out of the armchair to reach the dog's head, scratched his ears, and said, "How goes it, Max?" Then he looked up at Kocian and said, "You have been known to change your mind, Ur Kocian."

"This is not one of those rare occasions," Kocian said. He let that sink in and then added: "But since you are already here, you might as well take us-on your way home-to the Franz Josef Bridge."

With that, Kocian turned on his heel and walked quickly to the entrance. Max trotted to keep up with him.

Tor got out of his chair as quickly as he could and started after him.

My God, he's eighty-two!

As he walked, Tor took a cellular telephone from his shirt pocket, pushed an autodial button, and held the telephone to his ear.

"He's on the way to the car," he said without preliminary greeting. "He wants me to drop him at the Szabadsag hid. Pick him up on the other side."

The Szabadsag hid, the Freedom Bridge, across the Danube River was are-creation of the original 1899 bridge that had been destroyed-as had all the other bridges over the Danube-in the bitter fighting of World War II. It had been named after Franz Josef, then king and emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was the first to be rebuilt, as close to the original as possible, and, when completed in 1946, had been renamed the Freedom Bridge.

Eric Kocian simply refused to accept the name change.

"If the communists were happy with that Freedom name, there's obviously something wrong with it," he had said more than once. "Franz Josef may have been a sonofabitch, but, compared to the communists, he was a saint." There was a silver Mercedes-Benz S500 sitting just outside the door of the Gellert.

For a moment, Sandor Tor was afraid that the old man had grown impatient and decided to walk. Then there came a long blast on the horn.

Tor quickly trotted around the front of the car and got behind the wheel. Kocian was in the front passenger's seat. Max, still with the newspaper in his mouth, was sitting up in the backseat.

"Where the hell have you been?" Kocian demanded.

"I had to take a leak."

"You should have taken care of that earlier," Kocian said. It wasn't far at all from the door of the Gellert to the bridge, but if Kocian had elected to walk he would have had to cross the road paralleling the Danube, down which traffic often flew.

The old man wasn't concerned for himself, Tor knew, but for the dog. One of Max's predecessors-there had been several, all the same breed, Bouvier des Flandres, all named Max-had been run over and killed on that highway.

It was a standard joke around the Gellert and the Budapester Tages Zeitung that the only thing the old man loved was his goddamned dog and that the only living thing that could possibly love the old man was his goddamned dog.

Sandor Tor knew better. Once, Tor had heard a pressman parrot the joke and had grabbed him by the neck, forced his head close to the gears of the running press, and promised the next time he heard him running his mouth he'd feed him to the press. "Turn on the flashers when you stop," Kocian ordered as the Mercedes approached the bridge, "and I'll open the doors for Max and myself, thank you very much."

"Yes, Ur Kocian."

"And don't hang around to see if Max and I can make it across the bridge without your assistance. Go home."

"Yes, Ur Kocian."

"And in the morning, be on time for once."

"I will try, Ur Kocian."

"Good night, Sandor. Sleep well."

"Thank you, Ur Kocian." Tor watched in the right side rearview mirror as Kocian and the dog started across the bridge. Tor already had his cellular in his hand. He pressed the autodial button again.

Across the river, Ervin Rakosi's cellular vibrated in his pocket, causing the wireless speaker bud in his ear to ring. He pushed one of the phone's buttons-it did not matter which since he had programmed the device to answer calls whenever any part of the keypad was depressed-and heard Tor's voice come through the earbud:

"They're on the bridge."

"Got him, Sandor."

"He'll be watching me, so I'll have to go up the Vamhaz korut as far as Pipa before I can turn."

"I told you I have him, Sandor."

"Just do what I tell you to do. I'll pick him up when he passes Sohaz."

"Any idea where he's going?"

"Absolutely none."

It was Eric Kocian's custom to take Max for a walk before retiring, which usually meant they left the Gellert around half past eleven. Almost always, they walked across the bridge, and, almost always, they stopped in a cafe, bar, or restaurant for a little sustenance. Lately, they'd been going to the Kepiro, a narrow restaurant/bar which offered good jazz, Jack Daniel's Black Label bourbon, and a menu pleasing to Max, who was fond of hard sausage.

But that was no guarantee they'd be going there tonight, and if Sandor Tor had asked the old man where he was going the old man would either have told him it was none of his goddamned business or lied.

In fact, it was Sandor Tor's business to know where the old man was and where he was going, and to keep him from harm. His orders to protect Eric Kocian-"Cost be damned, and, for God's sake, don't let the old man know he's being protected"-had come from Generaldirektor Otto Gorner of Gossinger Beteiligungsgesellschaft, G.m.b.H., the German holding company that owned, among a good deal else, half a dozen newspapers, including the Budapester Neue Tages Zeitung. When he came off the bridge, Tor saw Ervin Rakosi's dark green Chrysler Grand Caravan at the first intersection in a position from which Rakosi could see just about all of the bridge. He continued up the Vamhaz korut for two blocks and then made a right turn onto Pipa. He circled the block, on toward Sohaz U, pulled to the curb behind a panel truck half a block from Vamhaz korut, and turned off the headlights.

Tor's cellular buzzed.

"He's almost at Sohaz U," Rakosi reported.

"I'm fifty meters from the intersection," Tor's voice said in Rakosi's earbud.

Thirty seconds later, Eric Kocian and Max appeared, walking briskly up the steep incline.

One of these days, Tor thought, he's going to do that and have a heart attack.

Tor reported: "He just went past. Follow him and see where he goes."

Thirty seconds after that, the Chrysler came slowly up Vamhaz korut.

Sixty seconds after that, Rakosi reported, "He's turned onto Kiralyi Pal. It looks as if he is going to the Kepiro."

"Don't follow him. Drive around the block and then down Kepiro U."

Tor backed away from the panel truck and then drove onto Vamhaz korut and turned right. When he drove past Kiralyi Pal, he saw Eric Kocian turning onto Kepiro.

A moment later, Rakosi reported: "He went in."

"Okay," Tor ordered, "you find someplace to park where you can catch him when he comes out. I'll park, and see if I can look into the restaurant."

"Got it," Rakosi said. Tor found the darkened doorway-he had used it before-from which he could see into the Kepiro restaurant.

Kocian was sitting at a small table between the bar and the door. A jazz quartet was set up between his table and the bar. There was a bottle of whiskey on the table and a bottle of soda water, and, as Tor watched, a waiter delivered a plate of food.

Sausage for the both of them, Tor knew. Kielbasa for the old man and some kind of hard sausage for Max. Kocian cut a slice of the kielbasa for himself and put it in his mouth. Max laid a paw on the old man's leg. Kocian sawed at the hard sausage until there was a thumb-sized piece on his fork. He extended the fork to Max, who delicately pulled off the treat. Kocian patted the dog's head.

A procession of people-including three hookers, one at a time-entering and leaving the restaurant paused by Kocian's chair and shook his hand or allowed him to kiss theirs. The more courageous of them patted Max's head. Kocian always rose to his feet to accept the greetings of the hookers, but as long as Tor had been guarding him he had never taken one back to the Gellert with him.

In Vienna, he had an "old friend" who was sometimes in his apartment-most often, coming out of it-when Tor went to get him in the mornings. She was a buxom redhead in her late fifties. Kocian never talked about her and Tor never asked.

The band took a break and the bandleader came over to Kocian's table, patted Max, and had a drink of Kocian's Jack Daniel's. When the break was over, the bandleader returned to his piano and Kocian resumed cutting the sausages-a piece for him and a piece for Max-as he listened to the music, often tapping his fingers on the table.

Tor knew that the old man usually stayed just over an hour and had gone into the restaurant a few minutes before one o'clock. So, glancing at his watch and seeing that it was ten minutes to two, he had just decided it was about time for the old man to leave when he saw him gesturing for the check.

Tor took out his cellular, pressed the autodial key, and said, "He's just called for the check."

"Let's hope he goes home," Rakosi replied.

"Amen," Tor said. "You get in a position to watch him on the bridge. I'll stay here and let you know which way he's headed."

"Done," Rakosi said. Eric Kocian and Max came out of the Kepiro five minutes later and headed down the street toward Kiralyi Pal, strongly suggesting he was headed for home.

Tor watched him until he turned onto Kiralyi Pal, called Rakosi to report Kocian's location, and then trotted to where he had parked the silver Mercedes.

He had just gotten into the car when Rakosi reported that the old man was about to get on the bridge.

He had driven no more than four minutes toward Vamhaz korut when his phone vibrated.

"Trouble," Rakosi reported.

"On the way."

Tor accelerated rapidly down the Vamhaz korut and was almost at the bridge when he saw that something was going on just about in the center of the bridge.

Max and the old man had a man down on the sidewalk and the man was beating at the animal's head with a pistol.

Rakosi's Chrysler Grand Caravan was almost on them.

And then a car-a black or dark blue Mercedes that had been coming toward Sandor Tor-stopped and a man jumped out and, holding a pistol with two hands, fired at the old man and the dog.

Rakosi made a screaming U-turn, jumped out, and started firing at the Mercedes as it began to speed away.

"I'll get the old man," Sandor Tor said into his cellular. "You get the bastards in the Mercedes. Ram them if you have to."

Rakosi didn't reply, but Tor saw him jump back into the Chrysler.

Tor pulled his Mercedes to the curb.

The old man was sitting down as if he had been knocked backward. Tor saw blood staining the shoulder of his white suit.

The man on the ground was still fighting Max, whose massive jaws were locked on his arm.

Tor jumped out of the Mercedes, taking his pistol from its holster as he moved.

He took aim at the man Max had down, then changed his mind. He went to the man and swung the pistol hard against the back of his head.

The man went limp.

Tor looked down the bridge and saw that both the attackers' Mercedes and Rakosi's Chrysler had disappeared.

He punched another autodial button on his cellular, a number he wasn't supposed to have.

"Inspector Lazar," he announced. "Supervisor needs assistance. Shots fired on the Szabadsag hid. One citizen down. Require ambulance."

So far as Tor knew, there was no Inspector Lazar on the Budapest police force. But that would get an immediate response, he knew. Before he had gone to work for the Tages Zeitung, he had been Inspector Sandor Tor.

He went to the old man. The dog was whimpering. There was a bloody wound on his skull.

Christ, I only hit that bastard once and he was out. I saw him beating on Max's head and Max never let loose.

That dog's not whimpering because he's in pain. He's whimpering because he knows something is wrong with the old man.

"An ambulance is on the way, Ur Kocian," Tor said.

"Sandor, I need a great favor."

"Anything, Ur Kocian. I should not have let this happen."

"What you should have done is gone home when I told you."

"Do you want to lie down until the ambulance gets here?"

"Of course not. The first thing I want you to do is call Dr. Kincs, Max's veterinarian, and tell him you're bringing Max in for emergency treatment."

"Of course. Just as soon as I get you to the hospital-"

"The Telki Private Hospital. Don't let them take me to the goddamned Szent Janos Korhaz. They'd never let Max stay with me there."

"All gunshot victims are taken to Szent Janos Korhaz," Tor said.

"And you can't fix that?"

"No, I can't."

"Jesus Christ, what are we paying you for?" the old man demanded and then ordered: "Help me to my feet."

"I don't think that's a good idea, Ur Kocian."

"I didn't ask for an opinion, goddamn you, Sandor! Do what you're told! Get me the hell out of here before the police show up."

The old man winced with pain as he tried to get to his feet.

A police car-a Volkswagen Jetta-came onto the bridge. It pulled up beside the silver Mercedes and a sergeant and the driver got out.

"What's happened?" the sergeant demanded.

"That man and two others tried to rob Ur Kocian," Tor said.

"Who are you?"

"Sandor Tor, director of security of the Tages Zeitung," Sandor said as he reached down and pulled Eric Kocian erect.

"What are you doing?" the sergeant said.

"I'm taking Ur Kocian to the hospital."

"An ambulance is on the way."

"I can't wait. Take that slime to the station and I'll come there," Tor said.

He half carried the old man to the Mercedes, hoping the sergeant was not going to give him trouble.

"I'll meet you at the Szent Janos Korhaz," the sergeant said.

"Fine," Tor said.

I'll worry about that later.

The old man crawled into the backseat. Max got in and jumped on the seat and started to lick his face.

Sandor closed the door and then got behind the wheel.

"Take Max to Dr. Kincs first," the old man ordered.

"You're going to the hospital first. I'll take care of Max."

"Not one goddamned word of this is to get to Otto Gorner, you understand?"

At that moment, Tor had just finished deciding that he would call Gorner the moment the doctors started to work on the old man at the Telki Private Hospital.

"I'm not sure I can do that, Ur Kocian. He'll have to know sometime."

"I'll call him as I soon as I can. I'll tell him I fell down the stairs. Fell over Max and then down the stairs. He'll believe that."

"Why can't I tell him?"

"Because he would immediately get in the way of me getting the bastards who did this to me."

"You know who they are?"

"I've got a pretty good goddamned idea. They know I've been nosing around. They want to know how much I know about the oil-for-food outrage. Why do you think they tried to kidnap me?"

"Kidnap you?"

"The sonofabitch who came after me on the bridge had a hypodermic needle."

"A hypodermic needle?" Tor parroted.

"It's in my jacket pocket," the old man said. "When we get to the hospital, take it and find out what it is."

"They were going to drug you?"

"They only started shooting after Max and I grabbed the bastard on the bridge. Jesus Christ, Sandor, do you need a map? They were going to take me someplace to see what I know and where my evidence is. When they had that, then they were going to put me in the Danube."

"Where is your evidence?"

"In my apartment."

"Where in your apartment?"

"If I told you, then you'd know," the old man said. "Someplace safe."

"You don't want to tell me?"

"No. Can't you drive any faster? I'm getting a little woozy."

A moment later, Sandor looked in the backseat.

The old man was unconscious. Max was standing over him, gently licking his face as if trying to wake him.

Sandor turned and looked forward again, and thought, Please, God, don't let him die!

He pushed another autodial button on the cellular, praying it was the right one.

"Telki Private Hospital."

"I'm bringing an injured man to the emergency room. Be waiting for me," Tor ordered.

Five minutes later, he pulled the Mercedes up at the emergency entrance of the Telki Private Hospital. A gurney, a doctor, and a nurse were outside the door.

Tor helped the doctor get the old man on the gurney.

"He's been shot," the doctor announced.

"I know," Tor said.

The doctor gave him a strange look, then started to push the gurney into the hospital.

Tor put his arm around the dog.

"You can't go, Max," he said.

Max strained to follow the gurney but allowed Tor to restrain him.

Tor looked at his watch. It was two twenty-five. [TWO] Estancia Shangri-La Tacuarembo Province Republica Oriental del Uruguay 2225 31 July 2005 At almost precisely that moment in real time-by the clock, it is four hours later in Budapest than it is in Uruguay-a U.S. Army Special Forces medic, Sergeant Robert Kensington, who had been kneeling over a stocky blond man in his forties and examining his wound, stood up and announced: "You're going to be all right, Colonel. There's some muscle damage that's going to take some time to heal, and you're going to hurt like hell for a long time every time you move-for that matter, breathe. I can take the bullet out now, if you'd like."

"I think I'll wait until I get to a hospital," Colonel Alfredo Munz said.

Until very recently, Munz had been the director of SIDE, the Argentine organization that combines the functions of the American FBI and CIA.

There were three other men in the room, the study of the sprawling "big house" of Estancia Shangri-La. One of them-a some what squat, completely bald very black man of forty-six-was lying in a pool of his own blood near Colonel Munz, dead of 9mm bullet wounds to the mouth and forehead. He had been Dr. Jean-Paul Lorimer, an American who had been a United Nations diplomat stationed in Paris and who had taken some pains to establish a second identity for himself in Uruguay as Jean-Paul Bertrand, a Lebanese national and dealer in antiquities. Eighteen days earlier, on July thirteenth, Dr. Jean-Paul Lorimer had gone missing in Paris. A week later, his sister, who was married to J. Winslow Masterson, the chief of mission of the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, had been kidnapped from the parking lot of a restaurant in San Isidro, an upscale Buenos Aires suburb.

The President of the United States, suspecting the kidnapping had something to do with international terrorism and wanting to know what was going on without that information having to be slowly filtered through State Department and intelligence channels, had sent to Buenos Aires a personal agent-an Army officer serving as executive assistant to the secretary of Homeland Security.

Major C. G. Castillo had arrived in Buenos Aires on July twenty-second. The next morning, El Coronel Alfredo Munz of SIDE informed the American ambassador that Mr. Masterson had been found in a taxi on the riverfront, drugged and sitting beside the body of her husband, who had been shot before her eyes.

The President had been enraged. He telephoned Ambassador Juan Manuel Silvio to personally tell him that he was placing Major Castillo in charge of both the investigation of the kidnapping and murder and of the protection of Mr. Masterson and her children until they were safely returned to the United States.

When the Air Force Globemaster III carrying Masterson's family and remains-and the remains of a Marine Guard sergeant, who had been murdered when driving a female Secret Service agent away from the Masterson residence-touched down at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi on July twenty-fifth, Air Force One and the President of the United States were waiting for it.

The President sent for Major Castillo. Just before he got off the Globemaster to go aboard Air Force One, Mr. Masterson told Major Castillo that her kidnappers wanted to know where her brother was hiding and that they would kill her children if she didn't tell them. They had murdered her husband to make the point the threat was serious. Mr. Masterson told Castillo that she had absolutely no idea where Jean-Paul Lorimer was or why the kidnappers were after him.

When Castillo reported to the President aboard Air Force One, the President showed him the document he and Secretary of State Natalie Cohen had just made law:





JULY 25, 2005.




WITNESS: Natalie G. Cohen



No one anywhere had any idea why anyone was so determined to find Jean-Paul Lorimer and was perfectly willing to commit murder to do so. But it was obvious to Major Castillo that the best-indeed, the only-course of action was to find Jean-Paul Lorimer and the place to do that was in Paris.

A CIA agent in Paris seemed to have some answers. He told Castillo he suspected that Lorimer was involved in the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, which had just come to light. The CIA agent said he thought Lorimer had been the man who distributed the money involved. He also said he thought he knew where Jean-Paul Lorimer was: cut in small pieces in the river Seine.

Castillo had gone next to Otto Gorner, the managing director of Gossinger Beteiligungsgesellschaft, G.m.b.H., in Fulda, Germany. He had a close relationship with both the holding company-which owned, among a good deal else, all the Tages Zeitung newspapers-and with Gorner himself.

Gorner told him that he agreed with the CIA agent, that Lorimer had some connection with the oil-for-food scandal, which he had also been looking into. He also pointed him to Budapest, where the editor in chief of the Budapester Tages Zeitung, Eric Kocian, had a list of names of people he strongly suspected were involved.

Kocian had never heard of Lorimer, but said there obviously had to be a "bag man," and it could easily be a UN diplomat who could travel around Europe and the Near East without drawing attention to himself. If Lorimer was that man, those deeply involved in the scandal would want him dead and would be willing to kill to see him eliminated.

Kocian also said his information suggested that much of the oil-for-food money was going to South America. On condition that Castillo would not reveal either his name or the names on his list to any U.S. government agency, Kocian gave him a list of names of people who he thought-or knew-were involved and who were in South America, mainly in Argentina and Uruguay.

Castillo had gone back to South America, where he found that Lorimer's name had not come up to any of the U.S. intelligence agencies operating there or to SIDE. But he had also learned that Uruguay was known as the "money-laundering capital of the Southern Cone." So he went there.

The FBI agents in Montevideo, euphemistically called "legal attaches" of the embassy, had never heard of Lorimer either, but one of them, Special Agent David W. Yung, Jr., did say that he recognized a squat, bald, very black man in one of Castillo's photos as being the Lebanese antiquities dealer Jean-Paul Bertrand, who owned an estancia called Shangri-La and was known to be there.

Yung was quickly informed that that in fact was a picture of Jean-Paul Lorimer.

The thing to do with Lorimer, Castillo then had decided, was to repatriate the missing diplomat-by force, if necessary-and he set up an operation to do that. He had just identified himself to Lorimer in Lorimer's office at the estancia when the barrel of a Madsen submachine gun smashed the office window and sprayed the room, killing Lorimer and wounding El Coronel Munz. They had been attacked by six men, who were all killed in the next few minutes. None of them carried identification of any kind. The third man in Jean-Paul Lorimer's office was dressed-as Sergeant Kensington was-in the black coveralls and other accoutrements worn by Delta Force operators when engaged in clandestine and covert operations. He was cradling in his arms a black bolt-action 7.62?55 sniper's rifle, modified from a Remington Model 700. Had he not pushed his balaclava mask off his face, Corporal Lester Bradley, USMC, who was nineteen, would have looked far more like what comes to mind when the phrase Delta Force operator is heard.

With the mask off, it had just occurred to the fourth man in the room, he looks like a kid who has borrowed his big brother's uniform to wear to the high school Halloween party.

He was immediately sorry for the thought.

The little sonofabitch can really shoot, as he just proved by saving my life.

The fourth man was Major (Promotable) Carlos G. Castillo, Special Forces, U.S. Army. He was thirty-six, a shade over six feet tall, and weighed one hundred ninety pounds. He had blue eyes and light brown hair. He was in a well-tailored dark blue suit.

He turned to Munz, who was looking a little pale from his wound.

"Your call, Alfredo," Castillo said. "If Kensington says he can get the bullet out, he can. How are you going to explain the wound?"

"No offense," Munz replied, "but that looks to me like a job for a surgeon."

"Kensington has removed more bullets and other projectiles than most surgeons," Castillo said. "Before he decided he'd rather shoot people than treat them for social disease, he was an A-Team medic. Which meant…what's that line, Kensington?"

"That I was 'Qualified to perform any medical procedure other than opening the cranial cavity, '" Kensington quoted. "I can numb that, give you a happy pill, clean it up, and get the bullet out. It would be better for you than waiting-the sooner you clean up a wound like that, the better-and that'd keep you from answering questions at a hospital. But what are you going to tell your wife?"

"Lie, Alfredo," Castillo said. "Tell her you were shot by a jealous husband."

"What she's going to think is, I was cleaning my pistol and it went off, and I'm embarrassed," Munz said. "But I'd rather deal with that than answer official questions. How long will I be out?"

"You won't be out long, but you'll be in la-la land for a couple of hours."

Munz considered that for a moment, then said: "Okay, do it."

"Well, let's get you to your feet and onto something flat where there's some light," Kensington said. He looked at Castillo and the two of them got Munz to his feet.

"There's a big table in the dining room that ought to work," Kensington said. "It looks like everybody got here just in time for dinner. There's a plate of good-looking roast beef on it. And a bottle of wine."

"Okay on the beef," Castillo said. "Nix on the wine. We have to figure out what to do next and get out of here."

"Major, who the fuck are these bad guys?" Kensington asked.

"I really don't know. Yung is searching the bodies to see what he can find out. I don't even know what happened."

"Well, they're pros, whoever they are. Maybe Russians? Kranz was no amateur and they got him. With a fucking garrote. That means they had to (a) spot him and (b) sneak up on him. A lot of people have tried that on Seymour and never got away with it."

"Spetsnaz?" Castillo said. "If this was anywhere in Europe, I'd say maybe, even probably. But here? I just don't know. We'll take the garrote and whatever else Yung comes up with and see if we can learn something."

When they got to the dining room, Kensington held up Munz while Castillo moved to a sideboard the Chateaubriand, a sauce pitcher, a bread tray, and a bottle of Uruguayan Merlot. Then he sat him down on the table.

"You going to need me-or Bradley-here?" Castillo asked.

"No, sir."

"Come on, Bradley. We'll find something to wrap Sergeant Kranz in."

"Yes, sir." Sergeant First Class Seymour Kranz, a Delta Force communicator, who at five feet four and one hundred thirty pounds hadn't been much over the height and weight minimums for the Army, was lying facedown where he had died.

A light-skinned African American wearing black Delta Force coveralls sat beside him, holding a Car-4 version of the M-16 rifle between his knees. Despite the uniform, Jack Britton was not a soldier but a special agent of the United States Secret Service.

"Anything, Jack?" Castillo asked.

Britton shook his head.

"It's like a tomb out there," he said. And then, "Is that what they call an unfortunate choice of words?"

He scrambled to his feet.

"Let's get Seymour on the chopper," Castillo said, as he squatted beside the corpse.

The garrote which had taken Sergeant Kranz's life was still around his neck. Castillo tried to loosen it. It took some effort, but finally he got it off and then examined it carefully.

It was very much like the nylon, self-locking wire-and-cable binding devices enthusiastically adopted by the police as "plastic handcuffs." But this device was blued stainless steel and it had handles. Once it was looped over a victim's head and then tightened around the neck, there was no way the victim could get it off.

Castillo put the garrote in his suit jacket pocket.

"Okay, spread the sheets on the ground," Castillo ordered. "You have the tape, right?"

"Yes, sir," Corporal Bradley responded.

He laid the sheets, stripped from Jean-Paul Lorimer's bed, on the ground. Castillo and Britton rolled Sergeant Kranz onto them. One of his eyes was open. Castillo gently closed it.

"Sorry, Seymour," he said.

They rolled Kranz in the sheets and then trussed the package with black duct tape.

Then he squatted beside the body.

"Help me get him on my shoulder," Castillo ordered.

"I'll help you carry him," Britton said.

"You and Bradley get him on my shoulder," Castillo repeated. "I'll carry him. He was my friend."

"Yes, sir."

Castillo grunted with the exertion of rising to his feet with Kranz on his shoulder, and, for a moment, he was afraid he was losing his balance and bitterly said, "Oh, shit!"

Bradley put his hands on Castillo's hips and steadied him.

Castillo nodded his thanks and then started walking heavily toward where the helicopter was hidden, carrying the body of SFC Seymour Kranz over his shoulder. [THREE] Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Newbery Buenos Aires, Argentina 2345 31 July 2005 When the Bell Ranger helicopter called Jorge Newbery Ground Control, announced that he was at twenty-five hundred feet over the Unicenter Shopping Mall on the Route Panamericana on a VFR local flight from Pilar and wanted permission to land as near as possible to the JetAire hangar, Ground Control immediately cleared the pilot to make a direct approach.

"You're number one to land. There is no traffic in the area. Report when you are at five hundred feet over the threshold. Visibility unlimited. Winds are negligible."

There is not much commercial late-night activity at Jorge Newbery, which is commonly thought of as Buenos Aires's downtown airport. The airport is separated by only a highway from the river Plate and is no more than-traffic permitting-a ten-minute drive from downtown Buenos Aires. Very late at night, the tarmac in front of the terminal is crowded with the Boeing 737s of Aerolineas Argentina, Austral, Pluna, and the other airlines which will, starting very early in the morning, take off for cities in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.

The informality of the radio exchange between the Bell Ranger and Newbery Ground Control would have driven an American FAA examiner to distraction, but in practical terms there was nothing wrong with it.

Ground Control had not bothered to identify the runway by number. There is only one, about seven thousand feet long. And since he had given the helicopter pilot permission to make a direct approach, and the winds were negligible, there wasn't much chance the pilot would misunderstand where he was supposed to go.

"Newbery, Ranger Zero-Seven at five hundred over the threshold."

"Zero-Seven, you are cleared to make a low-level transit of the field to the right, repeat right of the runway for landing at the JetAire hangar."

"Mucho gracias."

"Report when you land."

"Will do." As the Bell Ranger came down the field, over the grass to the right of the runway, the doors of the JetAire hangar began to slide open.

A sleek, small, glistening white jet airplane-a Bombardier/Learjet 45XR with American markings-sat, nose out, behind one of the doors. It was connected to ground power and there were lights visible in both the cockpit and cabin.

Four men pushing a trundle bed, which would attach to the skids of the helicopter-the Ranger does not have wheels-and permit it to be rolled into the hangar, came out and waited for the helicopter to land. "Newbery, Ranger Zero-Seven on the ground. Mucho gracias."

"You're welcome. Have a nice time."

"I'll try."

The Ground Control operator had assumed-not without reason-that the Bell Ranger was owned by a wealthy estanciero who had flown into the city for a night on the town. That happened three or more times every night. Sometimes the tarmac in front of JetAire was as crowded with private airplanes and helicopters as the terminal tarmac was with airliners. As soon as the Ranger had been trundled into the hangar, the doors began to slide closed again.

Three men came down the Lear's stair door and approached the helicopter as the pilot pushed the cockpit door open.

The larger of them was Fernando Lopez, Castillo's cousin. He was a dark-skinned man in his midthirties, six feet two inches tall and weighing well over two hundred pounds.

Lopez saw something he didn't like on Castillo's face. "You okay, Gringo?"

Castillo nodded.

"Solez?" Fernando Lopez asked.

Ricardo Solez was a special agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration assigned to the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires. He had been drafted from the DEA by Castillo for the Estancia Shangri-La operation.

"He's driving the Yukon back here," Castillo said. "He's all right."

"I thought the kid was going to do that," Lopez said.

"Bradley's in there," Castillo said, indicating the helicopter.

"How did it go, Charley?" Colonel Jacob Torine, USAF, a tall, slim redhead in a sports coat, asked.

"Not well," Castillo replied. "Lorimer is dead. And Kranz bought the farm."

"Oh, shit! What happened?"

"And Munz took a hit," Castillo went on. He looked at the third man, who was slim, in his early forties, with shortly cropped thinning hair and wearing a light brown single-breasted suit.

"Well, hello, Howard," he said, not kindly. "Your boss send you to see how badly I bent his chopper?"

Howard Kennedy had spent most of his adult life as an FBI agent. Two years before, he had abruptly abandoned his prestigious duties in the FBI's Ethical Standards-read Internal Affairs-Division to go to work for Aleksandr Pevsner, a Russian national, who, it was alleged in warrants issued for his arrest by nearly a dozen countries, had committed an array of crimes ranging from being an international dealer in arms and drugs all the way down to murder.

"I came because he thought I might be useful," Howard Kennedy said.

"What happened, Charley?" Colonel Torine asked again.

"There were some other people at the estancia. Six of them…"

"Who?" Kennedy said.

"…all dressed in black and armed with Madsens," Castillo finished.

"Who were they?" Kennedy pursued.

"I wish to hell I knew," Castillo said, and turned to Torine. "How soon can we go wheels-up?"

"All I have to do is file the flight plan. It shouldn't take long this time of night."

"Howard, can you take care of Colonel Munz?" Castillo asked.

"Does he need a hospital?"

"The bullet's out, and he's been given antibiotics. Unless he develops an infection, no."

"Who took the bullet out?" Kennedy asked.

Castillo ignored the question.

"Take him home, Howard. Right now, he's still in la-la land, but that should wear off in no more than an hour. Then he'll start to hurt."

"Can he walk?"

Castillo nodded.

"I don't like this," Kennedy said.

"Howard, didn't your mother ever tell you when you go somewhere uninvited, you're likely to find something at the party you won't like?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about. And if I wasn't here, what would you have done with Munz?"

"He gave me a number to call if something went wrong," Castillo said. "I just want you to remember I didn't have any idea you would be here."

"Okay. So what?"

"Special Agent David W. Yung, Jr., of the FBI is in the chopper."

"Oh, Jesus Christ!"

"I'm going to tell him that who was here when we got here is classified 'Top Secret Presidential.' I have no reason to believe that he will breach security regulations."

"Then you are naive."

"Well, what do you want to do?" Castillo asked.

Kennedy looked at him for a moment, then walked quickly to the fuselage door and opened it.

"Well, how are you, David?" he said. "Long time no see."

He put out his hand.

"I thought that was you, Howard," Yung said.

"Glad to see me?"

"'Surprised' is the word that comes to mind."

"I'm on the pariah list, but I don't have leprosy," Kennedy said, nodding at his still-extended hand. "We go way back, David."

Yung looked at Kennedy's extended hand.

"Yeah, we do," he said and took it. "And I just realized I'm glad to see you."

"That you saw him, Yung, is classified Top Secret Presidential," Castillo said.

"That's good," Yung said. "That saves me from having to decide what to do now that I have seen him."

"Do you mind if I interpret that to mean you wouldn't have reported me even without Charley's invoking the criminal code vis-a-vis unauthorized disclosure of classified information?"

"To tell you the truth, Howard, I don't know what I would have done," Yung said.

"Okay, Howard, get Colonel Munz out of here," Castillo said.

"He's unconscious," Yung said.

"Probably asleep," Castillo said. "Shake him and find out."

El Coronel Alfredo Munz woke instantly when Yung touched his shoulder.

"Aha!" he said, cheerfully. "We have arrived. I must have dozed off." He spotted Kennedy. "?Hola, Howard!" he cried. "I didn't know that you were going to be here."

"Alfredo, can you walk?" Castillo asked.

"Certainly I can walk," Munz said and tried to get out of his seat.

"That'll be easier if you take the seat belt off," Castillo said, then added: "Unfasten it for him, Yung."

Yung did so. Munz got out of his seat and went through the door. He started to walk across the hangar floor, then felt a little woozy and staggered. He put his good arm out like the wing of an airplane, cried, "Wheee," and started trotting in curves around the hangar.

Kennedy went quickly to him and steadied him.

"What we are going to tell my wife is that I shot myself when I was cleaning my pistol," Munz confided to Kennedy. "And you are my witness. My wife says you have an honest face."

Kennedy maneuvered Munz over to Castillo.

"Howard'll take care of you now, Alfredo," Castillo said. "Thanks for everything."

"It was my great pleasure," Munz said and bowed.

"I suppose we'll be in touch, won't we, Charley?" Kennedy asked.

Castillo nodded. "Tell your boss thanks, Howard."

"I'll do that," Kennedy said and then started guiding Munz toward the rear of the hangar.

Castillo walked around the Ranger and opened the copilot's door.

"Bradley, load the stuff-everything in the chopper that belongs to us-into the Lear and make sure there's a seat where we can put Sergeant Kranz."

"Yes, sir," Corporal Lester Bradley said.

"I'll give you a hand with the body," Yung said.

"Just put him over my shoulder," Castillo said. "I'll carry him." Five minutes later, Jorge Newbery Ground Control cleared Lear Five-Oh-Seven-Five to the threshold of runway thirty-one. [FOUR] Office of the Commander in Chief United States Central Command MacDill Air Force Base Tampa, Florida 1235 1 August 2005 There were several reasons that Command Sergeant Major Wesley Suggins was rarely in the commander in chief's conference room when the twelve chairs around the long table were occupied by what he privately thought of as "the heavy brass."

Or even when only three or four of them were occupied by what he privately thought of as "the light brass."

He defined the heavy brass as general or flag officers whose personal flags carried three or more stars. It also included a few heavy civilians. The liaison officer between the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and CentCom was one of these. He was a member of what was known as the Executive Civil Service and held the grade therein of GS-18, which carried with it the assimilated grade within the military establishment of lieutenant general. The State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, and Federal Bureau of Investigation liaison officers each carried the Executive Civil Service grade of GS-16, which carried with it the assimilated grade of major general.

The light brass was brigadier generals, rear admirals (lower half), and GS-15 civilians and below.

The primary reason Command Sergeant Major Suggins almost never took a seat at the conference table was not, as most of the light and heavy brass believed, because he was an enlisted man and would be out of place in their exalted senior company.

The primary reason was that General Allan Naylor, the CentCom commander in chief, had decided that Command Sergeant Major Suggins had more important things to do than sit at the table for long periods with his mouth shut.

This was not to say General Naylor did not want Command Sergeant Major Suggins to know what transpired at the frequent conferences; quite the contrary. It was General Naylor's habit after most conferences-there were at least four every day, including the twice-daily intelligence briefings-to motion Suggins into his office and solicit both his opinions of what had been discussed and his recommendations as to how an action decided upon could best be implemented.

That Command Sergeant Major Suggins was not physically present in the conference room did not mean he hadn't heard what was being discussed. The room was equipped with a wide array of electronic devices, including a battery of microphones placed around it so that even the sound of a dropped pencil would be detected.

Sometimes the conferences were recorded. At all times, what the microphones heard was relayed to a single-earphone headset Suggins put on the moment the door to the conference room closed, the red light above the door began to flash, and the CONFERENCE IN PROGRESS DO NOT ENTER sign lit up.

It was commonly believed by those seeing Suggins wearing his headset that he was taking the opportunity, while a conference was in progress, to listen to the Dixieland recordings of Bob French's Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, to which he was known to be quite addicted. Suggins did nothing to correct this erroneous belief.

About the most important thing Suggins did while not sitting at the conference table with his mouth shut was field General Naylor's telephone calls. There were usually many, and almost all of them from people really important-or who believed they were really important-and who all believed they had the right to speak with General Naylor immediately.

Some of them Suggins deftly diverted with white lies: The general was jogging or indisposed, or speaking with the president or the secretary of Homeland Security or the secretary of defense, and he would have the general return the call the moment he was free.

There were some callers, of course, that Suggins did not try to divert. These included, for example, the president of the United States; the secretaries of defense, state, and Homeland Security; the director of National Intelligence; and Mr. Elaine Naylor.

When one of these luminaries called, Suggins would turn to a laptop computer on the credenza behind his desk and quickly type, for example, if the caller were the secretary of Homeland Security, the Honorable Matthew Hall:


The message would instantly appear on the screen of what was nearly universally-and not very fondly-known as the general's IBB, meaning "Infernal Black Box."

The IBB was in fact a laptop computer identical to Suggins's. General Naylor always had it on the conference in front of him, situated so that the screen would be visible to no one else.

The system was effective. Whoever had the floor in the conference room would not have to stop in midsentence as Naylor's telephone rang or Command Sergeant Major Suggins came through the door.

Naylor could read the message and quickly type his reply:






Etcetera. The regularly scheduled afternoon intelligence briefing had been in session for about five minutes when one of the telephones on Command Sergeant Major Suggins's desk rang.

"Office of the Sink. Suggins."

C in c was often pronounced "sink." And "Command Sergeant Major Suggins speaking, sir" wasted time.

"Jack Iverson, Wes," the caller announced. "I've got an interesting in flight advisory for your boss."

Chief Master Sergeant Jack Iverson, USAF, was the senior noncommissioned officer of what was informally known as "the Air Force side of MacDill." MacDill was an Air Force base. The United States Central Command was a "tenant" of MacDill Air Force Base.

"Shoot," Suggins replied as he spun in his chair to the laptop on the credenza. His fingers flew on the keys as Iverson relayed the in flight advisory message:



"Got it, Jack. Hang on a minute."

"You're not going to tell me what the hell it's all about, Wes?"

"If I knew, I would. I don't," Suggins replied.

He pushed the key that would cause the message to appear on the screen of General Naylor's IBB.

The reply came in a second: ????????????????????????????

The translation of that was, "What the hell?"

A moment later, there was another reply:


"Jack, reply that the CINC will do," Suggins said. "And the CINC authorizes the landing of the civilian airplane, if that's necessary. And for Christ's sake, keep this quiet."

"Why do I think you're not telling me everything you know?"

"Because I'm not," Suggins said. "Thanks, Jack."

Then Suggins picked up the telephone and ordered that the CINC's car be at the front door in five minutes. [FIVE] As the sleek white Bombardier/Learjet 45XR taxied up to the tarmac in front of Base Operations, General Allan Naylor could see the pilot. He knew him well. He was Major Carlos G. Castillo, U.S. Army. Naylor could also see who was sitting in the copilot's seat. He knew him well, too. He was Colonel Jacob Torine, USAF.

That figures, General Naylor thought. A full goddamned Air Force colonel is flying copilot, and Charley-a lousy major-is in the pilot's seat.

Naylor saw Castillo rise from the pilot's seat and leave the cockpit. A moment later, the fuselage door began to unfold and in a moment Castillo appeared in the opening. He was in civilian clothing.

"Good afternoon, sir," Castillo called, politely. "Would you come aboard, please, sir? Alone?"

Now he's giving orders to a four-star general? Goddamn it!

"Wait here, please, Jack," Naylor said to the lieutenant colonel, his aide-de-camp, standing beside him, and then walked to the Lear and climbed up the stairs.

"Thank you, sir," Castillo said as Naylor entered the cabin.

"This had better be important, Charley."

"I thought it was, sir."

Naylor looked around the cabin. There were four men in it. One, Fernando M. Lopez, he knew well. The Lear belonged to one of the companies his family controlled.

The other three he did not know. One was an Asiatic, another a light-skinned African American, and the third looked like a high school kid.

"Who are these gentlemen, Charley?" Naylor asked.

"Special Agent Yung of the FBI, sir," Castillo answered, "Special Agent Britton of the Secret Service and Corporal Lester Bradley. Bradley's a Marine."

"Good afternoon, sir," Colonel Torine said from behind him.

"Hello, Jake," Naylor said and shook his hand.

None of them look smug, as if they've just pulled off something clever. They all look uncomfortable. As if whatever crazy operation they launched went the wrong way?

"I'm waiting, Charley," Naylor said.

Castillo pointed to the aisle at the rear of the cabin.

There was something there wrapped in what looked like sheets. And then Naylor knew what It was.

"Another body?" he asked, icily.

"Sir, those are the remains of Sergeant First Class Seymour Kranz," Castillo said. "He was KIA last night."


"Garroted, sir," Castillo said.


"Yes, sir."

Castillo took the blue steel garrote from his pocket and extended it to Naylor.

"By who? Where?" Naylor blurted and then hurriedly added, as he pointed to Yung and Bradley: "Are these gentlemen privy to what happened? Or anything else?"

"They are aware of the Presidential Finding, sir. And they participated in the operation in which Kranz lost his life."

"And what was the operation?"

"We located Mr. Lorimer, sir. We staged an operation to repatriate him. We were in the middle of it when we were bushwhacked."

"By who?"

"I don't know, sir. Mr. Lorimer was killed during the attack as well as Sergeant Kranz."

"And the bushwhackers?"

"They were killed, sir."

"Where did this happen?"

"In Uruguay, sir."

"Uruguay?" Naylor asked, incredulously, and then verbalized what he was thinking. "The last thing I heard, you were in Europe. Hungary."

"We were, sir. But we tracked down Lorimer in Uruguay."

"And are the Uruguayan authorities already looking for you? Or will that come a little later?"

"So far as that aspect of the operation is concerned, sir, we came out clean."

"You came out with two bodies? And you call that clean?"

"We left Mr. Lorimer's body in Uruguay, sir," Castillo said. "What I meant to say is that I don't think we left anything behind that could tie the operation to us."

"And why did you come here? Why did you bring the sergeant's body here?"

"It was either here or Fort Bragg, sir-Washington was obviously out of the question-and we didn't have enough fuel to make Pope Air Force Base. And you were here, sir."

Naylor looked at him and thought, Good ol' Uncle Allan will fix things, right?

"Sir," Castillo added, "you are personally aware of my orders from the President. General McNab is not."

What's he doing, reading my mind?

And, dammit, he's right. Bringing the sergeant's body here was the right thing to do.

"When do you plan to go to Washington?"

"Just as soon as possible, sir. I'd be grateful if you would call Secretary Hall and tell him we're en route."

General Naylor looked for a long moment into Major Castillo's eyes. Then he walked to the door.

"Colonel," he called, "will you come in here, please?"

His aide-de-camp came quickly into the airplane.

"Colonel, you are advised that, from this moment, what you may see or hear is classified Top Secret Presidential."

"Yes, sir."

"Under that black plastic is the body of a sergeant…"

"Sergeant First Class Seymour Kranz," Castillo interrupted.

"…who was killed," Naylor went on, "during the execution of a covert and clandestine operation authorized by a Presidential Finding. The officer in charge of this covert and clandestine operation has brought the sergeant's remains here for us to deal with. I confess I have no idea how to proceed with that."

"Sir, what is the sergeant's parent unit?" the lieutenant colonel asked Castillo.

Just in time, General Naylor stopped himself from saying the lieutenant colonel did not have to call Major Castillo "sir."

"Kranz was Gray Fox, out of Delta Force," Castillo answered.

"Sir, what about calling General McNab at Bragg? I suspect he has experience with a situation like this."

Oh, I bet Scotty McNab has! I'll bet this sort of thing is almost routine for good ol' Scotty!

"The first thing to do is cordon off this area," General Naylor said. "Then get an ambulance over here. Have the sergeant's remains taken to the hospital. Get a flag…No, have the ambulance crew bring a flag with them. Cover the remains with the national colors before they are moved. Arrange for the sergeant's remains to have a suitable escort from this moment. Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"Is that satisfactory to you, Major Castillo?"

"Yes, sir. Thank you very much."

"Is there anything else you require?"

"No, sir."

"Then I will attempt to get General McNab on a secure line," Naylor said.

He walked to the door, then turned.

"If this needs to be said, I am sure that all of you did your duty as you understood it. And I don't think I have to tell you how pleased I am that there was only the one casualty."

He was out the door before anyone could reply.


[ONE] The Oval Office The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, D.C. 1825 1 August 2005 The President of the United States was behind his desk. Across the room, Ambassador Charles W. Montvale, the director of National Intelligence, was sitting next to Secretary of State Natalie Cohen on one of two facing couches. Secretary of Homeland Security Matthew Hall was on the other couch.

Major C. G. Castillo, who was in civilian clothing, was nonetheless standing before the President's desk at a position close to a tease.

Or, Secretary Hall thought, like a kid standing in front of the headmaster's desk, waiting for the ax to fall.

For the past ten minutes, Castillo had been delivering his report of what had happened since he had last seen the President-aboard Air Force One in Biloxi, Mississippi-when the President had issued the Presidential Finding that had sent him first to Europe and ultimately to Estancia Shangri-La.

"And so we landed at MacDill, Mr. President," Castillo concluded, "where we turned over Sergeant Kranz's remains to Central Command, and then we came here. I took everyone involved to my apartment and told them nothing was to be said to anyone about anything until I had made my report, and that they were to remain there until I got back to them."

"Colonel Torine, too?" the President of the United States asked. "And your cousin, too? How did they respond to your placing them in what amounts to house arrest?"

"Colonel Torine knows how things are done, sir. I didn't order him…And Fernando, my cousin, understands the situation, sir."

"And that's about it, Castillo?" the President asked.

"Except for one thing, sir."

"Which is?"

"Howard Kennedy was at Jorge Newbery when I landed there from the estancia. Mr. Yung saw him."

"The FBI agent?"

"Who was there?" Ambassador Montvale asked.

"Howard Kennedy…" Castillo began.

"Who, it is alleged, is in the employ of Aleksandr Pevsner," the President said, drily.

"The Russian mobster?" Montvale asked, incredulously.

Both Castillo and the President nodded.

"I'm missing something here," Montvale said.

The President made a fill him in gesture with his hand to Castillo.

Secretaries Cohen and Hall, who knew the story, exchanged glances and quick smiles. Montvale wasn't going to like this.

"Sir, we have sort of reached an accommodation with Mr. Pevsner," Castillo began.

"'We'?" Montvale interrupted. "Who's 'we'? You and who else? 'Accommodation'? What kind of 'accommodation'?"

"'We' is Major Castillo and your President, Charles. Let Charley finish, please," the President said.

"He was very helpful in locating the stolen 727, Mr. Ambassador," Castillo said. An American-owned Boeing 727 had disappeared from Luanda, Angola, on 23 May 2005, and when what the President described as "our enormous and enormously expensive intelligence community" was unable to determine who had stolen it, or why, or where It was, the president had come close to losing his temper.

He had dispatched Castillo, who was then an executive assistant to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to Angola, his orders being simply to find out what the CIA and the FBI and the DIA and the State Department-and all the other members of the intelligence community-had come to know about the stolen airplane, and when they had come to know it, and to report back personally to him.

Castillo had instead gone far beyond the scope of his orders. He not only learned who had stolen the aircraft-an obscure group of Somalian terrorists-and what they planned to do with it-crash it into the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia-but he also had located the 727 in Costa Rica, where it was about to take off for Philadelphia. Castillo had-with the aid of a Delta Force team from Fort Bragg-stolen the aircraft back from the terrorists and, with Colonel Jake Torine in the pilot's seat, delivered it to MacDill Air Force Base.

This had endeared Castillo to the president but not to the CIA, the FBI, and the rest of the intelligence community, whose annoyance with him was directly proportional to the amount of egg the various directors felt they had on their faces. "That's the first time I heard that," Montvale said.

"What part of 'Let Charley finish' didn't you understand, Charles?"

"I beg your pardon, Mr. President," Montvale said.

"Let me take it, Charley," the President said. "Perhaps there will be fewer interruptions that way. In a nutshell, Charles, there is no legal action of any kind against this fellow underway in an American court. He made contact with Charley shortly after I gave Charley the job of finding out why no one else in our intelligence community could find it. He was very helpful. He wanted something in return."

"I'll bet," Montvale said.

"Pevsner told Charley he thought the agency-which had quietly contracted for his services over the years-was trying to arrange his arrest by one of the countries that hold warrants for his arrest so that he could be locked up and his CIA contracts would not come to light. He went so far as to say he thought the agency would like to terminate him with extreme prejudice. Now, I know we don't do that anymore, but the man was worried.

"As a small gesture of my appreciation, I authorized Charley to tell him that I had ordered the DCI and the director of the FBI-this is before you became director of National Intelligence-to cease all investigations they might have underway and to institute no new investigations without my specific permission. What Pevsner thought was happening was that the CIA was looking for him abroad and the FBI inside the United States. If they located him, they would either arrest him here on an Interpol warrant or furnish his location to one of the governments looking for him.

"Such stay-out-of-jail status to continue so long as Pevsner does not violate any law of the United States and with the unspoken understanding that he would continue to be helpful."

"And has this chap continued to be helpful?" Montvale asked.

"He got me access to the helicopter I used to fly to Estancia Shangri-La," Castillo said.

"He's in Argentina?"

"I don't know where Pevsner is at this moment," Castillo said. "I ran into Howard Kennedy in Buenos Aires and he arranged for the helicopter."

That's not an outright lie. I just twisted the truth. For all I know, Alek might be in Puente del Este, Uruguay, not in Argentina.

"And Kennedy is?"

"A former FBI agent who now works for Pevsner," the President said.

"And what was he doing in Argentina?"

"He accompanied a 767 loaded with objets d'art sent by the Saudi royal family from Riyadh for the King Fahd Islamic Cultural Center in Buenos Aires and took back to Riyadh a load of polo ponies and saddles and other polo accoutrements for the royal family," Castillo said.

"The airplane no doubt owned by Pevsner?" Montvale asked.

"Probably, sir. I didn't ask."

"And this Kennedy fellow just turned over a helicopter to you because you asked him? Is that what you're saying, Major Castillo?"

"I would bet that he did so with Mr. Pevsner's permission, sir, but I didn't ask about that, either."

"I must say, Mr. President, that I find this whole situation amazing."

"What is it they say, Charles, about politics making strange bedfellows?"

"I don't understand why this Kennedy fellow was concerned that the FBI agent saw him," Montvale said.

"Kennedy is obviously paranoid," the President said. "He thinks the FBI is still looking for him, despite my specific orders that the search be called off, and that if they find him they will terminate him."

"That's absurd!"

"Oh, I agree. For one thing, terminating him would be illegal," the President said.

"Why would they want to?"

"Well," Castillo said, "Kennedy thinks-he was a senior agent in the Ethical Standards Division of the FBI before he left-it's because he knows where all the FBI's skeletons are buried."

"Charley," the President said, "correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't the secrecy provisions of the Finding extend to anything connected with what you were doing down there? I mean, even to who any of your people saw anywhere?"

"I made that point to Mr. Yung, sir."

"Well, that should do it," the President said. "But since the subject came up, Charles, why don't you check with the CIA and the FBI to make sure they haven't forgotten my specific orders? If they have, I'd really like to hear about it."

"I can't believe they would ignore any presidential order, Mr. President."

"Check, Charles, please," the President said.

"Yes, Mr. President."

"Charley, I didn't hear you say whether you found anything useful at this fellow's estancia."

"Sir, we found an address book, a coded address book. Agent Yung said it looks to him like a fairly simple code and that it should be breakable."

"That's underway?"

"No, sir. I came right here from the hotel, sir. And…"

"And what?"

"And frankly, sir, I thought it would be better to see if I still have a job, before going over to Fort Meade to-"

The President cut him off with a raised hand. "All you found at the estancia was this address book?"

"No, sir. We found written confirmation of what Agent Yung believed was the money Mr. Lorimer had in Uruguayan banks."

"A good deal of money? More than he could reasonably have socked away for a rainy day?"

"Fifteen-point-seven million dollars, Mr. President."

"What sort of evidence?" Ambassador Montvale asked. "Bankbooks? Certificates of deposit? What?"

The President flashed Montvale a very cold look, then looked at Castillo.

"Sir, what Mr. Lorimer did was in effect loan the banks the money. What we took from the safe…I have them with me."

"You have what with you?" Montvale asked.

"Let me ask the questions, Charles, please," the President said and made a Give me whatever you have gesture to Castillo with both hands.

Castillo some what awkwardly took a handful of colorfully printed documents from his briefcase and handed them to the President.

The President glanced at them, then said, "You're the linguist, Charley. I have no idea what these say."

"Sir, they're certificates signed by officers of the banks involved, essentially stating that a payment on demand loan has been made by Mr. Lorimer to their bank and that the bank will honor-pay-these things, like checks, once Mr. Lorimer has endorsed them. Sort of like bearer bonds, Mr. President, but not exactly."

"And these are unsigned?"

"Yes, sir. Right now they're as good as an unsigned check," Castillo said.

"And we have no idea where-specifically, I mean-Lorimer got all that money, do we?" the secretary of state asked.

"No, ma'am," Castillo said. "I think-hell, I know-it's oil-for-food proceeds, but I can't prove it. What I was hoping was that we could tie it somehow to one of the names in the address book-assuming we can get that decoded-or to one or more of the names I got from another source."

"What other source?" Ambassador Montvale asked.

"I'd rather not say, Mr. Ambassador," Castillo said.

"I'm the director of National Intelligence," Montvale said, icily.

"And I think Charley knows that," the President said. "If he'd rather not say, I'm sure he has his reasons." He paused. "Which are, Charley?"

"Sir, I promised I would not reveal the identity of that source or share what he gave me without his permission."

"That's absurd!" Montvale snapped.

"I was hoping to get his permission," Castillo said. "Before I fucked up in Uruguay."

"You did say 'screwed up in Uruguay, ' didn't you?" the President asked.

"I beg your pardon," Castillo said. "I'm very sorry, Madam Secretary."

"I've heard the word before, Charley," Natalie Cohen said.

"Is that about it, Charley?" the President asked.

"Yes, sir. Except to say, Mr. President, how deeply I regret the loss of Sergeant Kranz and how deeply I regret having failed in the mission you assigned."

The President did not immediately respond. He looked into Castillo's eyes a moment as he considered that statement, then said, "How do you figure that you have failed, Charley?"

"Well, sir, the bottom line is that I am no closer to finding the people who murdered Mr. Masterson and Sergeant Markham and shot Agent Schneider than I was before I went looking for Mr. Lorimer. Mr. Lorimer is now dead and we'll never know what he might have told us if I hadn't botched his…"

Castillo's voice trailed off as he tried to find the right word.

"Repatriation?" the President offered.

"Yes, sir. And now Sergeant Kranz is dead. I failed you, sir."

"Charles," the President said, "what about the long-term damage resulting from Major Castillo's failure? Just off the top of your head?"

"Mr. President, I don't see it as a failure," Secretary Hall spoke up.

"The director of National Intelligence has the floor, Mr. Secretary. Pray let him continue," the President said, coldly.

"Actually, Mr. President, neither do I," Montvale said. "Actually, when I have a moment to think about it, quite the opposite."

"You heard him," the President pursued. "This man Lorimer is dead. We have no proof that Natalie can take to the UN that he was involved in the oil-for-food scandal or anything else. And Castillo himself admits that he's no closer to finding out who killed Masterson and the sergeant than he ever was. Isn't that failure?"

"Mr. President, if I may," Montvale said, cautiously. "Let me point out what I think the major-and that small, valiant band of men he had with him-has accomplished."

"What would that be?"

"If we accept the premise that Mr. Lorimer was involved in something sor-did, and the proof of that, I submit, is that he sequestered some"-Montvale looked to Castillo for help-"how many million dollars?"

"Fifteen-point-seven, sir," Castillo offered.

"…Some sixteen million U.S. dollars in Uruguay, and that parties unknown tracked him down to Uruguay and murdered him to keep him from talking. After they abducted Mr. Masterson and later murdered her husband."

"So what, Charles?" the President demanded.

"I don't seem to be expressing myself very well, Mr. President," Montvale said. "Let me put it this way: These people, whoever they are, now know we're onto them. They have no idea what the major may have learned before he went to South America. They have no idea how much Lorimer may have told him before they were able to murder him. If they hoped to obtain the contents of Lorimer's safe, they failed. And they don't know what it did or did not contain, so they will presume the worst, and that it is now in our possession. Or, possibly worse, in the possession of parties unknown. They sent their assassins in to murder Lorimer and what we-what the major and his band-gave them in return were six dead assassins and an empty safe. And now that we know we're onto them, God only knows how soon it will be before someone comes to us."

"And rats on the rats, you mean?" the President asked.

"Yes, sir, that's precisely what I mean. And I'm not talking only about identifying the Masterson murderers-I think it very likely that the major has already 'rendered them harmless'-but the people who ordered the murders. The masterminds of the oil-for-food scandal, those who have profited from it. Sir, in my judgment the major has not failed. He has rendered the country a great service and is to be commended."

"You ever hear, Charles, that great minds run in similar paths? I had just about come to the same conclusion. But one question, Charles, is what should we do about the sixteen million dollars in the banks in Uruguay? Tell the UN it's there and let them worry about getting it back?"

"Actually, sir, I had an off the top of my head thought about that money. According to the major, all it takes is Lorimer's signature on those documents, whatever they're called, that the major brought back from the hideaway to have that money transferred anywhere."

"But Lorimer's dead," the President said.

"They have some very talented people over in Langley, if the President gets my meaning."

"You mean, forge a dead man's signature and steal the money? For what purpose?"

"Mr. President, I admit that when I first learned what you were asking the major to do, I was something less than enthusiastic. But I was wrong and I admit it. A small unit like the major's can obviously be very valuable in this new world war. And if sixteen million dollars were available to it-sixteen million untraceable dollars…"

"I take your point, Charles," the President said. "But I'm going to ask you to stop thinking off the top of your head."


"The next thing you're likely to suggest is that Charley-and that's his name, Charles, not 'the major'-move the Office of Organizational Analysis into the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. And that's not going to happen. Charley works for me, period. Not open for comment."

Secretary Hall had a sudden coughing spasm. His face grew red.

Ambassador Montvale did not seem to suspect that Secretary Hall might be concealing a hearty laugh.

"Natalie, do you have anything to say before I send Charley out of here to take, with my profound thanks, a little time off? After he lets everybody in his apartment go, of course."

"I was thinking about Ambassador Lorimer, sir. He's ill and it will devastate him to learn what his son has been up to."

Ambassador Philippe Lorimer, Jean-Paul Lorimer's father, had retired from the Foreign Service of the United States after a lengthy and distinguished career after suffering a series of progressively more life-threatening heart attacks.

"Jesus, I hadn't thought about that," the President said. "Charley, what about it?"

"Sir, Mr. Lorimer is missing in Paris," Charley said. "The man who died in Estancia Shangri-La was Jean-Paul Bertrand, a Lebanese. I don't think anyone will be anxious to reveal who Bertrand really was. And I don't think we have to or should."

"What about his sister?" Natalie Cohen asked. "Should she be told?"

"I think so, yes," Charley said. "I haven't thought this through, but I have been thinking that the one thing I could tell Mr. Masterson that would put her mind at rest about the threats to her children is that I know her brother is dead and, with his death, these bastards…excuse me…these bad guys have no more interest in her or her children."

"And if she asks how you know, under what circumstances?" the President asked.

"That's what I haven't thought through, sir."

"You don't want to tell her what a despicable sonofabitch he was, is that it?"

"I suspect she knows, sir. But it's classified Top Secret Presidential."

"Would anyone have objections to my authorizing Charley to deal with the Masterson family in any way he determines best, including the divulgence of classified material?"

"Splendid idea, Mr. President," Ambassador Montvale said.

"Do it soon, Charley. Please," Natalie Cohen said.

"Yes, ma'am."

The President stood up and came around the desk and offered Castillo his hand.

"Thank you, Charley. Good job. Go home and get some rest. And then think where you can discreetly hide sixteen million dollars until you need it." [TWO] Room 404 The Mayflower Hotel 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW Washington, D.C. 2015 1 August 2005 When Major C. G. Castillo pushed open the door to his apartment-the hotel referred to room 404 as an "Executive Suite"; it consisted of a living room, a large bedroom, a small dining room, and a second bedroom-he found Colonel Jacob Torine sprawled on one of the couches watching The O'Reilly Factor on the FOX News Channel. Torine's feet were on the coffee table and his right hand was wrapped around a Heineken beer bottle, which rested on his chest.

Corporal Lester Bradley, USMC, sat beside him, feet on the floor, holding a half-empty bottle of Coca-Cola. He was puffing on a large dark brown cigar.

Well, I may not get cashiered, Castillo thought. But if somebody sees him with that cigar, I'll certainly be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The obvious source of Bradley's cigar, Fernando Lopez, sat puffing on its twin across a chessboard from Special Agent David W. Yung, Jr., of the FBI. Special Agent Jack Britton of the Secret Service watched them with amused interest; it looked to him as if the kid was clobbering Lopez.

Major H. Richard Miller, Jr., in civilian clothing, sat in an armchair. His left leg, heavily bandaged, rested on the coffee table. Miller and Castillo had been classmates and roommates at West Point. They had served together several times during their careers, most recently with the "Night Stalkers," more formally known as the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

Everybody turned to look at Castillo.

"What happened to your cast?" Castillo asked, looking at Miller.

"They took pity on me and sawed it off. I am now down to two miles of rubberized gauze," Miller said.

"And how's the knee?"

"Time will tell," Miller said, disgustedly, then asked, "Well, how did it go with the President?"

"Well, I don't think we'll all wind up in Alaska counting snowballs," Castillo announced.

"You really didn't think something like that was going to happen, did you, Charley?" Torine asked.

"Actually, I bear a message from the commander in chief," Castillo said. "Quote, Good job. Thank you, End quote."

"What did you expect, Charley?" Torine pursued.

"We lost Kranz and they blew Lorimer away before we could talk to him," Castillo said. "How does that add up to a 'good job'?"

"You found the sonofabitch," Miller said. "And, in doing so, removed the threat to the Mastersons. That's a good job, Charley. In my book or anybody else's."

"Can Britton and I go home now, Gringo?" Fernando asked. "To try to salvage what we can from the ashes of our marriages?"

"Is that all the President had to say?" Torine asked.

"Montvale was there," Castillo said.


"Hall and Natalie Cohen," Castillo said.

"How effusive was the ambassador in his praise for our little undertaking?" Torine said.

Castillo chuckled. "Actually, he called you-us-'the major and his small, valiant band of men.'"

"No kidding?" Torine said. "Well, I can live with that."

"He actually tried to take us-the Office of Organizational Analysis-over."

"Oh, shit!" Torine said.

"He didn't get away with it," Castillo said. "The President cut him off in midsentence."

"Leaving us where?" Miller asked.

"We're still in business," Castillo said. "The President was very clear about that." He looked at Miller. "Colonel Torine's brought you up to speed on everything, right, Dick?"

Miller nodded.

"David, we have something with Lorimer's signature on it, don't we?" Castillo asked.

Yung nodded.

"Well, as soon as possible, take it over to Langley," Castillo said. "That means right now. Something with Lorimer's signature on it, and the bearer bonds or whatever the hell they're called."

"Why?" Yung asked.

"So the agency's finest forgers can put Lorimer's signature on the bearer bonds and we can grab the money. It's now our operating budget."

"Lovely idea," Torine said. "Fifteen-point-seven million is a nice little operating budget. But what are you going to do when Montvale finds out about it? And he will."

"Actually, it was his idea," Castillo said. "Admittedly while he was still thinking he could bring us under his benevolent wing."

"Where am I supposed to put it?" Yung said.

"Good question," Castillo said.

"I've got an account in the Cayman Islands," Yung said. "At the Liechtensteinische Landesbank."

"You've got what?" Castillo asked, incredulously. "A pillar of the FBI, an expert in uncovering money laundering, and you're hiding your own money from the IRS in the Liechtensteinische Landesbank in the Cayman Islands?"

Yung was not amused.

"It was an investigative tool, Major," he said. "I opened the account both to see how that could be done and so that I could be kept abreast of any changes in their banking laws. As a depositor, I could ask questions that I could not ask otherwise."

"That's even better," Castillo said, delightedly. "The FBI has money in the Liechtensteinische Landesbank in the Caymans. Is nothing sacred anymore?"

"What the hell is that?" Britton asked. "Lickten-what?"

"Liechtenstein is a little country-run by a prince-about twenty miles long and five miles wide between Switzerland and Austria," Castillo said. "Landesbank means 'state bank.' The Liechtensteiners make their money growing cows and banking other people's money."

"Actually, the funds in the bank are mine," Yung said. "Using my own money to open the account was easier than trying to get permission-and, of course, the money itself-from the FBI."

"And how much of your own money are you sequestering in your Liechtensteinische Landesbank account?"

"Twenty-five hundred dollars."

"How hard is it to open an account?" Castillo asked.

"Actually, it's quite simple. All they ask is a reference from your home banker and a cashier's check or a wire deposit. They won't take cash deposits," Yung answered.

"Well, then, that's what we'll do. But I want to get that money out of Uruguay before they find out Lorimer is dead."

"Bertrand," Yung corrected him. "The funds are in Bertrand's name."

"Okay. Bertrand," Castillo said. "Are any questions going to be asked when your secret little account suddenly grows by fifteen-point-seven million?"

"I'm not sure I want to do that," Yung said.

"Answer the question," Castillo said. "Is that going to make waves?"

"No questions are ever asked and they have stricter bank secrecy laws than even Switzerland. But, for the obvious reasons, I am uncomfortable transferring Bertrand's funds into my account."

"Then why did you tell us about your account?" Torine asked with a tone of impatience in his voice.

"I was going to suggest that you look into opening an account there. What Castillo's asking me to do is commit a felony. I'm an FBI agent, dammit!"

"Jesus H. Christ!" Torine said. "FBI rule number one: Always cover your ass. Right?"

"What I'm ordering you to do is carry out an order of the President of the United States," Castillo said.

"I don't believe you have the legal authority to give me an order. I'm in the FBI. I don't work for you."

Torine started to say something, then changed his mind and looked at Castillo.

Castillo said, "I suppose that's true, that you don't work for me. Right now, I guess your status is volunteer."

"Major, I thought-still think-you were doing the right thing when you staged that operation to kidnap Lorimer from Estancia Shangri-La. That's why I went with you. But that's not going to go over well at the J. Edgar Hoover Building when they hear about it. The FBI is supposed to investigate kidnappings, not participate in them."

"And you don't want to endanger your FBI career any more than you already have?" Torine asked, sarcastically.

Yung considered that and then nodded.

"Yung," Torine said, evenly, "if you're even thinking of running over to the J. Edgar Hoover Building and repeating even one word of this conversation or one detail of the operation we have just been on into some sympathetic FBI inspector's ear, I suggest you think again. That would constitute the divulgence of material classified Top Secret Presidential to persons not authorized access to such material. And that is a felony."

Castillo added, "And that includes telling anybody you bumped into Howard Kennedy in Buenos Aires."

Yung looked at him coldly.

"Let me be brutal," Castillo said. "Supposing you went to the FBI and confessed all and it was decided for a number of reasons not to try you for unauthorized disclosure, are you really naive enough to think you'd be welcomed back like the prodigal son? Or is it more likely that you'd spend the rest of your FBI career investigating parking ticket corruption in Sioux Falls, South Dakota?"

The look on Yung's face showed that Castillo had struck home.

"Right now, the question seems to be that you don't think I have the authority to give you orders. Is that right?"

"I don't believe you have that legal authority," Yung said.

"What if I got it? Would that change things?"

"How could you do that?"

Castillo sat down on the couch next to Corporal Lester Bradley and picked up the telephone. He punched in a number from memory.

"This is C. G. Castillo," he announced a moment later. "Is Secretary Hall still with the President?

"Can you get him for me, please?

"Charley, sir. Sorry to interrupt.

"Yung would feel more comfortable dealing with that banking business we discussed earlier if he was assigned to the Office of Organizational Analysis and therefore under my orders. Is that going to be a problem?

"The sooner the better, sir. By the time the banks open in the morning. Tonight would be even better.

"He'll be with Miller. Here in my apartment, sir.

"Yes, sir."

There was a sixty-second period of silence.

"Yes, sir. Thank you very much, sir.

"No, sir. I'm going to go to Philadelphia and then to Biloxi. Maybe still tonight if there's a way to get from Philadelphia to Biloxi. In any event, as soon as I can, sir.

"Yes, sir. I'll let you and Secretary Cohen know how that went as soon as I can.

"Yes, sir, I will. Thank you very much, sir."

Castillo put the handset back in the cradle and looked at Yung.

"Secretary Hall tells me the President has put in a call to the director of the FBI. When he gets him, or his deputy, he will order that you be placed on duty with the Office of Organizational Analysis. Either the director or his deputy will call you here and tell you that. That will place you under my orders. Any questions?"

Yung shook his head.

"Let me take this opportunity to welcome you to the Office of Organizational Analysis, Mr. Yung," Castillo said, mock portentously. "We hope your career with us will last as long as the organization itself-in other words, maybe for the next two or three weeks."

Torine laughed. Others chuckled.

A smile-small but unmistakable-crossed Yung's lips.

"Just as soon as I can-within a day or two-I will open another account in the Liechtensteinische Landesbank," Castillo said. "We'll get the money out of your account as soon as possible."

Yung nodded.

"You ever been to Langley, Yung?" Miller asked.

Yung shook his head.

"I'll take you over there," Miller said and then had a second thought: "Better yet, Charley, Tom McGuire knows his way around there better than I do."

"You know where to find him?"

Miller nodded.

"Ask him to do that, please," Castillo said. "How hard is it going to be to get Vic D'Allessando on the horn?"

Miller held out a cellular telephone. Castillo went and took it from him.

"Autodial seven," Miller said.

"I don't know when I'll be able to get to Biloxi," Castillo explained. "But I want to see Vic before I see the Mastersons."

"It'll probably be in the very wee hours when we get there," Fernando said. "But if you go with me, I'll bet you'll get there sooner than if you went commercial."

"I want to go to Philadelphia first," Castillo said.

"So does Jack," Fernando said. "Jack's wife is with her mother in Philly. The planned itinerary is Reagan to Philly. Then, after you see your lady friend, Philly to Charleston, where we drop the colonel off. Then Charleston to San Antone. No problem to drop you off in Biloxi."

"You're going to Charleston by way of Philadelphia?" Castillo asked Torine. "You can't catch a plane from here?"

"The oldest member of this small, valiant band of men," Torine said, "having just returned from a tour of the world, is in no condition to pass through airport security, especially in possession of an Uzi and a case of untaxed brandy that I don't want to have to try to explain."

Castillo chuckled. "Untaxed brandy?"

"Fernando told me you had bought your grandmother a case of Argentine brandy at twelve bucks a bottle. I figured if it was good enough for your grandmother, it would be a suitable expression of my affection for my wife."

"It's really good brandy," Castillo said. "And, best of all, it's not French."

"It's a sad world, Charley, where boycotting the products of those who have screwed you interferes with your drinking habits, but that's the way it is."

Castillo chuckled.

"Okay, let's get this show on the road. While I call D'Allessando, somebody call the doorman and have him get us a couple of cabs."

"There's a big Yukon stationed at the National Geographic exit," Miller said. "And since I'm not going anywhere, you can use that."

"Great," Castillo said.

"Sir, what about me?" Corporal Lester Bradley asked. Castillo looked at him a long moment before replying. "You better come with me, Bradley," he said, finally. "Sir, may I ask what I'm going to be doing?"

"You can ask, but I can't tell you because I haven't figured that out yet." [THREE] The Belle Vista Casino and Resort U.S. Highway 90 ("The Magic Mile") Biloxi, Mississippi 0405 2 August 2005 Inside the resort, as C. G. Castillo and Lester Bradley, in civilian clothing, approached the main entrance of the casino, a burly "host" came out from behind a small stand-up desk and not very politely asked Bradley how old he was and then, when told, shook his head and said he couldn't go in.

"Wait right here, Bradley," Castillo ordered. "I'll be right out."

"Yes, sir."

Castillo entered the casino and walked past rows of slot machines, at which maybe a quarter of them sat gamblers, most of them middle-aged and elderly women. Beyond the slot machines was an arch with a flashing GAMING sign on it. Castillo walked under it and found himself in a huge area filled with tables for the playing of blackjack, craps, and roulette.

Perhaps a third of them were in use. He saw Vic D'Allessando's totally bald head at one of the blackjack tables deep in the room. He walked toward the table and stopped six feet from it.

There was a sign on the table indicating the minimum bet was ten dollars. There were five stacks of chips in front of D'Allessando. He tapped them steadily with the fingers of his left hand as he watched the dealer deal.

Even if they were all ten-dollar chips-and they're obviously not, since each stack is a different color, which means they're worth even more-Vic is into this game big-time.

He watched a little longer, saw that Vic was playing two cards at a time, and then walked up behind him. D'Allessando sensed his presence and turned to see who was behind him. He gave no sign of recognition.

The dealer busted and passed out chips to both of the cards D'Allessando was playing.

"That'll do it," D'Allessando said, then slid a tip of two chips to the dealer and started to gather up the remainder of his chips. The dealer slid a rack to him.

"Thanks," D'Allessando said and put the chips in the rack.

"Oh, goody," Castillo said. "I brought you luck."

D'Allessando snorted. He arranged the chips in the rack and stood up. He was a short man whose barrel chest and upper arms strained his shirt.

"Cashier's over there," D'Allessando said, indicating the direction with a nod of his head.

On his retirement from twenty-four years of service-twenty-two of it in Special Forces-CWO5 Victor D'Allessando had gone to work for the Special Operations Command as a Department of the Army civilian. Theoretically, he was a technical advisor to the commanding general of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg. What he actually did for the Special Operations Command was classified.

At the cashier's window, a peroxide blonde in her fifties counted the chips, then asked if D'Allessando wanted his winnings as a check.

"Cash will do nicely, thank you," D'Allessando said.

The peroxide blonde began to lay crisp new one-hundred-dollar bills in stacks, ten bills to a stack. There were four stacks. Then she started a fifth stack with fifties, twenties, a ten, and, finally, a five.

"Jesus Christ, Vic!" Castillo said. "You had a good night."

D'Allessando grunted again, stuffed the money in the inside pocket of his lemon-colored sports coat, and started for the door. Castillo followed him.

D'Allessando made a Give it to me gesture to the host, who had refused to let Bradley into the casino. The host unlocked a small drawer in the stand-up desk and tried to discreetly hand D'Allessando a Colt General Officers model.45 ACP semiautomatic pistol. The discretion failed. D'Allessando hoisted the skirt of his sports coat and slipped the pistol into a skeleton holster over his right hip pocket.

"They won't let you carry a weapon in there," D'Allessando said. "I guess losers have been known to pop the dealers."

Castillo chuckled. The host was not amused.

"Elevator's over there," D'Allessando said, again nodding to show the direction.

"I know."

"Oh, yeah. Masterson said you'd been here."

"You get to talk to him?" Castillo asked as they walked and Bradley followed.

"He'll be here at eight for breakfast."

When they reached the bank of elevators, D'Allessando took a plastic card key from his jacket pocket and swiped it through a reader. The elevator door opened. D'Allessando waved Castillo into it. Bradley started to get on.

"Sorry, my friend," D'Allessando said, "this elevator is reserved for big-time losers."

"He's with me," Castillo said.

D'Allessando shrugged and stepped out of the way.

When the door closed, Castillo said, "Bradley, this is Mr. D'Allessando. Vic, this is Corporal Lester Bradley. He's a Marine."

"You're in bad company, kid," D'Allessando said. "Watch yourself."

"He's a friend of mine, Vic."

"Even worse."

The elevator stopped and D'Allessando swiped the plastic key again. The door opened.

"Welcome to Penthouse C," D'Allessando said.

"Wow!" Bradley exclaimed.

They were in an elegantly furnished suite of rooms. Two walls of the main room were plate glass, offering a view of what was now an intermittent stream of red lights going west on U.S. 90, white lights going east. In the daylight, the view would be of the sugar white sand beaches and emerald salt water of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"My sentiments exactly, Bradley," Castillo said.

"You want a drink, Charley?" D'Allessando asked.

"At four o'clock in the morning?"

"It would not be your first drink at four in the morning," D'Allessando said.

"True," Castillo said. "What the hell, why not? There's wine?"

"There's a whole bin full of it behind the bar," D'Allessando said.

"You want something to drink, Bradley?" Castillo asked.

"I'm a little hungry, sir," Bradley said.

"So'm I," Castillo said. "There's round-the-clock room service, right, Vic?"


Castillo picked up the telephone and punched a button on the base.

"What kind of steak can I have at this unholy hour?" he said into the phone.

He was told.

"New York strip sounds fine."

Castillo looked at Bradley, who smiled and nodded, and then at D'Allessando, who said, "Why not? I can think of it as breakfast. Get mine with eggs."

"Three New York strips, medium rare. With fried eggs. Either home fries or French fries. And whatever else seems appropriate for two starving men and an old fat Italian who really shouldn't be eating at all."

D'Allessando gave him the finger as he hung up the phone.

"So tell me, Marine," D'Allessando said to Bradley, "how did this evil man worm his way into your life?"

"He saved my life, Vic," Castillo said.

D'Allessando looked at Bradley.

"Not to worry," he said. "You're a young man. In time, you'll be forgiven."

Castillo shook his head.

"You going to have a drink before or after you tell me what's going on, Charley?"

"Yes," Castillo said and went behind the bar in search of wine.

"If you promise not to tell your mother, Marine, you may also have a little taste," D'Allessando said.

"Leave him alone, Vic," Castillo said. "I wasn't kidding when I said he's a friend of mine."

"You also said he saved your life," D'Allessando said.

"He did."

"And how-not to get into 'Why in the name of all the saints?'-did he do that?"

"He took out two bad guys who were shooting submachine guns at me. With two headshots."

"I have this very odd feeling that you're not pulling my chain," D'Allessando said. "Forgive me, son, if I say you do not look much like the ferocious jarhead of fame and legend."

"Says the Special Operations poster boy," Castillo said.

"You always have had a cruel streak in you, Carlos," D'Allessando lisped as he put his hand on his hip.

Bradley chuckled.

"I have an idea, Charley," D'Allessando said. "Take it from the top."

Castillo held up a wineglass to Bradley.

"No, thank you, sir. Is there any beer?"

"Half a dozen kinds. Come over here and help yourself."

"And while you're doing that, Major Castillo is going to take it from the top."

"Okay," Castillo said. "Vic, this is Top Secret Presidential."

"Okay," D'Allessando said, now very seriously.

"You remember I told you here that Masterson had been whacked to make the point to his wife that these bastards were willing to kill to get to her brother?"

D'Allessando nodded. "The UN guy in Paris."

Castillo nodded. "What I didn't tell you is that there is a Presidential Finding, in which an organization called the Office of Organizational Analysis is founded-"

"C and c?" D'Allessando interrupted.

Castillo nodded.

"Covert and clandestine," he went on, "and charged with, quote, rendering harmless, end quote, those responsible for whacking Masterson, Sergeant Markham, kidnapping Mr. Masterson, and wounding Special Agent Schneider."

"I figured there was something like that in the woodpile," D'Allessando said. "Who's running that?"

"I am."

D'Allessando considered that and nodded, then asked, "And you found out who these people are, huh?"

"I don't have a clue who they are."

"You're losing me, Charley."

"I figured the best way to find these people was to find Lorimer first. So we went looking for him. We found him in Uruguay."


"Uruguay," Castillo confirmed. "We also found out that Mr. Lorimer was the bagman-the bagman-for the guys who got rich on the Iraqi oil-for-food scam. He knew who got how much, and what for."

"And they wanted to silence him," D'Allessando said. "But what's with Uruguay?"

"Uruguay and Argentina are now the safe havens of choice for ill-gotten gains."

"I knew Argentina and Paraguay, but this is the first I've heard about Uruguay."

"I really don't know what I'm talking about here, Vic. I always heard Argentina and Paraguay, too. But Uruguay is where we found Lorimer. He had a new identity-Jean-Paul Bertrand-a Lebanese passport, a Uruguayan residence permit, and an estancia. Everybody thought he was in the antiquities business."

"Clever," D'Allessando said.

"He also ripped off nearly sixteen million from these people."

"You never said who these people are."

"I don't have a fucking clue, Vic," Castillo said. "Anyway, once we found Lorimer I staged an operation to repatriate him."

"McNab sent people down there? I didn't hear anything about that. Who'd he send?"

"He didn't send anybody. I didn't have time to wait for anybody from the stockade. I went with what I had."

"Which was?"

"Kranz and Kensington were already down there, as communicators. So I used them. Plus two Secret Service guys, a DEA agent, an FBI agent, and Bradley."

D'Allessando pointed at Bradley, who was now sucking at the neck of a Coors beer bottle, and raised his eyebrows.

"Yeah. That Bradley," Castillo said and then went on: "The CIA station chiefs in Buenos Aires helped and I had an Argentine-ex-SIDE-with me. I thought it was, do it right then or don't do it all. If I could find Lorimer, so could the bad guys."

"Yeah. So what were you going to do with Lorimer when you found him?"

"Get him to the States."


"I had the Lear-you saw it here?"

"You took that to South America?"

"By way of Europe," Castillo said.

"Across the Atlantic twice?" D'Allessando asked, incredulously.

"That was interesting," Castillo said. "But Jake Torine said we could do it and we did. I borrowed a JetRanger in Uruguay…"

"The last time you 'borrowed' a helicopter, you nearly went to Leavenworth," D'Allessando said. "Is Interpol looking for you, Charley?"

"No. I really borrowed this one from a friend."

"And he will keep his mouth shut when people start asking him questions?"

"It's in his interest to keep his mouth shut."

D'Allessando shrugged, suggesting he hoped this would be the case but didn't think so.

"The plan was to snatch Lorimer at his estancia, chopper him, nap of the earth, to Buenos Aires, put him on the Lear, and bring him to the States. The ex-SIDE guy had arranged for us get the Lear out of Argentina without questions being asked."

"But something went wrong, right? The best-laid plans of mice and special operators, etcetera?"

"We had just gotten him to open his safe when somebody stuck a Madsen through the window and let loose. Lorimer took two hits to the head and the SIDE guy took one in the arm. And then Bradley took the shooter out with a head shot from Kranz's Remington and then took out the shooter's pal. Both head shots. He saved my ass, Vic."

D'Allessando looked at Bradley.

"Consider all my kind thoughts about your touching innocence withdrawn," he said.

"Just doing my job, sir," Corporal Bradley said.

D'Allessando's eyebrow rose but he didn't say anything.

"And when Bradley was popping these people with Seymour's rifle, where was Seymour?"

"Getting himself garroted," Castillo said, softly.

"No shit? How the hell did that happen? Kranz was no amateur."

"Neither, obviously, were the bad guys. It was a stainless steel garrote, with handles."

"Well, who the hell were they?"

"I don't know, Vic. There ensued a brief exchange of small-arms fire, during which three more of the bad guys met their fate. Kensington found the last of them, number six, lying on the ground near Kranz. Seymour had gotten a knife into him before going down."

"And Kensington finished him off?"

Castillo nodded.

"Understandable-those two went way back together-but inexcusable. He should have remembered that dead people don't talk much."

"I mentioned that to him," Castillo said.

"So you hauled your ass out of wherever you were?"

"After Kensington took a 9mm bullet out of the ex-SIDE guy."

"And what was in the a safe?"

"An address book and withdrawal slips for the money Lorimer had squirreled away in Uruguayan banks."

"You got the money? What did you say, sixteen million?"

"I think we should have it first thing in the morning."

"And what's in the address book?"

"It's in code. It'll be at Fort Meade at eight this morning. When they do their thing, I'll be able to have a good look. Anyway, we got the hell out of there and the hell out of South America."

"Seymour? You didn't leave him there?"

"We left Lorimer and the six bad guys there-no identification on any of them-and dropped Kranz off at MacDill on the way to Washington."

"And then you came here. Why?"

"I wanted your opinion, Vic."

"Well, that's a first."

"Mr. Masterson told me the bad guys wanted Lorimer and that was why they executed Masterson, to make the point they were willing to kill to find him. Well, he's been found. The bad guys are going to hear that he's dead. Does that remove the threat from the Masterson family?"

"Unless the bad guys really want their sixteen million back."

"We don't know that it's the bad guys' sixteen million. Or that they know we have it. They may have been after Lorimer just to shut him up…"

"Or both," D'Allessando said. "Whack him and get their money back."

"Or both," Castillo admitted. "Anything happen here to suggest they're watching her?"

"Not a thing. We have taps on all the phones, including the cellulars. Nothing. And no tourists at the plantation, either."

"I'd like to tell her I think the threat is gone."

"And I'd like to take my guys back to the stockade," D'Allessando said. "They're getting a little antsy. I didn't tell them why they're here, and they're starting to think of themselves as babysitters. Thank God the widow-and Masterson's father-are such good people."

What had once been the military prison-the stockade-at Fort Bragg now held the barracks and headquarters of Delta Force, the elite, immediate-response Special Forces unit. The same barbed wire that had kept prisoners in now kept people without the proper clearances out.

"How're you doing with people from China Post?"

Many former Special Forces soldiers, Marine Force Recon, Navy SEALs, Air Commandos, and other warriors of this ilk belong to China Post 1 in exile (from Shanghai) of the American Legion. Those wishing to employ this sort of people in a civilian capacity often have luck finding just what they want at "China Post."

"I guess you know General McNab called them?"

Castillo nodded. "He told me he was going to."

"That helped. I've got eight guys, good guys-I guess they're getting a little tired of commuting to Iraq and Afghanistan-lined up. They're going to be expensive, but Masterson said that wasn't a problem."

"It's not. How soon can they be up and running?"

"Forty-eight hours, tops, and they'll be on the job."

"I want to run this whole thing past Masterson-and the widow-but I don't think they'll object. How about first thing in the morning getting that going?"

"This is first thing in the morning."

Castillo looked at his watch. "Half past four, which means it's half past ten in Germany. Which brings me to this."

He walked to the bar, picked up a telephone, and punched in a long series of numbers from memory. [FOUR] Executive Offices Gossinger Beteiligungsgesellschaft, G.m.b.H. Fulda, Hesse, Germany 1029 2 August 2005 Frau Gertrud Schroder, a stocky sixty-year-old who wore her blond hair in a bun, put her head in the office door of Otto Gorner, the managing director of Gossinger Beteiligungsgesellschaft, G.m.b.H. She had on a wireless headset.

"Karlchen is favoring you with a call," she announced, her hand covering the microphone.

"How kind of him," Gorner replied. He was a well-tailored sixty-year-old Hessian whose bulk and red cheeks made him look like a postcard Bavarian. As he reached for one of the telephones on his desk, he added, "Well, at least he's alive."

Frau Schroder walked to the desk and Gorner waved her into a chair opposite him.

"And how are things in South America?" Gorner said into the handset.

"I have no idea, I'm in Mississippi. And I'm fine. Thank you for asking."

"May I ask what you're doing in Mississippi?"

"I'm in Penthouse C of the Belle Vista Casino in Biloxi about to have steak and eggs for breakfast."

"Why do I suspect that for once you're telling me the truth?"

"But speaking of South America, you might take a look at the Reuters and AP wires from Uruguay starting about now."


"I think both you and Eric Kocian might be interested in what might come over the wire."

"Well, I'll keep an eye out, if you say so."

"It might be a good idea."

"Is that why you called, Karl, or is there something else on your mind?"

"Actually, there is. How much trouble would it be for Frau Schroder to open a bank account for me in the Liechtensteinische Landesbank in the Cayman Islands?"

"Why would you want to do something like that?"

"And put, say, ten thousand euros in it?"

"Why would you want to do something like that?" Gorner asked again.

"I've always been frugal. You know that, Otto. 'A penny saved,' as Benjamin Franklin said, 'is a penny earned.'"


Frau Schroder shook her head and smiled. Gorner gave her a dirty look.

"And tell them to expect a rather large transfer of funds into the account in the next few days, please," Castillo said.

"I really hate to ask this question, but didn't you just say you're in the penthouse of a casino?"

"In the Belle Vista Casino."

"And did you put the penthouse on the Tages Zeitung's American Express card?"

"No. Actually, I'm staying here free."

"How much did you lose to get them to give you a free room? A penthouse suite?"

"Why do you think I lost?"

Gorner exhaled audibly.

"When do you want this bank account opened?"

"How about today?"

"If you're telling the truth-and I would be surprised if you are-and you're trying to hide money from the IRS, you're probably going to get caught."

"Thank you for your concern. Just have Frau Schroder open the account and e-mail me the number so I can make a deposit. I'll worry about getting the money out later."

"All right, Karl. But I wish I really knew what you're up to this time."

"I'll tell you the next time I see you."

"And when will that be?"

"Maybe soon. I'm going from here to see my grandmother and then I'll probably come over there."

"I hope I can believe that."

"Tell Frau Schroder thanks, Otto. I've got to run."

The line went dead.

Gorner put the handset in the cradle and Frau Schroder took off her headset.

"I wonder what that's all about?" he asked.

"Gambling? I never knew of his gambling."

"Not with money," Gorner said. "The last I heard, when he was in Budapest with Eric and me, he was going-they were all going-to Argentina."

"I wonder what we're supposed to find on the South American wires?"

"He said 'Uruguay' wires."

"I wonder what we're supposed to find on the 'Uruguay' wires?"

Gorner shrugged.

"Is there going to be any trouble with opening that account? Don't we have some money in the Liechtensteinische Landesbank?"

"Quite a bit, actually," she said. "I'll send them a wire and have them open an account for him. Shouldn't be any trouble at all." She paused. "The question is, though, in whose name do I open it?"

"I think we're supposed to cleverly deduce who he is right now."

"Shall I try to get him back and ask him?"

Gorner thought that over for a moment and then said, "No. Open it for Karl W. Gossinger. That'll raise fewer questions than if we opened it for Carlos Castillo." [FIVE] Penthouse C The Belle Vista Casino and Resort U.S. Highway 90 ("The Magic Mile") Biloxi, Mississippi 0835 2 August 2005 Vic D'Allessando, smiling and shaking his head, pointed to Corporal Lester Bradley, USMC, who was sitting sound asleep in an armchair.

Castillo smiled and then motioned for D'Allessando to go into the bedroom. He followed him in and closed the door.

"Jesus Christ, he's just a kid," D'Allessando said. "You going to tell me what he's doing here?"

"I didn't know what else to do with him," Castillo said.


"He's seen too much, he's heard too much, he's done too much. He's either eighteen or nineteen and I wonder if he can keep his mouth shut."

"Oh," D'Allessando said.

"I couldn't leave him in Buenos Aires," Castillo went on. "He's in the Marine Guard detachment at the embassy. I think he was the clerk. The detachment is run by a gunnery sergeant-good guy-but a gunnery sergeant who's going to ask, the moment he sees him, 'Lester, my boy, where have you been and what have you been doing?'"

"Yeah," D'Allessando agreed.

"As a rule of thumb, Marine corporals, when a gunny asks a question, answer it," Castillo said.

"Even if some Army major has told them to keep their mouth shut," D'Allessando said. "And since you can't have the gunny knowing what went down… You have a problem, Charley."

"Yeah, compounded by the fact that Bradley not only saved my bacon but I really like him."

"Isn't his gunny going to wonder where the hell he is?"

"I told Alex Darby to tell the ambassador I exfiltrated Bradley with us. That'll hold off the gunny for a couple of days, but even if the ambassador and Darby tell the gunny not to get curious he will."

"So get him out from under the gunny. Get him transferred out. Can you do that?"

"Get him transferred where? 'Welcome to Camp Lejeune, Corporal Bradley. Where have you been, what have you been doing, and why have you suddenly been transferred here? What do you mean you can't tell me, it's classified Top Secret Presidential'?"

"Yeah," D'Allessando agreed again, chuckling. "Okay, stash him at Bragg. Call McNab and tell him the problem."

"A Marine corporal would stand out like a sore thumb at the Special Warfare Center."

"Not necessarily," D'Allessando said. "There's been some talk about taking some Marines-a lot of Marines, two or three thousand-into Special Operations. Another of Schoomaker's brainstorms, I think."

General Peter J. Schoomaker was chief of staff of the U.S. Army.

"Schoomaker's one of us, Vic," Castillo said.

"Yeah, I know. I knew him then, too. I was the armorer on his A-Team. Good guy. I wasn't saying it's a bad idea, just where I think it came from. Anyway, what they're doing right now is running some Marines-mostly from their Force Recon-through the Q course. So they can tell us what we're doing wrong, I guess. Anyway, we can stash the kid with them."

"Where Corporal Bradley would stand out like a sore thumb among the hardy warriors of Marine Force Recon," Castillo said. He chuckled. "Most of them have gone through that SEAL body building course on the West Coast and look like Arnold Schwarzenegger."

"That's my best shot, Charley. Take it or leave it."

"I'll take it. I'll call General McNab."

"I'll deal with McNab. Just leave the kid here with me. There will be a Special Ops King Air here around noon. I'll put him on it and it'll take him to Bragg."

"Thanks, Vic."

As they were walking out of the bedroom, there was a melodious chime and Vic D'Allessando walked to the door and pulled it open.

"Good morning, Mr. Masterson," he said. "Come on in."

"I'm sorry to be late," J. Winslow Masterson said. "It was unavoidable."

He was a very tall, very black sharp-featured man wearing a crisp, beautifully tailored off-white linen suit. He held a panama hat in his hand.

Castillo smiled as what his grandfather had said about linen suits-or, rather, about seersucker suits-popped into his memory: The reason I wear seersucker suits is, they come from the tailor mussed and people expect that. When I put on a linen suit, it's mussed in ten minutes and people come up to me sure that I know where they can find dope or whores or both.

"You're smiling, Charley," Masterson said, crossing the room with large strides to put out his hand. "There must be good news."

Castillo was finally able to get off the couch.

"Actually, sir, when I saw that beautiful suit I thought of something my grandfather said."

"I'd love to hear it," Masterson said.

Charley repeated his grandfather's trenchant comment.

Masterson laughed.

"Your grandfather had a way with words," he said. "Did you ever tell Mr. D'Allessando about Lyndon Johnson?"

"No, sir."

"Mr. Castillo had a magnificent bull registered as Lyndon Johnson. The animal, from the time it was a calf, had eaten heartily and therefore had droppings far above average…"

"No kidding?" D'Allessando said, laughing. "I didn't know you knew Charley's grandfather."

"Not as well as I would have liked," Masterson said. He looked expectantly at Castillo.

"Yes, sir. I have news. Whether it's good or not is a tough call."

"May I help myself to your coffee?" Masterson asked.

"Oh, hell, excuse me," D'Allessando said. "Let me get it for you."

"I'm old but I can still pour my own coffee, thank you just the same."

As he walked to the wet bar, Masterson saw Corporal Lester Bradley for the first time. Bradley was dozing in an armchair. Masterson looked curiously at Castillo.

"That's Corporal Bradley of the Marine Corps, sir," Castillo said.

That woke Bradley up. He erupted from the armchair, saw Masterson, and quickly came to attention.

D'Allessando smiled and shook his head.

"At ease, Corporal," Castillo said. "This is Mr. Masterson's father, Bradley."

"Yes, sir," Bradley said.

"Bradley was involved in the protection of the family in Buenos Aires," Castillo said.

"How do you do, Corporal?" Masterson said, advancing on Bradley with his hand extended. "I'm very pleased to meet you."

God, he's really a gentleman, Castillo thought. You'd never know from his face that's he's wondering what this boy could possibly have been doing on a protection detail. What he's doing is putting him at ease. That's class.

"How do you do, sir?" Bradley said.

"Please, sit down," Masterson said.

Bradley looked at Castillo, who signaled for him to sit down.

Castillo waited until Masterson had poured the coffee.

"Sir," he began, "the President has authorized me to tell you and Mr. Masterson anything I think I should. I'll tell you what I know and you can tell me how much I should tell her."

"Whatever you say."

"And I have to tell you, sir, that this is highly classified and is to go no further than yourself and Mr. Masterson."

"There are two ladies so identified," Masterson said.

"I will trust your judgment with regard to both. And as far as that goes, with regard to Ambassador and Mr. Lorimer."

"Thank you."

"Jean-Paul Lorimer," Castillo reported, "was shot to death by parties unknown at approximately 9:20 p.m. local time, 31 July, in Tacuarembo, Uruguay."

Masterson's eyebrows rose.

"You're sure of this?" Masterson said.

"Yes, sir, I was there," Castillo said. "As was Corporal Bradley. Bradley took out the men who killed Mr. Lorimer."

That got Masterson's attention. He looked first in uncontrollable surprise at Bradley and then shifted his curious look to Castillo. There was a question in his eyes. It hung in the air but was not asked.

"Mr. Masterson," Castillo said, carefully, "once I located Mr. Lorimer, it was my intention to repatriate him-willingly or otherwise. I had just identified myself to him when he was shot."

"I have two questions," Masterson said. "Who shot him? And what was he doing in Uruguay?"

"I have no idea who shot him. Every one of them-there were six men in the group who attacked us-were killed by my people. As to what he was doing in Uruguay, I believe he was trying to establish a new identity. Actually, he had established one. He had a Lebanese passport in the name of Jean-Paul Bertrand. He was legally-as Bertrand-a resident in Uruguay, where people believed he was a successful antiquities dealer."

"Antiquities dealer? Can you tell me-I have the feeling you know-why he was doing something like that?"

"Apparently, he was involved with the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal. Specifically, I believe, as the paymaster. He knew who got how much money, and when and what for. That could have been the reason he was killed. Additionally, I believe he skimmed some of the payoff money. He had almost sixteen million dollars in several bank accounts in Uruguay. He may have been killed as punishment for stealing the money."

"One is not supposed to speak ill of the dead," Masterson said, "but that explains a good deal. Greed would motivate Jean-Paul. Coupled with the delusion that he was smarter than those from whom he was stealing, that would give him motivation sufficient to overcome his natural timidity."

"I can't argue with that, sir, but I just don't know why he did what He did."

"How did you find him? And so quickly?"

"Good question, Charley," D'Allessando said.

Castillo flashed him a dirty look, then said, "I don't mean to sound flippant, but I got lucky."

"And the money? What happens to that money? Sixteen million, you said?"

"Yes, sir. We have it."

"Does anyone-everyone-know you have it?"

"No, sir."

"What are you going to do with it? Jesus! Sixteen million!" D'Allessando said, earning him another dirty look from Castillo.

"Mr. Masterson, do you remember me telling you the day we came here that the President had ordered Ambassador Montvale, and the attorney general, and the secretaries of state and Homeland Security-everybody-to give me whatever I needed to track down Mr. Masterson's murderers?"

Masterson nodded.

"That was the truth, but it wasn't the whole truth. In fact-and this carries the security classification of Top Secret Presidential, and, if I somehow can, I'd rather not make Mr. Masterson privy to this-"

"I understand," Masterson interjected.

"In fact, there has been a Presidential Finding, in which the President set up a covert and clandestine organization charged with locating and rendering harmless those people responsible for the murders of Mr. Masterson and Sergeant Markham."

"'Rendering harmless'? Is that something like the 'terminating with extreme prejudice' of the Vietnam era?"

"Just about," D'Allessando said.

"I would rather not answer that, sir," Castillo said.

"I understand. And who-if you can't answer, I'll understand-is running this 'covert and clandestine' organization? Ambassador Montvale? The CIA?"

"I am, sir. And that's something else I would rather not tell Mr. Masterson."

Masterson nodded and pursed his lips thoughtfully.

"The money will be used to fund that activity, sir," Castillo said.

"Is that what they call poetic justice?" Masterson said. "A moment ago, I was worried about Ambassador Lorimer…"


"Jean-Paul's only blood kin are his parents and Betsy. That means unless he left a will bequeathing his earthly possessions to some Parisian tootsie, which I don't think is likely, they are his heirs. The ambassador would know there was no way Jean-Paul could have honestly accrued that much money. That would have been difficult for him. And God knows Betsy doesn't need it-and, of course, would not want it."

"Sir, Mr. Lorimer owned-and I don't think it was mortgaged-a large estancia-a farm-in Uruguay. And he owned-I know he owned-a nice apartment on rue Monsieur in the VII Arrondisement in Paris."

"Well, he lived in Paris, therefore he needed a place to live. Many people take insurance to pay off the mortgage on their apartments on their death. The same argument could be presented to the ambassador vis-a-vis the farm in Uruguay, which Jean-Paul could have acquired in anticipation of his ultimate retirement. The question is, how do we explain to the ambassador the circumstances of Jean-Paul's death?"

"That's what they call a multiple-part question," Castillo said. "Let me try to explain what we have. By now the local police in Tacuarembo have found out what happened. The question is, what have they found out?"

He let that sink in, then continued:

"We plastic-cuffed and blindfolded the servants that were in the house." He paused. "One of these was a young Uruguayan girl with whom Mr. Lorimer apparently had a close relationship."

He waited until he saw understanding and what could have been contempt in Masterson's eyes and then went on.

"We put her-and the estancia manager and his wife-to sleep. A safe narcotic, administered by someone who knew what he was doing.

"Now, everybody saw who did the cuffing: Spanish-speaking masked men wearing balaclava masks. You remember when the Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco agents 'rescued' the Cuban boy in Miami? Their black ski masks?"

Masterson nodded. His face showed his contempt for that act.

"And everybody was wearing what are essentially black coveralls. That description will be reported to the police. When the police arrive-and by now they almost certainly have-they will have found six men in dark blue, nearly black coveralls. But no masks. Which poses a problem…"

"Six dead men in coveralls," Masterson said.

"Yes, sir. Plus Mr. Lorimer, who they will have found lying on his office floor next to his safe. There are no valuables in the safe. The best possible scenario is that they will suspect a robbery by the same people who cuffed and needled the servants."

"But they're now dead?" Masterson said.

"Shot treacherously by one or more of their number so that whatever was stolen would not have to be split in so many shares," Castillo said.

"The local police won't know-or suspect-that someone else-you and your people-were there?"

"Well, we hope not," Castillo said. "There is a history of that kind of robbery-of isolated estancias-in Uruguay and Argentina. And Mr. Lorimer/Bertrand, a wealthy businessman, meets the profile of the sort of people robbed."

"You…left nothing behind that can place you there?"

"The only thing we know of-which is not saying I didn't screw up somewhere and they'll find something else-is blood."

"I don't understand," Masterson said.

"When we were bushwhacked by these people, we took casualties," Castillo said. "One was one of my men, who was garroted, and the other was an Argentine who was helping us. He lived, but he bled a lot."

"The guy the bastards got was a sergeant first class named Seymour Kranz," D'Allessando said. "Good guy. No amateur. Which makes me really wonder who these bad guys are."

"I'll get to that later, Vic," Castillo said.

"Do I correctly infer that the sergeant did not live?"

"Yes, sir."

"I'm really sorry to hear that. What happened to his body?"

"We exfiltrated it with us," Castillo said. "Now here the scenario gets very hopeful. If American police were investigating a crime like this, they would subject the blood to a number of tests. They would match blood to bodies, among other things. I'm hoping the police in rural Uruguay are not going to be so thorough; that they won't come up with a blood sample, or samples, that don't match the bodies."

"My God, seven bodies is a massacre. They won't ask for help from-what?-the Uruguayan equivalent of the FBI? A police organization that will be thorough?"

"I'm counting on that, sir. That's how it will be learned that Mr. Bertrand is really Mr. Lorimer."

"How will that happen?"

"Mr. Lorimer had a photo album, sir. One of the photographs was of Mr. Masterson's wedding. The wedding party is standing in front of a church-"

"Cathedral," Masterson corrected him. "Saint Louis Cathedral, on Jackson Square in New Orleans. Jack and Betsy were married there."

"The whole family-including Mr. Lorimer-is in the photo, sir. I'm almost sure that a senior police officer from Montevideo will recognize Mr. Masterson. Maybe even one of the local cops will. Mr. Masterson's murder was big news down there. It's what the police call a 'lead.' I can't believe they won't follow it up, and that will result in the identification of Mr. Bertrand. If they somehow get the photo to the embassy in Buenos Aires, a man there-actually, the CIA station chief who was in on the operation-is prepared to identify the man in the photo as Mr. Lorimer. He knew him in Paris."

"If the police are as inept as you suggest-and you're probably right-what makes you think they'll find, much less leaf through, Jean-Paul's photo album?"

"Because I left it open on Mr. Lorimer's desk, sir."

"You're very good at this sort of thing, aren't you?" Masterson said.

"No, sir, I'm not. There is a vulgar saying in the Army that really applies."

"And that is?"

Castillo hesitated a moment, then said: "'I'm up way over my ears in the deep shit and I don't know how to swim.'"

"Oh, horseshit, Charley," D'Allessando said. "You and I go back a long way. I know better."

"I agree that it's vulgar," Masterson said. "But I don't agree at all that it applies. You seem to have been born for duties like these and Mr. D'Allessando obviously agrees with me."

"Mr. Masterson, when I went to West Point what I wanted to do with my life was be what my father was, an Army aviator. At least twice a day, I curse the fickle finger of fate that kept me from doing that."

D'Allessando said, "The fickle finger's name, Charley, as you damned well know, is Lieutenant General Bruce J. McNab."

Masterson looked between them.

"The first time I ever saw Charley, Mr. Masterson, he was a bushy-tailed second lieutenant fresh from West Point. It was during the first desert war. General McNab-that was just before he got his first star, right, Charley?"

Castillo nodded.

"Colonel McNab, who was running Special Ops in that war, had spotted Charley, recognized him as a kindred soul, rescued him from what he was doing-probably flying cargo missions in a Huey; he wasn't old enough to be out of flight school long enough to fly anything else-and put him to work as his personal pilot."

"If we've reached the end of memory lane, Vic," Castillo said, "I would like to get on with this."

D'Allessando held up both hands in a gesture of surrender.

"Well, as a father," Masterson said, "I'm sure that your father is proud of what you do. He does know?"

"No, sir. My father died in Vietnam."

"I'm sorry, Charley," Masterson said. "I had no way of knowing."

"Thank you, sir. If I may go on?"


"Once Mr. Lorimer is identified, there's a number of possibilities. For one thing, he was both an American citizen and a UN diplomat. God only knows what the UN will do when they find out he was murdered in Uruguay. We don't know what the UN knows about Mr. Lorimer's involvement with the oil-for-food business, but I'm damned sure a number of people in the UN do.

"They will obviously want to sweep this under the diplomatic rug. By slightly bending the facts-they can say Lorimer was on leave, somehow the paperwork got lost when we were looking for him to tell him about his sister getting kidnapped, and then about Mr. Masterson being murdered-they can issue a statement of shock and regret that he was killed by robbers on his estancia."

"Yeah," D'Allessando said, thoughtfully.

"Once it is established that Bertrand is, in fact, Lorimer, an American citizen, our embassy in Montevideo can get in the act. For repatriation of the remains, for one thing, and to take control of his property temporarily, pending the designation of someone-kin or somebody else-to do that. Which brings me to that.

"Do you think Ambassador Lorimer would be willing to designate someone to do that? The someone I have in mind is an FBI agent in Montevideo, who was in on the operation. Give him what would amount to power of attorney, in other words? I'd really like to really go through the estancia and see what can be found."

"I don't think he would have any problem with that. I don't think he would want to-in his condition-go there himself, nor do I think his wife or physician would permit it."

"And the same thing for the apartment in Paris?"

"I think so. Now that I have had a chance to think it over, they'd be pleased. Perhaps I can suggest it was offered as a courtesy to a fellow diplomat."

"The sooner that could be done, the better. Of course, we have to wait until the scenario I described unfolds. If it does."

"It'll work, Charley," D'Allessando said. "You've got all the angles covered."

"You never have all the angles covered, Vic, and you know it," Castillo said and then turned to Masterson. "This now brings us to the bad guys."

"I'm not sure I know what you mean," Masterson confessed. "We don't even know who they are, do we?"

"No, sir, we don't. I intend to do my best to find out who they are."

"And 'render them harmless'?" Masterson asked, softly.

Castillo nodded slightly but did not respond directly.

"What they did was find Mr. Lorimer, which among other things they've done suggests that they're professionals. And what they did was send an assault team to the estancia. I think it's logical to assume they wanted to make sure he didn't talk about what he knows of the oil-for-food business and possibly to get back the money he skimmed.

"By now, they have certainly learned that their operation succeeded only in taking out Mr. Lorimer. And that somebody took out their assault team. And they will have to presume the same people who took out their assault team have what was in the safe: money or information. They don't know who we are-we could be someone else trying to shut Lorimer up, somebody after the money, or Uruguayan bandits. I don't think it's likely that they'll think an American Special Operations team was involved, but they might.

"I think it's likely the people who bushwhacked us are the same people who killed Mr. Masterson, but of course I can't be sure. But if they are-or even if it's a second group-and they are professional, I think the decision will be to go to ground.

"They may be capable of-it wouldn't surprise me-of keeping an eye on her bank accounts, or yours, to see if they suddenly get sixteen million dollars heavier. But that's not going to happen.

"What I'm driving at is there is no longer a reason for them to try to get to Mr. Masterson or the children. Lorimer is out of the picture and she has nothing they want to give them."

"You think we can remove Mr. D'Allessando's people, is that what you're saying?" Masterson asked.

"Well, they can't stay indefinitely," Castillo said. "And Vic tells me he's run the retired special operators from China Post past you."

"Very impressive," Masterson said.

"And very expensive?" Castillo asked.

"Uh-huh," Masterson said. "But what I was thinking was that the children-for that matter, Betsy, too-would probably be more at ease with them than they are now with all of Mr. D'Allessando's people. They must have grown used to private security people in Buenos Aires."

"The people I brought over here are good, Mr. Masterson," D'Allessando said. "And, frankly, a job like this is better than commuting to Iraq or Afghanistan, which is what they've all been doing."

"Okay, so that's what I'll recommend to Betsy," Masterson said. "When do you want to talk to her, Charley?"

"Now, if possible, sir. I'm on my way to Texas. I want to see my grandmother, and I can be with her only until they call me to tell me what's happened in Uruguay."

"I'll get her on the phone," Masterson said as he reached for it. "And I'll get you a car to take you to the airport."

"That's not necessary, sir."

"Biloxi? Or New Orleans?" Masterson asked.

"New Orleans, sir."


[ONE] Office of the Legal Attache The Embassy of the United States of America Lauro Miller 1776 Montevideo, Republica Oriental del Uruguay 1150 2 August 2005 The telephone on the desk of Assistant Legal Attache Julio Artigas buzzed and one of the six buttons on it began to flash.

Artigas, a slim, olive-skinned Cuban American of thirty, who had been a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for eight years and assigned to the Montevideo embassy for three, picked up the handset.


"Julio, this is your cousin Jose," his caller said in Spanish.

Thirty-seven-year-old Chief Inspector Jose Ordonez, of the Interior Police Division of the Uruguayan Policia Nacional, was not related to Julio Artigas, but they looked very much alike. They had several times been mistaken for brothers. That wasn't possible without the same surname, but it could have been possible for cousins, and cousins they had become. They also shared a sense of humor.

"And how goes your unrelenting campaign against evil, Cousin Jose?" Julio replied. He had arrived in Uruguay speaking Cuban-inflected Spanish fluently, and with only a little effort he had acquired a Uruguayan inflection. Many Uruguayans were surprised to learn he was not a native son.

"I would hope a little better than yours," Jose said. "How about lunch?"

"Is that an invitation? Or have you been giving your salary away at the blackjack tables again?"

"I will pay," Jose said. "I will put you on my expense sheet."


"I hope you have, or can make, your afternoon free."

"If you are paying, my entire week is free."

"You are so kind."

"Where shall we meet? Someplace expensive, of course."

"I'm at the port. How about something from a parrilla?"

"Great minds travel similar paths. When?"


"Get out your wallet."

Artigas hung up. He opened a drawer in his desk, took from it a.38 caliber Smith amp; Wesson "Detective Special" revolver, then slipped the gun into a skeleton holster on his hip.

The pistol was his. It was smaller and lighter than the semiautomatic pistol prescribed for-and issued to-FBI agents, and, technically, he was violating at least four FBI regulations by carrying it.

But this was Montevideo, where his chances of ever needing a pistol ranged from very slight to none. Many of Artigas's peers simply went un-armed. The primary mission of the FBI in Uruguay was the investigation of money laundering.

It was a different story for the DEA guys, who often found themselves in hairy situations. While not necessarily successful in stopping the drug flow, they were very successful in costing the drug merchants lots of money and consequently were unpopular with the drug establishment. They went around heavily armed.

Artigas had chosen the middle ground. While it is true that you never need a pistol until you really need one, it was equally true there is no sense carrying a large and hard-to-conceal cannon when a less conspicuous means of self-defense is available.

Artigas walked across the large, open room to the open door of a glass-walled cubicle that was the office of Special Agent James D. Monahan, who was because of his seniority the de facto, if not the de jure, SAC, or Special Agent in Charge, and waited for him to get off the phone.

"Something, Artigas?" Monahan asked, finally.

"I have just been invited to lunch by Chief Inspector Ordonez."

"Shit, I was hoping you were going to tell me you know where the hell Yung is."

FBI Special Agent David W. Yung, Jr., a fellow assistant legal attache, was not held in high regard by his peers. He came to work late-or not at all-and left early. His research into Uruguayan bank records produced about half the useful information that came from the next least efficient of the others. And since he was still here-despite several informal complaints about his performance and back-channel suggestions that he be reassigned to the States-it was pretty clear he had friends in high places.

Another, less flattering rumor had it that Yung had been sort of banished to Uruguay because of his association with Howard Kennedy, the former Ethical Standards Division hotshot who had changed sides and was now working for some Russian mafioso. That rumor had some credence, as it was known that Yung had been assigned to the Ethical Standards Division.

It is a fact of life that people without friends in high places tend to dislike those who have them and that FBI agents do not like FBI agents whose personal integrity is open to question.

"Maybe still asleep?" Artigas asked. "It's not quite noon."

"I let his goddamned phone ring for five minutes. That sonofabitch!" Monahan paused. "Ordonez say what he wanted?"

"Only that he hoped I could make my afternoon free."

"Et tu, Artigas?"

"He's got something on his mind, Jim," Artigas said.

"Ride it out," Monahan said. "But if you happen to run into Yung in a bar or a casino somewhere, would you please tell him that I would be grateful for a moment of his valuable time whenever it's convenient?"

"I will do that."

Artigas went out the front entrance of the embassy, found his car-a blue Chrysler PT Cruiser-got in, and drove to the gate.

The embassy, a four-story, oblong concrete edifice decorated with two huge satellite antennae on the roof, sits in the center of a well-protected compound overlooking the river Plate.

A heavy steel gate, painted light blue, is controlled by pistol-armed Uruguayan security guards wearing police-style uniforms. For reasons Artigas never understood, cars leaving the compound are subjected to just about as close scrutiny as those coming into the compound.

He waited patiently while security guards looked into the interior of the PT Cruiser, looked under it using a mirror mounted on the end of a long pole, and then checked his embassy identification before throwing the switch that caused the gate to slide open sideways.

He drove a hundred yards toward the water and then turned right on the Rambla, the road that runs along the coast from the port to the suburb of Carrasco where many embassy officers lived, including Artigas and the again-missing Yung.

Five minutes later, he pulled the nose of the PT Cruiser to the curb in front of what had been built sometime in the late nineteenth century to house cattle being shipped from the port. It now housed a dozen or more parrilla restaurants and at least that many bars.

He got a very dirty look from the woman charged with collecting parking fees on that section of the street. She had seen the diplomatic license plates on the car. Diplomats are permitted to park wherever they wish to park without paying.

In the interests of Uruguayan-American relations, Artigas handed her a fifty-peso note, worth a little less than two dollars U.S., and earned himself a warm smile.

He entered the building. With the exception of one or two women Julio could think of, there was in his judgment no better smell in the world than that of beef-and, for that matter, chicken and pork and a lot else-being grilled over the ashes of a wood fire.

As he walked to where he knew Ordonez would meet him-one of the smaller, more expensive restaurants in the back of the old building-his mouth actually watered.

Chief Inspector Ordonez was waiting for him and stood up when he saw Artigas coming.

They embraced and kissed in the manner of Latin males and then sat down at the small table. There was a bottle of wine on the table, a bottle of carbonated water, four stemmed glasses, a wicker basket holding a variety of bread and breadsticks, a small plate of butter curls, and a small dish of chicken liver pate.

Jose poured wine for Julio and they touched glasses.

"There must be something on your mind," Julio said. "This is the good Merlot."

"How about seven males, six of them dressed in black, shot to death?"

Artigas thought: I don't think he's kidding.

He took a sip of the Merlot, then spread liver pate on a chunk of hard-crusted bread and waited for Ordonez to go on.

"You don't seem surprised," Jose said.

"I'm an FBI agent. We try to be inscrutable."

A waiter appeared.

Julio ordered a blue cheese empanada, bife chorizo medium rare, papas frit as, and an onion-and-tomato salad.

Jose held up two fingers, signaling the waiter he'd have the same.

"And where are these deceased Ninja warriors?" Julio asked.

Jose chuckled.

"On an estancia-called Shangri-La-near Tacuarembo."

Julio signaled with a quick shake of his head that he had no idea where Tacuarembo was.

"It's about three hundred sixty kilometers due north," Jose said. "On Highway 5." He paused. "I was hoping you might go up there with me."

"That's a long ride."

"Less long in a helicopter."

Julio knew the use of rotary-wing aircraft by Uruguayan police was not common, even for the movement of very senior officers.

"Am I being invited as a friend or officially?" Julio said.

"Why don't we decide that after we have a look around Estancia Shangri-La?" Jose replied.

"Okay." Julio paused. "Tell me, Cousin, would I happen to know-or even have met-the owner of Estancia Shangri-La?"

"You tell me. He is-was-a Lebanese dealer in antiquities by the name of Jean-Paul Bertrand."

Julio shook his head and asked, "And had you a professional interest in Senor…what was his name?"

"Jean-Paul Bertrand," Jose furnished.

"…Bertrand before he was killed?"

Jose shook his head. "He was as clean as a whistle, so far as I have been able to determine."

The waiter returned with their empanadas, and they cut off their conversation. They might have returned to it had not two strikingly beautiful young women come in the restaurant.

They didn't hurry their lunch, but they didn't dawdle over it, either. Twenty-five minutes after Julio had taken his first sip of the Merlot, the bottle was empty and Jose was settling the bill with the waiter.

When they left the former cattle shed, they walked across the street to the Navy base. Julio saw-with some surprise-that the helicopter waiting for them was not one of the some what battered Policia Nacional's Bell Hueys he expected but a glistening Aerospatiale Dauphin. The pilot was a Navy officer. Julio suspected it was the Uruguayan president's personal helicopter.

That meant, obviously, that someone high in the Uruguayan government-perhaps even the president himself-considered what had happened at Estancia Shangri-La very important. [TWO] Estancia Shangri-La Tacuarembo Province Republica Orientale del Uruguay 1405 2 August 2005 As the Dauphin fluttered down onto a field, Julio saw that there were a dozen police vehicles and two ambulances parked unevenly around the main building of the estancia and that there were twenty-five or thirty people-many in police uniform-milling about.

Julio had an unkind thought: Well, so much for preserving the crime scene.

Two portly senior police officers walked warily toward the helicopter. Both saluted Chief Inspector Ordonez as he stepped down from the chopper. He returned their salutes with a casual wave of his hand. Julio remembered seeing him in uniform only once, when Fidel Castro, a year or so before, had come to Montevideo and Ordonez had been head of the protection detail.

"This is Senor Artigas," Chief Inspector Ordonez said. "You will answer any questions he puts to you."

Both of the policemen saluted. Julio responded with a nod and offered them his hand.

"I ordered that nothing be touched?" Ordonez questioned.

"We have covered the bodies, Chief Inspector, but everything else is exactly as it was when we first came here."

Ordonez met Artigas's eyes. It was clear to both they were thinking exactly the same thing: The curious had satisfied their curiosity. The crime scene had been trampled beyond use.

Ordonez gestured with his hand that he be shown.

There were two bodies on a covered veranda. They were covered with heavy black plastic sheeting. Artigas wondered if that was the local version of a body bag or whether the sheeting had just been available and put to use.

A large pool of blood, now dried black, had escaped the plastic over the first body. When, at Ordonez's impatient gesture, the plastic sheeting was pulled aside, the reason was clear. This man had died of a gunshot wound to the head. There is a great deal of blood in the head.

And not a pistol round, either, I don't think. His head had exploded.

The body was dressed in dark blue, almost black, cotton coveralls, the sort worn by mechanics.

What looked like the barrel of a submachine gun was visible in the pool of dried blood. The dead man had fallen on his weapon.

Artigas felt a gentle touch on his arm and looked down to see that Ordonez was handing him disposable rubber gloves.

"This has been photographed?" Ordonez asked.

"Yes, Chief Inspector, from many angles."

Ordonez squatted and pulled the weapon out from under the body. It was a submachine gun, its stock folded. He held it out for Artigas to see.

"Madsen, right?" he asked.

"Yes," Artigas said. "That's the 9mm, I think."

Ordonez raised the barrel so that he could see the muzzle, then nodded.

Artigas looked around and saw a glint in the grass just beyond the veranda. He walked to it. It was a cartridge case.

"Have you got a position on this? And photographs?"

"My sergeant must have missed that, senor," the heftier of the two local police supervisors said and angrily called for the sergeant.

When Artigas went back on the veranda he saw that Ordonez had replaced the black plastic over the body and had moved ten meters down the veranda, where another police officer was pulling the plastic off another body. This one, too, was dressed in nearly black coveralls.

Another large pool of dried black blood from another exploded head.

As he squatted by the body, Ordonez looked at Artigas and asked, "What did you see?"

"A cartridge casing. Looks like a 9mm."

"I wonder where this one's weapon went to?" Ordonez asked, studying the body.

He pointed to a disturbance in the blood that could have been the marks left when someone had dragged a weapon from it.

"Looks like somebody took it," Artigas agreed.

"Yeah, but who?"

The implication was clear. Ordonez would not have been surprised if one of the local cops had taken it, for any number of reasons having nothing to do with the investigation of a multiple homicide.

I'm not going to comment on that, Ordonez thought.

"Both head shots," Artigas said.

Ordonez nodded and then, raising his voice, asked, "Where's the other five?"

The second police supervisor made a vague gesture away from the house. "Four out there, Chief Inspector," he said. "Senor Bertrand's body is in the house, in his office."

Ordonez gestured for him to lead the way into the house.

The body lying on its back behind a large, ornate desk and next to the open door of a safe was that of a some what squat, very black man in his late forties. There were two entrance wounds in the face, one on the right side of the forehead, the second on the upper lip.

A section of the skull had been blown outward. There was brain tissue on the safe and on the wall beside it.

Artigas sensed Ordonez's eyes on him.

"Two entrance wounds that close," Artigas said, "maybe a submachine gun?"

Ordonez nodded.

"But from a distance," he said, pointing to the window. One of the panes was broken. "If he had been shot in here, for example, the moment he obligingly opened the safe, I think there would have been powder burns on the face."

"Yeah," Artigas said.

"The photo album?" Ordonez asked.

"On the desk, Chief Inspector," the police supervisor said.

"While Captain Cavallero was leaving everything exactly as it was when he first came here," Ordonez said, drily, "he happened to notice and then scan through a photo album. I think you may find it interesting."

The Moroccan leather-bound photo album on the desk was open to an eight-by-ten-inch color photograph of a wedding party standing on the steps of a church large enough to be a cathedral. Everyone was in formal morning clothing. Senor Bertrand was standing at the extreme right. The bride, a tall, slim woman, was standing beside an extraordinarily tall, broadly smiling young man.

"Julio," Ordonez asked, softly, "do you think the bridegroom is who Captain Cavallero thought it might be?"

Well, Artigas thought, now I know why I'm here.

"That's Jack the Stack, all right. No question about it," he said.

"'Jack the Stack'?"

"Before he was J. Winslow Masterson of the United States State Department, he was Jack the Stack of the Boston Celtics," Artigas said.

"Really? A professional basketball player? I didn't know that. From the Celtics to the State Department?"

"He got himself run over by a beer truck as he was leaving a stadium," Artigas said. "No more pro ball. And the settlement-the truck driver had been sampling his wares-made Jack the Stack a very wealthy man. I heard sixty million dollars."

"Now that I think about it, I remember hearing that story. But I didn't connect it with an American diplomat in Buenos Aires," Ordonez said and then asked, "I wonder what Senor Bertrand's relationship to Senor Masterson was?"

"That's not all I'm wondering about Senor Bertrand," Artigas replied. [THREE] Office of the Ambassador The Embassy of the United States of America Lauro Muller 1776 Montevideo, Republica Oriental del Uruguay 2035 2 August 2005 The Honorable Michael A. McGrory, minister extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the President of the United States to the Republic of Uruguay, was a small, wiry well-tailored man of fifty-five with a full head of curly gray hair. He was held in varying degrees of contempt by many members of the "embassy team," the very ones who referred to him-behind his back, of course-as "SenorPompous."

This was especially true of those members of the embassy team who were not members of the Foreign Service of the United States. These included the twenty-one employees of the Justice Department assigned to the Montevideo embassy. Fourteen of them carried the job description of "Assistant Legal Attache," although they were in fact special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The other seven were special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

There were others-the CIA station chief, for example, representatives of the Federal Aviation Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and even employees of the Department of Agriculture-assigned to the embassy. The latter were charged with ensuring that Uruguayan foodstuffs exported to the United States-primarily, meat and dairy products-met the high standards of purity established by the U.S. government.

Although all of these specialists enjoyed diplomatic status, they were not really diplomats-and this was often pointed out to them in varying degrees of subtlety by SenorPompous.

All the specialists would, after several years, return to the States and whatever governmental agency had, so to speak, loaned them to the Department of State.

The Foreign Service people, on the other hand, regarded themselves as professionals trained in the fine art of diplomacy who could look forward to other foreign assignments after Uruguay and to increasingly senior positions within the Department of State. Presuming, of course, that the hired hands from the Justice Department or the FAA or-especially-the CIA didn't do something violating the rules of diplomatic behavior that would embarrass the embassy and the Foreign Service personnel who were supposed to keep the hired hands under control.

Ambassador McGrory, for example, had begun his Foreign Service career as a consular officer in Nicaragua. As he over the years had moved from one United States embassy to another in South America, he had risen-some what slowly but steadily-upward in the State Department hierarchy. He had been a commercial attache in Peru, a cultural attache in Brazil, and, before his appointment as ambassador to Uruguay, he had been deputy chief of mission in Asuncion, Paraguay.

With the exception of the Agriculture Department people-who did their job, kept him abreast of what was going on, and stayed out of trouble-Ambassador McGrory had trouble with just about everyone else who was not a bonafide diplomat.

There were several reasons for this, and, in Ambassador McGrory's opinion, the most significant was their inability to understand that they were in fact answerable to him. The regulations were clear on that. As the senior official of the United States government in Uruguay, all employees and officers of the United States were subject to his orders.

Many-perhaps most-of the problems caused were by the DEA agents, whom McGrory privately thought of as hooligans. They often went around "undercover," which meant that not only were they unshaven and unshorn but dressed like Uruguayan drug addicts. And under their shabby clothing they carried a variety of weaponry. It was only a matter of time, in McGrory's professional opinion, before they shot some Uruguayan and he would have to deal with all the ramifications.

He had issued an order a year before that required that the DEA agents go armed only when necessary. When it became apparent that the DEA agents considered it was necessary all the time, he had modified the order so that they would have to have his permission before arming themselves on any specific occasion. That order had been in effect fewer than seventy-two hours when the assistant secretary of state for Latin America had telephoned him to politely but firmly order him to refrain from interfering with the DEA agents' rights to defend themselves.

The FBI agents were far better dressed than those of the DEA but, if anything, less willing to keep him abreast of what they were doing and when. Their primary function was the detection of money laundering. Uruguay was known as the South American capital of money laundering. McGrory was naturally interested to know what they were doing, but they rarely told him any specifics.

And half of them, at least, also went about armed to the teeth.

Ambassador McGrory was thus concerned when the senior of the FBI agents, a man named James D. Monahan, telephoned him as he was about to leave the embassy and requested an immediate audience.

"Will this wait until the morning, Monahan?"

"Sir, I really think you should hear this now."

"Very well," the ambassador replied. "You may come up."

Monahan and Julio Artigas arrived at McGrory's office three minutes later. The ambassador did not offer them chairs.

"Artigas has run into something I thought should be brought to your attention as quickly as possible, Mr. Ambassador," Legal Attache James D. Monahan said, politely.

"Really?" McGrory replied and looked at Assistant Legal Attache Artigas.

"Ordonez called me just before lunch-"

McGrory raised his hand to stop him, and asked, "Ordonez is?"

"Chief inspector of the Interior Division of the Policia Federal, Mr. Ambassador."

McGrory nodded and waved his fingers as a signal for Artigas to go on.

"And asked that I meet him for lunch. I did so, and almost immediately he told me there had been a multiple murder-"

"Multiple murder?" McGrory interrupted. "How many did he mean by multiple?"

"Seven, Mr. Ambassador."


"Yes, sir. Seven."

"And this massacre occurred here in Montevideo?"

"No, sir. On an estancia near Tacuarembo."

"And where, refresh me, is 'Tacuarembo'?"

"It's about three hundred sixty kilometers north of Montevideo, Mr. Ambassador."

"Never heard of it," the ambassador said. "Go on, Artigas."

"Yes, sir. Chief Inspector Ordonez asked me if I would be willing to go there with him-"

"I don't think that's a very good idea, Artigas," the ambassador said. "Do you, Monahan? We don't want the embassy splattered with the water from Uruguay's dirty laundry, do we?"

"Sir, I accepted Ordonez's invitation. I went there," Artigas said.

"And who did you check with before you did so? I can't believe Monahan would give you the go-ahead to do something like that. You didn't, Monahan, did you?"

"I didn't check with anyone, sir. I wasn't aware that I was required to."

"There is a difference, Artigas, between a requirement and the exercise of prudent conduct," the ambassador said. "Perhaps you should keep that in mind."

"Yes, sir."

"Go on."

"We flew to Tacuarembo in what I believe was the president's helicopter," Artigas said. "Which suggested to me that someone very senior in the Uruguayan government was really interested to see that Inspector Ordonez got there in a hurry, that there was interest at high levels in whatever had transpired at Tacuarembo."

"Several things, Artigas," the ambassador said. "First, I thought you said Chief Inspector Whatever…"

"It is Chief Inspector Ordonez, sir."

"Second, what makes you think you went flying in the president's helicopter?"

"It was a nearly new Aerospatiale Dauphin, sir. The police have old Hueys."

"In which you have flown?"

"Yes, sir. Many times."

"I wasn't aware of that," the ambassador said. "Were you, Monahan?"

"Yes, sir, I was. We try very hard to work closely with the Uruguayan authorities and-"

"Working closely with the Uruguayan authorities, of course, is a good idea. But riding in their helicopters? I shudder when I think of how well they are maintained. Or not maintained. I'll have to give that some thought. And until I have had the chance to do just that, I don't think there should be any more helicopter joyrides. Pass that word, won't you, Monahan?"

"Yes, sir."

"You flew to Tacuarembo, is that what you're saying, Artigas?"

"Yes, sir."

"And why did Chief Inspector Ordonez want you to do that, do you think?"

"He wanted to show me a photograph of one of the dead men, Mr. Ambassador."

"And why would he do that?"

"Probably because the photograph was of one of the dead men standing in a wedding party with J. Winslow Masterson."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Probably because the photograph was of one of the dead men standing in a wedding party with J. Winslow Masterson."

Now I have your attention, Artigas thought, you pompous little asshole!

"That's difficult to believe," Ambassador McGrory said after a moment. "You're sure it was our Mr. Masterson?"

"Yes, sir, it was Jack the Stack, all right."

"The late Mr. Masterson's athletic accomplishments are long past. You don't think it is disrespectful of you to refer to him that way?"

"No disrespect was intended, sir. I was a great admirer of Mr. Masterson."

"Still, Artigas…" McGrory said, disapprovingly. He went on: "Do we know the name of the man in the photograph with Mr. Masterson?"

"Chief Inspector Ordonez identified him to me as Senor Jean-Paul Bertrand, the owner of the estancia, sir."

"And he was dead, you said?"

"Shot twice, sir. In the head."

"By whom?"

"I have no idea, sir."

"And you think your good friend Chief Inspector Ordonez, if he had suspects in the case, would confide them to you?"

"Yes, sir, I think he would."

"But he has not done so, has he?"

"What the chief inspector has done, sir, is to request our assistance."

"What kind of assistance?"

"There were seven dead men in all, sir. Senor Bertrand and six others."

"Who were they? Who killed them?"

"We have no idea, sir. There was no identification of any sort on their bodies. What the chief inspector has asked me to do, Mr. Ambassador, is to send their fingerprints to Washington to see if the FBI has them on file."

Ambassador McGrory thought that over for a moment.

"I can see no problem with doing that," he said, finally. "But what makes you-or Chief Inspector Ordonez-think their fingerprints would be in the FBI's files? These are not Americans, presumably."

"We don't know that, sir."

"Is there any reason to think they might be?"

"No, sir. I don't think there is. On the other hand, there is no reason to presume they are not."

Ambassador McGrory considered that a moment.

"Do we know anything about the murdered man? The murdered man in the photograph?"

"His name was Bertrand, sir. Jean-Paul Bertrand."

"You already told me that," McGrory said. "My question was: Do we know anything about the murdered man?"

"He was Lebanese, sir, resident in Uruguay. Chief Inspector Ordonez told me that. He was an antiquities dealer."

"And for the third time, do we-as opposed to your friend the chief inspector-know anything about the murdered antiques dealer?"

Monahan said, "Special Agent Yung is maintaining a file on him, sir."

"And what does the file say?"

"I don't know, sir. The file is not in the file cabinet."

"Well, where is it?"

"I don't know, sir," Monahan said. "Possibly Yung took it home with him."

"He took an official file home with him?"

"I don't know that, sir. It is possible."

"Well, get him on the phone and tell him to bring the file to my office immediately."

"I tried to call him, sir. He doesn't answer the telephone at his apartment."

"Well, where is he?"

"I don't know, sir."

"You don't know?" Ambassador McGrory parroted, incredulously.

"He didn't come in today, sir. Possibly he's in Puente del Este."

"He had the day off, in other words?"

"I meant to say he may be working in Puente del Este, sir."

"But you don't know?"

"No, sir. I don't."

"What you're going to do, Monahan, while Artigas is preparing his draft report on this matter, is find Special Agent Yung and have him bring his files here."

"Yes, sir."

"I must say, Monahan, that until just now I thought you ran a tighter ship than is apparently the case." [FOUR] Office of the Ambassador The Embassy of the United States of America Lauro Muller 1776 Montevideo, Republica Oriental del Uruguay 0805 3 August 2005 Special agents/assistant legal attaches James D. Monahan and Julio Artigas were sitting on the chrome-and-leather couch outside the office of the minister extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the President of the United States to the Republic of Uruguay when the ambassador arrived.

They both looked worried. The Honorable Michael A. McGrory took no pity on them. Without speaking, he waved them some what imperiously into his office. He went to his desk, sat down, and, with another grand gesture, gave them permission to seat themselves in the two chairs facing his desk.

"Well," McGrory said, "what more do we know about the massacre in Tacuarembo than we did when last we met? Have you heard, for example, Artigas, from your good friend, Chief Inspector Ordonez?"

"I spoke with him last night, sir, to report that I had faxed the fingerprints to the bureau. But he didn't pass on any other information to me."

"I cannot help but wonder if your good friend has learned-or perhaps already knew-something he has elected not to pass on to you."

"I really don't think that's the case, Mr. Ambassador," Artigas replied.

"And you, Monahan? What have you to contribute?"

McGrory really disliked Monahan. The only reason he wasn't absolutely sure that Monahan was the so-called wit who had installed a decalcomania of an Irish leprechaun named McGrory in a urinal in the visitor's men's room was that he couldn't believe one Irishman would do that to another.

"Sir…" Monahan began uncomfortably. He cleared his throat and began again. "Sir, I have been unable to locate Mr. Yung. I even went to Puente del Este last night and checked all the hotels where he usually stays."

"That's probably because Mr. Yung is no longer with us," the ambassador said.


"I received, at the residence, a telephone call at half past nine last night from the assistant director of the FBI. He said that it had been necessary to recall Mr. Yung to Washington. He informed me that Mr. Yung had actually already left Uruguay. It apparently has something to do with Mr. Yung being needed to testify in court. The assistant director said he was reluctant to get into details on a nonsecure telephone connection."

"I wonder what that's all about?" Monahan mused aloud.

"And so do I. I'm sure the assistant director will explain the situation to me when he calls, which he has promised to do as soon as he gets to a secure telephone in his office this morning."

"That won't be before ten-thirty our time," Monahan said. "There's a one-hour difference between here and D.C. and I never knew an assistant director who came to work before nine-thirty."

"And whenever he calls, I won't be here. We won't be here."


"When thinking this matter through last night, I decided I should, as soon as possible, bring it to the attention of Ambassador Silvio in Buenos Aires. The late Mr. Masterson was, after all, the chief of mission there."

"Yes, sir."

"I decided (a) that I should do so personally and (b) that you, Artigas, should come with me. I can see no reason for you to go to Buenos Aires, Monahan. Can you?"

"No, sir."

"We are on the nine-ten Austral flight," McGrory said. "Mr. Howell will be going with us. He has some cultural business to transact in Buenos Aires, if you take my meaning."

"I understand, sir," Artigas said.

Mr. Robert Howell was the cultural attache of the embassy. That he was also the CIA station chief was just about as much of a secret as was the identity of the Irish FBI agent who had put the McGrory leprechaun decal in the urinal.

"While we are gone, Monahan, I want you to do two things," the ambassador went on. "One, keep yourself available to take the call from the assistant director. Tell him where I am and ask him to call me at the embassy in Buenos Aires."

"Yes, sir."

"Two, it will probably be a waste of your time, but see if you can find out anything else from Artigas's friend, Chief Inspector Ordonez, or anyone else."

"Yes, sir." [FIVE] Office of the Ambassador The Embassy of the United States of America Avenida Colombia 4300 Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina 1025 3 August 2005 "Please come in, Mr. Ambassador," Ambassador Juan Manuel Silvio, the American ambassador in Buenos Aires, said to Ambassador Michael McGrory. "It's always a pleasure to see you."

Silvio was a tall, lithe, fair-skinned, well-tailored man with an erect carriage and an aristocratic manner. He was younger than Ambassador Michael McGrory and, despite five years less service in the Foreign Service than McGrory, had a far more important embassy. McGrory didn't like him.

He was honest enough to admit to himself, however, that his rationale for bringing the Tacuarembo whatever it was to Silvio went beyond the fact that he had a photograph of the late Mr. Masterson, who had been Silvio's deputy. He suspected that, whatever it was, he was liable to see egg on his face when the matter got to the State Department. McGrory knew it was better that there be egg on two faces rather than his alone.

The two shook hands.

Silvio then offered his hand to Julio Artigas and said, "I don't believe I've had the pleasure?"

"My name is Artigas, sir. How do you do?"

"Artigas is one of my legal attaches," McGrory said. "And this is my cultural attache, Mr. Howell."

"We've met," Silvio said. "Nice to see you again, Mr. Howell. I know you know Alex, but I'm not sure if Mr. Artigas does."

"No, sir," Artigas said and shook hands with a small, plump man with a pencil-thin mustache.

"Alex Darby," the man said.

"And I know Howell and Darby know each other," Silvio said. "What is it that they say about birds of a feather?"

McGrory thought: He might have just as well come out and said, "These two are CIA."

"Hey, Bob," Darby said. "Long time no see."

"Too long," Howell replied. "We're really going to have to get together."

Silvio's secretary rolled in a coffee tray.

"Unless it's someone important like my wife or the secretary, no calls, please," Silvio said.

When the door had closed, Silvio went on: "You said you'd come across something that might have a bearing on what happened to Jack Masterson, Mr. Ambassador?"

"Artigas," McGrory ordered, "show Ambassador Silvio the picture."

Artigas opened his briefcase and took out the photograph of the wedding party. He stood up, walked over to Silvio, and handed it to him. Silvio looked at it, then handed it to Darby.

"Where'd you get this?" Darby asked.

"Do you recognize the people?" McGrory said.

"Yeah, I do. That's Jack and Betsy at their wedding. And her parents, and Jack's, and her brother."

"You know who that man is?" McGrory asked.

"Yes, I do," Darby said. "He's Betsy Masterson's brother. Where did you get this?"

"Artigas," McGrory ordered.

"Yes, sir. It's from an estancia called Shangri-La in Tacuarembo. I was taken there by an officer of the Interior Police Division of the Uruguayan Policia Nacional."

"Why did he do that?" Darby asked.

"I now believe it was because a Uruguayan police officer on the scene recognized Mr. Masterson," Artigas said. "The photo was in a scrapbook at the scene."

"You've used the word 'scene' twice," Darby said. "Is there an implication that something had happened at this estancia, that it was, maybe, a crime scene?"

"That's something of an understatement, Darby," McGrory said. "According to Artigas, there were seven bodies at that estancia."

"Seven bodies?" Darby asked. "Seven bodies?"

"Seven bodies, including that of the man in the photograph," McGrory said. "All shot to death."

"And who were the others?" Darby asked.

Artigas saw that Darby was looking at Howell. The hair on Artigas's neck curled.

"That seems to be the mystery," McGrory said.

"You don't know who they are?" Darby asked.

"According to Artigas, none of them had any identification on them, and they were all dressed in black."

"Really?" Darby said and looked at Howell again-not for long, but long enough for Artigas to see it. "That sounds like something from a James Bond movie."

"Or a Ninja movie," Howell said. "All dressed in black."

"Well, who shot them?" Darby asked.

"No one seems to have any idea," Artigas said.

"No one seems to have any idea?" Darby parroted, incredulously.

Artigas suddenly had a number of thoughts, one right after the other:

You know all about this, don't you, Mr. Darby?

Did Howell call you last night, after McGrory told Howell?

The CIA sticks together?

Jesus, did Howell know about this before McGrory told him?

Did they both know about it?

Were they both involved?

You're letting your imagination run away with you, Julio!

You've seen too many spy movies-bad spy movies.

Yeah. But you always were a good interrogator, able to pick up things like the looks between Darby and Howell.

What the hell is going on here?

"According to Artigas, the Uruguayan police have no idea, either," Howell said.

"What do you think it was, Mr. McGrory?" Darby asked. "A robbery? An attempted kidnapping?"

That's "Mr. Ambassador," thank you very much, Darby!

"I have no idea what it was," McGrory said. "The question, it would seem to me, is, what do we do about this photograph?"

"Alex?" Silvio asked.

"I would suggest, Mr. Ambassador…"

Silvio is Mr. Ambassador, McGrory thought, and I'm not? You sonofabitch!

"…that we get this information into the hands of Mr. Castillo. Or that Mr. McGrory should. The photo turned up in Uruguay. On Mr. McGrory's watch, so to speak."

"Who's Castillo?" McGrory asked.

"This is classified information, Mr. Ambassador," Silvio said. "When Mr. Masterson was abducted, the President told me he had appointed Mr. Castillo to supervise the investigation. And later, the President charged him with the security of the Masterson family and with their repatriation to the States."

"Who's he?"

"He's the President's agent."

"What does that mean?"

"I can only tell you what the President told me," Silvio said.

"Is that the same man who came to Montevideo to see Special Agent Yung?"

"Yes, I believe so."

"What's his connection with Yung?" McGrory asked.

Silvio shrugged.

Artigas wondered: And what's the connection between this and Yung suddenly being ordered to the States?

"What we can do, if you'd like, Mr. Ambassador," Silvio said, "is send the photograph to the secretary, together with the information that Darby positively identified this man as Mr. Masterson's brother. You are sure, are you not, Alex?"

"Yes, sir, I'm sure. I met him several times when Jack and I were in Paris."

Just in time, McGrory stopped himself from saying he would take care of notifying the secretary, thank you just the same.

I am not going to be twisting alone in the wind, he thought.

"Yes, I think that's the way to go," he said.

Artigas thought: Senor Pompous, I think you're wondering if, without having any idea why, you're in the deep do-do.

God, I hope so. [SIX] Hacienda San Jorge Near Uvalde, Texas 1330 3 August 2005 Major C. G. Castillo stood by a barbecue grill constructed from a fifty-five-gallon barrel, his eyes stinging from the smoke of the mesquite fire. He had a long, black cigar clamped in his teeth and was attired in khaki pants, a T-shirt printed with the legend YOU CAN ALWAYS TELL A TEXAS AGGIE, BUT NOT MUCH, battered western boots, and an even more battered Stetson hat, its brim curled.

He saw Estella, a short, massive, swarthy woman who had been helping at the ranch as long as he could remember, come out of the big house carrying a walk-around telephone and he had the unpleasant premonition that the call was going to be for him.

But then Estella gave the phone to Abuela and he saw her smile and say, "How good it is to hear your voice," and he returned his attention to the steaks broiling on the grill.

He had just annoyed Maria, his cousin Fernando's wife, by solemnly proclaiming that only males could be trusted to properly grill a steak and challenged her to name one world-class female chef. Or, for that matter, one world-class female orchestra leader.

Castillo didn't believe any of this, but there was something in Maria that had always made him really like to ruffle her feathers. He thought of her as his sister-in-law, but technically that wasn't accurate. Fernando was his cousin, not his brother. But if there was a term to describe the wife of your cousin, who was really more like your brother, he didn't know it.

He felt a tug at his trouser leg and looked down to see Jorge Carlos Lopez, who was seven, his godchild and the fourth of the five children of Fernando and Maria. Jorge was holding up a bottle of Dos Equis beer to him.

"You have saved my life, Jorge," Charley said solemnly, in Spanish. "You will be rewarded in heaven."

He looked around, saw Fernando standing by the table set for lunch on the shaded veranda of the big house, and gave him a thumbs-up to express his appreciation for the beer.

He then surreptitiously reached in his trousers pocket and came out with a small computerized meat thermometer, which gave an almost immediate and very accurate indication of temperature.

There was nothing wrong in getting scientific confirmation of what your thumb suggested when pressed into a broiling steak, especially if no one saw you use the device and remained convinced you had an educated thumb.

He stabbed each of the steaks with the thermometer-there were eight inch-and-a-half-thick New York strips-and saw they all had interior temperatures of just over 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

He put the thermometer back in his pocket, then turned and faced the veranda.

"I proclaim these done!"

Fernando applauded, and several of the rugrats joined in.

At that point, Charley saw Abuela advancing on him holding out the walk-around telephone.

"It's for you," she said. "Dick."

Shit! I knew it.

"Thank you," he said. "Wait until I get the steaks on the platter."

Abuela laid the telephone on the table beside the grill, then picked up the platter-a well-used, blood-grooved wooden board with horseshoe handles-and held it out for him to put the steaks on it. Then she started for the veranda.

"I'll carry that, Abuela," he called after her.

"I am old, tired, and decrepit, but I can still carry this," she said.

Charley picked up the telephone.

"Why do I think I'm not going to like this?" he asked by way of greeting.

"Dona Alicia was glad to hear my voice," Major H. Richard Miller, Jr., said. "She told me."

"As you well know, she is too kind for her own good, especially where cripples are concerned. What's up?"

"I think you better get back here, Charley."

"Jesus, I haven't been here thirty-six hours."

And not only that, I really wanted to have a closer look at that Gulfstream. Surprising Charley, Fernando had met him at San Antonio International Airport.

"To what do I owe the honor?" Castillo said.

"I want to show you something."

"And it wouldn't wait until we were at San Jorge?"

"No. You have any checked luggage?"

Castillo shook his head.

Fernando's car, a new twelve-cylinder black Mercedes-Benz S600, was in the short-term parking lot. Castillo remembered reading in a magazine that the sedan had a sticker price somewhere north of $140, 000.

"Is this what you wanted to show me?"


"Nice wheels."

"It's Maria's," Fernando said.

"You must have been a really bad boy."

"Fuck you, Gringo."

"What exactly did you do wrong?"

"Well, for example, I went to Europe and South America without taking her along."

"She didn't like that?"

"No, she did not."

"I can't understand that."

Fernando shook his head but didn't reply.

He then drove them around the airport to Lemes Aviation, a large business-aviation operation.

"Don't tell me you pranged the Lear?"

"No. But it's in here for a hundred-hour maintenance a lot sooner than I thought it would be."

"You'll get a check, eventually, from the Secret Service. You know the deal: They chartered it."

"I know the deal," Fernando said.

He pulled the Mercedes into a parking slot at the Lemes building and they got out. But instead of going in the building, Fernando marched purposefully toward a hangar. Castillo followed him expecting to see the Lear, on which he was sure Fernando was going to show him something that had happened that was going to require expensive repair.

The Lear wasn't in the hangar. There were four Beech craft turboprops and one jet, a Gulfstream III.

"What are we looking at?" Castillo asked.

Fernando pointed to the Gulfstream.

"Jesus, don't tell me you bought that!"

"I didn't. I think maybe you should," Fernando said.

A smiling man wearing a leather aviator's jacket and aviator's sunglasses walked quickly up to them before Castillo had a chance to respond.

"How are you, Mr. Lopez?" he asked.

"Do you know my cousin, Charley Castillo?"

"I have not had that privilege," the man said. "Brewster Walsh, Mr. Castillo."

He enthusiastically pumped Castillo's hand.

"She's a beauty, isn't she?" Mr. Walsh inquired, then added, "And a steal at seven million nine ninety-nine."

"In other words, eight million, right?" Castillo asked, innocently.

"Can we have a look inside?" Fernando asked.

"It would be my pleasure," Mr. Walsh said.

Castillo, who was tired and wanted to get out to Hacienda San Jorge, was just about to politely decline the offer when he remembered what Fernando had said: "I didn't. I think maybe you should."

He meant that. He thinks I should buy this with Lorimer's money.

He wouldn't have said that unless he meant it. Jesus!

Castillo allowed himself to be waved up the stair door. He looked into the cockpit.

"Are you a pilot yourself, Mr. Castillo?" Mr. Walsh inquired, and, when Castillo nodded, went on, "Well, then you'll really appreciate that panel."

Castillo examined the flight instruments carefully. It was a nice panel, mostly Honeywell and Collins. It wasn't on a par with the panel in the Lear, but then the Lear was nearly brand-new and this wasn't.

"How old is this?" Castillo asked.

"I'm sure you're aware that it isn't how old an airplane is but rather how hard it's been ridden."

"Which makes it how old?"

"Total time, just over eight thousand hours," Mr. Walsh replied. "Just over forty-five hundred landings, which means the average flight was less than two hours. And-and-the engines were replaced at eight thousand hours and are practically brand-new."

"Which makes it how old by the calendar?" Castillo pursued.

"Twenty-three years," Mr. Walsh replied, some what reluctantly. "Hard to believe looking at it, isn't it?"

Yeah, it is. Jesus, it doesn't look that old. It looks practically brand-new.

"And there was a complete refurbishment of the interior just six months ago," Mr. Walsh added.

"Does 'refurbished' mean cleaned and shined?"

"Everything that showed the slightest signs of wear was replaced," Mr. Walsh said.

Castillo looked down the luxuriously fitted-out passenger compartment. When he breathed in, he smiled at the rich smell of fine glove leather.

"It looks new," he admitted.

"It has a maximum range of thirty-seven hundred nautical miles," Mr. Walsh offered, "at four hundred fifty knots."

"That would get you across the Atlantic in a hurry, wouldn't it?" Fernando asked, over Mr. Walsh's shoulder. "I mean, if a person had some reason to go to Europe. Me, if I had my way, I'd never leave Texas, much less the good ol' USA."

"Well, if you wanted to go to Europe," Mr. Walsh said, "this little beauty would take you and twelve of your friends-and their golf clubs and their overnight bags."

"In case you wanted to play a quick round at St. Andrews, for example, Carlos," Fernando said, and then looked at Mr. Walsh. "Ol' Carlos is quite a golfer."

"Me, too," Mr. Walsh said. "I just love the game."

"Anytime anyone's looking for ol' Carlos, I just tell them to check out the nearest golf club," Fernando said.

"What business are you in, Mr. Castillo? If you don't mind my asking?"

"Investments," Castillo said.

"Buy low and sell high, right, Carlos?" Fernando asked.

"I try."

"Word of a steal like this gets around quickly," Mr. Walsh said. "Frankly, I've got several people really interested."

"Well, Mr. Walsh, if you can get somebody to give you eight million for this old airplane I suggest you take the offer. On the other hand, if you'd be willing to shave half a million off your asking price I might be interested. With several other caveats."

"For example, Mr. Castillo?"

"My golfing buddy, Jake Torine, is a much better pilot than I am. I'd have to have him check it out. He lives in Charleston."

"We'd be happy to have your friend fly here at our expense and give him a test hop. He's checked out in the Gulfstream, I presume?"

"Yes, he is."

"But so far as lowering the price is concerned…"

"What I meant was, you would take the airplane-and Fernando-to Charleston and let my friend fly it there," Castillo said. "But if you can't lower the price, I guess that doesn't matter."

"Perhaps-one never knows what will happen, does one?-something could be worked out. If you'd be willing to pay the standard hourly charter rate for the G-III, for example, for the hours it took to fly to Charleston…"

"Which is how much?"

"Ballpark figure, about three thousand an hour."

"Since we're playing what-if," Castillo said, "what if you flew this airplane to Charleston, gave my friend a test hop, all at three thousand an hour, and what if he said the old bird was worth the money, and what if I said, 'Okay, I'll buy it, ' you'd take how many hours at three thousand per it came to off your price of seven million five, right?"

"Mr. Castillo, I'm not at all sure I can shave the price even a little, much less half a million dollars."

"I understand," Castillo said. "You go ahead and sell to whoever is willing to pay that much money for a twenty-four-year-old airplane. Thanks for letting me have a look."

"It's only twenty-three years old, Mr. Castillo."

"Okay. Twenty-three-year-old airplane."

"At the risk of repeating myself," Mr. Walsh said, "one never knows what's going to happen. How would I get in touch with you, Mr. Castillo, if-"

"Fernando usually knows where I'm swatting the ol' ball around at any given time, so just call him. You have his number, right?" When they were on the highway to Uvalde, Fernando said, "I wonder if he'll call today or wait until tomorrow."

"I hope he waits longer than that," Castillo said. "That looks like such a good deal, I can hear Grandpa say, 'Anytime you're offered a really good deal you'd be a fool to turn down, take a cold shower every day for a week and then have another look, a very close look.'"

Fernando chuckled.

"I have something serious to say, Gringo."


"I really should not be playing James Bond with you as much as I have been."

"And is the rest of the sentence 'and I won't in the future'?"

"Hey, Gringo. You need me, I'm there. You know that. But I have Maria and the kids and Abuela to think of."


"All I'm saying is you now have people working for you. Please don't call me unless you really need me."


"And you need an airplane. Maybe not that G-III, but an airplane. A bigger one than the Lear. And not just because Maria and Abuela are not only going to smell a rat if you keep using the Lear but are going to start nosing around. Neither of us wants that."

"You're right. So to hell with Grandpa's advice. Let's hope Smiley calls you tonight instead of tomorrow."

"I don't like the way you're agreeing with me so easily."

"What should I do, agree with you hardly? You're right, Fernando, it's as simple as that. I wasn't thinking."

"You're making me feel like a shit, you know that?"

"What I was just thinking was how lucky I am to have you as my brother."

"I'm not your brother, Cuz."

"If you won't tell, I won't."

"What I want from you, Gringo, is your word that when you need me you'll call me."

"Done." "No rest for the weary," Dick Miller now said over the phone. "You never heard that?"

"Something specific?" Castillo asked.

"Well, how about the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security sticking his head in the door and saying, 'I really hate to do this to him, but I think you better get Charley on the horn and tell him to get back here as soon as he can.'"

"Well, that's certainly specific enough. Did he say why?"

"No. But it may have something to do with General Naylor having called him five minutes before-they put that call on your line by mistake."

"I wonder what he wants?"

"Or it may have something to do with our new liaison officer," Miller said.

"Our new what?"

"Ambassador Montvale has been kind enough to assign a liaison officer to the Office of Organizational Analysis. He was here first thing this morning, just bubbling over with enthusiasm to get right to work liaising things."

"That's the last thing we need! Montvale's surrogate's nose in our business."

"Or it may have something to do with what Mr. Ellsworth-our new liaison officer's name is Truman C. Ellsworth-brought with him when he came over this morning to start liaising."

"Which is?"

"This isn't even classified. It's just a standard interoffice memorandum from the director of National Intelligence to the chief of the Office of Organizational Analysis. It says that he thought you might be interested to know that he has learned from, quote, Central Intelligence Agency officers in Montevideo, Uruguay, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, end quote, that a man named Bertrand who was murdered in the course of a robbery in Uruguay has been tentatively identified as really being a UN diplomat named Lorimer and that Mr. Lorimer was the brother-in-law of the late J. Winslow Masterson."

"That's interesting, isn't it?" Castillo said. "Did the memo say anything about who might have robbed or murdered this man?"

"It says that, quote, the aforementioned officers have been directed to investigate this matter and to report their findings to the undersigned, end quote."

Castillo considered that a minute, then asked, "What do we hear about the world of high finance?"

"There's been a very nervous Chinaman asking about you every hour on the hour. I think he thinks he is about to be swooped upon by the IRS and carried off to Leavenworth for having too much money in his offshore account."

Castillo chuckled. "Given all that, yeah, I better come back. I don't know when I can catch a plane."

"If you can fit it into your busy schedule, you have a reservation on Continental 5566 departing San Antone at five forty-five. It will put you into Dulles, after only three stops and one change of planes, at half past eleven."

"Oh, shit!"

"Just a little jerk on your chain, Charley. Relax. It's nonstop. Mr. Forbison got the reservation for you."

"Okay. I will be sure to wake you when I come in, presuming I can get a cab at Dulles within three or four hours."

"You will be met by your own personal Yukon," Miller said. "She set that up, too. Look for a heavily armed man wearing a strained smile."

"You can call that off. I can catch a cab."

"Actually, Tom McGuire told Mr. F. to set it up. Get used to it, hotshot. You now really are a hotshot."

"I'll see you shortly, Dick. Thank you."

He broke the connection and carried the telephone to the veranda. Everyone there was waiting, patiently, sitting with a steak on a plate before him.

"What'd Dick want?" Fernando asked.

"Enjoy your steak. You're going to need your strength for the trip."

"Fernando, you're not going anywhere," Maria announced, firmly.

"You're going to leave him here when you go home?" Castillo asked, innocently.

"He's not going anywhere with you, period," Maria said.

"Who said anything about him going anywhere with me, question mark? I was thinking of the trip between here and Casa Lopez, period. What are you talking about, question mark?"

Fernando chuckled.

"You've been zinged, my dear," he said.

"Jorge, comma," Fernando M. Lopez, Jr., aged ten, asked his brother, "would you please pass the butter, question mark?"

"No, comma, I won't, exclamation point!" Jorge Lopez replied and giggled.

Abuela, who had been frowning, now smiled.

"I don't know why I even try," Maria said. "I should know better. I should just sit here and let Carlos make a fool of me while my husband and children laugh at me."

"The Gringo only makes fools of people he loves," Fernando said.

"Please don't call him that," Fernando Junior and Jorge said in unison, looking at their great-grandmother. "You know I don't like it."

Immediately, Fernando Junior added, "I don't like it, exclamation point!"

"My father warned me I was making a mistake marrying into this family," Maria said, but she was smiling. When the car came, Abuela went out to it with him.

It was a silver Jaguar XJ8.

"Nice wheels, Abuela," Charley said. "New, huh?"

"Fernando sent a Mercedes out here," she said. "A twelve-cylinder one. Black. I made him take it back. I felt like a Mafia gangster. This one I can drive myself."

"Ah, the truth about how Maria came into her Mafia mobile!"

"Well, it just made sense to let Maria have it. Otherwise, he would have lost a lot of money. You just can't turn a new car back in."

"And Maria doesn't mind feeling like a Mafia gangster?"

"I'm glad this didn't come up while she was here," Abuela said. "Darling, do you really have to tease her all the time?"

"Hey, I saw you smiling when the boys started to speak the punctuation."

"They are clever, aren't they? They remind me so much of you and Fernando."

"That should be a frightening prospect."

She didn't respond to that.

"That's what you need, Carlos. Boys of your own. A nice family."

"I have a nice family. I just don't have a wife."

"And there have been no developments along that line that you'd like to tell me about?"

"Has Fernando been running off at the mouth again?"

"How is the lady Secret Service agent?"

"She has her jaws wired shut. If I can get her to agree to leave the wires in, maybe something could be worked out."

"I don't think that's funny, Carlos."

He looked down at his feet.

"The wires in her jaw aren't," he said. "I'm sorry I said that."

"You should be."

He looked Abuela in the eyes.

"I'm going to have to go to Europe for a couple of days. I'll go from New York and stop off in Philadelphia to see her."

"Fernando said she's very nice."

"She is."

She nodded at him, then leaned up and kissed him.

"Via con Dios, mi amor," she said.

He got in the front seat with the driver.

As the car rolled away from the sprawling, red-tile-roofed Spanish-style big house, he turned in the seat and looked out the back window. Abuela was standing where he had left her.

She's right. I do need boys like Fernando's, and a wife-a family.

He watched Abuela until the road curved and then he thought of Betty Schneider.

Maybe the time has come. God knows I've never felt about any other woman the way I feel about Betty.


[ONE] Washington Dulles International Airport Dulles, Virginia 2340 3 August 2005 Castillo smiled when he came out of the Jetway and entered the terminal. There waiting for him was indeed a heavily armed man wearing a strained smile. He was standing behind a wheelchair on which sat, one leg supported vertically in front of him, Major H. Richard Miller, Jr.

He wondered for a moment how they'd got into the security area, then felt a little foolish when the answer came to him: Wave your Secret Service credentials and you can go anywhere in an airport you want.

"Mr. Castillo," the Secret Service agent said, "Major Miller said he didn't think you would have any checked baggage."

That's interesting. Mister Castillo and Major Miller. We're both majors. And this guy has to know that.

What did Dick say on the phone? "Get used to it, hotshot. You now really are a hotshot."

"I don't," Castillo said, smiling. He put out his hand. "I don't think we've met, have we? I'm Charley Castillo."

The Secret Service agent gave him a firm but very quick handshake, and said, "Special Agent Dulaney, sir."

Castillo looked at Miller and saw that he was smiling at him.

Special Agent Dulaney spoke to his lapel microphone.

"Don Juan is out. No luggage. We're on our way."

"I'll push the cripple, Dulaney," Castillo said.

"Yes, sir. The Yukon's right outside, sir."

"What happened to the Pride of the Marine Corps?" Miller asked as they moved through the airport.

"Vic D'Allessando arranged to stash him at Bragg until I figure out what to do with him." "How much help do you need to get into this?" Castillo asked when they were at the Yukon.

"None. But you can put the wheelchair in," Miller said.

He came nimbly off the wheelchair, stood on one leg, pulled the door open, and then sort of dove into the rear. Castillo saw that the middle seat had been folded flat against the floorboard, and, when he looked again, Miller was already sitting up in the far backseat, his leg stretched out in front of him on the folded down seat.

"Now is when you put the wheelchair in," Miller said.

"Can I help you with that, sir?" Special Agent Dulaney asked.

"I'm all right, thanks," Castillo said, some what struggling with collapsing the wheelchair.

Sixty seconds later, Miller asked, "You're not very good at that, are you?"

"There's a lever on the side here, sir, that lets you fold it," Special Agent Dulaney said. "Let me show you."

"Thank you," Castillo said and got in the Yukon.

Thirty seconds later, the Yukon pulled away from the curb.

Special Agent Dulaney spoke again to his lapel microphone.

"Don Juan aboard. Headed for the nest."

"Who is he talking to?" Castillo asked, softly.

"I asked him that," Miller said. "He said, 'The Secret Service has a communications system,' and then I said, 'Yeah, but who are you talking to?' And he said, 'The communications system.'"

"Well, ask a dumb question," Castillo said, grinning. Then he added, "You didn't have to ride all the way out here, Dick."

"I had my reasons. Two of them, to be precise. The first was that it was a pleasant change from my usual routine, which is to go from the hotel to the Nebraska Avenue Complex, then back again, sometimes stopping off at the lobby bar on the way home to have a drink to recuperate from my journey."

"And the second?"

"I thought you might have had it in your head to stop off in the lobby bar en route to the room tonight."

"You're psychic! And I'll even buy."

"And I thought I should warn you what you're liable to find in there if you do," Miller said, paused, then added, "The former CIA regional director for Southwest Africa."

"No kidding?"

"Yes, indeed. I was having a little nip about this time night before last in the lobby bar when I sensed death rays aimed at me. I looked around and there she was, Mr. Patricia Davies Wilson, in the flesh. And very nice flesh it was, I have to admit, spilling out of her dress."

"So what happened?"

"Nothing happened. She was with a fellow I strongly suspect was not Mr. Wilson. He was even younger than you or me."

"You're sure she made you?"

"The death rays made it clear that she did. They froze my martini solid. I had to chew it, like ice cubes."

"Well, she probably blames you for getting her fired."

"That thought occurred to me," Miller said, "shortly followed by a possible worse scenario, that she didn't get fired."

"You think that's possible?"

"You know the agency better than I do," Miller said. "Firing somebody is an admission that the agency is less than perfect."

"Can we find out? Maybe ask Tom McGuire to ask a few discreet questions?"

"I'm way ahead of you, Charley," Miller said. "As a devout believer in Know Thy Enemy, the first thing the next morning, I called Langley, identified myself as chief of staff to the chief of the Office of Organizational Analysis…"

"You're not kidding, are you?"

"Oh, no," Miller said. "And I asked, did they happen to have an employee named Patricia Davies Wilson and, if so, what was she doing for them?"

"And they told you?"

"Has anyone told you, Chief, that we now have a 'contact officer' in most of the important agencies, under orders to give us anything we ask for?"

"No, nobody told me."

"You should spend more time in the office, Chief. All sorts of things are happening. But your question was, 'And they told you?' Yes, they did. And what they told me-you're going to love this-is that Mr. Wilson is a senior analyst in the South American Division's Southern Cone Section."

"Jesus Christ!"

"Yeah," Miller said. "Where, one would presume, she would have access to everything that the agency hears-more important, does-down there."

"Well, I'll have to do something about that," Castillo said, almost to himself.

"Short of rendering her harmless, Charley, what?"

"I don't know. But I don't want that woman's nose in what's happened down there or what may happen."

"Her nose doesn't bother me nearly as much as her mouth."

"Did you say anything to anybody?"

Miller shook his head.

"I'll go see Matt Hall first thing in the morning," Castillo said.

"First thing late tomorrow afternoon," Miller said. "He's in Saint Louis, and from there he's going to Chicago. He's due back here at five-thirty. There's a reception at the White House-command performance for him."

"Okay, first thing late tomorrow afternoon," Castillo said. "Damn! I'm on my way to Europe and I wanted to see Betty in Philadelphia before I left. Now I either don't get to see her or I leave a day later."

"Does this mean you're not going to buy me a drink?"

"I will buy you two drinks," Castillo said. "Maybe more."

"In the lobby bar?"

"As I recall that encounter, we were the innocent victims. Why should we be afraid of running into the villain in a bar?"

"Come on, Charley! You know damned well why."

"I have the strength of ten, because in my heart I'm pure. I am not going to let that 'lady,' using the term loosely, run me out of a bar."

Miller snorted. [TWO] Office of Organizational Analysis Department of Homeland Security Nebraska Avenue Complex Washington, D.C. 0825 4 August 2005 Mr. Agnes Forbison, deputy chief for administration of the Office of Organizational Analysis, Major H. Richard Miller, Jr., chief of staff to the chief of the Office of Organizational Analysis, and the chief himself, Major C. G. Castillo, were standing on the carpet in just about the center of the latter's office. Major Miller was supporting himself on a massive cane.

It was an office befitting a senior executive of the federal government. There was an oversized, ornately carved antique wooden desk, behind which sat a red leather, high-backed "judge's chair."

On the desk were two telephones, one of them red. It was a secure line, connected to the White House switchboard. There were two flags against the wall, the national colors and that of the Department of Homeland Security. In front of the desk were two leather-upholstered straight-backed chairs. There was a coffee table, with two chairs on one side of it and a matching couch on the other. There were two television sets, each with a thirty-two-inch-wide screen, mounted on the walls.

"And that completes the tour," Mr. Forbison said. "Say, 'Good job, Agnes.'"

Mr. Forbison, a GS-15-the highest rank in the General Service hierarchy-was forty-nine, gray-haired, and getting just a little chubby.

"Jesus Christ, Agnes!" C. G. Castillo said.

"You like?"

"I don't know what the hell to say," Castillo said. "What am I supposed to do with all this?"

The tour had been of the suite of offices newly assigned to the Office of Organizational Analysis of the Department of Homeland Security in the Nebraska Avenue Complex, which is just off Ward Circle in the northwest section of the District of Columbia. The complex had once belonged to the Navy, but it had been turned over in 2004 by an act of Congress to the Department of Homeland Security when that agency had been formed after 9/11.

"You need it now," she said. "And the way things are going, I don't think it will be long before we'll be cramped in here." Until very recently, Mr. Forbison had been one of the two executive assistants to Secretary of Homeland Security Matt Hall. When the Office of Organizational Analysis had been formed within the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Forbison had been-at her request-assigned to it.

She had known from the beginning that the Office of Organizational Analysis had nothing to do with organizational analysis and very little to do with the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Hall had shown her the Top Secret Presidential Finding the day after it had been issued.

Agnes, who had been around Washington a long time, had suspected that Secretary Hall was going to have to have an in-house intelligence organization-Homeland Security was the only department that didn't have one-if for no other reason than to do a better job than she and her staff were capable of doing, sorting through the daily flood of intelligence received from the entire intelligence community.

And she had suspected, when the President had gone to Biloxi to meet the plane carrying the bodies of Masterson and the sergeant and given his speech-"…to those who committed the cowardly murders of these two good men, I say to you that this outrage will not go unpunished…"-that Charley Castillo was going to be involved in that punishment. He not only had found the stolen 727 when the entire intelligence community couldn't, but had stolen it back from the terrorists.

It would have been in character for the President to send Charley off as his agent to find the people who had killed Masterson and the sergeant, much as he'd sent him off to locate the stolen 727.

But she hadn't expected the Presidential Finding. With a stroke of his pen-actually, the secretary of state's pen-the President had given Castillo a blank check to do anything he thought he had to do "to render harmless" the people responsible for the murders. And he had to answer to the President alone, not even Secretary Hall. And the Finding had given him an organization to do it with.

When Secretary Hall had shown her the Finding, she'd read it, then handed it back and said, "Wow!"

"You don't think he's up to it?" Hall had asked.

"I think he can handle the terrorists, but I'm not so sure about Washington," she said. "Top Secret Presidential or not, this is going to get out, and as soon as it does so do the long knives. The FBI and the CIA are going to have a fit when they hear about this. And Montvale-especially Montvale-he is not going to like this at all."

"Would you, if you were the ambassador? He's supposed to be in charge of all intelligence and the President makes an exception-for a young major answerable only to him?"

"Montvale can take care of himself," she said. "It's Charley I'm worried about."

"You think he needs some mentor, wise in the ways of Washington back-stabbing? Like you, for example?"

"Like you, of course," she said. "But, yeah, like me, too."

"Then you would not consider being transferred to the Office of Organizational Analysis as, say, deputy chief for administration, as an indication that I was less than satisfied with your performance of your duties and, since I couldn't fire you, promoted you out?"

"That has a nice ring to it, 'Deputy Chief for Administration, '" Agnes said.

"Then, since I have no authority over this new organization-or him-I will suggest that to Charley." Agnes now said to Castillo, "What I did, boss-"

"I'd rather be called Charley," Castillo said.

"I'd rather be called 'My Beauty, ' 'My Adored One, ' but this isn't the place for that. This is where the boss gets called 'boss' or 'sir.' Your choice."

"Okay, okay."

"What I did, boss, was move everybody off the floor but the secretary's office. And since he uses that for about twenty minutes once a month, that means there will not be a stream of curious people getting off the elevator. I'm also having the engineer put in one of those credit-card-swipe gadgets in the lobby and in the garage, for what will be our elevator. When he gets that in, he'll rig the other elevators so they can't come up here."

"You're amazing," Charley said.

"And, as we speak, they're putting in additional secure telephones. You and Dick and I will have our own, of course, and so will Tom McGuire. And there will be one in the conference room. I told our new liaison officer, Mr. Ellsworth, that I will get him one just as soon as I can. No telling how long that will take."

"What do you think of Mr. Ellsworth?"

"He's smart, tough, and experienced, which is to be expected of someone who has worked for Ambassador Montvale for a longtime."

Miller snorted.

"Why am I not surprised?" Castillo asked.

"And he requests an audience with you, boss, as soon as you can fit him in."

"Can I stall him for today? I'm going to Europe-Paris, Fulda, and Budapest, and maybe Vienna-tomorrow. Maybe by the time I get back, I'll have thought of some clever way to send him back to Montvale."

"I can stall him," she said. "But not indefinitely. How long will you be gone?"

"Just a couple of days. I'd go right now, but I have to talk to Hall. He sent for me, but he won't be back until late this afternoon." He paused. "The silver lining in that black cloud is that maybe I can talk to him about this Mr. Ellsworth."

"Charley," Agnes said, hesitantly, and then went on: "Charley, you're going to have to understand that you don't work for Matt Hall any longer."

"If Matt Hall says he wants to see me, he will see me standing there at attention."

"That's your choice. But you don't have to. And the black lining in that silver cloud is that it wouldn't really be fair of you to ask Hall to fight your battles with Montvale. Since he no longer has authority over you, he has no responsibility for you."

"She's right, Charley," Miller said. "Like I said, get used to being a hotshot, hotshot."

"Oh, Jesus," Castillo said.

"And you're going to have to get used to, as of yesterday, playing that role," Agnes said. "That's the reason for the fancy office and the Secret Service Yukon. Those are D.C. status symbols, Charley. Middle-level bureaucrats get a parking space with their name on it. One step up from that is getting to ride around town in a government car, but not back and forth to work. One up from that is having a Yukon but your people drive it, not the Secret Service. At the top of the heap is a Secret Service Yukon at your beck and call. That's why Tom McGuire set that up. He knows how the game is played and you better learn quick."

Castillo shook his head, then asked, "Where is Tom?"

There was no time for a reply. There was a tinkling sound and a red light on the red telephone began to flash.

"That one you answer yourself," Agnes said.

Castillo walked over to the huge desk and picked up the telephone.


"Natalie Cohen, Charley."

"Good morning, Madam Secretary."

"I just got off the phone with Ambassador Lorimer," she said. "I called Mr. Masterson first and told him that Mr. Lorimer had been found, and the circumstances, and asked how a call from me would be received."

"Yes, ma'am?"

"He told me that someone from our embassy in Montevideo had called the ambassador-as next of kin-and told him what had happened."

"I didn't even think about that," Castillo said.

"There's a procedure in cases like this and it kicked in when Mr. Lorimer was identified," she said. "And they had no way of knowing, of course, that he had a heart condition, or, indeed, that he is a retired ambassador."

"How did he take it?"

"Well. And he and Mr. Masterson both expressed their appreciation for your offer to look after Mr. Lorimer's affairs in Uruguay and France. That was a nice thing for you to do, Charley."

"The truth is, I wanted a legal reason to get into his apartment in Paris and the Uruguay estancia to see what I could find. And maybe keep quiet some questions being asked about Lorimer's bank accounts in Uruguay."

She took that without breaking stride.

"And how did that go?"

"Special Agent Yung had an account in the Liechtensteinische Landesbank in the Caymans-in connection with what he was doing for the FBI down there. Getting it in there went smoothly. The next step is getting it out of that account and into one that was supposed to be opened for me. I'm going to see if I can do that this morning."

"The reason I asked is the same standard procedures that come into play when an American dies abroad that require the notification of the next of kin also require the protection of assets. Even if you got it out of Uruguay, obviously, it was after his death. There will probably be some questions asked."


"Yeah. Well, maybe we'll have a chance to talk about that tonight."

"I beg your pardon?"

"You're not going to be at the White House?"

"No, ma'am. I know Secretary Hall will be there, but I won't."

"Okay. Well, I will ask some discreet questions about that problem, and if I come up with anything I'll let you know."

"I would very much appreciate that."

"Talk to you later, Charley," the secretary of state said and hung up.

Castillo put the handset back in its cradle.

"Priority one is to get that money out of Yung's account and into mine," he said. "And to do that, I have to have the numbers of my new account and somebody has to tell me how to move money around in an offshore bank."

"Who has the numbers?" Agnes asked.

"Otto Gorner at the Tages Zeitung. More probably Frau Schroder."

"Would they give them to me if I called?"

"Probably not now, but after I call them this time they will. How do I dial an international number?"

"If you know it," Agnes said, "punch it in. After you give it to me." Transferring nearly sixteen million dollars between two accounts in the Liechtensteinische Landesbank in the Cayman Islands proved to be even more difficult and time-consuming than Charley thought it would be.

Since no one wanted to be out of the office when yet another call involving their furnishing of just one more detail came from either Fulda or the Cayman Islands, luncheon was hamburgers from Wendy's. Special Agent Yung, who was apparently willing to make any sacrifice required to get the money out of his account, volunteered to go get them.

Yung's relief when, shortly after two P.M., the Liechtensteinische Landesbank reported that the funds were now in the account of Karl W. von und zu Gossinger-and thus out of his account-was palpable but short lived.

Just about as soon as Castillo had hung up, Miller wondered aloud-Castillo thought he was probably doing it on purpose; he knew Miller didn't like Yung-what the boys at Fort Meade were going to do with their intercepts of the many telephone calls they had made.

Fort Meade, Maryland, near Washington, houses the National Security Agency, the very secretive unit that "intercepts" telephone conversations and other electronic transmission of data or text, such as e-mails.

"You know how that works, don't you, Yung?" Miller asked.

"I have a general idea, of course," Yung said.

"Well, in simple terms, what they do is record practically everything coming out of Washington," Miller began. "Then they run what they've recorded though high-speed filters looking for words or names or phrases in which there is interest. With all the interest in money laundering, as you of all people should know, the Liechtensteinische Landesbank is sure to be one of those phrases. And so is 'millions of dollars.'

"So by now, there's probably at least one NSA analyst sitting over there wondering whether that transfer was simply a legitimate transfer or whether some drug lord or raghead is making financial transactions inimical to the interests of the United States. I don't think the IRS is on their distribution list, but I know Langley and the FBI are."

Castillo restrained a smile as Yung's face reflected the implications for him of what Miller was saying.

And then, suddenly, Castillo realized that what had started as a joke was potentially a serious problem.

"Which means we're going to have to do something and right now," he said, "before somebody starts a file on this."

Miller misread him. He thought Castillo had decided to add to Yung's discomfiture.

"Charley, you know as well as I do that once those NSA people latch on to something, they're like dogs with a meaty bone," Miller said.

"Agnes," Castillo said, "I want Yung on the next plane to Buenos Aires."

"You mean today?" Yung asked.

"I mean in an hour, if that's when the next plane leaves."

"What am I going to do in Buenos Aires?"

"In Montevideo, you are going to make sure that whatever information the embassy has turned up there about recent wire transfers out of the accounts of Senor Jean-Paul Bertrand is not reported to the State Department and that they don't turn up anything more that will be reported."

"Good God, you go to prison for destroying evidence!" Yung said.

"You're not going to destroy evidence," Castillo said. "You're going to collect that evidence and get it to Mr. Forbison, who will establish and maintain a classified file on that money from step one."

He leaned forward in the high-backed judge's chair and pulled the red telephone to him.

"Which of these buttons is Natalie Cohen's?" he asked, looking at Mr. Forbison.

"Five," she said.

He pushed the fifth button.

"Castillo, Madam Secretary," he said. "Can you give me a moment?"

Castillo explained the situation, then listened to her thoughts.

"Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. I think this will handle the problem. I'll keep you advised," Castillo said.

He put the handset back in the cradle and looked at Special Agent Yung.

"You should have picked up on that, Yung," Castillo said. "But, in case you didn't, the secretary of state will message the ambassador in Montevideo that she is dispatching an FBI agent with special knowledge of the situation-you-down there to investigate the financial affairs of Mr. Lorimer/Bertrand, that they are to turn over to you whatever they have developed so far, and that you will make your report directly to her."

"Okay," Yung said.

"You will make two reports," Castillo said.


Castillo nodded.

"One will be a complete report of everything you know, what the other FBI guys know, and the details of the wire transfers of the money from his account to yours. You will take that one, by hand, to the embassy in Buenos Aires, and give it to Alex Darby, who will be expecting it and who will send it to Mr. Forbison in a diplomatic pouch. That will take a day longer, but we won't get involved with encryption."

"I don't understand that, Charley," Mr. Forbison said. "Why not encrypt it?"

"Whenever you encrypt anything, two more people, the encrypt or and the decrypt or, are in on the secret."

"I never thought about that," she said. "You don't trust cryptographers?"

"I trust them more than most people I know. I'm just being careful."

When she nodded her understanding, he turned back to Yung.

"The second report will include what the other FBI guys down there have found out and a sanitized version of what you know. No details of how much money was in those accounts before we made the transfers, just how much we left in them. And, of course, no mention of the wire transfers. This one you will give to the ambassador in Montevideo, requesting that he have it encrypted and transmitted to the secretary of state. Got it?"

"You're asking me to officially submit a report I know to be dishonest. I'm not sure I can do that."

"What I am ordering you to do is submit a report less certain details that are classified Top Secret Presidential. There's a difference. There was no reason for the ambassador to be told about the Finding and he has not been told. He does not have the Need to Know about that money or what we have done with it."

"I was always taught that the ambassador has the right to know what any agency of the U.S. government is doing in his country."

"Try to understand this, Yung. It would be a violation of the law for you to pass information to the ambassador that he is not entitled to have because he doesn't have the proper security clearance. There are only two people who can give him that clearance: the President and me. The President has not done so and I can't see any good reason that I should." He paused and then asked, "Are you going to do this, Yung, or not?"

Yung didn't reply for thirty seconds, which seemed much longer.

"When you put it that way…" he began, then paused a moment. "You have to understand I've just never had any experience with…this sort of business."

"Are you going to do it or not?"

"Yes. Yes, of course."

"I don't have any idea what kind of an oath you FBI people take, but the oath an officer takes when he is commissioned has a phrase in it: 'without any mental reservations whatsoever.' Are you harboring any mental reservations?"

Yung cocked his head as he thought that over, then shook his head and said, "No, I guess I'm not."

"Okay, we'll be in touch. I'll probably see you down there."

"Come with me," Agnes said to Yung, "and we'll see what we can do with the travel agency." Then she looked at Castillo. "I don't know what else you have planned for right now, but Tom McGuire and Jack Britton are waiting to see you."

Castillo waved as a signal for her to send them in. They came in immediately. Supervisory Special Agent Thomas McGuire of the Secret Service was a large, red-haired Irishman in his forties. Until the reorganization following 9/11, the Secret Service had been under the Treasury Department. He and Supervisory Special Agent Joel Isaacson had been assigned to the Presidential Protection Detail.

When the Secret Service had been assigned to the Department of Homeland Security, McGuire and Isaacson became the first members of the secretary's protection detail. And when McGuire had learned of the Presidential Finding and the formation of the Office of Organizational Analysis, he had gone to Secretary Hall-who was now the de facto head of the Secret Service-and asked that he be assigned to it.

"I'm a cop at heart, boss," he'd said. "It looks to me like Charley is going to need somebody like me, and you don't really need both Joel and me."

Secret Service Special Agent Jack Britton, a tall black man with sharp features, was new to the Secret Service. He had been a Philadelphia Police Department detective assigned to the Counterterrorism Bureau. Castillo and Miller had met him while trying to find the stolen 727. The first time they spoke, Britton had "come in" from his undercover assignment-keeping track of what he, political correctness be damned, called the AAL, which stood for "African American Lunatics."

He had been wearing a scraggly beard, a dark blue robe, sandals, had his hair braided with beads, and was known to his brother Muslims in Philadelphia's Aari-Teg mosque as Ali Abid Ar-Raziq.

Impressed with Britton for many things, including his courage and dedication as well as his intimate knowledge of the Muslim world in the United States-both bona fide and AAL-Isaacson had recruited him for the Secret Service, together with another Philadelphia Police Department officer, Sergeant Elizabeth Schneider, of the Intelligence and Organized Crime unit.

Isaacson hadn't been thinking of the Office of the Secretary of Homeland Security, and certainly neither of them working with or for C. G. Castillo. He had recruited Britton and Schneider for the Secret Service, knowing of twenty places around the country that could really use Britton's talents and thinking of Betty Schneider as a likely candidate for duty on one of the protection details.

That hadn't happened. Both had just about completed Secret Service training when Mr. Elizabeth Masterson had been kidnapped. Castillo had had Britton and Schneider flown to Buenos Aires to assist in the investigation of the kidnapping and murders.

"Parties unknown" had ambushed the embassy car taking Special Agent Schneider from the Masterson home, killing the Marine driver and seriously wounding Schneider.

Once the Presidential Finding had been made, it had simply been assumed that Britton was assigned to the Office of Organizational Analysis and that when Special Agent Schneider recovered from her wounds and returned to duty she would be, too. "It's all right this time," Castillo greeted McGuire and Britton, "but when you come to the throne room in the future please take off your shoes and wear white gloves."

Miller and McGuire laughed.

"I'm impressed, Charley," McGuire said.

Britton didn't say anything, and his smile was strained.

I wonder what's the matter with him? Castillo thought.

"I don't know, Jack," Castillo said. "Now that I think about it, you really didn't look so bad in your blue robe and the beads in your hair."

That got another chuckle from McGuire and Miller.

"I'd really like to see you in private, Charley," Britton said. "Why don't I come back in ten minutes?"

He wants a favor. Madam Britton wants him to spend a little time at home. Maybe somebody is sick. Maybe somebody at the school wants a real cop for a teacher and he doesn't want that.

"Something personal, Jack?" Castillo asked.

Britton visibly thought that over before replying, "Yeah, in a way. But, no, not really personal."

"Something to do with what's going on here?"

Britton nodded.

What the hell doesn't he want Miller and McGuire to hear?

I can't have that.

"Jack, let me tell you how we're going to work around here," Castillo said. "Or how we're not going to work. Around here, I don't want anyone to be in the dark about anything that's going on."

He swept his hand to indicate he meant everybody in the office, then added, "And that includes Mr. Forbison. I can't see how we can work any other way."

"Permission to speak, sir?" Miller asked.

Now, what the hell is the matter with him?

"If you're being clever, Dick, now is not the time," Castillo said.

"I'm asking if you're open to a comment or a question?"

"As kit."

"Does 'anyone' include Special Agent David William Yung, Jr.?" Miller asked, then looked at McGuire and explained, "When Charley told him he was sending him to Uruguay to keep the details of Lorimer's bank accounts from becoming public knowledge, Yung had to think it over carefully."

"Oh, shit!" McGuire said. "And that's not the first time he's had 'reservations, ' is it?"

"Say it out loud, Dick," Castillo said.

"I think it's only a matter of time before his conscience overwhelms him about the 'irregular' things you're having him do and/or he really gets homesick for the purity of the FBI and decides to come clean," Miller said.

He let that sink in, then finished, "And the more he knows, the more he will have to tell."

"He's right, Charley," McGuire said. "There's a Puritan streak in the FBI. They like to hire pure people. They start working on them at Quantico that the book is holy, that they have to go by it, and they keep it up afterward. Even before Dick brought it up, I wondered if Yung belonged in here. I'd say send him back to the FBI, but that would remind him even more that we are ignoring the book and he already knows too much to take the risk that he would confess all."

"So, me sending him down there was a mistake?" Castillo asked.

"Not a mistake but risky," McGuire said. "And who else could you have sent?"

"Well, I guess the thing to do is bring him back and sit on him after he makes sure that what we've done with Lorimer's money doesn't get out," Castillo said. "The only comment I have is that I agree that Yung is…what? Highly moral? What's wrong with that? And I think he would love nothing better than to go to somebody in the FBI and tell them what's going on around here. But it is that morality that keeps him from doing that."

"Run that past me again," Miller said.

"You were here, Dick. I asked him if he had any mental reservations and he said-after thinking about it-that he didn't. I think he meant that."

"Keep your fingers crossed, Charley," Miller said, doubtfully.

"But you're right. We can't afford to have him in the loop," Castillo said. "We'll tell him as little as possible." He turned to Britton. "You're in the loop, Jack. We all need to know what you have to say."

Britton shrugged, then said, "Okay. This is one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't things. I heard something in Philadelphia that is probably about as far off the wall as anything ever gets, that logic tells me to dismiss but which I thought I should pass on to you."

"Let's have it," Castillo said.

"I went to see Sy Fillmore in the hospital while I was there. I got it from him."

"Who's he?

"A counterterrorism detective. He was doing what I used to do. He went around the bend and they've got him in the loony bin in Friends Hospital on Roosevelt Boulevard. So my source is somebody they're keeping in a padded room."

"What did he have to say?"

"The brothers in his mosque believe they are about to get their hands on a nuclear bomb."

"That does sound a little incredible," Miller said. "Where are they going to get it?"

Britton shrugged. "He didn't know. What he did know was they have just bought a farm in Durham."

"North Carolina?" McGuire asked.

"Pennsylvania," Britton replied. "Bucks County. Upper end of the county. A couple of miles off the Delaware River. The reason they bought the place is because of the old iron mines on it."

"Iron mines?"

"They're going to use them as bomb shelters when the nuclear bomb takes out Philadelphia. They're stocking them with food, etcetera."

"Tell me about the iron mines," McGuire said.

"Well, they've been there forever," Britton said. "You remember when Washington crossed the Delaware?"

"I've heard about it. I'm not quite that old," McGuire said.

"He crossed the Delaware in a Durham boat. They were called Durham boats because they moved the iron ore from the iron mines in Durham down the Delaware. They haven't taken any ore out of them for, Christ, two hundred years, but the mines, the tunnels, are still there, because they were hacked out of solid rock."

"You believe this story, Jack?" Miller asked.

"I don't want to believe it, logic tells me not to believe it, but Sy Fillmore tells me the brothers believe it. And I'd like to know where they got the money to buy a hundred-odd-acre farm. That's high-priced real estate up there. They didn't pay for it with stolen Social Security checks."

"Stolen Social Security checks?" Castillo asked.

"That-and ripping off the neighborhood crack dealers-was their primary source of income when I was in the mosque."

"And the cops in Philadelphia?" Castillo asked. "Chief Inspector Fritz Kramer, for example. What do they say?"

"They found Cy wandering around North Philly babbling to himself," Britton said. "It was three days before they even found out he was a cop. And he's been in Friends Hospital ever since, with a cop sitting outside his door, as much to protect Sy from himself as from the AALs. No, Chief Kramer doesn't believe it. He didn't even pass it on to the FBI."

"Where are they going to get a nuke?" Miller asked. "How are they going to move it around, hide it?"

"There were supposed to be thirty-odd suitcase-sized nukes here, smuggled in by the Russians." McGuire said. "They wouldn't be hard to move around or hide."

"You think there's something to this, Tom?" Castillo asked.

"No. But I'm like Jack. Sometimes there's things you just shouldn't ignore because they don't make sense."

"So what do we do, tell the FBI?" Castillo asked.

"Why don't you send Jack back to Philly?" McGuire asked. "I'll call the Secret Service there-the agent in charge is an old friend of mine-and tell him we're interested in why a bunch of American muslims from Philadelphia bought that farm, where they got the money to buy it, and what they're doing with it. And I'll tell him we can't say why we're interested. If and when we get those answers, we can think about it some more."

"Okay, do it," Castillo ordered. "Has anyone else got anything for me?"

Everybody shook their heads.

Castillo went on: "What I am going to do now is go to my apartment and pack. Then I'm going to the Old Executive Office Building to wait for Hall. I was going to ask him what to do about our new liaison officer, but Dick and Agnes have told me that's my problem. Then as soon as he lets me go, I'm going to Philadelphia to see Betty Schneider and then, somehow, I'm going to go to Paris, either tonight or as soon as I can."

"I didn't know anybody went to Paris on purpose," Miller said. "What are you going to do there?"

"Thank you for asking, and I'm not being sarcastic. I want everybody to know what I'm doing," Castillo said. "The agency guy in Paris-Edgar Delchamps-is a good guy, a real old-timer. I'm going to ask him to go with me to Lorimer's apartment. The embassy has been informed that I'm going to look after Lorimer's property for Ambassador Lorimer. Then I'm going to tell him what happened at Lorimer's estancia and see if he has any ideas who the guys who bushwhacked us were or who they were working for.

"Then I'm going to Fulda to make sure there's no problems with all that money in my Liechtensteinische Landesbank account in the Caymans. Maybe there's a better place to have it.

"Then I'm going to Budapest to see a journalist named Eric Kocian, who gave me some names of people in the oil-for-food business. I promised him I wouldn't turn them over to anyone. I want to get him to let me use the names. See if we can figure out where I might have got them, other than from him. I'm also going to ask him to guess who was paying the guys who bushwhacked us.

"Then, maybe a quick stop in Vienna to see what I can pick up there about the guy who was murdered just before Lorimer decided to go missing. Before I come back here, I'm probably going to go to Uruguay and Argentina. I want to go through Lorimer's estancia to see what I can come up with.

"Which reminds me of something else that I probably would have forgotten: Dick, get on the horn to somebody at Fort Rucker, maybe the Aviation Board, and find out the best panel and black boxes available on the civilian market for a Bell Ranger. Get a set of it, put it in a box, and ask Secretary Cohen to send it under diplomatic sticker to Ambassador Silvio in Buenos Aires."

"What the hell is that all about?"

"You wouldn't believe the lousy avionics in the Ranger I borrowed down there. The new stuff is payment for the use of the chopper. And it will be nice to have if I need to borrow the Ranger again."

No one spoke for a moment, then Miller said, "Charley, those avionics are going to cost a fortune."

"We'll have a fortune in the Liechtensteinische Landesbank. So far as I'm concerned, that's what it's for."

Miller gave him a thumbs-up.

"I'll be in touch," Castillo said and walked toward his office door.

He turned.

"Dick, can you come with me? Sure as Christ made little green apples, I've forgotten something." [THREE] Room 404 The Mayflower Hotel 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW Washington, D.C. 1630 4 August 2005 Major H. Richard Miller, Jr., was sprawled on the chaise longue in the master bedroom, his stiff leg on the chair, his good leg resting, knee bent, on the floor. A bottle of Heineken beer was resting in his hand on his chest.

Major C. G. Castillo was standing by the bed, putting clothing into a hard-sided suitcase.

"If I was just coming back here," he said, "I could get by with a carry-on. But if I take just a carry-on, I'll find myself in the middle of winter in Argentina."

"And if you take the suitcase, it will be misdirected to Nome, Alaska," Miller said, lifting his bottle to take a sip of beer. "It is known as the Rule of the Fickle Finger of Fate."

Castillo closed the suitcase and set it on the floor.

"So tell me about that," Castillo said, pointing to Miller's leg. "What do they say at Walter Reed?"

"I am led to believe that my chances of passing an Army flight physical range from zero to zilch. I have been 'counseled' that what I should do is take retirement for disability. One bum knee is apparently worth seventy percent of my basic pay for the rest of my life."

"Oh, shit," Castillo said.

"What really pisses me off is that I have reason to believe that all I have to do to reactivate my civilian ticket-"


"Yeah. It went on hold when I didn't show up for my annual physical. I didn't think I could pass it wearing twenty pounds of plaster of paris on my leg. So my ticket became inactive. They didn't pull it, which is important, but declared it inactive, pending the results of a flight physical. I've looked into that. What that means is I find some friendly chancre mechanic. He sees the scars and I tell him they are from a successful knee operation and show him how I can bend my knee. He will make a note of that for the examiner giving me my flight test. In other words, 'Did his knee operation result in a physical limitation that makes him unsafe in a cockpit?' The examiner will see that I can push the pedals satisfactorily. My tickets as an instrument-qualified pilot in command of piston and jet multiengine fixed-and rotary-wing aircraft is reactivated. Which means I can then fly just about anything for anybody but the Army."

"Can you 'push the pedals satisfactorily'?" Castillo asked.

"I think so. I would hate to believe that all the fucking exercise I've been doing flexing the son of a bitch has been in vain. So what I've been thinking of doing is going to Tampa and see if I can't find reasonably honest work as a contractor."

"Flying worn-out Russian helicopters on some bullshit mission in the middle of now here?"

"The pay is good."

"What's wrong with staying right where you are?"

"Working for you?"

"Is something wrong with that?"

"It would look like-would be-cronyism."

"Think of it as affirmative action," Castillo said. "The Office of Organizational Analysis is offering employment to somebody who meets all the criteria. You're ignorant, physically crippled, mentally challenged, and otherwise unemployable."

"And black. Don't forget that."

"And black. I'll talk to McGuire. Maybe he can get you hired by the Secret Service."

"I don't think I could pass their physical."

"We'll work something out. I really hate to tell you this, but I need you, Dick."

"If I thought you really meant that, Charley…"

"Have I ever lied to you?"

"You really don't want me to answer that, do you?"

"In this case, I'm going to need somebody-you-to protect my back from this goddamned liaison officer Montvale is shoving down my throat. And that's the truth."

"You just can't say, 'Thank you just the same but I don't need a liaison officer'?"

"To Ambassador Charles Montvale, the director of National Intelligence? He's not used to being told no, especially when all he's trying to do is be helpful."

"What's he really after?"

"He doesn't like the whole idea of a presidential agent. If he can't take me over-and I'm sure he's working on that-he wants to put me out of business."

"So what? What are they going to do, send you back to the Army? What's wrong with that? Goddamn, I wish that was one of my options."

Castillo didn't respond to that. Instead, he asked, "When is all this going to happen?"

"I'll have thirty days from the time I'm restored to limited duty, which should be in the next week to ten days. I then have to tell them I'll accept permanent limited-duty status-which means I would wind up in a recruiting office or a mess-kit-repair battalion-or take the medical retirement."

"Then we have time," Castillo said. "Just forget that contractor bullshit, okay?"

Miller nodded.

"Thanks, Charley," he said.

"Jesus, that beer looks tempting," Castillo said.

"Give in," Miller said.

"I will. Stay there. I'll go get one. You want another?"

Without waiting for an answer, he went into the living room and to the wet bar. As he was taking two bottles of beer from the refrigerator, he heard the telephone ring and when he went back into the bedroom Miller was holding out a handset to him.

"Your guardian angel, saving you from temptation," Miller said.

Castillo took the phone. "Castillo," he said.

"Matt Hall, Charley."

"Yes, sir?"

"Two changes in the plan," Hall said.

What plan?

"Yes, sir?"

"I'll pick you up there at half past seven, not eight."

"Excuse me?"

"I said I'll pick you up at half past seven, not eight."

"Where are we going, sir?"

"To the White House. I told you."

Oh no you didn't. You told me that you were going to the White House. I was going to be on the Metroliner on the way to Philadelphia at seven-thirty.

"That message must have come through garbled, sir."

"Obviously," Hall said. There was a suggestion of annoyance in his tone. "And the second change is that the President wants you to wear your uniform."

"Excuse me?"

"The President said about ten minutes ago, quote, Tell Charley to please wear his uniform, end quote."

"What's that all about?" Castillo blurted.

"The commander in chief did not choose to share with me any explanation of his desire," Hall said. "The Seventeenth Street entrance, seven-thirty. Brass and shoes shined appropriately. Got to go, Charley."

The line went dead.

Castillo said, "Sonofabitch!"

"Good news, huh?"

Castillo didn't reply. He went to the walk-in closet.

Miller heard him say, "Thank you, West Point."

Castillo came out of the closet, carrying a zippered nylon bag.

"'Thank you, West Point'?" Miller parroted.

"Yeah," Castillo said. "The first thing I learned on the holy plain was that when you fuck up the only satisfactory excuse is, 'No excuse, sir.' The second thing I learned was to get your uniform pressed the minute you take it off because some sonofabitch will order you to appear in it when you least expect it and it had better be pressed."

"And in this case, the sonofabitch is the Honorable Matthew Hall? Why does he want you to put on your uniform?"

"Worse," Castillo said, as he unzipped the bag. "The President does."

"What's that about?"

"I have no fucking idea," Castillo said. "But like the good soldier I used to be, I will show up at the appointed place at the appointed hour in the prescribed uniform."

"What is the appointed place and the appointed hour?"

"Nineteen-thirty at the Seventeenth Street entrance, from which Hall will convey me to the White House for reasons unknown."

Castillo started taking off his clothing, laying his suit, shirt, and tie neatly on the bed so that he could change back into it as soon as he could get away from whatever the hell was going on at the White House. The lobby of the Mayflower Hotel runs through the ground floor from the Connecticut Avenue entrance to the Seventeenth Street entrance. The elevator bank is closer to Connecticut Avenue, and it is some distance-three-quarters of a city block-from the elevators to the Seventeenth Street entrance.

Nevertheless, Major C. G. Castillo, now attired in his "dress blue" uniform, saw her just about the moment he got off the elevator. She was wearing a pale pink summer dress and a broad, floppy-brimmed hat. He decided she was either waiting for someone to meet her there or was waiting, as he would be, for someone to pick her up.

She didn't see Castillo until he was almost at the shallow flight of stairs leading upward to the Seventeenth Street foyer and doors. Then she looked at him without expression.

When he came close, Castillo said, "Good evening, Mr. Wilson."

She said, softly but intensely, "I thought it was you, you miserable sonofabitch."

"And it's nice to see you again, too," Castillo said, put his brimmed uniform cap squarely on his head, and pushed through the revolving door onto Seventeenth Street, then walked to the waiting Secret Service GMC Yukon XL.

He did not look back at the lobby, but as the Yukon pulled away from the curb he took a quick look.

Mr. Patricia Davies Wilson still was standing there, her arms folded over her breasts, glaring at the Yukon.

He remembered what Miller had said about her death rays freezing his martini solid. [FOUR] The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, D.C. 1950 4 August 2005 Castillo recognized the Marine lieutenant colonel standing just inside the door in the splendiferous formal uniform, heavily draped with gold braid and the aiguillettes of an aide-de-camp to the commander in chief. He had last seen him on Air Force One at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. He even remembered his name: McElroy.

"Good evening, Mr. Secretary, ma'am," Lieutenant Colonel McElroy said to Secretary and Mr. Matthew Hall. "The President asks that you come to the presidential apartments."

Then he looked at Castillo, who thought he saw recognition come slowly to McElroy's eyes.

"And you're Major Castillo?" Lieutenant Colonel McElroy asked.

"Yes, sir," Castillo said and, smiling, pointed to his chest to the black-and-white name tag reading CASTILLO.

"The President desires that you go to the presidential apartments, Major," Lieutenant Colonel McElroy said. It was evident he did not appreciate Castillo having pointed to his nametag.

Well, fuck you, Colonel. All you had to do was look.

"Yes, sir," Castillo said.

"The elevator is there, Mr. Secretary," Lieutenant Colonel McElroy said, gesturing.

"Thank you," Hall said. The First Lady was in the sitting room of the presidential apartments but not the President. So were three other people whose presence did not surprise Castillo-Secretary of State Natalie Cohen; Ambassador Charles W. Montvale, the director of National Intelligence; and Frederick K. Beiderman, the secretary of defense-and one, General Allan Naylor, whose presence did. There was a photographer standing in a corner with two Nikon digital cameras hanging around his neck.

I wonder what is about to be recorded for posterity?

Montvale, Beiderman, and Hall were wearing dinner jackets. Naylor was wearing dress blues.

"He'll be out in a minute," the First Lady announced, and then added, "Hello, Charley, we haven't seen much of you lately."

"Good evening, ma'am."

The men nodded at him but no one spoke.

The President came in a moment later, shrugging into his dinner jacket.

There was a chorus of, "Good evening, Mr. President."

The President circled the room, first kissing the women, then shaking hands with the men, including Charley.

"Okay, General," the President ordered. "As usual, I'm running a little late. Let's get this show on the road."

Naylor took a sheet of paper from his tunic.

"Attention to orders," he read. "Department of the Army, Washington, D.C. Extract from General Order 155, dated 1 August 2005. Paragraph eleven. Major Carlos G. Castillo, 22 179 155, Special Forces, is promoted Lieutenant Colonel, with date of rank 31 July 2005. For the Chief of Staff. Johnson L. Maybree, Major General, the Adjutant General."

I'll be a sonofabitch!

"And as soon as the colonel comes over here so General Naylor and I can put his new shoulder boards on him," the President said, motioning for Castillo to join him, "I will have a few words to say."

The photographer came out of his corner, one camera up and its flash firing. Castillo, without thinking about it, came to attention next to the President.

"How do we get the old ones off?" the President asked, tugging at Castillo's shoulder boards.

"Let me show you, Mr. President," General Naylor said. He handed something to the President and put his hands on Castillo's shoulders.

Castillo glanced down to see what Naylor had handed the President.

Of course, light bird's shoulder boards.

But they're not new.

Christ, they're his.

Castillo felt his eyes water.

"And these slip on this way," Naylor said, demonstrating.

The photographer bobbed around, clicking the shutter of his Nikon every second or so as the President got one shoulder board on and then Naylor got the other one on, and as they stood side by side, and then as the President and then Naylor shook Charley's hand, and then as the others in the room became involved. Charley's hand was shaken by the director of National Intelligence and the secretary of defense. His cheek was kissed by the First Lady, the secretary of state, and Mr. Hall. A final series of photos including everyone was taken.

"And now I have something to say," the President said. "As some of you may know, I am the commander in chief. Until the promotion of Colonel Castillo came up, I naively thought that meant I could issue any order that I wanted and it would be carried out. I learned that does not apply to the promotion of officers.

"When Colonel Castillo found and returned to our control the 727 the terrorists had stolen in Angola-when the entire intelligence community was still looking for it, when we learned how close the lunatics had actually come to crashing it into the Liberty Bell in downtown Philadelphia after the entire intelligence community had pooh-poohed that possibility-I thought that a promotion would be small enough reward for Castillo's extraordinary service to our country.

"Then-Major Castillo had already been selected, Matt Hall told me, for promotion to lieutenant colonel, not only selected but selected for quick promotion because of outstanding service.

"So I asked General Naylor, 'How soon can I promote him?' and General Naylor said, in effect, that I couldn't, that it doesn't work that way. Well, I thought that might well be because General Naylor and Colonel Castillo have a close personal relationship and He didn't want it to look like Charley was getting special treatment. So I went to the chief of staff of the Army and said I knew of an outstanding major, a West Pointer, and a Green Beret, like the chief of staff, who not only had been selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel on what I now knew to be the 'five percent list' but had rendered a great service to his country, and I would like to know why he couldn't be promoted immediately. And the chief of staff said that it didn't work like that, and, as a West Pointer and a Green Beret, the major to whom I was referring would understand that. The clear implication being, so should the commander in chief.

"So the commander in chief backed off, except to phone General Naylor, and order him the moment he learned that the slowly grinding wheels of the Army promotion system had finally ground out that it was time to promote Major Castillo to let me know immediately. Which he did the day before yesterday."

He turned to Castillo, shook his right hand, and put his left on Castillo's shoulder.

"So you, Colonel Castillo, are going to have to be satisfied with better late than never. Congratulations, Charley."

"Thank you, sir."

There was polite laughter, applause, and another round of handshaking.

"Over the objections of the secretary of state, who fears that after one drink I will give the country away to our guests tonight, we will now toast Colonel Castillo's new rank," the President said.

A white-jacketed steward appeared with a tray of champagne glasses and distributed them.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the President said, his glass raised, "Lieutenant Colonel C. G. Castillo."

The President had just put his glass to his lips when a steward motioned that he had a telephone call.

"Natalie and I have been expecting that," the President said. "Will you excuse us, please?"

He and the secretary of state left the room.

General Naylor walked up to Charley.

"Thank you for the shoulder boards, sir," Charley said.

"My pleasure, Colonel," Naylor said. "And if you have no further need for your old ones, Allan's on the major's list."

"I'd be honored to have Allan wear them, sir."

Ambassador Montvale joined them. He laid an almost paternal hand on Castillo's shoulder.

"I think you were genuinely surprised by this, weren't you, Colonel? I agree with the President that it's overdue."

An alarm bell went off in Castillo's mind:

Why is this sonofabitch charming me?

Because the President made that little speech? Set up this ceremony in the first place?

No. He wants something. What?

He doesn't want me complaining about his goddamned liaison officer. That's what it is. He knows that right now, the President is in a mood to give me just about anything I ask for.

If I don't bite the bullet now about that-and doing so now would ruin this "we're all pals" ambiance-by the time I get back, and God only knows when that will be-I'll permanently be stuck with Mr. Truman Ellsworth.

"General Naylor told me a long time ago that waiting for a promotion is like watching a glacier," Castillo said. "For a long time, absolutely nothing-and then all of a sudden a great big splash."

Montvale and Naylor chuckled.

What's that line from Basic Tactics 101?

The best defense is a good offense.

"Mr. Ambassador," Charley said, "I'd like a few minutes of your time, if that would be possible."

Naylor's surprise was evident on his face.

"Certainly," Montvale said. "Sometime tomorrow afternoon?"

"Sir, just as soon as I can I'm going to be on a plane to Paris."

"You mean now?"

"If that would be possible, sir."

"Actually, I've been wanting to have a private word with you, too," Montvale said, thoughtfully. "And this would seem to be one of those fortuitous circumstances."

"Thank you, sir," Castillo said.

"Especially since General Naylor is here," Montvale went on.

"Excuse me?" Naylor said.

"We could go to the situation room and use the bubble, but I'm afraid that the three of us going there would attract attention. Wouldn't you agree, General? Someone would decide that something is going on that they should know about."

"Mr. Ambassador," Naylor said, "my aide is waiting outside with a car to take me to Andrews. Just as soon as I can get away from here I'm going back to Tampa."

"So far as getting away from here is concerned," Montvale said, "our role in tonight's events is over. The President has moved on to other things on his agenda. And if something unexpected comes up, he knows how to find us. I really don't want to waste the next couple of hours smiling at people I don't really like."

"I was just thinking the same thing," Naylor confessed, smiling.

"I know," Montvale said. "The Army and Navy Club. We could talk there. Could I impose and suggest we go there?"

"Mr. Ambassador, I really have to get back to Tampa," Naylor said.

"General, I just saved us from two hours-at least-of smiling at people we don't like. Can't you spare me thirty minutes? I'd really like for you to be there when the colonel and I have our little chat."

"Yes, of course," Naylor said. "Playing the game, I suggest we leave in our own vehicles," Montvale said as they approached the portico.

"Secretary Hall brought me here," Castillo said. "May I ride with you, General?"

"You can use the pool," Montvale said.


Montvale answered by speaking to one of the Secret Service uniformed police guards at the door.

"We'll need my car, General Naylor's, and Colonel Castillo will need one from the pool," he ordered.

"Yes, sir," the guard said. Then he spoke to his lapel microphone. "Send up Big Eye's car, Tampa One's car, and one from the pool for Don Juan." Then he turned to Montvale. "They'll be right here, sir," he said.

Thirty seconds later, a dark blue GMC Yukon XL pulled up.

"I'll wait for you in the lobby," Montvale said to Naylor. "All right?"

"That'll be fine."

As Montvale got in the Yukon, a dark blue Chevrolet Suburban pulled up behind it.

A full colonel wearing the insignia of an aide-de-camp got out of the front passenger's seat as a staff sergeant came out from behind the wheel to snatch the covers from the four-star bumper plates.

Castillo, as a reflex action, saluted the colonel.

"Jack, take the car to the Army-Navy Club," Naylor said. "I'll ride with Maj…Colonel Castillo."

"Yes, sir," the colonel said.

Another dark blue Yukon came up the drive and pulled in ahead of the Chevrolet as the sergeant put the covers back over Naylor's four-star plates. A Secret Service agent got out of the front passenger's seat and opened the rear door.

Naylor climbed in and Castillo followed him. The Secret Service agent closed the door, got in front, and turned to look in the back.

"Where to, sir?"

"The Army-Navy Club, please," Castillo said.

"Yes, sir," the Secret Service agent said and then spoke to his microphone. "Don Juan, with Tampa One aboard, leaving the grounds for the Army-Navy Club."

The Yukon started down the drive toward Pennsylvania Avenue.

"'Don Juan, with Tampa One aboard'?" Naylor parroted.

"Don Juan is Joel Isaacson's idea of humor," Charley said.

"Charley, I've got something to say. And I think I better say it before we get there."

"Yes, sir."

"What I was thinking tonight-and don't misunderstand me, you earned that promotion-was that I really wish I hadn't sent you to work for Matt Hall."

"Me, too."

"I wonder if you mean that," Naylor said. "This is pretty heady stuff, Charley. A Secret Service car, a Secret Service code name. I am reminded of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and that worries me."

Castillo didn't reply.

"I would have been much happier if your promotion meant you now would take command of some battalion," Naylor said.

"I would, too, sir. I didn't ask for this job. And I asked to be relieved."

"Well, that's not going to happen and that's what worries me," Naylor said, then suddenly shifted subjects: "Do you have any idea why Montvale wants me at the club?" Then, before Castillo could reply, he asked another: "Why did you want to talk to him?"

"I have no idea why he wants you there, but the reason I want to talk to him is because he sent me Truman Ellsworth to be his liaison officer-read spy…"

"Truman Ellsworth is a former under secretary of state," Naylor interrupted. "A liaison officer with that background?"

"Yes, sir. I thought of that. And I don't want him. I want to get rid of him now before he chains himself to my desk."

"I don't think I have to tell you that Montvale is a powerful man. And a dangerous one."

"I've already figured that out," Castillo said.

"In North Africa," Naylor said, almost to himself, "when Eisenhower sent Omar Bradley to Patton as his liaison officer-read spy-Patton outwitted Eisenhower by asking that Bradley be assigned as his chief of staff. That put Bradley under Patton's orders. That kept him from communicating anything to Eisenhower without Patton knowing about it and not communicating anything Patton didn't want communicated."

"I've heard that story," Charley said.

"I don't think you want this fellow Ellsworth as your chief of staff," Naylor said. "Ellsworth is not Bradley; he works for Montvale and that's not going to change. And you're not Patton, who had as many stars as Bradley. You're a lowly lieutenant colonel and Ellsworth is…a former under secretary of state."

"That's what worries me," Castillo said.

"The difference here is that Patton worked for Eisenhower. You don't work for Montvale. But that's what he's after. If he can't get that right now, he'll use Ellsworth as your puppet master."

"That's what it looks like to me, sir," Charley agreed.

"Goddamn it, I hate Washington," Naylor said.


[ONE] The Daiquiri Lounge The Army and Navy Club 901 Seventeenth Street NW Washington, D.C. 2105 4 August 2005 Ambassador Montvale was waiting for them in the lobby. They all walked up the stairs to the second floor, then into the Daiquiri Lounge, taking a table in the bar where Castillo knew he and General Naylor could smoke cigars.

It immediately became apparent that before their conversation could begin, they were going to have to deal with other guests in the lounge.

The commander in chief of Central Command was not only known to-that is to say, a friend of-half a dozen officers and their wives having after-dinner drinks there but, as one of the most powerful officers in the Army, was someone to whom it was necessary to "make manners."

Once the first old friend walked over to shake General Naylor's hand, everyone else decided that it was not only all right for them to do so but expected of them.

Each visit-however brief-required that both Ambassador Montvale and Lieutenant Colonel Castillo be introduced. And Lieutenant Colonel Castillo was not used to-and thus made a little uncomfortable by-being addressed by his new title.

Finally, it was over, and the waiter, who had hovered in the background awaiting its end, came to the table.

"Gentlemen, what can I get for you?"

"I'm a scotch drinker," Montvale answered, looking at Naylor. "Nothing fancy, no single malt. Something like Chivas Regal. That okay with you?"

"Fine," Naylor said.

What is he trying to do, establish the pecking order by telling Naylor what to drink?

And why did Naylor go along?

Castillo looked at the waiter. "Yes, please," he said.

When the waiter had left, Montvale asked, "What are you going to do in Paris?"

"Sir, I'm still looking for the people who murdered Mr. Masterson," Castillo said.

"That's what you wanted to talk to me about?"

"No, sir."

"Maybe you should. Maybe there's something I could do to help."

Castillo didn't reply.

"Well," Montvale continued, "if you didn't want my help, then what is it that you wish to talk about?"

"Mr. Ellsworth, sir."

"Truman Ellsworth. A good man. What about him?"

"I'm sure he is, but I don't want a liaison officer."

"Oh! Right to the bottom line!"

"Yes, sir."

"I could offer any number of reasons why a liaison officer who enjoys my trust could be very useful to you."

"I'm sure you could. But, thank you very much just the same, I don't want Mr. Ellsworth."

"Because you think he would be spying on you for me?"

Castillo didn't reply. But he thought of something that might provide an excuse for him not to do so immediately.

Maybe I'll think of something.

"Sir, excuse me. I have to make a call."

Montvale looked at him impatiently. Naylor looked at him curiously.

Castillo punched an autodial number on his cellular telephone.

"Dick," he said a moment later, "I think I can make the 2330 Air France flight to Paris. Can you send my luggage-and the suit and shirt and tie I left on the bed, and my laptop case-to the Army-Navy Club? Just tell the driver to wait outside."

Castillo listened for a moment, then said, "Actually, I'm having a drink with General Naylor and Ambassador Montvale." He paused. "Yes, I will. Thanks, Dick. I'll check in from Paris."

He pushed the CALL END button and turned to General Naylor.

"Major Miller's compliments, sir," he said.

Naylor nodded.

"What's your objection to having Mr. Ellsworth work with you?" Montvale asked, resuming the conversation as if there had been no interruption.

Castillo met his eyes for a moment.

I might as well go down fighting.

"I've been thinking about that, sir," Castillo said. "I certainly can't order you to do anything. But if you elect to keep sending Mr. Ellsworth to the Nebraska Complex, I'm afraid what he's going to be doing is sitting in an office all day without very much to do at all."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Unless Mr. Ellsworth has access to the Presidential Finding establishing the Office of Organizational Analysis, there's nothing I can tell him about what we're really doing."

"That's ridiculous and you know it," Montvale snapped. "Ellsworth has had the highest-level security clearances for years."

Again Castillo didn't reply and again Montvale took his meaning.

"You're not actually suggesting, Castillo, that you're not going to give Truman Ellsworth the necessary security clearance, are you?"

"Sir, I don't see where Mr. Ellsworth has the Need to Know about the Presidential Finding and my mission."

"I'll clear him for the Finding!"

"Sir, I don't believe you have that authority," Castillo said. "As I understand it, only the President and I do."

"I can't believe what I'm hearing! Just who the hell do you think you are? I'm the director of National Intelligence. I decide who is cleared for what."

"Ambassador, you don't have the authority to clear anyone for that Presidential Finding," Castillo said.

"Well, I guess we'll just have to see what the President has to say about that," Montvale said, "and about your attitude."

"Yes, sir. I guess we will," Castillo said.

"Before this gets out of hand, gentlemen," General Naylor said, "I'm going to say that neither one of you wants this disagreement to go any further."

"Nothing is going to get out of hand, thank you very much, General," Montvale said.

"Good," Naylor said, "because it would not be in the best interests of the country-or either of you-if it did."

Montvale looked icily at him.

"Frankly, General, I was hoping that you would help me reason with Major Castillo, help him to understand where he fits into the system."

"It's now Colonel Castillo, Mr. Ambassador," Naylor said.

"Lieutenant colonel, I believe," Montvale said. "Like Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, who was also a junior officer given more authority than he was equipped to handle. You remember Lieutenant Colonel North, don't you, General?"

"I don't have the feeling, Mr. Ambassador," Naylor said, "that the President thinks he has given Colonel Castillo more authority than he can handle. Do you?"

Montvale didn't respond.

"Let me suggest a scenario, Mr. Ambassador," Naylor said, glancing around the lounge, then, satisfied no one was trying to follow their conversation, continued in a lower voice: "This dispute comes before the President. That would force him to choose between you two. From what I have seen of the President, he doesn't like to be forced to do anything."


"Obviously," Naylor went on, "you are of far greater importance to the government, to the country, than is Colonel Castillo. Colonel Castillo would be relieved. But he would be replaced, because we know the President likes having an agent-a presidential agent, if you will-answerable only to him. And you and I both know that his replacement would not be anyone you might suggest, however well qualified he might be. That would be giving you too much of a victory.

"So it would be another military officer. And I put it to you, sir, that no matter how well that officer might do, his performance would be compared by the President against that of Colonel Castillo and found wanting. Partially because in the two successful operations Colonel Castillo has run as the President's agent he was-as he is well aware-incredibly lucky. And partially because it wasn't all luck. Colonel Castillo has demonstrated that he is obviously extremely well qualified for the duties the President has chosen to give him.

"And I put it to you further, Mr. Ambassador, that always-always-the President is going to be thinking, If Montvale hadn't gotten on his high horse and forced me to get rid of Castillo, things would have turned out better. You were there. He did everything but beatify Charley in that little post-promotion speech he gave."

Naylor turned to Castillo.

"And you, Colonel, are going to have to learn something that is not taught at West Point. An accommodation is not a surrender. You are going to have to come to some arrangement, an accommodation, with Ambassador Montvale. And he with you. Or you will both be failing the President, and I'm sure neither of you wants that."

Montvale was about to reply when the waiter delivered their drinks, stopping the conversation.

After he'd gone, Montvale stirred his for several seconds, then extended the plastic stirrer to Castillo.

"Take it," the director of National Intelligence said. "Think of it as an olive branch."

"Make love, not war?" Castillo asked as he took the stirrer. It earned him a dirty look from Naylor.

"I really don't want to get in a war with you, Charley," Montvale said.

"Charley"? Not "Castillo"? Not "Colonel"? Or even "Major"?

I'm being charmed again and that's dangerous.

"Nor I with you, Mr. Ambassador."

"Shall we lay our cards on the table?"

"I have only one card to play: going to the President and telling him I can't function with Mr. Ellsworth looking over my shoulder and reporting to you everything I'm doing or planning on doing."

"I don't understand why my being kept aware of what you're doing is wrong," Montvale said. "Certainly, you confide in General Naylor."

"He does not," Naylor said, flatly. "I frankly hoped he would, but he has not."

Montvale raised an eyebrow. "You both realize, I'm sure, that would put another arrow in my quiver if I have to go to the President? 'Mr. President, he doesn't even tell General Naylor what he's doing. Remember Ollie North?'"

Naylor said, "To which the President might well reply, 'That's because Colonel Castillo doesn't work for General Naylor, he works for me.'"

"Point well taken," Montvale said after a moment with a smile.

"Are you going to the President, Mr. Ambassador?" Castillo asked.

"Probably, but not right now. That one card of yours-at this moment-is the ace of all spades. General Naylor is right. If the President was the pope, after that session in the apartment tonight you would now be Saint Carlos the Savior of His Country."

Both Naylor and Castillo chuckled.

"So you are going to find something else for Mr. Ellsworth to do?" Castillo asked.

"Let me show you my cards," Montvale said. "Okay?"

Castillo nodded.

"I'm very impressed with you."

"Is that what they call the 'flattery card'?"

"Hear me out. All it will cost you is a little time."

"My standard tactic when I'm dealing with someone I know is smarter than me is to run," Castillo said.

"Is that your flattery card?"

"I am out of my class with you and I know it. Just because it may be flattering doesn't mean it isn't true," Castillo said.

"Then why does it have to be untrue that I'm impressed with you?"

"That would depend on why you're impressed."

"Like the President, I think you did one hell of a job finding that airplane and then finding this Lorimer fellow. The major problem I have with you-other than that the President thinks you should be beatified-is that I think you should be working for me."

"Mr. Ambassador, I don't want to work for you."

"At the moment, that's a moot question, isn't it? The President is very happy with his presidential private agent."

"All I want from you, sir, is to be left alone to do what the President wants me to do."

"Until you said that, I was beginning to think you might really be as smart as the President thinks," Montvale said.

"Excuse me?"

"You can't afford to be alone, Charley," Montvale said. "You need me. My assets. My authority. My influence. Think about it. They use your face as a dartboard in Langley and in the J. Edgar Hoover Building. The FBI is starting to hate you as much as they do your friend Howard Kennedy."

"I wasn't sure you believed that story," Castillo said.

"I checked on it," Montvale said. "I have some friends in the bureau. To a man, they would like to see Kennedy dragged apart by four horses after he was disemboweled."

Curiosity overwhelmed General Naylor. "Who is this fellow? What did he do?"

Montvale smiled, more than a little condescendingly.

"As Charley told me-and my friends confirmed-after being made privy to the darkest secrets of the FBI, Mr. Kennedy went to work-presumably at a far more generous salary-for a notorious Russian mafioso, a chap named Aleksandr Pevsner, taking with him all the darkest secrets." He paused. "The reason they hate our friend Charley is because when they sent an inspector to tell him they expected him to notify them immediately of any contact with Kennedy, our friend Charley told them not to hold their breath. They also suspect-correctly-that Charley was behind the President's order to them to immediately cease and desist looking for Mr. Kennedy."

"Pevsner and Kennedy have been useful to me in the past," Castillo said. "And almost certainly will be useful to me in the future."

Charley saw the look on Naylor's face.

It's a look of…sympathetic resignation.

He's thinking I'm going down Ollie North's path.

And that I have just lost this confrontation.

Well, what the hell did I expect?

Montvale's right. I am a junior officer given more authority than I am equipped to handle.

A very small fish in a large pond about to be eaten by a very large shark.

"What are you suggesting, Mr. Ambassador?" Castillo asked.

"Until such time as I can convince the President-and that's a question of when, not if-that the Office of Organizational Analysis should be under me, I suggest that it would be in our mutual interest to cooperate."

"Cooperate how?"

"On your part, primarily by keeping me informed of what you're doing. I really don't like walking into the Oval Office to have the President greet me with, 'Charles, you're not going to believe what Castillo has done, ' and have no idea what the hell he's talking about. I want to be able to tell him that I knew what you would be going to try to do and that I did thus and so to help you do it."

"I'm sorry," he said, just before he was shot down in flames, "but if that means you will insist on your liaison officer, no deal."

The look on the general's face now means I have really just shot myself in the foot.

"That's negotiable," Montvale said.

"Negotiable?" Castillo blurted. It was not the response he expected.

"That means you offer me something in lieu thereof and I decide if I'm willing to take it."

"That telephone call I made just now? It was to my chief of staff, Major Richard Miller."

"What about him?"

"You take Mr. Ellsworth out of my office and I will instruct Major Miller to tell you-promptly-everything he can, without putting the lives of my men at risk, about what I'm doing and why."

"We are, I presume, talking about the same Major Miller who comes to my mind?"

"Excuse me?"

"The general's son? The man whose life you saved-at considerable risk to your life and career-in Afghanistan? The man whom Mr. Wilson accused of making improper advances to her when she was in fact at the time making the beast with two backs in your bed? That Major Miller?"

"Yes, sir. That Major Miller."

"Deal," Montvale said and got half out of his chair and put out his hand.

Jesus H. Christ!

This is too easy.

When does the other shoe drop?

Montvale's grip was firm.

"Our new relationship will probably be a good deal less unpleasant for you than I suspect you suspect it will be," Montvale said, smiling.

"Yes, sir," Castillo said.

"Okay, why are you going to Paris?" Montvale asked, retaking his seat.

Okay, a deal is a deal. I'll live up to my end of it.

"I got Ambassador Lorimer, Mr. Lorimer's father, to give me sort of power of attorney to settle his affairs in Paris and Uruguay. I want to see what I can turn up in his apartment and at his estancia."

"You're also going to Uruguay?"

"Yes, sir."

"And you think you are qualified to perform searches of that nature?"

"No, sir, I don't. I'm going to enlist the CIA station chiefs in both places to help me."

"What makes you think they will?"

"Because I have already dealt with them, sir. They'll help."

Montvale nodded.

"Anything else I should know?"

"I have a source in Budapest. I'd rather not identify him. He gave me a list of names of people involved in the oil-for-food business, with the caveat that I do not turn them over to the agency or anyone else. I'm going there to see if I can get him to release me from that agreement."

"And if he doesn't?"

"Then I will have to see if I can get another list from someone else."

Montvale nodded but did not respond directly, instead asking, "What's happened to the money?"

"We got it out of Uruguay, first into an account an FBI agent there had opened in the Caymans…"

"Yung? The one who was with you when Lorimer was terminated?"

"Yes, sir. I'm sending him back to Uruguay to cover our tracks."

"He'll be able to do that?"

"I think so, sir."

"He would probably be useful permanently assigned to you," Montvale said. "Have you thought about that?"

"Yes, sir. I have. Secretary Hall arranged it."

"Well, fine. But the next time something like that comes up, I suggest you come to me with it."

What is he doing, trying to cut Matt Hall out of the loop?

"Yes, sir."

"You said 'first' into Yung's account?" Montvale pursued.

"And then I moved it into an account I opened in the same bank, the Liechtensteinische Landesbank. That took place today."

"In your name?"

"In the name of an identity-that of a German national-I use sometimes. I thought that would be best."

"And you can trust the people at Gossinger Beteiligungsgesellschaft, G.m.b.H., to keep their mouths shut?" Montvale asked.

"Yes, sir," Castillo said, as the realization dawned, Jesus Christ, he knows about that, too. And he asked the question in absolutely fluent German.

Montvale switched back to English.

"Goddamn, he is good, isn't he, General?" Montvale asked.

Naylor didn't reply. Instead, he asked, "Am I permitted to ask, 'What money?'"

"You can ask, of course," Montvale said, smiling. "But getting an answer would depend on the colonel, as he correctly pointed out he and the President are the only ones with the key to the Finding. It would be a felony for me to tell you."

What's he doing now? Playing with me? With General Naylor? With both of us?

"General," Castillo said. "Lorimer had nearly sixteen million dollars in several banks in Uruguay. We took it over. It is now the operating fund for the Office of Organizational Analysis."

"How did you manage to do that?" Naylor asked.

"He doesn't need to know that, does he, Colonel?" Montvale asked.

"No, I don't," Naylor answered for him. "And I don't think I want to."

"I have access to business jets in Europe and in Brazil," Montvale said. "Would it facilitate your travel if I made them available to you?"

"It would probably draw attention to me," Castillo replied.

"They're agency assets, actually," Montvale said. "The agency owns two charter companies in Europe and one in Brazil. Sort of an aerial version of the Town Car limos that prowl the streets of Manhattan. I don't think taking a ride in one would draw undue attention to you. All I would really be doing-unless you needed a plane for more than carrying you from point A to point B-would be ensuring you went to the head of the line."

"Can I have a rain check?"

"When we shook hands, you got your rain check," Montvale said. "Good for as long as you hold up your end of our deal."

He took a large wallet from his jacket, took a card from it, and laid the card on the table. Then he took an electronic notebook from another pocket, consulted it, and wrote several numbers on the card. He handed the card to Castillo.

"By the time you get to France, the aerial limo services will understand that when you call, you go to the head of the line. The bottom number on there is mine. Use it if you ever need anything you think I can provide and can't get through to me through the White House switchboard."

"Thank you," Castillo said.

"Can you think of anything else I can do for you?" Montvale asked.

"Mr. Wilson is a now a senior analyst in the agency's South American Division's Southern Cone Section," Castillo said.

Montvale pursed his lips thoughtfully.

"I knew she managed not to get fired, but I didn't know that," he said. "We can't have that, can we?"

"Miller and I ran into her in the lobby of the Mayflower earlier tonight," Castillo said. "She called me a miserable sonofabitch."

"Well, I can see how she might feel that way," Montvale said. "I'll deal with it first thing tomorrow."

"Thank you."

"Anything else?"

"No, sir, I can't think of anything else."

"Well, in that case, I'm afraid I'm going to have to be going," Montvale said.

He stood up, drained his drink, and offered his hand to Naylor, who had risen to his feet.

"It's always a pleasure, General Naylor," he said.

Then he turned to Castillo, shook his hand, and patted his shoulder.

"This turned out better than either of us thought it would, didn't it?" he asked. "Keep in touch, Colonel."

"Yes, sir, I will."

Montvale walked out of the room and Naylor and Castillo sat down.

"Jesus Christ!" Charley said. "Why does his being so cheerful, charming, and accommodating make me so uncomfortable?"

"Maybe because you weren't asleep when they were lecturing about never under estimating your enemy?"

Castillo chuckled.

"I'm sorry I said that," Naylor said thoughtfully a moment later. "That was a hell of a session, but I'm not so sure he doesn't mean exactly what he said. The bottom line is that he got what he wanted."

"Which was?"

"If you succeed, he can claim credit. If you fail, he can say it wouldn't have happened if you worked for him."

Castillo grunted.

"And he was right," Naylor went on. "You do need his influence and authority. The FBI and the CIA-and everybody else-are afraid of him. And with good reason. Once it becomes known, as it soon will, that he's standing behind you, people will think very carefully before knifing you in the back."

"I thought I had the President standing behind me," Castillo said.

"You do. But the President is a decent fellow. The ambassador, on the other hand, is well known as a follower of the Kennedy philosophy."


"Don't get mad, get even," Naylor said. "He is not a man to be crossed. But on the other hand, I think he's a man of his word."

Castillo looked at his wristwatch.

"I've got to change out of my uniform and get out to Dulles," he said. "But before I do, I really would like another drink."

"After that, we both need one," Naylor said. "But there's one thing you have to do before that."


Naylor took out his cellular telephone and punched an autodial number.

"Allan Naylor, Dona Alicia," he said a moment later. "I'm sitting here in the Army-Navy Club in Washington with Lieutenant Colonel Castillo and we thought we'd call and say hello.

There was a pause.

"Yes, ma'am, that's what I said."

He handed the cellular to Castillo.

"Your grandmother would like a word with you, Colonel." An hour and a half later, as Air France flight 9080 climbed to cruising altitude somewhere over Delaware, Herr Karl Gossinger, the Washington correspondent of the Tages Zeitung, accepted a second glass of champagne from the first-class cabin attendant-and suddenly startled her by bitterly exclaiming, "Oh, shit!"

It had just occurred to him that he had not only not gone to see Special Agent Elizabeth Schneider in her hospital bed but had not even called her to tell her why he couldn't. [TWO] Suite 222 InterContinental Paris 3 rue de Castiglione Paris, France 1230 5 August 2005 The bellman placed Castillo's suitcase on the nicely upholstered stand next to the dresser, graciously accepted his tip, and left, pulling the door to the suite quietly closed behind him. Castillo made a beeline for the toilette, voided his bladder, then sat down on one of the double beds. He picked up the telephone and dialed a number from memory.

"United States embassy," a woman's pleasant voice answered.

"Monsieur Delchamps, s'il vous plait."

The Paris CIA station chief answered on the second buzz: "Delchamps."

"My name is Gossinger, Mr. Delchamps. Perhaps you remember we met recently in the Crillon?"

Delchamps hesitated just perceptibly.

"Oh, yes. Mr. Gossinger, is it? I've been expecting your call. You're in the Crillon again?"

"The Continental. I was wondering if you were free for lunch."

"Yes, I am. How does a hamburger sound?"

"You're not suggesting McDonald's?"

"No. What you get in McDonald's is a frenchified hamburger. You can still get a real hamburger in Harry's New York Bar. It's right around the corner from the Continental. You want to meet me in the lobby? I can leave here right now."

"A real hamburger sounds fine. I'll be waiting. Thank you."

"Your wish is my command, Herr Gossinger," Delchamps said and hung up. Delchamps-a nondescript man in his late fifties wearing a some what rumpled suit-came around the corner from the rue de Rivoli ten minutes later.

He offered Castillo his hand.

"Nice to see you again, Mr. Gossinger. How may I be of service?"

"Why don't we wait until we get to Harry's?" Castillo replied.

"Whatever you wish, sir," Delchamps said.

Castillo eyed him a moment. My chain is being pulled. What's he up to?

"The Continental has an interesting history, Mr. Gossinger," Delchamps said as they started down rue de Castiglione toward the Ritz and the Place de l'Opera. "Are you interested?"

"Fascinated," Castillo said, smiling and playing along.

"There was once a monastery where it now stands," Delchamps said. "Louis XVI and his girlfriend-'Let them eat cake' Marie Antoinette-were staying there just before they were taken over to the Place de la Concorde and had their heads removed in the name of liberty."

"You don't say?"

"It's absolutely true."

"Thank you for sharing that with me."

"My pleasure, sir," Delchamps said. "But let me continue since you seem to find this of interest."

"Please do," Castillo said.

The conversation was momentarily interrupted by the sight of an incredibly beautiful, long-legged blonde coming out of the Hotel Ritz. She was surrounded by four muscular men who might as well have had SECURITY stamped on their large foreheads. She got into the rear seat of a Maybach, in the process revealing a good deal of thigh. One of the gorillas with her got in the front seat of the car, another trotted quickly to a Mercedes in front of it, and the other two trotted to an identical Mercedes behind it. The convoy rolled majestically away toward the rue de Rivoli.

"I regret being unable to identify that young woman for you, Mr. Gossinger, as I can see you are really interested," Delchamps said after they had passed the entrance to the Ritz. "But I'm sure she's someone famous."

"Either that or a high-class hooker," Castillo said.

"The two possibilities are not mutually exclusive," Delchamps said.

Castillo chuckled.

"But I was telling you about the Continental, wasn't I?" Delchamps asked and then went on without waiting for a reply. "And it was in the Continental-I seem to remember in 1880, but don't hold me to that-that what many regard as the advertising coup of all time took place."

"I've always been interested in advertising," Castillo said. "Tell me about that."

"Tourism was just beginning to blossom and become big business," Delchamps said. "The British, the Italians, the Germans, and of course the French were in hot competition for the Yankee tourist dollar. There was hardly a building on Manhattan Island without a billboard urging the Yankees to come to England, Italy, Germany, or France. There were so many of them that not one of them really caught people's attention. And the advertising was really expensive, which really bothered the French.

"The matter was given a great deal of thought, and, in studying the problem the French realized that the ideal advertisement would be something that incorporated novelty. Edison had just given us the lightbulb, you will recall, so the new advertisement had to include one of those. Yankees, the French knew, also liked amply bosomed females, so the advertisement would have to have one of those, too. How about an amply breasted woman holding an electric light over her head?"

Castillo laughed aloud.

"You sonofabitch, you had me going. The Statue of Liberty."

Delchamps smiled and nodded.

"And if we give it to the Yankees, the clever Frogs realized, call it a 'gift of friendship' or something, not only will the Yankees never take it down but-desperate as they are to have people like them-they'll put it someplace where it can't be missed. And if we give it to them, they'll pay to maintain it. If we play our cards right, we can probably even get them to pay for part-maybe most-of it."

"God, isn't history fascinating?" Castillo said.

"That meeting took place right in your hotel," Delchamps said. "And here we are on rue Danou, site of the legendary Harry's New York Bar. Would you be interested to learn that Ernest Hemingway used to hang around in Harry's?"

"Absolutely," Castillo said as Delchamps held open the door to the bar for him.

"Paris was known in those days as the intellectual center of the world. The truth is that before we sent Pershing over here to save their ass, they had emptied the French treasury and wiped out a generation of their male population in a standoff with the Krauts…"

He paused to direct Castillo, pointing to the stairway to the basement. When he had followed Castillo down the narrow, winding stairway and they had taken stools at the bar, he picked up where he had left off.

"And, presuming you had the Yankee dollar, it was one of the cheapest places to live. Not to mention that since most of the young Frogs had been killed in the trenches, there was no shortage of places for you to hide your salami."

The bartender appeared.

"They have other stuff, but they make a really good hamburger," Delchamps said.

"Sounds fine," Castillo said.

Delchamps ordered-in fluent Parisian French, Castillo noted-the hamburgers, medium rare, and two bottles of Dortmunder Union beer.

"Do you find it interesting, Herr Gossinger, that your tail is resting where very possibly Hemingway's tail once rested?"

"Yes, I find that interesting," Castillo said.

"And would you be interested in hearing the true story of Hemingway's war service as an officer?"

"I would be interested."

"He drove an ambulance in the Italian Army Medical Corps," Delchamps said. "Normally, as you know, Herr Oberst, ambulance drivers are privates. Oh, every once in a while there's a PFC, and maybe even a corporal after long and faithful service, but usually a private."

"I suppose that's true," Castillo said.

"Hemingway was a lieutenant," Delchamps said. "The Italian government decided it wouldn't be good if all the starry-eyed American boys who rushed to do their part in the war to end all wars wrote home to Mama about how privates driving ambulances in the Italian Army were treated and fed, so they made them all second lieutenants."


"True story. You found it interesting, I hope?"

"Absolutely! But you know what I would really find interesting to know?"

"And what is that?"

"Please tell me if you deliver these fascinating, interesting lectures on little-known facts of history to everyone who comes to Paris or if you have some interesting-possibly nefarious-purpose in relating them to me."

"In your case, Herr Oberst Gossinger, I was ordered to do so," Delchamps said as he took a sheet of paper from his pocket.

That's the second time he called me "Herr Oberst." I wonder what's that all about?

"This came in at six this morning, Colonel," Delchamps said, handing the paper to Castillo, "making it necessary for me to get out of bed at that obscene hour and go to the fucking embassy to get it. I was, as you can imagine, more than a little pissed, for several reasons."

Castillo unfolded the sheet of paper and read it.













"When Montvale called the last time you came here, he told me you were a major, Ace," Delchamps said, accusingly.

"I'm a lieutenant colonel as of yesterday," Castillo said.

"Then permit me to be among the very first to congratulate you."

"I didn't have anything to do with this," Castillo said, handing the message back. "But it does explain the interesting history lectures, doesn't it?"

"You going to tell me about this presidential mission you're on or are we going to fuck around with each other in the dark?"

"It's more than a mission. There's been a Presidential Finding," Castillo said. "The bottom line of which is, I'm supposed to find and 'render harmless' whoever whacked Jack the Stack Masterson in Buenos Aires."

"And you're working for who? Montvale directly?"

"The President directly. Montvale thinks I should be working for him."

"Well, that explains that little middle-of-the-night billet-doux, doesn't it?"

"He makes me feel like a sixteen-year-old virgin with some thirty-year-old guy chasing me who won't take no for an answer."

"I take your point, even if I don't think you were ever a sixteen-year-old virgin," Delchamps said. "The UN notified the embassy that Lorimer was killed during a robbery in Uruguay, of all goddamned places. That's obviously bullshit. You have the real skinny on that?"

"He was whacked, with a Madsen, at an estancia he owned down there."

"Your source reliable?"

"I was there. I had just told Lorimer he was about to be returned to the bosom of his family when somebody stuck a Madsen through the window, put two bullets in his head, and wounded one of the guys with me."

"You do get around, don't you, Ace?"

"The bad guys also garroted one of my guys, a Delta Force sergeant who wasn't easy to get to. They were real professionals."

"Who all unfortunately left this vale of tears before they could tell you who they worked for?"

Castillo nodded. "There were six of them, all dressed in black, no identification."

"Sounds like Spetsnaz or Mossad," Delchamps said. "Or maybe even Frogs from Rip-em."

"From where?"

The bartender delivered their Dortmunder Union. Delchamps waited until he was out of earshot before answering.

"Le premiere Regiment de Parachutistes d'Infanterie de Marine," Delchamps explained. "Rip-em, from the acronym, are pretty good. The French version of the English SAS, which is where they got started. Rumor has it that they've got a bunch of ex-Spetsnaz. From Spetsnaz to Legion Etrangere to Rip-em."

"French?" Castillo thought aloud.

"Why not? The Frogs were up to their ears in the oil-for-food business and, from what I hear, Lorimer knew which ones."

"I never even thought of the French," Castillo admitted.

"You didn't learn anything from Lorimer? Jesus, how the hell did you find him? In Uruguay?"

"I did find what we believe to be almost sixteen million skimmed from the bribe funds, but, as you put it, he passed from this vale of tears before I could ask him about it."

"Sit on that, and see who tries to get it."

"We've got it," Castillo said.

"Good for you!" Delchamps said and took his beer glass and, in a toast, clinked it against Castillo's.

Delchamps took a sip, then continued: "You were going to tell me how you found Lorimer. I was convinced-as I told you-that he was feeding the fish in either the Seine or the Danube."

"I have a source, a reporter, who's been running down the transfer of money from oil-for-food profits from Germany to South America-Uruguay and Argentina-and I got some names from him. I was showing them to an FBI agent in Montevideo who was working money laundering. He opened one of his files and Jean-Paul Lorimer's picture was in it. He had another identity-Jean-Paul Bertrand, Lebanese passport, antiquities dealer-and what I'm guessing is that when they stopped looking for Lorimer, he was going to move elsewhere…with the sixteen mil."

"Reporter from where?"

"A German newspaper."

"That makes me wonder about Gossinger," Delchamps said.

"I was born in Germany to a German mother. So far as the Germans are concerned, that makes me a German forever and eligible for a German passport. It's a handy cover."

"You going to tell me who Castillo is?"

"My father was a Huey pilot who got killed in Vietnam before he got around to marrying my mother. When I was twelve, my father's parents found out about me and off I went to the States, with my father's name on my American passport."

Delchamps met his eyes for a moment but didn't respond directly. Instead, he said, "I would say that maybe the KSK is involved, but-"

"The KSK?"

"Die Kommando Spezialkrafte, KSK, German Special Forces. You didn't know?"

His German pronunciation is perfect. He sounds like he's a Berliner. Well, he told me he'd done time in Berlin.

"Two of the guys in black were black-skinned," Castillo said. "I never even thought they might be German."

Which was pretty goddamned stupid of me.

Delchamps looked as if he had been going to say something but had changed his mind.

"Say it," Castillo said.

Delchamps looked at him for a moment, then shrugged.

"Some of the kids-hell, thousands of them-in situations like yours had black fathers whose family didn't take them to the States. When they grew up-and being a black bastard in Germany couldn't have been a hell of a lot of fun-they found getting jobs was hard, but they were German citizens and could join the army. A lot of them did. And, by and large, most of them weren't fans of anything American."

"I should have thought of that," Castillo said.

"That said, I think it's unlikely that KSK would be involved in anything like what happened in Uruguay. Unlikely but not impossible. They keep them on a pretty tight leash."

"There were some German Special Forces people in Afghanistan," Castillo said. "I didn't see any black ones."

"So what do you want to do in Paris?"

"Can you get me into Lorimer's apartment?"

"I can, but you're not going to find anything there," Delchamps said. "The Deuxieme Bureau and the UN guys went through it as soon as he turned up missing. And so did I, when I learned there was interest in the bastard."

He's right. This has been a wild-goose chase.

Inspector Clouseau fucks up again.

"I just remembered," Delchamps went on, "that I'm the guy who assured you that Lorimer had already been taken care of. So, okay. We'll have another look. You looking for anything special?"

"Nothing special. Anything that'll point me in the direction of whoever whacked Masterson."

"And that's all you came to Paris for?"

Castillo nodded.

"Where are you going from here, to see the German reporter?"

"To his newspaper. I want to talk to his editor."

"Where's that?"


"Well, I can't get you in the apartment until after dark. So what I suggest is that when we finish our hamburgers-if we ever get them-we go over to the embassy and have another look at what I've got. Maybe you'll see something I don't. You've got your American passport?"

Castillo nodded.

"And while we're there, I'll get on the horn to Brussels and have Eurojet taxi pick you up at Charles de Gaulle in the morning. What's closest to Fulda, Rhine-Main?"

Castillo nodded. "But it's no longer Rhine-Main; we gave it back to the Germans a couple of weeks ago. It's now all Frankfurt International."

"The old order changeth and giveth way to the new. Write that down."

Castillo chuckled. "Ed, I'm not sure about using that Eurojet whatever you said. Why don't I catch a train after we do the apartment?

"Worried about owing Montvale?"

Castillo nodded.

"On the other hand, if he hears you used his airplane-and he will-he'll presume he has you in his pocket. Having him think that is known as disarming your enemy."

"Why do you make me feel so stupid, Delchamps?"

"You're not stupid, Ace. A little short on experience, maybe, but not stupid."

"I don't suppose you'd be interested in reasonably honest employment in our nation's capital, would you?"

Delchamps met his eyes for a long moment.

"Why don't we talk about that again, Ace, after you find out who these people are?"

"That presumes I will."

"Rephrase: After you have your best shot at it. The first thing a wise spook has to admit is that failure is the norm. You seem to have learned that, so maybe there is some hope for you in this business." [THREE] The Residence of the Ambassador of the United States of America 1104 La Rambla Carrasco, Republica Oriental del Uruguay 0805 5 August 2005 As the Honorable Michael A. McGrory, still in his bathrobe, was sipping at a cup of coffee while looking some what glumly out his dining-room window at what looked like a drizzle that would last all day, Theodore J. Detweiller, Jr., his chief of mission, telephoned.

"I'm sorry to bother you at home, Mr. Ambassador, but I thought I should bring this to your attention immediately."

"What's up, Ted?" McGrory responded.

There were two ways to look at a chief of mission who would not take any action without being absolutely sure it was what the ambassador wanted.

On one hand, Ambassador McGrory thought it was a good thing. He didn't have to spend much time or effort rescinding Detweiller's bad decisions and repairing the collateral damage they may have caused because Detweiller rarely-almost never-made any decisions on his own.

On the other, having a de facto deputy ambassador who would not blow his nose until he found in the Standing Operating Procedure when and under what circumstances doing so was specifically authorized or, failing that, until he had asked permission of the ambassador to do so was often a pain in the you-know-where.

Detweiller, too, often considered things that could well wait until the next day-or the next week-important enough to bring them to the ambassador's immediate attention, even if that meant disturbing the ambassador's breakfast, lunch, or golf game.

"I just now had a telephone call from Deputy Foreign Minister Alvarez, Mr. Ambassador."

"At your home, presumably?"

"Yes, sir. At my home."

"And what did Deputy Foreign Minister Alvarez want?"

"He asked if I was going to be in the office about nine," Detweiller reported, "and, if so, if I would be kind enough to offer him a cup of coffee."

McGrory stopped himself just in time from saying, "Well, give him one, Ted. And offer my best regards."

Instead, he asked: "He didn't say what he wanted, huh?"

"No, sir. He didn't. And I thought the call to my home, at this hour…"

"A bit unusual, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir, I thought so."

"You did tell Deputy Foreign Minister Alvarez that you'd give him a cup of coffee, Ted, didn't you?"

"Yes, sir, I did. Mr. Ambassador, may I give you my gut feeling?"

"Of course."

"I have the feeling, sir, that this is not a social call, but that Alvarez wants to keep it unofficial, if you take my meaning."

"I see. And why would he want to do that?"

"I haven't a clue, but that's my gut feeling and I thought I should mention it."

"And you should have. And just as soon as you find out what he wanted, if anything, besides a cup of coffee, let me know."

"Yes, sir, of course."

"Anything else, Ted?"

"No. That's it. Again, sorry to have to disturb you at home, Mr. Ambassador."

"Not at all, Ted," Ambassador McGrory said and hung up.

The ambassador picked up his coffee cup, took a sip, and found that it was tepid.

"Goddamn it," he exclaimed, then returned the cup to the table with a bang and walked briskly out of the dining room and to his bedroom to get dressed. Since he really wanted a cup of fresh hot coffee when he got to his office, McGrory was not surprised to find that Senora Susanna Obregon, his secretary, had not yet prepared any.

He did not remonstrate with her. It would be a waste of his time. She would have some excuse, ranging from she liked to time the preparation of it so that it would be fresh and hot when he got to the office (and today he was almost an hour early) to the fact that her second cousin's wife had just given birth to quadruplets.

He went into his office and sat at his desk. There was only one sheet of paper in his in-box, which meant that for a change there had not been radioed overnight at least a dozen friendly suggestions from the under secretary of state on how he could better do his job.

Having nothing else to do until his coffee arrived, he reached for the message in the in-box, slumped back in his chair, and began to read it.


ASLA 3445-4 1745 4AUG05








The sonofabitch interrupts my breakfast to tell me the deputy foreign minister wants to talk to him unofficially and didn't mention this?

Goddamn him! He should have called me the moment he got off the phone from talking to the under secretary! Last night!

McGrory pushed himself out of his high-backed, blue-leather-upholstered chair and walked quickly to his office door, still holding the radio teletype printout.

"Susanna," he ordered, "I want to see, right now, in this order, and separately-in other words, one at a time-Mr. Detweiller, Mr. Monahan, and Mr. Howell."

"Yes, sir," Senora Obregon replied. Three minutes later Senora Obregon reported that neither Mr. Detweiller nor Mr. Howell had yet come in but that Mr. Monahan was on his way to the ambassador's office and asked if she should send him in or make him wait until he'd seen the others.

"Send him in, please," McGrory ordered.

Monahan appeared at the office door moments later.

"You wanted to see me, Mr. Ambassador?"

McGrory waved him into the office but not into one of the chairs in front of his desk.

"I'm a little curious, Monahan, why you did not elect to tell me Yung is on the personal staff of the secretary of state," McGrory said.

"Excuse me?"

"You are the special agent in charge, are you not? And you were aware, were you not, of Yung's status?"

"That's two questions, Mr. Ambassador."

"Answer them one at a time."

"I'm the senior FBI agent here, Mr. Ambassador, but not the SAC."

"What's the others?"

"A SAC is in charge of the special agents," Monahan replied and then clarified: "It stands for Special Agent in Charge."

"And you're not?"

"No, sir. I'm the senior agent. I've been with the bureau longest. But I was never appointed the SAC."

"You're telling me you're not in charge of the other FBI agents? Is that what you're saying?"

"Yes, sir. I'm sort of in charge, because, like I say, I'm the senior agent. But not really, if you take my meaning."

"If you're not really in charge, Monahan, who is?"

Monahan seemed puzzled by the question for a moment, then answered it: "You are, Mr. Ambassador."

McGrory thought: Sonofabitch! Is he stupid or just acting that way?

He went on: "And Special Agent Yung, who does he work for?"

"When he was here, he worked for you, sir."

"Not the secretary of state?"

"Up the chain of command, maybe," Monahan said. "I never thought about that. I mean, he worked for you and you work for the secretary of state, if you follow me. In that sense, you could say he worked for the secretary of state."

Senora Obregon put her head in the door.

"Mr. Howell is here, Mr. Ambassador."

McGrory thought, There's no sense going any further with this. he said, "Monahan, I have to see Mr. Howell right now. Please keep yourself available."

"Yes, sir."

"Ask Mr. Howell to come in, please, Senora Obregon," McGrory said. "Interesting," Cultural Attache Robert Howell said, handing the message back to McGrory. "I wonder what it means?"

"I was hoping you could tell me," McGrory said.

"Well, all I can do is guess. Mr. Masterson's father-in-law is a retired ambassador. We heard in Buenos Aires that the father-in-law has heart problems and perhaps Secretary Cohen-"

"I mean about Yung being on the personal staff of the secretary," McGrory interrupted.

"Mr. Ambassador, you never elected to tell me about that. I simply presumed Yung was one more FBI agent."

"I didn't know he was on the secretary's personal staff, Robert," McGrory said.

"You didn't? Even more interesting, I wonder what he was doing down here that even you didn't know about? Does Monahan know?"

McGrory didn't answer the question.

Instead, he said, "Deputy Foreign Minister Alvarez telephoned Ted Detweiller at eight this morning. He wanted to know if Detweiller would be in his office at nine and, if so, if Detweiller would be kind enough to offer him a cup of coffee."

"I wonder what that's all about?" Howell said.

"I intend to find out. As soon as Detweiller gets here, I'm going to tell him he has the flu and is going home. Since he is unfortunately not able to give Deputy Foreign Minister Alvarez his cup of coffee, I will. And I want you to be here when I do so."

"Yes, sir." "Mr. Ambassador," Senora Obregon announced from his door, "Deputy Foreign Minister Alvarez and another gentleman to see you."

McGrory rose quickly from his desk and walked quickly to the door, smiling, his hand extended.

"Senor Alvarez," he said. "What an unexpected pleasure!"

Alvarez, a small, trim man, returned the smile.

"Mr. Detweiller has developed a slight case of the flu," McGrory went on, "which is bad for him, but-perhaps I shouldn't say this-good for me, because it gives me the chance to offer you the cup of coffee in his stead."

"It's always a pleasure to see you, Mr. Ambassador," Alvarez said, enthusiastically pumping McGrory's hand. "I only hope I am not intruding on your busy schedule."

"There is always time in my schedule for you, Senor Alvarez," McGrory said.

"May I present my friend, Senor Ordonez of the Interior Ministry?" Alvarez said.

"A privilege to make your acquaintance, senor," McGrory said, offering Ordonez his hand. "And may I introduce my cultural attache, Senor Howell?"

Everybody shook hands.

"I understand from Senor Detweiller that this is a purely social visit?" McGrory asked.

"Absolutely," Alvarez said. "I knew Ordonez and I were going to be in the area, and since I hadn't seen my friend Detweiller for some time I thought he might be kind enough to offer me a cup of coffee."

"He was really sorry to miss you," McGrory said.

"Please pass on my best wishes for a speedy recovery," Alvarez said.

"Since this is, as you say, a purely social visit, may I suggest that Senor Howell share our coffee with us?"

"Delighted to have him," Alvarez said.

"Please take a seat," McGrory said, waving at the chairs and the couch around his coffee table. Then he raised his voice, "Senora Obregon, would you be good enough to bring us all some coffee and rolls?"

Howell thought: Whatever this is-it almost certainly has to do with the blood bath at Tacuarembo-it is not a purely social visit and both Alvarez and McGrory know it.

Alvarez knows that Detweiller "got sick" because McGrory wanted to talk to him himself, which is probably fine with Alvarez. He really wanted to talk to him, anyway, but the deputy foreign minister couldn't call the American ambassador and ask for a cup of coffee.

That's known as protocol.

Ordonez is not just in the Interior Ministry; he's chief inspector of the Interior Police Division of the Uruguayan Policia Nacional and McGrory knows that.

And Ordonez knows-and, since he knows, so does Alvarez-that I'm not really the cultural attache.

I know just about everything that happened at Tacuarembo, but Senor Pompous doesn't even know that Americans-much less his CIA station chief-were involved, because Castillo decided he didn't have the Need to Know and ordered me-with his authority under the Presidential Finding-not to tell him anything at all.

Everybody is lying to-and/or concealing something from-everybody else and everybody either knows or suspects it.

That's known as diplomacy.

I wonder how long it will take before Alvarez decides to talk about what he wants to talk about? It took less time-just over five minutes-than Howell expected it to before Alvarez obliquely began to talk about what he had come to talk about.

"While I'm here, Mr. Ambassador," Alvarez said, "let me express my personal appreciation-an official expression will of course follow in good time-for your cooperation in the Tacuarembo matter."

"Well, no thanks are necessary," McGrory replied, "as we have learned that the poor fellow was really an American citizen. We were just doing our duty."

Alvarez smiled as if highly amused. McGrory looked at him curiously.

"Forgive me," Alvarez said. "My wife is always accusing me of smiling at the wrong time. In this case, I was smiling at your-innocent, I'm sure-choice of words."

"What words?" McGrory said.

"'The poor fellow,'" Alvarez said.

"I'm not sure I follow you, Senor Alvarez," McGrory said.

"What is that delightful American phrase? 'Out of school'?"

"That is indeed one of our phrases, Senor Alvarez. It means, essentially, that something said was never said."

"Yes. All right. Out of school, then. Actually, two things out of school, one leading to the other."

"There's another American phrase," McGrory put in. "'Cross my heart and hope to die.' Boys-and maybe girls, too-say that to each other as they vow not to reveal something they are told in confidence. Cross my heart and hope to die, Senor Alvarez."

Howell thought: My God, I can't believe you actually said that!

"How charming!" Alvarez said. "Well, Senor Ordonez, who is really with the Policia Nacional-he's actually the chief inspector of the Interior Police Division-was telling me on the way over that Mr. Lorimer-or should I say Senor Bertrand?-was a very wealthy man until just a few days ago. He died virtually penniless."

"Oh, really?" McGrory said. "That's why you smiled when I called him a 'poor fellow'?"

Alvarez nodded. "And I apologize again for doing so," he said, and went on: "Senor Ordonez found out late yesterday afternoon that Senor Bertrand's bank accounts were emptied the day after his body was found."

"How could that happen?" McGrory asked. "How does a dead man empty his bank account?"

"By signing the necessary withdrawal documents over to someone several days before his death and then having that someone negotiate the documents. It's very much as if you paid your Visa bill with a check and then, God forbid, were run over by a truck. The check would still be paid."

"Out of school, was there much money involved?" McGrory asked.

"Almost sixteen million U.S. dollars," Ordonez said. "In three different banks." This was the first Howell had heard anything about money.

When Alex Darby, the Buenos Aires CIA station chief who had driven Howell's "black" Peugeot to Tacuarembo so that it could be used to drive Castillo and Munz to the estancia, returned the car to Howell in Montevideo, he had reported the operation had gone bad.

Really bad, but not as bad as it could have been.

Darby's report of what had happened at Hacienda Shangri-La had been concise but complete-not surprisingly, he had been a CIA agent, a good one, for a longtime.

But no mention at all of any money.

Hadn't Darby known?

Hadn't he been told?

Or had he been told, and decided I didn't have the Need to Know?

Jesus Christ, sixteen million dollars!

Did Castillo get it?

Or the parties unknown-parties, hell, with that kind of money involved, it was probably a government-who had sent the Ninjas after Lorimer? "My God!" McGrory said. "Out of school, who was the someone to whom Mr. Lorimer wrote the checks?"

"We don't know," Alvarez said. "They were presented to the Riggs National Bank in Washington. All three of the banks here use Riggs as what they call a 'correspondent bank.'"

"Let me see if I have this right," McGrory said. "Somebody walked into the Riggs National Bank in Washington, handed over whatever these documents were, and they handed him sixteen million dollars?"

Ordonez said, "What the Riggs Bank did was send-they have a satellite link-photocopies of the promissory notes to the banks here to verify Senor Bertrand's signature. When the banks had done that, they notified the Riggs Bank that the signature was valid and the transaction had been processed."

"So then they handed the man in Washington sixteen million dollars?"

"No. What the man in Washington wanted was for the money to be wired to his account in the Liechtensteinische Landesbank in the Cayman Islands. That was done. It takes just a minute or two."

"And what was this fellow's name?"

"We don't know. For that matter it could just as easily have been a woman. The money went into a numbered account."

"But it was Lorimer's signature on the promissory notes? You're sure of that?"

"There was no question at any of the banks-and, with that kind of money involved, you can imagine they were very careful-that Senor Bertrand had indeed signed the promissory notes."

"I'm baffled," McGrory said.

"So are we," Alvarez said.

"Can we find out from the bank in the Cayman Islands…what did you say It was?"

"The Liechtensteinische Landesbank," Ordonez furnished.

"Can we find out from them who owns the numbered account?" McGrory pursued.

"I don't think that will be easy," Ordonez said. "They have stricter banking secrecy laws in the Cayman Islands than in Switzerland."

"Well, perhaps I can do something," McGrory said, looking at Howell. "I'll ask Washington."

"We would of course appreciate anything you can do, Mr. Ambassador. Officially or otherwise," Alvarez said.

"I suppose if you had any idea who murdered Mr. Lorimer, you would tell me?"

"Of course," Alvarez said. "Who murdered Mr. Lorimer or who was responsible for the deaths of the other men we found at Estancia Shangri-La."

"We're working very hard on it," Ordonez said. "I think in time we'll be able to put it all together. But it will take time and we would appreciate anything you could do to help us."

"But so far, nothing, right?" McGrory asked.

"There are some things we're looking into that will probably be valuable," Ordonez said. "For one thing, we are now pretty sure that a helicopter was involved."

"A helicopter?" Howell asked.

"A helicopter," Ordonez said. "Not far from the farm, we found barrels of jet fuel. And, beside it, the marks of…what's the term for those pipes a helicopter sits on?"

"I don't know," McGrory confessed after a moment.

"Skids," Howell furnished, earning him a dirty look from McGrory.

"Right," Ordonez said. "There were marks in the mud which almost certainly came from a helicopter's skids. Strongly suggesting that the helicopter came some distance to the estancia and that the fuel was placed there before the helicopter arrived."

"Where would a helicopter come from?" Howell asked. "Brazil?"

"Brazil or Argentina," Ordonez said. "For that matter, from Montevideo. But I'm leaning toward Argentina."

"Why?" McGrory asked.

"Because that's where the fuel drums came from," Ordonez said. "Of course, that doesn't mean the helicopter came from Argentina, just that the fuel did. The helicopter could just as easily have come from Brazil, as you suggest."

"You haven't been able to identify any of the bodies?" McGrory asked.

"The only thing we have learned about the bodies is that a good deal of effort went into making them hard to identify. None of them had any identification whatever on them or on their clothing. They rented a Mercedes Traffik van at the airport in Carrasco-"

"Don't you need a credit card and a driver's license to rent a car?" Howell asked. "And a passport?"

That earned him another dirty look from McGrory.

And when this is over, I will get a lecture reminding me that underlings are not expected to speak unless told to by the ambassador.

Sorry, Mr. Ambassador, sir, but I didn't think you were going to show any interest in that, and it damned well might be useful in finding out who the Ninjas were and where they came from.

"Both," Ordonez said. "The van was rented to a Senor Alejandro J. Gastor, of Madrid, who presented his Spanish passport, his Spanish driver's license, and a prepaid MasterCard debit card issued by the Banco Galicia of Madrid. The Spanish ambassador has learned that no passport or driver's license has ever been issued to anyone named Alejandro J. Gastor and that the address on the driver's license is that of a McDonald's fast-food restaurant."

"Interesting," Howell said.

He thought: Ordonez is pretty good.

I wonder if anyone spotted my car up there?

Or the Yukon from the embassy in Buenos Aires that took the jet fuel there?

We put Argentinean license plates on it.

Is that another reason Ordonez is "leaning toward Argentina" as the place the chopper came from?

"And so is this," Ordonez said, and handed Howell a small, zipper-top plastic bag. There was a fired cartridge case in it.

"This is one of the cases found at the estancia," Ordonez went on. "There were, in all, one hundred and two cases, forty-six of them 9mm, seventy-five.223, and this one."

"Looks like a.308 Winchester," Howell said, examining the round through the plastic, then handed the bag to McGrory, who examined it carefully.

Howell watched with masked amusement. Senor Pompous doesn't have a clue about what he's looking at.

Ordonez did not respond directly to the.308 comment.

Instead, he said, "The 9mm cases were of Israeli manufacture. And the.223 were all from the U.S. Army. Which means, of course, that there is virtually no chance of learning anything useful from either the 9mm or the.223 cases. Or from the weapons we found on the scene, which were all Madsen submachine guns of Danish manufacture. We found five submachine guns, and there were six men in the dark coveralls. There were also indications that something-most likely a sixth Madsen, but possibly some other type of weapon taken because it was unusual-was removed from under one of the bodies found on the veranda.

"I think it's reasonable to assume this casing came from the rifle which killed the two men we found on the veranda. They were both shot in the head. We found one bullet lodged in the wall-"

"I'm afraid I'm missing something," McGrory interrupted. "Is there something special about this bullet?"

There you go again, McGrory! The bullet is the pointy thing that comes out the hole in the barrel after the "bang."

What you're looking at is the cartridge case.

"Mr. Ambassador, what you're holding is the cartridge case, not the bullet," Ordonez said. "And, yes, there is something special about it."

Now I know I like you, Chief Inspector Ordonez. You're dangerous, but I like you.

"And what is that?" McGrory asked, his tone indicating he did not like to be corrected.

"If you'll look at the headstamp, Mr. Ambassador," Ordonez said.

"Certainly," McGrory said, and looked at Ordonez clearly expecting him to hand him a headstamp, whatever that was.

"It's on the bottom of the cartridge casing in the bag, Mr. Ambassador," Ordonez said.

That's the closed end, Senor Pompous, the one without a hole.

McGrory's lips tightened and his face paled.

With a little bit of luck he's going to show everybody his fabled Irish temper. Does hoping that he does make me really unpatriotic?

"What about it?" McGrory asked, holding the plastic bag with his fingers so he could get a good look at the bottom of the cartridge casing.

"The headstamp reads 'LC 2004 NM,' Mr. Ambassador," Ordonez said. "Can you see that, sir?"

Oh, shit! I didn't see that.

I didn't look close at the case because I knew what it was and where it had come from: the sniper's rifle.

That's an explanation, not an excuse.

Darby said the kid fired only two shots, so why didn't they pick up both cases?

Is that one lousy cartridge case going to blow the whole thing up in our faces?

McGrory nodded.

"If I'm wrong," Ordonez said, "perhaps you can correct me, but I think the meaning of that stamping is that the cartridge was manufactured at the U.S. Army Lake City ammunition plant-I believe that it's in Utah-in 2004. The NM stands for 'National Match,' which means the ammunition is made with a good deal more care and precision than usual because it's intended for marksmanship competition at the National Matches."

McGrory looked at him but didn't say anything.

"That sort of ammunition isn't common, Mr. Ambassador," Ordonez went on. "It isn't, I understand, even distributed throughout the U.S. Army. The only people who are issued it are competitive marksmen. And snipers. And, as I understand it, only Special Forces snipers."

"You seem to know a good deal about this subject, Chief Inspector," McGrory said.

"Only since yesterday," Ordonez said, smiling. "I called our embassy in Washington and t hey called your Pentagon. Whoever they talked to at the Pentagon was very obliging. They said, as I said a moment ago, that the ammunition is not issued to anyone but competitive marksmen. And Special Forces snipers. And has never been sold as military surplus or given to anyone or any foreign government."

"You are not suggesting, are you, Chief Inspector," McGrory asked, coldly, "that there was a U.S. Army Special Forces sniper in any way involved in what happened at that estancia?"

"I'm simply suggesting, sir, that it's very unusual…"

The storm surge of righteous indignation overwhelmed the dikes of diplomacy.

"Because if you are," McGrory interrupted him, his face now flushed and his eyes blazing, "please let me first say that I find any such suggestion-any hint of such a suggestion-personally and officially insulting."

"I'm sure, Mr. Ambassador, that Chief Inspector Ordo-" Deputy Foreign Minister Alvarez began.

"Please let me finish, Senor Alvarez," McGrory said, cutting him off. "The way the diplomatic service of the United States functions is the ambassador is the senior government official in the country to which he is accredited. Nothing is done by any U.S. government officer-and that includes military officers-without the knowledge and permission of the ambassador. I'm surprised that you didn't know that, Senor Alvarez.

"Further, your going directly to the Pentagon via your ambassador in Washington carries with it the implication that I have or had knowledge of this incident which I was not willing to share with you. That's tantamount to accusing me, and thus the government of the United States, of not only conducting an illegal operation but lying about it. I am personally and officially insulted and intend to bring this to the immediate attention of the secretary of state."

"Mr. Ambassador, I-" Alvarez began.

"Good morning, gentlemen," McGrory said, cutting him off again. "This visit is terminated."

Alvarez stood up, looking as if he was going to say something else but changing his mind.

"Good morning, Mr. Ambassador," he said, finally, and walked out of the office with Ordonez on his heels.

Howell thought: Well, that wasn't too smart, McGrory. But, on the other hand, I think both Alvarez and Ordonez walked out of here believing that you know nothing about what happened at Tacuarembo. The best actor in the world couldn't turn on a fit like you just threw.

That doesn't mean, however, that Ordonez thinks I'm as pure as the driven snow.

"I regret that, of course, Howell," McGrory said. "But there are times when making your position perfectly clear without the subtleties and innuendos of diplomacy is necessary. And this was one of those times."

"Yes, sir," Howell said.

"If this has to be said, I don't want what just happened to leave this room."

"I understand, sir."

"What is your relationship with Mr. Darby?" McGrory asked.


"Are you close? Friends? If you asked him, would he tell you if he knew anything about anything that went on at that estancia?"

"We're acquaintances, sir, not friends."

"But you both work for the CIA. Don't you exchange information?"

"As a courtesy, sir, I usually send him a copy of my reports to the agency-after you have vetted them, sir. And he does the same for me."

"Nevertheless, I think you should ask him about this. I'm going to catch the next plane to Buenos Aires to confer with Ambassador Silvio. I want you to go with me."

"Yes, sir, of course."

"I don't want to go to Washington with this until I hear what Ambassador Silvio has to say."

"Yes, sir."

Why do I think that you're having second thoughts about throwing Alvarez out of your office? [FOUR] Office of the Director The Central Intelligence Agency Langley, Virginia 1205 5 August 2005 John Powell, the DCI, a trim fifty-five-year-old who had given up trying to conceal his receding hairline and now wore what was left of his hair closely cropped to his skull, rose from behind his desk and walked across his office with his hand extended to greet his visitor.

"It's good to see you, Truman," he said as they shook hands. "We haven't been seeing much of each other lately."

"The ambassador keeps me pretty busy," Truman Ellsworth replied. He was also in his midfifties but with thirty pounds and six inches on Powell. He also had a full head of carefully coiffured silver hair. "Thank you for seeing me on such short notice."

Powell gestured to indicate thanks were not necessary.

"And your coming gave me a much nicer alternative to eating alone or with five people with an agenda, not food, in mind. I ordered grilled trout avec beurre noir. How does that sound?"

"It sounds wonderful," Ellsworth said and obeyed the DCI's gesture to precede him into the DCI's private dining room.

The table, with room for eight, had been set for two, across from one another, at the head of table.

A waiter in a stiffly starched jacket asked what they would like to drink.

"Unsweetened iced tea, please," Ellsworth said.

"The same," the DCI ordered. "So what can I do for you, Truman? Or the ambassador?" the DCI asked when the trout had been served and the waiter had left the room.

"The president has taken a personal interest in the Argentine affair," Truman said.

"There's a rumor that there has even been a Presidential Finding," the DCI said.

"One wonders how such rumors get started," Ellsworth said. "And, consequently, the ambassador has taken a very personal interest in that unfortunate business."

"You don't want to tell me about the Finding?" the DCI asked.

"If there is a Finding, John, I really don't think you would want to know the details."

The DCI pursed his lips thoughtfully but didn't respond.

"And as the ball bounces down from the pinnacle, I now have a personal interest in the Masterson affair," Ellsworth said.

"Well, that's certainly understandable," the DCI said.

"I don't suppose there have been any developments in the last couple of hours?"

"No. And since I have made it known that I also have a personal interest in this matter, I'm sure I would have heard," the DCI said.

"Yes, I'm sure you would have," Ellsworth said. "That's one of the reasons I'm here. Should there be any developments-and I'm sure there will be-the ambassador would like to hear of them immediately after you do. I mean immediately, not through the normal channels."

"Consider it done, Truman."

"If the ambassador is not available, have the information passed to me."

The DCI nodded.

"Does the name Castillo ring a bell, John?"

"Major C. G. Castillo?"

Ellsworth nodded.

"Oh yes indeed," the DCI said. "The chap who stumbled upon the missing 727. Odd that you should mention his name. That rumor I heard about a Finding said that he was somehow involved in the Masterson business."

"Well, if there were a Finding, I wouldn't be surprised. The ambassador was at the White House last night where Castillo was promoted to lieutenant colonel by the President himself. Not to be repeated, entre nous, the ambassador told me that if the President were the pope he would have beatified Colonel Castillo at the ceremony."

"How interesting!" the DCI said. "I wonder why that brings to mind Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North?"

"Possibly because they are both good-looking, dashing young officers who somehow came to bask in the approval of their commander in chief," Ellsworth said.

"That's probably it."

"The ambassador is personally interested in Colonel Castillo," Ellsworth said. "I have the feeling he likes him and would like to help him in any way he can."

"Is that so?"

"Now, to help him-which would also mean keeping him from getting into the same kind of awkward situation in which North found himself-the more the ambassador knows about where the colonel is and what he's up to, the better. Even rumors would be helpful."

"I understand."

"The problem, John, is that both Colonel Castillo and the President might misinterpret the ambassador's interest. It would be best if neither knew of the ambassador's-oh, what should I say?-paternal interest in Colonel Castillo and his activities."

"Well, I certainly understand it. And I hear things from time to time. If I hear anything, I'll certainly pass it on to you. And I'll spread the word, discreetly of course, of my interest."

"Not in writing, John. Either up or down."

"Of course not. Have you any idea where Colonel Castillo might be?"

"The last I heard, he was on his way to Paris. And he's liable to go anywhere from there. Germany. Hungary. The Southern Cone of South America."

"He does get around, doesn't he?"

"Yes, he does."

"Well, as I said, I'll keep my ear to the rumor mill and keep you posted."

"Thank you. I know the ambassador will be grateful."

"Happy to be of whatever assistance I can. Is that about it?"

"There's one more thing, John. For some reason, the ambassador thinks your senior analyst in the South American Division's Southern Cone Section may not be quite the right person for the job."

"Oh really? Well, I'm sorry to hear that. And you can tell the ambassador I'll have a personal look at the situation immediately."

"Her name is Wilson. Mr. Patricia Davies Wilson," Ellsworth said.

"You know, now that I hear that name, I seem to recall that it came up not so long ago in connection with Castillo's."


"I seem to recall something like that."

"I think the ambassador would be pleased to have your assurance that you're going to put someone quite top-notch in that job and do so in such `a manner that, when she is replaced, Mr. Wilson will have no reason to suspect the ambassador-or even the DCI-was in any way involved with her reassignment."

"Of course."

"And I think he would be even more pleased if I could tell him you said that that would be taken care of very soon."

"How soon is 'very soon,' Truman?"

"Yesterday would be even better than today."

The DCI nodded but didn't say anything. [FIVE] Restaurante Villa Hipica The Jockey Club of San Isidro Buenos Aires Province, Argentina 1340 5 August 2005 Ambassador Michael A. McGrory was not at all pleased with where Ambassador Juan Manuel Silvio had taken him for lunch.

McGrory had suggested they go somewhere they could have a quiet, out-of-school conversation. If Silvio had made a similar suggestion to him in Montevideo, he would have taken Silvio either to his residence or to a restaurant where they could have a private room.

Instead, he had brought them all the way out here-a thirty-minute drive-to a wide-open restaurant crowded with horse fanciers.

Well, perhaps not wide open to every Tom, Dick, and Jose, McGrory thought, surveying the clientele. I suspect membership in the Jockey Club is tied in somehow with the restaurant.

Their table by a window provided a view of the grandstands and there was a steady parade of grooms leading horses-sometimes four or five at a time-right outside the window.

Certainly, a fine place to have lunch if you're a tourist-if they let tourists in-but not the sort of place to have a serious conversation about the business of the United States government!

A tall, well-dressed man with a full mustache approached the table with a smile and a bottle of wine.

"Your Excellency, I was just now informed you are honoring us with your presence," he said, in Spanish.

"I've told you, Jorge," Silvio replied, "that if I want you to call me that, I will wear my ermine robes and carry my scepter." He shook the man's hand and then said, "Jorge, may I present Ambassador Michael McGrory, who came here from Uruguay to get a good meal? Mike, this is Senor Jorge Basto, our host."

"My little restaurant is then doubly honored," Basto said. "It is an honor to meet you, Your Excellency."

"I'm happy to be here and to make your acquaintance," McGrory replied with a smile.

"And look what just came in this morning," Basto said, holding out the bottle.

"You're in luck, Mike," Silvio said. "This is Tempus Cabernet Sauvignon. Hard to come by."

"From a small bodega in Mendoza," Basto said. "May I open it, Mr. Ambassador?"

"Oh, please," Silvio said.

Goddamn it, McGrory thought, wine! Not that I should be drinking at all. I am-we both are-on duty. But these Latins-and that certainly includes Silvio-don't consider drinking wine at lunch drinking, even though they know full well that there is as much alcohol in a glass of wine as there is in a bottle of beer or a shot of whiskey.

I would really like a John Jamison with a little water, but if I ordered one I would be insulting the restaurant guy and Silvio would think I was some kind of alcoholic, drinking whiskey at lunch.

A waiter appeared with glasses and a bottle opener. The cork was pulled and the waiter poured a little in one of the glasses and set it before Silvio, who picked it up and set it before McGrory.

"Tell me what you think, Mike," he said with a smile.

McGrory knew the routine, and went through it. He swirled the wine around the glass, stuck his nose in the wide brim and sniffed, then took a sip, which he swirled around his mouth.

"Very nice indeed," he decreed.

McGrory had no idea what he was supposed to be sniffing for when he sniffed or what he was supposed to be tasting when he tasted. So far as he was concerned, there were two kinds of wine, red and white, further divided into sweet and sour, and once he had determined this was a sour red wine he had exhausted his expertise.

The waiter then filled Silvio's glass half full and then poured more into McGrory's glass. Silvio picked up his glass and held it out expectantly until McGrory realized what he was up to and raised his own glass and touched it to Silvio's.

"Always a pleasure to see you, Mike," Silvio said.

"Thank you," McGrory replied. "Likewise."

Silvio took a large swallow of his wine and smiled happily.

"The wines here are marvelous," Silvio said.

"Yes, they are," McGrory agreed.

"Don't quote me, Mike, but I like them a lot better than I like ours, and not only because ours are outrageously overpriced."

"I'm not much of a wine drinker," McGrory confessed.

"'Use a little wine for thy stomach's sake,'" Silvio quoted, "'and thine other infirmities.' That's from the Bible. Saint Timothy, I think, quoting Christ."

"How interesting," McGrory said.

The waiter handed them menus.

McGrory ordered a lomo con papas frit as-you rarely got in trouble ordering a filet mignon and French fries-and Silvio ordered something McGrory had never heard of.

When the food was served, McGrory saw that Silvio got a filet mignon, too.

But his came with a wine-and-mushroom sauce that probably tastes as good as it smells, and those little potato balls look tastier-and probably are-than my French fries will be.

"You said you wanted to have a little chat out of school, Mike," Silvio said after he had masticated a nice chunk of his steak. "What's on your mind?"

"Two things, actually," McGrory said, speaking so softly that Silvio leaned across the table so that he would be able to hear.

McGrory took the message about FBI Special Agent Yung and handed it to Silvio, who read it.

"Isn't this the chap you sent here when Mr. Masterson was kidnapped?" Silvio asked.

"One and the same."

"You never said anything to me, Mike, about him being on Secretary Cohen's personal staff."

"I didn't know about that," McGrory confessed.

Silvio pursed his lips thoughtfully but didn't say anything.

"Something else happened vis-a-vis Special Agent Yung," McGrory went on. "The same day-the night of the same day-that the bodies were found at what turned out to be Lorimer's estancia, I received a telephone call from the assistant director of the FBI telling me that it had been necessary to recall Yung to Washington, and that he had, in fact, already left Uruguay."

"He say why?"

"We were on a nonsecure line and he said he didn't want to get into details. He gave me the impression Yung was required as a witness in a trial of some kind. He said he would call me back on a secure line but never did."

Silvio cut another slice of his steak, rubbed it around in the sauce, and then forked it into his mouth. When he had finished chewing and swallowing, he asked, "Did you try to call him?"

"I was going to do that this morning when that message came and then I found out the deputy foreign minister, Alvarez, had called my chief of mission and asked if he could come by the embassy for a cup of coffee."

"Sounds like he wanted to have an unofficial chat," Silvio said.

"That's what I thought. So when he showed up, I told him that my man had the flu and I would give him his coffee."

"What did he want?"

"He had Chief Inspector Ordonez of the Interior Police with him," McGrory said. "The man in charge of the investigation of what happened at that estancia. After they beat around the bush for a while, he as much as accused me of not only knowing that there were Green Berets involved in the shooting but of not telling them."

"Were there?" Silvio asked.

"If there were, I have no knowledge of it."

"And as the ambassador, you would, right?"

"That's the way it's supposed to be, Silvio. We're the senior American officers in the country to which we are assigned and no government action is supposed to take place that we don't know about and have approved of."

"That's my understanding," Silvio agreed. "So where did he get the idea that Green Berets were involved?"

"He had two things," McGrory said. "One was a-I don't know what you call it-what's left, what comes out of a gun after you shoot it?"

"A bullet?" Silvio asked.

"No, the other part. Brass. About this big."

He held his fingers apart to indicate the size of a cartridge case.

"I think they call that the 'cartridge case,'" Silvio said.

"That's it."

"What was special about the cartridge case?"

"It was a special kind, issued only to U.S. Army snipers. And the reason he knew that was because he called the Uruguayan ambassador in Washington, who called the Pentagon, who obligingly told them. They didn't go through me. And when a foreign government wants something from the U.S. government, they're supposed to go through the ambassador."

"On the basis of this one cartridge case, they have concluded that our Green Berets were involved? That doesn't make much sense, does it?"

"They also found out that a helicopter was involved. People heard one flying around and there were tracks from the skids-those pipes on the bottom?-in a nearby field, where it had apparently been refueled. You don't have a helicopter, do you?"

"I have an airplane-the Army attache does, an Army King Air-out at Campo Mayo, but no helicopter. The King Air is so expensive to fly that most of the time it just sits out there."

How come Silvio's Army attache gets an airplane, McGrory thought, and mine doesn't? he said, "Well, according to them, whoever left all the bodies had a helicopter. And they think it was a Green Beret helicopter."

"Maybe they're just shooting in the dark," Silvio said. "They must be getting pretty impatient. Seven people killed and they apparently don't know why or by whom."

"Do you have any idea what that massacre was all about?"

Silvio shook his head, took a sip of wine, then said, "What I'd like to know is what this Lorimer fellow was doing with a false identity in Uruguay. Do you have any idea?"

McGrory shook his head. "No, I-oh, I forgot to mention that. Lorimer had a fortune-sixteen million dollars-in Uruguayan banks. It was withdrawn-actually, transferred to some bank in the Cayman Islands-the day after he was killed. By someone using the Riggs National Bank in Washington."

"Really? Where did Lorimer get that kind of money?"

"Most of the time, when large sums of money like that are involved, it's drug money," McGrory confided.

"Do they know who withdrew it?"

"Transferred it. No, they don't."

"Well, if you're right, Mike, and I suspect you are, that would explain a good deal, wouldn't it? Murder is a way of life with the drug cartels. What very easily could have happened at that estancia is that a drug deal went wrong. The more I think about it…"

"A fortune in drug money, a false identity…" McGrory thought aloud. "Bertrand, the phony name he was using, was an antiques dealer. God knows, being an established antiques dealer would be an easy way to move a lot of cocaine. Who would look in some really valuable old vase, or something, for drugs?"

"I suppose that's true," Silvio agreed.

"I'm thinking it's entirely possible Lorimer had a room full of old vases stuffed with cocaine," McGrory went on, warming to his new theory. "He had already been paid for it. That would explain all the money. When his customers came to get it, some other drug people-keeping a secret like that is hard-went out there to steal it. And got themselves killed. Or maybe they did steal it themselves. May be there were more than six guys in black overalls. The ones that weren't killed loaded the drugs on their helicopter and left, leaving their dead behind. They don't care much about human life, you know. They're savages. Animals."

"So I've heard."

Ambassador McGrory sat thoughtfully for a long moment before going on: "If you were me, Juan, would you take the insult to the department?"

Silvio paused thoughtfully for a moment before answering.

"That's a tough call, Mike," he said. "If I may speak freely?"

"Absolutely," McGrory said.

"Alvarez's behavior was inexcusable," Silvio said. "Both in not going through you to get to the Pentagon and then by coming to your office to as much as accuse you of lying."

"Yes, It was."

"Incidents like that in the past have been considered more than cause enough to recall an ambassador for consultation, leaving an embassy without an ambassador for an extended period."

"Yes, I know. Insult the ambassador of the United States of America at your peril!"

McGrory heard himself raising his voice and immediately put his wineglass to his lips and discreetly scanned the restaurant to see if anyone had overhead his indiscretion.

"The question is," Silvio said, reasonably, "you have to make the decision whether what happened is worth, in the long haul, having you recalled for consultation. Or if there is some other way you can let them know you're justifiably angry."

"They left my office, Juan, let me tell you, knowing that I was pretty damned angry."


"Yes, they did. I told Alvarez in no uncertain terms that what they had done was tantamount to accusing me, and thus the government of the United States, of not only conducting an illegal operation but of lying about it and that I was personally and officially insulted, and then I said, 'Good morning, gentlemen, this visit is terminated.'"

"Well, that certainly let them know how you felt," Silvio said.

"And they're really going to be embarrassed when they finally realize that what happened out there was drug connected and their idea that Green Berets were involved was simply preposterous."

"If that's what happened, Mike, you're right."

"And if I take this to Washington," McGrory said, "by the time they actually get around to recalling me for consultation Alvarez more than likely will come to me with his tail between his legs to apologize. I'll accept it, of course, but I'll be one up on him, that's for damned sure. There's no sense bothering the secretary with this."

"I agree," Silvio said and picked up the bottle of Tempus and poured wine into both their glasses.

When they tapped glasses again, McGrory said, "I really appreciate your advice, Juan. Thank you." [SIX] Office of the Ambassador The Embassy of the United States of America Avenida Colombia 4300 Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina 1605 5 August 2005 "That's essentially what Howell told me, sir," Alex Darby said to Ambassador Silvio, "that Ordonez found the cartridge casing, put it together with the chopper's skid marks and all those bodies, and decided it was something more than a robbery."

"Ambassador McGrory is now just about convinced it was a drug shoot-out," Silvio said. "I sowed the seed of that scenario and he really took it to heart. Between you and me, Alex, I felt more than a little guilty-ashamed of myself."

"Sir, you didn't have much of an option," Darby said. "Castillo was operating with the authority of a Presidential Finding. He had the authority to do what we did and not tell McGrory about it."

"Granting that," Silvio said, "I still felt very uncomfortable."

"You shouldn't feel that way, sir. With all due respect to Ambassador McGrory, can you imagine how out of control things would get if he knew? Or worse, if Castillo had gone by the book and asked his permission?"

Silvio didn't respond to that. Instead, he asked, "Where in the world did Castillo get that helicopter? I asked him, but he evaded the question."

"So did I and he wouldn't tell me, either. I didn't know about the money either."

"You don't think that it will be traceable?"

"The money or the helicopter?"

Silvio chuckled and shook his head. "Both. Neither."

"The helicopter, no. Castillo filed a local flight plan from Jorge Newbery to Pilar, closed it out over Pilar, and then flew over there about five feet off the water. He came back the same way, then got on the horn over Pilar and filed a local flight plan to Jorge Newbery. Nothing suspicious about that."

"If somebody had the helicopter's numbers," Silvio said, "it wouldn't be hard to learn whose machine it is, would it?"

"I thought about that, sir, and decided it was information I would just as soon not have."

Silvio nodded. "You're right, of course. What about the money?"

"Before this happened, Yung was working on finding Americans-and other people-who had decided to secretly invest money down here. I don't know who he was doing that for, but he wasn't just looking for dirty money being laundered. He is therefore an expert on how to move large amounts of money around without anyone knowing. I suspect the reason Castillo sent him back down here was to make really sure there are not racks."

"I think Ambassador McGrory is going to give him a hard time when he gets to Uruguay. For concealing his special status from him. And I find myself thinking McGrory has the right to be annoyed."

"He shouldn't be annoyed at Yung," Darby said. "Yung was just following orders."

"That 'just following orders' philosophy covers a lot of sins, doesn't it?"

"Mr. Ambassador, I'm pretty sure before you tell somebody something, you consider who you're telling it to, how trustworthy they are. And that's how it should be. I've never understood why people don't seem to understand that works both ways."

"I'm not sure I follow you, Alex."

"How much the guy in charge-a corporal in a rifle squad, a station chief in the agency, an ambassador-gets told, official rules be damned, depends on how much the underling thinks the guy in charge can be trusted."

Silvio considered that a moment and then said, "I have to ask, Alex. How much do you tell me?"

"When I got here, Mr. Ambassador, based on my previous experience with people in your line of work, I was careful when I told you what time it was. After a while, when I got to know you, I started telling you everything."

"Thank you," Silvio said, simply.

"Mr. Ambassador, I'd like to get on a secure line and let Castillo know what's happened in Montevideo and here."

"He should know, of course, and right away. But I can do it, Alex. You don't have to."

"Why don't you let me do it, sir?" Darby replied. "I don't feel guilty about going behind McGrory's back."

"Ouch!" Ambassador Silvio said. He paused thoughtfully. "Obviously what has happened, Alex, is that my close association with you has corrupted me. I just realized that I was happy that you offered to make the call. Thank you."

He pushed the secure phone toward Darby.


[ONE] Executive Offices Gossinger Beteiligungsgesellschaft, G.m.b.H. Fulda, Hesse, Germany 1105 6 August 2005 Otto Gorner, managing director of Gossinger Beteiligungsgesellschaft, G.m.b.H., reached for his private line telephone with his right hand without taking his eyes off the editorial on his desk. It was anti-American, blasting the President of the United States of America personally and the policies of the U.S.A. generally.

He had known from the first couple of sentences that he would not permit it to run in any of the Tages Zeitung newspapers. The author would then think-and more than likely share with his peers-unkind thoughts about the Amizaertlich editor in chief of the Tages Zeitung newspapers for killing a well-thought-out piece about what the Gottverdammt Amis had done wrong again.

By the fourth paragraph, Gorner had realized-with some relief-that he would have killed the piece anyway based on its departure from what he regarded as the entirely Germanic editorial principles of the newspaper chain-in essence, to be fair-and not solely because running it would have offended the Ami who was the sole stockholder of Gossinger Beteiligungsgesellschaft, G.m.b.H.

"Gorner," he growled into the telephone.

"Have you got any influence with the storm trooper guarding the parking lot?" a very familiar voice inquired in English. "He won't let me in."

"Speak of the devil," Gorner said.

"Is that a yes or a no?"

"Put him on, Karlchen," Gorner said as he rose quickly from his desk and went to his window, which overlooked the parking lot.

Carlos Guillermo Castillo, born Karl Wilhelm von und zu Gossinger, was standing by the red-and-white-striped barrier pole to the parking lot and extending a cellular telephone to the guard there of.

As the guard some what suspiciously put the cellular to his ear, Castillo looked up at the window, saw Gorner, and blew him a kiss. The guard followed that gesture, too, with interest.

"In the future," Gorner said to the telephone, "you may admit Herr von und zu Gossinger to our parking lot at any time, even if his car doesn't have an identification sticker."

"Jawohl, Herr Gorner," the guard said.

He handed the cellular back and hurried to the switch that would cause the barrier pole to rise.

Castillo bowed toward the window and then got in his car, a Mercedes-Benz 220, which Gorner decided he had rented at an airport.

Gorner had mixed feelings on seeing Castillo. On one hand, he was-and had been since Castillo's birth-extremely fond of the boy born to the sister of his best friend. He had long ago realized that there was little difference between the paternal feelings he had for Karlchen-"Little Karl"-and those he felt for his own children.

If Erika von und zu Gossinger would have had him, either when it first became known that the seventeen-year-old girl was pregnant with the child of an American helicopter pilot she had known for only four days or, later, until the hour of her death twelve years later, he would have married her and happily given the child his name.

But Erika would not have him as her husband, although she had been perfectly willing for him to play Oncle Otto to the boy as he grew up.

And over the last three or four days, Gorner had been genuinely concerned about Castillo's safety-indeed, his life. Karlchen had called from the States and suggested Gorner "might take a look at the Reuters and AP wires from Uruguay starting about now."

Gorner had done so, and the only interesting story-about the only story at all-from Uruguay had been a Reuters report that the Lebanese owner of a farm, a man named Jean-Paul Bertrand, and six other men, unidentified, had been found shot to death on Bertrand's farm.

There had been no question at all in Gorner's mind that Bertrand was Jean-Paul Lorimer, for whom he knew Karlchen had been looking. Confirmation of that had come yesterday, with an Agence France-Presse wire story that Dr. Jean-Paul Lorimer, Chief, European Directorate of UN Inter-Agency Coordination in Paris, had been murdered during a robbery while vacationing in Uruguay.

He had not been surprised to learn that Lorimer was dead. He had been in Budapest with Karlchen when Billy Kocian had told both of them that he thought Lorimer was probably fish food in either the Danube or the Seine and he didn't believe the robbery spin at all. Lorimer had been killed because he knew too much about the oil-for-food scandal.

But Uruguay? What was that all about?

He wondered how Karlchen had learned what had happened to Lorimer so quickly.

His thoughts were interrupted when Frau Gertrud Schroder put her head in the door and cheerfully announced, "Karlchen's here. They just called from the lobby."

"Warn my wife, lock up anything valuable, and pray," Gorner said.

"You're as glad to see him as I am," she said.

"Yes. Of course," Gorner agreed with a smile.

That's only half true. I am glad to see him, but I don't think I'm going to like what he tells me, or giving him what he asks for.

Castillo came to the door forty-five seconds later.

He hugged Frau Schroder and kissed her wetly on the forehead.

She beamed.

"Do I call you 'colonel'?" Gorner said.

"Not only do you call me colonel but you pop to attention, click your heels, and bow," Castillo said as he went to Gorner and hugged him. He would have kissed him on the forehead, too, had Gorner not ducked. Then he added, "How did you hear about that?"

"You're an oberst, Karlchen?" Frau Schroder asked.

"Oberstleutnant, Frau Schroder," Castillo said.

Gorner went behind his desk and sat down.

The old man was Oberstleutnant Hermann Wilhelm von und zu Gossinger at Stalingrad. The first time I met him, I was terrified of him. And now his grandson is one. In the American Army, of course. But an oberstleutnant. The old man would have been ecstatic.

"I'm so proud of you, Karlchen!" Frau Schroder said.

"Thank you," Castillo said.

He looked at Gorner and asked again, "How did you hear about that?"

"The American embassy called. A man who said he was the assistant consul general said he had reason to believe Lieutenant Colonel Castillo would be coming here and, if you did, would I be good enough to ask you to call?"

"We have a name and a number?"

Gorner nodded, lifted the leather cover of a lined tablet on his desk, and then flipped through several pages. By the time Frau Schroder had walked to the desk, he had found what he was looking for and had his finger on it.

She punched in numbers on one of the three telephones on Gorner's desk.

A moment later, she said in almost accentless English, "I have Colonel Castillo for you, Mr. Almsbury. Will you hold, please?"

She handed the handset to Castillo.

He spoke into it:

"My name is Castillo, Mr. Almsbury. I'm returning your call.

"My father's name was Jorge Alejandro Castillo.

"Who's it from?

"The sender is classified?

"Well, how do I get to see this message?

"And if I can't come to Berlin, then what?

"Well, then, I guess I just won't get to see it.

"Yes, I'll take your assurance that the sender is a very important person. But I still can't come to Berlin and I won't be here long enough for you to come deliver the message.

"I'd rather not share that with you, Mr. Almsbury. What I suggest you do is send a message to the sender that you couldn't get the message to me and that if the message is important that they try to send it to me through my office.

"Yes, I'm sure they know how to get in contact with my office.

"Yeah, I'm sure that this is the way I wish to handle this. Thank you very much, Mr. Almsbury. Good-bye."

He hung up.

"That sonofabitch," he said, shaking his head.

"I don't suppose you're going to tell us what that was all about, Karl?" Gorner asked.

Castillo looked between them and then said, "A couple of years ago-maybe longer-somebody said-maybe wrote a book-saying, 'The medium is the message.'"

"I don't understand," Gorner confessed.

"For the first time, I understand what that means," Castillo said.

"You're talking in tongues, Karl."

"Mr. Almsbury, who is more than likely the CIA station chief in Berlin, has a message for me. For a number of reasons, I think that message is from Ambassador Charles Montvale. You know who he is?"

Gorner nodded.

Frau Schroder said, "Your new chief of intelligence?"

"Close," Castillo replied. "He's the new director of National Intelligence."

"You work for him? Can I ask that?" Gorner said.

"You can ask. No, I don't work for him. He wishes that I did. The President told him no, I told him no, but Montvale doesn't like no for an answer-"

"Karl," Gorner interrupted and then stopped.

Castillo smiled at him. "I read minds, you know. What you were about to ask is, 'Why are you telling us this?' And/or, 'Aren't you liable to get in trouble talking so freely to us?' Am I close?"

Gorner shook his head in disbelief and then nodded in resignation.

"I'm telling you because I think you should know certain things, and because both of you are on my short list"-he held up his left hand with the fingers spread widely and his right hand with three fingers held upward-"of people I trust absolutely. And, no, I won't get in trouble. The President gave me the authority to tell anyone anything I want to tell them."

Gorner met his eyes for a moment and thought: He means that. He's telling the truth. But I now understand there is a third reason. Karlchen has just put both Onkle Otto and Tante Gertrud in his pocket. And I think he knows that. My God, he's so much like the old man!

"And the final reason I'm going to tell you about what I'm doing is because I'm going to need your help and I want you to understand why I need that help; why you're doing what I'm going to ask you to do."

Gorner started to speak, then stopped-Goddamn it, I have to say this-then said what was on his mind: "Karl, what we do here is publish newspapers, newspapers started by your great-great-grandfather. I can't stand idly by while you turn it into a branch of the CIA."

"The simple answer to that, Otto," Castillo said, "is you're right. It's a newspaper. But let's not forget, either, that I own Gossinger Beteiligungsgesellschaft, G.m.b.H." He let that sink in a moment, then went on: "A more complicated answer is that I've thought about Grosspappa. And the Tages Zeitung newspapers. I'm not turning them into a CIA asset. For one thing, I don't work for the CIA. And from all I remember about him, all I've heard about him, he was a very moral man. I think he would be as annoyed-as disgusted-with the greedy bastards behind this oil-for-food scandal as Eric Kocian is. And I think if he was still alive and Ignatz Glutz came to him with CIA tattooed on his forehead and said he was trying to do something about those greedy, murderous bastards, Grosspappa would have helped. Within certain boundaries, of course. Anyway, that's the way I'm going to play it. Carlos Castillo is going to ask certain things of the Tages Zeitung and if Karl von und zu Gossinger thinks his grandfather would have given Castillo what he's asking for, the Tages Zeitung is going to give it to him."

"It says in the Bible, Karlchen, that a man cannot serve two masters," Gorner said.

"It also says in the Bible that Jonah was swallowed whole by a whale and lived through it," Castillo said. "Aren't you the man who told me to be careful about what you read? Not to believe something just because it's in print?"

"'Within certain boundaries' covers a lot of ground, Karl," Gorner said, softly. "Who defines those boundaries?"

"I do. But it should also go without saying that if I step over the line, you are free to tell me how I am over that line."

Gorner stared at him intently for a long moment.

"The older I get, the more I believe in genetics," he said, finally. "So I'm going to go with my gut feeling that there's a hell of a lot more of Oberst Hermann Wilhelm von und zu Gossinger running through your veins than there is Texas cowboy, Colonel Carlos Castillo."

Castillo didn't reply.

"Tell me about Ambassador Montvale and his message," Gorner said.

"I have no idea what's in Montvale's message, but if it was really important he would have gotten it to me."

"I don't understand," Frau Schroder said.

"If I go to Berlin to get the message, I'm a cute little dachshund answering its master's whistle. Which is what he wants."

"Oh," she said, and then a moment later said, "But what if there is something important in the message?"

"If something important happened, Dick Miller would know what it was and he would have gotten through to me. But just to be sure, as soon as we get the money straightened out, I'm going to give Dick a call."

"Is that why you're here?" Gorner asked. "About that money in the Liechtensteinische Landesbank?"


"What else?"

"I want all your notes, all your reporters' notes, on oil for food," Castillo said. "They will go no further than me. I really don't work for the CIA, Otto. Or anybody but the President."

Gorner didn't reply.

"Am I crossing the line, Otto?" Castillo asked, softly.

"Not with that," Gorner said, simply. "I think the Old Man would have given your Mr. Ignatz Glutz his reporter's notes. I'll reserve judgment about the money until I hear whatever you think you can tell me about it."

"I'll tell you everything about it," Castillo said. "We found out that Lorimer had it in three banks in Uruguay. It seems logical to assume that he stole it-the American phrase is 'skimmed it'-from his payoff money. We also found out that it was not on deposit but rather in the form of on-demand notes issued by the bank, something like bearer bonds. We got the notes, and took the money. It's going to be spent finding who killed Mr. Masterson and Sergeant Markham and for other noble purposes, including finding out who sent the men to murder Lorimer."

"You certainly found out about that quickly," Gorner said.

"I was there, Otto. I was just about to tell Lorimer that he was about to be returned to the bosom of his family when somebody stuck a submachine gun through the window. They killed Lorimer and wounded a man with me. Other bad guys killed one of my sergeants by garroting him."

"Karlchen!" Frau Schroder exclaimed.

"Who were they?" Gorner asked.

"I don't know. I intend to find out. The only thing I know for sure was they were not Uruguayan bandits. Spetsnaz, possibly. Maybe Mossad. Maybe even French, from Le Premiere Regiment de Parachutistes d'Infanterie de Marine, known as Rip-em. There's even been a suggestion that they might be from Die Kommando Spezialkrafte. Whoever they were, they were damned good."

"And, I suppose you realize, damned dangerous?" Gorner asked.

"That thought has run through my mind. Let me tell what I'd like to do about the money, then Frau Schroder can explain why that's not possible."

Gorner realized that although it was the last thing he wanted to do, he was smiling.

Castillo said, "I have-that is, Lopez Fruit and Vegetables Mexico has-an account with the Banco Salamander Mexicano in Oaxaca."

"Say that again, slowly," Frau Schroder said as she picked up Gorner's leather-covered legal pad and a pencil. "And you better spell it, too. I don't speak Spanish."

"You don't?" Castillo asked as if deeply shocked. "I thought everybody spoke Spanish."

Gorner realized that he was smiling again at the look on Frau Schroder's face before she realized she was being teased.

Castillo went into his laptop case and took out a sheet of paper and handed it to her.

"Everything's on there," he said, "including account numbers. Fernando tells me we run a lot of money through there."

"That's the Bahias de Huatulco ranch?" Otto asked.

"Used to be cattle, now it's mostly grapefruit, "Castillo confirmed. "Anyway, a wire transfer of ten million dollars wouldn't set off alarm bells, particularly if we spend most of it right away to buy an airplane."

"Excuse me?" Gorner asked.

Castillo went back to his briefcase and took out a photocopy of what Gorner recognized after a moment as an aircraft specification sheet.

"A twenty-three-year-old Gulfstream III," Castillo said. "Just the sort of airplane that would be owned-or leased-by a successful Mexican farming operation trying to peddle its wares in Europe and Latin America. And a bargain, Fernando tells me, at seven million five, as it has new engines and all the maintenance is up-to-date. And its new glove-leather interior is sort of the cherry on the cake."

"Why do you need an airplane like that?" Frau Schroder asked.

"We flew Fernando's plane-the Bombardier/Learjet-over here, then to South America, and then from Buenos Aires to the States. Two things wrong with that. It's not designed for long flights-over-the-ocean flights-like that. And, as a corollary, attracts attention when it does. And then when Ambassador Montvale kindly put the CIA's private airlines at my disposal, I knew I had to have an airplane, the pilot of which is not going to make hourly reports of my location to the ambassador."

"You're going to be doing a lot of that, flying across oceans?" Gorner asked.

"I'll be going wherever I have to go and I want to do it quickly, safely, and as invisibly as possible."

"Can you just go out and buy an airplane like that? And who's going to fly it?"

"That's a moot question until Frau Schroder tells me whether I can move the ten million to the account in Mexico."

He looked expectantly at Frau Schroder.

"That can be done with a telephone call," she said. "You can count on the money being available within the hour."

"Well, let's do that and then we'll get on the horn to Dick Miller," Castillo said. "The sooner we get the money into Salamander, the sooner I can-as an officer of Lopez Fruit and Vegetables Mexico-wire-transfer out of it to my account at the Riggs Bank in Washington. I already know how to do that."

"Couple of questions," Frau Schroder said, now all business. "You want to put the Liechtensteinische Landesbank money in a special account or just deposit it?"

"Just deposit it," Castillo said. "Fernando's going to report it as ordinary business receipts."

"Is that what they call 'money laundering'?" Gorner asked, drily.

"This is in a good cause," Castillo replied.

Gorner shook his head. Frau Schroder picked up the telephone.

Three minutes later, she announced, "Ten million dollars will be available in the Lopez account within twenty minutes."

"Thank you, and now see if you can get Dick Miller on there, will you, please? And put it on the speakerphone, please."

"I think I should point out, Karl," Gorner said, "that it's now about half past six in the morning in Washington."

"Until they take the bandages off his leg, Dick's sleeping in the office," Castillo replied. "He'll be there."

Frau Schroder punched in numbers on one of Gorner's telephones and then pushed the button that activated the speaker.

The phone rang twice and then Major H. Richard Miller, Jr., answered it.


"Good news, sweetheart, we won't have to sell the dogs and move in with your mother. The money's in the bank."

"That was quick."

"They don't call me Speedy Gonzales for nothing," Castillo said. "Any word from Jake about the new toy?"

"He and Fernando and the salesman brought it in here, to BWI, last night. Jake said it would have made waves taking it into Reagan. Jake says the bird's okay and where do you want to keep it?"

"Let me think about that. Ask Jake what he recommends. Transfer nine really big ones from Salamander to my account in Riggs and then pay for it."

"That check's not going to bounce, is it?"

"Nope. I have Frau Schroder's personal guarantee. Say, 'Danke schon, Frau Schroder.'"

"Danke shon, Frau Schroder," Miller said.

"How are you, Dick?" she replied.

"Aside from having more gauze bandage on my leg than a mummy, I'm just fine. Say hello to Otto for me when you see him."

"How are you, Dick?" Gorner said.

"You weren't listening in, were you, Otto? If so, did the colonel make you stand at attention?"

"And click my heels," Gorner said.

"God, he's going to be hard to live with."

"He's always been hard to live with."

"Jesus," Miller suddenly said, "before I forget, Charley, remember that you were here all day yesterday."

"Why?" Castillo said.

"Because yesterday, Colonel, Colonel Torine gave you a check ride in the C-20, which you passed, and which will be recorded on your FAA records this morning."

"Oh, that's great," Castillo said.

"Anything else, Charley?"

"Have you any idea why the ambassador would send me a message? To Berlin?"

"No. But he was fascinated to hear that we have people looking into briefcases in suburban Philadelphia. He can't imagine why you didn't share that with him."

"Because, as far as we know, that's fantasy. Did you tell him that?"

"I did. He didn't seem very impressed. What did the message say?"

"I don't know. I'm not going to Berlin to read it."

"You want to tell me where you are going?"

"Paris was a waste of time. Lorimer's apartment had been searched by the Deuxieme Bureau and the UN before my friend there could get in. I had a look. Nothing useful. And I'm just about finished here. All I have left to do is go see Billy Kocian in Budapest. I don't think that will take long…"

He stopped when he saw Gorner holding up his hand.

"Hold it a second, Dick," Castillo said and gestured for Gorner to speak.

"I don't think going to see Billy Kocian right now is going to be profitable," Gorner said.

"Why not?" Castillo asked.

"He's in the Telki Hospital with a broken ankle."

"What happened?"

"He fell down the stairs in his apartment."

"How do you know he broke his ankle?"

"He called and told me."

"He called and told you," Castillo repeated, softly, and then, raising his voice slightly for the speakerphone, asked, "Dick, where's Torine?"

"In your place. He and Fernando."

"Get on another line and ask him if there's any reason he can't bring the G-III to Budapest right away."

"I can think of one," Miller replied. "You don't own it yet."

"Call Jake, and ask him if the airplane is ready to cross the Atlantic. I'll hold."

Castillo felt Gorner's eyes on him.

"You think something happened to Billy," Gorner said.

"What I'm thinking is that it's unlikely that Billy would call to tell you he fell down. More than likely, he called you to tell you that because He didn't want you to know what really happened to him in case you heard he was in the hospital."

Gorner's eyebrows went up but he didn't say anything.

Miller's voice came over the speaker.

"I have Colonel Torine on the line for you, Colonel Castillo," Miller's more than a little sarcastic voice announced.

"What's up, Charley?" Torine's voice came over the speaker.

"If Dick gave the guy who came with the Gulfstream a cashier's check for the airplane as soon as the Riggs Bank opens, how soon could you get it to Budapest?"

"You mean handle the paperwork later?"


"If he goes along with the cashier's check, it would take me maybe an hour and a half to go wheels-up at Baltimore. I can't make it nonstop. I'd have to refuel someplace, maybe Rhine-Main-"

"That's now Frankfurt International. Hadn't you heard? No more Rhine-Main."

"And didn't that make you feel old?" Torine replied. "Figure nine hours total flight time, an hour to refuel. Figure twelve hours from the time Dick gives the owner's guy the check, presuming he's willing to go along. If he's not?"

"Give him the check anyway and don't tell him where you're going on your final test flight."

"One more problem. I'll have to bring Fernando along to fly the right seat. He's not going to like that."

"Do you really need someone in the right seat?"

Torine hesitated before replying, "You know, I've never landed an airplane anywhere where someone counted the pilots. You have a reason you don't want Fernando to come?"

"I want Fernando to go home to Texas and keep the home fires burning."

"Okay, Charley. Not a problem."

Fernando's voice came over the loudspeaker: "I'll fly the goddamned airplane to Budapest, Gringo, and then go home."

"You're sure?"

"I'm sure."

"Thanks," Castillo said. "Both of you. I'll get us rooms at the Gellert."

"See you in the wee hours tomorrow," Torine said and hung up.

"Anything else before I have my breakfast, Charley?" Miller asked.

"You ever get the avionics for the Ranger?"

"They're on their way to Buenos Aires."

"Okay. Great. I'll be in touch, Dick."

"Do I tell the ambassador where you're going?"

"You might as well. He'll know anyway."

"Run that past me again?"

"I'm going to use his aerial taxi to get me there," Castillo said. "He'll know."

"I don't quite understand that, but, what the hell. I probably don't have the Need to Know. Watch your back, buddy."

Castillo switched off the telephone and went back into his computer case, retrieved a business card, and held it in his hand as he punched in numbers on the telephone.

"Now what?" Otto Gorner asked.

"I'm calling an aerial taxi to take me to Budapest."

"You sure you can get one? And is the Tages Zeitung going to have to pay for it?"

"I'm sure I can get one. The CIA owns the taxi service and Ambassador Montvale told them I go to the head of the line. And, no, the Lorimer Charitable and Benevolent Fund will pay for it."

"Get two seats," Otto said.

Castillo looked at him curiously.

"You're right. Eric's story was a little too detailed," Gorner said. "He said he fell over his dog going down the stairs. If he had fallen over that goddamned dog, he wouldn't have told me. In fact, if he'd fallen down, period, he wouldn't have told me. Now I really want to know what's going on."

"This is Colonel Castillo," Charley said to the telephone. "I'm in Fulda, Germany, and I-and one other-have to get to Budapest as soon as possible. How's the best way to do that?"

Thirty seconds later, he put down the phone.

"Our taxi will be at Leipzig-Halle in ninety minutes," he said. [TWO] Office of the Ambassador The Embassy of the United States of America Lauro Miller 1776 Montevideo, Republica Oriental del Uruguay 1005 6 August 2005 "There's something going on around here, Robert," Ambassador McGrory said to Robert Howell, "that has the smell of rotten eggs and you and I are going to get to the bottom of it."

"I'm not sure that I know what you mean, Mr. Ambassador."

"I really would have thought, Robert, that someone in your line of business would be curious about Mr. Yung. His being suddenly called to the States and then coming back here to handle the Lorimer matter."

"I admit I wondered about that," Howell said.

"It could, of course, have just happened. But I don't think so."

"What do you think it is, Mr. Ambassador?"

"That, I don't know. That is what you and I are going to find out," McGrory said.

"What is it you would like me to do, sir?"

"So long as he's here, I want you to keep a very close eye on him. I want to know where he goes, who he talks to, etcetera. I suspect he has some connection with what happened at that estancia and I want to know what that connection is."

"Is there some reason you think he has…'some connection'…with what happened at Estancia Shangri-La?"

"Intuition," McGrory said. "When you have been in this game as long as I have, you develop an intuition."

"I'm sure that's true, Mr. Ambassador."

"So I want you to watch him very closely."

Howell nodded. I think I have just become the fox placed in charge of the chicken coop.

"Yung will be here in few minutes," McGrory said. "I want you to be here when I talk to him."

"Yes, sir." "Mr. Yung just came onto the compound, Mr. Ambassador," Senora Susanna Obregon reported from Ambassador McGrory's office door.

"When he gets up here, make him wait five minutes and then show him in," McGrory replied, and then added: "And don't give him any coffee."

He looked significantly at Howell.

"Making Special Agent Yung twiddle his thumbs for a while, Robert, will make the point that his being on the personal staff of the secretary or not, I am the senior officer of the United States government here."

"I understand, sir." Fifteen minutes later, when Yung had not appeared, McGrory was about to reach for his telephone to find out where the hell he was when Senora Obregon stepped into his office, closed the door behind her, and asked, "Mr. Yung just came in. What shall I do with him?"

"Ask him to wait, please," Ambassador McGrory replied and held up his hand, fingers and thumb extended, to remind her of how many minutes he wanted Yung to wait.

He then punched a button on his chronometer wristwatch, starting the timer. "The ambassador will see you now, Mr. Yung," McGrory's secretary announced.

Yung got up off the chrome-and-plastic couch, laid on the coffee table the Buenos Aires Herald he had been reading, and walked to McGrory's door.

"Good morning, Mr. Ambassador."

"Welcome back to Uruguay, Yung," the ambassador said, waving him first into the room, then into one of the chairs facing his desk. "You know Mr. Howell, of course?"

"Yes, sir. Good to see you, Mr. Howell."

"May I offer you some coffee?" McGrory asked.

"Thank you, sir."

McGrory flipped the switch on his intercom and ordered coffee.

"Long flight?" McGrory inquired as they waited.

"It didn't seem as long, sir, as the ride from Ezeiza to Jorge Newbery. The piqueteros had the highway blocked. It took the taxi two hours to get downtown, moving five meters at a time."

That was more information than McGrory wanted or needed.

"Well, you know the pickets," he said. "Closing highways and bridges gives them something to do."

"Yes, sir. I suppose that's so."

Senora Obregon served the coffee. McGrory waited until she had left the office, then asked, "I understand, Yung, that when you were here before you weren't doing exactly what everyone-including Mr. Howell and I-thought you were doing."

Yung didn't reply.

"What, exactly, were you doing?" McGrory said, pointedly.

"With the exception, sir, that I was responding to specific requests for information from the State Department and answering those queries directly to the department rather than through the embassy, I was looking into money laundering like every other FBI agent here."

"Why do you suppose that was necessary? And that I was not informed?"

"Sir, I have no idea. I'm pretty low on the totem pole. That's what I was told to do and I did it."

"Who told you to do it?"

"Mr. Quiglette," Yung said, simply.

"You're referring to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America Quiglette?"

Yung nodded. "Nice lady."

"It was Mr. Quiglette who told you to tell me nothing of your special orders?"

"What special orders is that, sir?"

"The ones to keep me in the dark about what you were actually doing down here?"

"Yes, sir. But it wasn't a question of not telling you specifically, sir. I was told that no one was to know what I was doing."

"But you were aware that was highly extraordinary?"

"No, sir. I didn't think anything about it. I've had other assignments where no one knew what I was really doing."

"such `as?"

"Sir, I really can't discuss anything like that."

"And can you discuss why you were suddenly ordered out of here?"

"No, sir," Yung said.

"Deputy Assistant Secretary Quiglette messaged me that you were coming back here, to take over the late Mr. Lorimer's body, his assets, etcetera. Are you aware of that?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then, presumably, you are aware of the circumstances of Mr. Lorimer's death?"

Yung looked at the ambassador. Now, here's where I'm going to have to start being deceptive and dishonest. Goddamn Castillo for getting me into this!

"I know he was murdered, sir, and that he was Mr. Masterson's brother-in-law, but that's about all."

"I'm curious why the State Department felt it necessary to send someone down here to do what we're perfectly capable of doing ourselves?" McGrory asked, but it was more of a statement than a question.

Yung answered it anyway: "I was given the impression, sir, that that came from the secretary herself."

"You didn't deal with the secretary herself?"

"No, sir. But I was led to believe that it was personal courtesy-maybe professional courtesy-probably both-on her part to Mr. Lorimer's father, who is a retired ambassador."

"But why you, Yung?"

"Because I was here, I suppose. I know Uruguay and the banks and people at the embassy."

McGrory appeared to think that over, then nodded.

"That may well put you in a very delicate situation, Yung," McGrory said.


"As it does me, frankly, Yung," McGrory said. "Could we go off the record a moment, do you think?"

"Yes, sir. Of course."

"Not that you're really keeping a record, of course. Just as a manner of speaking."

"Yes, sir."

"Now-bearing in mind that I don't know this for sure, but I've been in this diplomatic game for many years now, and believe me you acquire a certain insight into things…"

"I'm sure you have, sir."

"One of the things you learn is that people who would have you think they have a certain influence with the upper echelons of something-like the State Department, for example-don't really have much influence at all."

"I suppose that's true," Yung said.

"And ying yong," McGrory said, significantly.

"Excuse me?"

"Ying yong," McGrory repeated, and then when he saw on Yung's face that he didn't understand went on: "I thought, as an Oriental, you would understand. That's Korean, I believe."

"I'm Chinese, Mr. Ambassador," Yung said. "My family came to this country-to the United States-in the 1840s. I don't speak Korean."

"It means everything evens out," McGrory explained. "Sort of like the law of physics which says every action has an immediate and exactly opposite reaction."

"Yes, sir?"

"In this case, Yung, it would mean that someone who goes to some effort to suggest he has little influence-is 'pretty low on the totem pole,' to use your phrase-may in fact have a good deal of influence."

What the hell is McGrory talking about? Is he suggesting I have influence?

"I'm not sure I follow you, Mr. Ambassador."

"I understand, of course," McGrory said.

McGrory gave Yung time for that to sink in, then went on: "As I was saying, we are both in a some what delicate position vis-a-vis Mr. Lorimer."

"How is that, sir?"

"Like the secretary, I am concerned with Ambassador Lorimer. I never met him, but I understand he is a fine man, a credit to the diplomatic service."

"That's my understanding, sir."

"And Ambassador Silvio, in Buenos Aires, told me in confidence that Ambassador Lorimer has certain health problems…his heart."

"So I understand," Yung said.

"Let me tell you, Yung, what's happened here. Off the record, of course."

"Yes, sir."

"As incredible as this sounds, Deputy Foreign Minister Alvarez came to my office. He had with him a Senor Ordonez, who I have learned is the chief inspector of the Interior Police Division of the Uruguayan Policia Nacional. Not an official visit. He just 'happened to be in the neighborhood and wanted to chat over a cup of coffee.'"

"Yes, sir?"

"And he suggested not only that what really happened at Estancia Shangri-La was a shoot-out between persons unknown and United States Special Forces, but also that I knew all about it."

Yung looked at Howell but did not reply.

McGrory continued: "The accusation is patently absurd, of course. I don't have to tell you that no action of that kind could take place without my knowledge and permission. As ambassador, I am the senior U.S. officer in country. And Mr. Howell-who as I'm sure you suspect is the CIA station chief-assures me that he knows of no secret operation by the intelligence community. And he would know."

"I'd heard the rumors that Mr. Howell was CIA, sir…"

"Well, that's classified information, of course," McGrory said. "I never told you that."

"Yes, sir. I understand, sir. Where do think Mr. Alvarez got an idea like that? About a Special Operations mission?"

McGrory did not reply directly.

Instead, he said, "The question is, why would he make such an absurd accusation? That was the question I asked myself, the question that kept me from immediately reporting the incident to the department. I did, however, just about throw him out of my office."

"Did he offer anything to substantiate the accusation?" Yung asked.

"He showed me a…thingamabob…the shiny part of a cartridge, what comes out of a gun after it's fired?"

"A cartridge case, sir?"

"Precisely. He told me it had been found at the estancia. And he told me he had gone directly to the Uruguayan embassy in Washington and they had gone to the Pentagon and the Pentagon had obligingly informed them that it was a special kind of bullet used only by U.S. Army competitive rifle shooters and Special Forces."

"A National Match case, sir? Did the case have NM stamped on it?"

If it did, it almost certainly came from that Marine high school cheerleader's rifle.

McGrory pointed his finger at Yung and nodded his head.

"That's it," he said.

"That's not much proof that our Special Forces were involved," Yung said.

"Of course not. Because they were not involved. If there were Special Forces involved, Mr. Howell and I would have known about it. That's a given."

"Yes, sir."

"My temptation, of course, was to go right to the department and report the incident. You don't just about call the American ambassador a liar in his office. But as I said before, Yung, I've been in the diplomatic game for some time. I've learned to ask myself why somebody says something, does something. I realized that if I went to the department, they'd more than likely register an official complaint, possibly even recall me for consultation. And I thought maybe that's what the whole thing was all about. They wanted to cause a stink, in other words. Then I asked myself, why would they want to do that? And that answer is simple. They were creating a diversion."

"To take attention from what, sir?"

"What really happened at that ranch, that estancia."

"Which is, sir?"

"Think about this, Yung," McGrory replied, indirectly. "Bertrand-Lorimer-had nearly sixteen million dollars in banks here. Did you know about that?"

Yung didn't answer directly. He said, "Sixteen million dollars?"

McGrory nodded.

"That's a lot of money."

"Yes, it is," McGrory agreed. "And the United Nations-although their pay scales are considerably more generous than ours-wasn't paying him the kind of money-even if he lived entirely on his expense account, which I understand a lot of them do-for him to have socked away sixteen million for a rainy day. So where, I asked myself, did he get it?"

He looked expectantly at Yung, who looked thoughtful, then shrugged.

"You've been looking into money laundering," McGrory said, some what impatiently. "Where does most of that dirty money come from?"

"Embezzlement or drugs, usually," Yung said.

"And there you have it," McGrory said, triumphantly. "Lorimer was a drug dealer."

"You really think so, sir?"

"Think about it. Everything fits. With his alter ego as an antiques dealer, he was in a perfect position to ship drugs. Who's going to closely inspect what's stuffed into some old vase-some old, very valuable vase? You can get a lot of heroin into a vase. And where did Lorimer get his new identity and permission to live in Uruguay? The best face they could put on that was they were surprised that he was dealing drugs right under their noses. He had probably paid off a half dozen officials. That would come out, too."

"It's an interesting theory, Mr. Ambassador," Yung said.

"I thought you might think so, Yung. What happened at the estancia was that a drug deal, a big one, a huge one-we're talking sixteen million dollars here-went wrong. You know, probably better than I do, that murder is a way of life in that business. Those drug people would as soon shoot you as look at you."

"Yes, sir, that's certainly true."

Does he really believe this nonsense?

"Well, I'm not going to let them get away with it, I'll tell you that. I'm not going to give them the diversion they want. No official complaint to the State Department."

"I understand, sir."

"I'm just going to bide my time, leaving them to swing in the breeze as they realize I'm not going to be their patsy." He paused, then went on: "However, I think that the appropriate people in the State Department should be made aware of the situation. That's more or less what I was getting into when I said you and I-and even the secretary herself-are in a delicate position. If it wasn't for Ambassador Lorimer, I'd be perfectly happy to call a spade a spade, but in view of the ambassador's physical condition…"

"I understand, sir."

"None of us wish to spoil what I'm sure is his cherished memory of his son, much less give him a heart attack, do we?"

"No, sir, we certainly don't."

"On the other hand, I think the secretary should know about this, don't you? Even if the information comes quietly from someone pretty low on the to tempole."

"I take your point, sir."

"I was sure you would," McGrory said.

He stood up, leaned across his desk, and offered Yung his hand.

They shook, then he sat back down.

"Now, getting to the business you're here for. Is there anything I can do, anyone on my staff can do, to facilitate the return of Mr. Lorimer's remains to the United States, and the rest of it?"

"I'm sure there will be something, sir."

"I'll pass the word that you are to be given whatever assistance you need, and if you think anyone needs a little jogging, I'm as close as your telephone."

"Thank you, sir."

"Specifically, what I'm going to do is ask Mr. Howell to ask Mr. Monahan to assign Mr. Artigas to assist you in whatever needs to be done so long as you're here."

"Mr. Artigas?"

"He can fill you in on what happened at Estancia Shangri-La," McGrory explained. "He's been up there. Chief Inspector Jose Ordonez of the Interior Police Division of the Uruguayan Policia Nacional flew him up there in a helicopter the day after it happened."

Yung thought: I've been sandbagged. The last thing I need is Julio Artigas looking over my shoulder and taking notes so that he can report to McGrory.

"I appreciate the thought, sir, but I'm not sure that will be necessary."

"Nonsense," McGrory said. "I'm sure he'll be very helpful to you."

"Yes, sir."

McGrory stood up again.

"If you can find time while you're here, why don't we have lunch?"

Yung understood the meeting was concluded.

"I'd like that very much, sir," Yung said and stood up.

McGrory offered his hand again. Yung shook it, then offered his hand to Howell.

"Why don't we go see Mr. Monahan right now, Yung?" Howell asked.

"Good idea," McGrory said.

"Thank you," Yung said.

As he walked out of the ambassador's office, Yung had several thoughts, one after the other:

Unbelievable! Surreal!

Wait till Castillo hears that nonsense about Lorimer being a drug dealer!

Thank God that pompous moron-no wonder they call him Senor Pompous!-wasn't told what we were up to! He would have ordered all of us out of the country and told the Uruguayans why.

But he's not as stupid as he appears. He's going to have Artigas watch me and Howell watch both of us. I have to keep that in mind.

Just as soon as I can, I'm going to have to go to Buenos Aires and get on a secure line to Castillo. "I'm going to have to stop in here," Yung said to Howell as they approached the door to a men's room.

Howell followed him inside and stood at the adjacent urinal.

"Well," Howell said. "That was interesting, wasn't it?"

"Does he actually believe that drug dealer business or is he being clever?"

"He believes it. He also believes he's smelling rotten eggs."

"Artigas is smart and he doesn't like me," Yung said.

"And he and Chief Inspector Ordonez are pals."

"So what do I do?"

"Make sure Artigas doesn't learn anything Ordonez would like to know."

"And how do I do that?"

"Be very careful, Yung. Very careful." [THREE] Office of the Legal Attache The Embassy of the United States of America Lauro Miller 1776 Montevideo, Republica Oriental del Uruguay 1035 6 August 2005 Generally speaking, there is little love lost between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, and in the United States embassy in Montevideo there was little lost between James D. Monahan, the senior FBI agent, and Robert Howell, the cultural attache rumored to be the CIA station chief.

Monahan privately thought of Howell as a typical CIA asshole who couldn't find his ass with both hands and Howell privately thought of Monahan as someone far better suited to be walking a beat in Chicago eating a stolen apple while preserving law and order with his billy club than holding his present position.

They were, of course, civil to each other.

"Can we come in a moment, Jim?" Howell asked.

"Absolutely. What's on your mind, Bob?"

"Hello, Monahan," Yung said.

"I heard you'd been recalled to the bureau," Monahan said. "You're back?"

"Temporarily," Yung said. "They sent me back to handle the affairs of Mr. Lorimer. Return of the remains, conservation of assets, etcetera."

"The bureau sent you back to do that?"

"Actually, it was the State Department that sent me."

"Oh, that's right. You work for the State Department, don't you? A little something you never got around to telling me."

"You didn't have the Need to Know," Yung said, more than a little lamely.

"Jim," Howell said, quickly, "the ambassador would like you to have Julio Artigas work with Yung on this."

"Work with Yung on what?"

"Repatriation of Mr. Lorimer's remains, for one thing, safeguarding his assets and having a look at Lorimer's estancia."

"The ambassador wants this?" Monahan asked.

"Yes, he does."

Monahan picked up his telephone and punched in a number.

"Julio, can you come in here a minute?" Legal Attache Julio Artigas was surprised to see Yung in Monahan's office. In thinking about what had happened at Estancia Shangri-La and his gut feeling when he had gone with Ambassador McGrory to Buenos Aires that Howell and Darby, the Buenos Aires CIA station chief, knew all about what had happened there, he had concluded that Yung was also probably involved.

The story that Yung had been suddenly recalled to the States to testify in some court case smelled. Artigas had thought it even possible that Yung had been at the estancia during the firefight and had been wounded and taken out of the country by whoever had been at the estancia and won the gun battle. It seemed logical to presume that at least some of the Americans involved had been wounded or even killed-and there was little question in his mind that Americans were involved. Getting Yung out of the country, even with a fishy, hastily concocted story, made more sense than trying to explain how and where he had been wounded.

Artigas had kept his thoughts to himself. His opinion of James D. Monahan was that his greatest skill was covering his own ass. Monahan liked being the senior FBI agent in the embassy, which allowed him to order the other agents around. But whenever he should have stood up and defended the other agents from one of McGrory's stupid orders, he was quick to argue that he wasn't the SAC and that sort of thing wasn't his business.

Artigas knew that if he had said anything of his suspicions to Monahan, there was no question that Monahan would have run with it right to McGrory-or, more likely, to Theodore J. Detweiller, Jr., the chief of mission.

"I think I should tell you, Ted, what a wild idea Artigas came to me with." "What can I do for you, Jim?"

"It's what you can do for Yung, "Monahan replied. "Or, more accurately, for the State Department."

"You're back, huh, Yung?" Artigas asked.

"Yung was sent back," Howell answered for him, "by the secretary of state to handle the return of Lorimer's remains and to protect his assets."

"And to compile a report for the secretary about what happened at Lorimer's estancia," Yung added.

Artigas looked at Yung. Or maybe, since you know goddamned well what happened, to see how much we know? Or the Uruguayans know?

"You're a little late to protect his assets," Artigas said. "Parties unknown emptied his bank accounts. Of sixteen million dollars."

He thought, As you almost certainly know.

"I've heard something about that," Yung replied, "and I'd like a full report on that. What we know for sure. Ambassador McGrory told me there is some reason to think he was into drugs. But first things first. Where is the body?"

"In the cooler, in the British Hospital on Avenida Italia. It was taken there for an autopsy. Chief Inspector Ordonez of the federal police has promised me a copy of the autopsy report sometime today."

"I'd like a copy of that, too, of course. And is there going to be any kind of a problem getting into the estancia?"

"Ordonez has the estancia pretty well sealed off. He'd be the man to ask about that."

"Well," Howell suggested, "why don't we go to my office, see if we can get him on the phone? And get out of Jim's hair."

"Just to be sure I know what's going on here, this has the blessing of the ambassador, right?" Artigas asked.

"Yes, it does," Howell said. He nodded toward the door. "Shall we go?"

"I'd like a brief word with you, Artigas," Monahan said, then added for Howell, "It'll take just a couple of seconds, Bob."

"Certainly," Howell said, smiling, and walked out of Monahan's office. Yung followed him.

Both heard Monahan say, "Close the door, Jim," and exchanged glances.

"I suspect Monahan just told him to report everything we do," Howell said. "Does that make me paranoid?" [FOUR] Office of the Cultural Attache The Embassy of the United States of America Lauro Miller 1776 Montevideo, Republica Oriental del Uruguay 1055 6 August 2005 There was no reason for Julio Artigas to report the substance of his conversation with Chief Inspector Ordonez to Howell and Yung. Howell had punched the speakerphone button on his telephone and they had heard the entire conversation.

Howell spoke first: "Chief Inspector Ordonez is certainly obliging, isn't he?"

"Uruguayan courtesy," Yung said. "Or professional courtesy. Maybe-probably-both."

"I thought his offer of a Huey to fly us to the estancia was more than generous," Howell said.

"And volunteering to go with us. That was rather nice of him," Yung said.

"My cousin Jose is a very charming man," Artigas said. "But what I think you two have to keep in mind is that he's one smart cop."

"Why do you think we should we keep that in mind, Julio?" Howell asked.

"Oh, come on," Artigas said.

"Oh, come on what?" Howell replied.

"Something is going on here. I have no idea what. But you two do."

"Really?" Howell asked. "What do you think is going on, Julio?"

"What I don't think is that Lorimer was a drug dealer who got himself killed when a deal went wrong. And neither does Jose Ordonez."

"He told you that?" Yung asked.

"He didn't have to. I know him pretty well."

"What does he think, do you know? Or can you guess?" Howell asked.

"I know he's fascinated with several things," Artigas said. "First, that he can't identify the Ninjas at the estancia. If they were Uruguayans, Argentines, or Brazilians, by now he would have. Second, that National Match cartridge case. And the cleaning out of Lorimer's bank accounts. He's trying to tie those unknowns together. If he can, he'll know what really happened at Estancia Shangri-La."

"What do you know about Presidential Findings, Julio?" Howell asked.

"Jesus," Yung muttered.

Howell looked at him and shrugged, as if to say, What choice do we have?

"Not much," Artigas admitted. "I've heard the term."

"Well-just talking, you understand-what I've heard about Presidential Findings is that they are classified Top Secret Presidential. The only persons cleared to know any details of a Presidential Finding are those cleared by the President himself or by the officer the President has named to do whatever the Presidential Finding calls for."

"You've got my attention," Artigas said.

"So hypothetically speaking, of course," Howell went on, obviously choosing his words carefully, "if there were people privy to a Presidential Finding and it happened that a professional associate of theirs-an FBI agent, for example, or an ambassador for that matter, someone with all the standard security clearances-became interested in something touching on the details of the Finding and went to one of these people and asked them about it, they just couldn't tell him no matter how much they might like to, not even if telling that person would facilitate their execution of their assignment."

"That would apply to an ambassador, too? I mean, there's the rule that nothing is supposed to happen in a foreign country that the ambassador doesn't know about and approves of."

"That's my understanding," Howell said. "Is that your understanding, too, of how a Presidential Finding works, Yung?"

"From what I've heard," Yung said.

"And from what I understand," Howell went on, "it would be a serious breach of security for someone privy to a Presidential Finding to even admit his knowledge of any detail of a Presidential Finding. He couldn't say, for example, 'I'm sorry, Mr. Ambassador, but that touches on a Presidential Finding for which you are not cleared.' He would have to completely deny any knowledge of even knowing there was a Presidential Finding."

"Fascinating," Artigas said. "Can I ask a question?"

"You can ask anything you want," Yung said.

"But I may not get an answer? Is that it?"

"Ask your question," Howell said.

"Just between us, hypothetically speaking, where do you suppose Lorimer got sixteen million dollars?"

"The ambassador thinks it was from drugs. I'm not about to question the ambassador's judgment," Howell said. "But, hypothetically speaking of course, it could have come from somewhere else. Embezzlement comes to mind. It could even, I suppose, have something to do with the oil-for-food scandal. I heard somewhere there was really a lot of money involved in that."

"You know, that thought occurred to me, too."

"Did it?" Howell asked.

"One more question?" Artigas asked.


"Monahan just now told me I was to tell him everywhere Yung went, who he talked to, what he said-everything."

"How interesting," Howell said. "The ambassador told me to do exactly that about Yung."

"I'm wondering whether that would mean I should tell him about this little discussion of ours."

"What discussion was that?"

"About Presidential Findings."

"I don't remember any discussion of Presidential Findings, do you, Yung?" Howell asked.

"No, I don't remember any discussion like that."

Artigas stood up.

"We'd better be getting over to the British Hospital," he said. "We wouldn't want to keep Ordonez waiting, would we? Since he's being so helpful?" [FIVE] Camp Mackall, North Carolina 0930 6 August 2005 Sergeant Major John K. Davidson's job description said he was the Operations Sergeant of the Special Forces training facility. He was, but he actually had two other functions, both unwritten and both more or less secret. It was not much of a secret that he was the judge of the noncommissioned officers going through the basic qualification course-the "Q course." He was the man who, with the advice of others, decided which trainee was going to go on to further, specialized training and ultimately earn the right to wear the blaze of a fully qualified Special Forces soldier on his green beret and which trainee would go back to other duties in the Army.

Far more of a secret was that he was also the judge of the commissioned officers going through the Q course.

Jack Davidson had not wanted the job-for one thing, Mackall was in the boonies and a long drive from his quarters on the post, and, for another, he thought of himself as an urban special operator-as opposed to an out in the boonies eating monkeys and snakes and rolling around in the mud field special operator-and running Mackall meant spending most of his time in the boonies.

But two people for whom he had enormous respect-he had been around the block with both of them: Vic D'Allessando, now retired and running the Stockade, and Bruce J. "Scotty" McNab, whom Davidson had known as a major and who was now the XVIII Airborne Corps commander and a three-star general-had almost shamelessly appealed to his sense of duty.

"Jack, you know better than anybody else what it takes," Scotty McNab had told him. "Somebody else is likely to pass some character who can't hack it and people will get killed. You want that on your conscience?" Sergeant Major Davidson was not surprised when he heard the peculiar fluckata-fluckata sound the rotor blades of MH-6H helicopters make as they came in for a landing. And he was reasonably sure that it was either D'Allessando or the general, who often dropped in unannounced once a week or so, and neither had been at Mackall recently.

But when he pushed himself out of his chair and walked outside the small, wood-frame operations building just as the Little Bird touched down, he was surprised to see that the chopper held both of them. That seldom happened.

He waited safely outside the rotor cone as first General McNab-a small, muscular ruddy-faced man sporting a flowing red mustache-and then Vic D'Allessando ducked under the blades.

He saluted crisply.

"Good morning, General," he said, officially. "Welcome to Camp Mackall. May the sergeant major ask the general who the bald, fat old Guinea is?"

"I told you it was a bad idea to teach the bastard how to read," D'Allessando said, first giving Davidson the finger with both hands and then wrapping his arms around him.

"How are you, Jack?" McNab asked.

"Can't complain, sir. What brings you to the boonies?"

"A bit of news that'll make you weep for the old Army," McNab said. "Guess who's now a lieutenant colonel?"

"Haven't the foggiest."

"Charley Castillo," Vic D'Allessando said. "Make you feel old, Jack?"

"Yeah," Davidson said, thoughtfully. "I remember Charley when he was a second john and driving the general's chopper in Desert One. Lieutenant Colonel Castillo. I'll be damned." He paused, thought about that, then added, "I think he'll be a good one."

"And I want to see Corporal Lester Bradley of the Marines," McNab said.

"You heard about that, did you, General?" Davidson said.

"Heard about what?"

"The goddamned Marines pulling our chain."

"How pulling our chain?"

"I'm responsible," Davidson said.

"What are you talking about?"

"I went to Quantico and talked to the jarheads about the people they're starting to send here. The master gunnery sergeant of Force Recon there-an Irishman named MacNamara-was a pretty good guy. We hit it off. We had a couple of tastes together. And while we were talking, I asked him if he had any influence on who they were sending here. He said he did. So I asked him as a favor if he could send us at least one who wasn't all muscles, especially between the ears, and could read and write."

He stopped when he saw the look on McNab's face.

"General," he went on, "they send all their Force Recon guys through the SEAL course on the West Coast. They run them up and down the beach in the sand carrying telephone poles over their heads. By the time they finish, they all look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. They're more into that physical crap than even the goddamned Rangers."

"And?" McNab asked.

"So I forgot about it," Davidson said. "I'd pulled MacNamara's chain a little and I was satisfied. And then Bradley appeared."

"And?" McNab pursued.

"Well, not only can he read and write-he talks like a college professor, never using a small word when a big one will do-and not only is he not all muscle, he's no muscle at all. And he's eighteen, nineteen years old and looks fifteen. I have to hand it to Master Gunnery Sergeant MacNamara. He had to look all over the Marine Corps to find this guy."

"And where is this stalwart Marine warrior?"

"In the office. I've got him typing. He didn't even-I forgot to mention this-have orders. What I'm doing now is hoping that MacNamara's going to call me and go, 'Ha-ha! Got you good, my doggie friend. Now you can send him back.'"

"I think that's unlikely, Jack," General McNab said and walked toward the small frame building, where he pushed open the door.

A voice inside, in a loud but some what less than commanding voice, cried, "Attention on deck!"

Mr. D'Allessando and Sergeant Major Davidson followed General McNab into the building.

Corporal Bradley was standing at rigid attention behind a field desk holding a notebook computer.

General McNab turned and looked at Sergeant Major Davidson.

"Never judge a book by its cover," he said. "You might want to write that down, Jack."

Then he looked at Corporal Bradley.

"At ease," he said, softly.

Bradley shifted from his rigid position of attention to an equally rigid position, with his hands in the small of his back, his legs slightly spread.

"Unless I'm mistaken, son," General McNab said, "you are now standing at parade rest."

"Sir, the corporal begs the general's pardon. The general is correct, sir," Bradley said, let his body relax, and took his hands from the small of his back.

"So you're the sniper, are you, son?" McNab asked.

"Sir, I was a designated marksman on the march to Baghdad."

"Thank you for the clarification."

"With all respect, sir, my pleasure, sir."

"Tell me, son, how would you describe your role in the assault on that wonderfully named Estancia Shangri-La?"

"With all respect, sir, I am under orders not to discuss that mission with anyone."

"Can you tell me why not?"

"Sir, the mission is classified Top Secret Presidential."

General McNab looked at Sergeant Major Davidson but didn't say anything.